Jerusalem – ‘Eternal Capital of Palestine’ says Abbas

Editor’s Note – In a continued ploy to find ways to exert force on Israel, the UN upgraded the Palestinian Authority over the West Bank and Gaza when the PA acted unilaterally. This likely sets any peace agreement back and elevates the PA to use international pressure as it gains standing with international agencies. Again, its not about land or peace but the goal of eliminating Israel altogether.

To understand more precisely, Mahmoud Abbas declared that Jerusalem is its “Eternal Capital” – how’s that for a peace overture?

PA's Mahmoud Abbas at the UN

The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday endorsed an upgraded U.N. status for the Palestinian Authority, despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel.

The resolution elevates their status from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state,” the same category as the Vatican, which Palestinians hope will provide new leverage in their dealings with Israel.

Its leaders had been working with dozens of supporting nations to develop a formal draft, enlisting the backing of European countries such as France and Spain. The vote was 138 delegates in favor of the measure, nine against and 41 abstentions, including Germany. (Read the rest at CNN.)

From Aljazeera, the response by the people in Gaza and the West Bank:

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have celebrated the UN General Assembly vote accepting Palestine as a non-member observer state at the United Nations in New York. Nine countries voted against the Palestine upgrade, which was approved by the General Assembly with 138 votes on Thursday. Fourty-one countries abstained.

Voting “no” were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. The mood overnight on the streets of Ramallah was jubilant, but not all Palestinians believe that UN recognition will change anything on the ground.

Watch videos of the response in Ramallah and Gaza.

Meanwhile, Israel responds with sanctions:

Israel is retaliating for Thursday’s United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood, announcing it will withhold $120 million in taxes and customs collected for the Palestinian Authority to pay debts to Israeli companies.

In a unanimous resolution passed Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet said it would not negotiate on the basis of the General Assembly’s recognition of a state of Palestine in the occupied West Bank,  East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

“The unilateral step taken by the Palestinians at the United Nations violates peace agreements,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, justifying Israel’s rejection of the U.N. vote. The only way to Palestinian statehood and peace is through direct negotiations with Israel, he said.

Abbas ‘Victory Speech’: Jerusalem ‘Eternal Capital of Palestine’

PA Chairman promises that someday the PA flag will fly over “Jerusalem, eternal capital of the state of Palestine.”

By Chana Ya’ar – Arutz Sheva

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Sunday promised someday the PAflag would fly over “Jerusalem, eternalcapital of the state of Palestine.”

Thousands of people greeted Abbas rapturously upon his return from the United Nations, where the GeneralAssembly granted the PLO, representing the PA, upgraded status as a nonmember observer state.

“Raise your heads high, because you are Palestinians!” Abbas told the joyous crowd, waving PA flags in the PA capital of Ramallah, located in Samaria.

“You have proof that you are stronger than the occupation, because you are Palestinians… stronger than the settlements, because you are Palestinians.

“We were threatened with punishment and sanctions from various sides,” Abbas continued, in a reference to attempts by the United States and Israel to dissuade him from proceeding with the application.

“And if we had listened to those threats we wouldn’t have gone to the U.N.

“One day, a young Palestinian will raise the Palestinian flag over Jerusalem,” he vowed, “the eternal capital of the state of Palestine!”

Assad & Freedom Fighters clash, despite UN call for ceasefire

Editor’s Note – SUA and many others have been calling for aid to get to the people of Syria, though the small cadre of power continues to use its military might to crush the so-called rebels. In this case however, the ‘rebels’ are the majority, by a wide margin and should be called ‘freedom fighters’. That is what Hillary Clinton and NATO called the uprising rebels in Libya.

In the case of Syria, its more complicated, why? Because Russia and Iran are the key backers of the regime. Obama has called for al Assad to leave, but is applying no pressure to that end. Meanwhile, the majority of Syrian people are feeling the heat – through cruel, heinous, and unconscionable measures used against them, and they need medicine and food – yesterday!

Clashes rage across Syria despite U.N. statement

Syrian "Freedom Fighter" stands next to burning ruins.

My Central Jersey

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops shelled and raided opposition areas and clashed with rebel fighters around the country Thursday despite U.N. efforts to stop the bloodshed so aid could reach suffering civilians.

Activists cited the fresh violence in dismissing a U.N. Security Council statement calling for a cease-fire to allow for dialogue between all sides on a political solution. The government of President Bashar Assad also played down the statement, saying Damascus is under no threats or ultimatums.

Mounting international condemnation of Assad’s regime and high-level diplomacy have failed to ease the year-old Syria conflict, which the U.N. says has killed more than 8,000 people. Activists reported dozens of people killed Thursday including at least 12 government soldiers.

The Syrian uprising began last March with protests calling for political reforms. Unrest spread as Assad’s forces violently tried to quash dissent, and many in the opposition took up arms to defend their towns and attack government troops.

“Civil strife of the sort we are seeing in Syria can destroy whole societies,” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Malaysia Thursday. Ban reiterated the statement approved by the U.N. Security Council’s 15 members the day before, which sought to send a unified message on the conflict.

The statement endorsed a six-point plan by joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which includes a cease-fire by Syrian forces, a daily two-hour halt to fighting to evacuate injured people and provide humanitarian aid and inclusive talks about a political solution.

Western countries have been pushing for Security Council action for months, but Russia and China have twice vetoed stronger resolutions that criticized the regime. Wednesday’s presidential statement becomes part of the council’s permanent record but is not legally binding.

To gain Russian and Chinese support, France watered down the text, removing clauses that could be seen as opening the door for sanctions or military action.

Russia and China have called previous resolutions unbalanced for blaming the conflict solely on the government, and Russian officials worry a strongly worded resolution could allow for military intervention against Assad, as happened in Libya last year.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday that Annan will visit Moscow in the coming days. Mikhail Bogdanov also said Russia will receive a delegation from the National Coordination Committee, a Syrian opposition group.

The U.S. and Europe have called on Assad to step down but have said they will not intervene militarily. While Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya have spoken positively of arming the rebels, no country is openly doing so.

Syria’s state-run news agency played down the U.N. statement Thursday, saying there are no threats or ultimatums against Damascus. This echoed an earlier statement by Russia.

Activists in Syria dismissed the statement as too late and impossible to implement since Syrian forces have surrounded entire towns and villages and regularly shell civilian areas.

“Is there any way the army will remove its checkpoints for two hours?” said Fadi al-Yassin via satellite phone from the northern province of Idlib. “All of that is empty talk, politics, and we’ve gotten fed up with all of these decisions.”

Many activists say they’ve grown frustrated with what they see as international resistance to act.

Activist groups said Syrian forces were stepping up their assaults on opposition areas around the country Thursday, often sparking clashes with local rebels.

Regime forces shelled the Arbaeen neighborhood in the central city of Hama and clashed with rebels while trying to enter the northern town of Sarmeen.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people, half of them women and children, were killed when troops fired on a bus taking them from the town. Another group, the Local Coordination Committees, said 13 died in the attack on a bus taking the group to a refugee camp in across the border in Turkey. It also reported deaths in government attacks in the central cities of Homs and Hama, putting the nationwide toll at 59.

The Syrian government has barred most media from working in the country and activist claims could not be independently verified.

The Observatory said troops shot dead three civilians in the town of al-Qusair near the border with Lebanon.

Human Rights Watch accused the government of serious abuses against the town’s civilian population in recent weeks, saying its forces had shelled residential neighborhoods, posted snipers of rooftops and attacked residents as they fled.

The New York-based group said Thursday that the town lacks food, water, medical services and suffers a near blackout of its communications.

Reflecting the growing militarization of the conflict, rebels killed at least 12 soldiers in attacks on checkpoints and convoys Thursday, the Observatory said.

Syria’s rebels are outgunned by Assad’s large, professional army but have opted for insurgent attacks on military targets.

The Syrian government cites the rise in such attacks to boost its argument that the uprising is being carried out by terrorist groups acting out a foreign conspiracy.

Ros-Lehtinen – Defends America with Bill to reform the U.N.

Editorial Note– Well congratulations America, we have at least one Congresswoman who has it ‘right’ when it comes to fighting the United Nations. Annually, the United States pays an estimate $7.7 Billion dollars to the UN for what? World leaders use the UN building in New York as a social event with full diplomatic immunity of any and all American laws. Then to make matters worse, the likes of China, Cuba, and Libya have seats on the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council. The UN has its own set of operating rules and makes demands on the United States without justification, votes, or a voice on such matters as Palestine, Sudan, and most recently the Lords Resistance Army. The UN has no concern over North Korea’s record on human rights violations or dispatched forces for the sake of the Ivory Coast or Sudan. Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) has it right and deserves our support.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) Florida

Ros-Lehtinen says UN reform bill about reform, not UN-bashing

The Hill

By Pete Kasperowicz

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Tuesday defended her United Nations reform legislation as a bill meant to force needed reforms of the U.N., not to simply criticize it, as some have charged.

“This bill is about reforming the U.N. so that it can work again — not trying to bash the U.N., or take the U.S. out of the U.N.,” she told reporters.

Ros-Lehtinen’s bill, H.R. 2829, would cut off U.S. funding for the U.N. unless it ensures at least 80 percent of its programs are funded through voluntary contributions. It would also set policy in several areas — for example, it would direct the U.S. to oppose Palestinian efforts to win statehood without negotiating directly with Israel first, and prevent U.S. participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council until that entity is reformed.

Ros-Lehtinen said these changes are needed because the U.S. spent $7.7 billion in U.N. dues last year, and got less than satisfactory results.

Peace No Closer as Netanyahu, Abbas Emerge Unscathed From UN

Business Week

By Calev Ben-David

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Minister Mahmoud Abbas emerged from their showdown at the United Nations buttressed domestically though no closer to peace talks.

“Abbas succeeded in strengthening his standing among Palestinians and of his ideology of achieving statehood diplomatically against the challenge from the Islamist Right represented by Hamas,” said Hussein Ibish, senior research fellow with the American Task Force on Palestine, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that advocates a peaceful two-state solution. Netanyahu also “solidified his political position,” Ibish said.

Abbas and Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) of Israel speaks with President Mahmoud Abbas (L) of the Palestinian Authority

Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians broke down a year ago on the issue of building in West Bank settlements. Abbas asked the UN last week to recognize an independent Palestinian state, a step opposed by Israel and the U.S.

Abbas was greeted in Ramallah yesterday by a cheering crowd in the thousands. “Our international journey has begun and a long journey lies ahead,” for Palestinian statehood, he told them.

Abbas hasn’t agreed to a proposal by the Middle East Quartet to restart direct talks with Israel and reach agreement no later than the end of 2012; the plan doesn’t specify a halt to the expansion of settlements. Palestinians say they will not resume talks until Israel halts its building in the West Bank.

Positive Response

Netanyahu responded more positively to the initiative by the Quartet, comprised of the U.S., U.N., European Union and Russia. He will begin consultations today with his ministers on issuing a formal response after returning from New York, according to an Israeli official who spoke anonymously because he wasn’t authorized to speak on the record.

The Quartet proposal came after Abbas spoke at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 and called on the Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and grant it full UN membership. The Security Council will meet to discuss the Palestinian application today. It could take weeks or months before a vote is held.

Israeli officials expressed satisfaction with developments at the UN, especially the speech by U.S. President Barack Obama stressing Israel’s security needs and not mentioning settlements or referring to the 1967 borders, two issues of contention.

“This was a political win for Netanyahu, most importantly the Obama speech which was a reconciliation with the U.S. on his own terms, and the failure of the Palestinians to bring a vote on their statehood initiative to the Security Council,” said Gerald Steinberg, political scientist at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv.

‘Unparalleled’ Support

“America supports Israel in unparalleled ways, unprecedented ways,” Netanyahu said yesterday in New York on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”

U.S. backing at the UN insured Netanyahu against having to make concessions on settlements or borders that could have spurred opposition from his government’s coalition partners, said Jonathan Spyer, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. This is particularly so from Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, who has expressed skepticism on reaching any kind of statehood deal with the Palestinians.

“There was talk before Netanyahu left for the UN of Liberman mounting a challenge, but he’s coming back with enough political wind in his sails to forestall any such threat for now,” Spyer said.

Opposition’s Focus

Netanyahu will also benefit for the time being by the opposition Labor Party’s selection last week of Shelly Yacimovich as its new leader, according to Steinberg. Yacimovich has said she will focus more on social and economic issues than the conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel’s economy is growing faster than the rest of the developed world, with the International Monetary Fund forecasting growth of 4.8 percent this year, and unemployment dropping to 5.5 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since at least 1985.

Israeli stocks rebounded yesterday from their biggest decline in almost three weeks as concern eased that violence would increase following the Palestinian statehood bid, with the TA-25 Index closing up 2.1 percent.

Unless the Quartet initiative gains traction, a negotiated settlement, or even talks between Netanyahu and Abbas to reach that goal, may be unlikely any time soon.

“The leaders remain too far apart, both on the issues and even on the terms of reference, and we can’t expect anything bold from the U.S. during an election season,” said Ibish.

Steinberg said that “we had a stalemate before the UN and we have a stalemate after.”

Abbas Speaks at UN – West Bank Cheers

WSJ Online

RAMALLAH, West Bank–Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered in cities across the West Bank to celebrate and watch a speech by President Mahmoud Abbas on large television screens set up in central squares for the occasion.

They were the largest public gatherings since Yasser Arafat’s funeral in 2004. There were no rallies in Gaza, where the militant group Hamas is in control and opposed Mr. Abbas’s U.N. initiative to accept Palestine as a member state.

West Bank Cheers Wildly after Abbas Speech to the UN

Palestinians cheer moments before President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the U.N. General Assembly in the West Bank city of Ramallah

In the West Bank, the mood was jubilant as crowds made up of whole families gathered hours before the speech to sing, dance, chant slogans and wave Palestinian flags.

Among the many posters and banners, a few criticized U.S. President Barack Obama, whose speech on Wednesday and opposition to the statehood bid deeply disappointed Palestinians.

In Ramallah, the seat of Mr. Abbas’s government, the crowd filled Arafat square and lined the rooftops surrounding it. It erupted in cheers and flag waving when Mr. Abbas asked the U.N. to accept his application for observer state status.

The gatherings were overwhelming peaceful, but the Palestinian security and police forces mobilized all 29,000 officers to prevent violence and clashes with the Israeli military.

Israel itself mobilized more than 20,000 riot police and security officials. Major checkpoints were manned with thousands of soldiers in riot gear, and there were between youths throwing rocks and Israeli soldiers at some checkpoints.