Mahmoud Abbas DRAFT letter: "The P.A. lost its raison d'etre".

The Times of Israel today published in English, here, the full text of the DRAFT letter that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been preparing to send to Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu later this week.

The Times of Israel said that the DRAFT letter from Abbas was “bitter”.

Haaretz’s Barak Ravid first wrote about this letter ten days ago, here, as we reported here — but Haaretz did not publish the full text.

In his article, Ravid noted that “The letter was meant to include a threat to dismantle the PA, although that paragraph was later taken out due to heavy U.S. pressure”.

Ravid also reported the news that at the end of March, “a secret meeting was held between Saeb Erekat and [Netanyahu adviser Yitzhak] Molho. While the two hold occasional phone conversations, last week’s session was the first meeting between the two officials in two and a half months. In the meeting, Erekat relayed the content of the letter Abbas intends to pass on to Netanyahu in the coming days. Molho and Erekat are expected to meet again before the Palestinian delegation arrives for the meeting with Netanyahu”.

Ravid did Tweet the DRAFT letter’s four pages, in Arabic, and the links were included in our post, here.

But, it is likely that the letter that will be delivered is in English, because when Israelis and Palestinians sit together for negotiations, they speak in English, and when they draft agreements [like the Oslo Accords], it is done in English. Really.

In the letter, which is still apparently in DRAFT form, Abbas writes:

    “Twenty years ago, we concluded with Israel an agreement under international auspices which was intended to take the Palestinian people from occupation to independence. Now, as a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, social, territorial and security spheres. In other words, the P.A. lost its reason d’être”.

Journalists [including here] are reporting that Abbas has “stopped short” of dissolving the P.A.

Abbas has been reported to be contemplating just that. His former negotiating partner, Yossi Beilin, called on Abbas to dissolve the P.A. in an article published on FP recently here. Beilin wrote to Abbas, via FP:

    “One simply cannot continue with an interim arrangement for almost 20 years. This was not the intention when we spearheaded the Oslo process in late 1992 — you from Tunis and I from Jerusalem — or when we assiduously worked on what subsequently became known as the ‘Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement’ between 1993 and 1995. You and I both understand that the current situation is a ticking time bomb … Do not hesitate for a moment! Do not accept the request of President Obama, who merely wants to be left undisturbed before election day. Do not let Prime Minister Netanyahu hide behind the fig leaf of the Palestinian Authority — impose upon him, once again, the responsibility for the fate of 4 million Palestinians. Remain as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which will give you the authority to lead the political negotiations if and when they resume. But for the sake of your own people, and for the sake of peace, you cannot let this farce continue”.

The words from Abbas are clear — and it does not seem possible to understand them as saying anything other than the present game is over.

If this doesn’t mean that the P.A. is being dismantled, then the Palestinian people have good reason to want to know why not.

    UPDATE: In an informal poll conducted Monday afternoon in Ramallah, four Palestinian men all expressed puzzlement, uncertainty, and thinly-disguised disgust.   One, a former journalist, gave a standard template analysis: “Abbas is just playing for time… he knows nothing will happen until after Obama is re-elected in November”, he said.  One, a senior leader in a small Palestinian faction, said only: “Our problems are more serious than anybody really knows”.

Meantime, the real question is: why will Salam Fayyad be delivering this letter to Netanyahu? [It may happen on Tuesday 17 April in Jerusalem…]

Is it just because Netanyahu prefers Fayyad to Sa’eb Erekat? It’s true that Fayyad and Erekat will be accompanied by the Secretary of the P.L.O. Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo — but Fayyad’s position is only with the P.A.

All three men are expendable — though all of them have survived strong criticism before.

Fayyad is the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority [P.A.] created by agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] as a local temporary and subsidiary body to administer the occupied Palestinian territory during negotiations.

Fayyad was appointed PM in the P.A. by Abbas to replace Hamas leader Ismail Haniyya, after Hamas kicked Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security out of Gaza in mid-June 2007, and Abbas retaliated to that “military coup”, as he called it at the time, by a political coup dissolving a short-lived “National Unity” Government. This is one reason why Hamas refused to agree to keeping Salam Fayyad as PM in a new “technocratic” government that was supposed to be formed after a reconciliation agreement concluded in Cairo last year.

Fayyad himself has never been formally involved in negotiating, though he has had a couple of official meetings in Jerusalem previously [one was with Condoleezza Rice, during the Annapolis process].  Fayyad is a resident of East Jerusalem, and does not need a permit to travel around Jerusalem [or within Israel, if he wanted…]

We have speculated on this in a previous post [on 7 April], published here.

The DRAFT letter from Abbas, meanwhile, calls on the Government of Israel to do the following:

    “1- Accept the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value;
    2- Stop all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem;
    3- Release all prisoners, in particular those imprisoned prior to the end of 1994; and
    4- Revoke all decisions taken since 2000 which undermine agreements signed between Israel and the PLO”.

These are obligations, the Abbas DRAFT letter says [meaning, not “pre-conditions” as the Israellis complain].

If Israel refuses to honor these obligations, the Abbas DRAFT letter says:
“We will seek the full and complete implementation of international law as it pertains to the powers and responsibilities of Israel as occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.  For the Palestinian Authority—now stripped of all meaningful authority—cannot continue to honor agreements while Israel refuses to even acknowledge its commitments. The P.A. is no longer as was agreed and this situation cannot continue”.

What does that mean — “The P.A. is no longer as was agreed and this situation cannot continue”…

It does not sound like a call to return to the situation before the Camp David talks of the summer of 2000, or to the pre-Second-Intifada situation…

It sounds, in fact, just like a decision to dissolve the P.A. …

UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"

Was the UNSG taking a diplomatic half-step back from his earlier support for a long-overdue Palestinian State?

What he said, at a hastily-summoned press conference at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, was exactly this: “I am profoundly troubled by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. It is vital that they resume. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution is long overdue. Time is not our friend”.

[As we reported in our last post, on 10 September, here, what the UNSG BAN said in Australia that day was somewhat different. According to AFP, he said this: “The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security — that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it… And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue“.]

The U.S. State Department spokesperson said last Thursday that the Obama Administration would use the American veto in the UN Security Council if the Palestinians pursued their announced intentention to seek full UN membership.

Though U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale are on their second trip to the region in as many weeks to try to avert the Palestinian move, Palestinian officials say they are going to pursue it — unless, of course, an excellent offer is made up until the last minute.

Even if a Palestinian State is somehow admitted as a full member of the UN Organization, Palestinian officials say, they intended to pursue negotiations with Israel on the next day…

Palestinian Authority [PA] Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told members of the Foreign Press Association [FPA – in Israel] at a briefing convened at FPA request on Thursday that at end of Mahmoud Abbas speech around midday on 23 September from the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, after the very last sentence, Abbas – who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, in addition to acting President of the PA — will present the official request for the state of Palestine to be granted full membership to the UNSG”.

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will be seated on an elevated table behind the podium. All Mahmoud Abbas will need to do is turn around and hand up the official Palestinian letter of request — and this will be in public, in full view of the whole world.

Continue reading UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"


Coming up to the second anniversary of the ferocious launch of the IDF’s 22-day Operation Cast Lead against Hamas targets in Gaza on 27 December 2008, war is in the air again.

Those now stunned by the apparent death of the present peace process may be willing, at this point, to entertain another strike against Gaza as a way to help sort things out, and prepare the ground for a new start — by getting Hamas out of the way.

The recent escalation in military activity — reprisal upon reprisal — suggests a new scenario.

UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting that “A senior Israeli army officer has told the BBC that as long as Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip, another war is ‘a question of when, not if’.” This is publishd here.

We have heard this before — before Operation Cast Lead.

“Adding to the tension”, Joshua Mitnick wrote in an article published today in the Christian Science Monitor, “Israeli military officials say that Gaza militants have armed themselves with Kornet missiles that can penetrate the armor of tanks”. This was published here. [Haven’t we heard before that militants in Gaza had tank-piercing missiles?]

Continue reading War-mongering

Indefinite postponement for Palestinian West Bank local + muncipal elections

Palestinian local and municipal elections set for 17 July in the Israeli-occupied West Bank were suddenly and abruptly postponed indefinitely on Thursday 11 June.

In the absence of an official explanation, there were many others. The most credible was that Fatah learned, through polls, that it would not win, even though Hamas had said it would boycott the balloting, which would have been held only in the West Bank.

The earlier calculation was that these elections would bring a clear victory for Fatah and secular leftist forces in the West Bank, which would bring a new Hamas-free local government across the Israeli-occupied territory — paving the way for a new era.

But, many Palestinians scorned this tactic as unfair and undemocratic.

In February, shortly after the local elections (which have now been postponed) had been scheduled for 17 July, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said it “absolutely rejects holding elections in local council, or any other elections, whose results are known in advance. Under the current situation, the results of such elections and the identities of winning political parties are known even before holding such elections”.

PCHR spelled out the problem with unusual frankness in its February statement: “the Palestinian Government in Gaza is not expected to accept holding local elections in Gaza based on a decision taken by the Government in Ramallah. Subsequently, the decision taken by the Cabinet in Ramallah, if implemented, will be effectively applied to local councils in the West Bank only, and no elections will be held at the same time in the Gaza Strip; a fact which the Government in Ramallah realizes. It is impossible to hold transparent and impartial elections that reflect the electorate’s will without providing appropriate conditions and freeing public liberties, which means stopping human rights violations, including stopping political arrests; respecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to freedom of association; and ensuring free political activities for all political parties and factions. These conditions are not available now in the Palestinian arena under the ongoing political division, which has caused unprecedented deterioration in the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”.

But, in the meantime, there were more complications.

Continue reading Indefinite postponement for Palestinian West Bank local + muncipal elections

No indication on deal to re-open Rafah crossing

With all these intensive talks in recent days, there is still no indication of any deal near on the important issue of reopening the Gaza-Egyptian border at Rafah.

No question has been asked in any of the press conferences given over the past few days by any of the principals involved.

There are only two hints that something may be up:

1) reports that David Welch is being sent back to Cairo. Haaretz reported that “Abbas said Wednesday that Rice told him she would send an envoy to Egypt, which often mediates between Israel and Hamas. [Rice briefly visited Egypt for talks on Tuesday morning, and Welch was in her entourage, before she arrived in Israel and headed straight to Ramallah] ‘There are real efforts being exerted by Egypt for the truce’, Abbas said”.

2) the statement issued this moring by Israel’s Security Cabinet saying they would work “To reduce the strengthening of Hamas, including in coordination with – and by – Egypt“.

Reuters has reported that “Israeli and European officials said one proposal under consideration would seek to open the Rafah border crossing to cargo, expanding on its former role for travellers only. Israeli defence officials said that could be acceptable to the Jewish state as a way of limiting its responsibility for supplying Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. But Egypt opposes any attempt by Israel to shift the burden, Western diplomats said … Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told reporters in Jerusalem his bloc’s border monitors were ready to return to Rafah after a nearly nine-month absence provided any agreement includes Egypt … Solana declined to say whether Rafah’s role could be expanded beyond passengers. ‘We are working on that, and working on that with intensity’, he told reporters … Abbas’s foreign minister said last week that having Palestinian Authority personnel at Rafah would give Abbas’s administration a ‘foothold’ again in Gaza … Israeli officials said the government would be willing to see Rafah open to both goods and people because it would further Israel’s goal of disconnecting from Gaza. Palestinians also have concerns, however, that linking Gaza closer to Egypt could hamper efforts to found a state in both Gaza and the West Bank … Israel has resisted international pressure to reopen the main Karni commercial crossing between Israel and Gaza, citing security concerns. Israeli officials said opening Rafah to passengers and goods could reduce the pressure to open Karni. To ensure Rafah would function more regularly, Washington supports stationing EU monitors both in Israel and in Egypt, Western diplomats said. The unarmed monitors, who withdrew from Rafah after Hamas’s takeover, have been based in Israel”. This Reuters report is posted here .