Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

PLO and Fatah strategist Nabil Shaath told journalists in Bethlehem just before Christmas that the Palestinians are observing a “hudna” or truce in pursuing the “UN bid” they filed at UNHQ in NY on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian State declared in 1988 — after the failure of negotiations brokered by the United States and backed by the Quartet [USA, EU, Russia + UN.

Shaath said that this “hudna” would last until January 26, the end of the three-month period that the Quartet gave the two parties [Israel + the PLO] to meet and agree on intitial steps to resume negotiations.

After that, Shaath indicated — and unless Israel stops settlement building by then — the PLO will resume its international efforts, including the suspended “UN bid”.

The admission of the State of Palestine to full membership in UNESCO in Paris on 31 October was something of an unplanned surprise, Shaath suggested: “It’s been on the agenda every year since 1989”, he suggested, but this year, it just happened: “we won”, he said. After that, Shaath told journalists, Abu Mazen [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas] declared a moratorium on any further moves [well, a lot of donor funding, including USAID money, as well as the immediately-important Israeli transfer of the PA VAT + Customs duties it collects, which goes to pay PA salaries, was at stake].

Shaath also said that separate efforts to join distinct UN agencies and international bodies was just a lot of wasted effort, because if accomplished through the “UN bid” — or, otherwise, by taking the easier and more immediately productive route of going to the UN General Assembly to ask for an upgrade in status from observer organization to observer but non-member state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi has talked to Victor Kattan — the transcript is published here — analyzing the PLO strategy for its “UN bid” filed on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian state:

Rashid Khalidi [RK]: “…If your objective is a narrow diplomatic one to obtain maximum benefits at minimum costs, which is a perfectly rational approach, it might have been advisable to have avoided the Security Council and to have gone directly to the General Assembly. If, however, this was part of what I would call a declaration of independence from the United States, and the idea was to illustrate the fact that the United States is an obstacle to a just resolution of the conflict, then I don’t see why a defeat in the Security Council, by a U.S. veto or a lack of necessary votes, doesn’t serve that purpose and then that could be followed by going to the General Assembly and achieving the same objective. Obviously you don’t want to suffer a defeat if you don’t have to and another argument would be why should the Palestinians accentuate their differences with the U.S..

Continue reading Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

Palestinians agitate for end of negotiations to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza

The ferocity and scale of Israeli attacks on the captive population of Gaza has caused agitated Palestinian demands for a cut-off of negotiations. It looks like “shooting fish in a barrel”, as one saying puts it.

Israelis, on the other hand, are working up into their own frenzied agitation because of increased Palestinian firing on Israeli areas around Gaza. Over 50 rockets, mortars, and one missile were fired from Gaza on Wednesday, and nearly 50 “projectiles” were fired again on Thursday.

Lamis Andoni, a Middle East analyst for al-Jazeera, has written an article clearly favoring a negotiations cut-off: “The Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip which has left scores of Palestinians dead has further underscored the weakness and failure of the Palestinian leadership to protect its people as it continues unconditional negotiations with Israel.
The incursion has further undermined the credibility of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s negotiating strategy and deepened the disillusionment of Palestinians already sceptical of the ongoing talks with Israel. The new attack, which mainly targeted members of Hamas, came a day after the launch of Israeli-Palestinian final status talks in a clear signal to the Palestinian leadership that Israel is determined to sustain what it calls its ‘overriding security control’ over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Even prior to the visit to the region of George Bush, the US president, the Israeli media reported that the government was making clear to the US administration that it would continue its raids into both the Fatah-led West BanK and the Hamas-led Gaza Strip. The revelations, combined with Bush’s statements, which called for uprooting ‘terrorism in Gaza’, had prompted many Palestinians, including those from inside the Fatah movement, to call for the suspension of negotiations. But Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has succeeded in mustering majority support from his own Fatah leadership for resuming talks, mostly through fear of alienating the support of the US administration and international community for his leadership. A meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership which concluded late on Monday in Ramallah fell short of stipulating a suspension of final status talks, if Israel refused to halt its Jewish settlements expansion and its military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza Strip towns. A statement issued by the PLO Central Council condemned Israel’s declaration that the Gaza Strip was ‘a hostile entity’, demanded that the negotiations with Israel ‘are linked to suspension of Israeli settlement expansion’, but it steered away from demanding the suspension of negotiations with Israel. Although the statement came as no surprise, the position of the PLO, which is considered the highest authority defining the Palestinian peace strategy, is expected to further widen the existing Palestinian divide and discredit the ongoing negotiations. The ferocity of the Israeli attacks, especially the killing of Hussam al-Zahar, the son of prominent Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, is bound to render the continued negotiations to be seen as no more than a cover up for an all-out Israeli crackdown on the besieged Gaza Strip. But the proceedings of the PLO Central Council meeting, according to different participants reached by Al Jazeera, showed that the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas had eclipsed demands for putting forward a Palestinian negotiating strategy to counter Israel’s refusal to stop the settlement construction and its continued ‘military incursions’. The discussions, that were reportedly heated, criticised Abbas’ silence while the US president, in the heart of the PA headquarters in Ramallah, repudiated the United Nations resolutions, particularly the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the illegality of Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem.  The US president implicitly endorsed Israel’s annexation of major Jewish settlements into Israel, effectively rendering the Palestinian state into a fragmented entity connected with corridors (at the very best). The PLO Central Council has indirectly rejected Bush’s policy statements, but the unconditional resumption of talks is provoking concern, even within the Fatah movement, that the negotiations can only embolden Israeli attacks
“… Lamis Andoni’s article in Al-Jazeera is posted here.

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”…