Abbas invokes sovereign state in peace prayer with pope, Peres


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for “freedom in our sovereign and independent state” during a prayer for peace with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Pope Francis.

Vatican officials had called the service on Sunday at the Vatican a “pause in politics” with no political intentions.

Abbas, Peres and the pope planted an olive tree in Vatican Garden following prayers by Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders and invocations by the three leaders. They then entered the Vatican for a private meeting together.

In his invocation, Abbas spoke about the importance of Jerusalem to the Palestinian people and thanked God for blessing the Palestinians with Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Along with speaking of a sovereign and independent state, the Palestinian leader asked Allah for “a comprehensive and just peace for our country and our region.”

Francis during his invocation said, “More than once we have been close to peace and the evil one has prevented it.  That’s why we are here today. We need to lift up our eyes toward heaven and recognize we are the children of one father.”

Peres said in his invocation, “I was young and became old. I experienced war, I tasted peace. Never will I forget the bereaved families — parents and children — who paid the cost of war. And all my life I shall never stop to act for peace, for the sake of the generations to come. Let us all join hands and make it happen.”

The Israeli delegation included rabbis, Druze leaders and imams. The Palestinian delegation included Islamic and Christian leaders. Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim professor Omar Abboud, two friends of the pope’s from Buenos Aires, also attended.

On Saturday, Francis tweeted about the service, “Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world.”

The pope made the invitation following the celebration of Mass in Manger Square in Bethlehem during his visit last month to the Palestinian West Bank city. The offer came a month after the collapse of nine months of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Peres will leave office at the end of July.

 

Peres, Abbas call for peace at World Economic Forum


Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for peace at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Peres in his address Sunday evening said, “I am here to express the hope and desire of the Israeli people to bring an end to the conflict and a beginning to a peaceful new age. I hope that this forum will voice a timely call against skepticism. I pray that it will allow for tomorrow’s horizon to shine bright — a horizon that will illuminate the fruits of freedom, science and progress.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking earlier in the day, said his people want peace, and that it only be achieved with the creation of an independent Palestinian state. He said young Palestinians had lost hope for a two-state solution.

“We want to achieve the two-state solution. Two states that will live side by side in peace,” he said, adding, “The opportunity is still there for making this peace. Come, let this make this peace a reality achieved on the ground, so that our current and future generations would reap its benefits.”

Abbas said the P.A. would not agree to a resolution that calls for temporary borders, saying it would prolong the conflict. He thanked U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts to restart the peace process.

In his speech to the forum, Kerry called on Israel and the Palestinians to continue the peace process through to the end, asking: “Do we want to live with a permanent intifada?”

Kerry also announced the possible formation of a $4 billion private economic plan to help expand the Palestinian economy.

Peres and King Abdullah II of Jordan in a meeting earlier in the day on the forum sidelines discussed ways to revive peace negotiations in the region and how to overcome obstacles facing the peace process. They agreed that a two-state solution is the only viable solution to end the conflict.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called on Peres to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make peace with the Palestinians based on the pre-1967 borders.

Ahead of Sunday’s regular Cabinet meeting, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz chided Peres for acting like the “government spokesman.”

“I think the government has its own spokespeople,” Steinitz said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “The position of president of Israel is respected, but the government makes policy decisions, and I think that every declaration of this sort, certainly on the eve of negotiations, does not help Israel’s stance.”

Copycat bulldozer rampage in Jerusalem injures 28


JERUSALEM (JTA)—In an imitation of an attack nearly three weeks ago, an Arab construction worker rampaged through the streets of Jerusalem on a bulldozer, crushing cars and hitting a bus before being shot dead by Israeli border police.

At least 16 people were injured in the attack early Tuesday afternoon, including a 9-month-old baby and his mother. One of the injured remains in serious condition at Shaare Tzedek Hospital, reports say.

The driver was identified in news reports as Ghasan Abu-Tir, 22, of eastern Jerusalem. He held an Israeli identification card.

His relative, Palestinian Authority Parliament member Muhammad Abu-Tir, is jailed in Israel, Ynet reported.

The attack in the Yemin Moshe neighborhood was similar to a July 2 attack when a bulldozer driver from eastern Jerusalem killed three Israelis before being shot dead by an off-duty soldier.

While that assailant was assumed to have had political motives, Israeli authorities never established clear links to Palestinian terrorist groups.

Israeli police sealed off routes leaving Jerusalem following Tuesday’s attack in an attempt to catch two suspected accomplices who were seen leaving the scene.

The attack, at the corner of Keren Hayesod and King David streets in the heart of Jerusalem, took place within sight of the luxury King David Hotel, which will host U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) during the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority set to begin Tuesday evening.

The bulldozer driver, who according to witnesses wore a large white skullcap common to religious Muslims, chased the No. 13 bus while raising the shovel of his front-end loader, the driver of the bus told the Ha’aretz newspaper.

“I was driving on the main road when the [bulldozer] hit me in the rear, on the right-hand side,” driver Avi Levi told Ha’aretz. “After I passed him he turned round, made a U-turn and rammed the windows twice with the shovel. The third time he aimed for my head, he came up to my window and I swerved to the right, otherwise I would have gone to meet my maker.”

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski told Israel’s Channel 10 that the two bulldozer attacks could affect the future hiring of Arabs from eastern Jerusalem.

“We should reconsider the employment of these people,” he said.

Lupolianski, who was near the area of the attack and rushed to the scene, added that “tools of construction become opportunities for attacks.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, which took place while he was meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the president’s residence located a few miles from the scene. It was the first meeting in the residence with a P.A. president.

Obama at a news conference in Jordan condemned the attack.

“Today’s bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long,” Obama said in Amman. “I strongly condemn this attack and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security.”