Abbas slams Trump ambassador – as Israel builds fence to keep out Africans!

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African migrants’ demonstration in Tel Aviv
African migrants’ demonstration in Tel Aviv

PALESTINIAN president Mahmud Abbas labelled the US ambassador to Israel David Friedman a ‘son of a dog’ on Monday during an attack on Donald Trump’s policies.

The scathing comments come with US President Trump still expected to launch a plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians despite Abbas boycotting his administration over his controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. ‘The US ambassador in Tel Aviv is a settler and a son of a dog,’ Abbas said in comments to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah.

The White House later Monday slammed Abbas’s ‘insults’, saying he must choose between hate and peace. ‘The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity,’ top Trump aide Jason Greenblatt said in a terse statement.

Relations between Abbas’s government and Trump’s administration have broken down since the White House recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December. The Palestinians also see the disputed city as the capital of their future state and have refused to meet with Trump’s envoys since.

Friedman, who was Trump’s personal lawyer before being appointed last year, is a longstanding supporter of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal under international law.

In response to Abbas, Friedman, who is Jewish, told a conference that Abbas’s comments could have anti-Semitic connotations. ‘His response was to refer to me as son of a dog. Is that anti-Semitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you,’ he said, according to a US embassy spokeswoman.

Abbas’s comments appeared to be in response to a tweet by Friedman earlier on Monday.

In it he referred to an attack in the West Bank as ‘in the north’, raising questions over whether he views it as part of Israeli territory, and accused Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) of failing to condemn it. ‘Such brutality and no condemnation from the PA!’ he tweeted, referring to a Friday car ramming that killed two soldiers and a Sunday stabbing in Jerusalem that left an Israeli dead, both carried out by Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later denounced Abbas’s remarks on Twitter.

‘For the first time in decades, the US administration has stopped pampering Palestinian leaders and tells them “that’s enough”. Apparently the shock of the truth has caused them to lose their mind,’ he said.

Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem since 1967. Abbas’s government has limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, while the Jewish state annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

All countries currently have their embassies in Tel Aviv and view the future status of Jerusalem as a matter to be negotiated between the parties. But in December Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and in May Friedman will become the first US ambassador in the city as the embassy is moved.

Separately during the speech, Abbas accused rival Palestinian faction Hamas of a bomb attack targeting his prime minister Rami Hamdallah last week and threatened fresh sanctions against the Islamist movement. Abbas had previously said Hamas was ‘responsible’ as it controls security in the Palestinian enclave, but on Monday evening said it was ‘behind the attack’.

Hamdallah was uninjured in last Tuesday’s attack, which saw a roadside bomb explode as his convoy entered Gaza in what Palestinian officials have called an assassination attempt. Six of his security guards were lightly hurt.

In the speech to Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said if the attack had succeeded it would have ‘opened the way for a bloody civil war’. Hamas condemned what it called Abbas’s ‘provocative positions,’ saying its security services were still investigating the explosion.

The Islamists and Abbas’s secular party Fatah have been at odds since 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza in a near civil war.

Abbas controls the internationally recognised Palestinian government, based in the occupied West Bank which Hamdallah leads. Abbas has previously taken a series of measures, including reducing electricity payments for Gaza’s two million residents, in what analysts said was an attempt to punish Hamas. Hamas and Fatah agreed a reconciliation agreement in October but it has collapsed.

• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that an electronic fence along the Israel-Egypt border has saved the Jewish state from jihadist attacks or what he believes would be worse – a tide of African migrants. ‘Were it not for the fence, we would be faced with … severe attacks by Sinai terrorists, and something much worse, a flood of illegal migrants from Africa,’ Netanyahu’s office quoted him as telling a development conference in the southern Israel desert town of Dimona.

The interior ministry says there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, and the government has ordered that thousands of them must leave or face indefinite imprisonment. They began slipping into Israel illegally in 2007 through what was then a porous border with Egypt’s lawless Sinai region. The frontier with Israel’s Negev desert has since been given a 200-kilometre (124 mile) hi-tech fence and the influx has halted.

Netanyahu said a tide of non-Jewish immigration would threaten the very fabric of Israel.

‘We are talking about a Jewish and democratic state, but how could we assure a Jewish and democratic state with 50,000 and then 100,000 and 150,000 migrants a year,’ Netanyahu said.

‘After a million, 1.5 million, we might as well shut up shop,’ he added. ‘We did not close down, we built a fence.’

• Reform of Israel’s military court system in the occupied West Bank has failed to stop ‘systematic violation’ of Palestinian minors’ rights, an Israeli NGO said on Tuesday. Human rights group B’Tselem said that the 2009 launch of a designated military juvenile court with the stated aim of “improving the protection of minors’ rights” had failed to deliver.

It said that introduction of the juvenile court rather resulted in only “technical changes (which) have not improved the protection of minors’ rights.” It gave as an example the goal of shortening the length of time that minors are held in custody while awaiting trial.

In practice, it says, this has generated a greater frequency of remand hearings but the military judges ‘almost always’ grant prosecution requests to extend custody. ‘The changes introduced to the military justice system … are superficial, and affect nothing more than form,’ the report says, citing studies by United Nations children’s agency UNICEF and Defence for Children International, among others. ‘The reports all point to the same factual findings which demonstrate that minors’ rights are regularly and systematically violated.’

A UNICEF report last year cited affidavits taken from 165 West Bank children held by Israel in 2016, saying that all had been subjected to ill treatment or breaches of due process, including not being properly advised of their rights.

B’Tselem said that figures provided by the Israel Prisons Service showed that as of February 28, 2018 it held 356 Palestinian minors. ‘The conviction rate in Israel’s military courts verges on 100 percent,’ it says.