[Published 17 February 2014]
The semantic circus that first created a people known as the “Palestinians” in 1964 - who now claim an entitlement to their own independent State in ” the occupied Palestinian Territories” - reached absurd heights with the following bizarre news item this week:
“The Israeli authorities have blocked 70 patients from Gaza from entering Israel to receive medical treatment because their transfer documents were marked “State of Palestine,” officials told AFP on Wednesday
Until recently, official stationery has used the term “Palestinian territories.”
But the logo was changed in mid-December, a year after the Palestinians won recognition as a UN observer state, despite fierce Israeli opposition.”
This “War of the Letterheads” adds a new dimension to the conflict between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
The “State of Palestine” was admitted as a member State of UNESCO on 31 October 2011 by a vote of 107/14 and as a non-observer State at the United Nations (UN) on 29 November 2012 by a vote of 138/9.
Those States voting in favour ignored the legal requirements of article 1 of the Montevideo Convention 1933 which declares:
“The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(c) government; and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states”
Those States dissenting or abstaining took the view that any State of Palestine to be created for the first time ever in recorded history could only arise as a result of negotiations conducted under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 2003 Bush Roadmap and the 2007 Annapolis conference between the designated parties - Israel and the Palestinian Authority - (“the agreed negotiating framework”)
John V Whitbeck - an international lawyer and advisor to the Palestinian team negotiating with Israel - had flagged the likelihood of this latest War of the Letterheads in an article written in the Cyprus Mail on 13 January 2013.
Whitbeck revealed that the Palestinian Authority “had been absorbed and replaced by the “State of Palestine” in a decree issued by Mahmoud Abbas on 3 January 2013 and signed by him acting in his capacities as president of the State of Palestine and chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO.
Whitbeck’s confirmation of the demise of the “Palestinian Authority” with the newly declared “State of Palestine” should surely have signalled the end of further negotiations under the agreed negotiating framework - specifically designed to achieve the birth of that very State.
How could further negotiations on creating the State of Palestine be necessary once that State had been declared by the party demanding its creation?
To make sure the message was fully understood - Whitbeck stated unequivocally:
“The Trojan horse called the “Palestinian Authority” in accordance with the Oslo interim agreements and the “Palestinian National Authority” by Palestinians, having served its purpose by introducing the institutions of the State of Palestine on the soil of Palestine, has now ceased to exist.”
Whitbeck left no room for doubt:
“In his correspondence, Yasser Arafat used to list all three of his titles under his signature - president of the State of Palestine, chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and president of the Palestinian National Authority (in that order of precedence). It is both legally and politically noteworthy that, in signing this decree, Mahmoud Abbas has listed only the first two titles… There is no further need for a Palestinian leader to be three-headed or three-hatted.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and the US State Department apparently missed - or deliberately ignored - the demise of the Palestinian Authority.
A meeting held by Kerry on 4 January 2014 is headlined on the State Department web site:
“Remarks with lead negotiator for the Palestinian Authority Saeb Erekat after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Abbas”
Kerry obviously believes he has been involved in negotiations under the agreed negotiating framework with a Palestinian Authority President, a Palestinian Authority negotiator and a Palestinian Authority - that clearly no longer exist.
The War of the Letterheads should serve as a clear signal to Kerry that he is negotiating with ghosts - not a legally constituted and accountable entity under the agreed negotiating framework.
Kerry - in preparing his own eagerly awaited framework agreement - needs to take notice of this fundamental change wrought by Abbas - who no longer wears a hat or name tag designated “Palestinian Authority”.
If Abbas is to be believed - there are now three existing states in former Palestine - Israel, Jordan and Palestine - who need to define their final borders and resolve any other contentious issues they might want to raise.
Erekat himself added another semantic whopper recently with this classic statement:
“I am the son of Jericho. I am 10,000 years old … I am the proud son of the Netufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there for 5,500 years before Joshua Bin Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho. I’m not going to change my narrative,”
Yet under the PLO charter:
“Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.”
Shock horror - Erekat and all other descendants of the non-Arab Netufians and Canaanites aren’t “Palestinians”.
Kerry needs to sort out this confusing claptrap if he wants to make any headway in resolving a conflict that keeps being continually punctuated by Arab fiction on Arab fiction.