Clarification from Mahmoud Abbas — but not clarity

Does Mahmoud Abbas have the right to refuse, on behalf of Palestinian refugees caught up in fighting in Syria, the reported condition set by Israel [that these Palestinian refugees give up their Right of Return to their original homes that may be in areas now inside Israel] — in order to allow these Palestinian refugees to come to into the West Bank now?

Well, he said in Cairo on Wednesday night [9 January] that he refused this reported Israeli condition — which he said was communicated to him by UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon — anyway.

Mahmoud Abbas and his delegated representatives have engaged in negotiations with Israelis for decades — and during this time, in some of these conversations, he was involved in conversations in which it was said, or rather speculated, that surely not every Palestinian refugee around the world would want to return to his/her original homes…

Some of these conversations, incoherent in part, full of innuendo that can’t be communicated by transcription, have been revealed in release of documents like the Al-Jazeera Palestine Papers.

In response, Palestinian critics have said that the Right of Return is an individual, not a collective right — and that Abbas had no right to give it up pr waive it in negotiations on behalf of each and every Palestinian.

Now, we are faced with the opposite situation.

It was Abbas himself who said, in mid-December, during fighting that had reportedly emptied 95% of Yarmouk Camp [which is now a suburb of Damascus], that Palestinians forced to flee that violence should be allowed to come to the West Bank.

He asked for the UN to help.

Now, we learn from a report in the Times of Israel today, that:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected an Israeli offer to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria to enter the Palestinian territories on condition that they forgo their ‘right of return’ to Israel proper, Abbas told the Egyptian press on Wednesday evening.  Following a meeting with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Abbas said that he had appealed to the UN to intercede on behalf of Palestinian refugees living in Syriaand demand that Israel allow them to enter the West Bank and Gaza.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Abbas that Israel agreed to the request, on the condition that the refugees sign a document in which they forgo the ‘right of return’ to areas within Israel.  Abbas said he rejected that condition”.  This is published here.

The Associated Press, economizing with words, reported that:
“The fate of Palestinians uprooted by Israel’s creation is an explosive issue. Israel worries that a mass influx of Palestinians could destroy the notion of a Jewish state. Last month, Abbas asked the U.N. to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria’s civil war to the Palestinian territories. Abbas said in comments published Thursday that Israel linked its acceptance to refugees relinquishing claims to returning to what is now Israel. Abbas says ‘we rejected that’. Israeli officials declined comment”. This was published by the Washington Post here.

Did Mahmoud Abbas think his proposal to allow Palestinian refugees caught up in fighting in Syria was only a temporary solution?

Did Mahmoud Abbas think that he was  offering Palestinian refugees [mainly from Yarmouk Camp] just shelter from the immediate conflict now?

The Levy Report: the West Bank is not occupied, settlements are not illegal

A bombshell. One that probably should have been expected. But it still came by surprise.

A report from a committee appointed by the current Israeli government, and headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levy, has just said, basically that the West Bank is not occupied.

As Israeli Attorney Michael Sfard wrote in an explanation in Haaretz today [the Levy Report is not available in English] that: “The West Bank is not occupied, it announced, but rather ‘a territory designated as the national home of the Jewish people… which the governments of Israel… chose not to annex but to approach pragmatically to allow peace negotiations’. And why is that? Because the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the committee tells us, and the British Mandate, designated the territory for the Jewish state. There, in 1922, ended legal history, as far as the committee is concerned…It dismisses the Partition Resolution of 1947, that established the principle of founding two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, with the strange statement that it was ‘a plan that did not gain purchase in international law’. The committee does not even bother to mention dozens of statements and declarations by almost all the countries in the world and the many international bodies that actually do recognize the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza. Nor does it mention the advisory opinion of the International Court in Hague. The same goes for all of the experts on international law, who in a rare consensus, agree that this is a clear case of occupation. The report does not try to contend with the enormous existing discourse, it tries to silence it”. This commentary by Michael Sfard is published here.

Part of the Israeli argument that the West Bank [and Gaza] are disputed rather than occupied rests on the constructed argument of “no prior legitimate sovereign” — that is, the Jordanian and Egyptian armies [and a few others] moved in on 14-15 May 1948, after Israel’s proclamation of independence. They moved into an area vacated by the British without any arrangement in place for its continued governance or administration. This area where Jordanian and Egyptian and other Arab troops showed up had been part of the League of Nations Mandate that was administered by Britain after they threw the remaining Ottoman military out in 1918, and the Mandate finally officially conferred to Britain at British insistence in 1923. So, the Israeli argument goes, since there was no legitimate prior sovereign, the territory was without a ruler for a few hours, and cannot be considered occupied.

The upshot of the Israeli argument that this territory is disputed and that the Jewish people have a claim which will have to be settled in negotiations. But meanwhile, Israeli civilian law will continue to apply to the areas that Israel chooses, and at least until the present moment Israeli military law applies to the Palestinians living there.

So, while Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak rules the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu rules the Israeli settlers…and the Israeli Army that protects them.

Another part of the argument in the Levy Report apparently rests on the argument that Israel’s military actions in the June 1967 war were part of a “defensive war” — an argument that scholars increasingly challenge. In the Egyptian submission to the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion on The Wall in July 2009, the Egyptian government argues that Israel was the initiator of this war. Egypt’s removal of UN peacekeeping observers from the Sinai and its closures of the Strait of Tiran, which Israel cites as provocation initiating the 1967 war, are instead viewed by these scholars as acts of aggression that fall short of acts of war, and therefore do not justify the launch of military operations in response.

The rest of our analysis — partial though it is — of this report which proposes to enshrine the present awful reality in the West Bank, where Israeli settlers live as free and protected Israeli citizens under the protection of law, but where Palestinians are subject to overwhelming, arbitrary, disruptive and cruel military rule, can be read on our sister blog, UN-Truth, here.

"Either you give us the Jordan Valley, or we'll take it!"

Muhammad Shtayyah, member of the Palestinian Negotiations team, told journalists in the West Bank village of Dura al-Qarya’ today that in direct Israeli-Palestinian talks sponsored by Jordan in Amman earlier this year, the Israeli delegation told the Palestinians straight-out: “Either you give us the Jordan Valley, or we’ll take it”.

He scoffed, with a laugh, when asked if the Israeli position wasn’t more nuanced. “It was exactly like that” — and in those words, he said.

According to reports in the Israeli media, Israeli envoys expressed some perhaps-ironic regret for the usual Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, saying they missed him.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last August that Israeli demands for the Jordan Valley were a main stumbling block in the negotiations, as we reported here.

Negotiations have restarted fitfully, and without any progress, two or three times after the point where some new proposals were made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September 2008 [who soon resigned when under investigation for corruption charges]. The Palestinian leadership then broke off negotiations at the end of December 2008, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a massive three-week military operation in Gaza that was purportedly aimed at Hamas targets [which were seen everywhere]… Under the Obama Administration, two attempts to restart direct talks were grudgingly attended by an unsatisfied Palestinian delegation. Both attempts ended abruptly when new Israeli settlement building was announced — though the U.S. continues to say that it’s aim is to get the two sides to reengage.
A third set of meetings, which the Palestinians did not want to acknowledge as negotiations and which they said they attended only out of courtesy, was held in Amman earlier this year, and led to a formal exchange of letters between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

Dr. Shtayyah [his name can be spelled a number of different ways in English, including Ishtayya] was elected to the Fatah Central Committee in its last General Conference in Bethlehem in August 2009, after which he was obliged to relinquish his post of Minister of Planning. He is still the head [apparently at ministerial-level] of the Palestinian Economic Commission for Reconstruction and Development, PECDAR, set up at the start of the Oslo process in 1993, and is also an advisor to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He was the Palestinian negotiator in direct contacts with Israeli envoys in Amman over a period of weeks, earlier this year. These talks were held at the invitation of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, with active American encouragement. Jordanian officials acted as facilitators, and American and Quartet envoys were also present.

In 2003-4, the U.S. reportedly objected strongly, in private meetings, to Israel’s plans to extend The Wall down the length of the Jordan Valley.

But, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has recently openly stated Israel’s position that it would be necessary, for Israel’s security, to maintain a security presence along the Jordan River which is the boundary between the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly complained about the Netanyahu position on the need for Israel to maintain a long-term security presence in the Jordan Valley.

Shtayyah said, “We asked the Israelis, ‘What are you afraid of?'” And, he said, “Israel told us they don’t trust Jordan”.
[note: ironic joke…]

Israel has consistently expressed — in public at least — great confidence in the peace treaties it has concluded with Jordan [in 1994] as well as earlier with Egypt [in 1979].

Shtayyah told this reporter that the Palestinian leadership believes there should only be Palestinian and Jordanian forces on the border between the West Bank and Jordan. He also said that Jordanian officials told Palestinian negotiators that they fully agree with this position.

“But”, he added, “we don’t know exactly what the Jordanians say [in phrivate] to others”.

EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission hosted a regular twice-yearly meeting on 13 April of the donor coordination group [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee or AHLC] for the occupied Palestinian territory in Brussels. The meeting was presided over by Norwegian Foreign Minister Støre in his capacity as chair of the AHLC, and was attended by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, as well as Quartet Special Envoy Tony Blair, and officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry — and, though we wouldn’t have known it from the AHLC or Blair websites [see instead link below to a Haaretz story], also present was the IDF officer in charge of the Israeli military-administered sanctions on Gaza, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot [whose title is “Coordinator of {Israeli} Government Activities in the {occupied Palestinian} Territories”, a Defense Ministry unit otherwise known as COGAT, which also controls quite a lot in the West Bank as well as in Gaza].

It was, apparently, the first in a series of donor meetings planned for 2011.

The next planned donor conference is scheduled to be held in Paris in June 2011, to support “the Palestinian national development plan for 2011-2013”.

{The UN describes the AHLC here as “a 12-member committee that serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. The AHLC is chaired by Norway and cosponsored by the EU and US. In addition, the United Nations participates together with the World Bank (Secretariat) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The AHLC seeks to promote dialogue between donors, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Government of Israel (GoI)”. The Portland Trust, which seems to set the policies that Tony Blair follows, notes here that “The AHLC was established on 1 October 1993 (this is two weeks after the signing of the first of the Oslo Accords) . It serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people. Norway is the chair of the committee, the World Bank acts as secretariat and the EU and US are co-sponsors. The members are: the Palestinian Authority (PA), Government of Israel (GoI), Canada, Egypt, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, Jordan, United Nations (UN), Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia”. It is worth noting that the Portland Trust’s publication, Palestinian Economic Bulletin, is prepared by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in Ramallah.}

The Norwegian Chairman reportedly said that “the international donor group in support of the Palestinians (AHLC) welcomed reports that the Palestinian Authority has crossed the threshold for a functioning state in terms of its successful institution building. This was the assessment of the Palestinian Authority’s performance in key sectors studied by the World Bank, the IMF, and the UN. Moreover, according to the IMF, the Palestinian reforms have come so far that not only is the public financial management system ready to support the functions of a state; it has even become a model for other developing countries”. These remarks are posted here.

This report also reported that Støre said: “many donors noted that the lack of political progress leaves the negotiating track out of sync with the far advanced state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority. This is why all parties concerned must stand firm behind the stated goal of negotiating a framework agreement on permanent status and a subsequent comprehensive peace treaty by the agreed target date in September”.

Continue reading EU + UN: institutions of Palestinian state ready

"The State of Ishmael"

Shay Fogelman wrote in the weekend Haaretz that Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi, a right-wing Israeli politician who was assassinated in an East Jerusalem hotel [the Hyatt Regency] nine years ago, at the height of the second Intifada, by Palestinian gunmen, had drawn up plans in 1967 for … well, not a Palestinian state, exactly… more like what Fogelman called the “state of Ishmael”.

Ishmael was the other son of the prophet Abraham, Patriarch of the Jews and founder of the monotheistic tradition is continued in Islam. Ishmael was fathered by Abraham with his wife’s servant, Hagar. Abraham’s wife, Sarah — who had been believed to be barren — then gave birth to Isaac. [It is believed that the Jewish tribes are descended from Isaac, while Arabs are descended from Ishmael…]

Fogelman wrote that “Ze’evi’s plan to create the state of Ishmael, in the form of a secret four-page document, has been gathering dust in the archives of the Israel Defense Forces since it was conceived. But anyone who examines the details closely will not likely describe it as a dovish project, reflecting a recognition of the Palestinians’ national rights. Submitted to then-chief of staff Yitzhak Rabin five days after the end of the Six-Day War, the plan was entitled ‘Political Arrangement for the West Bank − A Proposal’. Ze’evi begins by noting, ‘The following proposal follows conversations held recently and in light of the task assigned to me to put forward a proposal on the subject’. It does not, he notes, ‘refer to possible solutions for the Gaza Strip, which need to be considered separately’. Ze’evi’s proposal called for the establishment of ‘an independent Arab state in part of the West Bank, which would be tied to Israel by a contract that would ensure the rights of both sides. The new state will be called the state of Ishmael ‏(and not Palestine, in order not to increase its ‘appetite’ and representation‏)’ …

Continue reading "The State of Ishmael"

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
here.

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.

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?

A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement – a "naive and myopic initiative"

In mid-January, as was reported on UN-Truth, here, “Former U.S. National Security Advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, were among the ten authors of a newly-revealed letter handed to Barack Obama just before his inauguration, urging the new president-elect to change policy and make contact with Hamas … The group is preparing to meet this weekend to decide when to release a report outlining a proposed US agenda for talks aimed at bringing all Palestinian factions into the Mid-east peace process, according to Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, who brought the former officials together and said the White House promised the group an opportunity to make its case in person to Obama … The Boston Globe reported that ‘Siegman and Scowcroft said the letter urged Obama to formulate a clear American position on how the peace talks should proceed and what the specific goals should be. “The main gist is that you need to push hard on the Palestinian peace proces”, Scowcroft said in an interview. “Don’t move it to end of your agenda and say you have too much to do. And the US needs to have a position, not just hold their coats while they sit down”. Along with Scowcroft, Volcker, and Brzezinski, who was national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, signatories included former House International Relations Committee chairman Lee Hamilton, a Democrat; former United Nations ambassador Thomas Pickering from the first Bush administration; former World Bank president James Wolfensohn; former US trade representative in the Ford administration Carla Hills; Theodore Sorensen, former special counsel to President John F. Kennedy; and former Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Nancy Kassebaum Baker”.

Now, apparently, the report — containing “recommendations for U.S. Middle East peacemaking” — has been released. Entitled “A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement”, it can be read in full here].

Continue reading A Last Chance for a Two-State Israel-Palestine Agreement – a "naive and myopic initiative"

Olmert revelation – I made a "final offer" to Abbas in September 2008

YNet’s Roni Sofer wrote that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an “unprecedented” offer to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008 — to which Abbas has not responded, Olmert claims — proposing to give Palestinians 93% of the West Bank and parts of Herusalem.

In the story, Sofer reported that “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attempted to clarify Thursday alleged promises he had made in a so-called ‘final offer’ to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008, which included the eviction of tens of thousands of settlers and territorial concessions in Jerusalem. ‘There was one point when I put things on the table and offered Abbas something that had never been offered and dealt with the crux of the problem, with the most sensitive issues that touch the most exposed nerves and historical obstacles’, Olmert said during a Thursday conference in Herzliya. ‘I told him – “let’s sign”. It was half a year ago and I’m still waiting’, he said. Senior officials said that a meeting of the leaders in the Prime Minister’s resident in Jerusalem involved a ‘final offer to end the conflict’. The offer involved a future border between a possible Palestinian state to Israel, involving the eviction of the more than 60,000 settlers living beyond the security barrier in the West Bank – the proposed new border between the two entities. The offer involved a return of 93% of the West Bank, leaving in Israel the large population centers, such as Ariel and Elkanah in the north, Maaleh Adumim in the center, and Jerusalem and Gush Etzion in the south. Regarding Jerusalem itself, Olmert offered to cede over to the Palestinians the peripheral neighborhoods and the refugee camps surrounding the city, such as Kalandia. The holy sites, whose sovereignty is desired by all faiths, would be determined within an international framework, the prime minister said. The plan was also presented to the Americans who, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, supported the plan. They apparently also expressed optimism that the offer would be acceptable to the Palestinians”…

This account was published in full in YNet here.