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,, 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

Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"


My only real disagreement with Nathan J. Brown’s article on Salam Fayyad being “No Savior”, published on the Foreign Policy website here, is that I would not blame Salam Fayyad for fostering this misimpression.

This was entirely the creation of Western donors.

Salam Fayyad didn’t really mind. He did absolutely nothing to discourage it.

Maybe, you could say, he tried to use this un-elected accolade to leverage maximum benefits for the Palestinian Authority.

Brown himself wrote in his concluding paragraph that “Fayyad cannot be held primarily responsible for this collective self-delusion; at most, he facilitated it. And in the process he provided all actors with a breathing space that is now disappearing. Ultimately, the ones who convinced themselves he was capable of completely transforming Palestine are most responsible for squandering the brief respite his premiership offered”.

But, as Brown argued earlier in his piece, “His optimistic smile obscured an impossible situation: Fayyad’s main achievement has not been to build the structures of a Palestinian state, but to stave off the collapse of those structures that did exist. An equally important achievement was his ability to persuade Western observers that he was doing much more. In the process, however, he raised expectations far beyond his ability to deliver”.

Continue reading Nathan J. Brown: Salam Fayyad is "No Savior"

Salam Fayyad speech in Washington D.C.

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”:

Continue reading Salam Fayyad speech in Washington D.C.

Nathan Brown on Salam Fayyad's "state-building"

Excerpts (with thanks to Sam Bahour) From Nathan Brown’s new assessment of Salam Fayyad and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority: “Fayyad has become so indispensible to U.S. diplomacy in particular that there now seems a bizarre knee-jerk reaction to anything bad that happens in Gaza: delivering more money to Ramallah (as happened when the Gaza war concluded in January 2009 or after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010)…

“Washington tends to make the same mistake over and over in Palestinian politics—searching for (and sometimes finding) a particular individual who has the virtues needed to lead Palestinians in the path the United States wishes at a particular time. In Washington, Fayyad is the indispensible man of the hour, suggesting that once more the U.S. leadership is confusing a useful individual with a sound policy. Nobody I met in Palestine suffers from the same confusion. Even the most earnest officials are frustrated by the political context of their efforts—they see their effectiveness limited by the absence of sovereignty and feel that they are operating in a punishing holding pattern rather participating in an inexorable march toward statehood.

“[A]fter examining Palestinian institutional development on the ground, I see only spotty signs of progress—and there are also profoundly worrying signs of regression as well. Those who cite Fayyad’s success at building institution rarely cite a single institution that has been built. Instead they refer generally to improvements in ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’. (On security, they tend to concentrate on daily policing—where there has been improvement—and overlook the far more checkered record of the intelligence and security services.)  There is a reason for this vagueness. There simply have been few institutions built in Ramallah since the first Fayyad cabinet was formed in 2007. Instead, the focus has been on breathing life and regularizing institutions that were built in previous periods.

“There is no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have ignored; judges have bowed out of some sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed.

“The fact remains, of course, that a campaign for “security” is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas. And as a result other problems—political interference, illegal detentions—do not seem to have been addressed. Or, rather, they have been addressed—by a decision at senior levels (the security service heads and perhaps the president himself) that the struggle against Hamas takes priority over the law…

This report and analysis by Nathan Brown can be read in full here.

The British Mandate – currency

Here is a Palestinian Pound bank note, printed under the British Mandate:

Palestine Pound note - image from Wikipedia

The image on the note is the Dome of the Rock — a Muslim place of worship on the Haram as-Sharif esplanade (known to Israelis as the Temple Mount) in the Old City of East Jerusalem.

Some of the Hebrew writing, I am informed, says Eretz Israel.

Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Israelis have made their own currency — now called the New Israeli Shekel (NIS).

The Palestinians do not — yet — have their own currency … Most of the incoming funds for the present Palestinian Authority (PA) are in dollars, or Euros. Their expenses are in New Israeli Shekels (and sometimes the fluctuation of the exchange rate is punishing…)

On the renewed demand for recognition of Israel as "Jewish State" or "State of the Jewish people"

In his latest weekly article, distributed by email and to a number of media outlets, veteran Israeli peace campaigner Uri Avnery takes on Benyamin Netanyahu’s lack of bustle and vigor during his first 100 days in office. Avnery wrote there are “No plans, no assistants, no team, no nothing. To this very minute, Netanyahu has not succeeded in putting together his personal team – a fundamental precondition for any effective action. He does not have a chief of staff, a most important position. In his office, chaos reigns supreme”.

On Netanyahu’s choice of ministers, Avnery wrote that “All these appointments look like the desperate efforts of a cynical politician who does not care about anything other than returning to power, and then quickly putting together a cabinet, whatever its composition, paying any price to any party prepared to join him, sacrificing even the most vital interests of the state”.

The worst problem, Avnery stated, is in the political field, “Because there the unpreparedness of Netanyahu meets the overpreparedness of Obama. Obama has a plan for the restructuring of the Middle East, and one of its elements is an Israeli-Palestinian peace based on ‘Two States for Two Peoples’. Netanyahu argues that he is not in a position to respond, because he has no plan of his own yet. After all, he is quite new in office. Now he is working on such a plan. Very soon, in a week, or a month, or a year, he will have a plan, a real plan, and he will present it to Obama. Or course, Netanyahu has a plan. It consists of one word, which he learned from his mentor, Yitzhak Shamir: ‘NO’. Or, more precisely, NO NO NO – the three no’s of the Israeli Khartoum: No peace, No withdrawal, No negotiations. (It will be remembered that the 1967 Arab summit conference in Khartoum, right after the Six-day War, adopted a similar resolution.) The ‘plan’ which he is working on does not really concern the essence of this policy, but only the packaging. How to present to Obama something that will not sound like ‘no’, but rather like ‘yes, but’ … As a taster for the ‘plan’, Netanyahu has already presented one of its ingredients: the demand that the Palestinians and other Arabs must recognize Israel as ‘the State of the Jewish People’.”

Continue reading On the renewed demand for recognition of Israel as "Jewish State" or "State of the Jewish people"

What is this?

Haaretz has reported that the Israeli Knesset passed a law on Monday imposing “A penalty of three years’ imprisonment … on Israeli vehicle-owners who take their vehicles to mechanics in the West Bank … The new law, presented by Likud MK Moshe Kahlon, prohibits Israeli-registered vehicles from being repaired by mechanics in territories under Palestinian Authority control, including those that are towed there by another vehicle. The law will empower police officers to confiscate any vehicle in violation of it, as well as the vehicle license from its owner, and the vehicle that towed it to the Palestinian territories. Police statistics show that around 50 Israeli vehicles are dismantled by mechanics in Palestinian territories each day after accidents, and their parts are then transferred to Israeli mechanics or used-car dealerships. The police will advise vehicle-owners of the new law through an advertising campaign as well as by placing signs at checkpoints at the entry points to the territories [this is something new — will the signs be in Hebrew only?] The law will initially be implemented for two years and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is currently discussing its extension for another two with the Transport Ministry and the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee”. This story can be read in full on Haaretz’s website here .

YNet explained a bit more on its website: “MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), chairman of the Economics Committee, who presented the proposal at the Knesset plenum, said that ‘the bill is aimed at preventing the transfer of vehicles from Israel into the Palestinian territories. Data presented to the Economics Committee by police representatives revealed that spare parts of vehicles used for repair in the PA’s garages usually come from cars stolen in Israel. Moreover, the data also reveal that a significant part of the vehicles repaired in the PA territories were found to be severely flawed and had to be taken off the roads. In other words, the “repaired” cars in fact constituted an immediate safety risk for their users’. According to Erdan, the new law would hurt the incentive to steal cars in Israel and would also break off any possible linkage between the chop shops and terror elements. MK Kahlon said following the vote, ‘This law will significantly reduce the car thefts in Israel. A large part of the vehicles stolen in Israel are dismantled in the territories, and their parts are installed in vehicles repaired in the PA’s garages’.” This YNet article can be read in full here .

It has already been an offense for several years for someone in Israel to transport someone with a West Bank ID. The penalty is “severe”, as they say in Israel (“harsh” and “severe” are two very serious words here…) The car will be confiscated, the driver will have to pay at least a 5,000 NIS (New Israel Shekel) fine, and could also be sentenced to jail. It has affected cab drivers, including cab drivers with an East Jerusalem ID who unwittingly were driving with their wives, who had West Bank IDs. This law means that you cannot drive anyone in your car, a friend or anyone, without checking and clarifying exactly what kind of ID he or she has.

Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade is dead and done for?

The JPost notes today that “Shortly after PA Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahya announced Saturday that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades had ceased to exist, the group responded by distributing thousands of leaflets throughout the West Bank scoffing at the claim and vowing to continue the armed struggle against Israel”. This is in a JPost article published

Francis Boyle: The PLO was not invited to Annapolis!

The Global Research website, which describes itself as the product of “an independent research and media group of writers, scholars journalists and activists”, has just written about the forthcoming Annapolis meeting that “it seems the US has invited practically everyone in the world to this fandango — from Poland to Sweden to Slovenia to Yemen to the World Bank and the IMF… except the PLO — which is the only body that has the authority and international standing to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people! In addition, the elected government of Hamas is also not invited, of course”.

The Global Research website has posted an open letter from Francis A. Boyle, an attorney who helped advise the Palestinian team at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference. (The Palestinians participated as part of the Jordanian delegation because Israel refused at the time to deal with the PLO.)

“Nov 23, 2007

My Dear Palestinian Friends:

As you can see from the US Government’s list of Invitees to the Annapolis Conference, it has only invited the Palestinian Authority, not the PLO. But only the PLO has the authority under international law to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian People and the State of Palestine. That is why the Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Agreement in the name of the PLO. The Palestinian Authority has no authorization under international law to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian People, let alone the State of Palestine, whose Provisional Government is the PLO Executive Committee. Indeed, an entire series of UN General Assembly Resolutions have made it clear that only the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. Hence this delegation of the Palestinian Authority to the Annapolis Conference has no legal authority under international law to conclude anything on behalf of the Palestinian People, let alone the State of Palestine. I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to bring this matter to the attention of the Palestinian People around the world.

Thank you.

Francis A. Boyle

The open letter written by Francis A. Boyle is posted here.

The Global Research website describes him as “Professor of International Law and Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations and His Excellency Dr. Haidar Abdul Shaffi (1991-1993)”.

While it is true that the PA and not the PLO has been invited to the Annapolis event, it is also the case that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) wears both hats — he is the elected (January 2005) President of the Palestinian Authority that was created by the Oslo Accords negotiated between Israel and the PLO. And, he was also selected as Yasser Arafat’s successor to head the PLO.

The draft of the document [Palestinian preferred term] or statement [Israeli preferred term] that has been negotiated by teams of Israelis and Palestinians in advance of the Annapolis meeting [see Palestine-Mandate post here.] says that “it is being drafted by the representatives of the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and President of the Palestinian Authority”…