Palestine Waves Goodbye to the Shekel?

Among other Palestinian news stories, it is reported that Palestinian officials are contemplating dropping the Israeli shekel in favor of the now-retired Palestinian pound

There have been a couple of interesting headlines concerning Palestine and the Israeli occupation in the last few days that I thought were worth expanding upon.  First, Joshua Landis over at Syria Comment notes the contradictions between Khalid Meshaal offering an end to Hamas’ resistance and Bibi Netanyahu declaring victory over America; secondly, Mondoweiss is covering the pro-Palestinian protests in New York City as the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ comes ever closer to a confrontation with the Israeli navy; and finally, the Palestinian government is thinking about replacing the Israeli shekel with the Palestinian pound as the official currency of independent Palestine.

Hamas chief Khalid Meshaal reportedly said on the Charlie Rose Show that Hamas would stop all resistance to Israel if the latter were to simply return to the pre-1967 borders and end the occupation:

“When the occupation comes to an end, the resistance will end, as simple as that,” Mashaal said in an interview in Damascus on “The Charlie Rose Show,” broadcast yesterday. “If Israel would go to the 1967 borders,” he said, “that will be the end of the Palestinian resistance.”

Meshaal’s proclamations demonstrate two important factors about Hamas.  First, they are a nationalist party.  Though they are considered a terrorist group by most of the world, their aims remain exclusively focused on the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.  Secondly, the statement stands as a de facto acceptance of the existence of Israel.  Many claim that Hamas will never accept the Jewish state but, although Meshaal does withhold explicitly mentioning recognition, an end of the Palestinian resistance equates with a recognition of Israel.

The second article mentioned by Landis is one that appeared in Ma’ariv entitled “Netanyahu: “I Won.” The article quotes Netanyahu as being thrilled that Obama was not able to apply any real pressure on Israel to push it towards peace:

Netanyahu is pleased by the fact that the Americans failed, so he said, to twist his arm and that ultimately, in the duel between him and the Obama administration, he was the one who emerged with the upper hand. We did not make concessions on our red lines and they failed to make us fold and to drag us to places we didn’t want to go, said Netanyahu, according to people who heard him speak.

[tweetmeme] The Netanyahu naturally denied the report, but it would not be shocking if Bibi was encouraged by the American inability to pressure the Jewish state.  Netanyahu’s governing coalition is held together by the extreme-right settler groups of Israel and successful American pressure to slow settlement gains could have devastating effects for the ruling coalition.

Landis writes that these two articles are saying the same thing (‘Israel wins twice’), but that the victories counteract each other.  Noting the dependence of democratic politicians on American-Jewish coffers, Landis writes that Obama cannot force Israel to accept the Meshaal victory and to push for peace on that front:

In 2002, when the Arab League states announced that they were prepared to recognize Israel and end all hostilities if it accepted UN resolution 242 and allow for a Palestinian state in the Palestinian land it occupied in 1967, Israel ignored it. Today, Israel will ignore Mashaal’s statement.

The next interesting bit of Palestinian news concerns the ‘Freedom Flotilla‘ and its up-coming encounterwith the Israeli navy.  Although the flotilla is largely being ignored by the American media, pro-Palestinian activists are not keeping quiet about the effort to break the illegal siege of Gaza.  Th latest protest included the unveiling of a pro=Palestinian banner in the Max Brenner Chocolate shop in Manhattan.  From New York City Indymedia:

”We know the chocolate ban is not the most egregious human rights violation,” said banner-dropper Niomke Friedman. “But it illustrates the absurdity of Israel’s claim that the brutal siege on Gaza serves a legitimate security claim.”

The action was part of a wave of solidarity actions taking place around the US and throughout the world as the Free Gaza Coalition’s flotilla of eight boats bearing thousands of tons of eight and over 800 civilian sails toward Gaza. Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak has stated that the Israeli navy will block entry, reinforcing Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza’s waters.

Interestingly, the chocolate shop incident and the New York City Protests are covered in the Israeli daily Haaretz, but not in any of the major American papers.

Finally, the Washington Post is reporting that the Palestinians, though currently trying to find a way through proximity talks to direct talks to independence, are considering dropping the Israeli shekel as the official Palestinian currency upon independence.  The move is clearly a continuation of PM Salam Fayyad’s plan to build up institutions in preparation for an eventual declaration of independence (through negotiations or after 1.5 years if negotiations fail).  The renaissance of the Palestinian pound is met with a lot of resistance in Tel Aviv, with Israeli officials worrying that the Palestinian economy is too small and too dependent on the Israeli economy to sustain its own currency.

The underlying concern of the possible pound, however, seems to be simply its symbolic value.  Indeed, the existence of the Israeli shekel in an independent Palestine (particularly if it is a unilateral declaration) would highlight the last 40+ years of Israeli domination.  A Palestinian currency would be, in its own way, a stronger rejection of the Israeli occupation than the stockpiles of weapons in Gaza and southern Lebanon.  The powerful symbolism is not lost all on Israelis:

“The Israelis will say it will increase the instability of the Palestinian economy. But I would argue, if I were Palestinian, that the damage to the Palestinian economy from security measures and blockades is more severe than any dangers from currency,” [Israeli economics professor Arie Arnon] said. “What it will do to the economy depends on how the Palestinians will manage it. They are ready. The problem is that Israel is not ready, politically.”

The push for the Palestinian pound is driven by Jihad al-Wazir, a man who the Post refers to as ‘central banker without a bank.’  With the new Palestinian Central Bank under construction as part of Fayyad’s plan, al-Wazir has said that the Palestinians are considering linking the new pound to the dollar or the euro, or even adopting one of those currencies to replace the shekel.

Photo from the Political Machine

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4 thoughts on “Palestine Waves Goodbye to the Shekel?

  1. Great stuff! I really enjoyed this post. Your discussion of Hamas and its ‘defacto’ acceptance of Israel was superb.

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