Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas addressing the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on Sept. 21, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2023

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights, Abbas tells UNGA
  • President urges states that have not yet recognized state of Palestine to do so immediately
  • Calls for peace conference that ‘may be last opportunity to salvage two-state solution’

LONDON: Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full rights are mistaken, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory “violates the principles of international law and legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic reality on the ground, aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.”
Abbas said his country remains hopeful that the UN will be “able to implement its resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967.”
He added that Israel continues to attack his people, and its “army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property to just steal our money and resources.”
Abbas said Israel “continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites … especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone.”
He added that Israel is digging tunnels under and around the mosque, threatening its full or partial collapse, “which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.”
He urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
He also requested an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East would participate.
“I ask your esteemed organization and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.
He also urged states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to do so immediately. “I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?
“I can neither understand nor accept that some states …are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the UN has accepted as an observer state.
“These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why?”

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?
Updated 7 min 20 sec ago

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?
  • Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accuses Israel of dehumanization and demonizing Palestinians
  • Believes any Israeli leader would choose occupation over normalization with Saudi Arabia
  • Calls on his compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

DUBAI: With the war in Gaza heading toward its sixth month, some are wondering if there is any end in sight to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. What is certain, however, is that Israel carries out a policy of dehumanization of Palestinians to justify its occupation, according to one of Israel’s most famous journalists.

“Israel systematically, from its first day, dehumanized and demonized the Palestinians in order to maintain their occupation, to maintain even the creation of the state of Israel,” Gideon Levy said.

He said Israel “is very efficient in manipulating propaganda and brainwashing all over the world,” and is “the only occupier in history which presents itself as a victim.”

Levy, who has spent over four decades as a journalist writing for the Israeli daily Haaretz covering mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made these remarks on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking.”

Gideon Levy has spent over four decades as a journalist and columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He spoke to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News current affairs show. (AN photo)

Levy has been harshly critical of Israel’s actions, particularly those carried out in the wake of the Hamas attack in southern Israel in October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of 240 people. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 people, many of which are women and children, have been killed so far in Israel’s retaliatory offensive.

Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire or scale back its offensive. The Kingdom has made the establishment of a Palestinian state a prerequisite for any normalization deals, with Israeli officials keen on the idea of improved relations with Arab states.

Levy, however, doubts that any Israeli prime minister, including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would go that far.

“I don’t see them … putting an end to the occupation,” he told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Israeli politicians might be hoping for a repeat of the 2020-2021 Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel quickly also normalized ties with Morocco and Sudan.

“Maybe they also hope that, like in the Abraham Accords, in which they got quite a good deal without changing the policy toward the Palestinians, only by all kind of lip services for this,” he said.

“I think that all the candidates for being prime minister in Israel, not only Netanyahu but also the opposition, would still prefer to maintain an occupation rather than to have normal relations with an important country like Saudi Arabia.”

Even beyond the Arab world, Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has triggered international backlash, including South Africa’s landmark court case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. However, Levy sees most of this as empty words.

This photo taken on January 26, 2024, shows the International Court of Justice panel assembled in The Hague during the reading of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel over its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip. (X: @CIJ_ICJ)

“Sympathy toward the Palestinians is very deep rooted among the grass roots, but I don't see many leaders really care about the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they fall between the chairs for many years now, when many statesmen give their lip service about solidarity with them, but finally almost nobody is doing for them anything and they are left quite alone, especially in (the) last years,” Levy said.

“Yes, there is a lot of talking going on; condemnations, resolutions, rulings, rules, hearings, many, many things. There is only one thing lacking, and this is action. That is, taking measures.

“The world never took real measures and the US, in particular, never took any measures to promote its interest, to promote its ideas. The US claims that it wants to see this war ended. And (at the same time) it is supplying Israel with more ammunition and more arms.”

Israel has learned “that you can very easily ignore the talk and stick to its policy, because Israel doesn’t pay any price for its policy,” Levy said.

With Palestinians themselves and leaders across the world calling for peace, Levy is not certain that peace should be the top priority when it comes to talks on Palestine, but rather justice for the Palestinian people.

“I am calling for justice, not for peace … maybe peace will be the bonus that we’ll get out of it. But I am not sure that two people are ready for peace, but there is one people who deserve justice. And this must be pushed by the world.”

From 1978 to 1982, Levy worked as an aide and spokesman for Shimon Peres, the then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982 he began to write for Haaretz, and later worked there as a deputy editor.

He has long written of his support for a one-state solution in which Jews, Arabs, and all citizens have equal rights — a controversial opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians.

“There are 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Nobody is going to evacuate them. And there is no viable Palestinian state with 700,000 Jewish settlers, part of them very violent, all of them very ideological. I don’t see (a two-state solution) happening.”

Objects are scattered more than a week after Jewish settlers attacked the occupied West Bank village of Wadi al Seeq on October 24, 2023. (AFP/File)

He added: “If not the two-state solution, what is left? Only the one state … the only problem is that it’s not a democracy.

“I have to tell my fellow Israelis, you can’t have it all. If you wanted a Jewish state, you had to pull out from the occupied territories a long time ago.

“If you want a democratic state, you should give up the Jewish state because you cannot have it both, because there are two peoples here. Either you are an apartheid state or you are a democracy.”

As the Israeli bombardment continues across the entirety of Gaza, many Palestinians have begun to lose hope in their own officials. Even one month prior to the start of the most recent Israel-Hamas war, 78 percent of Palestinians wanted the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 7, 2024, during a Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (POOL / AFP)

Observers now speculate whether there could be a replacement for Abbas, one that could carry out reforms and to revitalize the PA.

For Levy, jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti could be a contender.

“He was the only one who would really unite the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, together. I believed also that he is a man of peace. And he proved it in many ways,” he said.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in Ramallah in 2002, and two years later was sentenced to five cumulative life sentences on five counts of murder.

“I hope he’s still capable of leading the Palestinians. I don’t have a better idea. I’m not sure Hamas will accept him today. Twenty years ago, yes, (but) I’m not sure today,” Levy said.

“I’m a great believer of him. And because I believe in him, and because so many people believe in him, Israel will never release him. And that’s so tragic.”

The portrait of jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti (R) is seen along with that of the  late South African president Nelson Mandela at an office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Barghouti, in Israeli custody for nearly two decades after being convicted over multiple killings during the second intifada, is being compared to Mandela, who successfully led the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. (AFP/File)

Particularly since October, the popular rhetoric in Israel has increasingly turned against Palestinians, something that Levy blames on a combination of racism and dehumanization.

“If you conduct such a brutal occupation over so many years, if you teach your soldiers and your young people, generation after generation, that there is nothing cheaper, and there is nothing cheaper than the life of a Palestinian, I can tell you, if the Israeli army would have killed so many dogs as it did (people) in Gaza, it would be a huge, huge scandal in Israel.”

In addition to this, Israeli news media, which Levy explains “doesn’t cover the suffering of Gaza,” has played a role in inflaming racist attitudes in the country.

“They know Israelis don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear about it. It’s an outcome of decades of brainwashing, decades of humanization; as I said before, decades of demonization of the Palestinians.

“Israelis don’t meet Palestinians anymore at all, because of the barrier of the (West Bank) separation wall. There’s almost no contact anymore between the two peoples,” Levy said, explaining that the Oct. 7 attack has led Israelis to lump all Palestinians in the same category as Hamas and the perpetrators of the attack.

Participants run past a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier during the "Freedom of Movement Palestine Marathon" in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 10, 2023. (AFP/File)

“We are in a very, very low moment in history. And obviously the racism is now politically correct in Israel. It's enough to have one attack, like this terrible attack on the 7th of October, to make all the incorrect political ideas as politically correct.

“Because after what they have done to us, most of Israelis think, we have now the right to do and say whatever we want, because of those horrible things they did.

In the minds of Israelis now, Levy said, “all Palestinians must take responsibility for the October 7 crimes, all of them took part in it.”


Qatar emir due in Paris for talks on Gaza

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
Updated 54 min 16 sec ago

Qatar emir due in Paris for talks on Gaza

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
  • The ruler’s trip on Tuesday and Wednesday will be his first state visit to France since he became emir of Qatar
  • Country hosts the political bureau of Hamas but also enjoys warm relations with the US

PARIS: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whose country has played the key mediation role in the Gaza war, visits Paris this week for talks with President Emmanuel Macron, the French presidency said Sunday.
The ruler’s trip on Tuesday and Wednesday will be his first state visit to France since he became emir of the small emirate in 2013, according to the Elysee.
Qatar has emerged as the key player in mediation between Israel and Hamas to agree a truce in Gaza and release more hostages abducted by the Palestinian militant group in its attack on Israel on October 7.
It hosts the political bureau of Hamas but also enjoys warm relations with the United States.
“Qatar is notably working on the release of the hostages, which is a priority for us,” said a French presidential official. Three French nationals are among those still held by Hamas.
The discussions will also focus on “ongoing efforts to obtain a ceasefire... and enable massive aid to be provided to the Gazan population,” added the official.
A previous week-long truce in November saw more than 100 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners freed but so far no other such deal has been agreed despite intense efforts over the last weeks.
Egyptian, Qatari and US experts met in Doha on Sunday for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media said, seeking to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Doha talks followed a weekend meeting in Paris, without Hamas, where representatives “came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for temporary ceasefire would look like,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN.
The war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,692 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest tally issued Sunday by the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza Strip amid ongoing talks

Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza Strip amid ongoing talks
Updated 25 February 2024

Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza Strip amid ongoing talks

Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza Strip amid ongoing talks
  • US, Arab and other mediators have voiced hope a deal can be reached before Ramadan

GAZA: Dire food shortages sent hundreds of Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza on Sunday as Israel’s war against Hamas raged on despite stuttering efforts toward a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Desperate families in the north of the besieged war zone have been forced to scavenge for food as fighting and looting have stopped humanitarian aid trucks from reaching the devastated area.

“I came on foot from north Gaza,” said one of them, Samir Abd Rabbo, 27, who arrived with his one-year-old daughter at the Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip. “I can’t describe the kind of starvation spreading there.”

Without milk, he said, he had tried to feed his baby girl bread made from animal feed, which she was unable to digest. “Our only hope is God, there is nobody else to help.”

Close to the main battlefront, in the far-southern Rafah region, alarm has grown among 1.4 million Palestinians of a looming ground invasion feared to bring more mass civilian casualties.

US, Arab and other mediators have voiced hope a deal can be reached before the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

Israeli warnings of a Rafah ground invasion have sparked deep concern, and questions about where the Palestinians now living there would flee to in the devastated territory.

UN and other aid agencies have repeatedly warned that “nowhere is safe” in Gaza.

Neighboring Egypt has kept its border closed to a mass refugee flight, arguing it will not help facilitate any Israeli operation to push Palestinians out of Gaza.

But satellite images show it has also built a walled enclosure next to Gaza, in an apparent effort to brace for the arrival of large numbers of refugees.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis has meanwhile spiraled, with the UN World Food Programme reporting “unprecedented levels of desperation.”

Some residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder, the meat of slaughtered horses, and even leaves from trees.

Inside Israel, public pressure has grown on Netanyahu — both from the desperate families of hostages taken by Hamas, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

Thousands again rallied in Tel Aviv’s “Hostages Square” Saturday night to demand swifter action.

“We keep telling you: Bring them back to us, and no matter how!” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped during the Oct. 7 attack.

Nearby, protesters were blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as police deployed water cannon and mounted officers to disperse them.

“They are not choosing the right path for us, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” charged one protester, software company CEO Moti Kushner, 54. “It looks like they never want to end the war.”

Meanwhile, an Israeli soldier seized by Hamas militants during their Oct. 7 attack was killed the same day and his body is being held in Gaza, the army and a campaign group said on Sunday.

The Israeli army confirmed the death of Sergeant Oz Daniel, 19, while the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said his remains are held in the Palestinian territory.

“Oz’s body is still held captive by Hamas,” the forum said in a statement.

Daniel was a guitar player who “believed in the power of music to change the world,” the forum said.

During the attack, Palestinian militants abducted around 250 Israelis and foreigners to the Gaza Strip. Around 130 are still held captive there. This includes 31 who are believed dead, among them six soldiers, according to Israeli figures.

Netanyahu says ceasefire would only delay ‘somewhat’ Israeli military offensive in Rafah

Netanyahu says ceasefire would only delay ‘somewhat’ Israeli military offensive in Rafah
Updated 25 February 2024

Netanyahu says ceasefire would only delay ‘somewhat’ Israeli military offensive in Rafah

Netanyahu says ceasefire would only delay ‘somewhat’ Israeli military offensive in Rafah
  • Israeli PM confirmed to CBS that a deal is in the works, with no details
  • Israel developing plans for expanding offensive against Hamas militant group to Rafah

TEL AVIV: An Israeli military offensive in the southernmost city of Rafah could be “delayed somewhat” if a deal for a weekslong ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is reached, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, but claimed that total victory in Gaza is “weeks away” once the offensive begins.
Netanyahu confirmed to CBS that a deal is in the works, with no details. Israeli media reported that mediators were making progress on an agreement for a ceasefire and release of dozens of hostages held in Gaza as well as Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said the War Cabinet tacitly approved it.
Talks resumed on Sunday in Qatar at the specialist level, Egypt’s state-run Al Qahera TV reported, citing an Egyptian official as saying further discussions would follow in Cairo with the aim of achieving the ceasefire and release.
Meanwhile, Israel is developing plans for expanding its offensive against the Hamas militant group to Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border, where more than half the besieged territory’s population of 2.3 million have sought refuge. Humanitarian groups warn of a catastrophe, with Rafah the main entry point for aid, and the US and other allies have said Israel must avoid harming civilians.
Netanyahu has said he’ll convene the Cabinet this week to approve operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of civilians.
“Once we begin the Rafah operation, the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion. Not months,” Netanyahu told CBS. ““If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach.”
He said that four of the six remaining Hamas battalions are concentrated in Rafah.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC that President Joe Biden hadn’t been briefed on the Rafah plan and said, “We believe that this operation should not go forward until or unless we see (a plan to protect civilians).”
Heavy fighting continued in parts of northern Gaza, the first target of the offensive, where the destruction is staggering. Residents have reported days of heavy fighting in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City.
“We’re trapped, unable to move because of the heavy bombardment,” resident Ayman Abu Awad said.
He said starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings. Northern Gaza has been largely cut off from aid, and the UN’s World Food Program suspended deliveries last week.
A senior official from Egypt, which along with Qatar is a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has said the draft ceasefire deal includes the release of up to 40 women and older hostages in return for up to 300 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women, minors and older people.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, said the proposed six-week pause in fighting would include allowing hundreds of trucks to bring desperately needed aid into Gaza every day, including the north. He said both sides agreed to continue negotiations during the pause for further releases and a permanent ceasefire.
Negotiators face an unofficial deadline of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan around March 10, a period that often sees heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Hamas says it has not been involved in the latest proposal developed by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, but the reported outline largely matches its earlier proposal for the first phase of a truce.
Hamas has said it won’t release all of the remaining hostages until Israel ends its offensive and withdraws its forces from the territory, and is demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including senior militants — conditions Netanyahu has rejected.
Israel declared war after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostages. More than 100 hostages were released in a ceasefire deal in November. More than 130 remain in captivity, a fourth of them believed to be dead.
Families have followed the negotiations with hope and anguish.
“It feels like Schindler’s list. Will he be on the list or not?” Shelly Shem Tov, the mother of Omer, 21, told Israeli Army Radio of his chances of being freed.
Israel responded to the Oct. 7 attack with a air and ground offensive that has driven around 80 percent of Gaza’s population from their homes, putting hundreds of thousands at risk of starvation and the spread of disease. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza says 29,692 Palestinians have been killed in the war, two-thirds of them women and children.
The ministry’s death toll doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel says its troops have killed more than 10,000 militants, without providing evidence.
The war has devastated Gaza’s health sector. Less than half of hospitals even partially function.
At the Emirates Hospital in Rafah, three to four newborns are placed in each of its 20 incubators, which are designed for just one.
Dr. Amal Ismail said two to three newborns die in a single shift, in part because many families live in tents in rainy, cold weather. Before the war, one or two newborns in incubators there died per month.
“No matter how much we work with them, it is all wasted,” she said. “Health conditions in tents are very bad.”

Egypt sets up a second camp for displaced Palestinians in Gaza’s Khan Younis

Smoke rises during Israeli ground operation in Khan Younis, as seen from a tent camp sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah.
Smoke rises during Israeli ground operation in Khan Younis, as seen from a tent camp sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah.
Updated 25 February 2024

Egypt sets up a second camp for displaced Palestinians in Gaza’s Khan Younis

Smoke rises during Israeli ground operation in Khan Younis, as seen from a tent camp sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah.
  • Source added that second camp will be followed by a field hospital in Rafah and another camp north of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip

CAIRO: Egypt has begun setting up a second camp for the displaced in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, with a capacity of 400 tents, accommodating about 4,000 people, and equipped with electricity and toilets, a source told Al-Qahera News TV channel on Saturday.

The source added that the second camp will be followed by a field hospital in the Palestinian city of Rafah and another camp north of Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.

Egypt will also set up two aid distribution centers in Rafah, which is now home to a large number of displaced Palestinians.

A source indicated that the second camp will be completed at the end of this week, adding that the it comes within the framework of Egypt’s efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Red Crescent, in cooperation with the Palestinian Red Crescent, continues with its work to set up a second camp for displaced in Khan Yunis.

The Palestine Red Crescent wrote on X on Sunday: “The Palestine Red Crescent teams, in partnership with the Egyptian Red Crescent, have completed the second phase of the Egyptian Camp for housing displaced people in the Mawasi area of Khan Yunis.

“A total of 139 tents were set up, accommodating 139 families,” the Palestine Red Crescent added.