This Thursday, the United States is presenting for a vote in the United Nations General Assembly a strong-worded anti-Hamas resolution, which reportedly has EU support. In what seems to be U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s final grand performance to please the pro-Israel right, she has presented a retaliatory resolution that fulfills the sole purpose of counterbalancing the United Nations’ “anti-Israel bias” by pushing the UN into a bias against the Palestinians instead.
The one-page draft, which calls for a "lasting and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” makes no mention of the occupation, or how the blockade on Gaza – punctuated by periodic military escalations – has devastated almost all aspects of human life in the besieged enclave.
Instead, the proposed resolution inherently adopts and reiterates all right-wing Israeli textbook stereotypes of what has caused the 12 years of catastrophe in Gaza: It condemns Hamas’ “incitement to violence,” the Islamic Jihad’s improvised rockets, and the plunder of “resources in Gaza to construct military infrastructure,” as if these are solely responsible for all of Gaza’s misery and impoverishment over the last decade, and nothing else.
No mention even of something like how the near-prohibition on freedom of movement for individuals in and out of Gaza, coupled with a decade-long ban on most Gazan exports and imports, has compromised the enclave’s economy and led its people to utter despair. Or how such a destructive cycle of isolation and violence accelerates Gaza’s ever-nearing irreversible fall into the “uninhabitable” abyss.
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In retaliation, Hamas tried to deliver a statement, signed by Ismael Haniyeh, to the head of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, blaming the current status quo and periodic Israeli-Hamas escalations on the “illegal and inhumane siege” on Gaza, while defending the use of “armed resistance” as a means to realizing “self-determination.”
However, it wasn’t Hamas’ little-noticed statement – which wasn’t even accepted by the General Assembly – that caught the Palestinian public’s eye. Rather Palestinians were surprised by the exceptional pushback against the U.S. proposal, undertaken by Hamas’ worst internal Palestinian rival – the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority.
From the moment the U.S. began lobbying for support on its anti-Hamas draft, the PA has exerted enormous efforts to thwart or at least postpone the vote on the resolution, while Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Ryiad Mansour, continues to pressure UN member states to abstain or vote against the resolution.
Several PA leaders reiterated their concern that the anti-Hamas resolution would “target the whole Palestinian people” by focusing the blame for the failure of the peace process solely on Palestinian/Hamas actions, and thus undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle.
Senior PLO leader Mohammad Shtayyeh concluded, “We will not accept in any way a resolution that condemns Hamas,” while other Fatah leaders took things a step further, expressing hope that this rare show of Palestinian unity – or strange bedfellows – would rebuild trust between the sides and be a step towards resuming Palestinian reconciliation efforts.
Hamas, for its part, retreated from its traditional smear of PA leaders to instead applaud “the ceaseless efforts” of PA Ambassador Mansour, and praise the “responsible” PA position that “shows genuine [care for] national interest.”
The general mood among Hamas’ leadership at the moment is one of respect and gratitude toward the PA’s strong position in defense of the Islamist movement. However, the possibility of exploiting such a mutually positive atmosphere to push the reconciliation process forward – and with it, the efforts of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process to create sustainable tranquility and stability in Gaza – remains largely contingent upon the results of Thursday’s vote.
The U.S. anti-Hamas resolution applauds all efforts and mediation that foster “intra-Palestinian reconciliation,” but if passed, it would not solve or ease any current predicaments. Instead, it would create only more insurmountable roadblocks in the path to Palestinian unity.
The 2011 Palestinian reconciliation agreement stipulates that Hamas should be given a role in the PLO and PA, in order to pave the way toward free and fair national elections. However, if Hamas is condemned in the UN General Assembly, the PA will encounter further difficulties in bringing Hamas into the PLO and PA without facing a global backlash, or even a boycott. There’s a precedence for such an international boycott in 2006, when Hamas won the last Palestinian elections and formed a widely-boycotted unity government with Fatah.
Expectations should not be too high even if the U.S. proposal does not pass. But at the very least, this would prevent further deterioration in the peace process and the intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks. In the best-case scenario, the Palestinians’ spirit of internal triumph, brought on by the success of this unusual show of Palestinian unity and solidarity, would be a promising stepping stone toward fostering progress in the largely-despairing Palestinian society.
Either way, the Trump administration’s score-settling campaign against the Palestinians has created an opportunity and an incentive for both Hamas and Fatah to demonstrate their ability to transcend factional interests and work for the overall Palestinian wellbeing. It remains to be seen how each side will take advantage of this significant event.
But before that, the more urgent question is what UN member states will choose Thursday regarding this victim-blaming resolution. Will they vote ‘yes’ and support Trump’s purposeless, unconstrained attack on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or vote ‘no’ and transcend this narrow-minded attempt to score some political points and prevent further roadblocks to peace and progress from coming into being?
The prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace have incurred enough horrifying damage under U.S. President Donald Trump; beginning from his administration’s attack on UNRWA, the life-support system that sustains the impoverished Palestinian population; through the unilateral step to “take Jerusalem off the table”; to defunding East Jerusalem hospitals; and even slashing funds for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence and peace groups; with yet more to come. If any progress toward peace is to be hoped for, then UN member states shouldn’t indulge this mess.
Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip and a student of Development Studies at Lund University, Sweden. He was the PR officer for the Gaza office of the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights. Twitter: @muhammadshehad2