Will Resumption of Israeli Colonization of West Bank End the Two State Solution?

The Palestinian negotiating team is categorically rejecting any compromise with Israel over the latter’s plan to re-start settlement building on Palestinian land Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also reviving his threat to resign.

The Palestinians demanded the freeze on new settlement-building in summer of 2009 as a prerequisite to face to face talks. When Israel finally made that concession, it exempted edifices on which work had already begun, ensuring that the ‘moratorium’ was a small gesture indeed.

Having now gotten the Palestinians to a negotiation table, such that it would be difficult politically for them just to storm out of such talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu wishes to start back up the active colonization of Palestinian territory (a matter the negotiations are supposed to resolve.) From a Palestinian point of view, Abbas would be giving a fig leaf to people who are stealing from him, by legitimizing the Netanyahu government through talks. Meanwhile, Palestine would be disappearing.

Abbas is pushing back, saying Israel must choose between taking Palestinian lands and peace. Reuters has video:

The Guardian reports that some of the “freeze” in new settlement building has been a “fiction,” since structures begun the summer of 2009 before the freeze went into effect were exempted from it. Since Israelis had fair warning of a freeze, they simply bought up land and began construction on it before the deadline. And, some are entirely willing to build illegally.

A new poll shows that a majority of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank think peace talks are the best means to attain their goals. Another 16 percent advocated non-violent noncooperation. Only about a quarter of Palestinians advocate violent resistance.

The USG Open Source Center translates an article from al-Quds al-‘Arabi on President Mahmoud Abbas

‘Palestinian Source on President Abbas’s Threat to Resign If Negotiations Failed
Report bu Ashraf al-Hur, from Gaza: “Palestinian Source: President Abbas Hinted Anew that He Would Submit His Resignation If the Negotiations Failed and the Official Institutions Had Not Discussed the Alternative”
Al-Quds al-Arabi Online
Friday, September 24, 2010
Document Type: OSC Translated Text …

A senior Palestinian Authority (PA) official has told Al-Quds al-Arabi that President Mahmud Abbas has hinted anew to the possibility of submitting his resignation if the negotiations were to fail. However, the source says that despite this, the PLO and Fatah institutions have not begun to search for an alternative. The source reveals that the plan for conducting the negotiations in the upcoming stage does not depend on the existence of a negotiations delegation, but it depends on holding bilateral meetings between Abu-Mazin and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The senior source, who asked not to be named, points out that President Abbas said at the last meetings of the (Fatah) Central Committee, which discussed the negotiations dossier and their failure if they were launched, “I have a decision which I will announce at the right time.”

The official stresses that it was understood by all members that the president had reiterated the intention to resign his post.

President Abbas had said that he would resign his post, and he would not be a candidate for the presidency again in any future elections; this was because of his dissatisfaction with the peace process.

With regard to the alternatives to be adopted by the PLO and the PA in case President Abbas carries out his threat and submits his resignation as president of the PA, the Palestinian official says that the Central Committee will then convene and select a new president from its members, after that the (PLO) Executive Committee will convene to ratify the selection, and then this will be followed by a meeting of the Central Council to ratify the appointment in its final form.’

If the peace talks collapse and Abbas resigns, there is no vice president to take his place and he is already serving beyond the perimeters of the Palestinian Authority Constitution. Such a set of failures would tarnish the Obama administration and could provoke months of demonstrations by disappointed and suffering Palestinians.

14 Responses

  1. I really do not understand how Netanyahu legitimately justifies building Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. He does not even offer an ask in return for extending the moratorium past September 30. Why not? Maybe because it’s always been no more than a land grab and that, obviously, is not dealing in good faith.

    I think the US must play an active role in a back channel by threatening to withhold our aid to Israel to pressure Israel from resuming the building of settlements on Palestinian land, a course that imperils an agreement.

    Netanyahu owes it to his own people, the Palestinians, allies like the US, and Israel’s neighbors like Jordan; and there would be nothing better for the middle east and the west than to remove this grievance as a lever for Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi and Al Queda.

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    Perhaps the most worrying part of the slight of hand associated with the present negotiations is the continuing efforts to cut off East Jerusalem and turn the whole city into one controlled by the Orthodox.

    Once this happens, the lunatics with an agenda to build a third Jewish Temple on the site of Haram al Sharif will push on with their activities

    link to templemountfaithful.org

    I would argue that any attempt to do so would provoke a general outbreak of shooting in the Middle East, with a spillover onto the European mainland.

    It looks as if it is getting to be time for the EU to think in terms of deploying a force West of the Jordan to prevent any further encroachment on Palestinian Territory.

    If their mission statement includes removing the squatters form the “Settlements” then so be it.

    The first task, following Rupert Smith’s methodology, is to decide what size of task it might be. It looks to be bigger than a Division size mission.

  3. It seems fairly evident that the Israelis do not want to engage in any serious talks, or have any actual progress toward Palestinian independence ensue. The continued colonization of Palestine is Netanyahu thumbing his nose at the US, the PA and the international community. There can be little doubt that he is deliberately scuttling the talks.

    Rather than to resign, it would be refreshing for Abbas to demand a Hamas representative at the talks to speak for Gaza (since Israel has no intention of proceeding anyway). Surely the people of Gaza should have a voice in any potential negotiated settlement. Possibly political theater, but it would make an important statement and remind people there’s more at stake than “just” the West Bank.

  4. My assumption has long been that there will one day be an independent Palestinian state. It won’t be “viable” in any sane definition of the term.

    Israeli state leaders will continue to appropriate every single square inch of land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that they desire and continue to isolate Palestinians from themselves and any external community.

    And this will keep going as whatever ‘peace talks’ drag on.

    And when Israeli leaders think that they’ve gotten all that they want or possibly could get, they’ll agree to a Palestinian state and formal peace just to get rid of their detritus.

    And the world will hail it as a wonderful step forward, and soon after no one will be paying much attention to the Palestinians, and the Arab and Middle Eastern nations often complaining loudly of the injustices done to the Palestinians will not be talking about it much any more.

    It may sound bleak and cynical in disregarding mislabeling of what’s going on, but it’s what I foresee as in the most likely outcome here.

  5. “With regard to the alternatives to be adopted by the PLO and the PA in case President Abbas carries out his threat and submits his resignation as president of the PA, the Palestinian official says that the Central Committee will then convene and select a new president from its members, after that the (PLO) Executive Committee will convene to ratify the selection, and then this will be followed by a meeting of the Central Council to ratify the appointment in its final form.”

    No mention of elections, which I believe are overdue.(Abbas’ term ended in 2009)
    Wasn’t there a PLO coup after Hamas won the elections in 2006?
    Are they (they being the PLO, Israel and the USA) worried about providing another electoral opportunity to Hamas?
    We have all read what the mainstream media think about Hamas, the question is, what do the Palestinians think?

  6. Obama needs to give up the fantasy that he can work with the Israelis. He also needs to return to his position that he would do the right thing even if it meant a one term presidency. He already has failure to wind down the war crimes in Afghanistan and he is leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq. His economic measures were sufficient only to forestall an immediate meltdown; he blew the chance to remake the economy through capital investment for manufacturing and investment in useful infrastucture, rather than what I call symbolic infrastucture, i.e. money that goes somewhere but not where it does real good.

    Obama needs to become the first president to do what is necessary to achieve peace in Palistine, and that would be to force Israel to live by the same rules as all other nations. If Israel cannot do that and survive, then Israel should be allowed to fail. This is no time to prop up yet another failed political experiment.

    It’s just like the banks that were “too big to fail” but are even now even bigger – and more failure prone. Nothing is too big to fail nor too precious to fail. If it’s not viable, that means it should be allowed to fail. This goes for Israel, the robber banks, and the Obama administration.

  7. I just found a curious headline on Yahoo (I think it was):

    Israel: Settlers brace for end of building freeze.

    So it is the settlers who have to “brace” for this? Like the victims of something: hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. It seems more like the people whose land and homes the Israelis are stealing would be the ones needing preparation. Or I guess they are just expected to get out with what they can carry, right now, which would require strong, fast legs and not any “bracing.” Nope, no bias in the American press.

    It seems to have appeared in the Seattle Times:

    link to seattletimes.nwsource.com

  8. Can someone enlighten me as to what it would mean if Abbas were to resign? As I understand it, his term expired in 2009, so he doesn’t actually have anything to resign from. I can see that the current talks would end, but do Abbas and his group actually legitimately represent anyone in the first place? For that matter, some background on how he was chosen (as opposed to representatives from Hamas?) for these talks would also be appreciated.

  9. At least from the responses on this blog thus far, people are getting wise to the Israeli game. But they are nothing if not clever, creative, and relentless. I would see, based on history, Benny etal angling for some sort of Oslo II breakthrough, where the PA can be coopted into once again doing their bidding in the WB, in return for somehow (?) receiving the mantle of legitimacy in speaking for the people that rightly belongs with Hamas. Do all this, shut up the western press, and shake down the US for billions to make it all happen, would kill several birds with one stone that is bought, paid for, and legitimized by, the US.

    Certainly worth a try, and if things don’t work out, contrive/provoke some incident to cause another intafadah (sic), where you can lay the blame for everything on the Palestinians (as with Camp David II).

    Question here is how Abbas will handle himself. He was Arafat’s #2 and chief money man since forever. If he’s fundamentally as corrupt as Arafat, this would lead credence to the above Israeli strategy, and its a safe bet Israel has a deep psychological workup, and no telling what sort of other leverage on him at this point. If, despite everything we can reasonable assume, Abbas has the strength and commitment to dedicate himself to the Palestinian people AND uses the lessons from his checkered history, then there is hope.

    The biggest hope I can see is of keeping Israel from pulling another big con; I don’t see any (please, correct me if I’m wrong…I mean this, PLEASE) desire on the part of the Israels to stop settlement construction, much less give enough of what they have taken to be able to form ANY definition of a sovereign state.

  10. I really wish it were that people are ‘wising up’to the manouvers of the Israel but I dont think thats it. There was a time when (if pressed) they would find a pretence for their abusive treatment of the Palestinians …they enacted laws which provided cover for them and us.
    However, Israel has become so blatant in its excess and exeptionalism that it just can’t be ignored anymore. They have got to the stage that they just dont care what ‘we’ think anymore – they know from years of experience that they will get their way – powers that be will cover their asses.
    The Palestinians have very little to bargain with and the US routinley quashes even that – having been forced into negotiations ‘with no preconditions’ (like hell!) there was never anything to stop the Israelis continuing with building or anything else they might want.
    Its sad and humiliating to watch the whole charade – especially to know that we’re part of it – Abbas should pack up while hes still got a little pride left.

    • Er….I was trying to be positive. Really.

      On a more cynical note, as a corrolary to the Oslo II strategy, I suspect Israel would pursue meaningful negotiations, if Benny can make the more rash settlers slow down to see how negotiations could lead improve things for them….

      What we do, he tells them, is let the palestinians have a “state” with no real sovereignty (the KEY word/concept), on whatever land has the least value that Israel can persuaded to do without, then foist a PASSPORT of some sort on the Palestinians. If they can be maneuvered into accepting such a deal, we have, presto, solved the demographic problem that will otherwise get to be just too ugly.

      So, I suppose Israel really could be wholeheartedly into pursuing negotiations.

  11. How would Abbas be “giving a fig leaf to people who are stealing from him” by continuing the peace talks? The world does not regard settlement building as legitimate, but the Israelis do it regardless. This would not change if Abbas continued with talks. Abbas should set a deadline for peace talks (one year, maybe) and then do his best to achieve a deal by then. If the talks lead nowhere, then there’s nothing to lose by walking out. But ending talks now gives the Palestinians nothing concrete, no matter how satisfying it might be. Call Netanyahu’s bluff and keep talking.

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