Palestinians slam US ambassador to Israel over settlements remarks

A Palestinian man argues with Israeli soldiers as they arrest the brother of Nimr Jamal near Ramallah on Tuesday. Jamal was earlier shot dead by Israelis in an illegal settlement outside Jerusalem. (Reuters)
Updated 01 October 2017

Palestinians slam US ambassador to Israel over settlements remarks

AMMAN: Palestinians from all walks of life have condemned US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman over his defense of illegal settlements, while an American-Jewish peace movement has demanded the envoy be recalled.
Friedman caused uproar after telling the Israeli news site Walla that only 2 percent of the West Bank is occupied and that settlements are part of Israel.
Friedman, a known sympathizer with Israel regarding the settlements, had earlier stirred controversy after he used the term “alleged occupation.”
The editorial of the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Quds on Friday slammed Friedman, an American bankruptcy lawyer turned pro-Israeli ambassador.
“The Palestinian leadership has the right to demand from the US side clear positions on these dangerous statements if it indeed doesn’t adopt this extremist line that was represented by Friedman,” the editorial said.
A spokeswoman of the US Department of State stated Friday that US foreign policy regarding settlements “has not changed.”
Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian human-rights defender and activist based in Hebron, West Bank, told Arab News that the American ambassador has aligned himself with extremists.
“This is a declaration of war on Palestinian rights and this statement reflects the US bias with right-wing Israeli extremists which no doubt will embolden these elements into continuing their racist and discriminatory policies,” said Amro, who is also co-founder of the grassroots group Youth Against Settlements.
Amro, who is making a tour of Washington and meeting with top US officials, echoed others in saying Friedman is unqualified to be US ambassador to Israel.
“For a country that is trying to play a neutral role in supporting people, human rights and international law, such a statement reflects a person who is not qualified to represent the Trump administration,” said Amro, who called for the US ambassador to be censured by the international community.
“David Friedman’s name should be added to the list of international companies that deal with the illegal settlements,” Amro told Arab News.
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member, also condemned Friedman’s statements.
“In addition to his long-standing support for Israeli settlements, and after referring to the ‘alleged occupation’ of Palestinian land, he has the audacity to maintain that Israel occupies only 2 percent of the West Bank and that illegal settlements that carve, annex and steal Palestinian land are part of Israel,” Ashrawi said.
“The occupation exists. Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a war crime. These facts and realities are not in question.”
Americans for Peace Now (APN) called on President Donald Trump to recall Ambassador Friedman for making statements that blatantly contradict long-held US policy.
“The truth is simple: Friedman is an obstacle to peace, a source of provocation and instability, and is therefore unfit to serve. We call on President Trump to immediately recall him from Tel Aviv and replace him with a person who would better serve our national interests in this sensitive and vital post,” APN said.
Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah official and adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam that Friedman is ignorant of both geography and the policies of his own government.
“Friedman is totally biased to the country he is delegated to. I have a hard time understanding someone who is totally ignorant of diplomacy, of the position of the United States of America and ignorant of geography,” Shaath is reported as saying.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 22 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”