Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hope For Peace? Or Another Chess Move

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, said today, at the UN that his new Unity Government will Recognize Israel, and Abide by the letters of mutual recognition exchanged on Sept. 9, 1993, by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.
Here's the story:
UNITED NATIONS - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that the planned national unity government will recognize Israel and renounce violence, in his most direct such commitment yet amid intense diplomacy to resolve the Mideast conflict. Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting Thursday that he has recently sought to establish a government of national unity "that is consistent with international and Arab legitimacy" and that responds to the demands of the key parties promoting Mideast peace — recognition, ending violence and honoring past agreements.

Abbas and the militant Hamas, which currently rules alone, agreed last week to form a national unity government that would strive to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel — implying recognition of the Jewish state.

Abbas said Thursday that they would do so.

"I would like to reaffirm that any future Palestinian government will commit to all the agreements that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority have committed to," he said.

These include the letters of mutual recognition exchanged on Sept. 9, 1993, by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, whom Abbas called "the two great late leaders."

"These letters contain mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, renunciation of violence, and commitment to negotiations as the path toward reaching a permanent solution that will lead to the establishment of the independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel," Abbas said.

"Any future government will commit to imposing security and order, to ending the phenomena of multiple militias, indiscipline and chaos and to the rule of law," he said.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said Thursday that Arab countries have reached a "very significant" consensus after the recent war in Lebanon that there must be a new start with fresh ideas to the Middle East peace process.

Also Thursday, at a Security Council meeting later Thursday, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa called for initial negotiations between Israel and the Arabs with a concrete timeframe, as well as a report from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the best way to hold those negotiations.

Abbas, who has been weakened since January when Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, warned that a failure to resolve the conflict "will keep the door wide open to all forms of violence, terrorism, regional confrontations and global crises."

"It is unfortunate today to see that international plans and initiatives, foremost amongst it the road map ... have reached a state of stagnation and even regression," he added.

Abbas also called on the international community to "provide tangible evidence that they will support the unconditional resumption of negotiations, and will provide them with a true international cover and support to ensure their success through the cessation of settlement activity, collective punishment and separation walls."

Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel has led to international sanctions that have devastated the Palestinian economy. Israel and Western donors cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to the Palestinians.

Facing intense pressure as it has been unable to pay tens of thousands of civil servants because of the sanctions, Hamas agreed last week to form the coalition with Fatah in hopes of lifting the boycott imposed by Western countries.

The coalition talks have stalled in recent days as the U.S. seeks assurances that the Islamic militant group will renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state.

Does this represent a change of paradigms in the Arab World? Renunciation of violence, and commitment to negotiations, disbanding the militias and education for peace were all part of Oslo, Israel held up their end, the PLO/PA didn't. Now we have Saudi Princes calling for "a new start with fresh ideas to the Middle East peace process." And we have Bahraini Ministers calling for Peace negotiations between the Arabs and the Israelis with a time frame. Are we entering a new era? Or is this another move in this chess games that has been playing out in the Middle East since 1948. When we here it in Arabic, on all the satellite stations, we'll have a better idea what is real and what is wishful thinking. Will the World Islamic Movement sacrifice their Queen? Will the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas be satisfied with a Stalemate in this game, even if the Stalemate (Peace and recognition of Israel's sovereignty), between the Arabs and Israelis would be seen as a victory for Israel? If so it will have shown the West the way to win this war. I believe Israel has already done that: For 60 years, they have played this game, and bet more than they could afford to lose, and Israel has played the game very well indeed. Let us All pray that this gambit will finally pay off for them. As I said, it will show us how we will win...raise the stakes. They are playing for our lives, it is time we played for them as well.

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