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What was Abbas promised in return for burying Goldstone?

Oct. 6, 2009 6:08 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2009 10:19 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The public is both bewildered and outraged about President Mahmoud Abbas’ reported capitulation to US pressure in delaying action on Richard Goldstone’s report on war crimes in Gaza.

One of many unanswered questions about the Geneva affair is: What was he promised? What did the US offer Abbas that convinced him to burry Goldstone’s meticulously-researched indictment of Israel?

An Israeli journalist attempts to answer this question in an article that appeared on Tuesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been plotting to topple Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in order to relieve himself of US pressure over the last six months, an Israeli journalist claimed in an article published on Tuesday.

“During their tripartite meeting in New York last month, US president Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Abbas agreed to mislead his rightist coalition and advance towards political settlement,” journalist Ran Adelist writes in an article published on the Hebrew news site Nana10 on Tuesday.

However, the report states, instead of carrying out this agreement, Netanyahu tried his best to draw the public debate to other issues, such as a prisoner swap, Hamas, and the Iranian nuclear issue, in order to avoid reaching a point that he agrees to share land with the Palestinians.

The writer quotes friends of high-ranking US officials who confirmed to him that Washington decided it was the Palestinian president who should take risks, because Netanyahu’s turn would come later.

Under the subtitle “a pin in the ass of the Middle East,” the article says the Israeli public was happy to see the video of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit looking well. The video, they say, silenced those who suggested Shalit was dead. Now, after the video has been aired, Israel’s main focus will be Hamas and the prisoner swap deal, as the Israeli public will never remain silent while a soldier is being held, the article says.

Adelist argues that the Shalit case is a disgrace for Israeli security and military establishment, and Israel must admit this, especially in light of the Israeli failure to discover where Shalit is being held. The establishment must admit also that “Hamas is a pin in its lower back,” he says. Furthermore, this perceived failure on the Shalit issue raises doubts among the Israeli public about the credibility of Israel’s claims about Iran.

Under another subtitle, the writer explains that Israel’s bellicose approach to Iran has been disrupted by the international community’s new negotiations with the country. Iran’s willingness to allow international inspectors into its nuclear facilities has complicated Israel’s drive toward confrontation with Iran. Still, the writer argues, Israel refuses to accept this.

The undersecretary of Israeli Defense Ministry Efraim Snieh told the Sunday Times earlier this week, “If Israel remains alone, it will attack Iran alone. I don’t want to explain anymore.”

Under a third subtitle that reads “Abbas’ gamble,” the Israeli journalist reveals what he says are the details about the Palestinian Authority deferring the UN-backed Goldstone report on alleged war crimes in Gaza. He refutes Israeli news reports about Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman trying to threaten and blackmail Abbas with videos that would expose the Palestinian leader’s alleged complicity in the Gaza war.

What actually happened, the writer states, is that Abbas kept his promise to Obama while Netanyahu reneged.

“Netanyahu knew that Goldstone report would be a bone-breaking slap to Israel as it will face the same boycott the world imposed on the apartheid system in South Africa, and Israeli leaders would be tried in all capitals of the free world,” the article says.

The article goes on to say, “Netanyahu telephoned Obama terrified and begged him to mediate and convince Abbas to defer referring the Goldstone report to the UN Seurity Council. At that point, Obama asked him, ‘in return for what?’ and Netanyahu said he would be committed to remove illegal outposts, to stop Judaizing Jerusalem, and halt settlement activities in the West Bank.”

Then, the article claims, Obama phoned Abbas and asked him to wait on the Goldstone report, but Abbas refused. However, Obama promised him a something similar to the 1917 Belfour Declaration along the following lines:

First: The US president will be responsible for compelling Israel to halt the Judaization of Jerusalem and halt the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the article states.

Second, the report says President Abbas was admonished not reveal the story to avoid exposing Netanyahu to flak from his right-wing government coalition.

Third, according to this account, Abbas refused to withdraw the report completely, and agreed to defer it until March 2010 in return for Obama promising to halt settlement activities.

Fourth, Obama is said to have begged Abbas again not to exposing the deal to media because this would arouse Israeli politicians’ anger, threatening the stability of his government.

The agreement also said to include a pledge to provide weapons to the Palestinian Authority, including tanks, as well as allowing PA forces to deploy at Gaza’s Rafah border crossing, which is currently under Hamas control on the Palestinian side.

In an interview with Ma’an the Israeli journalist who wrote the article said that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit learned about the Obama-Abbas agreement from the White House.

“Obama told Netanyahu that he would give him six months to arrange himself domestically, and after that Obama will reveal his agreement with Abbas, and if Netanyahu refuses to adhere with the agreement, the US will not veto an expected UN decision against Israel in March,” he added.
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