UN says Palestinian Authority reducing reliance on donors, but "can't meet expenses" — in both Gaza + West Bank

In a monthly report to the UN Security Council today, the UN political affairs department has just reported that:
(1) “[Palestinian] Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad briefed AHLC [Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, meaning major donors] members as well as Arab League Foreign Ministers that commitments of donor funding for 2010 remain critically below what is necessary to ensure that the Palestinian Authority can meet expenses. Reforms have steadily lowered the budget deficit, reducing PA reliance on donor funding for budget support. However, despite continuing generosity from some donors, commitments for 2010 remain insufficient to ensure that the PA can meet expenses in both Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority faces increasing difficulties to borrow from domestic banks to cover this shortfall”.

(2) Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are “at an impasse”.

(3) “The Quartet envoys have been in regular contact and Principals are discussing a proposal to meet soon to review developments”.  Oh, yes, and on the settlements:  the  UN  report noted that the UNSG had recently “reaffirmed that settlement activity is illegal under international law and contrary to the Roadmap”, and also “expressed disappointment that the moratorium had not been renewed”.

(4) “Despite Palestinian efforts, Israeli security forces, citing security concerns, conducted 353 operations in the West Bank during the reporting period, in which 6 Palestinians were killed, including two leaders of Hamas Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades allegedly involved in the killing of four Israelis near Hebron on 31 August. Also 157 Palestinians were injured and 330 arrested. Incursions on this scale weaken efforts to build genuine security cooperation. One Palestinian laborer [n.b. – the UN report to the Security Council did not characterize him either as a “terrorist” or an “infiltrator”] was killed while trying to reach East Jerusalem through the barrier, and another suffered a fatal heart attack. A total of 44 violent incidents were recorded between local Palestinians and settlers, in which 6 Palestinians and 4 Israelis were injured”.

(5) “Despite efforts to ease restrictions on movement and access, the number of obstacles [n.b. – a nice word. Not “roadblocks”, not “checkpoints” — maybe including a number of dirt mounds or boulders blocking roads?] in the West Bank remained at 508“.  Personally, I think the UN monthly report should contain a special chapter on the disgraceful and scandalous conditions at Qalandiya Checkpoint…

(6) “There were renewed confrontations in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem during the reporting period, underscoring the tensions caused by the presence and expansion of settler communities in the heart of Palestinian neighbourhoods”…

(7) “The status of the four Palestinian lawmakers from the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform bloc [they are facing “deportationfrom Jerusalem] remains unresolved. This unsustainable situation needs a sensible resolution that ensures they are not expelled from Jerusalem.

(8) Despite “modest gains”, it was reported that “the situation in Gaza remains a source of serious concern” … and “the current imports still represent a third of the June 2007 pre-blockade weekly average. We reiterate that the appropriate way to meet needs in Gaza is through the further opening of legitimate crossings”.

(9) At the moment, construction materials are allowed only for projects under UN supervision, and the report stated that “the UN will present additional programmes of work, before the end of the year and will also continue to work with the Government of Israel to streamline implementation arrangements. One immediate step would be for Israel to expand the working hours and days for which the Karni crossing is open”.

(10) The UN report called for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit, as well as “humanitarian access [to him] without further delay” — and it noted “reports of a resumption of efforts to conclude an agreement that would secure his release in exchange for the release of a number of the more than 9000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails”.

(11) And, “the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident will discuss and review the interim reports, once it had also received a report from Israel. The Israeli Commission to examine the maritime incident of 31 May 2010 continues its proceedings which are now at an advanced stage”…

Also, on Lebanon:
(12) “The Secretary-General expressed his support for the work of the Special Tribunal stressing that it is independent, with a clear mandate from the Security Council, through its resolutions 1664 (2006) and 1757 (2007), to uncover the truth and end impunity, and that no one should prejudge the outcome”.

(13) During the past month Israeli air violations took place on an almost daily basis.

Palestinians: "It's only four months…"

Palestinian officials are saying that they were under too much pressure from the Europeans and the Arabs to resist any longer accepting an American proposal to undertake “indirect” or “proximity” talks with Israel after more than a year of no negotiations. “It’s only for four months”, Palestinian officials say, apologetically, with a shrug of the shoulders. “Then we’ll know whether Israel is serious or not…”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) took the proposal to a meeting of Arab League Foreign Ministers last week, which on Wednesday gave him the go-ahead, the green light, the fig leaf he felt he needed.

Reports vary: the Arab League Foreign Ministers reportedly said the UN Security Council would be engaged straight away if there are no concrete results after four months. There are other reports that the U.S. has made, or will be asked to make, a pledge that it will not exercise its veto power in the UN Security Council to protect Israel from the consequences of a failure in the negotiations. There are reports that a definition of borders will — or will not be — the first item of business.

But, the Palestinian leadership’s previous position that it will not engage in talks as long as Israel does not halt its settlement activities throughout the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).

Despite the Arab League Foreign Ministers endorsement of Abbas’ proposition to participate in renewed negotiations, Ma’an News Agency reported, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit — who was “present” during the Arab League Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo on Wednesday — said a day later that “he believed Palestinians should not enter into direct talks with Israel in light of the current controversy over heritage sites. Speaking from Cairo after a meeting of the Follow-up Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative, Abul Gheit said delegates shared his sentiments, a stark contrast to the announcement of the Arab Foreign Ministers meeting, which gave its blessing for talks to continue. ‘The committee will not remain silent over all what is going on … The Arab Follow up Committee will not make any concessions and will not support direct negotiations unless Israel changes its positions’, he said.” It is difficult to reconcile these statements. The Ma’an report is posted here.

Many Palestinians — individually and as members of political movements ranging from Hamas to Fatah, as well as the various smaller “factions” of the Palestinian left — are scornful of the decision to re-engage in talks.

Yet, the resumption of talks appears almost inevitable — unless something extremely dramatic happens. There are very persistent rumors — it is a daily topic of conversation — about an impending “third intifada”. Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass, who lives in Ramallah, wrote Friday that “Judging from articles written by both Israelis and Palestinians, the next intifada is already in the air. They are predicting it is on the way and the most punctilious know it will be ‘popular’. Bil’in and Na’alin [n.b. where there have been regular Friday demonstrations against The Wall which are almost always dispersed with bursts of tear gas] are perceived as its models. Some Palestinians are guessing it will first erupt in Jerusalem”.

Hass also wrote that “the supreme challenge facing the initiators of the next uprising – if it indeed erupts – is to prevent its descent into a so-called armed struggle, which inevitably will expropriate the street and the struggle from the public. The militarization of the second intifada led to grave disasters – personal, collective and geo-political. Off the record, many admit this but a number of factors are still preventing frank, public debate. For years the theory of armed struggle, until liberation and independence are achieved, has been held sacred. Many people feel ill at ease to criticize the militarization publicly, as though they would thereby dishonor the dead, the wounded, the prisoners and their families … The truth is that the suicide attacks on civilians gave Israel a golden opportunity to implement plans, which had always existed, to confiscate more and more Palestinian lands, using the excuse of ‘security’. The use of weapons did not stop the colonialist expansion of the Jewish settlements. On the contrary. And the use of weapons only accelerated a process Israel began in 1991: disconnecting the Gaza Strip from the West Bank … many of the young men played with weapons in order to obtain social and economic status in the movement and the PA. When Fatah people dare today to renounce the sanctity of the armed struggle, their collective reputation as corrupt automatically detracts from peoples’ faith in their arguments, even if those arguments are logical. Another challenge facing the initiators of the popular uprising, if it indeed erupts in the near future, is actually a challenge that Israeli society must face. Will it once again adopt the deceptive narrative of the IDF and the politicians (‘the Palestinians attacked us’, ‘terror’) and allow them, as in the two previous intifadas, to suppress the uprising using disproportionate and deadly means? These are the deadly means that, in the Palestinians’ eyes, make Israeli rule look like a series of bloody acts from 1948 to this day”. Amira Hass’ article can be read in full here.

Meanwhile — and unless the much-discussed third intifada, or something equally dramatic, happens — one Palestinian woman in the news business commented that there is now an attitude of “do what you have to do”; on the other hand, she said, “people don’t give a damn any more”.

The Fatah Central Committee (all wearing grey business suits with dress shirts + ties) met in the Muqata’a Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah on Saturday to discuss the impending U.S.-mediated talks . After the meeting, road traffic was held up for nearly ten minutes by Presidential security guards wearing olive green camouflague jumpsuits and burgundy red berets — holding big black automatic weapons with their fingers on the triggers — before an 11-car convoy (including two black vans each bristling with a crown of antennas that Palestinians say can temporarily disrupt local communications) escorting a black sedan carrying President Abbas careened around the corner as he travelled from the Muqata’a to his heavily-guarded home in small villa in northern Ramallah on Saturday afternoon.

The Executive Committee of the overall Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O. — which groups Fatah and the Palestinian “factions” other than Hamas) will meet to discuss the proposal on Sunday.

U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell arrived back in the region on Saturday night, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is due to arrive on Sunday.

Haaretz’s veteran correspondent Akiva Eldar reported on Friday that “The United States government has committed to playing a role in indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and promised that if the talks were to fail, the U.S. will assign blame and take action, according to a document sent by the U.S. to the Palestinian Authority, which Haaretz obtained on Friday. The U.S. government sent the document to the Palestinians responding to their inquires regarding the U.S. initiative to launch indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘We expect both parties to act seriously and in good faith. If one side, in our judgment, is not living up to our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly to overcome that obstacle’, it was written. This commitment by the U.S. was a determining factor in the Palestinians’ and the Arab League’s decision to agree to the U.S. proposal on indirect talks. The document also reveals that U.S. involvement will include ‘sharing messages between the parties and offering our own ideas and bridging proposals’. The U.S. also emphasized that their main concern is establishing a Palestinian state. ‘Our core remains a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian State with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967’, the document read. Regarding the settlements, the U.S. noted its continued commitment to the road map, which dictates that Israel must freeze all construction in the settlements, and dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001″. This Akiva Eldar report can be view in full here.

But, the Jerusalem Post reported that “The indirect ‘proximity talks’ between Israel and the Palestinians likely to begin next week will not pick up where the discussions between then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas broke off in late 2008, The Jerusalem Post has learned. This issue has been a key sticking point for months, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejecting the Palestinian demand that the talks begin from the point where they ended with Olmert. Olmert offered the Palestinians nearly 94 percent of the West Bank, a land swap to compensate for most of the rest, an arrangement on Jerusalem, and the return of a small number of refugees into Israel as a ‘humanitarian gesture’ … The Post has also learned that the proximity talks will not immediately focus primarily on borders, another Palestinian demand, with Israel saying there can be no credible discussion of borders without first knowing what security arrangements will be in place”. This JPost report is published here.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian family of six from the West Bank village of Silwad was killed when their car crashed into an Israeli military Hummer on Friday near Bir Zeit, north of Ramallah, and their funerals took place on Saturday. The Jerusalem Post reported here, that “Apparently, the Palestinian car had a flat tire, causing it to divert from its course”. It is not clear what interaction there had been between the forces in the Hummer and the Palestinian family car, but the Jerusalem Post said Israeli police were investigating. But, very upset local Palestinian witnesses said on the Palestinian Television nightly news Friday saying that it was clear that Israel did not want peace.

Also on Friday, a fourteen-year-old Palestinian boy remained in critical condition after being shot in the head by Israeli Defense Forces using rubber bullets at a demonstration in Nabi Salah area near Ramallah.

Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Haram ash-Sharif mosque esplanade [which Israelis call the Temple Mount, because it is believed that the Second and possibly also the First Jewish Temple were situated somewhere on that site] in the Old City of East Jerusalem ended very badly after a sermon critical of the Israeli government decision a week earlier to name the Ibrahimi (Abraham) Mosque in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as “heritage” sites. Israeli Border Police stormed the mosque esplanade after, they said, Muslim worshippers began throwing rocks that hit Jewish worshippers standing at the Western Wall Plaza just below Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli forces used tear gas and stun grenades were used on the mosque esplanade and in various nearby areas of East Jerusalem as disturbances spread. Though the Israeli police have denied that rubber bullets were used, the Jerusalem Post reported that “Ron Krumer, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, confirmed an Arab woman was wounded in the head by a rubber bullet [n.b. – it is not clear where in East Jerusalem this woman was when injured] and hospitalized in serious condition”. The Jerusalem Post also reported that “Having restored calm by use of stun grenades, and following helpful intervention by other Muslim worshipers to defuse the clash, police eventually withdrew in coordination with the Waqf to allow older worshipers to leave the Temple Mount. Eight of the injured policemen were hospitalized in light condition. Five suspects were arrested during the riots”. The Qalandia “border crossing”/checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah was tense, but open, late on Friday afternoon. There were no Palestinian traffic police visible as Israeli soldiers were sitting in khaki-colored hummers surrounded by a number of large rocks that had clearly been thrown at them not long earlier. Two soldiers were outside the vehicles, escorting a young teenager they were bringing back under detention. Between 50 to 100 meters further inside, a group of at least 60 even younger boys were on both sides of the street, watching intently to see what the Israeli forces were doing. Some of these younger boys were sitting on a low concrete divider in the middle of the road, and there were large rocks placed on the divider next to them. Adults were going about their business as if nothing special was going on.

Earlier in the week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat announced a radical new proposal to develop municipal planning — for the first time time since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem in June 1967 — for various neighborhoods of East Jerusalem that would mean some Palestinian (and some Israeli) housing would be legalized, while other Palestinian housing would be demolished. The new proposal was presented as an attempt to offer some nominal equality between the two communities, but there was a great lack of clarity about how it would work out in actual practice. Immediately after the proposal was announced, Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the Jerusalem mayor to carry out further consultations with the local communities before proceeding.

Twenty-four hours later, renewed disturbances were reported in northern East Jerusalem areas of Shuafat refugee camp and Al-Isawiya, and reports linked these clashes to the post-Friday prayer events.

The UN Security Council on Friday “called for restraint by all sides and an early return to the negotiating table, while voicing their concern at the current ‘tense’ situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem”, according to a report by the UN News Centre [the UN uses British English spelling]. The report added that the current UNSC President for the month of March, Ambassador Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon, told journalists after closed-door Council deliberations that the 15 members ‘urged all sides to show restraint and avoid provocative acts’, and ‘stressed that peaceful dialogue was the only way forward and looked forward to an early resumption of negotiations’.” And, the report added, “The situation in the Middle East was also among the issues discussed yesterday during a meeting between Mr. Issoze-Ngondet, in his capacity as Council President, and General Assembly President Ali Treki [of Libya]”. This UN News Centre story is posted here.

Haaretz later reported that “The permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, welcomed the council statement, adding that the U.S. decision not to block it ‘is a signal that the United States wants this effort to succeed’ and Israel to restrain itself. A U.S. official, however, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the American delegation had not agreed with the statement and said it was adopted due to what the official described as ‘procedural confusion’.”  This Haaretz report is posted here.

In a regular monthly briefing to the UN Security Council on 18 February, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe (of the U.S.) said: “We call for the resumption of talks on final status issues, implementation of Road Map commitments, continued efforts to improve economic and security conditions, and a different and more positive approach to Gaza.” Pascoe was speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon — and his statements usually represent an important organizational statement that is pre-negotiated with major powers, and certainly, in this case, with the Quartet of Middle East negotiators who include the UN, the U.S., Russia, and the European Union. According to a UN summary of his statement, Pascoe told the UNSC that “Israel had indicated its readiness to accept indirect talks proposed by George Mitchell, Special Envoy of the United States to the Middle East, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been engaged in intensive consultations and had sought clarifications. ‘The Secretary-General hopes that President Abbas will move forward on the basis of that practical proposal so that serious talks can begin … He notes Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s stated commitment to a two-State solution, although confusion as to the Government’s intentions arises from statements by various Government officials’.” The UN statement said that Pascoe had urged “Israel to extend its current 10?month freeze on the building of settlements in the West Bank to a comprehensive freeze there and in East Jerusalem”. Pascoe stated that “The status of Jerusalem is to be determined through negotiations, and we believe that a way must be found through negotiations for Jerusalem to emerge as the capital of two States”. He noted, however, “that, since his last briefing on 27 January, the Israeli authorities had identified violations of restraint orders in at least 29 settlements, while the Defence Ministry had stated that it was issuing demolition and stop-work orders against violators”. On the other hand, Pascoe said, “The fact that Israel had not evicted Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem or demolished those homes was a ‘positive development which we hope will continue’, and he called for “the reopening of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, in accordance with Road Map obligations”. This is a point that European Union leaders have recently emphasized.

Pascoe also told the UNSC that Israel’s ongoing closure of crossing points into Gaza is “counterproductive”, and “causing unacceptable hardship for the civilian population, more than half of whom are children”.  A UN press release describing his statement is posted here.

There has been recent high-level mention (by American as well as French officials) about the possibility of finally taking up a long-standing Russian proposal to hold a conference to push for progress in Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli-Arab negotiations — and news reports have suggested that such a conference may be convened in Moscow on or around March 19th.

That is, if nothing dramatic happens in the meantime…

Europeans + Americans react to Palestinian plan for UNSC recognition of Palestinian State

Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat said on Sunday that “We are now facing a moment of truth”.

He told journalists in Ramallah (according to a press release issued by the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department that he heads) that “the move to issue a Security Council resolution recognizing the Palestinian state on the borders of June 4th, 1967 has begun”.

Reaction has continued to roll in.

Israeli ministers have threatened to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if the Palestinians make such a move.

Israeli statements mix references to a “unilateral” Palestinian declaration of a state on 1967 borders with what is clearly being planned as a multilateral move to bring the matter to the UN Security Council, and ask for recognition of such a state as well as full UN membership. Sa’eb Erekat said that this strategy has been approved by Arab states.

Erekat also said on Sunday that “the Palestinian leadership calls on the international community to support this move” and he “called on European countries to back the Palestinian decision by expressing their commitment to international law to end the Israeli occupation and save the two-state solution”.

The Voice of America’s Lisa Bryant reported today that “Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, which holds the rotating European Union presidency, said the time is not right for recognizing a Palestinian state.
‘I do not think we are there yet’, he said. ‘I would hope that we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state, but there has to be one first. So I think that is somewhat premature. We have said previously if you go back to what the European Union has said that we would be in a position to recognize a Palestinian state, but the conditions are not there as of yet’. Bildt said the European Union is discussing other steps to increase support for Palestinian aspirations … [However] at a press conference later in the day, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana offered strong backing for an eventual Palestinian state. ‘I do not think it is too early to have a Palestinian state. We would [have liked] to have a
Palestinian state years back’, Solana said. ‘The point is … you know the negotiations have failed so far. [But a Palestinian state] is something the European Union has been defending for years back’.” This VOA report can be viewed in full http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-11-17-voa22.cfm

Solana kicked off this whole process, last July, in a speech he gave in London saying “We have to act now. The key question is: how can we get a political solution? The parameters are well known: the Clinton Parameters, Taba and even the Geneva Initiative. A state is not only a set of well functioning institutions providing security and services to its citizens. The Palestinian Authority is working hard in that direction. President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have to be praised even if much remains to be done. A state is essentially a geographical space over which a legitimate government has control over population and natural resources. So we must first define the space. This means borders. And if we insist so forcefully on the need to freeze Israeli settlements, it is precisely because their continuing expansion is an obstacle to the design of this physical space. Settlements not only cast doubts on the viability of any Palestinian State. They add, in their day-to-day lives, to the frustration of the Palestinian people. Let me give you some figures. In 1993, when the Oslo agreement was reached, there were 75.000 settlers in the West Bank. In 2008, there were 290.000 of them. In 2008, the Israeli population inside the Green Line grew 1,6%. The number of settlers increased by 4,9%. In addition, the situation in Gaza is unacceptable. Changing the realities there is a pre-requisite for re-uniting the land and the people that will form the future Palestinian state. Whether we like it or not, Hamas will have to be part of the solution. I want to thank Egypt for their work on that. Defining the borders would solve the issue of territory, control over water resources and a good part of the equation for Jerusalem. And it will help tackle the question of settlements. Because it will establish on which side each various population centres will be. The point of departure are the 1967 borders. Territorial exchanges can be negotiated between the parties, on the basis of the 1967 line. The various territorial offers fluctuate between 6 and 2%. It should not be impossible to find a figure. The parties can negotiate within this margin, not outside. Nobody rejects the 1967 borders as a basis for negotiation. The Arab League accepts them. The EU has said the same. The United States have also made clear its attachment to them. I have spelt out the broad coalition which is behind this effort. There will be no solution without an active Arab contribution. The Arab Peace Initiative is key. Maybe it has to be made more operative. Its binary character – all or nothing – has to be nuanced. But having the Arab countries reacting in a positive way, with concrete actions, to every step will contribute immensely to success. The next ingredient for success is a real mediation. The parameters are defined. The mediator has to set the timetable too. If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the International community should will be put on the table. After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution. This should include all the parameters of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and security arrangements. It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimise the end of claims. International monitoring will then be crucial. As will be guarantees and contributions offered by the international parties regarding security, economic aid and refugees. We all will have to make deposits to that end. Arab states would immediately establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. I strongly believe the time has come to, finally, bring this conflict to an end. The international consensus is there. But time is of the essence. The second half of this year is crucial if we want to offer a real choice to the Palestinian people when they vote in January 2010. Something radically different from a choice between violence and desperation. … Never before had we have such a common line. We cannot afford wasting this opportunity. It is time to act”. The full text of Solana’s statement in July can be found here.

Carl Bildt had plenty of time, if he disagreed, to react before today. Why did he wait until now?

Ma’an News Agency later reported that in a news conference in Egypt, Palestinian President Abbas confirmed the Palestinian initiative “in accordance with the recent Arab Peace Initiative committee’s support”. According to the Ma’an account, “Abbas confirmed the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to appealing to the UN Security Council for a
resolution recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with Arab support. The PA completely rejects former Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz’s plan to establish a state on temporary borders, Abbas said” Ma’an added that Abbas “further criticized Hamas’ approval of the temporary borders plan”. This Ma’an report is posted
here. Without the full text of the transcript, it is impossible to know what, exactly Abbas actually said about Hamas’ position on this proposal. What has otherwise been reported is that Hamas is sceptical, and has said something like why stop at the 1967 borders — and why not go for all of [the former British Mandate of] Palestine.

Also in Cairo, as Ma’an reported, Sa’eb Erekat maintained that “ ‘This is the right time’ to seek Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state … in response to comments made by EU officials calling the move ‘premature’.” Ma’an said that “Erekat responded almost immediately through an interview with Agence France Presse (AFP) from Cairo … Erekat argued that the EU recognized the State of Kosovo before other official channels supported its claim for independence. Sweden is not alone in determining EU policy, Erekat then quipped, noting other EU countries support
the Palestinian decision and adding that as of yet, the EU does not have a common foreign policy”. This Ma’an report can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, at the State Department in Washington, D.C., spokesman Ian Kelly had this exchange with journalists:
QUESTION: On the peace process, Israel has approved today the construction of 900 new housing units in East Jerusalem. How do you view this approval at this specific time?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think, Michel, you’ve heard us say many times that we believe that neither party
should engage in any kind of actions that could unilaterally preempt or appear to preempt negotiations. And I think that we find the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval of the – approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem as dismaying. This is at a time when we’re working to re-launch negotiations, and we believe that these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. So we object to this, and we object to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes. And – just to repeat what we’ve said all along, our position on Jerusalem is clear. We believe that the – that Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, did this come up in Ambassador Mitchell’s meetings in London yesterday? Apparently, we were told that he met an advisor to Netanyahu, asked them to not permit these new buildings, and then that request was flatly turned down.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Andy, I just don’t want to get into the substance of these negotiations. They’re
sensitive. I think you’ve seen the Israeli – some Israeli press reports that did report that this was raised in the meetings. This is – I mean, these kinds of unilateral actions are exactly the kind of actions that we think that both sides should refrain from at a time when we’re trying to start the negotiations again. But I don’t want to get into the substance of the discussions yesterday in London.
QUESTION: Would you steer us away from not believing the Israeli press reports?
MR. KELLY: I just don’t want to get into the substance. I’m not going to steer you one way or the
other on it.
QUESTION: Where’s Senator Mitchell today?
QUESTION: How long is the U.S. going to continue to tolerate Israel’s violation of international law? I mean, soon it’s not even going to be possible – there’s not going to be any land left for the Palestinians to establish an independent state.
MR. KELLY: Well, again, this is a – we understand the Israeli point of view about Jerusalem. But we
think that all sides right now, at this time when we’re expending such intense efforts to try and get the two sides to sit down, that we should refrain from these actions, like this decision to move forward on an approval process for more housing units in East Jerusalem.
QUESTION: But should U.S. inaction, or in response to Israel’s actions, then be interpreted as some sort of about-face in policy – the President turning his back on the promises he’s made to the Palestinians?
MR. KELLY: You’re – okay, you’re using language that I wouldn’t use. I mean, again, our focus is to get these negotiations started. We’re calling on both parties to refrain from actions, from – and from rhetoric that would impede this process. It’s a challenging time, and we just need to focus on what’s important here, and that’s —
QUESTION: Well, what actions (inaudible) the Palestinians taken recently that would impede progress?
MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we would discourage all unilateral actions, and I think —
QUESTION: Fair enough. But the Palestinians —
MR. KELLY: We talked yesterday —
QUESTION: — don’t appear to be taking any unilateral actions. It seems to be (inaudible).
MR. KELLY: Well, we did talk yesterday about the – and I want to make sure I get my language right
here – about the – discouraging any kind of unilateral appeal for United Nations Security Council recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That would fall in that category of unilateral actions.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Palestinian call for this, which was rejected by both the EU and yourself
yesterday, you’re putting that on the same level as them building – as the Israelis building —
MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that. You just said that, Matt. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that —
QUESTION: Well, you’re saying you’re calling on both sides to stop doing these things.
MR. KELLY: We are.
QUESTION: Yeah. But the rhetoric from the —
MR. KELLY: I’m not saying they’re equivalent.
QUESTION: — Palestinians is not actually constructed in a —
MR. KELLY: I’m not saying they’re equivalent. I’m just saying that we – they – we have to treat these
things as sensitive issues.
QUESTION: You said a little bit earlier that we understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem. Can you explain what you mean by that?
MR. KELLY: Well, you have to ask – I’m not going to stand up here and characterize the Israeli point
of view on —
QUESTION: No. I’m just asking you, if you understand the Israeli point of view on Jerusalem, why are
you saying that this is not a good thing?
MR. KELLY: I’m not saying we support the Israeli point of view. We understand it.
QUESTION: Right. And then, last one on this, you characterized this decision by the planning commission as dismaying.
QUESTION: You can’t come up with anything stronger than ‘dismaying’? I mean, this flies in the face of everything you’ve been talking about for months and months and months.
MR. KELLY: It’s dismaying.
QUESTION: Yeah, you can’t offer a condemnation of it or anything like that? (Laughter.) I mean, who is in charge of the language here.
MR. KELLY: I have said what I have said, Mr. Lee.
QUESTION: Would you say, though, that your own envoy has – does he have any leverage at this point, given the fact that the Israelis not only refuse, but blatantly have ignored his wishes on this?
MR. KELLY: Well, let’s take a step back and let’s also recognize that both sides agree on the goal, and that goal is a comprehensive peace. That goal is two states living side by side in peace and security and cooperation. So that is why we continue to be committed to this. That is why Special Envoy Mitchell meets with both sides at every opportunity, and why we are continuing to expend such efforts on this. So let’s remember that, that we do share a common goal.
QUESTION: Well, where’s Senator Mitchell today?
MR. KELLY: I believe Senator Mitchell is on his way back today.
QUESTION: Could you give us just a brief synopsis of the progress that Senator Mitchell has made in
his months on the job?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think we have – we’ve gotten —
QUESTION: Yeah, maybe if the —
MR. KELLY: — both sides to agree on this goal. We have gotten both sides —
QUESTION: Ian, they agreed on the goal years ago. I mean, that’s not —
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we – this government —
QUESTION: You mean you got the Israel Government to say, yes, we’re willing to accept a Palestinian
state? You got Netanyahu to say that, and that’s his big accomplishment?
MR. KELLY: That is an accomplishment.
QUESTION: But previous Israeli administration – previous Israeli governments had agreed to that already.
MR. KELLY: Okay, all right.
QUESTION: So in other words, the bottom line is that, in the list of accomplishments that Mitchell has
come up with or established since he started, is zero.
MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say zero.
QUESTION: Well, then what would you say it is?
MR. KELLY: Well, I would say that we’ve gotten both sides to commit to this goal. They have – we have – we’ve had a intensive round or rounds of negotiations, the President brought the two leaders together in New York. Look —
QUESTION: But wait, hold on. You haven’t had any intense —
MR. KELLY: Obviously —
QUESTION: There haven’t been any negotiations.
MR. KELLY: Obviously, we’re not even in the red zone yet, okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: I mean, we’re not – but it’s – we are less than a year into this Administration, and I think we’ve accomplished more over the last year than the previous administration did in eight years.
QUESTION: Well, I – really, because the previous administration actually had them sitting down talking
to each other. You guys can’t even get that far.
MR. KELLY: All right.
QUESTION: I’ll drop it.
MR. KELLY: Give us a chance. Thank you, Matt.
Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: It seems Senator Mitchell is focusing in his meetings on the Israeli side. Is he – does he have any plans to talk with the Palestinians, or there is no need now for that?
MR. KELLY: Well, he, as I say, he had meetings yesterday with the Israelis. He’s coming back to the
U.S. now. He always stands ready to talk to both sides. There are no plans at this moment to meet with the Palestinian side”…

The Palestinian leadership can’t back down now, not after their flip-flop over the Goldstone report, and not after the elections proclamation and cancellation … though Sa’eb Erekat said that he never said this proposal to go to the UNSC would be made immediately.

UNSG BAN says he will send the Goldstone report to Security Council ASAP

The AP’s indefatigable Edith Lederer has reported that “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he will send a report calling for Israel and the Palestinians to investigate alleged war crimes during last winter’s conflict in Gaza to the UN Security Council ‘as soon as possible’.”

She added that “The 15 council members have already received copies of the 575-page report by an expert panel chaired by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. But the General Assembly in a resolution adopted Thursday asks the secretary-general to transmit it, which will make the report an official Security Council document … The Security Council, however, is highly unlikely to take any action. The United States has repeatedly said the report belongs in the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which appointed the Goldstone panel. Diplomats said Russia and China also don’t want the Security Council dealing with human rights issues. All three countries have veto power in the Security Council. [n.b. France, which also has the veto power, has also indicated that it would oppose any UNSC action on the Goldstone report…] The International Criminal Court can only investigate crimes on the territory of nations that recognize its jurisdiction, unless a case is referred to it by the Security Council. The Palestinian Authority recognized the court in January and urged prosecutors to launch an investigation into crimes committed during the Gaza conflict, but prosecutors are investigating whether this is possible since there is no state of Palestine”. This AP report was picked up and published by The Independent, here.

Amnesty International issued a statement after the vote in the UN General Assembly saying that the body’s adoption of “key recommendations of the Goldstone report on the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel earlier this year is vitally important for ensuring that those, on both sides, who committed war crimes and other violations of international law will now be held to account … Almost one year on, those who suffered war crimes and other gross violations of their rights, are still waiting for justice … [And] “It is our fervent hope that today’s UN General Assembly resolution will act as a catalyst to make justice and reparation a reality for the victims on both sides”.

In the statement, Yvonne Terlingen, Head of Amnesty International’s Office at the UN, said: “We deeply regret that the USA and the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia voted against the resolution and failed to support the need for accountability, justice and human rights that are so vital for victims of abuses in this conflict … We urge the UN Secretary-General to now appoint independent experts in human rights and international humanitarian law to assess whether any investigations that are conducted by Israel and Hamas meet the required international standard”.

[UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post, in an article published after this posting, wrote that “44 abstained, including most of the EU countries that had sought unsuccessfully to soften the resolution’s language prior to the vote. Switzerland was the only European country to endorse the report. Russia, which does not often side with Israel in these matters, abstained … Following the Goldstone vote, which US Ambassador Susan Rice did not attend, the US mission circulated an ‘explanation of vote’ by Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff, who voted in Rice’s place. ‘As the United States made clear in Geneva, we believe that the Goldstone Report is deeply flawed’, Wolff said, citing an unbalanced focus on Israel, sweeping legal conclusions and overreaching recommendations, and a failure to adequately assign responsibility to Hamas for basing its operations in civilian-populated areas. He stressed that the matter should be handled at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva alone, saying discussion in the Security Council would be ‘unconstructive’. Stating that the US ‘strongly supports accountability’ for human rights and humanitarian law violations, Wolff said the best way to end human suffering is to bring comprehensive peace to the region, including a two-state solution. ‘As we urge the parties to restart permanent-status negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, we should all be seeking to advance the cause of peace – and doing nothing to hinder it’, he said“.  This JPOST article is published here.]

The Amnesty International statement noted that UNSG BAN has been asked to submit what it called a “progress report”  to the UN General Assembly in three months’ time.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva still has on its books the first resolution it adopted on the Goldstone report, in early October, calling for review of the situation in March 2010.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a measure by an overwhelming vote (344-to-36) calling the Goldstone report “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy”, and calling on the Obama Administration to “strongly and unequivocally oppose” any discussion of it at the UN.

A post by Matthew Rothschild on The Progressive website said that “Dennis Kucinich had it right when he denounced the House majority for going along with this. His statement is so powerful that I’m excerpting it at length here: ‘Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt … Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist. Because behind every such deception is the nullification of humanity, the destruction of human dignity, the annihilation of the human spirit, the triumph of Orwellian thinking, the eternal prison of the dark heart of the totalitarian. The resolution before us today, which would reject all attempts of the Goldstone Report to fix responsibility of all parties to war crimes, including both Hamas and Israel, may as well be called the ‘Down is Up, Night is Day, Wrong is Right: resolution.’ . . . How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East if we tacitly approve of violations of international law and international human rights, if we look the other way, or if we close our eyes to the heartbreak of people on both sides by white-washing a legitimate investigation? How can we protect the people of Israel from existential threats if we hold no concern for the protection of the Palestinians, for their physical security, their right to land, their right to their own homes, their right to water, their right to sustenance, their right to freedom of movement, their right to human security of jobs, education and health care? … all people on this planet have a right to survive and thrive, and it is our responsibility, our duty to see that no individual, no group, no people are barred from this humble human claim”.  This posting can be read in full here.

Dennis Kucinich is a Democratic Congressman from Ohio who was re-elected a year ago to a seventh term in the U.S, House of Representatives.  The full text of his statement on this House resolution, Entiltled “Truth, Human Dignity, and the Goldstone Report”, can be seen on his website, here

On the third day of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Kucinich was sending a letter to UNSG BAN Ki-Moon “urging the United Nations to establish an independent inquiry of Israel’s war against Gaza. The attacks on civilians represent collective punishment, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/92.htm). The perpetrators of attacks against Israel must also be brought to justice, but Israel cannot create a war against an entire people in order to attempt to bring to justice the few who are responsible. The Israeli leaders know better. The world community, which has been very supportive of Israel’s right to security and its right to survive, also has a right to expect Israel to conduct itself in adherence to the very laws which support the survival of Israel and every other nation … Israel is leveling Gaza to strike at Hamas, just as they pulverized south Lebanon to strike at Hezbollah. Yet in both cases civilian populations were attacked, countless innocents killed or injured, infrastructure targeted and destroyed, and civil law enforcement negated. All this was, and is, disproportionate, indiscriminate mass violence in violation of international law. Israel is not exempt from international law and must be held accountable. It is time for the UN to not just call for a cease-fire, but for an inquiry as to Israel’s actions.”  This letter can be viewed in full here.

And on the very same day that Kucinich wrote his letter, former UN Under-Secretary-General, and novelist, Shashi Tharoor was penning an article saying that Indians envied Israel’s ability to operate as it pleased [see our posts, here and here – Tharoor’s article was posted on the Huffington Post with the title (he wrote it) “India longs to follow Israeli path of reprisal] .

Shashi Tharoor wrote his article on 29 December — and did not bother to correct it even before it was published in the Huffington Post on 19 January, one day after two unilateral cease-fires (Israel’s and Hamas’) went into effect in Gaza.

Then, after reaction to that piece, Tharoor wrote again something he called “Apologia”, which was published in the Huffington Post on 27 January — a somewhat dizzy retraction in which he wrote: “Many of you have read my article as endorsing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and deplored the article’s apparent indifference to the humanitarian tragedy that followed.  I regret the misunderstanding of the intent and thrust of the piece, which was not written as a commentary on the conflict in Gaza.  [!]  When I wrote the article I was thinking only about india/pakistan – the assault on Gaza had just begun when I put my fingers to the keyboard … Obviously I had no sense at the time of writing of the scale of the israeli action that was to follow and the toll that would be taken in civilian lives.  But in any case the article says India cannot, should not and would not do what Israel has done … Using the Israel parallel – at a time when my email inbox was brimming with messages of the ‘why can’t we do the same as Israel?’ variety – was just a way of bringing greater attention onto India’s dilemma and its anguish, while arguing that there is no ‘Gaza option’ for India.  Of course I should have realized that using an unfolding event as a peg would make my argument hostage to the way that situation evolved. Inevitably, some readers would judge the article in the light of what has happened in the two weeks after I wrote it. Had Israel taken out a few rocket sites and withdrawn in 3 or 4 days, as I had expected, perhaps the analogy would have seemed less offensive” …

Despite his inability to recognize or correctly assess, by 29 December, what was happening in Gaza, Shashi Tharoor — having won election this past spring to India’s parliament as a representative of the Congress Party in Kerala State — has since become India’s Foreign Minister, in yet another triumph of style over substance…

UPDATE:  Yaakov Katz has written on Sunday in the Jerusalem Post that “Amid Israeli efforts to bolster military ties and export military hardware, the Indian Chief of Staff Gen. Deepak Kapoor arrived in Israel on Saturday for talks with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi … Israel and India enjoy close defense ties and Israel last year overtook Russia as the number-one supplier of military platforms to India after breaking the $1 billion mark in new contracts signed annually.  According to press reports, India is interested in working with Israel on submarine-launched cruise missiles, ballistic missile defense systems, laser-guided systems, satellites as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.  The visit to Israel comes just before the first anniversary of the attacks last November in Mumbai against a hotel as well as a Chabad House, during which over 170 people were killed, including the Chabad emissary to Mumbai and his pregnant wife.  Since the attack, Israel has assisted India in beefing up its security, particularly along its coast, where the terrorists allegedly infiltrated from nearby Pakistan.  Last Tuesday, Kapoor was quoted [by news sites] as saying that … ‘We have to take all steps to prevent any Mumbai-type attacks. We cannot rule out apprehensions of such possibilities … India cannot afford to witness a repeat of 26/11″ …  Yaakov Katz’s report in the JPost can be viewed in full here.


Here is the result of the voting in the UN General Assembly
In favour of the resolution on the Goldstone report: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Poland, Slovakia, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, United States.

Abstain: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Tonga, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

Absent: Bhutan, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Honduras, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Togo, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

UNSG Ban Ki-Moon target of Israeli lobbying against Goldstone report

Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at UNHQ in New York on Friday afternoon, and afterward told the Israeli Ynet media group that the Goldstone report on the Gaza war should be “buried”, according to a report on the YNet website.

According to Ynet, Shalom said, “I am more optimistic that Ban won’t pass the report on to the Security Council … I told him that I request the report not reach the Security Council”. Palestinian officials have considered asking the UN Secretary-General to forward the Goldstone report to the UN Security Council. We have previously predicted that this will not happen.

Continue reading UNSG Ban Ki-Moon target of Israeli lobbying against Goldstone report

Palestinian Foreign Minister outlines plan to ask for discussion of Goldstone repor

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki asked diplomatic representatives in Ramallah on Monday for their government’s support to — at least — discuss the Goldstone report on last winter’s war on Gaza.

Al-Maliki has been a frequent flyer in the past ten days — he’s back in Ramallah for two days from trips between UN headquarters in New York and France, then Syria, then back to New York, then Libya — since the diplomatic fiasco at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva when Palestinian support was withdrawn for an immediate discussion of the report submitted by the Fact-Finding Mission headed by South Africa’s Justice Richard Goldstone.

Continue reading Palestinian Foreign Minister outlines plan to ask for discussion of Goldstone repor

Iran goes to Geneva Talks Two — to discuss buying enriched uranium abroad, a big concession

It looks like a major concession. Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said his country will go to the second round of talks in Geneva with European and American diplomats — to discuss buying enriched uranium from a third party to run its nuclear reactor in Tehran.

Proposals have been made previously that Iran should buy all its enriched uranium abroad and import it — one option would have been through Russia. Iran has made counter-offers to produce — IN IRAN — and to sell abroad to other customers — enriched uranium produced under a consortium of regional or international countries.

But it has never previously offered to rely on an outside supplier.

Continue reading Iran goes to Geneva Talks Two — to discuss buying enriched uranium abroad, a big concession

Western Sahara talks to resume on small scale prior to formal negotiations?

AFP has reported that “Algeria’s government on Friday welcomed a call by the UN Security Council for Morocco and the Polisario independence movement to resume talks on the future of Western Sahara  … The 15 Council members unanimously voted on Thursday to extend the mandate of a UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until April 2010.  Member countries call upon both sides ‘to continue negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) without pre-conditions and in good faith’, the council’s latest resolution said … The two sides agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, but a promised self-determination referendum never materialised … Ban’s envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, toured the north African region earlier this year, and returned to win UN backing for a plan to ‘hold small, informal talks in preparation for a fifth round of negotiations’.  He concluded that the conditions were not yet appropriate for a fifth round of formal talks, following four sets without a breakthrough in Manhasset, a New York suburb”. This report can be read in full here.

I don’t know what Algeria is so pleased about. This business of “without pre-conditions” simply seems to mean forget what the UN Security Council previously endorsed, which is a referendum in which Sahrawis from Western Sahara would vote to decide if they want independence, or integration with Morocco.

Now, the international community as represented in-or-by the UN Security Council is saying, forget it, that didn’t work, you’ve cost us a lot of time and money (in peace-keeping missions, diplomatic meetings, and whatever) so the time has come to be realistic, and what you will get to vote on is just whether or not you’ll agree to autonomy within the Kingdom of Morocco. That’s it.

And that’s what gives diplomacy a bad name.

See our previous post here. This post was written just before the fourth round of talks in Manhasset, 11-13 March 2008.

But, by the way, this diplomatic “realism” didn’t start with the U.S. — it started with UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, a royalist if ever there was one, who was on quite good terms with King Hassan of Morocco, who began floating this proposal to just forget the referendum the UN Security Council had authorized, and work on “negotiations” to persuade the Polisario to agree to the autonomy proposal that Morocco had always wanted…

Israel decides to continue military operation in Gaza – despite UNSC call for cease-fire

Just hours after the UN Security Council met in New York to adopt a new resolution calling for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”, the Israeli government decided to continue its military operation in Gaza, citing continuing rocket fire from Gaza.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, according to a statement circulated by his media adviser, that “The State of Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens. The IDF will continue operations in order to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions with which it has been assigned in the operation. This morning’s rocket fire against residents of the south only proves that the UN Security Council Resolution 1860 is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations.”

The new UN SC Resolution, while calling for an “immediate, durable and fully-respected” cease-fire (apparently meaning it should be all three things), in fact also recognized that efforts to conclude a cease-fire are still underway.

So, it isn’t over yet — not the fighting and the fear and the dying, and not the diplomacy, either.

The just-adopted Resolution 1860 called upon “Member States to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel; and in this regard, welcomes the Egyptian initiative, and other regional and international efforts that are under way”…

Libya’s representative at the meeting, Abdurrahman Shalgam, who had pushed for SC action, admitted that “not all of the [Arab] Group’s proposals and demands had been met, including the desire for a mechanism to ensure a quick resolution to the crisis”.

And, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who went to NY and stayed for three days to negotiate this resolution, called the new Resolution 1860 a “basis” for the resolution of the situation, and “a step towards the collective goals reflecting the desire of all for sustainable peace in the region. While much remained to be done, much work was under way … Many tasks remained to be addressed, including rooting out the causes of the hostilities, tackling the smuggling and provision of weapons, securing crossing points in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access, and providing security for the Israeli people and a better life for the people of Gaza”, according to a UN summary press release. ‘

Rice also said “We must establish an international consensus that Gaza must never again be used as a launching pad for rockets against Israeli citizens, because it is important to remember how this crisis began” … She said that “Hamas had refused to extend the ‘period of calm’, and its continued armament was a root cause of the current situation”

Rice explained that she abstained in the vote — but allowed the resolution to pass – because “the United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to ‘see what this resolution might have been supporting’.”

Everything now apparently depends on the Egyptian-French initiative.

The problem is, this effort, too, wants to convince Hamas that it has lost.

Some analysts say that Hamas has avoided direct engagements with the IDF inside Gaza. Some say that, should the IDF Operation Cast Lead continue, Hamas will be trying to lure the IDF into a trap.
But that is far from clear.

If Hamas has any card left in its hands, it would be IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured near Gaza in a cross-border raid in June 2006

The newly-adopted resolution encourages “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation including in support of mediation efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States as expressed in the 26 November 2008 resolution, and consistent with Security Council resolution 1850 (2008) and other relevant resolutions”.

That earlier UNSC Resolution 1850, adopted on 16 December, declared its support for the Annapolis process of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which it said was “irreversible”, and it called on both parties to fulfil their obligations under the “Roadmap” — and to refrain from any steps that could prejudice the outcome of the negotiations.

But, it very importantly also called on all states and international organizations to “support the Palestinian Government that is committed to the Quartet Principles … and respects the commitments of the PLO” — which is an explicit call to support the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. At the same time, this wording implies the de-legitimization of Hamas.

The new UNSC resolution 1860, adopted hours ago, repeats this position.

After the vote in the Security Council meeting, Rice said, significantly, that “There would need to be a principled resolution also of the political challenges in Gaza that re-established the Palestinian Authority’s control, including over borders; facilitated the normal operation of Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings; and, in time, the opening of other crossings”. And she stated yet again that “the United States supported President Mahmoud Abbas as he carried out his responsibilities towards the establishment of a State of Palestine”.

Abbas, who had been in New York for several days, very diplomatically left the day before the vote and went to Spain, then to Cairo, to discuss the situation in Gaza. Hamas has said it will not recognize Abbas’ term in office after midnight on 9 January.

Meanwhile, the AP has reported that “Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the U.N. failed to consider the interests of the Palestinian people. ‘This resolution doesn’t mean that the war is over’, he told the al-Jazeera satellite television network.” The full AP story can be found here .

But, in an Op Ed article published in Haaretz today, Bernard Avishai (an Israeli) and Sam Bahour (a Palestinian-American) — both businessmen — argued that “Israel cannot make Hamas surrender – it cannot ‘win’. Meanwhile, the carnage will help Hamas, and other Palestinian military factions, make their case – not only in Gaza, but across the West Bank too … It should be clear by now that Hamas’ appeal only grows when Israelis attacks Palestinians. It increased when Israel insisted that occupied territory was merely ‘disputed’, ignoring its obligations under international law, and tried to dissociate its unilateral ‘disengagement’ from Gaza from the continuing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Hamas appealed to circles upon circles of Palestinian youth, who, grieving for friends or relatives killed in clashes with occupation forces, or appalled by iron-fist policies, succumbed to rage or survivors’ guilt. Its appeal increased in the absence of any concrete progress toward peace, indeed, when the peacemaking process seemed endlessly stalled. Hamas’ appeal spread, finally, when Palestinian economic life seemed futile, or inevitably corrupt – when a fight to the last martyr seemed the only chance at a meaningful life – or death. Give Gazans open borders, relief from grinding poverty, and business opportunities with West Bank and foreign partners and, over time, this will win over Hamas-controlled tunnels and smuggling every time. The Palestinian private sector, centered in Ramallah, has begged Israel and the international community for 18 months to allow it access to Gaza, to build new businesses. Israel refused. Tragically, many who have been killed this past week were not Hamas militants, but rather Palestinians who worked in Hamas-run ministries or institutions because they had no choice if they wanted to feed and clothe their children. The critical point, surely, is that one cannot do in two weeks with force what you need to do over a generation with reciprocity. Even as it worked toward an overall solution to the conflict, Israel could have respected international law regarding occupation, observed the Geneva conventions, helped build Palestinian civil society, stopped settlement construction, invited international monitors, and allowed Palestinians to compete non-violently, politically, economically and socially. It could have, in short, allowed for unity and rationality in Palestinian politics. This is not, well, rocket science”. This OpEd piece can be read in full here .

The same message, of course, could also be addressed to the United States and to the Quartet (composed of the USA, the Russian Federation, the EU, and the UN) that it set up to support the Bush Administration’s vision of Middle East diplomacy.

In a separate development, the UN Human Rights Council has begun an emergency meeting in Geneva to consider the situation in Gaza, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, saying that while the harm to civilians in Israel caused by Hamas rockets is unacceptable, Israel must nevertheless abide by international humanitarian law. The High Commissioner — who will have previously taken the pulse of the Human Rights Council — reportedly called for an independent investigation of possible war crimes in Gaza and in Israel. This would also put Hamas on the spot.

Also Friday, the Foreign Press Association informed its members that, according to its lawyers, “The State has clarified that as soon as the situation permits they are aware of the fact that the media have to be permitted to enter Gaza and as soon as possible will permit pools to do so”.

UNSC adopts third set of sanctions against Iran

Only Indonesia abstained when the UNSC voted a third set of sanctions against Iran. Libya, which earlier indicated its opposition, meekly fell in line, as did South Africa.

This is the third set of increasingly tightened UNSC sanctions calling on Iran to suspend its program to enrich uranium.

Like the earlier UNSC resolutions in this series aimed at Iran’s nuclear program — particularly its right to an indigenous enrichment capability — it was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and is binding.

It gives Iran another 90 days to suspend its enrichment program — which will have to be confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — or further sanctions could be imposed.

A summary of the resolution’s provisions in a UN Press Release says that “The Council welcomed the agreement between Iran and IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues concerning Iran’s nuclear programme, and progress made in that regard, as set out in the Director General’s report of 22 February 2008 (GOV/2008/4). In that context, it stressed the willingness of China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States to enhance diplomatic efforts to promote resumption of dialogue with Iran, with a view to seeking long-term solution of the issue that would allow for wider cooperation and, inter alia, the start of direct talks. The Council would suspend the sanctions if and for so long as Iran would suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by IAEA, but warned that, in the event Iran did not comply with relevant Council resolutions, it would decide on the adoption of further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII”. This press release is available here.

The Associated Press summed up the package that was easily adopted today: “For the first time, the resolution bans trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses … The measures include freezing the assets of about a dozen companies and a dozen individuals with links to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs. It would require countries to ‘exercise vigilance’ and report the travel or transit of those individuals. It would also impose a travel ban on several individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear effort. For the first time, the resolution would ban trade with Iran in goods which have both civilian and military uses. It would introduce financial monitoring on two banks with suspected links to proliferation activities, Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. It also calls on all countries ‘to exercise vigilance’ in entering into new trade commitments with Iran, and authorizes inspections of shipments to and from Iran by sea and air that are suspected of carrying prohibited goods”.

AP also reported that “Diplomats credited French President Nicolas Sarkozy for helping sway the Libyans and South Africans. The French leader visited South Africa last week”. This AP report is published here.