Abbas: Israel changing Temple Mount status quo, executing Palestinians
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Abbas: Israel changing Temple Mount status quo, executing Palestinians

In statement to UN, PA president repeats charges vociferously denied by Jerusalem; Erekat makes similar claims ahead of Kerry visit

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a press conference with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon following a meeting at the Muqata presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 21, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas holds a press conference with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon following a meeting at the Muqata presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 21, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday repeated two of his accusations against Israel that have drawn a furious response over the past few months — that the Jewish state is seeking to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and that it is carrying out “extrajudicial killings” of those Palestinians perpetrating terror attacks against Israelis.

Abbas was reiterating these claims a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Israel and the West Bank for talks on calming the situation. Kerry is set to meet with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separately on Tuesday.

In a statement marking the United Nations’ International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Abbas said he had cautioned against “violations committed by the settlers and extremists under the protection of the Israeli occupying forces against the sanctity of Christian and Muslim holy places in Jerusalem, particularly aimed at changing the historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif [the Temple Mount] and Al-Aqsa Mosque that existed before the year 1967 and thereafter.”

According to arrangements in place since 1967, Jews can visit the site — the holiest in Judaism and third holiest in Islam — but cannot pray there. Israel has repeatedly denied the charge that it seeks to change the status quo at the contested site.

In his statement to the UN, Abbas also placed the blame for the ongoing wave of Palestinian terror attacks — which have claimed the lives of 19 Israelis, an American yeshiva student, an Eritrean asylum seeker and a Palestinian bystander since October 1 — squarely on Israel.

“The events happening in our country are the result of diminishing hopes, the continued situation of strangulation, siege and pressure, and the lack of sense of security and safety felt by our people. All of these factors generate tremendous frustration. The angry uprising of our people and the successive events of the recent period are an inevitable result of what we have cautioned about,” Abbas said, adding that Israel was carrying out “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinian attackers.

“The continuation of the Israeli occupation… cruel arrests and detention of civilians, extrajudicial killings of our youth and children, the blockade of Gaza, home demolitions, repeated brutal attacks by Israeli terrorist settlers against our people and their property, and provocations and incitement against their holy places…affirm Israel’s arrogance and intransigence, its violations of international law, its rejection of peace and its adherence instead to the ideology of colonial expansion, subjugation and greed,” he charged.

Last month, Abbas raised Israel’s ire when he falsely accused Israeli forces of “executing” a Palestinian teenager who took part in a terror attack in Jerusalem, wounding two people, including a 13-year-old Israeli boy.

The PA president made those accusations during a speech broadcast live on Palestinian television. Referring to the October 13 attack, in which Hassan Manasra, 15, and his cousin Ahmed Manasra, 13, stabbed the 13-year-old boy and 25-year-old man in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, seriously wounding both, Abbas said Israel killed the two attackers in “cold blood.”

Hassan Manasra was shot to death when he charged at police with a knife, and Ahmed Manasra was seriously wounded after being hit by a car while fleeing. He was treated at an Israeli hospital and is currently in custody.

Abbas’s comments Monday on the “extrajudicial killings” were echoed by Palestine Liberation Organization senior official Saeb Erekat who also on Monday blamed Israel for nearly two months of deadly unrest.

Erekat, who has served as the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, stressed in an interview with AFP that he did not condone killings, but declined to outright condemn the wave of Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis.

Erekat said if nothing concrete comes out of the meetings with Kerry, the Palestinians could move forward on changing longstanding links with Israel, including security coordination.

“I condemn the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu,” said the 60-year-old Erekat, who will participate in Tuesday’s talks. “Yes, and I hold him responsible. I hold him responsible for this deterioration.”

He accused Netanyahu of cutting off the hopes of young Palestinians by refusing to recognize a Palestinian state according to 1967 borders and allowing Jewish settlement building in the West Bank to continue, among other issues. “We really hope, and I really hope against hope, that Mr. Kerry will succeed in getting from Netanyahu a commitment to carry out his obligations,” Erekat said.

He said later that Abbas “promised Kerry that we will not move until he comes, so it depends on what he brings tomorrow. But then after that, if Netanyahu continues his games of settlements, dictations, destroying the two-state solution, there will be major, major decisions.”

He said that an international investigation was needed to probe allegations of extrajudicial killings and excessive force by Israelis, and warned that “things are deteriorating. Things are slipping outside our fingers like sand.”

Erekat said that “when you simply speak about people dying, those people dying are my children and my grandchildren. They are the same people we are supposed to give better lives to.

“That’s what we promised. But OK, I tell him now: You succeeded Mr Netanyahu. You destroyed the two-state solution. You destroyed (the) Palestinian moderate camp.”

US officials said they were not expecting to strike any new agreement on a return to peace talks during Kerry’s visit, and would simply try to walk the parties back from the immediate violence.

Abbas in his speech to the United Nations in September said he was no longer bound by accords with Israel, saying “we will not remain the only ones committed to the implementation of these agreements.”

There have been threats to pull out off the 1990s Oslo accords, which formed the basis of the peace process but have not led to an independent Palestinian state.

Erekat said a lack of immediate progress could result in concrete actions taken, including involving security coordination with Israel.

“We want people to start asking Netanyahu to put his money where his mouth is,” Erekat said. “We want deeds, not words.”

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