EU should recognize Palestinian state, says Luxembourg

Demonstrators stage a protest in Chicago against the killings of Palestinians in airstrikes in Gaza. Nearly 30 Palestinians have been killed in the attacks. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2019

EU should recognize Palestinian state, says Luxembourg

  • Palestinians say the settlements jeopardize their goal of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

BERLIN: The EU should recognize a Palestinian state after the US expressed support for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.

Monday’s announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abandoned the position that settlements in Israeli-occupied territory were “inconsistent with international law,” reversing a stand taken under President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

Palestinians say the settlements jeopardize their goal of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the US move will make an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal even more elusive.

“Recognizing Palestine as a state would be neither a favor nor a carte blanche but rather a mere recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to its own state,” Asselborn said. 

“It would not be meant against Israel,” he added, but a measure intended to pave the way for a two-state solution.

The US decision was a victory for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to remain in power after two inconclusive Israeli elections this year, and a defeat for the Palestinians.

It could deliver a new blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a peace plan that has been in the works for more than two years but has drawn widespread skepticism even before its release.

The EU said after the US announcement that it continued to believe that Israeli settlement building in occupied Palestinian territory was illegal under international law.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Israeli forces detained Adnan Ghaith, Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, taking him from his home in the city’s east for interrogation, police said.

• Israeli authorities earlier closed the offices of two Palestinian Authority-affiliated organizations in Jerusalem.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution in 2014 supporting Palestinian statehood in principle. The motion was a compromise reached after lawmakers on the left sought to urge the EU’s 28 member states to recognize Palestine unconditionally.

Since the collapse of US-sponsored peace talks in 2014, Israel has pressed on with building settlements in territory the Palestinians want for their future state.

More than 135 countries already recognize a Palestinian state, including several East European countries that did so before they joined the EU.

Netanyahu’s chief rival announced that he had failed to form a new government, dashing his hopes of toppling the long-time Israeli prime minister and pushing the country closer toward an unprecedented third election in less than a year.

The announcement by Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, prolongs the political paralysis that has gripped the nation for the past year. It also provides a new lifeline for the embattled Netanyahu, who is desperate to remain in office as he prepares for an expected indictment on corruption charges, possibly as early as Thursday.

Gantz, a former military chief, was tapped to form a government last month after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition in the wake of inconclusive
September elections. 

But during four weeks of intense negotiations, Gantz was unable to muster the support of a required 61-member majority in the 120-seat parliament by Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

Addressing reporters, Gantz accused Netanyahu of scuttling attempts to form a broad-based unity government between
their parties.

“He should have come to terms with the fact that the outcome of the elections required him to negotiate directly, with no blocks or barriers,” Gantz said angrily.

“Most of the people chose a liberal unity government headed by Blue and White,” he added. 

“Most of the people voted to weaken the power of extremists, and most of the people voted to go on a different path from that of Netanyahu in recent years.”


Children in Beirut suffer from trauma after deadly blast

Updated 2 min 40 sec ago

Children in Beirut suffer from trauma after deadly blast

  • The massive explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut's port killed more than 170 people
  • As many as 100,000 children were displaced from their homes according to Save the Children, with many of them traumatized

BEIRUT: When the huge explosion ripped through Beirut last week, it shattered the glass doors near where 3-year-old Abed Achi was playing with his Lego blocks. He suffered a head injury and cuts on his tiny arms and feet, and he was taken to the emergency room, where he sat amid other bleeding people.
In the days since then, Abed has not been the same. Like thousands of others in Lebanon, he is grappling with trauma.
“When I got to the hospital, I found him sitting in a corner in the emergency room, trembling at the sight of badly injured people around him, blood dripping all over the floor,” said his mother, Hiba Achi, who was at work when the blast hit on Aug. 4 and had left him in the care of his grandmother.
“He hates red now. He refuses to wear his red shoes," Achi said, adding that Abed insists that she wash them.
The massive explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut's port killed more than 170 people, injured about 6,000 others and caused widespread damage. The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said three children were among the dead and at least 31 were hurt seriously enough to need hospital treatment.
As many as 100,000 children were displaced from their homes according to Save the Children, with many of them traumatized.
“Any noise makes him jump now. He is not eating well anymore,” Achi says. “He was a happy boy, very sociable. Now, he doesn’t talk to anyone.”
Joy Abi Habibi, a mental health expert with Save The Children, says young people who are traumatized can react differently.
“Headaches, nausea, bed-wetting, digestive problems are physical symptoms parents tend to overlook,” she said. “They become clingy and extremely on edge.”
Zeinab Ghazale’s daughters, Yasmine, 8, and Talia, 11, have refused to sleep alone in their bedroom since the explosion, which broke windows in their apartment and sent glass flying around their room.
“We miraculously survived,” said Ghazale, who had to move her daughters out of their home for a few days until the windows were fixed. “But my daughter Yasmin keeps asking, ‘Why don’t I have a normal childhood? Why do I have to go through all this when I am only 8?’"
Psychologist Maha Ghazale, who is no relation, has been treating many children after the explosion. She said many are experiencing uncertainty "and they keep asking if this will happen again.”
“Many children are refusing to go back home, to get close to a glass door or window,” Ghazale added.
Ricardo Molaschi was visiting his grandparents' apartment in Beirut with his Italian father and Lebanese mother. When the blast hit, the 6-year-old was cut by flying glass, requiring stitches. His grandfather, Kazem Shamseddine, was killed.
The youngster has been having recurrent bursts of anger toward whoever caused the explosion.
“I want to put them in a volcano and let them explode,” he said.
Ghazale said that allowing children to process the trauma is crucial — letting them be angry but also encouraging them to tell the story orally or through art and play.
“My son, Fares, keeps playing a game where there is a fire, and he needs to escape,” says Rania Achkar, a mother of two. Her 4-year-old daughter Raya has turned the Lebanese national anthem into a song about the blast.
“The whole world has exploded,” she sings, “there is a fire everywhere, everyone is talking about us on television.”
The trauma can repeat itself if children are exposed to the news and adult conversations about it, says Ghazali, who advises isolating them from that and seeking help.
“Children are resilient, but unprocessed trauma can lead to increased anxiety, behavioral problems, it becomes part of their life and can lead later to negative coping mechanisms,” she says.
Restoring a sense of safety, normalcy and routine will help, Ghazali says.
Hiba Achi says she has decided to leave Lebanon with her son and join her husband who works in Dubai. It's a sentiment echoed by many.
“This place is not safe for Abed, it never was, never will be,” she says, “I don’t want to stay here anymore, that’s it."
Her guilt is shared by many parents, particularly those who have lived through Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war and feel like they have failed their children.
“Our generation is traumatized forever,” says Achkar, the mother of two, referring to those who grew up in Lebanon after the war. “But why do our children have to go through this as well?”