|Kerry and Abbas Photo: EPA|
Abbas threatens to appeal Israeli building to ICC
Analysis: Israeli building in Oslo’s E-1 will spark Palestinian retaliation
RAMALLAH – Senior Palestinian officials warned that if Israel begins construction in the area designated “E-1” by the Oslo peace process, a sensitive piece of land Israel acquired in 1967 that is adjacent to eastern Jerusalem, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
will join the International Criminal Court (ICC) and seek indictments of Israeli military officials on war crimes charges.
The Media Line
The ability to join the ICC comes after “Palestine” became a non-member observer state in the United Nations last November. The Media Line has learned that Abbas promised US Secretary of State John Kerry the PA would not to attempt to join any United Nations
organizations before the end of May as a sign of good will as Kerry seeks to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that have sat idle for more than four years.
Abbas is currently engaged in consultations to form a new government after Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned.
"According to the law, Abbas now has five weeks to form the new government — enough time for Kerry to decide whether there is ground to re-launch the stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and enough time for Hamas to decide whether they want elections,“ a senior Fatah
official told The Media Line.
"When he began his efforts, Kerry asked President Abbas for a period of eight weeks to explore the possibilities of resuming negotiations. According to our calculations, this period will end on May 23rd, whereas the law gives him until June 2nd to form a government," the official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak with media, added.
As a UN non-member observer state,“Palestine” now has the right to seek membership in international bodies, including the International Criminal Court,
where it could pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
"President Abbas has the power to go to the United Nations again — tomorrow. He has the power to ask to be a part of an agency or to be recognized now,” Kerry told the House Foreign Relations Committee. “He is restraining from doing that. That is his sign of good faith at this moment. He would like to see if we could get this process moving."
Yet, it could all change if Israel begins construction in the controversial E-1 area adjacent to the Israeli community of Ma'ale Adumim. Currently, there is an Israel police station on the site, and it is home to hundreds of Bedouin. Palestinians say that Israeli building there would make an independent Palestinian state virtually impossible by cutting-off east Jerusalem
from the rest of the West Bank. Palestinians say east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed following the 1967 war, must be the future capital of a Palestinian state.
In a recent report known as "Study 13," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
suggested that, "In the case that the Israeli government started the implementation of the construction in the 'settlements' of E1, Givat Hamatos, and Ramot Shlomo, then the Palestinian state should put the whole matter before the International Criminal Court.”
The study, which was obtained by The Media Line, said building in E-1 would be a "moment of truth.”
Secretary of State Kerry has suggested that negotiations should first revolve around the issues of borders and security, according to Palestinian sources.
“He thinks that if the issue of borders
is solved, then the Israelis will know which lands will be under their control, in the context of land swaps, and thus they will know where they can build,” a Palestinian official said. “And the Palestinians will know which lands will belong to their state, thus solving the issue of ‘settlements.’”
According to a senior Palestinian official, Abbas asked Kerry to demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
provide a map depicting the borders he would offer for a Palestinian state. In addition, Abbas insists that Netanyahu must accept a two-state solution explicitly based on the pre-1967 borders – both demands that the Israeli leader is unlikely to agree to.
In order to develop trust between the two sides, Kerry has suggested mutual confidence-building measures. He suggested that Israel release Palestinian prisoners, allow West Bank development projects, and end Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas.
According to a Western diplomat, Netanyahu is willing to release prisoners as a unilateral step, but not within the context of an agreement with the Palestinians. Both Abbas and Netanyahu have said that they will cooperate with a West Bank
economic development project that Kerry recently launched.
During his visit to Turkey, Kerry told journalists that he discussed the project with Quartet representative Tony Blair, as well as the president of the Coca-Cola Company and other business people. The goal, he said, is "to try to change life in the West Bank as rapidly as possible and to create some transformative economic initiatives.”
Some 60 percent of the West Bank, known as “Area C,”
is under Israeli security and administrative control while 18 percent, “Area A,” is under sole Palestinian control. The rest, “Area B,” is under joint control.
Privately, Palestinians are not optimistic about Kerry’s effort, but don’t want to be accused of sabotaging it. A senior Palestinian official told The Media Line that, "It is difficult to connect some Palestinian villages in Area C with water and electricity, so it is difficult to believe that huge projects can be built in that area.”
“What is needed is decisive action from the United States
to get the Israelis to stop building settlements and go immediately to negotiations to discuss withdrawal to the borders of 1967. Otherwise, it will be crisis management and not solving the crisis,” he added.
Recently, Abbas announced his intention to form a new government, just two weeks after accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who is popular in the West. Yet, Fayyad was often criticized by Hamas, which had demanded his removal from office, and they welcomed his resignation. It could pave the way for “national reconciliation” between Abbas’s Fatah and Hamas, and clear the way to new elections.
“Abbas has thrown the ball in Hamas’s court,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the central committee of Fatah in charge of dialogue with Hamas, told The Media Line. “They kept saying that Fayyad was the obstacle, now Fayyad has left; they said that the US
is against reconciliation and now he proved that there is no obstacle; so it’s their moment of truth.”
According to al-Ahmad, “Consultations will begin first with Hamas, but this will not change the fact that the government will be a government of independents implementing the program of President Abbas,” he said. “We are talking about a three month government that will prepare for elections – presidential, legislative, and for the Palestinian National Council of the PLO,”
Abbas will go to Cairo
next month for a meeting with the Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to discuss implementing the reconciliation agreement, al-Ahmad said.
Until forming the new government, Fayyad will continue leading the caretaker government.
“We’re on a track, and I hope the track we’re on is one that can come to a positive place, and of course, maybe over the next weeks, month or so, where we are capable of sort of really laying out a road forward. That’s our hope. I say hope. I’m not going to express levels of optimism or qualify it. It’s a hope,” Kerry said in Istanbul.
“Salam Fayyad will stay on for the next 35 days or more, somewhere in that vicinity. He’ll be a caretaker prime minister. There’ll be a careful transitional process. And I am convinced Salam Fayyad will continue to be involved in the development efforts and the politics of the Palestinian Authority. I have no doubt about that,” Kerry added.
Article written by Abed Daoud
Reprinted with permission from The Media Line
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