Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Saeb Erekat

The following statement was issued to the NCF by the Palestinian Authority's Negotiations Support Unit. We publish it without comment:

Israeli military attacks on the occupied Gaza Strip are targeting civil infrastructure, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis and demolishing hopes of ending the conflict, stated Dr. Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, this afternoon.

Referring to the recent breakthrough in internal Palestinian negotiations on the Palestinian Prisoner’s Agreement, Dr. Erekat asked, “Why is Israel choosing to commit such war crimes at a time when Palestinians are united in offering a resolution of the conflict on the basis of the two-state solution? It only serves to strengthen the impression that Israel is committed to destroying the prospect of a peace agreement emerging, no matter what the human cost.”

The statement follows the launch of a wide-scale Israeli military assault on the occupied Gaza Strip that has included the destruction of the substation of the only power station in Gaza City, responsible for supplying approximately 50 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s electricity. Three bridges have also been demolished in the attacks.

Israel’s destruction of the Gaza substation is a violation of a signed agreement reached between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority in October 2003 to ensure that energy supplies were not affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The substation provides power to all of Gaza City and the center of the Gaza Strip. Repairing the substation would cost between $12 and $15 million, and would likely last several months, leaving thousands of Palestinians without electricity in the winter months.

This morning’s military invasion follows a slew of Israeli military operations earlier this month. Of the 48 Palestinians Israel has killed this month, at least 27 were civilians, including nine children and a pregnant woman. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, a further 174 Palestinians have been wounded.

For further information, please contact:

Sharif Hamadeh
Communications Advisor, Negotiations Support Unit
Tel: +972-2-296-3741
Tel: +972-599-490-329

Gaza kidnapping

The raid, on an army post inside Israel, carried out by Palestinian groups including the governing Hamas, has led to an Israeli incursion into southern Gaza in order to recover a kidnapped soldier. Below is an excerpt from the Reuters report, and underneath are interesting views from the region, courtesy of BBC monitoring:

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships and artillery drove into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, stepping up pressure on Palestinian militants to release a kidnapped soldier.

To the sound of heavy machinegun fire, armoured vehicles entered Gaza near the southern town of Rafah less than a year after Israel pulled thousands of soldiers and settlers from the territory following 38 years of occupation.

There were no immediate clashes or casualties. Israeli forces deployed at Gaza's disused international airport, a strategic vantage point, apparently waiting to see if militants holding Corporal Gilad Shalit would give him up without a fight.

In his first public remarks since the operation began, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said military activities in Gaza would continue "over the coming days" and Israel "would not hesitate to take extreme steps" to secure the soldier's freedom.

"We have no intention of recapturing the Gaza Strip. We have no intention of staying there. We have a central goal and that is to bring Gilad home," he said.

Read the full article here.


In the first stage the IDF operation is intended primarily to support the political effort, which will continue. This is still an attempt to "explain" to the Palestinians, this time without using words, what they have not yet grasped: If Gilad Shalit is not returned soon the situation in Gaza will be bad and bitter. And what words cannot do, the pictures of the tanks and armoured personnel carriers, the siege on Gaza and the halting of power supplies can - this is at least what Israel hopes for.


The permits granted to Southern Command were very measured: a few fingers on the ground and much noise in the air... Yet in Israel they understand that continuing restraint will only increase the blackmail and encourage a wave of kidnappings that is already happening in the West Bank today. The policy of restraint has become a boomerang endangering the lives of Israeli citizens.


At times it seems we scare ourselves much more than the enemy is able to... This mistake continues even now in the way we conduct ourselves towards Hamas and the way in which we react to the abduction of Cpl Gilad Shalit. As a sane, sovereign state the IDF should have liquidated Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and all his government who are seeking the destruction of Israel... The removal of Haniya would have shaken the nerves of those wanting to destroy the state of Israel.


At such moments we feel a strong yearning for Ariel Sharon. We look at the current prime minister [Ehud Olmert] and defence minister [Amir Peretz] who do not shut their mouths, but deliver speeches, give interviews... near every open microphone and our souls go out for that man who in situations of crisis knew how to stay silent. Ariel Sharon was considered on the eve of his illness a credible leader by 70-80% of Israel's citizens. The credibility of Olmert and Peretz does not reach half this magnitude - perhaps one third. What is left when there is no credibility? The rumble of engines, of course.


It is painful to watch Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Amir Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni try to contend with the terrible outcome of the Palestinian terror strike against the IDF. They use so many fancy and angry words. They sound so resolute. And yet, they have nothing useful to say. Two soldiers are dead, a third is now the prisoner of jihadist's killers, seven are wounded, an IDF border post has been overrun, and a world view and a security doctrine have been blown to smithereens... When you empower terrorists, terrorists are empowered.


How come all the energy, willingness and empathy that is going into saving one soldier from captivity does not emerge in the bloody rut in which the Israel-Palestinian conflict is played out? Why does Israeli society take for granted the continuation of the armed struggle, with all its fatalities and wounded, and not do all in its power to stop it, while at the same time being moved so deeply by the sight of the Shalit family's terrible suffering?


True, the Israeli government headed by Olmert can oppress, destroy and assassinate... However, our people will as usual stand up and will not wave a white flag. This is the destiny of a people that is unjustly treated and that is struggling at a time when its children are being starved and torn into pieces with air-to-surface missiles and heavy artillery shells.


Gaza is living with the daily death imposed by the Israeli military machine. What sovereignty can be left after the land, sea and aerial siege, as well as economic suffocation and continued transgression of daily Palestinian life? Let our prisoners in Israeli jails be freed and let the soldier get back safely to his people. This is a just and legal demand of a people living under occupation.


If the international powers really want to prevent Israeli military reaction and stop the Israeli government's misconduct and arrogance, why in addition to enlisting their diplomatic missions to release the abducted soldier do they not defuse the Israeli military operation? This will help innocent Palestinians avoid another bloodbath, massacres and total destruction.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The King of Jordan on Middle East Peace

King Abdullah II has written an op-ed for the IHT (June 20, 2006):

AMMAN, Jordan War has a terrible cost. But peace also has a cost, especially when generations of conflict demonstrate that the only path to peace is the acknowledgement and settlement of painful and legitimate grievances.
To achieve peace, patterns of fear, resentment, mistrust and indifference to the suffering of others must be broken. Sides that have long defined themselves in opposition to each other must create a new psychology. Societies and individuals alike must reorient themselves to a future that rewards productivity and cooperation, not confrontation.
The psychology of conflict is difficult to break. But history, including that of Europe, shows that even the bitterest adversaries can make the transition when peace delivers on its promise - when human energies and material resources once drained by hostilities are channeled toward building national infrastructure, strengthening education, health and other social services, and promoting good governance; when stability invites inward investment and participation in global markets, bolstering economic opportunity and growth. As entire societies become stakeholders in the new status quo, peace becomes self-reinforcing.
It was for this reason that my father, the late King Hussein, often said peace is a gift that we give to future generations. And this was Jordan's vision for the region when our country took the tough decision to make peace with Israel in 1994.
Historically, Jordan has led the region in reform and development, but our newfound stability and security was a key factor which enabled our long-term success. We seek, and are achieving, economic growth with new opportunities for youth; good governance; civil society based on Islamic values of tolerance, compassion and equality.
People everywhere in our region - Arabs and Israelis - deserve an era of regional prosperity, of partnerships that deliver jobs, better education, a clean environment, stability. Yet no country in the Middle East can realize its full potential while the region is in conflict.
It is time for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to recognize the enormity of the responsibility that they bear, not only for the future security, stability and prosperity of their people, but for the well-being of our entire region. Elected leaders on both sides must recognize and announce that there is no unilateral solution to the conflict between their two peoples that guarantees lasting peace and security.
A negotiated two-state solution leading to a viable, independent, contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side with a secure Israel is the only solution to this conflict. Both sides must therefore act decisively to create the conditions necessary for a return to negotiations, abandoned more than five years ago.
For Israel, that means acknowledging its partners for peace: the Palestinian people led by President Mahmoud Abbas and the entire Arab world, which in 2002 sought comprehensive peace with Israel in accordance with international legality. Without this, neither region- wide acceptance of Israel nor real peace will be forthcoming.
Likewise, the Palestinian leadership must recognize that only negotiations on the basis of the road map can alleviate the Palestinian people's suffering and restore to them their internationally recognized legal rights.
The international community, for its part, must work to avert a humanitarian crisis. Allowing the impoverishment of millions will not only exacerbate humanitarian suffering, it will also aggravate the security crisis of Palestinians and Israelis, making a return to negotiations even more difficult.
I was serving in the Jordan Armed Forces when Jordan and Israel signed the historic peace treaty, and as a soldier I was proud that Jordan's leadership had achieved an honorable peace that ended a nearly 50-year-long state of war between our countries.
More important, as a new father I understood my own father's words and vision with much greater clarity. I felt, like millions of other Jordanian parents, that this was a first step toward the future we envisioned for our children.
Today, as a leader, I understand that the future generations of whom my father so often spoke have arrived; more than half of the population in our region is aged under 30. It will not do for us to tell them that peace is a gift we can give to future generations. It is a promise that we must fulfill for them today, or risk condemning them to a future of violence, fear and isolation.
It is time for nations and world- renowned figures alike to stand behind the commitment to peace, as a group of Nobel laureates and other leaders are doing this week at the Petra II conference. Real peace agreements are not just written on paper, but also inscribed on hearts. For that to occur we must help people on both sides believe that making a difficult peace is far less costly than continuing a destructive conflict.
King Abdullah II of Jordan

Monday, June 19, 2006

PLO Website

The following item has just been received from the PLO Negotiations Support Unit:

We are pleased to announce the launch of our new Arabic and Hebrew language websites. To view these, please follow the links on the top right-hand corner of the English language site, found at

We also have released new maps and written material on the Wall’s revised route, and the Jordan Valley, available now in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

We appreciate your interest in the work of our organization and welcome any of your questions, concerns, or feedback.

With warm regards,

The Communications Department
Negotiations Support Unit

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Muhammad Dahlan

I meant to ask William, who knows him well, what happened to Muhammad Dahlan. Though I forgot to mention it, the below article was published in the IHT today:

In Gaza, a nemesis of Hamas

By Steven Erlanger, New York Times
FRIDAY, JUNE 16, 2006

Muhammad Dahlan, Fatah's most powerful figure in Gaza, is the man Hamas most likes to despise, with officials constantly referring to him as "corrupt and diverted" from the cause of Palestinian nationalism. They accuse him of working with the Americans and the Israelis to foment chaos and undermine the Hamas government.

Dahlan, a trim man of 44 who has risen to power and comparative wealth from the slums of the Khan Yunis refugee camp, says he doesn't care, that Hamas is simply looking for a scapegoat on which to blame its own mounting difficulties.

"The main reason for recent clashes is the sense of Hamas's failure," he said in a 90-minute interview in his well-guarded office here. "Hamas is in a crisis, and thus the Palestinians are in a crisis, and they try to push this crisis onto others."
Dahlan was in full flow, speaking with steady contempt.
"They used to run a club here and a foundation there, and they thought governing would be easy," he said. "They thought dealing with Israel would be easy. They thought they could concentrate on the Arab world and the rest didn't matter."
He added that Khaled Meshal, one of Hamas's leaders in exile, "said that if the doors of the West are closed, those of the East will be open. But a week later they discovered it's different.
"They're spinning in a circle and looking for a scapegoat - first it's Fatah, then Dahlan. They say they're besieged - but Arafat was besieged in his bedroom! We've been besieged for six years! But we in Fatah never did anything to provoke civil war, and we never stopped salaries, either."
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, has seized on a document prepared by prisoners, led by a Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, that calls for a unified Palestinian government and program that would support a Palestinian state within prewar 1967 boundaries, thus implicitly recognizing Israel.
If Hamas does not come to an agreement with him to accept the document, Abbas has declared a referendum for July 26, which Hamas says is illegal.
"Marwan did a great job in the jail on the document," Dahlan said, getting a senior Hamas prisoner to sign what "is the first document in our lives" that all Palestinian factions managed to negotiate. "I told Abu Mazen, 'Don't even read the document, just accept it.' And Abu Mazen used the document in a good way," putting Hamas into a political conundrum.
Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government spokesman, said in an interview that he was optimistic the Abbas-Hamas talks would lead to a political agreement without a referendum, allowing Abbas full authority as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization to negotiate with Israel on the basis of the 1967 boundaries.
But Hamad also acknowledges that the economic siege on the Hamas government by the West because it has not recognized Israel's right to exist, forswear violence or accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements has put the government into a crisis, unable to pay most salaries for nearly four months now. "This is a big challenge for us, and we're trying to solve it through the president and political flexibility," Hamad said. "It risks us as a government."
Abbas has told Hamas "if you approve the political document, we can convince the West to pay and lift the siege," Hamad said. "There's some flexibility in the European Union, but in the United States, I don't know."
On Friday in Brussels, the European Union said it had completed a temporary aid mechanism that, pending agreement from Washington, would be delivered in July and provide allowances to the poorest in Gaza, ensure fuel supplies and help keep health and social services going without dealing with the Palestinian Authority. The initial European allocation of about €100 million, or $126 million, is about the cost of one month's salary bill for the Palestinian Authority. The Europeans also want Israel to use the mechanism and stop withholding some $50 million a month in taxes and duties it collects for the Palestinians.
Dahlan says that the economic boycott hurts ordinary Palestinians and not Hamas itself, which has its own sources of income for its own loyalists. And he says that despite what Hamas believes, he wants it to succeed in the reality of politics while Fatah moves finally to reform itself.
"We're not against Hamas politically," he said. "But they don't have the right to starve the people. If you want to fight the U.S. and Israel and Fatah, fine, but don't do it on the backs of the people," he said. "It's the government's job to pay salaries, and if they can't do that, how can they achieve our rights?"
As for Hamas's attacks on him, Dahlan tries to appear unconcerned. "They say you're corrupt, or a collaborator or an unbeliever, depending on your luck that day," he said.
"If defending Fatah is being 'diverted,' fine," he said. "I've been in Fatah 30 years, and it's my home, not the Palestinian Authority. I was jailed for Fatah and deported for Fatah and lost friends for Fatah. They think because I'm defending Fatah, they open a war against me."
As for longstanding accusations that he used his previous positions as head of the Preventive Security police and of Fatah in Gaza to benefit from Palestinian Authority monopolies on oil sales and cement, as well from the granting of building contracts and exit permits and the importation of goods through the Karni crossing between Israel and Gaza, Dahlan also scoffs. "Hamas now has all the corruption files," he said. "I choose silence. If I wear a nice necktie, they say I'm corrupt, and if I take it off, they say it's false modesty. My house, some say, is a Riviera, but it's 200 square meters."
The biggest problem now, he says, is that "only Israel knows what it wants" in the region. In his view, Israel wants to ensure that it has no Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate so it can continue its unilateral actions, "including the confiscation of our lands, the enlarging and deepening of the colonialism in the settlements and the assassination of innocents."
Dahlan talked of the anger among Palestinians about the explosion on Beit Lahiya beach on June 9 that killed seven members of one family and the deaths four days later of eight more civilians in an attack on an Islamic Jihad rocket team.
Israel says that its shells could not have caused the explosion on the beach. Dahlan scoffed again. "It's a scandal, and the Americans don't even condemn it," he said. "It wasn't the Israelis? Who was it? The Palestinian air force?"
Then his mood switched again, to the analytical. In a way, he mused, it doesn't matter, saying: "Palestinians will believe Israel did it, even if it didn't."

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Abbas sets date for referendum

By Wafa Amr

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stepping up a power struggle with the Hamas-led government, announced on Saturday a July 26 referendum on a statehood proposal implicitly recognising Israel.

Hours before the moderate Palestinian leader issued his decree, Hamas formally ended a 16-month truce by firing rockets at Israel in response to the killing of seven people on a Gaza beach during Israeli shelling on Friday.

Hopes for peacemaking appeared even more remote, with Abbas and the Islamist group that defeated his Fatah faction in a January election locked in political confrontation and Hamas and Israel on a fast track to battle.

"As chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, I have decided to exercise my constitutional right and duty to hold a referendum over the document of national agreement," Abbas declared in a decree read by an aide.

Hamas officials accuse Abbas of using the referendum, penned by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, to try to engineer the downfall of their government, which has struggled with a Western aid embargo and growing disorder.

The manifesto calls for a Palestinian state, alongside Israel, on all of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. Opinion polls show most Palestinians back the proposal. Israel calls it a non-starter.

Palestinians will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on the question: "Do you agree with the document of national agreement -- the prisoner's document?", the aide said.


In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinian mourners wept with 7-year-old Huda Ghalya as she kneeled to kiss her dead father before he, her mother and three siblings were buried.

The five, including a 4-month-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-year-old, were among the seven killed during a seaside outing on Friday after Israeli gunboats shelled the area to curb cross-border rocket fire. Twenty people were wounded.

"Please do not leave me alone," said Huda, who had been swimming in the Mediterranean when the blast tore up the beach.

A spokesman for Hamas's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigades said they had resumed attacks against Israel in response to the shelling, firing 11 rockets and 12 mortar bombs from Gaza.

The army said it identified four impacts inside Israel, which caused no casualties or damage.

Israel Radio said Defence Minister Amir Peretz had sent a message to Abbas voicing "deep regret at the deaths of innocent people".

Israel's army said one of its shells may have hit the beach by accident, but it was still investigating. The radio reported Peretz would receive the results of the probe later in the day.

Hamas has abstained from striking in Israel since a truce was announced in early 2005. Israeli officials said the group has been helping other militant factions to carry out daily rocket launchings from Gaza, territory Israel quit last year.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

See also: 'Hamas breaks truce with rockets' - BBC News

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Abbas delays referendum decision

From the BBC:

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has given Hamas until the end of the week to accept a plan for statehood that implicitly recognises Israel.

Mr Abbas' party has backed putting the statehood plan to a referendum if Hamas does not drop its opposition to it.

Hamas does not recognise Israel and has so far rejected Mr Abbas' plans for a Palestinian state taking shape alongside the Jewish state.

Hamas, which heads the government, has said a referendum would be illegal.

A Hamas official, parliamentary speaker Aziz Dueik, said his party opposed Mr Abbas' call for a referendum while "there is hunger and famine because of the international boycott of the Palestinians".

On 25 May, Mr Abbas said he gave factions 10 days to accept his statehood plan or else he would call a referendum on the issue.

Talks held on Monday broke down one hour before the deadline expired.

In other incidents on Tuesday:

  • Three people are hurt in an explosion at Mr Abbas' security headquarters in the Gaza Strip

  • Palestinian militants fire rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot, injuring one woman

  • Israeli jets fire missiles at Gaza City, killing two militants


Hamas has reacted angrily to Mr Abbas' plan, with spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri insisted that the talks must continue.

"You cannot raise the sword of ultimatum," he said.

He also reiterated the group's view that the referendum plan was not the way forward.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas has said Palestinian law does not allow for such a vote.

Tension between Fatah and Hamas has been growing steadily since the latter won general elections in January.

On Monday, armed supporters of Hamas stormed a TV office in Gaza, complaining of bias towards Fatah.

Hamas itself denied any responsibility for the attack.

Fatah recognises Israel, but Hamas officially wants an Islamic state in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Its charter calls for Israel's destruction.

The plan Mr Abbas will put to a non-binding referendum is an 18-point programme agreed by various faction members jailed by Israel.

It sets out formal Palestinian claims to an independent state on land occupied by Israel in 1967, as well as the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to former homes inside Israel.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Abbas to Call Referendum

Excerpts from an analysis by Haaretz's Danni Rubinstein (Italics), followed by a shortened version of the AP article:

Both sides - Fatah, under Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas; and Hamas, under Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh - appeared entrenched in their positions Monday night, and not willing to budge an inch. Nevertheless, most Palestinian analysts said there was still room for talks to find a way out of the thicket.

The expiration of Abbas' ultimatum does not mean an end to the dialogue between the two. They can continue their efforts to twist the arms of one another during the 40 days that Abbas has allocated for preparing a referendum. In other words, they have more than a month to continue arguing, and perhaps reach a last-minute compromise.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he will call a referendum on a plan implicitly recognizing Israel after he failed to persuade Hamas to agree to the idea.

The Islamic militant Hamas, which heads the Palestinian government, strongly opposes a referendum.

"President Abbas will set a date for the referendum after the meeting Tuesday of the PLO Executive Committee and parliamentary caucuses," his office said in a statement.

Abbas had set a midnight deadline for agreement. But a participant in late-night talks with Palestinian factions said the president determined they had failed an hour before that.

The Hamas-led government is facing international isolation over its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel. The United States, European Union and Israel have cut off cash transfers to the Palestinian government since Hamas won legislative elections earlier this year.

Its hardline stance has landed it in an increasingly violent power struggle with Abbas and his Fatah party, the other main Palestinian faction. Since Hamas was sworn into office in March, Abbas has taken steps to curb its authorities.

The plan under discussion was formulated by Hamas and Fatah prisoners held in Israeli jails. But Hamas' exiled leaders, who make final decisions on policy, have refused to accept the proposal.

Abbas has endorsed the plan as a way to end the crushing sanctions against the Palestinians and allow him to resume peace talks with Israel.

Hamas reacted angrily to Abbas' threats Monday.

"You cannot raise the sword of ultimatum, you cannot raise the issue of a referendum while you are talking about dialogue," he told reporters in Gaza. He said calling a referendum meant circumventing the elected government, led by Hamas.

Many Palestinians are uneasy about the referendum, though polls show the document would be approved easily.

In Gaza, Mohammed Abu Seido, 30, a coffee shop cashier, said he would vote for the document, but he worried that Hamas would react with violence if it is approved.

"Hamas is already failing," he said.

The Palestinians have never held a referendum before, and officials said the vote would not be binding. But passing the referendum could give Abbas an important boost in his standoff with Hamas.

"It would bolster his legitimacy and give him power to go ahead with negotiations with Israel," said Azam al-Ahmad, a top Fatah official. Al-Ahmad also said Abbas, who wields considerable powers, would consider calling elections for president and parliament if Hamas did not abide by the results of a referendum.

Hamas says that accepting the plan would mean abandoning its principles. It also says a referendum is not necessary because Palestinian voters chose its political program in legislative elections just over four months ago.

The Palestinian infighting has turned deadly in recent weeks. Sixteen people have died in clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists, including five killed on Sunday. Five Palestinians were wounded in two clashes in the southern city of Khan Younis on Monday, security officials said.

Hamas has stuck to its tough line on Israel despite the crushing international boycott, which has left the government unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of civil servants for three months.