The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Well, it was very angry — but also a bit of a let down, this long-awaited and much-touted speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly, just before 7 pm in Ramallah or Jerusalem [but still part of the “morning” at the UN HQ/NY this Friday].

Describing the months of American-led negotiations brokered by a team assembled by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas mimicked Israeli critics by saying:

“…as usual, the Israeli government did not miss the opportunity to undermine the chance for peace”…

The full text of Abbas’ speech can be consulted here.

He did not use the word “Judaization” — but he used words that describe what Palestinians mean when they do use the term:

“Throughout the months of negotiations, settlement construction, land confiscations, home demolitions, killing and arrest campaigns, and forced displacement in the West Bank continued unabated and the unjust blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened. The occupation’s campaign specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on A1-Aqsa Mosque, threatening grave consequences. At the same time, racist and armed gangs of settlers persisted with their crimes against the Palestinian people, the land, mosques, churches, properties and olive trees”…

Continue reading The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Mahmoud Abbas to selected journalists: UN application will be submitted 19 or 20 September

The New York Times has reported that a selected group of journalists were at the Palestinian Presidential headquarters in the Muqata’a in Ramallah on Thursday, after President Mahmoud Abbas’ talks with U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale.

According to this account, written by the NYTimes’ Isabelle Kershner, “Mr. Abbas said that after they arrived at the United Nations on Sept. 19, the Palestinians would hand their application to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for submission to the Security Council, and that a copy would go to the General Assembly chief. Then, he said, the Palestinians will see what occurs. Earlier Thursday, Palestinian officials and supporters kicked off a popular campaign to accompany the United Nations bid, with several dozen people marching to the United Nations headquarters in Ramallah”.

There was some initial confusion elsewhere about this “popular campaign” delivering a letter to the UN office in Ramallah — with some, particularly in Israel, thinking that this was the presentation of the official request.

This was a matter taken up at the UN regular noon briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, according to the transcript, here:

Question: Speaking of which, reports, there are reports out from Gaza, from, sorry, from Ramallah that some sort of Palestinian letter, either by the Palestinian Authority or by activists, was sent to the Secretary-General. Has such a letter been received by the Secretary-General? What is your understanding of this, the nature of this?

Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Serry has received the letter and he is in the process of transmitting it to the Secretary-General.

Question: Received a letter from?

Deputy Spokesperson: From I believe it was an activist; a member of an NGO.

Question: An activist? Meaning you don’t perceive this to be an official Palestinian request for membership of the UN?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to wait till the letter is received in the Secretary-General’s office and its contents are read.

Question: But you said Serry has already received it, so I assume that you know the content of it?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t know the content of it, no.

According to the NYTimes: “Mr. Abbas said that if the Quartet produced a package to pave the way back to negotiations that included an Israeli freeze on settlement construction and the use of the pre-1967 lines with agreed land swaps as the basis for talks on borders — both longstanding Palestinian demands — the Palestinians ‘will go to the United Nations and we will return back to talks’.”

Abbas also said: ” ‘To be frank with you, they came too late’, Mr. Abbas told a group of foreign reporters on Thursday evening at the Mukata, his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The international powers had ‘wasted all the time’ since the beginning of the year, he said, and even now, less than two weeks before the prospective bid at the United Nations, they still had not produced any concrete proposal. Mr. Abbas was speaking after meeting in recent days with two senior American diplomats, David Hale and Dennis Ross, and Tony Blair, the envoy of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers that includes the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. He said he had also spoken by telephone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week”.

Mahmoud Abbas tells visiting American Congressmen that negotiations blocked by Israeli demand for military presence in Jordan Valley

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that an Israeli demand to keep a military presence in the Jordan Valley was one main reason that negotiations with Israel are now blocked, according to a story in the Jerusalem Post today.

The JPost report said that Abbas told a group of visiting American Congressmen, including Steny Hoyer of Maryland [Democratic Party whip in the House of Representatives], that “there are no negotiations now because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has placed pre-conditions, specifically a demand that there be an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. Abbas told the delegation that the discussions he has had with Netanyahu in the past ‘have led nowhere, because unless we agree to be occupied by IDF troops, he doesn’t want to talk about anything in the next step’. Abbas, according to Hoyer, said he met with Netanyahu last year, but that those talks ‘went nowhere because Netanyahu only wanted to talk about security, and that the implementing of that security was deployment of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley’.”

It is clear that there is a clear battle, now, for the Jordan Valley — a battle as big as that over Jerusalem.

See a related story posted on our sister blog,, here.

Netanyahu made his first qualified acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian state in his Bar Ilan University speech in 2010 (in answer to U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo some weeks earlier) that a future Palestinian state must be demilitarized.

Hoyer is leading a group of 26 U.S. Congresspeople from the Democratic Party on a week-long trip sponsored by what the JPost described as “the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee”. The JPost says that 55 U.S. Congresspeople from the Republican Party will be coming on two other trips in the coming weeks.

The JPost article is published here.

The story noted that “Hoyer, who co-authored a Congressional resolution last month with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) against a Palestinian unilateral move at the UN, said that he and some other members of the delegation told Abbas they felt a move at the UN would be a ‘destabilizing effort’, and that both Israel and the Palestinians agreed in the past that the only way to solve difference was through bilateral negotiations. Hoyer said that the delegation ‘indicated’ that a PA decision to go to the UN ‘would be unwise and that the Congress would be very concerned about that happening, and might take action’. When asked what kind of action, Hoyer said ‘funding’. Hoyer held out the possibility that while budgetary funding to the PA might be stopped, it might not be stopped for security training. A judgment would have to be made, he said, whether cutting off funding for security might not be ‘cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Undermining security in the West Bank may have an adverse consequence in Israel’.”

USA vetoes draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements + takes back its alternative offer, too

The U.S. cast its first veto in the UN Security Council on Friday [18 February] under the Obama administration, according to the Washington Post’s Colum Lynch.

UN photo of US Amb Susan Rice casting veto on 18 Feb 2011

UN photo of US Ambassador Susan Rice casting veto on 18 February 2011

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. Britain and France are two of the Security Council’s five permanent members who have the power to veto a resolution, and Germany is now one of the Security Council’s ten non-permanent members who have ordinary voting powers — all three voted in favor of the Palestinian-supported draft resolution that the U.S. vetoed.

The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were “illegitimate”.

UPDATE: A post on the Arabist blog here highlights this point:
“It’s rather morbid to read the detailed justification for this. From a State Dept. briefing here:
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”…

Continue reading USA vetoes draft UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements + takes back its alternative offer, too

Obama calls Abu Mazen

Haaretz is reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama has phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] on Friday (yesterday) “to brief the Palestinian president on the American leader’s recent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … Obama promised Abbas that he would exert every effort to ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel”.

The last time we heard about an Obama call to Abu Mazen was on the day after Obama’s inauguration — and his call to Abu Mazen then was his first to a foreign leader after taking office.

Apparently, U.S. Special Middle East envoy will be back in the region soon [either for a sixth round of indirect or “proximity” talks that started in May, or perhaps to transition into the direct mode which is, and always was, inevitable].

How do we know about this? Haaretz wrote that “Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Palestinian news agency WAFA following the phone conversation that Abbas expressed his commitment to a serious peace process that would ‘end the occupation’ and result in an independent Palestinian state”. This report can be read in full ,strong>here].

Giora Eiland: Obama ended ambiguity about a two-state solution

In an article published by YNet, an Israeli former National Security adviser, Giora Eiland, wrote that “When one of the sides, and especially if it’s a superpower, decides to call a spade a spade, a new reality emerges … In December 2000, President Bill Clinton presented his plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It was not a list of abstract principle, but rather, concrete geographical, technical, and numerical proposals for resolving each of the core issues – borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem, refugees, and so on.   Ever since then, the notion of the two-state solution in the eyes of any US Administration, and certainly a Democratic one, has been a codename for Clinton’s plan. Its essence is as follows: Two states between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea, with the border between them premised on the 1967 boundaries (with minor changes,) a divided Jerusalem, limits on the Palestinian state’s militarization, and no return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.  To the Americans, as well as to the parties to the conflict, it’s clear that a final-status agreement on the basis of two states is the Clinton plan with minor adjustments, regardless of who the negotiators are.  For nine years – George W. Bush’s eight years in office and Obama’s one year – the Americans and Israelis preferred to make do with agreement on the ambiguous principle of two states. Both Prime Minister Sharon and PM Netanyahu were able to live with this abstract concept. It was convenient for both the US and Israel to explain that the nature of the final-status agreement is unknown, and it will be subject to negotiations between the two sides.  Yet recently, Obama decided to no longer make do with the codename and ensure that Netanyahu also understands and agrees that endorsing the ‘two-status solution’ means endorsing Clinton’s plan. This caused great embarrassment. PM Netanyahu assumed that real answers, if at all, will be needed only during the negotiations, yet he was asked to provide them here and now … Netanyahu thinks that the Clinton plan is bad for Israel; he also knows that he cannot implement it even if he wished to do so.  [Yet] … Instead, Netanyahu officially endorsed the Clinton plan (which, as noted, is the only American interpretation of the ‘two-state solution’.) Yet when Obama asked him to say explicitly what he seemingly said in his Bar-Ilan speech, Netanyahu found it difficult to speak.  The American conclusions of this are grim: Firstly, Israel has no alternate ideas.  Secondly, the Clinton plan is the only solution and there is nothing else.  Thirdly, Israel’s prime minister is an unreliable person.  The distance from these conclusions to a situation whereby the US dictates a plan, including a binding timetable, is short. Ironically, we can assume that the main possibility to get out of this problematic situation stems from the fact that the Palestinians also cannot accept the Clinton plan (recognition of a Jewish state, a declaration that they have no more demands, and renunciation of the right of return.) In fact, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was not willing to even discuss the Clinton model with PM Olmert”.   This opinion piece by Giora Eiland can be read in full on YNet here

YNet's Ali Waked being optimistic – while Robert Fisk is outraged

Relying on Palestinian sources, Ali Waked has reported today on YNet — the English-language site of Israel’s largest selling Hebrew newspaper — that “Israel has agreed to hand over additional West Bank areas to the Palestinians as a trust-building measure, Palestinians sources said Sunday morning when referring to US special envoy George Mitchell’s efforts to resume peace talks between the Jewish state and the Palestinian Authority. The claim has not been confirmed by Israeli officials. Talking to Ynet, a Palestinian source said the offer Israel relayed to Mitchell and to Egypt included a series of relief measures, led by the transfer of Areas C (which are under full Israeli military + administrative control) to the Palestinians and changing their status to areas under full (Area A) or partial (Area B) Palestinian control”.

This is a little bit confusing. Surely the reporter doesn’t mean all of Area C? This is where the Israeli settlements are located, and Israel will not turn them over to the PA, at least not now. Area C, a designation of Palestinian territory where Israel retains full security control according to terms of the Oslo Accords (which divided the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C in the mid-1990s), comprises over 60% of the West Bank.

Some of the West Bank’s prime agricultural land is also Area C — as are most major and many minor roads. Palestinians living in Area C have had great difficulty in getting permits to build (n.b. — except, as I have written many times before on this blog, in the “Seam Zone” of Dahiet al-Bariid on the Israeli side of The Wall, and their permits were obtained from the ar-Ram municipal council, on the Palestinian side of The Wall).

There have been rumors in the regional media for weeks about discussions of possible “upgrading” of at least parts of Area C into Area B (where there is supposed to be joint Israel-Palestinian security control), and of Area B into Area A (where there is supposed to be full Palestinian control, such as the city of Ramallah).

According to today’s YNet report, the Palestinian source said that “The Israelis have expressed their willingness to seriously implement a real ease of restrictions, and not a fictitious one, which would help the Palestinian Authority … We will see how Mitchell’s ideas are accepted by Arab states before we deliver response to the American side,’ he added. The source also said that according to Mitchell’s latest offers, the negotiations between Israel and the PA would resume in stages and on two different levels. According to the source, the parties would first clarify the basic guidelines of the talks on an indirect channel. If the first stage is believed to be a success, it would be followed by negotiations between high-ranking officials. ‘In any case, it must end with a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders’, the source stated. Nonetheless, the PA sources found it difficult to estimate whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to return to the negotiation table, but said that Mitchell’s proposals guaranteed a real examination of the talks’ framework and each party’s need to meet its commitments. ‘The same question remains whether the Israelis are serious or not’, the source said. ‘We don’t want talks about willingness to make far-reaching moves, but actions on the ground – led by a stop to settlements’.” This article by Ali Waked is posted

At the beginning of the month of January, Ali Waked reported in YNet that “The Palestinian sources said senior Egyptian and American officials are scheduled to hold discussions over the course of the next two weeks in hopes that they will give US special Mideast envoy George Mitchell the opportunity to present an agreement on the resumption of peace talks as early as the second half of January. The sources said the negotiations will be based on the ‘Clinton outline’, according to which Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem will be under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority, while the Jewish quarters will remain under Israeli rule. According to the sources, a team led by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had met with Israeli negotiators headed by Netanyahu advisor Attorney Yitzhak Molcho to determine the general guidelines for the peace talks. [n.b. – reports emerged elsewhere during the month that Erekat was meeting Israel’s State President Shimon Peres, informally, on a weekly basis]
One of these guidelines states that the process will result in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and that all of the core issues, including Jerusalem and the status of the Palestinian refugees, would be put on the table. The parties, said the sources, agreed that the 1967 borders would be the basis for any negotiation. The Palestinians said Israel refuses to put a time limit on the negotiations, which they said would be conducted during the temporary settlement construction freeze recently declared by Israel”…

This same article, published on 1 January, also reported that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Mubarak in Cairo earlier this week. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, ‘The two leaders discussed ways to jumpstart the peace process with the Palestinians, as well as the efforts to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit’ … During his talks with Mubarak, Netanyahu stated that Israel’s conditions include Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and the demilitarization of a future Palestinian state. The PM stressed that while he does not oppose discussions on the core issues, the refugee issue would not be resolved by Israel and Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s united capital was indisputable. According to his past statements, Netanyahu would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders without ceding territories that include large settlement blocs or settlements that are deemed vital to Israel’s security”. [n.b. – I am not so sure about how liberally the last sentence should be interpreted…]. This article can be viewed here.

Coming back to Area C, The Independent’s veteran correspondent in Lebanon, Robert Fisk, was apparently in Israel and the West Bank recently. He published two articles yesterday, fuming about restrictions and conditions for the Palestinians living in Area C — a designation he called a “sinister sobriquet”. [Fisk also argues that the real disaster is in the West Bank, not in Jerusalem — a view which is the inverse of the positions of many Israeli activists…]

In the first, entitled “Why does the US turn a blind eye to Israeli bulldozers? Most of the West Bank is under rule which amounts to apartheid by paper”, Fisk wrote that “This majority of the West Bank – known under the defunct Oslo Agreement’s sinister sobriquet as ‘Area C” – has already fallen under an Israeli rule which amounts to apartheid by paper: a set of Israeli laws which prohibit almost all Palestinian building or village improvements, which shamelessly smash down Palestinian homes for which permits are impossible to obtain, ordering the destruction of even restored Palestinian sewage systems. Israeli colonists have no such problems; which is why 300,000 Israelis now live – in 220 settlements which are all internationally illegal – in the richest and most fertile of the Palestinian occupied lands. When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he was sending ‘a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building’. These two huge settlements, along with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an ‘indisputable part of Israel forever’. It was Netanyahu’s victory celebration over the upstart American President who had dared to challenge Israel’s power not only in the Middle East but in America itself. And while the world this week listened to Netanyahu in the Holocaust memorial commemoration for the genocide of six million Jews, abusing Iran as the new Nazi Germany – Iran’s loony president supposedly as evil as Hitler – the hopes of a future ‘Palestine’ continued to dribble away. President Ahmadinejad of Iran is no more Adolf Hitler than the Israelis are Nazis. But the ‘threat’ of Iran is distracting the world. So is Tony Blair yesterday, trying to wriggle out of his bloody responsibility for the Iraq disaster. The real catastrophe, however, continues just outside Jerusalem, amid the fields, stony hills and ancient caves of most of the West Bank”. This Robert Fisk article is published here.

In the second of his two articles published yesterday, whose title asserts that “Palestine is slowly dying”, Fisk writes that “A drive along the wild roads of Area C – from the outskirts of Jerusalem to the semi-humid basin of the Jordan valley – runs through dark hills and bare, stony valleys lined with deep, ancient caves, until, further east, lie the fields of the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers’ palm groves – electrified fences round the groves – and the mud or stone huts of Palestinian sheep farmers. This paradise is a double illusion. One group of inhabitants, the Israelis, may remember their history and live in paradise. The smaller group, the Palestinian Arabs, are able to look across these wonderful lands and remember their history – but they are already out of paradise and into limbo. Even the western NGOs working in Area C find their work for Palestinians blocked by the Israelis. This is not just a ‘hitch’ in the ‘peace process’ – whatever that is – but an international scandal. Oxfam, for example, asked the Israelis for a permit to build a 300m2 capacity below-ground reservoir along with 700m of underground 4in pipes for the thousands of Palestinians living around Jiftlik. It was refused. They then gave notice that they intended to construct an above-ground installation of two glass-fibre tanks, an above-ground pipe and booster pump. They were told they would need a permit even though the pipes were above ground – and they were refused a permit. As a last resort, Oxfam is now distributing rooftop water tanks. I came across an even more outrageous example of this apartheid-by-permit in the village of Zbeidat, where the European Union’s humanitarian aid division installed 18 waste water systems to prevent the hamlet’s vile-smelling sewage running through the gardens and across the main road into the fields. The £80,000 system – a series of 40ft shafts regularly flushed out by sewage trucks – was duly installed because the location lay inside Area B, where no planning permission was required. Yet now the aid workers have been told by the Israelis that work ‘must stop’ on six of the 18 shafts – a prelude to their demolition, although already they are already built beside the road – because part of the village stands in Area C. Needless to say, no one – neither Palestinians nor Israelis – knows the exact borderline between B and C. Thus around £20,000 of European money has been thrown away by the Israeli ‘Civil Administration’ [n.b. – despite its name, this is a part of the Israeli military]. But in one way, this storm of permission and non-permission papers is intended to obscure the terrible reality of Area C. Many Israeli activists as well as western NGOs suspect Israel intends to force the Palestinians here to leave their lands and homes and villages and depart into the wretchedness of Areas B and A. B is jointly controlled by Israeli military and civil authorities and Palestinian police, and A by the witless Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. Thus would the Palestinians be left to argue over a mere 40 per cent of the occupied West Bank – in itself a tiny fraction of the 22 per cent of Mandated Palestine over which the equally useless Yasser Arafat once hoped to rule. Add to this the designation of 18 per cent of Area C as ‘closed military areas’ by the Israelis and add another 3 per cent preposterously designated as a ‘nature reserve’ – it would be interesting to know what kind of animals roam there – and the result is simple: even without demolition orders, Palestinians cannot build in 70 per cent of Area C. Along one road, I discovered a series of large concrete blocks erected by the Israeli army in front of Palestinian shacks. ‘Danger – Firing Area’ was printed on each in Hebrew, Arabic and English. ‘Entrance Forbidden’. What are the Palestinians living here supposed to do?”
This Robert Fisk article can be read in full here.

Is there a "White Intifada"? Are negotiations on "maintenance"?

Aluf Benn has written in an article published in Haaretz this evening that “The Palestinian Authority is conducting a campaign to isolate Israel, based on the Goldstone report and the hatred for the Netanyahu government. Political scientists Shaul Mishal and Doron Mazza are calling it ‘the white intifada’, which is aimed at enlisting international support for a unilateral declaration of independence in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem. In a document they distributed last week, they warn of Israeli complaisance and present a disturbing scenario: The Palestinians declare independence, and Israel refuses to recognize it and is faced with a boycott. Regardless of whether it yields or reacts with force, Israel cannot win, and will also lose control of the process. Therefore the two scholars recommend a preemptive diplomatic move … Obama’s approach – to ‘park’ the diplomatic process for lack of achievements and to concentrate on domestic issues – has not surprised Netanyahu. Three months ago, a senior Israeli official said the Obama administration would probably put off the Israeli-Palestinian problem to his second term, explaining: ‘Now they’re weak, they have unemployment and the economic crisis, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, and they aren’t emerging from that. They don’t have the strength to complete an agreement. In the meantime, the maintenance will continue.” U.S. officials are hoping talks will be renewed within six months. The main thing is that there be some negotiations. They have no expectations of more than that … In the coming weeks Israel apparently will request an American veto in the Security Council again, in order to bury the Goldstone report. Netanyahu is planning a fourth meeting with Obama, concerning the nuclear security conference in Washington on April 12 and perhaps even before then. The agenda will center on Iran – or ‘the new Amalek‘, as Netanyahu called it in Auschwitz on Wednesday. The question is whether alongside his demand that Obama take action against Iran, Netanyahu will also tell him that in exchange, Israel will take some sort of initiative vis-a-vis the Palestinians. This would be in an attempt to persuade the world to believe him and ameliorate Israel’s increasing diplomatic isolation”. This article can be read in full on Haaretz’s website here.

According to another report also posted this evening in Haaretz. “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that he was considering the U.S. proposal to start indirect talks with Israel. Abbas was referring to a proposal made by U.S. Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, who suggested that negotiations between Israel and the PA would take place in the format of proximity talks, similar to the indirect negotiations that Israel held with Syria under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert” …

Continue reading Is there a "White Intifada"? Are negotiations on "maintenance"?

Notes on Rice's visit

Here are some selected remarks from the press conference by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice after they met and had lunch together in the Muqata’a in Ramallah on Tuesday:

President Abbas:

1.) “…the situation in Gaza Strip is intolerable, unbearable”.

2.) “Since things have not succeeded so far, it does not mean that we have failed”.

3.) “if we reach an agreement, then it’s very good. If we do not reach an agreement, then we wish for the new administration, that it will continue what we have already started and where we’ve reached today”.

4.) “I would like to say that these efforts that have been exerted were not wasted, were not done in vain. If they – we felt it was done in vain, then we would have stopped. So we feel that we are exerting efforts and that there is – there are benefits inevitably from these efforts. And hopefully, in the future, you will see these results”.

Secretary Rice:

1.) “We’ll continue to press the Israelis about their Roadmap obligations and to work with the Palestinians on their Roadmap obligations as well”.

2.) “I think I’ve made very clear the U.S. position that the settlement activity is not conducive to creating an environment for negotiations, yet negotiations go on..:”

3.) “I would just like it understood that President Bush has been a tireless advocate of the establishment of the institutions, and ultimately, the establishment of the Palestinian state itself. We still have a number of months before us to work toward the Annapolis goal and we’re going to do precisely that. But again, this is not easy. If this had been easy, somebody would have solved it a long time ago. And it has fallen to us to try again to find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. God willing and with the goodwill of the parties and the tireless work of the parties, we have a good chance to succeed”.

4.) “What I can tell you is that it is a very serious negotiating process. They are dealing with all issues before them. No issue is off the table. This is the most intensive discussions that have been there at least since Camp David and, in some ways, they’ve employed new mechanisms to deal with these issues that were not even there in 2000. And so this is very, very hard.  I just want to repeat, if there had been an easy solution to the establishment of two states living side by side, it would have been done a long time ago”.

Israeli offer: 64% of the West Bank + visits to holy sites in Jerusalem?

The Jerusalem Post has picked up a report published in a Arabic-language newspaper published in London yesterday which says that “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered the Palestinians 64 percent of the West Bank as part of a future peace agreement, London-based Asharq Al-Awsat reported Wednesday. According to the report, Olmert told PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians could ‘forget about territory west of the security fence’.” The prime minister also presented Abbas with several offers regarding Jerusalem. One of these would have Israel maintaining control over east Jerusalem and holy sites, but allowing Palestinians to enter those sites”…
The full article is posted here .