Palestinian flag flies at UN, Abbas drops pacts with Israel
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.