The US says it "does not believe the ‘State of Palestine’ qualifies as a sovereign State"… re: ICC

The US Mission to the UN writes “regarding the purported accession of the ‘State of Palestine’ to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”… that, well, the US Government just simply “does not believe the ‘State of Palestine’ qualifies as a sovereign State”…

US sends letter to UN saying it believes that Palestine is not a state – 16 Jan 2015 = CN.64.2015-Eng (1)

From a comment on Twitter

Shorter USG: #Palestine isn’t a state because we’re the United States and we say it’s not. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/CN/2015/CN.64.2015-Eng.pdf … #NotKidding #ICC

 

The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

Well, it was very angry — but also a bit of a let down, this long-awaited and much-touted speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly, just before 7 pm in Ramallah or Jerusalem [but still part of the “morning” at the UN HQ/NY this Friday].

Describing the months of American-led negotiations brokered by a team assembled by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas mimicked Israeli critics by saying:

“…as usual, the Israeli government did not miss the opportunity to undermine the chance for peace”…

The full text of Abbas’ speech can be consulted here.

He did not use the word “Judaization” — but he used words that describe what Palestinians mean when they do use the term:

“Throughout the months of negotiations, settlement construction, land confiscations, home demolitions, killing and arrest campaigns, and forced displacement in the West Bank continued unabated and the unjust blockade on the Gaza Strip was tightened. The occupation’s campaign specifically targeted the City of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, attempting to artificially alter the spirit, identity and character of the Holy City, focusing on A1-Aqsa Mosque, threatening grave consequences. At the same time, racist and armed gangs of settlers persisted with their crimes against the Palestinian people, the land, mosques, churches, properties and olive trees”…

Continue reading The long-awaited Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN General Assembly …

UNRWA digitalizes to save its historic archive of photos

“This is a population who exist, who have a history and is deserving of a future in which they and their children can live in dignity and enjoy full rights” – UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness to Ma’an News Agency at the opening of an exhibit in Jerusalem’s Old City on the digitalizing of its historic archive of photos. The Ma’an report is posted here.

The UNRWA digital archives can be accessed online here. The images record events in 1848 and 1967, as well as in between, and since.

Agence France Presse [AFP] reported here that “Because of its historical and cultural significance, the [UNRWA] archive has been inscribed UNESCO’S ‘Memory of the World’ list since 2009”.

[UNRWA was founded by the UN General Assembly at the very end of 1949, and only began operations in 1950; the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, registered and helped Palestinian refuges before that date…]

UNRWA photographer George Nehmeh, from Lebanon [where UNRWA was headquartered for many years] worked for the Agency, as it is known among Palestinians, from 1960 to 1996:

Ma’an reported that “The archive consists of over half a million negatives, prints, slides, films and videocassettes, covering all aspects of the lives and history of Palestinian refugees since 1948…The first group of photographs were shown on Thursday in an exhibition entitled ‘The Long Journey’ at the Al-Ma’mel Center in East Jerusalem’s Old City”

The BBC published a slideshow, posted here of the photos now on display in East Jerusalem.

The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner wrote, here, that “The exhibit that opened Thursday, called ‘The Long Journey’, will soon go on tour to large cities in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and possibly Syria, and will also be shown at cultural and political centers in Europe and North America … Palestinians refer to the events of 1948 as al-Nakba, Arabic for ‘the catastrophe’. About 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war over the foundation of Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were later displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, some becoming refugees twice over. Tens of thousands have recently been displaced again, reliving the trauma, because of the civil war raging in Syria”… [n.b. — There were other occasions of multiple displacement, as well, from Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, and more…]

The NYTimes, too, published a slideshow, here, to accompany Kershner’s article.

Kershner also wrote, in her piece, that “the refugee issue remains one of the most delicate and complex elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at the core of the two sides’ clashing historical narratives. So it was perhaps inevitable that some Israelis would view the new memorialization of the refugee experience through a prism of politics and contention. ‘When was the last time that any United Nations agency raised so much money and invested so much effort in organizing and circulating around the world the documentation of a specific plight like that of the Palestinian refugees? Never’, said Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry … Mr. Palmor said that while the agency mostly did good work on the ground, it was ‘dedicated to preserving the refugees’ status rather than encouraging their resettlement or integration in their current or alternative locations, contributing to the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem’.” As Kershner reported, UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunnes responded that “What is perpetuating the refugee problem is the failure of the political parties to resolve it”…

Meanwhile, Greg Carlstrom [now an independent journalist, formerly with Al-Jazeera English in Doha] Tweeted from Cairo:
Gregg Carlstrom ‏@glcarlstrom 29 Nov — The @nytimes manages to write about a photo exhibit on Palestinian refugees without interviewing a single Palestinian here

Palestinians express frustration + Daniel Seidemann does too

Reuters reported that the Palestinian leadership sent a letter, signed by Riyad Mansour as Ambassador of Palestine, to UNSG BAN Ki-Moon and to the UN Security Council, accusing Israel “of planning to commit further ‘war crimes’ by expanding Jewish settlements after the Palestinians won de facto U.N. recognition of statehood and warned that Jerusalem must be held accountable”.

In the letter, Mansour wrote that Israel, after the decision to upgrade Palestine to state status last Thursday, was acting “in a rogue, hostile and arrogant manner, contravening all principles and rules of international law and reacting with contempt to the will of the international community”.

Israel was bitterly opposed to the Palestinian UN move, and warned it would retaliate — which it has started to do by announcing new settlement building around north, south and east of Jerusalem.,

In February 2011, the Obama cast the only negative vote on a Palestinian-drafted UN Security Council resolution against Israel’s settlement building, as we reported at the time here:
“All of the other 14 members of the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution, which would have condemned Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. At least 120 UN member states co-sponsored the resolution, despite a few last-minute drop-outs… The draft resolution, if it had passed, would have ‘demanded that “Israel, as the occupying power, immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem and that it fully respect its legal obligations in this regard”. The British Ambassador later made a point of saying not only that Israeli settlements are illegal, but also added that the three largest EU members hope to see Palestinian State by September of this year…The U.S. apparently preferred to say only that Israeli settlements were ‘illegitimate’.
From the State Dept. briefing:
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Rice, you say that you reject the continued building of settlements on the West Bank as being illegitimate. Yet you vote that no on a resolution that calls it illegal. Why is that, considering that the State Department, as far back as 1978, considered settlement activities illegal?
AMBASSADOR RICE: The United States has not characterized settlement activity as illegal since, I believe, 1980. And – but what we do believe firmly and have reiterated forcefully, including today, is that continued settlement activity is not legitimate”…

Meanwhile, Israeli-American lawyer and Jerusalem expert Daniel Seaman has been issuing warnings that could not be stronger, saying that the two-state solution, which he said is essential to the preservation of Israel’s existence, will soon become impossible because of the increased Israeli settlement-building activity in and around Jerusalem.

Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell
Daniel Seidemann standing in front of Maale Adumim - photo by Matthew J. Bell - December 2012

Daniel Seidemann explained his concerns — in particular,his intense concern about an adviser’s advice to Obama to walk away from this problem — to Public Radio International/The World’s Middle East correspondent Matthew J. Bell:

Netanyahu + his cabinet react to the Palestinian achievement of state status [non-member observer] in the UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said at the regular meeting of his cabinet on Sunday — after the cabinet announcement on Friday that 3000 new settlement units would be built + the E-1 area east of Jerusalem would now be developed — that “Today we are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic interests of the State of Israel”.

Netanyahu pointed out that Rabin did the same. He quoted Rabin as saying: “The response to the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel must reinforce and underscore the implementation of the settlement plan in all areas in which the Government decides regarding settlement”. Netanyahu went on: “These are not my words. These are the words of the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and this is the language of the Cabinet’s 1975 decision in the wake of the UN decision that equated Zionism with racism”.

Netanyahu also said: “There will be no Palestinian state without an arrangement in which the security of Israeli citizens will be ensured. There will be no Palestinian state until the State of Israel is recognized as the state of the Jewish People. There will be no Palestinian state until the Palestinians declare an end to the conflict. Israel will not agree to Judea and Samaria becoming a base for Iranian terrorism, as happened in the areas we evacuated in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon”.

Concerning the UN vote on Thursday to upgrade Palestine to state status [albeit still a non-member observer], Netanyahu said: “The Palestinian Authority’s one-sided step at the UN constitutes a gross violation of the agreements that have been signed with the State of Israel; accordingly, the Government of Israel rejects the UN General Assembly decision. I would like to thank US President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas and the leaders of the other countries that voted against the proposal at the UN. History will favorably judge those countries that lined up on the side of truth, on the side of peace and alongside Israel at this time”.

Netanyahu also said: “the Cabinet will be briefed on the incitement that the Palestinian Authority is leading against Israel. I must say that in addition to this report, there is, to my regret, Abu Mazen’s sharp incitement speech at the UN, in which he incited against IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens while using lies and historical distortions. I must note that Abu Mazen did not see fit to say even a single word about the terrorism and rocket fire being directed against Israeli citizens; this is not the talk of a man who wants peace”.

Mahmoud Abbas speech to the UN – projected on The Wall in Bethlehem

A great shot — photo of Palestinians watching Mahmoud Abbas speaking to the United Nations in New York just before the vote to upgrade the status of Palestine to state. The TV broadcast of the Abbas address in New York was projected onto The Wall at the main checkpoint in Bethlehem.

Mahmoud Abbas address to UN in NY projected on The Wall in Bethlehem - 29 Novemer 2012
Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the UN in NY projected on The Wall in Bethlehem - 29 Nov 2012 - photo by George Hale

The photo was taken by George Hale, English-language editor of Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem, and sent out via Twitter:
@georgehale Photo – Scene in Bethlehem where Abbas’ UN speech was screened on Israel’s wall pic.twitter.com/sUTT6KjQ

Shortly after this speech, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of Palestine in the United Nations by a vote of 138 in favor, 9 opposed [including Israel, the U.S., and Canada] and 41 abstentions.

War [on Iran] is postponed as Palestine waits

Veteran Israeli political activist + commentator Uri Avnery has just written in one of his latest weekly columns that war with Iran is postponed — until next spring or summer — unless, of course, as Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz today {see below}, this is a “brilliant ruse” to put us off-guard on the eve of an imminent attack, perhaps during the U.S. interregnum transition from Presidential election to inauguration.

Just four years ago, in another of the very same interregnum periods, Operation Cast Lead took place in Gaza — and a cease-fire was imposed just hours before Obama took the oath of office in Washington D.C.].

Avnery wrote, here, that Netanayhu signalled in his UN General Assembly “red line” speech that “The ‘inevitable’ attack on Iran’s nuclear installations to prevent the Second Holocaust was postponed to next spring or summer. After blustering for months that the deadly attack was imminent, any minute now, no minute to spare, it disappeared into the mist of the future. Why? What happened? Well, one reason was the polls indicating that Barack Obama would be reelected. Netanyahu had doggedly staked all his cards on Mitt Romney, his ideological clone. But Netanyahu is also a True Believer in polls. It seems that Netanyahu’s advisors convinced him to hedge his bet. The evil Obama might win, in spite of the Sheldon Adelson millions. Especially now, after George Soros has staked his millions on the incumbent…Obama has told Netanyahu in no uncertain terms: No attack on Iran before the elections. Or else… THE NEXT President of the United States of America – whoever that may be – will tell Netanyahu the same after the elections…”

Avnery continued: “Recent I was asked by a foreign journalist if Netanyahu could survive the elimination of the “military option” against Iran, after talking for months about nothing else. What about the Iranian Hitler? What about the coming Holocaust? I told him not to worry. Netanyahu can easily get out of it by claiming that the whole thing was really a ruse to get the world to impose tougher sanctions on Iran. But was it? People of influence in Israel are divided. The first camp worries that our Prime Minister is really off his rocker. That he is obsessed with Iran, perhaps clinically unbalanced, that Iran has become an idée fixe. The other camp believes that the whole thing was, right from the beginning, a hoax to divert attention from the one issue that really matters: Peace with Palestine. In this he has been hugely successful. For months now, Palestine has been missing from the agenda of Israel and the entire world. Palestine? Peace? What Palestine, What peace? And while the world stares at Iran like a hypnotized rabbit at a snake, settlements are enlarged and the occupation deepened, and we are sailing proudly towards disaster”.

Amos Harel wrote something similar [though he omitted the Palestine angle] in Haaretz, published today, here, saying that “it wasn’t just American opposition that kept Netanyahu from military action; domestic opposition did as well…

Continue reading War [on Iran] is postponed as Palestine waits

The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Today is the three-month marker of the Quartet plan presented to the Palestinian leadership after their “UN bid”, the formal request for admission of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, made on 23 September 2011 at UN Headuarters in New York.

The Quartet Plan was presented to stop the P.L.O. from pursuing their “UN bid”, or pressing it for a vote, because Israel was terribly upset, and the U.S. threatened to use their veto power to block it in the UN Security Council.

At the first 3-month mark, the two parties were to have met, and they were to have exchanged ideas on what the borders for a two-state solution should look like, and on security arrangements.

So, what has happened?

In December, the Palestinians let it be known that if Israel doesn’t present its idea of borders for a two-state solution by this date, the “hudna” or “truce would be over, and the Palestinians would again unleash all efforts for international recognition and admission to the international organization.

In a calm and rather leisurely reaction, the U.S. State Department said a few days later that the three-month marker was not a rigid or fixed “deadline” … and urged efforts to continue to bring the parties back to the table for direct negotiations.

[Only the Palestinians were refusing, saying it would be useless, mainly because Israeli settlement-building activities continued, while Israeli officials said to anyone who would listen that they were ready for direct talks, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even repeated his offer to go anywhere, almost anytime — even to Ramallah…]

Then, King Abdullah II of Jordan flew by helicopter over the Israeli-controlled West Bank and landed in the refurbished helicopter pad at Ramallah Presidential Muqata’a for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — a day before Abbas himself was due to travel through Jordan, on his way to another session of Palestinian reconciliation talks with Hamas officials in Cairo… Little was revealed publicly about that meeting, and some diplomatic sources suggested that the real purpose was that Abdullah needed help and had panicked, and was really asking Mahmoud Abbas for help .

What is more significant is that U.S. State Department envoy David Hale, who had met Abbas the evening before, was back in Jerusalem to meet Israeli PM Netanyahu just before Abdullah II landed in Ramallah. Then, Hale drove overland to Amman, and met Abdallah II back in Amman that evening.

Not long afterwards, Jordan announced that it would be hosting talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Amman — which would include direct meetings for the first time since September 2010. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh announced that further contacts would be held — but not announced.

The U.S. Secretary of State then announced the date of the second meeting, in early January…

There was criticism from different Palestinian political groupings, from Hamas to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], and Palestinian “youth groups” organized a couple of demonstrations outside the Muqata’a to protest.

A total of five meetings were held in Amman, prior to today’s deadline.

The Palestinians presented their maps and border proposals in an early meeting.

It was not until the last meeting of negotiators [the P.L.O.’s Saeb Erekat, and Israel’s Yitzhak Molcho] that the Israeli delegation screeched up to the meeting, just hours before the deadline, with a kind of power-point presentation about its general ideas — but reportedly without any very specific indications of what Israel thought the borders for a two-state solution should be… and not much indication about security, either.

Continue reading The Quartet's 3-month "deadline" comes + goes

Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

PLO and Fatah strategist Nabil Shaath told journalists in Bethlehem just before Christmas that the Palestinians are observing a “hudna” or truce in pursuing the “UN bid” they filed at UNHQ in NY on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian State declared in 1988 — after the failure of negotiations brokered by the United States and backed by the Quartet [USA, EU, Russia + UN.

Shaath said that this “hudna” would last until January 26, the end of the three-month period that the Quartet gave the two parties [Israel + the PLO] to meet and agree on intitial steps to resume negotiations.

After that, Shaath indicated — and unless Israel stops settlement building by then — the PLO will resume its international efforts, including the suspended “UN bid”.

The admission of the State of Palestine to full membership in UNESCO in Paris on 31 October was something of an unplanned surprise, Shaath suggested: “It’s been on the agenda every year since 1989”, he suggested, but this year, it just happened: “we won”, he said. After that, Shaath told journalists, Abu Mazen [Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas] declared a moratorium on any further moves [well, a lot of donor funding, including USAID money, as well as the immediately-important Israeli transfer of the PA VAT + Customs duties it collects, which goes to pay PA salaries, was at stake].

Shaath also said that separate efforts to join distinct UN agencies and international bodies was just a lot of wasted effort, because if accomplished through the “UN bid” — or, otherwise, by taking the easier and more immediately productive route of going to the UN General Assembly to ask for an upgrade in status from observer organization to observer but non-member state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian-American professor Rashid Khalidi has talked to Victor Kattan — the transcript is published here — analyzing the PLO strategy for its “UN bid” filed on 23 September for full UN membership for the Palestinian state:

Rashid Khalidi [RK]: “…If your objective is a narrow diplomatic one to obtain maximum benefits at minimum costs, which is a perfectly rational approach, it might have been advisable to have avoided the Security Council and to have gone directly to the General Assembly. If, however, this was part of what I would call a declaration of independence from the United States, and the idea was to illustrate the fact that the United States is an obstacle to a just resolution of the conflict, then I don’t see why a defeat in the Security Council, by a U.S. veto or a lack of necessary votes, doesn’t serve that purpose and then that could be followed by going to the General Assembly and achieving the same objective. Obviously you don’t want to suffer a defeat if you don’t have to and another argument would be why should the Palestinians accentuate their differences with the U.S..

Continue reading Rashid Khalidi evaluates the PLO's September "UN bid"

Mahmoud Abbas to Israeli TV: We were wrong not to accept UN's 1947 Partition Plan

An Associated Press story published in Haaretz late Friday night reports that, in an interview with Israeli TV’s Channel 10, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas has said that “the Arab world erred in rejecting the United Nations’ 1947 plan to partition Palestine into a Palestinian and a Jewish state … ‘It was our mistake. It was an Arab mistake as a whole’, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Channel 2 TV in a rare interview to the Israeli media. ‘But do they (the Israelis) punish us for this mistake for 64 years?’…”

This report is posted here.

Has Abbas forgotten that the PLO accepted the late Yasser Arafat’s decision to issue a Palestinian Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988 –a Declaration which was based in part on the UN’s 1947 partition plan contained in UNGA resolution 181 of 29 November 1947…

Professor John Quigley, an American expert on international law, recently discussed aspects of UN Resolution 181, during a visit to Ramallah, as we reported on our sister blog, www.UN-Truth.com, here. In response to a question about the legality of UNGA Resolution 181, which many Palestinians believe was a serious infringement on their right to self-determination, Quigley replied that what gave UNGA Resolution 181 legality, or legitimacy [he avoided specifying the term] was the PLO’s own acceptance of it, over 40 years later, as the basis for the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988…

According to the AP report, in tonight’s interview on Israeli TV Channel 10 Abbas also “confirmed Olmert’s account that the Israeli leader was prepared to withdraw from 93.5 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinians, Abbas added, responded by offering to let Israel retain 1.9 percent of the West Bank. Peace talks stalled three years ago and last month, Abbas bypassed bilateral negotiations to ask the UN to recognize an independent state of Palestine. In his TV interview, Abbas acknowledged the Palestinians might not be able to muster the necessary nine votes in the 15-member Security Council to approve the statehood bid”…