Slow but building reaction to the publication of the Swiss report finding polonium in forensic testing of Arafat's remains

Reaction built slowly on Thursday to the previous day’s revelations about a Swiss lab’s new findings of Polonium in Arafat’s remains after forensic testing that followed last year’s exhumation.

A press conference has been announced for Friday morning at 10:00 am in the Ramallah Muqata’a.  Tawfik Tirawi, Chairman of the committee appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to look into reports that Polonium poisoning caused the death of the late Palestinian leader, will preside.

Continue reading “Slow but building reaction to the publication of the Swiss report finding polonium in forensic testing of Arafat's remains”

Hamdallah still in office: Facebook page[s] + Twitter account[s]

Somebody here, I think, thinks Twitter and Facebook don’t matter…

This is more than just a symptom — it is a syndrome. It’s because communication doesn’t really matter, here.

Communication is expected to follow formalistic rules. A political statement uses certain prescribed terms and is delivered in loud and rising tones. An elegant and polite person would never take such a strong stand as Rami Hamdallah did when he resigned last week [it’s considered “too divisive” — and this, in a place where division has wreaked havoc since January 2006 parliamentary elections brought a surprise win for the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party, which stood for the first time].

At least, Hamdallah is behaving well enough to say, as requested, until something new is put together…

Daoud Kuttab wrote today [though with a somewhat vague timeline] that “The apparent conflict of authority between the president and the prime minister in the Palestinian areas is certainly not new: But, Kuttab wrote, The bias toward the presidency escalated after Haniyeh and his Hamas supporters rejected the authority of Abbas, forcing [!] the Palestinian
president to dismiss Haniyeh and appoint Salam Fayyad in 2007. The defacto suspension of the Palestinian Legislative Council meant that the appointed government did not gain a vote of confidence from the Palestinian representatives. When Fayyad attempted [recently] to question the power of the Palestinian presidency — with the refusal to allow back the resigned Minister of Finance Nabeel Kassis — he found himself on the losing end of a power struggle, and eventually had to hand in his resignation in April 2013. Hamdallah appears to have noticed this issue much earlier and seemed to have rinsisted on retaining all the legal and administrative powers that came with the office … Without a parliament to vote confidence into a government, the relations between the presidency and the prime minister’s office can get complicated. Technically, every prime minister takes on a legal position after being sworn into office in front of the president.
These consecutive governments in Palestine are known to be governments of Abbas, and he holds ultimate power to keep or dismiss the prime minister. However, the Palestinian Basic Law, which functions as a temporary constitution, gives the prime minister a lot of power, including being the reference point of all his ministers”. This is posted here.

Kuttab doesn’t stress enough, however, the fact that the Palestinian Basic Law has not yet been approved precisely because the Palestinian Legislative Council is in a state of “de facto suspension”…

In his piece, Kuttab does report that Hamdallah, after his appointment, publicly stated that “he hoped to stay prime minister until Aug. 14. On this date, an agreed-to prime minister — as part of the reconciliation process — would be found. [So] Hamdallah has not officially resigned from his academic post [as head of an-Najah University], but rather has taken a leave of absence”…

Kuttab also notes that “The fact that Hamdallah had clearly accepted a temporary position seems to have led some to believe that the real prime minister is one of the deputies”…

Continue reading “Hamdallah still in office: Facebook page[s] + Twitter account[s]”

Salam Fayyad is replaced as “Caretaker” Palestinian Prime Minister by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority’s Finance Minister since 2002, who then served as Prime Minister since late June 2007 when Mahmoud Abbas named him to replace Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh after the Hamas rout of Palestinian Preventive Security in Gaza — and who insisted on resigning on April 13 after John Kerry’s too-overt praise during an Abbas-Fayyad dispute — is finally being replaced by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah, who reportedly has a PhD in linguistics, was born in Anabta village near Tulkarem and has been the head of an-Najah University in Nablus for almost 15 years.

Ma’an News Agency reported here that Hamdallah told AFP: “President Abbas has asked me to form a new government and I have accepted…The government will be formed in the coming days…Most ministers of the outgoing government will stay and I will bring in a new finance minister”.

Ouch.  [Salam Fayyad has been PA Finance Minister virtually non-stop since 2002 — Nabil Kassis was the only other person who served as Finance Minister in this time, and it was Fayyad’s fight with Kassis, then Fayyad’s too-quick acceptance of Kassis’ resignation, that brought about the events that led to Fayyad’s resignation.]

Continue reading “Salam Fayyad is replaced as “Caretaker” Palestinian Prime Minister by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah”

Kerry says Tony Blair has 300 businessmen planning to raise $4 billion for the West Bank Palestinians

After the build-up that led to the Swiss-based World Economic Forum’s session at Jordan’s Dead Sea on Saturday and Sunday — it was hard to understand why, at least during the speeches of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Abbas waived a copy of the Arab Peace Initiative in the air and asked Israelis to actually read it. It was not clear why. [Later it did become clear that the reason was the incentive it gives to Israel for withdrawing from the West Bank: recognition + full normal relations including trade with the entire Arab and Muslim world.]

Peres spoke about being born in an age of agriculture and living in a world of technology, where all good things could happen to the region if only there were peace. It was not clear why. [Peres contradicted the Israeli government’s current disapproval and said the Arab Peace Initiative was a strategic opportunity…] It was not clear why.  But, his reasons seem to be the same as Abbas’.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry started to talk, and seemed to have not much new to say; he thanked a lot of people and spoke about the Arab Spring. It was not clear why.

Then, Kerry said, he wanted to give ” I want to say a special thank you to the Quartet Representative, former Prime Minister Tony Blair… he is working diligently on a special project that I want to share with you in a few minutes”…

It was all downhill from there…

US State Dept photo - Kerry greets Blair at WEF Dead Sea, Jordan meeting 26 May 2013
US State Dept photo - Kerry greets Blair at WEF Dead Sea, Jordan meeting 26 May 2013

Photo from the US State Dept “Amman and Dead Sea, Jordan” Flikr set, here.

Kerry said: “No one doubts that this is a very complex moment in international relations. But still, I don’t think that there is any secret about the conditions that are necessary for peace and stability to succeed. Those are: good governance, security, and economic opportunity. And so the real question for all of us, for President Abbas, President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, all of us, is a very simple one: Will we, despite the historic hurdles, have the courage to make the choices that we know we need to make in order to break the stalemate and provide a change of life for people in this region?”

Then, Kerry announced the creation of an investment fund to be financed with a possible $4 billion dollars to spur private-sector development in the West Bank [though he did also mention  4 million people, though it was not clear who: if Kerry meant Palestinians only, that would include the West Bank population of some 2.8 million  and Gaza with some 1.5 million…]

It was clear that Kerry’s remarks were the real reason all those people were there, in the meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan on a Sunday afternoon…and Abbas and Peres were just there to prop up the show.

Kerry then explained the still-vague Blair super-project:
“I have asked Quartet Representative Tony Blair and many business leaders to join together. And Prime Minister Blair is shaping what I believe could be a groundbreaking plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy that will transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, but also, significantly, transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel.

It is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo, more than 20 years ago now. And this, the intention of this plan, of all of its participants, is not to make it merely transformative, but frankly, to make it enormously powerful in the shaping of the possibilities of the future so that it is more transformative than incremental and different from anything that we have seen before.

To achieve that, these leaders have brought together a group of business experts, who have donated their time, who have come from around the world over the course of the last six weeks to make this project real and tangible and formidable – as we say, shovel-ready. They have come from all over the world because they believe in peace, and because they believe prosperity is both a promise and a product of peace.

This group includes leaders of some of the world’s largest corporations, I’m pleased to say. It includes renowned investors and some of the most brilliant business analysts out there – and some of the most committed. One of these senior business leaders actually just celebrated his 69th birthday in Jerusalem at the Colony Hotel after spending a 14-hour day in the West Bank trying to figure it out.

When others ask them, all of them, why they’re here, doing this on their own time, the unanimous answer is: ‘Because we want a better future for both Israeli children and Palestinian children’.

Their plan begins with encouraging local, regional and international business leaders to, and to encourage government leaders in various parts of the world. I raised this issue with the President of China, with the Prime Minister of Japan, with all of our European leaders, and everywhere – with the Brazilian Foreign Minister a few days ago, with the New Zealand Foreign Minister. All of them have on the tip of their tongues the idea that we can make peace in the Middle East and need to, and all of them are committed to be part of this effort in order to change life on the ground.

The fact is that we are looking to mobilize some $4 billion of investment. And this team of experts – private citizens, donating their time – are here right now. They’re analyzing the opportunities in tourism, construction, light manufacturing, building materials, energy, agriculture, and information and communications technology.

This group will make recommendations to the Palestinians. They’re not going to decide anything. The Palestinians will decide that in their normal course of governance. But they will analyze and make recommendations on a set of choices that can dramatically lift the economy.

The preliminary results already reported to me by Prime Minister Blair and by the folks working with him are stunning: These experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds – to 8 percent, down from 21 percent today – and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40 percent.

Continue reading “Kerry says Tony Blair has 300 businessmen planning to raise $4 billion for the West Bank Palestinians”

Olmert's 2008 proposal on Palestinian refugees – to take a total of 5,000 over 5 years

Of course Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could not have signed on to this stingy proposal when it was tabled by Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in their last meeting on 16 September 2008.

Not only is the number of Palestinian refugees that Israel would take back “inside the Green Line” less than Ehud Barak’s previous suggestion [to take back tens of thousands a year, as a “humanitarian gesture”] at Camp David talks in late July 2000, but this is also supposed to extinguish any further mention of the “Right of Return”. At the same Camp David discussions, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he wanted to solve the problem of some 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon first — an idea that the Israeli delegation, who had just completed their unilateral May 2000 withdrawal for almost all of the “security zone” they had created during their 25-year occupation of South Lebanon, did not dismiss out of hand.

It is true that the Barak team said that most of the Palestinian refugees who would want to return would have to do so to the future Palestinian state. [Then, there was some suggestion that Israel would want to have a say in who and how many returned, even to the Palestinian territory = West Bank or Gaza…]

In any case, here is the relaxed way Olmert himself recently described it to Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff in a recent interview which was reported yesterday, here:

“I agreed to absorb into Israel up to 5,000 Palestinian refugees over five years. Why 5,000? It may sound kind of strange, but during the talks between Rice and Abu Mazen he said that he needed the settlement of tens of thousands of refugees inside Israel, and that Ehud Barak had been ready to take in 100,000. She told him that he could get the same number of people as could fit inside the Mukataa at any given moment. We estimated that number to be about 5,000. So that’s how I came up with the number. I’m telling you, if Abu Mazen had been ready to sign on an agreement that would require our absorbing 10,000-15,000 over five years, I would have agreed. It was after all about the number of African illegals who were sneaking across the border every year back then. But all of it, of course, on condition that they would sign an agreement for an ‘end of conflict and end of demands,’ so there would no longer be a ‘right of return.’”

Olmert added that “he explained to Abbas during their talks that Israel could not agree to any solution to the refugee problem according to UN Resolution 194, which in his view had created the Palestinian’s ‘claim of return’ myth. ‘But I said to him, first we will set up a special fund for compensation to the refugees, second, we will accept the road map, which includes in it the Arab peace initiative which also refers to resolution 194 with respect to a solution for the refugee problem. That way you too can claim that Israel accepted the basis of the Arab peace initiative including Resolution 194’.”

And, what did Mahmoud Abbas say?

From Olmert’s account, as reported by Issacharoff, you could get the impression Abbas was only prepared to engage immediately on the Land Swaps proposal… and even on that he hesitated [and cancelled the follow-up meeting of map expert’s scheduled for the next day].

Continue reading “Olmert's 2008 proposal on Palestinian refugees – to take a total of 5,000 over 5 years”

Can Mahmoud Abbas negotiate on equal basis with less fluent English?

The language in which Israelis and Palestinians negotiate is: English. The original language of documents signed during the Oslo process is: English.

This brings up a delicate but extremely important point: Can Mahmoud Abbas negotiate on an equal basis with less fluent English than the Israeli Prime Minister?

Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff touched on the point in his report today, published here, of his interview with Israeli former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who presented a map and detailed negotiating points to Abbas in their last meeting on 16 September 2008.

The question is worth exploring.  Issacharoff reported that the first meeting between Olmert and Abbas on 23 December 2006 “launched a model for talks between the two leaders: every so often, usually every two week, the two would meet and after some opening remarks and some food, they would go off to the side and speak one-on-one about the issues regarding final status”.

Was Abbas able to navigate the subtleties?  Did his imperfect control of the English language have anything to do with his reported lack of response?  The last discussion between Olmert and Abbas was inconclusive — yet Abbas wants any new talks to start from that point.

Mahmoud Abbas has said many times that he wants direct negotiations to resume where they left off on that day.

Israel’s current Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu does not agree. He explains this by saying he wants negotiations without preconditions. But, Netanyahu does not agree with the major concessions that Olmert offered Abbas in September 2008 — (1) that the hugely important mosque esplanade in the Old City of East Jerusalem would be under no country’s sovereignty, and would instead be administered by a five-nation group of countries; and (2) that Israel was prepared to make significant Land Swaps with Palestinians, including giving up the Jordan Valley that Netanyahu seems determined to retain on a long-term basis as an essential security assurance. [Netanyahu is also determined to obtain Palestinian recognition of Israel as “a Jewish State” or “the state of the Jewish people”, which is a point that was also raised by Olmert at the start of the Annapolis process of negotiations in November 2007.]

The substantive part of the negotiations began, apparently, four months earlier — in May 2008.

Olmert told Issacharoff that Condoleeza Rice “was concerned about the differences in our English – since mine was much more fluent then Abu Mazen’s…”

It’s interesting that Rice was so concerned. The disparity in power between the two parties — one of whom is occupied by the other — and who have engaged in direct negotiations over the self-determination of one of them, could be considered an argument that might invalidate the legality of any agreement reached. And the imbalance in negotiating conditions is exacerbated by an imbalance in linguistic capability.

By Olmert’s account [reported today by Issacharoff], he said that even before the Annapolis process — in fact, on 23 December 2006 — Abbas asked for Israel to free 500-600 prisoners. “I said, ‘Why don’t you ask for more?’…”

In this 23 December 2006 meeting at Olmert’s house, Abbas “asked for the taxes owed the PA – 50 million [shekels]”… And Olmert said he told Abbas: “not a chance…you will get 100 million, it’s Palestinian money. The days when you have to ask for what is rightfully yours are over…”

But, when Condoleeza Rice gave Abbas Olmert’s proposal “that he appoint a representative on whom he relied completely who would formulate the peace agreement. I had already turned to someone like that; someone with international standing. But Abbas said he preferred that the talks be carried out directly with him. She was concerned about the differences in our English – since mine was much more fluent then Abu Mazen’s – but I promised her that I wouldn’t take advantage of it, and she believed me”

But, by Olmert’s account, he actually had to coach Mahmoud Abbas: “When we talked about the subject of borders, Abbas reiterated that he wanted land swaps of 1.9% only, or the 1967 borders. I told him that the 1967 borders did not include a passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and if they want to make that connection and the necessary adjustments of the map, then it should be done in a smart way”…

According to Olmert, “The two men met 36 times, mostly in Jerusalem + once in Jericho”.

At the end of this series, it was Sa’eb Erekat who cancelled the post-map-presentation follow-up session scheduled for 17 September 2008, Olmert said, and their excuse was that they’d “forgotten that Abbas had to go to Amman”.

Olmert told Avi Issacharoff that he’s “still waiting” since September 2008 for a call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, just as just as Yasser Abed Rabbo told Avi Issacharoff [for an article published in mid-May in the Times of Israel] that he’s been waiting for a call from Netanyahu since February 16 2011..

Our reports on Avi Issacharoff’s recent reports are on our sister blog, Palestine-Mandate, here: [Olmert-Abbas 2006-2008] here … and [Yasser Abed-Rabbo-Netanyahu 2011] here.

Remember this? April 2013

Remember this?  In the very beginning of April [in fact, on April 1st], Salam Fayyad was taken to Ramallah Hospital for the second time in recent months — this time, for abdominal pain.   He was said to have been diagnosed with an inflamed pancreas.  [This can be due to gall bladder infection, whose acute symptoms can initially resemble a heart attack, and Fayyad did previously have a heart attack two years ago. Fayyad stayed in the hospital for three days — though this was not covered in the news, and few people even asked about it… perhaps because one of Fayyad’s chief aides told the media that Fayyad left the hospital on the first day…

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited him on the first day, despite reported work tensions between the two men:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits his PM Salam Fayyad in Ramallah hospital
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits his PM Salam Fayyad in Ramallah hospital

The photo was taken by Thaer Ganaim [APA Agency] and — to put it into context – it’s posted by Electronic Intifada, here, in it’s This Month in Pictures feature for April 2013.

Fayyad then insisted — despite the intervention of the U.S. Secretary of State John Kelly — on handing in his resignation to Abbas, who received Fayyad, drank tea with him, and accepted the resignation on 13 April…

More Fayyad Fallout

The BBC’s Jon Donnison reported, in his Fayyad article [labelled a “What next?” piece], that “When the 61-year-old again announced he was quitting on Saturday night, it was at least the third time he had resigned since he was first appointed to the job in 2007.  That is not to mention all the threats of resignation over the past six years.  And yet Mr Fayyad is still doing the job, at least in a ‘caretaker’ role”. This is posted here

Donnison lists the two previous Fayyad resignations as being in March 2009 and then in [May] 2011, both times to make way for a government of “national unity” or of “transition”, in order to “heal the political division between Fatah and Hamas — which may indeed be part of the reason again now.

[Fayyad also quit once before that, to run in the 2006 parliamentary elections’]

Meanwhile, Hugh Naylor wrote in The National that:

“Last month, the two leaders [Mahmoud Abbas + Fayyad — but Fayyad cannot really be called a “leader”] were at loggerheads over the resignation of Nabeel Kassis as finance minister. Mr Fayyad reportedly accepted it before consulting Mr Abbas, which caused acrimony.  An official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which Mr Abbas also chairs, said that spat encouraged the Palestinian president to accept Mr Fayyad’s resignation.  ‘I also think Abu Mazen was tired of Fayyad resigning every two months’, said the official, referring to Mr Abbas by his nickname. ‘But I also think Abu Mazen saw Fayyad’s threatening to resign as a bargaining chip to leverage power’…” This piece is published here.

Ah, yes, power — for, the scenario now being acted out was, and is, a classic power struggle between the two men, who otherwise are not really enemies. Abbas may well even feel some sympathy for Fayyad at the moment.

After all, Mahmoud Abbas himself was the previous champion of resignation [see our page on that, on this blog], when he served as Palestine’s first Prime Minister, an institution created at donor insistence to curb Yasser Arafat’s freeranging power. In a continuation of that paradigm, Fayyad was supposed, in some way, to be a “check + balance” to Abbas, who has since consolidated his hold on all reins of Palestinian power, and who has stayed in office beyond the expire-by date of his mandate until the next elections which only he has the power to proclaim, and which he also has the power to cancel.

Abbas does not seem uncomfortable at all in ruling by decree [at the encouragement of donors who believe in democracy only when all actors are “good guys”], in the absence of a functioning parliament [the Palestine Legislative Council], which closed up shop, at least in the West Bank, not long after the surprise election of Hamas [after Hamas did, for those 2006 elections, what everybody had called on it to do, which is to convert itself into a political party and contest the vote].

Donnison also reports, in his BBC piece, another theory [one of the standard Palestinian templates]: “One Palestinian official told me he believes Mr Fayyad has bigger ambitions, possibly to replace Mr Abbas, and wants to leave the job of prime minister in order to try and build his personal popularity”.

Continue reading “More Fayyad Fallout”

Nabil ElAraby [Arab League Secretary-General] visits Ramallah Muqata'a — but seems not to have brought suitcases full of cash

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby has arrived in Ramallah [from Amman] to meet with Mahmoud Abbas at 12:20 today.

It was reported earlier in the week that [apparently according to Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki] there would be a delegation of 8 to 10 Arab Foreign Ministers travelling with ElAraby.  But most of the others did not come.

Al-Malki had also said that the Arab League delegation would arrive by air, apparently to avoid encountering Israeli passport controls at the Jordanian border…  And that’s what happened with ElAraby today — he was accompanied only by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamil, and the two arrived by Jordanian military helicopter.

Egyptian diplomats are notoriously discrete.  It seems, however, that ElAraby did not show up carrying suitcases full of dollar bills.

Reuters reported here that ElAraby said during his press conference in Ramallah that “Arab countries agreed at their Baghdad summit (in March) for an Arab safety net of $100 million dollars each month, but unfortunately none of this has been achieved yet”.

    UPDATE: Ma’an News Agency reported Sunday 30 December here that “Arab League members had agreed a $100 million monthly payment to the Palestinian Authority, but the League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on a visit to the West Bank on Saturday that none had been delivered … Deputy Secretary General of the PFLP Abdul Raheem Mallouh said that there are American pressures on the Arab states to financially blockade the PA. Secretary General of the Popular Struggle Front Ahmed Majdalani said the failure to transfer funds was ‘clearly a political decision… (and) collective punishment against the Palestinian people because of the agenda of seeking an independent Palestinian state’. Meanwhile Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said it was up to Arab states to explain the impasse”.

Some Palestinians in the West Bank believe that only the Emir of Qatar can and will save them — he announced grants of some $450 million for Gaza’s rehabilitation after all, and the West Bank is bigger… But, his possible visit has been postponed for at least a month.

Nabil El-Araby has his own separate status, however, based on years of representing Egypt at the UN in New York and Geneva and elsewhere — and above all based on respect for El-Araby’s breathtakingly strong and direct separate opinion, when he sat as a Judge on the International Court of Justice, in the ICJ’s 2004 ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Associated Press reported that ElAraby said in his remarks to the press in the Muqata’a that “We will return to the U.N. Security Council … Palestine will be cooperating with Arab and EU countries to change the equation (in the peace process) that prevailed over the past 20 years, which was a waste of time”.

Haaretz reported that while in Ramallah, the two senior Egyptian diplomats “will also discuss a decision by an Arab League ministerial committee to hold talks with the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, China and the European Union on a mechanism to relaunch Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. This is posted here.

Not many people in the West Bank expected much from the Arab League, of course — despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas formally defers all major decisions until approval by Arab League leaders.

But, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly said that it was a letter from Nabil ElAraby, confirming an Arab League decision to provide a $100-million-dollar “safety-net” fund [to counteract Israeli financial reprisals after the recent UN upgrade] that enabled the Palestinian Authority to borrow from Palestinian banks [despite the PA’s maxed-out credit limit] in order to transfer partial salary payments to its employees on 24 December.

Meanwhile, PA government employees were bitterly disappointed earlier this week when the banks which paid their partial salaries [as 1st installment of November salary] after taking full reimbursement of loan payments due from PA government employees.  The Palestinian banks, in effect, advanced the salaries in order to get the loan payments due.   Following the banks’ actions, many PA government employees were left with little or no money in their accounts — for the second time since the beginning of November [when October salaries were belatedly paid].

Two months without money has put PA employees in an extremely difficult position — and they find it individually humiliating.  This inhibits them from speaking much about it publicly, or even with each other.

The loans are a policy pushed after the June 2007 split between Gaza and the West Bank, and strongly advocated by Tony Blair [on the basis of the Portland Trust’s policy recommendation] and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

These loans created a deceptive illusion of indebted prosperity that bewildered many Palestinians in the West Bank as journalists enthused over an illusory “Ramallah bubble”.

Agence France Presse [AFP] reported that “Every month, Israel transfers about 460 million shekels ($120 million) in customs duties on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and which constitute a large percentage of the Palestinian budget.  The transfers are governed by the 1994 Paris Protocols [part of the Oslo Accords] with the Palestinians”.  This is posted here.

The UN votes on Palestine upgrade to state [even if only as non-member observer]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, undeterred, is about to ask the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution upgrading the status of Palestine to [non-member observer] state.

Mahmoud Abbas in the UN about to enter the General Assembly hall for the vote to upgrade status of Palestine to state - 29 November 2012
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas heading towards the UN General Assembly hall for the vote on status of Palestine

Photo Tweeted by Widad Franco — #AbuMazen entering #UN General Assembly Hall pic.twitter.com/vbv0BzIp
Mahmoud Abbas is in the center, head down, surrounded by UN + other bodyguards. His older surviving son, Yasser Abbas, is the first figure in the right of the photo, leading the way into the UN General Assembly hall.

It was a world-wide live news top story.  The UN General Assembly meeting was called to order at 3:40 pm in New York [10:40 in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Gaza].

At the request of the [60] co-sponsors of the draft resolution on the status of Palestine at the UN, the Assembly agreed to move directly to take action.  The representative of Sudan, chairman of the Arab group in the UNGA, called on member states “to join in making history”, and said the draft resolution, once adopted,  would be a historic decision: “We are asking the GA to accord to Palestine non-member observer state status”.

When Mahmoud Abbas was introduced, he received sustained supportive and sometimes standing applause — a recognition of his decision to forge ahead to achieve the self-determination of the Palestinian people, despite advice, opposition, and threats.

Continue reading “The UN votes on Palestine upgrade to state [even if only as non-member observer]”