Suspicion dominates Palestinian side in ‘peace talks’
This is the first of several multi-article postings this week. As Britain’s Foreign Secretary Mr Hague said on Monday 19th Aug. that what is happening now in the Middle East is “the most important event so far of the 21st century, even compared to the financial crisis we have been through and its impact on world affairs” we feel there cannot be too much information.
On the peace talks:
1) AFP: Gaza protests against peace talks;
2) Guardian: Peace with Israel would end Palestinian land claims, says Mahmoud Abbas, Harriet Sherwood on Abbas’s first comments and promises;
3) photo caption: Where is the USA?;
4) Pal. Chronicle: A Peek inside Kerry’s ‘Peace’ Efforts or Propaganda?, an angry Sam Bahour on an unverified leak of what Kerry/Israel have agreed;
5) LA Times: Palestinians complain about U.S. absence in talks with Israel, Edmund Sanders on fear that without US Israel won’t move;
6) WAFA: Kerry’s Warning Main Story in Dailies, the view from the Palestine News anad Info Agency;
Gaza protests against peace talks: Hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip protested on Friday [Aug. 23rd] against Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in marches organised by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Marchers set off from mosques across the coastal strip before converging on a square in the middle of Gaza City, with protesters brandishing signs saying “No to negotiations” and slamming West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s “political failure.”
Hamas’s religious affairs minister Ismail Ridwan addressed the group’s arch-rival Abbas in a speech during the protests. “All the Palestinian factions say you don’t have the right to relinquish any piece of our land, or to give up Palestinian rights,” he said. Hamas says Abbas’s decision to return to the negotiating table with Israel is not representative of the will of the Palestinian people. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held another round of US-brokered talks on Tuesday in Jerusalem. “Returning to talks is a blow to the jihad and to the sacrifices of our people, the blood of our martyrs and to our prisoners behind bars in Israel,” Ridwan said.
Israeli plans to build another 2,129 settlement units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, announced days before the latest talks started, angered Palestinian officials, who have said the plans threatened to bring a premature and “disastrous” end to negotiations.
By AFP, August 23, 2013
Palestinian president makes apparent move to reassure Israelis after expressing frustration at talks’ lack of progress
By Harriet Sherwood, Guardian
August 23/34, 2013
Jerusalem–The Palestinians would abandon historic claims to land that is now in the state of Israel in the event of a far-reaching peace deal, President Mahmoud Abbas has said in his first comments since negotiations began two weeks ago, stressing that a “just” agreement would mean “the end of the conflict”.
He also indicated rising impatience at the glacial pace of negotiations, telling a group of leftwing Israeli parliamentarians that the Palestinians wanted to accelerate the talks. No progress had been made in the three sessions so far, he said.
“We hope that later on we make advances. I can’t say that I’m optimistic, but I hope we aren’t just wasting our time,” said Abbas ahead of another round of talks next week.
In remarks possibly aimed at reassuring Israelis who believe a peace deal with the Palestinians will be followed by further claims, Abbas said: “You have a commitment from the Palestinian people, and also from the leadership, that if we are offered a just agreement, we will sign a peace deal that will put an end to the conflict and to future demands from the Palestinian side.”
Referring to historic Palestinian cities in what is now Israel, he added: “People say that after signing a peace agreement we will still demand Haifa, Acre and Safed. That is not true.”
The president’s comments referred to the issue of borders, not the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their pre-1948 homes, said an official. “Once we have the borders of our state, we will not seek to expand it. The right of return is a separate issue,” he said.
Riot police rebuff protests led by the PFLP in Ramallah against the resumption of peace talks
However, the remarks may inflame the Palestinian public, which is already sceptical about the peace process and for whom the right of return is a visceral and deeply emotional issue. Israel insists it will never allow Palestinians to return en masse to their former homes.
Abbas caused uproar last year when he told an Israeli television interviewer that he should have the right to visit his birthplace of Safed, from which his family was forced to flee in 1948, but accepted that he would not return to live there. He later clarified that he was making a personal statement, not waiving the right of return for almost five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
Abbas told the Israeli legislators that the Palestinians wanted the two sides to meet more frequently. “We wanted the meetings … to take place every day or every second day, and not once a week or every 10 days like the Israelis want. I don’t know why they don’t want to. We don’t have much time.”
The Palestinians are also concerned about the absence of Martin Indyk, the US peace talks envoy, from the negotiating sessions at Israel’s insistence. “This is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the US is not able to assert itself in the peace process,” the senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed-Rabbo said on Thursday.
Israel, the Palestinians and the US have all agreed that the talks should not be accompanied by media statements, nor even confirmation of the time and location of negotiating sessions. The timeframe for reaching agreement has been set at nine months, which ends next May.
The Palestinians have threatened to pull out if Israel continues to press ahead with new construction in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Israeli authorities have announced around 3,000 new homes this month, mostly in settlements “that will remain part of Israel in any possible future peace agreement”, according to the Israeli government.
But Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian negotiation steering committee, said this week there were “no tacit agreements” that the settlement blocs close to the pre-1967 line would be incorporated into Israel.
“All those statements saying ‘everyone knows that the major settlements will stay with Israel’ are simply not true and are designed to deliberately mislead. The 1967 boundary is the basis of a Palestinian state, including East Jerusalem, and we haven’t given anything away,” she said.
The Palestinians would resume moves to sign up international bodies and treaties if settlement expansion continued, she added. A shortlist of 16 treaties and bodies has been identified for early action, according to officials, but it does not include the international criminal court.
“If Israel persists in such policies … we will have no other option but recourse to international law and international agencies,” Ashrawi said. Such a move would be fiercely opposed by Israel and would be likely to scupper the renewed negotiations.
Where is the USA?
Yasser Abed-Rabbo, left, with Nabil Shaath,[photo by Mati Milstein / EPA] protests at the absence of Kerry and Indyk (right) which he attributes to Israel. “This is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the U.S. is not able now to assert itself in the peace process,” he said.
By Sam Bahour, Palestine Chronicle
August 22, 2013
The first proclaimed leak from Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as it is so often called, were published last week in the reputable London-based daily Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat. The source is said to be from a posting from the website of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, who claim the information was leaked to them by someone attending the tightly closed negotiating sessions. The validity of this claim and the contents of the leak are unverifiable and the infighting between Hamas and Fatah give both a vested interest to publicly damage the other, however, a read through the supposed leaked information makes anyone familiar with this issue take a worrying note.
The Al-Hayat article on the leak states that Secretary Kerry obtained Palestinian President Abbas’ approval on general parameters for the restart of negotiations, at meetings between the two in Amman on 17-18 July 2013, prior to Secretary Kerry’s announcement that negotiations would restart. According to the leaked document, “Kerry set a maximum period of time ranging from 6 to 9 months would be dedicated to bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations … without any preconditions,” beyond the principles listed below and whereby Jordan participates in meetings on refugees, Jerusalem and borders where necessary:
1. “The Separation Wall will serve as the security borders of the ‘Jewish’ state, and the temporary border of the ‘Palestinian’ state… Both parties will acknowledge and announce this.”
2. There will be “an exchange in disputed territories within the plan of the Separation Wall noted above, as agreed to by both parties and with the blessing of the Arab League Follow-up Committee, as specified by this Committee to Mr. Kerry during their last visit to Washington, ranging in size from eight to ten percent of West Bank lands.”
3. There will be also be a “freeze in the settlement projects at a number of outposts, as approved by the Israeli government, which does not apply to existing projects in large settlement communities located in the vicinity of Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley, including the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Har Homa, Gilo, Neve Yacov, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Alman, Kiryat Arba’, and other densely populated settlements.”
4. The document adds that “residents in frozen settlement communities will have the right to choose between Israeli citizenship, or Palestinian citizenship, or both, at the conclusion of negotiations,” and that “talks will culminate with a historic agreement … along the lines of the Oslo Agreement, during which both parties will announce the end of the historic conflict between their peoples, as well as full normalization with all Arab states, at a celebratory meeting attended by the Arab League and representatives of all Arab countries, announcing their approval of Israel’s establishment of a Palestinian state within the limits set out … above, according to agreements…. concluded by the two parties at the end of the negotiations, which will also entail Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
5. It adds that “at the end of negotiations some Palestinian families will be allowed to reunite in the West Bank, Rafah and Gaza, while others will have the right to compensation, or emigration … to Arab countries, especially the Gulf…” where they will be “…naturalized… utilizing the Right of Return Fund for this purpose.”
6. Concerning the status of East Jerusalem, the leaked document indicates that it will be “placed under an international administration (Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian) for ten years, whereby resident Israelis in East Jerusalem will have the right to choose their identity,” i.e. citizenship.
7. Furthermore, “Israelis and Palestinians agree to discuss the issue of land exchanges, in the West Bank and Jerusalem, through negotiating committees despite the non-core points of contention between the two parties… especially those points that are considered important by the delegation of the Arab League, including the proposal to grant citizenship to every Palestinian who has been resident in the Gulf for more than ten years.”
8. The document indicates that there will be a “discussion of executive steps in this agreement during negotiations within the time-limit mentioned above, and that its implementation will extend to ten years from the signing of the agreement.”
9. Israel will also “release a number of Palestinian detainees have who spent twenty years or more in detention, and no longer pose a security threat.”
10. It also stipulates that “President Mahmoud Abbas will call for legislative and presidential elections in the West Bank after the public announcement of the Agreement, in anticipation of the possibility of the emergence of objections to it, and that the terms of the agreement will not fully be announced until after the start of negotiations and the preoccupation of Palestinians with the battles of the Legislative Council and the Presidency.”
11. It also says that “with the signing of the agreement at the end of the specified time-limit and the declaration of an independent Palestinian state, the Palestinians and Jordanians will, with the blessing of Israel and the Arabs, reach an understandings on the role of Jordanian security assistance … to the Palestinian Authority … to stand by its side and help it overcome potential internal or external dangers … as part of a Confederation, which will be announced in conjunction with a trilateral economic initiative, in which Israel will play an active role in its formation.”
Shocking, to say the least!
If these are anywhere near the truth, the region should be preparing for yet another major fallout, this time in Palestine and Israel, again.
If the U.S. and Israel continue to choose the game of might is right, then they should expect, sooner rather than later, a new generation of Palestinians to look Israel straight in the eye and say,
You win! You get it all Israel: Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, both east and west sides, all of the settlements, all of the water, all of the Jordan Valley, all of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of the airspace, and most importantly, you also get all of us. Now, we heard you have free health care in Israel; where do we pick up our medical cards? We also want some of that free education too.
In other words, if the U.S. and Israel are adamant to throw into the sea international law, humanitarian law, UN resolutions, human rights, rights of refugees, and sheer common sense, then expect the Palestinians to redefine their self-determination from a struggle for statehood to a struggle for civil rights between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
In the words of the late Palestinian (and global) intellectual, Edward Said, it’s “equality or nothing.” What is it about these three simple words that are so hard to comprehend?
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business development consultant from Youngstown, Ohio, living in the Palestinian city of Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He frequently provides independent commentary on Palestine and serves as a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and blogs at http://www.epalestine.com.
By Edmund Sanders, LA Times
August 22, 2013
JERUSALEM — With direct peace talks renewed, it’s hardly surprising that Israelis and Palestinians are bickering again at the negotiating table. But in a disappointing sign, the arguments so far seem to be about procedural matters rather than the core issues, like Jerusalem and borders.
Palestinians complain that after three rounds of talks American mediators have yet to join the process, despite promising to take an active role. Though newly appointed U.S. peace envoy Martin Indyk flew to Jerusalem for the latest rounds of negotiations earlier this week, he has not been present during actual talks, according to Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Israelis and Americans have refused to comment on the talks, saying they hope to keep the process low-profile.
Abed-Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio Thursday that Israel objected to an American seat at the table. But Palestinians insist that — after 20 years of failed direct talks — progress cannot be made without a third party like the U.S. ensuring neither side tries to drag its feet.
He said the failure of Indyk to attend the talks reflected poorly on whether the U.S. can pressure Israel to make concessions, if and when the time comes. “This is one sign of how and where the talks are heading if the U.S. is not able now to assert itself in the peace process,’’ he said.
Separately, Palestinians are warning that continued Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem may prompt them to file a complaint with the United Nations, even if peace talks are still underway.
Israel over the last month announced or advanced 3,200 units of Jewish housing on land it seized during the 1967 Middle East war.
“We are saying very clearly that if Israel does not stop, then we have to move,” said PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi.
August 24, 2013
RAMALLAH – The warning US Secretary of State John Kerry made to Israel if peace talks fail was the main front page story in two of the Palestinian Arabic dailies on Saturday.
Al-Quds and al-Ayyam said Kerry warned Israel that it will face an international campaign aimed at its legitimacy if the negotiations with the Palestinians fail.
The papers also highlighted statements President Mahmoud Abbas made to Israelis on Thursday who visited him at his compound in Ramallah in which he said a final peace agreement with Israel will end the conflict and all Palestinian claims to anything within the pre-1967 borders.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida highlighted as well Kerry’s warning, but opted to make the explosions that ripped through the northern Lebanese city, Tripoli, killing 42 people as its main front page story printing as well a picture of the destruction the explosions have caused.
Al-Quds and al-Ayyam also reported on the Lebanon explosions, and the three papers reported as well on their front page on the Israeli airstrike against a base for a Palestinian faction in Beirut in apparent retaliation for rocket attacks from Lebanon into Israel the day before.
Al-Quds said in a story printed with yellow background that a Palestinian family from Nazareth lost more than 20 relatives in the chemical attack on al-Ghouta near Damascus that killed more than 1300 people. It said the Wakid family in Nazareth said 21 members of its members were killed including entire families.
Al-Ayyam made the developments in Egypt as its second main front page story saying in the headline that the Muslim Brotherhood have “failed” in showing their strength in the street as only a limited number of people participated in protests the Brotherhood called for on Friday.
The Israeli army crackdown on the weekly West Bank protests against the wall and settlements was also highlighted on the front page of the dailies, which said that the Israeli army fired tear gas into a mosque in the town of Kufr Qaddoum, near Qalqilya, causing serious suffocation for the elderly who were performing the Friday prayers inside the mosque.
The papers also said the Israeli authorities gave the Ka’abneh Bedouin tribe until Wednesday to leave the area of Beit Hanina, northern Jerusalem, where its members have lived for decades. Israel on Sunday demolished the dwellings of the tribe displacing more than 50 people.
Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida printed several stories on their front page on the calamity facing Hamas due to the loss of its main backer in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The two papers said the Palestinian Tamarod (rebellion) group is gaining strength in Gaza to a point Hamas is getting worried.
Al-Ayyam quoted a Hamas official saying that Tamarod members are traitors and that they were trained by the Egyptian intelligence.