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.