Interview with the Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid in Notícias ao Minuto:
Interview with the Ambassador Nabil Abuznaid in Notícias ao Minuto:
To the Diplomatic Community in Palestine,
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed an acceleration of Israeli plans to further annex territory from the occupied State of Palestine as well as to consolidate and cement the presence of Israel’s colonial-settlement enterprise in various areas of Occupied Palestine, including in and around East Jerusalem, Hebron and the area close to the Palestinian village of Jaloud, between Ramallah and Nablus.
The recent unlawful practices have included at least 56 plans for 4,909 colonial settlement units between January – August 2017. This represents a sharp increase of 85% compared to all approved settlement units during 2016. At the same time, there are discussions within the Israeli Cabinet to further annex Palestinian territories to the Israeli defined “Jerusalem Municipality”, including areas in the Eastern Jerusalem Governorate (towards the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumin), areas close to the illegal settlement of Giv’at Zeev (close to Ramallah) as well as the Western Bethlehem Area known by Israel as “Gush Etzion”.
On August 28th, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -whilst addressing thousands of settlers gathered in an illegal Israeli colonial-settlement in the Occupied West Bank-said “We’re here to stay (…) there will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel (…) we are guarding Samaria against those who want to uproot us (…) We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.” Netanyahu’s statement and other Israeli official’s rhetoric, including several ministers are reflective of the systematic Israeli incitement against the rights of the Palestinian people.
In order to advance the annexation plans, Israel, the occupying power, has intensified the process of home demolitions, evictions, destruction of property and confiscation of aid provided by the International Community, such as in the case of Jabal Il Baba and Al Wallajeh and elsewhere, where even schools were destroyed and all their teaching materials confiscated. Only today, in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli Occupation Forces evicted the Shamasneh family from their home, allowing Israeli settlers to take it over. This happened as 121 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in the occupied capital during 2017, displacing at least 168 Palestinians. All these unlawful acts are about forcibly displacing and replacing Palestinians from the area in and around Occupied East Jerusalem with Israeli Jewish settlers.
We have also been following the issue of Jaffa Gate and the attempts by Israeli settlers, supported by the Israeli Government, to take over two important buildings at the entrance of the Old City, separating the Christian and Armenian Quarters, severely affecting the Status Quo and particularly threatening the presence of Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the Israeli Cabinet has approved on Sunday September 3rd the plans to proceed with the construction of a new illegal colonial settlement in the area of Jaloud – between the Ramallah and Nablus governorates. This adds to a military decision taken last week, , to expand “borders” and give further “municipal powers” to the illegal settlers living in the Old City of Hebron, a recently inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is not only a new Israeli violation of its obligations under International Law and UN resolutions, particularly UNSC 2334, but also to the Hebron Agreement signed between the PLO and Israel in 1997. ). In the context of the illegality of settlements, we have condemned the irresponsible statement of the US Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Mr. David Friedman of “alleged occupation” This statement is totally unacceptable and dangerous.
Regretfully, such actions and practices could not have taken place without the complicity of the international community. The Israeli government is pushing for a process of normalization of the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine, including by attempting to distinguish between different Israeli colonial settlements (including the use of the Israeli term of “settlement blocs” that Palestine and the rest of the international community don’t recognize).
The Palestinian leadership is acting in good faith to open a political horizon that will protect and advance the long overdue rights of the Palestinian people, including cooperating with the US administration, Russia, France, Sweden, South Africa, Germany, UK, China and rest of the international actors interested in the resumption of the Peace Process. However, this should not be taken as an excuse by some countries and regional groups to strengthen their relations with Israel, normalize the occupation and simply ignore their responsibilities as per international law to take concrete steps to end the systematic Israeli violations of International Humanitarian Law.
Tangible action should be taken to challenge Israel’s violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. We are looking forward for the publication by the UN Human Rights Council of the list of companies involved with the Israeli colonial-settlement occupation of Palestine and we consider any attempt at blocking its publication as immoral and complicit with the systematic denial of our rights. Also, and as conveyed to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week, we expect countries to participate in the Item 7, on the Human Rights Situation of the Territories Occupied by Israel since 1967, later this month in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council. We have also raised with the Secretary General the importance of following up on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2334. We furthermore, reiterate our call for the banning of Israeli settlement products as well as for the recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border.
As Palestinians living under colonial occupation are marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the UN partition plan and 50 years of the Israeli occupation, it is clear that the international community bears a legal, political and moral responsibility to fulfill the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and hold Israel accountable. The time is overdue for real and urgent action in order to save the prospects of a political solution, the two-state solution on the 1967 border and the chances for a just and lasting peace in Palestine and in the rest of the region.
Dr. Saeb Erekat
Palestine Liberation Organization
El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores condena en los términos más enérgicos la hecatombe atroz cometida
por decenas de colonos en el pueblo de Mikhmas al sureste de Jerusalén, los cuales en la madrugada y
con la protección del ejército israelí, acabaron con más de 310 olivos perennes propiedad de Ali Al-Hajj,
Abdel Sami’ Manha y Dahesh Manha. Esta es la segunda vez en aproximadamente 2 años, que colonos
cortan y destruyen árboles de olivo del pueblo.
El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores afirma que este crimen atroz es una parte integral de una guerra
abierta desatada por parte del Gobierno de Israel y los colonos en contra de la existencia nacional
palestina sobre las tierras de Palestina, y tiene como objetivo principal la destrucción y robo de los
cimientos y fundamentos de la estabilidad del ciudadano palestino en su tierra natal, privándolo de sus
fuentes de provisión y el sustento de sus hijos, lo cual es un crimen que se repite constantemente en todo
el país y ante los ojos del mundo.
El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores responsabiliza completamente al Gobierno de Israel por este crimen
y hace hincapié en que éste está involucrado completamente en esta clase de crímenes, donde las
“fuerzas de ocupación”, la policía israelí y los Organismos Judiciales, proporcionan protección y
encubren a los criminales. El silencio internacional frente a estos delitos, las infracciones graves, la falta
de rendición de cuentas y el procesamiento legal internacional de bandas terroristas de colonos y sus
miembros, representa un encubrimiento y alienta a los mismos a cometer más crímenes en contra de los
ciudadanos palestinos desarmados, sus tierras, bienes y lugares sagrados.
Como de costumbre, en la víspera de las fiestas judías, las autoridades israelíes de ocupación intensificaron la
presencia de fuerzas militares, policía y dispositivos de seguridad sobre Tierras Palestinas Ocupadas y de
manera deliberada impusieron un cordón de seguridad en Cisjordania, incluida Jerusalén y en la Franja de Gaza,
lo cual está asociado con la imposición del “estado de alerta” en las filas del ejército y la policía, siendo una
“reocupación” de las tierras palestinas en general y especialmente Jerusalén, convirtiendo al ciudadano
palestino en el blanco de las acciones punitivas de las fuerzas de ocupación israelíes y en una víctima directa de
sus provocaciones y tensiones, ya sea a través del cierre generalizado e injustificado de los puestos de control
militar que se encuentran en las entradas de los campamentos, aldeas, pueblos y ciudades palestinas, o al
transformar Jerusalén en un verdadero cuartel militar, especialmente en el casco antiguo y los alrededores de la
Mezquita de Al-Aqsa y la Plaza del Muro de los lamentos, donde la policía israelí y las fuerzas de ocupación
realizan inspecciones provocadoras a transeúntes, hombres y mujeres, e intensifican la imposición de multas
De la misma manera, las autoridades israelíes han deportado a 15 ciudadanos de la ciudad de Jerusalén por
periodos variables de tiempo, bajo el pretexto de haberse amotinado en contra de los colonos durante sus
incursiones a la Mezquita de Al-Aqsa, así mismo, las autoridades israelíes detuvieron a 18 ciudadanos del casco
antiguo y sus alrededores en un momento en el cual los hechos han coincidido con numerosos llamados de las
“Organizaciones del Templo” a su público para llevar a cabo extensas incursiones a la Mezquita de Al-Aqsa y
los invitó a realizar oraciones talmúdicas y organizar actividades y eventos en la Explanada de la Mezquita
durante la celebración de la pascua judía.
El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores condena en los términos más enérgicos las medidas punitivas del Gobierno
de Israel contra los ciudadanos palestinos y considera que estas acciones reflejan su permanente política
colonialista de reprimir a los ciudadanos palestinos especialmente en Jerusalén Este, en un intento de ocupar
Jerusalén, cambiar sus hitos y borrar su identidad palestina, de la misma manera intenta con esta escalada
perpetuar su acusación al palestino tratándolo como un blanco permanente de sus tropas provocadoras, de sus
golpes y disparos. Al mismo tiempo, el animar a los colonos y a los judíos extremistas a continuar con las
incursiones a la Mezquita de Al-Aqsa y sus patios, y con la agresión a nuestro Pueblo, se considera una medida
El bloqueo llevado a cabo por parte del ejército y la policía de Israel en contra de los ciudadanos palestinos
desarmados es un motivo para hacer un llamado a la Comunidad Internacional de hacer resurgir la conciencia
política y moral hacia nuestro Pueblo y su sufrimiento, y para pedirle una acción internacional eficaz para
acabar con las violaciones de la ocupación israelí, las violaciones al Derecho Internacional, al Derecho
Internacional Humanitario y a los Acuerdos de Ginebra. Ha quedado claro que el no responsabilizar
internacionalmente a Israel por las violaciones que comete, le representa un estímulo como fuerza de ocupación
para seguir maltratando a nuestro Pueblo desarmado.
Over the past few weeks, the Israeli government has built momentum for further annexation of occupied Palestinian territory while rejecting international peace initiatives. Senior Israeli ministers have openly declared the election of Donald Trump as a strategic opportunity to advance right-wing extremist government goals: speed up settlement construction, annex occupied territory, and achieve U.S. recognition of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.
They have even made use of Republicans, such as Mike Huckabee, an advocate of annexing the West Bank who has visited settlements, to advance such goals and use the American legislative process as an extension of Israeli politics. More likely than not, the first day that President-elect Donald Trump takes office, the question of whether he will maintain the decades-long U.S. policy of keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv, and the positions of the international community at large, will be firmly placed on his desk for immediate action.
The principles of U.S. policy regarding Israeli settlements, including the annexation of East Jerusalem, have been consistently critical under previous administrations—Republican and Democrat alike. It was U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who rejected any official contacts with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) until it recognized the 1967 border. In 1988, the PLO made the painful compromise of recognizing Israel over 78 percent of historic Palestine, at the same time that it declared the State of Palestine (mostly unrecognized in the West) over 22 percent of our historic homeland and recognized all U.N. resolutions. This was the beginning of the official PLO-U.S. channel that would lead to the Madrid Peace Conference under President Bush.
The letter of invitation for the Madrid Conference, signed by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, clearly stated that the outcome of any negotiations would be to end the Israeli occupation. He stressed that the U.S. “does not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal boundaries.” He also said that “the U.S. will continue to oppose settlement activity in the territories occupied in 1967, which remains an obstacle to peace.”
I was part of the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid Conference at the time, while Benjamin Netanyahu acted as spokesperson of the Israeli delegation. The Israeli government only negotiated when President Bush threatened to cut the soft loans Washington grants Israel. Secretary Baker went as far as reading the phone number of the White House, asking the Israelis to “call when you are serious.” Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eventually went to Madrid, but announced what would become official Israeli practice regarding dragging out the peace process: “I would have conducted the autonomy negotiations for 10 years, and in the meantime we would have reached half a million souls in Judea and Samaria.” With Benjamin Netanyahu, the number of settlers has reached around 650,000 by the beginning of 2017.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, right-wing Israeli politician Naftali Bennett stated that, “on the one hand, [Israeli] prime ministers from left and right talk about founding a Palestinian state…on the other hand, the policies do not support that vision. I think that is what is frustrating the world.” He is right. During the eight years of the Obama administration, we were confronted with strong action by Washington in order to prevent Palestinians from taking our case to the international community.
“The Israelis want the two-state solution” we would hear from more than one interlocutor. But it was after locking Washington in for a $38 billion deal that the Israeli government pushed Washington aside, increased their settlement and house-destruction policies, and pushed for domestic legislation to facilitate settlement expansion. It was Netanyahu who left the U.S. administration no alternatives regarding the two-state solution.
Although President-elect Donald Trump, echoing the misguided sentiments of his new pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said that December’s U.N. resolution that condemned Israeli settlement building, and from which the U.S. abstained, was a “big loss for Israel” making it “much harder to negotiate peace,” that is not the opinion of those who genuinely want the two-state solution to succeed.
Let’s look at the facts. That resolution, UNSC Resolution 2334, doesn’t say anything new—on the contrary, it reiterates decades-long U.S. policy and international law. Perhaps this very critical point was lost during U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on December 28. Further, the resolution does not question Israel’s legitimacy, rather it asks member states to distinguish between Israel and Israel’s illegal settlement regime that sits on occupied Palestinian land—land which was already compromised in 1948 and then further occupied in 1967. If this resolution makes anything harder, it is Israel justifying the legitimacy of its illegal settlement-industrial complex over 22 percent of historic Palestine.
As soon as he begins his presidency, President-elect Trump will be confronted with a series of Israeli policies and demands aimed at burying any hopes for a just and lasting peace in the region and the two-state solution, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. We can only hope that his presidency will support global peace and justice rather than further pandering to lobbyists intent on erasing half a century of established U.S. policy.
By Dr. Saeb Erekat
In 2015, Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s foreign and commonwealth affairs minister for the Middle East and Africa, said that the United Kingdom was going to mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. But what does it mean to mark such an event if the U.K. is unwilling to repair the damage it caused to the national and human rights of the Palestinian people?
The Balfour Declaration was a letter sent by a British lord, on behalf of the U.K., to a British banker and politician representing the Zionist movement in 1917. It promised the establishment in Palestine, a land that did not belong to them, of a national home for the Jewish people. When Palestine came under British administration a few years later, London made sure to include this letter as part of the British Mandate.
When the Balfour Declaration was issued, the area known as historic Palestine was inhabited by over 700,000 people, the overwhelming majority indigenous Arabs. Rather than a “land without a people for a people without a land,” Palestine in fact had an Arab population entitled to the same rights as those in the rest of the region, namely a natural right to self-determination and an independent state recognized in Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The Balfour Declaration effectively ignored the national, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people, only stating that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities.”
The Balfour Declaration, though officially adopted, was never popular in Britain. The British parliament refused to endorse the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922 due to its adoption of the Balfour Declaration. At that time, the only Jewish member of the British Cabinet, Sir Edwin Montagu, completely rejected the proposal. Lord Curzon went as far as questioning: “What is to become of the people of the country? Their forefathers have occupied the country for the best part of 1,500 years and they own the soil… they will not be content either to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants.”
Palestinian rejection of the Balfour Declaration was not rooted in anti-Semitism or anti-Jewish sentiments, rather in defense and pursuit of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people for self-determination in their homeland. Palestinians always differentiated between Jews living in Palestine and foreign Zionists aiming at turning Palestine into a Jewish state, a position that has been clearly communicated by various Palestinian delegations to official British counterparts. No people would have accepted that a foreign power offer their country for the benefit of others, all while negating their political rights.
The effects and consequences of the Balfour Declaration are as prevalent today as they were 99 years ago. The ethnic cleansing and forcible transfer of Palestinians in occupied Palestine continues, the annexation and appropriation of Palestinian lands is ongoing while the settler-industrial complex expands its colonial regime, and Palestinian civil and political rights continue to be denied.
Concrete steps must be taken in order to protect and promote the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Palestinians do not need to be reminded of Britain’s colonial transgressions—most can recite the text of the letter verbatim and detail the annals of British history with precision. Palestinians need the U.K. to first and foremost recognize its historic responsibility and apologize. Rather than “mark” this grave insult to world justice, Britain needs to acknowledge its responsibility and commit to protecting and advancing the political, civil, and national rights of the Palestinian people.
Moreover, the U.K. must acknowledge that the two-state solution on the 1967 border, a position the U.K. itself holds, is in fact a recognition of Palestinian statehood. It is time for the U.K. to unequivocally recognize the State of Palestine. For what is the two-state solution without two sovereign and independent states living side-by-side in peace and security?
The Palestinian government has made great strides in building our national institutions and advancing our political and diplomatic efforts. We have acceded to various international instruments, promoted Palestinian rights in international organizations, and will continue our strategy to attain our internationally-recognized right of self-determination. Coupled with the efforts of non-violent popular campaigns at home and abroad, Palestine continues its aspirations for full independence.
Almost 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, 70 years after the tragedy of the Nakba, and 50 years under an illegal military occupation, let 2017 mark the celebration of the end of occupation and a new beginning for Palestine, while fully acknowledging the responsibility for past injustices.
In order to build a future of peace between Israel, Palestine, and the rest of the world, justice must be honored. The United Kingdom cannot continue to avoid its historic responsibility in Palestine.
Dr. Saeb Erekat is the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Mr. Trump’s statement shows disregard for international law, longstanding U.S. foreign policy regarding the status of Jerusalem, including the Occupation and illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem, as well as hundreds of millions of Arabs, including Palestinians Christians and Muslims. His statement also neglects the calls made by millions of US citizens for peace between Israel and Palestine based on freedom, justice and equality. Previous statements delivered by his adviser on Israel show a total abandonment of the two-state solution, international law and UN resolutions, and underscores the urgency of President Abbas’ call at the General Assembly for the international community to bring an end to the occupation and salvage the two-state solution before it is too late.
Dr. Saeb Erekat, Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the PLO, strongly condemned the hateful Israeli campaign against Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom in response to her legitimate calls to open an investigation into Israel’s extrajudicial killing of Palestinian civilians.
“Israeli incitement against Ms. Wallstrom is coming from the Israeli government and political parties, highlighting Israel’s attitude that its partners are only those that allow Israel to be a state above the law.”
Dr. Erekat called on the Israeli government to invest its time and effort to peace rather than to criticizing international law and devoting its efforts to prolonging the occupation.
Regarding the upcoming conclusions of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, Dr. Erekat said: “We support all efforts aimed at bringing protection to the Palestinian people and accountability for the crimes committed against them. We also welcome greater engagement from Europe.”
Dr. Erekat continued: “We call upon the European Union to uphold to its responsibilities in order to protect and promote human rights and international law. Countries that undermine a common policy towards Palestine, by continuing to treat Israel as a state above the law, should abide by their own obligations under this framework.”
Dr. Erekat concluded, “Freeing the State of Palestine by ending the Israeli occupation is vital to the security and stability of the whole region and beyond, including Europe.”
It is time to divest from all companies and organizations that are complicit in the Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise
Dr. Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, strongly condemned the recent Israeli plans to advance its colonization operations throughout the Occupied State of Palestine, which primarily aim to further divide and isolate Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Dr. Erekat stressed that Israel’s illegal policies are based on the continued demolition of Palestinian homes with the intention to forcibly transfer the Palestinian population and replace them with more Israeli settlers.
Dr. Erekat stressed that Israel’s illegal policies violate various fundamental human rights and constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, including war crimes and crimes against humanity under international criminal law. He also reconfirmed the urgency for “the International community to translate their verbal condemnations by taking decisive actions against the Israeli crimes that continue to undermine the two-state solution and a viable, contiguous Palestinian State.”
Among the various illegal Israeli settlement policies and activities, Peace Now recently exposed plans by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to construct more than 65,000 new illegal settlement units throughout Occupied Palestine. These plans include thousands of units in the Eastern Jerusalem Governorate; in the heart of the area designated to the E1 illegal settlement plan. In addition to the construction of hundreds of units in Givat Eitam illegal settlement, referred to as E2, in the south of Bethlehem.
Furthermore, the Israeli Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has recently announced the annexation of Beit Al-Baraka Church compound into Gush Etzion illegal settlement, located south to Bethlehem. This comes parallel to recent demolitions targeting Palestinian communities and homes, including Abu Nwar Bedouin Community located in the Eastern Jerusalem Governorate. According to international humanitarian agencies, five Palestinian homes, an animal shelter, and five International donor-funded structures were destroyed. This has resulted in the displacement of five Palestinian families, including 26 people, the overwhelming majority children.
Dr. Erekat added: “We are encouraged by the courageous decision taken by the United Methodist Church to divest from a list of Israeli Banks that are involved in funding Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the Occupied State of Palestine. By doing so, the United Methodist Church is divesting from oppression to invest in justice.”
“A new year of Israel’s occupation has begun with continued war crimes by further colonizing Palestine. Israel’s systematic policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing should be criticized and punished. This is the only way to see an end to the injustice committed against the land and people of Palestine. It is time for the International community to assume its responsibilities; to hold Israel accountable and to divest from all companies and organizations that are complicit in the Israeli occupation and its settlement enterprise,” Dr. Erekat concluded.
PLO Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi said:
“On behalf of the Palestinian leadership and the people of Palestine, we welcome the agreement signed between the Vatican and Palestine on June 26, 2015 which came into force on Saturday. This momentous occasion confirms the historical identity of Palestine and its culture of tolerance and inclusion. The Palestinian people have been entrusted with a major component of human cultural heritage and a scared history of the three monotheistic religions.”
Dr. Ashrawi added, “This agreement should apply to all Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem which is under Israeli military occupation. It should also serve as a basis and precedent for further political recognitions, as well as a message to the conscience of humanity at large.”