Before you read the Open Letter to Abbas, (below) read the following submission by my Associate Khalid Amayreh…

Bullying Abbas into talks

The US and the EU continue to pressure the Palestinian Authority leadership to embrace direct talks with Israel, but to what end, asks Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah

The Obama administration is exerting intense pressure on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to move “sooner than later” to direct talks with Israel. The European Union is also pressing Abbas to do the same thing. Both the US and EU are considered chief bankrollers of the PA, which nearly completely depends on foreign aid for its financial and political survival.

The PA and Israel have been holding indirect “proximity” talks for several weeks. However, leaks suggest that very little progress — if any — has been made. This fact is frustrating the Palestinians and making them view with suspicion further talks, direct or indirect, in the absence of clear guarantees as to how the “endgame” would look like.

Moreover, Abbas, according to close and reliable sources in Ramallah, is becoming disillusioned with the entire peace process and believes that the international pressure exerted on him to switch to direct talks is only intended to give Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu more time to “create facts on the ground” — an allusion to building more Jewish colonies on the West Bank, especially in East Jerusalem.

Abbas is showing a modicum of resistance to American pressure. He told a meeting of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in Ramallah this week that he wouldn’t accept direct talks unless certain conditions were met. These include a full settlement construction freeze, agreement on the demarcation of borders, and an Israeli pledge that negotiations must pick up where the two sides left off in talks during the tenure of the previous Israeli government.

The Fatah council backed Abbas in his refusal to enter direct talks under present circumstances. However, this backing can also be interpreted as a warning to the Palestinian leader against giving further concessions to Israel. Abbas repeatedly vowed to refrain from resuming talks with the Netanyahu government as long settlement expansion activities continued. However, the PA leader has frequently abandoned his conditions and returned to mostly pointless talks under pressure, mainly from Washington and its pro-US ally regimes, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Hence, most observers in occupied Palestine suggest that Abbas’s reluctance to move to direct talks is only a tactical manoeuvre, since he can’t really say “No” to Washington, given his financial and political reliance on Israel’s guardian ally. Abbas is facing the difficult dilemma of having to please Washington by switching to direct talks he knows well will lead nowhere, while satisfying his own people — including Fatah — who are convinced that current US- sponsored talks are just another exercise in futility and perhaps deception as well.

But Abbas has very few choices if any. He realises the risks inherent in placing all Palestinian eggs in the US basket. Yasser Arafat had tried to do just that and the result was a fiasco. Meanwhile, to mitigate pressure on his leadership, Abbas is trying to make the Arab world — especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia — virtual partners in any Palestinian decision pertaining to joining direct talks with Israel.

Today, 29 July, the Palestinian leader will meet with the Arab League’s follow- up committee in Cairo. The committee includes representatives from 14 Arab countries, among them Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It is likely that these states will recommend that Abbas heed US calls regarding joining direct talks with Israel. Some Arab officials have argued that resuming direct talks with Israel wouldn’t necessarily be a negative step since it would demonstrate to Washington that Israel is the real peace blocker, because it refuses to give up the spoils of the 1967 war and end its occupation.

This viewpoint would be sound if Washington were ignorant of the truth about Israeli stances. After all, the PA and Israel have been talking face to face for close to 20 years but to no avail, the main reason being Israel’s unwillingness to concede anything. In fact, it is unclear whether Israel can embrace any solution that leads to a Palestinian state, given the phenomenal proliferation of Jewish colonies on the West Bank.

Indeed, serious intellectuals from both the Palestinian and Israeli camps have recently argued that the only remaining workable solution is the creation of a single state in all of mandate Palestine. The default is open-ended conflict, these intellectuals have argued.

The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is aware of the fact that, at very best, the two-state solution is being kept alive via artificial means and that more and more people are losing hope in its feasibility. Even within Fatah, Abbas’s party, a strong lobby is reportedly being formed to promote the one-state solution. This lobby includes dozens of Fatah leaders who have been authorised to study the one-state solution and how viable it would be.

According to sources close to the Palestinian decision-making circles in Ramallah, Abbas introduced to US Envoy George Mitchell, during the latter’s latest visit to the region, an unnamed Palestinian intellectual who explained to the American diplomat the impossibility of creating a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state. The two, Mitchell and the Palestinian intellectual, reportedly spoke for 15 minutes in the presence of Abbas.

Moreover, Palestinian sources revealed that Abbas complained to President Obama recently that a growing number of the Palestinian intelligentsia were pressuring him to abandon the two-state strategy because very little land was left for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Israeli officials, who keep criticising the Abbas leadership for dodging direct talks, are vowing to resume settlement expansion in the West Bank once a partial construction freeze ends this September.

Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers seem to feel that by concentrating on the issue of direct talks with the PA they have achieved a double-score: first by convincing Washington that the ball is in the Palestinian court; and second by effectively getting the PA to join vague and uncertain talks that might linger on until the next US administration.

Finally, the US and Europe have given the PA some diplomatic bribes by elevating the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) diplomatic representation in Washington and some European capitals. For example, the status of the PLO representative in Washington, DC has been changed to quasi-ambassador instead of head of mission. The Palestinian flag has also been allowed to fly in Washington for the first time. Paris is considering similar measures.

Some Palestinians, especially within the Islamist opposition, are worried that the PA is being beguiled into sacrificing vital Palestinian interests in exchange for symbolic gains. One Hamas leader in Gaza remarked, “We need the national flag to fly in Jerusalem, not in Washington.”


We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.

Don’t deny our rights: open letter to Mahmoud Abbas

Various undersigned

The following open letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose elected mandate expired in July 2009 and who has remained in power under controversial emergency laws, was issued on 22 July 2010:

We are Palestinians of diverse perspectives and affiliations — scholars, intellectuals, artists, activists, trade unionists, human rights advocates and civil society leaders, inside historic Palestine and in exile — who are united in our commitment to the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all Palestinians, particularly our inalienable right to self-determination. This universally sanctioned right encompasses, at a minimum, freedom from occupation and colonization in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: “I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel,” a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is tantamount to a surrender of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in equality in their own homeland, in which they have steadfastly remained despite the apartheid regime imposed on them for decades. It also concedes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people. Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please.

We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.

Initial Signatories:

Saleh Abdel-Jawad, Assoc. Prof. of History, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh, poet and academic (Jerusalem); Naseer Aruri, Prof. Emeritus, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth); Mourid Barghouti, poet and author (Ramallah/Cairo); Omar Barghouti, commentator and human rights activist (Jerusalem); Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle (Seattle); George Bisharat, Prof., UC Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco); Haidar Eid, academic and boycott, divestment and sanctions activist (Gaza); Samera Esmeir, Assist. Prof. of Rhetoric, Univ. of California, Berkeley (Haifa); Wael Hallaq, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate (Washington, DC); Jamil Hilal, sociologist and author (Ramallah); Islah Jad, Assist. Prof. of Gender & Development, Birzeit Univ. (Ramallah); Hatem Kanaaneh, medical doctor and author (Sakhnin); Ghada Karmi, author and Fellow, Exeter University (Exeter); Nur Masalha, Prof. of Religion and Politics, St. Mary’s Univ. College (London); Joseph Massad, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Jean Said Makdisi, author (Beirut); Saree Makdisi, Prof., University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles); Zakaria Muhammad, novelist (Ramallah); Karma Nabulsi, Fellow in Politics, University of Oxford (Oxford); Eyad Sarraj, psychiatrist (Gaza)

(alphabetical order – institutions for identification only)


Mohammed Abu Abdu, Pal. Student Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) (Gaza); Bashir Abu-Manneh, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Mohsen Abu Ramadan, civil society activist and independent political commentator (Gaza); Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society (London); Abdefattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League, Jerusalem – General Director of Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society, (Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem); Majeed Al-Barghouthi, poet and writer (Amman); Musa Al-Hindi, Coord. Comm. member, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN); Hala Al-Yamani, Assist. Prof., Bethlehem University (Bethlehem); Lubna Arikat, community activist (San Diego); Huwaida Arraf, attorney and human rights activist, New York; Khaled Barakat, writer and activist, Vancouver; Nasser Barghouti, human rights activist (San Diego); Diana Buttu, lawyer (Ramallah); Yasmeen Daher, lecturer at Birzeit University and human rights activist (Jaffa); Seif Da’na, Prof. of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Parkside (Parkside); Lamis J. Deek, attorney and human rights advocate (New York); Noura Erakat, human rights attorney (Washington, DC); Leila Farsakh, Assoc. Prof., University of Massachusetts (Boston); Jess Ghannam, Prof., University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco); Lubna Hammad, lawyer and human rights activist, Adalah-NY (New York); Rema Hammami, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Nizar Hasan, filmmaker (Nazareth); Zaha Hassan, civil rights attorney and human rights advocate (Oregon); Kamel Hawwash, Assoc. Prof. in Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham (Birmingham); Monadel Herzallah, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), San Francisco; May Jayyusi, Exec. Director of Muwatin, Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (Ramallah); Ray Jureidini, sociologist, Cairo; Jamal Kanj, author, (Nahr el Bared refugee camp); Osamah Khalil, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley); Suleiman Mansour, visual artist (Jerusalem); Dina Matar, academic, SOAS – University of London (London); Moammar Mashni, Co-Founder, Australians for Palestine (Melbourne); Mazen Masri, lawyer and human rights activist (Toronto); Fouad Moughrabi, Prof. and Head of Dept. of Political Science, Univ. of Tennessee (Chattanooga); Rana Nashashibi, activist, Coalition for Jerusalem (Jerusalem); Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Barrister, Palestine Legal Aid Fund (London); Mahmoud Oriqat, Engineer (San Diego); Mazin Qumsiyeh, Prof. (Bethlehem); Ahmad Sadi, Academic (Galilee); Grace Said, activist (Washington, DC); Dalal Yassine, lawyer and human rights advocate (Beirut); Raja Zaatry, journalist (Haifa); Elia Zureik, Prof. Emeritus of Sociology, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)

(alphabetical order – institutions for identification only)



  1. walter sarkis said,

    July 30, 2010 at 21:41

    how dare you prssure the plo into direst talks with that illegal entitym called israel?Has he not talk with them until he realized the futility of it all? The West Bank haseen taken over by zionist criminals who continuem to murder Palestinians. It is a proof that those vile beeing the israelites have no need not want to give the Palistinians the country that th Palestinians have, give back to them the stolen lands, force the Palestinians into what amounts to jails, force the to travel on specific roads and build thet infamous wall in order to force the Palestinians to either die there or move away to a different country. israel is on a tract to eliminate the Palestinians and the west is allowing it to happen. Yet you still ask the Palestinians to “talk peace” with a non peaceful vile murderous people (the scum of the world) again? What have you the Western powers become? I know that america has become a colony of that filthy immoral israel

  2. IH8Zionists said,

    July 30, 2010 at 22:11

    how is this stupid ass idiot Abbas still in power? he is nothing more than a puppet for the zionists. Any Arab who respects this fool is automatically a fool. Abbas should have his head cut off for being a traitor.

  3. July 30, 2010 at 23:16

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Rivero, Ambrosius Macrobius. Ambrosius Macrobius said: Wake Up Slumber PROMINENT PALESTINIANS TELL ABBAS: DON’T DENY OUR RIGHTS: The Obama administration is exerting int… […]

%d bloggers like this: