- Created: Thursday, 17 December 2009 12:52
- Written by Bob Shepherd
Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has refused to restart peace talks with Israel until all construction in the illegal settlements of the West Bank and East Jerusalem stops. This followed the public humiliation he suffered at the hands of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, on her visit to the Middle East at the end of October.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem on 31 October, standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Hillary Clinton declared that stopping the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank should be considered as part of resumed peace talks, and not a precondition. Praising the Zionists for making ‘unprecedented concessions’ over the issue, she said that ‘There have never been preconditions. It’s always been an issue within the negotiations’. Not even former President Bush went this far: in words he recognised that settlement activity had to stop if there were to be serious negotiations between the Zionists and the puppet PA.
What Netanyahu’s ‘unprecedented concessions’ amount to is only a moratorium on any new construction work in the settlements. It does not include work already started, work on infrastructure such as roads, or any work in East Jerusalem which Netanyahu considers to be an integral part of Israel. These ‘unprecedented concessions’ would still mean that work on over 3,000 housing units in the settlements would go ahead.
Then, on 17 November, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee approved plans for 900 new housing units in the Gilo settlement in East Jerusalem. Other building plans in various stages of approval would mean around 4,000 new housing units being built in the Gilo area in the coming years. Expressing typical Zionist contempt for the Palestinians, a Gilo council member, responding to widespread outrage at the planned expansion, said: ‘I have never thought of Gilo as a settlement’. In East Jerusalem there is a continuing process of driving out the Palestinian population. At least 600 Palestinians have been displaced by evictions and house demolitions since the beginning of 2009; a recent UN report showed that there are about 1,500 pending demolition orders against Palestinian homes which when implemented would expel around 9,000 people.
The pro-imperialist advocacy of participation in US-sponsored peace talks by Abbas and his Fatah allies is becoming more and more untenable. The imprisoned Marwan Barghouthi, a member of Fatah’s central committee and the leader of the more militant wing of Fatah, has demanded that Abbas stop depending on peace talks to achieve an independent Palestinian state,
‘Whoever thinks that the occupation will leave through unequal negotiations in seven-star hotels is completely wrong; it is always required to combine between negotiation and resistance on the ground’.
The settlement advance in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is completely undermining the position of Abbas and his allies. That is why Abbas has to talk ‘tough’ and demand a settlement freeze as a precondition to begin talks with Netanyahu again. On 17 November Abbas launched a desperate appeal for international support to press the UN to recognise an independent Palestinian state. Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal criticised this, saying: ‘The proclamation of a Palestinian state should be the result of the resistance putting an end to the occupation...and not a decision taken by the PA to fill the void after the political option has failed.’
The combination of his humiliation by Clinton and his u-turns over the Goldstone Report has pushed Abbas into declaring that he will not stand as a candidate in the next Palestinian Presidential election, due in January 2010. It remains to be seen whether he makes a u-turn on this as well.
FRFI 212 December 2009 / January 2010