Palestinians Renewing Bid To Upgrade Status At UN

Nearly a year after the Palestinian Authority’s failed attempt at recognition as a full member state, Foreign Minister Riyad Malki announced last weekend that President Mahmoud Abbas would return to the General Assembly on 27 September to seek non-member observer status. Such a bid – which would require the support of only a majority of the 193 member states – would enable the Palestinians to join UN bodies including the International Criminal Court, a development that Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor warned could be used to “hurt us”.

The envoy to the UN – who said that Abbas would have a “guaranteed majority” at the Assembly – told Israel Radio: “There is an attempt (by the Palestinians) to make unilateral moves in order to internationalise the conflict. But beyond what are perhaps the feelings of frustration, it is important to remember that the path to peace really is through the negotiating table with Israel.”

Revealing the move in Ramallah, Malki said: “We are looking forward to getting 180 votes. We will become a non-member (observer) state in 2012.” However, he did not put a precise time-frame on a vote, saying: “When we are sure we have won absolute support from the largest possible number of states, we will be ready to request that the General Assembly vote on such a draft resolution.”

The Palestinians currently have observer entity status and it is believed next month would be a stepping-stone to seeking full member state.

Last September, during the build-up to the original statehood bid, the US threatened to use its veto to scupper a full statehood bid at the Security Council, stressing negotiations were the only route forward. In the end, however, the failure to garner the support from nine members of the Council meant there was no need for this.

An Israeli source was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying: “Refusing to negotiate and unilaterally trying to change the status is a direct and deliberate violation of the whole peace process up until now. Israel reserves the right to respond if it indeed occurs.”

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Ad watchdog rules against Israel Golan Heights map

The ASA ordered the cancellation of IGTO’s promotion of a new book on northern Israel, saying the advert, first published in British newspapers in November 2011, did not properly demarcate the 1967 borders on the Golan Heights and the West Bank.

The ASA received more than 350 complaints against the advertisement from pro-Palestinian organisations such as Friends of Al-Aqsa and Jews for Justice in Palestine.

ASA said the advertisement “must not appear again in its current form”, adding that it had informed the Israeli Tourism Minister that the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights were not part of the State of Israel “as it is recognised by the international community”.

The ASA also determined that the internationally-recognised term “West Bank” was replaced on the map by the name “Judea and Samaria”.

This, said the ASA, showed that the advertisement was misleading.

Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian campaigners have been staging an advertising war.

In April 2010, the ASA cancelled an advertisement by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism after it included a photo of the Temple Mount and East Jerusalem. According to a report in the Guardian, the ad was cancelled as it was misleading and did not make clear that the areas in the photo were in dispute.
In December 2011, the Palestinian representation in London took down an advertisement published on its website in order to attract tourism to the Palestinian Authority.

The ad included a map of the entirety of Israeli territory in the colours of the Palestinian flag.

A spokesman for the Israeli Tourism Ministry told the Jewish News: “We will be changing the colours in future campaigns to show the difference between Israel and the occupied territories, including the West Bank and Golan Heights.

“We are also minded to have campaigns without maps because of the sensitivities involved.”

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Israel still keen to talk as UN debates statehood bid

During a visit to Israel on Monday, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta welcomed the move to accept the Quartet’s proposal. He said: “Real security comes only from a strong diplomatic effort alongside the maintaining of military strength. I want to emphasise that there is a need, and an opportunity, for bold action on both sides to move towards a negotiated two-state solution. There is no alternative to negotiations.”

The Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) recommended that a “preparatory meeting” be held before 23 October. It said it then expects that an agreement should be reached “within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012″.

The Israelis admitted having concerns over some parts of the Quartet’s proposal, such as the separation of the issues of refugees and Jerusalem from borders and security.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed these issues can be discussed within the framework of negotiations. The Prime Minister‘s Office said: “Israel welcomes the Quartet’s call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions, as called for by both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. While Israel has some concerns, it will raise them at the appropriate time.”

Israel called on the Palestinian Authority to “do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay”.

Palestinian leaders said they would not be willing to sit down with their Israeli counterparts unless a building freeze is implemented in the West Bank, a move ruled out by Israeli officials. Israel imposed a partial 10-month moratorium on settlement expansion in 2009 and 2010. The Palestinians returned to negotiations in the final month of the freeze and then demanded another halt.

Leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed Netanyahu for preventing talks, citing last week’s announcement of construction in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Gilo, which is beyond the 1967 Green Line. “The PA supports the Quartet’s call for resuming peace talks,” Erekat said. “But it’s Netanyahu who derailed the process.”

The Gilo announcement sparked what diplomats called a “full and frank exchange of views” between Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the first EU leaders to come out against the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations.

The UN Security Council is set to meet on Friday to further debate the Palestinian Authority‘s statehood bid in the wake of President Mahmoud Abbas’ application two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, there were concerns in the US and Israel over a decision by Congress to block more than $200million in economic aid to the PA. Panetta noted that President Obama opposed blocking the funds.

He said: “This is a critical time and it is not a time to withhold those funds.”

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Muddle East

Following a robustly pro-Israel address by US President Barack Obama, Nabil Sha’ath, a senior official in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s delegation, said: “We will give some time to the Security Council to consider first our full membership request before heading for the General Assembly.”

However, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat exposed a conflict in the Palestinian camp when he told reporters, after Sha’ath’s statement, that Abbas had no plans for a delayed vote.

Sha’ath’s comments came after days of intense pressure on the Palestinians to hold back on their bid. America had already warned it would veto any Security Council vote. And President Obama was thanked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he told the Assembly that Israel deserved peace, security and normal relations with its neighbours. “There is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work,” said the US President. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the UN. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians who must live side-by-side. Ultimately, it is Israelis and Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.

“One year ago, I stood at this podium and called for an independent Palestine. I believed then – and I believe now – that the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own. But what I also said is that genuine peace can only be realised between Israelis and Palestinians themselves.”

Netanyahu had earlier flown to the UN convinced of the bid’s failure and futility, saying he would tell “Israel‘s truth”.

Sources told the Jewish News on Wednesday night that even if the Palestinians went to General Assembly – either now or at a later date – Britain still didn’t know how it would vote. They added that Whitehall, in concert with the rest of the EU, was hoping that the Palestinians would accept a watered-down version of statehood, in line with the Vatican’s observer status at the UN.

Netanyahu is due to address the General Assembly on Friday, after meeting US President Barack Obama on Wednesday and other world leaders the following day.
There were also attempts to persuade Abbas to meet the Israeli PM. Netanyahu, who reiterated his willingness to meet – reminding him that Jerusalem and Ramallah were only 10 minutes’ drive apart.

He urged “the chairman of the Palestinian Authority to launch direct negotiations in New York and continue them in Jerusalem and Ramallah. I am offering President Abbas the chance to launch peace negotiations instead of wasting time on futile unilateral steps.”

Ron Prosor, the former Israeli ambassador to Britain – who is now at the centre of the diplomatic dance as ambassador to the UN – told the Jewish News: “We are ready for talks without preconditions tomorrow morning.

“But after they take a unilateral step, they can’t expect Israel to react as if nothing has happened. There will be consequences.”

On Wednesday, Abbas held out hope for a last-minute climb-down when his spokesman said direct talks could be possible if Israel halted settlement building and agreed to discuss the 1967 lines.

But while Whitehall dithered, Ramallah wavered and Jerusalem warned, Labour urged the UK government to support the Palestinians’ bid for statehood. “The case made by the Palestinians for recognition as a state is strong,” a statement said.

This was criticised by Board of Deputy’s president Vivien Wineman and the Jewish Leadership Council‘s chairman, Mick Davis, who wrote to Douglas Alexander, Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman to express “profound disappointment” at Labour’s position.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, hundreds of protesters for and against the Palestinians’ UN bid were expected to gather in Westminster.

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Don’t be surprised if PA vote is abandoned

Those in favour of an early recognition of statehood have a reasonable argument. While there are many refugees around the world, and national minorities who are citizens of countries they would wish to sever from, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are the only places whose permanent residents remain stateless. They are not yet Palestinian nationals and they cannot be considered Israeli citizens.

Some alteration of the status quo must happen at some time. Most observers recognise that the creation of a Palestinian state is an essential component of any lasting peace agreement. Anxiety, however, has been expressed about the nature of the process being employed.

Some fear allowing developments of such prominence to occur outside of a formal dialogue will encourage other unilateral efforts. Others fear passage of the resolution will raise expectations beyond what is feasible, agitating public opinion in the territories.

These are reasonable fears. Yet these concerns should not be exaggerated. For one thing, this cannot be said to be a unilateral declaration of independence, for Yasser Arafat already adopted such a move in 1988 which had little effect. Moreover, only recognition of statehood is being contemplated. The granting of full UN membership would require a Security Council motion for which sufficient support does not exist. Lastly, a UN resolution will do little to change the facts on the ground. A de facto Palestinian state will only emerge when recognised as part of a peace deal by the parties themselves.

While the wording of the motion has yet to be finalised, it is likely that any recognition will be based on the 1967 borders. Adoption of the motion would therefore give UN endorsement to a two-state solution as the only viable solution to the conflict. Holders of uncompromising and maximalist positions would be undermined, especially Hamas, which detests the prospect of a permanent state of Israel.

It might also be the case that recognition of statehood at the UN would strengthen the Palestinian Authority, as opposed to Hamas, in its efforts to become a counterpoint to the Israeli Government.

Israeli policymakers have long sought to generate both symbolic and tangible improvements in the status of the Palestinian Authority as the chances of a negotiated agreement depend on a counterpart capable of acting on behalf of the Palestinians as a whole. Passage of the motion could strengthen its legitimacy in the eyes of Gaza and West Bank residents, allowing it to demonstrate real progress.

Voting on motions of this kind always place countries in a difficult position. It is especially so on this occasion. Britain will be acutely aware of its allies’ key concerns. France and Germany are keen to maintain a “united front”, while the United States will want as many countries to join it in opposition as possible. In addition, the Foreign Office will be torn between its long standing support for Israel and its desire to see the creation of a Palestinian state.

However, it is worth noting that the final choice is rarely so stark at the United Nations. A myriad of options exist to amend, defer and reconsider such motions.

We could well see a situation in which some reference is made to Palestinian statehood, followed by a longer period of consideration. Indeed, do not be surprised if the much heralded vote does not take place next week.

I am not enthusiastic about this Palestinian initiative and would be pleased if it were withdrawn. However, the success of a UN Resolution on statehood will neither do as much good as some want nor as much harm as others fear.

Ultimately, peace between Israelis and Palestinians will depend on negotiations between them. Nothing will change that reality.

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Suicide Bombers Families ‘Get £8m in UK Aid’

According to Itamar Marcus, of Palestinian Media Watch, the families are on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, which receives some £86million a year in aid from the Department for International Development. The PA gives about £8million to the families.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, told the Jewish News: “Any aid payments should be directed towards the most needy and deserving, and to improving the lives of people unable to fend for themselves. It would be bad enough if aid fell into the hands of those who were not disadvantaged, but worse still if it actually ends up being used to prolong conflict and reward those who have committed acts of terrorism. Clearly every effort must be taken to avoid this and if absolute guarantees cannot be obtained, the payments should not be made.”

Harlow Conservative MP Robert Halfon added: “I am becoming increasingly concerned about the amount of aid to the PA that doesn’t seem to end up in the hands of vulnerable people. I’ve raised this issue in Parliament. These reports, if true, are truly shocking and I will be raising the issue with the minister for international development and in Parliament when it resumes in September.”

Liverpool Labour MP Louise Ellman said: “This is a matter of great concern. When I raised this issue before with the Department for International Development, I was given assurances that money was not reaching terrorists. I will raise this again in Parliament.”

According to the official Palestinian daily newspaper, al-Hayat al-Jadida, payments to the families of those killed fighting Israel, including suicide bombers, totalled 3.5 percent of the PA’s budget.

Marcus said: “Every terrorist in prison, including those whose acts led to the deaths of Israeli civilians, is on the PA payroll. The salary goes directly to the terrorist or the terrorist’s family, and prisoners receive their salaries from the day of arrest.”

However, a DfID spokesman dismissed the claims. “It is rubbish to suggest that the UK is supporting suicide bombers. The UK, along with the US, EU and other European countries, funds the PA to deliver essential services such as health and education to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All payments go to help families based on need, not political affiliation.”

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PA-Hamas unity

Speaking as Israel marked Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, Danny Ayalon expressed deep concerns over the future prospects for peace following the deal brokered by the Egyptians last week.

Ayalon said: “It should be inconceivable that the Palestinian Authority should partner with Hamas, an organisation whose founding charter openly calls for and aspires to the destruction, not just of Israel but of the Jewish people everywhere.

“The fact that the Palestinian Authority has joined forces with such an organisation should be a clear warning to all those who take the solemn vow ‘never again’ seriously.”
Representatives of Fatah and Hamas headed to Cairo this week where they were expected to sign the deal intended to lead to the creation of a unity government.

The agreement ends four years of disputes between the two organisations, but leaves question marks over the prospects for Israel as Hamas does not recognise the state’s right to exist.

While the international community welcomed the deal with cautious optimism, Israel has been clear in its criticism of Fatah’s decision to partner with Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet that the agreement “must concern not only every Israeli, but all those in the world who aspire to see peace between us and our Palestinian neighbours”. As he prepared to travel to London and Paris for diplomatic talks, Netanyahu added: “Peace is possible only with those who want to live in peace alongside us and not with those who want to destroy us.”

The Israeli response was in stark contrast to many world leaders, who said they hoped the surprise deal could advance the stalemate in the region. Foreign Minister William Hague, in Egypt on Monday to meet with his counterpart Nabil Elaraby, said the British government “welcomes the reconciliation and the work done by Egypt“. He added: “Of course details have to be worked out and we will have to judge everyone by their actions and intentions. We will continue to work closely on this.”

The White House was more cautious, with Chief of Staff William Daley saying: “The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation provided it is on the terms that advance peace.”

In advance of the meetings in Egypt, Hamas reinforced its anti-Israel principles. Musa Abu Marzouk, assistant to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, said the organisation would not recognise Israel’s right to exist despite agreements between the Jewish state and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority.

“Hamas has a principled position regarding this issue,” Marzouk said. “We won’t recognise the Zionist entity. Our rights are still usurped and it’s illogical for us to recognise the Zionist entity because that would be at the expense of our stolen lands and our people in refugee camps.”

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Incitement blamed for Fogel family massacre

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured the surviving members of the Fogel family that every effort will be made to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The security services are doing everything they can to find the murders, and we will find the criminals. They are not people, but beasts,” Netanyahu told the family on Sunday night as they sat shiva.

Palestinian terrorists are suspected to have been responsible for brutally killing parents Ruth and Udi Fogel in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, as well as three of their six children; 11-year-old Yoav, his four-year-old brother Elad and their three-month-old sister Hadas.

The shocking incident was discovered by the Fogels’ 12-year-old daughter Tamar, after she returned home from a youth movement event at around midnight on Friday to find the front door unexpectedly locked from the inside.

When she called into the house, her two surviving brothers, eight-year-old Roi and two-year-old Yishai opened the door, and she found her parents and three of her siblings covered in blood.

International leaders were quick to condemn the attack, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague calling it “an act of incomprehensible cruelty and brutality which I utterly condemn.”

“We hope the perpetrator is swiftly brought to justice,” Hague added.

But despite the arrest of dozens of Palestinians, including many from the village of Awarta close to Itamar, by Tuesday none had confessed to carrying out the murders and no Palestinian terror group had claimed responsibility.

On Monday a number of Palestinian news sources reported that foreign workers are also among the suspects. According to the Ma’an new agency all the Thai workers employeed in Itamar were detained for questioning.

In apparent reaction to the murders, the Israeli government approved the construction of more than 400 housing units in the West Bank in a special session of the ministerial team for settlements on Saturday.

But the move attracted criticism from both the international community, including the US which said it was “deeply concerned.”

In an interview with Israel Radio, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described the killings as “inhumane,” but Netanyahu singled out the Palestinian incitement as a potentially contributing factor.

“I demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques and the media under their control,” Netanyahu said.

Among those mourning the Fogels was Bnei Akiva’s UK Shaliach, Rabbi Ilan Goldman, who served in the army with Udi Fogel.

“Rav Udi Fogel, was a genuine role model to me. He was someone who knew how to embody lofty ideas within the practical world,” Goldman said of the 36-year-old who was buried in Jerusalem on Sunday along with the other four family members.

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Bulldozers carry out demolition to the sound of activists’

The diplomatic furore over the construction work on the site of the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood was confounded by the leaking of a document illustrating how the heads of 25 European missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah believe that East Jerusalem should be treated as “the future Palestinian capital”.

The British Embassy refused to comment on the document, which was apparently sent to the European Union’s Political and Security Committee.
It recommended that the EU “raise public awareness about settlement products, for instance by providing guidance on origin labelling for settlement products to major EU retailers”.

Workers destroyed one wing of the Shepherd Hotel early Sunday morning to make way for 20 new homes being built for religious Jews.

The project has been fraught with controversy since 1999 when it was given the green light after the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the property belonged to American millionaire Irving Moskovitz, who bought it in 1985. The hotel was considered “absentee property” after Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and transferred to an Israeli property firm.

Descendents of former Jerusalem Grand Mufti Haj Amin Husseini this week persisted in their claims that they had never sold the land. Husseini, who died in 1948, was a critic of Zionism during the Second World War.
Palestinian leaders said the building project could instigate a new wave of anti-Israel violence. In a statement on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netan-yahu said the government had no reason to get involved as the building work was undertaken “in accordance with Israeli law”.

The Likud leader stressed that Israelis had every right to buy property in Jerusalem.

“There is no democratic country in the world that would impose such a ban on Jews and it cannot be expected that Israel will be the one to do so,” said the statement released by his office.

This argument did nothing to placate Palestinian leaders or the international community, who view Israeli construction in East Jerusalem as illegal.
Jerusalem’s British consul is located next door to the Shepherd Hotel. Alistair Burt, minister for the Middle East, was quick to release a statement condemning the building.

“The British government reaffirms its strong, long-standing opposition to the creation of this new illegal settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and condemns today’s demolition in Sheikh Jarrah,” Burt said. “This latest settlement activity does not help; on the contrary, it raises tensions unnecessarily.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was instrumental in the brief rejuvenation of Israeli–Palestinian peace talks in September, condemned the construction work as “unnecessary”.

And European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton followed suit, saying she “strongly condemns” the demolition and “construction of a new illegal settlement”.
Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat was a leading voice in a chorus of Arab condemnation of the Sheikh Jarrah project and said the move prevented any chance for peace talks to continue.

“As long as this government continues with settlement and conducts acts such as the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel there will be no negotiations,” Erekat said.

Palestinian official Hatem Abdel Qader went further, saying: “We see this matter as extremely dangerous.”

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US-Backed Freeze Package Threatens To Split Cabinet

Netanyahu has been under mounting international pressure to commit to a new construction moratorium since a 10-month freeze came to an end in September.
Proposals for a new 90-day moratorium were brought to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, following a seven-hour meeting between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New York last Thursday.

Although no official details of the new proposal was released, it is reported to be based on the previous freeze, meaning that construction in Jerusalem will continue. In addition to enhanced UN support Clinton has also reportedly offered Israel defence and security guarantees in return for a West Bank building freeze.

Clinton described the plan as “a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu”.

However, right-wing MKs, including Likud members and other politicians, firmly opposed the move and said they would do everything they could to prevent it being passed by the Israeli security cabinet on Thursday.

Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein was the most prominent of a small group of Likud MKs who met on Monday to discuss ways of thwarting the new freeze.
Edelstein said he hoped the freeze would not split his party, but admitted it had increased tensions between its members.

“I think that this is a very bad situation for the Likud,” Edelstein said.

“The participants in the meeting aren’t some extreme elements that infiltrated the Likud. These are Likudniks. And if they remain bitter and disappointed, it would be very serious for the party.”

No specific details of the meeting between Netanyahu and Clinton were released officially, with a media statement describing it as “a good discussion… with a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides.”

But it was reported this week that Netanyahu’s decision to resume the freeze was prompted, in part, by a US commitment to supply Israel with some 3 billion pounds worth of fighter jets and to oppose any moves made in the United Nations to deligitimise Israel.

Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council which represents the West Bank Israeli settlers, was naturally distraught by the proposed freeze revival and described the incentive package that the United States reportedly offered as “borderline ridiculous.”

“To try to incentivize us to act against our own self-interests by offering us support that should be a given in the US-Israel relationship is preposterous,” he said. “Opposing Israel’s continued deligitimisation and backing us in the United Nations should not be viewed as anything more than what we should expect from Washington as our strongest ally.”

On the other side, the Palestinians reiterated that they would only be satisfied with a complete freeze which included construction in Jerusalem. However there is a good chance they will support the Palestinian Authority will support the new plans.

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