Do the Americans know how to do peace talks? Can they get a final status agreement within nine months?

Well, they have tried it before — the Annapolis process, Wye River, Camp David July 2000 and let’s not forget former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker announcing “here’s my phone number, call me when you’re ready”…]

Kerry's Iftar - full table - US State Dept on Monday 29 July 2013

Kerry’s Iftar – full table – US State Dept on Monday 29 July 2013

Above photo Tweeted by @michelghandour + posted here

Secretary Kerry Iftar dinner for Israeli + Palestinian Negotiators
Secretary Kerry Iftar dinner for Israeli + Palestinian Negotiators

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

Israerli + Palestinian negotiators at Secretary Kerry Iftar Dinner
Israeli + Palestinian negotiators at Secretary Kerry Iftar Dinner

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

So, as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said at a joint press conference in Washington on Tuesday evening [with an emotion-laden voice, before apparently impulsively kissing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on both cheeks],  there’s now a second chance:

“A new opportunity is being created for us, for all of us, and we cannot afford to waste it…”

Saeb Erekat + John Kerry + Tzipi Livni after press conference Tuesday
Saeb Erekat + John Kerry + Tzipi Livni after press conference Tuesday

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

Kerry said, at the beginning of the press conference on Tuesday, that:

“As all of you know, it has taken an awful lot of work and a long time, a lot of time, to reach this new moment of possibility in the pursuit of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

He said one striking thing at the end of his prepared remarks:

“I think everyone involved here believes that we cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility of ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time. They should not be expected to bear that burden, and we should not leave it to them. They should not be expected to bear the pain of continued conflict or perpetual war”.

And in between, he said:

“The United States will work continuously with both parties as a facilitator every step of the way. We all understand the goal that we’re working towards: two states living side by side in peace and security. Two states because two proud peoples each deserve a country to call their own. Two states because the children of both peoples deserve the opportunity to realize their legitimate aspirations in security and in freedom. And two states because the time has come for a lasting peace.

We all appreciate – believe me – we appreciate the challenges ahead. But even as we look down the difficult road that is before us and consider the complicated choices that we face, we cannot lose sight of something that is often forgotten in the Middle East, and that is what awaits everybody with success. We need to actually change the way we think about compromise in order to get to success. Compromise doesn’t only mean giving up something or giving something away; reasonable principled compromise in the name of peace means that everybody stands to gain. Each side has a stake in the other’s success, and everyone can benefit from the dividends of peace.

We simply wouldn’t be standing here if the leaders – President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu – and their designated negotiators and all of us together didn’t believe that we could get there”…

A few weeks ago, just after Kerry’s flying visit to Ramallah on 19 July, Rami G. Khouri wrote here: “I have not given up hope that a negotiated peace can one day be achieved, but I pretty much have given up hope that it can be attained through renewed negotiations mediated these days by the United States … It is impossible to expect both sides under their current leaderships to make major substantive concessions on core issues simply in order to get to the negotiating table, where they will not be able to agree on a final accord that addresses the big sticker items of land, settlements refugees, and Jerusalem. The strategy now being used seeks to formulate vague agreements simply to resume negotiations will not work because the imprecision of positions on settlements, borders or mutual recognition necessary to restart the talks only cements the inability of both sides to achieve a permanent, comprehensive agreement”.

So what happened in the last ten days? One thing, apparently, was the U.S. issuance of still-unpublished “letter[s] of assurance”, in which the American administration took a stand in favor of concrete positions [such as, the negotiations will be based on pre-4-June 1967 borders, which changed things for the Palestinians…]

US President Obama + VP Biden meet Palestinian + Israeli negotiators
US President Obama + VP Biden meet Palestinian + Israeli negotiators

This photo was Tweeted by the US State Department and is posted here.

Now, Khouri wrote, in a piece entitled “What Do We Learn from 45 Years of Negotiations?”, syndicated by Agence Global and posted here, that he was disappointed in Kerry’s call, Monday [and Tuesday] for a “reasonable compromise” — Khouri said Kerry “sounded more like a high school guidance counselor speaking to teenagers who had an argument”.

Continue reading Do the Americans know how to do peace talks? Can they get a final status agreement within nine months?

Shaul Mofaz is NOT going to Ramallah today to meet Mahmoud Abbas

News emerged yesterday from Ramallah that Shaul Mofaz would not be going to Ramallah today to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Neither Mofaz nor Israel had announced that Mofaz would be going to Ramallah. The announcement was made in the middle of last week by Sa’eb Erekat, described as the Chief Palestinian Negotiator, who is also a member of the PLO Executive Committee and of the Central Committee of Fateh, the largest Palestinian political movement.

Erekat said that Mofaz had asked for the meeting, that this meeting would not constitute a return to negotiations — and that it was not known what Mofaz would be bringing to the meeting.

This was a little disingenuous.

Mofaz, who is of Persian origin, is leader of the Israeli opposition Kadima Party who made a deal with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in early May to join the coalition and become Deputy Prime Minister.

Mofaz spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on 20 June, about the range of things concerning Israel [including Iran and Syria and the new Egypt]. He also spoke about the Israel-Palestinian stalemate — which he said was potentially more dangerous for Israel than Iran.

Mofaz said at the Washington Institute that:
– Israel should annex its “settlement blocs” [which he did not define] in the West Bank;
– these “settlement blocs” would then become Israel’s eastern border, he indicated;
– 65% of the West Bank [excluding the “settlement blocs” — therefore this would involve territorial swaps involving West Bank land for West Bank land] would go to the Palestinians, and would include 99% of the Palestinian population living in the West Bank.
– Palestinian refugees who return would only go to the Palestinian state or entity, Mofaz said.

Erekat was in Washington at the same exact time — and both Mofaz + Erekat met [separately] with officials at the U.S. State Department. Erekat could not have been unaware of the presentation and proposals that Mofaz made public at the Washington Institute.

The Mofaz presentation at the Washington Institute followed a series of five meetings held in the Jordanian capital Amman in the early months of 2012, in which Quartet members were observers — after which the Palestinians and Israelis agreed to present their views to the other side in the form of concrete proposals.

The Palestinians sent a first letter — they said it contained the maps and the swap proposals etc that they had basically made since the Annapolis process in 2008, and then resubmitted to Barak Obama’s Special Envoy George Mitchell in 2009.

Weeks after the Palestinian letter was sent this year, an Israeli reply was carried to Ramallah by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molho, who quietly met Mahmoud Abbas at the Ramallah Muqata’a — without any problem.

It was the Palestinian reply to the Israeli response where things started to break down. Mahmoud Abbas apparently asked a delegation led by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and including PLO Executive Committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo, to go to Jerusalem to deliver the letter. There were questions, then criticism — but until the day of the delivery, it was assumed that these people would go. But by the end of the day it became clear that Fayyad + Abed Rabbo refused to take on this task — so only Saeb Erekat went. He was received, apparently politely, by Israeli PM Netanyahu and his advisor Yitzhak Molho, and an official picture was taken…

In the beginning of May, Erekat suffered a heart attack, and was hospitalized.

Hamas announced their opposition to the Mofaz visit, and asked that it be called off.

The PFLP also opposed the visit.

Palestinian “youth” groups based in Ramallah also opposed the meeting — and particularly the invitation for the meeting. These people, who have been participating in regular protest demonstrations in the West Bank, who came together last year for the March 15 “Arab Spring” protest in Ramallah demanding an end to division and worldwide Palestinian elections for a new PLO parliament. They are very critical of the actions of the Palestinian Authority. Some announced they had asked the Palestinian Attorney General to arrest Mofaz while in Ramallah for war crimes against Palestinians.

But, for most, the worst thing about all this is the impact it has on the already-shaky credibility of the Palestinian leadership.

Continue reading Shaul Mofaz is NOT going to Ramallah today to meet Mahmoud Abbas

Neither Salam Fayyad nor Yasser Abed Rabbo were at meeting with Netanyahu this evening

Palestinian Authority [P.A.] Prime Minister Salam Fayyad did not accompany the P.L.O.’s Chief Negotiator Sa’eb Erekat today to see Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, as previously announced [ten days ago].

The meeting was held in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Jerusalem.

Israeli PM Netanyahu receives 2 Palestinians [center] on 17 April 2012Photo posted on YNet here and also on the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry here – it does not look good for the Palestinians hereinvolved — is that why Salam Fayyad and Yasser Abed Rabbo did not attend?

In the morning Fayyad presided over a meeting of the P.A. cabinet in Ramallah.

By midday, as the P.A. Cabinet meeting was drawing to a close, or soon thereafter, there were hints that Fayyad might not head the delegation that delivered a long-awaited letter signed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But, there was then total silence for some seven hours.

Sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., the news broke, via AP [and Tweeted by @diaahadid] that Fayyad had “backed out” of the meeting, and the Palestinian side offered no public explanation.

Continue reading Neither Salam Fayyad nor Yasser Abed Rabbo were at meeting with Netanyahu this evening

Do Hamas members + supporters have human, civil rights in the West Bank?

The answer is obvious, but the question is not rhetorical.

There has been a great deal [well, ok, an unusual amount] of mobilization at official levels concerning the Israeli military’s detention of Aziz Dweik [see our earlier post here] at Jaba’a Checkpoint last Thursday.

UPDATE: On Tuesday 24 January, Aziz Dweik was sentenced at Ofer Military Court to six months’ Administrative Detention. That means neither substantial accusations nor evidence is made known to the accused or to his/her lawyer [nothing beyond “being a threat to security of the area”]. The Israeli Security services just ask to speak to the Israeli military judge in a private session, and that is that. Since there are no charges and no evidence, no defense is possible, in such circumstances….

UPDATE: Also on Thursday 24 January, Israeli troops entered Ramallah — Area A, and the de facto capital of the West-bank based Palestinian Authority — to arrest yet one more Palestinian MP affiliated with Hamas, AbdulJabber Fuqara. Israeli reports citing Palestinian sources say that his wife reports that Israeli troops also confiscated papers at Fuqara’s home Thursday morning [no doubt, quite early, in the dark, before dawn, when the rest of the area is sleeping, these operations are almost always carried out] …

Administrative Detention is one of the major violations of human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Nearly 300 Palestinians [some 26 or 27 of them, currently about 10 percent of the total, are Palestinian members of the non-functioning Legislative Council who were elected on a Hamas-affiliated political party list].

As the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR, based in Gaza, but no affiliate of Hamas] has reported, Dweik’s car was stopped at 20h30 at night, after work,  as he was on his way home from Ramallah to Hebron. That means that Dweik had driven on the road that passes around Qalandia Checkpoint, and going out through Jaba’a checkpoint on the lane that is normally not checked by soldiers. 

The lane in the direction Dweik was travelling heads out towards the roads [shared with thousands of settlers and the relatively few internationals who work in Ramallah and elsewhere in the northern West Bank] which lead to the Maale Adumim traffic circle, then through congested and garbage-strewn Abu Dis and Eizariyya [Bethany] before passing the infamous Wadi Nar [hellfire] road going south to Bethlehem and then to Hebron.

Jaba’a Checkpoint is on the feeder road that is next to Jaba’a village, facing Road 60 which brings settlers and Palestinians from the northern West Bank.  It is just across from the traffic circle outside the Jewish settlement of Adam.  Passing through this traffic circle is the only way for Palestinian ID holders in Palestinian cars to get from the north to the south of the West Bank.  [There is also heavy settler traffic on the roads between Adam traffic circle and the Hizmeh Checkpoint at the entry to Jerusalem via the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which the Palestinian cars — which are not allowed to enter Jerusalem either through Qalandia Checkpoint or through Hizmeh Checkpoint, must circumvent to take a more circuitous route to Maale Adumim traffic circle before continuing south. … so the term “Apartheid Road” system is not completely accurate, and is usually determined by the Checkpoint regime rather than by any other type of enforcement.]

Dweik was reportedly blindfolded and handcuffed, and eventually taken to Ofer prison — which is not even a one-star hotel — where he is apparently still being interrogated. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported Sunday night, here, that:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Sunday for the release of Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was detained by the IDF last Thursday. ‘I’m not convinced that Dweik had committed any crime’, Abbas told a Russian TV station”.

So, the question is, why did Abbas have to say this to a Russian TV station [through its local correspondent in Jerusalem?], and not on Palestinian TV? Would that have been called incitement?

No one of the usual sources has raised a cry against the wave of Hamas detentions that has been going on through the past year.

If someone is a political opponent, or even if someone is labelled as being linked to a “terrorist” organization, does that mean they have no human or civil rights? Of course it does not. But, in the West Bank under occupation, it is only too easy to deprive people of the few rights that might be available to them…

The PA itself has detained Hamas members [both sides are supposed to have released “political” prisoners as part of the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, but this has not happened after two deadlines have passed, and in general the PA has said it has no “political” prisoners, only those who have committed security offenses or common crimes…]

The PA has also fired Hamas-affiliated governmental employees, including dozens of school teachers — yet Hamas members dominate many of the local municipal councils, and there is a Hamas mayor a “moderate” one] in the large northern West Bank city of Nablus.

There has been some talk about Dweik’s arrest really being motivated by Israel’s aim to block his plan to convene an imminent meeting of the dormant Palestine Legislative Council [PLC]. But Israeli arrests of Hamas members of the PLC have been going on for several years … and it is not clear why Israel would be more concerned about this now, unless it is a way to foil Hamas-Fatah reconcilation efforts.

The reconvening of the PLC s also understood to be a matter of concern to Abbas advisers, who known that the minute the PLC is convened, it may do something like decide to repeal several years of executive decisions that Abbas has been able to issue in the lack of a viable PLC. So, it became a vicious circle: so many Hamas members were in jail it was impossible to convene the necessary quorum, and even if it were to become possible, no one really wanted to deal with the unforseeable consequences.

The Khaled Abu Toameh article in the JPost also reported that Abbas said, about Dweik’s detention:

    “ ‘Frankly, this is an arbitrary detention and it’s completely illegal’, Abbas said, noting that Dweik, a top Hamas political figure in the West Bank, had been arrested a number of times in the past. The PA, meanwhile, presented Israel with a letter demanding the release of Dweik and 23 Palestinian legislators, most of whom belong to Hamas. A Palestinian official told AFP that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered the letter to Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho during their fourth meeting in Amman over the weekend. The PA also demanded the release of some 130 Palestinians who were jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. In addition, the PA is demanding the release of top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for his role in terror attacks against Israelis; and Ahmed Sa’dat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the group behind the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. Among the Hamas legislators who are held in Israeli prison are Mahmoud Ramahi; Ahmed Haj; Ayman Daraghmeh; Nayef Rajoub; Fadel Hamdan; Mohammed Tal; Omar Abdel Razek; Mohammed Abu Teir; Mohammed Natsheh; Mohammed Abu Gehisha; Hassan Yousef; Azzam Salhab; Hatem Kafisha; Azzam Salhab; Nizar Ramadan; and Samir Qady”.

This list, if exhaustive, neatly leaves out Hussam Khader, a Fatah activist from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus who was once part of the group known as “young Fatah” [which included Marwan Barghouthi as well as Qaddoura Fares, a long-time prisoner held by Israel in an earlier period who has since actively supported the Geneva Initiative of civil society working to advance a peace treaty and who now heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoner’s Society].

Khader has confronted and challenged the Fatah leadership for years, famously including Mahmoud Abbas during the Sixth Fatah General Conference held in Bethlehem in August 2009 — and has been considered inconvenient despite [or perhaps because of] his popular appeal.

Khader was re-arrested in a 2am raid on his home on June 2, and has been held in Israel’s Megiddo Prison, north of the West Bank, since an Israeli military judge confirmed a 6-month sentence of Administrative Detention in June, which was renewed in December at the request of the Israeli Security Services [then cut in half, to 3 months, upon the appeal of his Palestinian-Prisoner-Society lawyer Jawad Bulous, who has offices in the Galilee and in East Jerusalem]. Both in June, and again in December, the Israeli military judge did express some scepticism about the lack of concrete charges — publicly, as is usual in cases where Administrative Detention is applied to Palestinians under military law — the charges are only listed as “being a threat to safety and security in the region”. But, both times, the Israeli military judge did give in to the demands of Israeli Security Services.

It is believed, however, that Hussam Khader was questioned about his contacts with Hamas — particularly during visits to Lebanon and to Syria in 2010, during which time he believed he acted with the blessing of Mahmoud Abbas, as part of efforts to bring about Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

So, why has Mahmoud Abbas not mentioned Hussam Khader’s detention?

Palestinians will go to the UN – to preserve two-state solution

PLO official Sa’eb Erekat confirmed in Ramallah today that the Palestinians are going to go to the UN Security Council to seek UN membership — even if they fail, at first.

Erekat was speaking just before leaving on a trip with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Qatar, for Arab League meetings later this week.

The paperwork for going to the UN is now being prepared, Erekat said, and the UN is being consulted.

Other states had to make multiple tries before being admitted to UN membership, Erekat noted.

He did, however, call on the U.S. to revisit, or to revise its position: American administration officials have made it clear on several occasions that they consider the move unwise, and they have indicated they will veto it.

But, Erekat argued, the presence of a Palestinian state in the UN is the only guarantee of the two-state solution that the US and the Quartet have advocated, because “this Israeli government now has one aim: to destroy the prospect of a Palestinian state”.

He indicated that he believed the resistance of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was due to a refusal to accept two states, (each) in 1967 borders.

President Obama proposed in May that negotiations should re-start on the basis of the 1967 borders with agreed swaps (and should concentrate first on those swaps, in order to define an agreed border).

But, Erekat said, the U.S. “should not leave our fate in the hands of our occupiers”.

“We have recognized the Israeli government’s right to exist.  We are talking now about adding Palestine as a peace-loving member of the UN — as a country under occupation, rather than as disputed territory — if we really want two states”.

The aim is to preserve the two-state solution, he stressed.

Continue reading Palestinians will go to the UN – to preserve two-state solution

Quote of the day – 14th in our series: Abbas said leak of Palestine Papers is a "boring soap opera"

Today’s Quote of the Day — even though it was uttered some three weeks ago — comes from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who “dismissed the leak of hundreds of secret files on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as nothing but a ‘boring soap opera’.”

One place you can find this report published is here.

Abbas also said, to adoring crowds convened by his media counsellors and political advisers upon his return from one of many trips abroad: “We know how to respond to it and how to deal with it … We’re not shocked by this nonsense”.

Yes, the Palestinians know how to deal with it… by letting targeted people, who have become inconvenient, hang out to dry, and then settling scores… Done masterfully.

At a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on Sunday, President Abbas received the report of the investigation committee appointed to look into the Palestine Papers — documents leaked to Al-Jazeera, which prepared a series of programmes in late January detailing shocking behavior in the until-then secret negotiations brokered by the U.S,. first under the Bush Administration in the “Annapolis process”, and subsequently under the Obama Administration.

The documents consisted mainly of staff notes of the sessions prepared by the Palestinian negotiating team, and held by the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) of the Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD). ¨[Al-Jazeera prepared very wierd dramatic reenactments, using actors to represent the main figures, of meetings held under the Annapolis process]. But, Al-Jazeera also had documents leaked from one or more security offices, and from the office of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad…

The investigation committee report relied in part on security interviews with each and every one of the current staff members of the NSU + NAD. The finger seems to point to one or more former — now disgruntled — staff members.

The investigation committee also made a number of recommendations, including the replacement of the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat — who then resigned (after it was recommended that he be replaced), as he vowed he would do on the David Frost interview program aired a couple of weeks ago on Al-Jazeera English.

“If these documents were liked from my office, I and I alone will be responsible for that”, Erekat told David Frost, “if it is proven”… By that time, Erekat was apparently very well aware that most of the documents were leaked from his office. So, he added, in his remarks to Frost, “So, I don’t think I will remain Chief negotiator forever”.

Another recommendation of the investigation committee is that the NSU + NAD be disbanded.

Staff are convinced that this will happen, and note that their contracts all end on the same date — 31 March. The current prediction is that some of them will be absorbed into the President’s office — Abbas is the person responsible for negotiations anyway. However, the royal-court atmosphere in the President’s office, and the backbiting among ambitious people already there — combined with their gross incompetence in explaining the Palestinian position on anything — do not bode well for the future.

This does signal. with yet one more masterstroke, the relentless process of collecting and centralizing all the reins of power in the President’s hands….

And, yes, it proves the sharp correctness of Abbas’ words that this really is all (just) a soap opera — but it is much more discouraging than boring.

Current affairs, via a friend in Ramallah who loves the pointed political satire of the Palestine TV Program “Watan 3ala Watar” (“Homeland on a Shoestring”) – which is posted on Youtube here:

We also learn today that Abbas issued a Presidential decree Sunday (yesterday), in which it has now been ordained that “Targeting Qatar over leaked papers over” in response to the Al-Jazeera programs, as reported here.

Oh, and by the way, this Presidential decree also reportedly bans “local media” from insulting Qatar, too… The “local” journalists — and the international ones, too — have been silent so far…

And, today, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered the resignation of his cabinet … expecting to be asked to form a new and more convenient one.

The Al-Jazeera programs on the Palestine Papers ran for five days — the first three days were hard-hitting, then, once it became apparent how seriously the situation was imploding in Ramallah, with some Al-Jazeera staff saying they feared for their lives — days four and five really pulled punches, and withdrew from more explosive revelations.

Almost all these revelations had been already revealed over the past year in the Israeli media.

All a resourceful journalist, like Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher, had to do was to follow the leads, to track down documents that he knew must exist somewhere. He had the financial backing and the resources of Al-Jazeera to do it, and he had the willing and interested cooperation of disgruntled former staff in Palestinian offices and institutions to do it.

However, it has to be said that for a journalist trying to cover all this, it has been very hard indeed. The Al-Jazeera programs ruined any social life and kept one awake late into the night for over a week. Then, this segue-ing badly right into the Egyptian protests centered on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which confined journalists their computer screens and keyboards for an additional 18-19 days. The effort required endurance, and caused real physical pain, and exhaustion. We badly need a break, some relaxation, a vacation…

Personally, I found then rather reminiscent of the Fahmi Shabaneh expose [about corruption, targetting Abu Mazen’s then-chief of staff Rafiq Husseini] that was only reported because an Israeli TV channel broke the story…

Diana Butto asks: how can Sa'eb Erekat retain the title of "Chief Palestinian Negotiator"

In an internet interview, from an unclear and unspecified location, with the new “TV” unit of the Institute of Palestine Studies, Diana Butto — a Canadian-born Israeli-Arab-Palestinian former spokesperson for the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit, who later also worked, for a period, for Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad —

“We already knew about Israel’s intransigence, but what’s more interesting for me is the level of desperation, and the ways in which they tried to get the Israeli negotiators to actually like and support them, in order to get a better position”… We never really saw the dialog between the Israeli negotiators and Palestinian negotiators, but what we heard from the Palestinian negotiators all the time was just a clinging to slogans”.

Here is the full interview:

Diana Butto also says, in this interview:
“It reveals that Israel was simply not interested in having negotiations in the first place…

“You see the U.S. role in this — and both of these two actors point out what should be, what is patently obvious … You can’t have a weak party negotiating with a much stronger party…it’s never going to work. If there’s one thing we should be learning about this is that’s we should be moving away from this model of negotiations to something that is very different [she does not give any suggestions].

“We have no transparency in the West Bank. We can’t see how much money, for example, a very small thing, what percentage of the budget is spent on the security apparatus? How much money does the President’s Office have? How much money do they spend when they go out on these trips to the U.S. and the rest of the world? … At the end of the day, this is information that the PA and the PLO have never revealed in open sources to the Palestinian people, which is why people are upset about it, and which is why they []are backpedalling”…

On Palestinian reactions: “I guess I had expected that people were going to be more upset about the papers than anything else … But this is already is a government, a leadership that is entirely unrepresentative of Palestinians, in that they haven’t been elected, certainly the PLO officials have not been elected … I’m not entirely certain how Sa’eb Erekat was appointed ‘Chief Palestinian Negotiator’, and why he gets to retain that title, even after several of the blunders that he’s made in the past. So this is a leadership that’s not very representative, and yet there hasn’t been a massive revolt against this leadership”…

“The two more muted reactions are far more interesting — the first is to blame Qatar … and then the other reaction is one … that I hope will take shape more in the future: that somebody needs to be held accountable for all of these things, whether on the basic level, why are these documents so unsecure? That’s something that somebody needs to be held accountable for, namely Sa’eb Erekat; and for the fact of what’s contained in these documents, somebody should be held to account; the fact that these positions were taken, somebody should be held to account”.

Abbas + Erekat greeted by organized demonstrations of support upon return from Cairo

It’s always been striking how much the Palestinian political style is reminiscent of the Cold War era Soviet bloc, or even of present-day North Korea — though the Palestinians are much looser and more spontaneous…

Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned from a couple of days’ visit to Cairo that just happened to coincide with the big, big, big Al-Jazeera series highlighting discoveries in leaked documents detailing what’s happened in the past couple of years of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. He was greeted by a political demonstration in his favor.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who accompanied Abbas to Cairo, was hoisted, like a bridegroom, on the shoulders of young men in a similar but less glossy demonstration in Jericho upon his return.

[These scenes looked and felt very different from the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today…]

Then, he gave an interview to Reuters which was posted by Haaretz, in which he said: “Al-Jazeera is inciting against me + my family, “asking Palestinians to shoot me, physically”…

That was even before the third night’s revelations on Al-Jazeera.

In the first segment, a B-movie reenactment of some of the negotiating sessions showed Erekat saying:
“We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun, and the rule of law… We have even killed our own people”.

This was, in fact, reported months ago in the Israeli press.

All Al-Jazeera journalist Clayton Swisher — whose introduction to this issue was as a security guard for the U.S. State Department during former President Bill Clinton’s Camp David talks with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, and the Taba talks a few months later — had to do was simply follow-up on the reports previously published in the Israeli press. He had the Al-Jazeera organization, with the money and staff and other resources, to do it.

Meanwhile, at least one former consultants to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) has been named as a prime suspect in leaking these documents to Al-Jazeera.

In response, the NSU issued this statement: “We deny unsubstantiated reports in Israeli and other media outlets attributing the source of the alleged leak of classified documents to Negotiations Affairs Department advisors. The PLO is currently investigating the issues surrounding the alleged leaking. Contrary to what these irresponsible and unsubstantiated media reports have alleged, no NAD advisor has been arrested or left the country and all continue to carry out their responsibilities. Accordingly, we demand for all media allegations attributing responsibility to any Negotiations Affairs Department advisor, wherever published or broadcast, to be retracted and redacted immediately. Naming such personnel is irresponsible, constitutes willful slander and very seriously puts at risk the safety of innocent individuals. Accordingly, and pending the results of the PLO investigation currently underway, we additionally demand for corrections to be printed and broadcast conspicuously by all responsible media outlets”.

Many Palestinians in Ramallah are asking this question: Why this timing? Why were these Palestine Papers released now? Probably, simply because they were ready…

But, as the third day of destabilizing revelations coincides with post-Tunisia protests in Egypt and Jordan and Yemen (and a copycat in Lebanon, but for different reasons (Lebanon’s was rather more similar to the Palestinian demonstrations today in support of Abbas and Erekat), the volatility of the situation here increases dramatically.

The organized demonstration against Al-Jazeera in Ramallah yesterday, and for Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat today, can also be seen as not-so-veiled threats of chaos and mob action against anyone in the opposition, whoever they are.

In the Ramallah office building where Al-Jazeera studios are in the penthouse on the roof, demonstrators threaten the men filming this video:

The ante has been upped to the max.

All sides believe they are being targetted: Al-Jazeera staff, Saeb Erekat, and at least one former adviser to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) amed as a suspect for leaking the documents to Al-Jazeera.

Next, there could be actual killings and blood shed… Suddenly, regrettably, and most unfortunately, this is now in the air…

Israeli officials, who usually love the chance to get a word in, are uncharacteristically silent. Understandably. The future of the Palestinian leadership is now in the balance.

Though officials are silent, the Israeli media is stepping in. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh wrote today that: “After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage … Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence. Al-Jazeera’s dramatic show trial, which began on Sunday night, has undoubtedly caused massive damage to the PA leadership in the West Bank. The blow is so severe that it’s hard to see how the PA leadership can ever recover … The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the three charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better. It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests. The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.”. This is posted here.

Another JPost story, by Herb KEenon, says that “Al-Jazeera relentlessly continued to pound the PA leadership Tuesday night with its latest dump of Palestinian documents, essentially accusing it of collaboration with Israel in the killing of terrorists [sic]. In a story on its English web site entitled ‘The al-Madhoun assassination’, the network, basing itself on a handwritten notes of a meeting between then defense minister Shaul Mofaz and PA minister of interior Naser Youssef, Al-Jazeera writes that the PA has ‘shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, the Palestine Papers indicate’.” This is posted here.

Indeed, in the one-hour special on the Palestine Papers on Al-Jazeera tonight (day 3), a report by Mike Hanna from Gaza was aired, in which Hanna said, “The Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which all Palestinians are held hostage to what is called a ‘negotiating process’.”

But, Palestinian Security Services spokesperson General (?) Adnan al-Damiri was cut off during his appearance during the special program when he said (wearing a suit and a tie, and not a military uniform) when he said: “I can say that the security forces of Palestine did not take part at any time [in planning assassinations of Palestinians] … We are a small, new security force and we are under occupation…”

The situation is absolutely explosive.

If the U.S. and Israel don’t do something to support the Palestinian cause (and not just the Palestinian leadership) right now, all bets are off…

Revolution is in the air.

Al-Jazeera's "Transparency": Palestinian negotiators hung out to dry

We reported on this blog what Sa’eb Erekat said last May in a speech to an audience of Israeli officials, ex-officials, and journalists at the security think-tank INSS in Tel Aviv. [I was later told that Erekat was very pleased and thought it had been a great success, but Israelis present said that Erekat did not understand how to talk to an Israeli audience…]   At this session in Tel Aviv in May, Erekat told the crowd, who were of course polite, “that the Palestinian side had presented two maps of their own — one offering a territorial swap of 1.9 percent –countering the Olmert proposal for a 6.5 percent swap (including 0.7 percent for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza). The second map, Erekat said, showed the built-up areas of Israeli settlements that constitute some 1.2 percent of West Bank land.  Erekat added that the 46 square kilometers of “no-man’s land” should be split down the middle ‘according to the Peru-Ecuador formula’  for their border conflict”. Our earlier report is posted here.

We reported also earlier, in March, here, that a Palestinian official in Ramallah said: “maps were ‘shown’ during the Annapolis process of negotiations in 2008. But, he said, the Israeli interlocutors ‘refused to hand over any maps or any papers’ … The Palestinians, he said, ‘gave an offer to exchange [or swap] 1.9 percent of the West Bank. We also showed this to the Americans and gave them [the Americans] a map’. The Israelis, he said, indicated they ‘had an idea of swapping 6.5 percent of the land”…

Here’s what Haaretz reported he’s been saying:
“According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly offered in 2008 that Israel take control of all neighborhoods in Jerusalem except Har Homa, the first time in history the Palestinians made such a proposal, one that they refused to during the Camp David summit.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem’s Old City be divided, giving Israel control over the Jewish Quarter, part of the Armenian Quarter, and part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Further details reveal that the Palestinian agreed that solely10,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza”.
This is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that Erekat “denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement”. Indeed, that is indeed what I heard him say, several times… This JPost report is posted here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months. A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big, big, big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it. They also were — and are — prepared for other documents (from the Israelis?) to be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week

Many people had advance copies of some of this material.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he didn’t know where the documents had come from, but said that all information about the negotiations had been shared with his Arab brothers. Others said that the source came from within the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department itself (run by Erekat) — or perhaps some of its discontents.

It mighty be too much of a compliment to suggest that the suspended Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan and some of his group of supporters may have played a role… though this may in fact be the case.

In any case, it is worth reproducing a lot of Karma Nabulsi wrote almost immediately after the program in The Guardian’s Comment is Free Section here that: “It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed. For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects … The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people”

She continued: “This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people … The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot. On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change. Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing” …

Yes, and now I mourn for those who died.

Palestinians tell U.S. that East Jerusalem must be included in continued Israeli settlement freeze + more

Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz overnight that the Palestinian negotiating team (meaning Sa’eb Erekat and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) have “delivered to the Americans an opinion prepared by Israeli jurists. The Palestinians say this paper proves that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that the government has no authority to freeze construction on private land are unfounded”.

According to Eldar’s report, the Palestinians “expect that even after the September 26 deadline, when the 10-month moratorium ends, the United States will support their demand to continue the ban on all construction outside the Green Line, including in the settlement blocs” — and, including in East Jerusalem.

However, Israeli officials have said many times that the settlement freeze — which has been very loosely enforced — does not apply in East Jerusalem…

Continue reading Palestinians tell U.S. that East Jerusalem must be included in continued Israeli settlement freeze + more