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.

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's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

The UN Secretary-General’s new report raises more questions than answers about two protests that turned deadly in the Golan Heights in the past month in which people who the UN report identified as “civilians”, and “largely young unarmed Palestinians” overran Syrian, UN, and Israeli lines — in an attempt to enter an area under Israeli control.

The UN said it still did not know the exact casualty toll. The report said that the two demonstrations “resulted in an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties and put the long-held ceasefire in jeopardy”.

The statement about the Israeli-Syrian ceasefire being in jeopardy is a surprise: there are no reports of any Syrian responses to the Israeli firing on the demonstrators.

The report was prepared, as it usually is, by the UNSG in connection with the imminent renewal of the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights later this month.   The UN has decided to ask for a regular six-month renewal, as has happened since 1974, and a threat to the cease-fire would be a good justification for renewal.

The report does not say that Syrian forces were in any way responsible for the organizing the protests, though it does note several times that the Syrian forces were present.

On May 15, it said, “A total of 44 civilian casualties, including four fatalities from IDF fire, were reported, but UNDOF has not been able to confirm these numbers”. In the second demonstration, it said, “Although UNDOF could not confirm the number of casualties during the 5 June events, up to 23 persons have been reported killed and many more wounded”.

The report said that it was still investigating an “incident” in which two civilians “entered Majdal Chams and demonstrated in the town centre” during the May 15 protest — and were detained by the IDF. They were returned two days later, on 17 May, “by the IDF through UNDOF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the Syrian authorities”. According to the UN report, “UNDOF is investigating the incident and both parties have agreed in principle to cooperate with UNDOF’s investigation”.

It also said it was still investigating an apparent attack by protestors, during the June 5 protest, on an UNDOF position. Stones were thrown at a UNDOF commander trying to calm the situation, several protesters climbed the walls and entered the UNDOF facility and some UNDOF military police were evacuated for their own protection.

Continue reading UNSG's new report on UNDOF mentions Golan minefields + Palestinian protests

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?

How NOT to respond to attacks on one's leadership

There’s only one convincing way to respond to attacks on oneself and/or one’s leadership: to smile and give genuine assurances that you are going to give full consideration to the arguments of opponents, or the opposition, and in any case you will sure try to do better.

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon has just chosen a poor alternative.

The Washington Post’s Column Lynch has reported that BAN “mounted a highly emotional defense of his embattled tenure Monday, telling reporters at a news conference that allegations that he sought to undercut the independence of the United Nations’ main anti-corruption agency were ‘unfair’.”

BAN went even further, saying to journalists: “I’m a very reasonable, very practical man of common sense. I do not take extreme, unreasonable policies. I always do the right things, proper things … If anybody or if any member states with the U.N. system, or any colleague of mine within the UN Secretariat, accuses me on the issue of accountability or ethics, then that’s something I regard as unfair”. This report is posted here.

Matthew Lee has been all over this story, on his Inner City Press website, and has refers to these BAN comments as a “meltdown” moment.

Matthew’s post on the immediate issues is here.

Matthew’s post on the UN Staff Union’s open expression of discontent on 5 August resolution is here.

And, Matthew asks, “Is [just] being there enough?”

Israeli decision to participated in UN Panel on Freedom Flotilla: "UNprecedented"

Given Israel’s new-found appreciation of international law, it should not be too surprising: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today (Monday), 2.8.10, informed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that Israel would participate in the panel that he is establishing in the wake of the 31.5.10 events regarding the flotilla”, the Israeli Prime Minister’s office has announced.

According to the statement, Netanyahu said that “Israel has nothing to hide. The opposite is true. It is in the national interest of the State of Israel to ensure that the factual truth of the overall flotilla events comes to light throughout the world and this is exactly the principle that we are advancing.”

The Prime Minister consulted his “Security Cabinet” — a “seven-member ministerial forum” — before the decision was announced,  and, the statement said, “diplomatic contacts … have been held in recent weeks in order to ensure that this was indeed a panel with a balanced and fair written mandate”.

Haaretz’s Barak Raviv wrote that This is the first time Israel has ever agreed to participate in a UN probe regarding the Israel Defense Forces … UN Secretary General Ban officially announced Israel’s participation in the international inquiry, calling it an ‘unprecedented development’ … Ban also announced those who are planned to head the UN inquiry, saying the ‘panel will be led by eminent personalities: former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Geoffrey Palmer as Chair and the outgoing President of Colombia, Mr. Alvaro Uribe as Vice-Chair. The Panel will have two additional members, one each from Israel and Turkey. It will begin its work on 10 August and submit the first progress report by mid September’.”

Ban reportedly added that he hoped “the Panel will fulfill its mandate based on the Presidential Statement of the Security Council and with the fullest cooperation of the relevant national authorities of the two countries … It will also give me recommendations for the prevention of similar incidents in the future”… This is reported in Haaretz here.

UNSG BAN makes second visit to post-war Gaza

UNSG BAN Ki-Moon entered the Gaza strip this morning (Sunday) — despite firing of at least four rockets from Gaza on Saturday to Israeli perimeter communities.

Such firing usually brings Israeli reprisals — but that will have to wait until BAN leaves the Gaza Strip. [UPDATE: SMS Israel is reporting that Palestinian sources say the IDF fired “tank shells” at southern Gaza — while BAN is in northern Gaza…]

BAN made a stop in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Ezbat Abed Rabbo (Abed Rabbo farms) in Jabaliya, which was one of the worst-hit areas during the IDF Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009). Almost every house was destroyed, and a whole area of small businesses as well — one by one by one.

With the Israeli ban on construction materials still in place — ostensibly because Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held somewhere in Gaza since being seized in a cross-border raid in late June 2006 — there has been virtually no reconstruction. Families are still living in tents beside the rubble of their former homes.

Supplies of electricity and cooking gas are still unreliable and intermittant. Millions of liter of raw or partially-treated sewage from the densely-populated Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million people are trapped, has been pouring directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The current travels north — but this has apparently not bothered Israeli beach-goers so much that they have pressed for an end to the sanctions that the Israeli government ordered tightened after the mid-June 2007 Hamas rout of Palestinian/Fatah Preventive Security forces in Gaza.

Since September 2007, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has been in charge of these sanctions — which are directly administered by the Coordinator of [Israeli] Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The Israeli Supreme Court was asked by a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups to prohibit the military from carrying out what they say is “collective punishment” of the entire population of Gaza. But the High Court of Justice instead allowed the Israeli Military to proceed, on the sole condition that it would not allow a “humanitarian crisis” to develop.

BAN has reportedly just said in Gaza that this continued blockade or seige is “unacceptable”.

BAN, and the Quartet of Middle East negotiators of which he is part, have repeated their calls this week for an end to rocket and missile and mortar firing from Gaza, and for Gilad Shalit’s safe return home.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar is reported to have said this morning that Fatah and “factions” are responsible for the continued projectile firing from Gaza — which he said Hamas wanted to stop. Zahar apparently told al-A3alam TV that the shelling “diverts the focus from the occupation crimes”.

Fayyad shows BAN Ki-Moon a small part of the situation in the West Bank

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad gave UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon a safe and secure look at the situation on the ground in the West Bank. Salam Fayyad shows BAN Ki-Moon the situation on the ground in the West Bank - 20 March 2010

UNSG BAN was originally supposed to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — but Abbas reportedly is suffering back pain following an accidental fall last week, and was advised to rest for a few days after a medical check in Amman on Friday.

Instead, in Ramallah, Fayyad reportedly took BAN to the Masyoun area in Ramallah, and further west to a spot near the infamous Israeli prison, Ofer, where there are hundreds if not thousands of Palestinian detainees being held, and where there is an Israeli military court where there are hearings for some detainees.

According to the Palestinian News Agency, WAFA, BAN said: “I saw with my very eyes the hardships the Palestinians face as a result of Israeli settlement activities and land confiscation”.

AP reported that BAN’s tour of the situation on the ground (in a small part of the West Bank) was brief. AP added that BAN told Fayyad in Ramallah that “The Quartet has sent a clear and strong message saying that we strongly support your efforts to establish an independent, viable Palestinian state”.

Fayyad and BAN - pool photo by Mohamad Torokman

After seeing some of the sights, BAN gave a press conference — apparently in the Palestinian Prime Minister’s office. Many journalists were not informed — by either the UN or the Palestinian Authority information services.

Continue reading Fayyad shows BAN Ki-Moon a small part of the situation in the West Bank

Quartet Statement on "indirect" Israeli-Palestinian talks + East Jerusalem

Russia has wanted to host an international conference on Middle East Peace since the start of the Annapolis process of direct negotiations in late November 2007.

It wasn’t exactly a full international multilateral conference, but today the Quartet of Middle East negotiators (US, Russia, European Union + UN) met in Moscow — with their Special Representative Tony Blair — and issued a statement on proposed U.S.-brokered “indirect” talks which is being billed as “strong”:

[In the statement’s last line, it says that “The Quartet reaffirms its previous statements and supports in consultation with the parties on international conference in Moscow at the appropriate time, concurrent with direct negotiations”.]

Most of the specifics in this Quartet statement were addressed to Israel – in particular, to the position expressed by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and others in his government about East Jerusalem.

But, there is not much in it that would encourage the Palestinians – many of whom remain unconvinced that the proposed U.S.-mediated “indirect talks” between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will do anything good.

The Quartet statement called for an Israeli freeze on settlement expansion — and for Israel “to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem”.

And, the Quartet said, “Recalling that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized by the international community, the Quartet underscores that the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties and condemns the decision by the Government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The Quartet reaffirms its intention to closely monitor developments in Jerusalem, and to keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground. The Quartet recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and believes that through good faith and negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards this status for people around the world”.

What is it like in East Jerusalem these days? Here are two instructive videos:

(1) Filmed on 15 March – Hagit Ofran, who documents settlements for Peace Now, has posted this encounter at the entrance to the Old City of East Jerusalem on her new Eyes on the Ground in East Jerusalem Blog, here:

(2) Filmed one month earlier, on 14 February – this video taken by International Solidarity Movement volunteers was posted showing participants in a bus tour for Jewish groups visiting the homes built by the UN in the mid-1950s in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem to house Palestinian refugees. Four of these homes have been evacuated by Israeli court orders over the past 18 months, and handed over to Jewish settlers. This video was made in the entryway to the home of Rivka Kurd — the front wing of her house, built apparently without proper permit, was the most recent property turned over to Jewish settlers. The family property was tossed out on to the front lawn that these visiters mill around it. The family, who sits in a tent from where this video was made, say that it is ironic that the part of their house built without a proper permit was declared illegal for them to live in, but legal for the Jewish settlers:

Is it really enough for the Quartet to express the intention to “closely monitor” developments — and maybe even to “keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground”?

Continue reading Quartet Statement on "indirect" Israeli-Palestinian talks + East Jerusalem

UN General Assembly: Israel and Palestine should investigate Goldstone report war crimes concerns

The UN General Assembly has asked UNSG BAN Ki-Moon to report back in five months about Israeli and Palestinian progress in investigating concerns about war crimes during the IDF’s three-week Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last year.

That does not mean, however, that there is a five-month deadline for the completion of the investigations.

In a resolution adopted on Friday, Reuters reported, the UNGA called for investigations that are “independent, credible and in conformity with international standards” into charges raised in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last September after months of investigations by a panel headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.

The vote in the 192-member General Assembly on this resolution was 98 in favor, 7 against [including the U.S. and Israel] , 31 abstentions — and more than 50 countries were absent during the vote.