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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Where there's smoke, there's fire?

On Friday, the White House denied New York Times columnist Roger Cohen's claim that the United States will not veto UN Security Council resolutions directed against Israeli building in 'east' Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. This is from Politico:
"This report is inaccurate. Our policy about issues relating to Israel at the U.N. is clear and will not change. We will continue to speak out strongly for Israel’s right to self-defense and to oppose efforts to single Israel out unfairly for criticism," he said.
But as Ben Smith notes in that report, that commitment - allegedly given to entice the 'Palestinians' to return to proximity talks (which it was announced that they will do late in the day on Friday) - was contained in a letter from Obama to 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen and the letter's existence has not been denied.
Vietor didn't deny the existence of a letter to Abbas and also said, "We’ve asked both sides to take steps to rebuild trust and proceed with proximity talks. We’re not going to get into the details of those requests because we think they should be discussed in private diplomatic channels."
Thus the possibility of a commitment regarding Security Council resolutions being in a letter to Abu Mazen still exists. And that makes this story in London's Guardian all the more suspicious.
The US has given private assurances to encourage the Palestinians to join indirect Middle East peace talks, including an offer to consider allowing UN security council condemnation of any significant new Israeli settlement activity, the Guardian has learned.

The assurances were given verbally in a meeting a week ago between a senior US diplomat and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Since then – and after months of US diplomacy – it appears Israeli and Palestinian leaders are close to starting indirect "proximity" talks, which would be the first resumption of the Middle East peace process since Israel's war in Gaza began in late 2008.

There was no official confirmation of the details of the meeting and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, denied assurances were given. "It's not true," he said. "We are still talking to the Americans."

But a Palestinian source, who was given a detailed account of the meeting, said David Hale, the deputy of the US special envoy, George Mitchell, told Abbas that Barack Obama wanted to see the peace process move forward with the starting of indirect talks. The diplomat said Washington understood there were obstacles and described Israeli settlement construction as "provocative".

He told Abbas the Americans had received assurances from the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that one particular settlement project in East Jerusalem, at Ramat Shlomo, would not go ahead, at least for now. The site is important because last month an agreement on indirect talks collapsed within a day of being announced, after Israeli officials gave planning approval for 1,600 new homes in the settlement. The US vice‑president, Joe Biden, who was in Jerusalem at the time, condemned the Israeli announcement in unusually strong language.

Hale then told Abbas that if there was significantly provocative settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, Washington may consider allowing the UN security council to censure Israel. It was understood that meant the US would abstain from voting on a resolution rather than use its veto.
'Still talking' doesn't mean that the assurance was not given.

JPost adds:
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Chinese Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, Abbas claimed the US had vowed to stop "any provocative activities" by Israel in a bid to resume Middle East peace talks.

Abbas said when "the credibility of the US pledges are demonstrated," the negotiations "would restart immediately."

The PA president criticized Washington for "not exerting enough effort to press Israel to achieve peace," but reiterated his opposition to a unilateral declaration of statehood.

"We want our state to be declared under an international agreement," he said. "If this doesn't happen, the Arabs will go to the UN Security Council to get the recognition of the Palestinian statehood," the PA president told Xinhua.
Where there's smoke, there's fire. I'd bet that Roger Cohen got it right this time. And it's not just Ramat Shlomo.


Laura Rozen reports that an 'administration official' denied the Guardian report, but that David Hale did not return a request for comment.



At 10:45 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Jennifer Rubin as I just posted, has confirmed the substance of it and then too there's Israel's freeze in Jerusalem. It all adds up and for the next five months Israel is boxed in between a hard rock and a place. And we already know if push comes to shove, behind whom the Obami will side. Rest assured it won't be Israel.


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