Saeb Erekat Looks for Excuses Not to Negotiate with Israel

Feb. 14 2018

In an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, the longtime PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat declared the U.S. ineligible to broker talks between Israel and the Palestinians given, among other sins, its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Noting Erekat’s two-decade history of prevarication—including his absurd and libelous claims of a “massacre” in Jenin in 2002—Elliott Abrams explains why Erekat cannot be taken seriously. The column, writes Abrams, is in fact about something else entirely:

Erekat returns in the Times to the usual, and sad, Palestinian victimhood trope, criticizing President Trump for failing to recognize “the painful compromises the Palestinians have made for peace, including recognizing Israel and trying to build a state on just 22 percent of the land in the historic Palestine of 1948.” It is striking to call those “compromises”: the first requires Palestinians to do no more than recognize reality, and the second to make their best efforts on behalf of their people. Trying to build a state that can live in peace and engage in economic and social development would not normally be called a huge sacrifice.

Erekat’s message in the Times is that peace efforts must now be multinational, with the United States joined as equal partners by the European Union, Russia, India, Japan, South Africa, and China. PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will soon address the UN Security Council on this point. Good luck with that. There is zero chance that such a group could be formed or could possibly do anything to promote a peace agreement. This is not a serious proposal for moving toward peace but a fantasy designed to forestall any real pressure on the PLO for compromises it does not wish to make. . . .

Erekat concludes by writing that “we are planning to move toward national elections in which all Palestinians, including our diaspora, can take part, with the goals of better representation, more support for our refugees, and strengthening our people’s steadfastness under occupation.” But Abbas has refused to hold elections in the area he controls, the West Bank, since 2006, despite repeated promises to do so. Note that his “national elections” will include the diaspora. This suggests that the “national elections” will not be Palestinian Authority presidential and parliamentary elections that could threaten Abbas’s hold on power. . . .

At bottom, Erekat’s tantrum in the Times is a set of excuses for avoiding serious negotiations. In fact Abbas has done this for nine years now: not once during the Obama years or the first year of the Trump administration have the Palestinians been willing to sit down with the Israelis for serious talks. [Only] the excuses vary.

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More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey