Was Mahmoud Abbas in a hurry to form his new "national consensus" Palestinian government ahead of Sisi's inauguration today?

Here is a screenshot photo of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walking into the post-inaugural reception of Egypt’s newly-installed President AbdelFattah Sisi, in Cairo today — the screenshot was Tweeted here:

Hany Rasmy ‏@hany2m — Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, arrives at Ittihadiya palace – pic.twitter.com/Firhbp1a63

President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo
President Mahmoud Abbas followed by security + by Saeb Erekat attend Sisi inaugural reception in Cairo

Samer Al-Atrush @SameralAtrush · Abbas arrives at Ittihadiya with Erekat in tow [n.b. – Erekat is wearing blue shirt, walking behind security men who are behind Abbas…]

Alex Ortiz ‏@azortiz — #Egypt’s presidential palace is crowded with well-wishing Gulf monarchs. Tahrir seems to have a couple hundred #Sisi supporters celebrating.


Sisi’s inauguration comes just a week after Abbas’ ceremony to swear in the new Palestinian government — and it seems that having the new government [later dubbed a government of “national conciliation”] in place by the time of Sisi’s inauguration was a significant consideration in pushing it through.  That it’s also in Hamas’ higher interest — to repair damaged relations with Egypt’s govenment and to reopen Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai — explains why Hamas went along with Abbas’ big push, despite differences and reservations on several points of the arrangements.

Big things are expected to come out of discussions between Abbas and Sisi [and probably some of the Gulf VIPs] during these inauguration festivities in Cairo.– even though Abbas is expected at the Vatican this evening for a joint prayer for peace in the Middle East with Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, at the suggestion and invitation of Pope Francis.

In preparation for these discussions, it is being reported by Al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem that President Abbas yesterday [Saturday] received Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and the Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil elAraby, and held discussion about the region but focussed particularly on the new Palestinian government.

These may have been two separate meetings, because Egypt’s The Daily News is reporting on Abbas’ meeting with Fahmy here

Continue reading Was Mahmoud Abbas in a hurry to form his new "national consensus" Palestinian government ahead of Sisi's inauguration today?

A "top Egyptian official" says President Abbas is requested to reopen presidential HQ in Gaza

A “top Egyptian official” has reportedly told the private Palestinian Ma’an News Agency that Egypt will request President Mahmoud Abbas to re-open Palestinian presidential headquarters in Gaza.  This is reported here

The same report says that Egypt’s President-elect AbdelFattah Sisi [who will be inaugurated in Cairo on Sunday, tomorrow] + Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will also consider opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt’s Sinai and Gaza — as long as the ‘legal’ Palestinian authorities will be ‘directing’ it…

Mahmoud Abbas puts together [+ pushes through] a new Palestinian Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas swore in a new Palestinian Government today in the Ramallah Muqata’a.

So far, it’s being called the “new government”… [UPDATE [see above]:  the following day, PM Hamdallah willl refer to it as “a national consensus government”…]

This group portrait [minus those stuck in Gaza, and  it turns out there are four] was taken after the new ministers present were sworn in, one-by-one, and was posted on Twitter here by @TPM [Talking Points Memo], and illustrates their post, here — [AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed] :

Group portrait of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the new Palestinian Government
Group portrait of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the new Palestinian Government

Putting together information from several sources, plus my own monitoring of the event televised live at 1:00 pm, this is the best I could do to come up with a list of the ministers in the new governmen:

1. Rami Hamdallah – Prime Minister + Interior Minister
2. Ziyad Abu Amr – Deputy PM + Minister of Culture  – originally from Gaza, not living there
3. Muhammad Mustafa – Deputy PM + Minister of National Economy

4. Shukri Bishara – Finance Minister + Planning Minister
5. Riyad al-Maliki – Foreign Minister
6. Adnan Husseini – Minister of Jerusalem Affairs

Three from Gaza [CORR: there are four {4} living in Gaza who were denied permission by Israel to leave and travel to Ramallah, and there was no videoconference of the swearing-in ceremony, either – the fourth is #13, see below, who is also the 3rd lady minister in this new government]…
7. Mustafa Salim as-Saqqa – [Gaza = absent] – Minister of Justice
8. Mufeed Hassayneh – [Gaza = absent] – Minister of Public Works + Housing
9. Ma’moun Abu Shahla – [Gaza = absent] – Labor Minister

Objections from Hamas in Gaza centered primarily around Abbas’ planned elimination of a Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs [due to objections from major donors, especially the USA]. The objections were resolved at the last minute by preemption + obfuscation:

10. Shawqi al-Aiyssa – Minister of Agriculture + Minister of Social Affairs

It was later explained – incorrectly, and this was just part of the confusion –  that al-Aiyssa was given a third portfolio, Prisoners… but at the moment he was sworn in, no such thing was announced.
UPDATE 1: It became clear hours later that in fact he was NOT sworn in as Minister of Prisoner Affairs, as I confirmed when I re-watched the video when it was shown during the 9 pm news and when I spoke to Palestinian Government Spokesman Dr. Ehab Bseisso [on Tuesday afternoon June 2], who told me that PM Rami Hamdallah had appointed Shawqi al-Aiysa, AFTER the swearing-in ceremony — just to “oversee” Prisoners’ Affairs…
UPDATE 2: PM Hamdallah said to the media the next morning [again, see above]: “Concerning the issue of transforming the Ministry of Detainees to a commission under the PLO, the government regards this as the part of the President’s mandate and the PLO’s responsibility. For the time being, Mr. Shawqi Al-Ayasseh will assume the role of caretaker of the Ministry of Detainees”.

Three women ministers – previously, there was never more than one at a time
11. Rula Maaya’ – [a woman, who served in the same post in the immediately preceeding government] – Tourism + Antiquities Minister
12. Khawla al-Shakhsheer – [a woman] – Education and Higher Education Minister
13. Hayfa al-Agha – [a woman – and UPDATE: yes, she is from Gaza, and that’s why she was absent from the Muqata’a ceremony] – Women’s Affairs Minister

14. Jawad Awwad – Health Minister
15. Allam Moussa – Communications Minister + Transport Minister
16. Yusef Day’is – Minister of Awqaf [Islamic trusts foundation] + Religious Affairs
17. Nayef Abu Khalaf – Minister of Local Governance

Palestine TV aired what seemed to be a pre-recorded speech by Mahmoud Abbas, a few minutes after the swearing-in ceremony in the Muqata’a.

A little later, Palestine TV aired statements by Abbas + Hamdallah at initial meeting in Muqata’a of new Palestinian government [and announced that an Ismail Haniyeh statement was expected…] Abbas spoke to the new cabinet about elections [presidential, Palestine Legislative Council + also, for the 1st time ever, for the PLO’s Palestine National Council]; he also stressed the 1967 borders, which he stressed include East Jerusalem.

The new Palestinian government is supposed to prepare the way for long-delayed elections in which Hamas’ electoral strength will be tested + measured.

Earlier today, Haaretz’ Barak Ravid reported that, “barring a last minute dispute”, a new Palestinian government will be sworn in today + Israel’s Security Cabinet will meet afterward…

Ravid reported herethat “Abbas pressed for the swearing-in on assumption that any further delay wld lead to additional disputes” [w/Hamas, or others, on posts]

Continue reading Mahmoud Abbas puts together [+ pushes through] a new Palestinian Government

The Olmert revelations

Avi Issacharoff has published his promised report here on his interview with Israel’s Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert … in which Olmert describes his interaction with the Palestinian leaders and the proposals he gave Mahmoud Abbas on 16 September 2008.

Abbas has said he wants talks to restart from this point.

Issacharoff reported that Olmert said this:

“I completely gave up on having an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley…because I could protect the Jordan River line through an international military force on the other side of the Jordan River”… “There was no opposition on the Palestinian side to our having a presence in warning stations along the mountain range”…

Issacharoff: “Today, such an offer, particularly as it relates to the Jordan Valley, is all but inconceivable”… [Netanyahu wants control]

Olmert said: “I proposed a compromise on…the Temple Mount. There’d be no sovereignty for anyone else” but joint administration of 5 states This idea [no sovereignty but joint administration of 5 states – Palestine, Israel, Jordan Saudi Arabia, and the United States] “came from my head. I was thinking about it day + night”… What did Abbas say? Olmert: “he didn’t say he opposed my idea. It was clear to me that he agreed…”

Abbas said [according to Olmert] “Listen, it makes a very serious impression…but I have to be sure. I want the map experts from both sides to sit together”

Olmert told Issacharoff that: “We called over Turjeman + Saeb, I said Shalom should call Danny Tirza, our map expert, so they should sit together the next day” Olmert: But Saeb Erekat called the next day to cancel the map experts’ because the Palestinians “had forgotten that Abbas had to go to Amman”…

A senior Palestinian official told Issacharoff: “The natural thing was that Abu Mazen would not sign immediately” + would responsibly consult w/ the PLO leadership.

Issacharoff said he asked a senior Palestinian official:  Between the last meeting + the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, there were 3 months”. Why did you give no answer to Olmert in that time?

Olmert told Issacharoff that he had his own ideas about why: The Palestinians “were very worried. Abu Mazen is not a big hero. They were afraid. Erekat was worried..They thought maybe after the American elections they would get more from President Obama”…

In Issacharoff’s earlier piece [published in The Tower on 17 May], he wrote: “Olmert’s offer will likely one day become the basis for a final-status agreement”…

Saeb Erekat said, however, that “Olmert’s memory concerning the last meeting has been rather foggy”.

Erekat said there were “many intervening meetings” during the 3 months between the meeting with Olmert in September 2008 + Operation Cast Lead between Palestinian + Israelis [Turgeman, Livni, + Tal Becker].

Asked by the Jerusalem Post to elaborate, Erekat explained:
(1): “We also presented a map to Olmert that would transfer 1.9% of West Bank territory to Israeli sovereignty…”
(2): “On December 18, 2008 we deposited our map + Olmert’s map as we remembered it w/ President Bush at the White House…”
(3): we deposited our map w/ Bush “…in the presence of Rice + [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley…”
(4): Bush asked that “we + Israel send reps on Jan 3, 2009 to Washington, but then the operation [Cast Lead] began in Gaza”…


UPDATE: A document in the Palestine Papers leaked to Al-Jazeera and now posted on their website here indicates that on 31 August, Olmert or his people ran a summary of the “package” he was going to propose, two weeks later in September, to Abbas.

It was apparently not yet complete, by the end of August, and did not contain the proposal of the 5-nation administration over the “Holy Basin”. It did, however, say that East Jerusalem would be divided territorially along the lines of the Clinton Parameters [with the exception of the “Holy Basin”, which Olmert said comprises 0.04% of the West Bank (approximately 2.2 km)]…

But it did contain the slightly whittled-down territorial concession:
“Israel would annex 6.8% of the West Bank … including the four main settlement ‘blocs’ of Gush ‘Etzion (with Efrata), Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ariel, as well as all of the settlements in East Jerusalem (with Har Homa), in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5% from Israeli territory … safe passage between Gaza and West Bank would be under Israeli sovereignty with Palestinian control, and is not included in the above percentages”.

And it said “There will be a special road connecting Bethlehem with Ramallah, thus by-passing East Jerusalem (most likely the same road currently planned around Adumim)”.

And “Israel would acknowledge the suffering of – but not responsibility for – Palestinian refugees … and eould contribute to the compensation of the refugees through an international mechanism and based on suffering … Compensation, and not restitution or return [(apart from 5,000 Israel would allow to return inside the Green Line on a humanitarian basis)], would be the only remedy”.

LAND SWAPS = Exclusive new report: map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert on 16 Sept 2008

This is an exclusive [not ours, but of Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, who reported it in The Tower, here] — a map reportedly hand-drawn from memory by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 16 September 2008 upon his return to Ramallah after meeting Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In his exclusive, Issacharoff wrote that this map somehow “calls into question the basic willingness of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept any peace agreement with the Jewish State”…

But Issacharoff’s story [w/ the Abbas map exclusive] could have the effect of bolstering Abbas’ position that talks should restart at the point they broke off in September 2008 — in other words, on the basis of the proposals made at the time this map was drawn.  The current Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has refused to start talks on this basis.  But, the concrete confirmation of the discussion on 16 September 2008 in the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, could somehow facilitate the restart of the direct negotiations.

This map, reportedly drawn by Abbas, appears to be encased in transparent plastic:

Negotiations map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert
Negotiations map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert

In fact, the only thing that’s new in this story, so far, is the photo of this map. [But, Issacharoff promises to publish his full interview with Olmert tomorrow…]


Land Swaps

Palestinian negotiators have said for several years that the Israelis only let them look at this map, but never to keep it.   Palestinians then prepared their own map which they gave to George Mitchell at the start of the Obama administration’s involvement in 2009 — but they say that to this day Israel has not actually handed over a map, only shown one in September, then whisked it away.  [Another report published later today suggested that Abbas was asked to sign the map, but when he declined, the map was retained by Olmert…]

This map, which Issacharoff said is the one drawn by President Abbas, is a map of Israeli proposals for Land Swaps — an idea that evolved out of the Geneva Initiative signed in December 2003, in Geneva, between Israeli and Palestinian “civil society” teams.

The Palestinian team insisted that the Land Swaps be on a 1:1 basis — and this was agreed by the Israeli team of unofficial negotiators.  It was the one concrete Palestinian achievement through the Geneva Initiative.

The Palestinians additionally scored another point through the Geneva Initiative negotiations: the Land Swaps should be of land of an equal or greater “quality” [i.e., not rubbish or  poor-quality barren wasteland].

The Abbas-drawn map shows, inside the West Bank, only the 3 large settlement blocs that have been under discussion between Israels and Palestinians since 2000-2001: Ariel, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim.

It also shows, outside the West Bank, what must be proposed areas of land swaps: 1.) North of the West Bank; 2.) at the Tarqumiya area  just to the West of the Tarqoumiya area [where the terminal for the two-way safe-passage route planned between Gaza and the West Bank was/is to be located] ; and 3.) South of the West Bank.  The Tarqoumiya area was/is supposed to be the terminal for the two-way safe-passage route that was supposed to be already operating already, for years, between Gaza and the West Bank.

[The two designs to the left are not clear — the lower one appears to be the Gaza Strip, with the blob within the wavy line to the right appears to be the Land Swap offer.  Is the top one just a doodle?  UPDATE:  No — According to Issacharoff’s report on Friday 24 May in The Tower, these are the Arabic numbers of the percentage of Land Swap as Abbas incorrectly remembered them (6.8% and 5.5%, rather than 6.3%  and 5.8%)

NOTE: The Palestine Papers, leaked documents from the Palestinian offices including from the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit, show that in a meeting in June 2008, three months before the final Olmert-Abbas meeting on 16 September 2008, Tzipi Livni said: “The 7.3% offer by Olmert is the most generous, and will be perceived by Israelis as the most fair”.  In that same meeting, Ahmad Qureia [Abu Alaa] stuck to the same 1.9% that Palestinian negotiators are still standing by today, and said that  “7.3 position just does not allow a state to survive, and it takes all around Jerusalem, and gives to the south of the West Bank and next to Gaza”.   This revelation is published here.

Another of the Palestine Paper documents describes Israel’s position in July 2008 as: “Olmert’s proposal to AM [Abu Mazen, or Mahmoud Abbas] of 7.3% of West Bank (excl. East Jerusalem, No-Man’s Land i.e, 9.2%) in exchange for 5% equivalent from Israel in southern West Bank and around Gaza…” The same document also notes: “Not allowed to present GoI [Government of Israel] position on swaps”…And it also says “Willing to discuss swap but not 1:1 in quantity. Palestinians do not have ‘rights’ to the land and Israel is not under obligation to ‘return’ land to Palestinians”… This is published here.

On 15 July, a Palestinian team led by Abu Alaa was in Washington to meet Concoleezza Rice. According to the meeting notes, published by Palestine Papers here, Abu Alaa told Condi Rice: “We offered 1.9%. It is reasonable. We included the settlements inside Jerusalem – Psgat Zeev, etc. It’s the first time! … East Jerusalem is part of the 1967 border. Anything there should be part of the swap. Unfortunately, what we heard from Olmert is that he can’t stop building because it is Jerusalem”. Condoleeza Rice reportedly said: “Ariel is a problem, I told them – it protrudes down far into the Palestinian state…Also it would be difficult for Israel to protect Ariel without a large perimeter”.

I was shown a map very similar to the Abbas map in January 2001, in a Ministry in Ramallah — before the era of “Land Swaps” — and it showed only the West Bank with the three areas that Israel calls “settlement blocs”, minus any Israeli land that was on offer for a trade.

In other words, in late 2000 + 2001, Israeli negotiators working for then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak were proposing that they keep the three large settlement blocs marked on the map — but they were not proposing to give up any territory to the Palestinians.

The Palestinian negotiators apparently were willing at that time, as I was told in another Ramallah office, to cede only two, not three, of these settlement areas.   UPDATE: a Palestinian official in Ramallah told me today, however, that it was the opposite — the Palestinians had rejected [not accepted] two out of the three concessions.

In any case, it was not clear what the Palestinians would get, in exchange…

It took eight years [from 2001 to 2008] for the Israeli negotiators to sweeten their offer with an exchange proposal, the Land Swaps…

A Palestinian official in Ramallah told me this afternoon, however, that their team had refused to cede both Maale Adumim [which is half-way from Jerusalem to the Jordanian Border at the Dead Sea] and Ariel  [which goes 22 km deep inside the northern West Bank] .

He indicated that there was Palestinian willingness to give up some part of Gush Etzion in the south, a part that is near the 1967 Green Line.

In fact, he said, the Palestinians have rejected the idea of “settlement blocs” and are only willing to talk on a settlement-by-settlement basis.

He also said, as he said before, that Ehud Olmert wanted to take 6.5% of the West Bank, and was offering 5.8% territory in exchange, with compensation of just over 1% somehow.

What the Palestinians have proposed — and the map that the Palestinians have presented, which is not the Abbas-drawn map [above] of the Israeli proposals — is a 1:1 exchange of 1.9% of West Bank land.

This Palestinian official also noted that this map published by Issacharoff does not show East Jerusalem — which, he said, Olmert had accepted would be the capital of the Palestinian State…

“President Abbas did draw a map”, the official added, “but I’m not sure this map is the map the President drew”.  He said that professional cartographers working with the PLO then made a projection of Abbas’s drawing on a topograpical map of the West Bank… Then the Palestinian negotiators later presented their own map, which the U.S. government has officially received.

UPDATE: The Times of Israel reported here that “According to Walla, Olmert envisaged relinquishing Israeli territory on a one-for-one basis to the Palestinians in areas including near Afula; near Tirat Zvi south of Beit She’an; north of Jerusalem; in the Judean Desert, and in the Lachish area. He also endorsed a tunnel route to link Gaza and the West Bank.  Olmert, as he has subsequently confirmed, was also prepared to divide Jerusalem into Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled neighborhoods, and to relinquish Israeli sovereignty at the Temple Mount and the entire Old City. He proposed that the ‘Holy Basin’ be overseen instead by a five-member, non-sovereign international trusteeship, comprising Israel, the PA, Jordan, the US and Saudi Arabia”.

[Note – While I expect that the phrase “north of Jerusalem” refers to Olmert’s proposing for the first time to give the industrial zone of Atarot as well as the Qalandia airport to the Palestinian Authority, under condition of joint operation… but I can’t imagine what the writer, or Walla, meant by Israel relinquishing Israeli territory “in the Judean Desert”…? ]


By the time the Olmert proposal was made to Abbas on 16 September 2008, as part of the American-led Annapolis process of negotiations that was supposed to lead to a state by the end of 2008 [or at the very latest by the end of the Bush Admininstration on 18 January 2009], Olmert himself was facing indictment and the Palestinians were told [and decided] to hold off on any commitment…

It was reportedly Tzipi Livni, at the time Olmert’s Foreign Minister [now, Netanyahu’s Justice Minister and also somehow in charge, despite Molcho’s apparently continuing role, of negotiations with the Palestinians] who advised the Palestinians to hold off on responding to Olmert in September 2008…

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched a massive military operation, Cast Lead, into Gaza — and Abbas broke off negotiations a few days later. Despite a few contacts, these negotiations have not yet resumed — and Abbas wants them to resume where they left off on 16 September 2008…

Palestinians say that Netanyahu’s negotiator Yitzhak Molcho has since introduced the idea that Israel should be allowed to keep a security corridor all along the Jordan [River] Valley, carving out a large slice that would remain under their control.   Mohammad Shtayyah said after a series of direct contacts in Amman in January 2012 that Molcho said, “Give it to us, or we’ll take it”…  And President Abbas has complained to a number of visiting American and Israeli delegations about Israel’s Jordan Valley ambitions.

Clarification from Mahmoud Abbas — but not clarity

Does Mahmoud Abbas have the right to refuse, on behalf of Palestinian refugees caught up in fighting in Syria, the reported condition set by Israel [that these Palestinian refugees give up their Right of Return to their original homes that may be in areas now inside Israel] — in order to allow these Palestinian refugees to come to into the West Bank now?

Well, he said in Cairo on Wednesday night [9 January] that he refused this reported Israeli condition — which he said was communicated to him by UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon — anyway.

Mahmoud Abbas and his delegated representatives have engaged in negotiations with Israelis for decades — and during this time, in some of these conversations, he was involved in conversations in which it was said, or rather speculated, that surely not every Palestinian refugee around the world would want to return to his/her original homes…

Some of these conversations, incoherent in part, full of innuendo that can’t be communicated by transcription, have been revealed in release of documents like the Al-Jazeera Palestine Papers.

In response, Palestinian critics have said that the Right of Return is an individual, not a collective right — and that Abbas had no right to give it up pr waive it in negotiations on behalf of each and every Palestinian.

Now, we are faced with the opposite situation.

It was Abbas himself who said, in mid-December, during fighting that had reportedly emptied 95% of Yarmouk Camp [which is now a suburb of Damascus], that Palestinians forced to flee that violence should be allowed to come to the West Bank.

He asked for the UN to help.

Now, we learn from a report in the Times of Israel today, that:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected an Israeli offer to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria to enter the Palestinian territories on condition that they forgo their ‘right of return’ to Israel proper, Abbas told the Egyptian press on Wednesday evening.  Following a meeting with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Abbas said that he had appealed to the UN to intercede on behalf of Palestinian refugees living in Syriaand demand that Israel allow them to enter the West Bank and Gaza.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Abbas that Israel agreed to the request, on the condition that the refugees sign a document in which they forgo the ‘right of return’ to areas within Israel.  Abbas said he rejected that condition”.  This is published here.

The Associated Press, economizing with words, reported that:
“The fate of Palestinians uprooted by Israel’s creation is an explosive issue. Israel worries that a mass influx of Palestinians could destroy the notion of a Jewish state. Last month, Abbas asked the U.N. to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian territories. Abbas said in comments published Thursday that Israel linked its acceptance to refugees relinquishing claims to returning to what is now Israel. Abbas says ‘we rejected that’. Israeli officials declined comment”. This was published by the Washington Post here.

Did Mahmoud Abbas think his proposal to allow Palestinian refugees caught up in fighting in Syria was only a temporary solution?

Did Mahmoud Abbas think that he was  offering Palestinian refugees [mainly from Yarmouk Camp] just shelter from the immediate conflict now?

Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN – projected on The Wall in Bethlehem

A great shot — photo of Palestinians watching Mahmoud Abbas speaking to the United Nations in New York just before the vote to upgrade the status of Palestine to state. The TV broadcast of the Abbas address in New York was projected onto The Wall at the main checkpoint in Bethlehem.

Mahmoud Abbas address to UN in NY projected on The Wall in Bethlehem - 29 Novemer 2012
Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN in NY projected on The Wall in Bethlehem - 29 Nov 2012 - photo by George Hale

The photo was taken by George Hale, English-language editor of Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem, and sent out via Twitter:
@georgehale Photo – Scene in Bethlehem where Abbas’ UN speech was screened on Israel’s wall pic.twitter.com/sUTT6KjQ

Shortly after this speech, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of Palestine in the United Nations by a vote of 138 in favor, 9 opposed [including Israel, the U.S., and Canada] and 41 abstentions.

THE LETTER [leaked draft]: Mahmoud Abbas to Benyamin Netanyahu

This is reportedly a late draft of THE LETTER that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is addressing to Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Abbas has been working on for months, if we are to believe the reports.

The Times of Israel [a new English-language internet publication] said they obtained it on Sunday 15 April, and they published it the same day — in English — here.

An Arabic-language text was leaked to Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid some two weeks earlier. Ravid wrote about it on 4 April, and also Tweeted each of the four pages of the Arabic text, as we reported on our sister blog, www.un-truth.com, here.


    Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
    State of Israel

    H.E. Prime Minister Netanyahu:

    In 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization signed the Declaration of Principles (The Oslo Accords) and exchanged letters of mutual recognition with the Government of Israel.

    The Declaration of Principles defined its aim as the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 which would begin with a transitional period, and culminate with negotiations on the all final status issues including Jerusalem, borders, settlements, refugees, water, security, relations with neighboring countries, and other matters of mutual interest. Over the years, we included end of the conflict and claims, and the release of prisoners and detainees to these final status issues. May 1999 was set as the date by which negotiations on all final status issues would be completed and a comprehensive peace agreement between the two sides would be reached.

    The PLO and the State of Israel subsequently signed additional agreements including the Interim Agreement in 1995, the Wye River Agreement in 1998, the Hebron Protocol of 1998, and the Sharm Sheikh Agreement in 1999. We also engaged in negotiations on final status issues during the Camp David talks in 2000, the Annapolis talks between 2007-2008, and talks conducted in Washington D.C., Sharm Sheikh and West-Jerusalem in September 2010. Most recently, in January 2012, I dispatched a delegation to Amman, Jordan for exploratory talks in furtherance of the Quartet Statement of 23 September 2011.

    In the midst of these agreements and bilateral talks, the Arab states presented the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, and the Quartet for Middle East Peace presented its Road Map plan of 2003. Signed agreements, international law, and UN Resolutions, all recognize that peace will only be realized upon the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land that began in 1967. Until such time, Article 7 of the Interim Agreement stipulated that both parties, Israel and the PLO, shall not take any steps that would prejudice final status negotiations.

    A fundamental obligation placed on Israel under international law and the quartet’s Road Map, was that it freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth. In a letter sent by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to Norwegian foreign Minister Holst in 1993, Israel also committed itself to maintain the educational, economic, social, and cultural institutions in East Jerusalem, conserve the Christian and Moslem holy places, preserve Palestinian interests in East Jerusalem, and not to hinder their development.

    Mr. Prime Minister,

    As a leaders , both of us have to face skepticism and opposition. In the quest of peace we have to help each other. We know that violence and terror whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis is not the way. I know that it erodes both of our public’s trust in peace. Therefore, I reiterate our full commitment to a policy of zero tolerance against violence. At the same token, I expect your understanding that settlement building is eroding the Palestinian trust in your commitment to reconciliation and the idea of the two states solution. The logic is simple: If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, why do you build on its territory?.

    Mr. Prime Minister,

    Among the most critical components of the signed agreements between the PLO and Israel is the recognition that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute a single territorial unit, the integrity of which must be preserved until a final status agreement is reached. As such it is subject to one law and one authority. In recognition of this, I have been determined to end the division of my people through national reconciliation, in accordance with my political program which respects signed agreements, recognizes the State of Israel, and renounces violence. With regret, the Government of Israel has chosen to take a position diametrically opposed to Palestinian national reconciliation.
    Aside from this, we continue to honor all our obligations, including the reactivation of the trilateral anti- incitement committee

    Mr. Prime Minister,

    We have responded in good faith to the efforts exerted by President Obama, and the Quartet in furtherance of peace, and we have welcomed the courageous Jordanian initiative aimed at putting the peace process on the right track, including through the submission of comprehensive positions on territory and security by the parties.

    The Palestinian delegation submitted our proposals on these two final status issues and we reiterated our commitments and obligations. We asked your government to also submit comprehensive proposals on territory, security, and to commit to a settlement freeze, and release prisoners. These were not preconditions but Israeli obligations. To our deep regret, none of these commitments were honored.

    Mr. Prime Minister

    Our historic Peace Proposal is still waiting for an answer from Israel.
    • We agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine-on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967.
    • The establishment of independent Palestinian State that can live side-by-side with the State of Israel in peace and security on the borders of 1967 with mutually agreed swaps equal in size and value.
    • Security will be guaranteed by a third party accepted by both, to be deployed on the Palestinian side.
    • A just and agreed resolution for the refugees’ problem as specified in the Arab Peace Initiative.
    • Jerusalem will serve as a capital of two States. East Jerusalem capital of Palestine. West Jerusalem capital of Israel. Jerusalem as an open city can be the symbol of peace.

    Mr. Prime Minister,

    Twenty years ago, we concluded with Israel an agreement under international auspices which was intended to take the Palestinian people from occupation to independence. Now, as a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, social, territorial and security spheres. In other words, the P.A. lost its reason d’être…

    Continue reading THE LETTER [leaked draft]: Mahmoud Abbas to Benyamin Netanyahu

The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Today is the three-month marker of the Quartet plan presented to the Palestinian leadership after their “UN bid”, the formal request for admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, made on 23 September 2011 at UN Headuarters in New York.

The Quartet Plan was presented to stop the P.L.O. from pursuing their “UN bid”, or pressing it for a vote, because Israel was terribly upset, and the U.S. threatened to use their veto power to block it in the UN Security Council.

At the first 3-month mark, the two parties were to have met, and they were to have exchanged ideas on what the borders for a two-state solution should look like, and on security arrangements.

So, what has happened?

In December, the Palestinians let it be known that if Israel doesn’t present its idea of borders for a two-state solution by this date, the “hudna” or “truce would be over, and the Palestinians would again unleash all efforts for international recognition and admission to the international organization.

In a calm and rather leisurely reaction, the U.S. State Department said a few days later that the three-month marker was not a rigid or fixed “deadline” … and urged efforts to continue to bring the parties back to the table for direct negotiations.

[Only the Palestinians were refusing, saying it would be useless, mainly because Israeli settlement-building activities continued, while Israeli officials said to anyone who would listen that they were ready for direct talks, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even repeated his offer to go anywhere, almost anytime — even to Ramallah…]

Then, King Abdullah II of Jordan flew by helicopter over the Israeli-controlled West Bank and landed in the refurbished helicopter pad at Ramallah Presidential Muqata’a for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — a day before Abbas himself was due to travel through Jordan, on his way to another session of Palestinian reconciliation talks with Hamas officials in Cairo… Little was revealed publicly about that meeting, and some diplomatic sources suggested that the real purpose was that Abdullah needed help and had panicked, and was really asking Mahmoud Abbas for help .

What is more significant is that U.S. State Department envoy David Hale, who had met Abbas the evening before, was back in Jerusalem to meet Israeli PM Netanyahu just before Abdullah II landed in Ramallah. Then, Hale drove overland to Amman, and met Abdallah II back in Amman that evening.

Not long afterwards, Jordan announced that it would be hosting talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman — which would include direct meetings for the first time since September 2010. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced that further contacts would be held — but not announced.

The U.S. Secretary of State then announced the date of the second meeting, in early January…

There was criticism from different Palestinian political groupings, from Hamas to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], and Palestinian “youth groups” organized a couple of demonstrations outside the Muqata’a to protest.

A total of five meetings were held in Amman, prior to today’s deadline.

The Palestinians presented their maps and border proposals in an early meeting.

It was not until the last meeting of negotiators [the P.L.O.’s Saeb Erekat, and Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho] that the Israeli delegation screeched up to the meeting, just hours before the deadline, with a kind of power-point presentation about its general ideas — but reportedly without any very specific indications of what Israel thought the borders for a two-state solution should be… and not much indication about security, either.

Continue reading The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Condoleezzaa Rice's new book revisits Olmert-Abbas near-breakthrough in 2008

A new book by U.S. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revisits the “Annapolis process” of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks that she personally shepherded. She places the date of near-breakthrough proposals from Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as May 2008 — four months earlier than most accounts have previously reported.

The AP had an interview with Rice to coincide with the publication of her memoir, No Higher Honor, today: “Rice’s account confirms then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s claim that he had laid out a comprehensive proposal for peace during secret meetings with Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas … In the book, Rice recounts a private dinner with Olmert in May 2008 when she said he presented the plan. It contained ways to address the most difficult issues preventing Israel and the Palestinians from agreeing on terms for a separate Palestinian state, she wrote. Olmert proposed a system for shared jurisdiction of Jerusalem and return of a limited number of Palestinians who left their homes in what is now Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, Rice wrote. Olmert also would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and hand over about 94 percent of the territory to the Palestinians for the bulk of their state, she wrote. ‘Concentrate, concentrate’, Rice describes herself as thinking as Olmert spoke. ‘This is unbelievable’.”

The AP story is headlined: “Mideast peace prospects [have] worsened under Obama”.

This AP interview as Condoleezza Rice’s book is published here.

Rice claims, as many media accounts do, that the Obama Administration raised the bar too high by its early adoption of a demand for a settlement freeze after which direct negotiations would resume. This, she [like most media accounts] says, was the main problem that blocked the possibility of resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian talks — which, she implies [backing the Palestinian position on this point] should have resumed at the point they were broken off.

Now, she said, the lack of talks is the the main factor in the dangerous increase in tension in the region.

The Washington Post also published this AP story, which quoted Rice as saying: “I do think focusing on settlements in that particular way was a mistake … The parties then were able to have a reason not to sit down … and they’re running out of time … When they’re not talking, they’re sliding backward”.

This is posted here.