The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, is being challenged by the
Palestinian government of acting as a mouthpiece for the United States
government, and misrepresenting the Palestinian demands during his
visit to the U.S. over the last two days.
Abbas told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York Thursday that the Palestinian government would recognize the state of Israel, despite the fact that national unity government talks between his party and the rival ruling party, Hamas, have yet to be completed. Abbas' statement came just one day after a meeting with U.S. President George Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, leading many to speculate that he was pressured by Bush to make such a statement.
The Palestinian government, headed since January by the Hamas party, has long stated its commitment to a comprehensive peace with Israel, and has largely adhered to a 17-month ceasefire agreed to in February 2005 with Israel — despite the fact that large-scale invasions, air strikes, kidnappings, extra-judicial assassinations and occupation by Israeli forces have continued during the entire 18-month period in direct violation of the ceasefire agreement.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter places the blame on Israel, for refusing to negotiate with any Palestinian government, let alone the Hamas-led one. After the Palestinian people elected Hamas in January, he said, "One clear reason for the surprising Hamas victory for legislative seats was that the voters were in despair about prospects for peace. With American acquiescence, the Israelis had avoided any substantive peace talks for more than five years, regardless of who had been chosen to represent the Palestinian side as interlocutor."
Carter continued, "With all their faults, Hamas leaders have continued to honor a temporary cease-fire, or hudna, during the past 18 months, and their spokesman told me that this 'can be extended for two, 10 or even 50 years if the Israelis will reciprocate.' Although Hamas leaders have refused to recognize the state of while their territory is being occupied, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed approval for peace talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He added that if these negotiations result in an agreement that can be accepted by Palestinians, then the Hamas position regarding the recognition of Israel would be changed."
The national unity government currently in formation would likely accept the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which calls for “the Jewish state to return to its pre-1967 borders in return for ‘normal relations’ with Arab nations", an agreement that if accepted would have Hamas “cease all military activities". The Hamas movement, even prior to being elected into the Palestinian government, had shown its commitment to the peace process by adhering to a ceasefire with Israel, even though Israel decidedly refused to reciprocate.
The 2002 Arab Peace Plan would provide acceptance of Israel by all Arab states, including Hamas, as long as Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders. This would require Israel to return land acquired by war in 1967, in adherence with international law, and to remove from this illegally-occupied land both its troops and the 500,000 civilians that have been transferred into colonies on the illegally-occupied land since 1967.
The efforts by the Hamas government to negotiate, even while under a severe military occupation coupled by an economic siege, have been recognized by the European Union and the United Nations, who have stated that they will be willing to accept a Palestinian national unity government that "reflects the demands" of the Quartet for Mid-East Peace (made up of the U.S., the European Union, Russia and the United Nations). Only the U.S. and Israel remain steadfast in their absolute refusal to negotiate.
The Palestinian leadership has seen the U.S. pressure tactics, using Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as their mouthpiece, as a form of manipulation and blackmail, and a denial of the Palestinian people's universally-recognized right to sovereignty and self-determination. "The US administration does not want the Palestinians to be unified", said Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh last week. "It wants to blackmail the Palestinian people and the Palestinian government."