Entries in Mahmoud Abbas (12)


"Reality" Weighs Heavy on Obama's Mideast Peace Efforts

Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Middle East peace has been slow going for President Obama, as his administration's relationship with Israel has unfolded under his presidency in fits and starts.

In his first year in office, Obama brought the two sides together in New York, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel while the U.N. General Assembly convened.

There was some hope for progress after a Bush administration that largely kept its hands off, constrained by the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising for most of George W. Bush's time in office.

Obama hosted Netanyahu, Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak for a multilateral summit at the White House in September 2010, but four years into his presidency, Mubarak has been ousted as part of the "Arab Spring" movement Obama championed, and replaced by a parliament in which the Muslim Brotherhood wields much power.

The president has yet to produce major progress -- or at least a major, Clinton-esque photo-op -- in Middle East peace on which to hang his hat.

Thursday, as Obama met with Abbas, it appears unlikely that he will bring the two sides together during this trip.

"He hasn't abandoned the peace process, but he appears to be coming to terms with the reality of it, and acknowledging, at least implicitly, his contribution to getting us to where we are today," said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, a hard-line, pro-Israel nonprofit that has leveled withering criticism at Obama and fellow Democrats in TV ads.

During his visit to Israel, Obama confronts a new political landscape in his second term.

The president lost more support among U.S. Jews than among any other demographic group between 2008 and his re-election in 2012, except for white 18-29 year olds. His Jewish support fell 9 percentage points, according to national exit polls.

Still, Obama won re-election despite fierce attacks not only from Pollak's group, but from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who aired TV ads criticizing Obama's perceived view of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Despite accusations that he is not a friend of Israel, and despite the drop-off in support, the president won 69 percent of Jewish voters on Election Day, far outstripping Romney's 30 percent.

"The calculus is now different," one American Israel activist, who asked not to be named, said. "With the elections both here and in Israel...he's starting to get a handle on the politics around this issue, and the American Jewish politics on this issue, and how to manage them both on a communal level in Congress."

Obama flashed a willingness to defy his pro-Israel opponents in nominating former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense this year. Hagel drew sharp criticism from Israeli activists and Republican senators who pilloried his record and past statements, including a comment referring to pro-Israel groups as the "Jewish lobby," opposition to unilateral sanctions on Iran, support for talks with Hamas, and opposition to deeming Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group.

Obama met privately last week with a handful of Jewish leaders, reportedly telling them he would not travel to Israel with a "grand peace plan" to offer.

It appears that in the near term -- during this trip, at least -- Obama isn't looking for a sudden leap forward on peace talks. The White House denied a report in Israeli news outlet Yediot Aharonot that the president plans to offer a deal in the next six months, barring progress between the two sides.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


UN to Vote on Recognizing Palestine as a State

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday will vote on upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to a "non-member observer state."

With 132 of the 193 U.N. member countries having already recognized the state of Palestine, the measure is likely to pass, despite opposition from the U.S. and Israel.

Recognition as a state may give Palestine more pull in discussing border issues with Israel.  It will also give it the right to join U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court, which would theoretically allow Palestine to bring cases against Israel.

The U.S. has repeatedly called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon the bid. The U.S., along with Israel, argue that the vote is purely symbolic, that it will change nothing on the ground, and that it will be detrimental to peace talks. The vote could also affect U.S. funding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Fear Congress May Keep Aid on Hold after UN Bid

Mario Tama/Getty Images(GAZA) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a hero's welcome upon his return to the West Bank last week.  His decision to submit a request to the UN Security Council for full state membership status has boosted his popularity on the Palestinian street.

The move has angered the Obama Administration and its allies who believe only peace negotiations, not United Nations membership, can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The U.S. Congress may decide to hold up some financial aid in response to what many consider a defiant and irresponsible Palestinian step at the U.N. 

Palestinian leaders are worried Congress may reduce U.S. aid to the West Bank by nearly 30 percent, which would mean a $200 million dollar cut. The money was initially frozen after the P.A. announced plans to form a unity government with Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. 

Now Palestinians fear Congress may follow through with threats to keep the aid on hold after U.S. opposition to the UN membership bid was ignored.  Economics minister Hassan Abu Libdeh told Israel Radio Sunday that he is waiting for a U.S. decision, but warned an aid cut could provoke mass protests in the streets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN Security Council Starts Discussions on Palestinian Statehood

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations Security Council began meeting Monday about the Palestinians' demand for statehood.

The process could take weeks, if not months.  But since the Palestinians have sought their own country for six decades, they're willing to wait as long as necessary.

The first order of business is setting up a committee to review the formal request from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which isn't expected to happen until the end of this week at the earliest.

While that's going on, the U.S. is trying to convince seven of the Security Council's 15 members to turn down statehood since nine are needed to grant it.  So far, the Palestinians can count on six votes.

If nine members do approve the request, the U.S. is prepared to veto the measure, effectively killing the chances of statehood, although the Obama administration hopes it doesn't have to get to that point since it would further alienate the Arab world.

Still, the White House is standing with Israel in insisting that negotiations are the only way to achieve statehood for the Palestinians.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mahmoud Abbas Gets Hero’s Welcome, Proclaims ‘Palestinian Spring Is Here’

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images(RAMALLAH) -- President Mahmoud Abbas returned to Ramallah Sunday to a hero’s welcome, after having submitted an application to the United Nations for Palestinian statehood.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered at the Mukataa, the presidential compound, waving flags and hoisting posters of the president, whose popularity has skyrocketed in the last week.

He spoke briefly to the crowd that interrupted with loud applause several times.

“I went to the United Nations carrying your hopes and your dreams and your ambitions and your suffering and your vision, your vision of the future and your needs, your urgent needs,” he said, according to a translation by France24. “The urgent need of an independent Palestinian State.

“We said to the world that there is the Arab Spring but the Palestinian Spring is here also. A popular spring, a spring of resistance, peaceful resistance to obtain these objectives.

“Dear sisters, dear brothers, we say that our journey, our international journey has begun. And a long journey remains ahead. A long path remains to be traveled,” he said, according to the translation. “We must know very precisely there are those blocking our march forward, those who place obstacles, who continue to refuse the right, the legitimacy. … With you we are stronger than everyone to achieve our aspirations.”

There has been a universally negative response from Palestinian officials to the Quartet’s proposal for negotiations — essentially just a timeline, but no official rejection just yet.

The Palestinian foreign minister slammed the proposal Saturday because it doesn’t mention a freeze on the construction of Israeli settlements or an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borderlines. Abbas has said the PLO will start studying the proposal today, meanwhile he said they expect the U.N. Security Council vote on Palestine’s request for statehood recognition within weeks, not months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Let's Negotiate Peace': Netanyahu Challenges Abbas During UN Speech

Jim Hollander - pool/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- An hour after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the U.N. General Assembly to a rousing ovation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a more measured response.

"The Palestinians should first make peace and then declare their state," he said Friday in response to Abbas' bid for U.N. statehood. "Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state but we are not willing to have another Gaza."

During his speech, Netanyahu challenged Abbas to resume peace talks Friday in New York.

"We are in the same city. We are in the same building," he said. "If we want peace, what's there to stop us?"

That challenge to the Palestinian leader came at the end of a speech in which Netanyahu pointed to militant Islam and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks as the principal reason for holding back peace. He referred to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech Thursday in which he claimed that 9/11 was a conspiracy.

"Some of you left this hall," Netanyahu said Friday. "All of you should have. Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday armed with nuclear weapons? ... If that man is not stopped, the Arab Spring could become an Iranian winter."

Netanyahu said the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was initially applauded by the world as a bold step. He pointed out that Israel had dismantled settlements, retreated to the 1967 borders and bulldozed synagogues.

"The theory says it should all work out," he said. "But we didn't get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas kicked out the Palestinian Authority. ... When Israel left Gaza ... the moderates were devoured by radicals."

Netanyahu said he could not risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking, adding that there were major life-and-death security concerns that "have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared."

"Give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with Palestinians," he said directly to Abbas, imploring Palestinians to first recognize Israel.

"The core of the conflict is not the settlements, the core of the conflict is their refusal to accept a Jewish state," he said.

Netanyahu said if that was done, Israel would be prepared to take some painful steps.

"I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner for peace. We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations," he said. "Let's just get on with it."

Before Netanyahu, Abbas took the U.N. stage Friday in front of the General Assembly to request that leaders accept them as a member state despite U.S. and Israeli opposition.

He quickly pointed out speeches made last year most notably by President Obama and other leaders during the last General Assembly who had hoped the stalled Middle East peace process would resume.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US, Allies Shift Tactics on Palestinian Vote, End Effort to Dissuade Abbas

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The United States and its allies have all but abandoned an effort to convince Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end his bid for Palestinian statehood in the United Nations Security Council on Friday and are instead pivoting towards mitigating its effect.

They are trying to develop a scenario that allows both Abbas and world powers to save face and establish a path back toward negotiations with Israel, according to American and European officials.

The ideal plan, as described by diplomats, would allow Abbas to fulfill his promise to seek statehood at the United Nations, but then either water it down or delay the process of actually voting on it, allowing the United States to avoid a promised veto that could damage its image in the Middle East.

The White House announced Tuesday that President Obama will meet with Abbas on Wednesday evening. Obama is expected to reiterate a request that Abbas not pursue statehood at the U.N. and, failing that, will press him not to pursue it past Friday. Diplomats are working to defuse the appearance of a diplomatic showdown between the two leaders.

Diplomats from the so-called “Quartet” of Mideast peace mediators (the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) are also working furiously to assemble a package deal that would entice both Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations and convince Abbas that delaying U.N. recognition is worth it. That package is now likely to be presented only after Abbas makes his case before the United Nations on Friday, and may even come days later.

If both sides of the conflict agree to the package deal, it could still be weeks before negotiations resume and would likely come only after choreographed posturing on both sides before their publics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israel to Hold Talks with Palestinian Government on Uniting

Antenna Audio, Inc./Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- It has been four years since Hamas broke off from the Palestinian Authority's Fatah political group and seized control of Gaza in a bloody coup.

But now, after a series of secret meetings in Cairo, the two groups say they have have struck a deal to reunite their governments in the West Bank and Gaza and hold elections within a year.

Talks on an interim government are set to begin in the coming days.

Palestinian leaders say it's a crucial step towards their goal of becoming an independent state.  But alarm bells are going off in Jerusalem and Washington because Hamas -- which is on the State Department's list of terrorist groups -- denies the existence of Israel and rejects the peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for joining forces with Hamas, saying the group aspires to destroy Israel.  He implied  Israel will not hold peace talks if Hamas is part of the equation, saying Abbas will have to choose between peace or Hamas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Israeli Officials: Deadly Blaze Contained

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The fire that incinerated over 12,000 acres of Israel's Mount Carmel forest, left more than 40 dead, and forced thousands from their homes has been contained, Israeli officials said Sunday.

More than 30 planes and helicopters -- 20 of them from foreign countries -- took to the skies to assist the firefight.

Israeli police have arrested two brothers, aged 16 and 14, from the Druze village of Isfiya who they suspect may have started the fire.  Police allege the teens were negligent and left a fire burning that they had started near their home.  Police do not believe the case is arson.  The boys' parents told reporters their sons are innocent and being used as a scapegoat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his weekly cabinet meeting in the northern part of the country, near the scene of the blaze.  He thanked many in the international community for their assistance.  Netanyahu spoke by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in two months and thanked him for agreeing to send a number of firefighting trucks.

The Israeli prime minister is coming under harsh criticism for not adequately funding firefighters, despite prior requests and warnings. Some are calling for the resignation of the interior minister, who is officially in charge of the funding.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Palestinian President Rebukes Isreali Prime Minister's Lecture

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Palestinian leaders on Sunday not to bypass direct talks and go straight to the United Nations for recognition of a Palestinian state, saying it doesn't further the diplomatic process of peacemaking.  The Palestinian president responded by taking issue with the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

On a visit to Bethlehem, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the press that Prime Minister Netanyahu should not lecture the Palestinians about unilateral steps when Israel, he said, has unilaterally been building settlements in the West Bank for decades on Palestinian land.

Abbas added what he called "invasions" and roadblocks to the list of Israel's one-sided actions, and stood firm that the Palestinians may indeed approach the U.N. to achieve statehood.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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