Last Monday, Hamas, the Palestinian Sunni-Islamic armed group, presented a moderate public face towards the state of Israel with the aim of gaining international recognition and getting closer to Palestinian leadership.
The statement, presented some days before the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is meeting Donald Trump, urges to develop closer relations with Egypt, avoids any possible anti-Semitic language and accepts a provisional Palestinian state — according to the borders established in 1967. This, however, does not mean that Hamas formally recognizes the state of Israel.
The group is still considered a terrorist group by almost every western country and this status has led to the exclusion of Hamas from international negotiations over the future of Palestine. Therefore, the armed group is trying to project a more friendly approach toward the Palestinian cause.
This step could definitely be considered as a point of inflexion in order to gain more credibility both in Palestine and in the international community. Nevertheless, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel has denounced the move and affirmed the statement “is a smoke screen”.
Israel has announced a wide building program of 2,500 more Jewish settlement homes in the occupied West Bank. This statement is one of the most extensive plans in years and shows a broad refusal to the last United Nations Security Council resolution, in which settlement building was defined as a violation of international law and thus a critical barrier to peace.
Nowadays up to 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank and more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war. The decision is most likely to increment tensions and uncertainty among Palestinians and Middle Eastern countries.
Palestinian officials have immediately condemned the new building program. They strongly believe that the decision will impede any effort to establish security and stability, and therefore, possibilities to start a peace process will be impossible to achieve.
The new US government, although it has generally been rapid to condemn settlement announcements, remains now quiet while most of European countries are denouncing Israeli plans.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Committee has approved a resolution on the status of conservation of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls. The international body agreed to maintain the place on the list of endangered world heritage and criticized Israel for its continuous rejection to let the UNESCO’s experts enter Jerusalem’s holy sites to verify their conservation condition.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list is known for its work in emphasizing sites of historic and cultural importance and endangered global heritage. The Old City of Jerusalem have been on UNESCO’s endangered list since 1982.
This resolution is the latest of diverse measures taken over decades and Israelis see it as another significant proof of inherent anti-Israel tendency within the United Nations. It was passed by the Committee’s 21 member countries from which ten voted for, two against, eight abstained and one was absent. Neither Israel, the U.S. nor Palestine is on the World Heritage Committee.
Israel suspended ties with UNESCO earlier this month over a similar resolution.