PA PM Fayyad lists defects in "peace process"

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview with the Saudi-owned, London-based Arabic-language daily newspaper that “While continuing Israeli settlement activity is undoubtedly bad, it is not as serious and threatening as these American guarantees and undertakings. Let us consider the issue of keeping an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley: The Israelis want to keep their army in that area for decades. What sovereignty would a Palestinian state enjoy when it is hemmed in by Israeli troops on all sides? What is even more serious is that these U.S. guarantees are preventing us from internationalizing the problem, which is one of the few tools we have in our hands. I hope that what I am saying is not reported in a way that appears as if I am not against settlements. On the contrary. All these guarantees were given in the hope that Netanyahu would extend his moratorium by two months, which in any case does not include Jerusalem or the major settlement blocks. This is nonsense, and we reject it completely”.

Continue reading PA PM Fayyad lists defects in "peace process"

14-month old child dies of tear gas inhalation in East Jerusalem + more

A 14-month old boy died of tear gas inhalation in the Isawiyya neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Friday. The toddler was apparently at home when the tear gas was fired [by Israeli Border Police], though Israeli media reports misleadingly suggest that the child died “during a riot”. YNet is also reporting here that “a possibility that the infant’s death was accidental – as a result of a gas leak at his home – is also being investigated”. An Israeli police spokesperson told the media that no report of an infant’s death has been received.

[And, a 20-year old fishermen was reported killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza coast on Friday.]

Earlier in the week, two men were killed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. A private Israeli security guard driving alone in the neighborhood said he felt threatened and feared for his life when he came upon the men, and fired.

Normally, people should be able to be out on the streets at 4 a.m. without fear of being shot and killed as a suspected threat. One victim had a criminal record — and a screwdriver and a knife in his pocket — YNet reported.

But, there has been no call yet for any investigation into this killing.
UPDATE on SUNDAY 26 SEPTEMBER: Lisa Goldman has just reported in +972 magazine that the Association for Civil Rights in Israel has formally requested a [police only?] investigation. Her article is posted here.

A spokesperson for the private security agency which employed the man who did the shooting told YNet that “The guards asked for permission to use crowd dispersal means, but were turned down, so the only weapon left is a pistol … The security guards’ job is to safeguard the [n.b. – Jewish] residents’ lives and property. They should not have to deal with disturbances.” This is posted here.

Continue reading 14-month old child dies of tear gas inhalation in East Jerusalem + more

14 committees + 220 experts on Palestinian side

According to a report by journalists Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon in the Jerusalem Post , Chief Palestinian Negotiator Sa’eb Erekat “revealed that the Palestinians have set up 14 committees consisting of more than 220 experts to prepare for the negotiations”.

The JPost article also noted that “Erekat’s comments came as the PA continued to send to Palestinians conflicting messages about the peace process. Contrary to its earlier promises, the PA has not yet addressed the Palestinian public with the same message it has been dispatching to Israelis with the help of US funding. The PA leadership seems to be more concerned with defending its decision to enter into direct talks with Israel than to convince the Palestinians to support the renewed negotiations. Last week, a PA official said the PA leadership was planning to launch a US-financed campaign to persuade Palestinians to support the peace process. However, the campaign has thus far been restricted to addressing Israelis by presenting a number of top PA leaders as Israel’s ‘partners for peace’…” This is published here.

We reported on that USAID-funded campaign in an earlier post,″>here, published on 30 August — nearly a week ago.

In that post, we listed questions we had put directly to USAID. In response, a Tel Aviv-based USAID employee of the West Bank and Gaza program first asked me to introduce myself, and to explain why I was asking those questions. Then, he said that a USAID reply was being “drafted” — but it still has not arrived.

The same JPost article also noted that Abbas’s decision to negotiate with Israel unconditionally has drawn strong and unprecedented criticism from almost all Palestinian factions, including Fatah … With a few exceptions, the PA-funded newspapers have been ignoring the voices of the Palestinian opposition to the talks. They have also been ignoring the PA’s massive security crackdown on Hamas sympathizers in the West Bank – an operation that began following last Tuesday’s shooting attack that killed four Israelis near Kiryat Arba and that has seen the arrest of more than 300 Palestinians”.

A separate report in the JPost says that U.S. sources have stated that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend talks in Jerusalem on 15 September, a day after all principals will meet in Sharm ash-Sheikh on 14 September.

The summit of cynicism

Have we reached the summit of cynicism?

[Can we get any more cynical?]

Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharov wrote on his Haaretz blog Sunday that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume direct negotiations with Israel on September 2 in Washington without any of his preconditions being met. Israel has not promised to end construction in the settlements, and the Quartet’s statement does not even mention this issue. Contrary to the demand that the Quartet’s announcement would constitute the framework for the talks, U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell was quick to make it clear this is not the way things will be. One of the leading analysts in the Palestinian media described how Abbas was forced to climb down from uncompromising stance with a term normally reserved to describe the defeat of the Arab armies during the Six-Day War. Abbas succumbed to Arab-American dictate, the analyst said, despite never having missed a chance to reiterate during the year that ‘there will be no direct negotiations without complete freeze of settlements’ … The Palestinian Authority depends on foreign economic aid and the willingness of the U.S. to pressure countries to keep the money flowing. Abbas was concerned that the Americans would, at some point, stop economic aid. In spite of opposition at home, Abbas knows that the bottom line is he could survive different opinions but not an end to economic aid. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said on Saturday that if Israel resumes settlement construction, the direct talks will stop. This will probably be the case, but at this stage, it would probably be wiser for senior PLO officials to cease climbing tall trees from which they are not sure how to climb down”.  This can be read in full here.

Does this reporter believe that the U.S. will cut off aid to the Palestinians, but not to Israel? That could, of course, hypothetically happen — but it is unlikely.

UPDATE: U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that continuation of what is essentially a non-existent settlement freeze beyond its 26 September expiry date will be high on the list of topics to be addressed in the Israeli-Palestinian summit talks in Washington on 1-2 September.

YNet reporters have written today that “The PA does not believe the talks will have any concrete results, but hopes the process may bring it closer to the international community and perhaps lead the UN Security Council to recognize it as an independent state. ‘We will try to avoid any confrontations so that by August of next year we will be able to put a Palestinian state, with its established institutions, on the UN Security Council and the world powers’ agenda, so that for the first time in history they will accept their responsibility for the Palestinians’, one official said”.   This is posted here

Do PA officials believe that the entire Palestinian population is ready to be fooled by this approach, yet again?

UPDATE: Reuters reported earlier that this forthcoming summit “inspires little hope among Palestinians who say the prospect of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel seems no more than a dream. ‘There has been a lot of talk of peace, but we have seen no results. We no longer have hope’, said 30-year old Luay Kabbah, who was still at school when Palestinian and Israeli leaders first began talking peace nearly two decades ago”. The Reuters report added that “Today, the idea of that state emerging in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — the leadership’s stated goal — seems almost far-fetched to many Palestinians. They say their hopes have been eroded by Israeli policies, the United States’ failure to force Israel into concessions and the failings of their own leaders, who have grown ever weaker and more divided since Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004. Rival Palestinian governments have emerged in Gaza and the West Bank, creating a divide that has complicated what was already one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. For now, avoiding a deterioration in the status quo is the best to be hoped for, said Ahmad Aweidah, head of the Palestinian stock exchange, set up when hopes of peace were high in the 1990s. [n.b. – Aweidah is also co-owner of the Zamn cafe in Ramallah, which is expanding despite its relatively high prices and uncomfortable seating. Zamn was originally based on the Aroma chain of cafes in Israel] ‘Peace process? What peace process? That’s so nineties. After 18 years, don’t they feel silly?’ he [Aweidah] said. ‘There are only two scenarios. The optimistic one is more of the same. The pessimistic one is it’s going to get worse’ … ‘We are the audience in a theatre’, said Samir Hulileh, chief executive officer of Palestine Development and Investment Ltd (PADICO), a holding company set up at the start of the peace process with the aim of building a Palestinian economy. ‘We have memorised the play so many times, it is repeated in different forms, and sometimes with different faces, but it’s the same’, he said. ‘We know the final outcome’, he said. ‘We don’t feel hope coming out of it’.” This Reuters report on reax to the forthcoming summit can be read in full here.

Huleileh makes it sound like The Rocky Horror show, actually — of interest to a cult group who know all the lines, and will shout them out with the actors…

Continue reading The summit of cynicism

Ramallah analysts say if Abu Mazen caves in to U.S. pressure on direct talks, he will further undermine his credibility – by Ben Lynfield

From Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem — Left in the lurch by his Arab League brethren, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is under enormous Amercan pressure to unconditionally renew direct peace negotiations with Israel.

Analysts and politicians in Ramallah believe he will cave in, thus undermining his credibility for tough concessions that will be needed further down the line.

Mr Abbas had hoped the Arab League, which met in Cairo on Thursday, would back up his refusal of direct bilateral talks unless Israel first commits to borders for a viable Palestinian state and halts its expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

But the League, which is dominated by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, calculated that it is more important to please Barack Obama than Abbas. It backed a resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, even though it said the timing and conditions should be up to the Palestinians.

Continue reading Ramallah analysts say if Abu Mazen caves in to U.S. pressure on direct talks, he will further undermine his credibility – by Ben Lynfield

Negotiations Nervousness: Next week could be make-or-break

Negotiation nervousness reigns in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a medical doctor who founded and heads the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, and an independent Palestinian politician who has run for President and been elected to the Legislative Council for the Al-Mubadara (The Palestinian National Initiative) party that he also founded and heads, wrote recently that the “indirect” or “proximity” talks that were declared launched last weekend “hold little hope”.

“These negotiations will not bring peace”, Barghouthi added.

Continue reading Negotiations Nervousness: Next week could be make-or-break

G-8 ministers meet – no questions about Israeli-Palestinian stalemate

After the meeting of Foreign Ministers of G-8 industrial countries concluded in Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Cannon said, tersely, at the opening of a press conference with journalists, that “Now, with respect to the Middle East, we are all committed to see progress on the Roadmap and endorse the Quartet’s March 19th statement. The proximity talks can be an important step towards the resumption of bilateral negotiations“.

OK.  Then, there were absolutely no questions about the current situation from the journalists.  None.

Meanwhile, back here on the ground, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad participated in a Land Day event (marking the confiscation and loss of Palestinian land) in a village in the northern West Bank, Qarawat Bani Hassan, which Israel’s YNet website says ” is flanked by Jewish settlements”.  According to YNet. Fayyad told Reuters News Agency: “”We have to ask ourselves, each one of us: What is it I am going to do today to move this project (state building) forward, an inch, a step … [One day, he said] “we will be able to enjoy that which is an absolute right for all peoples around the world: to live in freedom and dignity in a country of our own”.  This report can be read in full here.

And, according to another report in YNet, inspectors from Israel’s Poultry Council enforcement unit “are working day and night to prevent the smuggling of eggs from the PA (Palestinian Authority) into Israel. Some 6,000 eggs caught on three different occasions this week have been destroyed”. The Palestinian Authority is — as Salam Fayyad implied in his remarks, above — not yet running any country, and the West Bank is under complete control of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Yet, Palestinian eggs cannot be brought into Israel, even for Passover… This is posted here.

The US + EU = more than half the Quartet

Food for thought: Today, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, in her remarks to the press after her meeting at the State Department in Washington D.C. with the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton, that: “Together, we have a population of 800 million, a $27 trillion economy, a zone of peace, democracy, development, and respect for human rights and the rule of law which stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea. Our partnership is the foundation for our mutual efforts to advance peace and prosperity worldwide”

Continue reading The US + EU = more than half the Quartet

Nabil Shaath: Israel must stop all settlement activities including in Jerusalem — without loopholes

The recent Fatah General Conference held in Bethlehem was very important, and the results were “good, but not excellent”, Shaath said. “You can’t get excellent results with a 20-year hiatus (from the last general conference)”. Shaath said “it was not really a coup d’etat … and not an indicator there was a revolt, but an indication of the need to rejeuvenate using the wisdom of the older members”. He noted that “probably the average age of the Central Committee members dropped from 63 to 57 — we’re talking about very experienced people”.

Shaath revealed that “there is a planned trip to Gaza soon of some of the new Fatah Central Committee members, including me — but as Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) said, [this should not be a one-time event, and] the Central Committee should be in and out of Gaza all the time”. This trip could even be before the end of Ramadan, Shaath said.

And, Shaath said, there will be a big Palestinian delegation at the UN General Assembly high-level debate in mid-September, and “we will be moving on all fronts, making efforts to get the American government, Europe, Russia, China, and Japan” to put pressure on Israel in order to bring about a “categorical stop to all Israeli settlement activities [in Palestinian land seized in 1967], including in Jerusalem” — and “without any loopholes”.

“We are not going to consider any limited settlement freeze, or any nuanced cessation, or any regional implementation — i.e., excluding Jerusalem”, Shaath said.

Shaath said that he was in complete agreement with the article by Akiva Eldar published in Haaretz today, in which Eldar wrote “If there is any truth in the reports that came out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Europe – that the United States agreed Israel can go on building in East Jerusalem – the headlines should have read ‘Obama has pulled out of the Middle East peace process’.”

Eldar also wrote that “During the negotiations with Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, the Palestinians agreed to exchange the territory of the settlements that are adjacent to the eastern side of the Green Line with territory on the western side of the line. On the other hand, the sensitive issue of sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem and the city’s holy sites, as well as the fate of a quarter-million Palestinians who were ‘annexed’ unilaterally into the State of Israel (as permanent residents) remains in dispute. The American position has been and remains that East Jerusalem is occupied territory whose future will be decided in negotiations between the two sides. Like the other countries of the world, and the UN Security Council, the United States has never recognized Israel’s decision to annex 64.4 square kilometers of the West Bank and join them to the 6.5 square kilometers that were part of Jerusalem’s administrative authority under Jordanian rule … We think that if we say ‘united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel’ frequently enough, the world will get used to the fact that this territory is ours (the semantics have led to a report on the Voice of Israel on the rise of Israeli exports to ‘Judea and Samaria’). It has not happened yet, and that is a good thing. Two U.S. presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, did not approve the resolution passed by Congress in 1995, declaring that ‘unified Jerusalem’ is the capital of Israel. They stated that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will undermine the chances for a permanent resolution to the conflict, and thus harm the national security of the United States. Unfortunately, both turned a blind eye to construction in the West Bank settlements and the Palestinian neighborhoods that Israel defines as ‘East Jerusalem’.”

Eldar said in his article that during Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous tenure as Prime Minister, “In July 1997 he decided to stop construction at a Jewish site in the heart of the neighborhood Ras al-Amud, and to evacuate the families who moved in … The head of the Shin Bet security service at the time, Ami Ayalon, warned the prime minister in a report that Jewish construction in the neighborhood would stir riots in the territories. Since the current Palestinian leadership has renounced violence, it is possible that an American acquiescence to the continued Jewish penetration into Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem will pass peacefully. However, a substantive change of such magnitude in the U.S. position regarding a national/religious issue that is so explosive would cause the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, among other efforts, to crash and burn … We must hope that the news that Obama has backtracked on East Jerusalem is merely the wishful thinking of opponents to a compromise that come from the western part of the city”. This Akiva Eldar article can be viewed in full on the Haaretz website here.

[However, settlement expansion is continuing in Ras al-Amud today. The former police station — which has now been moved to the E-1 area at the beginning of the year, despite Israeli assurances to former U.S. Secretary of State lin mid-2008 that the move was in the far distant future — has been prepared for demolition, with the windows and doors removed, a Palestinian resident of the area said. And there is evidence of preparation to expand the “Maale Zeitim” settlement housing. “Then, the two areas will be joined”, this man said — and his house would be surrounded. “I am now convinced that the Israelis see no future with Palestinians in this land”. ]

Shaath, in his remarks to members of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) at a briefing today at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah, said that “Abu Mazen is ready for these negotiations and is not putting precondition, but he is calling on the Israeli government to avoid “a repetition of its shameful way, as [former Prime Minister Ehud Barak] did in 1999, when he renegotiated agreements previously made by Netanyahu then he did the same thing concerning Syria first in Shepardstown and then in Geneva, and then also to the Palestinians at Camp David”.

No, Shaath said, what should be done is either you finish up previous business and go on to a new stage, or any efforts will be “as fruitless as everything since Camp David”, and there would be another nine years without any progress or results.

However, Shaath said, Netanyahu’s current offer “to restart negotiations ‘without preconditions’ is a horrible thing, because it means starting anew again” — which he said the Palestinians were unwilling to do.

The election of Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush has brought “hope for a fresh re-start to the peace process”, Shaath said,

“We want Obama to come with a clear sentence repeating what is in the Road Map and in the Annapolis Declaration: ‘there should be absolutely no settlement activity, including natural growth, and this does not allow continuing what is already under construction’,” Shaath said.

But, he said, “to bank on the fact that violence has been defeated is very stupid”.

The Mitchell report blamed Israeli settlement activity and the resulting violence, for the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000, Shaath said, and “it’s ridiculous to go on with talks now … while the land is vanishing every day”.

Shaath said that “We would [only] accept a temporary freeze if it is related to the signing and implementation of a peace agreement that would mean an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border with some minor negotiated swaps”.

“This is the policy of the new Fatah Central Committee, of the new Executive Committee of the PLO, it is in the political program agreed at the Fatah Conference in Bethlehem, and this is the policy of the entire Palestinian people”, Shaath told the journalists.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the regular meeting of the Israeli government on Sunday, as reported in the cabinet communique, that “On the diplomatic issue, my meeting with [former Senator] Mitchell, contrary to the rumors, stories and reports that I am not responsible for, but I am responsible for what I am telling you now, there are no agreements or decisions; there is an attempt to bridge between the two goals that we would like to hold to and maintain simultaneously: The first is to launch a peace process, a diplomatic process
between us and the Palestinians that will – of course – also include the Arab countries. The second as to do with our desire to see to the minimal existential needs of the settler public. As to this, there are all sorts of attempts to reach an understanding and reduce gaps but we are not there yet.”