Monday, November 12, 2012

Arabs must back Palestine

Gulf Daily News
ARAB countries are being asked to step in with financial support for Palestine, if the US follows through on threats to cut aid as it seeks recognition as a country at the United Nations (UN).
Palestine is pushing for Observer State status at the UN, which would effectively recognise it as a state in its own right.
The GDN reported last month that the US had circulated a memo to UN members, warning that it would halt cash support for Palestine if the Observer State attempt was successful. The US argued that the move would undermine efforts to achieve a peaceful solution to the long-running Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
However, Palestinian Ambassador Taha Mohammed Abdel Kader yesterday said the Arab League was being asked to step in as guarantors in the event US funding was withdrawn.
It follows pledges made by Arab states during the Baghdad Summit in March.
The Bahrain government has already stated openly that it would back any such attempt by Palestine at the UN and Mr Abdel Kader, speaking on the death anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat yesterday, said Arab support would be vital to Palestine if US aid was stopped.
He added that Palestine was committed to seeking Observer State status, regardless of US threats and despite concerns that Israel could withhold Palestinian Customs duties worth approximately $100m (BD37.7m) a month for its economy.
"We are under extreme pressure from the US to remove our request and the support we get from Arab countries - namely Bahrain, UAE and especially Saudi Arabia - has helped us maintain a functioning government," the ambassador told a Press conference at the embassy, in Zinj. "At this time our survival is based on the support of other nations."
The US successfully blocked Palestine's attempts to become a full member of the UN last year, making it clear it would veto any such application through its seat on the Security Council. However, Palestine only needs approval from the UN General Assembly to secure Observer State status - which means the US has no veto power.
Mr Abdel Kader said talk of a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, dating back to the 1993 Oslo Accords, meant Palestine should be considered a state in its own right - but its land continues to be annexed by Israel and illegal settlements.
"We have been negotiating since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 in the White House with (then US President Bill) Clinton, but we cannot negotiate forever," he added.
He added the Palestinians were getting increasingly frustrated with the one-sided policies of the US and Europe, which he said were biased towards Israel. "The Palestinian people see no balance in the American stance," he said.
"We don't want them to be on our side, but at the same time we want justice. We want them to look at the two countries equally, not to only support one side."
The hope now is that President Barack Obama, who has just secured a second term in office, will honour statements he made in Cairo in June 2009 when he appeared to back the rights of Palestinians to a legitimate and recognised state of their own.
"At a time when the whole world is fighting segregation and supporting democracy, Israel has built a wall separating the people - not only from each other, but also from their own families," said Mr Abdel Kader.
"We hope Obama will be more free to push forward to achieve what he outlined in his Cairo speech. There will be no peace in the region until the Palestine issue is solved."
He added that until Palestine was recognised there was no reason to continue negotiations with Israel - particularly since the latter continued to occupy Palestinian territory illegally.
"To quote Yasser Arafat: 'We are not asking for the moon, all we are asking for is our freedom and our land,'" said the ambassador.
Yesterday's Press conference concluded with a prayer in honour of Yasser Arafat, which mirrored similar prayers at Palestinian Embassies around the world.
On Thursday, Palestine will mark the 24th anniversary of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, which was issued in 1988 by the Palestinian National Council. It renounced violence and terrorism, recognised Israel's right to exist and accepted UN resolutions setting out a framework for peace negotiations and a two-state solution.
ahmed@gdn.com.bh