Posts Tagged ‘Abbas’

Smashing the Abbas icon of Palestinian non – violence

October 14, 2015

By Nicola Nasser*

Indisputably, the 80 – year old President Mahmoud Abbas has established himself internally and worldwide as the icon of Palestinian non – violence. His Israeli peace partners leave none in doubt that they are determined to smash this icon, which would leave them only with opposite alternatives the best of which is a massive peaceful intifada (uprising) against the Israeli occupation.

It is true that Abbas cannot yet be called the Ghandi of Palestine. He has yet to follow in the footsteps of the founder of modern India and deliver similar national results by leading a massive popular revolution for liberation and independence, but his strictly adhered to non – violence platform continues to be the prerequisite for any peaceful settlement of the Arab – Israeli conflict in and over Palestine.

For decades, before and after the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories was completed in 1967, Abbas has stuck to his belief in negotiations as the only way to settle the more than a century old conflict. Building on Abbas’ legacy, his chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, wrote his book, “Life Is Negotiations.”

Abbas has all along rejected “armed struggle” and all forms of violence. He even did his best to avoid popular uprisings lest they glide into violence. Instead he has unequivocally opted to act as a man of state committed to international law and United Nations legitimacy.

Ever since he was elected as president he conducted Palestinian politics accordingly to make his people an integral part of the international community. His respect to the signed accords with Israel raised backlash among his own people when he described, for example, the security coordination agreement with the Hebrew state as “sacred.”

Demonising Abbas

Nonetheless, the Israelis are still persisting on an unabated campaign to demonise Abbas, tarnish his image, undermine his peace credentials and deprive him of any gains for his people.

A Haaretz editorial on Oct. 4 said that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “fanning the flames of incitement against” Abbas. On Oct. 10, The Times of Israel quoted the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon as saying that “We have come a long way to convince Israeli society that he’s (i.e. Abbas) no partner.”

Evidently, this is the only way for the Israelis to absolve themselves from their signed peace commitments. Ya’alon’s deputy, Eli Ben – Dahan, was quoted on the same day as saying that “Palestinians have to understand they won’t have a state and Israel will rule over them.”

The Israeli minister of education Naftali Bennett, speaking to the army radio on Oct. 11, raised the anti – Abbas ante to an adventurous and irresponsible end game when he said that Abbas’ “absence is better.”

Bennett left it to the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, to explain the raison d’être for his call for the “absence” of Abbas. In a Ynetnews article on Oct. 3, Oren concluded absurdly that “Abbas poses a danger which may be revealed as strategically more serious than the tactical dangers posed by (the Islamic Resistance Movement) Hamas.”

Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman was more forthright when he called on Oct. 12 for Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank to be “overthrown.”

According to William Booth, writing in The Washington Post on Oct. 10, “Israeli (Cabinet) ministers have branded Abbas ‘a terrorist in a suit’ and ‘inciter in chief’. They mock him as weak,” ignoring that their smearing campaign accompanied by their government’s determination to undermine his peace – making efforts is making him weaker internally and render the “two – state solution” a non – starter among his people.

A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Oct. 6 found that 65% of the public want Abbas to resign and if new presidential elections were held the deputy chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement “Hamas,” Ismail Haniyeh, would win 49 percent of the votes against 44 percent for Abbas. The “main findings” indicated a “decline in the level of support for the two – state solution” as 51 percent “opposed” this solution. What is more important in this context was that “57% support a return to an armed intifada.”

International Community Indifference

The Israeli anti – Abbas campaign could only be interpreted as a premeditated endeavour to evade a mounting international pressure for saving the so – called “two – state solution.”

The cancelation of a visit scheduled for last week by senior envoys of the international Middle East Quartet upon Netanyahu’s request was the latest example of the world community’s helplessness and indifference vis – a – vis Israel’s sense of impunity against accountability, which empowers the Israeli occupying power to escalate its crackdown on Palestinians under its military occupation since 1967.

In particular, U.S. President Barak Obama Administration’s “reversals” and “empty promises,” in the words of Peter Berkowitz on Oct. 13, to Abbas as well as the inaction of the European Union and the other two Russian and UN members of the Quartet are encouraging Israel in its anti – Abbas campaign, thus discrediting the Palestinian icon of non – violence further in the eyes of his own people as incapable of delivery to walk away from his non – violent path.

On Oct. 12 the AFP reported that the “frustrated’ Palestinians “have defied” both Abbas and the “Israeli security crackdown” to launch what many observers are calling the beginnings of a “third intifada.”

To his credit, Abbas proved true to his non – violence commitment. Israeli daily Haaretz on Oct. 11 quoted a senior official of the Israeli Shabak intelligence agency as telling a cabinet meeting on the same day “that not only does Abbas not support ‘terrorist attacks’ but also tells PA security services to ‘undermine’ anti-Israel protests as much as possible.”

Abbas was on record recently to tell “our Israeli neighbours that we do not want a security or military escalation. My message to our people, security agencies and leaders is that the situation must calm down.” He warned against “an intifada which we don’t want.” On Oct. 6, he publicly told a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) that “we want to reach a political solution by peaceful means and not at all by any other means.”

The practical translation of his on record “principles” was self evident on the ground during the past two weeks of Palestinian rebellion against the escalating violence of the illegal Israeli settlers of the occupied Palestinian territories and the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), especially in eastern Jerusalem, which so far claimed the lives of more than 25 Palestinians and at least four Israelis in October 2015.

Within the PA security mandate, violence was practiced by the IOF only and only Palestinians were killed. Mutual violence was confined to Jerusalem, the area designated “C” by the Oslo accords in the West Bank and Israel proper, where security is an exclusive Israeli responsibility. There Abbas has no mandate. Most victims of both sides fell there and there only Israel should be held responsible and accountable.

One could not but wonder whether eastern Jerusalem and area “C” of the West Bank would have seen no violence had Abbas’ security mandate been extended to include both areas. U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who announced on Tuesday plans to visit “soon” to calm down the violence, should consider this seriously.

Ending the Israeli occupation is the only way to move the situation “away from this precipice,” lest, in Kerry’s words, the two-state solution, “could conceivably be stolen from everybody” if violence were to spiral out of control.

In 1974 late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat appealed to the UN General Assembly to “not let the olive branch fall from my hand,” saying that he was holding a “freedom fighter’s gun” in his other hand. Abbas embraced the “olive branch” with both hands and dropped the “gun” forever.

In May this year, Pope Francis told Abbas during a visit to the Vatican: “I thought about you: May you be an angel of peace.” The Jewish Virtual Library’s biography of the Palestinian President vindicates the Pope’s vision. It hailed him as “considered one of the leading Palestinian figures devoted to the search for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict… It was Abbas who signed the 1993 peace accord with Israel.

End of Era

Writing in Al – Ahram Weekly on Oct. 12, the President of Arab American Institute, James Zogby, was one only of several observers who announced recently the “burial” of the Oslo accords. In “fact” Oslo “was on life support” and “has been dying for years” Zogby said, concluding: “What happened this week was the final burial rite.”

The Oslo accords were the crown of Abbas’ life – long endeavour. The “burial” of Oslo would inevitably be the end Abbas’ era.

Smashing the Abbas icon of Palestinian non – violence would herald an end to his era, dooming for a long time to come any prospect for a negotiated peaceful solution. His “absence,” according to Gershon Baskin, the Co-Chairman of Israel/Palestine Center for research and Information (IPCRI), will be “definitely the end of an era” and “will be a great loss for Israel and for those who seek true peace.”

Israelis by their ongoing campaign of defamation of Abbas would be missing an irreversible historic opportunity for making peace.

However, Abbas will go down in Palestinian chronicles as a national symbol of non – violence, who raced against time to make what has so far proved to be an elusive peace. Despite his failure, thanks to Israeli unrealistic dreams of “Greater Israel,” he will be the pride of his people in future in spite of the current widespread national opposition to his life – long commitment.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com).

Palestinian-U.S. relations head for stormy times

October 3, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Washington’s response to the speech that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered at the UN General Assembly last September 26 confirms that the bilateral Palestinian-U.S. relations are heading for stormy times.

The U.S., which opposed Abbas’ plan to seek a UN Security Council resolution to end the Israeli occupation within a defined timeframe, not only cautioned him against proceeding with any such plan but also issued an official statement condemning the language he used to express the Palestinian people’s opposition to the continued occupation and the ongoing war crimes that Israel is perpetrating in the territories it occupied in 1967.

“Abbas’ speech today included offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing and which we reject,” U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement on last September 27, which criticised Abbas’ speech as “provocative,” “counterproductive” and undermines “efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties.”

Clearly, Abbas bent before the onslaught of the winds of American rejection. He “submitted” his plan to the General Assembly but he did not ask to bring it to a vote in order to secure an international resolution that would strengthen his hand when he submitted it to the Security Council. It is also noteworthy that while he called for a deadline to end the occupation he omitted the three-year timeframe that he had previously stipulated.

There is no serious Palestinian opposition to Abbas’ plan to internationalise the search for a political solution to the Palestinian struggle to end the occupation of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. It would be extremely difficult to come up with a Palestinian who would argue against replacing US sponsorship with UN sponsorship of the process of reaching a negotiated settlement with the Israeli occupying power. Indeed, this direction is supported by a near unanimity of Palestinian opinion, including among resistance factions that have given Abbas a chance to put his strategy to a last test without obstructing his manoeuvrability.

But Abbas’ plan signifies that he has thrown in the towel on his reliance on U.S. sponsorship, which in turn means confrontation with Washington. Clearly, he will not succeed in neutralising the U.S. by merely bowing before its opposition to his plan or by asking for U.S. approval. Certainly, he should not hold out any hope that Washington will not use its veto to defeat his proposed resolution in the UN Security Council. Nor will he placate the U.S. by deferring Palestinian applications to join international treaties and organisations, such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

All the indications are that the U.S. will campaign against the Abbas plan and continue to insist on brokering a solution that it has been unable to produce during the more than two decades in which it monopolised the sponsoring the negotiating process with the Israeli occupying power.

On September 23, 88 US senators signed a letter urging U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to take prevent “negative developments at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and the International Criminal Court that could derail any prospects for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Senator Rand Paul refused to sign this letter. He wants Washington to cut off “all aid to the Palestinian Authority until the conditions in Senator Paul’s Stand with Israel Act are met,” according to his e-mail statement to The Washington Post that day.

Warning Abbas “that America’s willingness to cooperate with him will continue to depend on his willingness to return to the negotiating table with the Government of Israel and avoid unilateral measures,” the senators were keen to sustain the usual U.S. “carrot-and-stick” policy, in this case by “enabling the Palestinian Authority to move toward becoming the Palestinian governing authority in Gaza.” This was their bribe to him.

But any policy of confrontation with the U.S. means that Abbas must reject all U.S. bribes, which would inevitably come at the cost of sacrificing the Palestinian resistance.

In addition, in a confrontation of that sort, Abbas would risk losing Arab support in view of the Arab consensus to ally with — or at least not oppose — the U.S. in the war it has declared against ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). Therefore, the resistance and Palestinian national unity will be the only foundation on which President Abbas can rely in the confrontation.

In this context, the Arab League’s declared support for the Abbas’ plan lacks credibility and cannot be relied on when it comes to confronting the U.S. In fact, in the event of a confrontation, the likelihood is that this support would dwindle and fade and turn into an American tool to pressure the PA presidency into bowing to U.S. conditions.

This confrontation is foreshadowed by preliminary chapters of the same, especially since 2011 when the U.S. defeated the Palestinian drive to obtain UN recognition of Palestine as a member state. The following year, the U.S. was not able to prevent the UN from recognising Palestine as a non-member observer state. But Palestinian memory has not forgotten how the U.S. undermined Palestinian accomplishments, such as the International Court of Justice recommendation regarding the separating wall designed to annex another chunk of the West Bank, and the Goldstein Report. The Palestinians remember very well how the U.S. obstructed dozens of international resolutions in support of Palestinian rights and how it continuously prevented the international community from sponsoring any just negotiating process that might end Washington’s own monopoly over what it fraudulently calls the “peace process,” in which the U.S. has never been an honest broker.

The US-Palestinian confrontation was inevitable, even if much delayed. Palestinian leaders from both the resistance and the negotiating factions always tried to avert it. The Palestinians never chose confrontation; successive US administrations however were constantly bent on forcing it on the Palestinian people.

If President Abbas, who for decades placed his faith in U.S. good will, has finally reached the conclusion that it is futile to continue to depend on the U.S. and that now is the time to stand up to Washington and turn to the international community to sponsor his negotiating strategy. His decision will receive the unanimous support of the Palestinian people. However, if he backs down, he will undergo the most important test of his political career, as he will come face-to-face with the people’s judgment of the credibility of his strategic choices, which have never obtained a national or popular consensus.

The choice of confrontation also entails the need to press forward in creating and setting into motion the mechanisms for implementing the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, as well as the need to respond quickly to the overwhelming Palestinian demand to apply for the membership of international treaties and organisations.

But above all, it requires safeguarding the resistance in all its forms and developing it in quantity and quality until its scope is expanded to embrace all the Palestinian people, wherever they may be. Confrontation means refusing to allow Ezz Al-Din Al-Qassam to be assassinated twice!

Even if the inconceivable occurred and the U.S. acknowledged the will of the international community in support of Palestinian rights, refrained from using its influence to stop Abbas’ plan and even refrained from wielding its veto in the UN Security Council, there remains the perpetual risk that the UN resolution would amount to no more than a paper victory to add to the pile of Palestinian paper victories, since any such political victory requires a national force to translate it into a reality on the ground in the occupied territories.

If the Palestinian presidency does not respond to these needs and demands, which receive the full support of the Palestinian people, he will find himself once again singing outside the his national flock.

Regardless of whether or not there is a confrontation with the U.S., these needs and demands are national requirements that must be promoted, enhanced and developed, because they are indispensable if Palestinian popular will is to succeed in liberating its land and translating “paper” victories into real victories on the ground.

The Palestinians have learned an important lesson from their enemy. The Palestinian national movement has dozens of international resolutions in its favour. This is something the Zionist movement never possessed throughout its history, apart from that one non-binding partition resolution, 181, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1947. But this one resolution the Zionists had translated into reality on the ground and then expanded on it through the exercise of overwhelming military force. This is the power that Palestinians are being prevented from possessing today, just as has been the case in the past.

May God bless late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser who always said that what has been taken away by force can only be regained by force. History has proven him right and events have shown that the course the Arabs and Palestinians took after he died — which headed in the opposite direction to his — was gravely wrong, indeed sinful.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com).

This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on October 3, 2014.

Palestinian reconciliation at crossroads

September 15, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*
President Mahmoud Abbas and the Fatah movement, which he commands, have unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the resistance. If pressure from the Palestinian public fails to stop the campaign, Abbas may achieve politically what Israel failed to achieve militarily: forcing the Palestinian presidency to choose “peace with Israel” over national reconciliation.

It appears that President Abbas has, indeed, prioritised “peace with Israel.” He has devised plans for resuming negotiations, and is still banking on American support for such talks. This is the only explanation for the current anti-Hamas media campaign.

Abbas sent his negotiators — Saeb Erekat, Majed Faraj and Maen Erekat — to Washington, where they met with US Secretary of State John Kerry a week ago last Wednesday. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki described the more than two-hour meeting as “constructive”. Abbas then prepared to obtain an Arab mandate, which seems guaranteed in advance, for his plans from the 142nd session of the Arab foreign ministers conference, held in Cairo this week.

However, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power poured cold water over the Palestinian Authority (PA) president’s bid to obtain US backing for his plan, which he intends to put before the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly. The proposal would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza within three years, during which period negotiations would resume within three months with the occupying power over its borders with the Palestinian state.

“We don’t think there are shortcuts or unilateral measures that can be taken at the United Nations or anyplace else that will bring about the outcome that the Palestinian people most seek,” Power said in a press conference last week. “To think that you can come to New York and secure what needs to be worked out on the ground is not realistic.”

This clearly translates into an unequivocal US “No.” The Palestinian president’s new plan has run up against the same American wall that Palestinian negotiators have faced since negotiations were adopted as a strategic approach. The Zionist route remains the only way these negotiators can access the White House and the UN Security Council.

There can be only one explanation for this plan. It is in fulfilment of a Palestinian promise not to resist the occupation and to offer the occupying power the opportunity to agree to yet another futile round of negotiations. Such negotiations will give Israel the time it needs to turn the Givaot colony into a major settler city on the 4,000 dunams of Palestinian land that it has just seized by declaring it “state land”.

The purpose of this appropriation is to separate the Hebron and South Bethlehem governorates in the West Bank. It is also a means to deflect international humanitarian pressure in reaction to Israeli war crimes in Gaza, to evade Israel’s obligations to the truce agreement with the resistance in Gaza, and to fuel internal Palestinian tensions until they reignite once more.

It was not Hamas or the resistance that described Abbas’s new plan as a “spurious process”. It was independent Palestinian figures who expressed their views in a statement read out by Mamdouh Al-Akr, general commissioner of the Independent Organisation of Human Rights, on 2 September in Ramallah. They called for an urgent meeting of the unified leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), in accordance with the Cairo agreement of 2011, so that it can serve as a frame of reference for the Palestinian will and take critical national decisions.

Activating the unified leadership framework of the PLO will put President Abbas’s call for a “single Palestinian central authority”, uniquely empowered to “determine matters of war and peace”, into its concrete national context. Only this context can confer legitimacy on a Palestinian leadership that does not derive its authority from resisting the occupation in all forms.

Moreover, the currently missing “electoral legitimacy” is no longer sufficient in and of itself to allow Palestinian decisions on war and peace to remain in the hands of a leadership that is the product of elections that were held with the approval of the occupation power and in the framework of agreements signed with it.

The Palestinian presidency has dropped the available option of resistance from the lexicon of its negotiating strategy, let alone the option of war, which is not available. The PA, in coordination with the occupation’s security apparatus, has become “the security proxy for the occupying power, rather than an instrument to end the occupation and establish the state,” as Palestinian analyst Hani Al-Masri wrote on 26 August.

As a result, the occupying power, alone, holds the keys to the decision of war, which it continues to repeat, and to the decision of peace, which it still refuses to take.

It appears that President Abbas is working against the tide of Palestinian public opinion, as voiced in a recent survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) in Ramallah. According to this poll, only 22 per cent of respondents supported a resumption of negotiations, while 53 per cent said they regarded resistance as “the more effective way” to realise the creation of a Palestinian state.

The results of the PCPSR poll contradict all the charges levelled by the president and Fatah against the resistance and Hamas. Of those polled, 79 per cent believe that the resistance emerged victorious from the recent war, while 86 per cent support the defensive use of rockets.

Respondents gave very low ratings to the performance of the Palestinian president, the PA, the national unity government and the PLO, while the approval rating for Hamas was 88 per cent.

What is the substance of this media campaign against Hamas? It ranges from blaming Hamas for prolonging the war and for the consequent loss of lives and material damage, to adopting the Israeli narrative regarding a Hamas-engineered “coup attempt” against the president in the West Bank and the existence of a “shadow government” in Gaza that prevents the national unity government from functioning.

Then there are the charges of keeping Fatah members under “house arrest”, of “opening fire on civilians”, and of “selling emergency relief on the black market.” On top of these come the accusation that Hamas has violated “the law that defines the colours and dimensions of the flag.”

President Abbas’s instructions to create a “committee to hold a dialogue” with Hamas to discuss the “fate of the national unity government,” as announced by Amin Maqboul, secretary of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, does little to encourage optimism. The national unity government, national reconciliation, the Cairo agreement of 2011, the unified leadership framework that it stipulated, and the reactivation of the PLO, all stand at a crossroads.

This is because of the confrontation stirred by the systematic smear campaign that President Abbas and the Fatah movement are waging against Hamas and the resistance. The campaign has created a media smokescreen behind which the occupation authority can conceal its foot-dragging in carrying out its obligations under the truce agreement, which will probably be echoed in Israeli procrastination on continuing with truce talks due to be held in Cairo.

It should also be stressed that to accuse the resistance and Hamas of prolonging the war is to exonerate the occupation power of responsibility. The Israeli media was quick to capitalise on this, further proof of the extensive coverage the campaign has received.

Indeed, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev virtually reiterated it verbatim when he said that the Egyptian initiative was on the table from 15 July and that while the Arab League and Israel had approved the initiative, Hamas rejected it, only to turn around and agree to it a month later. “If [Hamas] had agreed then to what it agrees to now” it would have been possible “to avoid all that bloodshed,” he said.

The investigatory commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council will most likely cite the president’s charges to strengthen the claims of the occupying power, as these charges would be regarded as “testimony of a witness from the other side.”

Abbas says that while the “final toll” from the most recent war in Gaza was 2,140 dead, “if added to the number of dead in previous wars, and those who died during the period of the Shalit problem, the number would be 10,000 dead and wounded, in addition to the 35,000 homes that were totally or partially destroyed.”

When Abbas says that “it would have been possible” to avert the human and material losses of the recent conflict he is effectively blaming the resistance, not the occupation, for the last war on Gaza and the two wars since 2008 that preceded it.

The spectre of discord once again hovers over Palestinian unity, with Palestinian opinion divided over a programme of negotiations versus a programme of resistance. This is the breach through which Arab and non-Arab “axes” penetrate into the Palestinian interior, deepening rather than mending Palestinian rifts.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories (nassernicola@ymail.com). This article was first published and translated from Arabic by Al-Ahram Weekly on September 11, 2014.

Cornering a Brave Palestinian Man of Peace

February 5, 2014

By Nicola Nasser*

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stands now at a crossroads of his people’s national struggle for liberation and independence as well as of his political life career, cornered between the rock of his own rejecting constituency and the hard place of his Israeli occupying power and the US sponsors of their bilateral negotiations, which were resumed last July 29, despite his minesweeping concessions and backtracking “on all his redlines.”

Unmercifully pressured by both Israeli negotiators and American mediators, the elusive cause of peace stands about to loose in Abbas a brave Palestinian man of peace-making of an historical stature whose demise would squander what could be the last opportunity for the so-called two-state solution.

To continue pressuring Abbas into yielding more concessions without any reciprocal rewards is turning a brave man into an adventurer committing historical and strategic mistakes in the eyes of his people, a trend that if continued would in no time disqualify him of a personal weight that is a prerequisite to make his people accept his “painful” concessions.

The emerging, heavily “pro-Israel” US-proposed framework agreement “appears to ask the Palestinians to accept peace terms that are worse than the Israeli ones they already rejected … that it would all but compel the Palestinians to reject it,” Larry Derfner wrote in The National Interest on this February 3.

Abbas “rejects all transitional, partial and temporary solutions,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh said on last January 5, but that’s exactly what the leaks of the blueprint of the “framework agreement” reveal.

Reportedly, the international Quartet on the Middle East, comprising the US, EU, UN and Russia, meeting on the sidelines of the Munich security conference last week, supported US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to commit Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to his proposed “framework agreement.”

Europe is also tightening the rope around Abbas’ neck. If the current US-backed framework agreement talks with Israel fail, Europe will not automatically continue to support the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s Walla website reported on last January 29.

However, The US envoy Martyn Indyk said on last January 31 that Kerry will be proposing the “framework agreement” to the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators “within a few weeks,” but the State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on the same day “clarified” in a statement that the “contents of the framework” are not “final” because “this is an ongoing process and these decisions have not yet been made.”

Historic versus Political Decisions

Israeli President Shimon Peres on last January 30, during a joint press conference with the envoy of the Middle East Quartet, Tony Blair, said that there is “an opportunity” now to make “historic decisions, not political ones” for the “two-state solution” of the Arab – Israeli conflict and that “we are facing the most crucial time since the establishment of the new Middle East in 1948,” i.e. since what the Israeli historian Ilan Pappé called the “ethnic cleaning” of the Arabs of Palestine and the creation of Israel on their ancestral land.

Peres on the same occasion said that he was “convinced” that Abbas wants “seriously” to make peace with Israel, but what Peres failed to note was that “historic decisions” are made by historic leaders and that such a leader is still missing in Israel since the assassination of late former premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, but already available in the person of President Abbas, whom Peres had more than once confirmed as the Palestinian peace “partner,” defying his country’s official denial of the existence of such a partner on the Palestinian side.

Abbas’ more than two – decade unwavering commitment to peace, negotiations, renunciation of violence and the two –state solution has earned him a semi-consensus rejection and opposition to his fruitless efforts among his own people. He is defying his own Fatah-led Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) constituency, let alone his Hamas-led non-PLO political rivals, who have opposed his decision to resume bilateral negotiations with Israel and are overwhelmingly rejecting the leaked components of Kerry’s “framework agreement.”

“Abbas is perhaps the last Palestinian leader today with some measure of faith in the diplomatic process,” Elhanan Miller, wrote in The Times of Israel this February 3. Palestinian “pressure” is mounting on him even from members of his own Fatah party and “his negotiating team crumbled” when negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh resigned in November last year. In an interview recorded especially for the conference of Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies in the previous week, Abbas “indicated he may not be able to withstand the pressure much longer,” Miller wrote.

“Abbas is in an unenviable position these days. As negotiations with Israel enter the final third of their nine-month time frame,” the Palestinian president stands “cornered” between a Palestinian rejection “and an Israeli leadership bent on depicting him as an uncompromising extremist,” according to Miller, who quoted the Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz as describing Abbas in the previous week as “the foremost purveyor of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli venom.”

Similar Israeli “political” demonization of an historic figure like Abbas led Jamie Stern-Weiner, of the New Left Project, writing in GlobalResearch online on last January 11, to expect that, “It’s possible that Abbas will get a bullet in his head!” Jamie was not taking things too far in view of Kerry’s warning, reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, that Abbas could face the fate of his predecessor Yasser Arafat.

Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, stated on last January 25 that Abbas’ positions are “unacceptable to us” and threatened the Palestinians “to pay the price” if he sticks to them.

“This is a clear threat to Abbas in person and it must be taken seriously,” the PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told reporters soon after. “We will distribute Livni’s statements to all foreign ministers and the international community. We can’t remain silent towards these threats,” he added.

Israeli demonization was not confined to Abbas; it hit also at Kerry as “hurtful,” “unfair,” “intolerable,” “obsessive,” “messianic” and expects Israel “to negotiate with a gun to its head.” US National Security Adviser Susan Rice “tweeted” in response to convey, according to Haaretz on this February 5, that “Israeli insulters have crossed the red line of diplomatic etiquette!”

Minesweeping Concessions

Abbas’ demonization was the Israeli reward for the minesweeping concessions he had already made to make the resumed negotiations a success, risking a growing semi-consensus opposition at home:

* Abbas had backtracked on his own previously proclaimed precondition for the resumption of bilateral negotiations with Israel, namely freezing the accelerating expansion of the illegal Israeli Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories, which Israel militarily occupied in 1967, at least temporarily during the resumed negotiations.

* Thereafter, according to Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu, writing in The Jewish Press on this February 3, Abbas “has essentially backtracked on all his redlines, except for” heeding Israel’s insistence on recognizing it as a “Jewish state,” which is a new Israeli unilaterally demanded precondition that even the Jordanian Foreign Minister, Nasser Judeh, considered “unacceptable” on this February 2 despite his country’s peace treaty with Israel.

* In his interview with The New York Times on this February 2, Abbas reiterated his repeated pledge not to allow a third Intifada, or uprising: “In my life, and if I have any more life in the future, I will never return to the armed struggle,” he said, thus voluntarily depriving himself from a successfully tested source of a negotiating power and a legitimate instrument of resisting foreign military occupation ordained by the international law and the UN charter.

* In the same interview he yielded to the Israeli precondition of “demilitarizing” any future state of Palestine, thus compromising the sovereignty of such a state beforehand. Ignoring the facts that Israel is a nuclear power, a state of weapons of mass destruction, the regional military superpower and the world’s forth military exporter, he asked: “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?”

* Further compromising the sovereignty of any future state of Palestine, Abbas, according to the Times interview, has proposed to US Secretary Kerry that an American-led NATO force, not a UN force, patrol a future Palestinian state “indefinitely, with troops positioned throughout the territory, at all crossings, and within Jerusalem;” he seemed insensitive to the fact that his people would see such a force with such a mandate as merely the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) operating under the NATO flag and in its uniforms.

* Abbas even agreed that the IOF “could remain in the West Bank for up to five years” — and not three as he had recently stated – provided that “Jewish settlements” are “phased out of the new Palestinian state along a similar timetable.”

* Not all “Jewish settlements” however. Very well aware of international law, which prohibits the transfer of people by an occupying power like Israel from or to the occupied territories, Abbas nonetheless had early enough accepted the principle of proportional land swapping whereby the major colonial settlements, mainly within Greater Jerusalem borders, which are home to some eighty percent of more than half a million illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank, would be annexed to Israel. This concession is tantamount to accepting the division of the West Bank between its Palestinian citizens and its illegal settlers.

* Yet, what Abbas had described as the “historic,” “very difficult,” “courageous” and “painful” concession Palestinians had already made dates back very much earlier, when the Palestine National Council adopted in 1988 the Declaration of Independence, which was based on the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution No. 181 (II) of 29 November 1947; then “we agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine – on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967,” he told the UNGA in September 2011.

* Accordingly, Abbas repeatedly voices his commitment to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which stipules an “agreed upon” solution of the “problem” of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Israel is on record that the return of these refugees to their homes according to the UNGA resolution No. 194 (III) of December 11, 1948 is a non-negotiable redline, thus rendering any such “agreed upon” solution a mission impossible. Abbas concession to such a solution is in fact compromising the inalienable rights of more than half of the Palestinian population.

On September 29, 2012, Abbas “once again” repeated “our warning” to the UNGA: “The window of opportunity is narrowing and time is quickly running out. The rope of patience is shortening and hope is withering.”

Out of Conviction, Not out of Options

Abbas is making concessions unacceptable to his people out of deep conviction in peace and unwavering commitment to peaceful negotiations and not because he is out of options.

One of his options was reported in an interview with The New York Times on this February 2, when Abbas said that he had been “resisting pressure” from the Palestinian street and leadership to join the United Nations agencies for which his staff “had presented 63 applications ready for his signature.”

In 2012 the UNGA recognized Palestine as an observer non-member state; reapplying for the recognition of Palestine as a member state is another option postponed by Abbas to give the resumed negotiations with Israel a chance.

Reconciliation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip is a third option that Abbas has been maneuvering not to make since 2005 in order not to alienate Israel and the US away from peace talks because they condemn it as a terrorist organization.

Suspension of the security coordination with Israel is also a possible option, which his predecessor Arafat used to test now and then.

Looking for other players to join the US in co-sponsoring the peace talks with Israel is an option that Abbas made clear in his latest visit to Moscow. “We would like other parties, such as Russia, the European Union, China and UN, to play an influential role in these talks,” the Voice of Russia quoted him as saying on last January 24.

Israel’s DEBKAfile in an exclusive report on last January 24 considered his Moscow visit an “exit from the Kerry peace initiative,” labeling it a “diplomatic Intifada” and a “defection” that caught Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “unprepared.”

Abbas’ representative Jibril al-Rjoub on January 27 was in the Iranian capital Tehran for the first time in many years. “Our openness to Iran is a Palestinian interest and part of our strategy to open to the whole world,” al-Rjoub said. Three days later the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported that Abbas will be invited to visit Iran soon with the aim of “rehabilitating” the bilateral ties. The Central committee of Fatah, which Abbas leads, on this February 3 said that al-Rjoub’s Tehran visit “comes in line with maintaining international relations in favor of the high interests of our people and the Palestinian cause.”

Opening up to erstwhile “hostile” nations like Iran and Syria is more likely a tactical maneuvering than a strategic shift by Abbas, meant to send the message that all Abbas’ options are open.

However his strategic option would undeniably be to honor his previous repeated threats of resignation, to leave the Israeli Occupation Forces to fend for themselves face to face with the Palestinian people whose status quo is no more sustainable.

Speaking in Munich, Germany, Kerry on this February 1 conveyed the message bluntly: “Today’s status quo, absolutely to a certainty, I promise you 100 percent, cannot be maintained,” Kerry said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It is not sustainable.” Last November, Kerry warned that Israel would face a Palestinian “third Intifada” if his sponsored talks see no breakthrough.

The loss of Abbas by resignation or by nature would for sure end Kerry’s peace mission and make his warning come true.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Kerry’s Coup from Mediator to Antagonist

December 11, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to start his ninth trip of shuttle diplomacy between Palestinian and Israeli leaders on this December 11. However, the bridging “security arrangements,” which he proposed less than a week earlier on his last trip, have backfired and are now snowballing into a major crisis with Palestinian negotiators who view Kerry’s “ideas” as a coup turning the US top diplomat from a mediator into an antagonist.

Kerry’s “ideas” had provoked a “real crisis” and “will drive Kerry’s efforts to an impasse and to total failure,” the secretary general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Abed Rabbo, said on this December 9.

Resumption of the peace talks and U.S. involvement in the negotiations with Israel were both on record Palestinian demands. Disappointed by the deadlocked negotiations and more by the way Kerry decided finally to get his country involved, the Palestinian presidency expectedly stands now to regret both demands.

Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy during his current trip seems more aimed at controlling the damage his “ideas – proposal” caused than at facilitating the deadlocked Palestinian – Israeli bilateral talks.

On this December 6, Kerry said that (160) American security specialists and diplomats, headed by General John Allen, the former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had drafted the “proposal,” believing “that we can contribute ideas that could help both Israelis and Palestinians get to an agreement.”

According to leaks published by mainstream Israeli media, including Israeli Channel 10 news, Haaretz, Maariv, Yedioth Ahronoth and DEBKAfile, as well as by the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, the U.S. “security arrangements” propose:

* Demilitarization of the future State of Palestine.

* U.S. monitoring of its demilitarization.

* To put the border crossings into Jordan under joint Israeli-Palestinian control.

* Maintaining an Israeli military presence deployed along the western side of Jordan River after the establishment of a Palestinian state.

* Installing Israeli early warning stations on the eastward slopes of the West Bank highlands.

* Postponement of arrangements for the final status of Gaza Strip, i.e. severing the strip from the status planned by Kerry’s proposal for the West Bank.

* All of the foregoing are on the background of the U.S. recognition of an understanding that the large Israeli illegal colonial settlements on the West Bank would be annexed to Israel, according to the letter sent by former U.S. President George W. Bush to the comatose former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon in April 2004, to which the incumbent administration of President Barak Obama is still committed.

Kerry and his administration have obviously coordinated a political coup by the adoption of the Israeli preconditions for recognizing a Palestinian state almost to the letter, turning the Palestinian priorities upside down and changing the terms of reference for the Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which Kerry succeeded to resume and sponsor late last July.

When he announced the resumption of talks on last July 29, Kerry declared that his goal would be to help the Israelis and Palestinians to reach a “final status agreement’” within nine months.

Now, President Barak Obama, speaking at Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in Washington last Saturday, says there would have to be a “transition process” and that the Palestinians wouldn’t get “everything they want on day one” under an accord, which initially may exclude Gaza, and let the “contiguous Palestinian state,” which he had previously promised, wait. The aim of the negotiations now is to reach a “framework that would not address every single detail,” he added.

And now Kerry, on the same occasion, was speaking about a “basic framework” and establishing “guidelines” for “subsequent negotiations” for a “full-on peace treaty,” i.e., in his game of words, another “road map.”

Kerry moreover hinted that the negotiations might have to extend beyond the agreed upon nine months, thus, from a Palestinian perspective, planning to buy Israel more time to create more colonial facts on the occupied Palestinian ground.

Kerry’s “ideas” alienated the Palestinian “peace camp” and negotiators led by Fatah, which rules the Palestinian Authority (PA) and leads the PLO, who have put “all their eggs in the U.S. basket” for the past two decades, let alone all the other PLO member factions who are against the resumption of the negotiations with Israel for pragmatic reasons, but first of all because they did not trust the U.S. mediator; Kerry has just vindicated their worst fears. Non-member organizations like Hamas and al-Jihad oppose the negotiations as a matter of principle.

On December 8, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to The Times of Israel three days later, met with the American consul general in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney, and formally rejected the proposal, saying that the Palestinian position was “unequivocal”: no Israeli presence, though the Palestinians would tolerate a third-party military presence.

On the same day on the occasion of the first 1987 Palestinian Intifada against the 1967 Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the PLO Executive Committee in a statement said the Palestinian people will not accept Kerry’s proposed plan, which the committee’s secretary general Abed Rabbo described as “extremely vague” and “open-ended.”

On the same day in Qatar, the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, commenting on Kerry’s proposals, said that the Palestinian leadership “perhaps” committed a “strategic mistake” by agreeing to the resumption of negotiations with Israel instead of seeking first the membership of international organizations to build on the UN General Assembly’s recognition last year of Palestine as a non-member state.

The former second in command in Erakat’s negotiating team, Mohammad Shtayyeh who resigned his mission recently because there was no “serious Israeli partner,” called for replacing the U.S. sponsorship of the negotiations by an international one, on the lines of the Geneva conferences for Iran and Syria, because the U.S. sponsorship is “unbalanced.”

Former negotiator Hassan Asfour wrote that kerry’s plan, which he described as a “conspiracy,” would “liquidate the Palestine Question and end any hope for a Palestinian state,” adding that its rejection is a “necessity and national duty” because it “violates the red national lines.”

Member of the PLO executive committee and former Palestinian chief negotiator, Ahmad Qurei’, said Kerry’s plan replaces the land for peace formula by a security for peace one as the basis for Palestinian – Israeli talks.

Abed Rabbo said last week in Ramallah that if the U.S. accepts that final borders are set according to what Israel determines are its security needs “all hell with break loose.”

Kerry who on his last eighth trip warned Israelis of a Palestinian third Intifada seems himself laying the ground for one. His “ideas” clash head to head with the Palestinian repeated and plain rejection of long or short term interim or transitional arrangements based only on Israel’s security.

He seems obsessed with Israel’s security as “the top priority” for Washington, both in nuclear talks with Iran and peace talks with the Palestinians. In his press availability at Ben Gurion International Airport on December 6 he used the word “security” and “secure” twenty times in relation with Israel, but no words at all about the Israeli “occupation” and “settlements.”

U.S. commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad,” “spans decades,” “permanent,” “paramount” and a “central issue” in the work of the United States for both final agreements with Iran and Palestinians, he said. President Obama last Saturday said that this commitment is “sacrosanct.”

George Friedman of Stratfor on December 3 reported that “Israel’s current strategic position is excellent” and “faces no existential threats.” About “the possibility that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon,” Friedman wrote: “One of the reasons Israel has not attempted an air strike, and one of the reasons the United States has refused to consider it, is that Iran’s prospects for developing a nuclear weapon are still remote.”

Despite objections to Kerry’s “security arrangements” by the Israeli defense and foreign cabinet ministers, Moshe Ya’alon and Avigdor Lieberman, the chief Israeli negotiator and justice minister Tzipi Livni admitted that the proposed American security framework addresses a large part of Israel’s security needs.

Obsession with “Israel’s security” could not be interpreted as simply a naïve commitment out of good faith by an old hand veteran of foreign policy like Kerry.

More likely Kerry is dictating to and pressuring the Palestinian presidency with the only option “to take” his proposal or “leave it,” to be doomed either way, by its own people or by the U.S.-led donors to the PA. With friends like Kerry, Palestinian Abbas for sure needs no enemies.

Ironically, Kerry’s “ideas” create a solid political ground for a Palestinian consensus that would be an objective basis for ending the Palestinian divide and reviving the national unity between the PLO in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip as a prerequisite to be able to stand up to Kerry’s “coup.”

Such a development however remains hostage to a decision by President Abbas who is still swimming against the national tide because he has made peace making through negotiations only the goal of his life and political career.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Kerry’s Success Worse than His Failure

August 7, 2013

By Nicola Nasser*

The critical issue of the ever expanding illegal Israeli colonial settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in the West Bank (WB), which are peace killing in eastern Jerusalem in particular, will make or break the newly resumed Palestinian – Israeli negotiations.

On July 29, 2013, those negotiations were resumed in Washington, D.C.; they are scheduled to begin in earnest in mid-August. President Barak Obama hailed them as a “promising step forward.” However, in view of more than twenty years of failed U.S. – sponsored peace making, the new talks “promise” nothing more than being a new round of failure and “conflict management,” in spite of Obama’s belief that “peace is both possible and necessary.”

According to Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is “insanity,” but that is exactly what John Kerry seems to have achieved after six tours of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East since he was sworn in as the U.S. Secretary of State.

Unless the issue of settlements is addressed in accordance with international and humanitarian law as well as in compliance with the resolutions of the United Nations, Kerry will be shooting himself in the legs and his success in his peace mission would be worse than his failure. The EU’s recent anti-settlement move highlighted this fact.

However, Kerry seems and sounds determined to pursue his mission on the basis of contradictory terms of reference, laid down by the official letter sent by the former U.S. president George W. Bush to former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon in April 2004, whereby the United States pledged to annex the major Jewish settlements to Israel, to redraw its borders accordingly and to exclude the right of return of Palestinian refugees from any agreement in the future on solving the Arab – Israeli conflict in Palestine peacefully.

Top on the agenda of the resumed negotiations are borders and security; Israel has never defined its borders nor respected the borders set by the United Nations resolution No. 181 of 1947; in the name of security, it demands borders that compromise the viability of any independent Palestinian state on the WB.

From U.S. and Israeli perspectives, “the resumption of negotiations is seen as an objective in itself,” in the words of Ghassan al-Khatib, the former spokesman of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

David Ignatius on August 2 described kerry’s efforts as a “mission impossible,” which if it fails “this time, it will cost the parties dearly;” he described the ensuing negotiations as “a kind of a benign trap, once the prey have been lured inside, it’s difficult for them to escape without either accomplishing .. peace or damaging themselves.”

Indeed in the long run, success of the resumed negotiations warn of creating a political environment that would give “legitimacy” to a new Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip to remove the “armed resistance” there to their outcome, with the overt blessing of the U,S. sponsor of the negotiations and the discreet blessing of the Arab “peace partners.”

However, the expected failure of kerry’s efforts could be worse than the failure of the Camp David summit meeting in September 2000 of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and U.S. former president Bill Clinton.

By sending his negotiators to Washington, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is again compromising his personal credibility, but worse still he risks a Palestinian implosion in the case of success, but in case the negotiations fail he risks a Palestinian explosion in rebellion against both his PA and the Israeli occupation.

Abbas has already antagonized his old allies among the members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is considered the third influential Palestinian power after the two rivals of Fatah and Hamas – who accuse him of reneging on their consensus not to resume negotiations without a stop to the expansion of Israeli colonial settlements first.

National reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas will be put on hold for at least the nine months which the negotiators set as the time frame for their negotiations.

His decision put on hold as well any Palestinian new attempt to join international organizations to build on the UN General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as a non-member state in September 2012.

The new talks are merely “the beginning of the beginning” of “a long process” in which “there is no guarantee” for success, according to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

All this boils down to winning Israel more time to dictate whatever borders it deems “secured,” by creating more facts on the OPT. For Palestinians, this is a waste of time that makes their dream of a national homeland in an independent state more remote. No surprise then the Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu on July 27 saw in the resumption of negotiations “a vital strategic interest of the state of Israel.”

Kerry’s personal success seems to have pressured Palestinians into being fooled again into jumping to “final status” negotiations as the best way to absolve Israel from honoring its commitments in compliance with the “interim” accords it had signed with the PLO.

Bitter Past Experience

The Palestinian wide –spread opposition to the resumption of talks is accusing Abbas of being a “believer” in peace who is about to get “stung from the same hole twice,” in reference to the bloody outcome of the U.S. – hosted Camp David summit in September 2000.

Then, the U.S. administration of Clinton pressured Arafat into “final status” negotiations. Barak, then the Israeli prime minister, found in the Camp David final status talks a golden pretext not to implement the third stage of the Oslo accords, namely to withdraw the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) from about 95% of the West Bank (WB) area and hand it over to the PA.

Linking the WB and Gaza by a “corridor” that allows free movement of people and goods between them was another commitment that has yet to be honored by Israel.

“Trying” and failing is better than “doing nothing,” Kerry said, but the failure of the Camp David trilateral summit led to the second Palestinian Intifada (uprising); ever since both the failure and the uprising were additional pretexts for the successive Israeli governments not to honor both commitments; moreover, both pretexts were the justification they used to reoccupy militarily all the PA areas and to coordinate with the U.S. the “removal” of Arafat and the “change” of his regime.

The critical issue of the illegal Israeli colonial settlements on the WB will make or break the new Kerry – sponsored talks. On July 29, James M. Wall wrote: “Israel plays the peace process game not to give away ill-gotten gains, but to protect them;” settlements come on top of those “gains;” they were “gained” under the umbrella of the “peace process,” with the tacit blessing of the well – intentioned Palestinian negotiator who did not make their removal a precondition to the resumption of peace talks right from the start.

The 2000 summit collapsed because of the Israeli insistence on continued building of colonial settlements, especially in eastern Jerusalem, which doomed to failure the peace process launched in Madrid in 1991. kerry’s resumed negotiations opened while the settlement expansion continues unabated. Now Abbas seems too late to rectify this grave mistake. No surprise the failure of the negotiations seems inevitable and will only revive the Palestinian – Israeli stalemate.

Israel’s 2013 Herzliya Assessment concluded: “The status-quo in the Palestinian territories is not sustainable, and definitely not durable… the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate is untenable. It will lead to a Palestinian mass public uprising with sporadic violence.”

Obama appealed to the negotiators to “approach these talks in good faith,” but the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, questioned the “good faith” of the U.S. and Israel who were “conferring about security” without the Palestinians, as if it was “their bilateral security,” although security is “a central and fundamental issue of ours and concerns our future as a whole.” Abed Rabbo’s Israeli partner in the Geneva Initiative, former cabinet minister Yossi Beilin, writing in The Jerusalem post on July 30, questioned the “good faith” of Netanyahu who “has reneged on all that he has said throughout his political career.”

Defying the bitter experience of twenty – year old peace process and strong opposition at home, Abbas seems voluntarily dragged into his last test of U.S. credibility as the peace broker, which will make or break his political career at the age of 76 years.

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com

Man of Peace Swimming against the Current

September 15, 2008

By Nicola Nasser*

 

For the first time, since the U.S.-hosted Annapolis conference on November 27 last year re-launched the Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which were interrupted by the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000 after the collapse of the Camp David trilateral summit, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came out for the first time on record in Cairo on September 6 to “doubt” striking a peace deal with Israel “by the end of the year because very little time is left;” on September 10 he reiterated his skepticism in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

 

Accordingly he dispelled U.S. President George W. Bush’s pledge to reach such a deal before his term ends and at the same time practically announced that peace talks have now been frozen for at least a year by the government changes in Washington and Tel Aviv. Abbas was reportedly scheduled to hold his last meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in Jerusalem on September 16, one day before Kadima, Olmert’s ruling party elects his successor, ahead of his scheduled meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House on September 25. It seems all the partners to the Annapolis process are trying to strike a last minute impossible deal or simply saying good by to each other.

 

Nonetheless Abbas shows all evidence that he is determined to swim against an overwhelming current to prove that he is the persistent unrelenting Palestinian partner who will never despair in his pursuit of peace, even he would pay the price with his own life, despite all the internal and external odds, nor will he be deterred by the undelivered U.S. promises to loose trust in Washington.

 

On September 10 he told Haaretz that, “Even today, I’m convinced that I would have signed the Oslo Accords. I risked my life for peace and if I have to pay for it with my life, that’s a negligible price. I don’t regret the Oslo Accords. Twenty years before the agreement I believed in peace with the Israelis, and I still believe in it.”

 

He is still desperately determined to remain committed to his “strategic option” of a negotiated peace deal with Israel in pursuit of a life-long hope that would make or break his political career as well as a Palestinian leadership team, led by him, that has bet everything on a mirage-like U.S. promises to deliver a Palestinian state on the part of historic Palestine which Israel occupied in 1967, although Bush’s pledges to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004 have so far proved much more stronger strategic commitments than the U.S. vague promises to Palestinians, and despite the fact that the overall Israeli policy and every single tactic of that policy indicate a strategy that clashes head-to-head with the minimum Palestinian national aspiration for an independent, viable and contiguous state as the basis for a just and lasting peace.

 

Not deterred by all indications to the contrary, his determination, it seems, would never loose hope to agree with those, like King Abdullah II of Jordan, who believe that the Annapolis opportunity was the last chance for the Palestinian – Israeli peace process to deliver. He is determined too not to be held responsible for any collapse of the peace talks; therefore he ignores Israeli non-commitment and clings to his own commitments to the letter and soul of the Annapolis understandings.

 

He is similarly determined not to loose his hope that the United States could still deliver on its promises. “We are determined to continue accelerated diplomatic negotiations concurrently with the change of administration in the United States,” Abbas was quoted as saying in Cernobbio, Italy, on Friday. He appealed to the upcoming U.S. administration not to waste “seven more years” to resume its peace efforts. “The new administration should not wait seven years for us to start negotiations. It should begin immediately as soon as a new president is in the White House.” However, with nothing on the record to prove the U.S. would be forthcoming, a Palestinian semi-consensus is ruling out such a possibility as wishful thinking, and Abbas is similarly swimming against this strong internal current, which has all throughout opposed the Annapolis initiative as a non-starter.

 

Peace-making seems so absurd now as to defy all logic and belief, at least to the majority of the Palestinian people, according to Palestinian polls, the most recent of which was released on September 7 by the Near East Consulting Company to show that 86% of Palestinians are frustrated, 43% believed that the conflict with Israel will continue and a Palestinian state will not be established, 24% of respondents believed that a Palestinian state will be established within 10-20 years, 18% within 5-10 years 16% within a year to five years.

 

The optimistic fanfare Abbas and his team raised following the Annapolis conference has now boiled down to publicly voiced bitter disappointment and disillusion; his earlier insistence on time tables and deadlines as preconditions have now been forgone for the sake of not dooming the talking process; his threatening repeated warnings that the continued expansion of the illegal Israeli colonial settlements would spell the end of negotiations have been replaced by lenient appeals to the same effect.

 

Abbas’ preconditioning a deal with the Israelis on reaching an agreement on all and every issue of the final status issues, a precondition which was recently revived with stress, was met by a cold shower with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal for a partial deal agreement that rules out Jerusalem, ostensibly temporarily until a later stage, but detrimentally excluding the issue of refugees for good, a deal not to be implemented but to be presented to Bush then to the United Nations General Assembly in November, which would bestow on the proposal a UN legitimacy that would in turn legitimize Ariel Sharon’s original draft of an interim, transitional and long-term temporary Palestinian state on (42) percent of the West Bank, demarcated by the more than 700km-long wall Israel is building on the occupied Palestinian territory, termed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the Wall of Expansion and Annexation, by Israelis as the “security barrier” and by everyday media as simply the Apartheid Wall, which the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled as “illegal” in July 2004.

 

Abbas, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have officially on record rejected both Israeli proposals of the transitional state and the partial agreement. “Jerusalem and the right of return are inalienable Palestinian rights, too,” he confirmed during his recent visit to Cairo. However this official rejection is defying the Israeli-created facts on the ground of more than 200 Jewish settlements and outposts, home to slightly less than half a million settlers, living among two and a half million Palestinians, but exclusively controlling (37) percent and restricting the free movement of Palestinians on (21) percent of the land, all tied inextricably into Israel proper by a massive network of Israeli-only highways and, ultimately, the “Security Barrier,” which all indicate that the Occupation is no longer “a temporary military situation” as defined by international law. These facts, together with the U.S. collusion with the Israeli determination to annex most of them, especially in Jerusalem, to Israel proper, sweep away whatever credibility is left to whatever remains of the peace process.

 

Bush’s letter to Sharon was an old proof of the U.S. collusion; the latest proof was revealed on September 7 by Tayseer Khaled, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO), that the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in her last visit to Ramallah, tried to get the PLO’s OK for a statehood with temporary borders and the postponement of negotiating the outstanding final-status issues.

 

While rejecting out of hand the notion that peace-making would ever have a “last chance,” Abbas however would accept a “last chance” to resolve peacefully the inter-Palestinian conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If the ongoing Egyptian mediation fails to reconcile the Palestinian rivals, Abbas will “take all steps and measures to restore Gaza before the end of this year,” he said in Egypt. This impatience with Hamas is another manifestation of his determination to use the break in negotiations, brought about by the U.S. and Israeli government changes, to put his Palestinian house in order ahead of any possible resumption of talks thereafter.

 

Within this context Abbas is battling political foes on two fronts, declaring the Hamas – Gaza front as being his first priority. He is also involved in a power struggle within his own Fatah party on another front. Abbas here is allying himself with a U.S. – backed and Israeli – okayed diverse spectrum of Fatah and non-Fatah politicians who share his strategy and tactics, with the government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the forefront. The battle ground revolves now on the renewal of Abbas’ mandate, which terminates on January 9.

 

This spectrum is evolving as a “third power” between Fatah and Hamas and is fueling the rivalry between them in the hope of establishing itself as the alternative to both, but has yet to officially take shape as a unified party. Both Abbas and this “third” power are mutually exploiting each other to gain the upper hand both within the ranks of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, where there is still very strong opposition to the strategy of both. This evolving force is fomenting the power struggle between Abbas and that opposition as much as it is exacerbating his rivalry with Hamas, cornering him in a very sensitive but critical showdown with his own party, Fatah. Abbas’ bitter battle with Hamas is smoke-screening the power struggle within Fatah, which currently evolve around convening both the PLO National Council (parliament-in-exile) and the sixth Congress of Fatah, both overdue.

 

However Abbas shows all the determination necessary to put his house in order, with his sight unwaveringly focused on his peace prize, an independent, viable and contiguous state, no matter what!

 

* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli – occupied Palestinian territories.