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Unconditional Negotiations Better than Israeli Ultimatums to Annex Palestinian Lands

A News Commentary By Hassan El-Najjar

Al-Jazeerah, May 10, 2006

Instead of issuing ultimatums to the Palestinian government, the Israeli occupation government can do better by cooperating with the newly-elected Palestinian government.

So far, the Israeli government has required the Palestinian Hamas-led government to meet three conditions before any negotiations can start.

These conditions are (in Israeli conflict terminology) recognition of Israel, renouncing violence, and accepting previous agreements.

In objective conflict terminology, these conditions include, first,  recognition of Israel without an Israeli reciprocal recognition of the Palestinian state. The second condition is announcing an end to the Palestinian armed struggle against the Israeli occupation, which means an acceptance of the occupation. The third condition is endorsing the previous Fateh government agreements with Israel, which did not lead to an end to the Israeli occupation, a pre-requisite to the establishment of the Palestinian state.

These conditions cannot be acceptable by a government elected with a landslide to safeguard the rights of its people. Why not entering negotiations without pre-conditions from any party?

The Quartet members regrettably have adopted the Israeli position, without functioning as brokers between the two governments, which they are supposed to be.

For a positive movement towards peace, the Israeli government has to start negotiations without pre-conditions, and the Quartet members have to be honest brokers between the two sides, not blatantly siding with the Israeli occupation government against its Palestinian victims.

AP Headline: Israel Gives Palestinians Deal Deadline

By AMY TEIBEL Associated Press Writer

May 10, 2006, 11:39 AM EDT


Israel on Wednesday gave the Palestinians until the end of the year to prove they are willing to negotiate a final peace deal, or prepare for the Israeli government to unilaterally set final borders by 2008.

Meanwhile, the Israeli company that is the sole provider of fuel to the West Bank and Gaza Strip has halted deliveries because of growing debt, and Palestinian officials have warned that supplies would run out by Thursday.

"If this happens, there will be a humanitarian crisis," the head of the Palestinian Petrol Commission, Mujahid Salame, said.

In presenting the Israeli timetable for a West Bank pullout, Justice Minister Haim Ramon said Israel would keep open the possibility of negotiations until the end of this year. "Through the end of this year, 2006, there will be honest attempts to talk to the other side," Ramon, a close associated of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said.

"If it becomes clear by the end of the year that we really have no partner, and the international community is also convinced of this, then we will take our fate into our own hands and not leave our fate in the hands of our enemies," he told Israel's Army radio.

Moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah party, has tried to persuade Israel to bypass Hamas and talk peace with him, but Olmert has said he wouldn't negotiate with Abbas if the group didn't change its violent ways.

Hamas accused Israel of only pretending to seek negotiations. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who is close to Abbas, said talks could resume immediately under Abbas' leadership, without waiting for a change in Hamas' positions.

The head of the Palestinian petrol commission, Mujahid Salame said Abbas was in touch with American and European diplomats in hopes of pressuring Israel to ensure the flow of fuel to the Palestinian areas after the cutoff.

Salame said the Palestinians owe about $26 million to Dor, but he accused the company of taking a political decision aimed at punishing the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Asaf Shariv, a top Olmert aide, said Israel would not pay the debt with tax revenues it collects for the Palestinian Authority, but has been holding in escrow since the Hamas-dominated parliament was sworn in three months ago.

Olmert, who was a major force behind Israel's Gaza Strip withdrawal last year, has said he intends to pull (illegal Israeli) Jewish settlers out of heavily populated Palestinian areas in the West Bank while fortifying major settlement blocs and retaining the West Bank's Jordan River Valley.

He has said Israel prefers to negotiate, but would act on its own if Hamas didn't moderate.

Olmert never gave the Palestinians a deadline to head for the negotiating table, but has made it clear his patience was limited.

"If we wait a month, two months, three months, half a year and we don't see any change, then most likely we are going to move forward even without an agreement, without negotiations, in order to define the border lines which are acceptable for Israel," he told an international conference of mayors on Tuesday.

Olmert originally had set a 2010 deadline for the pullback, but a top aide said last month that Israel planned to conclude the process before the end of President Bush's term in 2008.

Ramon said it wouldn't take more than 18 to 24 months.

"I would like to believe that by the end of 2008 we will be deployed on a line that will signify Israel's final borders and guarantee our existence here as a Jewish democratic state," he said.

The borders, he said, "will first and foremost include the settlement blocs and the regions that are necessary for our security."

Hamas accused Israel of posturing on talks.

"Haim Ramon's assertion that Israel is ready for negotiations is no more than an attempt to trick the public," Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said. "They don't want negotiations, and even if there were negotiations, they would not give us our rights."

He repeated that Hamas was prepared to grant a long-term truce if Israel would agree to retreat to the lines it held before the 1967 Mideast war - which Israel categorically rejects.

Erekat said Israel had a negotiating partner in Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen.

"President Abu Mazen stands ready to immediately resume permanent status negotiations," Erekat said. "At the same time, we urge the (Hamas-led Palestinian) government to accept the two-state solution, but this should not stand in the way."

International Mideast peacemakers, including the U.S., haven't rejected the notion of unilateral Israeli moves in the West Bank, but say Israel can't draw its final borders on its own.

The Western and Israeli financial siege on Hamas has rendered the government unable to pay salaries for the past two months to workers who provide for one-third of the Palestinians. With international agencies warning of a looming humanitarian crisis, international mediators agreed on Tuesday to skirt the Hamas government and funnel humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through a special fund.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the peacemakers' decision was "certainly acceptable" to Israel, which advocates a hard line against the Hamas government but supports the continued flow of humanitarian aid.

The so-called "Quartet" of peacemakers - the U.S., European Union, U.N. and Russia - did not say how much money or what kind of aid they would provide.

"We appreciate every effort to help the Palestinian people," Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas said.

Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rudaineh pronounced the decision satisfactory, and called on the Quartet to "find a mechanism to rapidly provide our people with aid."

Earth, a planet hungry for peace

 Apartheid Wall

The Israeli Land-Grab Apartheid Wall built inside the Palestinian territories, here separating Abu Dis from occupied East Jerusalem. (IPC, 7/4/04).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python (Alquds, 1/25/03.

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.