Palestinian official accuses Israel of desperation after second punitive response to UN vote recognising state of Palestine
Israel has seized more than $120million in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in response to last week’s overwhelming vote at the UN general assembly to recognise the state of Palestine.
The move came as the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, returned to cheering crowds in Ramallah in the West Bank following Thursday’s vote, in which 138 countries backed enhanced “non-member state” status for Palestine. Only nine countries opposed the move and 41 abstained.
The financial sanction is Israel’s second punitive response to the vote. On Friday, it announced a big settlement expansion programme.
Next time someone argues that Israel approaches the two-state solution in good faith, remember this.
Secondly, Abu Mazen’s accomplishment here should have some interesting repercussions internally. When was the last time you heard of the Palestinian Authority doing much of anything? More or less since the schism, it’s been the Hamas show. While it’s been obvious for a while that Hamas’s options are to re-integrate with the PA and reunite the territories, or stagnate and be replaced, I think the PA’s relative uselessness over the past few years has helped convince them that they can make it on their own—or at least that they have more time. This changes that calculus enormously.
The pattern of Palestinian politics is the cycle. Every resistance organization that succeeds enough to become leaders in Palestine eventually moderates and, as things get worse again, is thrown over for the up-and-coming radicals. The PLO gave way to Fatah* gave way to Hamas. Much of the history of Hamas and Fatah’s relationship is a struggle by each to keep enough public confidence that what it’s doing is helpful that it doesn’t get left behind in favor of the other. Conveniently for observers, since Oslo that’s been a pretty straightforward competition in public opinion between negotiation (Fatah) and violent resistance (Hamas). Even though they’re separated now, that competition is still ongoing. From roughly 2007 till now, Hamas was winning (as much as either could be said to be winning, and often only by default because the PA has been so ineffectual). Now suddenly their competitor, Fatah, has a big shiny new accomplishment to show off. Even better, they have a panicked Israeli response to show that it’s a meaningful step.
Ideally, this would help spur reconciliation between the two sides. Hamas would have more to gain from it than before, and Fatah could still use the revolutionary cred. Plus, it would be a popular move for both. Unfortunately, my hopes aren’t so high for that; more likely, they’ll negotiate a reconciliation, announce it, and it’ll fall apart within a few weeks or months. The relationship history since 2007 is just really rocky, and how many times can you break up and make up?
Update, January 7: it’s always nice when your predictions bear a little fruit.
*Just in case anyone isn’t familiar, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are basically identical, which is why I use the names interchangeably. Technically, Fatah is the political party more or less born from the ashes of the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority is the set of governing institutions set up by the Oslo Accords. In reality, Fatah has controlled the PA almost exclusively since its inception. The only meaningful exception is Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory, which was swiftly followed in 2007 by…a coup in which Fatah retook control, creating the West Bank/Gaza split we have today. So for all intents and purposes, Fatah = PA.