Palestine: Abbas Embarks on Empty Negotiations

These statements were probably behind Abbas’ decision to issue a circular indicating who is allowed to speak in the name of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the presidency. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Malik Samara

Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ramallah – Without consulting the people or representatives, the Palestinian leadership decided to unilaterally return to negotiations. The Palestinian street is being kept in the dark, while its leaders get ready for a new round of the Oslo negotiations concerning their destiny.

Although the Israeli press is buzzing with statements and positions by Israeli leaders, Palestinian officials are keeping mum about behind-the-scene agreements. This led Israeli Channel 10 reporter Ohad Ben Hamo to conclude his report from the presidential headquarters in Ramallah by declaring, "The Palestinian street is apathetic concerning the resumption of negotiations."

In the past two days, the only statement was a brief reply by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Jordanian al-Rai newspaper. "Negotiation is the first choice for Palestinians wanting to create a Palestinian state," he maintained. "We have achieved choices that will safeguard our people's rights."

On the other hand, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who will be meeting chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat next week in Washington, maintained that the negotiations will uphold Israeli interests, "as a Jewish democratic state."

However, leaks to the media indicate that US Secretary of State John Kerry provided Abbas with guarantees that negotiations will be based on the 1967 borders and Israel's agreement for a "calm freeze" on settlements, without announcing it publicly. In addition, Israel will also release prisoners "with blood on their hands," as it calls them, but without indicating who they were and how many will be set free.

The leaks also speak about the Palestinian Authority's commitment to continuing negotiations for at least nine months and providing guarantees to halt any steps against Israel in international organizations.

On the economic level, there is talk about an attractive economic package presented by Kerry to the Palestinians, which includes allowing the construction of a small plane airport in the West Bank and initiating vital projects in locations adjacent to Area C, in addition to facilitating the movement of Palestinians and international troops in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian factions unanimously rejected the Palestinian leadership's return to negotiations. Opposition voices were loud, even inside Fatah. "It is clear that this leadership is fluent in the language of militancy," said Fatah leader Nabil Amr. "However, it ultimately surrenders to the status quo." Amr continued that this is "a leadership crisis and not a political one."

Fatah central committee member Abbas Zaki mentioned pressures by Arab countries on Abbas to return to the table with Israel.

These statements were probably behind Abbas’ decision to issue a circular indicating who is allowed to speak in the name of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the presidency, namely Nabil Abu Rudeina and Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Hamas, on the other hand, considered the return to negotiations as "a major prize for the extremist occupation government." Islamic Jihad on its part said it was "reproducing failure and a departure from national consent."

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Palestinian National Initiative Secretary General Mustafa Barghouti said, "The Palestinian National Initiative believes that we should not go into negotiations without altering the power balance, commitment to clear benchmarks, and a complete cessation of settlement activities."

"There are no current indicators that these negotiations will fulfill such terms," Barghouti continued. "Thus, we do not see any use of entering into them."

"Kerry's announced something fragile that could collapse at any moment. Until today, the US has not provided written guarantees that negotiations are based on clear measures. There are no guarantees that the Israelis will stop their settlement activities during the negotiations," he added.

"This poses a great threat since we do not want the Oslo sin to be repeated. The number of settlers is now 650,000, up from 150,000 at the time of signature," Barghouti warned. "There are also no confirmed indicators that Israel is willing to commit to a government decision to free the detainees."

When asked if the Palestinian leadership had informed them of the "consensus formula" mentioned by Kerry, Barghouti replied, "As far as we know, there is nothing concrete related to the demands. Thus the position has not changed yet."

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, PFLP-GC political leader in Palestine Hossam Arafat, called on the Palestinian Authority to "immediately retract its agreement to go back to negotiations and announce a referendum of the Palestinian people on the issue." He described the step as "a blatant and explicit liquidation of the Palestinian cause."

"Returning to negotiations at this time and under US and Israeli conditions is a very dangerous political step," Arafat explained. "It expresses the mainstream Palestinian mentality concerning the major issues. I believe the Palestinian president is duping the Palestinian people. He made a unilateral decision to return to negotiations, despite the settlement assault and Judaization of Jerusalem."

Perhaps the most notable position was given by PFLP politburo member Rabah Mohanna. He called for "holding President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO executive committee accountable for making a decision to go back to negotiations, in violation of the rules of the council."

He called on "Palestinian masses at home and in the diaspora to go out in mass demonstrations against negotiations, which are destructive and harmful to the Palestinian cause."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

The US and Israel desperately need negotiations right now. This is a huge public relations move to stop America's crashing credibility, military and diplomatic, the weakening dollar hegemony and to help Israel derail the mushrooming BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement.

The US is reeling from military and diplomatic disasters. Military disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and elsewhere. Diplomatic disasters in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria and most recently Egypt. These negotiations are designed to remediate the US brand and take attention away from their current debacles in Syria and Egypt.

Israel is beginning to feel the bite of the BDS movement as corporations freeze investment afraid of market boycotts in their most profitable countries overseas and in the US and EU. McDonalds refused a franchise for the West Bank recently. The EU invoked West Bank sanctions.

Quietly many multi-nationals are telling Israel that their investments in Israel are increasingly at risk as their population of 5 million can not match the billions of consumers in other countries. Israel has become a pariah. They can not withstand both a consumer and corporate boycott.

Abbas is playing his usual role of appeaser to the US-Zionist cabal when in fact never in the history of the Resistance has the US-Zionist cabal been in such a weak and deteriorating bargaining position. A terrible Treaty signed by Abbas and the PLO will give the US and Israel reason to question the Resistance in Iran, Lebanon and Gaza.

Will not Hezbollah asked to be disbanded or merged immediately if their is a two state solution signed by the PLO? Will not Iran lose their calling card in Lebanon and Gaza? The BDS movement will quickly deteriorate, measures like those of McDonalds and the EU be reversed.

These are desperate negotiations for the US and Israel. They both need important reversals of well established negative trends. The US needs to rehabilitate its flailing diplomatic and military power and at least postpone the end of the petrodollar for the banksters. With current public relation trends Israel will be destroyed economically by the BDS movement.

Your comment is somewhat accurate but only to a point. Much of what you say however is not. Permit me to clarify things. First and foremost, the United States remains strong even though those such as yourself see things in a different limelight. The US has indeed made mistakes, but these were corrected. On the other hand, which big government hasn't. Japan, Russia, China, England, France, Spain, Turkey. Look at what is going on in Egypt and Syria, which the US and Israel have nothing to do pertaining to the fighting. Lebanon was under the ruling umbrella of Syria for a very long time. It is no longer since the European Union together with the Gulf States began condemning Hezbollah. Soon Hamas as well, Abbas knows this very well and with the demise of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas will no long exist. it's just a matter of time before he (Abbas) will once again rule both Palestinian sectors. There is obvious a ploy in that direction for Abbas has kept quiet about it and when the time is right he will indeed speak out..

The Palestinians will soon have their place in history, all due to the fall in power of Hamas. Hezbollah made a very big mistake aligning itself with Syria's Assad and are now paying the price of rejection in the Arab world - Southern Gulf side. As for Iran, it's just a question of time until the Arab spring hits the Mullahs in the face. The peoples power has already proven that in Tunisia, Libya, now Egypt (twice) and of course Syria, Lebanon is on the verge of doing the same with Hezbollah. Things are equally shaky in Turkey and like I said, Iran is not far behind.

Peace in the Middle East is indeed an important factor. But the Arabs equally need peace amongst themselves. Look at all the Arabs that are killing Arabs. Than in itself is a disgrace. Shiite against Sunni and vice-versa. Modern Christian and Jews are far from being in the same killing league.

Last but not least, peace negotiations are never easy. they can last quite a while. there is still much anger on both sides, much like it was when Egypt and Israel made peace. but in the end it was the money that did the talking and that's the true key of the peace game. The prosperous countries in the Middle East per their limited population, with the exception of Iraq and Iran, are the Gulf States and Israel. The moment that Abbas will take over the Palestinian leadership preceded by the demise of Hamas, economic prosperity for the Palestinians will start climbing along side that of Israel. May God/Allah bless both countries.

"First and foremost, the United States remains strong ..." Really?

Both diplomatically and militarily the US has registered a string of defeats that can only be called "catastrophic". The credibility of the US on the foreign policy front is gone. Latin America save Colombia has said Adios Estados Unidos. Asia and Africa are taking their own path. The vote in the UN for "limited sovereignty" for the Palestinians wasn't even close despite the US pressure. Where in the world does US "soft power" hold sway anymore?

Then there are the military defeats that have translated into trillions of dollars, the draining of the corps and its assets and the disdain of the world. Iraq just by itself was the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history ... Afghanistan after ten years is also a defeat by any measure. Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Egypt and Syria all disasters ...

Should the US not get its act together soon the petro dollar hegemony will be in jeopardy. The US is still the strongest military country on the planet but the "soft power" is vanishing. The military itself is under extreme stress ... there is question as to how the US and NATO get out of Afghanistan with any dignity left ... The trends are clear, the trend lines are getting worse and worse.

You and I can bicker back and forth, but this will not solve the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. On this you and I agree.must
Let’s for now forget the power of the US and stay focused of how the Palestinians can regain the land they seek. My commented point was that in past, both sides did not agree to the other’s demand. There are several factors involved in their peace initiative. These are: History for who was there first? Land, which to this very day remains the key, and last, but not least, is the recognition of each other’s existence, which these three deserve looking into with a fine tooth comb. Let me equally remind you that Hams is the question mark on all 3 issues. Religion may appear to play a part, but that’s secondary by comparison to those three primary objectives, as it is those crucial points that will determine if Israel will give in to providing the land the Palestinians seek, in exchange for total recognition by all Palestinians and no more aggression such as the launching of rockets. Time will tell.

I've seen it argued that the only purpose of Kerry's efforts was to extract from Abbas a promise not to seek full recognition at the UN in September, "while negotiations are ongoing".

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