Posts Tagged ‘Israelis’

Silence of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries over the massacre of unarmed Palestinians is disturbing

May 16, 2018

IT was the massacre of unarmed Palestinians, and not the celebrations of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, that stood out this week. Over 60 Palestinians have been killed and 2,700 injured in Gaza as Israeli forces fired on protesters, killing mostly teenagers.

Dawn (Pakistan)

In fact, the Israelis not only used live bullets but also fighter jets and a tank to prevent protesters from breaking the barricade. According to one report quoting doctors, some of the exit wounds caused by Israeli ammunition were ‘fist-size’. This kind of brutality has not been seen since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.

It all happened a mere 90 to 100 kilometres from the site of celebrations at the newly built American embassy in the occupied land. The bloodbath continued as participants from both Israel and the United States sang ‘Hallelujah’ and the Israeli prime minister declared it a “glorious day”.

Palestinians clash with with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018, as Palestinians protest over the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem.

Palestinians clash with with Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018.MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

May 14 was also the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel. Palestinians refer to the day after as Nakba, or the catastrophe, when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes and became refugees.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, sky and outdoor

Hamas and the Palestinians send a message: “We want Israelis dead.” “We want Israel gone.”

Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem has given a bloodier turn to the Palestinian issue and has led to diminishing hopes of any solution to the conflict. The move is a manifestation of the close alliance between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The use of brute force has failed to deter the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.

Despite the US support to Israel, the previous administrations in Washington had refrained from taking the controversial step. There had been some effort to understand and respond to the Palestinian narrative. But Trump’s blatant support for Israeli expansionism has made the peace negotiations more difficult.

Read: Israel’s man in the White House

In his recorded message at the Jerusalem ceremony, Trump declared that his greatest hope is to achieve peace. Amusingly, he has also claimed that he has an interest in solving the “toughest deal of all”. While condoning the carnage of unarmed Palestinians, Trump says he still intends to present a detailed peace initiative.

His move has plunged the region into greater turmoil and effectively brought to an end any arbitration role for the US in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. While fully endorsing the Israeli narrative, the Trump administration has crossed a red line.

As one analyst put it, “it is an unravelling of the peace process framework which for the past 25 years has led to neither peace nor all-out war”. Not surprisingly, the Israeli prime minister sounded more triumphant and defiant in his celebratory speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay,” he declared.

Most shamefully, the American and Israeli officials put the blame for the violence on the protesters. The use of brute force, however, has failed to deter the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. Hundreds of casualties in Gaza are likely to trigger an uprising or intifada spreading to the West Bank.

It is evident that the Trump administration is complicit in the Israeli violence against the hapless Palestinian population. Washington has also blocked the call for a UN investigation into the incident. The move has further emboldened Israeli expansionism and rendered the Middle East situation more explosive.

While the US moves and the carnage in Gaza have evoked strong condemnation by the international community, there is no effective voice for the support of the Palestinians’ right to their homeland despite several UN resolutions. The silence of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries over the plight of the Palestinian people is particularly disturbing.

It reflects the realignment of forces in the Middle East. It is true that key Arab countries seem more willing to sanction a settlement less favourable to the Palestinians than before because they want Israel as an ally against Iran.

The Jerusalem ceremony took place days after Trump announced the US would unilaterally pull out from the Iranian nuclear deal. Not surprisingly, the controversial decision to reimpose US sanctions on Tehran has been welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Both countries have been opposed to the treaty signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China besides the United States. Opposition to Iran has brought the two countries on the same side of the Middle East civil war. That has also led to Saudi Arabia’s increasing tilt towards Israel on the Palestinian issue.

The comments made by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, during his recent visit to the United States illustrate the shift in the kingdom’s position on the Palestinian issue. He reportedly scolded the Palestinian leadership for what he described as a decades-long history of “rejecting peace with Israel”, adding they should either begin to accept peace proposals or “shut up”.

A leaked Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York said that the crown prince’s comments, made during the closed meetings, apparently caused people to “literally fall off their chairs”.

He made it clear that the Palestinian cause was not a priority for the makers of foreign policy in Riyadh and that the kingdom has to face much wider threats in the region, such as Iran. Although the king tried to exercise damage control because of his son’s outrageous remarks, it does not signify very much as the crown prince is effectively in charge.

Not surprisingly, the US move to shift its embassy to Jerusalem did not evoke much opposition from the kingdom and other Gulf countries. It has indeed emboldened Israel. There is a clear indication that the cooperation between Riyadh and Israel could further increase with the rising tensions in the Middle East following the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.

That may also allow Israel to continue using brute force to suppress the Palestinian resistance movement. Undoubtedly, there have been mass protests in some Muslim countries, but is this enough to draw the attention of the international community to Israel’s expansionist objectives under the patronage of the United States?

The writer is an author and journalist.

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018

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Let Abbas’s Vile Words Be His Last as Palestinian Leader

May 3, 2018

Feeding reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories in a speech on Monday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner if the Palestinians and Israelis ever again have the nerve to try negotiations.

New York Times

The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, speaking in Ramallah, West Bank, on Monday.Credit Majdi Mohammed/Associated Press

Speaking to the Palestinian legislative body, Mr. Abbas, 82, said the mass murder of European Jews in the Holocaust was the result of the victims’ financial activities, not their religious identity and anti-Semitism.

“So the Jewish question that was widespread throughout Europe was not against their religion, but against their social function, which relates to usury (unscrupulous money lending) and banking and such,” he said, according to the BBC.

Mr. Abbas’s anti-Semitic tendencies are not new. In the 1980s, he wrote a dissertation that seemed to question the widely accepted Holocaust death toll of six million Jews.

While seen as a successor to the longtime Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, in 2003 he played down that notion, saying, “The Holocaust was a terrible, unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation, a crime against humanity that cannot be accepted by humankind.”

Things looked more hopeful in 1993 when Mr. Abbas stood on the White House lawn and watched Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Mr. Arafat sign the Oslo Accords that were supposed to eventually lead to two states and peace.

In the intervening years, there have been ups and downs in that quest, but the trend for some time has been depressingly downward. The dream of an independent Palestine faded further away and Mr. Abbas came under increasing pressure.

Since the last serious peace talks collapsed in 2014, Israel’s hard-line government has expanded settlement building to cover more of the land envisioned for a Palestinian state. Although President Trump promised a peace plan, none has materialized, but reports suggest it would favor Israel.

Arab nations, once the Palestinians’ patrons, have lost interest and have turned their attention to fighting wars in Yemen and Syria and checking Iran’s regional influence. During a recent meeting with Jewish-American leaders, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia faulted Palestinian leaders for complaining and rejecting past Israeli peace offers.


Mr. Abbas opposed Mr. Arafat during the 2000-2005 second intifada, recognized Israel, and committed himself to a nonviolent approach to negotiations for peace and a two-state solution. He was valued by the West as Mr. Arafat’s successor, and for years he has deployed Palestinian forces to help Israelis maintain security in the West Bank.

But pressures, some of his own making and many others caused by Israel, which has ultimate control over the West Bank, are building. Mr. Abbas, who oversees a governing system plagued by corruption and dysfunction, has lost support among the Palestinian people.

He has weakened government institutions that are essential for a future state and refused to call new elections, thus overstaying his term by many years and preventing younger leaders from emerging.

He has also failed to unify the Palestinians in the West Bank, where his Fatah faction dominates, with those in the even more desperate circumstances of the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds sway.

Even in this gloomy climate, however, Mr. Abbas’s vile speech was a new low. No doubt he feels embittered and besieged on all sides. But by succumbing to such dark, corrosive instincts he showed that it is time for him to leave office.

Palestinians need a leader with energy, integrity and vision, one who might have a better chance of achieving Palestinian independence and enabling both peoples to live in peace.

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Saudi aims to pressure rival Iran at Arab League summit

April 13, 2018

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Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speaks during an interview with Reuters in Munich



Saudi Arabia’s push for a tough stand against its arch-rival Iran is expected to dominate an Arab League summit on Sunday as regional tensions grow over the wars in Syria and Yemen.

The fate of Jerusalem will also be on the summit’s agenda, as the United States prepares to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city after declaring it the capital of Israel.

Saudi Arabia, which is hosting the yearly summit in the Eastern Province city of Dhahran, is likely to seek Arab support to pile the pressure on Iran, analysts say.

“The Saudis are going to push for a much harsher stance on Iran — not necessarily on the nuclear dossier per se, but on Iranian influence in the Arab countries, particularly Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” said Karim Bitar of the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Affairs.

Iran’s influence is wielded through a land route of armed parties in the Middle East — the so-called “Shiite crescent” that cuts across the mainly Sunni Arab world.

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Iran has long been a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and backs Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement, whose fighters are deployed in Syria alongside regime forces.

Iran also openly supports the Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen in their war against the Saudi-backed government but denies accusations of smuggling arms to the insurgents.

And in Shiite-dominated Iraq, the Islamic republic backs armed groups and supports the government.

“The securitisation of Iran is being pushed predominantly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with other Arab countries including Egypt,” said Andreas Krieg, assistant professor of defence studies at King’s College London.

“Saudi Arabia has also reached out to Iraq to try and build ties and tackle militias there,” Krieg told AFP.

“It’s definitely safe to say that Iran is the centrepiece of this summit.”

– Syria chemical attack –

The summit will be attended by delegations from 21 of the Arab League’s 22-member states. Syria has been suspended from the organisation for seven years over Assad’s crackdown on protesters.

The gathering comes as the US administration of President Donald Trump, a key Saudi ally, faces crucial decisions on how to react to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Trump has put off a final decision on US-led strikes against Syria after an alleged chemical attack against the rebel-held town of Douma that killed dozens.

The summit is expected to release a statement on the suspected toxic gas attack, but it remains to be seen whether the Arab League will take any action as well.

Syria serves today as a major pivot between Saudi Arabia and its allies on the one hand, and Iran and Hezbollah on the other.

Each party in the conflict backs opposing sides but all agree that the country’s future cannot be decided solely by the Assad regime, whose troops have regained territory with Russia’s support.

After years of demanding that Assad step down, Saudi Arabia this month conceded, in the words of its powerful crown prince, that the embattled president was staying.

“Certain regional powers previously determined to bring down the Syrian regime — particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey — have now accepted the status quo, that Assad is staying,” Bitar said.

“Bashar’s Iranian patrons are also very well aware that their protege cannot run the show on his own and they are starting to accept the premise that they will have to negotiate spheres of influence in Syria territories”.

– Fate of Jerusalem –

Not on the table at the summit, according to Krieg, is Qatar, cut off from its Gulf allies over accusations of ties to Iran and support for Islamist extremists — claims denied by Doha.

On the eve of the summit, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir confirmed as much, saying a solution for Qatar would be found within the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council.

The summit also comes after 33 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded at the hands of Israeli forces in mass protests along the Gaza border in recent weeks.

The protests are to continue until mid-May, around the time Washington is to move its embassy to Jerusalem, which both Palestinians and Israelis claim as their capital.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi has said she hopes the summit will lead to a resolution, and concrete action, supporting the Palestinian position on Jerusalem.

by Natacha YAZBECK

U.S. Blocks UN Security Council Statement on Gaza Border Clashes

April 1, 2018


The statement called for an independent probe into deadly clashes at the Gaza border. ‘I’m shocked to hear such hypocrisy,’ says Israeli ambassador to UN

.Palestinian demonstrators during clashes with Israeli troops at the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018.
Palestinian demonstrators during clashes with Israeli troops at the southern Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018.\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The United States blocked a draft statement in the UN Security Council Saturday that called for an investigation into clashes on Israel’s border with Gaza that left 15 Palestinians dead, diplomats told AFP.

The statement proposed by Kuwait, the representative of Arab countries on the council, demanded an “independent and transparent investigation” into Friday’s violence with respect to international law.

The statement also expressed “grave concern at the situation at the border,” affirmed “the right to peaceful protest” and “called upon all sides to exercise restraint and prevent a further escalation.”

The U.S. raised objections to the council’s adoption of the statement Saturday after it was circulated on Friday, said one diplomat to AFP.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Dannon said on Israeli radio Saturday that the U.S. stopped the statement from advancing in cooperation with Israel. “The wording was acceptable to all members of the council excluding the United States,” Dannon said in an interview, “but the facts are clear. We are currently transferring to the various representatives material on the terrorists that took part in this activity.”

Israel threatens to escalate response if Gaza violence continues

March 31, 2018

AFP and France 24

© Jack Guez, AFP | Israeli soldiers take aim as they lie prone over an earth barrier along the border with the Gaza strip in the southern Israeli kibbutz of Nahal Oz on March 30, 2018, as Palestinians demonstrate on the other side commemorating Land Day.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-03-31

Israel will target “terror organisations” in Gaza if violence along the territory’s border with Israel drags on, the chief military spokesman warned Saturday, a day after thousands of Palestinians staged protests near the border fence.

The mass marches were led by Gaza’s ruling Hamas group and touted as the launch of a six-week-long protest campaign. Palestinian health officials said 15 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire and more than 750 hit by live rounds, making it the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas.

In Friday’s confrontations, large crowds gathered near the border fence, with smaller groups of protesters rushing forward, throwing stones and burning tires.

Israeli troops responded with live fire and rubber-coated steel pellets, while drones dropped tear gas from above. The army released video showing soldiers with rifles perched on high earthen embankments overlooking the scene.

Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, while human rights groups questioned Israel’s use of live fire.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an “independent and transparent investigation”.

Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief army spokesman, denied allegations of excessive use of force, saying those killed by Israeli troops were men between the ages of 18 and 30 who were involved in violence and belonged to militant factions.

He alleged Gaza health officials exaggerated the number of those wounded, and that several dozen at most were injured by live fire while the rest were merely shaken up by tear gas and other riot dispersal means.

Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital received 284 injured people Friday, the majority with bullet injuries, said spokesman Ayman Sahbani. He said 70 were under the age of 18 and 11 were women.

He said 40 surgeries were performed Friday and that 50 were planned Saturday. “These are all from live bullets that broke limbs or caused deep, open wounds with damage to nerves and veins,” he said.

Among those recovering from surgery was 16-year-old Marwan Yassin who had thrown stones with a slingshot at the fence Friday and was shot in both legs. One of his legs was wrapped in bandages and the other had a cast and metal fixtures.

His mother said at his bedside that she would ban him from future protests.

On Saturday, a few hundred people gathered at five tent encampments that have been set up several hundred metres from the border fence. The tents serve as the launch points for marches.

Protest organisers have said mass marches would continue until May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation. Palestinians mark that date as their “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted during the 1948 war over Israel’s creation. The vast majority of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven from homes in what is now Israel.

Manelis reiterated Saturday that Israel “will not allow a massive breach of the fence into Israeli territory”.

He said that Hamas and other Gaza militant groups are using protests as a cover for staging attacks. If violence continues, “we will not be able to continue limiting our activity to the fence area and will act against these terror organisations in other places too,” he said.

The border protests were seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group seized Gaza from forces loyal to its rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2007. The continued closure has made it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern.

The large turnout of marchers in the dangerous border zone also seemed to signal desperation among Gaza residents. Life in the coastal strip has deteriorated further in recent months, with rising unemployment, grinding poverty and daily blackouts that last for hours.

The protest campaign is also meant to spotlight Palestinian demands for a “right of return” to what is now Israel.

The prospect of more protests and Palestinian casualties in coming weeks could also place Israel on the defensive.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation, while Security Council members urged restraint on both sides. The council didn’t decide on any action or joint message after an emergency meeting Friday evening.

Abbas, the West Bank-based leader, renewed a call for international protection of Palestinians.

In the West Bank, shopkeepers observed a commercial strike called by political activists Saturday to protest Israel’s response to the Gaza marches.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

Senior Hamas Official, Message to The World: ‘I Think We Can All Live Here in This Land – Muslims, Christians and Jews’

March 29, 2018


We asked Dr. Ahmed Yousef what Hamas is planning for the Passover holiday in Israel

Senior Hamas official Dr. Ahmed Yousef.
Senior Hamas official Dr. Ahmed Yousef. From Birko Bellis’ Youtube channel

Yes, hello.

Hello to senior Hamas official Dr. Ahmed Yousef, former diplomatic adviser to former Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. This is Nir Gontarz from Haaretz.

Hi, how are you?

I’m good…

Nir, your name is Nir?

Yes, Nir.


Yes. Gontarz.

Gon Gon?

Gontarz. Can you tell me a little bit about Hamas’ plans for this holiday season in Israel?

What do you mean, holiday season in Israel?

To the best of my knowledge, there’s supposed to be a march to the fence [on the Gaza-Israel border] during the Passover holiday in Israel, and after that on Independence Day, your Nakba Day.


Is Hamas moving from military action to civil action?

Actually, Mr. Nir, it is not Hamas who made the decision, but the youth. The main idea was thought up by the youth. There are people who think there is no hope, no future, and that we have to do something – ya’ani, to remind the whole world that we as Palestinians are still suffering, we are still living in the diaspora or in refugee camps, and there’s a certain decision by the United Nations, [Resolution] UN 194, that we are trying to implement, ya’ani, and to send a message to the world community that our problem is not solved and we’re still suffering, and continue to see our land being abused by the occupation, or Israelis trying to squeeze us to the corner, punishing the Palestinians, and this is something that this generation of Palestinians is not going to accept. And so they’re doing their own civil march, they don’t intend to do anything belligerent, and I think this is the message they would like to carry to the whole world, about the situation and the suffering in Gaza.

Right. Can you estimate how many young people and citizens of Gaza will come to this march? Because in the Israeli media it’s being described as a huge deal.

People are talking with confidence about more than half a million, ya’ani, something like this. I don’t know if they’re going to reach that number or not. But at least they will send a strong message about the situation the disaster, it has become a disaster, the situation has been deteriorating here in Gaza because of sanctions and the fact that Gaza is under a closure, how the disaster became the situation here in Gaza. It’s all about the message that we want to send, [a message] that Israel will get, the international community will get, and anyone who is looking, people in the region, from Arab and Muslim countries – that we Palestinians are still under occupation, and we’re still suffering from that occupation as well as from Israeli aggression in Gaza, and from what the Israelis are committing when they hold Gaza under siege. It is a crime against humanity.

I see. And Hamas will take part in this march? I understood that

I think everyone has been invited to participate. It’s not a factional march. Everyone has been invited to participate and mobilize, to be part of this message that we all would like to send to the whole world.

Okay, and the plans are to cross the border to the other side?

No, no, no, no one is talking about crossing the border. No. It will take place inside the area. It’s something that can take place near the border, not too close to the border, but it can be in the buffer zone, or near the border. We will hold various activities, singing, folklore performances, Palestinian folklore.

It sounds like Woodstock.

Something like this, ya’ani, that would attract the attention of the media to the fact that we Palestinians are still living on this land, and are still suffering. At least that’s the message that the people in Gaza would like to send, and of course the media will cover the events, and we hope that foreign journalists will come and listen to what the Palestinians have been telling about their narrative, about the whole story

Is there a chance that I, as an Israeli reporter, can cross the border to Gaza and cover it?

To be honest with you, I don’t think this is something easy to do and also I don’t think Israel will let an Israeli cross to Gaza, it’s risky for them It’s something that needs to happen within some sort of arrangement. But I don’t think it is a good idea right now because there is still tension in the relations between us.

Listen, usually Hamas doesn’t speak with the Israeli government. Sometimes, with the help of a third party, Hamas does speak with the Israeli government. I’m asking, would you like to convey a message to the people of Israel – to the people, not the government?

I would like to publish an article. I think I once wrote an article but it was stopped by our people here. But I may consider writing an article about these kinds of things

In once sentence, is there anything you would like to say to people in Israel?

I can tell them, look, you’ve suffered a lot as Jews around the world, and there were issues of suffering and agony in Spain or Europe. Don’t repeat what has been You were treated badly in Europe during the war and also during the inquisition in Spain. Don’t repeat what you have suffered. You are causing the Palestinians suffering by pushing them to the wall. This land, Palestine, is the holy land for all the people of Abrahamic faiths, who lived together through history for centuries. I think we can all live here in this land – Muslims, Christians and Jews – in this blessed land Allah chose for all the good people of Palestine, Muslims, Jews and Christians. This is my message to the Jewish community in Israel or to the Jewish people in Israel.

Okay, Dr. Yousef. Thank you very much for speaking with me.

Nir, could you send me your email or phone number so if I would like to write an article, I would know where to send it? And convey my regards to Gideon Levy, I’ve read his articles, I respect him and all the people who write fairly about the Palestinian issue in Haaretz.

I’ll send you my email by Whatsapp.

Okay, thank you very much, Nir.

Thank you.

You’re welcome.



Warning From Israel: Explosive, Sensitive Situation Developing, Especially Among Palestinians

March 28, 2018


There’s a growing risk of an escalation this year, Gadi Eisenkot tells Haaretz, predicting Israel will ‘face very great challenges around the 70th anniversary celebrations’


A masked Palestinian protester walks by burning tires during clashes with Israeli troops at the entrance to Ramallah on March 12, 2018.

A masked Palestinian protester walks by burning tires during clashes with Israeli troops at the entrance to Ramallah on March 12, 2018. Nasser Nasser/AP

There’s a growing risk of a security escalation sometime this year due to developments on many fronts, but especially the Palestinian one, according to the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff.

In an interview with Haaretz, Gadi Eisenkot said that in the near term, he is most worried by what is currently happening in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Israel hasn’t detected any signs that any of its enemies plans to start a war, but localized developments could lead to an unplanned escalation, he said.


Gadi Eisenkot in Knesset, August 16, 2016.

Gadi Eisenkot in Knesset, August 16, 2016.  Olivier Fitoussi

The Palestinian situation over the next few months will be “especially complex,” he continued, due to a series of events: the annual Land Day commemorations, which recall the killing of six Israeli Arabs during a 1976 protest against Israel’s confiscation of Arab lands; Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate the “nakba,” or “catastrophe” of their defeat in 1948; Israeli Independence Day, marking the country’s 70th anniversary; the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; the approaching end of Mahmoud Abbas’ leadership; the failed reconciliation between Abbas’ Fatah party and its main rival, Hamas; and the economic crisis that grips Hamas-run Gaza.

 “An explosive, sensitive situation is developing in the entire Middle East, but especially among the Palestinians,” Eisenkot said. “We will face very great challenges around the 70th [anniversary] celebrations.”

While the Palestinians’ economic situation is very bad, he continued, it hasn’t yet deteriorated to the level of a humanitarian crisis. 

The full interview will be published in Haaretz’s weekend edition on Friday.

Palestinian attendance unclear at White House Gaza conference — Palestinians officials conducting a de facto boycott of US officials

March 13, 2018


The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend
The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend (AFP Photo/Mandel NGAN)

Washington (AFP) – The White House will hold a conference on the humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but it is unclear whether any Palestinian officials will attend.

President Donald Trump’s “administration believes that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza require immediate attention,” US special envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement announcing the conference.

The meeting is expected to include top White House aide Jared Kushner, National Security Council staff and “many of the relevant parties,” according to Greenblatt.

It is unclear whether Palestinians officials will break their de facto boycott of US officials to attend.

The Palestinians were enraged by President Donald Trump’s decision to break with long-standing US policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“We are pleased with the committed list of attendees, which includes many of the relevant parties and anticipate a robust dialogue,” said Greenblatt.

“The challenge will be determining which ideas can be realistically implemented in light of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to suffer under the authoritarian rule of Hamas.”

A decade-long Israeli blockade and a dispute between Gaza’s Islamist rulers and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authorities have brought the coastal territory’s economy to its knees.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since 2007, which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas. The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.

Rights groups and UN officials say the blockade amounts to collective punishment and strangles the economy in the enclave, where unemployment is around 40 percent.

Israelis Give Mike Mike Huckabee A Lesson in Gun Control and Security After Florida School Mass Shooting

February 16, 2018


The contributor to Fox News tweeted that ‘Israel pretty much eliminated’ shootings by training people to find ‘not the weapon, but a person with intent’

Arkansas Governor, and former presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee visits a settlement in east Jerusalem on August 17, 2009 as part of his tip to the Holy Land. Huckabees views on Israeli Policy Conflict with Presidents Obamas.
Arkansas Governor, and former presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee visits a settlement in east Jerusalem on August 17, 2009Maya Levin, Jini

Mike Huckabee, formerly the governor of Arkansas, got a lesson in Israeli gun laws Wednesday after claiming in a tweet that armed Israelis frequently put an end to attacks, following Florida high school shooting, in which at least 17 students were killed.

Huckabee, currently a contributor to Fox News and once rumored to have been appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Israel, tweeted that he was “Just waking up in Israel to news of heartbreaking school shooting in FL; Reminded that Israel pretty much eliminated it by placing highly trained people strategically to spot the one common thread-not the weapon, but a person with intent. #PrayForParkland”

The school shooting in a community about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami was the 18th in a U.S. school this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, continuing a troubling pattern that has played out over the past few years. It was the second deadliest shooting in a U.S. public school after the 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Many, including a prominent Israeli commentator, took issue with Huckabee’s analysis, saying it isn’t tight security that protects Israel from mass shootings but laws that carefully control who can own and carry a gun, and when. Huckabee is a strict supporter of the right to bear arms.

skip – Alon Pinkas

“No Governor, Israel NEVER had such a problem,” responded Alon Pinkas, a former Consul General of Israel in New York. “We don’t worship guns, we don’t sell assault rifles to people, we don’t have a genius creation like the NRA, we don’t regard every bunch of guys a ‘well regulated militia’ and we’re pretty much done fighting the British.”

Lawyer and feminist Jill Filipovic referred Huckabee to an article about how Israel restricts gun ownership to those who can prove that their professions or places of residence put them in danger.

skip – Jill Filpoivic

“[I]f Huckabee is willing to make US gun laws look more like Israel’s then sure, sign me up,” she wrote.

As JTA’s Ben Sales reported in 2012, the ubiquity of gun-toting soldiers in Israel is deceptive: Once those soldiers finish their service, they are subject to civilian gun control regulations that are much stricter than American laws.

“Unlike in the United States, where the right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution’s Second Amendment, Israel’s department of public security considers gun ownership a privilege, not a right. With few exceptions, gun owners in Israel are limited to owning one pistol, and must undergo extensive mental and physical tests before they can receive a weapon. Those who have not served in the military or in a government volunteer agency must wait until age 27 to apply for a firearms license. Gun owners are limited to 50 rounds of ammunition per year. West Bank settlers can obtain permits to carry guns for security purposes,” he wrote.

Requests for gun licenses in Israel do surge during times of heightened violence, and in 2015 Israel eased some of those restrictions to allow reserve officers and more residents to carry guns. But because gun ownership in Israel is considered a privilege, not a right, policymakers are able to adapt gun laws to public health and other policy concerns. To curb suicide rates among adolescent soldiers, in 2010 the military changed its policy and limited the conditions under which soldiers could take their guns home when on leave. Following the policy change, suicide rates decreased by 40 percent.

Israel is no stranger to mass violence, from suicide bombings to car rammings. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 people.

But Huckabee is almost right: Israelis kill each other with firearms at a small fraction of the rate of Americans, and licensed commercial security firms or highly trained civilians guard schools and field trips. But research, including a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says school and other mass shootings are rare in Israel because most people do not have access to the kinds of arsenals readily available in the United States.

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?