Obama: no difference for the Palestinian people

The six months that Obama has been US President have not made the slightest difference to the suffering of the Palestinian people. In Gaza they remain under siege, held at the edge of starvation. Bob Shepherd reports.

In some areas of the West Bank, Palestinians are surviving on as little as 10 to 15 litres of water per person each day, which is at or below humanitarian disaster response levels recommended to avoid epidemics. In Gaza, where Palestinians rely on an aquifer that has become increasingly saline and polluted, the situation is worse. Only 5-10% of the available water is clean enough to drink. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas continues to serve as a pliant tool of imperialism while road blocks and checkpoints remain in place, new settlements are planned and work continues on the separation wall. Obama’s rhetoric about a comprehensive peace settlement remains just that, as new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to make any commitment to a Palestinian state.

On 18 May Obama met with Netanyahu in Washington. Their main concern was with Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons programme, which they labelled as the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East. Obama spoke of the possibility of the imposition of ‘severe sanctions’ on Iran and pledged to finance the development of a new Israeli missile system known as Hetis-3. The words may have changed; the aims remain the same: US domination of the Middle East. Obama has had to acknowledge that the approach of the Bush administration, far from destroying opposition to US imperialist interests, had in fact strengthened it:

‘Understand that part of the reason that it’s so important for us to take a diplomatic approach is that the approach we’ve been taking, which is no diplomacy, obviously has not worked. Nobody disagrees with that. Hamas and Hezbollah have got stronger. Iran has been pursuing its nuclear capabilities undiminished. Not talking clearly hasn’t worked.’

As part of this new approach Obama wants to rein in the extreme right of the Zionist movement to encourage Abbas and his pro-imperialist allies to continue confronting the Palestinian resistance. Obama wants the Zionists to throw some crumbs to Abbas, hence his declaration that ‘Israel is going to have to take difficult steps... Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That’s a difficult issue, I recognise that. But it’s an important one and it has to be addressed.’

On the same day of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting the Zionists announced that the construction of a new Israeli settlement would start in the Jordan Valley in the east of the West Bank. This colonial project was apparently on hold from 2006 as the Bush administration had deemed it a violation of the so-called Road Map. It is reported that Netanyahu’s current government has already approved the construction of some 73,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. On his return to Israel, Netanyahu reiterated his hard line Zionist stance that East Jerusalem would never become a capital of any Palestinian state. ‘United Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided’.

No end to siege of Gaza
Gazan border crossings are still opened and closed on Zionist whim with only a trickle of goods allowed to enter. The Rafah crossing into Egypt also remains closed for the majority of Palestinians. During mid-May only one border crossing, Kerem Shalom, was open, with Israel allowing between 80-110 trucks to pass through each day. Before Hamas took control in Gaza, nearly 500 trucks a day were entering Gaza. Israel continues to prevent the import of construction material of any sort, spare parts, agricultural imports including livestock, IT equipment and incredibly some food items, including tea and coffee, into Gaza. A Palestinian customs worker said that ‘the deliveries are disorganised and irregular, and sometimes certain products are prohibited...Shoes and wood have not entered Gaza in six months, and no livestock have entered since September 2008.’

The fact that no construction material is being allowed to enter Gaza means that the thousands of people made homeless by the Israeli onslaught are still without homes. John Ging, Director of UNRWA in Gaza, states: ‘There’s nothing going on in terms of reconstruction because the crossings are still closed. That’s the key to all the misery here... it’s hard to fathom that after all the outpouring of concern and empathy with the plight of the people here during the January conflict that months later they are still living in the rubble of their former lives...so the rockets have stopped but the siege continues. Where is the dividend for the Palestinians?’ The situation is so desperate that the Hamas government in Gaza is now seriously considering building houses out of mud and straw bricks. The need for consistent solidarity work here in defence of the Palestinian people remains critical.

Abbas establishes new government

After months of inconclusive negotiations between Hamas and Fatah on the formation of a united Palestinian government, Abbas jumped the gun and appointed a new pro-imperialist caretaker government in Ramallah on 19 May. This action was condemned not only by Hamas but also by a large section of Fatah including its deputies in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Both the PFLP and the Palestinian People’s Party refused to join the new government and condemned it as undermining attempts to forge a new Palestinian unity. However, Egypt has been setting the agenda for national reconciliation talks taking place in Cairo with the purpose of getting Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) back into Gaza. One of the proposals is to create a new security force in Gaza that would be comprised of 50% PA security personnel. When they operated in Gaza before June 2007, PA security forces in Gaza were used to attack the resistance and defend widespread PA corruption.

FRFI 209 June / July 2009


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