Arabs No Longer Take Obama Administration Seriously

by Khaled Abu Toameh:

The extension of the peace talks means only one thing: that Abbas will be able to use the new time given to him to try to extract further concessions from the U.S. and Israel, while all the time bearing in mind that Obama and Kerry are willing to do almost anything to avoid a situation where they are forced to admit that their efforts and initiatives in the Middle East have failed.

The communiqué issued by Arab heads of state at the end of their summit in Kuwait this week shows that the Arab countries do not hold the Obama Administration in high regard or even take it seriously.

The Arab leaders also proved once again that they do not care much about their own people, including the Palestinians.

The Arab leaders, at the end of their two-day meeting, announced their “total rejection of the call to consider Israel a Jewish state.”

This announcement came despite pressure from the Obama Administration on the Arab leaders to refrain from rejecting the demand.

A top Arab diplomat was quoted as saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry contacted Arab leaders on the eve of their 25th summit in Kuwait to “warn” them against rejecting Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry, according to the diplomat, asked the Arab leaders completely to ignore the issue of Israel’s Jewishness and not to make any positive or negative reference to it in their final statement.

Kerry did not want the Arab heads of state to repeat the same “mistake” that the Arab League foreign ministers made on March 9, when they too issued a statement declaring their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The Arab leaders, however, decided to ignore Kerry’s warning and went on to endorse Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal.

The Arab summit’s statement was published shortly before Kerry cut short a European tour to hold an emergency meeting with Abbas in Amman in a last-minute effort to salvage the peace process with Israel.

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a European tour to hold an emergency meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan, pictured above on March 26, 2014. (Image source: U.S. Sate Department)

In light of the Arab summit’s announcement, all that is left for Kerry to do is to put heavy pressure on Abbas to agree to the extension of the peace talks after the April 29 deadline set by the U.S. Administration.

At the meeting in Amman, Kerry warned Abbas that failure to comply with his demand would result in U.S. sanctions against the PA, including suspending financial aid and closing the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington.

Emboldened by the Arab leaders’ backing, however, Abbas does not seem to take Kerry’s threats seriously, particularly in light of previous threats by the U.S. Administration that were never carried out.

In 2012, Abbas had also ignored U.S. threats and pressure by seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state. The Obama Administration did not take any retaliatory measures against the PA or against Abbas himself.

Like most of the Arab leaders, Abbas apparently understands that the Obama Administration has been weakened to a point where it is no longer able to impose its will on any Arab leader.

The way things appear now, it is Abbas who is setting new conditions and coming up with new demands, evidently from a conviction that the Obama Administration has no choice but to succumb.

Abbas today seems to feel confident enough to set his own conditions for accepting Kerry’s demand to extend the peace talks.

Abbas has therefore now come up with a new requirement: that Israel release three senior Palestinians from Israeli prison: Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, PFLP Secretary-General Ahmed Sa’dat and Gen. Fuad Shobaki. All three are serving lengthy prison sentences for their role in terrorist activities, including the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi.

The Palestinians also continue to accuse the Obama Administration of exerting heavy pressure on Abbas to soften his position and accept some of Israel’s demands, including the issue of Israel’s Jewishness. Some senior Palestinian officials in Ramallah have even accused Obama and Kerry of practicing “political and financial blackmail” against Abbas.

Abbas seems assured that Obama and Kerry are so desperate to avoid a collapse of the peace talks that they will be willing to accept anything he or the Arab leaders ask for.

The Arab summit stance on the issue of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is a blow to the Obama Administration’s efforts to achieve a peace agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

There is a feeling among many Arabs and Palestinians that the Obama Administration has no clue as to what it wants from the Arab world. They point out that the Obama Administration has failed in its policies toward several Arab countries, especially Egypt, Libya and Syria.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Palestinians: Eight Million Refugees Must Return to Israel

by Khaled Abu Toameh:

Many Palestinians said that Abbas was not authorized to make any concessions or speak on behalf of the refugees.

“Our refugees will not accept any alternative to their right to return to their homeland and we do not care what Abbas’s position is.” — Ali Huwaidi, expert on Palestinian affairs.

The reactions to Abbas’s statements concerning the issue of refugees show that any agreement that Abbas reaches with Israel under U.S. pressure will not signal the end of the conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is facing criticism from Palestinian refugees for saying that he does not want to “flood” Israel with millions of refugees.

Abbas made his statement during a meeting in his Ramallah office earlier this week with dozens of Israeli students – the first direct encounter of its kind between the Palestinian Authority president and Israeli youths.

Abbas has also come under criticism for breaking a ban by Palestinian activists on meetings with Israelis. The ban has been imposed over the past few years by “anti-normalization” activists who oppose such meetings between Israelis and Palestinians.

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (at podium, left) listens to a question posed by an Israeli audience member at his recent address in Ramallah. (Image source: JN1 YouTube video screenshot)

Abbas’s controversial remarks about the “right of return” highlight the difficulties facing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in his efforts to achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian reactions to Abbas’s remarks show that the issue of the refugees remains a sensitive and explosive one that could torpedo any agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Abbas told the Israeli students that the claim that he was seeking to “flood” Israel with five million refugees was nonsense.

“There is propaganda saying that Abu Mazen [Abbas] wants the return of five million refugees to destroy the state of Israel,” he said. “This is not true at all. All what we said was: Let’s place the issue of the refugees on the table because it’s a sensitive case which needs to be solved in order to end the conflict and so that the refugees would be satisfied with a peace agreement. But we are not seeking to drown Israel with millions in order to change its demography. This is nonsense.”

Representatives of Palestinian refugees rushed to issue condemnations of Abbas, accusing him of relinquishing the “right of return” of millions of Palestinians to their former villages and towns inside Israel.

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Palestinian President Abbas Praises Dead Terrorists As ‘Martyrs’

 Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

IPT:

by John Rossomando

U.N. Says ‘Aye’ to Palestinian Terror State

large-450x313By P. David Hornik

Late Thursday evening, Israel time, the UN General Assembly voted to confer nonmember statehood on the Palestinian Authority by a sweeping majority.

Even Israel’s hopes of putting together a “moral minority” of Western-country nays had crumbled, with France and Italy pronouncing themselves in favor of the Palestinian nonmember state and Britain and Germany abstaining. Israel, the United States, Canada, and the Czech Republic stood virtually alone in opposing the move by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

The nonmoral majority of Western countries ratified Palestine (actively with ayes or passively with abstentions) even though doing so is a blatant violation of the Oslo Accords they had once piously sanctioned. And they did so even though last week and the week before, Gaza—where almost half of Palestinian Authority Palestinians live—had fired 1600 hundred rockets at civilian targets in Israel, every single firing a manifest war crime intended to kill and injure men, women, and children.

It is said that the Gaza eruption led some European countries to change their minds and vote in favor of the resolution (or abstain) so as to strengthen Abbas’s “diplomatic” approach over Hamas’s violence. Abbas’s diplomatic polish and peacemaking disposition were well in evidence when he addressed the General Assembly in September, saying among other things:

During the past months, attacks by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers have become a daily reality, with at least 535 attacks perpetrated since the beginning of this year. We are facing relentless waves of attacks against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries, and our homes and schools; they are unleashing their venom against our trees, fields, crops and properties, and our people have become fixed targets for acts of killing and abuse with the complete collusion of the occupying forces and the Israeli government.

As Israel’s UN ambassador Ron Prosor noted in a stinging op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, “Many countries in the Assembly are taking an approach to Palestinian statehood that is…Pavlovian…. For decades, the body has rubber-stamped any Palestinian whim no matter how ill-advised, ill-conceived or illogical.”

Prosor went on to list some glaring shortcomings of the Palestinian Authority/Gaza that—seemingly by any normal calculus of Western countries—would disqualify it rather than qualify it for statehood, such as:

● Lack of control over territory, with Abbas’s Ramallah-based, official Palestinian Authority having had zero control over Gaza since Hamas seized power there in 2007. Prosor could have added the tenuousness of Abbas’s rule in the West Bank itself, where towns are run by clan-based extortion gangs and Israeli forces are all that prevents a Hamas takeover.

● The fact that Gaza is a terrorist state in every sense of the term, “a haven for global jihadist organizations like al Qaeda,” a beachhead for Iran in its ongoing war for Israel’s annihilation.

● The fact that democracy has not exactly flourished in Islamist Gaza or, for that matter, in the West Bank, where “journalists, bloggers and activists continue to be jailed and tortured…for crimes such as ‘extending their tongues against the Palestinian President’” (see reports here and here).

● The fact that the Palestinian Authority is bankrupt, totally dependent on foreign aid, yet “devotes 6% of its annual budget to payments for imprisoned terrorists and the families of suicide bombers”—while using its educational autonomy to instill a culture of hatred of Israel.

And to all this Europe voted yes—or at best took refuge in a cowardly neutrality.

Read more at Front Page

 

Ruler of Qatar Visits Hamas

Qatar’s Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh

by Daniel E. Rogell for IPT:

Qatar’s Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani became the first head of state to visit Gaza since the Hamas terrorist organization seized control of the territory in June 2007, Ynetnews reported Tuesday. The visit was facilitated by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government, which issued a statement praising the move as part of its campaign “to break the siege on the people” of Gaza.

It marked a major reversal in Qatar’s relationship with Israel, which until January 2009 included clandestine talks and growing bilateral trade relations. The Qatari leader denounced Israel’s policies and praised the people of Gaza for standing up to the Jewish state with their “bare chests.” The Associated Press called it Hamas’ “biggest diplomatic victory since taking power five years ago.”

Hamas, for its part, was thrilled by what was “a state visit in all but name.”

“It is the first visit by an Arab leader at this level to Gaza,” Hamas said in a statement. “This breaks the political isolation of the government and opens the door to break the siege.”

Despite vehement opposition from the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Sheik Khalifa also pledged $400 million for the beleaguered territory. Israel accused Qatar of taking sides against the Palestinian Authority government and claimed the decision was “hurting the Palestinians and the chance of pulling Gaza out of the mud and onto the road for peace.”

An aide to Palestinian President Abbas, Nimr Hamad, condemned Khalifa for giving “the impression that the visitors recognize their rule and that would reinforce the split [between Palestinian factions] and not help the reconciliation.”

Hamas has widely benefited from the creation of new Islamist regimes and the fall of Arab dictators. Islamist governments in Tunisia and Egypt have welcomed the Gazan terrorist group, despite attempts by the United States to crack down on its funding. Hamas has also profited from the flow of weapons out of Libya since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall.