Abbas favors UN as Peace Broker Instead of the U.S.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will urge the United Nations to take over from the U.S. as the Middle East’s peace broker.

 

The Palestinian leader will try to shame Israel into withdrawing from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and if it doesn’t agree to a pullout, “we will confront Israel politically all over the universe,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Abbas and his former foreign minister, said yesterday in an interview. “We are going to ask the world to treat Israel as it did apartheid South Africa.”

Following up on a failed effort two years ago to get full UN recognition for Palestinian statehood, Shaath said Abbas will ask the Security Council to “intervene and take control” of peace efforts. The Palestinian will be among dozens of world leaders to address the world body this month.

Abbas will seek a UN-endorsed deadline of three years for an Israeli retreat from the West Bank and east Jerusalem to prod Israel toward compromise in negotiations, Shaath said.
“We are telling the U.S., your plan has not worked out,” Shaath, 76, said at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “We insist that the international community looks into another plan.”

Failed Peacemaking

Underlining the message, Abbas sent Hanan Ashrawi, another negotiating veteran, to Washington to ask for “American support in future Palestinian initiatives calling for the United Nations to take a more significant role in ending the occupation,” according to an e-mailed statement from her office. Ashrawi met yesterday with White House Middle East coordinator Philip Gordon and Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.

Palestinians are looking to the UN to endorse their statehood campaign after more than two decades of peacemaking, mostly led by the U.S., has failed to yield a final accord. The Palestinians seek to establish a homeland in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in 1967. Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 while maintaining control over traffic in and out of the territory.

About 350,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements across the West Bank, amid some 2.3 million Palestinians. The UN says Israeli settlement in the West Bank is a violation of international law. About 200,000 more live in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967 in a move that isn’t internationally recognized.

‘Positive Role’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes Abbas “will play a positive role” at the UN in moving ahead with peace efforts, spokesman Mark Regev said in a phone interview.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, fell apart in April when Israel missed a deadline to release prisoners. Tensions escalated after Abbas then struck an agreement with the militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, to form a joint government.

Conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza boiled over in July into a 50-day war that left more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis dead, according to official tallies. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.

Rebuilding Gaza

Shaath said Abbas stands by the agreement with Hamas, and requires Palestinian unity to make any agreement with Israel stick.

The Palestinian Authority will seek an initial $750 million in international aid for the next four months to start rebuilding homes in Gaza for more than 20,000 families, economic adviser Mohammed Mustafa said today at a news conference in Ramallah. Reconstruction costs could ultimately reach more than $8 billion, officials said.

After the U.S. blocked efforts by Abbas to gain Security Council recognition in 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to accept Palestine as a “non-member observer state,” the same status the Vatican has.

Among the steps Palestinians may take this time is pursuing Israeli leaders including Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which could lead to prosecution for alleged war crimes, Shaath said. Israel has rejected moves by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate possible war crimes in the latest conflict.

‘Collective Suicide’

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said yesterday that the Palestinian demand for a withdrawal to pre-1967 borders is unacceptable because it leaves Israel with indefensible frontiers, and wouldn’t guarantee the demilitarization of Gaza.

“This is a framework for collective suicide,” Steinitz said at a conference on counter-terrorism run by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private college north of Tel Aviv.

Erel Margalit, a lawmaker from the opposition Labor Party, said an imposed timetable of the type Abbas seeks would backfire by antagonizing Israel. He proposed including a provision on renewed peacemaking in the postwar accord on Gaza that Israel is due to start negotiating with the Palestinians later this month. “I would try to build something together,” Margalit said.

Shaath was born in the northern Galilee town of Safed before the state of Israel was established, and was one of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s key diplomatic envoys before the 1993 Oslo peace accord with Israel.

Over the past two decades, he has served as the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, planning minister and chief peace negotiator. Shaath has a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

“People are totally disillusioned and disappointed about the peace process and the chaperoning by America of this peace process,” Shaath said. “It has not produced anything.”

Source: Bloomberg / Sept. 08, 2014

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