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?

Netanyahu, at age 28, on a Palestinian State [basically: no way … at most, if they behave well, the Palestinians can get eventual citizenship of some kind, Israeli or Jordanian or some other, he says…]

While looking for something totally unrelated on Youtube, this completely other video was suggested:  it shows a young Benyamin Netanyahu, before he even took the name “Netanyahu”.

He’s identified here as “Ben” or “Benjamin Nitay”, a 28-year-old graduate of MIT, an Israeli [and, according to the screen titles, an “economic consultant”] who has “written widely on this question before the house tonight”.

In the video, Ben Nitay / Benyamin Netanyahu is not debating his political views, he’s being given a platform to say what he wants, to argue his polemic.

Looking a lot like John Travolta in the movie “Saturday Night Live”,  but with much wilder eyes, Nitay / Netanyahu says:

“No, I don’t think Palestinians do have a right to a state… For 20 years [from 1948 to 1967] we didn’t hear a word about self-determination… I’m sure…if the process continues they will be offered citizenship of some kind, be it Israeli or Jordanian”

The moderator is Marilyn Berger of the Public Broadcast System in the U.S. — who co-anchored the best and almost only non-stop coverage, such as it was in the days before satellite communications and computers, of both the 1967 and 1973 Middle East wars — and the endless debates in the UN Security Council in New York, afterwards.

“Attorney One”, as we shall call him, is the gentle-mannered late Morris Abrams whose warm and kind demeanor didn’t obscure fierce pro-Israel views.  He was later to become the U.S, Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, where he served for years, before his retirement — when he founded the Geneva-based UN Watch [which watches out for Israel].

Morris Abrams gets the first Question: “Mr. Nitay, is self-determination at the core of this conflict?”

This allows the young Netanyahu to explain: “No, I don’t think it is.  The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel”…

Little has changed in more than three decades.

“For twenty years, the ‘Arabs’ had both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and if self-determination were, as they say it is, the core of the conflict, they could have easily established a Palestinian State, but they didn’t…For twenty years, we didn’t hear a word about self-determination. In fact what we did hear, those of us living in the Middle East, was about ‘driving the Jews into the sea’… Now, after 1967, under the leadership of the PLO, the hardline strategy shifted to adopting a moderate dressed-up slogan which talked in terms about first a secular, democratic state and then replaced it with ‘Palestinian self-determination’. But, what this really means, is contrary to what Mr. Arouri said about 1977 being a a changed year in the PLO’s objectives, let me quote you what the PLO Information Office said in a Dutch paper in 1977, on May 5, 1977, the statement was very simple: ‘Our objective remains the destruction of the Zionist state’. So, let’s keep in mind, the objective here is not to build a state, but to destroy one”…

Continue reading Netanyahu, at age 28, on a Palestinian State [basically: no way … at most, if they behave well, the Palestinians can get eventual citizenship of some kind, Israeli or Jordanian or some other, he says…]

The Nakba … is awareness growing?

Tel Aviv-based public-opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin has just written an article in +972 Magazine, here, entitled “The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?”

Here is an excerpt from Dahlia Scheindlin’s piece:

“During the Camp David negotiations of 2000, when I was working with American pollster Stanley Greenberg supplying public opinion data to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak almost nightly, the refugee issue tended to be the toughest problem, even as the Jewish public advanced significantly toward unprecedented compromises on Jerusalem (documented in Greenberg’s 2009 book).

Just after the talks collapsed, a Hebrew University survey in late July, 2000 asked Israelis (and Palestinians) whether they thought their respective leader’s compromises on each item had been appropriate, too much or too little. Among Israelis, the perception of Barak’s proposed compromises on Palestinian refugees gathered the highest ‘too much of a compromise’ response of all (64 percent gave this answer, compared to 57 percent for Jerusalem).

Twelve years later, in a December, 2012 survey by the same authors (Jacob Shamir and Khalil Shikaki), the Palestinian refugee question no longer holds the most-rejected-clause spot. That distinction now goes to the proposals on Jerusalem, based on the old Clinton framework (59 percent rejected them, 38 percent supported them). Respondents were asked about a refugee compromise which reflects the Clinton, Geneva Plan and Arab Peace Initiative approach:

Both sides agree that the solution will be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242. The refugees would be given five choices for permanent residency. These are: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state in the territorial exchange mentioned above; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in the other three areas (in host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.

Among the 600-person sample, which included Arabs, 42 percent accepted this and 49 percent rejected it – a significant decline from nearly two-thirds who felt it was ‘too much of a compromise’ in 2000.

Continue reading The Nakba … is awareness growing?

Getting Real: A Jewish debate

“Daniel Gordis has it backwards”

Mark Baker [writing in The Daily Beast], in an argument worth following, has taken on Daniel Gordis [who addressed American Jewish leaders via an article published in Haaretz] — over the responsibility for the current situation:

Mark Baker wrote here that “For a long time, Daniel Gordis has been telling us to get real. He has written numerous books about getting used to a war without end, and has joined a growing chorus of commentators who preach despair against hope, realism in place of reconciliation…”

And here is Gordis’ latest piece of writing in Haaretz — the article that Baker is takgin issue with:

“The dangerous myopia of American Jewish leaders”

The progressive Jewish leadership calls for peace while Hamas calls for hatred.  When will these Jewish leaders stop denying reality and start grappling with the dangers in the real world in which Israel has to try to survive?  By Daniel Gordis:
“From coast to coast, as Progressive American rabbis continue to call for peace, they are inadvertently revealing their tragic inability to acknowledge that the world in which they once formulated their positions on Israel has changed almost beyond recognition…” This is posted here.

In his reply [“Daniel Gordis Has It Backwards”], published by The Daily Beast, Mark Baker wrote:

“But what is this realism that our leaders are supposed to acknowledge before bettering the world? Is it the realism that builds on road-maps or biblical maps? Is it the realism that punishes Palestinians for supporting a U.N. resolution that recognizes Israel alongside Palestine? … Or are we supposed to accept the realism that pits itself against peace by acquiescing to an infantile building game of settlement blocs?

“Is it the realism that will extend a temporary occupation into a never-ending system of control and discrimination? Is it this realism that allows us to accommodate ourselves to the fruits of occupation—the burning of olive groves and mosques, the culture of holy harassment that has come to typify day-to-day life in Judea and Samaria [n.b. – the West Bank]?

“Such cynical realism demands that Palestinians forget their losses, while we fetishize our memories. It makes Palestinian West Bankers dependent on Israeli utilities and then punishes them by withholding revenues. It means destroying Bedouin villages in the place where Jews civilize the desert. It commands us to assassinate their leaders until there is no partner left for peace.

Continue reading Getting Real: A Jewish debate

Palestinians express frustration + Daniel Seidemann does too

Reuters reported that the Palestinian leadership sent a letter, signed by Riyad Mansour as Ambassador of Palestine, to UNSG BAN Ki-Moon and to the UN Security Council, accusing Israel “of planning to commit further ‘war crimes’ by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable”.

In the letter, Mansour wrote that Israel, after the decision to upgrade Palestine to state status last Thursday, was acting “in a rogue, hostile and arrogant manner, contravening all principles and rules of international law and reacting with contempt to the will of the international community”.

Israel was bitterly opposed to the Palestinian UN move, and warned it would retaliate — which it has started to do by announcing new settlement building around north, south and east of Jerusalem.,

In February 2011, the Obama cast the only negative vote on a Palestinian-drafted UN Security Council resolution against Israel’s settlement building, as we reported at the time here:
“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…The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were ‘illegitimate’.
From the State Dept. briefing:
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”…

Meanwhile, Israeli-American lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seaman has been issuing warnings that could not be stronger, saying that the two-state solution, which he said is essential to the preservation of Israel’s existence, will soon become impossible because of the increased Israeli settlement-building activity in and around Jerusalem.

Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell
Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell - December 2012

Daniel Seidemann explained his concerns — in particular,his intense concern about an adviser’s advice to Obama to walk away from this problem — to Public Radio International/The World’s Middle East correspondent Matthew J. Bell:

War [on Iran] is postponed as Palestine waits

Veteran Israeli political activist + commentator Uri Avnery has just written in one of his latest weekly columns that war with Iran is postponed — until next spring or summer — unless, of course, as Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz today {see below}, this is a “brilliant ruse” to put us off-guard on the eve of an imminent attack, perhaps during the U.S. interregnum transition from Presidential election to inauguration.

Just four years ago, in another of the very same interregnum periods, Operation Cast Lead took place in Gaza — and a cease-fire was imposed just hours before Obama took the oath of office in Washington D.C.].

Avnery wrote, here, that Netanayhu signalled in his UN General Assembly “red line” speech that “The ‘inevitable’ attack on Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent the Second Holocaust was postponed to next spring or summer. After blustering for months that the deadly attack was imminent, any minute now, no minute to spare, it disappeared into the mist of the future. Why? What happened? Well, one reason was the polls indicating that Barack Obama would be reelected. Netanyahu had doggedly staked all his cards on Mitt Romney, his ideological clone. But Netanyahu is also a True Believer in polls. It seems that Netanyahu’s advisors convinced him to hedge his bet. The evil Obama might win, in spite of the Sheldon Adelson millions. Especially now, after George Soros has staked his millions on the incumbent…Obama has told Netanyahu in no uncertain terms: No attack on Iran before the elections. Or else… THE NEXT President of the United States of America – whoever that may be – will tell Netanyahu the same after the elections…”

Avnery continued: “Recent I was asked by a foreign journalist if Netanyahu could survive the elimination of the “military option” against Iran, after talking for months about nothing else. What about the Iranian Hitler? What about the coming Holocaust? I told him not to worry. Netanyahu can easily get out of it by claiming that the whole thing was really a ruse to get the world to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. But was it? People of influence in Israel are divided. The first camp worries that our Prime Minister is really off his rocker. That he is obsessed with Iran, perhaps clinically unbalanced, that Iran has become an idée fixe. The other camp believes that the whole thing was, right from the beginning, a hoax to divert attention from the one issue that really matters: Peace with Palestine. In this he has been hugely successful. For months now, Palestine has been missing from the agenda of Israel and the entire world. Palestine? Peace? What Palestine, What peace? And while the world stares at Iran like a hypnotized rabbit at a snake, settlements are enlarged and the occupation deepened, and we are sailing proudly towards disaster”.

Amos Harel wrote something similar [though he omitted the Palestine angle] in Haaretz, published today, here, saying that “it wasn’t just American opposition that kept Netanyahu from military action; domestic opposition did as well…

Continue reading War [on Iran] is postponed as Palestine waits

Palestine Boundaries after First World War left to "the parties themselves" to resolve

From the
TREATY OF PEACE WITH TURKEY SIGNED AT LAUSANNE on JULY 24, 1923 [and published, among other places, here]:

and TURKEY, of the other part;
Being united in the desire to bring to a final close the state of war which has existed in the East since 1914,

And considering that these relations must be based on respect for the independence and sovereignty of States,
Have decided to conclude a Treaty for this purpose

[But it does not mention Palestine, except here:
Turkey hereby renounces all rights and title whatsoever over or respecting the territories situated outside the frontiers laid down in the present Treaty and the islands other than those over which her sovereignty is recognised by the said Treaty, the future of these territories and islands being settled or to be settled by the parties concerned.

Map of the Mandate Areas of Arabia - World War I document archive -

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Ramallah, hears about Palestinian statehood plans

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Ramallah today, during a trip in an exceptionally tense period to the region.

According to a report in Haaretz, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Gates that Israel should end the occupation of the West Bank by September.

Almost two years ago, Fayyad announced plans to have the institutions of Palestinian statehood ready by September 2011.

In recent months, with the negotiations towards a two-state solution at a stalemate, Palestinian officials in Ramallah have spoken about going to the United Nations to begin preparations to request admission to UN membership of a new state of Palestine.

The Haaretz report, published here, “Fayyad stressed to Gates the importance of meeting the September deadline set in what he called the ‘Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State’ program, a statement issued by the premier’s office said. According to this two year program, by the end of August the Palestinians would have completed building their state institutions and enforced security on the ground, to allow them to establish their independent state. Fayyad told Gates that Israeli restrictions are obstructing Palestinian efforts to build their state institutions. He also said that Israel’s settlement expansion and military incursions into Palestinian Authority-run cities in the West Bank caused problems”.

Israeli officials are saying that a unilateral Palestinian move would be catastrophic, because it would bring a strong Israeli reaction — but, since they are now convinced of the urgent necessity for any solution to be a two-state model, it’s hard to understand their aversion to the Palestinian leadership’s planned moves — except as a compulsive need to maintain control.

Continue reading US Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Ramallah, hears about Palestinian statehood plans

Fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice opinion on The Wall – the first attempt at legal clarification, according to Egypt's Judge Al-Araby

From the separate opinion of Justice Nabil el-Araby of Egypt, in the International Court of Justice’s opinion on The Legality of the Construction of A Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, on 9 July 2004, who argued that the UN has a special responsibility for Palestine:
“What I consider relevant to emphasize is that this special responsibility was discharged for five decades without proper regard for the rule of law. The question of Palestine has dominated the work of the United Nations since its inception, yet no organ has ever requested the International Court of Justice to clarify the complex legal aspects of the matters under its purview. Decisions with far-reaching consequences were taken on the basis of political expediency, without due regard for the legal requirements. Even when decisions were adopted, the will to follow through to implementation soon evaporated. Competent United Nations organs, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, have adopted streams of resolutions that remain wholly or partially unfulfilled. The United Nations special responsibility has its origin in General Assembly
resolution 118 (II) of 29 November 1947 (hereafter, the Partition Resolution). Proposals to seek advisory opinions prior to the adoption of the Partition Resolution were considered on many occasions in the competent subsidiary bodies but no request was ever adopted … The Sub-Committee in its report, some two weeks before the vote on the Partition Resolution, recognized that: ‘A refusal to submit this question for the opinion of the International Court of Justice would amount to a confession that the General Assembly is determined to make recommendations in a certain direction, not because those recommendations are in accord with the principles of international justice and fairness, but because the majority of the representatives desire to settle the problem in a certain manner, irrespective of what the merits of the question or the legal obligations of the parties might be. Such an attitude will not serve to enhance the prestige of the United Nations. . . .”  The clear and well-reasoned arguments calling for clarification and elucidation of the legal issues fell on deaf ears. The rush to vote proceeded without clarifying the legal aspects. In this context, it is relevant to recall that the Partition Resolution fully endorsed referral of “any dispute relating to the application or interpretation” ‘ of its provisions to the International Court of Justice. The referral “shall be . . . at the request of either party. Needless to say, this avenue was also never followed. Thus, the request by the General Assembly for an advisory opinion, as contained in resolution 10114, represents the first time ever that the International Court of Justice has been consulted by a United Nations organ with respect to any aspect regarding Palestine”.

Justice el-Araby’s opinion, part of the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on The Wall,  can be read in full here.

Israel objects to UN Security Council involvement in the peace process

The Jerusalem Post’s correspondent at the United Nations, Allison Hoffman, reported this evening that “The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed a statement Monday calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state and pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in Moscow this year under the auspices of the UN’s Middle East Quartet … ‘The outcome reflects our common interest that talks resume as soon as possible’, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters after the meeting. He added that future talks between the Palestinians and the new Israeli government should be resumed ‘not from square one’. [But] Israeli officials did not attend the Security Council meeting, citing an internal policy review by the new government ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s scheduled meetings with US President Barack Obama next week in Washington. Israeli UN envoy Gabriela Shalev added in a statement that Israel also objects to Security Council involvement in the peace process. ‘This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves’, Shalev said in a statement”. This JPost report can be read in full