Update on Israel-Palestine

February 18, 2017

The UN Security Council has been urged by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, to take decisive action now to end the country’s occupation of Palestinian territory. 

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Hagai El-Ad, executive director, told an informal council meeting Friday on “Illegal Israeli Settlements: Obstacles to Peace and the Two-State Solution” that Israel has controlled Palestinian lives in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem for the past 49 years “and counting”.

With the 50th anniversary of the occupation approaching next year, El-Ad said: “The rights of Palestinians must be realised, the occupation must end, the UN Security Council must act, and the time is now.” He stressed that the council “has more than just power: you have a moral responsibility and a real opportunity to act with a sense of urgency before we reach the symbolic date of June 2017 and the second half of that first century begins.”

btselemAmericans for Peace Now, a sister organisation of another Israeli rights group, Peace Now is also campaigning for an end to Israeli occupation. Lara Friedman, the group’s director of policy and government relations said that when Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation signed the Oslo peace accords 23 years ago, the settler population in the West Bank was 116,000, At the end of 2015, it was almost 390,000.

“I urge you here today to finally take action in the Security Council to send a clear message to Israel that the international community stands by the two-state solution and unambiguously rejects policies that undermine it – including Israeli settlement policies,” Ms Friedman said.

US deputy ambassador David Pressman told the meeting that “the United States remains firmly committed to advancing a two-state solution … [and] we are deeply concerned about continued settlement activity”. He recalled that last week the United States condemned new Israeli settlements and said that since 1 July more than 2,400 settlement units have been advanced in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This makes “a viable Palestinian state more remote”, he said: “In short, we need to start implementing the two-state solution on the ground right now”.

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Earlier this week, at a joint briefing with Netanyahu in Washington, US President Donald Trump asked the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off on building new Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians..

Trump promised to strike a deal that would bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state… I can live with either one. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves”.

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Will a country with a stellar post-war record of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights ‘lose out’?

July 2, 2015

gaza-tokyo-candlesa silent protest in Tokyo against the bloodshed in Gaza

Updating our news from Japan in November last year, Robin Harding reports in the FT that Japan’s politicians are “trapped in the capital for a long, hot summer”, as the current session of the Diet has been extended by 95 days until the end of September.

Shinzo Abe is devoting a great deal of political energy in seeking to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution by trying to pass a security reform bill which – says Harding – “threatens to turn the summer into a season of torment for the Japanese prime minister”.

Mr Abe aims to reinterpret the constitution, allowing it to exercise “collective” self-defence – coming to the military aid of an ally, instead of merely defending itself. Harding alleges that Abe has made the taking of this step a personal commitment to the US.

japan demo may peace clause

Early signs suggest it is causing Mr Abe significant political damage. His popularity has slid to a record low of 39%. Only 29% of the public support the security bills; 53% oppose them.

Harding reports the risk that the proposed reinterpretation of the constitution will violate it. Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic party invited a law professor to testify in parliament, only to have him declare that their bill is unconstitutional.

The Japan Times reports that an ‘anti-amendment rally’ of grass-roots movements opposing revision of the pacifist national charter was held in Yokohama on May 3, the Constitution Day holiday [above]. The participants, estimated at some 30,000, included politicians such as the Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Akira Nagatsuma and the Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii.

Political opponents are describing this move as opening the door to involvement in American wars and a Japan Times reader said: “It is a shame that the country with the most stellar record of peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights is losing out to a political leadership so nostalgic for the Japan of militarism and imperialism”.