Britain must apologise for Balfour – Abbas


PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas told the ongoing meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council that the way to achieving national unity requires some time, the final communiqué of the meeting said on Sunday.

He said only Egypt, the current broker of the Palestinian reconciliation process, shall have a say in national reconciliation efforts, but he said also Jordan can play a positive role in this regard.

Abbas told the FRC meeting that in order to enable the National Consensus Government to assume full duties in the Gaza Strip, there should only be one authority, one weapon, one law and one political programme based on the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s agenda, as is the case in the West Bank.

In the meantime, the President affirmed that the Palestinian leadership will continue to allocate salaries to the families of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. He described this as a moral, national, political and humanitarian obligation.

Meanwhile, Abbas talked about the 1917 Balfour Declaration in its 100-year anniversary, and he asked Britain to apologise for the long injustice against the Palestinian people. He also called on Britain to recognise the State of Palestine. The President also renewed calls for the countries of the world to recognise the State of Palestine in accordance with relevant international resolutions.

Meanwhile a Hamas movement spokesperson reiterated on Saturday that the future of the group’s armed wing is not up for discussion in upcoming reconciliation talks with the Fatah movement, scheduled to take place in Cairo today. Hazem Qassem said that ‘the resistance’s weapons are legal. They are here to protect Palestinians and free their lands (from Israeli occupation) – therefore, this should not be an issue to discuss.’

The Hamas spokesperson said that in fact, what should be discussed is the ‘enhancement’ of Hamas’ power as an armed resistance movement. However, Qassem said that all subjects that are ‘obstructing the reconciliation’ would be discussed on Tuesday, including the National Consensus Government taking control of the Gaza Strip; later shifting the focus of reconciliation from Gaza to the West Bank; and ultimately holding presidential, legislative, and National Council elections to rule both parts of the occupied territory.

Hamas said last Thursday that the Palestinian National Consensus Government had officially taken over from the movement as the administrative authority in the besieged Gaza Strip, which has been under Hamas’ de facto rule since 2007. Fatah, the leading party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) government in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas’ election victory in legislative elections in 2006, sparking a violent conflict between the two movements, with Hamas consolidating its control over the territory a year later.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told the cabinet, which had convened for the first time in three years in Gaza City last Tuesday, that his government is going to assume full responsibility of all sectors of life in Gaza ‘in full cooperation and partnership with all the Palestinian factions and forces.’

However, Hamas’ control over security and its nature as an armed resistance movement has constituted an obstacle for the PA, which cooperates with Israel on security-related matters, as laid out in the Oslo Accords – a policy that Hamas has repeatedly condemned, accusing the PA of targeting Hamas members in the West Bank through politically-motivated arrests and in coordination with Israel.

Since Hamas invited the consensus government to take control of Gaza, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not be prepared to accept Hamas keeping its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. ‘I won’t accept the reproduction of the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon’ in Gaza, Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian media.

Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese government but retains its own army. 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.’

‘The border crossings, security, and all the ministries must be under our control,’ he was quoted as saying. Hamas, however, has said multiple times that giving up arms is not up for discussion in the reconciliation process.

• A number of Arab states headed by Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are reportedly expected to withdraw two resolutions critical of Israel’s policies in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the besieged Gaza Strip at the UNESCO executive board session in Paris this week, following an Israeli and US-led diplomatic campaign, according to Israeli media reports.

The executive board of the UN’s cultural agency had been expected to vote on two resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory last Friday, but according to Israel’s ambassador to the UN agency, Carmel Shama Hacohen, it is likely that the board will agree to delay the issue for six months, Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported.

This would be the first time since April 2013 that resolutions were not presented on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, according to Israeli news daily Haaretz. Time will tell whether this is a tactical change or a new approach. If it is, it is significant progress toward wiping the table clean from the incitement and politicisation against us in the organisation,’ Shama Hacohen was quoted as saying, adding: ‘It could be a significant step toward the elimination of these proposals altogether.’

Haaretz cited a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry as saying that the decision to withdraw the resolutions was made following ‘quiet diplomatic talks’ last week between Shama Hacohen, UNESCO committee chairman Michael Worbs, and Jordanian ambassador to UNESCO Makram Queisi.

The senior official reportedly said that a number of Western countries were also involved in the talks, primarily the United States. According to Haaretz, Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s adviser on Israel, was ‘personally involved.’

Instead of holding a vote on the two resolutions, Worbs will reportedly submit two proposals to delay the vote by six months. according to Times of Israel. ‘The resolutions are expected to pass unanimously – unless a country breaks its commitment in the last moment,’ Shama Hacohen told The Times of Israel on Saturday.

Shama Hacohen also reportedly said that despite the understandings, he was still prepared for the possibility of a vote on a resolution critical of Israel. ‘Until I hear the sound of the chairman’s gavel, I won’t believe this is happening, and from my point of view I’ll write two speeches in response,’ he said.

Over the past four years, and more so in the last two years, the UNESCO institutions have held votes every few months on resolutions that criticised the Israeli government’s policies against Palestinians. Israel has repeatedly accused the United Nations and its respective bodies of being ‘anti-Israel’ for its stances against the now half-century occupation of the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

The actions of UNESCO have spurred a determined Israeli-American campaign to delegitimise it and other UN agencies, such as UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Since the US Donald Trump Administration’s advent to power, and with the help of his ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, Washington and Israel have waged a war against the UN, using intimidation and the threats of withholding funds.