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.