Campaign for UN endorsement for Palestinian state will continue – says Nabil Sha’th

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The campaign to win UN endorsement for a Palestinian state will continue despite US opposition, senior Fatah official Nabil Sha’th said late Saturday.

‘Now that (Israeli Prime Minister) Binyamin Netanyahu has proved that he rejects the peace process, there is no doubt that we shall continue with the strategic objective of turning to the United Nations in September,’ Sha’th said, referring to Netanyahu’s speech last Friday, given in the White House Oval Office.

Sha’th, a former minister, said that the goal of Palestinians is to win recognition by the world body of their promised state ‘in the 1967 borders,’ referring to the lines that existed before that year’s Six Day War, when Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

East Jerusalem was also occupied in 1967, then later illegally annexed into Israel.

Last Wednesday, an official of the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that Israel would have to choose between negotiating on that basis or facing UN recognition of a state on the same lines.

In a keynote policy speech in Washington on Thursday, US President Barack Obama called for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines but said the Palestinian bid for UN recognition would not bring them sovereignty.

At a dramatic Oval Office appearance on Friday, Netanyahu issued a scathing rejection of the 1967 frontiers as ‘indefensible.’

He demanded that Obama reaffirm then-president George W Bush’s 2004 promise that the borders of a future Palestinian state would have to recognise the mushrooming of illegal Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas described Netanyahu’s position as ‘an official rejection of Mr Obama’s initiative, of international legitimacy and of international law’.

In a separate development, demonstrators gathered in Gaza City on Saturday to protest against the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to grant passports to 30,000 Gaza residents.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have have been unable to get passports issued by the Fatah-led PA, residents say, because of factional tensions, despite the recent reconciliation agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip.

Salim Sharab, organiser of a campaign to demand passports for all residents, blamed the Palestinian Authority Minister of Interior in Ramallah for rejecting applications from Gaza.

He asked: ‘Are we paying a toll for political affiliation?’

Sharab added that those denied passports had a right to be told if they were considered spies for foreign governments, and deserved explanations as to why they were being prohibited from exiting the coastal enclave.

Patients needing medical care abroad, students and hajj pilgrims are among the rejected applicants.

Osama Fuad Abu Askar, of Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, joined Saturday’s protest in Gaza City’s Unknown Soldier square. He has been trying to get a passport for four years.

‘I lost my legs in 2004 during Israeli shelling and since 2007 I have been trying to get a passport so I can travel abroad and get prosthetic limbs. As a disabled man, how can I be a threat?’ he asked.

Askar said reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah was pointless ‘if Palestinian citizens can’t get their basic rights.

‘Passports are not exclusive rights for Hamas or Fatah.’

Mahmoud Abu Sweirih, another protester, said he had been married for 13 years but he and his wife have not been able to have children.

‘Doctors said I needed treatment abroad, but I can’t go because I can’t get a passport. How come one individual determines my fate? Doesn’t the Palestinian constitution give me the right to have a passport?’

Campaign organiser Sharab appealed to human rights groups and the Arab League to help resolve the situation.

Director of the Addamir human rights organisation Khalil Abu Shammala said passports were an inalienable right guaranteed by the constitution and international law.

‘Our representatives held several meetings with PA officials in the West Bank.

‘We planned to file legal proceedings, but waited because we had promises that the case would be resolved once the reconciliation agreement was signed,’ Abu Shammala said.

• Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager in Gaza early Saturday, Palestinian medical officials and the Israeli army said.

The body of Ibrahim Mohammad Faraj, 17, from the An-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, was transferred to the Al-Aqsa Hospital, medics said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman claimed that his forces opened fire when the teenager crawled toward a border fence overnight.

On Friday, Israeli forces shot and injured a protester in southern Gaza.

l The National Resistance Brigades, military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) held a military drill on Saturday in the city of Rafah in which it employed live rounds, several explosive charges and mortars shells.

The exercise came at the conclusion of an intensive month-long military course attended by a group of the National Resistance Brigades men.

The training was also held in the framework of the group’s preparations to confront any Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

Many of the group’s military commanders attended the graduation ceremony and paid respect to the trainees.

The brigades stressed that the training goes to show that the military wing is prepared to repel any fierce Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip.

l In response to the Israeli decision to build 1,500 new units in Jerusalem, Ahmad Quray, head of the PLO’s Jerusalem Affairs Department, said last Friday that the Israeli measures reveal ‘a field war launched by Israel and its bodies against the Jerusalemite citizens wherever they are, by confiscating open lands and exploiting green zones to build settlements and expand the ones that already exist’.

Quray warned against the Israeli move ‘which is a new obstacle in the path of negotiations and reviving the peace process between the two sides, and which seriously jeopardises Jerusalem’s present and future’.

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi added that ‘this escalation which coincides with Netanyahu’s arrival in Washington shows that the United States has failed to end the Israeli violations and ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people’.

Ashrawi said that Netanyahu should make use of the present circumstances and the changes in the Arab world because the chance for peace might not come again in the future.

Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudaynah said that the Israeli decision ‘is a direct response to the speech of President Barack Obama,’ adding that the US Administration should hold Israel responsible for ‘the current deterioration of the peace process’.

A statement by Fatah spokesman Usamah al-Qawasimi, noted that ‘the Israeli decision is a violation of international laws and conventions, and clear evidence of the lack of any Israeli desire or intentions to achieve peace in the region’.

He added that ‘this Israeli policy will push the region to a cycle of violence in which no one will be secure’.