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Submissive Abbas To Resume Futile Talks With Arrogant Israel

By Khalid Amayreh

04 May, 2010

East Jerusalem: Weak, desperate and vulnerable to Israeli and western pressure, Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas has decided to resume what seems to be another futile round of so-called "peace talks" with Israel.

Abbas was saying until recently that his western-funded authority wouldn’t return to the negotiating table with Israel unless the latter froze Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

However, faced with a stubborn Israeli stance and American unwillingness and/or inability to pressure Israel, Abbas seems to have budged to American pressure to restart the stalled talks unconditionally.

Needless to say, his decision to that effect has been met with not a small amount of consternation among ordinary Palestinians, including his Fatah supporters.

Fatah's institutions, including the previously influential Revolutionary Council, has issued numerous decisions upholding the erstwhile Fatah stand, namely that stalled talks with Israel won't be restarted unless Israel put an end to Jewish settlement aggrandizement in occupied Palestinian territories.

However, it seems that Abbas is paying little if any attention to Fatah, the organization many Palestinians now feel is slowly but definitely abandoning Palestinian national constants including the erstwhile Palestinian insistence that Israel must withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and allow for the repatriation of Palestinian refugees, uprooted by Nazi-like Jewish terrorists in 1948, to their homes and original towns and villages in what is now Israel.

Meanwhile, the 22-state Arab League is giving full backing to the PA for resuming "peace talks" with Israel. Interestingly, this is happening while Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, have been vowing to keep up building more settler units all over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Arab League Secretary Amr Mousa told reporters in Cairo this week that Arab states would back proximity talks between the PA and Israel.

"The timeframe of indirect talks will not change from what was agreed to in March, and there will be no change from indirect talks to direct talks after the outcome of indirect talks has been assessed."

For his part, Saeb Ureikat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator, said conditions for Arab League support would center on halting Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

"If Israel built one house in the West Bank, Ureikat said, the Palestinians would immediately stop the negotiations."

However, Ureikat's remarks can't be taken too seriously, given his junior status within the PA regime.

More to the point, Abbas, the leader of Fatah, is likely budge to American demands for unconditional and open-ended talks with Israel, irrespective of Fatah's reactions and for that matter the Palestinian people's reactions as well.

Lat week, Abbas called on the Obama administration to impose a settlement on the two sides. The call, which observers say expressed mounting frustration Abbas's part, raised a lot of eyebrows in occupied Palestine, with many people asking questions like "what would make Abbas think that an American-imposed settlement would be fair and just, especially given the fact that the US is Israel's guardian and strongest ally."

Hamas and other Palestinian factions opposed to any further concessions to the apartheid Israeli regime have strongly castigated the "harrowing to resume talks with Israel" at a time when the Zionist regime continues to strangle the Gaza Strip and effect unrelenting ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.

"The Arab League is showing weakness vis-à-vis Israel and the US. The Arab regimes think that giving concessions to Israel is an expression of good will. However, they ignore the manifest fact that the more concessions Arabs give, the more concessions the Zionist will demand," said one Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip.

"I am afraid that Abbas may use Arab weakness and propensity to appease Israel as a pretext to abandon cardinal issues such as Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. We are afraid that one day he (Abbas) would say something like this: 'the Arabs want this and I can't reject Arab consensus.'"

Some informed sources in Ramallah have pointed out that Abbas's decision to resume "Peace" talks with Israel was motivated first and foremost by a desire to please Washington lest the Obama administration, already frustrated with Israeli intransigence, disengage from peace-making efforts and grant the Netanyahu government a free rein to impose its will on the weak and vulnerable Palestinians, through coercion and bullying.

"Abbas knows deep in his heart that fresh talks with Israel will take us nowhere. He just wants to prove to Washington that in the absence of a radical transformation in the Israeli position, there will be no peace, even if negotiations last a hundred years," said a PA official who is close to Abbas's coterie.

"He just wants to show Washington that he is still the 'nice guy' and that Netanyahu and his hawkish government, not the Palestinians, were the nay-sayers," added the official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

None the less, it is unlikely that the Obama administration is really in the dark as to which side, the Palestinians or Israel, is impeding the conclusion of a final peace agreement.

The US knows too well that the continued Israeli policy of devouring Palestinian land and building thereon Jewish-only colonies is the main reason inhibiting peace in the Middle East.

However, due to domestic American considerations, namely the powerful and pervasive influence of the Jewish lobby over American politics, the Obama administration has been reluctant to openly blame Israel for the deadlock facing peace efforts in the region.

Moreover, there is a widespread impression in the region and beyond that the main incentive behind accelerated American efforts to revive Israeli-PA talks has more to do with efforts to isolate Iran and less with making genuine efforts to get Israel to put an end to its decades-old occupation of Palestinian territories.

It is unlikely that the PA doesn't realize this nearly conspicuous fact. However, as a weak entity that depends on western aid for its very financial survival, the PA can't say "No" to Washington. And if and when it does, it usually doesn't really mean it.

Needless to say, this is what irks and worries many Palestinians these days.