Palestine says US ambassador helps Israel to annex part of West Bank

Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Saeb Erekat on Twitter called Friedman an “extreme ambassador of the settlers.” (File/AFP)
Updated 10 June 2019
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Palestine says US ambassador helps Israel to annex part of West Bank

  • Palestinian official urged the international community to respond
  • The foreign ministry said it was looking into filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court on the issue

RAMALLAH: Palestinian leaders say a US envoy’s comments on Israel having the right to annex at least parts of the occupied West Bank show “extremists” are involved in White House policy on the issue.
In a statement late Saturday in response to US ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s comments in a New York Times interview, a Palestinian government spokesman said some leading US policy on the issue were “extremists” lacking in “political maturity.”
The Palestinian foreign ministry said it was looking into filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court on the issue.
Palestine Liberation Organization secretary general Saeb Erekat on Twitter called Friedman an “extreme ambassador of the settlers.”
“Their vision is about annexation of occupied territory, a war crime under international law,” he said.
Erekat also renewed a Palestinian call for countries to boycott a June 25-26 conference in Bahrain to discuss economic aspects of a peace deal the White House has been working on.
In the interview published Saturday, Friedman said some degree of annexation of the West Bank would be legitimate.
“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” he said.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and its construction of settlements there is viewed as a major stumbling block to peace as they are built on Palestinian land.
Friedman has in the past been a supporter of Israeli settlements as has the family of Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser leading efforts to put together the peace deal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged ahead of April elections to begin annexing West Bank settlements.
Bringing settlements under Israeli sovereignty on a large-scale could end any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians.
More than 600,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem among some three million Palestinians.
On the long-delayed peace plan, Friedman said it was aimed at improving the quality of life for Palestinians but would fall well short of a “permanent resolution to the conflict.”
Publication of the plan looks set to be further delayed after the Israeli parliament called a snap general election for September, the second this year.
The plan is regarded as too sensitive to release during the campaign.
The Palestinian leadership has already rejected the plan, saying Trump’s moves so far show him to be blatantly biased in favor of Israel.
Those moves include recognizing the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and cutting hundreds of thousands of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.


Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

Updated 5 min 47 sec ago

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

  • Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals

ISTANBUL: Renowned Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart says he has spent as much time in prison and courthouses as he has at work since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.

His latest stint in jail started in April, after an appeals court upheld his sentence of three years and nine months for “helping terrorist organizations.”

Released last week pending another appeal, Kart told AFP: “For 15 years, prisons and courthouses have become a second home to me.”

Kart, who was recognized last year by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, was among 14 journalists and staff from the renowned opposition paper Cumhuriyet convicted in the case.

He was initially arrested in 2016 after Erdogan launched a major crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

“I have spent almost the same amount of time in court corridors as I spent in the paper. It is very unfortunate,” he told AFP.

Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals, and says he always made an effort to look his best for prison visitors.

“I never welcomed my visitors in a hopeless state,” he said. “I would shave, pick my cleanest shirt from my modest wardrobe and welcome them with open arms. We would spend our time telling jokes.” His morale was boosted by the knowledge he had done nothing wrong.

“If you believe that your position is right, if you have an inner peace about your past actions, then it is not that difficult to stand prison conditions,” he said. Kart has been in and out of trouble since Erdogan took power in 2003.

His first lawsuit came in 2005 over a cartoon portraying Erdogan, then prime minister, as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.

“I have drawn cartoons for over 40 years ... I did it in the past with other political leaders, but I was never the subject of a court case,” Kart said. 

“The frame of tolerance has seriously narrowed today.”

The current case against him claims he contacted members of the Gulen movement accused of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. 

It also says the 14 Cumhuriyet staffers had conspired to change the paper’s editorial policy to support the Gulenists, as well as Kurdish rebels and the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.

“Today the accusations of terrorism have gone well beyond a realistic point,” Kart said.

“When you take a look at my cartoons, you see how much I am against any kind of terrorist organization and how seriously and strongly I criticize them.”

Rights advocates including the Reporters Without Borders have called on Turkey to revise its anti-terrorism and defamation laws, which they claim are abused to silence opponents.

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily founded in 1924 — is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation, making it an easier target for authorities.

The paper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.

It has its own internal problems, too — Kart and some of the others actually quit the paper last year over disagreements with the new management.

But the case has added to the chilling effect that has infected the whole of the media in Turkey, which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

No date has been set for the next appeal, and Kart has no idea how the saga will end.

“Everyone knows that there has been a political shadow hanging over our case,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said his focus would remain on drawing.

“Cartoons are really a very strong language because you can find a way to express yourself under any circumstances, even under pressure.”