Palestine Vote Approaches; Israel in Crisis with Turkey, Egypt [September 4 - September 10]
Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo on September 9-10, tearing down the security wall, throwing documents out of the window and taking down the Israeli flag. The incident, the second in a month, prompted Israel’s ambassador and his family to flee back to Israel and the latter’s relationship with Egypt to hit yet another bump. On September 9, around 500 protesters gathered outside the embassy and lit tires and cars before throwing stones at the embassy and finally breaking in.
“This action shows the state of anger and frustration young Egyptian revolutionaries feel against Israel especially after the recent Israeli attacks on the Egyptian borders that led to the killing of Egyptian soldiers," explained Egyptian political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah.
A senior Israeli official denounced the attack on the embassy, calling it a "blow to peaceful relations."
Israel is waging a number of battles on the diplomatic front other than with Egypt. Last week the Palmer report was released on the incidents surrounding nine deaths on the Turkish Mavi Marmara last May. Turkey has since been peeved at the fact that Israel refuses to apologize for the deaths its navy commandos caused, since then expelling its Israeli ambassador from Istanbul.
Furthermore, on September 8, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish warships would escort any aid ships trying to reach the Gaza Strip in response to Israel’s intransigence.
A day later, Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said the Turkish statements were “grave and serious” and should not be dismissed as empty threats.
Mostly however, Israel, along with the United States, is preparing for the Palestinian vote at the UN later this month. While Israel is obviously opposed to the vote, the U.S. has also become very vocal in its rejection to the move. For the first time, on September 8, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland explicitly expressed her government’s intention to veto any vote on Palestinian statehood. What have so far been strong insinuations from America without being confirmed by an official statement was offered by Nuland.
“The US opposes a move in New York by the Palestinians to try to establish a state that can only be achieved by negotiations," she told reporters. "So, yes, if something comes to a vote in the UN Security Council, the US will veto."
A day before this, on September 7, White House Middle East emissaries Dennis Ross and David Hale met with President Mahmoud Abbas as a sort of “last ditch effort” to persuade him not to head to the UN, reportedly telling him that the move could have “serious implications.”
Pressure on the Palestinians also came from the direction of Tony Blair, the Quartet’s Middle East envoy on September 9.
“I totally understand the frustrations the Palestinians have,” he said. “We are all frustrated in this situation. We want to see progress towards peace, towards the two-state solution,” he appeased. The former British Prime Minister then continued, "Any gestures that are done by way of unilateral declaration, they are expressions of frustration and they may be understandable for that reason but they don't deliver a Palestinian state."
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also commented on the upcoming vote on September 9. “The Palestinian people are ‘long overdue’ in their quest for an independent state, he said, continuing that, "The two state vision where Israel and Palestinians can live… side by side in peace and security -- that is a still a valid vision and I fully support it." The actual vote, however, he said was not something he would comment on alone. "Recognition of a state is something to be determined by the member states," he said.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians have officially begun their campaign “Palestine 194” to rally support for the UN vote. On September 9, around 100 Palestinians marched to the UNRWA headquarters in Ramallah where they handed in a letter requesting Ban Ki-Moon’s support for the bid. According to AFP, the letter said the campaign would continue "until the state of Palestine is finally admitted as member state number 194."
On the ground, Israeli occupation measures continued to disrupt Palestinian lives. On September 6 and 7 two people were killed in the Gaza Strip in the Deir Al Balah and Khan Younis areas. Four others were injured. On September 8, Israeli army troops destroyed water wells in the Jordan Valley and two electricity networks in Hebron.
On September 5, a kindergarten was ordered shut by Israeli police in Jerusalem. The Ahmad Khaledi School in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Al Tour was closed down under the pretext that it is being used by Hamas operatives. Sheikh Khalid Ghazawi, head of the board of trustees for the school, said the building was used as a kindergarten and would eventually host a high school for girls and a cultural center for the community. He denied the Israeli claim that the building had ever been used for political activity.
On September 5 and 8, settlers attacked mosques in the Palestinian villages of Yitma and Qusra respectively. The settlers from northern West Bank settlements tried to burn down the mosques as a “price tag” for an earlier Israeli government demolition of three buildings in the Migron settlement outpost. On September 9, the U.S. State Department denounced the attacks on mosques, saying they were “dangerous and provocative attacks”. The statement also called on those responsible to be arrested and “subject to the full force of the law”.