On Wednesday, US President Barak Obama spoke before the UN
General Assembly. His address criticized the Palestinian Authority’s
appeal to the UN Security Council to be recognized a state. Instead,
Obama reiterated the Israeli position, urging the Palestinian leadership to
return to the failed negotiations. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke
to Israelis and Palestinians on their take of the move by the Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas to turn to the UN. Also, former Jerusalem Post
columnist Larry Derfner comments about why the the PA turned away
from negotiations. Meanwhile, protests have been happening throughout
the West Bank and are met with tear gas and a crowd dispersal weapon
called “The Scream” which produces a high-pitch sound, disorienting and
temporarily deafening the demonstrators.
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: This week, the Palestinian authority will be delivering its long-awaited request to be recognized as a state to the United Nations Security Council. On Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to deliver speeches to the United Nations General Assembly. On Wednesday, US President Barack Obama met with both leaders and while addressing the General Assembly said:
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations. If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.
TARACHANSKY: Obama wasn’t the only one to oppose the PA’s appeal to the UN. Many Israelis shared his skepticism.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I don’t know that it can change anything in the immediate future. In the end of the day, it’s obvious there’s going to be an independent Palestinian country. It’ll happen someday. But maybe … there’s no need to put the carriage in front of the horses like what’s happening now.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Bells and whistles–that’s what I think. Riots will be. But if we stop it on time, everything will be alright.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I think the point is just to pressure Israel.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): They won’t let it actually happen.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Who won’t let it happen?
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Israel and the US won’t let it happen.
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): Many Palestinians also felt that little will change with the statehood declaration.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I, as a Palestinian, want to have a home. I don’t want to just live in the air. And I think all my people think the same way I do. And now we’re hearing in the news there’ll be a Palestinian state. But the reality is the same. The settlers are in the territories by my village. The checkpoints are still there. The occupation is still there. I don’t think much will change. Maybe only on TV things have changed.
If United Nation, he say okay, but Israelis don’t want to give us anything, nothing. What the States and Israel, he want to give us, he’ll give us. If he don’t want to give us, hard luck.
I’m so convinced it’s a bluff, because what’s going on, they’re trying to get credibility again for the Palestinian Authority, especially after they were scandaled a year ago by the secret papers came out by Al Jazeera.
TARACHANSKY: In January, Al Jazeera published 1,600 documents leaked by sources in the PA’s Negotiations Support Unit. The documents reveal that the Palestinian leadership agreed to major compromises on some of the big issues, including Jerusalem and refugees, in closed-door meetings with the Israeli leadership. On Tuesday morning in Jerusalem, the Israeli prime minister’s spokesperson, Mark Regev, made the Israeli position clear in a press conference.
MARK REGEV, SPOKESPERSON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE: So we think the Palestinian move to the UN is a mistake. We haven’t given up. We continually and repeatedly called for the resumption of direct talks.
TARACHANSKY: Could you just briefly discuss some of the efforts that your government has put into preventing this from even going forward?
REGEV: I–with your permission, I want to outline what we’ve done in the last two and a half years to try to get the peace process back on track. And I sometimes don’t think that this government, our government, is given the credit it deserves.
TARACHANSKY: In his speech, Obama also reiterated the Israeli position, saying instead the Palestinians should reenter negotiations despite the repeated failure.
OBAMA: Ultimately it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them. And that is and will be the path to a Palestinian state, negotiations between the parties.
TARACHANSKY: His position was immediately welcomed by a statement from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, saying: “President Obama rightly acknowledged that genuine peace can only come about as a result of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. . . .” Larry Derfner is a former columnist with The Jerusalem Post and a blogger with the +972 magazine. In his last article, he outlines why the Palestinians decided to go to the UN rather than back to the negotiations table.
LARRY DERFNER, BLOGGER AND JOURNALIST: The previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was very specific about the land that he was ready to give up. It involved the withdrawal–massive withdrawal from settlements in the West Bank [incompr.] Gaza, which was already [incompr.] Ehud Barack, back in 2000, offered all of Gaza, offered 95 percent of the West Bank, including massive withdrawals from settlements, okay? So previous Israeli prime ministers, going back to the year 2000, have been very specific about the extent [incompr.] now, as late as 2011, as late as 2011, you know, refusing to make any commitment to any specific piece of land that he is ready to give up for a Palestinian state. This is really several steps back that Israel has taken.
TARACHANSKY: Though Fatah, the party ruling the Palestinian Authority, has recently reached unity with its longtime rival Hamas, the party ruling Gaza announced its opposition to the UN bid. Ezat al-Risheq, a senior Damascus-based Hamas official, said that Abbas’s decision to go to the UN was an individual step that was not coordinated with other Palestinian parties. He said a Palestinian state should be extracted and not begged for. The third-largest Palestinian party, the PFLP, also criticized the move when the parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar said, “it is only a tactic to pressure the Americans sponsoring the negotiations.” Many in Israel have been predicting that marches in support of the PA’s move will lead to the outbreak of a third intifada.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): My son is currently serving in the army, and I have professional soldiers in my family. And what I hear from them regarding the September 20 plan is that they’re undergoing special training for incidences that may happen inside the country, whether it’s disturbing the peace, explosives, or stone throwing. But I doubt a war will take place at this point.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I think there’s going to be trouble. I also understand there’s a high level of preparation. Who needs this? Listen, everyone around us is going to rise up against us now. We’re surrounded. And now Turkey’s rising up all of a sudden.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I don’t believe there’ll be a war with our neighbors at this point. A third intifada, maybe.
DANIELA KRESCH, JOURNALIST, DIARIO DE PERNAMBUCO (BRAZIL): I was wondering if you have already decided to put emergency laws and to try and avoid violence, from Friday on, in the Palestinian territories or inside Israel.
REGEV: I believe the security services are–of course, that’s their job, to prepare for different scenarios. We don’t want to see violence. The Palestinian side says they don’t want to see violence. We see them as responsible for what happens.
TARACHANSKY: In a poll conducted by Professor Khalil Shikaki of the Palestinian Center for policy and survey research, 54 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank said they would join large peaceful demonstrations. Meanwhile, 68 percent believe that if the UN bid succeeds, Israel will respond by stopping transfer of custom funds to the PA and would make the occupation harsher. Anticipating mass nonviolent demonstrations throughout the West Bank, the army purchased 200,000 liters of Skunk, a water cannon type weapon filled with sewage-smelling liquid. However, during Wednesday morning’s demonstration at the Kalandia checkpoint, the army used a sonic crowd dispersal weapon, which sounds a scream at high-pitched levels towards the protest. A 15-year-old demonstrator lost an eye after being hit in the face with a teargas canister. Thirty-five others were wounded. In recent weeksl, the IDF also began supplying and training settlers on how to use tear gas at Palestinians. For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Jerusalem.
End of Transcript
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