[Published 26 April 2012]
The Middle East changed dramatically with the recognition and admission of the State of Palestine to UNESCO on 31 October 2011 - resulting finally in the achievement of the two-state solution unsuccessfully sought for the last 19 years in negotiations conducted between Israel and the Palestinian Authority pursuant to the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap.
Yet these seminal developments do not appear to rate a mention in Mahmoud Abbas’s latest letter of demand sent to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The contents of that letter have not been officially revealed.
However, one published draft - if eventually authenticated - contains the following material errors or omissions that will certainly not be conducive to Israel furnishing any positive reply.
1. The letter is signed by Mahmoud Abbas as: “Chairman of the P.L.O Executive Committee and President of the Palestinian National Authority”
Yet Mr Abbas has another distinguished title - “President of the State of Palestine” - which he somehow forgot to add.
This additional nomenclature appeared in the letter sent by Mr Abbas to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when Palestine unsuccessfully applied for membership of the United Nations as a peace loving State in September 2011.
Why omit it now in this letter to Mr Netanyahu - especially as Palestine was admitted to UNESCO as its 195th member state one month later? Why omit to mention this development at UNESCO as well?
Mr Abbas‘s reluctance to sign the letter as “President of the State of Palestine” and to fail to mention the UNESCO decision is surely deliberate and not caused by mere oversight.
If Palestine has already been recognized as a State by UNESCO and Mr Abbas is its President - any negotiations for the creation of such a State - the “two-state vision“- as envisaged by the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap - are extant.
If Mr Abbas still believes he can get Mr Netanyahu to resume negotiations for a Palestinian State under the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap by not stating he is “The President of Palestine” or mentioning the UNESCO decision - he must believe that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Mr Abbas’s unilateral approach to UNESCO to successfully procure recognition of Palestinian statehood has rendered any further negotiations under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap to achieve that identical goal totally meaningless.
If Mr Abbas is now seeking to resume negotiations with Israel to claim further additional territory for the State of Palestine - there must be a new negotiating process to replace the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap - with specific parameters to be determined and first agreed on between Israel and Palestine.
2. The draft letter contains the following self-serving statement:
“At the same token, I expect your understanding that settlement building is eroding the Palestinian trust in your commitment to reconciliation and the idea of the two states solution. The logic is simple: If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, why do you build on its territory?”
Two pertinent comments on this last statement are warranted.
Firstly -as stated above - the two-state solution has already been achieved. That debate has to all intents and purposes been ended - unless the UNESCO decision is reversed by the International Court of Justice as being unconstitutional. Any move by UNESCO to refer the decision to the Court for its advisory opinion appears extremely unlikely.
Secondly - the arrogant presumption that 100% of the West Bank and Gaza is the territory of the Palestinian State - and that Israel has no claim to any part of that territory - continues to plague any efforts to finally resolve sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza - just 5% of former Palestine still remaining unallocated between Arabs and Jews.
The Jewish claim to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the West Bank and Gaza has been specifically preserved in international law by the provisions of the Treaty of Sevres, the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter - all of which have been declared null and void by Article 20 of the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - now headed by Mr Abbas.
Until the PLO accepts the binding effect of this body of international law - the ongoing conflict in the West Bank and Gaza is set to continue.
Now that a Palestinian state has been recognized - any restraints on Israel changing the status of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords and the Bush Roadmap have been removed.
Mr Abbas needs to change his tune or see Israel follow his example by making unilateral changes in the status of at least those areas of the West Bank where Israel currently holds full security and administrative control.
3. Mr Abbas continues to make the following assertion - as if repeating it often enough will turn it into fact:
“We agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22% of the territory of historical Palestine-on all the Palestinian Territory occupied by Israel in 1967".
Fact is that historical Palestine comprised what is today called Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza. The West Bank and Gaza are 5% - not 22% of historical Palestine - whilst Israel comprises 17% and Jordan makes up the remaining 78%.
What Israel occupied in 1967 - the West Bank and Gaza - was not “Palestinian territory”.
The West Bank was “Jordanian territory” - occupied by Jordan between 1948-1967 and unified with Jordan by a vote of the Arab Parliaments of the West Bank and Transjordan in 1950 - and renamed “Jordan”.
Jordan ceded its claims to this territory to the PLO in 1988.
The PLO had no interest in it - or in Gaza then occupied by Egypt - before Israel occupied both areas in 1967.
Article 24 of the PLO Charter made this very clear:
“This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the Western Bank in the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or the Himmah Area.”
Any future negotiations on the future status of the West Bank and Gaza - not currently included in the State of Palestine - must take these facts into account as well as the fact that there are now two exclusive “Arabs only” States and one Jewish State in historical Palestine.Mr Abbas needs to take a reality check.
Whilst he persists with his revisionist views and tries to ignore the consequences of his unilateral approaches to both the United Nations and UNESCO in breach of the obligations imposed on him by the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap - any hope of further negotiations between Israel and Palestine is a pipe dream.