Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mahmoud Abbas delays decision on whether to quit Middle East peace talks.

Netanyahu is refusing to continue her West Bank construction freeze, seriously undermining the Israel Palestine peace talks, and causing one to wonder just how serious he is about peace if he can't agree that illegal settlement building must end.

Speaking in Paris, Abbas said there would be no "quick reactions" before he consults the Arab League next week. "After this series of meetings, we might publish a position that clears up the position of the Palestinian and Arab people after Israel has refused to freeze settlements," he told reporters, after talks with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

An extension for "three or four months" would give the sides a chance to discuss the core issues, Abbas added.

Sarkozy said he "deplored the decision to resume settlement construction just as the talks were finally and concretely under way". William Hague, the foreign secretary, meeting his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, at the UN in New York, said he was "very disappointed". George Mitchell, the US special envoy, is due back in Jerusalem today to seek a way out of the crisis.

Abbas's caution reflects the high stakes following the Israeli prime minister's failure to extend a 10-month moratorium on building. Abbas and other Palestinian spokesmen had warned that they could not negotiate unless it was renewed.

The simple fact is that all Israeli building in the West Bank is illegal under international law.

Article 49 of The Fourth Geneva Convention:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Netanyahu has now made it perfectly clear that he has no intention of obeying international law. And, as is reported in today's Ha'aretz newspaper, the freeze itself was a myth.
At the end of 2009, the number of housing units that were actively being built on all the settlements together amounted to 2,955. Three months later, at the end of March 2010, the number stood at 2,517. We are therefore talking about a drop of a little more than 400 housing units - some 16 percent of Israeli construction in the West Bank over that period.
I have no idea whether or not Abbas will wish to continue negotiating with an Israeli team who are stealing their land even during peace negotiations, but I find it incomprehensible that Europe can't guard Obama's back here and make it clear that we find Israel's position utterly untenable.

I note that both Sarkozy and William Hague have spoken out, but there needs to be more of a noise made about this.

Israel's decision on whether or to extend the freeze was always going to be an indication of just how serious she was about these talks.

Well, now we have our answer.

Obama demanded settlement freeze early on in his presidency and was, in my mind, foolish to back off from that stance. It would be a travesty if Obama now finds himself pressuring the Palestinians to accept that Israel's illegal activity should be allowed to continue.

The pressure should be exerted on the law breakers, not on the occupied people.

Click here for full article.

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