Hanan Ashrawi stopping Israeli settlements is acid test

Hanan Ashrawi stopping Israeli settlements is acid test

Postby montada » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:10 am

Hanan Ashrawi visits DC: stopping Israeli settlements is the “acid test” for efforts to achieve a Palestinian state.

By E. H. Baugh

Washington DC, September 25th, 2009

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi spoke to a crowded hall at the New America Foundation in Washington DC on September 25; she is one of the most articulate and eloquent spokespersons for the Palestinian cause. She was recently elected to the PLO Executive Committee and is the first woman on the Committee. (The PLO is the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.) The highlights of her statements were:

When asked who was the better speaker recently at the UN and whether it was President Obama (who stressed the need for a 2 state solution) or Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu (who blasted Iran and did not agree to a settlements freeze), she preferred President Obama’s speech for its substance. She found Netanyahu’s speech to be highly insulting. She stated that the Obama arranged meeting with PM Netanyahu and PNA President Mahmoud Abbas was “a photo op without substance. “It was all show catering to the media. The US appears to be accepting Israeli hard-line politics, especially when Israeli settlements continue and construction increases. Palestinians are concerned that President Obama will play this role (of accepting Israel’s hard-line) and worry that there may be a repetition of the stalemate as during Clinton era. President Obama gave a clear speech at the UN and that was his redeeming feature. In that speech, Obama stood up to Netanyahu on settlements and talked about the Israeli “occupation” of Palestine since 1967. She said that Obama makes all the right noises, but can he make the right moves? Netanyahu will return to his domestic audience in Israel and claim that he stood up to the US President.

Abbas is in a position where he must stand firm and cannot trade any more concessions for photo ops. The Palestinian people need to see now that the Americans mean business. If Senator Mitchell cannot get concessions from Israel, then he needs to say so. The Palestinians need very clear public diplomacy, especially since President Obama has taken a strong stand for a freeze on settlements. Although Israel complains that it does not have a partner to negotiate with, Abbas is the legal representative. Also, Hamas was democratically elected. The Palestinians were completely blind-sided by the sanctions imposed on them after the election of Hamas.

“We have paid the price for American elections repeatedly.” There will soon be no use for permanent status negotiations because of facts on the ground. Either Israel stops and dismantles the settlements or the situation on the ground in the West Bank will make a state of Palestine impossible. If the US can’t get Israel to freeze the settlements, then it won’t be able to get Israel to do anything. “Pretty soon, there will be nothing left.” Some Palestinians already believe that a two state solution is not viable and that only a one state solution (1 man, 1 vote) will be possible. She has hope but only if real efforts start at once.

The US “blind support of Israel” has caused the US to lose its international standing. In the ‘90s, President George HW Bush and Sec. Jim Baker in fact linked loan guarantees to stopping settlement construction. Dr. Ashrawi criticized the recent US position refusing to accept the September UN report from South Africa Judge Goldstone who largely condemned Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. “Why does the US constantly pull chestnuts out of the fire for Israel?” She urged that President Obama should not let Netanyahu get away with continuing settlements.

She urged President Obama to involve international allies, Europe, Arabs, the UN, and the Security Council and make peace a global endeavor. “Everybody knows what needs to be done, move to permanent status negotiations quickly.” She stated that Israel has violated all timelines. Stopping its continued building of settlements is “the acid test.” The situation on the ground puts the Palestinians in an impossible situation: they are besieged by Israel’s encroaching on Palestinian land with settlements, increasing the siege on Gaza and East Jerusalem, and building the wall and checkpoints. The character of Jerusalem has totally changed. Every issue once postponed has been preempted by the Israelis. “We don’t have anything more to give. We are the aggrieved party. We don’t have time. We are losing people, land, “our links, (our part of ) Jerusalem.”

The sense of urgency that that we feel is contrasted with Israel’s process of delay.” She believes that an agreement will only come if the big issues are solved first, contrary to past negotiations, and then small issues fall into place. It is important that Gaza and the West Bank reconcile. She claimed that Hamas has become extremely flexible and moderate in its politics because it wants to be recognized. The only way to handle the split is with democratic elections.

“Palestine is already an apartheid state,” as explained by President Carter. Palestine is in perpetual conflict and Israel is pandering to extremists.” She believes that new negotiators should replace previous ones. One of her final statements was, “Lets’ work for peace, we’ve had enough process.”
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