Abbas tells Newsweek ‘fed up’ with stalled talks 25Apr11 April 27, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  25 April 2011

TUNIS, Tunisia (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas told the New York-based magazine Newsweek that President Barak Obama had let him down when it came to peace efforts, and he would not wait for the US leader to be elected for a second term to pursue a Palestinian state.

Speaking with a Newsweek reporter over the five days of his last trip abroad, to Amman, Tunis and Paris, Abbas related a series of frustrations with the president, starting with what he said was a 55-minute phone call days ahead of a scheduled UN vote on a resolution against Israeli settlement construction.

“He said it’s better for you and for us and for our relations,” Abbas told Newsweek of Obama’s insistence that he drop the resolution. Abbas said the president outlined a “list of sanctions” that could be applied if the vote went ahead, like Congress failing to approve $475 million in American aid to the PA.

The Newsweek article noted that a White House official called Abbas’ narrative a “selective reading of how those events transpired,” while an advisor to Obama said the president had did not raised the possibility of ‘punitive measures’ in relation to the vote.

Abbas said that after he refused to take the resolution off the table, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a “30-minute exhortation of her own,” the magazine described. “Lower-level officials phoned several Palestinian influentials in Ramallah and asked them to use their sway over the Palestinian leader,” the report continued.

Abbas, according to the publication, still believed that the United States would allow the vote to pass. “I had an idea that they will abstain,” the president said, “But when they said, ‘Who will be against?’ my friend Susan [America’s ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice] raises her hand.”

“Abbas shakes his arm and lets out a long hoot,” the report added, describing Abbas’ reaction to the let down.

“It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze … I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump. Three times he did it,” Abbas told Newsweek, expressing his frustration over American attempts to stop illegal Jewish-only settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian land.

Even the twenty days of peace talks under US envoy George Mitchell were frustrating for the president. “Every visit by Mitchell, we talked to him and gave him some ideas. At the end we discovered that he didn’t convey any of these ideas to the Israelis. What does it mean?”

Newsweek quoted US officials calling Abbas’ comments “nonsense.”

“But Abbas is constantly aware that he heads something short of a state, and that the time left for him to achieve independence is ticking down,” the report noted.

“I cannot wait. Somebody will wait instead of me,” Abbas told the Newsweek reporter. “And I will not stay more.”

Contextualizing the issue in the Mideast wave of revolutions and regime change, as well as delicate US efforts to maintain good diplomatic ties with new and old leaders, Newsweek took a line of support for Abbas, described as “about as affable as politicians come.” Former Israeli negotiator Yossi Beilin is quoted as saying that if Abbas goes before peace is made, “It would really be a tragedy of missed opportunities.”

Commenting on Abbas’ rigorous travel schedule where “Paris is the fifth European capital he’s visited in the past six weeks,” the magazine examines the Palestinian Authority bid for sovereignty via the UN in September.

“For the statehood resolution to have more than just symbolic impact, Abbas would have to come back from New York and assert sovereignty over the territory the U.N. just handed him,” the publication notes, adding, however, that the move “would entail confrontational measures – for instance, ending the security cooperation with Israel. Abbas told me that’s a path he will not take.”

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