Friday, September 23, 2011

Abbas addresses the UNGA and officially submits the papers requesting full UN member-state status. UN secy.-gen. Ban Ki-Moon immediately sends the application to the UNSC. Rotating UNSC head, Lebanese amb. Nawaf Salam, says he will distribute it to UNSC mbrs. on 9/26. (NYT, WP, WT 9/24)

Netanyahu also addresses the UNGA session, calling on Abbas to resume talks immediately in New York, again without giving details on the basis or goal of talks. (WP 9/24) Within 3 hrs. of Abbas’s speech, the Quartet issues a vague statement calling on Israel and the Palestinians to return to talks within a month, with the objective of reaching a final agreement within a year. While Quartet special envoy Blair heralds this as “breakthrough,” UN and U.S. officials say the idea is to delay UNSC consideration of the Palestinian application to the UN on the assumption that if talks are “underway and making progress,” the UNSC would put off a vote in hopes that the parties could reach negotiated agreement. (State Dept. press release 9/23; NYT, WP, WT 9/24)

In the West Bank, 1,000s of Palestinians gather in Ramallah’s Clock Tower Square after dark to watch Abbas’s UN address televised live and celebrate the application for statehood. Similar rallies are held across the West Bank, but are banned in Gaza by Hamas authorities, who are angry that Abbas did not consult with Hamas over the process. Observers note (e.g., NYT, WP 9/24) that the “festive mood was tempered with resentment at . . . Obama’s firm stance against the initiative.” One Palestinian on the street states (WP 9/24): “We are choking on the American double standard. America supported the movements for freedom in Egypt, Tunis, Libya and Yemen, but this stops when it comes to the Palestinian people. We are asking, why?” During the day, the regular weekly protest against the separation wall in Bil‘in, al-Nabi Salih, and Ni‘lin are turned into rallies in support of the UN statehood initiative; in al-Nabi Salih, Palestinian demonstrators burn Israeli flags and posters of Obama. Similar small rallies are held at Qalandia r.c. The IDF fires rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, and percussion grenades at the demonstrators, causing no serious injuries. (NYT, WP 9/24; PCHR 9/29; OCHA 9/30)

Meanwhile, nr. Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron, a Palestinian boy is killed in a hit-and-run by a vehicle with Israeli plates. Later in the day in the same area, a Jewish settler man and his infant son, residents of Kiryat Arba, die in a car crash; the IDF says it was an accident, but local settlers accuse the army of covering up a murder, claiming that vengeful local Palestinians stoned the vehicle causing it to crash. The IDF denies the claims and expresses concern that settlers are attempting to provoke violence on the eve of Abbas’s UN speech. Meanwhile, unarmed Palestinians patrolling the outskirts of Qusra village in the n. West Bank (subject of numerous recent attacks by Jewish settlers fr. Esh Kodesh outpost) throw stones at a group of armed Jewish settlers that try to enter the village, sparking a clash; the IDF intervenes, firing tear gas and live ammunition at the Palestinians, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 7. The IDF also patrols in 2 villages nr. Ramallah and Salfit in the morning, in Jericho in the afternoon, and in al-Bireh, 2 villages nr. Salfit, and 1 nr. Tulkarm late at night. (NYT, WP 9/24; PCHR 9/29)