The Quartet…calls for Palestinians and Israelis to return to negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been saying that he is ready to return to negotiations — without preconditions — at any time. He suggested meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the UN, right after his speech yesterday.

The Palestinians say that there has to be a complete stop to Israeli settlement activities on the ground, first. They now also say they want the negotiations conducted within an international framework of legitimacy. And, they have made it clear that they want to start where Netanyahu’s predecessor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left off with them in September 2008, shortly before he was required to resign during a corruption investigation.

The Quartet spent five intensive days in New York trying to draft a statement they could all agree upon and that would also meet Palestinian requirements, in an effort to avert the Palestinian “UN bid”. After yesterday’s speeches by Abbas and by Netanyahu, the Quartet issued the following statement, which proposes a resumption of negotiations within the month, and agreement by the end of 2012:

“The Quartet takes note of the application submitted by President Abbas on 23rd September 2011 which is now before the Security Council.

The Quartet reaffirmed its statement of 20th May 2011, including its strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined by United States President Barack Obama. [[note – This refers, therefore, only to Obama’s speech at the U.S. State Department on 19 May, in which he called for negotiations to resume first on borders, which Obama said should be the 1967 borders, and security. It deliberately omits reference to Obama’s speech to AIPAC on 21 May, in which he caves in to Israeli pressure and for the first time endorses the controversial language in the 2004 letter of George Bush to Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which recognized existing demographic realities on the ground – meaning the Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank...]]

The Quartet recalled its previous statements, and affirmed its determination to actively and vigorously seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1515, 1850, the Madrid principles including land for peace, the Roadmap, and the agreements previously reached between the parties.

The Quartet reiterated its commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and reaffirms the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Quartet reiterated its urgent appeal to the parties to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions. But it accepts that meeting, in itself, will not reestablish the trust necessary for such a negotiation to succeed. It therefore proposes the following steps:

Continue reading “The Quartet…calls for Palestinians and Israelis to return to negotiations”

Abbas asks for UN membership for the State of Palestine, Netanyahu says Palestinians must make peace first

Mahmoud Abbas got a second series of standing ovations — a week after he told his people from Ramallah on 16 September that he was going to ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership for the State of Palestine — on 23 September, when he addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.

At the same time, tens of thousands of Palestinians came together in central squares of major West Bank cities to watch the speech, despite an unexpected September rain and cool weather. They were electrified, transported, that Mahmoud Abbas actually went through with what he said he would do: apply to the UN Security Council to ask for full UN membership for the state of Palestine — because, as Mahmoud Abbas argued, it is their right, and they deserve it.

[In 1988, after the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] read a Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers in November 1988. In the aftermath, the UN General Assembly took note of the Declaration, and upgraded the PLO from observer national liberation movement to observer organization. At the time, in 1988, the PLO was going to ask for a seat for Palestine in the UN General Assembly hall — even if they would have to leave it symbolically vacant. But, they backed down, in the face of certain international opposition.

The Palestinian leadership could have have asked for UN membership decades ago. But, by waiting, this “UN bid” has been made by the PLO’s Provisional Government, which is the PLO Executive Committee — not by a government in exile, which it would have been in 1988…

Contrary to two earlier indications, Abbas met the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon just before delivering his speech, and handed over the official Palestinian application — which Abbas signed as President of the State of Palestine, and Chairman of the PLO.

A few hours later, the Washington Post’s UN correspondent Colum Lynch posted the official PLO letter, plus a transmittal letter by UNSG Ban, and a distribution note from the current President [Lebanon] of the UN Security Council for the month of September, here.

The full text of Abbas’s speech to the UNGA can be found here, or here.

Here are some excerpts:

“We aspire for and seek a greater and more effective role for the United Nations in working to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in our region that ensures the inalienable, legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people as defined by the resolutions of international legitimacy of the United Nations…

UPDATE: Though some were not happy, it is fair to say that even some of those Palestinians who have been most critical of the Palestinian Authority and its leadership were pleased. Palestinian activist Mazin Qumsiyeh [Popular Resistance, based in Bethlehem] wrote on his blog, here:

“Mahmoud Abbas gave a brilliant speech at the United Nations, getting rounds of applause from most of the representatives. I think it demonstrated clearly and unambiguously that the Palestinian leadership has been “unreasonably reasonable” and has instead seen the hopes of peace and of millions of Palestinians suffering for 63 years dashed on the rock of Israeli expansionist, colonial, and apartheid policies. He explained that Israel has been taking one unilateral action after another each resulting in more pain and suffering for our people. Going to the UN, he explained is putting things back where the problems started (he did not use the last two words but I do). He said a word that I think he should defend strongly that
no person or country with an iota of logic or conscience should reject the Palestinian state membership in the UN or its formation in the 22% of historic Palestine that is the West Bank and Gaza. I think he took a courageous step and gave a good performance”.

Israeli activist Uri Avnery [Gush Shalom, journalist and former Knesset member] issued a statement saying: ” ‘Mahmud Abbas has taken the excuses out of Netnayhau’s hands. The State of Palestine, under his leadership, is fully ready to make peace with the State of Israel on the basis of the 1967 borders, to resume negotiations if no settlement facts are created on the land subject to negotiations – but the Palestinians are not ready to continue to live under occupation … The State of Palestine will not arise tomorrow, and a long and hard road awaits all of us until this state becomes a reality and takes its rightful place as the Palestinians’ national state and Israel’s partner for peace. Still, today will be counted among the key historical dates in the history of our region. Netanyahu’s answering speech was nothing but a cheap compilation of propaganda, with rejection of the Palestinian offer and intransigent refusal to end the occupation packed in “security” rhetoric and clichés. The “Palestinian state” envisioned in Netahyhau’s speech would be “demilitarized” but have a heavy Israeli military presence in its territory. In practice, there is reason to doubt Netanyahu intends to let any kind of Palestinian state come into being or withdraw from any territory, and his speech in practice left nothing to negotiate about. By a blatant interference in American internal politics, Netanyahu has bent the US to his will. He forced the President of the United States to deliver at the UN a Zionist and cynical speech, contradicting and nullifying Obama’s own previous positions, and assured a US veto and outright opposition to Palestinian aspirations. But it was a pyrrhic victory for Netanyahu – he has been shown the entire world that the United States is not suitable to serve as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians … If and when negotiations resume between Israel and the Palestinians, it will be necessary to find a mediator or mediators more appropriate and fair – which confirms the Palestinians in their decision to move the focus of diplomatic activity from the White House to the UN Headquarters”.

The Israel Project called the speech hate-filled. Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman said it was provocation. And hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Palestinians felt that it was an accurate, concise, restrained description of their suffering.

Continue reading “Abbas asks for UN membership for the State of Palestine, Netanyahu says Palestinians must make peace first”

The Palestinian Application for Membership in the United Nations as submitted

Here is the original package of documents containing the Application of Palestine for Membership in the United Nations, as submitted at UNHQ/NY on 22 September 2011 by Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as President of the State of Palestine (by virtue of being Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization):

With cover letter, on 23 September 2011, from the elected 2011 President of the UNGA, Nassir Abdelaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar

Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"

It took the American administration several years to denounce the obvious stalling tactics of Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir after the launch of the Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991.

By then, back-stage talks between Israeli and Palestinian “academics” and “individuals” over dinners in idyllic settings in northern Europe had reached the stage that the Oslo process was ready to go public, and the Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn in a live event in September 1993.

Now, almost four years after the direct American supervision over direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was launched at the Annapolis Conference, Palestinian negotiators have brought the file back to the UN, saying they want the international community to take a stand, and they want to exercise their right to ask for full UN membership.

As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said to reporters on the flight to New York, “all hell has broken loose”.

A day before his big speech — which will be broadcast live on screens in centers of major West Bank cities, particularly Ramallah and Nablus — Abbas is reported in the New York Times [see our earlier post] to have said that he is not happy with either the Americans or the Arabs: “I am fed up with all these people + I don’t know what to do when I return back”.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who is on tape**,here, during a visit in 2001 to the large West Bank settlement of Ofra, between Ramallah and Nablus, as saying he deceived the U.S. and will destroy the Oslo Accords and prevent a solution — was for a while not even going to go to the UN, in order to deny credibility to the Palestinian “UN bid”. But, it assumed such proportions that he had to go.

Despite an offer, Netanyahu + Abbas have not met in New York. But, that is not a big deal.

For, Netanyahu has a strategy. He and his staff briefed Israeli journalists on it earlier this week. The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported it in the Jerusalem Post: “Netanyahu’s strategy is to explain. Explain, explain, explain. He is a man of words. He loves to read, and to speak – some less charitable would say he loves to lecture. And he believes in the power of words, of oratory, of rhetoric … [H]e is carrying a speech to explain to the world what he feels much of it fails to see: that the Middle East has changed; changed radically, and changed fundamentally. At Sunday’s cabinet meeting Netanyahu explained why he decided, after weeks of deliberation, to go to the UN himself and combat the Palestinian Authority’s statehood recognition move. ‘My UN trip will have a double goal’, he said. ‘The first goal is to ensure that this move to bypass negotiations does not succeed and is stopped in the Security Council’. The second goal, he said, is to present the truth about ‘our desire for peace’ and Israel’s historic rights to the country that go back ‘only 4,000 years’. And then he cut to the chase: ‘I will also speak about our intention to achieve peace with our neighbors while ensuring our security. If this was clear and necessary in the past, then today it is even more important. Especially now, when the Middle East is undergoing a great upheaval, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Libya to Egypt, Syria and throughout the region; when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or how things will turn out’.” These remarks, which echo remarks made in recent months by a number of other Israeli military and security officials, are published in the JPost here.

Netanyahu said he was going to the UN in NY to speak the truth. Apparently, most of it has to deal with Israel’s security, and the requirement to maintain superiority and control to maintain Israel’s security.

Indications are, he will speak about the Jordan Valley.

When Israel began to build its Wall, almost a decade ago, it wanted to build it straight down the Jordan Valley. The U.S. Administration at that time [George W. Bush] quietly ruled that out.

Netanyahu wants to revisit the matter.

Toward the end of his article, the JPost’s Keinon wrote that “Last September, during those few days when Netanyahu and Abbas did speak for a few hours, the Prime Minister told Abbas that Israel would need a military presence along the Jordan River for a long period of time. When Abbas asked Netanyahu why, the prime minister replied that one never knows what could happen, and that a presence on the Jordan River – to protect against any untoward developments from the east – was a necessity. And that was before the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the chaos in Syria, the uncertainty in Jordan, and the rift with Turkey. How much truer is it now, he will argue, how much more caution is needed now, than in the past, because who really knows what will develop. If Fatah can lose control of Gaza to Hamas in a matter of weeks, if the Egyptians leadership can now talk about re-visiting and perhaps trashing a 30-year peace treaty, then previous assumptions and strategies and ways of doing business need to be re-thought”.

We posted earlier, on 11 August, on our sister blog www.palestine-mandate.com here about Mahmoud Abbas telling visiting American Congressmen that negotiations had been blocked by Netanyahu’s demand to keep IDF troops in the Jordan Valley: “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’.”

Netanyahu is due to speak about an hour after Abbas makes his address in the UNGA on Friday, around the middle of the day in New York, and evening here in Jerusalem.

**On the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu said in the 2001 home video, linked to above, that “His approach to White House demands to withdraw from Palestinian territory under the Oslo accords, he says, drew on his grandfather’s philosophy: ‘It would be better to give two per cent than to give 100 per cent’. He therefore signed the 1997 agreement to pull the Israeli army back from much of Hebron, the last Palestinian city under direct occupation, as a way to avoid conceding more territory.
‘The trick’, he says, ‘is not to be there [in the occupied territories] and be broken; the trick is to be there and pay a minimal price’. The ‘trick’ that stopped further withdrawals, Mr Netanyahu adds, was to redefine what parts of the occupied territories counted as a ‘specified military site’ under the Oslo accords. He wanted the White House to approve in writing the classification of the Jordan Valley, a large area of the West Bank, as such a military site. ‘Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give [them] the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accord’.” This is recounted by Jonathan Cook in a 2010 article published in The National, here.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert — forced to resign to defend himself against charges of corruption — wrote an Op-Ed published today in the New York Times saying that he feels uneasy at the current turn of events: “As tensions grow, I cannot but feel that we in the region are on the verge of missing an opportunity — one that we cannot afford to miss”.

Continue reading “Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"”

Obama: Palestinians deserve…

U.S. President Barack Obama, in his annual address to the UN General Assembly, said Wednesday that “Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state”.

As if they don’t know. Or — as if someone else should tell them.

Since their 1988 Declaration of Independence, the Palestinian National Council agreed to form their state with the borders of June 4, 1967 — the eve of the war which saw Israel conquer the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [and the Golan Heights].

In 2008, as the U.S.-brokered Annapolis direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians faltered, then-Secretary of State Condoleezzaa Rice said that defining the borders between them would help define which Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank [if any] would be “legal”.

Obama’s words today at the UN go even further…

“One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realized between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. One year later, despite extensive efforts by America and others, the parties have not bridged their differences. Faced with this stalemate, I put forward a new basis for negotiations in May. That basis is clear, and well known to all of us here. Israelis must know that any agreement provides assurances for their security. Palestinians deserve to know the territorial basis of their state.

Later, Obama met Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was very pleased with the Obama statement, and after that, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, with a weary and disillusioned Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who had put his head on the desk in front of him during part of the Obama speech.

Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said later that both men had reiterated their positions.

Haaretz reported later that “U.S. President Barack Obama told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that UN action would not achieve a Palestinian state and the United States would veto any Security Council move to recognize Palestinian statehood, the White House said. ‘We would have to oppose any action at the UN Security Council including, if necessary, vetoing’, Ben Rhodes, the White House national security council spokesman, told reporters after Obama met Abbas in New York. PLO diplomatic envoy to the U.S. Maen Rashid Erekat told Haaretz that the U.S. President ‘reiterated the commitment of the U.S. to the establishment of the Palestinian state, as part of the two-state solution, and stressed the position of the US that the UN is not the right venue to reach this goal.” This article is posted here.

There were demonstrations in the West Bank on Thursday denouncing the Obama speech, and a number of Palestinian writers found a ready acceptance in American publications for their English-language Op-Ed articles or blog submissions.

But, Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiating team did not escape criticism either, from other articles such as this one published on the Al-Jazeera English-language website, here.

The pressure on Mr. Abbas in New York has been immense, and he has reportedly felt both isolated, and abandoned.

There are rumors that he is preparing to resign when he returns to Ramallah — though from which of his three posts [Chairman of the PLO, President of the Palestinian Authority, leader of the Fatah movement] is not entirely clear.

An extraordinary article in the New York Times today’s paper [Thursday], reported from both a reception in New York and Jerusalem, says that “Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, met secretly with Mr. Abbas three times in recent months in efforts to … avoid a United Nations battle. Mr. Netanyahu ultimately pulled the plug on those talks, leaving Mr. Abbas a sense of having no alternatives. Mr. Peres said in an interview in Jerusalem that he tried to convince Mr. Abbas that United Nations membership would not help because what is needed is independence for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis, and the United Nations can deliver neither. ‘He told me, “I’m alone, betrayed by the United States, betrayed by Israel and by everyone else”, ‘Mr. Peres recalled from a recent conversation. Mr. Abbas echoed those sentiments on Tuesday night. Terje Roed-Larsen, a former United Nations envoy to the Mideast who now leads the International Peace Institute in New York, hugged him and asked for a meeting later in the evening. ‘Tonight our schedule is full with the Americans’, Mr. Abbas replied. ‘They want us to meet, but we don’t, really we don’t want’. Mr. Larsen asked why he was going then. ‘I don’t know why really’, Mr. Abbas said,’I am not happy with anybody, not with the Americans, nor the Arabs. I am fed up with all these people and I don’t know what to do when I return back’.” Abbas’ weary, unguarded, unwise words to Terje Roed-Larsen are published here.

Part of what makes this so interesting is that it is not clear how the NYTimes heard this conversation — was its UN correspondent Neil MacFarquhar standing right beside the two men [Terje Roed-Larsen, former UN Special Envoy, and former Foreign Minister of Norway when he hosted Palestinians and Israelis for talks that led to the Oslo Accords]? Or, did Mr. Roed-Larsen pass this conversation on to the NYTimes?

It is also interesting to recall that Roed-Larsen himself was, in July 2004, once called persona non grata by Palestinian presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh — then working with Yasser Arafat — after Roed-Larsen told the UN Security Council that “The Palestinian leader is under house arrest but this isn’t an excuse for passivity + inaction”.

Continue reading “Obama: Palestinians deserve…”

Rallies in Ramallah + other West Bank cities supporting UN bid

Rallies are taking place in cities around the West Bank today, organized by the non-official but officially-approved “National Committee – Palestine: UN State 194”.

Palestine TV, which is covering the Ramallah rally live, listed a series of uninspiring speeches for demo in ex-Clock Square [now Yasser Arafat Sq] in Ramallah, then performance by Al-Ashaqeen.

At the start of today’s events, Palestine TV was showing split screen: rallies in both Ramallah + Nablus. Moment ago: melodius intonation of Quranic verse.

Main official speaker in Ramallah is Tayyib Abdur-Rahman, addressing Ramallah rally now. Imagine if Mahmoud Abbas were speaking live, via satellite hook-up…

Next major demonstration planned for Friday — the day Mahmoud Abbas is due to address the UN General Assembly, and the day he has said he will present [to the UNSG BAN Ki-Moon, who must then transmit it to the UN Security Council] the official Palestinian request for full membership in the UN.

As we Tweeted yesterday [@Marianhouk]:
– Palestinian WBank secondary school students free to participate tomorrow in pro-PalState194 rally, leaflets distributed Monday in schools
– Excitement + enthusiasm said to be high among WBank students before demo, but level of information about what’s going on seems rather low
– Surprised to hear that many students apparently believe that Palestine Papers, Al-Jazeera programs on negotiations, are malicious fakes

Reports of a Palestinian compromise at the UN may, or may not, be premature

The news this morning from CNN was that “international” diplomats — mostly European — were working to arrange some kind of face-saving deal whereby Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would present an official request for full UN membership to the UN Security Council, but not ask for a vote. This story is reported here. It is full of optimistic and cheerful comments.

Even the Israelis are said to be on board: “Even senior Israeli officials were warm to the idea, saying that while they were not thrilled with Abbas going to the Security Council at all, avoiding a vote and preventing the Palestinians from unilaterally gaining statehood through the U.N. system was the main priority. ‘From our side, I think we could accept it’, one senior official said.

The CNN story reports that “The Security Council letter would be paired with a statement by the Mideast Quartet laying out the terms of reference to re-launch peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, the officials said. The quartet is made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday night in an effort to get Russian to buy into the plan. Quartet envoys will meet for a third day Tuesday afternoon to work on the text. The core elements include a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with agreed upon swaps, recognition of two states for two peoples — the Palestinians and the Jewish people — and a time line for a peace deal, diplomats said”.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the U.S. is not involved in negotiating any wording. She said that the Europeans were talking to the Palestinians, but noted: “There is no Palestinian text yet … Nobody in New York has seen one.” This is reported here. Israeli Defense Minister Barak as well as State President Shimon Peres are reportedly lobbying hard to get support against the Palestinian UN bid. [Barak reportedly claimed to have convinced Nigeria to vote against a Palestinian “UN bid”.]

Palestinian officials, meanwhile, are still saying they intend to stay the course, but also that they are open to compromise…

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Jerusalem time, it was reported that Barack Obama will meet Mahmoud Abbas in New York, apparently at U.S. request, after Obama meets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu…

In the West Bank, meanwhile, preparations intensified for demonstrations called by the “National Campaign”, with the clear support of the leadership, to back the leadership, and the UN move. Students and government employees are being given time off to attend the rallies. Israeli settlers in the West Bank are reportedly planning to counter-demonstrate. It could be a mess, but mainly on the roads outside the main Palestinian cities.

Mahmoud Abbas was interviewed on Fox News, and reminded the viewers that U.S. President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly last year that he hoped to see a Palestinian state this year. What Obama actually said last year, however, was more like he hoped to see the arrangements in place for a Palestinian state…

Tony Karon has just written in The National here that “there’s something dangerously deluded in the US demand for an immediate resumption of direct talks”. And, Karon added, “It’s nothing short of astounding to see the US ditch any pretence of being an honest broker, and instead mount a frenzied campaign to block the Palestinian effort without a single new concession from Israel”.

Though much less attention is now being paid to him, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has also been in New York, attending a regular meeting of major donors to the PA held every six months. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he indicated he would prefer a strategy of going to the UN General Assembly.

[Fayyad also muddied the situation by referring to the PA being treated almost as a state — but, Fayyad is only a official in the PA and has no role in the PLO, which alone has the standing to make the move at the UN. Because he limited himself to speak for the body for which he works does not mean, and is no kind of proof, that the PA will replace the PLO, as some have vehemently argued. This interview merely illustrates what should be an evident fact that if a journalist asks a PA official for an interview, he will speak as a PA official…]

Here is an excerpt of some of what Fayyad said, in this largely uninformative, simply space-filling, and somewhat misleading interview:

Q [SPIEGEL]: Are you in favor of going to the Security Council even if that means a confrontation with the United States, which has announced it would veto the application?

Fayyad: “If I thought for a moment that it would be possible to become a full-fledged member of the UN that way, I would definitely go for it. But there is a gap between what I’d like to have, and what I can have. If it is as certain that it will be a failed motion at the Security Council, as it is generally believed to be, then I would say: Let us pursue a path that is more inclusive, that ensures that we act hand in hand with our friends in the international community. We should have the largest possible alliance behind us so that the European Union will not be divided by this vote”.

SPIEGEL: Europe is already divided. Germany spoke out earlier this year against the UN initiative, but France and Spain tend to support it.

Fayyad: “I can’t call that divided. What we are doing is consistent with the European Union’s consensus position of 2009, which was affirmed last year. What if, just as an illustration, we go to the UN General Assembly and present a draft resolution where the preamble is taken verbatim from the European Council’s 2009 position? No one could then tell me why the European Union should oppose it”.

SPIEGEL: At most, the UN would be able to bestow Palestine with the rank of a non-member observer state — similar to the Vatican.

Fayyad: “If the UN states that Palestine is state ready, then that validation alone would be a major accomplishment for us Palestinians.”

Continue reading “Reports of a Palestinian compromise at the UN may, or may not, be premature”

Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York for what has looked like an eventful week that would culminate in a Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations.

Abbas met the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon today — but did not submit the letter that has to be given to the UN Secretary-General to start the process.

Why?

About a week ago, Abbas told journalists including correspondents from The New York Times that he would submit the letter to the UNSG as soon as possible after he arrived in New York.

The answer can only be — Abbas is allowing maximum time for diplomatic contacts and negotiations to play out.

On Friday, in the Muqata’a Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas gave a televised speech in which he said he would hand the letter to the UNSG on Friday, at the end of Abbas’ scheduled address to the UN General Assembly. He is 14th on the speakers’ list on Friday, listed between Tajikistan and Japan.

Palestinian officials say they expect this means Abbas will be one of the last speakers on Friday morning — about 12:30, they predicted [but it could well be later].

It would be a dramatic visual if Abbas, speaking at the podium of the General Assembly on Friday, simply turned around and handed the Palestinian letter up to the UN SG, who will be seated behind a marble table on an elevated platform directly behind Abbas.

After Palestinian officials made clear that they intended to go through with their UN bid, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was inscribed two or three speakers later, after Abbas speaks on Friday.

The Obama administration has said it will use its veto power, as one of the 5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, to stop the Palestinian bid, if necessary.

However, it became clear over the weekend that the U.S. would prefer to defeat the move in another way — by persuading enough members of the Security Council to not support the Palestinian bid, so that it will fail to win the 9 votes needed to pass, and be adopted.

This is trickier — and would require the U.S. to abstain [for its no vote would automatically become a veto].

It would also mean persuading the EU to adopt a common position, and also abstain. There are 4 EU members on the UN SC:
Britain + France, who are also permanent members with the veto power; and Germany + Portugal, non-permanent members who could either abstain [if there is a common EU position], or vote no.

A defeat by abstention, rather than by veto, would be a much softer blow to the Palestinian plan — a kinder, more gentle dissuasion –and easier to explain on the international level, and in the Middle East. It would be a nicer way to leave the door open for a second Palestinian try, without causing the same bitterness here on the ground that a U.S. veto would do [even if joined by Britain + France].

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in New York today that “We along with all the other twenty six countries of the European Union have withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward.”

TODAY’s RECOMMENDED READING:
(1) PALESTINIANS TURN TO UN, WHERE PARTITION BEGAN, by Neil MacFarquhar, published 18 September 2011 here.
(2) REJECTION OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD DENIES FREEDOM, by Ahmad Tibi, published today here
(3) ABBAS DEFIANT AS ‘ALL HELL’ BREAKS OUT OVER UN PLAN, by Maan News Agency using material from a Reuters report, published today here.

Continue reading “Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership”

Why the Palestinians cannot go to the UN Security Council + UN General Assembly at the same time

In a briefing called Saturday morning for “Arabic” journalists [only] in Ramallah, Nabil Shaath reportedly said — according to a account in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published here — that
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “will apply for membership to the Security Council, which may take few days to bring it up for discussion and then a vote. However, he [Shaath] said, in case the Security Council stalls in its procedures and delays discussion of the membership application, the Palestinian Authority may then go to the UN General Assembly to ask for a non-member state post”.

Well, in order to do that, the Palestinians would have to withdraw any request they’d submitted to the UN Security Council — for the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly cannot both be “seized of” the same matter at the same time.

Why? Because the UN Charter says so, here, in Article 12 (1):

“While the Security Council is exercising in respect of any dispute or situations the functions assigned to it in the present Charter, the General Assembly shall not make any recommendation with regard to that dispute or situation unless the Security Council so requests.”

Once the Palestinians submit their request for full membership — which will be in the form of a letter to the UN Secretary General, who will forward it to the UN Security Council — then it would present problems to ask the UN General Assembly at the same time, or while the matter is still pending in the UN Security Council [which could effectively sit on it, for months or even years] to consider a request to upgrade the status of Palestine to observer [though still non-member] state.

One reason why it would be good strategy to go to the UNGA first, to upgrade observer status of Palestine to state [non-member], before going to UNSC, is:
– the UN Charter says, in Article 4(1) that

“Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states [emphasis added here] which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations”;

and Article 4 (2) says:

“The admission of any such state [emphasis added again] to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council [emphasis added here, too]”…

RECOMMENDED READING TODAY:
(1) AMIR TURKI AL-FAISAL – VETO A STATE, LOSE AN ALLY, published on 11 September here.
(2) SIMONE DAUD [PALESTINIAN PROFESSOR] – a nom de plume – ARAB SOURCES: AZMI BISHARA ON PALESTINE’S UN BID [on Mondoweiss blog], published on 16 September, here
(3) JOEL GREENBERG, ABBAS FORMALLY DECLARES STATEHOOD BID, published last night here.

Mahmoud Abbas addresses Palestinians about UN bid, says he plans to ask UNSC for full UN membership

One week before he is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York, Mahmoud Abbas — Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], who is also serving beyond his term as President of the Palestinian Authority — finally addressed the Palestinian people this evening to explain what he is about to do, via a televised speech delivered before an invited audience in the Ramallah Muqata’a.

We’re going to ask for full UN membership“, Abbas announced.

There was a standing ovation, that segued into rhythmic applause, after Abbas said: “We are going to the UN Security Council“.

He said the request would be handed to the UN Secretary-General, who would then turn it over to the UN Security Council — where the U.S. has said it would cast a veto, if necessary, to block the move.

Abbas spoke several times about the state being democratic, free, independent, within the 1967 borders, and having [East] Jerusalem as its capital.

But, he said, “Let’s be realistic; we won’t suddenly be independent” after going to the UN.

The other important pending issues, such as settlements, water, security, and the return of refugees, and more, would have to be negotiated with Israel after the move at the UN, he indicated. And, he stressed, the Palestinian strategy must remain “peaceful, everything must be entirely peaceful — Palestinians must not allow themselves to be provoked”.

The Palestinians are the people still under occupation, Abbas noted. What do the people want?, he said. Answering his own question, he said: “an end to the occupation”.

Israel and the U.S. have made their opposition to any Palestinian UN move clear, and there has been a flurry of last-minute efforts to avert such a Palestinian move at the UN.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING:
(1) DANIEL LEVY, A PALESTINIAN AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE UN – posted here:
(2) TONY KARON, WHY PALESTINIAN LEADERS ARE DOING OBAMA A FAVOR BY TAKING THEIR UN BID TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL – posted here

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