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Entries in Mahmoud Abbas (9)


Israel: A Rabbi's War on Palestinians (Yenidunya)

Last week, the leader of Israel's Shas ultra-orthodox religious party reiterated his position that there should be no extension of moratorium on settlement construction when it ends on 26 September.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's provocative words fell like a bombshell on Sunday. Army Radio reported that Yosef calling for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to "perish from this world". Yosef said Palestinians were "evil, bitter enemies of Israel":

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God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced Yosef's remarks and claimed these statements advocated genocide of Palestinians. Erekat criticised West Jerusalem's silence:
Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement? It is an insult to all our efforts to advance the negotiations process.

On the same day, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley commented:
We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.

As we move forward to relaunch peace negotiations, it is important that actions by people on all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.

Israel-Palestine Analysis: What is Washington's Strategy on Settlements and Talks?

On Monday, reminded about the statement by Palestinian representatives that they would walk away if the settlement freeze was not extended in the West Bank, U.S. State Department Spokesman P. J. Crowley said:
Well, first of all, we look forward to the first meeting next week with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, and Secretary Clinton here on September 2nd as well as the individual meetings and dinner that President Obama will host at the White House on September 1st. We look forward to getting into the direct negotiation and then we believe that once that negotiation starts, it’ll be incumbent upon both the Israelis and Palestinians to avoid steps that can complicate that negotiation.

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Palestine-Israel Analysis: Ramallah’s “One Month Trial” and Netanyahu’s “Security Card”

Then, asked whether Washington was worried that the Israelis had not committed to extend that moratorium, Crowley implicitly revealed the Obama Administration's expectations:

No. As we’ve been saying throughout this process, our focus has been to get the parties into direct negotiations and once in the direct negotiations, then these very issues will be tabled and resolved.

On Tuesday, Crowley was asked whether the US had reached an understanding with Israelis that there would be no announcement that the settlement freeze would continue but some construction, possibly in large settlement blocks, would continue. Crowley did not deny but reiterated Washington's classic statement: "Well, we look forward to the meetings next week."

In contrast, a senior administration official briefing reporters in Jerusalem said that the US position had not changed,and that Washington “doesn’t accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”. The official also said there were no “clandestine” understandings with either side.

On Wednesday, two US officials --- Daniel Shapiro, a top National Security Council staffer handling Israel and neighbouring countries, and David Hale, deputy to special Mideast envoy George Mitchell --- are going to the region to talk separatelywith Palestinians and Israelis.

Washington's message is clear to both sides: No provocative actions until 2 September and the start of the directly. The second strategy is to urge the Israeli government for a partial, if not a full, settlement freeze in the West Bank. Still, the question remains: beyond the refugee and status of East Jerusalem issues, how is the US going to persuade Ramallah to accept a peace plan likely to be linked to Israel's "sensitive" security concerns, even if it is based on 1967-War borders(even not mentioning the refugee and the status of East Jerusalem problems)?

Palestine-Israel Analysis: Ramallah's "One Month Trial" and Netanyahu's "Security Card"

After half the members of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization failed to attend the discussion over direct talks with Israel, the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency reported that Hamas cancelled Saturday's reconciliation meeting with Fatah.

According to the London-based Arab language daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has re-labeled the talks as a two-stage process: a one-month trial period to see if Israel's Netanyahu Government will extend the freeze on West Bank settlements and then direct talks focusing on core issues.

Israel-Palestine: Forget the Hype, Talks Are Going Nowhere (Walt)

For that second stage of the talks, Abbas suggested that the Quartet --- in which Russia, European Union, and United Nations sit with the US --- can press Washington to get Israel to reveal its hand, behind closed doors, on the borders of a future Palestinian state. In a letter, Abbas urged the Quartet members to abide by resolutions of the UN pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict, the principles of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, the 2002 road map and the 2002-2007 Arab Peace Initiative.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official who also serves as an adviser to Abbas, expressed dismay over Washington’s failure to invite representatives of all the Quartet members to the launch of direct talks in Washington early next month.

On the Israeli front, Prime Minister Netanyahu is preparing to use his best card, "security issues", as soon as the talks commence. Over the weekend, Netanyahu said he plans to focus on security arrangements before addressing final borders. (That means "drawing final borders across security arrangements". If Israeli forces are deployed in the Jordan Valley and most of the 500.000 Israeli settlers are kept as a buffer force for the Israeli state from missiles, then the lines have more or less been drawn.)

Netanyahu increased the pressure by depicting a "real partner on the Palestinian side, sincere and serious in negotiations, negotiations which will require both sides to take necessary measures, not only the Israeli side but also the Palestinian side”. Then it would be possible to “shortly reach a historic peace agreement between the two peoples.”

In response to Ramallah's "one-month trial" for the extension of a settlement freeze, Netanyahu will use his "security" card in order to get the maximum concessions at the beginning of negotiations. That is a wise strategy: if the concessions are not made, then West Jerusalem can blame Ramallah for not living up to its agreement to negotiate. However, that in turn also points to the difficulty of getting Israel to move beyond the initial phase of talks.

Who might be responsible for that position? What about a country whose administration once supported Palestinians pre-conditions --- including the settlement freeze and ending the occupation in East Jerusalem --- yet, with urgent phone calls to Ramallah, has insisted on no pre-conditions and definitely no reference to Israel's weapons programmes, including its nuclear capability? Any guess who that might be?

Israel-Palestine: Forget the Hype, Talks Are Going Nowhere (Walt)

Stephen Walt analyses for Foreign Policy:

If you think the announcement that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to resume "direct talks" is a significant breakthrough, you haven't been paying attention for the past two decades (at least). I wish I could be more optimistic about this latest development, but I see little evidence that a meaningful deal is in the offing.

Why do I say this? Three reasons.

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1. There is no sign that the Palestinians are willing to accept less than a viable, territorially contiguous state in the West Bank (and eventually, Gaza), including a capital in East Jerusalem and some sort of political formula (i.e., fig-leaf) on the refugee issue. By the way, this outcome supposedly what the Clinton and Bush adminstrations favored, and what Obama supposedly supports as well.

2. There is no sign that Israel's government is willing to accept anything more than a symbolic Palestinian "state" consisting of a set of disconnected Bantustans, with Israel in full control of the borders, air space, water supplies, electromagnetic spectrum. etc. Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear that this is what he means by a "two-state solution," and he has repeatedly declared that Israel intends to keep all of Jerusalem and maybe a long-term military presence in the Jordan River valley. There are now roughly 500,000 Israeli Jews living outside the 1967 borders, and it is hard to imagine any Israeli government evacuating a significant fraction of them. Even if Netanyahu wanted to be more forthcoming, his coalition wouldn't let him make any meaningful concessions. And while the talks drag on, the illegal settlements will continue to expand.

3. There is no sign that the U.S. government is willing to put meaningful pressure on Israel. We're clearly willing to twist Mahmoud Abbas' arm to the breaking point (which is why he's agreed to talks, even as Israel continues to nibble away at the territory of the future Palestinian state), but Obama and his Middle East team have long since abandoned any pretense of bringing even modest pressure to bear on Netanyahu. Absent that, why should anyone expect Bibi to change his position?

So don't fall for the hype that this announcement constitutes some sort of meaningful advance in the "peace process"....

Read full article....

Israel-Palestine-Gaza Latest: Not So Fast With Those Talks?; Lebanese Aid Ship Delayed

Cracks are appearing this morning in the narrative of warm acceptance, at least on the Palestinian side, of the US formal invitation for direct Israel-Palestine talks on 2 September.

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reports that the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, was "very angry" when he heard US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton say that the talks would have no preconditions. Washington reportedly had to call Abbas three times in less than an hour to calm him down and ensure his Yes to the talks.

Israel-Palestine Analysis: Why Did Ramallah Agree to Direct Talks (Yenidunya)

Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English adds that half of the members of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization did not attend the PLO's discussion over direct talks, a sign of a possible split in the movement.

On the Gaza front, the Lebanese aid ship Mariam delayed its departure on Saturday after Cyprus denied permission to sail through its waters or to use its ports. Organizers hope to reach a deal with Turkey and/or Greece by Monday.