Palestinian leader’s bid for UN spotlight ‘may backfire’

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas says the US had disqualified itself as a mediator for peace in the region. (Reuters)
Updated 20 February 2018

Palestinian leader’s bid for UN spotlight ‘may backfire’

UNITED NATIONS: A bid by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to “internationalize” his dispute with the US over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital may backfire, analysts said.
Abbas will address the UN Security Council on Tuesday and is expected to repeat his earlier denunciation of Trump’s move and rejection of the US as future brokers of peace with Israel.
The address will bring the Palestinian leader face to face with a US official for the first time since Trump’s Dec. 6 announcement, with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley expected in the chamber.
However, analysts told Arab News that Abbas’ attempt to “internationalize” the dispute with Israel and the US may backfire, since Palestinians have only lacklustre backing in Europe and ebbing support in the Arab world.
“Most likely, Abbas will leave New York disappointed,” Jonathan Cristol, a scholar at the World Policy Institute, a US-based think tank, told Arab News.
“He will doubtless highlight the centrality of Jerusalem to the Palestinian cause, and on that note will certainly garner sympathy from most Security Council members. But sympathy and $5 buys you a foot-long sandwich and not much else.”
The UN Security Council address by Abbas on Feb. 20 will be the first time the Palestinian leader faces off against an American official since Trump’s controversial decision late last year that Washington would formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Abbas has already made known his anger over moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by canceling a planned meeting with Vice President Mike Pence, saying the US had disqualified itself as a mediator for peace in the region.
He is not alone in that sentiment. On Dec. 21, the UN General Assembly voted 128 to nine to condemn Trump’s actions on Jerusalem, amid concerns that decisions on the Holy City should wait until the final stages of peace talks.
Ahead of the vote, Haley promised to “take names” of countries that sided against Washington. Later, she held a defiant cocktail party for the 65 countries that voted with the US, abstained or managed to be no-shows for the ballot.
The ambassador pushed for a cut-off in US support to the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, getting the State Department to axe $65 million from a scheduled $125 million in payments.
Abbas, 82, is seeking to recover those lost millions and press again for UN recognition of a Palestinian state, while pre-emptively rejecting the Trump administration’s long-awaited peace proposal amid fears it will dash hopes for a two-state solution.
Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, said that Abbas was making a mistake by seeking the global spotlight via the UN’s top body. The Palestinian leader “is completely misreading today’s reality and harming the prospects for a better future for his people,” he said this month.
Sigurd Neubauer, a Washington-based Gulf analyst, told Arab News that Abbas is increasingly squeezed between the US, Israel and Arab states who want to resolve the Palestinian question and focus instead on a perceived threat from Iran.
“Trump is playing hardball, Abbas is isolated and weak. When the time is right, he will tell Abbas to take his peace deal or leave it, and the Arabs won’t step in on his behalf,” he said. “Trump has already cut some funding. Imagine if there’s no money coming in.”
Cristol agreed, saying that a request by Abbas for an upgrade of Palestine’s UN status to full membership would never make it past the veto that Washington holds over any decision of the 15-nation Security Council.
“Abbas may just now be discovering what long-time observers of the region have known for years — not only do Arab leaders care little about the Palestinians, but also the Palestinian cause doesn’t have the resonance on the so-called Arab street that it used to,” he said.


Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

Updated 18 August 2019

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

  • Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel

RAMALLAH: Relatives of a US congresswoman say they support her decision to decline Israel’s offer allowing her to visit them in the West Bank because the “right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions.”

Rashida Tlaib said she would not see her family, even after Israel lifted a ban on her entry, because the government had imposed restrictions on her trip.

“We totally understand her position and support her in her efforts. The right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions,” her uncle Bassam Tlaib told Arab News.

He was speaking from the family home in Beit Ur Al-Fuka, which is 3 km from the West Bank city of Ramallah, and was flanked by his elderly mother.

He said his niece had visited them many times in the past, but there had never been any conditions attached to her travel.

“She said we will meet when she can come without conditions,” Tlaib said. “One idea has been floated of flying the grandmother to the US or finding a way to have the two meetings in a third country. You know my mother is nearing 90 and it is not easy for her to travel but we are checking out all options.”

Tlaib, a Democrat, has criticized Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and had planned to make an official visit to the country.

Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel, local media reported.

But the congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, lashed out on social media.

“I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” she tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her grandmother. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

The NGO hosting and organizing the trip, Miftah, has been criticized by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Hanan Ashrawi, the NGO’s founder, said her staff had organized other congressional trips. “This was the third trip we have organized, and we try to do our work professionally and seriously,” Ashrawi told Arab News. “Our very mission is to promote global dialogue and democracy.”

Ashrawi said the attacks on Miftah were unwarranted.  “Miftah has been targeted with the expressed goal of trying to discredit us even though our record is clear. We believe that they are trying to keep organizing congressional delegations within the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) monopoly, while we are trying to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Palestinian life under occupation and to understand the Palestinian narrative by providing opportunities for delegations to see and engage with Palestinians of all walks of life.” 

Ashrawi said Miftah had been “vetted” by the US Congress’ ethics committee. “We might not be able to bring hundreds of congress people like AIPAC, but we can bring a few and have them see, hear and interact with Palestinians.”

US President Donald Trump had called on Israel not to allow Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar into Israel as admitting the two “would show great weakness.”

He tweeted that the pair “hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace.”