Monday, September 19, 2011

Palestinian anger at US fuels diplomatic crisis over statehood

Editor's Note:  1st Amendment:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 So why is the U.S. Government demanding Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

The Guardian
Harriet Sherwood

Palestinian negotiators accused Washington of failing to offer measures that might have headed off a looming diplomatic crisis over UN recognition of a Palestinian state. A senior official said US proposals had been the "final straw" that led to the decision to go to the UN.

Nabil Shaath, a member of the team headed by President Mahmoud Abbas that left for New York said he "gulped" when he saw the proposal presented by the US team of David Hale and Dennis Ross.

"This was the statement supposed to persuade Abu Mazen [Abbas] not to go?" he said. There was no mention of Israeli settlements, of the future of Jerusalem or of refugees. It also included the demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish state". The US, he added, was "not a neutral observer, but a strategic ally of Israel".

His claim came as British officials said they were still undecided on how they would vote either at the UN Security Council later this week or in the subsequent vote in the UN's General Assembly that is widely expected to grant Palestine enhanced status at the UN.

Abbas will lodge the formal application for Palestine to be admitted to the UN as an independent state based on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in the coming week. The Palestinians' resolve to resist intense pressure from the US, the European Union and Israel has set it on a collision course whose repercussions could be far-reaching.

Among the threats of retaliation made by Israeli ministers are tearing up the Oslo accords, under which the Palestinian Authority was given control of parts of the West Bank and Gaza, annexing West Bank settlements to Israel and withholding tax revenues which Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians.
But, Shaath said, "there will not be any rowing back, reticence or hesitation in completing our mission of seeking international support for recognition of our independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders." He added: "This is the moment of truth."

The Palestinians were still prepared to look at fresh proposals for a return to peace talks, but "after all the discussions, negotiations, threats, incentives and meetings of the past two to three weeks" they were now committed to going to the security council.

Jerusalem and Ramallah have been the scene of frenetic diplomatic activity in the past week. In addition to Hale and Ross, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Middle East envoy Tony Blair have been attempting to formulate proposals to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table. Meetings with the US delegation had continued until "the last minutes before the president's speech", said Shaath.

As well as rounding on the Americans, he dismissed Blair's efforts to craft a statement by the Quartet on the Middle East (the US, EU, UN and Russia) as a framework for restarting talks. "Mr Blair doesn't sound like a neutral interlocutor, he sounds very much like an Israeli diplomat sometimes," he said. In contrast, "the Europeans have played a much more serious and positive game. The Europeans were seriously engaged." But the EU had failed to unite around a common position and "they are also being threatened by the US", he said.

The Palestinian team was not alarmed by the prospect of the US withholding funding in the aftermath of their approach to the UN. "To tell you the truth we're not concerned. You don't barter for your rights for money," he said. Arab states had pledged to make up any shortfall, and "the Europeans have assured us they won't cut our funds, so have the Japanese". Shaath said the Palestinians had only two serious options. One was to go back to war, "which we don't want. There is nobody planning violence on this side, but Netanyahu would love to make the world believe that Israel is threatened. We are not going back to violence – it's too costly for us and the Israelis". The other was to go to the international community to seek support for a Palestinian state.

The US said it continued to be committed to a return to talks. "What we are focused on is… getting them back to the table so that they can address the many final status issues and reach a comprehensive peace agreement that results in two states living side by side," a State Department spokesman said.
Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: "When the Palestinian Authority will abandon these futile and unilateral measures at the UN, it will find Israel to be a genuine partner for direct peace negotiations."

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