Palestine issue hangs in the balance
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a three- day state visit to Bangladesh at the invitation of President Abdul Hamid from February 01. He was accorded a red-carpet reception at the airport at a time when newly-elected US President Donald Trump openly expressed his support for the state of Israel. Trump was on record as having criticised immediate-past President Barack Obama for not applying veto at the UN Security Council in December last on a resolution that demanded an end to settlement building in occupied territories. More so, he also expressed his commitment to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and appointed two hard-core Ambassadors - Nikki Haley, who is pro-Israel, to the United Nations, and David Friedman, an Orthodox Jew, to Israel. Friedman openly advocated annexation of West Bank by Israel, apart from setting up Israeli settlements in West Bank. Ambassador Friedman represented Trump as bankruptcy lawyer who has no knowledge about diplomacy.
The UN recognised the state of Israel in 1948 but it placed Jerusalem under international control as a Corpus Separatum (a Latin term referring to a city or region which is given a special legal and political status different from its environment, but which falls short of being sovereign, or an independent city state) on December 13 of 1949. Although the Israel parliament declared Jerusalem as its capital in 1980, the UN had declared it void.
The visit to Bangladesh by Mahmoud Abbas was successful in view of Dhaka reiterating its stand for an independent state of Palestine along with Israel. Bangladesh has also called for dismantling Jewish settlements in occupied territories. It backed demand for Palestine's full membership of the United Nations. As of now Turkey, Jordan and Egypt are the only countries among the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) which have recognised Israel.
From Bangladesh, Mahmoud Abbas flew to Paris to discuss with President François Hollande on February 7 about implementation of resolutions on the International Middle East Peace conference sponsored by France on January 15 with participation of 70 countries and international organisations. The conference rejected Israeli plans for construction of settlements in occupied territories. The Paris peace conference was preceded by the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted on December 23 of 2016 which concerned the Israeli settlements in Palestine territories occupied since 1967 including East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Israeli hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced approval of more settlements in West Bank in spite of the Security Council resolution against these. This means, he is defying the UN Security Council resolution in view of assurance given by President Donald Trump. More than 600,000 Jews are now living in about 140 settlements in West Bank since Israel occupied those during its war with Arab countries in 1967. A couple of days back, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) legalised Jewish settlements in West Bank in violation of international law and in defiance of the resolution of the Security Council. Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Gutierrez, who replaced Ban Ki-moon, condemned on February 7 the Israeli parliament's approval of the law legalising thousands of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria in West Bank saying it violates international law. Netanyahu will be the second foreign dignitary to visit the US on February 15 at the invitation of Trump.
As a friendly country, Bangladesh can move the OIC to unify both Hamas in Gaza Strip and Fatah in West Bank for formation of a unity government, apart from unifying both police and military. A fair and impartial general election in Palestinian territories has become all the more necessary. The state of Palestine will not be complete without Gaza Strip. King Abdullah was successful in bringing about a unified administration which could not last because of criticism by President George W.Bush who had an excellent relation with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Hamas should discard acts of terrorism and recognise Israel .There is no way that Hamas would be successful against Israel because the present regime in Egypt is against it. The present King of Saudi Arabia is a financier of the Egyptian military regime of General Sisi. More so, the US does not recognise Palestine. It may be noted that 193 UN members approved the resolution in 2012 upgrading the status of Palestine from an observer to that of a normal observer.
It would bring positive results if Bangladesh, along with friendly Muslim countries, takes a move for formation of a unity government in Palestinian territories. In that scenario, the United Nations would have no alternative but to accord recognition to Palestine. Similarly, voice should be raised against moving any foreign embassy to Jerusalem to recognise it as the capital of Israel.
The writer is a retired diplomat from Bangladesh.