Saudi Arabia orders $30 million to Palestinians

Abu Mazen in Turkey: PNA has no other choice but going to UN to end occupation

Israel seizes strategic sites in West Bank

Netanyahu’s office denies he ordered canceling Oslo Accords

Saudi Arabia sent $30.8m to the Palestinian Authority to help bridge a budget gap that forced the cutting of salaries in half, said Jamal Shobaki, the Palestinian envoy to the kingdom.

“The Saudis informed us that they transferred the money,” Shobaki said in a phone interview from Riyadh on Tuesday.

The move comes three weeks after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the authority was in a financial crisis, and singled out Arab countries as he called on international donors to fulfill their commitments.

By the start of July, the authority had received $330m of the $971m in aid pledged for 2011, Fayyad said at a July 3 press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. About a quarter of the authority’s $3.7bn budget comes from foreign aid.

Reduced salaries were sent July 6 to about 151,000 people on the Palestinian Authority payroll, according to Accountant- General Youssef Zumor.

Fayyad has been working to build government institutions as the Palestinian Authority prepares to ask the United Nations in September to recognize Palestine as an independent state, a move opposed by Israel and the US.

Oman, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates were the only Arab countries that had paid funds pledged for this year, Fayyad said July 3. He said the US and European Union have been making regular contributions.

The World Bank said in an April report that the Palestinian Authority had increased bank borrowing to fund development projects for which designated aid hadn’t been received, and that arrears were accumulating at an unsustainable rate, close to the PA’s borrowing limits.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Palestinians to step up peaceful protests against Israel, urging “popular resistance” inspired by the Arab Spring to back a diplomatic offensive at the UN.

Abbas, addressing a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) meeting, reiterated his decision to seek full UN membership for a state of Palestine alongside Israel, a diplomatic move resulting from paralysis in the US-backed peace process.

“In this coming period, we want mass action, organized and co-coordinated in every place,” Abbas said. “This is a chance to raise our voices in front of the world and say that we want our rights.”

Though the US is expected to block their quest for a full seat, the Palestinians expect to secure at least an upgrade in their UN status during September’s General Assembly meeting in New York.

Abbas’s comments to the PLO central committee in Ramallah marked the first time he had openly urged popular activism in support of the initiative, echoing a call made last week by Marwan Barghuti, a leading Palestinian imprisoned in Israel.

Palestinian officials are describing the diplomatic initiative as part of a new approach to their struggle to create an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israel is concerned that September could serve as a platform for protests inspired by Arab uprisings this year which have toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and have challenged others in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain.

A military commander said last week Israel would reinforce its border defenses in anticipation of such protests.

Long an opponent of violence by Palestinians, Abbas has faced domestic criticism for appearing hesitant to support other forms of activism such as protests and marches, part of what Palestinians call “popular resistance”.

“We support popular resistance,” he said.

He listed grievances including the expansion of Jewish settlements and the construction of Israel’s West Bank barrier as reasons for wider activism.

“Every day, we face things that drive us to carry out popular resistance on a wide scale and not in one place,” he said.

“I insist on popular resistance and I insist that it be unarmed popular resistance so that nobody misunderstands us. We are now inspired by the protests of the Arab Spring, all of which cry out ‘peaceful’, ‘peaceful’,” he said.

Hany al-Masri, a political analyst, said there were still question marks over whether Abbas was serious in his call. Abbas, 76, may still be nervous about the scope for protests to spiral out of control, he added.

“Does he want this, or is it just for consumption? This is the question,” he said. Abbas’s Fatah movement still has a support base capable of mobilizing for such protests, he noted.

“If they want it, they can have it,” he said.

The Palestinians’ plan, as outlined by officials, is to submit an application for full membership to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while also preparing a draft resolution for the General Assembly seeking an upgrade to “non-member state”.

Palestine currently has the status of an observer.

While Palestinian officials expect US opposition to torpedo their attempt to gain full member status, they anticipate winning enough support in the General Assembly to secure the status upgrade. Palestinian officials say that would bring benefits including full access to UN agencies.

Abbas said that the Palestinians’ bid for membership at the United Nations was forced upon them by Israel’s refusal to halt settlement building and end its occupation.

“We are going to the United Nations because we are forced to, it is not a unilateral action,” he said in a speech in Istanbul last week, where he is meeting Palestinian diplomats from around the world over a two day conference.

“What is unilateral is Israeli settlement,” Abbas said as he convened the envoys to finalize Palestinian strategy ahead of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“We have not been able to return to negotiations with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu because of his refusal to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 borders and to stop settlement,” he said at the meeting, attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late September, shortly after Washington re-launched the first direct negotiations between the two sides for nearly two years.

The talks ground to a halt when Israel’s partial freeze on settlement construction expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it. The Palestinians say they will not hold talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state. Netanyahu blames the Palestinians for the deadlock.

“Our first, second and third choice is to return to negotiations,” Abbas said.

“Like the rest of the peoples of the world … we wish to be members of the General Assembly, members of the UN; no more, no less,” he said, recalling that the Palestinians had been living under occupation since the 1967 war.

A senior Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity that preparations for the U.N. gambit would be completed on Aug. 4, during a meeting of an Arab monitoring committee in Doha, attended by Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

An official letter would be sent to the United Nations during the first week of August, he added.

“To get significant results we have to speak with one voice,” Abbas told his audience, adding that the decision to seek U.N. membership would have the backing of a large consensus, both of his West Bank-based Fatah movement and of the radical Islamist Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

“God willing, Palestinian reconciliation will be achieved before we go to the United Nations,” Abbas said, referring to a formal end to years of enmity between the two agreed upon on April 27, but has yet to be implemented politically.

He said 118 countries had already recognized the Palestinian state within the borders that preceded Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in June 1967 and that the total would rise to 130 by September.

A joint Palestinian-Israeli poll last month showed that 65 percent of Palestinian respondents supported the United Nations campaign.

On the other hand, Turkey strongly condemned Israel for approving the building of new homes in West Bank settlements, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

The comments came in response to the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction's publishing of tenders for 336 housing units in West Bank settlements last week.

"Israel's illegal actions on the lands it has invaded are unacceptable," the statement said. "This decision will deepen the suspicions of Israel's sincerity in pushing the peace process forward. We stress that we don't recognize the illegal steps Israel is taking, challenging international law," the statement published by the Hurriyet Daily News said Monday.

According to the tender, 294 new homes will be built in Beitar Illit outside Jerusalem and 42 units in Karnei Shomron near Kfar Saba, The Jerusalem Post said.

In April the Defense Ministry approved the construction of the homes in Beitar Illit, the Post said.

Both West Bank settlements are located within the settlement blocs Israel believes will be included in its permanent borders once a final status agreement with the Palestinians is achieved, the Post said.

Meanwhile, sources at the office of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, denied media reports claiming that Netanyahu instructed his National Security advisor to weigh the possibility of voiding the Oslo peace agreements should the Palestinian Authority succeed in gaining international recognition of an independent state at the United Nations this September.

The Israeli Radio reported that Netanyahu had asked Yaacov Meridor to weigh all options that Israel could talk should the Palestinian carry out “bilateral measures”, mainly seek international recognition of an independent Palestinian State.

Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that the latest talks held by Meridor with senior Israeli officials looked into the option of voiding the Oslo accords, and that the officials said that this option does not top the list, yet is remains an option.

Haaretz quoted an official stating that this option will be one of the options that would be presented to the political leadership.

Head of the official Palestinian government media office, Dr. Ghassan Al Khatib, told a German paper that the Israeli threats are unacceptable, and that they represent a “political blackmail”.

“Oslo agreements are not in the interest of one part against the other, they are supposed to serve both sides”, Al Khatib stated, “The agreements cannot be used by one side as a threat against the other”.

He also rejected the Israeli claims that its threats “come in response to Palestinian unilateral moves”, adding that “heading to the United Nations is part of a multilateral activity that cannot be considered a unilateral move”.

Al Khatib also accused Israel of only implementing what it likes in the Oslo deals, and ignoring all other parts that do not serve its interests.

The Palestinian Authority is ongoing with its preparations for the United Nations move this coming September, while Palestinian ambassadors held, over the last two days, several meetings in Istanbul, and were informed by the Palestinian leadership that there will be a meeting in Doha – Qatar on August 4th, to finalize the resolution that will be presented to the United Nations in September.

Officials from Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank attended the meetings.

Palestinian diplomats were also instructed to lobby amongst Jewish communities around the world to explain the nature and the motive of the September UN move.

Haaretz reported that these efforts are being carried out while Israel is extensively involved in international talks to counter the Palestinian move, and counter what comes after it.

The paper added that, three weeks ago, Netanyahu instructed Meridor to start all preparations that also include talks with different government agencies, and to present recommendations regarding a possible Israeli political response.

It also said that the Israeli National Security Council had asked different government agencies to weigh the possibility of voiding the Oslo accords should the UN approve the Palestinian statehood demand.

Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) signed the Oslo peace agreements in the period between 1993 and 1995.

The agreements are considered the legal base of relations between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, especially issues related to security, economy and infrastructure.