Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Palestinian Protests Following Trump Statement on Jerusalem Fade Without Making Much of an Impression — But Rocket Attacks on Israel May Start To Get A Harsher Response

December 12, 2017


Frequent rocket fire from Gaza would disturb the feeling of security and would put pressure on Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman to act more resolutely

Amos Harel Dec 12, 2017 6:21 PM

Since the evening of December 6, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, eight rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into the Negev region. At least three other rockets were fired from Gaza but fell inside Palestinian territory. This is the largest number of rockets fired at Israel since the end of Operation Protective Edge, the war that Israel fought with Hamas and its allies during the summer of 2014.

The site in Sderot where a rocket fell on Dec. 8, 2017.

The site in the Israeli border town of Sderot where a rocket fired from Gaza fell on Dec. 8, 2017. Eliyahu Hershovitz

Israeli intelligence agencies attribute most of the rocket fire, if not all of it, to extremist Salafi factions that operate beyond Hamas’ direction. Israel has also identified preliminary steps taken by Hamas over the past few days to rein in the rocket fire, including the arrest of members of these organizations. In the past, the Hamas government in Gaza has known how to make the rules of the game that it has established with Israel clear to these smaller groups – and has adopted a harsh enforcement policy when it has understood that the rocket fire was endangering the stability of its rule in Gaza.

This time, either the message was not received or was not properly understood. It appears that in Gaza Trump’s declaration was seen as an opportunity to let off steam and attack Israeli civilian population centers.


The stage of the large demonstrations by Palestinians protesting Trump’s declaration is slowly coming to an end, without leaving much of an impression on the international community, or on Trump either.

Now there is a shift to a different approach involving firing rockets from the Gaza Strip, a period during which one “lone wolf” terrorist attack also occurred, involving the stabbing by a Palestinian at the Jerusalem central bus station of a security guard, who was seriously wounded.

The Israeli response to the rocket fire from Gaza has been rather restrained so far. As has been its custom in the past, Israel has said that it views Hamas as the party responsible for violence coming from its territory – and has exacted a price from it by bombing Hamas positions and command headquarters. But the Israeli attacks have generally been carried out when the targets were empty, and the attacks have been planned in such a way as to limit the damage. In one case, last Friday, a member of the Hamas military wing was killed, and the Hamas leadership felt Israel had gone too far. For now, it seems that the Israeli leadership does not want to rock the boat to too great an extent in Gaza.

The Israeli government’s problem is that it does not fully control of the situation. Continued rocket fire and “red alert” rocket sirens will exact a psychological price from the Israeli residents in the region near the Gaza border, who have enjoyed a relatively long period of quiet and a major influx of new residents, as a result of a building boom and government tax breaks for the region following Operation Protective Edge. The traumatic experiences of Protective Edge and other previous periods, during military operations in Gaza and between them, are still remembered quite well in Sderot, Ashkelon and the nearby collective moshavim and kibbutzim communities.

Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted two of the rockets fired over the past few days – and missed one rocket, which fell in a populated area in Sderot but did not cause any injuries. The Israel army made a change recently in how it calculates the area where the rockets are projected to fall (known as the “polygon”), thereby only requiring that alarms sound in a very small and more focused area, and limiting the disruption to local routines in border communities near Gaza.

Nevertheless, rocket fire every day, or every other day, would disturb the feeling of security that had been restored with difficulty and would create pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to act more resolutely. The distance could be short from that to another round of violence.

The latest tensions are occurring against the backdrop of the Israeli army’s announcement Sunday that it had successfully destroyed another attack tunnel dug well inside Israeli territory that was discovered along the border with Gaza, the second in less than two months. It appears, however, that Hamas’ actions are influenced first and foremost by another factor, its reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


So far the commitments included in the agreement have not been carried out. That’s the case when it comes to the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and the resumption of funding for Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

As far as Hamas is concerned, the bad news is coming from almost all directions: Trump’s announcement, the Israeli army’s success in locating attack tunnels and the difficulties with Palestinian reconciliation. If Hamas cannot deliver the goods to Gaza’s residents, who have been waiting with bated breath for a measure of improvement in their economic situation and freedom of movement, Hamas could well find itself dragged once again into an escalation with Israel – as it has acted in the past.

This is the main worry keeping Israel’s senior defense officials and political leadership busy at the moment, and it explains the relatively restrained Israeli response – restraint that could end if the frequent rocket fire continues, and certainly if the rockets inflict casualties.

Amos Harel
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Erdogan risks diplomatic spat with Israel over Jerusalem

December 12, 2017


© AFP/File / by Ezzedine SAID | Thousands protested on December 9 against Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

ISTANBUL (AFP) – By repeatedly hitting out at the US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be catering to his voter base, but he risks sabotaging Turkey’s already fragile relations with the Jewish state.While President Donald Trump’s decision last week was met with near-universal condemnation, particularly from the Muslim world, Erdogan has emerged as its most outspoken critic.

Following Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy there, Erdogan has levelled a string of accusations against Israel and the US, in his usual strident style.

Among other things he said Israel was a “terrorist state” that kills Palestinian children, adding that the US had “become a partner to this bloodshed”.

Such sentiments echo those held by many among Erdogan’s traditional voter base of Sunni Muslims in Turkey. His statements have also galvanised his popularity among some Muslims in the Arab world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Erdogan, saying he was “not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran go around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza”.

Erdogan, who considers himself a fervent supporter of the Palestinians, will hold a summit of leaders of Muslim countries on Wednesday, which he claimed will mark a “turning point” in the response to Washington’s decision.

Traditional heavyweights of the Middle East like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have condemned the move, but without announcing any concrete measures of their own.

– ‘Serious risk’ –

Erdogan, who comes from a conservative Islamist background, frequently criticises Israel and does not conceal his support for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, listed as a terrorist organisation by the US, Israel and several countries around the world.

His statements have been “consistent with the prevailing feelings among his own followers inside Turkey”, said Marc Pierini, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and former EU ambassador to Turkey.

But Erdogan’s escalation comes as Turkey and Israel are working to normalise ties since last year after a near-break in relations triggered by Israel’s storming of a Gaza-bound ship in 2010 which left 10 Turkish activists dead.

“Given the Israeli reaction to these statements, there is indeed a serious risk for Turkey-Israel normalisation. I think this is a risk that both sides are ready to take,” Pierini said.

According to Aaron Stein, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Centre, Erdogan is already thinking about elections scheduled for November 2019 when he is expected to run for a new term as president with boosted powers under an executive presidency approved in an April referendum.

By taking a firm stand against the Jerusalem move, it is “part of his broader effort to paint himself as the protector of oppressed Muslims around the world,” Stein added.

“The two sides don’t like each other, but are not standing in the way of normal economic relations. I think this is likely to continue, given Erdogan’s political calculations and Netanyahu’s own legal and political problems,” he added.

– ‘Domestic considerations prevail’ –

Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, believes that Erdogan’s rhetoric on Jerusalem more broadly reflects a shift in Turkey’s foreign policy approach since the arrival of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002.

“Traditionally, Turkey was able, in its diplomatic practice, to operate more in isolation from domestic political considerations,” Ulgen said.

“This has changed under AKP rule so that Turkey finds itself at almost another extreme where most foreign policy decisions are driven by domestic calculations.”

Ulgen said that it was from this perspective that Turkey’s efforts to lead the campaign against the US move should be read.

Erdogan “believes that there is public support at home to justify this more aggressive rhetoric against Israel”, even if it risks provoking a new diplomatic crisis, Ulgen said.

“One more time, domestic considerations tend to prevail over more cautious diplomatic practice.”

by Ezzedine SAID

Iran Urges to Foil US-Israeli ‘Plan’, Hezbollah Calls Washington Isolated

December 12, 2017


December 12, 2017

Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israeli Capital: Consequences
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Lebanese and Palestinian students burn a picture of President Trump as they protest in the port city of Sidon, Lebanon, on Dec. 7, 2017. (Mohammed Zaatari – Associate Press)

US President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem has faced outrage in the Muslim world and sparked international criticism as a threat to the peace process in the Middle East.

Iran Calls for Response to US

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the move by US President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, calling it a “plan” against Palestine and the Muslim world, according to Press TV.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran strongly condemns this US move,” Rouhani said Monday in a phone call with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Palestine’s Hamas movement.

Rouhani said that the “incorrect” move by the US and Israel has demonstrated that they “do not want to officially recognize the Palestinian people’s rights.”

READ MORE: Possible Motives Behind Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

The Iranian president also called on all movements in Palestine to respond to Tel Aviv and Washington.

Haniyeh, in turn, said that Trump’s decision was a blatant violation of rights of all Muslims, adding that Palestine would never allow Israel and the US to implement their plan.

Hezbollah Calls to Isolate US, Israel

Addressing the nation, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement on Monday called to isolate the US and Israel in response to the Jerusalem decision.Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pointed out the negative international reaction to Trump’s move, saying as a result of these reactions Washington has become even more isolated among other nations.

He called on all Arab countries, first of all Palestine, to stand up to Trump’s decision on the status of Jerusalem.

“The whole nation must stand up in the face of this American threat,” he said, as quoted by PressTV.

Nasrallah also said that one of the most powerful responses to Trump’s decision would be isolating Israel.

“We must put pressure on the Arab and Islamic states to repeal peace treaties and other deals with Israel. I call on Palestinians to kick out any delegation that aims to visit them from countries that have normalized relations with Israel, no matter what the background of those delegations is,” he said.

READ MORE: Netanyahu Hopes EU to Follow Trump’s ‘Recognition of Reality’ on Jerusalem

On Wednesday, Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state and announced the US would start moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move has faced backlash in Muslim countries and sparked international criticism.

On Thursday, the Hamas leader called for a new “intifada” in response to Trump’s decision and urged Arab countries to suspend cooperation with the US.

‘We are one’: Palestinian Christians and Muslims unite against Trump’s Jerusalem call — “In this sacred place, God is protecting us all.”

December 12, 2017


JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Less than an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Palestinians protested by turning off the lights on the Christmas tree outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

Image result for Bethlehem, Church of the Nativity, photos

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

It was a timely reminder that while headlines focused on Islamist calls for uprisings and Trump’s references to Jewish historical ties, the president’s words also stirred deep feelings among the Palestinians’ small Christian community.

Coming out of the Sunday service in his Assyrian Catholic church in Jerusalem, Fredrick Hazo accused Trump of “dragging all the world into trouble”, and called on the U.S. leader to reverse his decision.

“We are united – Christians, Muslims, we are one,” said the 59-year-old Palestinian musician, standing in an alley in the heart of the Old City, surrounded by shops selling religious trinkets.

He was frustrated by the politics, but confident the delicate balance the three faiths kept in the holy city would prevail. “In this sacred place, God is protecting us all. We are guarded by his angels in Jerusalem,” Hazo added.

Christians make up around just one percent of the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – though they punch above their weight in local and national politics.

Back in July, Hazo protested alongside Muslims against Israel’s installation of security scanners at the nearby al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – after two Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli police officers at the site.

It removed the metal detectors after days of bloody clashes, scenes that have not been repeated in the city since Trump’s declaration.


The appeals to religious unity inside Jerusalem’s walls stand in contrast to the more divided voices outside.

Image result for jerusalem, photos

In the hours running up to Trump’s statement, Pope Francis called for the status quo in the city to be respected. The Episcopal Church of the United States said Trump’s announcement “could have profound ramifications on the peace process and the future of a two-state solution”.

But Trump’s decision found strong backing from another corner of the Christian community – many among his own country’s politically powerful evangelicals who see God’s hand in the modern-day return of Jews to a biblical homeland.

Trump convened a circle of evangelical advisers during his presidential bid, and he was the overwhelming favorite of white evangelical voters in last year’s U.S. election.

“We are all bible-believers and we believe that this is the bible-land and that Jerusalem is the ancient capital of Israel back to the days of King David,” said Dallas-based Mike Evans, part of an evangelical group that met Trump on Monday.

Slideshow (3 Images)

“So for our president to stand up and declare it makes us extremely proud and honored.”

For Palestinian supermarket cashier Mohammed al-Hawa, however, Trump’s words and the logic behind them ignored the more complex reality on the ground.

People of all faith in Jerusalem were united in prayer, the 33-year-old said, even if they were divided over politics.

“Christians, Jews and Muslims live in this city together. There is no problem between them. Only the politics. The governments want to make wars,” he said.

“This is my city – my blood, my life,” added a 70-year-old Palestinian, walking through the pilgrim-packed courtyard of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered by Christians as the site of Jesus’s tomb.

The church is packed into a small parcel of land that also holds the al-Aqsa compound and Judaism’s Western Wall

“I can go to the church, to anywhere in Jerusalem, not Trump nor Netanyahu can stop me,” added the man who identified himself only as a “Jerusalemite”.

Additional reporting by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh in Bethelem; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Andrew Heavens

Leaders needed to fix global ‘mess’, says Kofi Annan

December 12, 2017


© AFP | “Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” UN chiefs Kofi Annan told AFP in an exclusive interview ahead of Tuesday’s climate talks in Paris.


Former UN chiefs Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon have lashed out at the state of global leadership in the age of Donald Trump, warning a nuclear war could be triggered by accident.

“Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” Annan told AFP in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s climate talks in Paris.

“In the past when we went through this sort of crisis, you had leaders who had the courage and the vision to want to take action, to understand that they needed to work with others,” he said.

At a time of growing US isolationism — Trump has announced plans to leave the Paris climate deal agreed two years ago on this day — Annan urged leaders to cooperate better on fighting terrorism, migration and global warming.

“Today, leaders are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Leaders are withdrawing.”

He expressed particular concern over escalating tensions with North Korea, warning: “One miscalculation, one mistake and we are all victims”.

“It may not be a deliberate decision to start a nuclear war,” he added, adding that inflammatory rhetoric — without mentioning Trump or North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un by name — was not helping.

Ban, who like Annan spoke to AFP as part of The Elders group of senior statesmen and women, blasted Trump’s climate stance as “politically short-sighted and misguided”.

“The richest and most powerful country” in the world is disengaging from a historic deal that “even countries like Syria” have signed, Ban said.

“We are seeing more and more troubles and conflicts still continuing, because of the lack of global commitment and global vision,” he added.

– Step forward, Macron? –

Lakhdar Brahimi, the former UN Syria envoy who joined the interview with former Irish president Mary Robinson and Norway’s first female premier Gro Harlem Brundtland, said Europe could step into the bigger global role vacated by Trump — at least in the Middle East.

French President Emmanuel Macron in particular, he suggested, appears willing to shoulder more responsibility: this week’s climate talks are his latest bid to play a lead role in global affairs.

“I think Europe certainly has a role and a capacity to play a role, and the important leaders in Europe. Definitely one of them is President Macron,” Brahimi told AFP.

The United States has “absolutely” disqualified itself as a broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he added.

“They have now announced with this statement ‘We are not going to mediate anymore’. And the thing is, I think someone should step in because this problem is not going to go away.”

As a new round of peace talks gets under way in Geneva this week, Brahimi — who like Annan quit as the UN’s Syria envoy in frustration over years of deadlock — said he hoped this time things might be different.

“I think we have come now much closer to the realisation that indeed there is no military solution. There is some hope there,” he said.

“The other thing is that there was fear that Syria would break up as a country. It does seem that the unity of Syria can be preserved if people really start working for a political solution.”

Iran’s foreign minister warns Europe away from ‘unreliability’ of the U.S. — Russia Plays the “Reliability Card”

December 12, 2017


Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is pictured. | AP


“As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don’t soon find ourselves repeating history,” Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote. | Ivan Sekretarev/AP

Iran’s foreign minister blamed the Trump administration in an op-ed published Sunday for “tantrums” on issues related to foreign policy, calling on European nations not to follow the lead of the U.S. when it comes to relations with the Islamic Republic.

“Unfortunately, for the past 11 months, the response to Iran’s good faith has been tantrums from the Trump administration. But the unreliability of the United States — from climate change to Palestine— has become predictable,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in The New York Times.

“Our main concern now is cautioning European countries against wavering on issues beyond the scope of the nuclear agreement and following in lock step behind the White House,” he continued. “As the nuclear deal and the Middle East enter uncharted and potentially combustible territory, it is imperative that Europe helps ensure that we don’t soon find ourselves repeating history.”

Earlier this fall, President Donald Trump announced that he would decertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the landmark nuclear deal struck during the Obama administration by Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany. Trump stopped short of asking Congress to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, instead urging new legislation that would trigger fresh penalties down the line.

The nuclear deal had been a regular target of Trump’s during last year’s presidential campaign, with the president pledging on the stump that he would pull the U.S. out of the deal entirely. And while he has yet to fully make good on that promise, Trump has thrust doubt onto the deal that his predecessor championed as a foreign policy triumph that would keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Iran remains listed by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism, one of just four nations to be given such a designation. Its officials have often called for the destruction of Israel.

Zarif, in his op-ed, claimed U.S. stubbornness during the administration of former President George W. Bush cost the international community a chance at a nuclear deal. The agreement struck in 2015, he said, “is a rare triumph of diplomacy over confrontation. Undermining that would be a mistake.”

He also defended his nation’s missile program as defensive and its progress predicated on past battles, including the Iran-Iraq war. He claimed the missile program’s advancement has been geared towards accuracy, a capability not required for a nuclear missile.

“Europe should not pander to Washington’s determination to shift focus to yet another unnecessary crisis — whether it be Iran’s defensive missile program or our influence in the Middle East,” he said. “This would repeat the very dynamics that preceded the nuclear deal.”


Russia plays the “reliability” card:


Despite Unrest, The Palestinians Seem Unwilling or Unable to Launch The Promised “Third Intifada”

December 12, 2017


Unlike the previous outbreaks in 1987 and 2000, the key elements needed to spark another Palestinian uprising do not seem to be in place

Anshel Pfeffer Dec 11, 2017 3:29 PM
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A Palestinian protester gesturing towards Israeli forces during clashes at the main entrance of Bethlehem in the West Bank, December 10, 2017.

A Palestinian protester gesturing towards Israeli forces during clashes at the main entrance of Bethlehem in the West Bank, December 10, 2017. Musa Al Shaer/AFP
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Saturday was the third day of violent demonstrations in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip border following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was also December 9, the 30th anniversary of the outbreak of the first intifada.

On that day in 1987, rioting broke out across the occupied territories following the deaths of four residents of Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in a road accident. Rumors that their deaths had been intentional inflamed passions at their funeral, and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces quickly spread – from Jabalya to just about every point in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
It lasted for nearly six years, ending officially only with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

In retrospect, the first intifada had been an event waiting to happen. It just needed a spark. The Palestinians at that point, over 20 years after the Six-Day War, wanted to prove to themselves, the Israelis and the rest of the world that they were not prepared to continue sitting docilely by while successive Israeli governments blurred the Green Line and settlements spread, stymieing the prospect of an independent Palestinian state.

It was a spontaneous awakening that ultimately succeeded in redrawing the pre-1967 borders and putting the Palestinian issue firmly on the international agenda. It took the established Palestinian organizations – the PLO and its offshoots – months to establish some semblance of control over the efforts and it spawned Hamas, the PLO’s Islamist rival, which was officially founded a week after the intifada began.

The second intifada was a very different affair. It had spontaneous and “popular” elements at first, in the rioting that broke out in Jerusalem following then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount. But from a very early stage it had a much more organized fashion, with the paramilitary groups of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other organizations competing with each other to carry out armed attacks on Israeli soldiers and terror bombings against civilians within the Green Line.

Seven years after the start of the Oslo process, it was an attempt by the Palestinians to make gains they had failed to achieve by diplomacy.


Palestinian protesters clashing with Israeli forces near the Israel-Gaza border, east of the southern Gaza strip city of Khan Yunis, December 10, 2017.Mahmud Hams/AFP

By 2005, with Yasser Arafat dead and his replacement by the violence-opposing Mahmoud Abbas, it had petered out. Ultimately, it was a failure. Israel abandoned the Gaza Strip and dismantled its settlements there, but politically the Palestinians remained divided: Hamas ruling Gaza, the PA the West Bank, both cut off from each other and from Jerusalem by border fences and the separation barrier.

In the 12 years since, many have anticipated a third intifada, but it has not come. With every new outbreak of violence, there was an expectation of a full-blown intifada following in its wake.

In this period there have been four rounds of heavy fighting in Gaza, which have claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinians. But the violence failed to spread to the West Bank and Jerusalem.

In September 2015, a wave of daily stabbing, car-ramming and shooting attacks began in East Jerusalem and the West Bank – but while some dubbed it the “Al-Aqsa” or “knife intifada,” it remained an accumulation of individual, lone-wolf actions that tapered off after six months and never became a widespread uprising.

This July, there was a week of widespread protests over Israeli security arrangements at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound (Temple Mount), but it died down quickly after Israel backed down.

While it’s too early to make any definite assessments, it seems this latest wave, now four days old, isn’t the much-anticipated third intifada, either. Friday was the peak of demonstrations, with approximately 3,000 Palestinians protesting and rioting at some 20 flash points across the West Bank. By Saturday, their number was reduced to about 500 and Sunday was even lower. While this round of violence is not yet over – and a security guard was stabbed in central Jerusalem in a terror attack on Sunday afternoon – if nothing untoward happens, it will probably peter out again in a few days.

There are three key factors lacking right now, without which it is hard to see another intifada materializing.

One: Joint interests of the three occupied Palestinian communities.

In the two intifadas, the uprising took place nearly simultaneously among all three Palestinian communities living under Israeli occupation – the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Currently, not only are these groups physically divided to an unprecedented extent, they also have different agendas.

In Gaza, Palestinians are eagerly awaiting the implementation of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, which hopefully will lead to the easing of the siege imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and a much-needed boost to the local economy.

In the West Bank, the economic situation is less desperate and more of a political interest in the future of the dysfunctional PA. But Fatah here is more focused on maintaining the security coordination with Israel, which helps keep Hamas out and President Abbas in control.

The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are probably more disposed toward a confrontation with Israel. But as they contemplate their foreseeable future under Israeli civilian control, they are beginning to explore less violent tactics of civil disobedience in a quest for equal rights as Jerusalem residents.

Two: A decision by the Palestinian leadership to burn their bridges.

The PA in the West Bank and Hamas leaders in Gaza are loath to back a new round of all-out violence in their fiefdoms. They still feel they have too much to lose from chaos. Hamas is calling for an intifada, but only in the West Bank and Jerusalem where they don’t have any control. But an intifada in the West Bank will almost certainly mean the end of the PA – and when tens of thousands of officials and security personnel rely on the PA for their livelihood, there is a vested interest to continue coordinating with Israel and keeping a lid on things.

In 1987, there was no accepted local leadership that had anything to gain from maintaining the status quo. In 2000, Arafat took a gamble that Israel would not dare dismantle his hierarchy. He ended his life trapped in the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah. Abbas is no gambler.

Three: An end of Palestinian war-weariness.

The memory of the thousands of deaths in two intifadas and four Gaza conflicts inhibits any mass outpouring of rage onto the streets. Plus, there are the scenes Palestinians see on their televisions of the desolation in other parts of the Arab world, like Syria and Yemen. There may be hundreds of individuals motivated to take a knife or homemade Carl Gustav submachine gun and attack Israelis in the hope of becoming martyrs – but that is not a feeling common to wider swathes of Palestinian society. The critical mass of tens of thousands, prepared to risk their lives in a desperate uprising, doesn’t exist. Yet.

There are other contributory elements minimizing the chances of an intifada breaking out. The Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and police in East Jerusalem have tightened their rules of engagement, reducing the number of serious casualties. The absence of mass funerals of martyrs has helped lower the flames.

Likewise, the policy of the coordinator of government activities in the territories to continue letting over 50,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank arrive daily in Israel has created a major incentive for maintaining the calm. At least half the families in the West Bank are reliant in some way on the Israeli economy, and they don’t want to go back to the intifada reality when Israel imported foreign workers to replace Palestinians.

There is plenty of Palestinian despair and anger at the lack of any prospect of diplomatic progress and an end to the occupation. But there is also political pragmatism and the necessity of making a living.

For the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, the price of another intifada is simply too high.

Anshel Pfeffer
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Iran’s Defense Minister Says Trump’s Stand on Jerusalem Will Hasten the Destruction of Israel

December 12, 2017
 DECEMBER 11, 2017 14:00

“(Trump’s) step will hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime and will double the unity of Muslims,” Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said, according to state media.

Iranians in Tehran

People step on a US flag and an Israeli flag at a shrine on Ashura in the north of Tehran October 24, 2015.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

BEIRUT- Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will hasten the country’s destruction, Iran’s defense minister said Monday.

Leaders of Iran, where opposition to Israel and support for the Palestinian cause has been central to foreign policy since the 1979 Islamic revolution, have denounced last week’s announcement by the US president, including a plan to move the US embassy to the city.

The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Protests erupt after Trump announces Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017

Protests erupt after Trump announces Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, December 7, 2017

“(Trump’s) step will hasten the destruction of the Zionist regime and will double the unity of Muslims,” Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said on Monday, according to state media.

The army’s chief of staff, General Mohammad Baqeri, said Trump’s “foolish move” could be seen as the beginning of a new intifada, or Palestinian uprising.

Iran has long supported a number of anti-Israeli militant groups, including the military wing of Lebanon-based Hezbollah, which the deputy commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, said was “stronger than the Zionist regime.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday stepped up efforts to rally Middle Eastern countries against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which EU foreign ministers meanwhile declined to support.


Germany ‘ashamed’ over anti-Israel protests

December 12, 2017


People protest during a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 11. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert, AP)

People protest during a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 11. (Geert Vanden Wijngaert, AP)

Berlin – The German government said on Monday it was “ashamed” of weekend demonstrations against the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which saw some protesters chant anti-Semitic slogans and torch Israeli flags.

Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert told reporters that although Berlin opposed the move by US President Donald Trump last week, it strongly condemned protests in German cities where “hatred” of Israel and Jews was expressed.

“At certain rallies over the weekend, slogans were chanted, Israeli flags were burned and slander against the state of Israel and Jews in general were spread which were shameful,” Seibert said.

“One has to be ashamed when hatred of Jews is put on display so openly on the streets of German cities.”

 Image may contain: 7 people, crowd

Image of an Israel flag being burned in Berlin. AFP photo

Seibert noted that Berlin had a “particular responsibility toward Israel and Jewish people in general” because Nazi Germany slaughtered six million Jews in the Holocaust.

He said that while Germany protected a constitutional right to free speech and assembly, that freedom did not cover incitement of racial hatred or violence.

“It is important that we continue to stand up to all of that,” he said.

German cities including Berlin and Munich saw anti-Israel demonstrations over the weekend.

At a protest late on Friday in front of the US embassy in the German capital and again on Sunday in the ethnically diverse Neukoelln district of Berlin, demonstrators burned the Israeli flag.

Seibert said last Wednesday that Chancellor Angela Merkel “does not support” Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “because the status of Jerusalem can only be negotiated within the framework of a two-state solution”.


See also:

Burning of Israeli flags at Berlin demo ‘disgraceful’, says interior minister

Iran commander: ‘Hezbollah more powerful than Zionist regime’ — Next war will threaten Israel’s survival

December 12, 2017
Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami [File photo]

Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami [File photo]

Israel no longer poses a “dangerous threat” to Iran following Hezbollah’s rise to military prominence, declared the Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami.

The Iranian general said that the Islamic Republic had taken the decision to downgrade the threat posed by Israel. His announcement comes on the back of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, declaring victory in Syria today. The Russian air force and Hezbollah troops backed by Iran swung the tide of war in Syria in favour of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Lebanon based military group, Hezbollah, has enhanced its reputation as a formidable force in the region. Despite losing fighters in the conflict, analysts believe it has recruited extensively and acquired new weapons and skills that turn it from a paramilitary group able to wage guerrilla operations into an actual mini-army.

Salami’s remark highlights the growing confidence in Tehran of being able to rely on Hezbollah to confront its enemies in the region. According to Iranian sources, the IRGC commander said that Israel had been removed from the level of a “dangerous threat” as it “is balanced with Hezbollah and Hezbollah has the superior hand in this balance and is more powerful than the Zionist regime.”

Read:Lebanon’s Hariri denounces Iraqi Shia paramilitary’s visit to border

Addressing a forum in Tehran today, Salami stressed that “any new war between Israel and another party, including Hezbollah, threatens the regime’s [Israel’s] survival”. “This shows,” explained Salami, “that the US is in serious decline in its ability to prolong the Zionist regime’s survival.”

In November, IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari underlined that any new war in the region will lead to the annihilation of the Zionist regime, an Iranian source reported.

Jafari warned that Lebanon is Israel’s first target, and therefore the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance group should be armed against Israel to maintain security in Lebanon.

“This issue is not negotiable and the entire Lebanese nation, except a number of little puppet groups, support Hezbollah’s weapon,” he added.