Salam Fayyad: We are going to work on the Roadmap Phase I

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — who actually lives in a Palestinian suburb that is still within the Jerusalem muncipality, who is reputed to be a technocrat reformer because he previously worked for the International Monetary Fund, and who says that Hamas is “alien” to Palestinian culture — insists, according to today’s Haaretz, that “a Palestinian-American-Israeli commission on implementing the first stage of the road map peace plan will soon begin work … According to Fayad Thursday, the commission will consist of himself, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. security coordinator Keith Dayton. Israeli officials, however, said that while the creation of such a commission was discussed during last week’s visit by U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, neither its composition nor its powers have been finalized. Israel would apparently prefer the commission not to have the power to make binding decisions on who should do what first”.

Lt. General Keith Dayton has been working on beefing up Palestinian security forces. Rumors that he had shipped large quantities of armaments to Fatah forces in Gaza last spring — to use against Hamas, among others — played a major factor in the Hamas decision to move against Fatah and take control of Gaza in mid-June. Now, Hadley’s back. (He never left, actually, but he was rather invisible for a while, as the implications of what had happened in Gaza were being absorbed, and a certain amount of criticism was levelled at the American attempt to arm one Palestinian group against another.)

Hadley has been a prime mover in the Ramallah decision to deploy hundreds of Palestinian policemen in Nablus. On Friday, 300 Palestinian police were deployed in Nablus, according to the Ma’an Palestinian news agency — which added that “The Palestinian security services are facing a complex situation in Nablus. There are still 37 members of the Palestinian resistance being hunted by Israeli forces within the city”.

Kol Israel Radio reported Friday evening that it is “the first time Palestinian security forces have been allowed to deploy in the West Bank since 2002” — when the IDF reoccupied major West Bank cities, and launched a barely-restrained assault on the Palestinian Presidential headquarters compound, the Muqata’a, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In its report, Ma’an noted that “The Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv reported that the agreement on the return of hundreds of police and Palestinian security to Nablus had been drawn up a month and a half ago when Fayyad met Barak and asked him for permission to deploy 500 members of the security services to the city. According to Ma’ariv the Palestinian policemen will have jurisdiction in Nablus during the day but this will pass to the Israeli army during the night”.

Ma’an added, in its report, that “Nablus Governor Jamal Muhaysin said that the Israelis had refused a request not to enter Nablus during the night”. The Ma’an news agency report on the deployment of 300 Palestinian policemen to Nablus today is here.

The Road Map, announced in 2003 (soon after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq — in an apparent effort to calm criticism of U.S. double standards in the Middle East), was supposed to lead to a seat for Palestine on main floor of the UN General Assembly, and not on the side with the other observer organizations like the Vatican and the African Union, by the end of 2003. The Road Map was developed by the U.S. and endorsed by the Quartet, to flesh out President Bush’s 2002 “vision” of a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (“If we’re talking about a state [of Palestine], why not call it a state”, Bush reportedly decided in a White House meeting with advisers]. The Road Map foresaw a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

Why is Salam Fayyad so insistent on implementing the Road Map (Phase I)? It seems that Fayyad (and other Palestinian Authority negotiators as well) believe that they can make a convincing case that they have complied with the terms, while Israel has not. But, this could be a costly point to score — it could mean an indefinite delay in the Annapolis “meeting” or Peace Conference that is supposed to take place by the end of the year.

Today’s Haaretz story notes that “The Palestinian Authority claims that it has already fulfilled all its first-stage responsibilities, whereas Israel has not fulfilled its obligation to freeze settlement construction and dismantle illegal outposts. Israel, however, says that the PA is far from fulfilling its first-stage counterterrorism responsibilities”.

The article also reports that “Fayad also said that his government is willing to operate the Gaza Strip border crossings if Israel reopens them. The crossings have been closed since Hamas seized control of the strip because Israel does not trust Hamas to run them”.
Today’s Haaretz story on Fayyad’s insistence that work begin on Phase I of the Roadmap is here.

But, would Hamas trust the Ramallah leadership to operate on the Palestinian side of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza? The animosity between the two groups is enormous, and neither side has shown too much reluctance to undermine the other (though Hamas has been ever so slightly more restrained).

On Thursday, Haaretz reported that “Fayad said Thursday that the three have not started working yet, but said implementing the first phase of the road map will be key to the success of the U.S.-hosted Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November or December. ‘If we want the Annapolis conference to be a successful one, and if we want the peace process to get back on track, we have to implement the first phase of the road map, and it is possible to implement it’, he said”.
Haaretz’s story on Thursday reporting Fayyad’s remarks about the Road Map is here.

Meanwhile, in a very Yasser-Arafat-like gesture, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas invited some West Bank members of Hamas to join him for Friday prayers at his headquarters in Ramallah.

Abbas has demanded that Hamas apologize for its military rout of Fatah in Gaza last June before he would hold any dialogue with Hamas. Israeli officials have expressed great opposition every time trial balloons are floated about a possible meeting. But today was just communal prayers.

Abbas told Reuters news agency after the prayers today that “I met with Hamas officials and told them there would be no dialogue with Hamas until they reverse their coup.” The Reuters report on Abbas invitation to West Bank members of Hamas to join him for Friday prayers is here.

[Arafat-like though it is, could it be that this invitation to West Bank Hamas members for Friday prayers in the Muqata’a mean that Abu Mazen has a sense of humor? As AP noted in a report from Ramallah on Sunday,”Earlier in the week, a Hamas leader in Gaza, Nizar Rayan, had bragged that Hamas would one day pray in Abbas’ headquarters in the West Bank, as it has done in Gaza”. Now, this could be said to have happened — though not exactly as Rayan suggested…]

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