Hamas leader: We’ll fire hundreds of rockets at central Israel if talks fail

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas leader: We’ll fire hundreds of rockets at central Israel if talks fail

Yahya Sinwar says no deal reached yet, but talks continue; reportedly warns terror group can make alarm sirens wail in the Tel Aviv region for six months straight

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 6, 2018. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar on Wednesday said there was no concrete ceasefire agreement yet with Israel, but warned that if hostilities resume the terror group could launch hundreds of rockets deep into the Jewish state.

“Until now, there is no final text for a ceasefire. What is being circulated is proposals and ideas,” Sinwar told Palestinian writers and analysts in Gaza, according to the Hamas-linked Shehab news agency. “We decided to end the siege on our people, who have the right to live a dignified life.”

Sinwar warned that if talks broke down Hamas would fire hundreds of rockets in Israel.

“What the resistance launched in 51 days in the last war, it can launch in five minutes during any [future] Israel aggression,” he said, referring to the 2014 conflict.

Illustrative: Flames from rockets fired by Palestinians are seen over Gaza Strip heading toward Israel, in the early morning of May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The Hebrew Walla news site quoted him as saying that “Hamas could set off rocket warning sirens in the Tel Aviv region for six months straight.”

Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel have reportedly included discussion on easing the blockade, but by no means a complete lifting of it. Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Sinwar said that talks on a prisoner exchange were progressing on a separate track and were not connected to the ceasefire agreement. Hamas holds the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and two civilians. Israel has said in the past it would not ease the blockade until they are released.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

Around 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Sinwar also warned the Palestinian Authority against taking steps to foil the nascent deal.

“Any punitive measures the PA imposes on the Gaza Strip will be in violation of the rules of the game. We respond to any such measures appropriately,” he said.

His comments come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly lambasted the potential ceasefire agreement, saying such a deal would only be reached “over my dead body.”

“If the agreement is signed without the PA’s permission, it is illegal and constitutes treason,” Abbas said in private conversations, according to Hissein al-Sheikh, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party.

“Over my dead body will there be a ceasefire and calm between both sides,” Abbas said, according to al-Sheikh.

Regarding intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks, which have stalled recently, the Fatah member said disagreements between the factions were mounting and that such a deal “never looked more distant.”

Abbas was also said to be furious at Egypt, which has been brokering Israel-Hamas truce talks, for being willing to sit down with members of the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip without his presence.

“The Egyptians aren’t reading the map correctly and are harming the Palestinian national interests,” al-Sheikh said. “Talks with Hamas, which took control of Gaza by force and without the consent of the Palestinian Authority, are unacceptable and are an act of defiance against Palestinian leadership.”

Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas have been deeply divided for more than a decade. Hamas, an Islamist terror group which openly seeks to destroy Israel, seized control of Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 and several attempts at reconciliation since then have failed.

Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in Gaza City on December 3, 2017, in support of the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

The PA government has been putting pressure on Hamas to reach a reconciliation deal that would return Fatah rule to Gaza, and earlier this year began to scale back electricity payments and other financial support in an effort to force Hamas to cede ground in Gaza.

Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over complete control of Gaza to the PA, and that the switch be conducted in a single stroke rather than in stages.

He has warned against a reported deal taking shape between Israel and Hamas for a long-term ceasefire in Gaza if it does not include the PA.

Hamas responded to the criticism with a rare statement slamming the PA and saying that there is a “national consensus” among the Palestinian people in favor of a long-term Gaza ceasefire with Israel.

The terror group was referring specifically to a deal that would lift the blockade of Gaza, which would ostensibly require some sort of agreement with Israel.

“We aren’t moving toward a political agreement or a part of an international deal that gives up our lands, recognizes the occupier or destroys the national project, as you did,” Hamas said, addressing the PA. “We didn’t recognize the Zionist entity and sanctify the security coordination, as you did at the expense of our people.”

Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua dismissed the PA criticism as “worthless” and added they were “not fooling anybody — the people still supports the resistance and we will keep our hand on the trigger to defend the Palestinian people from the Zionist occupation.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

Egypt’s Hamas-Israel Peace Deal: Only If President Abbas Is A Total Idiot

 

Earlier today I read an article in the Times of Israel whose headline was about Egypt being upset with President Abbas because he was not in favor of the peace program they sculpted between Israel and Hamas. My commentary to you today on this issue will be a short one because the reality to the situation on the ground between Hamas and Fatah is short and un-sweet. I believe it was in 2007 when Hamas split with Fatah and by force took control of the Gaza Strip in south-west Israel. Israel if they had known that Hamas would rise up and take control of one of the two Conclaves they were going to give to the Palestinian People in the so called “land for peace” deal they would not have given up this land in the first place. My thoughts then and now is, how could the leaders of Israel at that time have been so naive as to believe that Hamas would not rise up against Fatah and take control of the Gaza Strip? A couple of years ago Mr. Abbas canceled elections that were suppose to unite Fatah and Hamas once again but when the leaders of Fatah realized that Hamas was going to easily win this election, they canceled the election.

 

Reality is this simple, any deal, no matter who brokers it, whether it be Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran or even Fatah themselves is a death sentence to Fatah and to Mr. Abbas. Hamas is only interested in one thing, total control, both of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and of all of modern-day Israel. Hamas does not play well with others, only an idiot or a fool does not realize this reality. Israel does know this now, this is why they are also against this Egyptian brokered plan. Israel’s leaders played the fool once, they are not going to play it again. Mr. Abbas has proven that he has learned from his experiences in his dealings with Hamas also and as the title of this letter to you states very plainly, only if Mr. Abbas is a total idiot would he ever go along with this Egyptian so-called peace plan. It does appear that the leaders of Egypt who brokered this plan have not learned this basic lesson.

Abbas rejection of possible Israel-Hamas truce said to create tension with Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Abbas rejection of possible Israel-Hamas truce said to create tension with Egypt

Palestinian Authority leader is demanding internal reconciliation be top priority and that rulers of Gaza Strip cede full control to his organization, says London-based daily

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah July 28, 2018. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of an Egypt-brokered truce between Israel and Hamas to end a recent uptick in violence is creating tensions between Ramallah and Cairo, it was reported Sunday.

Abbas insists that Egyptian efforts prioritize reconciliation between his Fatah party and its rival Hamas, and that the Palestine Liberation Organization, which he chairs, play a central role in agreeing to a ceasefire, the London-based Al-Hayat daily newspaper reported.

Cairo hopes to close a deal between Israel and Hamas by the beginning of next week.

Relations between the PA and Egypt are “very tense,” the report said citing Palestinian sources.

Egyptian head of Intelligence Abbas Kamel, February 8, 2018. (Khaled Elfiqi/Pool photo via AP)

Last week Abbas reportedly refused to meet with visiting Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. Kamel has been involved in the reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, as well as the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel.

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egypt-sponsored deal signed in October.

Cairo has hosted talks attended by all of the major Palestinian factions, with the exception of Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority.

The PA, based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, is responsible for governing the Palestinian Territories whereas the PLO is the official body representing the Palestinian people and their national interests.

Azzam al-Ahmad gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Khaled Desouki)

Most of the factions agree to the terms of the truce, with the exception of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which, like Abbas, is pushing for “national reconciliation” to be the priority, the report said.

Abbas is demanding that Hamas hand over complete control of Gaza to the PA, and that the switch be conducted in a single stroke rather than in stages.

Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Abbas wants PA control “from end to end, and below and above ground” a reference to the military tunnel networks and arms controlled by Hamas in Gaza.

Abbas is also insisting that the PLO oversee the ceasefire terms and signing, as it did following the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. To that end, Abbas wants Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PLO executive committee, to sign any agreement.

An Egyptian source told al-Hayat: “We are putting the final touches for all parties to sign the clauses of the agreement, and we expect to announce next week if Fatah helps that to happen.”

Fatah has not as yet participated in the Cairo talks, although a senior source in the party told the newspaper that a delegation is expected to travel to the Egyptian capital.

The source said an announcement for a ceasefire is expected after the upcoming Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, sometime early next week.

Hamas refuses to give up control of its tunnel infrastructure and weapons. The terror group is however showing more flexibility regarding handing over responsibility for civilian life in the Gaza Strip, which is home to some two million Palestinians, sources said.

Officials in Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of hardline terror groups, said that the truce must pave the way to ending Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

According to Al-Hayat, Husam Badran, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, said in a statement the Cairo talks are aimed at stabilizing the situation to bring it in line with understandings reached in 2014 which brought an end to the 50-day conflict at the time. According to Badran, that includes easing the naval blockade.

Illustrative. A picture taken on July 14, 2018, shows Palestinian rockets being fired from Gaza toward Israel (AFP/Bashar Taleb)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the Palestinian Authority. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

On Saturday Abbas warned that there can be no two separate entities ruling Palestinian lands, stating that if the PA is not handed complete control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas will have to take full responsibility for the territory. He made the comments at a gathering of the Palestinian Central Council, the PLO’s second highest decision-making body.

Last week, the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report, which cited sources familiar with the details.

In an apparent sign that a truce is approaching, Israel last week reopened the Kerem Shalom goods crossing into Gaza, which had been shut due to the recent unrest. However on Sunday Israel’s Defense Ministry announced that the Erez Crossing at the north of the enclave was closed in the wake of Friday’s violent border clashes.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze near the southern city of Sderot caused by an incendiary balloon launched from the Gaza Strip on July 31, 2018. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

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Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Top Hamas official: Ceasefire talks with Israel in ‘final stretch’

Kahlil al-Hayya tells Lebanese TV Hamas wishes to reach a long-term accord with the Jewish state

Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya is seen in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Negotiations for a long-term ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas are in “the final stretch,” a senior member of the terror group said Friday.

Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV quoted Kahlil al-Hayya as saying the deal would follow understandings reached at the end of the 2014 war between the sides. He did not elaborate.

Al-Hayya added that Hamas supports reaching an accord.

The Hamas leader was speaking from Cairo, where a Hamas delegation was said to be discussing the deal being mediated by Egypt and the UN.

On Friday thousands of Gazans demonstrated along the Israeli border in weekly Hamas-backed ‘March of Return’ demonstrations. Hamas leadership had urged the public to participate in Friday’s protests.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate at the Israel-Gaza border, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on August 17, 2018 (AFP/Said Khatib)

Rioters hurled rocks, improvised bombs and Molotov cocktails at soldiers and burned tires to create a smokescreen. Others launched incendiary balloons towards Israel.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported that two men had been killed and around 250 injured, of which at least 25 were said hit by live fire.

On Thursday Al-Mayadeen reported that the long-term deal taking shape will last for a year and see the establishment of a cargo shipping connection between Gaza and Cyprus. Israel will have security control over the sea traffic between the Palestinian coastal enclave and Cyprus, according to the report from the TV channel, which cited sources familiar with the details.

Hadashot TV news reported Thursday that the head of the Shin Bet security agency has warned cabinet ministers that excluding the Palestinian Authority from the accord in Gaza will send a message that terrorism is rewarded.

Head of Shin Bet security service Nadav Argaman attends a Foreign Affairs and Defense committee meeting at the Knesset on July 12, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Pushing aside [Abbas] from the process [of reaching an] agreement will strengthen Hamas in the West Bank and prove terror pays,” Nadav Argaman was quoted as saying. “Such a move would also weaken the moderates and prove to Palestinians that only the path of violence achieves results.”

Hamas and the PA have been at odds since the terror group violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. A number of reconciliation agreements between them have failed to patch up their differences, most recently an Egyptian-sponsored deal signed in October.

Recent months have seen repeated rounds of intense violence between Israel and Hamas, along with weekly border protests at the Gaza border that have regularly included rioting, attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to infiltrate and sabotage the border fence.

At least 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the weekly protests began, a Hamas ministry says. Hamas has acknowledged that dozens of those killed were its members.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

In addition to the border clashes, southern Israel has experienced hundreds of fires as a result of incendiary kites and balloons flown over the border from Gaza. Over 7,000 acres of land have been burned, causing millions of shekels in damages, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas has long made access to a sea port a key strategic goal. Under the conditions of Israel’s naval blockade, goods heading to Gaza are currently shipped to Israeli ports and then trucked into Gaza.

Trucks carrying goods enter the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom Crossing after it was reopened by Israel on August 15, 2018. (Flash90)

Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza since Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, seized the territory from the PA. It says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the last decade.

Sources told Al-Mayadeen that the forthcoming deal will include Qatari funding for Gaza’s electricity bills in cooperation with Israel, and Qatari payment of civil service employees’ salaries in Gaza in cooperation with Egypt.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman pitched the idea of setting up a floating dock for Palestinian sea traffic in Cyprus when he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in June, Hadashot news reported at the time.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a Yisrael Beytenu faction meeting at the Knesset on July 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The plan was conditional on the return of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers held by Hamas, the television report said.

Two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who entered Gaza of their own volition in 2014 and 2015, respectively, are currently being held Hamas, along with the remains of two slain IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

According to a Channel 10 report Thursday, Liberman met with Qatar’s envoy to Gaza during his trip to Cyprus, and the two discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and Qatari proposals to improve humanitarian conditions in the Strip, as well as the return of the Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers’ bodies.

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Palestinian Leaders Are Rejecting A Peace Plan They Have Never Seen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Kushner to Palestinians: Don’t let your leaders reject a plan they haven’t seen

Senior White House adviser, in region ahead of peace proposal rollout, appeals to Palestinian people in effort to bypass Ramallah’s boycott of administration

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner appealed directly to the Palestinian people, urging them to not let their “scared” leadership reject the Trump administration peace plan, which the Palestinian Authority has yet to see. Directly critiquing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he said he was not sure Abbas truly wanted an accord.

In an interview with a Palestinian paper published Sunday, Kushner said he is ready to work with Abbas, but voiced doubt the 83-year-old leader has the ability or desire to make peace because he has not altered his negotiating position in over two decades.

“There have been countless mistakes and missed opportunities over the years, and you, the Palestinian people, have paid the price,” Kushner said, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the White House. “Don’t let your leadership reject a plan they haven’t even seen.”

“A lot has happened in the world since this conflict began decades ago. The world has moved forward while you have been left behind. Don’t allow your grandfather’s conflict to determine your children’s future,” he added.

The top US peace adviser was in the region ahead of the launch of a fresh peace effort. The trip, which took Kushner and US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt to Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, did not include meetings with the Palestinian leadership.

Kushner, Greenblatt and other White House officials have been effectively blackballed by Ramallah, which was angered by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US embassy there in May.

The interview with the East Jerusalem-based Al Quds newspaper was seen as an attempt by the Trump administration to reach out to the Palestinian people, despite the official boycott.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

In the interview, Kushner said the Palestinians should speak to their own leaders and “give them the courage to keep an open mind” toward achieving peace.

Referring to comments by Abbas adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, who said Saturday that the US peace mission was a waste of time, Kushner said the Palestinian leaders fear the plan might receive popular support.

“I think the Palestinian leadership is saying those things because they are scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it because it will lead to new opportunities for them to have a much better life,” Kushner said.

“President Abbas says that he is committed to peace and I have no reason not to believe him,” he said. “However, I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years. To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions. I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas chairs the Fatah Central Committee meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 29, 2018.(Majdi Mohammed/AP)

“I greatly respect that there are many things he [Abbas] has done well for establishing the foundations of peace, but I don’t think the Palestinian people feel like their lives are getting better and there is only so long you can blame that on everyone other than Palestinian leadership,” he added.

Kushner said the international community is “getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive towards achieving peace.”

Kushner admitted he had not tried to contact Abbas directly ahead of his Middle East tour but noted, “President Abbas knows we are in the region and we have many mutual contacts who convey messages – he knows that we are open to meeting him and continuing the discussion when he is ready. He has said publicly he will not meet us and we have opted not to chase him.”

“If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly,” said Kushner.

Kushner suggested that Israeli and Palestinian leaders could hold a referendum on whether or not to accept the Trump peace plan as “a way for them to take less political risk on endorsing a solution, but that is still a few steps ahead of where we are now.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks to journalists during a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 21, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Kushner, who together with Greenblatt has reportedly been trying to raise aid funding from Gulf states for the Gaza Strip, also rejected recent criticism by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat who on Saturday accused the Americans of trying to use the situation in Gaza to divide the Palestinians and topple the PA.

“The last I checked they are divided, they are not connected by government or land and it’s needlessly become a dire humanitarian situation because the Palestinian leadership has made it a political situation,” Kushner said. “It’s time for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to stop using the people of Gaza as pawns. The narrative of victimhood may feel good for the moment and help you grab headlines but it doesn’t do anything to improve lives.”

Ramallah officials, who have sought to squeeze the Strip’s Hamas rulers by withholding salaries and goods as a means of retaking power there, have said plans to fund infrastructure projects to ease the humanitarian crisis in the enclave were tantamount to attempting to split Gaza from the Abbas-ruled West Bank.

“The people of Gaza are hostages to bad leadership,” Kushner said, warning that continued attacks on Israeli territory from Gaza would prevent the humanitarian situation from improving as Israel and Egypt would continue to impose their blockade aimed at prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons.

“As long as there are rockets being fired and tunnels being dug, there will be a chokehold on resources allowed to enter. It’s a vicious cycle. I think the only path for the people of Gaza is to encourage the leadership to aim for a true ceasefire that gives Israel and Egypt the confidence to start allowing more commerce and goods to flow to Gaza,” said Kushner.

“We have said from the beginning that there is no path to peace without finding a solution for Gaza.”

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

The US earlier this year cut some $250 million to the budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA.

Despite the difficulties, Kushner said he remains hopeful the Israelis and Palestinians can overcome their past grievances.

“Yes, there is a lot of hatred and a lot of scar tissue, but I do not underestimate humankind’s ability to love. To be successful, we must be willing to forgive in the present, not forget the past, but work hard towards a brighter future.”

Peace, he predicted, would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy.

“Israel’s prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians if there is peace. Many countries from around the world are ready to invest if there is a peace agreement,” he said.

A US official told Israel’s Channel 10 news that “the interview is part of the American administration’s attempt to address the Palestinian people directly before presenting its peace plan.”

On Saturday night, Kushner and Greenblatt met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second time in as many days, together with US envoy to Israel David Friedman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The four continued discussions that had begun on Friday, which included talks on easing the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the peace plan, according to the White House.

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Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

Israelis appreciated but mostly shrugged at last month’s US Embassy move, but Palestinians exploded in fury. The gap reveals much about their predicament

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The US Embassy has moved. With the exception of the effect the move purportedly had on the ailing health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and acknowledging Palestinian claims that the violence on the Gaza border was mostly due to the American recognition of Jerusalem, or at least its western half, as Israel’s capital, this latest round of Jewish-Arab scuffling seems to have died down.

That doesn’t mean Israeli-Palestinian tensions have decreased, of course. A confluence of powerful moments on the Palestinian calendar — the embassy move on May 14; the recurring Gaza protests launched by Hamas from March 30 until mid-May; Nakba Day on May 15, mourning the displacement of the Palestinians upon Israel’s founding; the May 17 start of the holy month of Ramadan; and even the upcoming Naksa Day on June 5, which mourns the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War — coupled with Hamas’s fraught political position in Gaza have all pushed the sides to new rounds of violence, and may do so again at any time.

But it wasn’t just the calendar. Israelis and Palestinians remain strangers to each other despite living such close and intertwined lives. Each has only a sketchy, piecemeal grasp of what motivates and frightens the other across the ethnic and religious divide.

This gap in comprehension was the reason many Israelis were surprised by the frantic Palestinian response to the American embassy’s opening in Jerusalem. Most Israeli Jews certainly appreciated the gesture, but did not seem to take part in the gushing platitudes of politicians about its unique strategic or “historic” significance.

The Palestinians disagreed. Political factions vied with one another in their expressions of rage over the American move. The Palestinian Authority declared a school strikeurged mass protests across the West Bank and Gaza, cut direct talks with the Trump administration and announced the US had forsaken its role as a peace broker in the region. Protests mounted in the West Bank and Hamas announced its seven-week-long campaign of border rallies in Gaza.

In the process, Palestinian rhetoric shed light on how they view their strategic position, and how their current strategy is failing them.

The Palestinian resort to internationalizing the conflict — the appeal to international institutions, the BDS campaign, and the like — is rooted in the deepest anxieties of Palestinian nationalism. The only real alternative to internationalization (besides terrorism, of course, which vanishingly few Palestinians still view as a winning strategy) is to meaningfully engage with Israel and Israelis, a step too ideologically and politically painful for any major Palestinian faction to contemplate seriously. (Some factions will agree to negotiate with Israeli officials; none with any following will agree to push for engagement or coexistence with Israeli Jewish society.)

Then, too, there is the fact that the appeal to the world’s conscience fits the Palestinian meta-narrative of dispossession. In the telling of the Palestinian national movement, the injustice of Palestinian displacement is larger than the narrow question of Palestinian suffering; it violates history’s deepest logic and purpose, its moral arc. A strategy premised on the existence and political potency of an amorphous moral conscience capable of mobilizing a broader humanity to act in the Palestinians’ favor validates this narrative of lost-but-inevitably-to-be-reclaimed justice. It makes the insistence that an idealized pre-Israeli condition can yet be restored a little less ludicrous and a little more believable.

There is a risk, however, to this reliance on the world’s moral emotions. An indelicate framing of the question might be: What if the international community does not in any meaningful sense exist? What if there are very few nations (even among Arab states) that would risk hard interests in the name of an idealistic call for justice, especially when that call is so hard to apply to the messy conditions of this conflict? Even the Palestinians’ most vocal allies — Turkey, for example — see in the Palestinian cause not a fight for the well-being of Palestinians, but a politically convenient battlefield on which to pursue their own broader ideological battle over the future of Islam and their place in global affairs. It doesn’t help, of course, that the half of Palestinian politics represented by Hamas actively pursues a politics of violence that makes it all the harder for foreign players to act in defense of the Palestinians.

As they discovered yet again with the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14, there are costs to the overreliance on the politics of foreign nations: it leaves you vulnerable when those politics change.

Lacking any other strategic horizon, it’s no wonder Palestine’s cause seemed to many Palestinians to be dramatically set back by the election of a populist American right-winger as president.

The point here is not to argue that Trump is actually bad for the Palestinians, at least in the sense that another American president might be better. It’s arguable that a Hillary Clinton presidency, or even a Bernie Sanders one and its undoubted sympathy for the Palestinians, would not really tilt events very much in the Palestinians’ direction. Palestine’s troubles run deep, and Palestinian leaders have a long history of squandering foreign sympathy. The point here is only to say that many Palestinians believe their cause has been dramatically set back by Trump’s rise.

And so Palestinians exploded over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, which suddenly and viscerally clarified the extent to which their long-established strategic truths offer exceedingly few good answers in this ever-changing world.

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West Bank Information Via The ‘CIA Fact Book’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

West Bank

Introduction The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000, as Israeli forces reoccupied most Palestinian-controlled areas. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement was postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides had not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT’s death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip. A November 2005 PA-Israeli agreement authorized the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt under joint PA and Egyptian control. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The international community refused to accept the HAMAS-led government because it did not recognize Israel, would not renounce violence, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the PA. HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. The PLC was unable to convene throughout most of 2006 as a result of Israel’s detention of many HAMAS PLC members and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions on other PLC members. Violent clashes took place between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007, resulting in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL in February 2007 signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG’s dismissal and has called for resuming talks with Fatah, but ABBAS has ruled out negotiations until HAMAS agrees to a return of PA control over the Gaza Strip and recognizes the FAYYAD-led government. FAYYAD and his PA government initiated a series of security and economic reforms to improve conditions in the West Bank. ABBAS participated in talks with Israel’s Prime Minister OLMERT and secured the release of some Palestinian prisoners and previously withheld customs revenue. During a November 2007 international meeting in Annapolis Maryland, ABBAS and OLMERT agreed to resume peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a final peace settlement.
History The territory now known as the West Bank was a part of the British Mandate of Palestine entrusted to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations after World War I. The terms of the Mandate called for the creation in Palestine of a Jewish national home without prejudicing the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish population of Palestine.

The current border of the West Bank was not a dividing line of any sort during the Mandate period, but rather the armistice line between the forces of the neighboring kingdom of Jordan and those of Israel at the close of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. When the United Nations General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and an internationally-administered enclave of Jerusalem, a more broad region of the modern-day West Bank was assigned to the Arab State. The West Bank was controlled by Iraqi and Jordanian forces at the end of the 1948 War and the area was annexed by Jordan in 1950 but this annexation was recognized only by the United Kingdom (Pakistan is often, but apparently falsely, assumed to have recognized it also). The idea of an independent Palestinian state was not on the table. King Abdullah of Jordan was crowned King of Jerusalem and granted Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem Jordanian citizenship.

During the 1950s, there was a significant influx of Palestinian refugees and violence together with Israeli reprisal raids across the Green Line.

In May 1967 Egypt ordered out U.N. peacekeeping troops and re-militarized the Sinai peninsula, and blockaded the straits of Tiran. Fearing an Egyptian attack, the government of Levi Eshkol attempted to restrict any confrontation to Egypt alone. In particular it did whatever it could to avoid fighting Jordan. However, “carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism”, on May 30, 1967 King Hussein flew to Egypt and signed a mutual defense treaty in which the two countries agreed to consider “any armed attack on either state or its forces as an attack on both”. Fearing an imminent Egyptian attack, on June 5, the Israel Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt which began what came to be known as the Six Day War.

Jordan soon began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Despite this, Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, “the die was cast”. On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted. Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Government House was captured, which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem. On June 6 Dayan encircled the city, but, fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, he ordered his troops not to go in. However, upon hearing that the U.N. was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city. After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on 7 June.

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. However, when intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river, Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank. Over the next two days, the IDF swiftly captured the rest of the West Bank and blew up the Abdullah and Hussein Bridges over the Jordan, thereby severing the West Bank from the East. According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem’s security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.

The Arab League’s Khartoum conference in September declared continuing belligerency, and stated the league’s principles of “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it”. In November 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 was unanimously adopted, calling for “the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” to be achieved by “the application of both the following principles:” “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (see semantic dispute) and: “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and respect for the right of every state in the area to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries. Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon entered into consultations with the UN Special representative over the implementation of 242. The text did not refer to the PLO or to any Palestinian representative because none was recognized at that time.

In 1988, Jordan ceded its claims to the West Bank to the Palestine Liberation Organization, as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Geography Location: Middle East, west of Jordan
Geographic coordinates: 32 00 N, 35 15 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 5,860 sq km
land: 5,640 sq km
water: 220 sq km
note: includes West Bank, Latrun Salient, and the northwest quarter of the Dead Sea, but excludes Mt. Scopus; East Jerusalem and Jerusalem No Man’s Land are also included only as a means of depicting the entire area occupied by Israel in 1967
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Delaware
Land boundaries: total: 404 km
border countries: Israel 307 km, Jordan 97 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate; temperature and precipitation vary with altitude, warm to hot summers, cool to mild winters
Terrain: mostly rugged dissected upland, some vegetation in west, but barren in east
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Dead Sea -408 m
highest point: Tall Asur 1,022 m
Natural resources: arable land
Land use: arable land: 16.9%
permanent crops: 18.97%
other: 64.13% (2001)
Irrigated land: 150 sq km; note – includes Gaza Strip (2003)
Natural hazards: droughts
Environment – current issues: adequacy of fresh water supply; sewage treatment
Geography – note: landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel’s coastal aquifers; there are about 340 Israeli civilian sites–including 100 small outpost communities in the West Bank and 29 sites in East Jerusalem (July 2008 est.)
People Population: 2,461,267
note: in addition, there are about 187,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and fewer than 177,000 in East Jerusalem (July 2009 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 37.3% (male 470,735/female 446,878)
15-64 years: 59.1% (male 744,822/female 708,695)
65 years and over: 3.7% (male 37,471/female 52,666) (2009 est.)
Median age: total: 20.5 years
male: 20.4 years
female: 20.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.178% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 25.95 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 3.7 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 1.04 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 15.96 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 17.87 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 13.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 74.54 years
male: 72.54 years
female: 76.65 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 3.22 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS – deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: NA
adjective: NA
Ethnic groups: Palestinian Arab and other 83%, Jewish 17%
Religions: Muslim 75% (predominantly Sunni), Jewish 17%, Christian and other 8%
Languages: Arabic, Hebrew (spoken by Israeli settlers and many Palestinians), English (widely understood)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 92.4%
male: 96.7%
female: 88% (2004 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: NA
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: West Bank
Religion The Muslim community makes up 75 percent of the population, while 17 percent of the population practice Judaism and the other 8 percent of the population consider themselves Christian.
Economy Economy – overview: The West Bank – the larger of the two areas comprising the Palestinian Authority (PA) – has experienced a general decline in economic conditions since the second intifada began in September 2000. The downturn has been largely a result of Israeli closure policies – the imposition of closures and access restrictions in response to security concerns in Israel – which disrupted labor and trading relationships. In 2001, and even more severely in 2002, Israeli military measures in PA areas resulted in the destruction of capital, the disruption of administrative structures, and widespread business closures. International aid of at least $1.14 billion to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2004 prevented the complete collapse of the economy and allowed some reforms in the government’s financial operations. In 2005, high unemployment and limited trade opportunities – due to continued closures both within the West Bank and externally – stymied growth. Israel’s and the international community’s financial embargo of the PA when HAMAS ran the PA during March 2006 – June 2007 interrupted the provision of PA social services and the payment of PA salaries. Since then the FAYYAD government in the West Bank has restarted salary payments and the provision of services but would be unable to operate absent high levels of international assistance.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $11.95 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $6.641 billion (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 0.8% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP): $2,900 (includes Gaza Strip) (2008 est.)
GDP – composition by sector: agriculture: 8%
industry: 13%
services: 79% (includes Gaza Strip) (2007 est.)
Labor force: 605,000 (2006)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture: 17%
industry: 15%
services: 68% (June 2008)
Unemployment rate: 16.3% (June 2008)
Population below poverty line: 46% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Budget: revenues: $1.149 billion
expenditures: $2.31 billion
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.5% (includes Gaza Strip) (2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 7.73% (31 December 2006)
Stock of money: $1.574 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money: $3.048 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit: $1.455 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.475 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture – products: olives, citrus, vegetables; beef, dairy products
Industries: cement, quarrying, textiles, soap, olive-wood carvings, and mother-of-pearl souvenirs; the Israelis have established some small-scale, modern industries in the settlements and industrial centers
Industrial production growth rate: 2.4% (includes Gaza Strip) (2005)
Electricity – production: NA kWh; note – most electricity imported from Israel; East Jerusalem Electric Company buys and distributes electricity to Palestinians in East Jerusalem and its concession in the West Bank; the Israel Electric Company directly supplies electricity to most Jewish residents and military facilities; some Palestinian municipalities, such as Nablus and Janin, generate their own electricity from small power plants
Electricity – consumption: NA kWh
Electricity – imports: NA kWh
Electricity – production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Exports: $339 million f.o.b.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Exports – commodities: olives, fruit, vegetables, limestone
Imports: $1.3 billion c.i.f.; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006)
Imports – commodities: food, consumer goods, construction materials
Economic aid – recipient: $1.4 billion; (includes Gaza Strip) (2006 est.)
Debt – external:
Currency (code): new Israeli shekel (ILS); Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Currency code: ILS; JOD
Exchange rates: new Israeli shekels (ILS) per US dollar – 3.56 (2008 est.), 4.14 (2007), 4.4565 (2006), 4.4877 (2005), 4.482 (2004)
Communications Telephones – main lines in use: 350,400 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 1.026 million (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Telephone system: general assessment: NA
domestic: Israeli company BEZEK and the Palestinian company PALTEL are responsible for fixed line services; the Palestinian JAWAL company provides cellular services
international: country code – 970 (2004)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 0, FM 25, shortwave 0 (2008)
Radios: NA; note – most Palestinian households have radios (1999)
Television broadcast stations: 30 (2008)
Televisions: NA; note – many Palestinian households have televisions (1999)
Internet country code: .ps; note – same as Gaza Strip
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 8 (1999)
Internet users: 355,500 (includes Gaza Strip) (2007)
Transportation Airports: 3 (2007)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 5,147 km
paved: 5,147 km
note: includes Gaza Strip (2006)
Military Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 545,653
females age 16-49: 515,102 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 30,233
female: 28,745 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures: NA
Transnational Issues Disputes – international: West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation; Israel continues construction of a “seam line” separation barrier along parts of the Green Line and within the West Bank; Israel withdrew from four settlements in the northern West Bank in August 2005; since 1948, about 350 peacekeepers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), headquartered in Jerusalem, monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating, and assist other UN personnel in the region
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 722,000 (Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)) (2007)

Palestinian President Abbas Shows The World Again That He Is A Hate Filled Ass

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian National Council at his headquarters in Ramallah on Apr. 30, 2018
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian National Council at his headquarters in Ramallah on Apr. 30, 2018
Majdi Mohammed—AP

By IAN DEITCH / AP

May 2, 2018

(JERUSALEM) — Remarks by the Palestinian president about the causes of 20th century anti-Semitism in Europe were sharply condemned as anti-Semitic and drew widespread condemnations from Israel and around the world on Wednesday.

In rambling remarks that were part of a lengthy speech to the Palestine Liberation Organization parliament on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the Jews’ “social function,” including money lending, that caused animosity toward them in Europe. He also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying “history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland.”

The comments drew criticism that Abbas perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes and ignored the deep Jewish historical connections to the Holy Land.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial said in a statement that Abbas’ speech was “replete with antisemitic tropes and distortions of historical facts” and accused the Palestinian president of “blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder.”

The U.N.’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said in a statement that “leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it.”

“Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality,” he said.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel lashed out at Abbas over his remarks.

“Abu Mazen has reached a new low,” Ambassador David Friedman tweeted, referring to Abbas by his nickname. “To all those who think Israel is the reason that we don’t have peace, think again.”

The rhetoric reflects the escalating tensions between the Palestinians and the Trump administration. Ties have been strained since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, prompting the Palestinians to suspend contacts with the administration.

Friedman and Abbas have sparred before. In March, Abbas called Friedman a “son of a dog” in an angry rant.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Abbas’ remarks were “the pinnacle of ignorance” and that the Palestinian leader was “again reciting the most disgraceful anti-Semitic slogans.”

The European Union said in a statement that the Palestinian president’s speech “contained unacceptable remarks concerning the origins of the Holocaust and Israel’s legitimacy.”

Abbas’ office declined to comment.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council demanding condemnation of Abbas’ remarks and accusing the Palestinian president of trying to rewrite history with conspiracy theories.

Israel said to consider sending direct aid to deteriorating Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said to consider sending direct aid to deteriorating Gaza

In new security assessment, security officials assert Hamas not interested in conflict with Israel, but warn that economic collapse would make such a scenario inevitable

Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Israeli security officials are weighing sending food and medicine to the Gaza Strip for the first time, in an effort to prevent the deteriorating conditions from spiraling into violence, Hadashot news reported Saturday.

In a security assessment handed recently to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the defense establishment reiterated its belief that the Hamas terror group currently ruling Gaza is not interested in another conflict with Israel. However, an economic collapse would make such a scenario inevitable.

Until now, Israel has not directly sent humanitarian aid to Gaza but has helped facilitate the transfer of goods provided by the United Nations and others into the strip.

At the beginning of January the cabinet tasked the national security advisor with drawing up a plan for dealing with the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and asked him to report back within three weeks. However, no plan has yet been filed, Hadashot said.

Responding to the Saturday report, a diplomatic official told Hadashot news that “the situation in the Gaza Strip is a result of the tension between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which does not transfer money.”

Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (SAID KHATIB/AFP)

“Israel has taken steps to ensure that this tension will have as little impact as possible on the humanitarian situation,” the official added.

A similar warning was made earlier this week by UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov, who said the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “full collapse.”

He argued that a key to saving Gaza from disaster was restoring the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to power there, a decade after it was forced out Hamas.

Repeated reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah — the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority — have failed to reach an agreement that would return control of Gaza to the PA, most recently because Hamas refused to surrender its considerable arsenal of weapons and military infrastructure.

Earlier this month, the White House froze around $100 million in contributions to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after the Palestinians announced they would no longer accept the US as a mediator in peace talks with Israel. The Palestinians were angered after US President Donald Trump on December 6 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Mladenov said he would raise those concerns at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting, which met last Wednesday in Brussels to coordinate international donor support for the Palestinians.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for over a decade, which it says is necessary to prevent the Hamas terror group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, from smuggling in weapons and material used for digging tunnels into Israel. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars, which have severely harmed Gaza’s infrastructure, and reconstruction efforts have been slow.

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Israel’s leaders atypically quiet after Abbas asserts their state is invalid

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

WHILE US JEWISH GROUPS INCLUDING J STREET FUME, ISRAEL MUM

Israel’s leaders atypically quiet after Abbas asserts their state is invalid

Evidently disinclined to rub salt into wounds after Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital, ministers largely disregard speech in which PA head intimated Jews falsify faith, history

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks as he holds a press conference following the Extraordinary Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Instanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017, in Istanbul. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks as he holds a press conference following the Extraordinary Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Instanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017, in Istanbul. (Yasin Akgul/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this week threatened to cancel his agreements with Israel, appeared to accuse Israel and/or Jews of falsifying history and religion, and asserted that Israel does not meet the criteria for statehood and thus that the international community should reconsider its recognition of Israel.

But while American Jewish groups — including, most unusually, J Street — issued highly critical responses to the PA chief’s address in Istanbul, Israel’s leaders and officials were markedly subdued in their response, apparently preferring not to kick a man when he’s down. Having pocketed the long-coveted American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Jewish state’s leaders may have decided, for a few days at least, not to pour additional salt on Abbas’s wounds.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a relatively mild response to Abbas’s ferocious speech Wednesday at the Organization for Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s “Extraordinary Islamic Summit,” but his office chose not to directly address some of Abbas’s most incendiary rhetoric, and numerous other Israeli leaders, contacted by The Times of Israel, also chose not to comment. A rare exception was Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who in a written response, castigated Abbas for what she called his “path of lies” and for denying “the Jewish people’s connection to its land.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a peace conference in Washington, D.C. on September 2, 2010. (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet at a peace conference in Washington, DC, on September 2, 2010. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

The relative quiet in Jerusalem may also reflect the Trump administration’s repeatedly declared insistence — since the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6 — that it remains committed to brokering a landmark Israeli-Palestinian agreement, with Jerusalem careful not to make statements that might be regarded in Washington as further complicating that ambition. Sensitivities are particularly acute, furthermore, ahead of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Israel next week, during which he is not now expected to visit the Palestinian territories, having been rebuffed by Abbas.

In the past, by contrast, Netanyahu has frequently issued damning criticism of Abbas’s speeches, including accusing the PA president of refusing to accept Israel in any borders, peddling lies and libels, and proving that he is no partner for peace.

Donald Trump waving to reporters, as Vice President Mike Pence looks on, after announcing that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, Dec. 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

In his hour-long address in Istanbul, at an emergency summit of Islamic and Arab nations convened in the wake of Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, Abbas denounced the US administration, threatened to abrogate all peace agreements since Oslo, and vowed to seek full membership for the “State of Palestine” at the United Nations. While he has issued similar threats in the past, however, he also made fresh inflammatory accusations.

Notably, for instance, he declared that “there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them,” in a comment that appeared to refer to Israel and/or Jews.

That section of his speech, translated by The Times of Israel, went as follows: “At this occasion, I don’t want to discuss history or religion, because there is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them. But if we read the Torah, it says that the Canaanites lived here before Abraham and haven’t left since that time. It hasn’t been interrupted. That’s in the Torah. If they want to fabricate, ‘to distort the words from their [proper] usages,’ as God said. I don’t want to get into religion.”

The phrase “to distort the words from their [proper] usages” is an expression directly quoted from the Quran, widely interpreted to refer to the Jews.

In another passage of his address, as translated by the Washington Free Beacon, Abbas argued that Israel does not fulfill the criteria of statehood, and urged the nations of the world to rethink their recognition of the State of Israel.

“International law says that the state must meet three conditions: authority [i.e., government], population and borders. But the third condition is not available in Israel, and I challenge it to say where its borders are. This leads us to [the conclusion] that recognizing it is invalid,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on December 13, 2017. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

The Palestinian president was likely referring to the declarative theory of statehood, which postulates that an entity needs to fulfill certain objective criteria before it can be considered a state. According to the first article of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which has traditionally been recognized as the benchmark to determine what constitutes a state under international law, a state needs to possess the following qualifications: a permanent population; a defined territory; government, and capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Israel has no defined borders, hence no defined territory, and therefore cannot be considered a state, Abbas seemed to be arguing.

“I wonder,” he went on, “how can world nations remain silent to these violations of international law, and how can they continue to recognize Israel and deal with it while it mocks everyone, and continues to violate the agreements signed with it, and persists in its repressive and colonialist practices, and the creation of an apartheid, and the desecration of our peoples and our Christian and Islamic sacred [places]?”

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa published its own text of Abbas’s speech in Arabic, and excerpts in English.

Netanyahu responded to Abbas’s speech in general terms on Wednesday.

“The Palestinians would do well to recognize reality and work toward peace, not extremism, and acknowledge an additional fact regarding Jerusalem: Not only is it the capital of Israel but in Jerusalem we uphold freedom of worship for all faiths and it is we who are making this promise in the Middle East even though no one else does and despite frequent severe failures in this regard,” Netanyahu said at an event for outstanding Mossad personnel in the President’s Residence. “Therefore all these statements fail to impress us. The truth will win in the end and many countries will certainly recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and also move their embassies.”

Queried on some of the specific passages of Abbas’s speech, however, the Prime Minister’s Office had no further comment. Likewise, the Foreign Ministry merely responded to queries by referring to Netanyahu’s comments. (Netanyahu serves as his own foreign minister.)

The Times of Israel contacted numerous politicians — including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Defense Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren, and opposition leaders Avi Gabbay and Yair Lapid — but they either refused to comment or did not reply.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in Washington, November 2017. (Shmulik Almany/MFA)

Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely responded in writing: “Abu Mazen [Abbas] insists to continue on the path of lies and to deny the Jewish people’s connection to its land. When the Hasmoneans returned to the Kingdom of Israel [around the year 110 BCE] no one disputed the Jewish people’s historic connection to the Land of Israel. Every stone in Jerusalem testifies to the thousand-year-old connection between the Jews and their land,” she told The Times of Israel.

“The Palestinian leadership does not work for the benefit of the Palestinians, but rather only deals with negating Israel’s right to exist,” she went on. “This way, they will continue to watch from the sidelines as Israel flourishes and thrives, while they are losing the world’s sympathy.”

Asked by The Times of Israel to respond to the passage of the speech in which Abbas appeared to accuse Jews and/or Israelis of fabricating history and religion, the PA president’s adviser on religious affairs, Mahmoud al-Habash, said Friday: “What he means is something in our faith. In the Quran. We don’t blame the Jews as Jews. We don’t consider ourselves in conflict with Judaism. You have to take the speech as a whole. From the beginning to the end. Don’t try to pick and choose some statements here and words there, trying to form something about the president.”

Mahmoud al-Habash (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

“Abbas is not anti-Semitic,” Habash went on. “We are Arabs. We consider ourselves to be part of the Semitic people. We don’t want to enter the religious area in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is exactly what Abu Mazen means. We don’t fight against Judaism. We don’t fight against Jews. We are fighting against the occupation. This is our position. This is the position of President Abbas.”

Queried on who Abbas meant by “them” in the quote, “There is no one better at falsifying history or religion than them,” Habash said: “The occupiers. Any colonial occupation can do anything to convince the people, to convince the world, that he’s right, including, as you mentioned, distorting religion. This is not just for the Jews or some faiths here or there. Anybody who uses religion in the political conflict could be included in what Abu Mazen said. Anyone who uses religion for bad means in a political conflict, as Abu Mazen quoted the Quran saying, they ‘distort the words from their [proper] usages.’ It means don’t try to take the religion to bad areas in your political or personal conflict between each other. Religion belongs to God.”

Pressed on the widespread interpretation that this Quranic verse refers to Jews, or as it says “Beni Israel,” Habash said: “‘Beni Israel’ is not the Jews. The Jews are not all part of the Beni Israel. Beni Israel means the children of Yaaqub. But there are many Jews that are not part of the Children of Yaaqub. There are many Arab Jews on the Arabian Peninsula in the era of the Prophet Mohammad. I have many examples of Jews not from the Beni Israel. I advise all people, Jews and non-Jews, don’t try to use religion in this conflict with the Palestinians.

“Abu Mazen said in this speech, I don’t want to debate with them religion or history. It’s not a conflict about religious or historic narratives. The conflict focuses on the political issue. When you end your occupation of Palestinian land, everything will be ended. You will not find us in conflict with you.”

Habash said he was “sure that many of the Israeli leaders will try to take to the statements to another area and to find some words in the speech and change the meaning of the words. Don’t try. We are focusing on specific points: the occupation and our national rights.”

Regarding Abbas’s call to countries to review their recognition of the state of Israel, Habash said: “You know why Abu Mazen said this: because Israel until now doesn’t have specific borders. Any state, if you want to recognize a state, you have to recognize it within its borders. Where is the borders of Israel? Could Netanyahu himself draw the borders of Israel? If I want to recognize Israel, where are the borders to recognize? This is what Abu Mazen means. If any state wants to recognize Israel, okay, but you can recognize it in specific, well-known borders. But where are its borders? This is the question. This is not new. It’s not new.”

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