Abbas announces general elections

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A Palestinian man and his daughter outside their house which was demolished by Israeli forces

PALESTINIAN President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the date for holding general elections had seen ‘significant delays – despite the multiple attempts to hold them earlier’.

Speaking at the onset of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee meeting in Ramallah, he said a set of issues were to be discussed during the meeting, including his call for holding general elections as he had declared during the 74th meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, last week.

‘We have concluded many useful activities and meetings at the UN with many world and Arab leaders, international political figures, and the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres,’ the President said.

On the relationship with the US, he said nothing had changed and no meetings were held with US officials, ‘because we said that [the US] should say something about the two-state solution, East Jerusalem, and international legitimacy’.

On Israel’s withholding of the Palestinian tax revenues, the President said that despite recent talks with the Israelis on finding a solution to this issue, the Palestinian leadership has rejected any potential solutions by the Israeli occupation that disregard the rights of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and those killed by Israeli forces.

‘Our position on this issue is unswerving. We talked about it in the United Nations, and we say it here and in front of the media that although we are suffering, we can never give up in any way the holiest of what we have: the martyrs, the wounded and the prisoners,’ he told the meeting.

The President praised the principled position of several European countries towards the two-state solution and the ‘deal of the century’, including the president of France, the prime ministers of Belgium, the Netherlands and Greece, and the foreign ministers and Russia and Norway.

  • Foreign Minister Riyad Malki today urged UN special rapporteurs to expose Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinian people under its occupation in light of the severe torture of Palestinian detainee Samer Arbid that almost cost him his life.

Malki sent identical letters to the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Justice and the Special Rapporteur on the State of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and briefed them on the suffering of Samer Arbid, who lies in hospital between life and death because of torture and the attempt to kill him, which deprived him in an arbitrary way of the right to life.

Malki called on the special rapporteurs to expose the Israeli crimes and to find mechanisms to hold accountable the Israelis responsible for torturing Arbid, which was done in coordination with and endorsement of the government and the courts.

He stressed that his ministry has been in touch since the first day of the arrest of Arbid with all international and United Nations bodies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, to demand intervention in order to protect Arbid and all civil and human rights organisations, such as Addameer and other non-governmental organisations targeted by the Israeli occupation forces.

  • The pre-indictment hearing over Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has resumed as the premier’s last-ditch efforts to form a coalition administration with his leading election rival hit a snag again.

Netanyahu’s lawyers arrived for the pre-indictment hearing at the Israeli Justice Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem al-Quds on Wednesday.

Netanyahu, who did not accompany the lawyers, is accused of acting on behalf of specific wealthy businessmen and interest groups in exchange for gifts and positive news coverage.

Consequently legal authorities, led by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, intend to charge the Israeli premier with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

During the pre-indictment hearing, which is to last four days, Netanyahu’s lawyers will seek to convince Mandelblit to drop the indictment.

The hearing comes as Netanyahu’s tenure as premier is threatened by his failure to conclude unity talks with the centrist Blue and White alliance of former military chief Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu’s strongest rival Gantz rejected his offer to form a unity government on Thursday, promising his own secular coalition.

Both rivals failed to win the required parliamentary seats for a majority government after a second round of inconclusive Israeli elections last month.

Netanyahu, who has been given 42 days by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to form a unity government, had intended to meet Gantz on Wednesday as part of a ‘last effort’.

Gantz’s Blue and White alliance, however, announced on Tuesday that it would not take part in the talks planned for Wednesday given that its ‘pre-conditions’ had not been met.

Gantz and Netanyahu’s main point of disagreement is reportedly over who will first take on the role of prime minister in a possible rotation agreement. Gantz has also vowed not to be part of a government led by a premier facing criminal charges.

Given the failure of the intended Wednesday negotiations, Netanyahu may have to inform Rivlin that he is unable to form a unity government.

Rivlin may then proceed to ask Gantz to fulfil the task, or alternatively call on the Israeli parliament to make a final decision by granting either presidential rival at least a minimum of 61 votes out of the total 120 parliamentary seats.

  • The intelligence unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has thwarted an Arab-Israeli plot to assassinate Major General Qassem Soleimani, a globally famous defence strategist who played a key role in the counter-terrorism operations that led to the collapse of the Daesh terror group in Iraq and Syria.

Hossein Taeb, the head of the IRGC’s intelligence unit, said on Thursday that the plot – hatched by Hebrew-Arab intelligence services – would see a team of terrorist recruits enter Iran to pave the way for a bomb attack targeting Soleimani, who commands the IRGC’s Quds Force, in the country’s southeastern province of Kerman.

According to Taeb, the terrorists were supposed to buy a place next to a Husseiniyah (religious hall) belonging to General Soleimani’s late father, plant 350-500 kilogrammes of explosives beneath the place, and blow up the site during Tasu’a and Ashura mourning processions marking the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the third Shia Imam, on September 8-9.

The plotters were, however, under watch since they transferred the terrorist cell’s members to a neighbouring state for high-cost training programmes before carrying out the terror plot, the IRGC official said.

Major General Soleimani, who commands the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), tops Foreign Policy’s 2019 list of Global Thinkers in the defence and security field.

Following a ‘precise and smart intelligence operation’, the IRGC’s intelligence unit ‘succeeded in arresting the three-member team’, he said, adding that the ‘Hebrew-Arab services’ had spent several years to draw up the plot for such a crime.

‘Through this ominous act, they were after igniting a religious conflict and portraying it (assassination) as a domestic revenge case; however, with God’s blessing, despite several years of planning, they encountered the barrier of diligence and vigilance of the Iranian nation’s children and were trapped by the IRGC’s intelligence unit before (being able to) carry out the plot,’ he added.