Obama gets a second chance, in a second term of office

One of the best things about the results of this presidential election is that there will be no pause during a “lame duck” period.

Barack Obama will have to continue to work — with renewed determination and energy, as he said in his victory speech which we were able to see in the morning in Jerusalem + Ramallah.

His first international call, after being sworn into office in January 2009, was to Mahmoud Abbas. Any chance that Obama’s first international call today, after being assured of his reelection, will also be to Abbas? [UPDATE: There’s no word here about any Abbas contact Obama, but the Israeli Government Press Office, or GPO, has sent a notice that Netanyahu did speak with Abbas on Thursday. The Israeli announcement didn’t say who initiated the contact, but it seems to be Netanyahu.]

Abbas has already sent his congratulations to Obama. Sa’eb Erekat, the Chief Palestinian negotiator, said that Obama must now help try to stop settlements, and not block the apparently-imminent Palestinian move in the UNGA to upgrade from observer organization / “entity” to observer [but still non-member] state.

The U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this morning said the Palestinian UNGA move would be “unhelpful”, but noted that the U.S. has an interest in maintaining the PA in the West Bank — despite Israeli plans to retaliate to the UNGA move.

The U.S. State Department has recently noted that Congressional legislation mandating a cut in funding to the PA if it made any “unilateral” move in the UN “outside the context of negotiations” does give the Secretary of State the option to waive financial sanctions in the interests of U.S.”national security”.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked the U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro to visit him today — and will reportedly try to put a call through to Obama during Amb. Shapiro’s visit…

Mahmoud Abbas visits Solidarity tent in Ramallah – UPDATED with UNRWA retraction

Mahmoud Abbas visits Ramallah solidarity tent - Thurs 10 May 2012
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas visited the Ramallah / Al-Bireh solidarity tents on Thursday afternoon.  It was a rare public outing for a man who travels around Ramallah in a 14-car convoy [including an ambulance] on streets where all traffic has to be stopped, and where armed men stand watch at regular intervals all along the route.  To the right of Mahmoud Abbas is the PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Qaraqe.  Photo by Ma’an is posted here.

The prelude:  On Wednesday, a group of Palestinian protesters stood in front of the UN Office in Ramallah, and also apparently an UNRWA office in Ramallah as well, disrupting work for the day.   In Geneva, a smaller group took signs and went down to the UN Office in Geneva to explain the reason for the protest outside the Ramallah office.

Then: later on Wednesday,  at UN Headquarters in New York, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon issued a statement in the UNSG’s name saying that he “stressed the importance of averting any further deterioration in the condition of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody who are on hunger strike, and urged everyone concerned to reach a solution to their plight without delay.  ‘The Secretary-General continues to follow with concern the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, in particular those held in what is known as administrative detention’, according to information provided by his spokesperson.  ‘He stresses the importance of averting any further deterioration in their condition’, the spokesperson added. ‘He reiterates that those detained must be charged and face trial with judicial guarantees, or released without delay‘.”  [emphasis added]

This is posted on the UN website here.

Continue reading “Mahmoud Abbas visits Solidarity tent in Ramallah – UPDATED with UNRWA retraction”

UNSG BAN goes to Gaza, again, where his car is pelted with shoes — then is lauded as he addresses Herzliya Conference

About the shoe-throwing [a now-comic sign of disrespect for the target]: the first report was from the Al-Arabiya correspondent travelling in the convoy of UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon as it entered Gaza.

Then, Ma’an News Agency did a story, saying that “Dozens of people threw shoes and stones at UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s convoy as it entered the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Ma’an’s correspondent said.

Ma’an reported that the SG’s convoy sped away, and the UN Chief later tried to make a joke out of the incident: “I thank the people of Gaza for the warm welcome … I met many people who were waiting for me at the entrance”.

Ma’an added, in its report, that “Many of those who protested as the UN convoy passed were family members of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons. They hit the vehicles with signs bearing slogans accusing Ban of bias towards Israel and of refusing to meet the relatives of Palestinian prisoners. A spokesman for deportees from the Israeli siege of Bethlehem’s Nativity church in 2002 called on Ban to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, including detainees and deportees. A number of Gazans whose homes were destroyed in Israel’s war on the coastal enclave in 2008 held up signs reading ‘Gaza is living in darkness’, and ‘Save the children of Gaza’, Ma’an’s correspondent said”. The Ma’an report, published here also noted that “Reuters contributed to this report”.

Apparently, UNSG BAN did not say, when in Gaza, what he said a day earlier while meeting Israeli leaders in Jerusalem: according to a report in Haaretz, BAN said after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that: “Settlements do not help the peace process … I told the prime minister that he should refrain from future construction. I believe that Israel can have a major positive influence on the entire region” [and Netanyahu told Ban, Haaretz reported, that the settlement issue “is a part of the negotiations, it can’t be a precondition”]. BAN also said, in the joint press conference with Netanyahu, that “Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip must stop. It is time for both sides to take confidence building measures. I call on Israel to make certain gestures toward the Palestinians. Middle East peace has a global influence and this is the reason why peace talks must continue.” This was reported here.

So, while BAN says, when with Palestinians, that he agrees Israeli settlements are “illegal” [he later repeats this, but so quickly in passing that it is almost imperceptible, in the Herzliya Conference], he tells Netanyahu that “settlements do not help the peace process”. And, while he says in Israel that “Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip must stop”, he does not repeat this while in in Gaza. This, apparently, is diplomacy.

A subsequent statement issued by a spokesperson for the UNSG said: “Today the Secretary-General travelled to Gaza and visited a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) housing project and a school where he joined girl students in their classroom. He also met with children who suffered serious injuries during the conflict. He was deeply moved by their stories. Unfortunately representatives of civil society cancelled a scheduled lunch to protest against the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The Secretary-General regrets this missed opportunity for an important exchange with Gazan civil society representatives. The Secretary-General is concerned about the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Last night [n.b. — at the Muqata’a in Ramallah] he met with the Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs, Issa Karake, and received a letter outlining specific concerns. The United Nations continues to call on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law”.

The PLO [in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian Authority] later issued a statement of apology for the sign of disrespect in Gaza.

Reconciliation talks between the PA/Fatah in Ramallah + their Hamas rivals in Gaza are proceeding with deliberate slowness.

In the evening, BAN was back in Israel. The contrast could not have been greater. BAN gave one of the keynote addresses to the annual Herzliya Conference [held in the suburb where many diplomats posted to Israel live, just north of Tel Aviv], where he was courteously praised in the introduction, and here are some excerpts from BAN’s remarks:

    The UN helped to bring the State of Israel into this world — it did so in the name of peace, not war,
    yet the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is in its 7th decade…

    The current peace process that began at Madrid Peace Conference more than 20 years ago raised high hopes but delivered 2 decades of delay mistrust and missed opportunities…

    A succession of failed peace talks created a climate of mistrust, and many have come to question the basis of the current peace process: land for peace…

    A welcome + positive development in recent years has been the emergence of a credible Palestinian leadership serving its people + in some ways challenging Israel to rethink some of its assumptions…

    In some ways PA is ahead of the regional curve: In the West Bank it is building the institutions for a functioning democracy and a future Palestinian state. Yesterday I once again visited Ramallah
    and was also struck with professionalism of [PA] security forces as well as a broader sense of economic + social progress…

    Yet these advances are at risk. Why? Because politics is not keeping pace with developments on the ground…

    Negotiations have bogged down…

    We see too many pointless provocations. Israel continues to construct settlements — some in the most sensitive places … Meeting with Palestinians in the West Bank yesterday, I heard their frustrations. I repeat, the international community’s position is well known: these settlements are illegal. and I strongly agree …

    They can also be expected to bring their case for statehood to the UN + its various funds + programs, as they already did with UNESCO…

    We must work together to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza … to strengthen the institutions of mutual security in the West Bank and to develop a climate of tolerance + mutual acceptance between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory…

    A negotiated peace must rest on accepted principles of self-determination in their own democratic state …
    Israel must think carefully of how to support those who work for peace …

    Now is the moment for demonstration of good will by both sides…

    Israel can open Gaza for more construction materials I thank [Israel’s Defense] Minister [Ehud] Barak for his
    flexibility [BAN Ki-Moon was then burned on Twitter for that remark]… [But] what I’m asking you is to do more, to enable all those Palestinian people to live in more comfortable situation, circumstances … And for people to live normal lives they have to have schools, decent jobs, and healthcare, and they have to have jobs … Palestinian poverty is not Israel’s friend…

    Our highest priority is to return to negotiations — not just to procedural talks, but genuine + substantive
    negotiations to resolve the core issues… Both sides should understand the profound costs if they lead nowhere…

    I went to Amman to get their [the Jordanian] assessment + expectations of talks, and I faithfully delivered + discussed / conveyed [what I learned] to both Israeli + Palestinian leaderships … and I told King Abdullah I would do anything possible to advance negotiations…

    I told both leaders that this is the moment — to try to rebuild the confidence + momentum that has so sadly and so needlessly been lost … Neogotiations will go nowhere without shared sense of urgency and will: Palestinians must engage seriously on security, and Israel must engage seriously on territory ….

    There must be an end to six decades of occupation, a just solution of all core issues, + the creation of a
    Palestinian state living side by side … I have spoken seriously because I believe time is running out…

    The world is ready to help ensure Israel’s security, just as it is ready to help Palestinians establish a new
    nation that is long overdue.

A video of UNSG BAN Ki-Moon’s speech at the Herzliya Conference is posted here.

UNSG BAN in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, in Ramallah with Abbas

UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon met Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem today, then Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

After both meetings, there was a press conference.

In Jerusalem with Netanyahu, BAN said “Settlements do not help the peace process… I told the prime minister that he should refrain from future construction”. [Just future construction? The goalposts keep getting moved…]

Netanyahu reportedly told BAN that the settlement issue must be discussed during negotiations, “it can’t be a precondition”… [So, the Palestinians need to negotiate about settlements? Somehow, this sounds different than just saying settlements are one of the final status issues in negotiations…]

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Netanyahu thanked Mr. Ban for his ‘good intentions’, but he said the settlement question should be dealt with as part of a final agreement. ‘It cannot be a precondition to enter into that agreement’, he said”. This is published here.

This NYTimes story added: “An Israeli official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue said Israel was ‘ready for mutual confidence-building measures in the framework of a peace process that is moving forward’ — in other words, as long as the measures came with guarantees that the Palestinians would stick with the talks. He would not specify what steps they might include. Another Israeli official said that in a closed meeting with Mr. Peres, Mr. Ban suggested that Israel, as the stronger party, should release Palestinian prisoners as one way of improving the atmosphere”…

In Ramallah with Abbas, BAN said “A viable Palestinian state is long overdue. I continue to believe a two-state solution is long overdue … The international community has been clear: all settlements are contrary to international law … [In the “exploratory” talks recently in Amman] the Palestinians have been forthcoming in producing proposals on territory + security, and I very much hope Israel will present their proposals. This is what I told Israeli leaders today”.

BAN also said, in answer to a question from the press, that “I fully share the Palestinians’ complaint that they have been under occupation for such a long time, suffering all these hardships without prospects of knowing when this will be over … We have wasted almost 20 years since Oslo … [But] negotiations is the best way to get results”.

Travelling with BAN was the former UN Special Envoy here, Terje Roed Larsen [who is still working on the Lebanon dossier]…

The long-serving Ambassador of the Observer Mission of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, was also present.

BAN added, in response to another question, that “On 23rd September I received the Palestinian application for UN membership, and I immediately conveyed it to the UN Security Council. I made it immediately clear that I fully support the aspiration of the Palestinian people to become a UN member within the framework of two states … it’s still in the hands of the UN Security Council”.

Abbas told BAN: “Mr. Secretary-General, I hope to be able to host you soon in an independent state”…

But, Abbas said, in response to a question from the press, that “We toured the whole world to get 9 votes in the UN Security Council, though I knew at the end that we faced the veto … Unfortunately, we did not achieve our goal of getting 9 votes … At some point we will review all our steps in the near future”.

He also said there was “a need to stop the campaign of arrests” and to free detained parliamentarians”…

Abbas, in his remarks, did not insult the Quartet … instead, he offered a light but rather indistinct compliment.

The Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa’eb Erekat was seated in the front row, during the press conference [next to Terje Roed Larsen], and PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi was there as well.

“In the end”, Abbas said, I wish to assert that what we want is a two-state solution within the 1967 borders, and the need to end the Israeli presence on all our territory, including the Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem”.

[Last week, at the end of the 5th “exploratory meeting” in Amman in which Israeli + Palestinian negotiators sat together for the first time a long time, an Israeli envoy made sweepingly broad indications of Israel’s territorial interests — and said Israel wanted to keep a security presence along the Jordan River…]

Tomorrow, BAN is going to Gaza in the morning, and will address the Herzliya Conference at 8 PM, before flying back to New York after midnight.

[Earlier on this trip away from New York, the UNSG was in Ethiopia; Davos, Switzerland, and Amman…]

Rallies in Ramallah + other West Bank cities supporting UN bid

Rallies are taking place in cities around the West Bank today, organized by the non-official but officially-approved “National Committee – Palestine: UN State 194”.

Palestine TV, which is covering the Ramallah rally live, listed a series of uninspiring speeches for demo in ex-Clock Square [now Yasser Arafat Sq] in Ramallah, then performance by Al-Ashaqeen.

At the start of today’s events, Palestine TV was showing split screen: rallies in both Ramallah + Nablus. Moment ago: melodius intonation of Quranic verse.

Main official speaker in Ramallah is Tayyib Abdur-Rahman, addressing Ramallah rally now. Imagine if Mahmoud Abbas were speaking live, via satellite hook-up…

Next major demonstration planned for Friday — the day Mahmoud Abbas is due to address the UN General Assembly, and the day he has said he will present [to the UNSG BAN Ki-Moon, who must then transmit it to the UN Security Council] the official Palestinian request for full membership in the UN.

As we Tweeted yesterday [@Marianhouk]:
– Palestinian WBank secondary school students free to participate tomorrow in pro-PalState194 rally, leaflets distributed Monday in schools
– Excitement + enthusiasm said to be high among WBank students before demo, but level of information about what’s going on seems rather low
– Surprised to hear that many students apparently believe that Palestine Papers, Al-Jazeera programs on negotiations, are malicious fakes

Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has arrived in New York for what has looked like an eventful week that would culminate in a Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations.

Abbas met the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon today — but did not submit the letter that has to be given to the UN Secretary-General to start the process.

Why?

About a week ago, Abbas told journalists including correspondents from The New York Times that he would submit the letter to the UNSG as soon as possible after he arrived in New York.

The answer can only be — Abbas is allowing maximum time for diplomatic contacts and negotiations to play out.

On Friday, in the Muqata’a Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas gave a televised speech in which he said he would hand the letter to the UNSG on Friday, at the end of Abbas’ scheduled address to the UN General Assembly. He is 14th on the speakers’ list on Friday, listed between Tajikistan and Japan.

Palestinian officials say they expect this means Abbas will be one of the last speakers on Friday morning — about 12:30, they predicted [but it could well be later].

It would be a dramatic visual if Abbas, speaking at the podium of the General Assembly on Friday, simply turned around and handed the Palestinian letter up to the UN SG, who will be seated behind a marble table on an elevated platform directly behind Abbas.

After Palestinian officials made clear that they intended to go through with their UN bid, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu was inscribed two or three speakers later, after Abbas speaks on Friday.

The Obama administration has said it will use its veto power, as one of the 5 Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, to stop the Palestinian bid, if necessary.

However, it became clear over the weekend that the U.S. would prefer to defeat the move in another way — by persuading enough members of the Security Council to not support the Palestinian bid, so that it will fail to win the 9 votes needed to pass, and be adopted.

This is trickier — and would require the U.S. to abstain [for its no vote would automatically become a veto].

It would also mean persuading the EU to adopt a common position, and also abstain. There are 4 EU members on the UN SC:
Britain + France, who are also permanent members with the veto power; and Germany + Portugal, non-permanent members who could either abstain [if there is a common EU position], or vote no.

A defeat by abstention, rather than by veto, would be a much softer blow to the Palestinian plan — a kinder, more gentle dissuasion –and easier to explain on the international level, and in the Middle East. It would be a nicer way to leave the door open for a second Palestinian try, without causing the same bitterness here on the ground that a U.S. veto would do [even if joined by Britain + France].

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in New York today that “We along with all the other twenty six countries of the European Union have withheld our position on how we would vote on any resolution that may come forward in the General Assembly in order to exert as much pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. That is the only real way forward.”

TODAY’s RECOMMENDED READING:
(1) PALESTINIANS TURN TO UN, WHERE PARTITION BEGAN, by Neil MacFarquhar, published 18 September 2011 here.
(2) REJECTION OF PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD DENIES FREEDOM, by Ahmad Tibi, published today here
(3) ABBAS DEFIANT AS ‘ALL HELL’ BREAKS OUT OVER UN PLAN, by Maan News Agency using material from a Reuters report, published today here.

Continue reading “Mahmoud Abbas in New York – meets UNSG, but does not [yet] submit letter asking for UN membership”

What is the UNSG's position on Palestinian state membership in UN?

In this Al-Jazeera International interview with a nicely designed set — possibly in the UNSG’s 38th floor office, it seems — UNSG BAN Ki-Moon speaks with Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, and says:

“Membership in UN is something that is up to the member states of the UN … It does not fall within my mandate according to the Charter of the United Nations

UNSG BAN also says:

“My only wish and hope is that we will not see any confrontational atmosphere in the UNGA over this issue.

“As a committed proponent of the two-state solution … the realization of that vision has been long overdue … Within that context I have been a strong proponent. I’m not in a position to prejudge any outcome which course of action the Palestinian president will take because I have not received any letter of application whatever … I’m going to have a bilateral meeting with the Palestinian leader in NY [the appointment has not been fixed yet]

“I have always been supporting the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations to have an independent state

“It is only natural that after such a loooooong time that the Palestinian people have been frustrated and trying to reach some of their goals. Whatever road they may choose is up to them … Now we are talking about recognition of a state within the UN or the admission of a state as a full member of the United Nations … but as far as their legit concerns and their aspirations or their enduring their sufferings, I fully sympathize…”

This video is posted both on Youtube here. and on the Al-Jazeera English-language website, here.

UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"

Was the UNSG taking a diplomatic half-step back from his earlier support for a long-overdue Palestinian State?

What he said, at a hastily-summoned press conference at UNHQ/NY on Thursday, was exactly this: “I am profoundly troubled by the lack of progress in the peace negotiations. It is vital that they resume. Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution is long overdue. Time is not our friend”.

[As we reported in our last post, on 10 September, here, what the UNSG BAN said in Australia that day was somewhat different. According to AFP, he said this: “The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security — that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it… And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue“.]

The U.S. State Department spokesperson said last Thursday that the Obama Administration would use the American veto in the UN Security Council if the Palestinians pursued their announced intentention to seek full UN membership.

Though U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and David Hale are on their second trip to the region in as many weeks to try to avert the Palestinian move, Palestinian officials say they are going to pursue it — unless, of course, an excellent offer is made up until the last minute.

Even if a Palestinian State is somehow admitted as a full member of the UN Organization, Palestinian officials say, they intended to pursue negotiations with Israel on the next day…

Palestinian Authority [PA] Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told members of the Foreign Press Association [FPA – in Israel] at a briefing convened at FPA request on Thursday that at end of Mahmoud Abbas speech around midday on 23 September from the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York, after the very last sentence, Abbas – who is Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, in addition to acting President of the PA — will present the official request for the state of Palestine to be granted full membership to the UNSG”.

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon will be seated on an elevated table behind the podium. All Mahmoud Abbas will need to do is turn around and hand up the official Palestinian letter of request — and this will be in public, in full view of the whole world.

Continue reading “UNSG BAN says two-state solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict "is long overdue"”

SG BAN Ki-Moon says Palestinian state is "long overdue"

During a visit to Canberra, Australia, the UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon made headlines here, and probably around the world, by saying that a Palestinian state is “long overdue”.

AFP reported that the UNSG said: “The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security — that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it… And I support also the statehood of Palestinians; an independent, sovereign state of Palestine. It has been long overdue …But… the recognition of a state is something to be determined by the member states …It is not by the Secretary General so I leave it to the member states to decide to recognise or not to recognise”. This report is published here.

It was, actually, an uncharacteristically bold and brave thing for him to say, coming just hours after the U.S. confirmed clearly that it held the opposite view — and would use its veto power in the UN Security Council to stop a Palestinian request for full membership in the organization.

A Palestinian State has already been declared, in November 1988. But, though a few legal scholars disagree on the basis of theory, it clearly doesn’t exist yet, “on the ground”.

Within hours of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers on 15 November 1988, the UN’s then-Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, issued this statement through his spokesman in New York saying:

“The Secretary-General has not seen the full text of the statements issued by the Palestine National Council in Algiers. However, on the basis of the press reports that have emerged thus far, he believes that fresh opportunities now exist for progress towards peace. The Secretary-General has consistently maintained that a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and take fully into account the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination. The Secretary-General believes that this session of the Palestine National Council has been of the greatest significance. He feels that all concerned should now seize the opportunity to make a determined new effort to achieve a just and lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East”.

This statement is archived on the UN website here.

That was in November 1988.

Continue reading “SG BAN Ki-Moon says Palestinian state is "long overdue"”

Terrifying situation in Libya – and what are world leaders now cooking up to deal with it?

In today’s UN Security Council meeting at UNHQ/NY, Libya’s Ambassador Mohammad Abdel-Rahman Shalgham (until today, apparently loyal to Col. Muammar Qaddhafi, and according to AFP his childhood friend) formally joined his deputy (Ibrahim Dabbashi), and the opposition to the current regime in his country. Shalgham reportedly told the Security Council: “Please, the United Nations, save Libya. Let there be no bloodshed, no killing of innocents. We want a decisive, rapid and courageous resolution from you”. [This was reported in an AFP dispatch published here. The AFP said that Shalgham made references in his speech to Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot…

In today’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the entire Libyan delegation announced that they represented the people, and not the government of Libya, and they called for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the violence of the regime.

And, Col. Qaddhafi and his son both gave second speeches today (their second since the outbreak of the uprising this month). I was out and missed them. Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine wrote today on his blog here that “Well, he [Col. Qaddhafi] finally came right out and said it: ‘those who do not love me do not deserve to live’. With those words, uttered on Libyan state television today, Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi at least rhetorically outdid all his megalomaniacal and mass murdering predecessors including Saddam Hussein, Ceausescu, Stalin and the whole bunch. Anyone who still doubts that this man is ready and willing to visit the utmost bloodshed upon his people simply isn’t paying attention. The question is, is he able? The answer is, at this stage at least, quite possibly”.

Ibish later added this update to his post: “There is now some dispute over whether Qaddafi said ‘those who do not love me do not deserve to live” or “if people do not love me, I do not deserve to live’. Al Arabiya reports the later here. But first-rate tweeters reporter Muna Shikaki quoted him as ‘Qaddafi: ‘those who don’t like me don’t deserve to live’ and Sultan Al Qassemi wrote ‘Gaddafi now in TV “I’m in central Tripoli now. The people who don’t love me don’t deserve to live”.’ Those are two pretty good sources, in my view. Either way, the thrust of the arguments remain unchanged. At UN today, the Libyan ambassador finally abandoned Qaddafi after sticking by him till now in an open dispute with his deputy. With emotions and tears flowing, Amb. Shalqam embraced Sec. Gen. Ban and asked the UN to ‘save Libya, we want quick action, save Libya’. He rightly said Qaddafi’s message to Libyans was if I cannot rule you, ‘I will kill you’. I think that says it all. And there is no dispute that Qaddafi today threatened to turn Libya into ‘a burning hell’.”

The Independent reported that “The beleaguered Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi defiantly appealed to his hardcore supporters to ‘defend the nation’ against an uprising which was last night closing in on Tripoli after thousands of protesters braved gunfire to try to march through the capital. Standing on the ramparts of a fort overlooking the city’s Green Square, Colonel Gaddafi pumped his fist and told 1,000 pro-regime demonstrators: ‘We can crush any enemy. We can crush it with the people’s will. The people are armed and when necessary, we will open arsenals to arm all the Libyan people and all Libyan tribes’. Urging the crowd to ‘retaliate against them, retaliate against them’, the 68-year-old President was shown on state television calling on them to prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil’.” This report, written by a team in Bengazi, is published here.

AFP reported that Qaddhafi said in Friday’s speech: “Sing, dance and prepare yourselves … If needs be, we will open all the arsenals”. The U.S. warmed up to Libya after it gave up its nuclear weapons program (after revelations that it came from Pakistani nuclear scientist and salesman], but reports indicate that Libya still has chemical and biological weapons…

In the UN Security Council today, UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon said that “Colonel Qaddhafi and members of his family continue to threaten the population with civil war… Let us be frank, these remarks… raise grave considerations… I strongly believe that the first obligation of the international community is to ensure (protection)”

BAN also noted that “Today the Human Rights Commission convened in special session… it is the first time that a member of the HRC is the subject of a special session … The HRC today took steps to establish independent commission of inquiry and recommended that the UN General Assembly consider suspending Libya from HRC”

And, he said, “There are also indications of a growing crisis of refugees (since Feb 22, some 22,000 fled overland to Tunisia, and 15,000 to Egypt, but much larger numbers are trapped… And those who managed to cross the border said the journey was terrifying … It is crucial for humanitarian agencies to have access to the border”.

And, BAN said, the UN’s World Food Program is concerned about Libya’s food supplies

In those who can stand it — and especially for those who love these things — here is a UN video of today’s UN Security Council meeting on Libya:

According to a Reuters report published in Haaretz, a six-page draft UN Security Council resolution says that “The attacks against Libyan civilians may be ‘crimes against humanity’ warranting prosecution by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to a draft UN sanctions resolution. The text, drafted by France and Britain and circulated to other members of the UN Security Council on Friday, also calls for an arms embargo against Libya as well as travel bans and asset freezes for the country’s top leaders … The 15-nation council has only referred one other case to the ICC – the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region”. This Haaretz report is posted here.

Here are some selected Tweets on the situation in Libya over the last working week:

21 February:
@marianhouk: Could become one of the most expedited decisions ever taken by UN Security Council – case for humanitarian intervention in #Libya

@marianhouk: To the last man + woman! RT@cnnbrk – Gadhafi’s son: #Libya’s army has been told to restore
security “at any price” http://on.cnn.com/ge2mrQ

@marianhouk: Situation in Libya doesn’t need to be international for UN Security Council action under rarely-used humanitarian imperative resolutions…

22 February:
@marianhouk: It was like a music video @RT IvanCNN: Watch Gadhafi’s…strange…pre-dawn appearance with an umbrella on Libyan TV – http://bit.ly/hCZTR7

@marianhouk: The neo-Con right has tried for years to kick #Libya off the UN Human Rights Commission, then Council. This is inadequate to the carnage now

@themoornextdoor – Qadhafi: “….and the punishment is death” this is really all you need to know from this speech.

@lassecgen LAS Council decides to suspend participation of Libyan delegations in all LAS meetings.

@SultanAlQassemi – Abdul Fattah Younis: Gaddafi, that dirty man, wanted to say that I was killed by protesters so that my tribe, the Obeidat will stand by him

@marianhouk: “Greasy rats”! — one of the most disgusting and chilling things Qaddhafi said today, over + over

@marianhouk: Revelations abt Qaddafi murder of Musa al-Sadr and his secret burial ‘n Sebha, then murder of some who knew [n.b. reportedly including Qaddhafi’s personal pilot]: @SultanAlQassimi + @_RichardHall

Continue reading “Terrifying situation in Libya – and what are world leaders now cooking up to deal with it?”