Palestine: Abbas sides with Saudi Arabia

rcg FRFI palestine
RCG activists in London joined thousands marching for Palestine on 4th November

On 7 November 2017 Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas was summoned to Riyadh to participate in a show of unity with the Saudi regime’s war aims. His Fatah party-run Palestinian newspaper Al Hayat Al Jadida announced that ‘The Palestinian Authority will not allow Iran to interfere on its territory’. The PA is taking sides with US imperialist, Saudi and Israeli interests in the Middle East and is emboldened by the Hamas decision to hand back control of Gaza. Although hugely unpopular, the Abbas regime will now attempt to consolidate its power and deal a lasting blow to Palestinian resistance.

Stepping down as Gaza Prime Minister on 1 November 2017, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh reported that, ‘We have handed over the crossings with honesty and responsibility, without bargaining and unconditionally’. The PA regime immediately imposed its 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access pact with Israel. This gives the Zionists advance notice of anyone wanting to cross, and the power to block them. The Rafah border is already being used as a bargaining chip by Abbas’s team. After 100 days of lockdown, the border was supposed to open on 15 November. When the PA and Egyptian authorities broke their commitment, students in Gaza took to the streets, planning another demonstration on 18 November. The PA backtracked and announced a three-day opening of the border crossing, extending it a further two days. Over 30,000 people had registered to cross the border; a reported 1,441 made it through. Activists reported that Egyptian soldiers were demanding over $2,500 per person in bribes.

The PA takeover of Gaza will not ease the suffering of the vast majority living under Israeli blockade. After collaborating with Israel to deny electricity to Gaza, the new PA administration is maintaining salary cuts and austerity conditions. In November, hundreds of education staff went on strike, months after the PA drastically cut their wages; in August Abbas decided that 831 members of staff should be forced to retire, despite most being under the age of 50. Youth unemployment has hit 58%, and 42% of Gaza Palestinians are in poverty. United Nations Relief and Works Agency reported in September that there are 48,902 families living in absolute poverty (households living below $3.87 per person per day).

While the Fatah leadership was lining up alongside the Saudi royals, Hamas condemned the designation of Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist’ organisation and released a statement opposing Saudi calls for Qatar to boycott Hamas to ‘further Palestinian unity’. Qatar is investing in Gaza in an attempt to build up its own influence and counter rising Saudi interventionism and will build the new presidential headquarters. However, Hamas’s plea for ‘the Arab states’ to support the Palestinian struggle ignores the fact that they are doing the precise opposite.

Louis Brehony

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 261 December 2017/January 2018


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