The Palestinian Authority Minister Bassem Khoury has already resigned in protest over the decision. More PA figures may follow. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have also expressed their astonishment at the move. Taking stock of the mounting criticism, Abbas has sought to deflect the crisis by ordering an internal inquiry into the decision - a move that will only be viewed as yet more dissembling given Abbas's own executive hand in waiving the matter.
Removal of the Palestinian draft resolution to the UN now defers any discussion and vote till March 2010, a six-month interlude which many believe will kill the report's vital momentum.
Electronic Intifada editor Ali Abunimah is unsparing in his condemnation:
"Just when it seemed that the Ramallah Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader Mahmoud Abbas could not sink any lower in their complicity with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the murderous blockade of Gaza, Ramallah has dealt a further stunning blow to the Palestinian people."The circumstances of the decision, he notes, tie-in other political and corporate forces:
"Although the PA acted under US pressure, there are strong indications that the commercial interests of Palestinian and Gulf businessmen closely linked to Abbas also played a part."The blackmail politics includes an Israeli threat not to allocate part of a key radio/mobile telecommunications bandwith, long-requested by the PA, unless the war crimes referral is dropped.
"What makes this even more galling, is the real possibility that the PA is helping Israel wash its hands of the blood it spilled in Gaza for something as base as the financial gain of businessmen closely linked to Abbas."
For academic and Foreign Policy analyst Stephen Walt, Washington's latest protection of Israel signals a deepening crisis of legitimacy for Abbas and casts further doubt on Obama's own Cairo promises about two states and justice for the Palestinians. Moreover:
"it is more than a little ironic to see how the "peace process" (and by extension, the occupation itself) has become a reason to deep-six a report documenting human rights violations. (Never mind that the occupation is itself a violation of human rights and international law). Once again, U.S. policy inadvertently encourages Israeli intransigence: by driving a hard bargain with us on settlements and other key issues, the Israeli government gets its American patron to offer it more and more help (this time in the form of diplomatic cover) just to keep the illusion of a two-state settlement alive. Indeed, the obvious response to the U.S. argument that it has to suppress the Goldstone Report in order to protect the "peace process" is simple: what peace process?"Which, in the absence of any meaningful peace agenda, makes Abbass's surrender all the more despicable.
Yet, whether or not Palestinians and Israelis ever sit at a negotiating table, legal justice over the Gaza massacre - and multiple other Israeli war crimes - is not there for the political trading. Quite simply, the perpetrators must be prosecuted. As Abbas now fearfully realises, people in Palestine, the Arab world and beyond will not sit back and allow the murder of over 1400 Gazans and Israel's mass terror to go unheeded, particularly given such comprehensive backing for a criminal investigation in the Goldstone recommendations. Indeed, it almost defies serious belief that Abbas or Obama could contemplate any other reaction.
The deal helps illustrate just how alarming Israel sees the report and any potential route to the Hague. Thus the call for emergency US support and PA complicity. As Omar Barghouti notes:
"In this dire context for Israel, only one strategic weapon in its arsenal could be used to fend off the foretold crushing legal and political defeat: the PA."Reminding us that the "PA does not have any legal or democratic mandate to speak on behalf of the people of Palestine or to represent the Palestinians at the UN or any of its agencies and institutions", Barghouti also condemns the PA's collusion in covering over Israel's many crimes in return for economic sweeteners:
"It is nothing short of a betrayal of Palestinian civil society's effective Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, with all its recent, remarkable growth and achievements in mainstream western societies and among leading unions. It is also betrayal of the global solidarity movement that has worked tirelessly and creatively, mainly within the framework of the fast spreading BDS campaign, to end Israel's impunity and to uphold universal human rights."While America's "intense diplomacy" in securing this deferral may have allowed Netanyahu some breathing space from a high crimes indictment, it only further undermines Abbas and his collaborationist authority - the very 'partner in peace' Israel prefer to do business with. And it strips bare Obama's supposed 'peace' promotions by reaffirming Israel's take-it-for-granted view that Washington will always be on hand - even to block such internationally-respected reports and calls for justice.
The undoubted beneficiary, of course, will be Hamas, who have been busy securing Palestinian prisoner releases while Abbas was selling Palestinian rights. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said the decision "trades in the blood of the children of Gaza." The PA's capitulation has also been heavily criticised by sixteen Palestinian rights groups and there has been widespread protests and strikes across Gaza.
As Amira Hass concludes, Fatah, in its self-perpetuating submissiveness, is "now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration."
Update: 7 October 2009.
Some highly disturbing reports are now emerging exposing the outright complicity of Abbas and the PA in the Israeli attacks on Gaza and how Isrel has used evidence of such to force the PA's hand over the UN-Goldstone vote:
See also Jonathan Cook's fine analysis of Israel's economic blackmail and the PA's collaboration here, notably the mobile phone/telecommunications scenario in the West Bank: