Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants to stand down and he declines to run in the upcoming Palestine Authority elections. The decision came in the wake of the US failure to convince the Israelis to halt colonization of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem. It also followed a series of embarrassing flip-flops by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who praised hard line right wing PM Netanyahu for his efforts in favor of the peace process. Even for a diplomatic statement, this tack is is a little embarrassing in its obsequiousness toward Netanyahu, who has undermined the peace process at every turn and rejects out of hand the US demand that he freeze settlements. Reactions of Arab allies of the US were sharp.
The USG Open Source Center paraphrase an article in al-Ray (Jordan) reacting to the Obama administration letting Netanyahu off the hook with regard to settling Jews in East Jerusalem (which often means expelling Palestinians from their homes):
‘Amman Al-Ra’y in Arabic, a Jordanian daily of widest circulation; partially owned by the government, publishes an article by columnist and former Jordanian information minister Salih al-Qallab on page 48, in which Al-Qallab first quotes the statements made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Morocco about the partial freeze of settlement activity [i.e. not frozen in Jerusalem.] Al-Qallab says that the Americans should understand that “no Palestinian official, either now or in the future, can enter into any negotiations while Jerusalem is excluded from these negotiations, especially since it is no longer possible to repeat the previous formulas of negotiation. The aim this time is the final-status issues, which have been delayed for more than 15 years and cannot be delayed now for a single emoment.” Al-Qallab adds: “What the Americans do not know while dealing with this extremely sensitive issue is that Palestine, for the Arabs and Muslims, is Jerusalem, and that Jerusalem is the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is what makes Mahmud Abbas adopt this hard-line stand.” ‘
Aljazeera English reports on Israeli confiscation of Palestinians’ homes. The evictions are carried out with the full cooperation and encouragement of the Israeli government.
Aljazeera English points out that the stance of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration, that the Palestinians had to negotiate with the Israelis while the Israelis were stealing their land, lead Abbas to step down.
The USG Open Source Center translated remarks of chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, Abbas’s colleague:
‘ Erekat Critical of Clinton’s Remarks on Settlements, Rejects US Guarantees
“Erekat Says: President Abbas Does Not Cling to Power, has Options — Ma’an headline
Ma’an News Agency
Friday, November 6, 2009
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
Bethlehem, 5 November (Ma’an)– Dr Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, has warnedthat the entire peace process is at a critical juncture and that the Palestineside is not short of options. He emphasized that there will be no negotiationswithout a cessation of settlement construction.
On statements that President Mahmud Abbas will not run for presidential elections, Erekat said: “The issueis not Abu-Mazin (Mahmud Abbas). The President is an ordinary citizen. The President makes every effort to achieve the hopes of his people. However, underthe present circumstances, if Israel continues its settlement activity and theUnited States does not compel Israel to stop settlement construction and resume the negotiations where they left off, the President does not cling to power. The president has options. Perhaps a moment will come when he speaks frankly to the people and questions the usefulness of elections and other things.”
At a press conference at the premises of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department in Al-Birah today, Erekat stressed that there are no compromise solutions when it comes to settlements. He considered US Secretary of State Hillary’s backpedaling on her statement praising Israel for making “unprecedented” concessions on settlement construction as “not enough.”
Erekat said: “If the US administration cannot compel Israel to stop settlements for natural growth in Jerusalem, the commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state within 24 months remains mere talk.” He stressed that the US administration must declare Israel the obstructionist side if it does not commit to the road map obligations. He pointed out that the negotiations did not start this year,but reached a very advanced stage in December 2008 between Abbas and Olmert. He added: “We demand that the negotiations resume where they left off.” He continued: “The US administration calls for the restart of the negotiations because it knows it cannot obtain a commitment from Netanyahu that the negotiations will resume where they left off.”
Erekat expressed surprise by Netanyahu’s statement that a cessation of settlement construction is a new Palestinian condition, saying this shows Netanyahu’s disregard for the roadmap.
Erekat explained that Netanyahu’s plan to build 3,000 new settlement housing units, the exclusion of Jerusalem (from a settlement freeze), and the continuation of public buildings and infrastructure projects, means for those who say that Netanyahu’s stance is”unprecedented” that in 2010 and 2011 the size of settlements will be more than in 2008 and 2009 because the size of settlements in Jerusalem is 37 percent of the size of settlements in the rest of the West Bank.
Erekat said: “Exclusion of Jerusalem (from a settlement freeze) means the continuing political pillaging of Jerusalem and the continuing settlement construction in it to achieve Netanyahu’s goal of increasing the number of settlers in East Jerusalem to 28,000 by 2011.” He pointed out there is an Israeli plan to reduce the number of Arabs in Jerusalem, who now constitute 32 percent of the number of the population in Jerusalem, to 12 percent by 2020. He also pointed out that a temporary freeze on settlement construction, a la Netanyahu, willincrease the number of settlements by 2.8 percent and will increase the number of settlement housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem by 28 percent.
Erekat held the Israeli government responsible for the non-resumption of negotiations, even if tries to twist facts, as usual.
Erekat called on the Arabs who want US guarantees (before Israel and the PA resume negotiations) “not to search for a fig leaf because we do not need a fig leaf. The US administration offered us guarantees in which it says that settlements are illegal and that itrejects the annexation of Jerusalem. In spite of the moral importance of these guarantees, from the practical point of view they are not cashable. We want the US administration to compel the Israeli government to implement its obligations because the Palestinian side has implemented its obligations.” . . .
On elections, Erekat emphasized that the Palestinians have other options. He pointed out that Israel is obstructing the peace process and HAMAS is opposing elections. Hecalled on HAMAS and all those who stand behind it to side with the interests of the Palestinian people and to sign the reconciliation paper without conditions.He said: “We are not short of options. If the two-state option is excluded, there is the option of a one-state, as happened in South Africa. The situation in the West Bank is worse than it was in South Africa.”
(Description of Source: Bethlehem Ma’an News Agency in Arabic — Website of independent, leading Palestinian news agency; funded by the Dutch and Danish Foreign Ministries; URL: http://www.maannews.net/)
End/ (Not Continued)