Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has put paid to any prospects of the Palestinian Authority resuming negotiations with Israel after the proposed trilateral meetings to be held with President Obama, Abbas and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House today.
Abbas said at a press conference on 19 September after meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak that as there was no agreement on halting settlement so there could be no agreement on re-launching negotiations because there was no basis. He continued :
“The basis [ for resuming negotiations] we know is the one stated in the Road Map plan,’ ‘Americans are required to continue their commitment of the first article of the Road Map plan, which clearly states that there must be complete settlement freeze including the natural growth,’.What Abbas failed to tell the assembled media was that Israel had not accepted that proposal in the Road Map.
When President Bush released his detailed Road Map on 30 April 2003, Israel had then sent a letter to President Bush on 23 May 2003 containing 14 reservations it had before it could accept the plan as a basis for negotiation.
Reservation 9 made by Israel to President Bush stated in part:
“There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts); “Israel thus made it clear that whilst it was prepared to discuss a settlement freeze (no mention being made by Israel of restricting natural growth) it was not prepared to accept that there be a complete settlement freeze including natural growth per se.
On 23 May 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:
“The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap. The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns,and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:
“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.Nothing could be clearer or more unambiguous - President Bush had accepted Israel’s position that there would be no settlement freeze without it first being discussed and agreed by Israel.
The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement, and resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the Roadmap.”
Abbas told Haaretz on 28 May 2003 that the 14 reservations made by Israel had nothing to do with him. He said:
“They don’t interest me,”Haaretz reported that as far as Abbas was concerned, the only document that mattered was the road map that was finalized in December 2002 and handed over to the parties at the end of April 2003 Nothing more, nothing less. He continued:
“We do not accept each side picking and choosing only those specific elements that are convenient for them in the road map.This was a very aggressive and intransigent - indeed foolish and naive - attitude to adopt in the face of President Bush having specifically invited both sides to comment on the Road Map.
The map was prepared last December and we accepted it, despite our own comments and reservations. We wanted to give this initiative a chance, but it’s impossible to continue inventing comments and reservations after it was submitted.”
The response from the President to Israel’s reservations acknowledged that Israel’s concerns were real and they would be fully and seriously addressed during the implementation phase.
The past months’ discussions between George Mitchell, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama in relation to a settlement freeze must be seen and be understood to have taken place within the framework of America’s previous acknowledgment that no such freeze could be imposed on Israel under the Roadmap unless Israel agreed to the terms of any such proposal.
Israel has responded to America’s request by agreeing to curtail - but not totally freeze - settlement activity for some as yet unspecified period whilst negotiations are being held between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This apparently is not acceptable to Abbas. Unless he has a change of heart he intends to spit the dummy and walk away from any further negotiations.
Abbas needs to really take a cold shower and cool down and not tell half the story - especially the half that he does not like.