Palestine blasts US for softening language on Israeli occupation

Palestine has blasted the United States for omitting the term “occupation” in describing the Israeli-occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, saying the “hostile” move will not change the established reality.

In an annual global “human rights” report released on Wednesday, the State Department ceased to refer to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights as “occupied” and called the latter territory “Israeli-controlled”, reported.

Reacting to the report, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Wednesday that “these American titles will not change the fact that the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and the occupied Arab Golan are territories under Israeli occupation in accordance with UN resolutions and international law.”

Abu Rudeineh, who also serves as Palestinian Authority deputy prime minister and information minister, said Washington’s latest move is “a continuation of the hostile approach of the American administration toward our Palestinian people and is contrary to all UN resolutions.”

The Palestinian official further said that the US move to drop the term “occupation” in reference to Palestinian territories was part of Washington’s efforts “to allow what is called ‘the deal of the century’ to liquidate the Palestinian people to come to pass.”

He was referring to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-unveiled proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“But regardless of the attempts and conspiracies, our Palestinian people led by the Palestine Liberation Organization and by President Mahmoud Abbas will remain steadfast and adhering to the national constants,” said Abu Rudeineh.

“Our national project will prevail until we reach our independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem [ al-Quds] as its capital,” he stressed.

The so-called deal, a backchannel plan to allegedly reach a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, was proposed by the US administration late 2017.

Although the plan has not been released, leaks signal it will consist of the same tried and failed ideas.

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and parts of Syria’s Golan Heights during the Six-Day War in 1967. 

Israel is required to withdraw from all the territories seized in the war under UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted months after the Six-Day War, in November 1967, but the Tel Aviv regime has defied that piece of international law ever since.

Trump recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the Israeli “capital” in December 2017 and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the ancient city in May 2018, sparking global condemnations.

Tel Aviv has also been pressing the US administration to recognize its claim to sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which it effectively annexed in 1981.

The Tel Aviv regime has built tens of illegal settlements in the area since its occupation and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

Syria has repeatedly reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, saying the territory must be completely restored to its control.

Meanwhile, a US State Department official, Michael Kozak, sought to downplay the significance of report’s phrasing, saying the designation of territories as occupied is a “legal status issue,” not a human rights matter.

He denied that that it amounted to American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Kozak said that “geographic description” in the report does not signal a change in US policy, claiming that Washington continues to stress the need for a “negotiated settlement” to the conflict.

‘Trump bribing Netanyahu ahead of elections’

In an interview with Press TV, Richard Silverstein, journalist and political commentator, dismissed Kozak’s remarks.

“So if they want to use a legal definition for the Golan, they cannot say that it is Israeli-controlled, which is the term that they are using. It is Israel-occupied, it is Israeli-conquered but should not be called Israel-controlled,” said the analyst.

Silverstein further censured the recent remarks by US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who on Monday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he would push for the United States to formally recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

“This is a gift that’s being given by the Trump administration to Netanyahu on the eve of the election,” he said.

“The US government is trying desperately to skew the election results by giving lots of goodies to Netanyahu so Israeli electorate will say that they will vote for the politician who has the most favor coming from Washington.”

He described Graham’s pledge to the Israeli premier as “another bid of bribery that the US is giving to Netanyahu to help him win this election.”

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