Mahmoud Abbas Stands Up to Israel and U.S. With Surprise United Nations Move

Palestinian Premier Signals Peace Talks Patience Running Out

getty images

By Reuters

Published April 02, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A surprise decision by President Mahmoud Abbas to sign more than a dozen international conventions that could give Palestinians greater leverage against Israel left the United States struggling on Wednesday to put peace talks back on track.

A senior Palestinian official, voicing frustration deepened by Israel’s failure to carry out a pledged release of several dozen Palestinian prisoners, said the eight-month-old talks had become merely “negotiating about negotiating”.

The Palestinians on Wednesday handed over to a U.N. representative and other diplomats applications Abbas signed late on Tuesday to join 15 international conventions.

They include the Geneva Conventions, the key text of international law on the conduct of war and occupation.

Palestinian officials said Israel’s failure to let the prisoners go meant Abbas no longer had to stick to a commitment not to confront it at the U.N. and other international bodies.

The developments further complicated efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to piece together a three-way deal to push the faltering negotiations past an April 29 deadline and into 2015.

The talks were already in trouble over the issues of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War - and Palestinian opposition to Netanyahu’s demand to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

Israel had said it first wanted a Palestinian commitment to negotiate past the original target date for a deal before freeing the last of the 104 prisoners it promised to release as part of U.S. efforts to restart the negotiations last July.

“UP TO THE PARTIES”

In Brussels for a NATO meeting, Kerry cancelled a planned visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday to meet Abbas, saying it was important to keep the peace process moving but “in the end, it is up to the parties”.

Palestinians hope Abbas’s move will give them a stronger basis to appeal to the International Criminal Court and eventually lodge formal complaints against Israel for its continued occupation of territory seized in 1967, lands they see as vital to an independent state. Most countries deem the Israeli settlements as illegal.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on Abbas’s move.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, deputy head of the PLO, cautioned on Wednesday against simply returning to an “empty routine” at the negotiating table. He reaffirmed that Palestinians wanted talks to focus on setting the future borders of their state.

“We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks - this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,” he told reporters.

Continuing the talks beyond the end of this month, he said, “must proceed from and depend on one main point, and this is looking into the issue of borders.”

The conventions signed by Abbas were mostly sets of international standards on social and rights issues, such as a conventions against discrimination against women and for the rights of disabled people as well as the Geneva Conventions.

George Giacaman, a political science professor at Birzeit University in the West Bank, said Abbas wanted “to show that he’s serious, and not just he, but the entire PA (Palestinian Authority) and the PLO must be taken seriously”.

Law professor Robbie Sabel, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, described Abbas’s signature on the conventions as “merely symbolic”. He noted Abbas had stopped short of applying for membership in international organisations.

Kerry made an unscheduled visit to Jerusalem on Monday seeking to extend the negotiations by putting together a proposal that included the possible release of Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy jailed in the United States in the 1980s.

The package, officials close to the talks said, included an additional Israeli release of hundreds of jailed Palestinians and a possible partial freeze on the settlements.

Pollard, a U.S. citizen and former navy analyst, is serving a life term for spying for Israel. His freedom would be a political triumph for Netanyahu, making it easier for him to sell a wider release of jailed Palestinians to cabinet members and a sceptical Israeli public.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.