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.”

READ MORE:

Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Israel airstrikes, Gaza rockets amid tensions over Jerusalem

Clashes erupt in Jerusalem

Jerusalem (CNN) Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as tensions soared in the region after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza — early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.
The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF news release.
The two Palestinians killed were a 27-year-old man and a 30-year-old man, Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told CNN.
The IDF said Israeli aircraft had also struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse in Gaza late on Friday.
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One of the rockets fired from Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Sderot, according to the IDF. There was no mention of casualties.

Palestinians on Saturday look at the damage from an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were also killed Friday in Gaza in clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces over Trump’s controversial move. Thirty-year-old Mohammad Masry was killed when fired on by Israeli forces and 54-year-old Maher Atallah died of injuries sustained in the clashes earlier that day, al-Qadra said.

A relative of Mohammad Masry, who was killed Friday in clashes with Israeli troops, mourns during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Saturday.

Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Sporadic clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on a busy shopping street in the eastern part of Jerusalem and in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli security forces responded with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets as small groups of protesters threw rocks.
Seven people were arrested during the clashes on Salah el-Din Street in Jerusalem, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 12 injured after police dispersed the demonstrators there.
Meanwhile, crowds of mourners gathered in Gaza for the funerals of the four men killed there.

Relatives of 30-year-old Mohammad Masry mourn over his body during his funeral in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza on Friday. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.
More than 300 people were injured across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem on Friday, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said.
At least 49 people were also injured Thursday during protests over Trump’s decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

US envoy to UN defends Trump move

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.
She also said the US has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be “signed on the White House lawn.”
“The United States is not predetermining final status issues,” Haley said.
“We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”
Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley’s comments, including France and Egypt.

Egypt’s Coptic Church won’t meet Pence

Egypt’s Coptic Church on Saturday issued a statement “excusing” itself from receiving US Vice President Mike Pence during an upcoming visit to the region, state-run Al-Ahram reported, citing a church statement.
“In consideration of the decision that the US administration took regarding Jerusalem, which was inappropriately timed and took no consideration of the feeling of millions of Arab people, the Egyptian Orthodox Coptic Church excuses itself from this meeting,” Al-Ahram cited the statement as saying.
A day earlier, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt on whether he would receive Pence during his planned visit in mid-December.
Speaking to broadcaster Al Jazeera, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “Jerusalem is more important than Mike Pence — we will not abandon Jerusalem just to receive Mike Pence.”
Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year.”
He also said that Trump’s decision did not “indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” adding that the “final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide.”
This story has been updated to correct a Palestinian Health Ministry report that originally stated one person was killed in an airstrike Friday. The report was later updated to say that the person died from injuries suffered in clashes, not an airstrike.

Palestinian Official: U.S. Threat to Close Washington Office Is ‘Extortion’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Oct. 30, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Oct. 30, 2017
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration has put the Palestinians on notice that it will shutter their office in Washington unless they’ve entered serious peace talks with Israel, U.S. officials said, potentially giving President Donald Trump more leverage as he seeks an elusive Mideast peace deal.

The Palestinian foreign minister denounced the U.S. move as an attempt at “extortion.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined that the Palestinians ran afoul of an obscure provision in a U.S. law that says the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission must close if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israelis for crimes against Palestinians. A State Department official said that in September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crossed that line by calling on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis.

But the law leaves Trump a way out, so Tillerson’s declaration doesn’t necessarily mean the office will close.

Trump now has 90 days to consider whether the Palestinians are in “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” If Trump determines they are, the Palestinians can keep the office. The official said it was unclear whether the U.S. might close the office before the 90-day period expires, but said the mission remains open at least for now.

Even if the office closes, the U.S. said it wasn’t cutting off relations with the Palestinians and was still focused on “a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The State Department official said in an email that “this measure should in no way be seen as a signal that the U.S. is backing off those efforts.” The official wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the developments and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riad Malki, told Palestine Radio that the Palestinian leadership “will not accept any extortion or pressure.” Malki said the Palestinians were waiting for further communication from the U.S. government. “The ball is now in the American court,” he said.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Although the Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in active, direct negotiations, Trump’s administration has been working all year to broker a peace deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Led by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a senior aide, White House officials have been preparing a peace proposal they intend to put forward at an unspecified time.

The Palestinians, though publicly supportive of the U.S. effort, have been skeptical because Trump’s close ties to Israel suggest whatever deal he proposes might be unfavorable to them. The threat of losing their office in the U.S. capital could become another pressure point as the Trump administration seeks to persuade the Palestinians to come to the table.

The PLO is the group that formally represents all Palestinians. Although the U.S. does not recognize Palestinian statehood, the PLO maintains a “general delegation” office in Washington that facilitates Palestinian officials’ interactions with the U.S. government.

The United States allowed the PLO to open a mission in Washington in 1994, a move that required then-President Bill Clinton to waive a law that said the Palestinians couldn’t have an office. In 2011, under the Obama administration, the United States started letting the Palestinians fly their flag over the office, an upgrade to the status of their mission that the Palestinians hailed as historic.

Israel opposes any Palestinian membership in United Nations-related organizations until a peace deal has been reached.

The Trump administration has not revealed any details about its effort to bring about a peace deal that would ostensibly grant the Palestinians an independent state in exchange for an end to its conflict with the Israelis. But Kushner and other top Trump aides have been shuttling to the region to meet with Palestinians, Israelis, and officials from neighboring Arab nations as it prepares to put forward a peace plan.

The requirement that the PLO office be closed if the Palestinians back an International Criminal Court move came in a little-noticed provision in U.S. law that says the United States can’t allow the Palestinians to have a Washington office if they try to “influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorized investigation, or to actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”

Abbas, the Palestinian leader, said in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September that the Palestinians had “called on the International Criminal Court to open an investigation and to prosecute Israeli officials for their involvement in settlement activities and aggression against our people.”

The U.S. law says that if the government determines the Palestinians have breached that requirement, it triggers a 90-day review period in which the president must decide whether to let the office stay open anyway. The president is allowed to waive the requirement only if he certifies to Congress “that the Palestinians have entered into direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

The provision doesn’t explicitly define what would constitute direct or meaningful negotiations.

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Yehya al-Sinwar: New Hamas Face with Different Rhetoric

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Yehya al-Sinwar: New Hamas Face with Different Rhetoric

Monday, 23 October, 2017 – 09:00
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yehya al-Sinwar. (Getty Images)
Ramallah – Kifah Ziboun

Yehya al-Sinwar, the head of the Palestinian Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, has adopted a political rhetoric that advocates reconciliation. This is a language that the Palestinian public is not used to hearing from Hamas leaderships. Many have started to look to him as the leader who will change the movement’s image.

Despite the hierarchical structure of Hamas and several members occupying higher posts than him, Sinwar’s charisma, manner in which he carries out his work and surprising statements have garnered him local, Israeli and regional attention.

It can be said that his reputation preceded him before he was released from Gaza prison and assumed the command of the Hamas movement in the coastal strip. Hamas has gone so far as to assure its followers that his election as Gaza chief will not alter the movement’s policy.

It wanted to assure that the military man, who is few on words and who Israel labels the “sheikh of murderers,” will not drag the movement into new rounds of internal and external violence.

Eventually however, it became clear that Sinwar is leading Hamas in another direction – one of regional and internal reconciliation – by adopting a balanced approach and rhetoric.

Prior to assuming his current post, he had voiced his regret over the years of Palestinian division, adding that he was willing to cater to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ concerns. He even told some Gaza youths that he will “break the neck of anyone who obstructs the reconciliation.” He also added that he was ready to meet the demands of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and that he was ready to “run after” Fatah in pursuit of reconciliation.

Before this, Hamas had often adopted an occasionally arrogant approach. It made accusations and threats that did not serve reconciliation efforts.

Political activist Salim al-Hindi, who had met Sinwar, said that he has a lot of charisma.

“He is very honest and persuasive. He answers all questions and does not leave room for doubt,” he continued.

Many look at him as the leader who will help Gaza out of its crisis, he added.

Sinwar, who previously shied away from media appearances, has in a short period of time met two youth groups.

Yasmine Abou Harb was present at one of those meets. She described him as being “more flexible than another Hamas leader.”

“He led the movement towards reconciliation with Fatah and to restoring its ties with different countries,” she noted.

Saleh Hmeid agreed with her, adding that Sinwar’s stances demonstrate that he has a real national vision and that he prefers reconciliation to division.

The public was surprised when Sinwar said that he wants Abbas to become a strong president. He also called on women to become involved in political life.

This stands in stark contrast with the image painted by Israel of a man with a bloody and violent past. It had warned against Sinwar assuming Hamas’ leadership once he was freed from prison.

Israel had indeed succeeded in raising these concerns. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that it would only be a matter of time before a new confrontation erupts between Israel and Hamas due to Sinwar’s approach.

These concerns were heightened with Sinwar being listed as a terrorist by the United States.

Whether or not Israel had exaggerated in its bloody depiction of Sinwar, it appears that he would not hesitate to resort to violence in the name of the nation. There are records of him killing four Israeli collaborators.

As his star continues to rise, observers insist that Sinwar is part of the change and not the actual change itself.

Political analyst Mustafa Ibrahim said: “He has major influence within Hamas, but he is not leading a complete change in its policy.”

“He is influential and has contributed to the movement taking decisions since the reconciliation was signed …. but these moves are not isolated from Hamas’ work as a whole, which is structured and based on a Shura Council,” he added.

“One person alone cannot change the movement’s course,” he stressed.

Several Scenarios for Safe Transition of Palestinian Presidency after Abbas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWSPAPER ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Several Scenarios for Safe Transition of Palestinian Presidency after Abbas

Palestine

Ramallah- Hamas movement has ignited the battle over the early succession of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by announcing that the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council would assume his position if Abbas could not carry out his duties.

“The Palestinian basic law stipulates that if the president’s health deteriorates, if he dies or can not carry out his job, then the president of the Legislative Council (parliament) should assume his position for 60 days in preparation for holding elections,” said Ahmad Bahar, a leader in the Islamic Movement that governs Gaza Strip.

Bahar recalled a similar incident in 2004, when former President Yasser Arafat passed away and was replaced by Speaker of the Parliament – back then Rouhi Fattouh. He stressed that the National Council has nothing to do with this matter.

Bahar’s statements came amid rising fears of a vacuum in the Palestinian political system after Abbas, especially following a slight setback in his health that demanded him to do some medical tests in Ramallah.

While Hamas says that Speaker of the Legislative Council Aziz Duwaik, pro-Hamas, will succeed Abbas, Fatah is preparing for a totally different plan and is discussing different scenarios, but it will first elect a new executive committee for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The National Council will convene a meeting at any time before the end of the year to elect a new Executive Committee for the PLO. Fatah officials say the election of a new committee comes within the framework of renewing Palestinian legitimacy. Yet, observers say that it also paves the way for a safe and smooth transition of power.

They are not only Palestinian concerns but also Arab as well as Israeli. The Israeli security services have put forward several post-Abbas scenarios.

It is believed that Fatah movement will elect one of its members in the Central Committee for membership of the Executive Committee of the PLO, and this will be, according to the Fathawi Khales’s concept, the closest person nominated to succeed Abbas.

Notably, there is still no vice president for Abbas since the basic constitution of the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not include the position of vice president, but there is a deputy to the president of Fatah movement, who is Mahmoud al-Aloul, the former governor of Nablus.

The other scenario might lead to reconciliation with Hamas and carrying out new public elections.

With this legal dispute and with the absence of a vice president, fears of a vacuum in the Palestinian political system are growing.

These concerns are not only limited to Palestinians but also to Arabs and Israelis as the Israeli security services put several scenarios for the post-Abbas era.

Terrorist President Abbas Calls For ‘Day Of Rage’ Over Israel Security Measures At Temple Mount

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Protesters rioted in East Jerusalem neighborhoods overnight Tuesday against new security measures at the Temple Mount, throwing stones and petrol bombs at police and shooting fireworks at Israeli forces. At least 50 Palestinians and one officer were reported hurt.

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The disturbances come after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Monday called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday in protest against the new measures, including metal detectors installed following a terror attack in which three Arab-Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers at the Temple Mount on Friday.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevi said the city was tense but quiet on Tuesday morning after what he described as a difficult night of protests, with youths throwing stones at officers and setting dumpsters on fire.

Halevi said that many of those who took part in the rioting were encouraged to do so by the provocative statements that came from the Palestinian leadership.

He said despite the protests Israel would not back down on the new security measures.

“We are determined to create [a situation of] security after the killing of two police officers,” Halevi said. “While the families are still sitting and mourning, we can’t let this just pass.”

The placement of the metal detectors at the Temple Mount has also been met with outrage by the Waqf, the Muslim religious authority charged with managing the Temple Mount. Muslims have held prayers outside the metal detectors to protest their placement at the gates.

Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion's Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 16, 2017, after security forces reopened the ultra-sensitive site, whose closure after a deadly attack earlier in the week sparked anger. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)

Israeli border policemen install metal detectors outside the Lion’s Gate, a main entrance to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 16, 2017, after security forces reopened the ultra-sensitive site, whose closure after a deadly attack earlier in the week sparked anger. (AFP/ AHMAD GHARABLI)

During the night there was rioting at two focus points in and around the capital, police said in a statement.

In Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighborhood just outside the Old City of Jerusalem, rioters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and targeted them with fireworks.

A police officer was taken to the hospital in after being hit in the leg with a rock. His condition was described as good. A police squad car was damaged in the clashes, the statement said. Cops arrested one suspect who was holding a knife.

Police used riot dispersal methods to counter the protesters during which police “identified a hit” on one of the rioters, the statement said. Police did not say what the incident involved but noted that they later received a report that the suspect made his own way to Al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

In Issawiya, another East Jerusalem neighborhood, youths threw Molotov cocktails and shot firecrackers at police. Two suspects were arrested. In addition, another four suspects from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Wadi Goz and Sur Baher were detained for taking part in the rioting during the night.

Earlier Monday there were clashes at the Lions Gate to the Old City, the scene of the shooting and knife attack during carried out by three Arab Israelis. After shooting officers Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, who died of their injuries, the attackers retreated into the Temple Mount compound where they were shot dead by pursuing police.

The Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said in a statement Tuesday that 50 were injured during the confrontations at Lions Gate and in other clashes during the night.

Of those injured 15 were transferred to the Makassed Hospital and 35 were treated by paramedics on the ground. Sixteen people were injured by rubber-coated bullets, nine by stun grenades and 25 had injuries caused by beatings from police, the statement said.

Four members of the Red Crescent were also injured while treating other people, the organization said.

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Following Friday’s terror attack Israel closed the Temple Mount compound for the first time in decades, only reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.

As part of the security measures taken in the wake of the shooting to prevent further such attacks, police installed metal detectors at the entrance to the site, which Halevi said were necessary for it to reopen. Friday’s gunmen, residents of the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, had emerged armed from the compound and opened fire on the police officers stationed outside.

Fatah on Monday called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead. The decision was made following a meeting between Fatah Revolutionary Council secretary Adnan Ghaith, Fatah central committee member Jamal Muheisin, and Fatah representatives from the northern West Bank.

The group said the measures were called in order to denounce Israeli “terrorist procedures” in the Old City, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.

The officials called for maintaining the delicate status quo at the Temple Mount, denouncing a “fierce and organized attack” by Israel against East Jerusalemites.

Along with other Islamic groups, the Waqf trust, which administers the site, on Monday called on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.”

In its statement, the Waqf called on the faithful not to enter the mosque by passing through the metal detectors, adding, “If the metal detectors continue to be imposed, we call upon the people to pray in front of the gates of the mosque and in the streets of Jerusalem.”

Jews revere the site, where the two Jewish temples stood in biblical times, as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the nearby Western Wall, a retaining wall of one of the temples, is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Muslims regard the same hilltop compound as the Noble Sanctuary. Home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. It is Islam’s third-holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

A picture taken on July 17, 2017, shows the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/ Thomas Coex)

The fate of the compound is an emotional issue and forms the centerpiece of rival Israeli and Palestinian national narratives. Any perceived changes to the delicate arrangements at the site can spark tensions. Its closure after Friday’s attack prompted condemnations from the Arab world, many of which made no reference to the terror attack that prompted the closure.

Dov Lieber and AP contributed to this report.