The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization executive committee, Saeb Erekat, issued a statement rejecting the US-led conference that opens today in Warsaw, ostensibly aimed at brokering Middle East peace. Said Erekat: “Today we face a reality whereby the US Trump administration, in cooperation with the Polish government, is pushing yet a new initiative to annihilate the Palestinian national project.” (Ma’an) The meeting was first announced last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after his anti-Iran speech in Cairo, and is widely perceived as an effort to rally world powers behind Washington’s drive against Tehran. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is to be among the speakers. Poland has been making some efforts to resist turning the conference into a propagandistic anti-Iran meeting, underscoring its commitment to the nuclear deal that the US has now disavowed. But as Warsaw’s former ambassador to Afghanistan Piotr Lukasiewicz told Al Jazeera: “[Poland] has lost control over the general message of the conference to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.” The notable absentees from the summit are meanwhile convening their own meeting in the Russian ski resort of Sochi. The rival summit is bringing together Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, officiallty to discuss the situation in Syria and the pending withdrawal of US troops there. (EuroNews)
The Warsaw Conference comes as the US is stepping up its diplomatic isolation of Palestine. The US confirmed Feb 1 that it has halted all aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a step linked to the new Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA). This includes more than $60 million in annual funds for the Palestinian security services. Ironically, even Israeli officials have expressed concern that this could hurt cooperation with the Palestinian Authority on counter-terrorism. Last year, Washington cut hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinians, including funds for humanitarian projects such as health, education and infrastructure. The Trump administration also ended all US funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Washington had previously been the largest donor to UNRWA, giving more than $360 million in 2017. (BBC News, Jerusalem Post)
On Jan 2 the US and Israel both announced their withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). US ambassador Nikki Haley commented with a press release protesting UNESCO’s decision to designate the Old City of Hebron and Tomb of the Patriarchs to the state of Palestine in 2017. (Jurist) This protest, of course, legimtizes Israel’s exploitation of Abrahamic “heritage sites” on the West Bank in the service of its annexationist designs.
Just after the Warsaw Conference closes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be hosting a meeting in Jerusalem of the Visegrad Group—Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Jerusalem summit marks the first time the V4 meeting will take place outside of Europe. Critics are aghast, noting the overtly anti-Semitic politics of Hungary’s four-time prime minister Viktor Orban and Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki. (The Independent) But this convergence hsd a grim political logic, given Israel’s increasingly fascistic direction under Netanyahu.