What the Arab world wants from Annapolis

On the eve of the Middle East conference in Annapolis, we look at what Arab commentators have been saying about the upcoming peace talks, courtesy of Mideastwire.com.
Hamas supporters in Gaza protest the U.S.-sponsored peace conference. Hamas, which has not been invited to Annapolis, is organizing its own conference in Gaza City. © Mahmud Hams / AFP

23 NOVEMBER 2007 Syria > Politics
Subject(s): Democracy | USA/EU-Relations |

"Dialogue with Damascus to induce it to attend Annapolis & support Ghanem"

Ibrahime Al-Humaydi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 23: "The information available to Al-Hayat showed that there were several communications yesterday with high ranking Syrian officials to convince Damascus to attend the international peace conference to be held in the American city of Annapolis and to play a role in convincing the Lebanese opposition to accept MP Robert Ghanem as a "consensus candidate". The Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad received phone calls from the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the Jordanian King Abdullah the Second, the Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem received a phone call from his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov while the French ambassador to Damascus visited the Syrian foreign ministry.

"It was learned that these communications focused on the issues of the presidential elections in Lebanon and the international conference in Annapolis especially as the Lebanese parliamentary session to be held today to elect a new president coincides with the meetings of the foreign ministers of the Arab countries in Cairo to reach a united Arab attitude towards Annapolis. Knowledgeable Syrian sources announced to Al-Hayat yesterday that the Annapolis meeting "is not a conference because any conference necessitates preparations and foundations. It is not right to call it a conference. If the purpose behind it is to recite speeches, then the assembly of the United Nations is more suitable". The sources were talking about the absence of the Golan Heights issue from the conference's agenda and from the letter of invitation sent by the American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Al-Muallem two days ago.

"The sources added: "the region is passing through a crisis. The failure of the conference will complicate the situation immeasurably and strike a blow at the chances for achieving real peace". The final decision about whether Syria will participate or not and about its level of participation, whether though Al-Muallem or through its ambassador to Washington Imad Mustapha, remained connected to the final result of the international communications with Damascus and of the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in which Al-Muallem is participating. The sources quoted Prodi telling Al-Assad in his phone call that "any peace related talks in the region can't succeed without the contribution and participation of Syria". The Syrian sources wondered: "what will attending the conference do without enough preparations and in light of the unsuitable internal Palestinian conditions?"

"The sources confirmed that Damascus "supports any real effort to achieve peace in the Middle East". The foreign communications yesterday also discussed the Lebanese presidential elections as Damascus was informed that Robert Ghanem is the "consensus candidate" currently on the table and that Washington "does support Michel Idde" despite the fact that the Lebanese opposition considers Ghanem "as a candidate from March 14 and not a consensus candidate". Diplomatic sources announced that the communications are aimed at convincing Damascus to convince the opposition to accept Ghanem. According to conforming sources, the reports coming in from Beirut show that there are two possible options: electing MP Ghanem after he gains the support of the opposition in return for "guarantees not to target the weapons of the resistance which should be dealt with in the context of the national dialogue" and giving promises of a "big s hare" to the Reform and Change coalition headed by MP Michel Aoun in the coming government.

"The second option is to postpone the electoral session in the context of an "orderly vacuum" which would allow for intense communications later on to reach an agreement about electing a consensus president from outside the list suggested by the Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir who would be acceptable to all the internal, regional, and international factions." - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


23 NOVEMBER 2007 Syria > Opinion

“The Syrian guarantee to secure the success of Annapolis”

On November 21, the Syrian privately-owned Al-Watan daily carried the following opinion piece by Ziad Haidar: “There are only a few days left before the Annapolis conference to discuss the Palestinian course at the level of the peace process is held, after invitations started to be addressed to the different sides including Syria, considering it is a member of the Arab peace process follow-up committee. Until this moment, Syria’s position is that Damascus will not send anyone to attend the conference unless the status of the occupied Golan is placed on its agenda.

“Ever since the American announcement of the conference in September, European and Arab diplomacy has dedicated itself to securing the “success of Annapolis” since it “would be much worse for it to fail than for it not to be held” according to what was said by more than one Arab official during these last few weeks. Moreover, it is one of the American administration’s most prominent priorities at this stage. One of the pillars to achieve this desired success seems to be the “Syrian presence” which earned the consensus of the international community that mobilized all its efforts in order to secure it. This presence seems to be a key condition to achieve the goals of the conference and therefore the interests of the numerous and varied sides involved in it.

“The first side is Russia whose deputy FM, Alexander Sultanov, visited Damascus yesterday. Moscow wants Syria to attend in order to achieve what President Vladimir Putin had tried to achieve when he called for a peace conference to be held in the Russian capital to discuss all the courses. However, this was certainly thwarted due to the rejection of the idea at the time by Israel and the US. Hence Moscow believes that Annapolis and its focus on the Palestinian course will give the Moscow conference a chance. But the success of Annapolis can’t be achieved without Syria’s participation, since this participation will secure a follow-up on the accomplishments and will grant the Moscow conference a chance...

“For their part, the Arab countries also want Syria to attend. Jordanian King Abdullah II “violated the blockade of the Arab moderate [states]” vis a vis Syria and invited it to attend Annapolis. The Palestinians talked about a mediation to secure Syria’s participation in the international conference and the Arab League secretary general did not conceal his opinion regarding the necessity of a representative from Damascus attending the meeting. Certainly, the only proclaimed reluctant side is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is America’s allies... However, for Syria not to attend would be quite embarrassing, especially or the Kingdom...

“The Israeli side also wants Syria to attend. The Israeli prime minister, his foreign minister and defense minister, all repeatedly stressed the necessity to “respect Syria’s wishes” and corroborated the importance of its presence. But when the Israelis wish us somethings... [as published with ellipses] In any case, the Syrian attendance will allow the Israeli prime minister to brag about sitting on one table with Arab states representatives, ones which are still afraid to officially adopt the normalization move... The US wants Syria to attend so that the others will attend without any embarrassment and to allow the Palestinians to move freely considering Damascus’ weight at the level of the Palestinian dossier...

“In conclusion, it can be deduced without any reluctance that Syria is not isolated. Everything that happened in the last two years aimed to isolate the Syrian role by isolating the state. But the outcome was completely reversed. This state is now being asked to show its weight at the level of many dossiers whether in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine. This is being said regardless of whether or not we will partake in Annapolis and what Syria will reap from its participation, especially after Syria stressed it wished to secure the success of the meeting [which would be] “reflected in stability in the entire region, for its failure would entail the opposite.” - Al-Watan Syria, Syria


23 NOVEMBER 2007 Syria > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"Egypt to participate, Palestinians are reassured, & Syria will not attend"

On November 22, the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat carried the following report without a byline: “The United States endeavored to reassure the Arab states of the seriousness of its efforts to re-launch negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the international peace conference in Annapolis scheduled for next week, in a bid to secure the largest Arab participation possible. The United States affirmed that “it is a very serious effort to re-launch the negotiations towards the two-state solutions.”

“President George Bush telephoned the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abed al-Aziz, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, Egyptian President Husni Mubarak, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in order to discuss the issue of the conference, a few hours after Washington sent the invitations to 42 states, among which were Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, in addition to other Islamic and Arab states, the United Nations, the Arab League, and the European Union…

“Although most of the Arab states haven’t declared its position vis-à-vis participation, as they are waiting for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the states of the Arab peace initiative committee which will be convened today in Cairo to issue a united position, Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Abbas is content with the formula of the invitation letter he received from Bush to attend the conference, especially as it pointed to the Arab peace initiative and UN Resolution 1515.

“While Egypt affirmed its participation in the conference, senior Syrian sources told Al-Hayat that Damascus is waiting for the outcome of the final contacts in regards to placing the issue of the occupied Golan Heights on the agenda of the conference. However, it seemed clear that Syria has decided "not to participate" in the conference on the consideration that it will not tackle the Golan issue.”[Paragraph as published] - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


21 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"Annapolis: A New Phase Or Just Another Station?"

On November 20, the English language website of the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat carried the following article by regular columnist Abdullah Iskandar: "Only a few days still separate us from the intended date for the Annapolis conference. This may be the last American step in President Bush's term to launch the peace process on the Palestinian front, and hence the significance of the event. A few days later, the US primaries begin. Then the new year follows, an elections year in which no major initiatives can be expected.

"The Bush administration wished to host this conference to show its interest in settling an increasingly sophisticated conflict, imposing heavy burdens upon Arabs. Washington also wishes to win over Arab support for its approach in handling other issues on the basis that it is working on resolving their central cause. In return, the Arabs are more interested in the outcomes, regardless of what the declared American objectives may be.

"Hence, they did not reject the Annapolis initiative as long as the results are based on the Arab political plan as laid out in their summits and the Arab initiative. The Palestinians and the Israelis, moreover, were left to work on consecutive meetings since the beginning of the summer to set the foundations that would lead to the appropriate circumstances to achieve recognition for two states along with resolving the borders issue and a just resolution for the question of Palestinian refugees.

"The Palestinians have placed high stakes on the bilateral negotiations conducted by their committees with the Israelis, especially as they believed that the American weight and Arab and international support will carry their cause to a new level that has to do with the processes of the solution and its dynamics, not only with its content since previously accepted initiatives (roadmap, the two-state vision, the Arab initiative) have already determined and defined the framework of such content.

"These Arab hopes were based, in turn, on the belief that they must start at one point or another to reinforce the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital while maintaining the right of return as a guarantee for a fair resolution for refugees. At least this is what motivated the launching of the Arab initiative and supporting the Two-State vision, and perhaps what is now motivating them now to go to Annapolis.

"On the other hand, in all these positions, including the Annapolis conference, Israel has seen nothing but the continuity of the conflict which is presently taking a diplomatic form. In fact, it has even turned its negotiations with the Palestinian Authority into a series of stations in dealing with daily matters rather than a systematic path that would lead to a final solution.

"The current Israeli talk about releasing detainees and stopping the random settlements is merely a reflection of this Israeli method. When Olmert insinuates that he will carry with him to Annapolis such declarations, he is in effect refusing to turn the conference into the initiation of a new stage which would give the Palestinians their sustainable state or that would include an Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories in return for an Arab recognition of Israel.

"Apparently, this Israeli approach desires such recognition, but only in return for an end to Israeli practices committed in the occupied Palestinian territories, practices that should have not have been committed in the first place had the Jewish state shown commitment to its agreements with the Palestinian Authority.

"In other words, what the Palestinians want, and along with them the Arabs, is for the Annapolis Conference as a starting point to a Palestinian path that would lead to peace and an end to the conflict. What Israel wants is for the Annapolis conference to be another station in the ongoing conflict.

"This is why, the US administration, which is hosting the conference and which has promoted it as a place to launch the final resolution negotiations, is absolved of exercising the highest pressures on Israel. But even if the Bush administration intended to impose such pressures, would it still have had the ability to do so in its last year in office?" - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


21 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): Human Rights |

“The novelty of the “geographical transfer”

Hussam Kanafani, a regular columnist for the independent pro-opposition newspaper Al-Akhbar, wrote on November 21: “The condition concerning the “Jewish character of the state” suddenly jumped into the forefront of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations to revive the talk about the Zionist “transfer” projects but in a conciliatory formula by packaging these projects in an equation entailing the exchange of lands so that the Palestinians would have control over a land with an area equivalent to that of the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his deputy for strategic affairs Avigdor Lieberman were candid in their signal towards the necessity of acquiring a Palestinian recognition of the “Jewish character” of Israel as a condition for continuing with the negotiations in the international peace conference in Annapolis.

“But the Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was more candid and she made clear what Israel meant by the “Jewish character of the state” when she announced a few days ago that the “Palestinian state which will arise will be the national solution for the Arabs in Israel, the Jewish state”. Livni’s candidness which aroused loud reactions amidst the Arab Israelis brought back to mind the transfer plans which the Israelis have been suggesting ever since 1948 with racist laws such as the law of the “absentees” and the “property of the absentees”. But the new dimension of the Israeli project entitled the “final solution” is no longer restrained to demographic transfer which was the basis of the old rightist Zionist campaigns, as it now includes geography.

“For the project now entails transferring lands and all of those on them to the control of the Palestinian authority as one more aspect of defending the “Jewish character of the state”. This new dimension allows Israel to net two goals with one throw: on the one hand, it gets rid of more than 200,000 Palestinians in the areas of the Arab triangle which the transfer talk is focusing on while on the other hand, the Jewish states gets to keep the settlement masses in the depth of the West Bank which constitute an extension of Israel. The Arab triangle contains fertile lands which constitutes an additional incentive for the Palestinian authority to accept the deal. This factor was taken into account ever since the concept was first broached in the Camp David talks in 2000…

“The Israelis are banking that the Arabs in those areas accept. The triangle is a stronghold for the “Islamic Movement-Northern Wing” headed by Sheikh Ra’id Salah and for the head of the Democratic Congregation Azmi Bishara. Thus Israel would have gotten rid of a religious movement and a national one both of whom reject the “Jewish character of the state”. If the previous transfer projects hit the wall of “moral objections” and not political ones, the danger of the new plan is that it might enjoy wider international support and even support among the Arabs and Palestinians. Thus Israel has a chance to get rid of the Arab segment in the “Jewish state” especially as studies show that the number of Arab Israelis will outnumber the Jews in 2050 because of the difference in the rate of reproduction between the two segments.

“This demographic threat made the Arab Israelis more akin to a “time-bomb” for the Israelis that “must be diffused”. It seems that there is an opportunity today to diffuse this bomb and Israel will not give it up so easily as the Palestinians themselves might not refuse the idea for long with the Israelis dangling in front of them the “carrot” of the final solution which the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas considers to be his top priority.” - Al-Akhbar Lebanon, Lebanon


21 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“The pre-Annapolis contacts”

On November 21, the PA-affiliated Al-Quds daily carried the following lead editorial: “During the last few days, the region witnessed intensive contacts between senior international officials and Palestinian, Arab and Israeli leaderships. The most important of these contacts were the meetings held between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert the day before last, and Olmert’s visit to Egypt yesterday and his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm al-Shaykh. These contacts and visits fall in the context of the preparations for the upcoming peace conference which is sponsored by the US and will be held in the city of Annapolis in the state of Maryland.

“This conference will probably be held next week even though the official date has not been specified yet. The meetings pointed to the fact that the concerned leaders are aware of the importance and seriousness of the Annapolis conference and are doing their best during the last few days separating them from it. However, these few days are barely sufficient to overcome the difficulties and obstacles surrounding the upcoming conference and are barely sufficient to establish the necessary bases to secure the success of the conference...

“The biggest proof for the efforts exerted by the concerned leaders to set the proper ground for the Annapolis conference, was the fact that President Abbas and Olmert assigned the Palestinian and Israeli negotiating delegations to work hard on preparing a document of agreement or a common statement that will constitute the general framework for the Annapolis conference, knowing that reports have indicated that this statement has not yet been drafted even though the regular meetings held between President Abbas and Olmert have started weeks ago.

“The words issued by the Israeli prime minister during the joint press conference he held with President Mubarak, seemed grandiloquent and attractive, especially at the level of the promise he made to complete the final agreement with the Palestinian side in 2008 and look into all the pending issues without overlooking any of them. The paradox is that such talk is easy while its implementation by the Israeli government, as it was proven by previous experiences, seems to be filled with stalling and postponement... What can be said is that we have to wait until the upcoming Annapolis conference is held and until its results and repercussions become known. Until then, mystery will continue to prevail.” - Al-Quds, Palestine


20 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“The last Abbas-Olmert meeting”

On November 20, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following lead editorial: “It has become certain that the Palestinian and Israeli sides will head to the Annapolis Peace Conference next week, as it was decided, without having reached an agreement over a joint document that would specify the course and nature of the negotiations and the issues which they will focus on. Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, President Mahmoud Abbas’ spokesperson, said that the last summit held between President Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was tough, that the disputes between the two sides were ongoing, and that no real progress had been achieved at the level of the main issues...

“The Israeli side is refusing to address the final status issues or even explicitly point them out in the joint document, especially those related to the refugees, the right of return and occupied Jerusalem. It is opting for a vague and general reference to the establishment of two bi-national states living alongside one another. In order to divert the attention away from this stringent Israeli position, Olmert announced he was willing to release around 450 Palestinian detainees, remove the illegitimate settlement pits and freeze construction in the major settlements.

“Olmert said he was adopting these steps to enhance President Abbas’ position while he in fact was weakening it, since there are over 11,000 detainees in the prisons of the occupation, most of whom the Israeli PM pledged to release during the Sharm al-Shaykh quartet summit in the presence of President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II two years ago. The list featuring the names of the released detainees was drawn by the Israeli authorities without consulting with the Palestinian side. It did not include any of the Palestinian leaders or detainees who were held before the signing of Oslo in 1993.

“It also did not include the head and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who did not commit any legal violation and who were arrested for belonging to the Islamic resistance movement Hamas... The Palestinian negotiators are aware that Olmert’s promises will not be met since he made similar promises before, especially ones related to the release of the detainees, the removal of over 500 barricades in the West Bank, securing the return of those who were ousted to the Gaza Strip, without ever meeting any of them... Olmert will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm al-Shaykh today.

“It is expected he will ask him to urge the Arab states and especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to attend the Annapolis conference and to try to secure its success. President Mubarak belittled, in statements he issued yesterday, the importance of this conference because it seems [it is being] held without an agenda or a clear goal. However, it is not likely that President Mubarak will head a campaign to boycott it because like most of his colleagues among the Arab leaders, he can’t turn down an American invitation requesting his presence.” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom


19 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"Israeli Sabotage is a Deliberate Policy to Bring Down Palestinian..."

On November 16, the English language website of the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayat carried the following article by regular columnist Raghida Dergham: "The Israeli attempts to cause the failure of the international peace conference before its presumed convening in 10 days' time in Annapolis poses a fundamental question, namely: if Israel truly doesn't want peace, what then? This question is faced by Israelis and Arabs as well as the Americans, since America's policy of embracing Israel has earned it the hatred of millions of Muslims and Arabs. The question is also faced by the Europeans, Russians and Chinese and the rest of the world.

"It might be said that the world has become used to the fruitless search for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and no longer sees this conflict as containing a fuse to ignite greater crises. Thus, no one is concerned, especially since there now a bloody Palestinian-Palestinian conflict that has diverted attention from reducing the sufferings of the Palestinians from Israeli occupation for more than 40 years. However, becoming used to this habit or indifference does not eliminate other factors that must be used to answer the fundamental question.

"Among these are the war on terror, battles over regional influence, the increase in extremism due to the anger over seeing the peace process transformed into a mere anesthetic or a pretext to buy time and avoid what is required when it comes to peace. Things are not as they usually are, despite the habit of becoming fed up with searching for peaceful solutions. If Israel truly does not want peace, and is truly prepared to demolish moderation in Arab and Islamic ranks because the Jewish state finds that a partnership with Arab and Islamic extremism serves a justification for its existence, what will the US do after the Americans themselves are a direct victim of Israeli extremism, which wears the mask of moderation?

"These are some of the questions that the White House, the Congress and American public opinion must answer, on the eve of the autumn conference that the Israeli leadership is readying for with a series of impossible conditions, despite the fact that it preparing for the establishment of two states - Israel and Palestine - to live together in peace and with international guarantees.

"At first, there is no room for pretending that the Israeli popular base is unable to affect the positions of its leaders, thanks to the policies of its leaders in the government, the Knesset and the opposition. The Israelis are proud of having a democracy, which is rare in the Middle East, and the idea that they have only to enhance the tools of democracy. This is the formula for them today: if you want to see the current situation continue, you must get ready for tomorrow, which will bring with it a natural division in this unnatural situation, which tries to combine occupation and democracy, while the two are naturally opposites.

"The occupation violates human rights, which is a violation of the fundamental bases of democracy. If you truly want peace, then take part in making a serious peace with Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians. Before, the price of peace was not this clear: get rid of the occupation based on the 1967 borders, with an exchange of territory, and realistically treat the Palestinians' right of return to a place where they were expelled from their homes in 1948, and establish a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, in coexistence and normalization with the Arab-Islamic world.

"There is no reason to boycott the Annapolis conference because its mere convening will save the Palestinian Authority from the danger of its being marginalized and will surround the establishment of the state of Palestine with international attention. This is exactly what the Israeli leadership doesn't want and what the tools of the Israeli lobby are trying to achieve, via a campaign against the effectiveness and competence of the Palestinian Authority and its capacities.

"It's a renewed campaign by the lobby, using its customary tactic, claiming that there is no strong, responsible Palestinian partner for the Israeli government in order to make peace, and that Ehud Olmert's government is weak, and not in a position enabling it to make peace.

"The artificial "recognition" issue took on a new form this week, with the Israeli leadership's insistence that the reference-point for the Annapolis conference be the launching of negotiations as a necessary Palestinian recognition of the "Jewishness" of Israel. At first, this new item appears to indicate Israeli weakness, springing from the deadly need to "recognize" Israel as a Jewish state, then acknowledge the Jewishness of Israel, or Israel as a Jewish homeland.

"This goes beyond exposing a deficiency; in fact it serves as two things. One is the deliberate sabotage involved in trying to sink the Annapolis conference, and the second is preemptively trying to eliminate from any discussion the right of return provision according to UN Security Council Resolution 194 on Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war.

"There is a "new invention" - a determination to declare a freeze on settlements on the eve of the Annapolis Conference, as if this is a big compromise by the Israeli leadership, while in fact these settlements are illegal according to international law. The Road Map for establishing two states asks Israel to freeze settlements and dismantle settlement points. This maneuvering around the commitments of the Road Map should not be endorsed by the White House just because it is doing its utmost to convene the Annapolis Conference, in the belief that this event will save the presidential legacy of George Bush.

"The Palestinian Authority has duties according to the first phase of the Road Map; likewise, the Israeli government has duties as well. The PA is requested to take security measures and the Israeli governments must freeze and remove settlement activities. The Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayad, has confirmed that his government will move ahead with its security plan, all the way to imposing it in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Hamas movement.

"He said that the test of the city of Nablus and is a test for his government, affirming that the era of chaos has ended for good; "no one who attacks or trades in the people's security will escape punishment and the justice of the people." He said that Nablus is perhaps more important than Annapolis, not because the latter isn't important as an international event that is dedicated to ending the political isolation of the (Palestinian) national issue, but because one of the elements of success of Annapolis and post-Annapolis is his government's succeeding in Nablus.

"The language of the Palestinian leadership itself reveals the difference between it and the Israeli leadership, which avoids the proposals brought by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and accepted by both Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and the head of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli delegation that is preparing the negotiations dossier for the Annapolis Conference today rejects the principle of a parallel and immediate implementation of phase one of the Road Map and rejects setting up a US-Israeli-Palestinian committee to monitor its implementation.

"It's also interesting to note that Israel currently rejects mentioning the Arab Peace Initiative as a reference-point for the peace process, which is very embarrassing for the US administration, which has made the greatest possible efforts to convince Arab countries to attend the conference, and this includes the initiative's author, Saudi Arabia. This peace plan is the Arab peace plan. Israel has never put forward an Israeli peace plan. It continually works to abort peace plans that are proposed.

"Its provocative stance on refusing to mention the Arab Peace Initiative as one of the reference-points for the peace process can only be a testament to the sterile Israeli maneuvers, just like its demand that Palestinians issue a prior recognition of the Jewishness of Israel to head off any discussion of the right of return.

"Then there is the Knesset, which last week approved a draft law to prevent the Israeli government from changing the borders of east and west Jerusalem without the approval of two thirds (80) of Knesset members, instead of an absolute majority of 61, according to current law. The goal of this change is head off any chance of reaching an agreement about the status of East Jerusalem. This stance by the Israeli Knesset is another chapter in the annals of Israeli intransigence when it comes to the requirements of peace with the Palestinians.

"It's no coincidence that these Israeli positions, meant to sabotage the conference, are part of a deliberate policy to bring down Palestinian moderates, represented by the PA and the government of Abbas and Fayyad, at a time of competition between Hamas and the PA. This is not the first time that Israel has invested in Hamas; the Jewish state directly helped create Hamas to challenge the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Israel is trying to ignite inter-Palestinian division, in the belief that this is in Israel's interest.

"Thus, it is readying itself militarily for the post-Annapolis conference phase, since it expects the eruption of a wave of violence against the PA if the Annapolis Conference fails to push the peace process seriously forward. Thus, the Israelis are competing among themselves, at a time in which there is no Israeli option other than igniting a Palestinian civil war in order to justify Israel's mass expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan, as an alternative homeland - this is in order to solve the demographic problem and turn Israel into a purely Jewish state, militarily, with no need for negotiations or compromises.

"Today, in order to frustrate the international efforts to put the Palestinian issue back on the front burner, with American leadership, at the level of the president, top Israeli leaders are competing to rein in the PA and open channels of dialogue with Syria.

"The battle is taking place between Prime Minister Olmert and his deputy, Ehud Barak, who holds the Defense Ministry, with Foreign Minister Tzivi Lipni in the middle. Olmert is setting up a channel of communication with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, via Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan, and senior officials in Qatar, who have a special relationship with Israel and the Syrian leadership.

"Barak is also playing on the Qatari channel this week he appointed Uri Sagay, a general in the Israeli reserves, as responsible for examining whether it would be possible to resume a dialogue with Damascus (he is a member of the Israeli negotiating delegation with Syria, and during these talks he met the then-Syrian chief of staff, Hikmat Shehabi, and the Syrian ambassador to Washington at the time, who is now the foreign minister, Walid Moallem).

"Sagay earlier chaired the Israeli Army's military intelligence committee in the government of Yitzhak Rabin between 1992 and 1995. Then, Barak, while prime minister, appointed him as the official responsible for negotiations with Syria in 1999. Barak wants to revive negotiations with Syria to prevent Israel being forced to deal with the Arab Peace Initiative, which makes it uncomfortable.

"Damascus did not embrace the initiative, and Qatar has always worked against it, simply because it is a Saudi initiative. Barak's choice of Sagay has another very important motive behind it, which is that Sagay is one of the biggest proponents of freezing negotiations with the Palestinians. He believes that the playing on the different tracks is useful and that negotiating with Syria is the realistic option. Both Barak and Sagay want to deal with Syria over things like Palestine, Lebanon and Iran.

"Olmert is less skilled than Barak on this score; therefore, he expresses his readiness to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for moving Syria away from the Iranian axis. According to Israeli press reports that quoted high-level sources close to Olmert, the prime minister has sent secret 'peace messages' to al-Asad - these set as a condition splitting Damascus from its Iranian ally, in exchange for returning the Golan to Syria. The prime minister tasked Erdogan with discovering whether the Syrian president was amenable to recovering the Golan in exchange for severing its strategic relations with the Islamic Republic in Iran.

"Barak is good at believing himself better equipped to understand the language of deal-making. Therefore, some press reports quoting sources who spoke with him at length recently described him as ready to see Syria regain influence in Lebanon in a deal that is sought by Syria more than the Golan. He believes that peace with Syria will weaken the Iran-Hizbullah-Hamas axis after moving Syria away from this axis via bilateral relations with Israel. Barak believes that this bilateral relationship is the more important guarantee to Damascus that Syria will not see regime change.

"One of Barak's considerations is that reviving the Syrian track will lead to the isolation of the PA, which he considers unable to sign a peace deal with Israel. Another consideration is connected to Lebanon; he believes that returning Lebanon to Syrian control is a small price, as the bilateral relationship with Damascus is strategically more important.

"The problem for Barak, as well as Olmert, is the position of the US president, who opposes such a deal at the expense of Lebanon, and at the expense of his vision of establishing a Palestinian state. Likewise, US Vice President Dick Cheney is not ready to sacrifice Lebanon to a Syrian-Israeli deal. There are those in the US administration, as in Israel, who believe that playing on the tracks is a timeworn tactic, and that the tactic of splitting Syria from Iran is an ignorant policy because splitting Hizbullah from Iran has become impossible Israel is playing with fire in Palestine and Lebanon by banking on Syria.

"If Israel wants peace with Syria by withdrawing from the Golan Heights, it will be taking a wise decision. If it puts Lebanon and Palestine down as collateral in an unrealistic dream of splitting Syria from Iran, it should cease this reckless playing with the minds and interests of patriots, and even its American godfather." - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


19 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion

"Guarantees are required for the success of the peace conference"

On November 17, the pro-presidency daily Al-Quds editorialized: "During his meeting with Saudi King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz yesterday, President Mahmud Abbas expressed what every Palestinian feels towards the peace conference scheduled to be held in Annapolis. He explained that the Israeli position is negative and that the Americans must step in and put pressure on Israel, obliging it to comply with the terms of reference of the peace process, so that the conference will not fail because the Israelis have not offered something that could ensure the success of the success.

"This means that Palestinian pessimism towards the possibilities for the success of the conference remains because of the huge gap between the positions of the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Palestinian pessimism remains because of Israel's non-readiness to offer a minimum of positions that contribute to giving the conference a real content leading to the launching of a serious peace process, as well as Israel's continuous attempt to avoid to commit to discuss the core issues of the Palestinian problem, and consequently its attempt to keep the conference a mere photo-opportunity and at the same time normalize its relations with the Arab states without offering something proving its desire to achieve peace.

"Therefore, what President Abbas said yesterday means that the Palestinian side, which adheres to the option of peace and wants to participate in the conference, is keen on its success. The Palestinian side has called on the international community, especially the United States, which is hosting the conference, to assume its responsibility in ensuring the success of the conference to arrive at results that really pave the way for establishing peace in the region and avoiding the repercussions of failure if Israel insists on turning the conference into a mere photo-opportunity or as Israeli observers and analysts say into a mere framework for a "threshold agreement" that will be implemented over several years!

"It must be said that the clear position spelled out by President Abbas yesterday proves that the Palestinian leadership, which is trying hard to achieve peace, will not relinquish or give up any of our people's inalienable and legitimate rights, as some claim, and that President Abbas adheres to international legitimacy and our people's legitimate rights. That is why he expressed his pessimism about and his rejection of the Israeli position. That is why he also called on the United States and the international community to step in to ensure the success of the conference.

"It is crystal clear that a united Arab-Palestinian position on the Annapolis conference constitutes a trump card that can be used to put pressure on Israel and also constitutes a guarantee for the success of the conference. Therefore the consultations President Abbas is holding with the Arab leaders acquire great importance in these decisive days ahead of the conference and are a serious attempt to give the conference a real content and to tell Israel that it cannot get free gifts and that making peace is impossible as long as it sticks to its current stands.

"Finally and with the date of the peace conference fast approaching, the United States must engage in intense consultations with Israel to remove all obstacles and positions that threaten the success of the conference and to dispel the pessimism and concerns of the Arab side by giving it clear guarantees. Only in this way can the success of the conference be guaranteed and only in this way can the opportunity presented by the readiness of the Palestinian and Arab sides to establish a just and comprehensive peace be seized." - Al-Quds, Palestine


16 NOVEMBER 2007 Syria > Politics

“Al-Assad: any peace initiative that doesn’t include Golan won’t work”

Ibrahime Humaydi of Al-Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 16: “The Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad confirmed during his meeting with the secretary general of the Arab League Amr Moussa that “any peace initiative that doesn’t address the issue of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights will be useless and will not achieve a just and comprehensive peace” in the Middle East after Moussa urged Damascus to attend the international peace conference to be held in the America city of Annapolis before the end of this month even if the Golan Heights issue is not addressed directly in the conference’s agenda. Knowledgeable sources announced to Al-Hayat that Syrian officials confirmed once again that Syria’s participation in the international conference is “conditional on the inclusion of the issue of the Golan in the peace process”

“The Syrian officials added that they “realize that the top priority in the conference should go to the Palestinian track”. They added that “Syria should be invited as a faction on its own and not as a member of the committee tasked with implementing the Arab peace initiative”. But the Syrian officials informed Moussa that the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem will attend the conference for the Arab foreign minister scheduled to be held next week to come up with a unified Arab attitude towards the Annapolis conference… The sources clarified that the talks discussed the international peace conference, the meeting for the Arab foreign ministers, the Lebanese crisis and its possible solutions, and the preparations for the Arab summits along with the situation in Iraq.

“The sources pointed out that Al-Assad “confirmed that Arab solidarity and Arab cooperation is the only way forward towards confronting challenges and deterring threats to the Arab nation”. The sources added that Moussa “knows that without consensus, there will not true Arab joint effort”…” - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


15 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Rice and the last maneuver”

On November 15, Al-Khaleej carried the following opinion piece by Abdul-Zahra al-Rikabi: “US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has not stopped touring the region while carrying - as usual - American demands to the states of the region... which are actually “Israeli” demands. The American secretary has long maneuvered to give them an American aspect before the Arab and especially the Palestinian sides, knowing that these sides are well aware of their real source and are also aware of the fact that America is not an honest and fair judge or mediator for it is still the main and biggest supporter of the entity which is violating and occupying Palestinian and Arab territories.

“The head of the American diplomacy has taken upon herself the task to remove the heated obstacles standing in the way of the American policy not only in the region but also in the world. However, she is failing to overcome them or remove them due to the fact that there is powerful data, whether in the region or in other areas around the world, that could entail sharp positions and a fierce opposition against the American direction, to the point of influencing and hindering it. This reality can’t be overlooked by the American secretary and it is certain that she is conveying these positions to her administration in the reports and minutes she puts forward following every tour or visit, in addition to her comments and suggestions.

“Naturally, in her comments and suggestions, Rice is not calling for the changing of the American policy in its strategic context as much as she is urging her administration to conduct maneuvers and gain time until the climate is suitable to go forth in this or that direction... There is no doubt that Rice faces the most difficulties among the members of the American administration in her movements that include participating in regional and international conferences, visiting states and touring different areas of the world.

“This movement renders her prone to facing difficulties and political and diplomatic confrontations, especially since American policy is facing an opposition and high-pitched reservations in the Middle East and all around the world. It is worth mentioning that Rice had started her visit to “Israel” with talks she held with “Israeli” FM Livni who was assigned to preside over the delegation that will attend the upcoming Annapolis conference. The “Israeli” FM stressed that securing “Israel’s” security was a priority over the establishment of the Palestinian state, while Rice had cautioned that the negotiations between the “Israelis” and the Palestinians were difficult.

“She had said prior to her arrival in “Israel” that she didn’t expect an agreement over the joint document that the two sides would put forward before the participants in the Annapolis meeting... In any case, Rice’s last trip started in Istanbul and ended in Ramallah. It is the last hope considering there are only 13 months left in the mandate of the current administration for it to achieve its goal and show it “saved the best for last”. However, Bush’s administration and during its two consecutive mandates never achieved “what was best” and only reaped disappointments and defeats.” - Al-Khaleej, United Arab Emirates


15 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"This Is Not the Way Things Are Done, Dennis Ross"

On November 13, the pro presidency daily Al-Ayyam carried an article by Hani Al-Masri: “Dennis Ross, a former US peace envoy and assistant secretary of state during the terms of President George Bush, the father, and President Clinton, wrote an article in the New York Daily News, in which he called on US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to change goals so that the Annapolis meeting can succeed.

“Ross's idea simply calls on Rice to adjust her strategy if she wants to succeed in finding a political horizon that is helpful to President Mahmud Abbas by convincing his people that he is taking a political path that is capable of achieving the Palestinian national aspirations while Hamas is offering only failure, something which will eventually make the Palestinians abandon Hamas.

“Ross adds that in order for Rice's theory to succeed, the Israelis and Palestinians must be prepared to make compromises now on the four core issues of the conflict: Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and security. Ross adds that this means Ehud Olmert and Abbas - neither of whom has a strong political base - must be prepared to take on history and mythology. And they must be prepared to do so simultaneously.

“According to Ross, Olmert can only justify to the Israeli public such existential compromises on Jerusalem and borders if he can point to the Palestinians surrendering the right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel. And Abbas can only justify giving up the right of return if he can show that he has achieved what the Palestinians seek on Jerusalem and borders.

“The solution Ross presents lies in the need to make a leap from public discussions to concrete agreements and this never comes quickly or easily or is attained in a joint statement issued by the Annapolis meeting. Therefore, Ross believes that the content of the meeting matters, but no arbitrary deadline for its convocation should be set.

“The recipe Ross offers consists of three principles. First, the Israelis will commit to withdrawal and Palestinians to security. Second, on Jerusalem, each would accept that there would be two capitals for two states. Third, each would agree that the issue must be resolved in a way that is consistent with a two-state solution.

“At first glance, the recipe Ross offers looks fair or balanced. He talks about mutual concessions by the Palestinians and Israelis. The first is on the issue of refugees and the second on the issues of Jerusalem and borders. Upon close examination, we will find that Ross proceeds from an erroneous background. First, he equates the two sides. One is Israel, which is an occupying, racist, and colonialist state that is continuously exercising all forms of military aggression by imposing facts on the ground that prejudice the core issues of the conflict. This renders negotiations over them more and more difficult if not impossible.

“Second, the concessions he suggests the Palestinians should make are very clear. These are ceding the issue of refugees, specifically the right to return, and providing security for Israel. As for the concessions he suggests Israel should make, these are not at all clear. What does the word withdrawal mean if it does not specifically mean withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967?

“Ross knows and the whole world realizes that the conflict is over the 1967 territories. Israel calls for the annexation or control of a large percentage of these territories. This goes up to 58 per cent in the highest-ceiling Israeli plans and 10 per cent in the lowest-ceiling plans. These territories should include the best areas in a manner that fragments the remaining land and prevents the establishment of a geographically and politically contiguous Palestinian state.

“What does the phrase "making Jerusalem capital for two states" mean? It might mean withdrawal from the Arab quarters of the city (excluding the old city of Jerusalem). This means Israel will keep most of occupied Jerusalem. It also might mean - and this is not meant by Ross - withdrawal from the occupied East Jerusalem and its environs as stipulated by the legal opinion of The Hague court.

“The significance of Ross's call on Rice to change its strategy and goals lies in the fact that he realizes that the meeting will fail if it is confined to issuing a joint statement containing general phrases that do not commit Israel to anything or if it is confined to short-term transitional issues like the first stage of the road map.

“Ross says implicitly what he does not say explicitly. He calls for postponing the meeting so that a possible deal can be reached. The Palestinians are required to cede their right to return and give up most of Jerusalem and large areas of the 1967 territories. They are also required to provide security for Israel, establish normal relations with it, end all aspects of the conflict, and stop making any demands in return for Israel's agreement to establish a state on part of the territories occupied in 1967.

“What is irritating is that some Palestinians and Arabs believe that if the Palestinian side expresses its willingness to abandon the right to return, they will get Jerusalem and a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders after adjusting them by 1 per cent and no more than 2 per cent. What is more irritating is that some Palestinians and Arabs blamed Yasir Arafat publicly and secretly for the position he adopted at the Camp David summit in 2000 because he rejected Baraq's generous offer. Subsequent developments and the emergence of further information revealed more and more that what was offered to Yasir Arafat was not much different from what is proposed to Abu-Mazin.

“Neither Abu-Mazin nor any legitimate Palestinian president who enjoys the Palestinian people's confidence can accept what Yasir Arafat rejected. The Palestinians are required to admit defeat, surrender to the enemy, accept Israel's right to existence as a dominating Jewish state, provide security for it, and allow it to annex large parts of their prospective state. Israel agreed to establish this state only when it realized that its non-approval of such a state will bring it face to face with the explosion of the demographic bomb, which threatens the emergence of one state in which the Jews will not have a majority after few tens of years.

“It will thus stop being a Jewish state. Without Palestinian struggle that is supported by the Arabs and world to persuade or force Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem; without solving the issue of refugees fairly in accordance with Resolution 194; and without turning Israel into a democratic state for all of its citizens and not only the Jews, Ross's theory will not be achieved. If we assume that it will one day be achieved, it will not last long. It will merely be a temporary truce.” - Al-Ayyam, Palestine


14 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Political advisor to ousted PM Isma’il Haniyah to Al-Quds al-Arabi...”

On November 13, the Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following interview with Dr. Ahmed Youssef, the political advisor to ousted PM Isma’il Haniyah:

“...Q: “There are different positions within Hamas vis-a-vis the Annapolis conference. What is your position vis-a-vis this meeting which will be held at the end of the month?

A: “Our opinion regarding this issue is no different that that of the entire nation: this conference is a failure and will not achieve anything. We are facing three leaders: Bush who is sponsoring this conference and wants it to be a farewell party, doesn’t have the ability to follow up on the possible agreements which might emerge from this meeting; the Israeli prime minister is weak... and he therefore doesn’t enjoy any powers at the level of securing the demands of the Palestinian side; as for President Abu Mazin, he lost a lot of credibility within Palestinian circles following the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the absence of any real efforts to secure Palestinian unison. Hence, there is a quasi-consensus at the Palestinian level over the rejection of this conference...

Q: “If Hamas is invited to partake in this conference, what would your position be?

A: “We are certain they will not address such an invitation. This is a hypothetical question. Why are you asking a question they are not even considering? They have been fighting Hamas ever since it won the legislative elections and are still inciting against it. They blocked the way before opening good relations with the Europeans and closed all doors in our faces. This blockade was entailed by American pressures exerted on the European states and some Arab states so that Hamas’s government fails to succeed in its efforts to lift the blockade and put an end to the political isolation...

Q: “How do you respond to the statement of President Abbas in which he said that Hamas disfigured Islam around the world...?

A: “These are certainly erroneous statements. All over the world, Hamas is perceived as a pragmatic and moderate movement, i.e. a moderate current in Islamic action. It has always been an archetype looked up to by all those working in the Islamic world... Hamas offered a positive image through the elections and in the rule. But this government is besieged by the occupation and is suffering from continuous internal incitement and Israeli aggression. How can it succeed? The situation was very difficult to deal with but at least we maintained our Palestinian principles. We made sure that the ceiling of concessions did not go lower. We are still a thorn in the throat of the occupation and the occupiers.

[A:] “We have extended out hands to the West and communicated with Western states during visits we conducted. We had a political vision which we tried to introduce to the European sides. We have ideas that will solve this conflict peacefully but unfortunately, America and Israel are thwarting all the attempts with which we are trying to reassure the world that we are truly a moderate movement. We are an Islamic movement that doesn’t want to escalate the conflict with the West. We want to open channels of communication with it and want to be a bridge that would fill the gap between the West and the Islamic world... We are closer to Erdogan’s model than to Taliban’s model with all due respect to the jihad of the Afghan people...

Q: “Are there European states enjoying relations with Hamas?

A: “The Europeans are meeting with us and we are talking to them. The contacts and relations are ongoing. However, when they are meeting with us they are saying: “You’ll have to excuse us but America is still pressuring us in order for us to not communicate with Hamas”. But they are coming to us and talking to us on different levels. They are saying they want to keep these contacts confidential for the time being. However, they care about these relations and are convinced that this issue can’t be solved without Hamas since it is a key player in and a part of the solution, not of the problem.

Q: “Are there any Arab attempts to bridge the gap between Hamas and Fatah?

A: “The attempts and initiatives of Yemen, Sudan and Saudi Arabia are still present and ongoing. Some are saying that due to the so-called Fall Conference, everyone wants to wait and see the results. After this conference... there will be initiatives because President Abu Mazin and Fatah will have no justification for the suspension of dialogue.” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom


14 NOVEMBER 2007 Syria > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Damascus holds on to its terms to attend the Annapolis conference…”

Al Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 14: “It was learned that Syria has not received yet an American invitation to attend the international peace conference which will be held in Annapolis at the end of this month and that Syrian factions “are closely observing” the attitude of the concerned factions towards the two terms pout forward by Damascus for attending the conference: putting the issue of the Golan Heights on the agenda of the conference and receiving an American invitation that considers it an “original faction” in the conference and not as a member of the Arab committee aimed at implementing the Arab peace initiative. The sources pointed out that Damascus “has stopped paying attention to the contradictory signals”

“These signals include the statements by the Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and the head of the Israeli military intelligence services about the importance “of giving top priority to the Syrian track instead of the Palestinian track” and the reports that the American vice president Dick Cheney asked Israel not to resume the peace negotiations with Syria. There were also reports about the Turkish president Abdullah Gul stressing to his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres the importance of the international peace conference “discussing all the tracks” including the Golan issue on the agenda. Other sources announced to Al Hayat that the delegates sent by the Palestinian president Nasr Youssef and Rouhi Fattouh urged the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Muallem to attend the peace conference.

“The Palestinian delegates considered that this “would strengthen the Palestinian attitude” and would provide “an Arab umbrella that would strengthen their hands”. The sources added that Al-Muallem urged the Palestinian delegate to start a dialogue with the Hamas movement because “there should be negotiations under the current Palestinian decisions”… It was also learned that Damascus has not taken an attitude yet about whether Al-Muallem will participate in the Arab ministerial meeting to determine the Arab attitude towards Annapolis or not…” - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


12 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Bush invites Dahlan to Annapolis conference”

On November 12, the Palestinian-owned al-Quds al-Arabi daily carried the following report by Ashraf al-Hawr: “Al-Quds al-Arabi has learned from a knowledgeable source that prominent Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan will be part of the Palestinian delegation partaking in the Annapolis peace conference which is supposed to be held at the end of the month in the US upon the invitation of President George Bush. The source mentioned that President Mahmoud Abbas asked Dahlan following his return from his treatment to partake in the Palestinian delegation. The source mentioned that Dahlan - after the end of the conference - will take part in the Palestinian delegation which will negotiate - with its Israeli counterpart - the key issues in the peace process.” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom


12 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"Quray:We Agreed To US Proposal for Immediate Start of Implementation..."

On November 10, the pro presidency daily Al Ayyam carried the following report by Abed Al-Ra’uf Arna’ut: “Ahmad Quray, also known as Abu-Ala, head of the Palestinian negotiating delegation, has told Al-Ayyam that the implementation of the first stage of the Road Map is supposed to begin immediately. He also indicated that a US formula regarding the implementation mechanism was proposed and that the Palestinian side has accepted it.

“Abu-Ala says: "The implementation of the first stage of the Road Map is supposed to begin and we are demanding an implementation mechanism. In this regard, we have demanded the formation of a tripartite Palestinian-Israeli-US committee to follow up the implementation, and we demanded that the Americans act as the arbitrator in the implementation." He also says: "A US formula was proposed for a mechanism for implementing the first stage of the Road Map and we accepted it."

“According to informed Palestinian sources, this would be the first time that the Americans will be the arbitrators in the implementation and also be in the committee responsible for the implementation. It is known that Israel had in the past appointed itself as the arbitrator in the implementation of the Road Map, thus refusing to implement any of its obligations that are stipulated in the Road Map.

“It had been previously announced that Prime Minister Dr Salam Fayyad would be the one who would lead the Palestinian delegation to the tripartite committee, while Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Baraq would lead the Israeli delegation. It was also reported that a political official would represent the US side.

“Abu-Ala also denied the existence of a formula proposed by the Americans for the joint statement that will be issued by the Annapolis conference. He says: "There is no proposed formula by the Americans for the joint statement that will be issued in Annapolis." Abu-Ala described the ongoing negotiations with the Israelis as "serious but difficult."

“He says: "Discussion during these negotiations deals with all the issues whether with the implementation of all stages of the Road Map, especially the first stage that covers a halt to settlement, including the so-called natural growth of the settlements, evacuation of the settlement outposts, withdrawal to the positions that existed before 28 September, 2000 and the reopening of the closed institutions in Jerusalem.

“This is in addition to attempting to deal with the final status issues in a manner that would facilitate future negotiations, define a timeline for the permanent negotiations after the Annapolis conference and all aspects of these negotiations and follow up and monitoring mechanism for these negotiations to ensure their success." Abu-Ala did not rule out the possibility of negotiations being held in Washington before the Annapolis conference, but he indicated that there were no arrangements thus far for that. He says: "We might perhaps go to Washington but there is no arrangement thus far."

“In another development, Abu-Ala emphasized that the official delegation is the only Palestinian side that is authorized to negotiate, thus rejecting reports published in the Israeli newspapers about differences within the delegation after talking about the existence of unofficial negotiation channels. He says: "There is one Palestinian position that is expressed by the delegation that was officially formed, and no person through his contacts has any role in this matter." - Al-Ayyam, Palestine


12 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Opinion
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

"No Peace Now"

On November 10, the pro presidency daily Al Hayat Al Jadidah carried the following article by Chief Editor Hafiz Al-Barghuthi: “It seems that he was right when he said at the end of his days and before he became ill: "They do not want peace, they want killing." This is how the late President Yasir Arafat used to talk when asked about the political horizon.

“To date, the Israelis have not proved the opposite and they have never leaned towards peace. For after seven shuttle tours by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, you find that they limit their attention to the implementation of the first stage of the Road Map, which the Israelis eroded and torn away with the unilateral withdrawal plan and emptied it of its contents with 14 reservations.

“Today, I recall the words of the late president on the third anniversary of his passing as we see the Israelis run away from one negotiating corner towards another with the aim of evading any settlement. They merely want to gain time and consolidate the occupation and settlement. For they have not budged an inch from their past positions and some of them make every effort to thwart the PNA's efforts on the ground in order to take the failure to the negotiation table and subsequently accuse the PNA of being unable to fulfil its commitments in accordance with the Road Map.

“The late president was right and President Abu-Mazin is right by insisting on the need to find a comprehensive solution within a specific timeline. But the Israelis are not willing to engage in a real dialogue now. There is Ehud Baraq who is trying to marginalize the Palestinian issue by continuing his military operations in the cities, and there is the Palestinian division that benefits Israel. There is also the Israeli extremist rightwing that threatens to withdraw from the government coalition if the final status issues are discussed at the Annapolis conference, and there is the Likud opposition that is readying itself to return to power.

“In practice, there is not any Israeli who is able to sign binding agreements. Subsequently, the Annapolis conference will be steered towards the details of the first stage of the Road Map. These details include the issue of barricades, security control, and settlement sites. Will this or that site be dismantled? Will it be necessary to dismantle a settlement site in which no settlers are living? Will our people be offered a referendum or compensations? These are some of the long list of bizarre riddles in which the Israelis excel at in ensnaring us and at convincing Washington of their danger.

“There is not any next opportunity for the settlement and we must insist on the position that President Abu-Mazin has announced. This is because if we bargained now we would lose any next opportunity, if it existed. We do not care whether there are other opportunities or not. The important thing is that the settlement must be just and not mere fabrication and dictates. This is because they are the ones who need peace and recognition more badly and not us.” - Al-Hayat al-Jadidah, Palestine


07 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Mish’al to Az Zaman: Annapolis conference to cover up upcoming war”

On November 7, Az Zaman carried the following report by Monzer Al-Shoufi: “The head of Hamas’s politburo, Khalid Mish’al, warned against what he considered as being the dangerous goals of the Annapolis conference. He said it was “a misleading game for the Arabs”. He assured that Hamas was counting on the wise among the Arabs and on their translation of their fears vis-a-vis the conference into actions. Mish’al said on the sidelines of the Palestinian Intellectuals Seminar in Damascus and in response to Az Zaman’s question regarding the Fall conference which was called for by Bush: “The stalemate in the region is perceived through the Fall conference as being a historical turning point in the region and as though all the interests of the world are relying on this conference”…

“He added in response to a question by Az Zaman: “The Annapolis conference will not result in a Palestinian state as some believe” and pointed out: “It is a new game which will give false illusions to everyone in order to increase Palestinian division, consecrate the Palestinian and Arab political division and divest the resistance of its elements and arms”. Misha’al also considered that the point behind the Annapolis conference was to cover up a new, upcoming war in the region, in reference to Iran “and then Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Gaza Strip”.

“He assured there were Palestinian and Arab concerns vis-a-vis the ongoing negotiations which will not meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people and which will serve Israel that only aims - through the Annapolis conference - to achieve normalization with the Arabs without paying the price for it. He mentioned: “Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, along with the Arab League, are concerned that Washington is not serious and doesn’t have real peace intentions in the region, which led to the announcement of a sudden conference that wasn’t prepared for”. In this regard, he called upon everyone to translate these concerns into a specific position vis-a-vis this conference.” - Azzaman, Iraq


07 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics

“...Crisis in Palestinian team due to dispute between Qorei & Abed Rabbo”

On November 7, the Palestinian-owned Al Quds Al Arabi daily carried the following report by Walid Awad: “Knowledgeable Palestinian sources told Al Quds Al Arabi yesterday that the Palestinian delegation negotiating with Israel was undergoing a crises due to the disputes between the head of the delegation, Ahmed Qorei, and delegation member Yasser Abed Rabbo.

“The sources who refused to reveal their identity added that the disputes and the fact that delegation head Ahmed Qorei did not take Abed Rabbo to the negotiations sessions with Israel, many of which were held in the western city of Jerusalem lately, made the latter open a backstage negotiation channel with Knesset member Yossi Beilin and reach an agreement paper with him to be put forward before the Annapolis conference. According to Qorei’s office, Abu Ala’a knew nothing about the paper between Abed Rabbo and Beilin which was published by the Israeli Maariv newspaper the day before last. Qorei said he rejected the opening of a backstage negotiation channel with Israel.

“The office of Ahmed Qorei who is the head of the Palestinian negotiation crews, sent a statement to Al Quds Al Arabi yesterday in which it completely denied the news circulated by some Israeli media outlets regarding “backstage negotiation channel between the Palestinian and Israeli sides which sources claimed led to an agreement paper”. The statement added that the only negotiation channel with the Israeli side was the official and public channel formed by President Mahmoud Abbas and including the Palestinian negotiation team headed by Ahmad Qorei...

“In its statement sent to Al Quds Al Arabi, Qorei’s office did not name the figures partaking in the negotiation delegation with Israel but stressed that this team appointed by President Abbas was the only one authorized to negotiate with the Israeli side. The Palestinian sources said that Qorei was never eager to see Abed Rabbo being part of the delegation... The sources added that Qorei believed that no flexibility should be shown in the negotiations with the Israelis especially at the level of the key issues, namely Jerusalem and the right of return of the refugees. Abed Rabbo who is supported by PM Salam Fayyad, believed on the other hand it was permissible to show some flexibility at the level of these issues according to the sources.

“The sources added that Qorei believed that the failure of the negotiations will be blamed on Fatah in what necessitated a full and direct control over the negotiations by the movement... The sources added to Al Quds Al Arabi that the document that was reached by Abed Rabbo and Beilin and which was published by Maariv heightened the tensions between Abed Rabbo and Qorei who is supported by Dr. Sa’eb Erekat, the head of the PLO negotiations department while Abed Rabbo is supported by Sa’di Al-Karnaz, the Cabinet secretary general.” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom


07 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics
Subject(s): USA/EU-Relations |

“Rice prepared the foundations for the Palestinian-Israeli document”

Muhammad Younes of Al Hayat, an independent Saudi owned newspaper, wrote on November 7: “The American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice succeeded during her last visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel in laying the foundations for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement about the joint political document to be announced in the international peace conference to be held on the 26th of this month in the American city of Annapolis. Knowledgeable sources announced to Al Hayat that Rice pushed the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to accept a set of foundations for the joint document, including announcing the launch of the final status negotiations which will discuss all the controversial issues left since the Oslo agreement.

“These foundations also include a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian pledge to implement the preliminary stage of the roadmap and an Israeli pledge in the joint document to end the negotiations about the final situation before the end of the term of the American president George Bush. The Palestinians are expressing interest in Israel’s pledge to implement the first stage of the roadmap which forces them to freeze all settlement activity including the natural growth of the settlements, remove the settlements set up since 2001, reopen the Palestinian institutions closed in Jerusalem, and return the situation in the West Bank to what it was before the outbreak of the uprising on the 28th of September 2000. The Palestinians have to dissolve all armed groups and confiscate their weapons and restore the control of the Palestinian authority over all the Palestinian territories.

“The Palestinian president accepted the American ideas and considered that the Israeli side’s acceptance of these ideas [represents] “noticeable progress” but he asked that the document mention other points such as the borders of the Palestinian state and eastern Jerusalem as its capital…” - Al-Hayat, United Kingdom


06 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics

"The Factions Deny Syria's Cancellation of Damascus Conference"

On November 4, the pro-Hamas newspaper Filistin reported: “Palestinian factions have denied the news that talked about the cancellation of the Damascus conference, which the Palestinian factions in Syria has called for convening to coincide with the fall conference in Annapolis, at the request of President Mahmud Abbas. They also affirmed that Syria continues to express its welcome of such a conference.

“Dr Khalil al-Hayyah, a leading figure in the Hamas Movement, described this news as being part of "media leaks aimed at spreading confusion over the conference of the factions in Syria." He also emphasizes that this news demonstrates "a feeling of defeat and frustration by those clinging to the illusions of the abortive Annapolis conference."

“In a statement to Filastin, Al-Hayyah adds: "Those are trying to foil any national move that emphasizes adherence to and insistence on the Palestinian rights and constants." He also affirmed that the conference will be held in Damascus to coincide with the fall conference in the United States.

“A number of media outlets had cited claims by sources that the Palestinian delegation that President Mahmud Abbas sent to Damascus was informed that Syria does not agree to convene the Palestinian conference, and that Syria does not accept infringement on the legitimacy of President Abbas or the legitimacy of the PLO as the Palestinian people's representative, according to these sources.

“The Palestinian factions in Damascus had called for convening this conference in parallel with the Annapolis conference US President George Bush called for convening. The Palestinian factions emphasize that the fall conference will fail and fear that it might relinquish more of the Palestinian constants. Dr Al-Hayyah deems President Abbas's concerted efforts to cancel the Damascus conference as an expression of "weakness."

“He says: "They realize that they do not really represent the position of all the Palestinian people, and that they do not represent Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the opposition and the Palestinians in the Diaspora who refuse to relinquish the constants." He adds: "They are upset with any group that says to the world that we insist on the constants and exposes their weakness in front of the US Administration and Israel."

“Al-Hayyah explained that the factions that will participate in the Damascus conference seek to emphasize the Palestinian constants that were agreed upon in the National Accord Document and not to relinquish any of these constants, as well as affirming that anyone who concedes any of the constants of our people does not represent them." He adds: "We seek to ensure that the conference sends the clear message that the resistance is the most feasible option in confronting the occupation. We also emphasize the need for the PLO to assume its role and not remain imprisoned between the walls."

“Al-Hayyah also revealed that the preparatory committee for the Gaza conference for opposing the Annapolis conference will be announced this week. He said that Hamas is holding discussions with all the forces and bodies, the civil society establishments and all the believers in and defenders of the Palestinian constants with the aim of reaching agreement on the formation of this committee.

“The Hamas leader also ruled out the possibility of Damascus bring pressure to bear on the factions in order to postpone or not convene the conference. He says: "We do not have any information about Syria bringing pressure to bear in this regard, and I do not believe that it can bring pressure to bear on our people's right to insist on the constants."

“Within this context, Khadir Habib, a leading figure in the Islamic Jihad Movement, denied in statements to the Palestinian Information Network the news about the cancellation of the conference. He emphasized that the conference will be held in Damascus to coincide with the Annapolis conference. Habib called for convening similar conferences throughout the world and Islamic countries to make the Palestinian people's voice heard. He emphasized that "the Israeli occupation cannot be given the legitimacy of presence in Palestine."

“For his part, Jamil al-Majdalawi, member of the DFLP's political bureau, denied that the Damascus conference had been cancelled, and affirmed that only its date has been postponed from the 17th of this month until a later date that has not yet been fixed.” - Newspaper - Middle East, Middle East


02 NOVEMBER 2007 Israel > Politics
Subject(s): Military/Defense |

"Shabak refuses to declare Jerusalem as capital of Palestinian state"

On November 2, the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported: “In a report described as unusual, the general Israeli intelligence apparatus Shabak asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to refuse the Palestinian demand to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State in the context of a settlement on the basis of “two states for two nations.”

“Knowledgeable political sources said that the position espoused by the intelligence [agency] comes in the framework of outstanding efforts carried out by security leaders, including the army and intelligence, in order to take an active role in the political negotiations held with the Palestinians on the eve of the Annapolis Conference and the negotiations of the permanent settlement which are supposed to start shortly after this conference.

“The Israeli army formed a special crew headed by General Ido Nehushtan, the military’s chief for strategic planning, in order to form a report to determine the Israeli security interests in the West Bank. The crew should identify the places of strategic significance which would be suitable for deterring a possible attack in the future.

“According to the sources, this operation is the first of its kind ever since the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Camp David Summit in September 2000 and Taba talks in February 2001. At that time, the army decided to take a third of the West Bank in favor of its security interests, including the Jordan valley which constitutes 14% of the West Bank…” - Asharq al-Awsat, United Kingdom


01 NOVEMBER 2007 Palestine > Politics

"IJ to delay Damascus Conference due to pressures on Syria by Arab states"

On November 1, the Palestinian-owned daily Al Quds Al Arabi carried the following report by Ashraf Al Hawr: “The Islamic Jihad announced yesterday the postponement of the Damascus Conference for the Palestinian factions in opposition to the Fall Conference. A knowledgeable source told Al Quds Al Arabi that the conference might be completely cancelled. Ziad Al-Nakhale, Deputy Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad announced the postponement of the Conference held by the Palestinian factions in opposition to the peace process and which was scheduled to be held on November 29… However, a knowledgeable source from the Fatah Movement told Al Quds Al Arabi that the conference might be cancelled.

“The source said that the Palestinian President’s envoys to the Syrian Capital Damascus reached major agreements with Syrian officials in this regard, noting that the Syrian leadership is facing many pressures by Arab states to cancel the conference… The source said that the envoys held many contacts with the Palestinian presidency and informed it about the development of Syria’s position.

“The source stated that Syria, in its capacity as an Arab state, might be invited to the Annapolis Conference, and thus; there shouldn’t be a counter conference held in Syria. Besides, the source undermined the significance of the conference – if the Palestinian factions succeeded in convening it – adding that it will not affect the opinion of the Palestinian majority represented by the PLO. He pointed out that all the Arab states and the international community recognize the official representative of the Palestinian people and the representatives of regional countries, in a reference to the relations between the Hamas Movement and Iran.

“The source said that the Palestinian delegation heading to the peace conference realizes the extent of threats weaved against the Palestinian cause, noting that the delegation will not sign blank checks for the Israelis…” - Al-Quds al-Arabi, United Kingdom