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29th Mar 2020

Palestinian leader warns EU that violence could escalate

  • Abbas said ready to resume peace talks and live 'side by side' with Israel if it stops settlement expansion (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said violence could get worse unless Israel protects Muslim rights and resumes peace talks.

Speaking to media in the EU capital on Monday (26 October), he described the situation as "extremely serious and grave", adding "it may even deteriorate, and this is my fear".

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  • Israel lobbying against EU plans to publish settler retail code (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

The EU's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, invited him to Brussels as part of European and US efforts to stop the cycle of stabbings, car rammings, and shootings which began last month in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli police killed three Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Hebron.

The incidents bring the Palestinian death toll to 60 people this month, including 15 minors. Palestinian attackers killed nine Israelis in the same period.

EU diplomats say the violence is hard to stop because attacks are being carried out spontaneously by individuals on both sides.

They fear it could escalate into a Palestinian uprising, or "intifada", as in 2000, in events which lasted five years and claimed thousands of lives.

Abbas blamed the recent flare-up on Israel.

He said it stems from "a feeling of disappointment in the young [Palestinian] generation, which basically don't see any hope" of a future Palestinian state.

He said it's also linked to Israel's "non-respect" of the "status quo" on Temple Mount and to Israeli settler violence.

"Settlers in the West Bank go out among houses and villages, protected by the Israeli army, and commit killings and attacks against Palestinian nationals. These are the direct causes of the deterioration in the situation".

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of Judaism and Islam's holiest sites.

Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there, under an accord which goes back more than 200 years. But Israeli hardliners, including in the government, are calling for the old pact to be scrapped.

Abbas told press he's ready to resume peace talks and to live "side by side" with Israel if first stops settlement expansion.

Mogherini said the Temple Mount status quo is "very important not only for the Palestinian people, but, I'd say for all people in the world".

She said she shares Abbas' "frustration" on the stalled peace process.

"What we're looking for is concrete steps on the ground, including difficult ones, which can improve the everyday lives of Palestinian people … and, on the other side, which can guarantee more security for Israeli people", she said.

The Abbas visit comes amid attempts by both sides to win European sympathy.

For its part, the Israeli EU embassy the same day circulated an electronic flier which lists recent Palestinian attacks.

It accused Abbas of incitement, citing him as having said, on Palestinian TV on 16 September: "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem".

Israel's ambassador to the EU, David Walzer, in an op-ed published on the Politico website last week, added: "What is needed is for the EU to use its clout to help end the spate of attacks against Israeli citizens".

He criticised EU plans to publish a code for European retailers on how to label Israeli settler products.

"Seeing European shops label Jewish products brings back some very painful memories for many Israelis", he said, referring to anti-Semitism in Europe on the eve of World War II.

Palestinian officials note Israeli leaders are also enflaming the situation, however.

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, said on TV on Monday: "My dream is to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount … It's the holiest place for the Jewish people".

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, last week, said the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem instructed Hitler to burn Jews, in a claim denounced as false by historians.

The feeling in some circles in Europe was reflected in an ad, published in The Guardian, a British daily, on Tuesday.

The text, signed by 343 academics, pledged to stop cooperation with Israeli educational institutions on grounds of "Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement".

The same newspaper, last Thursday, published a letter by more than 150 artists, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, opposing cultural boycotts.

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