Mahmoud Abbas tells visiting American Congressmen that negotiations blocked by Israeli demand for military presence in Jordan Valley

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that an Israeli demand to keep a military presence in the Jordan Valley was one main reason that negotiations with Israel are now blocked, according to a story in the Jerusalem Post today.

The JPost report said that Abbas told a group of visiting American Congressmen, including Steny Hoyer of Maryland [Democratic Party whip in the House of Representatives], that “there are no negotiations now because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has placed pre-conditions, specifically a demand that there be an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. Abbas told the delegation that the discussions he has had with Netanyahu in the past ‘have led nowhere, because unless we agree to be occupied by IDF troops, he doesn’t want to talk about anything in the next step’. Abbas, according to Hoyer, said he met with Netanyahu last year, but that those talks ‘went nowhere because Netanyahu only wanted to talk about security, and that the implementing of that security was deployment of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley’.”

It is clear that there is a clear battle, now, for the Jordan Valley — a battle as big as that over Jerusalem.

See a related story posted on our sister blog, www.un-truth.com, here.

Netanyahu made his first qualified acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian state in his Bar Ilan University speech in 2010 (in answer to U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo some weeks earlier) that a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.

Hoyer is leading a group of 26 U.S. Congresspeople from the Democratic Party on a week-long trip sponsored by what the JPost described as “the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee”. The JPost says that 55 U.S. Congresspeople from the Republican Party will be coming on two other trips in the coming weeks.

The JPost article is published here.

The story noted that “Hoyer, who co-authored a Congressional resolution last month with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) against a Palestinian unilateral move at the UN, said that he and some other members of the delegation told Abbas they felt a move at the UN would be a ‘destabilizing effort’, and that both Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the past that the only way to solve difference was through bilateral negotiations. Hoyer said that the delegation ‘indicated’ that a PA decision to go to the UN ‘would be unwise and that the Congress would be very concerned about that happening, and might take action’. When asked what kind of action, Hoyer said ‘funding’. Hoyer held out the possibility that while budgetary funding to the PA might be stopped, it might not be stopped for security training. A judgment would have to be made, he said, whether cutting off funding for security might not be ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Undermining security in the West Bank may have an adverse consequence in Israel’.”

U.S. recognition of Israel in 1948

Here is the document – marked up by Truman himself:

Truman letter of 14 May 1948

It might be said that this was the first U.S. recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, though a whole polemic has grown up around Truman’s personally crossing out the second reference on the document…

More recently, Glenn Kessler wrote from Washington in the Washington Post late last year (2 October 2010) that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, in a speech in November 2001, that “Palestinians must eliminate any doubt, once and for all, that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state“.

After an internet search, I found this Colin Powell speech posted here and here.

BUT, Kessler wrote in his recent WPost (or WAPO) article, “Powell doesn’t recall how the phrase ended up in his speech” … “David Ivry, then Israeli amb to US, says he ‘persuaded an aide’to slip Jewish state reference in Colin Powell 2001 speech…Kessler wrote that David Ivry said he contacted Powell aide Richard Armitage, but Powell said that he asked and Armitage doesn’t remember this either … However, Kessler reported, “Aaron David Miller…who wrote 1st draft of Powell speech, said..[the reference to the need for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state]..didn’t ring many alarm bells“… This October 2010 article by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post is published here.

So, the Israeli Ambassador whispered into the ears of some U.S. State Department officials, and Powell mentioned it in his 2001 speech — and now only Aaron David Miller remembers how the reference [to the need for Palestinian acceptance of "the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State"] got into the this Powell speech?!

Next reference is a clear Israeli demand, in point 13 of Ariel Sharon’s May 2003 list of 14 “reservations”, or objections, to the American/European/Quartet’s Road Map: “In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state”…

Then, it comes up again only in 2007, as a demand (ignored by Palestinian negotiators by Ehud Olmert at the start of the American-led Annapolis process of Direct Negotiations…

Now, it is an insistent demand of Benyamin Netanyahu (recognition as a Jewish State, or alternative version as the “state of the Jewish people:) every time the American administration of Barack Obama mentions anything about resuming talks with the Palestinians…

And recently Obama has shown, again [in his two speeches in May, the first at the State Department, the second to AIPAC], that for the U.S., at least, there is no problem to say that Israel is a Jewish State, or the homeland of the Jewish people. Obama’s words, in May, were: “A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people”.
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If Palestinians want UN membership, they will be punished + fined

A report published by PNN here says that first the Executive Committee and then the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] met in Ramallah and agreed to approve the proposed “UN bid” for full UN membership of the State of Palestine at the United Nations in September. PNN reported tht Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said that “the US has not officially announced its opposition to the Palestinian effort, despite widespread belief that they will veto the proposal at the Security Council. Abbas said 122 countries have already recognized the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. On another matter, Abbas said the Palestinian national authority is facing a great economic crisis.
The PLO central committee demanded Arab nations provide the needed financial support to the Palestinian Authority due to the financial crisis and its inability to pay the salaries of its employees. Bilal al-Shakhshier, from the Palestinian national council, told PNN that the financial crisis the Palestinian Authority is suffering from is due to pressures some countries are implementing to force the Palestinian leadership from going through with the state bid in September”.

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Meanwhile, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported from Ramallah that “The Palestinians will approach the UN Security Council in September to seek full membership in the global body, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Wednesday. ‘We are going to the Security Council through a request to the secretary general of the United Nations to seek full membership in the UN and recognition of Palestine on the 1967 borders’, he said … ‘The choice of peace is our choice … Our first, second and third choice is peaceful negotiations … But after the failure of the Quartet to lay out foundations for the negotiations, which are a halt to settlement building and using the 1967 borders as a basis for the Palestinian state, it is now too late for negotiations … It is too late, there is no time — we are going to the UN’. The meeting of the PLO Central Council comes five days after Abbas convened a gathering of Palestinian diplomats in Istanbul to finalise the strategy for the membership bid. The Central Council is the PLO’s most important decision-making body in the absence of the Palestinian National Council, the parliament-in-exile which rarely meets. Palestinian officials say they are not planning on unilaterally proclaiming a state as they did in Algiers in 1988, nor will they seek recognition from the UN as a whole. Instead, they will continue to work for endorsement on a state-by-state basis, while applying for membership in the global body. Approaching the Security Council would be the only way for the Palestinians to gain full membership in the UN. But officials in Ramallah have indicated that they might also consider seeking General Assembly backing for an upgrade from their current observer status to that of a non-member state.
Such an upgrade would allow the Palestinians to join all the UN agencies, including the World Health Organisation, the child welfare agency UNICEF and the world heritage body UNESCO. It could also provide an alternative for the Palestinians if the United States vetoes its bid for membership in the Security Council, as Washington has already threatened to do”…

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And, the U.S. Congress is moving to fine the Palestinians if they seek membership in the UN.

A Congressional “Subcomm markup” [not Approps full committee] has drafted legislation proposing that “none of the funds appropriated under this heading may be made available for the Palestinian Authority unless the Secretary of State certifies to the Committees on Appropriations that the Palestinian Authority is not attempting to establish or seek recognition at the United Nations of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians”. This is posted here, and “is subject to change as a result of Committee action”.

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On top of all that, Israel has threatened to “cancel” the Oslo Accords if the Palestinian leadership goes ahead with planned moves at the UN. Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that “A team headed by National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror is looking into calling off the Oslo Accords in response to the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral plan to gain United Nations recognition for an independent state … A senior Israeli official said that three weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Amidror to start drafting day-after plans with other government bodies … Israel is concerned that the Palestinians may use the General Assembly resolution in order to launch a legal fight in the International Court at the Hague, or to try to alter the economic and security arrangements reached over the past 18 years. NSC officials told representatives of the various government and military bodies that Israel would not initiate such a move, but may do so in response to the Palestinian actions … ‘Netanyahu is opposed to actions such as annexing settlements to Israel in response to a Palestinian move at the UN’, said an Israeli source familiar with the discussions. ‘Therefore, the NSC is evaluating other possibilities, one of them being voiding the Oslo Accords. In any case, there is no decision yet’ … Doing away with the accords would require reexamining key issues, primarily the status of the PA in the West Bank. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had mentioned doing away with the Oslo Accords during a meeting with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton on June 17. Even though Lieberman supports such a response to a unilateral Palestinian move, officials at the Foreign Ministry consider such action ‘counterproductive’.”
This is reported here.

But, Akiva Eldar commented in Haaretz that “If the Oslo Accords did not exist, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have had to invent them. The document, and in particular the section that confiscates 60 percent of the Palestinians’ land in the West Bank (Area C ) and grants Israeli settlers exclusive access to it, should be placed in a safe by the right-wing and guarded by an elite army unit. And this is why this childish ‘threat’, which has been hovering in the air ever since Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman first waved it at European Union Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton a month ago, is not making much of an impression on Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ); the Palestinian president continues to gather international support for the UN vote expected to take place in September … In an article published over the weekend in the online journal, Foreign Policy, Daniel Levy, a senior member of the Washington think tank, the New America Foundation, discloses that in a meeting of the leaders of the Quartet last week in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton requested of the UN secretary-general and her colleagues in the European Union and Russia to support a general declaration of ‘two states for two people, Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people’. Levy, whose information stems from a source at the highest levels of the Quartet, adds that Clinton did not stop there. At a time when Palestinians were hanging onto Obama’s May 19 speech at the U.S. State Department (the June 4, 1967 borders and territory swaps by agreement as the basis for negotiations ), the U.S. secretary of state instead presented the Quartet with the president’s speech that he gave a few days later to a conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC: ‘Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different to the one that existed on June 4, 1967 … and allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides’. This version is nearly identical to [the wording in ] a letter sent by former President George W. Bush to Ariel Sharon in return for the disengagement from Gaza. Obama offered this to Netanyahu for free. As a bonus, the Americans asked the Quartet to declare that the solution of two states for two nations not be achieved by a process taking place at the UN, and that it should not be expected that a state would conduct negotiations with a terror organization sworn to destroy it. And what did the U.S. offer the Quartet in place of a UN vote and Palestinian reconciliation? ‘A call to the sides to return to direct negotiations, to start with preparations to maximize chances of success’.” Akiva Eldar’s report is published here.

The big story: September State

This is a gem — “September State (Dawlat Aylul)” by Jerusalem-born artist Ahmad Dari, a long-term resident of France, posted on Youtube here:

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This was a follow-up to Ahmad Dari’s earlier observations on the mission of former U.S. Special Envoy, George Mitchell, posted on Youtube here:

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Self-Determination: an important concept, now lost?

Both Israeli and Palestinian theoreticians have argued that the partition of the British Mandate Palestine, as decided at British request by the United Nations in General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 1947, violated the principle of self-determination, which is a central — it could even be said, sacred — concept in modern international law.

(Britain then abstained in the UNGA vote on Resolution 181, as did Turkey, the successor to the Ottoman empire).

A recent policy brief published by Dore Gold’s Jewish Center for Policy Affairs [JCPA] in Jerusalem, recently stated openly that Israel’s claim to the West Bank, and the legitimacy of its settlements there, is based on the 1922 Palestine Mandate.

[This is interesting, as the Palestine Mandate was only formally adopted by the Council of the League of Nations in 1923 -- after the formal surrender of the Ottoman Empire in Lausanne, and, significantly, after Britain informed the League of Nations that Transjordan was being administered separately, thereby effectively limiting Jewish immigration, which the Mandate was designed to encourage, to the areas west of the Jordan River.]

Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network based in Berkeley, California, has a stated mission of educating and fostering “public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law”. In May 2010, it published a policy brief written by Ali Abunimah, entitled “Reclaiming Self-Determination”, and posted here, which says that “any commitment to self-determination in principle or in practice” has been lost or given up (including by the Palestinian leadership) during the “peace process” of the
past two decades.

Abunimah wrote that “The peace process that began with the 1991 Madrid Conference has gradually excluded the majority of Palestinians from having any role in determining the future of their country. In the eyes of peace process sponsors, the ‘Palestinian people’ constitutes at most residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though even Gaza now finds itself as marginalized as the Diaspora. It is this exclusion that has allowed a cause of decolonization and self-determination to be reduced to little more than a ‘border dispute’.”

In his analysis, Abunimah then wrote that self-determination is a right “legitimate residents” of the territories — not of national groups (as the League of Nations recognized the Jewish people, for the first time, by incorporating the language of the Balfour Declaration and its advocacy of a Jewish homeland directly into the Palestine Mandate). However, he then argued, Jewish settlers could be considered, if …

He explained: “[T]he notion that Israeli Jews are legitimate residents, provided they shed their colonial character and privileges, derives directly from the traditional conception of Palestinian self-determination. As Arafat put it in his 1974 UN speech, ‘when we speak of our common hopes for the Palestine of tomorrow we include in our perspective all Jews now living in Palestine who choose to live with us there in peace and without discrimination’.”

Netanyahu to Knesset: Palestinian state will not (even) be contiguous

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a Knesset Committee on Wednesday. according to a report in the Jerusalem Post today, that “The prime minister laid down what he called a ‘framework’ Israel must bring to negotiations, including insistence on a unified Jerusalem, maintaining large settlement blocs located beyond the Green Line under Israeli sovereignty, an Israeli presence on the Jordan River valley, and a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue outside Israel proper. He said the Palestinian state will be ‘broken up’ but will have clearly demarcated borders [emphasis added here]“.

This is published here.

American policy has continued to emphasize that a future Palestinian state must be “contiguous”, as U.S. President Obama said in a couple of statements a few weeks ago.

Obama also said that the U.S. believes direct negotiations should be renewed, and the starting point should be the 1967 borders, with agreed swaps. Netanyahu and the Israeli government then said this raised questions which needed clarification about U.S. support for a 2004 letter of assurances sent by U.S. President George W. Bush, which mentioned demographic realities on the ground — a formula taken to mean some kind of acceptance of large Israeli “settlement blocs” in occupied Palestinian territory.

The JPost report added that “The prime minister, reiterating the platform he laid out before the US Congress last month, said that negotiations for a two-state solution with Israel fully recognized as a Jewish state would lead to peace, and not unilateral moves. He said he had received support from the US Congress, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and ‘other European leaders’.”

P.J. Crowley: U.S. is in no position to stop UN General Assembly recognition of Palestinian State

P.J. Crowley, former State Department spokesperson who recently resigned after criticizing detention conditions for Private Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified U.S. military and cables to Wikileaks, has just spoken to Salon.com about his Twitter activity. The interview is posted here.

Here is what he said concerning expected Palestinian moves to seek UN recognition of their state:

Question: Jumping over to Israeli-Palestine, the Palestinian Authority is now talking about going to the U.N. in September, either through the Security Council or the General Assembly, and seeking recognition as an independent state. News reports suggest that the Obama administration has tried to dissuade them, but it seems like they’re going forward. How do you think the [U.S.] administration would handle that move if the Palestinians do try to do this?

P.J. Crowley: Well if the Palestinians go to the United Nations General Assembly in September to seek some kind of recognition, the United States is in no position to stop it. We don’t have a veto in the General Assembly. The real question is, will it make any difference? And the answer is no. The administration has long held that this move would be not productive and probably counterproductive for the Palestinian cause. That has been our advice to the Palestinians publicly and privately, and I don’t see that changing. There’s still time to try to get a direct negotiation restarted, but there’s little evidence that there’s the kind of productive dynamic between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu that would give a lot of hope. There are speeches coming up — the prime minister is coming to the United States to talk to Congress. Secretary Clinton has indicated the president may give an address on the situation sometime soon, but the real problem is not a [lack of] desire by the United States to push this forward, the problem really is the lack of any rapport between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that would give you any hope of progress.

Question: Even if President Obama gives a speech, are you expecting to see any sort of major initiative from the administration on this, or do you think they’re in a holding pattern?

P.J. Crowley: My personal view is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, recognizing that a Palestinian move at the U.N. in September would put Israel in a difficult political situation, has to be the first to try to change perceptions of where things are now. He may try to do that in his upcoming address in the United States. A lot of people are pointing to his speech here, but if he’s actually going to put on the table a dramatic move, he would do that before his own people, not before the American people. I personally don’t see any immediate prospect for a breakthrough.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Ramallah, hears about Palestinian statehood plans

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Ramallah today, during a trip in an exceptionally tense period to the region.

According to a report in Haaretz, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Gates that Israel should end the occupation of the West Bank by September.

Almost two years ago, Fayyad announced plans to have the institutions of Palestinian statehood ready by September 2011.

In recent months, with the negotiations towards a two-state solution at a stalemate, Palestinian officials in Ramallah have spoken about going to the United Nations to begin preparations to request admission to UN membership of a new state of Palestine.

The Haaretz report, published here, “Fayyad stressed to Gates the importance of meeting the September deadline set in what he called the ‘Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State’ program, a statement issued by the premier’s office said. According to this two year program, by the end of August the Palestinians would have completed building their state institutions and enforced security on the ground, to allow them to establish their independent state. Fayyad told Gates that Israeli restrictions are obstructing Palestinian efforts to build their state institutions. He also said that Israel’s settlement expansion and military incursions into Palestinian Authority-run cities in the West Bank caused problems”.

Israeli officials are saying that a unilateral Palestinian move would be catastrophic, because it would bring a strong Israeli reaction — but, since they are now convinced of the urgent necessity for any solution to be a two-state model, it’s hard to understand their aversion to the Palestinian leadership’s planned moves — except as a compulsive need to maintain control.

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USA vetoes draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements + takes back its alternative offer, too

The U.S. cast its first veto in the UN Security Council on Friday [18 February] under the Obama administration, according to the Washington Post’s Colum Lynch.

UN photo of US Amb Susan Rice casting veto on 18 Feb 2011

UN photo of US Ambassador Susan Rice casting veto on 18 February 2011

All of the other 14 members of the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution, which would have condemned Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.  At least 120 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution, despite a few last-minute drop-outs…

The draft resolution, if it had passed, would have “demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard”.

The British Ambassador later made a point of saying not only that Israeli settlements are illegal, but also added that the three largest EU members hope to see Palestinian State by September of this year. Britain and France are two of the Security Council’s five permanent members who have the power to veto a resolution, and Germany is now one of the Security Council’s ten non-permanent members who have ordinary voting powers — all three voted in favor of the Palestinian-supported draft resolution that the U.S. vetoed.

The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were “illegitimate”.

UPDATE: A post on the Arabist blog here highlights this point:
“It’s rather morbid to read the detailed justification for this. From a State Dept. briefing here:
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Rice, you say that you reject the continued building of settlements on the West Bank as being illegitimate. Yet you vote that no on a resolution that calls it illegal. Why is that, considering that the State Department, as far back as 1978, considered settlement activities illegal?
AMBASSADOR RICE: The United States has not characterized settlement activity as illegal since, I believe, 1980. And – but what we do believe firmly and have reiterated forcefully, including today, is that continued settlement activity is not legitimate”…

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State Department: America’s “ultimate goal” remains the same

U.S. State Department Acting Spokesman Mark C. Toner told journalists at the daily press briefing on 27 December that U.S. “ultimate goals” — including”an effort that will lead to direct negotiations and ultimately a comprehensive settlement” — remain the same.

And, he said (but only in response to a question) the U.S. is still committed to a Palestinian State “within” the 1967 borders — “with legitimate swaps”…

Here are excerpts from the State Department transcript of the briefing, sent via email:

M. TONER:We continue to work to bring both parties back into direct negotiations and to achieve a comprehensive settlement. And frankly, responding to various comments by various officials or government officials is not an effective way to do that. We’re trying to maintain close consultations with both parties, and again, in an effort that will lead to direct negotiations and ultimately a comprehensive settlement“.

QUESTION: One more. Many countries in South America are recognizing a Palestinian state now in a unilateral way. Are you giving a [yellow] light to these countries…?

M. TONER: “That’s okay, Samir. We’ve been very, very clear about our concerns regarding unilateral actions by either party that would in any way jeopardize what remains our ultimate goal, which is to return to direct negotiations and to reach a final – or a comprehensive settlement, a peace settlement. So – and we’ve said on the record many times that we would believe that Palestinian efforts for unilateral independence would fall into that category“.

QUESTION: Sorry, Mark. A follow-up on one of the previous Middle East peace process questions. Is the U.S. still committed to a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders?

M. TONER: “Yes. I don’t have the chapter and verse in front of me, but I believe that’s the – with legitimate swaps. I’d have to check the wording, so I’m hesitant to say on the record because I don’t have the wording in front of me. But we’ve said it many times on the record, and I just would refer you to previous statements by Senator Mitchell“.

DPB # 210