x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Palestinian hopes in Obama have 'evaporated' says Fatah

A memorandum circulated among members of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party said: "All hopes placed in the new US administration and President Obama have evaporated." Mr Obama, the document claimed, had caved in to pressure from the Israel lobby in Washington, leading him to back down from earlier demands that the Israeli government halt all settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

A memorandum circulated among members of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party said: "All hopes placed in the new US administration and President Obama have evaporated." Mr Obama, the document claimed, had caved in to pressure from the Israel lobby in Washington, leading him to back down from earlier demands that the Israeli government halt all settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The document was issued on Monday by Fatah's Office of Mobilisation and Organisation, headed by Mohammed Ghneim, a Fatah leader who returned to the West Bank this summer after 40 years in exile. The Associated Press said: "Abbas' aides had no comment on the memorandum, and Ghneim couldn't immediately be reached for comment. "The Palestinians were encouraged by Obama's election and expected his much-publicised outreach to the Muslim world would soften the strongly pro-Israel positions of his predecessors such as George W Bush and Bill Clinton. "The Fatah document also restated the group's stance that Israel must freeze settlement construction and agree to a clear agenda for talks before negotiations can resume. "The US says it hasn't abandoned these objectives but officials have indicated Washington does not see them as conditions for resuming talks. "Obama's personal intervention last month, when he summoned Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a three-way meeting in New York, failed to break the impasse. "The document echoes sentiments expressed by other Fatah officials. On Sunday, former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan said the party 'feels very disappointed and worried by the US administration retreat'." In The Guardian, Rory McCarthy noted: "Palestinian disenchantment also comes at a time when Abbas has seen his personal credibility badly damaged among his own people, and it may be partly an effort to deflect criticism. There was disquiet when he agreed at the last minute to go to New York last month for the Netanyahu meeting, even though the Israelis had not agreed to the full halt to settlement building that Abbas had demanded. "The criticism worsened dramatically when 10 days ago he decided against supporting a vote at the UN human rights council to endorse a critical UN report on the Gaza war, written by the South African judge Richard Goldstone. "The report, hailed by human rights groups, accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and recommended that international prosecutions be considered. "Although it appeared that the Palestinians had enough support at the council to endorse the report, Abbas backed away at the last minute, apparently under intense US diplomatic pressure. He faced bitter criticism from his political rival, Hamas. It said he was unfit to lead and pulled out of a crucial reconciliation agreement due to have been signed later this month." Meanwhile, Haaretz reported: "United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon supports a Palestinian proposal to reopen debate in the Human Rights Council on the Goldstone Commission's report on the Gaza war, his spokeswoman Michele Montas said on Monday. "She said Ban assured Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on the matter during a telephone conversation on Sunday. "Israeli officials across the board have condemned the 575-page report which accuses Israel of war crimes during the wintertime offensive. The report also accused Hamas of actions amounting to war crimes by firing rockets at civilians in southern Israel. "The Palestinian Authority, Hamas' rival in the West Bank, initially retracted its proposal for an immediate vote on the probe. Following weeks of criticism Abbas on Sunday retracted the deferral and ordered his envoy to the United Nations to resubmit the report." Reuters said that on Tuesday, Fatah accepted Egypt's plan for separate signings of a reconciliation deal with Hamas after the group balked at attending a unity ceremony. "Hamas said it still had not decided whether to agree to the proposal put forward by Egyptian mediators, and another potential obstacle to a deal emerged on Tuesday when Hamas accused Egypt of torturing to death the brother of a spokesman for the group. " 'We in Fatah agree to the Egyptian document and will sign it (within 48 hours),' Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said. 'We are waiting for Hamas to accept it.' "Egypt had invited Fatah and Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006 and violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip from its Western-backed rival in 2007, to attend a ceremony on October 24-26 in Cairo, where they were expected to sign a reconciliation pact. "But Hamas asked last week for a postponement, citing Abbas's agreement under US pressure to back the deferral by the UN Human Rights Council of a vote on a report that accused Israel of war crimes during Israel's December-January Gaza offensive." According to Haaretz, the United States has sent a message to Egypt stating it does not support the proposed reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, claiming that it would undermine negotiations with Israel. "George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, met on Saturday night in Cairo with the chief of Egyptian intelligence, Gen Omar Suleiman, and told him the United States would not support an agreement not aligned with the principles of the Quartet. "According to the agreement, which was supposed to have been signed by Thursday, Abbas was to issue a presidential decree no later than October 25, scheduling both parliamentary and presidential elections for June 28. Eighty per cent of the delegates to the Palestinian parliament were to be elected by party basis, and 20 per cent by constituency. "A special committee with delegates from all factions was supposed to have assumed control of the Gaza Strip, reporting to Abbas. The Strip was also to see a new security force, staffed with members of all Palestinian factions. "Sources told Haaretz that Mitchell made clear to the Egyptians on Saturday the United States expects any Palestinian government to follow the conditions of the Quartet, which include recognition of the State of Israel, acknowledging earlier agreements and renouncing terrorism."

pwoodward@thenational.ae