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Vol. 81/No. 2      January 9, 2017

(lead article, news analysis)

UN Israel vote registers blow to Palestinian national fight

In a departure from Washington’s long-standing bipartisan policy, the Barack Obama administration decided not to block a resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council Dec. 23 condemning the continual expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

The resolution states in part that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution.”

The vote in fact registers a blow to the decades-long struggle of the Palestinian people against national oppression. It reinforces the dead-end course of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaderships to rely on Washington and other imperialist powers to pressure Tel Aviv, while shackling the Palestinian masses as passive bystanders. It gives a boost to forces in Israel pushing for greater inroads into Palestinian territory.

It reflects the absence of any Palestinian leadership fighting for a way forward — a negotiated agreement that includes recognition of the state of Israel, coupled with recognition of a Palestinian state, as it exists today, as a stepping-stone to the fight for a single, contiguous homeland for the Palestinian people. Only this fight can provide the basis for advancing the interests of working people of all nationalities in the region today.

Educating and mobilizing Palestinian workers and farmers to campaign to reach such an agreement could break the cycle of past years of war, bloodshed and more settlements.

This would open the door to their renewed involvement as actors in history. As the Militant said in its August 25, 2014, editorial, “it would open space to fight the balkanization of Palestine, for jobs for the unemployed, for land and water rights and for Palestinians’ freedom to travel, including the right to cross into Israel to work. It would provide stronger footing for economic and social development in Gaza and the West Bank. And it would create political space for the class struggle and the advancement of working-class solidarity in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

Emboldened by the Security Council vote and the continued lack of political mobilization in the West Bank, Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said he would introduce legislation to annex a substantial part of the West Bank. Bennett’s pro-settlement Jewish Home party is in the governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Netanyahu has backed expanding many settlements, while giving lip service to support for negotiating a “two-state” agreement.

The vote in the Security Council was 14-0. For decades, the U.S. government, a permanent Security Council member, used its veto to block any resolution critical of its ally in Tel Aviv. Washington’s abstention provoked sharp debate within the U.S. ruling class, including between the Obama administration in its final days and President-elect Donald Trump.

The resolution set off a flurry of diplomatic protests and recriminations by Netanyahu against members of the Security Council. He recalled Israel’s ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, whose representatives sponsored the resolution, and canceled scheduled trips to Israel by the Senegalese foreign minister and Ukrainian prime minister.

Netanyahu accused Obama of staging a “shameless ambush” with the vote, and said he looks forward to working with Trump. The Obama administration has often been at odds with Tel Aviv, as it has shifted priorities in the Middle East, looking to an agreement with the Iranian government to slow down its nuclear program as a stepping stone to new alliances in the region in search of stability for U.S. imperialist interests. Obama refused to meet with the Israeli prime minister when he spoke to Congress against the Iran deal, and openly opposed his re-election in March 2015.

Dead-end course reinforced by UN

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas praised the resolution as offering “the legal basis to resolve” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called it a “step in the right direction.” In the name of “internationalizing” the struggle, Abbas has increasingly looked to intervention by imperialist governments and institutions, such as the United Nations and European Union, to put pressure on Tel Aviv.

Now the Palestinian leaders say they will “use the resolution in international bodies,” the New York Times reported Dec. 26. Neither has the perspective of turning to and mobilizing the Palestinian toilers to fight effectively for their social and political rights, much less mutual recognition, which is the only way to push back the seizure of more land by Israeli settlements.

Some 580,000 Israeli Jews now live in these areas beyond the 1967 border, in settlements scattered throughout the West Bank and in housing developments built up around eastern Jerusalem, ringing the city’s Arab neighborhoods. These include 123 settlements authorized by Tel Aviv and about 100 unauthorized outposts, carving up Palestinian land right up to the border of Jordan.

Both the Palestinian Authority and the reactionary Islamist Hamas have organized and encouraged terrorist actions and provocations, including unconscionable attacks on civilians, handing Tel Aviv a pretext for murderous repression and leading to demoralization of Palestinian workers and farmers. The course of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treats the Palestinian toilers as cannon fodder and undercuts the ability to win support among working people inside Israel — where growing social contradictions point toward coming class battles.

That’s why fighting for an agreement that starts with recognition of Israel as well as a Palestinian state as it exists today is an essential immediate demand working people should back.  
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