Half the Quartet was in Israel last week (the EU’s Catherine Ashton, and U.S. Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell) — and they failed to move Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu to agree to extend, even a little bit, his unilateral 10-month settlement freeze that expired on 26 September.
The Palestinian leadership gave the USA an additional four days — until 30 September — to keep trying.
But, there was no movement.
After that, the rump PLO leadership and the Fatah Central Committee meet in the Presidential headquarters in Ramallah, and urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop “direct” talks with Israel as long as there is any settlement construction going on. Following Saturday’s meeting, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, said that “The leadership confirms that the resumption of talks requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements”…
Netanyahu said there should be no preconditions.
An Arab League summit meeting is due to convene in Sirte, Libya, on 8 October. Palestinian proposals to have earlier emergency consultations with the Arab League have been cancelled.
Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan was reported by Ma’an News Agency as saying that Abbas will tender his resignation when the Arab League summit meeting does open. Dahlan is in charge of the Media portfolio for Fatah. His comments are reported here.
[So, Abbas will not resign in front of his own people, but rather in front of Arab leaders?]
Meanwhile, Abbas is saying he still intends to work with the U.S. to find a solution…
In a profile of Israeli journalist Gideon Levy of Haaretz, who has chronicled Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory for decades, Johann Hari of The Independent evokes his thoughts on the peace process.
He starts with Oslo: “Levy believes the greatest myth – the one hanging over the Middle East like perfume sprayed onto a corpse – is the idea of the current “peace talks” led by the United States. There was a time when he too believed in them. At the height of the Oslo talks in the 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin negotiated with Yassir Arafat, ‘at the end of a visit I turned and, in a gesture straight out of the movies, waved Gaza farewell. Goodbye occupied Gaza, farewell! We are never to meet again, at least not in your occupied state. How foolish!’ Now, he says, he is convinced it was ‘a scam’ from the start, doomed to fail. How does he know? ‘There is a very simple litmus test for any peace talks. A necessity for peace is for Israel to dismantle settlements in the West Bank. So if you are going to dismantle settlements soon, you’d stop building more now, right? They carried on building them all through Oslo. And today, Netanyahu is refusing to freeze construction, the barest of the bare minimum. It tells you all you need’. He says Netanyahu has – like the supposedly more left-wing alternatives, Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni – always opposed real peace talks, and even privately bragged about destroying the Oslo process. In 1997, during his first term as Israeli leader, he insisted he would only continue with the talks if a clause was added saying Israel would not have to withdraw from undefined military locations’ – and he was later caught on tape boasting: ‘Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo accords’. If he bragged about ‘stopping’ the last peace process, why would he want this one to succeed? Levy adds: ‘And how can you make peace with only half the Palestinian population? How can you leave out Hamas and Gaza?’.”
He continues: “These fake peace talks are worse than no talks at all, Levy believes…
The New America Foundation has posted a Youtube video [found via a story by Matt Duss on The Wonk Room blog] of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad speaking to the group in Washington recently: .
Matt Duss’ piece here concentrates on Fayyad’s views on the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Duss includes a brief transcript of the relevant remarks, in which Fayyad mentions only the exchange of recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was formally exchanged on the eve of the live event, broadcast worldwide from the White House lawn on 13 September 1993, when the U.S. then- President Bill Clinton hosted the late Yasser Arafat and the late Yitzhak Rabin for the formal signing the Declaration of Principles Olso Accords.
The transcript notes that Fayyad said (in response to a question — asked by Matt Duss himself, as it happens — at 49:25) that: “Actually we did a lot more than recognize Israel’s existence in 1993”:
Facebook friends are abuzz this morning about Al-Jazeera’s interview with Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah, in which, they say, he “dissects” the speech made this week at the UNGA by U.S. President Barack Obama:
“Well, anyone watching this speech would have to be a cynic”, Abunimah said. There really wasn’t anything really new in the Obama speech, Abunimah stated — adding: “and that bodes very ill for the peace process that he’s so invested in”.
Just hours before the Israeli unilaterally-declared settlement “moratorium” expires on 26 September, the U.S. and the parties involved are looking for a way to keep the talks going.
U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State [Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs] Jeffrey Feltman told reporters in New York on Friday, where world leaders are still hanging around the margins of the UN General Assembly, that “Yes, we are urging Israel to extend the moratorium. Yes. And we also are making clear to the Palestinians that we do not believe that it is in their interest to walk out of the talks. We do not believe that it helps them achieve their national goals if they would walk out of the talks. But we – but at this point, we are urging both sides to create the atmosphere that is most conducive to reaching a successful conclusion for negotiation and for both sides to take the negotiation process seriously … [W]e we want to see a two-state solution that’s an anchor for comprehensive peace. The best way to get to a two-state solution is through negotiations. The Palestinians and the Israelis have started a serious process. It is a process that is not going to be without difficulties. The gaps on some issues are quite wide. But it’s nevertheless the – a promising way for the Palestinians to achieve their goal of statehood, for the Palestinians to have a state that they can call their own”.
Asked by a journalist if “it’s counterproductive for every time Abbas sees something that he doesn’t like to walk out of the talks”, Feltman replied: “We don’t think either side should be using the threat to walk out to interrupt a process that has the promise of bringing Israel security and bringing the Palestinians a state”.
Writing in complaint of an article signed by AP correspondent Robert Burns, Daoud Kuttab has written that “Every US president since 1967 has chastised Israel for building settlements in occupied territories. Every UN Security Council Resolution and UN General Assembly decrees or statements have repeatedly censured Israel for violating the Geneva Conventions. As late as July 2004 the International Court of Justice at the Hague unanimously agreed in a decision about the Israeli wall, built deep in Palestinian territories, that settlement activities in the West Bank are in violation of international law. While AP reporters, international law, and the unanimity of world opinion agree to call Israeli building activity in the territories settlements, the AP reporter, Robert Burns, insists on his own terminology. Ironically, his insistence is not only restricted to what terms he gives to settlements, but he has the audacity and the lack of professionalism to put his language in the mouths of Palestinians. Speaking about the difficulties facing Clinton, Burns tells the readers what he thinks Palestinians want. ‘But the most immediate obstacle for negotiators is a Palestinian demand that Israel extend a curb on new housing construction [emphasis mine] in the West Bank, a constraint that Israel says will expire Sept. 26’, Burns writes. [But] Palestinians have never demanded a ‘curb on housing construction’, as if this was a mere zoning issue. Palestinians have consistently sided with the international community [actually, the international community, or ic, did not come up with this by itself, rather the ic sides with the Palestinians] that these Jewish-only settlements, built on illegally confiscated Palestinian land, are in violation of international law and must be removed. This demand is not aimed at the race or religion of the settlers but the fact that this was done in violation of international law. In a gesture for peace during proximity talks this summer, Palestinians officially handed the US peace envoy a written approval that Palestinians would be willing to make a compromise for some of the settlement blocs in areas cradling the Green Line on condition that they are swapped for lands equal in size and importance. But this has not changed Palestinians’ demands that settlement activities be suspended during the peace talks“… Daoud Kuttab’s complaint is posted here.
On 7 September, Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz that “The Palestinians returned from the Washington summit with a sense that the Americans, for a change, understand them and perhaps favor their side [n.b. – this is what Palestinians hoped for ever since Obama’s taking office in January 2009]. The optimism prevailing in Ramallah is not due to cautious hope that Netanyahu will decide to divide Jerusalem. It stems from Obama’s promise that the United States will not surprise [emphasis added] the Palestinians, a formulation for years reserved for the ‘special relationship’ between the U.S and Israel. This is what Abbas received in return for his consent to open direct negotiations.
If among Israelis there is widespread concern that a final status arrangement with the Palestinians will turn out to be temporary , the Palestinians have learned that with Israelis, the temporary easily turns into the permanent. The impending solution was intended to combine the permanent with the temporary. The American mediators will strive to get the parties to sign a framework agreement that is based on the principles of the Clinton outline from December 2000: the 1967 borders; proportional territorial exchanges; disarmament of assault weapons; division of sovereignty in eastern Jerusalem based on the ethnic makeup of the neighborhoods; realization of the right of return in the Palestinian state. The signing of such an agreement in principle by Netanyahu and Abbas, with accompanying timetables, will pave the way to interim stages. The first stage should be delineating settlement blocs that will be freed of the construction freeze”.
Laura Rozen has reported on Politico on 3 September that “One diplomat who attended a State Department briefing Friday for Western country diplomats on the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks noted the administration is keeping its cards close to the chest with their allies as well. ‘Every question was answered with “it’s up to the parties to decide”, or “no comment”, or “let’s not get ahead of ourselves”,’ he said of the forty minute briefing. ‘Virtually nothing was said that wasn’t direct quotes from Obama, Clinton, or Mitchell’ in recent days, he added. The administration is trying to brief more and do more outreach, while at the same time be quite secretive and stingy with details so as not to imperil fragile peace efforts … at a Tuesday briefing at the National Security Council, Mitchell regaled journalists – and sounded like he would be happy to go on even longer — on what was analogous and not between the Northern Irish peace effort vs. the current Middle East one, which hadn’t quite been asked by anyone. He filled the time with anodyne observations without stepping on more delicate current territory, no doubt an art in and of itself. The diplomat said he understood the discretion so as not to spoil the chances of success. His only issue was that they perhaps shouldn’t invite a lot of people for a briefing if the purpose was to have an excuse to decline a more detailed one in person at a later date”.