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Palestinian Ambassador to Geneva: I was Implementing Instructions, Not Acting Independently - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Israeli police officers hold riot shields as they stand in front of a graffiti depicting a Palestinian flag in East Jerusalem. (R)

Israeli police officers hold riot shields as they stand in front of a graffiti depicting a Palestinian flag in East Jerusalem. (R)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Accusations against the Palestinian Authority [PA] and its President, Mahmoud Abbas, continued yesterday over the agreement to postpone discussing the Goldstone report on Israeli crimes committed during the Gaza war in the UN Human Rights Council until March 2010. Demands continued that the [Palestinian] officials responsible for making this decision be held accountable.

Palestinian sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that during a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit and Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Amman on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas categorically denied instructing Palestinian representative in Geneva, Ibrahim Khreisheh, to accept the idea of postponement.

The Palestinian sources declined to reveal to Asharq Al-Awsat whether Mahmoud Abbas was subject to American pressure to postpone discussion of the Goldstone report after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to freeze the peace process if the report was discussed in the Human Rights Council or submitted to the International Criminal Court. This is the official measure required to allow Israeli war criminals to be tried in court.

In an attempt to mitigate the campaign launched against the PA, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP that President Mahmoud Abbas was thinking about asking the UN to discuss the Goldstone report.

Erekat, who accompanied President Mahmoud Abbas on an official visit to Italy and the Vatican, said that “President Abbas is seriously studying the possibility of asking the Arab and Islamic bloc to officially take the Goldstone report to international bodies, including the UN General Assembly and Security Council.”

Erekat stressed that “in light of the controversy that has arisen due to the withdrawal of discussion of the report in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and some [officials] denying being responsible [for this decision], we in the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] bear the responsibility of the Palestinian people and we do not shy away from this issue because we are responsible to the martyrs and wounded and the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

Erekat added “We want to discuss the report in international bodies so they will take decisions on what emerged in the report, in order to ensure that the crimes committed by Israel against our people are never repeated.”

Erekat also confirmed that following the Palestinian President’s official visit to Italy, Mahmoud Abbas will return to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian leaders in order to take a decision on this issue [the Goldstone report]. Erekat stressed that “we are determined to study the decision to take [the Goldstone report] to international bodies, and we hope to receive support (from the Arab and Islamic bloc) to stand beside our people.”

In this context, and in order to remove suspicions that he is responsible for this decision, President Mahmoud Abbas formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to this controversial decision. Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of the Fatah Central Committee informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this committee is led by PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amireh, and also includes Azmi al-Shuaibi and Rami al-Hamdallah.

Al-Ahmed added that Mahmoud Abbas had called for this commission to complete its investigation within a few days “because investigation does not require a long length of time, things are clear, and it is clear who is involved, the first thing is to uncover the truth regarding Ambassador Ibrahim Khreisheh and then announce the results of the investigation in official media. [We must] identify who is responsible, whether this was [occurred] by deception or collusion, and then give the results [of the investigation] to the Palestinian institutes.” Al-Ahmed also called for the end of squabbling in the media, until the completion of the investigation.

Khreisheh also said that we must wait for the results of the investigation, although he refused to name the party responsible for the acceptance of the postponement, denying that he himself was responsible for what happened. The Palestinian Ambassador to Geneva said that he did not take this decision himself, but was merely implementing instructions that he received from concerned parties, however he refused to identify whether this was the Palestinian presidency, or the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Khreisheh confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he referred back to these unknown parties during each step of the discussion to postpone discussing the Goldstone report until March 2010. Khreisheh stuck to his previous position which he revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, namely that the decision to postpone was the right one, for if this did not take place the Goldstone report would suffer a similar fate to the report made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu into the 2005 Beit Hanoun massacre.

Contrary to the position taken by the Salam Fayyad government and the Fatah movement, Hamas considered the decision to form a commission of inquiry into the decision to postpone discussions into the Goldstone report as a “step to throw dust in the eyes, and a personal attempt from [Abbas] to escape from the direct political responsibility of requesting a postponement of the vote [on the Goldstone report]. In his capacity as President of the Palestinian Authority and President of the Executive Committee of the PLO, he is responsible for all diplomatic missions abroad.”

Hamas added “the formation of a commission of inquiry is a desperate attempt by Abbas to deceive public opinion and to reduce the anger of the Palestinian people…Abbas carries the responsibility of being complicit in the protection of Zionist war criminals and complying with Zionist-American pressure.”

The Hamas statement went on to say “We in Hamas still hold Abbas and the Oslo [Accords] team responsible for the crime of protecting Zionist war criminals from justice and for postponing the vote on the Goldstone report. We also call for each official who has the blood of [Palestinian] martyrs on their hands and denies the sacrifice made by the Palestinian people to be held accountable.”

Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a member of the Hamas political bureau, called for Mahmoud Abbas and any “PA official involved with treason which is decided by [the acceptance] of the decision to withdraw the Goldstone report” to be stripped of their nationality. In a televised statement, al-Zahar said that this demand that Abbas be stripped of his Palestinian nationality “is a moral request in view of the absence of any official institute capable of implementing this.” He pointed out that “if I had approached an official institute demanding the official revocation [of Mahmoud Abbas’s nationality] it would not be moral.”

Al-Ahmed responded to this by calling for Hamas to “withdraw its statement on the Goldstone report, because this will be settled between the victim and the oppressor via the issuance of a formal statement.” Al-Ahmed also called for the completion of national Palestinian dialogue, and an end to inter-Palestinian division. He added “Those talking are the factions, not the PA, and it is up to the factions to end the divisions and unite, and prevent the division from being exploited for regulatory purposes as is currently occurring by Israel and the US as a means to escape from committing to the peace process.”

Naif Hawatmah, the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine [DFLP] described the decision to postpone the Goldstone report as a political and moral crime against the people of Jerusalem. During a ceremony organized by the DFLP in Gaza to celebrate Jerusalem being appointed 2009 Arab Capital of Culture, Hawatmah called for those responsible for taking the postponement decision to be publicly held accountable.

Ziad Nakhala, the deputy Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad movement described the PA’s position as being “a major scandal and disgrace in the history of our people and nations, and came following strong Palestinian-Arab-American complicity.”

During the Conference of the General Assembly of the Islamic Radio and Television Union in Tehran, Nakhala described the postponement of the Goldstone report as being “akin to preventing victims from bringing their oppressors to trial, and absolving [the oppressors] of their crimes. The PA and those who colluded with them from the Arab system have been caught today washing the blood of our children and our people from the hands of the Zionists. This is a humiliation, a disgrace, and a shame, that can never be forgotten.”

Masked Palestinian youths hurl stones at Israeli border policemen in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. (EPA)

Masked Palestinian youths hurl stones at Israeli border policemen in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud. (EPA)

A veiled Palestinian woman walks past posters depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. (R)

A veiled Palestinian woman walks past posters depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza City. (R)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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