Abbas: Israeli Colonization Impedes Start of Direct Talks

AFP Arabic reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that there is no point in moving to direct negotiations with the Israelis until more progress is made on security and borders. In a speech in Ramallah, he said that creeping Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal, and obstructs any move to final status negotiations because it plants an institution that claims to be legitimate in the midst of Palestinian territory. He said that Israel must completely remove these illegal colonies, which have been condemned repeatedly by resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Abbas is also worried about the Israeli expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem, which he says could be a harbinger of large-scale expulsions of Palestinians from their territory. (For the Silwan controversy see this article.) Another Palestinian leader, Ahmad Qurei, on Sunday called Jerusalem a “time bomb.”

Abbas added that Tel Aviv continues to build new colonies on Palestinian land in the West Bank (including the part of the West Bank the Israelis unilaterally and illegally annexed to their Jerusalem district).

Abbas is clearly afraid that the Israeli side will come to the table for negotiations in bad faith, and will use the fact of ongoing direct talks as a screen for massive new colonization efforts, so that by the time the negotiations wrap up in ten years, the Palestinians have nothing left to bargain with and Greater Israel will be a fait accompli.

Abbas presumably spoke out in order to signal his resistance to being rushed into direct talks by pressure from Israel and Egypt, e.g., before the preconditions for successful talks (i.e. cessation of Israeli land theft) had been implemented.

The dilemma Palestinians face is exemplified by the villages and farms that are being split in two or fenced in by the Apartheid Wall, , as with Omar Hajaj of al-Walajah, who says he fears being caged like an animal in the zoo. Many Palestinian farmers can only farm their land or harvest their olives at the risk of being fired at, by the Israeli army or by armed, terroristic Israel colonists.

The health of the Palestinians of Gaza is still being damaged by the Israeli siege of the territory, which has only slightly eased.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave further credence to Palestinian fears on Sunday when he insisted that the negotiations and their implementation would drag on past 2012. (That is not how it is done; decolonization projects, as with French Algeria or British Kenya, are best brought to a conclusion abruptly).

Netanyahu also continued the technique of misdirection, attempting to deflect pressure on him to stop stealing the Palestinian land that is supposedly being negotiated for by waving frantically in the direction of Iran and civilian nuclear enrichment program. The Israelis have presented no evidence for their assertion that it is more than that. And Netanyahu keeps misrepresenting Iran’s views on Israel. He ignores Tehran’s assertion that it will accept whatever resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians that is acceptable to the Palestinian side. He ignores Iranian leaders’ fatwas against nuclear weapons and their use, which would kill large numbers of civilians–something forbidden in the classical Islamic law of war. See my essay, The Top Ten Things you think you know about Iran that are not True.

14 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    The cartoon in this weeks Economist says it all.

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    Thee seems to be a consensus building that troops will need to be deployed in the Jordan Valley and the West Bank and apparently Gaza. President Abbas is reported to be happy with the idea.

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    I am not sure that deploying US troops would be feasible, given the possibility of AIPAC pressure and the perception that they are fighting the Muslims. German, Polish and Turkish troops would be rather provocactive. That leaves the old mandate power Britain, the French, the Spanish and the Italians…….. And of course, The Russians.

    Part of their mission statement would have to be expelling the outlaw settlers from their hilltops and enclaves like Hebron, and tearing down the separation wall. It seems that certain segments of the Israeli Army might not obey orders to expel the outlaws.

    I would appreciate one of your balanced and informed essays that discusses whether this action would be politically doable without setting off a major exchange of hostilities.

    I understand the proximity of the US midterm elections. Of course it might be fun to put General Petraeus in charge of the operation once the elections are over.

    Ahmet Davutoglu in his Chatham House speech makes it clear that Jerusalem and Masjid al Aksa are not to be touched without Turkey becoming seriously annoyed.

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  2. Dear Professor Cole

    Anthony Cordesman’s latest paper on the Miltary Balance in the Gulf gives the lie to Mr Netanyahu’s crying “Wolf”

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    It deserves far wider distribution, comment and explanation particularly to those in the US who are expecting the Iranians to try and anihalate the Israelis.

    • Thanks for the link. Always interesting to look over a piece by a guy like Cordesman. Still, having scanned it, that paper reminds me of those pictures reprinted in Psych 101 books, where depending on your bias you see what you want to see (the crone or the babe, as I recall). Iran could be interpreted by someone with a us-against-the-world perspective as coming on hard, only with a more economical approach to regional hegemony.

      C makes a big point of their development of asymetric capabilites, which are the only type that can/might work against the essentially economic strength of the US and its 51rst state. He talks about Iran angling for a “bomb in the basement” capability, and that’s too close to comfort given that POWER over those that would oppose/contradict your nation’s agenda is what its all about.

      To me the more instructive thing about that report is the strength of Saudi Arabia, which offsets Iran’s nicely, although messily, given what Iran can do simply to disrupt the region if it’s assaulted. Iran looks to have very much of a Porcupine/Skunk strategy, but you have to admit, nobody really wants to have either of them around.

  3. This Israeli government is impossibly hostile to Palestinian and impossibly manipulative of American foreign policy.

  4. Re Israeli land/water theft:

    Natanyau’s remarks to Council on Foreign Relations (link below) included a remarkable bit on stimulating economic growth by lifting government restrictions on construction, as a way to launch his country beyond 5% growth from their $20-30K percapita position. My guess is that Israeli policy discourages single family dwellings, to preserve land and water for agriculture, and the avoid oil-import costs of sprawl.

    There is no question that Likud policy has been to occupy and annex W. Bank land that the government calls by old testament names. A large fraction of W. Bank ‘settlement’ construction has been illegal even by Israeli law, in an area under continuous military IDF occupation.

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  5. Nothing very complicated about this story. The Israeli government is simply operating in bad faith as they have been operating for generations now, at times in opposition to the will of a majority of Israelis, though I think the population has gradually fallen into line with the cynicism of its leaders. The Israelis take us for fools; and, on the evidence, they are quite right to do so.

  6. After listening to this sort of hoop-la over the course of years, reading into the matter enough to become informed, and having no (directly) vested interest in either party, Palestinian or Israel, there’s only one conclusion I can come to:

    Israel has NEVER operated in Good Faith. Maybe (although its a stretch) in Oslo, but what came out of that began to immediately be diluted, eventually petering out entirely with Netanyahu’s election, and an apparently pointless assassination to make a larger point to any Israeli politician who was not with the program.

    Some would say the only “two state solution” will come (as another poster opined) with the Palestinians underground. I wouldn’t go that far: they would be allowed a few rocky scraps of land, assuming no Israeli wanted it.

    This whole drama, demonstrated clearly by their actions since 1967, has been one of Israel taking what it wants, constrained only by the need to make things as palatable as necessary in a PR sense, and the pace at which settlers can be brought in.

    I sometimes think our sense of indignation and protestations are more about not wanting to face this reality, and thinking our objections are going to make any difference. Call me cynical, but to the powers that be in Israel, and the US, I suspect these voices amount to nothing more than troublesome and pathetic nuisances.

  7. Israel’s ambassador has stated in unequivocal terms that ‘Israel/PM Netanyahu has no desire to rule over Palestinians’, and I think that he opined that a return to 1967 borders adjusted by a 1:1 swap for settlement land will form the basis of a 2-state solution. He sounds so reasonable, in his tough professor-paratrooper way.

    I wrote the Israeli embassy last month, and asked how the ambassador proposes to avoid ruling over Palestinians, if E. Jerusalem and its Palestinian inhabitants are retained, as was certainly the intention of every Israeli gov’t over the last 40 years. Enforced enfranchisement as Israeli citizens? I got no answer.

    It’s hard to imagine the Dome/temple mount Moriah being relinquished by either side, or the Israelis accepting E. Jerusalem in any form as the Palestinian capital. instead, E. Jerusalem is still being intentionally walled in by jewish settlements. It’s also hard imagining Netanyahu engaging in the sort of forced ‘settlement clearing’ of radical Israelis from the W. Bank that will be required in any 2-state solution.

    But then, I thought S. Africa to be intractably headed towards a bloodbath in the 90’s; the politicians instead chose life, and the soldiers and fighters stood down. It can happen, if the parties are willing.

    Israel has consistently moved in the Eretz’ direction, and some pretty frightening ‘clear the arabs out’ opinions are now being voiced that never would have seen print or been allowed in the Knesset in the past. That said, I don’t think ‘bad faith, always’ is helpful, or even true. “Always” and “never” are red flag statements. Better to just keep pointing to the map, and stating the law of war as it pertains to conquered population and occupied territory.

    I suggest that we move our country toward compliance with US laws, regarding Israeli nuclear proliferation, present and past. What is our NIE regarding the risks that Israel has posed, still poses, in dragging us toward potentially nuclear military confrontations, not at a time and place of our choosing?

    The foundation of American representative democracy is our right to know what we are voting on. We haven’t done our own homework.

    • Good luck with that though I’m pretty sure ( and sad) that you could safely write the words “Greater Israel” across the map now and save yourself the trouble of updating down the track.

      As for SA I’m pretty sure they had plenty of people from both inside and outside the country making some unmistakable ‘red flag statements’ which contributed greatly to the time when “the politicians instead chose life, and the soldiers and fighters stood down.”

  8. The Independent on 7 Jul. published an article based on a recent report by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem which claimed that 42 per cent of the West Bank was claimed by settler groups.

    An extract:

    “The jurisdiction of some 200 settlements, illegal under international law, cover much more of the occupied Palestinian territory than previously thought. And a large section of the land has been seized from private Palestinian landowners in defiance even of an Israeli supreme court ruling, the report said, a finding which sits uncomfortably with Israeli claims that it builds only on state land.

    “Drawing on official Israeli military maps and population statistics, the leading Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, compiled the new findings, which were released just as the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, arrived in Washington to try to heal a gaping rift with US President Barack Obama over the issue of settlements.

    “While most of the Jewish settlement activity is concentrated in 1 per cent of the West Bank, settler councils have in fact fenced off or earmarked massive tracts of land, comprising some 42 per cent of the West Bank, B’Tselem said”.

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  9. What is strange is the fact that even assuming that Netanyahu’s policy with these talks is to use it as cover to grab territory, Abbas approach to the matter still doesnt make sense. Those that lambast Israel’s West Bank occupation would not likely be its friends regardless of a settlement stop and no carrot or whip will likely be enticing or threatening enough to coerce Israel to give up these areas without security guarantees or the possibility of retaining the largest settlement blocks. Simply put, Israel isnt isolated enough for Abbas “Squish strategy” to work

    He is clearly not negotionating from a position of strength and thus can not rightfully set preconditions, regardless how much a extra school building in Ariel must hurt Palestinian sensitivities. On the other side, if he had agreed to Netanyahu’s offer and Netanyahu still carried on as business as usual with settlement construction, he’d have demonstrated Netanyahu’s dishonesty and he would have been exposed to the Israeli public. Now Netanyahu can use his “We have no partner to talk to” excuse, saying to Obama that he tried diplomacy and then simply carry on.

    Unilateral concessions on one side alone, regardless whether its from the Israeli or Palestinian side will not work. Period.

  10. What further concessions would you suggest the Palestinians make? They have already given up a very significant part of their land even if you start at the 1947 UN decision to cede part of their land to the Zionists or the 1967 borders. Should they just do what the Zionists want and go away completely so that the Zionists can have their Jewish State over the whole of Palestine? As to security guarantees, this is the old chestnut that the Zionists have used to grab more and more land.

    “The guideline of our policy has always been the idea that a permanent
    situation of no peace and a latent war is the best situation for us, and that
    it must be maintained at all costs. … we are becoming stronger year by year
    in a situation of impending conflict where it is possible that actual fighting
    may break out from time to time. Such wars will usually be short and the
    results guaranteed in advance, since the gap between us and the Arabs is
    increasing. In this way we shall move on from occupation to further
    occupation. ” (Yeshayahu Leibowitz, 30 November 1973)

    “The separation fence is marketed to the Israeli public as a reasonable
    security measure meant to separate Palestinians from Israelis; in reality, the
    only separation it offers is between Palestinians and their land.” (Oren
    Medicks, 30 May 2003)

    For the fifty-odd years since the establishment of the
    state of Israel, successive Israeli governments whether Labour or Likud, and
    whether by force as at Deir Yassin, or by chicanery as at Oslo and Camp David,
    have followed the same policy of oppressing and dispossessing Palestinians to
    make way for an exclusively Jewish state. Even now, when Israel could have
    peace and security for the asking, Israeli governments persist in their
    original intention of conquering the whole of Palestine for the use of the
    Jewish people alone. And all this was done, and is still being done, by Jews,
    for Jews and in the name of Jews.” (Paul Eisen, January 2003)

    “[In Gaza] there used to be 600,000 Arabs. Now there are 1.4 million people
    there . in a few more years what happened to South Africa will happen to
    us. The UN will decide that either we give the right to vote to everyone or we
    will be outcasts from the family of nations. Absurdly, the greatest danger
    that could befall us . is that the intifada would end – because then we would
    fall asleep and wake up to a binational state.” (Yonatan Bassi, 29 July 2004)

    I agree unilateral concessions on one side alone will not work – let’s see some from the Israelis. Period.

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