Abbas pans Israel’s ‘racist, apartheid’ nation-state law

Palestinian leader reiterates support for international conference that would bypass US as sole peace broker

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic in Ramallah on Wednesday August 29, 2018. (Wafa images)
Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic in Ramallah on Wednesday August 29, 2018. (Wafa images)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Israel’s quasi-constitutional nation-state law on Wednesday, calling it “racist.”

Abbas made the remark alongside Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic at a joint press conference at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah, following a closed-door meeting with him. 

“I told [Izetbegovic] about the latest illegitimate laws that Israel legislated, including the racist, apartheid nation-state law,” Abbas said.

The nation-state law, which the Knesset passed with a 62-55 vote on July 19, enshrined Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people,” recognized Jewish holidays and days of remembrance, and declared Hebrew the state’s sole national language.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Bosnian leader Bakir Izetbegovic meeting in Ramallah at the PA presidential headquarters on August 29, 2018. (Wafa)

The legislation included no reference to the equality of all Israeli citizens akin to the one made in Israel’s Declaration of Independence — which pledged that the nascent state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” — and appeared to grant the Arabic language a lesser status than that of Hebrew.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended the legislation.

At a cabinet meeting earlier this month, Netanyahu pushed back against criticism, arguing that other quasi-constitutional laws already protect all Israelis’ individual rights. He contended that the law was necessary to ensure that “Israel remains not just democratic, but also the nation-state of the Jewish people, and of the Jewish people alone.”

Abbas also blasted “the destructive effect” of US President Donald Trump’s policy toward the Palestinians.

A picture taken from the Mount of Olives shows the Old City of Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock shrine in the center, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

In the past year, the American administration has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy to the city. It has also cut $200 million in aid to the Palestinians, and withheld tens of millions of dollars in planned contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, which supports Palestinian refugees and their descendants. 

In the later part of his remarks on Wednesday, Abbas reiterated his support for an international conference that would establish a multilaterally mediated mechanism for the peace process.

US President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 23, 2018, in Washington (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Since Trump’s Jerusalem moves, Abbas has said a number of times that he would not accept the US as the sole mediator in the peace process, and the PA has boycotted the Trump administration. However, he has also said at least once that he would be willing to listen to a US peace proposal if Trump were to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of the “state of Palestine” and back a two-state solution. 

Trump has said he has no preference between a two-state and one-state formula, but recently reportedly remarked to Jordan’s King Abdullah that a single state of Israelis and Palestinians would ultimately have “a prime minister named Mohammed.”

While Abbas told a small group of Israeli visitors on Tuesday that a future Palestinian state should be demilitarized and that he does not support a solution to the refugee issue that would drown or destroy Israel, he did not mention a demilitarized Palestinian state at the Wednesday press conference, and only referred to Palestinian refugees in the context of the US administration’s decisions related to them..

For his part, Izetbegovic said that the eastern part of Jerusalem is “occupied land” and added that the city “in its entirety should be the capital” of Israel and a Palestinian state, according to a translation of his remarks posted on the official PA news site Wafa. 

Israel holds that the eastern and western halves of Jerusalem are part of its sovereign territory. 

Later on Wednesday, Izetbegovic prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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