Abbas to boycott Pence as protests over Jerusalem continue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

W BANK RIOTS LESS INTENSE

Abbas to boycott Pence as protests over Jerusalem continue

600 in violent protests in West Bank, hundreds demonstrate at funerals in Gaza and at fence, 6 arrested in Jerusalem; soldiers use tear gas to disperse rioters near Bethlehem

  • Israeli mounted police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. ( AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
    Israeli mounted police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. ( AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
  • Israeli police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. as unrest simmers over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Israeli police disperse Palestinian protesters on December 9, 2017, in East Jerusalem. as unrest simmers over US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
    Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)
  • Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 9, 2017, following the US president's decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
    Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s decision to recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / Musa AL SHAER)
  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
    Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Members of the Hamas terror group's military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike after rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
    Members of the Hamas terror group’s military wing carry the body of their comrade Mohamed al-Safadi, who was killed the previous day in an Israeli air strike after rockets was fired from Gaza into Israel, during his funeral in Gaza City on December 9, 2017. ( AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
  • An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
    An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
  • Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
    Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence when he visits the West Bank this month, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday, as Palestinian protests continued in the aftermath of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Some 600 Palestinians held violent protests at some 20 spots in the West Bank, confronting security forces, and another 400 protested in Gaza, the IDF said. There were also protests involving dozens of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. As of late afternoon, however, the protests were markedly less intense than on Friday, when some 5,000 Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israeli security officials expect the protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Saturday afternoon, but do not anticipate a major escalation.

Abbas’s diplomatic adviser, Majdi Khaldi, said that Abbas won’t meet Pence “because the US has crossed red lines” on Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum after he delivered a statement on Jerusalem from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, DC on December 6, 2017 as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Abbas had viewed close ties with Washington as strategically important because of the US role as Mideast broker. The snub of Pence signaled a sharp deterioration in relations.

The White House warned on Thursday that canceling the meeting planned for later this month in the West Bank would be “counterproductive”, but Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to shun Pence.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas’s Fatah party, had said Friday that Pence was “not welcome in Palestine.”

Demonstrations continued Saturday as Palestinians called for a further “Day of Rage” to protest Trump’s decision.

In Gaza, where four people have been killed — two Hamas gunmen killed in an airstrike on one of the terror group’s camps, and two who were shot during Friday’s protests — hundreds of Palestinians were protesting near the border fence with Israel and at the funerals for the dead.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Mahmoud al-Masri, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who was killed the previous day in clashes with Israeli troops, during his funeral in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

One Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire in a demonstration by the fence in southern Gaza, the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Hamas, which seeks to destroy Israel, has called for a new intifada, urged Palestinians to confront Israeli soldiers and settlers, and vowed to continue violence until the liberation of Jerusalem.

In East Jerusalem on Saturday, dozens of youths tried to block a main road and confront policemen, who were guarding the area. The crowd, which threw stones and other objects, was dispersed, police said, and six Palestinians were arrested. Two police officers were injured by stone-throwers.

Video showed horse-mounted police officers charging into crowds of people.

In the West Bank, there were clashes near the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem, where soldiers were using tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun grenades to turn back demonstrators who were throwing rocks and petrol bombs and burning tires. At least 10 Palestinians were lightly hurt, most by smoke inhalation, Israel Radio reported.

There were several smaller protests in the cities of Tulkarem and Hebron, with no immediate reports of injuries.

The IDF said a total of 600 Palestinians took part in the West Bank protests at 20 locations. One person was arrested and three were wounded, the army said.

Meanwhile some 100 people protested in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel.

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Friday saw some 5,000 Palestinian protesters demonstrating and clashing with Israeli security forces at almost 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip after midday prayers.

Israeli border guards take position on December 9, 2017, during a demonstration in East Jerusalem against the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. ( AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI)

Gaza-based terror groups fired rockets at Israel, with one landing in the southern town of Sderot; Israel responded with air strikes on Hamas targets. On Saturday, the Hamas-run health ministry said two Hamas gunmen were killed in one of the strikes on a Hamas facility in Nusseirat in the central Gaza Strip.

The rocket on Sderot caused minor damage, and no injuries.

The Israeli army had said it was braced for more protests on Saturday, and it stepped up the deployment of troops at West Bank settlements in an attempt to thwart any attempted terror attacks. It said the 5,000 demonstrators on Friday marked a lower number than anticipated, but expected protests to continue for several more days, Hadashot news reported on Friday night.

Palestinian rioters throw stones towards Israeli troops at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

The army was expected to hold a review of the situation on Saturday evening and decide on the continued deployment of additional troops in the area, Israel Radio said Saturday.

On Friday, Hamas called on the Palestinian public to confront IDF soldiers and Israeli settlers across the West Bank in demonstrations on Saturday.

Israeli soldier stands during clashes with Palestinians following a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank City of Nablus, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

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3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

3,000 Palestinians hold violent protests across West Bank, Gaza over Jerusalem

200 injured, most of them lightly, in riots in Hebron, Qalqilya, Bethlehem, Ramallah, against Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital; Palestinians say one killed at Gaza fence

  • Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem's Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
    Israeli forces scuffle with people in Jerusalem’s Old City on December 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX)
  • Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
    Palestinians in West Bank village of Hawara clash with IDF forces on December 8, 2017, during riots over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 8, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    A Palestinian rioter uses a sling shot against Israeli security forces during clashes after in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
    An Israeli soldier throws a stun grenade toward Palestinian rioters during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 8, 2017. (Hazem Bader/AFP)
  • A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
    A Palestinian protester throws rocks at Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
  • Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)
    Palestinian protestors clash with Israeli security forces near a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on December 8, 2017. (Musa al-Shaer/AFP)

An estimated 3,000 Palestinian protesters held demonstrations and clashed with Israeli security forces at some 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Friday after midday prayers, in a show of anger over US President Donald Trump’s declared recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestinian officials said one demonstrator was killed at the Gaza border fence. At one point the Gaza health ministry said another man was killed, but later retracted the statement, saying he was in serious condition.

The Israeli army said it fired on two “inciters” at the fence. It said there was six points along the fence where protesters gathered and burned tires. The Red Cross in Gaza reported that 15 people were injured by tear gas and rubber bullets.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and set fire to tires and rolled them at Israeli security forces, who generally retaliated with less-lethal riot dispersal equipment, like tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, and in some cases with live fire.

Palestinian protesters also burned pictures and effigies of Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli and American flags.

Unusually, Palestinian Authority security forces allowed demonstrators to carry Hamas flags, Israel Radio reported. It said some Palestinians branded the protests the start of a new intifada uprising.

Palestinian officials reported over 200 people injured in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the vast majority of them lightly, from tear gas inhalation. Seven were hit by live bullets, and 45 by rubber bullets, the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said.

Palestinian rioters throw stones towards Israeli troops at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 8, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The Israel Defense Forces said it knew of at least 10 injured Palestinians in the West Bank.

Two Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli troops during a violent demonstration at the Gaza border, the army said. Local media reported that one of them was critically wounded.

No soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces or Border Police were reported injured.

Israeli officials said six Palestinians were arrested during the protests.

Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Among the estimated 30 demonstrations in the West Bank, the largest took place in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Al-Arroub, Tulkarem, Qalandiya, and Bayt Ummar, the army said. Smaller demonstrations were also reported in Ramallah, Nablus, Hawara and Nabi Saleh.

In Jerusalem, hundreds of Palestinian rallied after Friday prayers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a flashpoint site in the holy city which, along with the Dome of the Rock, sits on the Temple Mount. The holiest place in Judaism, the mount is known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif. PLO and Turkish flags were raised during Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa.

Most of the thousands of worshipers dispersed peacefully after Friday prayers in the Old City. But hundreds of demonstrators burned Israeli flags while others chanted, “The war is approaching, Al-Quds Arabiya,” using the Arabic name for Jerusalem and declaring it an “Arab” city. Protesters also chanted, “Let us die as martyrs — there is no place for the State of Israel.”

A protest erupted briefly at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, and was cleared by police. Demonstrators threw objects at the security forces deployed there. Israel Radio said Arab members of Knesset were seen in the crowds.

The Red Crescent said that one injured Palestinian man was transferred from Damascus Gate to the hospital after being injured by police.

Israel had bolstered its security deployment in Jerusalem, but despite the heightened alert, police did not impose any restrictions on Muslim worshipers praying at Al-Aqsa. (At times of expected violence, Israeli authorities sometimes limit access to the site for young men.)

Israeli Police officers stand guard during a protest at Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 8, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Additional IDF battalions were also sent into the West Bank.

In Gaza, thousands took to the streets and marched to denounce Trump’s proclamation.

The Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Trump had issued “a declaration of war against the Palestinian people,” Army Radio reported. The US president had harmed the Arab and Muslim nation, the Fatah spokesman said. “Someone with no right to intervene had awarded [Jerusalem] to someone with no right to it,” the radio reported quoted the spokesman saying.

On Thursday, Hamas terror group leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

In a Wednesday address from the White House, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum. Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites.

Security assessments had expected tens of thousands to take part in the Friday protests and the IDF was particularly concerned that “lone wolf” attackers could try to carry out terror attacks, the Ynet news site reported.

Soldiers were stationed at potential confrontation points during the day and were later to deploy to prevent any attempts to carry out attacks on settlements over the Sabbath, the report said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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Hamas Head Urges New Intifada As Palestinians Rage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

ISRAELI ARMY BEEFS UP ITS PRESENCE

Hamas head urges new intifada as Palestinians rage against Trump move

Gaza terrorist group calls for armed uprising against Israel; marches planned for West Bank amid general strike

Palestinian youths set tires ablaze during a protest against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Palestinian youths set tires ablaze during a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City, December 7, 2017. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday called for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, over US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“This Zionist policy supported by the US cannot be confronted unless we ignite a new intifada,” the head of the armed Palestinian terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip said in a speech in Gaza City.

Several thousand Palestinians marched in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, burning US and Israeli flags while chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

In the West Bank, The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike in protest across the territory, shutting schools and businesses. Marches were planned in major Palestinian cities at noon.

Rioters threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli cars on a road near the West Bank village of Rantis, outside Ramallah. There were no reports of injuries.

Israel said it would beef up security with “a number of battalions,” preparing for the possibility of violence following Trump’s announcement.

Haniyeh called for quickly finishing a reconciliation process with Palestinian Authority President Abbas’s Fatah party in order to create a united front against Israeli and American policy, rejecting the idea of an Israeli state or Israeli capital.

“Jerusalem is united; there’s no eastern or western [Jerusalem]. It is an Arab Palestinian Islamic capital of the State of Palestine,” Haniyeh said, decrying “the blatant and blind bias of the American administration and this satanic alliance.”

“I say today that Palestine is also one and united from the sea to the river. It cannot be divided into two states or two entities. Palestine and Jerusalem are ours. We do not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation and the existence of Israel on the land of Palestine in order for it to have a capital,” he said.

Palestinian protestors burn tires as they wave Palestinian flags and pictures of late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat during a protest at the main Square in Gaza City, December 6, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

Hamas had issued warnings in recent days as news of Trump’s intentions spread, and it reacted to his Wednesday speech with another.

“This decision will open the gates of hell on US interests in the region,” Hamas official Ismail Radwan told journalists after Trump’s announcement.

He called on Arab and Islamic states to “cut off economic and political ties with the US embassy and expel American ambassadors to cripple” this decision.

Fuming Palestinian leaders in the Fatah-controlled West Bank responded to Trump’s speech with outrage, declaring that the United States could no longer serve as Middle East peace broker.

President Mahmoud Abbas called the change in longstanding US policy “deplorable.”

“These deplorable and unacceptable measures deliberately undermine all peace efforts,” Abbas said in a speech after Trump’s announcement.

A picture taken on December 6, 2017 shows a Palestinian man watching an address given by US President Donald Trump at a cafe in Jerusalem.
US President Donald Trump recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, 2017. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

He said it amounted to “an announcement of US withdrawal from playing the role it has been playing in the past decade in sponsoring the peace process.”

Abbas is scheduled to travel to Jordan on Thursday to coordinate a response to Trump’s decision with King Abdullah II.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization who long served as the Palestinians’ top negotiator, said Trump had “destroyed the two-state solution.”

“As a chief Palestinian negotiator, how can I sit with these people if they dictate on me the future of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?” he said.

“I think tonight he is strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no one has done before,” Erekat said, referring to Trump.

After the announcement, Palestinian officials said they switched off the lights to the giant Christmas tree in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the city where Jesus was born, in protest.

In his Wednesday address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated peace failures it was past time for a new approach, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

A giant US flag screened alongside Israel’s national flag on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, December 6, 2017. (Ahmad GHARABLI/AFP)

Trump also said the United States would move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, though he set no timetable for that.

The announcement upturns decades of precedent and runs counter to international consensus, with no other country currently taking the same stance.

Jerusalem’s status is among the most difficult issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the US traditional position has been that it must be negotiated between the two sides.

While Israel has long considered Jerusalem its capital, with the prime minister’s office and parliament building located there, countries have avoided recognizing it as such to prevent damaging hopes for a two-state solution.

The Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.

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The day Palestine gave up

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

ANALYSISARAFAT MISREAD THE ISRAELIS. ABBAS MISREADS THE PALESTINIANS

The day Palestine gave up

In last month’s reconciliation agreement, Abbas handed his legacy into Hamas’s keeping, and Hamas revealed that it is strong enough to drag its people to war, but not to freedom

Haviv Rettig Gur

File: Palestinians protesting in Gaza, November 12, 2012. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

File: Palestinians protesting in Gaza, November 12, 2012. (Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

On November 1, against all expectations, Hamas officials dismantled the checkpoints the organization maintained inside the Israeli-controlled crossings on the Israeli-Gazan border.

It was a dramatic step. No longer would Palestinians leaving Gaza for Israel or the West Bank face questioning by Hamas intelligence officials about their business. No longer would Palestinians entering Gaza face the exorbitant import taxes and other fees imposed by Hamas.

That bears repeating. In taking this step, Hamas, a group choked on almost every side by enemies foreign and domestic, willingly surrendered a lucrative source of income that fed many millions of shekels each year into its coffers.

More startling still: it was a step beyond what Hamas was strictly required to do at this stage under the reconciliation agreement signed with the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in Cairo last month that handed some control over Gaza to the PA.

A Hamas security man walks inside a border checkpoint building after it was decommissioned at the northern entrance of the Gaza Strip just past the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, on November 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

It is not enough to simply say these actions are part of “reconciliation.” Hamas’s commitment to “national reconciliation” has never extended this far in the past. What changed? What could possibly drive Hamas to surrender part of its rule over Gaza and renounce vital sources of influence and money?

Winners and losers

At first glance, it is Fatah, not Hamas, that appears the clear winner from the agreement. In the reconciliation deal, Fatah regained a foothold in Gaza for the first time since its forces were summarily routed from the Strip in 2007.

The advantages for Fatah are many. Its chief, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, now has an answer to the complaint occasionally heard from Israeli officials that he cannot negotiate a peace agreement because he neither controls nor represents half of the Palestinian body politic. Similarly, his standing on the world stage is boosted by the sheer fact of movement. There is a crack in the status quo. If Fatah and Hamas can reconcile, some diplomats have quietly suggested, perhaps wider gulfs, such as those separating Israelis and Palestinians, can also be bridged.

The ability to show progress also has financial implications. Incorporating Hamas into a new PA government would probably cost the PA dearly, as some countries and international institutions would find it difficult to fund Palestinian agencies linked to Hamas or its officials. On the other hand, if Fatah can incorporate Hamas sufficiently for “reconciliation” to be realized, while maintaining a firewall between Hamas and aid-receiving institutions, the takeover of Gaza could yet turn out to be a financial boon. International assistance to Gaza all but dried up under Hamas. If it picks up again under PA auspices, there’s a lot of money, institution-building and political capital to be gained for Fatah.

Palestinians in Gaza City wave Palestinian and Egyptian flags to celebrate the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in Egypt, October 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

And what has Hamas gained for all that? The answer, ironically, is that the very things it lost are its most significant gain.

When it seized Gaza from Fatah in 2007, Hamas declared that the takeover validated its vision of an Islamic Palestine, that its rise against all odds, against the express wishes of the PA, Israel and much of the international community, proved that these opponents, for all their immense power, could be pushed back, and that pious Muslims could find themselves on the ascendant in their wake.

Hamas’s troubles may have begun when it made the mistake of believing its own propaganda. In the name of its pious devotion to the cause, it drove Gaza from one ideological clash to another, dragging its long-suffering population not only into repeated rounds of war with Israel, but even, inexplicably to outsiders, into the bloodstained mess of the civil war between the Egyptian army and the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s one-time patrons and ideological forebears.

Palestinian children fill jerrycans with drinking water from public taps in the southern Gaza Strip, June 11, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

Facing an Israeli blockade from the start of Hamas’s rule in 2007, as of 2014 Gazans found themselves under a ruthlessly tightening Egyptian one as well — the Egyptian army’s response to Hamas’s meddling. And beginning in 2017, Abbas’s PA began imposing its own financial stranglehold, denying the Hamas-led government in Gaza funds from the PA for the provision of basic services such as electricity.

Hamas could blame and bluster, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for it to argue it was leading Gaza to a better place.

Hamas’s political leadership has spent the past 10 years attempting to prove that the movement was more than a narrowly conceived paramilitary organization. By 2017, its military wing, which took control of the organization with the rise of Yahya Sinwar in the last internal elections in February, had concluded that the attempt to expand Hamas’s agenda and vision beyond the narrow confines of its guerrilla war against Israel had become a trap, a distraction. It saddled the organization with the thankless monotonies and shackling responsibilities of civilian leadership. It was suddenly in charge of the economic wellbeing, health, education and safety of millions — and for what?

A Palestinian man blows fire as Gazans gather at an intersection to celebrate the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, on August 26, 2014, in Gaza City. (AFP/Roberto Schmidt)

And so both sides in the reconciliation deal believe they are gaining something important. Fatah restores some of its lost privileges and powers after 10 long years of embarrassment in Gaza. Hamas sheds the distracting albatross of civilian rule that so diminished its standing and, many feel, set it up for failure.

Misunderstandings

Abbas’s predecessor, former Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority founder Yasser Arafat, passed away in 2004 having watched his efforts come to ignominious failure. His PA all but crushed, and with much of the post-9/11 West, usually so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, exasperated at the Palestinian resort to the mass-killing of Israeli civilians, Arafat’s bitter end led to a reexamination of his fundamental strategy by the Palestinian elite.

US President George W. Bush listening to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, speaking at a joint news conference following their talks about the Middle East peace process at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, April 11, 2005. (J. Scott Applewhite /AP Images/JTA)

By the time of Arafat’s death, the man who had destroyed him, who had humiliated him by demolishing part of his Muqata headquarters building in Ramallah with him inside, who had sent Israeli forces marching into Palestinian population centers with one purpose: to capture and dismantle the terror groups and end the wave of suicide bombings detonating in Israeli cities – that man, Ariel Sharon, had become the most popular Israeli leader in decades. Sharon attained that popularity through a simple expedient: amid a wave of detonating pizzerias and mass-murders of Israeli children, he ended the decade-old experiment of negotiating with Palestinian leaders on the assumption that they were capable or willing to offer peace.

Arafat’s failure, and Sharon’s parallel success, drove home something important about the nature of that failure. It was in large part a failure to understand Israelis.

Arafat spent those final years of his life apparently believing that the relentless campaign of bombings and shootings that began in 2000 would convince the Israelis that the Palestinian spirit was indomitable and ultimately irresistible, that they could never be safe in this land and so, eventually, were destined to lose the long war between the two peoples.

A Palestinian woman walks past a portrait of Yasser Arafat at the start of celebrations marking the 13th anniversary of his death, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 9, 2017. (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)

But Israelis drew the opposite lesson from that experience: according to countless and exhaustive polls, most Israelis concluded from that violence that Palestinian politics could not resist the temptation to transform any gains at the negotiating table into a staging ground for violent jihad against Israeli civilians. Palestinian demands were thus unfulfillable, because they did not end at the Green Line. It did not matter if one found a Palestinian moderate and began negotiating with him. There would always be Arafats, Marwan Barghoutis and Yahya Sinwars in the wings preparing to turn any peace gains into further and deadlier war.

Most Israelis came to believe, in other words, that Palestinian violence was not susceptible to policy or concession, that there was nothing they could afford to give to the Palestinians that would end it — and that therefore it was up to the Israelis themselves to take the necessary steps to crush the Palestinian capacity for violence.

The point here is not to argue that this mainstream Israeli belief is correct. Palestinian society and politics are complex, and Palestinian attitudes have themselves changed over the years. Whether this Israeli view is objectively true is a judgment call, one usually made with insufficient evidence either way. The point here is simply to note that this is what mainstream Israelis have come to believe about the Palestinians — and that this belief carries strategic implications for the Palestinian future.

The Palestinians have yet to recover from Arafat’s miscalculation about Israeli psychology, his misreading of how Israelis would respond to the terrorism of the Second Intifada. They have yet to regain the economic integration and political potential that once drove the Palestinian economy and thrust its cause upon the world stage.

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)

Yet, ironically, it was in the 13 years since Arafat’s death, under the less-than-inspiring, less-than-competent rule of his heir Mahmoud Abbas, that the Palestinians engaged in an even more fundamental miscalculation. Arafat misunderstood the Israelis. Abbas misunderstands the Palestinians.

Abbas has spent most of the years since 2004, the year when Arafat’s strategy of violence might be said to have begun its long, slow, comprehensive collapse, pursuing the alternative policy he had long championed: replacing Palestinian terrorism with internationalism, replacing a type of pressure that cost Palestine its allies and any gains it had made under the Oslo process with a different sort of pressure geared toward restoring those allies and augmenting those gains.

His policy, in short: to throw the Palestinian cause at the feet of the world.

But Abbas’s internationalization strategy rests on two unexamined assumptions. First, that the Israeli resistance to withdrawing from the West Bank is a relatively weak sentiment, weak enough to be swayed by international opprobrium or sanctions; second, and despite all evidence to the contrary, that his fellow Palestinians would play along with the strategy.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

Abbas grasps that the two Palestinian strategies — violence and internationalization — counteract each other: that terrorism bolsters Israeli resistance to withdrawal, and so fatally undermines the capacity of international pressure to deliver results. Yet this understanding has only ever expressed itself at the tactical level. Abbas’s security services have spent much of the past 10 years cracking down on Palestinian terror groups in areas controlled by the PA.

Abbas’s problem, however, extends far beyond the piecemeal challenge of preventing the occasional act of violence. Among Palestinians, the violent “resistance” is no mere tactic employed by a small handful of violent extremists. It is a fundamental pillar of their narrative of national liberation, a vehicle for reclaiming the dignity lost by their history of dispossession, a crucible that for many lends the sheen of redemptive theology to their long suffering.

This vision of a violent reclamation of national honor is reified in Hamas, funded by cash from Qatar, Iran and elsewhere, and sustained by the religious leadership of Palestinian society in most Palestinian towns and villages. Indeed, it often seems to be the only narrative left standing that still teaches Palestinians that they have agency in deciding their fate, or that victory against immovable Israel is even possible.

After Arafat’s death, Abbas turned away from the tactic of terrorism, but never seems to have given serious thought to the strategic problem posed by the reservoirs of ideology and identity that still lionize that violence in the Palestinian body politic.

Palestinian supporters of Fatah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (portrait) gather in Gaza City as Abbas addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

In the end, Abbas lives in a kind of ideological purgatory. He cannot pursue the violent strategy he has watched fail so spectacularly, nor can he acknowledge the flaw at the heart of his diplomatic strategy — the sad fact that Israelis who could not be frightened off by waves of suicide terrorism are not likely to be dislodged by waves of international tut-tutting. Worse, the trap is permanent. Israeli recalcitrance is shored up against foreign pressure by the very expectation of more waves of terrorism. The one Palestinian strategy fatally undermines the other.

And so he is left trying to sell Palestinians on the shallowest of the strategic visions available to them, and they know it. (A recent poll found that 67 percent of Palestinians want him to resign, a result that surprised no one.) Salvation will come from New York and Geneva, he insists, even as Israelis remain distinctly unimpressed by his international efforts. And the longer salvation is delayed, the more he is identified with yet another drawn-out failure of the Palestinian national movement.

Albatrosses

In the unity deal struck between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority last month, Abbas effectively swallowed into his PA, into his vehicle for restoring Palestinian dignity by — not to put too fine a point on it — ignoring the causes of Palestinian self-defeat, the very architects of that defeat, the party most responsible for the hardening of Israeli politics against Palestinian aspirations.

And, as might be expected, he has done so without any capacity to control what Hamas does or says in Palestine’s name. Hamas, after all, seems eager to surrender every instrument of sovereignty it possesses in Gaza – except the one that matters: its armed wing will remain intact, and under its control.

This was not Hamas’s “red line,” as some commentators suggested, implying that Hamas was being magnanimous with its other concessions. It was the original point and purpose of the entire exercise of reconciliation. Hamas could not give up its military wing because it was in the process of becoming its military wing, shorn of the extranea of civil politics.

The leader of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, waves as he arrives for a meeting with the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister and other officials in Gaza City on October 2, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

It is no accident that in the delicate days leading up to the November 1 transfer of Gaza’s border crossings to the PA, Hamas leaders took painstaking care to assure their Fatah counterparts that, more than anything else, they should not fear the continued existence of a separate Hamas military.

The nation is “still in the throes of our national liberation efforts,” and therefore “we cannot surrender our weapons,” Sinwar himself said on October 25. But, he assured, “our weapons must be under the umbrella of the [Fatah-dominated] Palestine Liberation Organization.”

“The weapons of the Qassam Brigades [Hamas’s military wing] belong to the Palestinian people,” he added for good measure. They were meant “to be used for the liberation effort, and not for internal conflict.”

Those words, meant to soothe the nerves of Fatah officials who understand how small is their victory if Hamas retains its 25,000-strong military, were a signal of the tension within Fatah over the reconciliation. Indeed, just a week earlier, Sinwar was decidedly less magnanimous: “Disarming us,” he quipped, “is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons.”

Fatah leaders are not stupid; they understand that their retaking of Gaza is coming at the cost of liberating Hamas from its civilian responsibilities and freeing it to better lead the military side of the Palestinian agenda. They are worried.

Some analysts have suggested that Hamas will still be able to play “spoiler” to any peace initiative. This is true, of course, but it was also true before the reconciliation.

Members of Hamas’s military branches take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

What worries Fatah is not Hamas’s ability to spoil peace talks. Hamas has won something more important in Palestinian terms. By granting it a reprieve from its civilian rule in Gaza, and thus unshackling it from responsibility for the consequences of its narrative, Abbas has ensured that no matter what he says or does, it is Hamas and its ilk, the proponents of sacred, violent resistance, who will tell his story. They are now the emancipated bearers of the only Palestinian narrative actively being told in Palestine, a narrative whose basic tenets Abbas has not even attempted to challenge.

Abbas’s entire vision and legacy now lie at Hamas’s feet. He can never crush them enough, nor suppress their narrative about Palestinian resistance sufficiently — in part because he believes much of it himself — to win the war of ideas. He has now backed himself into the unenviable corner of trying to push ahead with his internationalization strategy while an unfettered Hamas operates without the slightest check to undermine him.

And he did it to himself, all for the paltry benefit of restoring the lost dignity of Fatah’s 2007 collapse in Gaza.

Hamas’s leaders are surely breathing easier now that the responsibility for Gaza’s desolation is being lifted from their shoulders. But for them, too, the reconciliation comes at a vast price. Hamas has effectively acknowledged that it is unable to steer the territory under its control to freedom and prosperity. The hard-bitten tacticians of its military wing may scoff at such considerations, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. In its abdication of civil leadership, Hamas reveals its own underlying strategic weakness, a weakness it shares with its new ally Hezbollah. Both groups are powerful enough to drag their nations into war, but not ideologically flexible or curious enough to be the bearers of better days.

Hamas has acknowledged that it cannot build a Palestine where Israel has withdrawn. It no longer even wants to.

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PA police chief: Hamas must disarm under unity deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

PA police chief: Hamas must disarm under unity deal

Hazem Atallah’s comments came as cracks begin to show in reconciliation efforts between Fatah and the Gaza-based terror group

Major General Hazem Atallah (C), the head of the Palestinian police in the West Bank, speaks with journalists following a press conference in Ramallah on November 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Major General Hazem Atallah (C), the head of the Palestinian police in the West Bank, speaks with journalists following a press conference in Ramallah on November 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The head of the Palestinian Authority police said Wednesday that Hamas must disarm in order for a landmark reconciliation deal signed last month with rival Fatah to succeed.

Hazem Atallah’s comments came as cracks began to show in the Palestinian reconciliation deal mediated by Egypt over the issue of security control of the Gaza Strip.

The PA is due to retake control of the Strip, still run by the Hamas terror group, by December 1.

“We are talking about one authority, one law, one gun,” Atallah told journalists in Ramallah in the West Bank, echoing a line from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Asked whether he could allow Hamas’s armed wing to maintain its weapons while being in charge of police in Gaza, he said: “No way.”

Major General Hazem Attallah (C), the head of the Palestinian police in the occupied West Bank, speaks with journalists following a press conference in Ramallah on November 8, 2017. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

“It is impossible. How can I do security when there are all these rockets and guns and whatever? Is this possible? It doesn’t work.

“Otherwise how can I be in charge? Who is going to be standing and saying ‘I am the chief of police, I am in charge,’ if I am not controlling everything?”

He said the 8,000-9,000 Palestinian police who worked in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007 would return to their posts, rejecting the idea of merging with the existing Hamas-led police.

This, he added, would need major financial support as the police’s budget would effectively double.

Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 following a near civil war with Fatah, which currently dominates the PA.

Last month the two parties signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement under which Hamas is meant to hand over control of Gaza by December 1.

The agreement signed in Cairo does not specify the future for Hamas’s vast armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas has made clear it is not prepared to disarm.

On November 1, Hamas handed over control of border crossings in a first key test.

But in a sign of tension, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Tuesday the PA still did not have full control of the crossings, with Hamas dominating the police and security inside Gaza.

Hamas rejected that, with a statement saying it had fully transferred power.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, publicly seeks the destruction of Israel and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for a decade in order to prevent the import of weapons, while Egypt has also kept its border largely closed in recent years.

Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

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Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli boy, 12, injured in rock attack at Hebron spring

Video appears to show Palestinian assailant throw stone into well where children were sitting, knocking boy unconscious

An Israeli boy was knocked unconscious after being hit in the head by a stone while at a spring in the West Bank city of Hebron, in what the army said was an attack by a Palestinian assailant Saturday.

The incident occurred at the Abraham’s Well spring in the Jewish enclave of the city.

According to a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, a man dropped a large stone on a group of children sitting at the spring, hitting one on the head.

The 12-year-old fell into the pool and had to be rescued by friends who immediately alerted the authorities, community representative Noam Arnon said.

Medics arrived at the scene and took the boy to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem where he received 10 stitches for the head wound.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the boy regained consciousness and designated his injuries as minor.

The head of a 12-year-old boy after receiving 10 stitches to close a wound caused by a large rock that was dropped on him by a Palestinian in Hebron on October 21, 2017. (Courtesy: Jewish settlement in Hebron spokesperson)

Responding to an inquiry into the attack, the IDF spokesman said that an “unidentified Palestinian” was responsible for throwing the rock and that security forces were “searching the area for suspects.”

A video of what appears to be Saturday’s incident currently being disseminated on social media shows an assailant throwing the rock into the spring from above before running away.

Arnon said the video was obtained from army security cameras. The IDF said it did not release the footage, but did not deny the possibility that it was the source. Among those to share it was the former English-language spokesperson for the IDF.

The flashpoint city of Hebron, where a Palestinian majority lives in close proximity to a small minority of settlers who are heavily guarded by Israeli troops, has been the scene of numerous stabbings and attempted stabbings since a wave of attacks carried out by Palestinians began in October 2015.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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Gaza Opens its Doors after Years of Deprivation

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

 

Gaza Opens its Doors after Years of Deprivation

Wednesday, 4 October, 2017 – 11:30
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

Gaza’s leadership finally welcomed the Palestinian Authority with arms wide open to end their dispute.

This is a very important political and humanitarian agreement credited for the government of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, the first in a decade who succeeded in doing so.

If the deal’s implementation went as planned, and Ramallah and Gaza’s leaders cooperated, one of the worst politicians-made humanitarian disasters would be over.

There is no doubt that Gaza’s leaders, who were drawn into Qatar’s adventures and Iran’s exploitation, are responsible for the dark stage.

For ten painful years the densely populated strip suffered, and its people witnessed devastating wars having no political objectives. The factions in the enclave fought with extremists and radicals.

Trade was banned, tunnels were blocked, swimming in the sea was forbidden, and fishermen were constrained.

The suffering began when the airport, symbol of peace promise and better future, was closed.

Most of Gaza’s news became about the crossing point, and when it would be open for humanitarian cases.

The people’s suffering was neither a national duty nor a political necessity. It was rather a nonsensical disagreement and personal rivalry over leadership.

Not until the new agreement goes into full effect for weeks and months, will we be certain that it will last. However, this remains the best thing that has happened in years.

Can Rami Hamdallah’s government run the enclave and coexist with Hamas simultaneously? Will disagreements be forgotten and replaced by a cooperation that shall unite the strip back with the West Bank?

Many old reasons make this a difficult task, and even if it succeeds today, it might not last.

Gaza’s return to Ramallah is an important sign on the Palestinian leadership’s ability to speak on behalf of all Palestinians.

The reconciliation puts an end to Israel’s rejection of peace claiming that “Hamas,” “Islamic Jihad”, and other armed opposition movements thwarted past attempts for peace.

Reconciliation opens the door to any international desire to launch a new initiative.

Even if a serious peace plan is not produced, at least it will be possible to reform the internal Palestinian situation shattered by conflicts over authority.

Egypt’s return is an important new peace factor. It was responsible for sponsoring the Gaza Strip, hadn’t it been for the Qatari-Iranian interventions that struck Egypt’s role, created a wall of fear and closed the strip.

During the 10 years of intra-Palestinian conflict, Egypt tried to mediate but failed. However, this is the first time we see a sign of hope in ending the conflict between two brothers.

Sincere intentions are required so that the authority isn’t tempted into total domination, nor does it become a victim of Hamas’ deception to open the crossings in order to overcome the crisis, provide its needs, and then return to disagreement and estrangement.

Reconciliation and the opening of Gaza may be the door to regional stability and a sign of an end to regional chaos.

Hamas Says It Won’t Even Discuss Giving Up Their Weapons: Only An Idiot Would Think They Would

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hamas says it won’t even discuss giving up weapons if PA takes over Gaza

Still, Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar says Muhammad Deif, Qassam Brigades terror chief, ‘strongly backs’ reconciliation with Fatah

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, attend a memorial in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 31, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, attend a memorial in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 31, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that the Gaza-based terror group is not prepared to discuss the dissolution of its military wing during talks with the Fatah party, as the two sides attempt to form a unity government.

At the same time, Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar said the elusive commander of the terror group’s military wing, Muhammad Deif, supports the reconciliation attempt.

“This issue is not up for discussion, not previously and neither will it be in the future,” Abu Marzouk said in a long interview with the semi-official Turkish news agency Al-Andalous. “The weapons of the resistance are for the protection of the Palestinian people, and it is inconceivable that Hamas will lay down its weapons as long as its land is occupied and its people dispersed.”

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, September 18, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since Hamas violently took control of the Strip in 2007, with the two groups operating separate administrations.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has a reported  27,000 armed men divided into six regional brigades, with 25 battalions and 106 companies.

It has fought three conflicts with Israel since the terror group took control of Gaza.

Hamas announced earlier this month that it had agreed to steps toward resolving the split with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government — known as the administrative committee — and was ready to hold elections.

The statement came after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials and as Gaza faces a mounting humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by retaliatory moves by Abbas following Hamas’s decision to set up the administrative committee to govern the enclave in March.

While Abbas welcomed Hamas’s dissolution of the administrative committee, he didn’t commit to removing PA sanctions on the Strip.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is slated to travel to Gaza on Monday to begin reinstating the PA’s control over the Strip.

Reconciliation attempts between the two sides have failed numerous times, and one of the biggest sticking points has been who will control the border and security in the Gaza Strip.

(From L to R) Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmad, Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk pose for a photo as they celebrate in Gaza City on April 23, 2014, after West Bank and Gaza Strip leaders agreed to form a unity government within five weeks. (photo credit: AFP/Said Khatib)

Abu Marzouk also said in his comments on Thursday that Hamas would not be willing to accede to the demands of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union, and United Nations — that it renounce terrorism and agree to accept past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the largest Palestinian political umbrella group.

Despite refusing to give up its military, Hamas on Thursday reiterated that it is completely committed to the idea of a unity government.

“Hamas will not remain a party to the division in any way,” said Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar in remarks given during a closed meeting with journalists and later published by a Hamas spokesperson, adding that he won’t allow anyone to foil the reconciliation plans.

“The page of the previous stage must be turned over, and we must move into the future to build our national project,” he said.

Hamas military wing commander Muhammad Deif (courtesy)

In a surprising statement, Sinwar said that Deif, the leader of the Qassam Brigades, Deif, who Israel has tried unsuccessfully  to kill numerous times and whose condition has been unknown since the 2014 summer war with Israel, is “strongly supportive” of the reconciliation efforts.

US ‘withdrew veto’ against Palestinian reconciliation

In his statements on Thursday, Abu Marzouk claimed Hamas was informed that the US was ending its opposition to a Hamas-Fatah unity government.

“We received information from sources of our own, and other Western diplomats, confirming that the United States has lifted its veto on Palestinian reconciliation,” he said.

The Hamas leader said the removal of American opposition grants Abbas “the space to take a bold step to end Palestinian division, as America formed a primary obstacle.”

On Thursday the Quartet, of which the US is a part, welcomed the PA’s impending return to the Gaza Strip as part of renewed reconciliation efforts with the Hamas.

It said renewed PA control over Gaza “is critical for efforts to reach lasting peace.”

US President Donald Trump reaches to shake Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s hand before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)

The latest reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas come as US President Donald Trump has sought to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and met separately with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

In apparent contradiction of Abu Marzouk’s statement, last week, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt slammed Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip and called on the PA to retake control of Gaza and urged the international community to help this process come to fruition.

“Relief from the suffering in Gaza can only be found when all interested parties gather together to help the Palestinian people and isolate Hamas,” he said, accusing Hamas of using money meant for Gaza’s civilian population on terror infrastructure.

READ MORE:

Is President Trump Bluffing Again? Or, Does He Actually Know Something?

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

Opinion

If Trump has a Strategy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace, it’s Remaining a Secret

If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said last week. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of that statement, what’s clear is that the White House is willing to devote time and attention to new Middle East negotiations and the president wants to be personally involved.

The problem is there’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.

Last week, a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat traveled to Washington to prepare for the visit. The group met with Trump’s envoy on Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, as well as with White House and State Department officials.

Both sides are keeping expectations for the Trump-Abbas meeting low. Palestinian officials tell me the Trump team doesn’t seem to know exactly what Trump wants to discuss or propose. White House staff declined to say anything at all about their goals for the meeting. Some experts think that’s because there’s no depth to Trump’s approach.

“How you deal with Abbas is directly related to a broader strategy, which unless they haven’t announced it, they simply don’t have,” said former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. “It’s hard to see that this is going to turn out to be much more than a stage visit.”

In truth, there really isn’t much Trump and Abbas can agree to. There’s little hope that Abbas will give Trump what the US side wants, namely a promise to address the issue of incitement in the Palestinian territories or a pledge to curb the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s policy of paying families of terrorists who have attacked Israelis and Americans.

Likewise, there’s no prospect that Trump will deliver what Abbas wants — a commitment to press the Israelis into a freeze of settlement-building that would meet Palestinian standards. The United States has secured an informal agreement with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to place some limits on building new settlements, a version of the “build up, not out” framework from the George W. Bush administration. But that falls short of what Abbas says is needed before negotiations can begin.

The meeting could be significant by itself, if Trump and Abbas can establish a personal rapport to build on in the future. But therein also lies a risk.

“The president has never met Abbas and that makes it an important meeting,” said former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams. “But if he forms the opinion that Abbas is not strong enough to do a deal and then implement it, that will have a real impact on American policy.”

Sure to be present at the meeting is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Greenblatt’s work. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will reportedly join Donald Trump for a trip to Israel in late May.

Administration officials sometimes talk about an “outside-in” approach whereby a framework for peace negotiations would be arranged with Arab states and then folded into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Details of that plan are hazy, and the Trump team has yet to explain how it plans to incentivize Arab states to buy in.

Martin Indyk, who served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy on this issue, said Trump’s approach of trying to find avenues to pursue is positive but cannot overcome the inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the political compromises necessary for real progress.

“Based on experience, there’s one principle that I operate on. By American willpower alone, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved,” he said.

There are things the Trump team can do constructively, including bolstering Abbas by promoting economic development in the West Bank, Indyk said. Making small progress on the margins could improve the chances for peace down the line.

But by going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk. There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing.

The Washington Post

Opinion: The Miracle of Occupation Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘LEFT WING’ ISRAELI NEWS PAPER ‘HAARETZ’)

Opinion The Miracle of Occupation Nation

It’s easier to celebrate Independence Day when you blot out millions of disenfranchised people living right next door

Chemi Shalev May 03, 2017
Israeli children watch fireworks in the sky over Mount Herzl at the end of Israel’s Memorial Day and at the start of Israel’s 69th Independence Day celebrations, in Jerusalem late on May 1 2017. MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP
Editorial This is how Israel inflates its Jewish majority
Opinion How an Israeli Arab marks Independence Day
Opinion Why I won’t fly the Israeli flag on Independence Day
In its editorial on Sunday, Haaretz railed against the annual population report issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics in honor of Independence Day. The editorial states that the CBS counts Jews who live in the West Bank as though they “reside in Israel,” even though they don’t, technically. By listing Israeli citizens who live in the West Bank but omitting the 2 to 3 million Palestinian non-citizens who reside there, the chief statistician is “erasing the Palestinians” and misleading the country about the size of the Jewish majority, the editorial says.
I can imagine Israeli readers of the article scratching their heads and trying to make heads or tails of it. What are these people at Haaretz on about? Israelis have been counting Jews and discounting Palestinians in the West Bank since time immemorial. We don’t need the chief statistician to “erase” Palestinians for us, because we erased them from our minds a long time ago, along with the military occupation under which they live. In Israel 2017, on the eve of the 69th Independence Day, a full five decades after the territories were captured, it’s become second nature.
And while older Israelis still have to make an effort to believe the occupation doesn’t exist, the illusion comes altogether naturally for younger Israelis. The Forward reported this week on a poll published in Fathom, the research journal of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, which showed that younger Israelis are increasingly unaware that the West Bank and the Jewish settlements aren’t actually part of Israel proper. Only 40 percent of those aged 18 to 29 knew that Israel had not declared sovereignty in the West Bank. Only 32 percent knew that the city of Ariel was not situated inside sovereign Israeli territory. One has to be over 50, it seems, and preferably over 60, to know even the most basic facts about the geography of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After that, one can start to deny them.
But it’s not enough to be ignorant about the status of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. That’s one part of the equation. The other is to not hear anything about the Palestinians either.  The only news reports Israelis are likely to be exposed to concerning the millions of Palestinians living under their army’s military control are those linked to terrorist activities, real or suspected. Scour as many Israeli newspapers as you want – besides Haaretz – and monitor television newscasts 24/7, you won’t pick up a word about economic hardships, nightly military raids, the absolute dependence on the Civil Administration, the need for a permit for everything under the sun, the roadblocks, the humiliation, the frustration, the feeling of impotence or any of the other thousand and one indignities that go along with living under occupation. It’s going on right under their noses, but none of these things are ever brought to the attention of most Israelis. And if they are, they go in one ear and come out the other.
Even the word occupation – in Hebrew “kibush,” which also means conquest – is rarely mentioned outside of Haaretz and unabashedly left wing circles. It is politically toxic, because it implies that Israel’s presence in the territories is alien, foreign, even temporary. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once endorsed the establishment of two states, his coalition partners view the territories of Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, as a divine birthright and an integral part of Israel, other than in the most tactically expedient terms. Anyone who utters the word “occupation” is automatically branded as suspect. NGOs such as B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence that try to point out the injustices that are the inevitable byproduct of any military occupation are marked and targeted as traitors.

Israeli border policemen detain a Palestinian protester during clashes at a rally in support of prisoners on hunger strike, Bethlehem, West Bank, April 27, 2017. AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

This willful blindness is convenient for everyone – and by everyone, I mean most Jewish Israelis. It absolves us of the need to reckon with 50 years of disenfranchisement. It allows those of us who might otherwise be bothered to sleep well at night. And it allows us to celebrate Independence Day as if we were as innocent and just as the righteous few against the malevolent many – just like we were in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and at Entebbe, in Lebanon and in Gaza. Even if we weren’t.
Denial of the occupation is a godsend for the right wing. It allows firebrands and rabble-rousers to whip up hostility toward Israelis who, if there is no occupation, are making a big deal about nothing, blaming Israel for crimes it could not have committed and spreading blood libels about innocent Jews, like the worst anti-Semites. It allows Netanyahu to constantly stir resentment against a hostile if not anti-Semitic world, which singles out Israel unfairly, it is alleged.
All this, despite the fact that the 50-year occupation of the West Bank and control over the Palestinians are, in the real world, quite unique. No other Western democracy holds millions of foreigners under military rule, no other enlightened nation keeps another people permanently disenfranchised, no other country seems to think that this situation can go on forever, because the Palestinians can’t be trusted or must be punished or are incapable of being independent.
Because if there is no occupation, then what in God’s name does the world want from us? If there is no occupation, then the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement is definitely anti-Semitic. If there is no occupation, The New York Times is peddling fake news and Haaretz is an agent of Hamas. If there is no occupation, Europe has learned nothing since the Holocaust. If there is no occupation, any Palestinian resistance – from terror attacks, stabbings and throwing stones to peaceful demonstrations, calls for boycotts and op-eds in Western newspapers – are all unjustified and worthy of punishment. If there is no occupation, there is no reason for German foreign ministers to meet with Breaking the Silence, nor for the United Nations to obsessively deal with Israel. This is exactly the way the Israeli government and most of the public regard these phenomena. They have repressed awareness of the occupation for so long, they cant remember its existence anymore.
There are many other benefits to erasing the occupation. If there is no occupation, one doesn’t have to deal with its lingering effects on Israeli psychology or behavior. If there is no occupation, one can’t claim that it is eroding democracy, promoting brutishness, fueling intolerance or nurturing racism. If there is no occupation, then all of the illnesses that are plaguing Israeli society are not the outcome of 50 years of imposing military rule over another people, but forces of nature, which the government – of course – can do nothing to stop.
There are many people, groups and organizations that contribute to the erasure of the occupation. We have many willing accomplices in maintaining the no-occupation facade. Besides the politicians, the settlers, the religious establishment, the media and the civil service, even the leaders of the opposition – who are afraid to say “kibush” lest they be castigated as wishy-washy leftists – much of the U.S. and most of the American Jewish establishment are in on the act. At AIPAC conferences, 99 percent of the deliberations are about Israel’s enemies, including the Palestinians-as-terrorists, and only 1 percent are about the occupation and Palestinians-as-occupied – and that’s only on good years. The Republican Party never mentions the occupation, nor does our new superhero, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who may not be aware that there are millions of people who have been deprived of their rights for decades. At least, she never seems to mention them.
When you think about it, it’s nothing less than a miracle, even if it is a malignant one. We are the perfect Occupation Nation precisely because we don’t even notice it exists. It’s an occupation without all the nasty side effects, a medical marvel that ranks right up there with making the desert bloom, beating five Arab armies in the Six Day War, ingathering exiles from Russia and Ethiopia and, the most recent of our marvels, Start Up Nation. Even though Jerusalem is less than 10 miles from Ramallah and Tel Aviv is only 30 miles from Nablus, the Palestinian cities might as well be on the North Pole. Israelis have no choice but to notice the wall that separates them from the other side, but they have no idea and show no interest in finding out what’s going on there. The Palestinians are like the residents of the science fictional town of Chester Hill, who are living under the dome. Unlike the TV program, however, no one is trying to break in from the other side to set them free.
This miracle of Occupation Nation is made possible, of course, by virtue of some of the other miracles that Israel is associated with. Its stellar army, which devotes so much time and energy to keeping Israelis safe and Palestinians subdued; its unparalleled security services, which manage the population from inside and out in order to prevent it from getting too restive; and of course, our technological whiz kids, who provide the surveillance and intelligence abilities to locate dangerous elements and neutralize them before they do harm. The Israeli army’s requirements seed Start Up Nation, and Start Up Nation returns the favor by enabling the See-No-Occupation Nation.
The relative quiet in the West Bank, which is occasionally marred by violence that is quickly contained, theoretically gives a rational Israeli government an opportunity to try and achieve peace. It’s easier to make concessions and reach an agreement when you can convince your own people that the other side is also seeking a diplomatic solution, and it is much harder to do so when violence makes nationalist feelings run wild. But it’s a vicious circle, because when there is no violence, there is no impetus for the government to do anything, especially when said government, like the current one, prefers to keep things just as they are.
No one wants to encourage violence, of course, but it is a historical fact that the first intifada paved the way to the Oslo Accords and the second intifada led to the disengagement from Gaza. Years of relative quiet, in which Israelis were happy to erase the occupation from their consciousness, have never led to anything except, eventually and inevitably, heartache and bloodshed.

Chemi Shalev
read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.786679