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Peter Hadden

Problems for Palestinian Peace Process

(January 1996)

From Militant Labour, No. 235, January 1996.
Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

Victory for Yassar Arafat’s wing of the PLO in this month’s Palestinian elections is a foregone conclusion given that all the major opposition groups have boycotted the poll.

The result will overstate the support which exists within the former occupied territories for the Oslo accord of 1993 and its follow up known as Oslo II, and will not reflect the discontent felt at the manner in which PLO rule has been exercised in those areas ceded by the Israelis.

Oslo II was signed by Arafat after the US State Department co-ordinator phoned him, warning unless you sign: “You don’t get the $100 million”, the US’s yearly pledge to Palestine. It allows for Israeli redeployment from main West Bank towns to the outskirts, leaving the Israelis still in control of all exits and entries and all roads in the territory.

The contentious issue of control of East Jerusalem is left unresolved. The Israelis are preparing for future negotiations on this by building a ring of settlements separating this Arab quarter from its natural West Bank hinterland.

While Israeli leaders Rabin and Peres spoke of peace and concessions their government was busy continuing the occupation in practice - 1,126 units of settler housing were built in East Jerusalem in the first quarter of l995 alone!

The Oslo agreements fall far short of the Palestinian aspiration for a state which would give the three million Palestinian diaspora the right to return to a homeland of their own.

The heroic resistance of the Intifada meant that the cost to Israel of policing the territories was becoming too great. So they have handed this job to Arafat and the Fatah wing of the PLO.

Originally there were to be 9,000 Palestinian police. In fact there are 19,000. This force acts without real laws or a constitution, ruling through military courts.

What has been established is in reality a dictatorship by the dominant wing of the PLO. Not just the police, but the entire civil administration is run by the PLO. Aid, together with the taxes collected by the Israelis for Arafat, totals $40 million per month, and this is just enough to maintain his apparatus, leaving nothing for development.

There is huge opposition to the agreement, especially among the youth. But those against have not been able to spell out a clear alternative. The fundamentalists around Hamas are strong but their strategy of suicide bombs provoked opposition and was suspended last summer.

However when Hamas leader was recently murdered in Gaza by the Israeli Shin Bet, his funeral attracted 100,000 people. The fundamentalists are not participating in the elections, but as disillusionment with a new PLO administration deepens they are likely to re-emerge, with further attacks against Israeli targets probable.

Alternative Way

This offers no way out. But there is another alternative. There also exists within the PLO and among the Palestinian youth generally, a socialist and secular opposition to the accords.

Around the call for mass action to remove what remains of the Israeli military occupation and for a truly independent socialist state, a powerful movement could be built.

This would not be anti-Jew or anti-Israeli but could appeal to the Jewish working class to give support and likewise would support the Jewish workers in their struggle against their own rulers and for a socialist Israel. A socialist federation of the Middle East would allow a democratic settlement of the conflict, with borders redrawn by agreement and with resources shared.

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Last updated: 23 April 2015