What has George Mitchell achieved so far?

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said at the Daily Press Briefing for journalists in Washington, DC on Wednesday 21 July — in response to questions — that U.S. Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell had returned from his latest efforts in “proximity” talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and had achieved… “A lot of frequent flyer miles (laughter).”…

Continue reading What has George Mitchell achieved so far?

Desperate for a two-state solution?

British Prime Minister David Cameron said, in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on 20 July that “we desperately need a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians that provides security, justice and hope. As we were discussing over lunch, it is time for direct talks, not least because it is time for each, Israel and Palestine, to test the seriousness of the other”…

The full transcript of their remarks is posted here.

Saeb Erekat: We declared our independence in 1988 – it's up to the international community to declare recognition"

Haaretz service is reporting that Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said in an interview with Turkish state television TRT that “A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is ‘not on the agenda’ … ‘We declared our independence in 1988’, Erekat said. ‘Now it’s up to the international community to declare recognition of our independence … Our option is a two-state solution. We have recognized the state of Israel and its right to exist on the 1967 borders. Now it’s up to the international community to stand firm and recognize Palestine on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital’.”

According to Haaretz, Erekat also said in the interview that: “Our position is that the key to direct negotiations is in the hand of Mr. Netanyahu … The minute he stops settlement activities including natural growth in Jerusalem, the minute he agrees to go to permanent status talks, where we left them in December 2008, we’ll have direct talks … The Israelis have a choice, settlements or peace. They can’t have both”. These remarks are reported here.

Obama calls Abu Mazen

Haaretz is reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama has phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] on Friday (yesterday) “to brief the Palestinian president on the American leader’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … Obama promised Abbas that he would exert every effort to ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel”.

The last time we heard about an Obama call to Abu Mazen was on the day after Obama’s inauguration — and his call to Abu Mazen then was his first to a foreign leader after taking office.

Apparently, U.S. Special Middle East envoy will be back in the region soon [either for a sixth round of indirect or “proximity” talks that started in May, or perhaps to transition into the direct mode which is, and always was, inevitable].

How do we know about this? Haaretz wrote that “Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Palestinian news agency WAFA following the phone conversation that Abbas expressed his commitment to a serious peace process that would ‘end the occupation’ and result in an independent Palestinian state”. This report can be read in full ,strong>here].

Gideon Levy: "Everybody knows what the Palestinians want"

Writing after the Tuesday meeting in Washington between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — in which Obama said he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible, and certainly by September when a nine-month [the duration was decided after considerable haggling] “settlement freeze”, Gideon Levy said in Haaretz that “When direct talks become a goal, without anyone having a clue what Israel’s position is – a strange negotiation in which everyone knows what the Palestinians want and no one knows for sure what Israel wants – the wheel not only does not go forward, it goes backward”.

This is posted here.

Nathan Brown on Salam Fayyad's "state-building"

Excerpts (with thanks to Sam Bahour) From Nathan Brown’s new assessment of Salam Fayyad and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority: “Fayyad has become so indispensible to U.S. diplomacy in particular that there now seems a bizarre knee-jerk reaction to anything bad that happens in Gaza: delivering more money to Ramallah (as happened when the Gaza war concluded in January 2009 or after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010)…

“Washington tends to make the same mistake over and over in Palestinian politics—searching for (and sometimes finding) a particular individual who has the virtues needed to lead Palestinians in the path the United States wishes at a particular time. In Washington, Fayyad is the indispensible man of the hour, suggesting that once more the U.S. leadership is confusing a useful individual with a sound policy. Nobody I met in Palestine suffers from the same confusion. Even the most earnest officials are frustrated by the political context of their efforts—they see their effectiveness limited by the absence of sovereignty and feel that they are operating in a punishing holding pattern rather participating in an inexorable march toward statehood.

“[A]fter examining Palestinian institutional development on the ground, I see only spotty signs of progress—and there are also profoundly worrying signs of regression as well. Those who cite Fayyad’s success at building institution rarely cite a single institution that has been built. Instead they refer generally to improvements in ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’. (On security, they tend to concentrate on daily policing—where there has been improvement—and overlook the far more checkered record of the intelligence and security services.)  There is a reason for this vagueness. There simply have been few institutions built in Ramallah since the first Fayyad cabinet was formed in 2007. Instead, the focus has been on breathing life and regularizing institutions that were built in previous periods.

“There is no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have ignored; judges have bowed out of some sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed.

“The fact remains, of course, that a campaign for “security” is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas. And as a result other problems—political interference, illegal detentions—do not seem to have been addressed. Or, rather, they have been addressed—by a decision at senior levels (the security service heads and perhaps the president himself) that the struggle against Hamas takes priority over the law…

This report and analysis by Nathan Brown can be read in full here.