Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has now made it abundantly clear that he does not intend to enter into further negotiations with Israel to create a new Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt - by insisting on conditions for resuming negotiations with Israel that prejudge fundamental issues that were supposed to be only settled in negotiations.
Speaking before the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Committee in Ramallah on 15 December Abbas said:
“We will renew negotiations if the settlements are completely halted and the 1967 borders recognized as the borders of the Palestinian state,”In demanding that the 1967 “borders” - they are in fact only armistice lines - be recognized as the “borders” of the Palestinian state before negotiations are resumed - Abbas has repudiated one of the key issues that was to be decided by negotiations.
His demand is both peremptory and racist - amounting effectively to an ultimatum that Israel agree to 500000 Jews being evicted from their present homes and businesses in the West Bank prior to the Palestinian Authority even agreeing to resume negotiations on the future of the West Bank’s Jewish population.
Abbas has now reached the end of the road of no return in making the irrational demands he has.
In welcoming Israel’s 10 months moratorium on residential building activity in the West Bank as “unprecedented” in an effort to induce Abbas to resume negotiations with Israel - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had declared on 25 November:
“We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish State with secure and recognized borders.”The Secretary of State’s expressed belief that Abbas would agree to land swaps has now been comprehensively and publicly rejected by Abbas in his latest statement.
Abbas’s statement also amounts to a rejection of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which do not require that Israel withdraw from all the land it occupied following the Six Day War in 1967.
There seems to be a general ignorance about the status in international law of the West Bank and Gaza which are at present not under the recognized sovereignty of any State.
In international law the West Bank and Gaza are the only remaining areas of the Mandate for Palestine still unallocated between Jews and Arabs pursuant to the 1922 League of Nations Mandate whose provisions still apply today by virtue of Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.
Both Jews and Arabs claim the West Bank and Gaza - which are “no man’s land “ in common parlance.
Although all Jews living in Gaza evacuated their homes there in 2005 no formal abandonment of Jewish claims to sovereignty in Gaza has yet been conceded by Israel.
Both Jews and Arabs maintain claims to sovereignty in the West Bank that can only be peacefully resolved by negotiations between them.
The Palestinian Authority has now made it plainly clear that it is not prepared to enter into further negotiations with Israel to settle their respective claims to sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza by stipulating the Palestinian Authority be granted sovereignty in 100% and not one square metre less as a pre-condition to resuming negotiations.
Israel now needs to find an Arab negotiating partner or partners that will not demand such a pre-condition. Until that happens the unsatisfactory status quo will continue - which clearly is in no one’s interest.
In response to Abbas’s latest demands Mark Regev the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on 17 December 2009:
“Up until now, he (Abbas) was talking about a settlement freeze. Now he is adding (a return to) 1967 borders. It’s like we have to accept the outcome of negotiations before negotiations start. We are concerned that they are trying to avoid negotiations.Israel needs to go much further than Regev has articulated.
The reason we haven’t been negotiating is the Palestinians have been placing new preconditions on talks.”
Any hope that Abbas will withdraw or modify his latest conditions for resuming negotiations is fatuous.
Israel initially erred in not conditioning its 10 months building moratorium on the Palestinian Authority agreeing to resume negotiations with Israel within a fixed period of time after the date when the moratorium was first announced on 25 November 2009.
In theory the Palestinian Authority was given up to 10 months to decide whether to negotiate any further with Israel - during which time no further houses would be commenced in the West Bank even if the Palestinian Authority made no decision to negotiate during that time.
This moratorium has already caused much personal distress, confusion and financial loss as well as large demonstrations in Israel and on the West Bank protesting the moratorium. Continuing the moratorium in view of Abbas’s latest demands will not advance the peace process one iota.
There is at this point of time no possible hope whatsoever in negotiations being resumed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
In view of Abbas’s latest statement Israel should now make it very clear that:
* Abbas’s conditions for resuming negotiations with Israel are completely unacceptableThe time for playing diplomatic word games is surely over.
* If Abbas does not resume negotiations with Israel by 20 January 2010 without the preconditions stipulated by Abbas then Israel will cancel the 10 months moratorium and resume building houses in the West Bank in accordance with the rights vested in the Jewish people by the Mandate for Palestine and the United Nations Charter.