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    Posted August 19, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    What is there to negotiate?

    Millions of words have been written and spoken about the “Oslo/Camp-David/Annapolis” etc negotiations. Here are some more. Direct talks are set to resume in September, after a two year break.

    In the light of the following UN rules and principles: 

    ♦ inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war (any war, therefore all wars since 1947)

    ♦ inadmissibility of a state allowing its own nationals to settle in occupied territory

    ♦ the 1947 Partition plan recommending Jerusalem be an international city

    ♦ and the ICJ ruling on the illegality of the Separation Wall,

    we ask: just what is there to negotiate?

    Negotiations have always proceeded on the basis that it is up to the Palestinians to “give” or “compromise” in at least equal measure. But as they have taken nothing, they have nothing to give back. All they have to give is their blessing or at least acquiescence to what has been taken from them. Until Israel gets that, it will claim it has no partner for peace.

    This fact has not been lost on the negotiators. As Ramzy Baroud wrote in Palestine Chronicle, “the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah will continue to adhere to its methodology: don’t criticize Israel too harshly, so as not to lose favour; follow the US dictates, so as to maintain a ‘moderate’ status and many privileges; and always give an impression to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims that the PA is the one and only defender of Jerusalem.” 

    Open Letter to Abbas

    Abbas put both feet wrong recently, going way over the line when he stated that “I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel”. But then, he was addressing Israel’s powerful AIPAC lobby. He’s had since 9th June to retract it, and now a very long list of signatories and endorsers can be found on an Open Letter objecting that this acceptance of an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine is a “grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people … to live in equality in their own homeland”.

    And it states: Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please. We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.

    “The decisions have already been made”

    In Sabbah Report, Stuart Littlewood writes:

    Abbas should have none of it. If he cannot be persuaded to do the decent thing and go, he at least ought to take the line that the talking’s all done. It was done in the UN. And the UN has treated Israel with gob-smacking generosity at Arab expense, first with its 1947 Partition gift and later by nodding OK to Israel’s territorial gains represented by the Armistice ‘Green Line’. The Israelis should accept this staggering munificence with proper humility, and be content.

    Obama would do well to acknowledge that the decisions have already been made. They are enshrined in UN resolutions, in international law, in the Geneva Conventions and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They wait to be implemented by the nations that are party to those solemn undertakings, including the US.

    Failure should have consequences

    Writing in Arab News, 22 Aug 2010, John Whitbeck says that for 17 years, “for Israel, ‘failure’ has always constituted ’success’, permitting it to continue confiscating Palestinian land”.

    If the clear alternative to an acceptable deal by the deadline of 2nd September 2011 (set out by Hillary Clinton) was “full rights of citizenship in a single state in all of Israel/Palestine” that would mean that the Palestinians “would be entering this new round of direct negotiations in a position of overwhelming strength, intellectually and psychologically difficult though it would be for Palestinians to imagine such a role reversal.” To back up such a position that the Palestinian leadership should adopt, the Arab League “should then publicly state that the very generous Arab Peace Initiative, which, since March 2002, has offered Israel permanent peace and normal diplomatic and economic relations in return for Israel’s compliance with international law, will expire and be “off the table” if a definitive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement has not been signed by Sept. 2, 2011. 

    Framing the choice before Israelis with such clarity would ensure that the Israeli leadership would be inspired  — indeed, compelled —  to make the most attractive two-state offer to the Palestinians which Israeli public opinion could conceivably find acceptable. … It is even possible that, if forced to focus during the coming year on the prospect of living in a democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens – which, after all, is what the United States and the European Union hold up, in all other instances, as the ideal form of political life  —  many Israelis might come to view this “threat” as less nightmarish than they traditionally have.

    The South African precedent, says Whitbeck, “could and should inspire. This latest one-year deadline for achieving an agreed settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be meaningful. It must have clear and unambiguous consequences. …  a definitive choice must be made in the coming year. A fraudulent “peace process” designed simply to kill time can no longer be tolerated.

    John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel

    Viva, Viva Negotiations!

    Extracts from Mazin Qumsiyeh’s weekly Newsletter of 21.8.2010

    “In international law, even duly elected leaders of occupied people cannot give away their people’s rights.”

    Returning from the Friday demonstration in Al-Walaja in unbearable heat (new video) we note that the talks about the talks about the peace talks are to resume in Washington September 2nd.  The Obama administration decided not to spend any political capital challenging the Israeli lobby. In fact the US politicians want to blunt Republican criticism ahead of midterm elections by chalking out a diplomatic “success” in form if not in substance. … I believe most Palestinians (Abbas included) are neither optimistic nor pleased about this development. But few of us believe it was necessary for Abbas to yield yet again.  Most (including large segments of Fatah) believe it is a huge mistake that just set back the real cause for peace. I challenge those who think otherwise to public debates on the issues. …

    Yes, I know all the arguments for going back to negotiations.  They go along these lines: we tried different forms of resistance, the balance of power is tipped completely to the Israeli side which is supported by the US (thanks to the Israel lobby), the European governments are not showing backbone, blah blah blah.  One high ranking Fatah official said we have nothing left but negotiations. I am sorry, but if the leaders in Vietnam or Algeria or South Africa made similar defeatist statements, these countries would never have achieved their freedoms. If our leaders have lost faith in their cause, they should step aside and let those who have a positive message lead. …

    Our “leaders” knows that not only they had to cave in to go back to the negotiations but that further concessions are required to continue to fund their Bantustan economy (and VIP status) from Western donors and Arab countries beholden to the West.  So why do they try to give out the notion that bilateral negotiations can succeed under such circumstances? If you can be threatened with a cut-off of aid to go back to fruitless negotiations, why do we believe that you can resist pressure to cut off aid unless you give up on Jerusalem or the refugees? …

    I believe at this stage, three more concessions were needed: a) to return to endless direct and public negotiations that prop-up the Israeli government (and could break the increasing isolation of this pariah state) , b) to retract the very mild measure of boycotting settlement products and refrain from supporting
    International investigations into Israeli war crimes or legal proceedings to hold it accountable, and c) to continue to suppress local resistance in all its forms. 

    Some might dispute this and claim that the PA supports popular resistance (and suppresses armed resistance).  But unfortunately the facts of the last year tell a different story. Could they please come to places like Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Jayyus and explain to the people what had happened to end the popular resistance in those and dozens of other places? Could they explain why popular resistance  in many places that used to be costly to the occupation is now ritualized media stunts.  Could they meet with people who engage in real popular resistance regularly and are volunteers and not paid employees of the PA and ask them what are the challenges they face? The answers would be scandalous. 

    I am making three challenges here to all those who will be negotiating with Israeli politicians. 1)  I challenge you to come and tie yourself to an Israeli bulldozer (or sit in front of one) in an act of civil disobedience, and 2) I challenge you to convene panels of independent experts (not those profiting) in every major Palestinian population center to discuss the direction of Oslo accords and what has transpired in the last 20 years, and 3) based on 1 and 2, speak truth to the people.  Much more sacrifices will be needed and are coming from our people with or without honest leadership. Would it not be more dignified and more likely to give us freedom if we have to do without the foreign aid for one or two years? …

    We the common people, must take matters into our own hands.  Confucius added “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.”

    Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh is Professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, and chairs the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People. He rarely misses the weekly date with the bulldozers at Walaja, and supports the single democratic state. His reports include such telling details as the fact that the side of the Wall facing the colonist settlers has been faced with Jerusalem stone  to make it less oppressive to them. To receive his weekly human rights newsletter, go to


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