Mahmoud Abbas to selected journalists: UN application will be submitted 19 or 20 September

The New York Times has reported that a selected group of journalists were at the Palestinian Presidential headquarters in the Muqata’a in Ramallah on Thursday, after President Mahmoud Abbas’ talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale.

According to this account, written by the NYTimes’ Isabelle Kershner, “Mr. Abbas said that after they arrived at the United Nations on Sept. 19, the Palestinians would hand their application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for submission to the Security Council, and that a copy would go to the General Assembly chief. Then, he said, the Palestinians will see what occurs. Earlier Thursday, Palestinian officials and supporters kicked off a popular campaign to accompany the United Nations bid, with several dozen people marching to the United Nations headquarters in Ramallah”.

There was some initial confusion elsewhere about this “popular campaign” delivering a letter to the UN office in Ramallah — with some, particularly in Israel, thinking that this was the presentation of the official request.

This was a matter taken up at the UN regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, according to the transcript, here:

Question: Speaking of which, reports, there are reports out from Gaza, from, sorry, from Ramallah that some sort of Palestinian letter, either by the Palestinian Authority or by activists, was sent to the Secretary-General. Has such a letter been received by the Secretary-General? What is your understanding of this, the nature of this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Serry has received the letter and he is in the process of transmitting it to the Secretary-General.

Question: Received a letter from?

Deputy Spokesperson: From I believe it was an activist; a member of an NGO.

Question: An activist? Meaning you don’t perceive this to be an official Palestinian request for membership of the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to wait till the letter is received in the Secretary-General’s office and its contents are read.

Question: But you said Serry has already received it, so I assume that you know the content of it?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t know the content of it, no.

According to the NYTimes: “Mr. Abbas said that if the Quartet produced a package to pave the way back to negotiations that included an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and the use of the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps as the basis for talks on borders — both longstanding Palestinian demands — the Palestinians ‘will go to the United Nations and we will return back to talks’.”

Abbas also said: ” ‘To be frank with you, they came too late’, Mr. Abbas told a group of foreign reporters on Thursday evening at the Mukata, his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The international powers had ‘wasted all the time’ since the beginning of the year, he said, and even now, less than two weeks before the prospective bid at the United Nations, they still had not produced any concrete proposal. Mr. Abbas was speaking after meeting in recent days with two senior American diplomats, David Hale and Dennis Ross, and Tony Blair, the envoy of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers that includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. He said he had also spoken by telephone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week”.

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:


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:


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’.”

EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission hosted a regular twice-yearly meeting on 13 April of the donor coordination group [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee or AHLC] for the occupied Palestinian territory in Brussels. The meeting was presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre in his capacity as chair of the AHLC, and was attended by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, as well as Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, and officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry — and, though we wouldn’t have known it from the AHLC or Blair websites [see instead link below to a Haaretz story], also present was the IDF officer in charge of the Israeli military-administered sanctions on Gaza, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot [whose title is “Coordinator of {Israeli} Government Activities in the {occupied Palestinian} Territories”, a Defense Ministry unit otherwise known as COGAT, which also controls quite a lot in the West Bank as well as in Gaza].

It was, apparently, the first in a series of donor meetings planned for 2011.

The next planned donor conference is scheduled to be held in Paris in June 2011, to support “the Palestinian national development plan for 2011-2013”.

{The UN describes the AHLC here as “a 12-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The AHLC is chaired by Norway and cosponsored by the EU and US. In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank (Secretariat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Government of Israel (GoI)”. The Portland Trust, which seems to set the policies that Tony Blair follows, notes here that “The AHLC was established on 1 October 1993 (this is two weeks after the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords) . It serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. Norway is the chair of the committee, the World Bank acts as secretariat and the EU and US are co-sponsors. The members are: the Palestinian Authority (PA), Government of Israel (GoI), Canada, Egypt, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, Jordan, United Nations (UN), Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia”. It is worth noting that the Portland Trust’s publication, Palestinian Economic Bulletin, is prepared by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah.}

The Norwegian Chairman reportedly said that “the international donor group in support of the Palestinians (AHLC) welcomed reports that the Palestinian Authority has crossed the threshold for a functioning state in terms of its successful institution building. This was the assessment of the Palestinian Authority’s performance in key sectors studied by the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN. Moreover, according to the IMF, the Palestinian reforms have come so far that not only is the public financial management system ready to support the functions of a state; it has even become a model for other developing countries”. These remarks are posted here.

This report also reported that Støre said: “many donors noted that the lack of political progress leaves the negotiating track out of sync with the far advanced state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority. This is why all parties concerned must stand firm behind the stated goal of negotiating a framework agreement on permanent status and a subsequent comprehensive peace treaty by the agreed target date in September”.

Continue reading EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

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”…

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

European Union Foreign Ministers say they are ready to recognize a Palestinian State "when appropriate"

European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers issued a statement on Monday, at the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting held in Brussels on Monday, repeating the conclusions they reached a year ago: “We reiterate those Conclusions. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. This could include agreed territorial swaps. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states. The EU calls for an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee question. A negotiated settlement must allow the two States to live side by side in peace and security”.

The EU council of Foreign Ministers also “reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state. We welcome the World Bank’s assessment that ‘if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance in institution building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future’.”

When appropriate…

Actually, something not too different was mentioned at the end of the first World War, just before the League of Nations authorized Britain to manage the Palestine Mandate … which was categorized as a Class A Mandate, over a people who were almost ready for independence…