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.

Palestinian coronavirus restrictions being eased

Updated 55 min 46 sec ago

Palestinian coronavirus restrictions being eased

  • State of emergency was imposed on March 5

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian government is ending its coronavirus lockdown following a declining number of cases, the prime minister said Monday.

As of Sunday, 602 cases had been recorded in the Palestinian Authority, including Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There have been five deaths and 475 people have recovered from the disease. The Palestinian Authority imposed a state of emergency on March 5 after the first coronavirus cases were recorded in Bethlehem.

Ministries and industry sectors will resume operations after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, while churches and mosques can reopen on Tuesday with social distancing and other preventive measures in place.

Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh said the decision was based on a recommendation from the Emergency Committee to Confront Coronavirus after random checks on Palestinian workers returning from Israel. The risk had receded and the curve of cases had fallen “which means that we are in a new phase of facing the disease, which is the easing of procedures.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank work inside Israel, which has recorded about 17,000 cases over the past few months thereby increasing the number of cases in the West Bank.

Shtayyeh said that places of worship could open on the condition that people wore masks, brought their own prayer mat and were prevented from carrying out ablutions on the premises.

Courts will reopen after the Eid holiday, and so will all ministries, official bodies and industrial and commercial establishments starting on Wednesday.

But the prime minister added that restrictions and strict procedures would return in the event that new infections were discovered.

National Economy Minister Khaled Al-Osaily told Arab News that steps to ease  restrictions came amid an absence of any cases during the past two days, with the government interested in a return to normal life.

Al-Osaily said the economy was a factor when the government took its decision to ease restrictions.

He added that local authorities would monitor progress and take all the necessary measures, according to developments on the ground, in a way that respected people’s safety, security and health.

Palestinians welcomed the reopening of commercial facilities after months of closure.

“This is the happiest news I have heard in months,” waiter Rizk Khalaf told Arab News. “We need work, we cannot live without it.”

Nasr Abdel Karim, a professor of financial and economic sciences at the Arab American University in Jenin, told Arab News that the government was trying to repair the economic damage caused by the state of emergency.

He said that the government had decided that continuing the severe lockdown would prolong the “bleeding” of the “fragile and distressed” Palestinian economy, and that the loosening of restrictions was mainly motivated by economics.

But he warned against a failure to properly and cautiously deal with the easing of restrictions. The worst case scenario should remain in place because the emergence of new infections could make it harder to return to tough measures, he said.