mahmoud abbas



A Hamas official on Monday slammed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not lifting sanctions he placed on the Gaza Strip, despite reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah advancing with the signing of an agreement to restore the PA ’s governing authority in Gaza.

Over the past five months, Abbas has gradually slashed the PA budget allocated to Gaza for electricity, medical supplies and other purposes in order to pressure Hamas to give up control of the Strip.

“The failure of [Palestinian] Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to respond affirmatively to the popular and national demands to cancel his arbitrary measures against our people in Gaza is unjustifiable and a clear denial of the demands of reconciliation,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum posted Monday on his Twitter account. “He must bear responsibility for exacerbating the people’s suffering and crises.”

Hamas had wanted Abbas to cancel the sanctions at a Fatah Central Committee meeting on Sunday, its first meeting since the agreement to restore the PA ’s governing authority in Gaza was signed, but a record of the meeting made no mention of the issue.

Fatah Spokesman Osama Qawasmeh on Monday suggested that the sanctions would be reversed after the PA is empowered to operate in Gaza.

“We agreed with Hamas in Cairo to enable the government to work. We need to make sure this is achieved,” Qawasmeh said when asked in a phone interview if the PA president plans to cancel the sanctions. “The government will be going to Gaza this week to evaluate the situation. Thereafter, it will send a report to the president [Abbas], who will make the appropriate decision.”

Hamas and Fatah agreed in Cairo that by December 1, 2017, the Fatah-dominated PA would take responsibility for Gaza in the same way that it does the West Bank.

The two parties still need to overcome several differences before the PA will be able to assume that responsibility.

For example, the parties have yet to determine the future of Gaza’s security sector. Abbas, who also serves as Fatah chairman, has said the PA must control Gaza’s security as well as all weapons there. Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh has said that while the PA should secure Gaza, dissolving Hamas’s armed wing is not up for discussion.

Hamas’s armed wing is comprised of some 25,000 members. It is said to possess tens of thousands of rockets and control a network of tunnels, some of which breach Israel’s border.

In a separate development on Monday, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt met in Ramallah to discuss Palestinian reconciliation efforts, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Wafa did not report the details of their discussion on Palestinian reconciliation efforts.



Abbas to visit Gaza within a month for Palestinian unity bid

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in a decade within a month, a top official in his Fatah party said on Thursday, after reconciliation talks with rivals Hamas.

Abbas “will be in Gaza within less than a month,” Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP after a breakthrough in talks between the two sides in Cairo.

Abbas has not visited the enclave since his forces were pushed out in 2007 by the Hamas terrorist organization, which has controlled it ever since.

Earlier on Thursday, the two sides announced they had reached agreement on aspects of their decade-long split during talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo.

Details of the agreement have not yet been released and a press conference was expected later Thursday in the Egyptian capital.

One of the key issues has been punitive measures taken by Abbas against Gaza in recent months, including reducing electricity payments that left the territory’s residents with only a few hours of power a day.

“All the measures taken recently will end very shortly,” Agha added.

Since the near civil war in 2007, the two Palestinian factions have been at loggerheads — complicating any potential peace talks with Israel.

Multiple previous reconciliation talks have failed.

Last month, Hamas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza but the fate of its vast military wing is a significant stumbling block and the terrorist group remains effectively in charge in the enclave.

There was no indication Thursday that Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated to the elimination of Israel, is prepared to disarm, previously a key precondition for Abbas.

Appearances aside, Abbas hasn’t given up on disarming Hamas

In the heart of Cairo, rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah supposedly signed a deal Thursday that ends 10 years of bitter conflict.

Yet, nearly all the issue agreed upon have not been subjects of dispute for some time. The hardest issues, most notably whether Hamas will have to give up its estimated 25,000-strong fighting force, are still on the table, with no real solution in sight.

All that the deal addressed was the easy stuff, the civil issues, an excuse for both sides to celebrate and thank Egypt for its help.

Will Hamas recognize Israel?

Keeping in mind that the full agreement has yet to be published, here are the known facts of the deal, either as announced in an Egyptian press release, or stated during a news conference or reported by a source.

First, both sides agreed to enact the 2011 Cairo agreement, which mostly deals with setting up national elections.

Second, Hamas allowed the Palestinian Authority government to take over all ministries in Gaza. This was already a part of previous agreements, and in fact, the PA ministers already took back their offices in Gaza last week. What was new in Thursday’s deal was the deadline given for the takeover to take place — December 1.

The groups also agreed to meet again in Cairo on November 21 to discuss more issues.

One interesting note about the Egyptian press statement is that it said the reconciliation is being carried out in accordance with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s hope “to achieve an independent Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital and a return for Palestinian refugees.”

Hamas, while continuing to call for Israel’s destruction, suggested earlier this year it suggested that it might consider a state in pre-1967 lines as an interim option on the path to an Islamic state in historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.

If Egypt is in the driver’s seat, it may force Hamas to compromise and fully endorse a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. That would mean recognizing Israel’s right to exist, a key Israeli demand for the unity agreement and something Hamas has been loath to do.

A critical development is the agreement for the PA to take control of Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel. In a press conference, the leader of the Fatah delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, said members of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential guards would be deployed along the Egyptian border.

The Associated Press quoted officials close to the talks as saying the sides agreed to set up committees to work out the outstanding details. One committee would have four months to determine who among thousands of Hamas civil servants would be able to join the new government. Another committee would merge 3,000 PA loyalists into Gaza’s Hamas-run police force.

One gun, one law?

Notably, neither Hamas nor Fatah spoke on Thursday about the issue of the future of Hamas’s military wing. Before the talks, it was on the tips of all the Fatah and Hamas leaders’ tongues. Had the issued been solved, someone would have declared success.

Abbas was very clear before the talks began that he would not allow the terror group to keep its arms. “One gun, one law,” he said, even threatening to arrest anyone without guns outside the state system.

In a statement on Thursday, Abbas called what was agreed upon in Cairo “steps to end the division.” That division, he casually acknowledged, hasn’t yet ended.

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, admitted that the future of terror group’s military had yet to be discussed.

“The next phase of reconciliation will be a meeting of representatives of all the Palestinian factions in Cairo to discuss the major national issues — such as Hamas’s military wing, the issue of weapons and political positions,” he said.

Just before departing for Cairo on Monday, al-Ahmad, the Fatah delegation head, told the Palestinian news site Quds Press, “We have crystal clear agreements before and after the division, and there is no need to talk about unnecessary things such as the weapons of resistance and the employees. These are obstacles that aim to spread frustration and despair.”

Understandably, Hamas and Fatah, if they are serious about reconciliation, don’t want to start by immediately discussing the most difficult issue. And from an outsider’s point of view, the current reconciliation deal seems seem more serious than past attempts.

Ironically, Abbas is no stranger to this method of conducting negotiations, having been a party to various “historic agreements” with Israel that deferred to a later date thorny issues such as Jerusalem, borders and refugees. Yet, more the two decades since the signing of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians are no closer to solving the those issues.

The same is now true of Hamas’s military — there is no clear path to compromise.

Should Hamas refuse to give up its guns, it’s unclear how Abbas could walk back the emplacement of his government and thousands of policemen in the Strip. But the aging Palestinian leader surprised many this year by slashing funding for power, medical aid and government salaries in Gaza, bringing Hamas to its knees (and to the negotiating table) and proving that he can play hardball when he wants to — even if 2 million Gazans have to suffer for it.

As Hamas sticks to its guns, Abbas pours cold water on reconciliation efforts

The Palestinian Authority government, headed by premier Rami Hamdallah, convened in the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning for the first time in three years.

After the celebratory pictures and many handshakes, the government reached its first decision: the sanctions Hamdallah’s government has imposed on the enclave will not be removed until representatives of the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas meet in Cairo next week, at the earliest.

In other words: Let’s first see what Hamas has to offer and then we’ll talk. There is no such as thing as a free lunch, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas wants to make sure Hamas knows it.

While Egypt’s intelligence services were trying to organize a show of unity in Gaza, Abbas poured cold water on the Hamas, Egypt and even senior Fatah officials who had traveled to the Strip.

In an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, Abbas delivered a message to all those concerned: The path to reconciliation is long and hinges on one key point — Hamas’s guns.

With the terror group having vowed it will never part with its arsenal, Abbas comes along and explicitly says he will not tolerate a Palestinian version of the well-armed Hezbollah in Lebanon or the stockpiling of arms by any group bar the PA.

“One state, one government, one gun,” said Abbas, the same slogan he has always pushed.

“Just as I imprison Fatah members for holding weapons, so it will be with all groups,” said Abbas.

There was no room for ambiguity in Abbas’s comments. He let Hamas, Egypt and the Palestinian public know there will be no true reconciliation or unity if Hamas insists on maintaining possession of its weaponry.

It was not just the content of the interview Abbas gave to pro-Egyptian government reporter Lamis el-Hadidy that got that message across. His body language, his tone and his choice of words conveyed that in his view reconciliation between his Fatah party and Hamas is not realistic.

When asked what torpedoed the previous reconciliation agreement reached in 2014, Abbas replied without hesitation: “[Hamas] kidnapped the three soldiers,” before quickly correcting himself to say “children,” in reference to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank by members of the terror group that helped spark the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

In the interview, Abbas also addressed the transfer of authority in Gaza to the PA, emphasizing that he wants control over the border crossings.

“The PA will control the crossings,” he said. Asked if Hamas would agree to this, Abbas replied that the true test will be on the ground.

Regarding the economic sanctions the PA imposed on Gaza, Abbas blamed Hamas for setting up its own administrative body in Gaza, which he indicated was a step too far.

Abbas stressed that only when his government assumes administrative control of Gaza “exactly as it does in the West Bank” will the sanctions be removed. “Is my Arabic clear on this?” he asked.

When he was asked by the interviewer what he would say to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh when he himself visits Gaza, Abbas appeared to be restraining himself to not give a harsh response.

After years of failed attempts at reconciliation, Abbas, 82, appeared profoundly skeptical about the possibility of true national unity.

He clarified that it is not certain there will soon be elections, and that even the establishment of a Palestinian state won’t be soon — a surprising remark for the leader who tells the Palestinians at every opportunity that the establishment of a state of their own is imminent.

Despite his skepticism, Abbas spoke respectfully of Egypt and its role in brokering the reconciliation.

Egypt throws weight behind efforts

Regarding Egypt, any viewer of Egyptian television could be forgiven for believing what has been going on in Gaza over the past two days was an internal Egyptian matter.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is portrayed as not only the architect of the reconciliation, but also as the supreme regional leader who was able to bring together two children and put an end to their squabbling.

Egyptian intelligence has thrown its full weight behind the matter. General Sameh Kamel, Egyptian intelligence’s point man for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, arrived in Gaza on Monday, while Egypt’s Intelligence Minister Khaled Fawzi was due to visit Ramallah on Tuesday before making his way to the Strip.

Next week, Egypt will host top officials from both Fatah and Hamas in Cairo for a more in-depth in discussion on the details of the reconciliation deal.

General Kamel was Egypt’s intelligence representative in Tel Aviv for several years. He is well aware of each side’s limitations in any reconciliation deal, as well as Israel’s stance concerning Palestinian unity.

The Palestinians should hope he has still has some cards to play, as the positions presented by Abbas on the one hand and Hamas on the other suggest the current effort at reconciliation will end like those that have preceded it, in failure.

Amid reconciliation talk, Netanyahu and Abbas in rare harmony on Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday came out forcefully against the current round of Palestinian unity talks between rival factions Hamas and Fatah.

As the Palestinian Authority cabinet was holding a meeting in Gaza, its first since 2014, he took the opportunity to shatter any doubt over whether Israel was in favor of the developments.

“We expect anyone talking about a peace process to recognize Israel and, of course, recognize a Jewish state, and we won’t accept faux reconciliations under which the Palestinian side reconciles at the expense of our existence,” he said, speaking from the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: Recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction, etc,” he added.

Netanyahu was either unaware of — or more likely ignoring — comments by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in interviews to the Egyptian press on Monday night. Otherwise he might have noted that the PA leader’s demands for forming a unity government are closely aligned with Israel’s.

Let’s go down the list.

Abbas demanded the PA control the border, ministries, and security in Gaza, and said he would not allow Hamas to keep its military wing. “I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience of Lebanon” in Gaza, he said.

Check “dismantle Hamas’s military wing.”

Abbas also demanded that Hamas come under the control of the Palestine Liberation Organization — the largest Palestinian umbrella group. The PLO has recognized the State of Israel since the late 1980s, largely thanks to Abbas.

Check “recognize the State of Israel.”

True, while Netanyahu stated only in his demands that the Palestinian government recognize the State of Israel, a moment earlier the prime minister had specifically mentioned recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas and his government have sworn never to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, yet Netanyahu’s government continues to co-exist with the PA and has sat down twice with it at the negotiating table for peace talks.

Abbas said that absolutely no country would be allowed to interfere in internal Palestinian affairs, except for Egypt, which is facilitating the current unity talks.

Should the reconciliation talks succeed and the PA assume control of the Strip — however unlikely that outcome — politically speaking, Iran’s influence in Palestinian affairs would be greatly reduced as the Sunni powerhouse Egypt, aligned with Tehran’s nemesis Saudi Arabia, becomes the kingmaker.

Moreover, Iran is currently Hamas’s most important military backer, according to the terror group. Yet it is the United States that mostly bankrolls and trains the PA’s forces. It’s hard to imagine a situation in which the PA would give up its military support from the US in favor of Iran’s weapons, if facing an ultimatum by Washington.

Therefore, should a PA unity government be formed, and Hamas’s military wing be disbanded — an unlikely scenario — Iran’s relationship with and influence over the Islamist group and the Palestinians in general would be greatly diminished.

Check “sever the relationship with Iran,” with the caveat that a more symbolic relationship could still continue.

Fears of Hamas gaining international legitimacy

As the Palestinians launch negotiations, Israel fears Hamas, the terror organization committed to its destruction, is using the reconciliation to gain international legitimacy as part of the Palestinian Authority, while still retaining the goal of destroying Israel and seeking to retain the armed forces and weaponry to serve that goal.

A senior Israel official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that “Hamas is trying to gain international legitimacy without accepting Israel’s right to exist, without disarming and without accepting the Quartet principles. Hamas remains a ruthless, mass-murdering terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s destruction.”

Yet Abbas has said he intends to rule “Gaza the same as the West Bank.” Israel seems to be of not comfortable with, then resigned to the situation in the West Bank, in which the Palestinian security forces and IDF work together to stamp out terrorism.

Additionally, the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, European Union, and the United Nations — has said it won’t afford Hamas legitimacy until it renounces terrorism and agrees to accept past agreements between Israel and the PLO.

In a separate statement, on Monday, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, reiterated this sentiment, saying that while Washington welcomed the effort to put the PA back in control of Gaza, any resulting unity government “must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

Abbas and the international community would appear then to be on the same page: no legitimacy for Hamas without it giving up its weapons and recognizing Israel.

Currently, the unity talks seem at a fatal impasse, as Hamas has said it won’t give up its arms, and Abbas said that until the PA is in full control of Gaza, he won’t reverse deep financial cuts to Gaza that have worsened preexisting electricity and water crises.

These cuts, along with international isolation and pressure from Egypt, are what led Hamas to dismantle its own shadow government and start the reconciliation process.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that his group is “ready to pay any price for the success of Palestinian national reconciliation.” Except, that is, for meeting those key demands including disarmament.

Meanwhile, Israel’s security establishment has repeatedly emphasized that Gaza is a powder keg, and a fourth round of conflict with Hamas could break out at any moment.

Rather than the reconciliation coming “at the expense” of Israel’s existence, it could be a chance to avoid another round of war. But that would require Abbas getting what he, and Netanyahu, say they want. And that prospect, for all the fanfare and headlines about Palestinian reconciliation, is remote indeed.

Abbas vows not to let Hamas keep armed forces in Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its armed forces in Gaza like Hezbollah does in Lebanon and demanded  “full control” of the Strip, including over the border, security and all the ministries.

His statements came as his Fatah party and the Hamas terror group move ahead with attempts to form a unity government.  The Palestinian cabinet met in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since 2014 in a further step toward the Palestinian Authority taking control of the territory.

“I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon” in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, pointing to an early point of conflict with Hamas, which has vowed not to turn in its arms.

“The border crossings, security, and all the ministries must be under our control,” he said several times.Abbas said that despite his “strong desire to see this reconciliation through,” this would not happen unless the PA “ruled the Gaza Strip just as it does the West Bank.”

Hamas, however, has said that it will not even broach the subject of dismantling its vast military wing during negotiations, leading some to believe the group was seeking to follow in the footsteps of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, which is part of the government but retains its own army.

Abbas addressed this point specifically, saying, “I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience of Lebanon” in Gaza. He added that just as his security forces arrest those in the West Bank with illegal arms, the same would occur in Gaza.

He added that without Palestinian unity, “there is no Palestinian state.”

Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since Hamas violently took control of the Strip in 2007, with the two groups operating separate administrations. They attempted to reconcile a number of times in the past but failed to do so.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has a reported 27,000 armed men divided into six regional brigades, with 25 battalions and 106 companies.

It has fought three conflicts with Israel since the terror group took control of Gaza.

Regarding the punitive measures Abbas levied against Gaza in April in order to force Hamas to cede control of the Strip, he said he was in “no hurry” to lift them.

He said the measures cut 22% of the PA’s funding to Gaza — a total of $1.5 billion US dollars — which affected the already dire electricity and water situation in the Strip. These steps would not be reversed until the PA was in full control of Gaza, he said.

Gaza today is mired in poverty, with unemployment approaching 50 percent and receiving just a few hours of electricity each day. Essential medicine is growing more scarce in the Strip, and clean water has become harder to access and more expensive.

Egypt has been a major backer for the current round of unity talks between Fatah and Hamas. The head of Egyptian intelligence Khaled Fawzy is expected on Tuesday to join a team of his generals already in Gaza to facilitate the talks.

In this context, Abbas said he would not allow any country to interfere in internal Palestinian affairs except for Egypt. Cairo, he said, is accepted as a mediator by both sides.

Abbas noted that Hamas is still an “Islamist group,” while Fatah is a secular party. However, he said, the terror group still constitutes a “part of the Palestinian people,” and would be included in a Palestinian government as long as it agrees to uphold the policies of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the largest Palestinian umbrella group. Abbas is the head of the PLO.

The PLO has recognized the State of Israel, while Hamas refuses to do so and continues to call for the Jewish state’s destruction.

On Monday, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, said in a statement that while Washington welcomed the effort to put the PA back in control of Gaza, any resulting unity government “must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

Palestinian state won’t be formed ‘soon’

At the end of his interview on Monday, Abbas made a rare admission that an independent Palestinian state would not be formed “soon.”

He blamed this reality on the current government of the State of Israel, which he called “extremist” and “against peace.”

He said he was “optimistic” a Palestinian state would be formed, and that it is was currently being built “brick by brick.” He pointed to the recent entry of the PA into the international law enforcement agency Interpol.

Should Hamas join the PA, Abbas said the two sides would need to discuss the subject of negotiations with Israel.

Abbas, instead, highlighted the US efforts to jumpstart peace talks, adding that he has spoken on a number of occasions with US President Donald Trump, and will “continue to communicate with him until we arrive at shared thoughts.”

Abbas has called for presidential and legislative elections in the event reconciliation with Hamas becomes complete.

In a second interview with the Egyptian news channel ENT, when asked if he had any objection to Hamas running the PA government or the presidency, Abbas responded: “If Hamas succeeds in the legislative and presidential elections, I will wish them congratulations.”

He pointed to the fact that when Hamas won legislative elections in 2007, he allowed it to form a government.

When asked about Hamas’s refusal to recognize and negotiate with Israel, Abbas responded that the terror group has negotiated with the Jewish state in the past.

“We all negotiate will Israel…There are signed agreements between Hamas and Israel in the office of [former Egyptian President] Mohammad Morsi,” which were inked during a conflict between Hamas and Israel in 2012.

Abbas noted these agreements on borders, ceasefires and buffer zones “are still in place.”

Abbas said he didn’t want to say whether the US backs the reconciliation efforts with Hamas. However, Abbas said he believes the US “does not oppose what is happening.”

The PA leader said that when he met President Trump in New York last month, he thanked the US leader for his efforts regarding the reconciliation, and Trump responded, “You’re welcome.”

Abbas said this small response was enough to show that “the Americans are not against” the reconciliation.



Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said he would not accept a scenario in the Gaza Strip, in which Hamas’s armed wing would be able to hold onto its weapons.

Abbas’s comments came several hours after PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Hamas Politburo Chairman Ismail Haniyeh met in Gaza in a bid to start work on ending the decade-long territorial division between the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas has has controlled Gaza since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA.

“Everything needs to be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority,” Abbas told Egypt’s CBC, a popular Arabic television station, in an interview. “I’ll be even more clear—I will not accept reproducing the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon…We are one state, one system, one law and one weapon.”

Hezbollah maintains control of a number of militias, over which the Lebanese state does not have control.

Abbas’s remarks highlighted the sharp difference of opinion between him and Hamas’s leadership on the future of Gaza’s security.

Last week, both Hamas Deputy Chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya and Hamas Politburo member Musa Abu Marzouk said that Hamas’ armed wing’s weapons are not up for discussion.

“No bartering or touching the weapons of the resistance,” Hayya said in an interview with al-Jazeera last Wednesday evening. “We will fight the occupation with all means of resistance until [it] is wiped away.”

Experts estimate that Hamas’s armed wing is compromised of some 25,000 members, who have thousands of guns, rockets and other weapons.

Abbas also said that he will imprison anyone, other than the PA, who possesses weapons.

“If someone from Hamas has a weapon, I’ll put him in prison. Also if someone from Fatah has a weapon I’ll put him in prison,” he said.

In previous reconciliation attempts, Abbas’s party, Fatah, and Hamas failed to reach an agreement on the issue of Gaza’s security.



Jerusalem will not let continuous Palestinian diplomatic steps against Israel go without a response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday evening in reaction to Interpol’s decision earlier in the day to admit the Palestinians as a member state.


Netanyahu’s comment came at a meeting in his office with US envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. The Prime Minister’s Office did not indicate what that response would be.

But Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin did give an indication of what measures might be considered. He said following the Interpol decision that Israel should immediately cancel all cabinet decisions regarding gestures toward the Palestinians made over the last two years, and that it should revoke the VIP passes given to the heads of the Palestinian Authority enabling easier passage into Israel.

In addition to raising the Interpol issue, Netanyahu also discussed Palestinian calls – as a member of the International Criminal Court since 2015 – to bring Israelis to trial for “war crimes,” and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to condemn Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Har Adar.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu said at the meeting that the actions of the Palestinian leadership are violations of previous agreements with Israel and severely damages the chances of achieving peace.

Netanyahu directed Dermer to see whether the Palestinian moves at the ICC are a violation of US law, which could conceivably lead to a closure of the PLO offices in Washington.

The Interpol vote came just a week after Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly how Israel’s stature on the world stage was steadily improving.

The move passed in a secret ballot by a vote of 75 to 24, with 34 abstentions. The Palestinians needed more than two-thirds of the yes-or-no votes counted, and passed that threshold handily.

After the UN, Interpol – with 190 member states – is the largest international organization in the world. The Solomon Islands also gained membership on Wednesday. A Palestinian bid to join the organization fell short last year.

Secret ballots in international organizations generally work against Israel, as it prevents Jerusalem from being able hold countries that vote against it accountable. Following the anti-settlement UN Security Council resolution in December, which was a public vote, Israel took punitive measures against a number of states – such as Senegal, New Zealand, Angola and Ukraine – that voted against it.

The Palestinian initiative to join Interpol is part of an overall strategy to join as a state as many organizations as possible. They withdrew their bid earlier this month to join the UN’s World Tourism Organization following intense US pressure.

The US, however, has a degree of leverage on international organizations under the UN umbrella – such as the WTO – that it doesn’t have with international organizations that are independent of the UN. According to US law, Washington must cut funding to UN organizations that accept Palestine as a state. That law does not extend, however, to international groups outside the UN system.

Greenblatt, who arrived in the country on Monday, tried to get the Palestinians to back away from this bid as well, to no avail. It was not immediately clear whether the US did not push as hard this time as it did concerning the WTO, or whether the Palestinians simply decided to buck the American pressure.

Israel is adamantly opposed to Palestinian admission to all international organizations, arguing that a state of Palestine does not exist and, therefore, it cannot be accepted as a state in international organizations.

The Palestinian admission to Interpol follows by two years its last success in joining a major international institution, when it gained membership into the International Criminal Court.

In 2011, the Palestinians won full state membership into UNESCO. The UNESCO precedent is troubling for Jerusalem, since that organization has annually passed anti-Israel resolutions since the Palestinians have joined, including declaring the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site, and removing any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.

Likewise, the concern is that the Palestinians will use Interpol as a platform to continuously needle Israel, perhaps by asking the organization to issue arrest warrants against Israeli citizens. Though such requests in no way bind the organization, and even though Interpol does not have enforcement capabilities in any event, this could be a significant nuisance causing Israel headaches.

Wednesday’s developments in Beijing began poorly for Israel, when the plenum rejected a move to postpone consideration of the Palestinian application for another year. The Palestinians mustered the support of 61% of the nations to defeat that measure.

Israel – and some of its supporters in the UN General Assembly – then tried to block the vote through a procedural maneuver, claiming there were irregularities on an earlier vote regarding the criteria needed to accept new members into the organization. That, too, failed.

While the Foreign Ministry did not issue an immediate response, opposition politicians quickly reacted.

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said the move was “bad for Israel and bad for the war on terrorism.” She placed the onus of responsibility on the government for not leading a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

“When Israel abandons the diplomatic field, the Palestinians take it and unfortunately have successes, from their standpoint, that harm Israel,” she said.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak tweeted that the decision is “another failure for Netanyahu.” In reference to the prime minister’s speech last week at the UN, Barak said the decision shows that the “gap between impressive but hollow speeches and reality is growing larger.”

Abbas at UN warns that two-state solution is in ‘jeopardy’

(JTA) — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaking at the U.N. General Assembly called for the preservation of the two-state solution.

“The two-state solution is in jeopardy, we cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat,” Abbas said Wednesday at the launch of this year’s General Assembly in New York.

Since Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president, Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have both retreated from endorsing two states as a necessary outcome of peace talks. Abbas, who has eagerly engaged Trump’s bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, hopes to extract a recommitment from Trump to the two-state solution.

“Our choice is the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” Abbas said, “and we will grant every chance for the efforts being undertaken by President Donald Trump and the Quartet and international community as a whole to achieve a historic agreement that brings the two-state solution to reality, enabling the state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem to live in peace and security side by side with Israel.”

The Quartet refers to the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union guiding the Middle East peace process.

Abbas said that failing the re-establishment of talks, he would continue to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood outside the framework of a peace process — a posture Israel has rejected repeatedly as sabotaging chances for peace.

In a first for a Palestinian president since the launch of the Oslo peace process in 1993, Abbas also suggested that the Palestinians might, in the face of the collapse of hopes for two states, agitate for full rights in a single state.

Likening Israel’s control of the West Bank to a “one-state reality” and apartheid, Abbas warned that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Abbas met with Trump prior to his speech. The U.S. president, who did not mention Israeli-Palestinian peace in his own U.N. speech on Tuesday, praised Abbas on Twitter.

“Honored to meet with President Abbas from the Palestinian Authority and his delegation, who have been working hard with everybody involved toward peace,” Trump wrote.

In his speech and during his meeting with Trump, Abbas delivered Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world.

“Allow me, Mr. President, to use this opportunity to extend my heartfelt congratulations to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah today, and to the Muslim people on the occasion of the new Islamic year tomorrow,” Abbas said while meeting with Trump. “And this is a very sweet coincidence that we can celebrate the new year together within a 24-hour period, and if this is an indication to anything it means that we can coexist peacefully together.”

Netanyahu has said that he does not want to “annex” the Palestinian population living in the West Bank, but that negotiations over a two-state solution are untenable as long as Abbas does not recognize Israel specifically as a Jewish state, continues to discuss a Palestinian “right of return” to homes and property in Israel, and does not agree to Israeli security control over the West Bank.

Abbas tells UN it’s responsible for ending Israeli ‘apartheid’


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday told the United Nations that Israel is not a peace partner, and said its “colonial occupation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was breeding incitement and violence in the region.

In an address to the General Assembly, Abbas said the international community was responsible for putting an end to Israeli policies that “incite religious tensions and could lead to a violent religious conflict.”

“We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine,” Abbas said in a nearly 45-minute speech.”Can the world accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century?”

“Has the international community surrendered to the fact that Israel is a country above the law?” he asked. “The continuation of the occupation is a disgrace for the international community.”

“There is no place left for the state of Palestine and this is not acceptable,” he said.

“The two-state solution is in jeopardy,” he said, warning, “We cannot as Palestinians stand still in the face of this threat.”

“Our choice is the two-state solution on the 1967 borders,” Abbas said, “and we will grant every chance for the efforts being undertaken by President Donald Trump and the Quartet and international community as a whole to achieve a historic agreement that brings the two-state solution to reality, enabling the state of Palestine with its capital East Jerusalem to live in peace and security side by side with Israel.”

The Quartet refers to the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union guiding the Middle East peace process.

Abbas said that failing the re-establishment of talks, he would continue to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood outside the framework of a peace process — a posture Israel has rejected repeatedly as sabotaging chances for peace.

In a first for a Palestinian president since the launch of the Oslo peace process in 1993, however, Abbas also suggested that the Palestinians might, in the face of the collapse of hopes for two states, agitate for full rights in a single state.

Likening Israel’s control of the West Bank to a “one-state reality,” Abbas warned that in the failure of a two-state solution, “neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine. This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”

Abbas said withdrawing the Israeli presence from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, by contrast, would be a blow to Palestinian terror groups, which continue to call for the use of violence as a strategy of resistance.

Abbas went on to urge the British government to correct the “historic injustice” it inflicted on the Palestinian people by issuing the Balfour Declaration in 1917, a document that espoused London’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The PA president criticized the United Kingdom for marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration, and demanded compensation.

Abbas also told the Assembly that Israel’s refusal to recognize a state of Palestine along the 1967 lines “put into question” its commitment to the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993.

“We recognize the state of Israel on the 1967 borders, but Israel’s refusal to recognize these borders has put into question the mutual recognition of the agreement signed in Oslo,” he said.

Afterwards, Israel’s UN ambassador slammed Abbas for his remarks, saying they “spread falsehoods” that “encourage hate.”

“Today’s lies and excuses have proven once again that the Palestinian leadership is a serial evader of peace,” Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.

Earlier on Wednesday, Abbas met with US President Donald Trump and, in a markedly more conciliatory tone than his UN General Assembly speech, expressed optimism of the US administration’s efforts to broker “the deal of a century” between the Palestinians and Israel.

Abbas said the 20-plus meetings PA officials have held with US officials since Trump took office in January “gives us the assurance and the confidence that we are on the verge of real peace.”

Trump, in response, told the Palestinian leader that “we have a pretty good shot — maybe the best shot ever” at achieving peace in the entire Middle East. “I certainly will devote everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made.”

“Israel is working very hard toward the same goal, and I must tell you, Saudi Arabia and many of the different nations are working also hard,” Trump told Abbas. “So we’ll see if we can put it together. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.”

Trump, who has made resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict one of the “highest priorities” of his presidency, failed to mention the decades-long dispute in his address to the UN a day earlier.

During his speech, Trump trashed the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program and dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “rocket man” on a “suicide mission.”

Also on Tuesday, Trump met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and told the Israeli leader that a regional peace deal would be a “fantastic achievement” and that “we are giving it an absolute go.”

In his own remarks to the General Assembly, Netanyahu said that Israel was ready for peace with Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. However, his commitment to the principle of “two states for two peoples,” expressed last year, was absent from his speech.

Netanyahu later hailed Trump’s remarks as the most “courageous speech” he had ever heard at the world body.