[Published 17 August 2010]
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas continues to vacillate on resuming direct negotiations with Israel to create a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.
Director of the Palestinian Authority government’s media centre - Ghassan Khatib - has described Abbas’s predicament as follows:
“The Palestinians are looking for either an Israeli commitment to a settlement freeze, or a Quartet [European Union, United States, United Nations, and Russia] statement that would be accepted by both sides as a basis for negotiations. We are looking for a settlement freeze according to the definition of Quartet … road map – adopted by the United Nations Security Council – which called for a settlement freeze in all occupied areas including East Jerusalem.”
Mr Ghatib is living in fantasyland.
Israel never accepted the settlement freeze proposed in the Road Map - having raised the issue as one of 14 reservations it made to President Bush after its initial release.
Reservation 9 made by Israel to President Bush stated :
“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), the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem, and all other matters whose substance relates to the final settlement.”
Israel thus made it clear that whilst it was prepared to discuss a settlement freeze it was not prepared to accept that there be a complete settlement freeze as a binding condition in the Roadmap.
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.
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.”
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.
Israel’s current limited freeze has resulted from its own sovereign decision and following agreement reached with President Obama as predicated by President Bush‘s earlier commitment.
Abbas cannot hope to delay direct negotiations on the basis of obtaining any further concessions from Israel. He cannot reasonably expect to get Israel to extend the deadline for its current limited freeze beyond its 26 September deadline. Certainly there is no hope of it being extended if Abbas refuses to enter into direct negotiations and great doubt that it will - even if Abbas relents.
The real irony is that Israel should contemplate resuming direct negotiations with Abbas as President of the Palestinian Authority whilst he also continues to occupy the dual positions of Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Chairman of Fatah - the largest faction of the PLO.
As President of the Palestinian Authority Abbas is committed to concluding the “two state solution” accepted both by him and his predecessor the late Yasser Arafat - albeit the uncompromising terms demanded by both of them to date have ensured the failure of this American initiative.
As Chairman of the PLO - Abbas is obligated to observing the provisions of Article 20 of the PLO Covenant which states:
“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based on them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism being a divine religion is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own: they are citizens of the states to which they belong”
As Chairman of Fatah - Abbas is also sworn to uphold Article 22 of Fatah’s own separate Charter:
“Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine “
Abbas therefore still continues to head two organizations that are hell bent on consigning the six million Jews now living in Israel into national oblivion whilst heading another organization that seeks to live side by side with the Jews in their own independent state.
Abbas - whilst he wears these three hats - is powerless to distance or disassociate himself from these plans to eliminate Israel as the designated Jewish National Home for all present - and future - generations of Jews no matter where they might happen to be born or now be residing.
Abbas is certainly frank about where his loyalties reside.
On 27 April 2009 he told a preliminary conference of the Palestinian Youth Conference at Ramallah:
“A Jewish State, what is that supposed to mean? You can call yourselves as you like, but I don’t accept it and I say so publicly. All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimeter less. Anything else I don’t accept ” [Y Net - 27 April 2009]
Abbas - after this outburst - had no compunction or embarrassment in accepting a large framed map of “Palestine” covering the entire area of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea . This picture later appeared on the front page of both daily publications of the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas is clearly conflicted - advocating for a “two state solution” whilst heading two organizations that call for the elimination of one of those two states. He heads the third organization - the Palestinian Authority - without any electoral mandate to do so and is powerless to guarantee the performance of - let alone honour and enforce - any agreement with Israel.
Continuing to deal with Abbas whilst he wears three hats has proved to be - and will continue to be - a recipe for disaster.