RAMALLAH – March 16, 2017 President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday welcomed current international and Arab efforts to advance a comprehensive and just peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
‘We welcome these efforts aimed to achieve comprehensive and just peace between us the Palestinians and the Israelis towards the realisation of the two-state solution, Palestine and Israel, living side by side within secure, internationally recognised borders,’ Abbas stated.
He made these remarks during a press conference with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. He commended these efforts ‘supporting the Palestinian people in its quest to achieve freedom and independence based on relevant United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.’
Abbas said he was awaiting a date to be set for his visit to the White House following an official invitation from Trump and expressed hopes that Palestinian-US official meetings would eventually lead to a US-led peace. Referring to the upcoming Arab League summit to be held in the Jordanian capital of Amman by the end of the month, Abbas said the summit would support Palestinian-Israeli peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
‘Obviously, the world is completely convinced that neither could the events taking place around us and across the world nor the issue of terrorism be handled without solving the Palestinian question,’ he stressed. On his part, Ivanic expressed his country’s support for Palestinian people’s right to exist and the two-state solution.
He said following twenty years of conflict, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are living in peace, expressing his hopes that the Palestinian people would benefit from his country’s experience. Meanwhile, Ivanic made a tour to the vicinity of Israel’s segregation wall at the northern entrance of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank and visited the Church of the Nativity.
He said the wall, which has expropriated thousands of dunums of Palestinian land, is causing real suffering to the Palestinian people and would not serve peace.
• March 17, 2017 – President Mahmoud Abbas’ remarks during a meeting with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic in Ramallah hit the front page headlines in local Palestinian dailies.
Abbas was reported in al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida welcoming international and Arab efforts supporting the Palestinian people’s quest to achieve freedom and independence. He was also reported in al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida saying US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt did not come to Ramallah to offer ideas or make proposals, but rather to listen and learn from the Palestinian leadership.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported Ivanic expressing his country’s support for the Palestinian people’s right to exist, the two-state solution and the Palestinian cause. Furthermore, the dailies said Israeli ‘Defence’ Minister Avigdor Lieberman designated the Palestinian National Fund as a ‘terrorist organisation’ and threatened to take steps to seize the fund’s assets.
Highlighting the issue in its main news item, al-Hayat al-Jadida reported President Office slamming Lieberman’s announcement as a ‘basic violation of the Oslo Accords’ and a decision that would ‘blow up the agreement that underpins our legal relationship with Israel’. Al-Quds and al-Ayyam said Israel’s top court ruled that East Jerusalem Palestinians are ‘native-born residents’ who are entitled to restore their residency rights.
Besides, the dailies said a Palestinian driver survived a murder attempt by Israeli settlers in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Safafa. They added settlers uprooted dozens of grape seedlings in al-Khader town in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem.
Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida also reported settlers opened gunfire towards Palestinian students in a secondary school in Burin village, south of Nablus. Al-Ayyam added Israeli occupation forces seized a makeshift home in Furush Beit Dajan, east of Nablus, and delivered stop-construction order for a Palestinian pool in the Northern Jordan Valley village of al-Farisiya.
Al-Quds and al-Ayyam said Israeli warplanes launched a series of airstrikes in the besieged Gaza Strip, causing extensive damage and cutting off four main electricity supply lines. Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida said Fatah Central Committee expressing support for the Palestinian leadership’s willingness to “engage in a serious dialogue” with Trump’s administration.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki hailing the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia’s (ESCWA) report confirming Israel has established an apartheid regime as a UN document that ‘demonstrates Israel’s racist policies’.
• March 17 – Israeli authorities announced that they would be returning the body of slain Palestinian activist Basel al-Araj to his family on Friday in the village of al-Walaja in the southern occupied West Bank’s Bethlehem district. Israel has been holding al-Araj’s body since March 6, when Israeli forces ambushed him in a home near Ramallah and shot him dead, in what was branded as an ‘execution’ and an ‘assassination’ of the 31-year-old, who was beloved in Palestinian activist circles as a freedom fighter, an intellectual, and a theorist.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) released a statement Friday calling upon all Palestinians to head to al-Walaja to take part in al-Araj’s funeral. ‘Taking part in welcoming al-Araj and organising symbolic funerals for him across Palestine and abroad represents honouring to him as he is considered one of the most important youths who dedicated the culture of resistance as a way of life and a way of resisting the occupation and its plans,’ the statement said.
Basel al-Araj, Muhammad Harb, Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad al-Salamin, Seif al-Idrissi, and Ali Dar al-Sheikh, were detained and tortured by Palestinian security forces in April last year, after the PA accused them of illegal weapons possession and planning an attack on Israel.
A hunger strike launched by the six ultimately led to their release six months later in September, with charges only being brought against them shortly before their release.
However, Harb, Siyaj, al-Salamin, and al-Idrissi were detained by Israeli forces immediately after being freed, eliciting outrage among Palestinians over the PA’s policy of security coordination with Israel.
The killing of al-Araj and the PA’s recent legal case against his fellow prison mates and activists has evoked a strong emotional response among Palestinians that has only increased since PA forces on Sunday assaulted protesters at an anti-PA demonstration in Ramallah.
Following outrage over the police brutality – footage of which has been widely shared on social media despite attempts by security forces to block coverage – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Monday that he appointed a fact-finding committee to investigate what he called ‘events that took place near the court compound’.
Despite Hamdallah’s investigation, PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Dmeiri, meanwhile, accused ‘mercenaries’ and ‘foreign agents’ of sparking clashes to cause internal Palestinian strife, and called the protests ‘cheap incitement,’ echoing lingo used by Israeli security forces against Palestinians opposing the occupation.