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Palestinian Statehood Bid

The former Foreign Secretary of Britain, Jack Straw has called on MPs to back the Palestinian bid for unilateral statehood at the United Nations.

The British government has not yet confirmed whether it will support the bid if a vote goes ahead. The U.S. will not back the move. Straw wrote to every member of British Parliament urging them to help the Palestinian cause for statehood.

“It is vital that the UK and other European countries have the courage to point the way forward.” He added that the UN, World Bank, the EU and the IMF have all deemed the Palestinians “ready for statehood” and said: “We all understand the fears that Israelis have for their security, but it will not enhance their security to deny the right of self-determination permanently to the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the U.S. would not admit that homosexuality would not be tolerated in a Palestinian state. Benjamin Weinthal of the Jerusalem Post, points out that the price for being gay in the Hamas-ruled
Gaza Strip is the death penalty:

The Hamas-controlled Gaza strip has declared homosexuality punishable by death. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

In an April broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Syrian academic Muhammad Rateb al- Nabulsi said, “Homosexuality involves a filthy place, and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.”

But homosexuals aren’t all who are strongly unwelcome in the proposed Palestinian State. Ha’aretz reported:

The future independent Palestinian state will not include a Jewish minority, a top Palestinian official told USA Today on Wednesday, adding that it was in the best interest of both peoples to “be separated.”

Maen Areikat, PLO Ambassador to the United States, made the comment just as the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, was preparing to offer up Palestinian statehood to a vote in the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

The left-wing Israeli daily also reported that Hamas is not backing Abbas’ statehood bid. Further evidence that the PA and Hamas are not altogether reconciled:

The Islamist Hamas movement said Wednesday that President Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to approach the United Nations for recognition of Palestinian statehood was a “tactical” move, part of a negotiations process, and therefore could not be backed. The move was not based on principles and “Hamas and other factions are not part of this step and do not support it,” Salah al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told a workshop in Gaza City.

Is Abbas Still The Boss?

abbasAt a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to not run for re-election in January. The threat, says Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, is meant to be a warning to America and Zionists. He said:

“We advise him to … face the Palestinian people and tell them frankly that the path of negotiations has failed. Halt negotiations with the occupation and take practical steps toward reconciliation.”

Hamas and Abbas have led rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank for the last two years, after Hamas’s bloody and violent seizure of the coastal area in 2007.

Abbas cites frustration with the lack of progress in peace negotiations with Israel as his main reason for stepping down.

The Head of the PLO Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Thursday, that they rejected Abbas’ announcement; and the presidents of Egypt and Israel, the king of Jordan and Israel’s defense minister all called Abbas on Thursday, urging him to reconsider.

The Palestinian consensus is that West Bank settlements are ruining their dream of independence. Some 500,000 Israelis now live in Samaria and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim crucial for building their own independent state.

The Obama administration has not been able to pressure Israel to halt its construction in the “West Bank”. And if the U.S. cannot get Israel to budge on that, they will also fail in other negotiations involving the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.

Some Questions about the Fatah Convention

Fatah, the PLO faction group founded in 1954 by Yasser Arafat, is having its 6th general convention today. I have some questions about it. First, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas opened the festivities by condemning Hamas and saying that investigations are ongoing as to the cause of Arafat’s death.

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS FATAH CONFERENCEQuestion: Why? The fact that he was old, decrepit, and suffering from latent Parkinson’s and just died, hasn’t really clinched it for them yet?

He then went on to say that Israel hasn’t kept its commitments to the United States, including giving up sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem and even parts of the Dead Sea.

Question: When was this? I can’t seem to recall when Israel made those promises to anyone. I can remember, though, when Israel actually offered them to the PLO and they refused.

Then things got more interesting. He continued: “Although peace is our choice, we reserve the right to resistance, legitimate under international law.”

Question: What resistance he’s talking about? Really, I’m curious. Peacefully picketing and civil disobedience? Or is it murdering innocent civilians? I’m just asking, because it’s unclear.

Jibril Rajoub, who used to be in charge of the PA police, then clarified and said that “armed resistance” is always an option, and that Israel must acknowledge that. So there goes nonviolent civil disobedience.

Question: What do you mean, Jibril by “acknowledge?” Does fighting back qualify? Or is acknowledgment only sitting around watching buses explode and retreating?

I’ll tell you what, Jibril. I will gladly acknowledge your resistance if you acknowledge Israel’s response to it. Then we can sit down over a cold beer, a la Obama, Gates, and Crowley at the White House and discuss mutual acknowledgment.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Barak said it was important that the platform produced by the delegates will be representative of a wide range of views.

Question: What range of views?

President Shimon Peres, mentioning the convention, said that the Palestinians must remember that like Israel, “they must stay committed to the Road Map and the path of negotiations.”

Question: What happens if they don’t, as in the past 9 years?

The only Israelis expected to attend the conference were MKs Ahmed Tibi and Taleb A-Sanaa (UAL-Ta’al) and Muhammad Barakei (Hadash).

Question: Why are Israeli Knesset members allowed to attend a summit about armed resistance against Israel?

Is anybody listening?

Putting a positive spin on Hamas’s win

Saeb Erakat.
Saeb Erakat at the Muqata, February 25 2006. Photo by Lisa Goldman.

Saeb Erakat, the chief negotiator for the PLO, has written a fascinating op-ed piece for the New York Times. In it he explains why he, a supporter of Mahmoud Abbas, does not view Hamas’s victory in the recent Palestinian elections as a setback for peace and democracy in the Middle East.

Of course Erakat manages to slip in a “blame Israel” (such a surprise!) for the routing of Fatah, but he does admit that Fatah needs to do some internal housecleaning in order to regain the voters’ trust. He also seems to think that Hamas’s Islamist platform does not represent the views of the majority of the people, and that Hamas will therefore find it rough going trying to implement sharia (Islamic law) in the West Bank.

Read the whole thing, below, to find out why.

What the P.L.O. Has to Offer
By SAEB EREKAT

Jericho, West Bank

MANY have argued that Hamas’s winning of a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament provides yet another setback for peace and democracy in the Middle East. Some have even suggested that it vindicates Israeli unilateralism. I, however, think the opposite is true: A negotiated and lasting peace may now be closer than many of us could have imagined just weeks ago.

The parliamentary elections could be seen as a referendum on the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, who came to office a year ago after winning nearly two-thirds of the popular vote. Mr. Abbas ran on a platform of job creation, internal security and a negotiated resolution of the conflict with Israel based on two states living side by side in peace.
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