By the Arab Thought Forum & Agencies
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators hold meetings in an attempt to reach a joint vision for the resumption of peace talks that could lead to a peace deal in the November summit in the United States. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, laid out on October 10, 2007 the precise Palestinian demands for borders, the independent state, and called on Israel to fully withdraw from the Palestinian territories it captured after the Six-day war in 1967, including East Jerusalem. Abbas said that this conference must lead to resolving six main issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, water and security. The demands include some complicated issues which involve land swap and issues regarding shared control over holy places. Also, Abbas stated that his demands are backed by the United Nations resolutions, and that the final status peace deal must lead to an independent Palestinian State with full sovereignty on its borders and water resources.
Moreover, the Palestinian negotiation teams regarding the borders of the Palestinian State; these borders including all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Yet, Abbas added that the Palestinians will not close any door for land swap, or border adjustment. Haaretz said that Abbas offered Olmert about 2% of the West Bank, but Olmert wants 6-8%. Haaretz reported that Israel is apparently considering giving the Palestinians an area to create a link between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Abbas outlined his precise demands regarding the borders of a future Palestinian state, calling for a complete Israeli withdrawal from those territories occupied in 1967. The Palestinian negation team would settle for no less than all of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, in addition to area inside the so-called "no man's land". "We have 6,205 square kilometers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We want it as it is," Abbas declared, adding that his claim was both legitimate and backed by various U.N. Security Council resolutions. Abbas struck a confrontational and defiant tone, arguing that the summit would fail if core issues were not discussed. "The international conference must include the six major issues that are Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security," the President stated.
The lands exchange, would allow Israel to annex West Bank areas where settlements blocs are located in exchange to giving the Palestinians other areas in return.
From the other side, Hamas official warns of consequences of any agreement with Israel Mosheer al-Masri, a Gaza-based Hamas parliamentarian, warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the "grave repercussions" that would result from any agreement with Israel. The Hamas MP voiced his group’s rejection of any Palestinian-Israeli agreements, branding ongoing peace efforts as detrimental to the Palestinain cause. “ No one can impose the American-Israeli agenda on the Palestinian people. The people will reject such an agenda practically not verbally”, Al-Masri stated. Hamas has branded the upcoming summit "an attempt to undermine Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation," and has called on neighboring Arab countries to boycott the conference.
Palestinian official, head of the Negotiations Team, Ahmad Qurea’ (Abu Ala’) called on the Israeli government to void its recent decision of annexing 1100 dunams from three Palestinian towns near Jerusalem, and further land grab near Bethlehem. The three towns around Jerusalem are Abu Dis, Al Ezariyya (Bethany) and Al Sawahra Al Sharqiyya, and the village near Bethlehem is Al Walaja. Abu Ala’ stated that such unilateral decisions and land grab is an issue that causes mistrust between the Palestinian and Israeli negotiations teams, and decrease the chance for achieving a peace deal. These actions will further isolate Jerusalem and its surrounding Arab villages and towns from the rest of the West Bank. Abu Ala’ also stated that this decision comes in a time of launching peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel, which increases doubts of the real Israeli intention for the outcome of any peace talks, especially the final status talks and the issue of Jerusalem. “If Israel only wants to construct and expand settlements, annex more Palestinian lands, then the real question which the Israeli government should answer is what is the meaning of these peace talks if it continues its grave violations?”, Abu Ala’ said. He added that the Israeli have to stop the Israeli violations which include annexing lands, settlement construction and expansion, isolating Jerusalem, the ongoing construction of the Wall and the ongoing arrests and assassinations carried by the army. Such acts, he said, would only cause tension and limit the chances of launching the political process.“As serious efforts are being carried out by us and by the international community in order to launch and revive the peace process, the Israeli government is ongoing with its settlement activities, and is isolating Jerusalem”, Abu Ala’ stated, “These acts will diminish the chances of establishing an independent, viable, Palestinian state, and will diminish the chances of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”. He also added that “If Israel is serious in achieving a peace deal, it should immediately stop its violations, and settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”
Head of the Israeli Army Forces in the occupied West Bank, Gadi Sheemny, very recently issued a military order annexing 1130 Dunams of Palestinian lands near Jerusalem, the army handed military orders and maps to several residents informing them of the sizes of the annexed lands. This plan, will create a link between different settlements around Jerusalem, such as Ma'ale Adumim, Qidar, Mishor Adomim and several other settlements in the area which will block any geographical contiguity of the Palestinians areas and will isolate thousands of Palestinian lands which will be behind the Wall.
This annexation is part of the so-called “Greater Jerusalem Plan”, which aims at isolating the Palestinian towns and villages adjacent to Jerusalem and blocking their access to the Holy city while at the same time creating easy access from and to all settlements surrounding the city and consider them part of the “Greater Jerusalem” area.
Ahmad Abul-Rahman, political advisor to the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and the official spokesperson of Fateh movement, stated on Monday that the success of the international peace conference depends on American guarantees granted to each side. Abdul-Rahman said that the American government is now holding the keys of the success of this conference, and expressed hopes that the Israeli government will be realistic in dealing with the core issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He added that peace is achieved by a full Israeli withdrawal from all of the occupied territories since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Abul-Rahman also stated that the Palestinian side values the statements of the American President, George W. Bush, regarding the creation of a viable independent Palestinian state. Furthermore, Abdul-Rahman added that the US Administration must practice pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation to the Palestinian territories. He said that the US government always overlooks the Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. He stated that the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will be visiting the region in the coming few days apparently to practice some pressure on Israel since the “US government is interested in the success of this conference”.
Special Envoy for the Quartet group of countries Tony Blair met with President Abbas, the two leaders discussed political and economic issues, in addition to Palestinian preparations ahead of November's peace summit in the United States. President Abbas reiterated his commitment to the upcoming summit, reassuring the Envoy that he would do everything in his power to ensure its success.
From their side, Palestinian political Parties of the left warn against November peace conference. The leadership of the PFLP, DFLP, PPP, PNI and FIDA on Monday warned of the risks surrounding the upcoming U.S.-sponsored peace summit, arguing that the conference is doomed to achieve little, if anything at all. In a joint statement, the leadership warned that the summit would fail to achieve a just and lasting solution, and would instead leave the political horizon trapped in the vicious circle of a partial and unclear settlement.
The leaders warned also of a perceived American-Israeli agenda underlying the summit, warning that the real aim is not to engage with Palestinian demands, but to distort the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arabic world in general, adding that the American administration is seeking a way out of the quagmire of its military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The statement further warned of the conference's seeming attempt to formulate the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict as lying in the creation of a Palestinian state with temporary borders, and with no commitment to the right of return or the future status of Jerusalem, arguing that the pursuit of such a solution is contrary to all U.N. resolutions on the issue.
The leaders of the factions warned Palestinian and Arab participants that the summit would lead to the intensification of internal Palestinian conflict, as conference attendees are willing only to negotiate with one political faction. Accordingly, the statement calls for the participation of all factions, under the management of the PLO Executive committee, in any future peace negotiations. As opposed to the upcoming summit, the statement requests that the international community redouble its efforts to bring an end to Israeli hostility against the Palestinian people, as witnessed in extrajudicial assassinations, daily kidnapping of Palestinian civilians, the continued presence of checkpoints throughout the West Bank, an estimated 12,000 Palestinian political prisoners held on Israeli detention centers, and the continued economic, political and military siege imposed upon the Gaza Strip.
The statement concludes that for any peace summit to be successful, it must be conducted with the participation of all Arab countries with lands occupied by Israel, and must deal with final status concerns, continued settlement activity, security and water rights in a fashion that moves negotiations away from partial and temporary solutions. In light of this, there must, therefore, be an intensified Palestinian-Arab front to push for a solution based on realistic, political processes that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal of lands occupied in 1967, and would circumvent all Israeli and American attempts to bypass the Arab Peace Initiative and U.N. resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian cause.
In another development, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told that the issue of the occupied Golan Heights would not be addressed at the upcoming Middle East peace conference, Israeli media sources have reported. Speaking at a behind-closed-doors meeting, Olmert is reported to have indicated to the Turkish FM that only Palestinian issues would be discussed, stating, "It would be wrong to include other issues." While Olmert reported that he was "happy with Syria's invitation to the summit," he expressed reservations over the country's alleged role in political assassinations in Lebanon, despite the fact that such allegations are based on little more than pure speculation. Also at the meeting, Babican is reported to have criticized the Israeli administration for reinforcing and perpetuating the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, arguing that such a separation should be avoided at all costs.