New sound of acclaim for Abbas, NY to Ramallah and Jerusalem
There are 5 articles in this posting, on the reception for Abbas’ speech in NY Times, Al Jazeera, AFP, New Middle East News and a manifesto for a Palestine state signed by Israeli military and intellectual leaders
Palestinians Request U.N. Status; Powers Press for Talks
By Neil MacFarquhar and Steven Lee Myers, NY Times
UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, formally requested full United Nations membership for his as yet undefined country on Friday. But before the thunderous applause greeting his announcement in the General Assembly had faded, international powers laid out a new plan to resume direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that was designed to delay a contentious vote on the Palestinian request as long as possible.
In a day full of diplomatic theater, Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel each laid out the tangled history of their bloody conflict in passionate, lengthy speeches less than an hour apart, while the United States, Russia and European powers haggled in a back room for a formula to bring the parties back to the negotiating table and prevent the Palestinian bid for membership from becoming a spur for violence.
Continents away, thousands of Palestinians celebrated around the West Bank, with cheers erupting from the rapt crowds watching live when Mr. Abbas held aloft the four pages of the United Nations application letter — a symbolic step toward international recognition of statehood that many Palestinians also saw as a form of peaceful defiance against Israel.
The submission of the bid for membership to the Security Council was the culmination of a months-long tangle involving Mr. Abbas, Israel and the United States. But the flurry of diplomatic activity on Friday underscored the reality that the request is just the beginning of an even more complicated diplomatic process at the United Nations.
Whether the possibility of a vote at the Council will prompt a new round of peace talks after a long stalemate, whether the Palestinians have enough support to force a Council vote on their bid for membership and whether the United States ultimately will be forced to use its threatened veto of that bid, were all open questions, likely to be addressed over the next several weeks of jockeying and horse-trading.
But for the Palestinians, it was a day of reckoning clearly relished by Mr. Abbas, who had long been considered to be a low-profile leader who has sought to avoid confrontation with Israel and the United States.
“It is a moment of truth, and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world,” Mr. Abbas said in his speech. “Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world?”
Mr. Netanyahu dismissed the Palestinian application as premature. “The Palestinians want a state without peace, and the truth is you should not let that happen,” he said, challenging a comment by Mr. Abbas that the Palestinians were armed “only with their hopes and dreams.”
“Hopes, dreams — and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran,” Mr. Netanyahu said. He repeatedly stressed Israel’s small size, saying it could not return to its 1967 borders because it needed strategic depth to defend itself, particularly from the threat of militant Islam.
Much is riding on how international powers handle the Palestinian request, with expectations soaring in the West Bank and the Arab world that the step Mr. Abbas took will result in genuine change.
“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” the French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, said in an interview. “If there is a veto or a ‘no’ vote in the Security Council, what will happen on the ground? What will happen in the Arab street, in the Palestinian street?
“There is a very high risk of violence and demonstrations,” he said. “I think that Israel will be completely isolated in the region. The situation has changed to the extreme around Israel — in Egypt, in Syria, with Turkey and so on. It’s unreasonable to say, ‘We don’t move; we wait.’ ”
Senior officials involved in hammering out the statement on negotiations said they hoped it would inspire the two sides to return to the bargaining table within a month, but left open the question of how they would be prodded into their seats.
Both leaders said in their General Assembly speeches that they wanted peace talks, but there was no immediate reaction from either after the statement came out from the quartet — the grouping of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations formed in 2002 to raise international involvement in the peace process.
The quartet’s statement was heavily diluted, avoiding any of the difficult issues that have divided the Israelis and Palestinians. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and diplomats from all sides had spent weeks trying to work out compromises, but failed to achieve a consensus within the quartet itself, let alone between the Palestinians and Israelis.
The statement did reaffirm “strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace” outlined by President Obama in May. That included two states separated by the borders that existed in 1967 with “land swaps” to account for Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
It called on the Israelis and Palestinians to meet and agree on an agenda and schedule for resuming direct negotiations within a month and to come forward with “comprehensive proposals” on territory and security within three months. The two sides should make “substantial progress” within six months and complete a final agreement before the end of 2012.
“We urge both parties to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to talks,” Mrs. Clinton said at the United Nations. The administration is caught between not wanting to inflame Arab public opinion by exercising yet another veto in support of Israel and the domestic political perils of pressuring Israel, which can alienate some Jewish voters and campaign donors.
The proposal does not preclude Security Council action on the Palestinian bid. But administration officials hope it will keep a majority of the Council’s 15 members from forcing an immediate vote by shifting the focus to the talks rather than the membership bid.
It remains unclear what happens if negotiations do not resume within a month. Analysts dismissed the quartet’s statement as lacking the teeth needed to push the two sides back to bargaining
James Zogby, an American pollster long involved in the peace negotiations, noted that virtually every attempt to forge a treaty since 1993 had included a deadline that expired without progress.
“What we have done now for the last 20 plus years is engage people in an endless process,” he said. “As long as they were riding the bicycle it didn’t matter if it wasn’t going anywhere as long as it didn’t fall down.”
At the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders, Mr. Abbas was greeted Friday with numerous standing ovations.
“I do not believe anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for full admission in the United Nations,” Mr. Abbas said, calling eventual statehood “the realization of the inalienable national rights of the Palestinian people.”
The most sustained applause, punctuated with cheers, came as he held up a copy of the letter requesting membership.
Connecting his statehood request with the Arab uprisings, he said, “The time has come also for the Palestinian spring, the time for independence.”
Both leaders spoke for about 40 minutes, adopting professorial tones as they explained the conflict.
Mr. Netanyahu scolded the United Nations, describing it as a “theater of the absurd” for what he called its unfair fixation on condemning Israel.
The Security Council is expected to form a committee next week with one representative from each of the 15 members to study the proposal, which can take several weeks. It is unclear whether the Palestinians have the nine Council votes needed to move it to the General Assembly for final approval, with the United States actively courting “no” votes to avoid having to use its veto.
J. David Goodman contributed reporting from New York.
Palestinians submit statehood request to UN
President Mahmoud Abbas says time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestinians
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has handed over a historic request to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, asking the United Nations to admit the state of Palestine as a full member.
The Palestinian leader won huge applause and a standing ovation on Friday as he entered the hall just after submitting the membership request.
“I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favour of our full membership,” Abbas told the UN General Assembly.
“I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application for a full membership in the United Nations and our admission as an independent state,” Abbas said.
In his address, Abbas said he was ready to return to negotiations based on the 1967 borders, saying he did not want to isolate or delegitimise Israel.
“Here I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference … and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he told the UN General Assembly.
But he maintained previous peace talks were “smashed against the rocks of the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September”.
Palestinians across the West Bank celebrated the formal submission of their bid to become a United Nations member state, despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
In city centres, giant television screens were set up so residents could watch Abbas deliver a historic address to the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly.
In Ramallah, the political capital of the West Bank, many cars were flying the Palestinian flag. Posters of Abbas and his predecessor, the late Yasser Arafat, festooned in the streets, as the crowd swelled to the largest seen in Ramallah since Arafat’s funeral in 2004.
“I’ve heard a chant tonight that I’ve never heard before,” Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Ramallah, said. “People are chanting for Mahmoud Abbas. His speech was really playing to the next generation.”
“Tonight we have seen spontaneous shows of support for Abbas, who has sometimes seen cascading public support.”
Near the Muqataa, Abbas’s presidential headquarters, flags of the more than 125 nations that have recognised a Palestinian state flew in a circle around a Palestinian flag.
In a sign of mounting tension earlier on Friday, one Palestinian man died after being shot by Israeli troops who intervened in a clash between villagers and Jewish settlers south of the West Bank city of Nablus.
In the southern city of Hebron, the municipality building was draped with a three-metre poster of Abbas and “Palestine 194″, and similar decorations were hung in the northern cities of Nablus and Jenin.
At the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, the Israeli army fired tear gas into the crowds, with a military spokeswoman saying “around 100 rioters” were throwing stones at the troops.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that clashes also broke out in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud.
In Nabi Saleh village, protesters chanted support for the UN bid, but activists also burnt a picture of Barack Obama, the US president, who has vowed to veto the membership bid at the UN Security Council.
Full membership bid
Full UN membership can only be bestowed by the Security Council where Abbas’ request will almost certainly be derailed, either by a failure to win the needed nine votes in the 15-member body or, if the necessary majority is obtained, by a veto.
The Palestinians say they are seeking full UN membership to underscore their right to statehood, but have left open the option of a lesser alternative – a non-member observer state.
Such status would be granted by the General Assembly, where the Palestinians maintain broad support.
Siding with Israel, Obama has said a Palestinian state can only be established as a result of negotiations, and that there is no short-cut to Palestinian independence.
“I extend my hand to the Palestinian people,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during his own address to the General Assembly, shortly after Abbas’ speech.
“The truth is that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace,” he said.
Abbas has said negotiations remain his preference, but that he will not resume talks – frozen since 2008 – unless Israel agrees to the pre-1967 frontier as a baseline and freezes all settlement construction on occupied land.
“The American administration did everything in its power to disrupt our project, but we are going through with it despite the obstacles and the pressure because we are asking for our rights,” Abbas said late on Thursday.
“There are small countries in the world that have gained their freedom and independence, but we still haven’t got ours,” he told the Palestinian community in New York.
Palestinian state television has carried wall-to-wall coverage of the diplomatic drama playing out in New York, interviewing local officials and politicians and running a series of advertisements backing the UN membership push.
One featured a jigsaw puzzle of the globe as depicted in the UN logo, but with a missing piece.
From the side of the screen, a piece in the colours of the Palestinian flag flies across and slots into place, completing the puzzle.
The three main Palestinian newspapers also dedicated their front pages to the bid, and the inside pages were dotted with paid advertisements from individuals and businesses expressing their support for Abbas and the UN move.
“The president delivers his speech to the General Assembly and presents a request for recognition of the state of Palestine,” read the headline in Al-Quds newspaper, emblazoned over pictures of pro-bid demonstrations.
Another cartoon in the paper used the famous image of US soldiers raising their flag during the battle of Iwo Jima, replacing the US flag with the Palestinian one and the soldiers with Palestinians, some in traditional garb.
Al-Ayyam’s headline read: “The president presents a request for full membership for Palestine in front of the world”, while on the back, a cartoon showed Abbas at the UN podium shouting into a loudspeaker: “Freedom for Palestine”.
In the Gaza Strip, however, life was continuing as normal with no sign of any activity to mark the UN bid, which has not been backed by the territory’s Hamas rulers.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston said Hamas security officials cracked down on people watching the Abbas address in Gaza City cafes.
Our correspondent also said police confiscated Palestinian flags that crowds were waving in the streets.
Speaking hours before the Abbas address, senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the UN bid would not bring independence.
“Our Palestinian people do not beg for a state … States are not built upon UN resolutions. States liberate their land and establish their entities,” he said.
Thousands cheer Abbas as Palestinians hail Statehood bid
RAMALLAH – Tens of thousands of Palestinians erupted into cheers of victory across the West Bank on Friday as their president handed over a request for full United Nations membership.
In central Ramallah, Arafat Square roared its approval with whistles and raucous cheering when Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose speech was broadcast on giant television screens, announced the bid had been submitted.
“Abbas, we are your people and you truly make us raise our heads high,” they shouted. “With our souls and our blood, we will defend Palestine!”
Similar sights played out across the rest of the West Bank, where tens of thousands of people turned out to watch Abbas’s speech.
“There are tens of thousands of people who are now in the centre of the main cities like Ramallah, Hebron and Nablus,” security services spokesman Adnan Damiri told AFP.
In Hebron, crowds cheered as a huge balloon decorated with a Palestinian flag and a picture of Abbas was released above them into the night.
Waving their national flag, the exuberant crowd chanted “Palestine 194″ in reference to their bid to become the 194th member state of the United Nations.
Ahead of Abbas’s speech, the mood was festive, with dancing and singing and plenty of noisy celebration.
But as he approached the UN podium to address the General Assembly, crowds in cities across the West Bank fell silent.
They listened, waiting for the moment he would officially announce he had handed over the request for the UN to accept Palestine as a full member state — and then they went wild.
Men and women jumped up and down, arm-in-arm, waving flags and chanting “God is great, God is great!”
“It’s just wonderful, it’s very emotional,” said Mona Matar, a professor of computer science at Bethlehem University.
“I’m so lucky to live to see this day, us having the courage to say no to everybody. To see that Abbas does not care what Obama wants, but what his people want.”
At the end of the speech, the crowd again began to cheer, parents boosting their children onto their shoulders, and posing for pictures by giant posters featuring Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat.
The ghost of Arafat, the iconic Palestinian leader, loomed large over the proceedings, with the crowd frequently chanting his name and cheering at Abbas’s mention of the former president.
“We really miss Arafat at this historical moment,” Matar said. “He was something special.”
In Nablus, massive crowds were entertained by the Al-Ashaqeen folk band, which played patriotic songs to the delight of the crowd.
Majed Hussein, a government employee, welcomed Abbas’s speech.
“Today we got back our dignity. Obama and America can go to hell. We don’t need their money, we need our dignity,” he said.
“The president’s (Abbas’s) speech was touching,” added Mohammed Kayed, a farmer. “But I wanted to hear him tell Obama that his speech was unjust to the Palestinians and using the veto would be the biggest injustice.”
In his address to the UN General Assembly, the US president angered many Palestinians by failing to mention their suffering or Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
He has also renewed his threat to use the US veto in the Security Council to block the Palestinian bid for membership as a state.
The festive moods at rallies supporting the speech was in sharp contrast to earlier clashes at flashpoints across the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem.
In Qusra village south of Nablus, a Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli troops in clashes that erupted after settlers attacked the village, Palestinian hospital sources told AFP.
Issam Badran, 37, died after being hit in the neck by a live bullet, they said, while another three Palestinians were lightly wounded by rubber bullets.
Elsewhere, clashes were reported between Israeli soldiers and stone throwers at the Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, as well as at a weekly protest in Nabi Saleh, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) further north.
‘We’ve been waiting 60 years for these words’
New Middle East News
A crowd of more than 100 people of all ages gathered outside of Damascus Gate in east Jerusalem on Friday evening to watch Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the United Nations, as emotions and excitement ran high.
“We’ve been waiting for what he’ll say tonight for more than 60 years, we’ve been waiting for these words, this is what Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine are waiting to hear, and it will definitely bring a big effect on the situation,” said Ibrahim, an east Jerusalem resident, ahead of the speech.
East Jerusalemites had originally planned to show the speech on a giant screen set up at Damascus Gate, but it was canceled after police said that a showing of the speech would block traffic. At the last minute it was moved to a community center in the A Tur neighborhood, but some people still gathered at a small store across from Damascus Gate which had rigged up a large projection screen.
“Everybody, the whole world is listening to Mahmoud Abbas’s speech,” said an ecstatic Fadu Ahwad, also from Jerusalem, immediately after the speech’s conclusion, as firecrackers were shot off from the top of a nearby restaurant and cars passed, honking, with young people hanging out of the windows flashing the victory sign. “Even if we get the American veto, we will [bring it to vote] again and again even tens of times we will bring it, so there will be no more settlements, no more apartheid wall, and we will live in peace together!”
After the speech, the crowd, joined at the end by Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammed Ahmad Hussein, trooped over to the amphitheater surrounding Damascus Gate and sang traditional songs while chanting “Liberation for Palestine!”
“This is not the end of the road for us, this is one battle in the war,” said Ghada Zughayar, the executive director of the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity in Palestine, an NGO that monitors corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
“We will continue our struggle, we will not give up, because we are fully aware of our legitimate right… we are only asking for our right to exercise our right as a people, as Abbas said, we are the last nation in the whole world that is still under occupation.
“This is the moment the whole world [is watching], and 2/3 of the world is supporting our right… we are not asking for anything that is against international legitimacy. This is the time for us to do fair and justice to the Palestinians,” she said.
Others were less enthusiastic about the speech. Osuma Azorba, a 19-year-old photography student, said he was very worried about the issue of refugees and the right of return, since his parents are refugees from the village of Lifta, at the entrance to Jerusalem.
“I am pessimistic because of everything that’s happened before, they are still neglecting the Palestinians, and the strongest countries are against [the statehood bid] so nothing can change,” he said.
His concern about the right of return was echoed by Rali Bakir, a 71-year-old refugee from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. “If I don’t have my old house then I have nothing, if I don’t have my house they can forget their speech,” he said on Friday night.
Still, the speech infused the crowd with excitement and hope for the future. “It was amazing for us to hear him speaking about the refugees and ending the occupation,” said Amad Zorba, who works in Al Quds University. “We have one red line, Jerusalem is our capital… I hope to see my flags in Jerusalem as soon as possible, because that’s my right,” he said.
No one stayed for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations.
“Today, Thursday, September 22, at 5.00 pm – a historical timing, on the eve of the UN debate – a special event will be held at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, opposite the building where the independence of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. On that spot there will be held a rally expressing support of Israeli and international recognition of the Palestinian state, and stating that the alternative to such recognition is going towards a new Masada. Among participants and speakers at the events will be Yael Dayan, Alon Li’el, Amos Oz, Yoran Kanyuk, David Tartakover, Yehuda Bauer and others. Participants will be invited to sign publicly the following manifesto:”
“In front of our very eyes, an insane drama is being acted out. The Prime Minister of Israel is leading his citizens to Masada. Human morality, Jewish history and the interests of Israel – all clearly show the way to being the first state in the world to recognize, in the United Nations, our neighbor state and them to enter into negations, based on equality, regarding territorial exchanges and security arrangements. After all, the Palestinian State recognizes the State of Israel in the “67 borders.
The Jewish People arose in the Land of Israel, there they developed their identity. The Palestinian People arose in Palestine, there they developed their identity.
Therefore, we sincerely welcome the expected declaration of independence by the Palestinian State, Israel’s neighbor, and within the borders at the time of our independence which were determined at the end of the War of Independence in 1949; the borders more commonly known as the ’67 borders. This is the natural right of both the Jewish and the Palestinian people – as written in Israel’s Declaration of Independence “to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State”.
The independence of both peoples strengthens one and the other, it is both a moral and basic necessity at one and, the same time, it is the foundation upon which good, neighborly relations are built.
We, the undersigned, call on all persons seeking peace and freedom, and upon all nations to join us in welcoming the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, to support it and to work and act together in order to encourage the citizens of both countries to live together in peace, based on the ’67 borders and mutual agreement. A final and complete end to the occupation is a basic condition for the freedom of both peoples, for the realization of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and a future of peaceful coexistence.”
Initial list of signatories:
Larry Abramson, Artist and Prof. of the arts
Maj Gen (Ret.) Avraham Adan (“Bren”), former Commander of the Armored Corps
Prof. Chaim Adler, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Joseph Agassi, Philosopher
Gila Almagor-Agmon, Israel Prize laureate
Shulamit Aloni, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Eva Illouz
Prof. Elie Barnavi, former Ambassador to France
Ilan Baruch, former Ambassador to South Africa
Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Haim Ben Shahar, former President of Tel Aviv University
Prof. Miriam Ben-Peretz, Israel Prize laureate
Daniel Blatman, Head of the Department for Contemporary Judaism
Prof. Menachem Brinker, Israel Prize laureate
Dr. Rafael Braun
Prof. Judith Buber Agassi
Maj Gen (Ret) Nehemiah Dagan, former Chief Education Officer
Dr. Yossi Dahan
Yael Dayan, former Member of Knesset
Brig Gen (Ret.) Prof. Eran Dolev, Commander of Health Services
Prof. Yehuda Elkana, former President of the Central European University
Brig Gen (Ret.) Yitzchak Elron, former Military Attaché in South America
Prof. Yaron Ezrahi, winner of the Political Science Society Award
Prof. Menachem Fish
Yona Fischer, Israel Prize laureate
Ari Folman, Golden Globe laureate
Prof. Haim Gans
Maj Gen (Ret.) Shlomo Gazit, former Head of Military ntelligence, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and
President of Ben Gurion University
Yair Garbuz, Emet Prize laureate
Moshe Gershuni, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Galia Golan
Prof. Amiram Goldblum
Prof. Naomi Graetz
Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, former President of the Hebrew University
Tal Harris, CEO One Voice
Prof. Galit Hasan-Rokem
Prof. Ruth Hacohen
Prof. David Harel, Israel Prize and Emet laureate
Dr. Shmuel Harlap, Chairman of Colmobil Limited
Prof. Naomi Chazan, former Knesset member
Yoram Kaniuk, Sapir Prize laureate
Dani Karavan, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Avnet Katz
Prof. Elihu Katz, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Yehoshua Kolodny, Israel Prize laureate
Alex Levac, Israel Prize laureate
Dr. Alon Liel, former Director General of Foreign Ministry
Ram Loevy, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Avishai Margalit, Israel and Emet Prize laureate
Hanna Maron, Israel Prize laureate
Sami Michael, Emet Prize laureate
Ohad Naharin, Israel laureate
Amoz Oz, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Dov Pekelman
Izhar Petkin, Artist
Prof. Itamar Procaccia, Israel Prize laureate
Sefi Rachlevsky, expert on Jewish theology
Prof. Gabi Salomon, Israel Prize laureate
Dr. Aliza Savir
Prof. Hillel Schocken
Prof. Alice Shalvi, Israel Prize laureate
Maj Gen (Ret.) Nathan Sharoni, President of Council of Peace and Security
Prof. David Shulman, Emet Prize laureate
Joshua Sobol, Theater Award laureate
Prof. Zeev Sternhell, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Carlo Strenger
David Tartakover, Israel Prize laureate
Dan Tsur, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Zeev Tzahor, President of Sapir College
Micha Ullman, Israel Prize laureate
Lia van Leer, Israel Prize laureate
Prof. Menahem Yaari, Israel Prize laureate, President (Emeritus) of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities
Prof. Yossi Yonah
Prof. Yirmiyahu Yovel, Israel Prize laureate