Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year

Here is what the Quartet said after the U.S. issued invitations to Israel and the Palestinian leadership today, to start direct talks in Washington D.C. on 2 September:

“The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should ‘lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors’. The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement”…

Continue reading Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year

Saeb Erekat: We declared our independence in 1988 – it's up to the international community to declare recognition"

Haaretz service is reporting that Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, said in an interview with Turkish state television TRT that “A unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state is ‘not on the agenda’ … ‘We declared our independence in 1988’, Erekat said. ‘Now it’s up to the international community to declare recognition of our independence … Our option is a two-state solution. We have recognized the state of Israel and its right to exist on the 1967 borders. Now it’s up to the international community to stand firm and recognize Palestine on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital’.”

According to Haaretz, Erekat also said in the interview that: “Our position is that the key to direct negotiations is in the hand of Mr. Netanyahu … The minute he stops settlement activities including natural growth in Jerusalem, the minute he agrees to go to permanent status talks, where we left them in December 2008, we’ll have direct talks … The Israelis have a choice, settlements or peace. They can’t have both”. These remarks are reported here.

Gershon Baskin: It's the OCCUPATION

Gershon Baskin, co-Chairman with Palestinian Hanna Siniora of the Israeli-Palestinian media center, who has also become a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, wrote this week that “At the outset of Oslo, the world, including the Arab world (and also including the supporters of peace in Israel and in Palestine), actually believed that the peace process was about ending the occupation, peace between two states living side-by-side, building cross-boundary cooperation in every field possible, ending violence and ending the conflict. During those optimistic days, several countries without diplomatic relations with Israel established them, and several Arab countries even allowed it to open commercial interests offices in their countries. Some Arab countries even opened their own representative offices in Israel. This was possible because they believed the Oslo peace process would bring an end to the occupation. They had good reason to believe that. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995 stated clearly: ‘The two sides agree that West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council in a phased manner, to be completed within 18 months from the date of the inauguration of the council’. The agreement further stated: ‘Redeployments of Israeli military forces to specified military locations will commence after the inauguration of the council and will be gradually implemented’. The interpretation of these sections was that prior to the beginning of permanent status agreements Israel would have withdrawn from more than 90 percent of the West Bank. The US and the Palestinian calculated then that the land area connected to permanent status negotiations, meaning the settlements, accounted for 2%-5% of the West Bank (counting the built-up areas of the settlements with a radius of about 100 meters from the last home in each settlement). The ‘specified military locations’ was estimated to account for about 2% of the West Bank. When Binyamin Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, a ‘conflict’ of interpretation developed between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. At that time I saw a document produced by the legal department of the Foreign Ministry explaining that the new interpretation of the Prime Minister’s Office was incorrect. It stated the following: According to the Prime Minister’s office, the settlement areas in question are based on the statutory planning maps of the civil administration and not on the built-up areas. Those zoning maps provide the settlements with about 40% of the West Bank. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s office stated that instead of ‘specified military locations’ the real intention was ‘security zones’ – meaning that the entire Jordan Valley is a security zone, all of the areas around settlements are security zones, the bypass roads to settlements are security zones, and so are all of the lands adjacent to the Green Line. In other words, 60% of the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands, and in the negotiations with the Palestinians Israel would retain well above 10% of the West Bank, and if possible more. This, according to the Palestinians and even the US, was a major breach of the agreement and it was one of the significant reasons for the failure of the entire process. At that point, the process ceased to being about ending the occupation … Ariel Sharon always believed, as did other Likud leaders,that the settlements would be the best way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. It turns out that they were probably right. Many today even question the very viability of a Palestinian state because of the settlements. Yet the entire international community … believes that a Palestinian state must be established on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders. There is no other solution to the conflict. Instead of dealing with that reality, the government is trying to pressure the US and the EU to transform the peace process into a regional peace process. Netanyahu, Barak and other members of the government think that if they agree to a three-month settlement freeze, not including Jerusalem, the world will consent. The EU and the US in private meetings with Netanyahu and in public statements have insisted that Israel must focus on the settlement issue and not on tricks to avoid making the difficult decisions. All settlement building must stop”…

But, what is actually happening?

The latest debate: Do the Palestinians (in the West Bank at least) really want a state?

The latest issue takes the “Two-State vs One State” solution even further. It is a debate that has so far taken place mostly among a few intellectuals, puzzled at some of what would otherwise appear as truly incompetent behavior of the Palestinian Authority, and the apparent near-collapse of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Now, it has been seized upon — largely for its lurid appeal (it’s sensational, runs against official positions, appears to be based on deep insights, and, it sells) to propagandists — by some of the Israeli and pro-Israeli media crowd.

Do Palestinians (at least those in the West Bank) really want a State?

Now, one writer in the Jerusalem Post (he’s Shmuel Rosner, based in Washington), has written — reviewing articles written in recent months — that the question of the moment is: “Do Palestinians really want a state”. And the answer, he wrote, is this: “In sum, two years ago, an open question, more recently, no, no and no“.

Rosner then went on to mock a comment by Ed Abington, former US Consul General in Jerusalem and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority, who, Rosner wrote: ” has commented yesterday on my link to these new articles with this sarcastic massage: “I’m sure Kaplan and Grygiel are right; most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli occupation forever than accept responsibility for running their own affairs. Duh“.

Yes, Duh. Because the Palestinians do want a state. The question for them is, what kind? And, of course, there is no real debate on the Palestinian political scene that might illuminate the issues on there side — they are too busy looking over their shoulders, worrying about what their enemies and rivals would say. So, instead of hashing out the issues amongst themselves, the Palestinians are just developing their critique of Israel.

There have been no real intellectual advances, of course.

Continue reading The latest debate: Do the Palestinians (in the West Bank at least) really want a state?

Bush: peace agreement should define a Palestinian state by end 2008

Here’s what U.S. President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union Speech on 28 January 2008 — the goal is now to have a peace agreement that will define — merely define — a Palestinian state by the end of this year:

“We’re also standing against the forces of extremism in the Holy Land, where we have new cause for hope. Palestinians have elected a president [actually, the Palestinian presidential election was in January 2005, and the next one should be at the beginning of 2009e…] who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel.  Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security.  This month in Ramallah and Jerusalem, I assured leaders from both sides that America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year. The time has come for a Holy Land where a democratic Israel
and a democratic Palestine live side by side in peace”. (Applause.)

A Palestinian State – or a "functional solution"?

As we come down the stretch to the possible convening of a Middle East peace conference (or “meeting”) in Annapolis later this year, it is worth recalling the words of the late, great, Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi, who led the Palestinian Delegation to the Madrid Conference on 21 October 1991: “Ladies and gentlemen, in the Middle East there is no superfluous people outside time and place, but rather a state sorely missed by time and place – the state of Palestine. Our homeland has never ceased to exist in our minds and hearts, but it has to exist as a state on all the territories occupied by Israel in the war of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, in the context of that city’s special status and its non-exclusive character. This state, in a condition of emergence, has already been a subject of anticipation for too long. It should take place today, rather than tomorrow…“.

The Palestinian Delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference had to be officially part of the Jordanian delegation, because at that time Israel refused to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, and the Palestinian team insisted they owed their alliegance to the PLO.

Dr. Haider Abdul Shafi’s speech, nonetheless, can be found on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

The Associated Press reported drily from Jerusalem today that “The Palestinians are pushing for a detailed agreement, while Israel wants a more vague document that would give it flexibility. The Palestinians also want a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state, even though earlier deadlines have been set and ignored”. AP’s report from Jerusalem is here.

A Palestinian State has been an unrealized legal possibility for more than 85 years. On at least four occasions during that lapse of time, Palestinians have prepared to declare a Palestinian State in Palestine: in 1948, in 1988, in 1999, and in 2000.

Each attempt was blocked.
Continue reading A Palestinian State – or a "functional solution"?