Finally, Abbas's Letter Delivered: Pandering To The Zionist Leadership

04 May 2012

By Khalid Amayreh

After much build-up, the Abbas letter to Netanyahu has been delivered, its impact likely negligible, writes Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

The much-heralded and long anticipated letter Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to send to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has finally reached its destination.
A high-level PA delegation, led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and including a number of high- ranking Palestinian officials met with Netanyahu in his office in West Jerusalem, delivering the missive, which many Palestinians refer to -- somewhat sarcastically -- as the "mother of all letters".

While PA-affiliated media paid disproportionate attention to the letter, as if it would usher in a turning point in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, PA leaders sought to downplay its importance.

PA negotiator Saeb Ereikat was quoted as saying, "The letter is just a letter; nothing less and nothing more." "The only purpose of our meeting with Netanyahu is to deliver a letter. Neither the letter nor the meeting with Netanyahu is a goal in itself, especially given the fact that both sides have commitments to uphold."

But does "delivering a letter" really warrant dispatching Prime Minister Fayyad and two other key officials to occupied Jerusalem to meet with a notoriously recalcitrant Netanyahu? Couldn't the letter have been delivered by any other means?

PA officials evade such questions, insisting that there is no "foul play" and arguing that it is the Palestinian leadership's responsibility to see to it that the intolerable status quo is broken, since the Palestinians are the ones who suffer most as a result of its continuance.

Some Palestinian commentators have suggested that the PA leadership is trying to "swallow its pride" and circumvent its erstwhile refusal to resume stalled peace talks until Israel a settlement expansion freeze comes into effect in the West Bank. The PA denies this, insisting that what are taking place are not negotiations, or even pre-negotiations, but only mere contacts.

Regardless of what it is called, the PA is retreating from its original stance and appears to harbour a certain propensity to resume the peace process on condition it saves face and doesn't suffer negative consequences stemming from appearing to make concessions to Israel.

This week, the text of another letter sent by Abbas to Netanyahu was published on social media sites. In the letter, Abbas implored Netanyahu to help him overcome mounting scepticism, cynicism and innuendoes by the Palestinian opposition.

The text of the letter reads as follows:

"Mr Prime Minister: as leaders, we face opposition and scepticism. We realise that violence and terror, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis doesn't lead to peace. Hence, I would like to reiterate our commitment to the policy of combating violence. At the same time, I hope that you understand that the continued building of settlements undermines your commitment to the two-state solution, especially in the eyes of the Palestinians. The logic is simple: If you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, then how is it that you are building (settlements) on its land?"

The conciliatory tone of Abbas's public and private messages to the Israeli leadership has not escaped Palestinian attention. Abbas's words have been described as an expression of naivety and hopelessness. Within the opposition, especially the Islamist opposition, Abbas is portrayed as a weak leader who confronts Netanyahu's intransigence and recalcitrance with obsequiousness and retreat.

Earlier this week, while on a visit to Japan, Abbas said he was confident peace would eventually overcome the occupation. He also pointed out that dissolving the PA was out of question. But the Palestinian leader continues to lack an appropriate answer to the question that many Palestinians and other are asking: namely, what if the peace process failed altogether?

Abbas dreads the question, which is not only relevant but also urgent, given that Israel, according to many serious observers, has effectively killed whatever peace process remained by dotting the map of the West Bank with Jewish settlements and outposts.

Nonetheless, Abbas's legendary moderation, which for some among the Palestinian opposition equals treason, is likely to backfire sooner or later, especially when all pretensions pertaining to the peace process evaporate. Hamas has already lambasted Abbas for "betraying the Palestinian people, especially those who put their trust in him."

"He is trying to busy the Palestinian public with worthless things," said Islamist leader Mahmoud Zahar in reference to Abbas's letter.

Hamas also castigated the PA leader for "stabbing Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in the back by pandering to the Zionist leadership on the very day when thousands of these prisoners were due to begin an open-ended hunger strike to protest repressive Israeli practices, especially notorious administrative detention."

From the Israeli viewpoint, PA moves, including Abbas's letter to Netanyahu and renewed Palestinian threats to seek UN membership anew, are seen as signs of helplessness on the part of a vanquished supplicant, rather than calculated diplomatic moves warranting Israeli concern.
Characteristic Israeli insolence is "dutifully" backed up by a US administration that thinks three times before saying or doing anything that may be construed negatively in Israel, especially during an election season.

Earlier in the week, US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro called on the PA to return to direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions. He said the US will continue to act against Palestinian attempts to gain recognition through the United Nations, and if necessary will use its veto to that end.

Shapiro, who was speaking at the Netanya Academic College, reminded his audience that the Obama administration cut funding for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) after it recognised Palestine as a member-state.

Shapiro, a hard-core Zionist, ignored the settlement issue in his comments.



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