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Entries in Mahmoud Abbas (12)


Middle East Inside Line: Palestine Unity Government Near?

meshal140On Monday, Hamas' Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal said that the organisation was close to an agreement with Fatah, thanks to the productive efforts of Cairo. The exiled Palestinian leader had been speaking with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman, about the latest draft proposal.

The previous proposal was rejected by Hamas that did not want to be under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. The latest plan is an advisory committee, headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, in which both sides can run daily issues of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank until presidential and parliamentary elections can be held in the first half of 2010. Fatah will be allowed to deploy 3,000 security personnel to Gaza and both sides will release each other's detainees.

Meshal said, "We overcame all the disagreements in the Egyptian paper," however, he had suggested changes for an agreement to be signed by the end of October. He added: "They [the Egyptians] will work on laying down a final draft for the reconciliation project in the coming few days."

A "Normal" Middle East: US Presses for Arab Steps on Israel

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dsadsaThe Jerusalem Post reports that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, working on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings, urged senior officials from Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel. She later told reporters that talks were "extremely productive."

While Arab nations still insist on an Israeli settlement freeze before gestures such as the opening of trade and commercial offices, permission for Israeli overflights, and academic and cultural exchanges; Washington is increasing its pressure. Jeffrey Feltman, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said after Clinton's meeting:
We don't want to wait for the perfect package. It's time to start negotiations now... We hope that the Arabs would find ways to demonstrate to the Israeli public that Israel will be an accepted, normalized part of the region.

Still, progress is still far from assured. The State Department's press release did not mention any "extremely productive" outcome, balancing calls for the re-launching of Israeli-Palestnians negotiations without preconditions with the vision of a freeze on settlements to foster a viable Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders:
The Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and the United States met today in New York City to coordinate on efforts to promote their shared vision of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Middle East, and to intensify their consultations as partners and friends.

The Ministers welcomed the trilateral meeting among President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Abbas on September 22, and expressed their hope for rapid progress towards the resumption of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Ministers welcomed President Obama’s important statement before the UN General Assembly which calls for the re-launching of negotiations – without preconditions – that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The Ministers reiterated their call for a freeze on settlement activities. They expressed their continued support for an independent, viable, and democratic Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel, with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative. They reiterated their full support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and their efforts to build the institutions of a future state. The Ministers also reiterated their support for achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Video & Transcript: Palestine's Abbas at the UN General Assembly

See also Palestine Video and Transcript: Mahmoud Abbas Makes Statehood Bid at UN General Assembly (23 September 2011)

On Friday, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the UN General Assembly, blaming Israel for its continued construction of settlements and of the separation wall isolating Jerusalem from the West Bank. While praising Washington's active policy in the region, he said that time was running out for a resolution and the cost of peace was increasing. Moreover, he depicted Hamas, without mentioning the group's name, as the perpetrators of a coup in Gaza,  while assuring the Assembly that Palestinians will form a unity government with the assistance of Egypt.

Transcript of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's speech at the United Nations General Assembly:

Mr. President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the suffering of the Palestinian people as a result of Israel's colonial occupation is crystal clear to the world.

Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including east Jerusalem in 1967, Israel continues with its settlement policy on all Palestinian land, especially in holy Jerusalem, where that policy is currently being accelerated and escalated through various means including the seizure of the homes of Palestinian inhabitants in the city and the imposition of restrictions and even preventing Palestinians from building and sometimes from repairing their homes, while new settlement neighborhoods are being established. And Jerusalem is becoming completely isolated from its surroundings because of the illegal settlements and the apartheid wall.

We now face a unique situation. If international law stipulates the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, how can we, then, deal with the current situation where Israeli settlement policy will undermine the goal of establishing a geographically contiguous Palestinian state and implementation of the will of the international consensus that has been expressed in the various resolutions and principles, including the roadmap, which we all agreed upon and which is based on the principle of land for peace and ending the occupation that began in 1967.

Immense efforts have been exerted and many conferences have been held during the past years, particularly since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Yet all of this has not led to a conclusion of this conflict. President Barack Obama has given much hope to our people and the peoples of the region when he announced his vision of a peace agreement on the basis of a two-state solution and the cessation of all settlement activities. We welcomed the active American diplomacy to revive the peace process, and all efforts of the international quartet and its parties, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Russian Federation and the United States.

All of these active efforts and initiatives, which have been welcomed and supported by us and by the Arab states, are, however, confronted with Israeli intransigence, which refuses to adhere to the requirements for relaunching the peace process. How is it conceivable that negotiations can be held on the borders and on Jerusalem at the same time that Israeli bulldozers are working to change the reality on the ground with the aim of creating a new reality and imposing borders as Israel desires? How can one conceive holding negotiations without agreement on the terms of preference and the objective end goal of these negotiations that the whole world has unanimously agreed upon, namely ending the Israeli occupation of the territories occupied in 1967, establishing the state of Palestinian with Jerusalem as its capital, achieving a just and agreed-upon solution to the question of Palestinian refugees on the basis of resolution 194 of 1948 and achieving peace on all Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracts as affirmed (ph) by the Arab Peace Initiative which provides a precious opportunity that must be seized upon to achieve peace.

In this regard, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the important speech delivered before this august (ph) body two days ago by President Obama, in which he affirmed the necessity for ending the occupation that began in 1967 and the legitimacy of the settlements. He also stressed the necessity for establishing an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state and for addressing all of the finance status issues in the negotiations, foremost among these Jerusalem, refugees, borders, water, settlements, and others. We reiterate that adherence to these principles and basis, in addition to a complete freeze of all settlement activities, can salvage the peace process and open horizon for its success.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I reaffirm the eagerness of the Palestine Liberation Organization to achieve a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy. At the same time, I caution that the settlement policy and the building of the separation wall, which continue to be pursued by the Israeli occupation, will abort opportunities to relaunch the peace process.

Time is running out and the risks are becoming greater as a result of the continued suffering of the Palestinian people under the last remaining occupation in the world. We call upon the international community to uphold international law and international legitimacy and to exert pressure on Israel to cease its settlement activities, to comply with the signed agreements, and desist from the policies of the occupation and colonial settlements, to release the 10,000 -- correction, the approximately 11,000 prisoners and detainees, to lift -- and to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, which was subjected months ago to a devastating aggression, causing thousands of casualties among civilians, wreaking unprecedented destruction of infrastructure and public facilities, including even hospitals, mosques, schools, and United Nations facilities.

Ladies and gentlemen, our people, which continues to adhere to its (ph) strikes and to remain in its homeland despite all of the suffering caused by the arrests, the blockade, and the killings, is also keen to end the internal division and to restore national unity. Our sister, Egypt, is making commendable efforts to achieve. And in spite of all our suffering from occupation and its practices, we continue to work to build and develop our national institutions. We have made significant achievements in this regard, both at the level of upholding the rule of law and public order and promoting economic and social development despite the harsh conditions of the occupation and the blockade. We continue to make every possible effort for the success of the efforts of our brothers in Egypt to end the ongoing coup in the Gaza Strip and to restore our national unity by resorting to ballot boxes and holding presidential and legitimate (ph) elections on their constitutional date under the supervision and control of Arab and Islamic countries, the United Nations, and the international community. Thus, democracy will be firmly institutionalized in our political life.

Mr. President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, hope will remain alive in our shores (ph) and we will not despair of regaining our rights on the basis of relevant resolutions of the United Nations. The historic rule of which we reaffirm for attaining peace and upholding the principle of might for right and not right for might.

From this podium I conclude by reaffirming our commitment to the road map plan, the Arab Peace Initiative and to all terms of reference of the political process. And we call upon all parties to respect and abide by them, to provide the opportunity to launch a successful and effective peace process.

We are confident that all our brothers in the sisterly Arab countries will adhere to the Arab peace initiative as a basis for safeguarding our rights and to open the way towards real peaceful relations once occupation is ended and the independent state of Palestine is established.

With my profound thanks and appreciation for your kind attention, I thank you, and God's blessing be upon you all.


Video & Transcript: Obama After the Israel-Palestine Meeting

After the tripartite meeting, President Obama's press statement made its mark on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

In his statement, Obama called both parties to look at future and move forward. He called both leaders "to do more." It means consolidating security against Hamas for Mahmoud Abbas and putting a 9-month settlement freeze into practice for Benjamin Netanyahu at first. Most importantly, President emphasized the significance of negotiation the permanent status and refrained from using a "full halt toIsraeli constructions" yet used "restraining settlement activity."



Please be seated, members of the delegations.

I have just concluded frank and productive bilateral meetings with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. And I want to thank them both for appearing here today. I am now looking forward to this opportunity to hold the first meeting among the three of us since we took office.

As I said throughout my campaign and at the beginning of my administration, the United States is committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. That includes a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states, Israel and Palestine, in which both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people can live in peace and security and realize their aspirations for a better life for their children.

That is why my Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and my Special Envoy George Mitchell have worked tirelessly to create the context for permanent status negotiations. And we have made progress since I took office in January and since Israelis -- Israel’s government took office in April. But we still have much further to go.

Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security, but they need to do more to stop incitement and to move forward with negotiations. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians and have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity. But they need to translate these discussions into real action on this and other issues. And it remains important for the Arab states to take concrete steps to promote peace.

Simply put it is past time to talk about starting negotiations -- it is time to move forward. It is time to show the flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that’s necessary to achieve our goals. Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed.

And so my message to these two leaders is clear. Despite all the obstacles, despite all the history, despite all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward. We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering. We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back. Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency. And that is why I have asked Secretary Clinton and Senator Mitchell to carry forward the work that we do here today.

Senator Mitchell will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators next week. I've asked the Prime Minister and the President to continue these intensive discussions by sending their teams back to Washington next week. And I've asked the Secretary of State to report to me on the status of these negotiations in mid-October.

All of us know this will not be easy. But we are here today because it is the right thing to do. I look forward to speaking with my colleagues. I'm committed to pressing ahead in the weeks and months and years to come, because it is absolutely critical that we get this issue resolved. It’s not just critical for the Israelis and the Palestinians, it’s critical for the world, it is in the interests of the United States. And we are going to work as hard as necessary to accomplish our goals.


Analysis: 'New' Washington Consensus on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process!

UN227_waThe tripartite meeting between Israeli, Palestinian, and American delegations took place in New York on Tuesday, with the leaders of the three groups participating. This was the picture which signals a shift in the US apparoach towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict , from a step-by-step Road Map to an edited Washington version of a 2002 Saudi initiative based on wider issues and a regional context.

Yet Washington's "middle way" between the demands of Palestinians and Israelis is not new. The steps taken in the Obama Administration's Middle East foreign policy since last January were supposed to be clearer when the leaders of Israelis and Palestinians shook hands on Tuesday. But even this picture is incomplete, since the failure to include regional actors such as Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Iraq will undermine any effort on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

According to Washington, the final status agreement must come with continuing negotiations on other issues, especially on the Israeli halt of settlements in the West Bank. The formula is clear: the reassurance of the Palestinian side with the promised withdrawal of Israelis to pre-1967 war borders while reducing pressure on the Israeli side by moving the discourse of “total settlement freeze” to that of “restraining settlements activity” as the Israeli concede a nine-month freeze.

On Tuesday, U.S. President met with the Israeli delegation at first. Then, he talked to the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and his aides. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, National Security Council head Uzi Arad, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mitchell took part in the earlier bilateral Israeli-American meeting. At the end, the tripartite meeting finally was displayed.

"Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. And more importantly, we must give those negotiations the opportunity to succeed," Obama said and added:
It is past time to talk about starting negotiations; it is time to move forward. It is time to show flexibility and common sense and sense of compromise that is necessary to achieve our goals... Leaders in the Middle East could not continue 'the same patterns, taking tentative steps forward, then taking steps back.'

For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel achieved what it had wanted after the tripartite meeting. He said to reporters in New York:
There was general agreement, including on the part of the Palestinians, that the peace process has to be resumed as soon as possible with no preconditions... We had two good meetings, even very good, I would say – one with President Obama and his team and later with the Palestinian team. Although the importance of the meeting is in its existence, it was an ice-breaking meeting between people who have not worked with each other for months. It provides a possibility to change things in the future.

However, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was not as “positive” as his premier. He actually saw eye to eye with Abbas and said that "although the Palestinian side is saying it has no preconditions, it has all kinds of demands for moves in the West Bank." On the other hand, Netanyahu kept calm and came closer to Obama's diplomatic stance. He said:
They can raise the Jerusalem issue and we'll present our stance... In the joint meeting with Abu Mazen (Abbas) I told him that 'there is no use in insisting on these matters. Let's move forward.'

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas did not mention Netanyahu's 'talks without any preconditions' and reiterated that Israel had to leave all occupied lands and stop construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He said:
In today's meetings we confirmed our positions and commitment to the road map and its implementation. We also demanded that the Israeli side fulfill its commitments on settlements, including on natural growth.

As for resuming talks, this depends on a definition of the negotiating process that means basing them on recognizing the need to withdraw to the 1967 borders and ending the occupation, as was discussed with the previous Israeli government when we defined the occupied territories as the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem.

This was reiterated in the talks with President Obama and in the trilateral talks. We believe the American administration will review the positions of the two sides in the coming weeks to make it possible for us to renew peace talks based on our stated position.

At the end of the tripartite meeting, we can say that the political discourses of each disputed party has not changed. For Israel, the following negotiations will continue without any Palestinian pre-conditions and for Palestinians, there will be no agreement without the withdrawal of Israeli existence and without a full halt to settlement construction. Lastly, and more importantly, for the Obama Administration, the process is likely to be a middle way: Guaranteeing Palestinians the full withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the occupied lands and the Israeli halt to settlement freeze under Israeli authorization in the course of time; all of which to be mentioned in the final status agreement whereas confirming Israeli temporary freeze in settlements which is to come closer to a total halt in the course of time in return of Arab concessions in the name of normalization with Israel. So, all parties look like they have taken from the meeting now.

George Mitchell's answer to a question on whether the Obama Administration had skipped the settlement freeze focus and moved straight to final status issue tipped off the US position:
We have always made clear that they are means to an end, the end being the re-launching of negotiations on permanent status in a context in which there is a reasonable prospect for a successful conclusion to those negotiations... So there is absolutely no change in our focus.

However, this new version of Saudi Initiative in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is just a part of the Obama Administration's policy in the region. This middle-way solution can only work with new developments in US and Israeli relations with Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The follow-up period, so sensitive to any regional development, is more significant than the plans of the Obama Administration on paper. Therefore, right after the tripartite meeting, Obama said he is watching the process closely and the U.S. Mideast special envoy George Mitchell would meet with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators next week, adding that he had asked his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to report back to him on the status of the talks in October. For now, the Obama Administration has consolidated its position vis-a-vis Palestinians and Israelis. But, that is only for now....