Posts Tagged ‘Israeli settlements’

Israel: Netanyahu Angers His base By Only Approving 1,400 New West Bank Homes

August 22, 2018

“A nationalist government should be expanding construction and not reducing it,” the YESHA Council said.


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A general view of houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angered settlers and right-wing politicians by only advancing plans for close to 1,400 new Jewish homes in West Bank settlements on Wednesday.

Rather than welcoming the new construction, the bulk of which was advanced by the Higher Planning Committee for Judea and Samaria on Wednesday morning, Netanyahu’s right-wing partners complained that it was far to little.

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“This is the smallest number of units that the committee has advanced in the last year-and-a-half,” the settlers’ YESHA Council said.

“At past committee meetings some 2,000-3,000 housing units were advanced and this number is small compared to the tens of thousands of housing units authorized throughout the country,” it said.

“A nationalist government should be expanding construction and not reducing it,” the YESHA Council said.

“We call upon the prime minister to remove [building] restrictions and to allow for construction throughout Judea and Samaria, just as it occurs in the rest of the country.”

“This must be done today,” the YESHA Council demanded.

Land of Israel Caucus heads MKs Yoav Kisch and Bezalel Smotrich said they were particularly upset that the advancement of plans to legalize the two outposts Haro’e Ha’ivri and Ibei Hanahal were removed from the agenda at the last minute.

“Given that the government decided to authorize fledgling communities [in Judea and Samaria], it must implement the decision more energetically and actively promote the regulation of these communities, and not go the opposite way [by delaying it],” the caucus said.

It added that at the next Knesset session in the fall it plans to push for passage of new legislation to authorize some 70 outposts.

The Higher Planning Committee on Wednesday advanced 1,010 new units of which the largest project was 370 new homes for the Geva Binyamin settlement, also known as Adam. A July terror attack in that community that borders Jerusalem claimed the life of Yotam Ovadia, 31.

Other projects that were advanced were: 85 for Karnei Shomron, 84 homes for Kiryat Netafim, 52 for Beit El and 20 for Otniel. Plans that received authorization were: 168 for Tzufim, 108 for Nofim, 71 homes for Barkan, 44 for Ma’aleh Adumim and 8 for Avnei Hefetz.

Separately, last week, the Ministry of Construction and Housing, gave its initial approval to plans for 350 new homes for the Beit El settlement. Next month tractors will begin to break ground for some 300 new homes in that same community, for which tenders were issued earlier this year.

According to the left-wing group Peace Now, on August 14, two new tenders were issued for 511 units in the Beit Arie settlement and for 603 Jewish homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of east Jerusalem.

The High Planing Committee met just after US President Donald Trump warned Israel that it would have to pay a price for the relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, adding that it was the Palestinians’ turn to receive a US gesture.

Settlement construction has been one of the more contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Palestinians have insisted that Israel must halt such activity.

The Trump Administration has not appeared to be overly concerned about settlement construction. Last week US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman reportedly said no settlement would be uprooted in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Jerusalem Post



Netanyahu: Annexation of West Bank Settlements Being Discussed With U.S.

February 12, 2018

Netanyahu tells lawmakers he’s been holding talks with U.S. on importance of West Bank to Israel yet avoids decisions likely to embarrass U.S.

.Israeli soldiers looking over the Palestinian city of Nablus, February 7, 2018
Israeli soldiers looking over the Palestinian city of Nablus, February 7, 2018 MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that for some time now he has been “maintaining a dialogue with the Americans” about “the issue of expanding Israeli sovereignty” to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“Two principles have been guiding me: communicating to the Americans that our connection with them is a strategic asset for Israel but also for the settlements. [Secondly], that this needs to be a government initiative and not a private one, as this is a historic move,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu blocked the advance of a bill to apply Israeli sovereignty to the settlements on Sunday. The bill did not spoke about annexation of the West Bank, only referring to the settlements. The forum of coalition party leaders, which convened to decide whether to support the bill, unanimously agreed to postpone the debate because of the security situation in the north.

According to Netanyahu, Israel has to avoid steps liable to embarrass the United States so as to reach understandings with the international community. In an interview to the Israel Hayom newspaper published on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Tump expressed his doubts that Israel and the Palestinians were trying to reach peace.

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace,” Trump said. He added that the settlements “always have complicated making peace,” and warned that “Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

Netanyahu has used these arguments several times over the past few months in order to postpone various bills relating to annexing territories, among them the bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim and a bill that would bring the settlements surrounding Jerusalem under the city’s jurisdiction.

Trump Again Says Jerusalem Is Off The Negotiating Table

February 12, 2018

Al Jazeera

Trump: Jerusalem is off negotiation table

Trump announced his decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem on December 6 [Samuel Corum/Anadolu]


US President Donald Trump has reiterated that the issue of Jerusalem is off the negotiating table after his decision to declare the city as the capital of Israel and move the US embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.

“By taking Jerusalem off the table I wanted to make it clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and as for specific boundaries, I would support what both sides agreed to,” Trump told newspaper Israel Hayom on Sunday.

Trump’s comments echoed those he made during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month.

“They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don’t have to talk about it anymore,” Trump told reporters.

Breaking with years of US policy, Trump announced the move on December 6, drawing international condemnation and sparking a wave of heated protests around the world.


Trump’s Jerusalem move reignites Palestinian cause

A resounding majority of United Nations member states declared Trump’s move as “null and void” in a non-binding resolution.

The status of Jerusalem, which is home to holy religious sites and has particular significance for Muslims, Christians and Jews, has long remained a sensitive topic and one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

In the exclusive interview with Israel Hayom, Trump also urged both Israel and Palestine to make “hard compromises” to reach a peace agreement, as he warned against Israeli settlements.

In a rare criticism of the Israeli leadership, the US president questioned Israel’s commitment to making peace with the Palestinians.

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace,” he told the Hayom, which is owned by American billionaire and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson.

“And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace,” the Republican president added.

‘Careful with settlements’

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and proceeded to effectively annex it, in breach of international law.

The Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank, however, see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Today, 86 percent of East Jerusalem is under the direct control of the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers.

Trump warned Netanyahu’s government against Israeli settlements getting in the way of negotiations.

“The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements,” he said.

Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israelis live in sizeable settlements, beyond the internationally recognised borders of their state.

Phyllis Bennis, author of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, doubts Trump’s comments represent a policy shift by the US.

“I think what we are seeing here is not the end of the US role as an honest broker because it never was an honest broker,” she told Al Jazeera. “This [his comments] is simply a clearer acknowledgment of that reality.”

“President Trump has made it clear that he is more officially and formally pro-Israel than another recent president,” added Bennis, who is also a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Is the US undermining the Middle East peace process?


Trump: Palestinians Aren’t Committed to Making Peace – but I’m Not Sure Israel Is Either

February 11, 2018

In interview with Sheldon Adelson-owned Israeli newspaper, U.S. president also says Israeli settlements complicate the task of making peace

U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 9, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on February 9, 2018.Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview published Sunday that Israeli settlements in the West Bank complicate the task of making peace with the Palestinians.

Trump, who spoke in an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper, also said that he is not sure Israel and the Palestinians are committed to reaching a peace agreement.

According to Trump, “I think both sides will have to make hard compromises to reach a peace agreement.”

Israel Hayom, which is owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, is considered close to and supportive of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Asked when the forestalled U.S. peace plan will be released, Trump answered, “We are going to see what goes on. Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens.”

On the topic of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Trump said they “always have complicated making peace” and added that “Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”

When asked if he noticed a change in Iran’s conduct ever since he’s declared them to be under warning, Trump replayed he’s noticed a “noticed very much a change” in their conduct, but would not attest as to what kind of change. “But there has definitely been a change,” Trump concluded.

Excerpts of the interview were published Friday, in which Trump stated that his December 6 declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the high point of his time in office.

According to Trump, Obama was “terrible” for Israel because he facilitated the nuclear deal with Iran.

EU pledges €42.5m extra aid to Palestinians after Donald Trump cuts US contribution

February 1, 2018

The Independent

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini warns US jeopardising peace process by going it alone

By Jon Stone Brussels

The European Union has pledged an additional €42.5m (£37m) aid package for the Palestinian occupied territories following Donald Trump’s decision to cut US support to the would-be state.

The new money comes weeks after the US President decided to withhold $65m (£45.8) of a $125m aid package to the UN agency in Palestine, arguing that America gets “no appreciation or respect” for its payments.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, announced the package on Wednesday in Brussels, warning Mr Trump that the US would jeopardise the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by going it alone in the region.

“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players – all partners – that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” Ms Mogherini told reporters in Brussels. “Nothing without the United States, nothing with the United States alone.”

The new aid package includes €14.9m to “preserve the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem”, which has been encroached on by Israeli settlements in recent years, including 176 new settler homes signed off in October last year.

Ms Mogherini restated the EU’s commitment to a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both an Israeli and Palestinian state. Observers have warned that illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian land would make it even harder to draw a future Palestinian state and jeopardise the peace process.

The money also includes €27.6m towards building institutions for a “democratic and accountable Palestinian state”.

Announcing the aid at the joint press conference with Norway’s foreign minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, Ms Mogherini said the EU was “thinking, first and foremost, to the population in Gaza”.

“The daily life of citizens has been very difficult for too long a time and this is despite large international humanitarian help, including from the European Union,” she said.


Palestinians protest against aid cuts outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency office in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)

She added that the new support would be on top of an additional €107m the EU is providing for the UNWRA, the UN agency that faced funding cuts from Mr Trump.

EU Commissioner for Europe’s neighbourhood policy, Johannes Hahn, said: “With this new assistance package the EU continues to support the Palestinians on their way towards the establishment of their own state as part of the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as capital of both Israel and Palestine.

“The European Union is, and will remain, Palestine’s most reliable and important donor, investing in businesses, youth and schooling, helping to provide access to clean water in Gaza, strengthening civil society and investing on education and health.”

The Belgian government was first off the blocks after Mr Trump’s decision to cut aid, pledging to donate an immediate extra €19m to help make up the UNRWA shortfall in early January.

Opinion: There’s No Chance Europe Will Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

January 25, 2018

Despite the Palestinians’ high expectation, the handshakes and fine words in Brussels, the EU is incapable of ending Israel’s occupation and creating a Palestinian state

European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini welcomes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Brussels, Belgium, January 22, 2018\ YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

When the European Union issued its famous guidelines in 2013, which prohibited grants, prizes and funding from the EU to the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, it was hailed by many as a potential game-changer in the over 100 year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli political analysts, from left to right, saw the guidelines as the first actual step against Israel’s occupation to be taken by a major international power.

Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote at the time that that it was the “biggest scoop” he had ever had. The prominent Israeli commentator, Dan Margalit, commented, “Make no mistake, this is an important document. Not because of its content…Its importance steems from its function as a dangerous stepping stone for further boycotts.”

Senior Israeli government officials described the new guidelines as an “earthquake” and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was even quoted in the Israeli press as saying that Israel’s failure to stop the EU from issuing the guidelines represented the biggest failure he had encountered in 30 years of dealing with diplomatic and security issues.

Palestinian commentators, from the PA to Hamas, were generally supportive too of the guidelines, even if many saw them as coming too late and consisting of too little to actually roll back Israel’s occupation.

Today, it is clear that the earth did not shake in Israel and none of the predicted tsunamis arrived.

One year later, Israel signed the Horizon 2020 research agreement (albeit with a face-saving clause stating that Israel did not recognize the EU clause stipulating that the occupied territories were not part of Israel). Later in 2014, Israel agreed to set up different production lines for those chickens raised in the settlements and within the Green Line, after the European Commission implemented a policy of non-recognition of Israeli veterinary supervision beyond the Green Line.

In 2015, after several years of deliberation and hesitation, the EU decided, despite protests from some member states, to start labelling settlement products.

Netanyahu responded by calling the labels “heinous” – a term normally reserved for terror attacks in the political lexicon in Israel. The U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which normally combats anti-Semitism, ranked the EU’s labelling of settlement products as the third worst outbreak of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in the world that year, higher than Palestinian incitement and the threat from Iran.

By 2016, 18 out of 28 EU members had issued business advisories warning businesses of the legal and financial consequences involved in doing business with entities linked to Israel’s occupation.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Jerusalem.Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

Israel’s government itself seems to have decided quiet compliance is its best strategy. Just recently, in late 2017, Israel signed the ‘ENI CBC Med agreement’ for cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean basin, which excluded Israeli projects that originate beyond the Green Line. Except for very minor protests from a maverick politician and two settler groups, no one in Israel or Europe took much notice of that tacit acceptance.

That in itself is bad news for the EU’s differentiation strategy, as it needs overt political confrontation to serve its purpose of putting pressure on Israel to end its occupation. But there is limited appetite and also real opposition from governments and major political parties in some EU member states to confront Israel, and Federica Mogherini, the current High Representative of the EU’s foreign policy, is also widely seen as being against further differentiation measures against Israel.

From a purely normative perspective, the differentiation strategy has been very successful. Many other actors in international politics – from the United Nations Security Council (in Resolution 2334), to the Chinese government, to the leading human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to American liberal Zionist groups – have all expressed support for the EU’s differentiation strategy or have implemented it themselves.

In addition, and probably encouraged by the EU’s more formal differentiation, there seemed in 2016–2017 to be a growing trend of what might be called more “grassroots differentiation,” where the PA, civil society organizations and other activists involved were trying to get organizations like FIFA and companies like Airbnb, PayPal, Hewlett Packard and others to suspend their activities with Israeli entities beyond the Green Line.

Again, the logic behind these measures is to create political confrontations by urging these actors to uphold what the activists perceive to be the internal regulations already mandated by those organizations and companies themselves. This type of grassroots differentiation largely bypasses political establishments and can be exercised through social media and email campaigns by activists outside the Israel-Palestine region.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a lunch with EU foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels. Jan. 22, 2018
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrive for a lunch with EU foreign ministers at the EU Council in Brussels. Jan. 22, 2018Olivier Hoslet/AP

The differentiation strategy has worked in many aspects and Israel has indeed caved in and accepted several differentiation measures by the EU, but these have changed very little on the ground. This, of course, raises questions about the value of normative power and of having the ability to create international consensus around these kinds of issues.

It is worth remembering that opposition to Israel’s settlements has been a consistent EU policy since 1977, when what was then called the EC, first started to condemn them. Despite the fact that opposition to Israel’s settlements probably is the most consensus-oriented issue of all in international politics, the settlements have grown exponentially over the decades alongside the opposition to them.

This has led leading analysts, like Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group, to argue that differentiation measures that only focus on settlements, and not the Israeli state behind them, are a distraction. They have become a substitute for real pressure, they’ve become measures that actually help the Israeli government and prolong the occupation, by their implicit assurance that only the settlements – and not the government that creates them – will suffer consequences for their repeated violations of international law.

Thrall then, incorrectly, states that supporters of differentiation reject penalizing Israeli state entities, like Israeli financial institutions, that help and profit from the settlements. But that is exactly what the leading EU think tank, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), has called for since it first started to publish reports on differentiation in 2015.

Israeli, Palestinian and some U.S. officials, have, for a number of different reasons, continuously tried to connect the EU’s differentiation strategy to the BDS movement, claims which have almost always been repudiated by both EU officials and spokespersons for the BDS movement.

But those repudiations haven’t always been so resonant: Today, 24 U.S. states have enacted legislation against boycotts of Israel, including not just the internationally-recognized Israel within the 1967 borders, but also against what they call “Israeli-controlled territories,” another term for the illegal settlements.

Of course, the idea that there is no difference between targetedsanctions of the settlements and the entirety of Israel, and that both constitute an “anti-Semitic” act victimizing the Jewish state, is precisely the line taken by the Israeli government.

A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: "EU recognize Palestine" sponsored by the non-governmental U.S. organization, flies in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. September 12, 2011
A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: “EU recognize Palestine” sponsored by the U.S. NGO, flies in front of European Union headquarters in Brussels. September 12, 2011AFP

As Israel has struggled for five decades now to erase the Green Line, the EU has likewise struggled for almost the same period to reaffirm the Green Line as the border, with some modifications, between Israel and what it hopes will one day be a Palestinian state.

This has been mostly a verbal commitment, with the exceptions of some of the differentiation measures mentioned above and the billions of euros in aid to the Palestinians over the years.

In his first major interview with the Israeli press, the new EU ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, was asked whether the EU was planning “more steps in the future against settlement building”: he answered, “No.”

That, of course, reinforces the perception that the EU’s commitment to end Israel’s occupation and create a Palestinian state will continue to be verbal rather than practical.

It is not that the EU lacks practical tools vis-à-vis Israel. The EU’s economy (in nominal GDP) is more than 50 times bigger than Israel’s, but the EU has chosen not to use its economic leverage against Israel.

This is probably mostly because of American opposition, rather than because of the legacy from the Holocaust, internal division or pro-Israel lobbying. The EU is unwilling to stray too far out of the lines of U.S. Mideast policy. If a U.S. president – be it Obama, Trump or anyone else – would have used all its leverage to force Israel to end the occupation, the EU would actively assist in such a process.

But the EU can’t lead the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in place of the U.S.

A Palestinian protester wears a mask during clashes with Israeli forces on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El. January 23, 2018
A Palestinian protester wears a mask during clashes with Israeli forces on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El. January 23, 2018ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

With some relatively minor exceptions, the historical record clearly shows that the EC/EU played at best a marginal role, if indeed it was present at all, in the series of important peace negotiations through the years: the 1978-1979 Camp David Accords, the 1993-95 Oslo Agreements, the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty, the 2000 Camp David Summit, the 2003 Road map, the 2007 Annapolis conference and the 2013-2014 Obama-Kerry negotiations. There is nothing suggesting that this pattern will change in the Trump era, even if his much-expected peace plan won’t lead anywhere.

A final EU measure on the conflict that might have repercussions – one that falls somewhere between the verbal and the practical – is recognition of the State of Palestine, even before a final status agreement is reached. Some analysts, such as David Makovsky in a recent Haaretz op-ed, contend “a big wave of European countries” will recognize Palestine in 2018. My own diplomatic sources in Europe tell me that things are indeed moving, but it will be more like a small wave of about five European countries may together recognize Palestine, if France takes the lead, but it is not yet certain to happen.

Since Sweden recognized Palestine in 2014 – a move which changed the political climate more in Sweden than in Palestine, with bitter divisions in the Swedish Parliament, a harsh Israeli pushback campaign and massive online hate against Foreign Minister Margot Wallström  – it has been rumored many times that other European countries were about to follow.

So far it has not happened, but even if it would, the critical question plaguing the EU for 50 years will still be there, namely: What commitment and capability does Europe really have to help resolve the conflict, end the occupation and create a Palestinian state?

With an EU in relative decline and with the rise of various right-wing, nationalist or populist governments and parties in Europe, many of whom are pro-Israeli and anti-Muslim, it seems that the EU’s commitment and capability to help resolve the conflict is, in fact, far less than it has been – and way below Palestinian  expectations.

Anders Persson is a postdoctorate researcher at the Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen. This op-ed is based on research from his recent study EU differentiation as a case of “Normative Power Europe” (NPE) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, published in the Journal of European Integration.

A Call To Boycott Mike Pence and His Fellow Israeli Apartheid Enthusiasts

January 22, 2018

It’s now obvious that the sole concern of Trump’s three right-wing Mideast musketeers, and his Christian Zionist vice president, is to accommodate Israel and its anti-peace, pro-occupation policies

.U.S. Vice President Mike Pence watches as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in the White House in Washington, U.S. January 12, 2018
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence watches as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation to honor Martin Luther King Jr. in the White House in Washington, U.S. January 12, 2018\ JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced his visit to the Middle East a few months ago, it was intended to boost two main ideas: advancing the peace process and supporting Christians in the Middle East.

But now he’s here, his agenda doesn’t include either Palestinians or Christian leaders. This is a direct consequence of the anti-peace policies pushed by the Trump administration. As Mr. Pence will be visiting the Knesset, the Joint List, representing the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, has announced its boycott of his visit. So should anyone who believes in a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

the fact that the Palestinian leadership had decided to give a chance to President Donald Trump, the vast majority in our region were skeptical. That skepticism began with the formation of Trump’s team of Mideast advisers, which included three committed right-wing officials whose positions, in some cases, would mean redefining even Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman as “moderate” politicians.

Men walk past welcoming billboards in Jerusalem ahead of the visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Israel. January 21, 2018
Men walk past welcoming billboards in Jerusalem ahead of the visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to Israel. January 21, 2018MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

And as dozens of meetings took place between Palestinian and American officials, it became clear that the U.S. would never address issues of substance.

For this team of right-wing Bibi supporters it has all been about accommodating the vision of the occupiers to negate Palestinian rights. That view of what an ‘ultimate deal” could be might be good for negotiation between Likud and the Yisrael Beiteinu parties of the right, but it’s useless in terms of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Trump team has consistently omitted any talk about the political rights of the Palestinian people, any condemnation of Israeli settlements, or any of the systematic Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights.

On the contrary, the Trump administration, with its three right-wing musketeers, and particularly with Mr. Pence, as a Christian Zionist himself, decided to attempt to “take off” the negotiating table several key issues in order to accommodate the Israeli position.

First of all, it was Jerusalem: President Trump himself said that it was an attempt to take off Jerusalem from the negotiating table. It has been followed by UNRWA, with U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leading an ugly campaign against the rights of millions of Palestinian civilians served by this UN organization. The goal here is also clear: To take the refugee issue, too, out of the negotiations. Then it will be the further annexation of other Israeli settlements.

What could be the next step? Requesting a declaration that Palestinians consent to living under an apartheid regime – and not to forget to say thank you?

It is just a matter of looking at social media. Mr. Greenblatt and Mr. Friedman have made public comments about every Israeli casualty, while ignoring Palestinians killed, injured and arrested by Israel, including children. They also ignore, and even have justified, Israeli settlement expansion. They are partners with the Israeli government and have encouraged the systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

For over 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the situation hasn’t been much better. The appointment of Mr. Friedman as U.S. ambassador has sent a direct message to our community: The U.S. only cares about Israeli-Jewish citizens. It is clear that he supports the current situation whereby his daughter can serve in the Israeli army and fulfill her “Zionist dream” while over 50 laws in the Israeli Knesset continue to discriminate against the non-Jewish citizens of the state.

Trump and his team have contributed to the further destabilization of the Middle East. They have disqualified the U.S. from playing any constructive role when they have made clear that they don’t see Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, as equals to Israeli Jewish citizens.

US Vice President Mike Pence waves after leaving Air Force Two upon his arrival in the Jordanian capital Amman, late on January 20, 2018
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence waves after leaving Air Force Two upon his arrival in the Jordanian capital Amman, late on January 20, 2018KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP

Today, as the U.S. is more isolated than ever, Washington continues to reward extremists as well as encouraging bigotry, apartheid and every value that contradicts dignity, equality, justice and freedom for all.

As Mr. Pence visits PM Netanyahu, his friend, let him have his dream apartheid party. Let him encourage those who want to turn a political conflict into a religious war.

We, though, resist that ‘vision’. We are inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people, mainly women, who have been taking over the streets of America against Trump and his racist policies. One and a half million Palestinian citizens of Israel reject the steps taken by Mr. Trump. And as such we are boycotting his vice president’s visit.

Instead, we will continue working for a just and lasting peace that ends the occupation and allows for Israelis, Palestinians and the rest of the region to live in peace and security.

Dr. Ahmad Tibi is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He represents the Joint List

Palestinian leaders call for suspending recognition of Israel

January 16, 2018

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Photo: Mahmoud Abbas. Credit Mohamad Torokman-Reuters

Mehul Srivastava in Jerusalem
Financial Times (FT)

The Palestinian central council has authorised its executive committee and President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend recognition of Israel and stop security co-operation.

If adopted, the steps could threaten the landmark Oslo Accords that created the Palestinian Authority more than 20 years ago.

The statement late on Monday signalled the deep-seated Palestinian frustration over the recent deterioration in conditions for a long-awaited peace plan promised by Donald Trump, who described himself as the most “pro-Israel” candidate during the US presidential election.

While the call from the central council is non-binding, it is the first time that the possibility of derecognition of Israel, a key tenet of the 1993 Oslo Accords, has been officially raised.

It comes as Mr Abbas heads to Brussels to seek support for a demand that the US not be the primary mediator between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership.

Mr Abbas spent the opening hours of the central council’s two-day meeting on Sunday night excoriating the US.

He described Mr Trump’s “deal of the century”, the way the president describes his pledge to reopen a Middle East peace process, as the “slap of the century”.

He also attacked the US ambassador to Israel, who has previously supported Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who has joked that she wears high heels to protect Israel.

“Our reaction will be worse, but not with high heels,” he said on Sunday night, repeating a longstanding position that he sought peace with Israel through non-violent means. His angry, sometimes rambling, two-and-a-half-hour speech included a colloquial Palestinian insult, “Yekhreb Beitak” or “May your house be destroyed”, according to the Associated Press.

The decision by Mr Trump in December to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has enraged a Palestinian political community that appears, along with Mr Abbas, to be losing some support among its own population.

The council also confirmed that the Palestinian Authority was being asked to consider a suburb of East Jerusalem outside the Israeli security barrier as its own capital.

A Palestinian official said that the council statement would strengthen the hand of Mr Abbas as he prepares a response to any negotiations he believes would be harmful to the Palestinian cause.

Prior statements by the central council have been ignored by Mr Abbas. Ending the Oslo process would disband the Palestinian Authority, which has administered parts of the West Bank and recently regained some control over the Gaza Strip.

“This was done to leave some manoeuvring room for the president to persuade the international community to get involved,” the official said.

As a 2-State Solution Loses Steam, a 1-State Plan Gains Traction

January 6, 2018


The Israeli settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. Buoyed by President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem, the Israeli right wing is openly pursuing its goal of a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. Credit Dan Balilty for The New York Times

JERUSALEM — The Israeli right, emboldened by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is not the only faction arguing for a single state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has also begun to ask whether that might not be such a bad idea, though it has a radically different view of what that state would look like.

As momentum ebbs for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides are taking another look at the one-state idea. But that solution has long been problematic for both sides.

For the Israelis, absorbing three million West Bank Palestinians means either giving up on democracy or accepting the end of the Jewish state. The Palestinians, unwilling to live under apartheid-like conditions or military occupation, have also seen two states as their best hope.

Now, for the first time since it declared its support for a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel in 1988, the P.L.O. is seriously debating whether to embrace fallback options, including the pursuit of a single state.

“It’s dominating the discussion,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a physician who sits on the P.L.O.’s central council, which is to take up possible changes to the national movement’s strategy later this month.

The Israeli settlement of Oranit. The Israeli right wing is pressing to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. CreditDan Balilty for The New York Times

Palestinian supporters envision one state with equal rights for Palestinians and Jews. Palestinians would have proportionate political power and, given demographic trends, would before long be a majority, spelling the end of the Zionist project.

That outcome is unacceptable to the Israeli right wing, which is pressing to annex the land on the occupied West Bank where Jewish settlers have built communities while consigning Palestinians to the areas where they live now.

Israeli proponents of these ideas freely acknowledge that the Palestinian areas would be considerably less than a state, at least to start: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even called it a “state-minus.” Eventually, they say, the Palestinians could achieve statehood in a confederation with Jordan or Egypt, as part of Israel, or perhaps even independently — but not soon.

Both sides have long officially supported the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict while accusing the other of harboring designs on the whole territory. But Mr. Trump’s Jerusalem declaration last month changed the calculus.

The Trump administration has not endorsed a one-state solution, and it is working on its own peace plan, insisting that any final agreement, including borders, be negotiated by the two sides. But last month’s decision by the president to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in defiance of a decades-old United States policy and international consensus and with no mention of a Palestinian claim on the city, was seen as putting his thumb on the Israeli side of the scale.

Saeb Erekat, the veteran Palestinian negotiator, said that Mr. Trump’s declaration was the death knell for the two-state solution and that Palestinians should shift their focus to “one state with equal rights.” His position has since gained traction among the Palestinian leadership.

Read the rest:

Palestinians need new leaders and a new strategy

December 25, 2017

Arab News


Ramzy Baroud | 

The year 2017 will be remembered as the one in which the so-called “peace process,” at least in its American formulation, ended. And with its demise, the political framework that has been the foundation for US foreign policy in the Middle East has also collapsed.

The Palestinian leadership and their Arab and international allies will now embark on a new year with the difficult task of drumming up a whole new political formula that does not include the US.

The Palestinian Authority entered 2017 with the slight hope that the US was in the process of moving away, however slightly, from its hard-line pro-Israel attitude. This hope was the result of a decision made by the Barack Obama administration in December 2016 not to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared the status of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories null and void.

But the new Donald Trump administration suffocated all optimism as soon as it took over the White House, with a promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing, in defiance of international law, the holy city as Israel’s capital.

Mixed messages from President Trump made it unclear whether he would go through with his campaign and early presidency promises, or remain committed to traditional US foreign policy. The appointment of extremist politicians, the likes of David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel, was juxtaposed with constant references to an “ultimate deal” that would involve Palestinians, Israel and Arab countries.

The two-state solution is dead, the US has forfeited its right to be an arbiter of peace, and 2018 will require a Palestinian leadership that truly speaks on behalf of its people.

Ramzy Baroud 

The American “regional peace,” however, amounted to nothing, and Trump eventually fulfilled his promise to Israel and its allies by signing the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995.

In doing so, he has ended his country’s once-leading role in the US-espoused “peace process” that advocated a two-state solution based on a “land for peace” formula.

European countries had expected an American retreat from peace-making efforts as early as January 2017, but they still pushed for the Paris Peace Conference on Jan. 15. The conference brought together nearly 70 countries but, without US support and given Israel’s rejection, it was merely a platform for rehashed language about peace, co-existence and so on.

Now that Trump has downgraded his country’s role, European powers, especially France, are likely to attempt to salvage peace talks. Such a possibility, however, is likely to prove equally fruitless since the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that neither freezing illegal settlements, a shared Jerusalem nor a Palestinian state are on the Israeli agenda. Without the enforcement of international law, Israel will not willingly change its position.

In fact, 2017 has been a year of unbridled Israeli settlement expansion with thousands of new housing units having been built — or in the process of being completed — while brand new settlements are also in the offing.

Israel’s intransigence and the end of the US peace gambit has renewed interest in the Palestinian struggle, which has been cast aside for years because of the war in Syria and other regional conflicts. This has resulted in greater support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Modeled on the South African anti-apartheid boycott movement, BDS calls for direct action by global civil society to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

However, the rise of BDS has also meant a strong Israeli-US pushback to outlaw the movement and to punish its supporters. Nearly two dozen US states have passed laws to criminalize BDS, while the US Congress is finalizing its own law that makes boycotting Israel a felony punishable by a hefty fine and a prison term.

Challenging both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestinians in the Occupied Territories continued with their intifada, although one that lacked the mass mobilization of previous uprisings.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed and wounded, including many children, in Israel’s efforts to suffocate any protest against its military rule.

The siege on Gaza also remained in place despite Hamas’ efforts to end it through the rewriting of its constitution and the various overtures toward Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, which dominates the PA government in Ramallah.

A unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah was signed in Cairo in October. It set an election date, and allowed for thousands of PA officials to return to Gaza to man border crossings and populate various ministries and government offices.

The nearly two million Palestinians in the besieged Strip, however, have not yet savored the fruit of that unity in their everyday lives.

Although the reconciliation agreement was motivated by political expediency for both factions, the need for real unity among Palestinians is more urgent now than ever before, and not only because of the US decision on Jerusalem.

The Israeli Knesset has passed, or is in the process of passing, various bills that seal the fate of Palestinians, regardless of their geographical location or political affiliation. One is the Jewish Nation-State Bill, which defines Israel as the “nation home of the Jewish people,” thus rendering millions of indigenous Palestinian Arabs outcasts in their own homeland.

The “Greater Jerusalem Bill” was temporarily shelved, despite the fact that it has the support of a majority in the Knesset. The Bill calls for the expansion of Jerusalem’s boundaries to include major illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, thus illegally annexing massive swaths of Palestinian land and reducing the Palestinian population in Jerusalem to an even smaller minority.

The Palestinian leadership must understand that the challenges at hand are far greater than their selfish need for political validation and financial support. There is an urgent need for the revitalizing of all institutions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The new strategy should place Palestinians first, and must harness the energies of the Palestinian people at home or in “shatat” — the diaspora.

This cannot be achieved through paying lip service to Palestinian unity, but through a dynamic campaign aimed at reexamining the failures of the past 25 years — since the “peace process” went into motion — and holding to account those responsible for these failures.

A new dynamic leadership must emerge that views the Palestinian struggle and popular resistance not through factional or ideological prisms, but through a compassionate allegiance with, and respect for, the Palestinian people, not only those in Palestine but also those languishing in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and throughout the region and the world.

Through this new leadership, a whole new social contract would have to be articulated, with new a vocabulary and a true commitment to specific goals and aspirations. Various Palestinian “leaderships” have been playing different tunes for too long, each focused on their personal gains, without paying heed to the fact that the majority of Palestinians have suffered tremendously as a result of this disunity and confusion.

For a Palestinian leadership to be taken seriously, it must truly represent its people and speak on their behalf with the kind of determination that reflects the everyday act of resistance that fuels the Palestinian struggle.

Indeed, 2018 promises to be a decisive year for the future of all Palestinians, and it will be a difficult one. Not only did the US pull out of the “peace process,” but it can also be expected to do its utmost to jeopardize any Palestinian initiative aimed at holding Israel accountable for its 50-year-old illegal military occupation.

If the Palestinian leadership fails to transition itself into a new role, it is likely to find itself in direct confrontation with the Palestinian people, who are ready to move on into a whole new type of struggle — one that is not beholden to the farce of a “two-state solution,” which was never truly on the agenda to begin with.

• Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and author, and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.”
Twitter: @RamzyBaroud