Palestinian leader Abbas tells UN ‘Jerusalem is not for sale’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly on September 27, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)
Updated 28 September 2018
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Palestinian leader Abbas tells UN ‘Jerusalem is not for sale’

  • Abbas rejects ‘biased’ US as sole Mideast mediator
  • Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says not interested in a Palestinian state

UNITED NATIONS, New York:  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Thursday that his people’s rights “are not up for bargaining” and he accused the US of undermining the two-state solution, a day after President Donald Trump suggested for the first time in office that he “liked” the long-discussed idea as the most effective way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Abbas said Trump's promise of a peace agreement contradicted decisions made by his administration since taking office.

"With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution," Abbas said in his address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

He said Palestinians welcomed the US president's launch of a peace initiative, but said they were "shocked" by decisions and actions that clearly contradicted his commitment to the process.

Abbas halted ties with Trump’s administration in December after the US recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and Palestinians have said a pending US peace plan will be dead on arrival because of that and other recent US moves that Palestinians see as favoring Israel.

“Jerusalem is not for sale,” Abbas said to applause as he began his speech at the annual UN General Assembly. “The Palestinian people’s rights are not up for bargaining.”

He said Palestinians would never reject negotiation, but that “it’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they talk call the ‘deal of the century.’”

“What is left for this administration to give to the Palestinian people?” he asked. “What is left as a political solution?”

Added Abbas: “We are not redundant. Why are we treated as redundant people who should be gotten rid of?”The Palestinians will no longer accept the US as the sole mediator in the Middle East peace process, Abbas said.

“We will also not accept sole American mediation in the peace process,” Abbas added, saying the US president had shown that he was “biased” toward Israel since coming to power.

“This administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and has undermined the two-state solution, and has revealed its false claims of concern about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people,” President Abbas said.

Trump made his comment about the two-state solution while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. The US president told reporters he believes that two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best.” 

He has been vague on the topic, suggesting he would support whatever the parties might agree to, a message he also recapped Wednesday.

“If the Israelis and Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy,” he said.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed indifference to Trump’s remarks, saying that the Israeli interest is “a safe Jewish state.”

A Palestinian state “simply doesn’t interest me,” Lieberman said.

Netanyahu has reluctantly accepted the concept of Palestinian statehood but has since backtracked. A top coalition partner is threatening to topple his government if it returns to the agenda.

The two sides in one of the world’s most high-profile and volatile conflicts are always forceful voices at the UN and its annual General Assembly, but their leaders are speaking after a particularly eventful year in their relations.

 

Gaza economy in "free fall"

Hamas that rules Gaza has led protests for months along the border with Israel, aiming partly to draw attention to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

At least 137 Palestinians, mostly unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire since the border protests began on March 30. During that time, a Gaza sniper killed an Israeli soldier.

Hamas and Israel came close to serious conflict earlier this summer as violence soared along the border. Gaza militants bombarded southern Israel with mortars and rockets, and Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza.

Israel says it is defending its border against attempts by Hamas, a militant group that sworn to its destruction, to infiltrate and carry out attacks. But Israel has faced heavy international criticism over the large number of unarmed protesters who have been killed or wounded.

Israel has also been struggling to deal with near-daily fires caused by kites and balloons rigged with incendiary devices launched by Palestinians in Gaza. The blazes have destroyed forests, burned crops and killed wildlife.

Egyptian mediated cease-fire talks have hit a deadlock, and Hamas is now intensifying its campaign with more protests. Palestinians were infuriated, and many Israelis were thrilled, by a series of decisions Trump has made within the last year, starting with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 

The Palestinians also claim the holy city as the capital of an eventual state. Earlier this year, Trump followed up on the recognition by moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that was widely protested by Palestinians and others in the Arab world.

His administration has also slashed aid to the Palestinians by hundreds of millions of dollars and ended US support for the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees.

Trump and his national security team have defended their position, saying that decades of attempts to forge Israeli-Palestinian peace have failed.

The World Bank warned Tuesday that Gaza’s economy is in “free fall,” with a 6 percent contraction in the first quarter of this year and unemployment standing at over 50 percent. A report from the bank urged Israel and the international community to take action to avoid “immediate collapse.”
It attributed the downturn to a combination of factors, including Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory, budget cuts by the rival Palestinian Authority and a reduction in international aid, particularly from the US.


Laughter and headshakes

Other leaders who spoke at the General Assembly Thursday included Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, who told the gathered leaders he had “spared no effort to ensure that institutions are stable and to make sure we are creating a safe and stable enviro conducive to investment and to relaunching growth” in his country since the UN peacekeeping mission there wrapped up in October 2017.

The mission had helped the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere through 13 years of political turmoil and natural catastrophe. It has been followed by a new “stabilization” mission made up of about 1,300 international civilian police officers, along with 350 civilians tasked with helping Haiti reform its justice system.

The Caribbean island country continues to face economic and environmental challenges, including its vulnerability to natural disasters. It suffered heavy blows from a devastating 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Earlier, Lithuania’s president assailed world leaders for being “too quiet, too passive, too ignorant” in the face of abuses, corruption and inequality, and took a dig at Trump’s America-first vision.

“We cannot let the voice of nationalism and division win over dialogue and cooperation,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Much of the attention at the international community’s most prominent gathering has been focused on Trump, whose brash behavior and boastful address on Tuesday provoked laughter and headshakes from other leaders. On Wednesday, he chaired a Security Council meeting on nonproliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and fired off more tough words at Iran.

(With AP & AFP)


Algeria tensions: Governing party chief backs protesters

Updated 20 March 2019
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Algeria tensions: Governing party chief backs protesters

  • Moab Bouchareb told a meeting of party leaders that the party “supports the popular movement”

ALGIERS: The acting head of Algeria’s governing party says it is throwing its support behind protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Critics viewed the move Wednesday as an effort to save the reputation of the FLN party, or National Liberation Front, amid increasing disillusionment with Algeria’s power structure.
FLN interim leader Moab Bouchareb told a meeting of party leaders that the party “supports the popular movement.” But he also appeared to support Bouteflika’s “roadmap” for political reforms.
Bouchareb himself has been criticized as representing a leadership considered corrupt and out of touch with Algeria’s struggling youth. The FLN is Bouteflika’s party.
On Wednesday, foreign affairs minister Ramtane Lamamra said the Algerian government is “ready for dialogue” with demonstrators.
“As I see it, the demonstrations have only grown more numerous, and there will be no solution except through dialogue,” he said in a press conference in Berlin.
“The Algerian government is ready for dialogue, and beyond that, they are prepared to welcome the representatives of the opposition and civil society in the new government which is currently being formed.”
Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has been struggling to form a new government as candidates sought to keep their distance from Bouteflika. Bedoui, who was appointed last week, had promised to create a new cabinet within days to respond to the demands of Algeria’s demonstrating youth.
Separately, the Protestant Church of Algeria issued a statement supporting the protests. The Church, whose exact number of members is not precisely known in the largely Muslim country, said it “fully shares the aspirations and legitimate claims of the Algerian people.”
Algeria’s union for imams and the Islamic High Council, a consultative body, had previously expressed their support for the protests.
Protesters want the ailing Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power. Bouteflika responded by abandoning plans for a fifth term and promising reforms, but also delayed presidential elections indefinitely.
Demonstrators have demanded the government quit at the technical end of its mandate in April, along with the president who has rarely been seen since a 2013 stroke.