Khaled Amayreh: Pearls for coal
- There is little chance of Israel and the PA bridging divisions ahead
of the US-sponsored peace summit, reports Khaled Amayreh from occupied
Pearls for coal
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators began a series of secret meetings
on Monday in an effort to draft a joint document for the upcoming
US-sponsored peace conference, scheduled to take place in Annapolis,
Maryland, in November. The two sides continue to be deeply divided on
the major issues at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
According to Palestinian officials close to the talks, the two
negotiating teams are likely to spend more time on formulating and
asserting their own respective opening positions than bridging the
gaps between them. While the Palestinian Authority continues to seek a
final-status settlement on the basis of UN resolutions 242 and 338 and
within the framework of what is generally termed the "land-for-peace
formula" Israel, which views the occupied territories as "disputed"
rather than "occupied", is adamant in its rejection of the right of
return and determined to retain major Jewish settlement blocks on
occupied Arab land.
Azmi Al-Shuebi, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, told Al-Ahram
Weekly that "bridging proposals" were being considered to overcome
differences pertaining to the extent and depth of the putative Israeli
withdrawal from the West Bank.
The main proposal in this regard foresees a "land swap" whereby Israel
annexes 3-5 per cent of the total area of the West Bank, mainly in and
around East Jerusalem and west of the Separation Wall, in return for
which Israel cedes the would-be Palestinian state a comparable area of
land in Israeli proper.
It is a catch-22 situation. Israel is offering the Palestinians sandy
terrain in the Negev desert along the Gaza borders in exchange for
annexing large Jewish settlements, including Ma'ali Adomim, Pisgad
Ze'ev, Ariel, Efrata and Gush Itzion, in and around East Jerusalem. As
one Palestinian official put it, the proposal is like swapping a pearl
for a piece of coal of the same size.
The decision to begin drafting the joint Israeli-Palestinian document
does not mean the series of recent high-profile meetings between Abbas
and Olmert has been successful. According to observers both sides want
to appease Washington and avoid any impression of impeding progress.
Olmert told the Israeli cabinet this week that he and Abbas had not
come to any conclusions during their meeting on 4 October, intended to
formulate a mutually-accepted perception of what any final-status
settlement should look like.
"There were no agreements or understandings between me and Abu Mazen,"
said Olmert, adding that they had done no more than "survey the
problems and central issues that are the basis for negotiations that
will lead to two states for two peoples".
Olmert's remarks showed that despite his "positive" and "cordial"
meetings with Abbas the two men are still dealing with formalities and
It is probably safe to assume that if the current talks continue at
such a snail's pace the two sides will go to Annapolis without an
agreement, which will in turn doom the conference to failure.
According to Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi, the success or
failure of the upcoming conference depends on the willingness of the
Bush administration to get involved. Ashrawi told the Weekly there
were two main factors militating against the conference: first, the
Bush administration has yet to demonstrate any real willingness to
pressure Israel and, second, the internal Palestinian situation is
more hapless than ever. Ashrawi criticised the make-up of the
Palestinian negotiating team as "the same old incompetent faces that
remind us of the failures of the Oslo era".
Meanwhile, Israel's stalling tactics this week prompted former
Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei to warn that if a joint
Israeli-Palestinian statement on the final-status issues is not
formulated before the Annapolis conference the Palestinians may well
The veteran Oslo-era Palestinian negotiator and former prime minister
pointed out that the principles of a final solution were clear to both
sides, and what is needed now is a decision.
Olmert has been heaping praise on Abbas, insisting that "for the first
time, there is a Palestinian leadership that wants to reach peace with
Israel based on two states living side by side in security and where
Israel will be a Jewish state." The Israeli premier has described
Abbas as "consistent and systematic... against terrorism and ready for
serious dialogue with Israel".
Such praise, coming from a man known among Palestinians more for
deceitfulness than rectitude, has been met with apprehension, fuelling
rumours that Abbas will compromise over Jerusalem and the right of
return, the two issues that, more than any other, define the
Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
Salman Abu Sitta, a prominent advocate of the Palestinian right to
return to the homeland as anchored in UN Resolution 149, this week
warned Abbas against "dealing lightly with the right of return".
"We are aware of the pressure you are facing to abandon Palestinian
constants," Abu Sitta wrote in an open letter addressed to Abbas this
week. "But what has drawn our attention more than anything else are
Israel's attempts to redefine the idea of the two-state solution.
Israel now wants mutual recognition of a national homeland for the
Jews and, on what is left of the land, Palestine, a national homeland
Palestinian apprehension about the dangers of a hasty deal being
imposed that excludes the right of return prompted a number of
Damascus-based Palestinian factions to call for meeting in the Syrian
capital to reassert Palestinian national goals, including the right of
return. The factions, which include Islamic and leftist groups, are
expected to warn Abbas against succumbing to US pressure to sacrifice
the right of return in exchange for an unviable Palestinian statelet
in the West Bank.
Israeli grabbing of Palestinian land has continued unabated as Olmert
talks about peace with the Palestinians. On Monday, the Hebrew press
reported that the Israeli army had decided to seize land east of
Jerusalem with the aim of building thousands of additional settler units.
The establishment of the new settlement, dubbed E-1, would block the
remaining physical continuity between the southern West Bank (Hebron
and Bethlehem) and the Ramallah region.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
Email ummyakoub@... for instructions.
To leave this list, send an email to: