Exclusive: Abbas to let Israel keep settlements even if UN recognizes "state"

In a New York Times op-ed today, Mahmoud Abbas the leader of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) lays out his strategy to achieve a Palestinian state through UN recognition.

But all Abbas succeeds in doing is exposing the hollowness of a strategy that while supposedly breaking with past failures, leads only back to the same impotence. It also lays bear the deceptive use of language behind his approach.

Also, an exclusive Electronic Intifada interview with Palestinian “chief negotiator” Saeb Erekat, reveals that despite the “statehood” bid, Abbas remains committed to allowing Israel to annex vast tracts of settlements on the territory of the so-called “state.”

Abbas’ editorial in the New York Times

First, Abbas writes:

this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.

Many are questioning what value there is to such recognition while the Israeli occupation continues. Others have accused us of imperiling the peace process. We believe, however, that there is tremendous value for all Palestinians — those living in the homeland, in exile and under occupation.

Abbas adds:

Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater. We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem. Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel’s settlement program.

Then after touting what he claims is the readiness of the Palestinians for statehood Abbas comes to the punchline:

Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel. A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948.

Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.

What does this mean? Abbas is seeking acceptance of a nonexistent “State of Palestine” into the UN, gambling that this will fundamentally change the balance of power when this “state” goes back to negotiations with Israel.

But what is this bet based on? How does the symbolic recognition of Palestine change any facts on the ground? The notion that “the international community” will suddenly start to put real pressure on Israel just because of yet another UN declaration to add to dozens of others that it has never enforced on Israel is delusional as I explained a few weeks ago in an article for Al Jazeera (“Recognising Palestine,” 13 April 2011).

Moreover Abbas is being deceptive when he says “we will request international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border.” Abbas admits later that once the “state” is recognized, he would go back to negotiations with the same old intransigent Israel and “negotiate” the same old “core” issues.

Interview with Saeb Erekat

Indeed in an interview with me last week, Saeb Erekat, Abbas’ chief negotiator confirmed that the “State of Palestine” would still be willing to engage in “land swaps” that would hand large swathes of the West Bank – the territory of the “state” – to Israel.

I asked Erekat specifically if the lines the PA was asking for were those of 4 June 1967 with no land swaps and no Israeli settlements. Speaking by telephone from the Israeli-occupied West Bank last Friday, Erekat replied: “No. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Once I’m a sovereign state, then it’s legal to discuss swaps of land in size and value. But not before that.”

When pressed further, Erekat elaborated, “Israel must recognize me on the 1967 lines and then ask me if, because many countries change lands but they have to be sovereign, they have to know their borders.”

The long-time chief negotiator affirmed that: “If the Israelis use the magic number 1967 and recognize the Palestinian state on the 1967 line and introduce the swaps, we’re willing to talk about it, yes.”

In other words, Abbas is seeking “sovereignty” at the UN to do precisely the thing real sovereign states don’t do, which is cede territory to an invading, colonizing occupier.

The Palestine Papers revealed that Erekat and other negotiators had already made unprecedented concessions to Israel during negotiations in 2008, offering to let Israel keep almost all the illegal colonies it built in and around occupied Jerusalem since 1967.

There is nothing new in Abbas’ approach. The only thing that could be gained from UN recognition is for Abbas and his entourage to obtain international recognition for themselves as leaders of an imaginary “state” while nothing changes on the ground for Palestinians.

Comments

Who are these Erekat and Abbas persons trying to help. Because they live in perfect harmony in their lives and don't care about the rest of the population. Who are they helping??? Except themselves for a better life and recognition to prove they are doing something.
They should never relinquish a single inch of land to ISRAEL, period. They should return back into their place as at 1967 borders, other it is futile and useless to even negotiate Palestinian land.

Remember not so long ago when Saeb Erekat quit his position as the charade 'negotiator'?
What happened to that? Did he get rehired? / Did he just pretend to quit? / Just another charade?
Thanks for your reporting on this

Here is what kills me. We have a displaced population numbering in the Millions who need to be allowed back and COMPENSATED for their loses (homes, lands, businesses etc.) and for their long suffering due to this long Zionist inflicted injustice. What is crystal clear to me and should be to ALL those involved is the presence of these massive illegal settlements that CAN be used as part of this settlement and compensation. If anything Israel should be encouraged to build more and more homes (as compensation) to those returning refugees. No one should be talking about swapping anything or changing borders. The 1967 armistice lines should be the exact borders, all settlements should be used to house the victims and a larger piece of land to the east/south of Gaza should be added to accommodate the disparate need for more land for the besieged long-victimized Gaza population. This is the bare minimum that any Palestinian should ask for, otherwise if Israel will insist on their outrageous demands we should in turn insist that we go back to the 1947 "legal" (although immoral) UN partition of Palestine. We all know where those borders stood, and we should ask for no less than that PLUS compensation.

No, UN Recognition would make a huge psychological difference for the whole world.

The swap idea is, for one, to appear "more reasonable" to the world to take away a complaint of the Zionists (disarm them concerning that issue). It is not a commitment to swap. Anyway, what land could be gained?

Perhaps Gaza and the West Bank could be linked via a road and rail system with the Zionists having to use tunnels and bridges under and over that system.

There are endless possibilities to discuss.

I'm not saying you don't have any points or that there's no merit at all to your article/observations, Ali. I feel you're overstating your case though.

I'm thinking about the youth who will hear that Palestine is now recognized as a state by the UN and then hear that the Zionists are still treating it as a concentration camp. That would be a PR nightmare for the Zionists. They aren't impervious to such things anymore. The BDS Movement wouldn't die upon recognition. It would likely increase for the reasons I've mentioned.

Anyway, Abbas has known all along that the US will veto (if it gets that far). So, this whole thing is publicity for the cause even if it isn't the exact message you'd like to see front and center. It is nevertheless drawing huge world attention the the overall problem and in some detail.

Erdogan isn't shying away from making Zionism a "hot issue."

The Arab Spring has increased the awareness of NATO and EU hypocrisy.

Do not despair. The Zionists are losing.

You do know that, right?