Palestinians will join UN bodies if talks don’t turn serious
Because of the febrile and uncertain nature of the ‘peace talks’ there are several different accounts here of what is going on, arranged roughly chronologically.
1) Ynet: Palestinians issue 24-hour ultimatum to resolve peace talks dispute, Palestinian ultimatum on prisoner release, April 1st;
2) CSM: Why some hail the unraveling of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, Palestinians glad Abu Mazen resists US pressure, April 2nd;
3) Haaretz: Kerry’s desperate Pollard gamble could cost him the entire Israeli-Palestinian ball game, Chemi Shalev asks why Kerry has played his Israeli spy card now, April 2nd;
4) Ynet: Palestinians want peace talks to continue ‘without tricks’, no prisoner release, more settlements – but Palestinians want talks, if serious, April 2nd;
5) Ma’an news: Heated Jerusalem peace talks end in impasse, no prisoner release, talks seen to be broken, April 3rd;
6) The National: 15 UN pacts the Palestinians want to join, Hugh Naylor lists the UN bodies the PA now says it will apply to join, April 3rd;
Palestinians hold posters depicting President Mahmoud Abbas during a rally in Bethlehem, March 2014. Photo by Thomson Reuters
Palestinians issue 24-hour ultimatum to resolve peace talks dispute
Palestinians say they will abandon talks and seek international recognition through UN if Kerry doesn’t provide assurances of prisoner release.
By AFP/Ynet news
April 01, 2014
Palestinians issued a 24-hour ultimatum Monday to US Secretary of State John Kerry: Resolve the dispute with Israel on release of prisoners or the Palestinian Authority will resume its campaign for international recognition.
“If we don’t get an answer from John Kerry on the prisoners tonight, we’ll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow,” Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti told AFP after a top-level leadership meeting in Ramallah, which took place as Kerry arrived in Israel.
The latest round of US-led negotiations between the long-time adversaries are teetering on the brink of collapse after Israel refused to free a group of 26 Palestinian prisoners under the agreement reached by Kerry, which brought the sides back to the negotiating table in July of last year.
Furious Palestinian officials have warned that if Israel did not change its stance on the prisoner releases, it could signal the end of the talks.
Another Palestinian official who attended the meeting in Ramallah told AFP that “the Israeli government violated the agreements and must bear the consequences of its decisions”.
The two Palestinian officials also said that the leadership had confirmed there was “no link between the release of Palestinian prisoners and the extension of negotiations”.
Top officials also agreed there would be no extension of talks without a “comprehensive” freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they said.
The peace talks, which have so far yielded no significant results, are due to draw to a close on April 29 and American diplomatic efforts are currently focused on getting the parties to agree an extension.
Kerry arrived in Israel on Monday evening from Paris for a flying visit and was locked in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of a late-night meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas.
He was to return to Europe on Tuesday morning, officials said.
Many Palestinians, as well as some Israelis, support President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to keep talks brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry going after months of inaction.
By Christa Case Bryant, Christian Science Monitor
April 02, 2014
JERUSALEM–The unraveling of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace could be chalked up as yet another US failure in this region, but also a victory for the Palestinians.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday rejected Israeli conditions for continued talks, instead seeking unilateral action at the United Nations. In doing so, he showed an uncharacteristic willingness to risk the displeasure of the PA’s largest single donor to advance the Palestinian agenda internationally.
In two decades of peacemaking, Mr. Abbas and his predecessors have never drawn a firm line on issues such as an Israeli settlement freeze, the release of Palestinian prisoners, or lack of implementation of previous peace agreements, says Diana Buttu, a former member of the Palestinian negotiating team.
“As much as they say it’s a red line, it turns into a gray line,” Ms. Buttu says. “[Abbas’s decision] for me was good because it established for the first time that there is indeed a red line.”
That has bolstered the beleaguered Palestinian leader, who has been hard put to demonstrate to Palestinians any tangible benefits to favoring negotiations over violence. It is likely to stir frustration, however, in the US.
Mr. Kerry’s dogged shuttle diplomacy succeeded last summer in getting both sides to agree to a nine-month period of talks, which was slated to end April 29. As a confidence-building measure, Israel agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom had been held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords for fatal terrorist attacks. But when the time came last week to release the fourth and final batch of prisoners, Israel conditioned their release on Palestinians agreeing to another six months of talks.
Despite a frantic visit from Kerry, the two sides failed to overcome the impasse. The PA considered itself released from its commitment not to seek unilateral action at the United Nations.
After obtaining Abbas’s signature last night, the PA officially applied today to become a signatory to 15 international conventions, among them treaties against torture, corruption, and genocide, as well as the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.
The step, which Abbas has threatened to take since the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state in November 2012, has long been opposed by Israel as not conducive to peacemaking, especially if the conventions could be used as forums for bringing war crimes against Israel.
Many Palestinians are happy that Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, defied American pressure despite his reputation as being relatively docile.
“The Israelis and the Americans even believed that Abu Mazen didn’t have the courage to do so. And they don’t care about his requests,” says Hafez Barghouti, a Palestinian author and former editor of the PA daily newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida. “So when Abu Mazen took this step, lots of people are supporting him and his popularity is up, because it’s a kind of dignity for the Palestinians.”
Alon Liel, former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a longtime diplomat himself, says that an unhappy end is better than months of discussing what he characterizes as “marginal” issues – whether the PA should recognize Israel as a Jewish state and what kind of military presence Israel will be allowed to maintain along the West Bank-Jordan border, rather than key issues like borders, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.
“I think it’s a pity, but I prefer the talks will collapse to a situation where you go on with what we just had in the past four to five months of Kerry speaking separately to the sides on issues that are not the core issues … that we have to tackle if we really want to reach an agreement,” says Mr. Liel.
While Palestinians are cheering Abbas’s courage, Liel would like to see some American courage. After months of intensive discussions with all the key players, Washington is able to and should put forward a detailed proposal for a peace deal, he says.
“I really think that the Americans have to rethink and if they really give up and the sides are not going to talk again in the near future, there should be a courageous American plan on the table,” Liel says. “Then we will know at least publicly where we stand, and where the pressure is to be put.”
Kerry’s desperate Pollard gamble could cost him the entire Israeli-Palestinian ball game
The plum political prize that Kerry was handing Netanyahu convinced Palestinians that they were getting the short end of the stick; now Kerry must salvage the talks that only a few still believe in
By Chemi Shalev, Haaretz
April 02, 2014
The late American psychiatrist Robert Custer, a pioneer in the treatment of compulsive gambling, identified three stages on the way to total addiction: first winning, then losing and finally desperation, when the gambler loses his sense of proportion and commits to ever-growing wagers. Judging by his willingness to put the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table, there is room for concern that John Kerry may also be on a path to losing it all.
Like a gambler sinking deeper and deeper, Kerry has whipped out one of the strongest aces in the American hand, so that all the time, energy and reputation that he has invested in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process won’t go down the drain. But the potential return on his bold bid was modest from the outset: release of Israeli prisoners, a “quiet” freeze on settlements and an extension of negotiations that only a few still believe in.
But not only has Kerry failed to secure his limited goals, the prospect of Pollard’s release may have actually contributed to the breakdown of his efforts on Tuesday. When the Palestinians compared the pittance they were receiving, in their view, to the plum Pollard prize that Kerry was bestowing on Prime Minister Netanyahu, they decided to walk away in a huff. If Bibi gets Pollard, they told Kerry, we will look like fools if we don’t demand something just as big, like jailed Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti.
In America, reactions to the proposed release deteriorated throughout the day, from surprise in the morning to discomfort by noon to open opposition at sunset. “It’s a sign of weakness and desperation,” said former U.S. diplomat and peace envoy David Aaron Miller. We welcome Pollard’s release, said Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, but “it should not be intertwined with the Arab-Israeli conflict.” Senator John McCain described the administration’s linkage between the two as “disgusting” although he supports Pollard’s release; his Republican colleague Mark Kirk, a loyal friend of Israel, said Pollard should “rot in jail forever.”
Jonathan Pollard, Jewish American, arrested in 1985 for stealing “a million paper documents. When you add that up, it would fill a room six foot wide, six foot high, and ten foot deep” to Israeli intelligence. American intelligence feared the Israelis would trade them. NBC News. Pollard has been in prison since his arrest.
Of course, opposition to Pollard’s release is not as harsh as it used to be. CIA director John Brennan is unlikely to threaten to resign, as his predecessor George Tenet did 16 years ago when President Clinton was trying to convince the same Netanyahu to sign the Wye River Memorandum. Pollard is going to be eligible for parole by November 2015 anyway, on the assumption that his health holds: “Maybe they just want to release him quickly so that he doesn’t die on them in jail,” one particularly cynical American told me on Monday.
It the kind of ambivalence that characterizes reactions across the political spectrum to the admittedly premature reports of Pollard’s imminent release. The hawkish right is torn between support for Israel, that wants to see Pollard freed, and the urge to depict the proposed parole as yet another indication of President Obama’s inherent global weakness, from the Black Sea to Benghazi. The moderate left would like to see the peace process continue, but is concerned about handing Netanyahu such a clear cut political victory. And American Jews would like nothing better than to see the end of the 30 year Pollard saga, but they are wary of renewed focus on insinuations of “dual loyalty” and of the negative impact of the “Pollard festival” that Israel will inevitably hold, if and when the jailed spy is indeed set free.
Of course, one can mount a credible geo-political defense of the sudden U.S. willingness to pay so much for so little. With Obama locking horns with Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, the last thing he needs is a flare up on the Israeli-Palestinian front that could entail international bickering as well as an internal spat between the Administration and Congress. Maybe that’s what Kerry told the President when he was imploring him to let him use Pollard as a bargaining chip, though people in his state are liable to say anything, as long as they can keep on playing the game.
Running out of time: negotiators leave the Washington round of talks, July 30, 2013. (R-L) Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni leave the White House with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh, Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, and U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk. Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images
Agence France-Presse and Associated Press/ The National
April 02, 2014
RAMALLAH // Palestinian leaders insisted yesterday they did not want crisis-hit peace talks with Israel to collapse.
Negotiating teams from both sides were meeting last night to discuss a way out of the deadlock.
The latest crisis began when Israel reneged on a promise to release 26 Palestinian prisoners by the weekend.
It escalated when Israel reissued tenders for controversial settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinians applied for membership of 15 United Nations agencies and the US secretary of state John Kerry cancelled a trip to Ramallah for talks.
Nevertheless, senior Palestinian Liberation Organisation figure Yasser Abed Rabbo said yesterday: “Kerry knows the reality. We don’t want these efforts to finish.”
“The Palestinian leadership … wants the political process to continue. But we want a real political process, without tricks,” Mr Abed Rabbo said.
The Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al Malki echoed the support for talks, but said the membership request for the international conventions had been submitted.
Although Mr Kerry cancelled his visit, he also said it was “completely premature” to write off the peace process.
A US state department official said both sides had “taken unhelpful steps over the last 24 hours” but neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis wanted to end the negotiations.
“After … weathering previous moments of tension and public flare-ups, we’ve learnt it’s short-sighted and premature to make an immediate determination on what will be possible,” the official said.
Mr Abbas’s announcement on Tuesday came soon after Mr Kerry had wrapped up a 15-hour visit to Jerusalem during which he twice met the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sources said the two had discussed an emerging proposal to resolve the prisoner issue and ensure the continuation of the peace process into 2015 that included the release of the imprisoned American Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard, long sought by Israel, in exchange for concessions towards the Palestinians.
In Israel, there was surprise and anger over the Palestinian move for international recognition.
One hardline minister warned it would cost the Palestinians dearly.
“They will pay a heavy price,” the tourism minster Uzi Landau said, and Israel could “apply sovereignty” over unspecified areas of the occupied West Bank.
By Ma’an news
April 03, 2014
JERUSALEM — A long and heated meeting between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Jerusalem ended early Thursday without any signs of bringing both sides back to the negotiating table.
Palestinian sources told Ma’an that the nine-hour meeting with US Special Envoy Martin Indyk was attended by PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, Head of Palestinian intelligence Majid Faraj, and Israeli negotiators Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molcho.
The sources described the meeting as a “fierce political battle”, with Martin Indyk struggling to control heated exchanges between both sides.
Erekat reportedly told the Israeli side that “we are here to negotiate in the name of the UN-recognized State of Palestine, not in the name of a Palestinian Authority whose inputs and outputs are controlled by Israel.”
Israeli negotiators responded by threatening to put “endless” sanctions on the Palestinians, the sources said.
During the heated exchanges, US special envoy Martin Indyk reiterated his support for Israel’s security.
Majid Faraj responded by stressing that the Palestinians were there for “political, not security” talks and to negotiate about Jerusalem as the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.
Erekat responded to Israeli threats of sanctions by saying the PLO would go after Israeli officials as “war criminals” in international institutions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday as peace talks appeared to have reached an impasse over Israel’s refusal to free prisoners.
A day earlier, Abbas said he had begun steps to join several UN agencies and ratify international treaties after Israel failed to release a final group of pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners.
The announcement was a blow to Kerry’s frenetic efforts to resolve the dispute over Palestinian prisoners and find a way to extend the fragile peace talks beyond a looming April 29 deadline.
In July, the PLO agreed to postpone accession to international bodies in exchange for the release of 104 Palestinians prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords.
“Since Israel failed to release the last group of prisoners, the State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions,” the PLO said in a statement Wednesday.
“Despite the escalation of oppressive Israeli policies such as the killing of Palestinian civilians, settlement construction, raids on vulnerable communities, arbitrary arrests and detentions, home demolitions and the removal of residency rights, we remained committed to the negotiations process and supported US efforts,” it added.
By Hugh Naylor, The National
April 02, 2014
1) The Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the First Additional Protocol
2) The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations
3) The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
4) The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict
5) The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
6) The Hague Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land
7) The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
8) The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
9) The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
10) The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
11) The United Nations Convention against Corruption
12) The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
13) The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid
14) The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
15) The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights