ABBAS HAD ‘BAD ADVICE’ OVER GOLDSTONE REPORT – says Sha’ath

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Demonstrators in London last January show their support for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation
Demonstrators in London last January show their support for Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation

Those who advised Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to defer the Goldstone report into war crimes in Gaza gave him bad advice, Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha’ath told a Paris panel on Wednesday.

Sha’ath was speaking at an online panel discussion, organised by the Paris-based Arab European Studies Centre, on the issues raised by the recent Palestinian National Authority (PNA) decision to delay the decision on whether or not to adopt the Goldstone report into UN policy.

is speech that he was fully responsible for the decision, that someone advised him to make it and that the advice was wrong; he admitted he made a mistake and said he would make it up.

‘This is why there will be a new meeting of the Human Rights Council,’ he added.

The Fatah leader said Abbas would ‘approach all international parties including the International Criminal Court.’

Meanwhile, a draft resolution submitted by Palestinian diplomats to the United Nations Human Rights Council calls for a full endorsement of the Goldstone report on Gaza and also condemns Israel for its policies in Jerusalem.

The draft was made public on Wednesday on the website of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

President Mahmud Abbas’ government submitted the draft after it demanded a new debate on the Goldstone war crimes report.

The new resolution adds additional wording to the Goldstone report about Jerusalem which, observers say, could hurt its chances of gaining the support of European countries.

The draft resolution ‘Strongly condemns all policies and measures taken by Israel, the occupying power, to limit access of Palestinians to their properties and holy sites, particularly in Occupied East Jerusalem.’

The request for a new debate on war crimes committed during the Israeli war on Gaza was in itself an about-face for Abbas, who initially buckled to US pressure and called for debate on the report to be postponed.

Palestinian public outrage, and sharp criticism from Hamas has apparently resulted in this reversal.

Debate in the Human Rights Council began yesterday, and a vote is expected today.

‘Abbas also understands that the upgraded report he presented to Geneva will not go far, wrote diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar in analysis for Haaretz.

Eldar added: ‘He doesn’t really believe that Netanyahu will have to rescue Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Tzipi Livni from the claws of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

‘That was his only way to free his hands from his critics from Hamas and from his own party.

‘Not only did he return the Goldstone report to the council in Geneva, but added more and more topics to it.’

l Fatah signed an Egyptian-backed deal for reconciliation with the Hamas movement, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, senior officials said.

Jamal Muheisin, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said that they signed the deal because of the movement’s ‘positive’ outlook toward the plan.

He also said Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad would hand over the signed document by yesterday.

Official Hamas sources said the party’s senior leadership has also approved the document, although they had not yet declared this publicly.

Muheisin said he doubted Hamas’ commitment to the agreement even if the party chooses to sign it.

‘Even if they sign the agreement, Hamas will search for pretexts to avoid implementation of the document’s conditions because they are not seriously seeking to end disagreement,’ he alleged.

On Tuesday, Fatah leader Al-Ahmad, who is involved in the negotiations, explained that Egypt asked both Hamas and Fatah to reply to its proposal with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by yesterday.

According to Al-Ahmad, the other Palestinian factions are expected to respond by 20 October, and a formal signing ceremony will take place after the Eid Al-Adha holiday at the end of November. This schedule was confirmed by Hamas sources.

Asked why they signed the deal if they doubted Hamas’ commitment, Muheisin said his party wanted to drop all pretenses and push forward with an agreement.

He expressed hopes that Hamas would give priority to Palestinian national interests and sign the document because, he said, it is the Palestinian people who pay the price for division and partisanship.

A Gaza-based member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Abdullah Abu Samhadana, also confirmed that Fatah signed the document, despite reservations on some points.

These concerns, he said, were not enough to ‘hamper reconciliation.’

He explained that Azzam Al-Ahmad would depart from the West Bank for Egypt to hand in the document which, he said, was signed by Fatah’s supreme leader, President Mahmud Abbas.

In an unannounced development, Hamas’ most senior leader, Khalid Mishaal, flew to Qatar on Tuesday for talks with the country’s prince regarding the proposed reconciliation plan.

The Egyptian proposal was on the agenda of the meeting. Sources also said that there is a heated debate within the movement about whether to sign the document.

The movement’s leadership in Syria is said to be less interested in signing the deal.

Also on the agenda for the talks in Qatar was the upcoming vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding the Goldstone report on war crimes in Gaza.

Separately, Ismail Al-Ashkar, a Hamas-affiliated member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) confirmed that Egypt set a deadline calling on other factions to sign the deal by 20 October, with a signing ceremony after Eid Al-Adha. This schedule he said ‘may be acceptable to Hamas.’

In a statement Al-Ashkar confirmed that the document calls for a Joint National Committee in lieu of a unity government.

The committee would include 16 members representing Fatah, Hamas, and the other factions, the official said.

He said the committee’s role is to implement a national unity agreement, and does not have any ‘political obligations’ outside of this goal.

l Separately, a US government spokesperson reiterated previously-stated conditions for whether it will recognize the next Palestinian government.

‘We certainly favour an effective Palestinian government, and we are certainly supportive of a reconciliation process,’ State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley said in a Washington press briefing.

‘If you have a unity government that operates on the basis of the principles that we’ve laid out, then we will be supportive of it,’ Crowley stressed.

‘We’ll be happy to work with whoever is in a Palestinian government that supports the principles,’ he added.

Crowley was referring to the conditions of the international Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia) which stipulate that any Palestinian government must recognise Israel and renounce armed struggle.

Hamas official Al-Ashkar also commented on this pronouncement. ‘What is required is a government that meets the wishes of the Palestinian people and defends their rights, not a government that is subject to the Quartet conditions, as we consider them unfair and we cannot accept them.’