Netanyahu’s govt of war a blow to peace moves — Palestinians

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Updated 08 May 2015
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Netanyahu’s govt of war a blow to peace moves — Palestinians

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new rightwing religious “government of war” is a blow to an already stagnating peace process, Palestinians said Thursday, vowing to fight it on the international stage.
The Palestine Liberation Organization blasted Israel’s “extremist” cabinet, after Netanyahu announced a coalition government that gave him a slim parliamentary majority and included ministers who oppose the internationally-sanctioned two-state solution.
“This is a colonial settler cabinet, no doubt about that,” senior official Nabil Shaath told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, seat of the PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority.
“It’s a cabinet that includes all of those people who want to maintain” Israeli occupation.
Netanyahu’s new government, which he formed at the 11th hour, several weeks after winning his third straight term in office, includes ministers intent on expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, an issue that has derailed round upon round of US-brokered peace talks.
As Netanyahu formed his government, Israel approved the construction of 900 new settler homes in a controversial east Jerusalem neighborhood.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said before the March 17 election that he was willing to enter talks with whoever was reelected.
But Palestinian officials bristled at the cabinet line-up that emerged on Wednesday night.
“The face of a new form of racist, discriminatory Israel has been revealed,” chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement.
“Netanyahu is vehemently leading the charge to bury the two-state solution,” he said, singling out Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, both from the far-right Jewish Home party.
“The presence of the extremist Shaked, of the ultra-Orthodox and of settlers in the government is proof that it’s a government of war, and against peace and stability,” Erakat said.
Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, openly opposes a Palestinian state and advocates annexing 60 percent of the West Bank.
Shaked last year likened Palestinians to “snakes” in a post later removed from her Facebook page but widely reported on by the Israeli media, and said all Palestinians, including mothers of attackers, should be eliminated.
Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said the appointments would “encourage more settler violence and the deliberate dehumanization of the Palestinian people.”
Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and with which Israel fought a devastating 50-day war last summer, said the new cabinet line-up “reflects the growing racism among Israelis.”
Officials in the West Bank were careful, however, not to slam the door shut on any possible talks, but vowed to keep up pressure on Israel in the international arena.
“We are willing to negotiate with anybody the Israelis (electorate) chose,” Shaath said.
“What is needed is for that body, that government, to commit itself to the rules of the game, to commit itself to no settlements, and to recognize that east Jerusalem is ours, and to commit itself to withdrawal from the West Bank.”

Palestinian demands
The Palestinians demand that any peace deal include Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory, recognition of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled Israel after the Jewish state’s creation in 1948.
Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem its eternal, indivisible capital.
Netanyahu vowed during his election campaign to step up settlement building in Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Peace Now settlement watchdog announced Thursday, shortly after the coalition cabinet was unveiled, that 900 new settler homes would go up in east Jerusalem.
With a peace deal further away than ever, the Palestinians vowed to fight Israel through the International Criminal Court and the UN.
“We call on the international community... to support our efforts in the ICC,” Erakat said.
The Palestinians joined the ICC in April and intend to sue Israeli officials over alleged war crimes, notably in Gaza, where 2,200 Palestinians died in the July-August conflict, mostly civilians.


Australia move on Jerusalem slammed

Israeli troops return after blowing up a Palestinian’s house in Ramallah on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 40 min 8 sec ago
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Australia move on Jerusalem slammed

  • PM Morrison says committed to recognizing a future state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital
  • The country became one of just a few to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital

RAMALLAH, SYDNEY: The Palestinian leadership on Saturday described as “irresponsible” Australia’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying it violated international law.

Canberra earlier recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

“We look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status of determination,” Morrison said, adding that work on a new site for the embassy was under way.

“All of Jerusalem remains a final status issue for negotiations, while East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory,” he added.

“Furthermore, recognizing our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem,” he added.

The country became one of just a few to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.

Australia said it would open a defense and trade office in the west of the holy city and also committed to recognizing a future state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.

Most foreign nations avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status — until Trump unilaterally moved the US Embassy there earlier this year.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said in a statement that the Australian decision to open a trade office in the city violated a UN resolution.

“From the beginning, we’ve perceived the Australian government’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as one wherein petty domestic politics steer irresponsible policies that contradict world peace and security,” he said in a statement.

Morrison first floated the shift in foreign policy in October, the move angered Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation. 

The issue has put a halt on years-long negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.

Canberra on Friday told its citizens traveling to Indonesia to “exercise a high degree of caution,” warning of protests in the capital Jakarta and popular holiday hotspots, including Bali.

Morrison pointed to Australia’s military history in the region, and the country’s interest in a “rules-based” order in the Middle East, to support the shift in foreign policy.