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Friday, September 30, 2011

SPIEGEL Interview with Palestinian Prime Minister

'An Independent Palestine Will Be Inevitable'
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad: "The Arab spring started in Palestine long before it broke out in the rest of the Arab world."
Amit Shabi/laif/ DER SPIEGEL
Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad: "The Arab spring started in Palestine long before it broke out in the rest of the Arab world."
In a SPIEGEL interview, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, 59, discusses controversial plans by the Palestinians to apply for member state status at the United Nations this Friday and why he believes the action should not be considered a unilateral move.

 I don't know if there will be a Palestinian state during my term in office, but I have no doubt that it will happen.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Prime Minister, will you go down in history as the founding father of Palestine?

SPIEGEL: In recent years, you have been busy building schools and roads, reforming the administration and moving toughly to combat terrorism. Is Palestine ready for independence?

Fayyad: Yes, we are ready. And it's not just me saying that -- it is also organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations. They already confirmed in April that the Palestinian Authority had crossed its threshold for relevance for statehood. To me, this is a birth certificate for our state. Even if Israel hasn't ended its occupation, the reality of Palestinian statehood projected on the ground is going to create so much de facto pressure that an independent Palestine will be inevitable.

SPIEGEL: You have named your two-year political program, which expires in the next few days, "Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State." Did you promise too much?

Fayyad: A lot of people described this program as ambitious, and I was one of them at the beginning. But we are now a lot closer to freedom than we would have been otherwise. Of course I am disappointed about the fact that the political process has failed to deliver, and that it is unlikely to deliver us from the Israeli occupation in September or shortly thereafter.

SPIEGEL: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to give a speech at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 and to ask shortly thereafter for therecognition of Palestine as a member state in the UN Security Council. Are you in favor of going to the Security Council even if that means a confrontation with the United States, which has announced it would veto the application?

Fayyad: If I thought for a moment that it would be possible to become a full-fledged member of the UN that way, I would definitely go for it. But there is a gap between what I'd like to have, and what I can have. If it is as certain that it will be a failed motion at the Security Council, as it is generally believed to be, then I would say: Let us pursue a path that is more inclusive, that ensures that we act hand in hand with our friends in the international community. We should have the largest possible alliance behind us so that the European Union will not be divided by this vote.

SPIEGEL: Europe is already divided. Germany spoke out earlier this year against the UN initiative, but France and Spain tend to support it.

Fayyad: I can't call that divided. What we are doing is consistent with the European Union's consensus position of 2009, which was affirmed last year. What if, just as an illustration, we go to the UN General Assembly and present a draft resolution where the preamble is taken verbatim from the European Council's 2009 position? No one could then tell me why the European Union should oppose it.

SPIEGEL: At most, the UN would be able to bestow Palestine with the rank of a non-member observer state -- similar to the Vatican.

Fayyad: If the UN states that Palestine is state ready, then that validation alone would be a major accomplishment for us Palestinians.

SPIEGEL: But Palestine would still be far away from becoming an independent state.

Fayyad: The UN itself does not recognize countries -- countries recognize one another. After the declaration of our independence made by our late President Yasser Arafat in 1988, many countries recognized Palestine. In recent months, there has been a significant addition to the already long list of countries that recognize Palestine. Countries are moving to recognize us, and countries are upgrading our representation in their capitals. Creative frameworks are being found for dealing with the Palestinian Authority as if it were a sovereign state. The world has recognized us already.

SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, many important countries are still holding back support for your UN bid -- especially Germany, which is doing so out of consideration for Israel. Are you disappointed?

Fayyad: There is no way you are going to get me to say I'm disappointed when it comes to friends like Germany. I'll tell you what I'm generally disappointed by: The reflexive response and the argument that we are acting unilaterally. This is not unilateralism! This is not about the unilateral declaration of statehood. Our political objective is a sovereign state on 22 percent of the British Mandate for Palestine. This is the full embodiment of the two-state solution. Isn't this what the government of Israel asserts it wants?

SPIEGEL: The most recent negotiations with Israel collapsed a year ago. Do you still believe in the peace process?

Fayyad: Of course. Negotiations with Israel are needed. There can be no solution without a political process.

SPIEGEL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas haven't met with each other since then.

Fayyad: The problem with negotiations is not a lack of them. I find it most regrettable that, after 18 years, it is no longer clear what we are talking about. We negotiate over principles rather than assurances and arrangements. But what we need are firm agreements instead of wasting time to extract short statements.

SPIEGEL: In the meantime, Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A growing number of Palestinians are starting to feel that the idea of a Palestinian state is becoming increasingly unrealistic. Does the two-state solution still stand a chance?

Fayyad: We are all too conscience of the adverse facts on the ground that continue to appear to be inconsistent with the need for a Palestinian state. I not only still believe that the two-state solution is possible, but also that people should not rush to declare it dead either. Because what exactly is the alternative? This is a question that Israel must address.

SPIEGEL: Without negotiations and UN membership, your state-building project could soon fizzle out.

Fayyad: I agree. I was perhaps the first who said: Whatever we do must be seen as an exercise that will lead to the end of the Israeli occupation. It is not part of an effort to adapt to the reality of a prolonged occupation.

SPIEGEL: Israel has announced it will take retaliatory measures in response to the UN initiative. Do you fear a fresh outbreak of violence?

Fayyad: Non-violence is a strategic choice of ours, and it is something that I personally believe has immense power. I will not relinquish that path. At the same time, our people have the right to self-expression. It is not a crime if our people demonstrate for their freedom.

SPIEGEL: Many Palestinians are looking longingly to Egypt and Libya, two countries where the people have succeeded in rising up for their freedom. They may think: Why don't we do that as well?

Fayyad: The Arab spring started in Palestine long before it broke out in the rest of the Arab world. What are these uprisings all about? They are about government leadership and citizen's rights. That is exactly what we launched in our program two years ago: full citizens' rights, enfranchisement and a government for the people. But you have something different in mind: People who go into the streets to demonstrate against the occupation. You're not talking to someone who's hostile to that. I'm an ardent supporter of non-violent resistance. This is a part of what we have to do.

SPIEGEL: How would you prevent these protests from spinning out of control?

Fayyad: I have to answer with a question: Why is it that the government of Israel does not deal with non-violent demonstrations on the Palestinian side in the same way they deal with non-violent demonstrations on the streets of Tel Aviv?

SPIEGEL: Where hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been protesting for a change in domestic policy for weeks now.

Fayyad: There are no rubber bullets in Tel Aviv, there is no tear-gas; and if there was, then I am certain that they didn't target the gas canisters at any people. No one accepts it. Israelis don't accept it. The occupation oppresses us, but it is also corrosive to Israeli society.

SPIEGEL: Israel is threatening to cease transferring tax money and customs duties to the Palestinian Authority if it proceeds with the membership bid at the UN. You could be out of money very soon.

Fayyad: We're already in the midst of a crisis. The payment of salaries is difficult even now.

SPIEGEL: Would the Palestinian Authority collapse if Israel stopped the flow of money?

Fayyad: We are already reducing our budget in order to substantially reduce our reliance on aid. Some people use the crisis as evidence that we can't exist as our own state. They say: Look, they don't even have money to pay salaries. But there are dozens of countries that have existed for decades that have had to live through similar crises. Does that disqualify them from being states? No.

SPIEGEL: This is your fourth year as prime minister and yet you have never been elected. Is Palestine democratic?

Fayyad: I consider myself to be a democrat. And therefore, I was excited when there was an agreement between the two Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, to end the separation between them. We have to overcome this separation in order to become a fully functioning democracy.

SPIEGEL: Will there soon be a joint government with Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip?

Fayyad: Why not? What are we going to do? Split up the country? I am someone who looks forward to the day when reconciliation happens.

Interview conducted by Juliane von Mittelstaedt

In blow to government, UK High Court rules Raed Salah was "wrongfully detained"

The UK High Court in London has within the last hour ruled that Palestinian activist Raed Salah was wrongfully detained after his entry to the country, and is thus entitled to compensation. 
The full ruling is available online here, and is also included at the end of this post. The judge, Mr Justice Nicol ruled that: 
I have accepted his [Raed Salah’s] argument that he was not given proper and sufficient reasons for his arrest on 28th June nor was he given them until some time on 30th June. He is entitled  to damages for wrongful detention during that period
I was in the High Court for the entire two days of the appeal, and I may blog again later with some analysis once I’ve had a chance to read the full judgement. 
The ruling is a big blow to the case of Home Secretary Theresa May, as she seeks to have him removed from the country. Salah is challenging her exclusion order against him in seperate appeal in a Birmigham immigration court (my full report for EI on that should be out soon, so I’ll update this post with a link then).
We welcome the Court’s finding that Sheikh Salah was wrongfully detained and that he should be compensated for that. We are however disappointed that the Judge refused the judicial review in respect of the statutory purpose and policy. This is a worrying first step towards a policy of preventative detention for acts that have not even been contemplated yet.

Europe Fails to Unite on Palestinian Question

By Christoph Schult in Brussels
A Palestinian boy waves a flag in Jerusalem's Old City as an Israeli police officer looks on.
A Palestinian boy waves a flag in Jerusalem's Old City as an Israeli police officer looks on.
The EU is further removed than ever from a common position in the Middle East conflict. The Europeans couldn't even agree on a joint declaration in the UN Human Rights Council. Some backed Israel, others stood behind the Palestinians, while Germany avoided adopting a clear position.

Everything was supposedly already worked out in detail. For a week the European diplomats accredited at the United Nations in Geneva had been working on a statement about the status of human rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Though there are currently only eight European countries represented on the UN Human Rights Council, the position was meant to speak for the entire EU.

Last week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appealed for recognition of an independent Palestinian state before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Though a UN Security Council vote on the application is likely to be delayed for some time, all sides are under pressure to choose a position on the controversial issue.

Chances of a European agreement seemed good on Monday, particularly because the last version of the text had a balanced tone. Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip was condemned, as were the most recent Palestinian terrorist attacks on the Israelis. The document also pilloried executions carried out by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the violence of Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.

But this turned out to be too much for some of Israel's friends in Europe. Just one hour before the official debate began in Geneva, the Netherlands representative reported that his country could not back such a resolution. In a quickly arranged emergency meeting the Dutchman whipped out his iPhone, reading off a number of required revisions, without which he said his country would unfortunately be unable to approve the document.

The corrections obviously came directly from the Dutch ambassador's boss, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, known for his pro-Israeli policies. The member of the conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) is himself Jewish, though not religious, and is married to an Israeli woman.

Netherlands Steps Away From EU Position

He instructed his diplomats in Geneva to strike a number of formulations from the statement, among them numerous references to a "two-state solution" -- that is, the foundation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The foreign minister also didn't want any mention of Israel's arrests of peacefully demonstrating human rights activists or their destruction of homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that forced the affected Palestinians to resettle elsewhere.

And this despite the fact that a report for the UN Human Rights Council confirms that the Israeli government has increased orders for the destruction of homes since the beginning of the year. According to the report, some 387 buildings have been destroyed since January, among them 140 residential buildings, turning out 755 Palestinians. Furthermore, more Palestinians have been displaced in the first half of 2011 than all of last year, the report adds.

The changes from The Hague were not well-received by the other European diplomats. Though some had been prepared to negotiate individual questions such as the Israeli arrests of demonstrators, the refusal to acknowledge a need for a two-state solution -- already a key European position for years -- went too far.

German Stance Unclear

Most of those present at the meeting protested, at the same time expressing wonderment that some member countries agreed to the Netherlands' last-minute wishes. Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic all declared they were ready to accept the demands, in order to enable a unified European position. Meanwhile Sweden, Austria, Romania and Slovenia declared this was unacceptable. Thus just before the start of the council meeting, the EU representative leading the crisis meeting could do nothing but declare the debate had failed.

In the end, the text the group had originally agreed upon was signed by only six European countries, among them those who are currently not even on the Human Rights Council. Germany could have signed on, but preferred not to take a position. A spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry refused to comment, citing the "confidential deliberations."

It's the latest example of how EU coherence is being sacrificed to national interests. Already hardly anyone expects the EU to present a unified vote if the Palestinian status comes before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Meanwhile the four countries currently sitting on the UN Security Council -- Britain, France, Germany and Portugal -- are also unlikely to agree on a single stance.
Thus the EU has practically no influence on either side in the Middle East conflict. What happened in the UN Human Rights Council proves that in order to prevent a unified European position, the Israelis or Palestinians just need to get one of the 27 member countries to disagree.,1518,788835,00.html

Army invades Jenin and Other Villages

author Friday September 30, 2011 11:19author by Mais Azza - IMEMC & Agencies 
The Israeli army invaded, on Friday morning, the West Bank city of Jenin. The Palestine News and Information Agency (WAFA) reported that a large military force invaded the city and Jenin refugee camp in addition to some other surrounding villages in the early hours of Friday Morning.

Eyewitness reported that twelve military vehicles swept most of their neighborhoods and streets for five hours and fired grenades and machine gun fire, however no injuries were reported.

The Israeli military has also invaded many other nearby cities accompanied by military vehicles touring the streets and neighborhoods for several hours, no detentions were reported.

FAQ on Statehood Bid

IMEU, SEP 8, 2011 

This paper seeks to provide answers to some frequently asked questions surrounding the Palestine Liberation Organization's actions before the United Nations during its September 2011 meeting.

1. What is the Palestinian Authority planning to do in September?

The Palestinian Authority had earlier announced its intention to issue a unilateral declaration of statehood for the State of Palestine encompassing the entirety of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. These areas have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967 despite UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel's occupation, and despite an advisory opinion ruling by the International Court of Justice. The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, laid out this plan in August 2009 in a document titled, Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State and later in the follow-up report in 2010 titled,Homestretch to Freedom.

The plan to issue a unilateral declaration was changed, however, to instead focus on attaining Palestine's membership as a state in the United Nations.

2. What is Palestine's status currently before the United Nations?

In 1974, the Arab League passed a resolution declaring the Palestine Liberation Organization the "sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian
people." That same year, following a UN debate, the UN General Assembly passed aresolution inviting the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the session and the work of the General Assembly, and in all international conferences convened by the General Assembly or other organs of the United Nations.

This status was changed in name only in 1988. Following the Palestinian declaration of independence, the General Assembly adopted a resolution determining that "the designation 'Palestine' should be used in place of the designation 'Palestine Liberation Organization' in the United Nations system." Nonetheless, 'Palestine' remains solely as an observer entity in the United Nations. While there are no uniform rules governing the rights and privileges of observer missions, Palestine has the right to speak at UN General Assembly meetings but cannot vote on resolutions or other substantive matters. Over the years, Palestine has steadily been granted additional rights within the UN. These include the right to participate in the general debate held at the start of each session of the General Assembly; the right to cosponsor resolutions and the right to raise points of order on Palestinian and Middle East issues. It cannot, however, vote on resolutions.

3. Why does Palestine want to seek admission as a member state of the United Nations?

In his opinion piece in the New York Times, the de facto President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, indicated that, "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice."

Being admitted as a member state of the UN will also pave the way for Palestinians to seek redress before the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine.[1]

4. What is the procedure for admission to the UN as a member state?

Membership to the United Nations, is, governed by Article 4 of the Charter of the United Nations which provides that membership "is open to all peace-loving States that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations." States are admitted to membership in the United Nations by decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

The procedure is briefly as follows:
  • The State submits an application to the Secretary-General and a letter formally stating that it accepts the obligations under the Charter.
  • The Security Council considers the application. Any recommendation for admission must receive the affirmative votes of 9 of the 15 members oF the Council, provided that none of its five permanent members - China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America - have voted against the application. The following states are currently members of the Security Council: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Germany, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal and South Africa.

The procedure for admission can be a lengthy one. For example, in the case of Israel, it was admitted six months after it submitted it application because the Security Council was concerned that it was not a "peace-loving State." In some cases, admission is granted automatically such as the recent admission of South Sudan in July 2011.

If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary in the Assembly for admission of a new State and membership becomes effective the date the resolution for admission is adopted.

Given that the United Nations is neither a state nor a government, it does not have the ability to "recognize" a state or government; recognition is an act that other states and governments grant or withhold. As a result, while a State may be admitted as a member, it does automatically provide for recognition by all member states around the world. Similarly, not attaining membership as a state in the UN does not negate or detract from existing recognition. For example, in the case of Palestine, there are already 122 countries that recognize Palestine or have some form of diplomatic ties with the country. Similarly, 36 countries do not recognize Israel and do not have diplomatic ties with it.

5. But can it be said that Palestine is a "state"? Does it meet the requirements for statehood?

In order to meet the requirements of statehood, legal scholars indicate that there must be four elements present: (i) a clearly-defined territory; (ii) a permanent population that lives in that territory; (iii) the presence of a government that can control that population and (iv) the capacity to enter into international relations. When the PLO declared its independence in 1988, it did not meet those requirements as they neither set out a clearly defined territory and there was no government present in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Today, these arguments cannot be made. In April 2011, the IMF and the World Bankdetermined that the Palestinian Authority has the institutions and economic policies required of a well functioning state. In addition, the Palestinian Authority maintains diplomatic and economic ties with individual groups and States and has done so for many years.

But, while Palestine may meet the legal definition of statehood, the determination of whether an entity is a "state" is, however, a political matter. For example, states that exert less control, such as the Marshall Islands, are considered "states" and are members of the UN. For some European countries their objection to Palestinian statehood rests from the fact that Palestine remains under Israeli military control and prefer to see an end to that control before it recognizes Palestine as a state.

6. Will the US vote against Palestine's application for membership? If so, why? Has the US threatened action against Palestine?

President Obama, in his speech on 19 May 2011 alluded to the US position on Palestine's bid for statehood by stating, "Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state." In addition, Congress has introduced a number of bills and resolutions aimed at cutting off assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it unilaterally declares statehood and to theUN if the UN admits Palestine as a member state. In June, the US Senate also passed a resolution calling upon President Obama to announce that the US will not support any resolution on Palestinian statehood and to consider restrictions on aid to the Palestinian Authority should it continue with its bid to become a member state of the UN.

7. There has been some talk about upgrading Palestine's status before the UN. What will this do? 

Given the obstacles that the United States will undoubtedly place to Palestine's admission to the UN, it has been suggested that the Palestinians seek a UN General Assembly resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood and upgrading Palestine's status within the General Assembly.

While the passage of such a resolution will both highlight the world's support for Palestinian freedom (with more than 124 countries representing 75 percent of the world's population standing in support), its effect will be largely symbolic owing to the fact that, according to the rules of the United Nations, membership into the UN requires the support of the UN Security Council.

In addition, given that the UN does not have any specific rules regarding non-state observer status - with currently only the Holy See holding such status - it is unclear whether an upgrading of Palestine's status before the UN will grant to it more privileges within the UN system, particularly given the unprecedented and wide privileges it already holds. For example, the Holy See, holds observer status within the UN and like the PLO (Palestine) mission, does not have the right to vote in UN sessions.

8. Aren't negotiations a better route?

Negotiations to end Israel's control over Palestinians and their land commenced more than 18 years ago. Yet, despite the years of negotiations and countless negotiations sessions Israel's control over Palestinians has intensified, rather than eased. For example, today the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalemnumber over 500,000, more than double the number that were present prior to the start of the negotiations process. Moreover, Palestinian-Israeli negotiations remain stalled owing to Israel's continued construction and expansion of illegal settlements in violation of international law, stated US foreign policy, and UN resolutions. In August alone, Israel approved the construction of an additional 5,200 new housing units while also stating that these settlements will remain an integral part of Israel and will not be evacuated.

Moreover, Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes with over 387 structures demolished in July alone.

9. What will Israel do if Palestine pursues admission to the UN?

Israel has threatened a number of actions against Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority should the Palestinian Authority seek Palestine's admission to the UN. The measures include: threatening to withhold the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority; threatening to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, thereby enlarging the state of Israel and threatening to cancel the Oslo Agreements thereby raising questions as to whether Palestinians will be able to travel (as they must cross Israeli-controlled borders that are governed by the Agreements); obtain building permits; obtain birth certificates; apply for family reunification; jeopardize Palestinian import and exports and further harm Palestinian access to shared water. It is also believed that Israel will continue to maintain the illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip.

10. Will Palestine's admission to the UN change anything on the ground for Palestinians?

No. Israel will remain in occupation of Palestine and continue to control the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even if Palestine is admitted to the United Nations as a member state. Just as Israel remains in occupation of parts of Lebanon and Syria despite the fact that both are member states of the United Nations, without international intervention (such as was authorized during Iraq's invasion of Kuwait) Israel will continue to remain in occupation of Palestine, will continue to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland in what is now Israel and will continue to maintain control over the lives of millions of Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority, in February 2009, presented a declaration to the ICC accepting the Court's jurisdiction for acts committed on the occupied Palestinian territory since the ICC's jurisdiction began on 1 July 2002. However, owing to the fact that Palestine is not recognized as a "state" prosecutions for such crimes have not yet been determined.

'Ample evidence to take Israel to ICC'

Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:14AM GMT

Interview with Valentine Azarov, Al-Haq representative
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is reportedly processing the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s demand for the UN’s recognition of Palestine as an independent member state.
Acting PA Chief Mahmud Abbas presented the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with the statehood proposal on Friday during the UN General Assembly’s 66th annual session in New York.
Press TV has interviewed Valentine Azarov with Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, to discuss the Palestinian application.
Press TV: There are fears that the refugees are now going to be a forgotten issue, who will represent them and what is the legal standpoint of the diaspora in all of this UN recognition bid?
Azarov: I think it is important to start by recalling that the legal situation with regards to representation of Palestinian people, as it exists right now, will not be changed by the UN initiatives. At the moment there are two main bodies representing the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is non-state actor; transnational organization recognizes the liberation movement at the UN represents all Palestinians everywhere for the purpose of their exercise of right to self determination including the right of return to the currently internationally recognized territory of Israel.
The state of Palestine, which is in fact a government in exile, the international relations of the state of Palestine continues to be conducted by the PLO, is representing of course the population of the OPT, the West Bank including East Jerusalem (Al Quds) and the Gaza Strip. This situation is not modified in any way by the substitution or the upgrade at the UN of the Palestinian representation. The refugees would not be disenfranchised.
Press TV: So let’s talk about what will be upgraded then. For example, with UN recognition, will there be a chance for the Palestinian representative to go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) when Israel invades the West Bank for example?
Azarov: The basis for going to the International Criminal Court already exists, there are ongoing violations of international laws that constitute international crimes that the ICC has jurisdiction over. That is irrefutable, there is sufficient material in the hands of prosecutor at the moment that he has received over the last year specially since the Operation Cast lead happened and that indeed has been indicated by him to civil society and international organizations as enough to look into certain cases.
The reason the court has not accepted Palestinian declaration from January 2009 is largely political in fact. The question was indeed Palestine is a state for the purpose of the Rome Statute and the court has not made a decision on that question yet and this is why this is a very important monument to push forward that declaration and also to open up the opportunity for the state of Palestine to become a member of the court to ratify Rome Statute.
Press TV: The Oslo Accord is now widely seen as a delaying tactic by Israel in order to grab more land in the West Bank, this is what commentators consider it. They also breached fishing rights for the Gazans and they have breached the accord as well. Is this UN bid from a legal stand point is also possibly a delaying bid that will delay the rights of the Palestinians to justice and peace in their own land.
Azarov: First of all the Oslo accord as a framework is not law as such, it is an administrative agreement between an occupying power and an occupied population for the administration of the occupied territory. It does not trump or have priority over any international law applicable in the occupied Palestinian territory it has been breached so many times that the current framework that was envisage no longer applies even in practice.
video of the interview can be watched here

American Jews petition Obama against Palestinian state

Thursday, 29 September 2011 15:30

Reports in the Israeli media claim that around 100,000 American Jews have signed a petition to be presented to President Barak Obama, asking him to use the US veto at the UN Security Council against a resolution giving Palestine full member status. President Mahmoud Abbas presented the Palestinian Authority's application for UN recognition as an independent state last week.
According to Israel Radio, the petition says, "Since the establishment of the state of Israel, Arab countries have refused to recognize its right to exist as a Jewish state, and the Palestinian Authority holds on to that stance. And therefore, the US veto must be used against the PA's application for full member status for Palestine at the UN."
A London-based commentator called the wording of the petition "a blatant distortion of reality". MEMO's Ibrahim Hewitt pointed out that in 1948, "The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel was clear that it was enacting 'the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the state of Israel'." The Palestinian Liberation Organisation recognised the state of Israel in 1993 at the time of the Oslo Accords, so it gave de facto recognition to the Jewish character of the state. "This latest insistence on separate recognition of Israel as a distinctly Jewish state is," Hewitt claimed, "another obstacle intended to give Israel more time to build even more illegal settlements and make the possibility of a viable Palestinian state even more remote." The 100,000 signatories of the petition in America have been duped, added Hewitt. "They really should study the history of the conflict before getting conned in this way."
The petition was handed over to Israeli Minister of Information Yuli Edelstein, who is currently on a visit to New York, for him to pass on to the US Administration.

UN experts: Gaza blockade illegal

Wed Sep 14, 2011 2:31AM GMT

A speedboat escorts Gaza Freedom Flotilla lead ship Mavi Marmara near the southern port of Ashdod after attack by Israeli commandos.
Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is a violation of international law and amounts to collective punishment of the people of Gaza, a panel of UN experts says.

A panel of five independent UN human rights experts reporting to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said on Tuesday in Geneva that the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law," Reuters reported.

The UNHRC-mandated panel of experts rubbished an earlier UN report released on 2 September that ruled Israel's naval blockade of the Strip both legal and appropriate.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli attack of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists also ruled that Israeli Defence Forces had used “excessive” force but “did not violate the international law” and held both Israel and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla activists responsible for the violence.

However, the UNHRC panel said the four-year Israeli blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the coastal enclave of fundamental rights.

In a joint statement, the experts noted, "In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognize the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel's closure policy toward Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians."

A previous fact-finding mission appointed by the UNHRC to probe the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre also concluded in a report in September that Israeli blockade violates international law.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the blockade violates the Geneva Conventions.

Richard Falk, who is a UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five UNHCR experts, said the Palmer report's conclusions were “aimed at political reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. It is unfortunate that in the report politics should trump the law."

Another expert, Olivier De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, went on to say that about one-third of Gaza's arable land and 85 percent of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli blockade.

He added at least two-thirds of Gazan households lack secure access to food. "People are forced to make unacceptable trade-offs, often having to choose between food or medicine or water for their families," Schutter stated.

The other three experts were the UN special rapporteurs on physical and mental health, extreme poverty and human rights, and access to water and sanitation.