Palestinian Central Council To Meet In Mid May To Tackle ‘Deal Of The Century’

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

 

Palestinian Central Council Meeting to Tackle ‘Deal of the Century’

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019 – 09:45
A Palestinian boy is evacuated after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
The President of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Salim Zanoun, said that he has started contacting members of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) to convene mid next month, upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This meeting holds significance as it precedes the announcement of the anticipated Deal of the Century.

Jamal Moheisen, a member of the Fatah central committee, said in statements to the official Voice of Palestine radio that the central council will be held in difficult circumstances.

“The Palestinian issue is exposed to strategic risks that require everyone to stand up to their responsibilities and raise the requirements of the stage in order to address this project, which threatens the future of our Palestinian issue,” Moheisen added.

The PCC is supposed to tackle previous decisions that haven’t been implemented including decisions to cancel deals and sever ties with Israel.

A PCC member, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the members will push towards clear decisions and not recommendations that fail to be implemented. He added that the PCC decisions are binding but they are not being applied for known reasons – and this will be discussed in the meeting.

“The agenda of the next session of the central council will discuss a number of important issues related to how to crystallize an Arab Islamic and international position to support the abortion of the so-called Deal of the Century,” said Wasel Abu Yusuf, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO.

He added that the central council will discuss the relations with Israel, “especially under the US and Israeli plans to legitimize the settlement blocs in the West Bank and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

Fatah official spokesman Usama al-Qawasimi stated that facing the deal of “shame”, achieving national unity and ending division require tangible acts, not statements. Qawasimi described the situation as extremely dangerous.

Israel: The People Have Spoken. They Want To Live In Netanyahu’s Israel

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel

Israelis were not under-informed or unfairly swayed. They knew what they’d get with a 5th term of Netanyahu. The result was the highest vote ever for right & ultra-Orthodox parties

David Horovitz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at a victory event after polls for general elections closed in Tel Aviv,, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The people have spoken. And a week after the elections, with the president now in the midst of consultations with our newly elected politicians ahead of the formation of our next government, it’s worth taking a closer look at what the people actually said.

They knew that Benjamin Netanyahu was facing criminal charges in three cases, unless he could persuade the attorney general of his innocence. They knew that he had castigated the opposition, the media, the cops and the state prosecutors for purportedly seeking to frame him as part of a political vendetta to oust him. They knew that, if re elected, he might try to use existing or new legislation to avoid being prosecuted, and would likely seek to stay on as prime minister even if he were to be prosecuted. And that, if reelected, he would make the case that the public had given him a mandate to offset the state prosecutors’ recommendations that he be put on trial.

They knew. And 26.45% of the voting Israeli public chose Likud — a vast number, by Israeli standards, 1,139,079 out of the 4,306,520 legitimate ballots cast nationwide.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They knew that they had a clear alternative to four more years of a Netanyahu-led Israel, embodied in a party led by three former IDF chiefs of staff — an unprecedented assemblage of security expertise, in a country where security concerns always figure at the very top of voting considerations. They saw Netanyahu portray that party, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White, as a group of weak leftists. Even though it included Netanyahu’s own former Likud defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, whose public positions are more hawkish than those of Netanyahu, and even though Netanyahu in 2013 extended Gantz’s term as IDF chief by an additional year in the most overt illustration possible of the confidence he then had in Gantz’s security leadership capabilities.

Members of the Blue White political party Benny Gantz (second left), Moshe Yaalon (right), Gabi Ashkenazi (left) and Yair Lapid hold a press conference at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on April 10, 2019, a day after the elections. (Flash90)

They watched Netanyahu’s Likud depict Gantz as mentally unstable. They watched Netanyahu attempt to make political capital out of a bizarre saga involving the reported Iranian hacking of Gantz’s phone — a saga in which Gantz and his colleagues did not provide a clear-cut explanation of what had gone on. They watched Gantz veer between an attempted statesmanlike, high-ground approach to beating Netanyahu and a lower-ground trading of insults and accusations.

They watched Netanyahu broker a deal that legitimized the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party as part of a new Union of Right-Wing Parties that would partner Netanyahu in any new Likud-led coalition. They watched URWP’s Bezalel Smotrich declare he’d set his heart on becoming minister of education. They watched the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked vow to curb the power of the Supreme Court if she continued as justice minister.

They watched. And they made their choice. Very few voters from the right of the political spectrum threw their support behind Gantz and the other generals. While Blue and White also topped the million-vote count — 1,124,805 — much of its support came from the center and the now decimated Labor, and that wasn’t enough to thwart Netanyahu’s fifth election victory.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

They recognized other likely and possible implications of another Netanyahu victory. He’d vowed in the final days of the campaign to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements — a move that, if realized, would have major consequences for what was once called the peace process. It was clear his most reliable coalition partners would be the two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism — on whose behalf he reluctantly froze the Western Wall compromise deal, and whose key agenda items include making Israel more Shabbat-observant and minimizing the number of young ultra-Orthodox males required to share the rights and responsibilities of military and national service.

Self-evidently, enough Israeli voters either share this agenda or are not deterred by it. Enough to hand Netanyahu another term.

The people have spoken.

Residents of the Gaza envelope communities of southern Israel have for years complained about Netanyahu’s policies in dealing with Hamas. They have protested that the government has turned them into rocket fodder. Sderot, the most rocket-battered city of all, voted 43.52% for Netanyahu’s Likud. (The next most popular party was Yisrael Beytenu at 10.14%.) To the east of Gaza, Netivot voted 32.46% Likud (second only to 33.35% Shas.) Ashkelon, to the north, voted 42.61% Likud (followed by Blue and White at 15.62%). By contrast, kibbutzim and moshavim in the Gaza periphery area generally voted overwhelmingly for Blue and White.

The people have spoken.

Early on election day, reports started circulating about Likud-paid activists bringing hidden cameras into polling stations in Arab areas. Some of those involved have since acknowledged that they were indeed acting on behalf of Likud; a PR agency has claimed responsibility, saying it was hired by Likud; the Likud party’s lawyer, on the day, claimed the operation was open and legal, and necessary to ensure the “integrity” of the vote in districts ostensibly prone to voter fraud; Netanyahu himself championed the use of public cameras for the same purpose. (Needless to say, the Central Elections Committee has its own, nonpartisan procedures for preventing election fraud.) In fact, ruled the judge overseeing the elections, the deployment of the cameras was illicit; the equipment was ordered removed.

Israel’s voters watched and read about all these developments in real time.

Some analysts have suggested that the camera gambit depressed Arab turnout — it’s not comfortable showing up to do your democratic duty, as members of a minority that was traduced by the prime minister on the previous election day, when you hear on the news that you’re going to be filmed in the process by his supporters. Arab turnout does appear to have been down last week (an estimated 52%) as compared to 2015 (an estimated 63.7%). And while the Joint (Arab) List won 13 seats in the last Knesset, its constituent parties, now running in two separate lists, managed only 10 this time.

But if the camera ploy worked to Netanyahu’s advantage, possibly costing his political rivals a seat or three, and maybe boosting support for a Likud seen to be taking on the Arabs, there was a more dramatic arithmetical factor on the right-hand side of the spectrum that worked against him. Between Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right (138,491 votes, or 3.22% of the national total) and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut (117,670 votes; 2.73% of the national total), a staggering 6% of right-wing votes went down the drain — a potential six or seven more Knesset seats for a Netanyahu-led coalition. And yet Netanyahu still has a clear, if complex, path (involving reconciling the ultra-Orthodox parties with the fiercely secular Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu) to a 65-strong coalition.

Over 57% of counted votes went to right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud; Shas; UTJ; Yisrael Beytenu; United Right-Wing Parties; Kulanu; The New Right; Zehut, and Gesher). This is the highest proportion in Israeli history. Only 34% went to centrist and left of center Zionist parties (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz).

The two ultra-Orthodox parties, it is worth noting, had repeatedly stressed in the run-up to polling day that they would only consider joining a Netanyahu-led coalition. Even when the polls closed and for a brief moment Gantz was claiming victory on the basis of a predictably inaccurate exit poll, UTJ rushed to say that it would go into the opposition with Netanyahu rather than partner with Gantz.

Menachem Begin, center, speaks to supporters at his party headquarters in Tel Aviv, on May 18, 1977, as they celebrate the Likud Bloc’s election to government after 29 years of Israeli Labor Party rule. (AP Photo)

By way of comparison, the 2015 elections saw over 56% voting for right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties (Likud, Kulanu, Jewish Home, Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Yachad). In 2013, the comparable figure was 48% (Likud, Jewish Home, Shas, UTJ, Otzma LeYisrael). In 2009, it was 54% (Likud, Yisrael Beytenu, Shas, UTJ, National Union and Jewish Home).

Going way back to 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud first won power, the comparable proportion was about 53% — and that’s including the then-relatively centrist National Religious Party, which had partnered with Labor-led governments for the past three decades.

The people have spoken.

Were some worried by Gantz’s warnings that Netanyahu is turning Israel into Turkey — becoming our un-oustable leader, gradually marginalizing opposition, taking control of ever more of the media, bending the cops and the prosecutors and the courts to his will? Doubtless, many were. But not enough to unseat him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a voting slip for his Likud party in a video filmed at a beach in Netanya on election day, April 9, 2019. (Screen capture: YouTube)

The people saw Gantz caught by a camera in his car, toward the end of election day, looking exhausted. They saw Netanyahu, sweating in his suit on the beach at Netanya, imploring potential supporters to get out of the sea and vote Likud.

The people saw everything, internalized what they chose to internalize, and made their decision. No nefarious forces, as far as we know, skewed these elections. The public was not under-informed; nor was it disaffected. The turnout was a healthy 67.9% (compared to 61.4% in the 2016 US presidential elections, or 66.1% in 2015’s British parliamentary elections).

The people want to live in Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel.

The people have spoken. Not all the people. But more than enough of them.

Israelis’ choice. Israelis’ consequences.

Note: Figures cited in this piece for the 2019 elections are from the completed-count totals announced by the Central Elections Committee at midnight on April 11; the totals have fluctuated slightly since then, and are to be made official on April 16.

World Bank Warns Of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

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

 

World Bank Warns of Severe Shock Facing Palestinian Economy

Thursday, 18 April, 2019 – 09:15
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The World Bank said that the Palestinian economy is now facing a severe shock in regard of public finances as a result of Israel’s approach over tax revenues, calling for an urgent resolution of the crisis before it deepens.

This came in a report that the World Bank has prepared on Wednesday and is due to be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its next meeting in Brussels on 30 April.

The report quoted Anna Bjerde, World Bank Acting Country Director for West Bank and Gaza and Director of Strategy and Operations for the Middle East and North Africa Region, as saying: “The economy, which in 2018 saw no real growth, is now facing a severe fiscal shock because of the standoff over clearance revenue transfers.”

Bjerde stressed that “Urgent resolution is needed to prevent further deterioration of economic activity and living standards. Clearance revenues are a major source of budgetary income and the ongoing standoff is felt by all segments of the population in what is already a weak economy.”

In February, Israel decided to deduct around $10 million a month from the revenues — the sum the PA paid families of prisoners or prisoners themselves serving time in Israeli jails — prompting the Palestinians to refuse any funds at all.

“Against a background of declining aid flows, the recent standoff stemmed from Israel’s unilateral deduction of US$138 million from the PA’s clearance revenues in 2019 to offset estimated payouts to Palestinian martyrs and prisoners’ families,” the report noted.

According to the World Bank, “the clearance revenues, collected by Israel and transferred to the PA monthly, amount to 65 per cent of the PA’s total revenues. In response, the PA rejected the diminished transfers and was forced to cut the wage bill by 30 per cent, reduce expenditures in social assistance, and borrow more from local banks. If not resolved, the standoff will increase the financing gap from US$400 million in 2018 to over US $1 billion in 2019.”

“The dual-use goods system in its current application limits economic diversification and sustainable growth in the Palestinian territories. A revamp of the application of the restrictions on dual-use goods is critically needed,” added Bjerde.

The report stressed that “The Palestinian economy has witnessed low growth rates that are not able to keep up with the growth in population, resulting in an increase in unemployment and deteriorating living conditions. The absence of growth in the past year is mainly attributed to the steep deterioration in Gaza, where more than half of the population is unemployed and economic activities contracted by 7 per cent in 2018—the deepest economic downturn Gaza has witnessed that is not a result of a conflict. However, growth in the West Bank has also slowed below its recent trends.”

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US publishes first map showing Golan as Israeli territory

Move comes 3 weeks after Trump recognizes Israeli sovereignty over Heights; Mideast envoy Greenblatt tweets picture of the map that also refers to West Bank as Israeli-occupied

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

Part of a map published by the US on April 16, 2019, that for the first time shows the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. (screencapture)

The US has for the first time published a map showing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, three weeks after President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau.

US Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted a picture of the map on Tuesday, saying: “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system.”

The map shows the 1974 ceasefire line between Israel and Syria as a permanent border, whereas the border with Lebanon continues to be demarcated as the 1949 armistice line.

The map also notes that the West Bank is Israeli-occupied, with its final status to be determined in peace talks.

Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security tour in the Golan Heights, near Israel’s northern border with Syria, on April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

And it notes that while the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, it does not take a position on the boundaries of the holy city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.

Jason D. Greenblatt

@jdgreenblatt45

Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after @POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights

2,008 people are talking about this

However, while the map was updated, text attached to the Israel entry in the latest CIA world factbook, which included the map, continued to call East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied.”

Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sparked widespread international condemnation. The announcement in late March was a major shift in American policy and gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a needed political boost ahead of April elections.

US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. Second from right is Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and at right is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and in 1981 effectively annexed the area, in a move never recognized by the rest of international community, which considers the Golan Heights to be occupied Syrian territory.

The map was published with the US indicating it may also be on board with Israel annexing West Bank settlements.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan.

His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In interviews days before the elections, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

On Tuesday, a coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements.

The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation.

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

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

 

Palestinian Presidency Rejects Pompeo’s Comments on Settlements

Monday, 15 April, 2019 – 08:45
A Palestinian laborer stands on a construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near Jerusalem, on November 21, 2010. Baz Ratner/Reuters
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that all forms of settlement on Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 were illegal, in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy.

His comments came in response to recent statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would not hurt the US ‘deal of the century.’

“These statements are unacceptable and irresponsible,” Abu Rudaineh said. “They contravene international law and provoke the Palestinian people, who will remain steadfast in their legitimate rights, foremost of which is Jerusalem and its holy sites, and its right to freedom, independence and the establishment of an independent state on all its national soil.”

He stressed that such rhetoric would only lead to more tension in the region and the world, reiterating the Palestinian people’s rejection of the ‘deal of the century.’

“Those who believe the deal will pass are mistaken,” the Palestinian spokesman emphasized.

In a televised interview with CNN last week, Pompeo said Netanyahu’s comments on annexing some Israeli settlements in the West Bank “don’t harm the United States’ peace plan.”

He went on to say: “I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used.”

“We have had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements

People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Oded Balilty/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz

The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”

“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”

On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.

“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”

Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.

Some 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians now live in in the West Bank.

The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.

Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.

“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”

Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.

Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.

Gantz has accused Netanyahu of inciting against Israel’s Palestinian Arab citizens and embracing extremists by allying with the far-right Jewish Power Party.

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Israel PM vows to annex West Bank settlements if re-elected

Image caption Israel has established more than 100 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday and Mr Netanyahu is competing for votes with right-wing parties who support annexing part of the West Bank.

The settlements are illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Last month the US recognised the occupied Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967, as Israeli territory.

Israel has settled about 400,000 Jews in West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 living in East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

What happens to the settlements is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians – Palestinians say the presence of settlements make a future independent state impossible.

Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks. It says settlements are not a genuine obstacle to peace and are negotiable.

What exactly did Netanyahu say?

He was asked during an interview on Israeli TV why he had not extended Israeli sovereignty to large settlements in the West Bank.

“You are asking whether we are moving on to the next stage – the answer is yes, we will move to the next stage,” he said.

“I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters: “Any measures and any announcements will not change the facts. Settlements are illegal and they will be removed.”

Presentational grey line

Potentially explosive comments

By Sebastian Usher, BBC Arab affairs editor

These comments by Benjamin Netanyahu are potentially explosive over an issue that has helped stall peace efforts for years.

They will resonate with several parties with which he’ll try to form a coalition government if he wins the biggest share of votes.

But the very idea of annexation will rouse new Palestinian fury, as well as international condemnation.

Mr Netanyahu may have been emboldened by the Trump administration, which just last month recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Presentational grey line

What is the political background?

Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is in a tight race with the new centre-right Blue and White alliance.

However other parties, some of which support annexation, could end up being kingmakers when they try to form a governing coalition.

In Mr Netanyahu’s own Likud party, 28 out of the 29 lawmakers running for re-election are on record as supporting this approach. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

What is the situation of peace negotiations?

Mr Trump’s administration is preparing to unveil a long-awaited Middle East peace plan, which US officials say will be fair.

However the Trump administration has carried out a series of actions that have inflamed Palestinian opinion and generally pleased Israel.

In 2017 Mr Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

In response Mr Abbas cut off relations with the US, saying the US could no longer be a peace broker.

Last year the US stopped contributing to the UN Relief and Works Agency(Unrwa), which has been looking after Palestinian refugees since 1949.

In March President Trump officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.

On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.

Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

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

 

Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 – 11:30
Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas seen in the central Gaza Strip March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has slammed Hamas, saying it is being “oppressive” in its crackdown on protesters in the Gaza Strip.

The movement has used excessive force to disperse protesters as part of “We Want to Live” rallies held against price hikes and the dire economic situation in the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas told Atef Abu Seif, the Fatah spokesman in Gaza and member of its central committee, in a phone call that he has honored his country.

He stressed that Hamas and its elements will end up in the “dustbin of history just like those who secede from the Palestinian legitimacy.”

Fatah has accused Hamas of Abu Seif’s assassination attempt after he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen and suffered multiple bone fractures around his body. He is reported to be in serious condition.

Abu Seif is among dozens of activists and journalists, who were severely beaten during demonstrations or arrests.

Hamas detained about 1,000 people in just a few days, dispersed more than 25 rallies with live fire and pursued activists in their homes and on the streets.

“We Want to Live” movement announced a two-day civil disobedience and public strike on Thursday, calling on people to perform Friday prayers in public squares and reject accusations by Hamas preachers against protesters.

It stressed that its peaceful protests will continue until Hamas’ government in Gaza meets the people’s legitimate demands.

The movement also called on the families of the detainees, the oppressed and the wounded to perform Friday prayers near the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

It urged them to demand the immediate release of their loved-ones, holding accountable those who ordered the imprisonment and torture of protesters and taking to court those who caused casualties in the rank of demonstrators.

Seeking safety from terror and extremism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Seeking safety from terror and extremism: 7 things to know for March 18

A West Bank attack has people on edge and asking questions, while judges’ ban on a Kahanist from the Knesset is praised as saving democracy or panned as a death knell for the court

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Israeli security forces at the scene where a Palestinian carried out a deadly attack near Gitai-Avishar junction, March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

1. Killer on the loose: A manhunt is ongoing Monday morning for a Palestinian suspected of killing a soldier, stealing his gun and opening fire on others in the area before fleeing to a nearby village.

  • Soldier Gal Keidan is killed at the scene and Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12, also succumbs to his wounds Monday.
  • According to Ettinger’s siblings, even after he was shot he managed to fire at the terrorist, though he did not hit him.
  • “He turned his car around to face him and managed to aim his weapon and get off four shots,” the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reports.
  • On Monday morning, Israeli media reports that the suspect is Omar Abu Laila, 18, from the town of az-Zawiya, and Israeli forces who raided the town overnight arrested his father and brother.
  • The reports are attributed to Palestinian media, though most Palestinian media reports attribute the information to the Israeli army.
  • The Shin Bet later confirms his identity.

2. Powderkegger: Much of the coverage of the attack revolves around the time-honored tradition of asking “Are we in an intifada yet (or at least uptick of violence)?”

  • The resounding answer from the pundit class? It certainly looks like we are heading that way.
  • The attack demonstrates that the Palestinian front is as heated up as ever,” Amos Harel writes in Haaretz. “The escalation is already here; only its final dimensions and political impact have yet to be determined.”
  • “The motivation of the terror groups, lone terrorists, or independent cells to perpetrate attacks in the West Bank is increasing,” ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes, blaming at least part of the increased tensions on “Hamas’s desire to set the territory ablaze.”
  • Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai writes that terrorists don’t need an excuse to carry out attacks, but various factors have made it so inciters are “‘enjoying’ a period where it is especially ‘comfortable’ for them” from tensions over the Temple Mount, to financial crises in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The New York Times cites unnamed analysts who say domestic pressures against the terror group ruling Gaza “might well make Hamas all the more eager to redirect the public’s anger toward Israel.”

3. Operational failures: In Yedioth Ahronoth, Yossi Yehoshua says the ability of the attacker to kill a soldier, steal his gun and get away, while other troops were nearby, points to serious failures.

  • “This seems to be an operational failure that is unthinkable after the events of the last months,” he writes, referring to other recent cases in which IDF terrorists managed to get away and avoid detection for weeks or more.
  • Yoav Limor writes in Israel Hayom that the soldiers’ readiness was “lacking.” “Had they reacted like they should have, he would have been neutralized on the spot and could not have continued his shooting spree,” he writes. “The IDF needs to check how fit the soldiers situated along the main roads and junctions are and if their abilities match the threats they are exposed to, and if their armor is enough.”

4. Defending democracy: Not surprisingly, where papers stand on the disqualification of Michael Ben Ari of Otzma Yehudit depends mostly on their politics, though everyone tries to dress up their positions as a defense of democracy.

  • “The Supreme Court decided Sunday that to prevent a slide from insane talk to insane acts, it first had to deny the legitimacy of the hateful words in a clear and unequivocal way,” Odeh Bisharat writes in Haaretz, predicting that letting Ben Ari run could lead to a New Zealand-style massacre.
  • Ben-Dror Yemini criticizes the decision in Yedioth, but only because the judges didn’t also disqualify the Ballad party and Hadash candidate Ofer Kassif, which he calls a “loss for democracy” that will only “increase extremism” in the Knesset.
  • In Haaretz, respected jurist Mordechai Kremnitzer writes a stirring defense of the court’s decision to allow every other candidate to run, but says Ben Ari is different.
  • “Studying the things he has said, as the attorney general did, revealed incitement to racism of the most disgusting, dangerous kind,” he writes. “This is indeed the type of extreme case that makes the disqualification inevitable.”

5. Backing Ben Ari: On the other side, Amnon Lord writes in Israel Hayom that even though he doesn’t agree with Ben Ari’s views, “there was no real reason to disqualify him, beyond aesthetics.”

  • Shlomo Pyoterofsky writes in Yedioth’s op-ed page that the court has “lost the public’s trust” by deciding to apply the law selectively.
  • “Trust in the professionalism and objectivity of the judges has been cracked, if not totally disappeared,” he writes.

6. Good for the right? Otzma Yehudit has fumed over the decision and demanded Jewish Home renegotiate their deal and move Itamar Ben Gvir, who is still allowed to run, into Ben Ari’s No. 5 slot, something that’s not allowed.

  • The Srugim national-religious news site reports that it’s so bad that Baruch Marzel, another Kahanist from Otzma Yehudit, is threatening to vote against the joint right-wing list that he is on.
  • But in Walla, Yakir Adamkar notes that getting Ben Ari disqualified will actually help the far-right ticket by giving it another enemy — the court — to rail against.
  • “From here out, they will campaign on the slogan ‘the judges won’t decide for the people who they will vote for, the people will decide,” he predicts.
  • Makor Rishon’s Shirit Avitan Cohen writes that problems with the party go even deeper, with some doubting Rafi Peretz’s leadership ability and “vociferous fights” over whether the party should campaign directly against New Right.

7. More than a tweet: Ilhan Omar doesn’t have to worry about getting kicked out of Congress for her words, but she still appears to be making an effort to get back into the Democratic party’s good graces.

  • An op-ed by Omar in the Washington Post, which she says is needed to explain her foreign policy outlook, doesn’t address the accusations against her of using anti-Semitic tropes. Rather it slickly expounds on her support for a two-state solution, and various other mainline talking points.
  • “My goal in speaking out at all times has been to encourage both sides to move toward a peaceful two-state solution. We need to reinsert this call back into the public debate with urgency. Both parties must come to the table for a final peace deal; violence will not bring us any closer to that day,” she writes innocently.
  • Mark Dubowitz of the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracy is one person not buying it, writing on Twitter that it seems like it came from a crisis communications firm.

Mark Dubowitz

@mdubowitz

When I was throwing out those anti-Semitic bombs, all I really wanted was a more “inclusive foreign policy.” This reads like an oped written by a crisis communications firm for one of their so misunderstood clients.

Washington Post Opinions

@PostOpinions

An op-ed from @IlhanMN:

I’ve seen firsthand the devastating toll of war. We need an inclusive foreign policy. https://wapo.st/2TWdW20 

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Rabbi Achiad Ettinger dies after being shot near Ariel in northern West Bank

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Father of 12 succumbs to injuries from Sunday terror attack

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger dies after being shot near Ariel in northern West Bank; relatives say he managed to fire at attacker after being wounded

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was shot March 17 at the Ariel junction and succumbed to his injuries the following day (Nadav Goldstein/TPS)

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, who was shot March 17 at the Ariel junction and succumbed to his injuries the following day (Nadav Goldstein/TPS)

Rabbi Achiad Ettinger died of his injuries Monday, a day after being shot by a Palestinian terrorist during an attack in the northern West Bank, a family spokesperson said.

Ettinger, 47, was a father of 12 from the settlement of Eli. Doctors had been working to save his life since the attack near Ariel Sunday morning in which a soldier, Gal Keidan, was also killed.

Ettinger was shot in the head and neck as he drove by the Ariel Junction by terror suspect Omar Abu Laila, 19, who had stolen Geidan’s gun and opened fire on passing cars, according to the IDF.

He was rushed to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva in critical condition and doctors worked for a day to save his life before he succumbed to his injuries, the hospital said.

IDF soldiers seen during a raid in the village of Bruqin near the West Bank town of Salfit on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Relatives of Ettinger told reporters Sunday that despite having been shot and bleeding profusely, he turned his car around and fired four bullets in the direction of the attacker, who managed to escape in a vehicle abandoned by a fleeing driver.

“This self-sacrifice characterized him over the years,” his family said in a statement, noting his decision to live for several years in south Tel Aviv “to strengthen Jewish identity” in the working class neighborhood.

His family asked that his organs be donated, Ettinger’s sister told reporters.

“We hope that after the great mourning we will see this nation unite, and from this great unity we will also see great joy,” the statement from the family read.

Ettinger leaves behind a wife and 12 children; his oldest daughter is 22 and his youngest is a year old.

Undated photo of Rabbi Achiad Ettinger (L) and his family. (courtesy Ettinger family)

“We are shocked and in pain, and we expect that Israel will deal harshly with the murderers,” a family friend told the Ynet news site on Monday. “A family with 12 children who now must bury their father is hard to grasp.”

Ettinger was the founder of south Tel Aviv’s Oz V’emuna hesder yeshiva, which combines Torah study with military service for young men. He was also active in the campaign against African migrants in the city’s southern Neve Sha’anan neighborhood.

Israeli forensic workers inspect a car near the scene of a deadly terror attack near the Ariel Junction in the West Bank on March 17, 2019. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

A number of Ettinger’s students gathered at the seminary to pay condolences to the man many of them looked up to as a father figure.

“He was like a father to me,” one student told Ynet. “He used to always tell me ‘I’m not impressed by success, I’m impressed by hard work.’ He called me 14 minutes before the attack, but I was studying and I missed the call.”

The funeral procession for Ettinger was scheduled to leave Eli at 2 p.m. and pass through Ariel Junction, where the attack took place, before concluding at the Segula cemetery in Petah Tikva.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a deadly attack near the Gitai junction in the West Bank, on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

“The people of Israel mourn over the murder of the late Rabbi Achiad Ettinger. I wish to send condolences to his family at this difficult time. May his memory be a blessing,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.

“Rabbi Ettinger’s life’s work will continue with us even after his passing, and the strength he gave his students and the community he led will continue to strengthen us through this enormous grief and sorrow,” said President Reuven Rivlin in a statement.

Ettinger’s colleague Rabbi Yaron Adorian eulogized him as a “wonderful man” who worked tirelessly for others.

“Everyone has their own personal story about this wonderful man,” Adorian said. “There aren’t many people like him, who put aside his personal like and entirely devoted himself to the community, the Jewish people and the rest of the world.”

An Israeli police officer is seen at the scene of a deadly terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Sunday, March 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Alexander Dvorsky, a soldier shot and injured by Abu Laila when he drove to nearby Gitai junction and opened fire again, remained in serious condition Monday.

The manhunt after Abu Laila was still ongoing Monday. Israeli security forces detained his father and brother in the nearby town of Az-Zawiya, according to the Ma’an Palestinian news site. Authorities believe Abu Laila fled into the village of Bruqin on foot after the attacks.

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