Did he or didn’t he?
UPDATE: Abed Rabbo is reportedly unavailable for comment on Thursday…
Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Executive Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] — the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, remember? — or, as Ma’an News Agency has identified him, “PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo” — reportedly told the privately-owned but donor-funded Ma’an News Agency that “Israel is an unknown entity in terms of borders [so] how does it suggest to recognize it as a Jewish state? Israel and the US should first set out Israel’s borders”…
Ma’an’s story, posted here, said that: “The PLO official further denied speaking with Israeli daily Haaretz on Wednesday, where he reportedly said ‘If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour’. According to the daily [Haaretz], Abed Rabbo said ‘Any formulation the Americans present – even asking us to call Israel the ‘Chinese State’ – we will agree to it, as long as we receive the 1967 borders. We have recognized Israel in the past, but Israel has not recognized the Palestinian state’. However, Abed Rabbo said he had only spoken with Agence France-Presse over the issue”.
Abed Rabbo apparently did not, himself, utter the words “Jewish State” – here, again, are reportedly his exact words:
“If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour”…
The Jerusalem Post noted that “The top PLO official was responding to US State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley’s announcement [Tuesday] that the Palestinians should respond to the Israeli demand of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state in return for the extension of a moratorium on settlement construction. Abed Rabbo’s remarks were interpreted by many Palestinians as recognition of Israel as a Jewish state – a position that contradicts the official PA policy. A number of Palestinians factions, including the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, strongly condemned Abed Rabbo and called for his firing”. This is posted here.
But is that what Philip Crowley really said?
In a post on his Ibishblog today, Hussein Ibish, a “senior fellow’ at the American Task Force for Palestine, wrote: “It’s because of their reciprocal character that Palestinians, or anyone else, shouldn’t have seriously considered Netanyahu’s proposal for exchanging recognition of Israel’s ‘Jewish character’ for an eight week extension of the temporary, partial moratorium. It’s widely reported that Patrick Crowley, the State Department spokesman, backed Israel’s demand at a recent press conference. I think that’s completely false. If you read what he said, it most importantly begins with, ‘It’s not for us to endorse this idea or this idea’. So much for an endorsement. Just like President Bush he referred to Israel as ‘the homeland of the Jewish people’, language, as I have noted in the past, that is pulled directly from the Balfour Declaration and lacking any great political or legal significance. He said Israel was ‘a state for the Jewish people’, but also ‘for other citizens of other faiths as well’, an important addendum that has been downplayed if not ignored by the media, especially the Israeli press. Crowley urged the Palestinians to make a counteroffer, and now they have. Israel, naturally, isn’t interested”. This Ibish post can be read in full here.
Incidentally, Ibish began this post by writing: “I don’t usually respond to other bloggers commenting on my work, but in this case the question was put to me directly by someone called Yaacov Lozowick, who wrote a response to my recent blog posting about PM Netanyahu’s ridiculous demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a ‘Jewish state’, whatever that means, in return for an eight week extension of the temporary, partial settlement moratorium. I guess it’s worth responding to somebody once in a while just to clear things up, so here goes”…
But, is there really a “Yaacov Lozowick”?
Back to Abed Rabbo, and what he said: “If the map will be based on the 1967 borders and will not include our land, our houses and East Jerusalem, we will be willing to recognize Israel according to the formulation of the government within the hour”… What is that “not” in the phrase? Is it a bad translation from the Arabic? Is it bad editing? Or, did Abed Rabbo misspeak?
Abed Rabbo, a former spokesperson for one of the Popular Fronts back in Beirut in the good old days, is the co-sponsor of the “Geneva Initiative”, with his Israeli counterpart Yossi Beilin, who was Israel’s Minister of Justice [when Ehud Barak was Prime Minister], and Beilin was later leader of the Meretz Party.
The late PLO leader Yasser Arafat never made a clear public statement on the “Geneva Initiative”, in which Israel and Palestinian “civil society” — actually, there were many has-been and would-be politicians in their midst — tried to stake out a possible outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The most notable advance of the “Geneva Initiative” was its declaration that the two sides could “swap” pieces of territory, beyond the 1967 Green Line border, on the basis of a 1:1 [one-to-one] trade…
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that what this really is all about is a Palestinian demand for the U.S. to set the borders between Israel and Palestine: “The Palestinians on Wednesday called on the US administration and Israel to define borders in response to Israel’s demand for recognition as the Jewish state. ‘We officially demand that the US administration and the Israeli government provide a map of the borders of the state of Israel which they want us to recognise’, senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP. His remarks came after the US State Department asked the Palestinians to extend a counter-proposal to Israel’s call for recognition as a ‘Jewish state’ in exchange for a possible extension of restrictions on settlement building”. This story can be read in full here.
The AP story added that Abed Rabbo also said: ” ‘We want to know whether this (Israeli) state includes our lands and houses in the West Bank and east Jerusalem’ … referring to Palestinian lands occupied during the 1967 Six Day War. ‘If this map is based on the 1967 borders and provides for the end of the Israeli occupation over all Palestinian lands… then we recognise Israel by whatever name it applies to itself in accordance with international law’, he said, without elaborating. ‘We are awaiting a response from Tel Aviv and Washington’, he added. When asked about Abed Rabbo’s comments, senior Israeli cabinet minister Silvan Shalom said it was ‘unacceptable to return to the lines of June 1967. There is a very large consensus in Israel on this point’, Shalom told public radio”.
We have been suggesting that Palestinian negotiators ask for guarantees against what they say they fear most, in all this commentary on these very touchy issues — expulsion, transfer, etc. Finally, somebody has taken up our suggestion [but its not a Palestinian…] According to an article published in Haaretz, “The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has written to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking he make clear his government has not discussed the transfer of Israeli Arab citizens to the Palestinian Authority as part of a peace agreement, and that the government will not bring the subject up in the future”. This is posted here.