Rallies, protests and flag burning have broken out in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in response to the anticipated vote at the U.N. Thursday on the status of the Palestinian Territories in the U.N..
Jerusalem Post reporter Melanie Lidman tweeted pictures of two members of the Israeli Knesset, Aryeh Eldad and Michael Ben Ari, taking shots of vodka and attempting to burn a Palestinian flag outside the U.N. headquarters in Jerusalem. Police tore the flag away before it could be lit up, reportedly worried that such an act would incite riots, Lidman tweeted. Another group of protesters began chanting "There will never be a Palestinian state!"
In Tel Aviv, protesters rallied in support of the Palestinians, which Jerusalem Post reporter Ben Hartman estimated to be 300-400 strong. A former Fatah minister from the West Bank said that the "Gaza war is a lesson that force can't solve everything," Hartman reported. Israeli writer and activist Uri Avnery was also present, and addressed the crowd, saying, "We will never have peace if there is no Palestinian state."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took to Twitter, saying "Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel's security must be protected." Israeli officials have repeatedly hammered the point that this effort by the Palestinians is unilateral and in violation of the Oslo accords.
Adding to the chorus of Western voices who support the Palestinian effort, Italy also announced today that they would be voting yes on the referendum, as did Brazil and Sweden, the Ma'an News Agency reported.
Meanwhile, at the U.N., a special meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People gathered to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President of the Assembly Vuk Jeremic, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and the U.N. ambassador from Iran, Mohammad Khazaee, all reiterated their calls for a two-state solution with a "sovereign, independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital," and took turns condemning Israel's attacks on Gaza and their apparent straying from the peace process.
Speaking through a translator, Abbas affirmed "our deepest gratitude to member states and people around the world whose unwavering support has been vital." Abbas also particularly thanked Egypt for "bringing an end to the onslaught" of last week's Gaza bombings.
"This is a matter of urgency," Abbas said, "The critical situation in Occupied Palestine and Jerusalem is totally unstable, and taking us further away from our goal of peace. Israel cannot continue to act as if it was a state above the law without consequences. Serious action is needed to send a message to Israel that it must abide by law."
"Despite Israeli violations, we remain committed to [the] two-state solution and our hand is extended in peace," Abbas concluded.
The Ambassador from Iran also said Israel was overreaching its legal limits.
"Despite U.N. efforts, Israel, the occupying power, continues to reject U.N. resolutions, as if it is a state above the law," Khazaee said to the meeting. "Israel has continued to commit violations, which include collective punishment, mass imprisonment, and routine demolition of homes."
Ban Ki-Moon also emphasized that the proposition for the partition of the two states "remains unfulfilled" 65 years later. Ban admonished both sides for their attacks on civilians during the recent eight-day conflict, and called on "Israeli and Palestinian leaders to breath new life into a peace process that is now on life support," and to realize, "the legitimate aspirations of both sides."
The vote on the status of the Palestinian Territories at the U.N. is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday. The Palestinians are widely projected to win the vote despite pressure from both the U.S. and Israel.