Palestine: Tea for Two and 242

January 5, 2011 by David Singer
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“I’m discontented with homes that I’ve rented

So I have invented my own.”

The above  lines from the refrain of the well known song “Tea for Two” could well have been sung by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Brazil’s outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as Abbas laid the cornerstone in Brasilia for his nation’s first embassy in the Western hemisphere.

Returning from rented premises in Tunis to live in rented digs in Ramallah has finally proved too much for Abbas to bear. He is now attempting to end his tenant status quo by unilaterally embarking on inventing  his own nation of “Abbasstan” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – to the exclusion of Gaza and its Gazan Arab residents as well as the harassment of those Hamas supporters currently living in the West Bank.

Unable to bridge his irreconcilable differences with Hamas over control of Gaza and unwilling to resume direct negotiations with Israel – Abbas is travelling the world seeking nation states to recognize “Abbastan” – although he himself has yet to openly declare the creation of such a State for reasons only known to him

The keystone comedy in Brasilia  was conducted on President da Lula’s last day in office.

Perhaps Abbas and da Lula were fearful that da Lula’s successor might adopt a more cautious approach to the unseemly haste which followed da Lula’s surprise announcement just four weeks earlier recognizing a Palestinian State between Israel and Jordan within the area captured  by Israel from Jordan in the Six Day War of 1967.

How da Lula could recognize a State within defined boundaries when such a state had not been declared by Abbas seems to have been of no concern to him.

Da Lula’s unilateral decision had been made without consulting Israel and Jordan whose 1994 Peace Treaty provides:

“The boundary, as set out in Annex I (a), is the permanent, secure and recognised international boundary between Israel and Jordan, without prejudice to the status of any territories that came under Israeli military government control in 1967.”

Da Lula was also apparently unconcerned as to the fate of 500000 Jews currently living in the area proposed for  Abbas’s new State – giving credence to Abbas’s oft repeated statements that they would have to pack up and leave their homes after decades of legal residence pursuant to the rights granted to them by the League of Nations Mandate and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

Da Lula had also thrown caution to the wind in renouncing Security Council resolution 242 recognizing Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries which were intended to replace the temporary 1949 armistice lines still existing between Jordan and Israel at the outbreak of the 1967 hostilities.

Brazil had been a member of the Security Council when  resolution 242 had been passed. Reneging now on that resolution which binds all member States of the United Nations – seems an extraordinary act of foolhardiness and indicates total disregard for the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Da Lula had apparently thought Gaza was too hard to include in his serenading of Abbas – and with good reason. Abbas is persona non grata in Gaza and lacks any authority of any kind there.

Abbas is also the unelected and unconstitutional head of the Palestinian Authority. Like da Lula he is a feather duster. Unlike da Lula he stubbornly hangs on to power unwilling to hand over the reins by calling new elections.

Brazil’s new President Rouseff and New Foreign Minister Patriota

Signalling a far more cautious approach in Mrazil’s Middle East policy.

Brazil could not possibly be happy with the assessment of Abbas contained in an editorial published in the Palestine Times on 3 January titled “Palestine being decapitated as PLO fiddles in Ramallah” – whilst the cement on the cornerstone in Brasilia was probably still drying.

Among the accusations the editor makes are:

  1. The PLO-PA leadership is behaving very much like Nero who was fiddling while Rome was on fire.
  2. The PLO leadership is busy discussing a government reshuffle in Ramallah, as if the Ramallah regime, which depends completely on foreign handouts, were enjoying any semblance of authority, or sovereignty or even dignity.
  3. Fully aware of the sheepish nature of his Fatah loyalists, Abbas is effectively abandoning Palestinian national constants one by one.
  4. It is really lamentable that the Palestinian leadership, whose term in office has long expired, is behaving exactly like the other Arab dictatorships.

No doubt the Editor is a Hamas sympathiser. He would have been angered at the announcement by Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum on the same day as his editorial was published – stating that Abbas’s security forces had detained 3000 Hamas affiliates in the West Bank  in 2010 of whom:

  • 1,404 had served time in Israeli jails,
  • 49 were prominent Hamas leaders,
  • 49 were Imams of mosques,
  • 405 were university students
  • 24 were professors
  • 36 were journalists,
  • 12 were businessmen,
  • 5 pharmacists,
  • 7 women and
  • 12 school children,

Abbas’s invention  of a homeland that excludes Gaza and makes life difficult for West Bank Hamas supporters should concern  Brazil’s new President and Government.  Abbas is similarly embarking on persuading other nations to do likewise. It is a high risk game that has the capacity to unravel very quickly.

Perhaps Brazil is starting to realise this danger following da Silva’s departure – which also sees the appointment of a new Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota in addition to a new President Dilma Rousseff.

In his first speech made on 2 January Patriota declared that priority would be given to :

“dialogue and diplomacy as a means to resolve tensions and disputes, advocating respect for international law, non-intervention and multilateralism”

He stated:

“Our President, Rousseff, is intellectual honesty, public spirit, fearlessness in the face of challenges of any size, sensitivity and humanism”

He pledged:

“To match the confidence placed in me by the President Rousseff will depend on collective efforts, which will necessarily involve the valuable contribution and dedication of all colleagues,diplomats and administration, the Secretary of State and posts abroad.”

Da Lula’s hasty embrace of Abbas seems set to be reviewed and hopefully will lead to Brazil committing once again to uphold  Security Council Resolution 242 as the real cornerstone for resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict.

Resolution 242 still remains the only internationally accepted building block for Middle East Peace since it was passed in 1967.

All else has proved useless blather and fictitious game playing.

If international law is to play any part in ending this 130 years old conflict then Security Council Resolution 242 must be given the primacy it deserves along with the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 the United Nations Charter.

It’s either that or the law of the jungle.  Make your choice.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network

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