Palestinian flag flies at UN, Abbas drops pacts with Israel

Friday 02/10/2015
Capturing the moment

RAMALLAH - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attended the raising of the Palestin­ian flag at UN headquar­ters, issued a strong plea for full-member status and said Palestinians were no longer bound to the Oslo accords with Israel.
The flag-raising occurred Sep­tember 30th, placing the red, black, white and green banner among the flags of the 193 countries of the United Nations. It was a potent, if symbolic, move consecrating dec­ades of struggle for Palestinian na­tional rights.
Abbas, who earlier described the flag-raising as “our moment of hope”, addressed the UN General Assembly with a call to have Pales­tine designated a full-member state at the world body and for protec­tion for the Palestinian people.
“Palestine, which is an observer state in the United Nations, de­serves full recognition and full membership,” Abbas said, appeal­ing to “those countries that have not yet recognised the state of Pal­estine yet, to do so.”
He also declared that Palestinians are no longer bound by the 1995 Oslo accords, which formed the basis for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Israel must assume all of its responsibili­ties as an occupying power,” Abbas said. He accused Israel of violating the accords and subsequent agree­ments. “We cannot be the only par­ty that remains faithful to them,” Abbas said. What is required, he continued, is to “mobilise interna­tional efforts to oversee an end to the Israeli occupation in line with the resolutions of international le­gitimacy”.
After the September 10th UN vote that cleared the way for the Pales­tinian flag to join those of UN full-member states, some Palestinian youth stated their uncertainty and subdued enthusiasm. “I do not un­derstand why this is considered a victory,” a West Bank social media contributor wrote as another sar­castically wondered: “Is this vote supposed to solve our crisis?”
A Palestinian tweeting from the Gaza Strip lamented, “The UN is raising the flag of Palestine almost 65 years late.”
Jerusalem rights activist Rafat Sub Laban said that, while the UN move “is very symbolic, its symbol­ism is devoid of any added value, given both the timing and the cur­rent political context” — a reference to growing tension in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank and Gaza.
In Jerusalem, Israel has slapped tight restrictions on Muslims’ en­try to al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine and one of the hot­test flashpoints in the region. For several days in mid-September, clashes erupted between Palestin­ians and Israeli police, who raided the mosque and its courtyards in a move Palestinians see as an at­tempt by Israel’s hard-line cabinet to allow Jewish prayers at the holy site and ultimately divide it.
In the West Bank, Israel said it plans to demolish up to 13,000 structures, most of them built on privately owned Palestinian land, in Area C, which is under full Israeli military and civil rule, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The escalation followed an attack in a West Bank village in which Jew­ish settlers burned alive 18-month-old toddler Ali Dawabsheh and his parents as they slept in their home. Ali’s 4-year-old brother remains in hospital after sustaining critical body burns.
The suspects — members of a militant Israeli group bent on killing Palestinians — remain free.
Palestinian writer Sam Bahour, an adviser for the independent Al- Shabaka policy network, said the UN flag vote should not be consid­ered a “historic victory” but rather “incremental progress”.
The vote did not “translate into relieving the pressures of the Is­raeli military occupation or life in refugee camps outside of Palestine or living as an internally displaced person in Israel”, Bahour said.
The Palestinian public also seems less confident that diplomacy and international initiatives can bring about desired change. Trader Ab­dulqader Mohammad, a father of five, rebuked the policy of the Pal­estinian Authority (PA) responsible for the West Bank as “hollow and disoriented”.
“The PA is no longer on the same page with the rest of the Palestinian people,” he said.