Posts Tagged ‘Mahmud Abbas’

Palestinian factions leave Cairo with little reconciliation progress

November 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Mai Yaghi with Shatha Yaish in Jerusalem | Wednesday’s statement did not address punitive measures against Gaza including reduced electricity for two million residents

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – 

Palestinian leaders left the Egyptian capital Cairo Thursday after fresh unity talks that resulted in calls for elections but provided little clarity about a key transfer of power in Gaza next week.

Analysts said a three-page document agreed between the 13 largest Palestinian political parties Wednesday offered little substantive change, with no steps agreed on key points of difference.

They said questions would now be raised over the fate of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement signed last month between the two largest parties, Hamas and Fatah.

Under that deal, Islamists Hamas are supposed to hand over power in the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority by December 1.

Significant issues remain, however, including the future of Hamas’s armed wing and punitive measures taken by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas against Gaza.

Wednesday’s statement provided few further details, though it called for Abbas to organise elections by the end of 2018 and backed the October 12 Fatah-Hamas agreement.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since seizing the coastal enclave from Fatah in 2007, and its armed wing has since fought three wars with Israel.

In a sign of dissatisfaction, a senior Hamas figure who was in Cairo said Wednesday the talks had resulted in “no practical steps” forward.

In a video published online, Salah Bardawil said Israel and the United States had put pressure on Fatah not to implement reconciliation, and it was therefore unwilling to make concessions to Hamas.

– Hopes fading –

Israel and the United States have declared they will not accept a Palestinian unity government including Hamas unless it disarms.

“American pressure”, Bardawil said, led to a “statement that is not clear and has no practical steps”.

He later backtracked, claiming he was emotional and was not aware he was being filmed when he spoke.

Measures taken by Abbas to isolate Hamas in recent months, including reducing the subsidy for electricity supplied to Gaza, have also been sources of contention.

Sources within the delegations said Fatah was pressed to drop the sanctions as an indication of good will, but it refused.

After the talks, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in a statement that the failure to remove the measures “reflects the lack of political will to achieve reconciliation”.

Analysts expressed concern that hopes for unity were fading.

“They didn’t solve a single issue, even the simplest,” said Najee Sharab, professor of political affairs at Azhar University in Gaza.

“The statement by Bardawil, despite his retreating from it, is a strong signal of disagreement.”

Several previous reconciliation attempts have failed in the past decade.

“During the last round (of discussions), they raised hopes but there has been no progress in this round,” said Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority minister.

– Elections? –

Wednesday’s statement called on Abbas to organise new elections by the end of 2018.

Hamas won the last parliamentary poll in 2006 but the results were rejected by Israel, the United States and other members of the international community.

A year later, following violent infighting, the Islamists forced Fatah out of Gaza.

Since then, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of the strip, which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas but critics say amounts to collective punishment.

Palestinian and international leaders hope implementation of the unity deal could help ease the hardships of Gaza’s two million residents, who suffer from severe poverty and unemployment.

UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, told the UN Security Council on Monday that, despite the challenges, the reconciliation “must not be allowed to fail”.

“If it does, it will most likely result in another devastating conflict,” he said.

Hamas has already handed control of the borders with Israel and Egypt to the Palestinian Authority, but December 1 is supposed to see it cede full control in the strip.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly insisted the group will not give up its weapons.

Jihad Harb, a political analyst based in the occupied West Bank, said he expected Fatah and Hamas to hold a meeting on December 1, but little practical change on the ground.

“I do not believe anything substantial towards ending the Palestinian division will happen in early December,” he said.

by Mai Yaghi with Shatha Yaish in Jerusalem
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Palestinian factions head to Cairo for reconciliation talks

November 20, 2017

Palestinians wave yellow Fatah movement flags during a rally marking the 13th anniversary of the death of Fatah founder and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, in Gaza City, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Leaders of various Palestinian factions headed for the Egyptian capital Cairo on Monday ahead of talks aimed at moving forward with a reconciliation agreement.
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Senior figures from 13 different political factions — including Gaza’s rulers Hamas and the West Bank-based Fatah — are due to meet on Tuesday for three-day talks, with potential topics of discussion including the formation of a new unity government.
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Under an Egypt-brokered agreement reached last month, the Islamist Hamas is supposed to hand over civil control of Gaza to the Fatah-led national government on December 1.
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A source at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt told AFP that representatives from various factions including Hamas had crossed over on Monday morning.
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“The aim of the meeting is to incorporate all the factions as partners and not just spectators as the page of division is folded for the last time,” Azzam Al-Ahmed, who heads the Fatah delegation, said in a statement.
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The Hamas delegation will be headed by deputy leader Salah Al-Aruri and its Gaza head Yahya Sinwar.
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Neither Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas nor Hamas chief Ismail Haniya will attend.
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Another 11 other smaller political factions will also be in attendance.
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The most likely source of tension at the meeting will be the future of Hamas’s vast armed wing, although the talks are not expected to lead to a final ruling on the matter.
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Palestinian rivals head to Cairo for reconciliation talks

October 9, 2017

AFP

© Ismail Haniya’s office/AFP / by Adel Zaanoun with Hossam Ezzedine in Ramallah | Hamas leader Ismail Haniya (R) shakes hands with Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza City October 2, 2017 during Hamdallah’s first visit to the territory in two years

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas dispatched teams to Egypt on Monday for talks in a renewed push to end their decade-long split after a key breakthrough last week.

Senior figures in Islamist movement Hamas and secular party Fatah will meet in the Egyptian capital on Tuesday as they seek to end a division that has crippled Palestinian politics.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank-based Fatah of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas have been at odds since they fought a near civil war in 2007.

Senior Fatah figures attending the Cairo talks include intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Fayez Abu Eita, a party leader in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian official news agency Wafa said.

Newly appointed Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri and the movement’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar will lead the Hamas delegation, a spokesman said in a statement.

“We will not go back to division in any way,” Sinwar said on Sunday night ahead of the trip.

Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniya will not attend the talks, which will be held behind closed doors.

Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in 2007 in clashes following a dispute over parliamentary elections won by the Islamist movement.

The split has complicated any potential peace negotiations with Israel.

Multiple attempts at reconciliation have since failed but the recent Egyptian-headed push received a major boost last month when Hamas agreed to cede civilian power in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza last week for the first time since 2015 and his ministers officially took control of government departments there.

– Sticking points –

But the Cairo talks will begin the difficult task of negotiating over key sticking points — notably Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and does not recognise its existence, while Abbas and the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation have recognised the country.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, and Israel has said it would reject any reconciliation agreement in which Hamas didn’t disarm.

Abbas has also warned he will not accept Hamas keeping its weapons, but Hamas officials have dismissed the idea of disarming, which analysts say would effectively mean the end of the movement.

Another key issue is a demand by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority that Hamas hand it control of Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel.

A third question is the fate of tens of thousands of civil service employees Hamas has hired in the last decade.

A fourth key sticking point is a series of punitive measures Abbas has taken against Hamas in recent months, including cuts to electricity payments for Gaza.

Abbas wants his government to regain full control before reversing the measures, but Hamas wants them lifted immediately.

Two million people live in Gaza, an impoverished coastal territory blockaded by Israel and Egypt.

Faced with increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions, Hamas has agreed to Egyptian demands to take steps toward reconciling with Fatah.

by Adel Zaanoun with Hossam Ezzedine in Ramallah

Egyptian officials in Gaza ahead of Palestinian unity talks

October 1, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Hamas chief Ismail Haniya (R) meets members of the Egyptian delegation in Gaza City on October 1, 2017

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Egyptian delegates arrived in Gaza Sunday on the eve of a fresh attempt at reconciliation between the strip’s Hamas rulers and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement, an official said.

West Bank-based Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah is to make his first visit to Gaza since 2015 on Monday, aiming to crown a rapprochement between the rivals after a decade of animosity and outbreaks of violence.

The initiative is backed by Egypt which will be closely following the talks, intended to prepare for a transfer of power in the Gaza Strip from Hamas to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA).

“An Egyptian delegation, including Egypt’s ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat, and two other high ranking Egyptian intelligence officers, arrived in Gaza” from Israel, Mohammed al-Maqdama from the PA office that coordinates with the Israeli authorities told AFP.

Hamas said in a statement that its head, Ismail Haniya, and its Gaza chief, Yahya Sinwar, met the Egyptians on their arrival.

Palestinian media reports said that PA culture minister Ehab Bessaiso also arrived, taking charge of his ministry’s Gaza offices and meeting staff.

Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the PA, have both expressed confidence that the latest unity initiative will fare better than the failures of the past.

Hamas, blacklisted as a “terrorist” group by the European Union and the United States, won a landslide victory in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.

It ousted Fatah from Gaza the following year after wrangling over the formation of a new government degenerated into bloody clashes.

Since then, Abbas’s limited power has been confined to the West Bank which is under Israeli military occupation and is located, at its nearest point, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Israel-Gaza border.

The Palestinian schism is seen as a major obstacle to a peace agreement between Israel and a future Palestinian state combining the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

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Palestinian court extends detention of rights activist

September 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Rights activist Issa Amro is lead by Palestinian security forces from a court in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 7, 2017

HEBRON (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – A Palestinian court extended for four days Thursday the detention of a prominent rights activist who criticised president Mahmud Abbas’s administration, his lawyer said.Issa Amro was detained on Monday by Palestinian security forces in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on accusations of causing strife, among other charges, rights activists say.

A closed court in Hebron Thursday extended his detention for four more days, Amro’s lawyer Muhannad Karaja said after the session.

“We are surprised by this decision. We were expecting he would be freed today because Issa is a well-known activist,” Karaja told AFP.

Media, diplomats and supporters of Amro were turned away at the court, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Amro is the founder of Youth Against Settlements, a campaign group in the tense city of Hebron where Jewish settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves in the centre.

He was detained after criticising the Palestinian Authority’s arrest of a journalist from Hebron on social media at the weekend.

Palestinian officials have not publicly commented on Amro’s detention and attempts to reach the police were unsuccessful.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both criticised the arrest.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East.

She said Amro’s detention was the “latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”

Separate to the Palestinian arrest, Amro is currently on trial by Israel on a range of charges dating back to 2010.

He has rejected all the charges, saying they are politically motivated to prevent his peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation.

Jordan king makes rare West Bank visit to meet Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

King Abdullah II has flown to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas for the first time in five years. The trip is being viewed as a message to Israel, particularly over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid shared tensions with Israel.

Abdullah received a red carpet welcome in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. He was greeted by Abbas before the two national anthems were played.

The two leaders meet fairly frequently in the Jordanian capital of Amman and other regional capitals, but it was Abdullah’s first visit to Ramallah since December 2012.

The king’s trip had to be coordinated with Israeli authorities who control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including the 150 kilometer (93 mile) border with Jordan and the airspace above it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is hugged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas King Abdullah II received a red carpet welcome and a hug from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Signal to Israel

Abdullah’s visit comes amid rising Jordanian-Israeli tensions and is seen as a message to Tel Aviv that the Jordanian monarch is aligning with Palestinians on key issues – particularly concerning a contested Jerusalem holy site.

A crisis erupted last month at the Al Aqsa mosque compound when Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The compound, which sits on a plateau in the Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by the Jews who call it Temple Mount.

Read more: Opinion – Tension escalates on the Temple Mount

The security changes led to several days of protests and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

Tensions peaked on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Israeli officials say one of the men attacked the security guard with a screwdriver while the other was accidentally shot.

The crisis finally eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the metal detectors be taken down after consultations with Jordan.

Read more: Why Israel censored reporting on the Jordan embassy shooting

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The role is also a key component of Abdullah’s legitimacy.

Abbas and Abdullah are also likely to discuss a US-led effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which have been on hold for the past three years.

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Jerusalem, Amman and Ramallah, but there are few signs of interest in restarting negotiations.

rs/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/jordan-king-makes-rare-west-bank-visit-to-meet-palestinian-president/a-39995071

Jordanian king in rare visit to Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine | Israeli security forces stand guard in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II began a rare visit to the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday, amid shared tensions with Israel over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

In his first visit to Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah in five years, Abdullah was welcomed on a red carpet near his helicopter by the Palestinian leader before the two national anthems were played.

The two men did not address the media but shook hands with senior Palestinian officials.

The visit came less than two weeks after the end of a standoff at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem where Israel had imposed new security measures, including metal detectors, following an attack that killed two policemen.

Jordan, which is the custodian of the site, reacted angrily to the new measures, while Palestinians responded with days of protests.

The tensions were exacerbated on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy compound in the capital Amman.

One of the two men attacked the Israeli with a screwdriver, while the other was apparently shot dead by accident, according to Israeli officials.

The crisis eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the removal of the metal detectors, while he has also promised to investigate the embassy incident.

Abdullah’s visit was seen by analysts as providing support to Abbas, who has been isolated by Israel over his response to the Al-Aqsa row.

The mosque compound is in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan recognises Amman’s special status as official custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Muslim sites.

About half of Jordan’s 9.5 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.

‘Anger’

Netanyahu’s removal of the metal detectors was seen by Palestinians as a victory.

At Abbas’s headquarters a large banner was erected with a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the slogan “Jerusalem is victorious.”

“It appears that King Abdullah wants to show through his visit that he stands with the Palestinian people in the battle for Jerusalem,” Palestinian political analyst Abdel Majid Sweilem told AFP.

In a statement on the official state news agency Petra, the king was quoted as saying that without Jordanian “custodianship and the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, the holy sites would have been lost many years ago.”

In the middle of the crisis over the metal detectors, Abbas suspended security coordination with Israel, and it has remained suspended despite their removal.

As such 82-year-old Abbas cannot leave the West Bank as Israel controls the border crossings.

“This visit sends a message from his majesty that he is willing to contribute to removing president Abbas’s isolation following his decision to stop the security coordination with Israel,” Samir Awad, politics professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank, told AFP.

In January US President Donald Trump came to power promising to push Israelis and Palestinians towards a peace deal, raising brief hopes among Palestinians that his unconventional approach could achieve results.

But they have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as his negotiating team’s one-sided approach.

Trump’s team have yet to publicly commit themselves to the two-state solution, the idea of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel that has been the basis of decades of international consensus.

Leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has strongly criticised the “silence” of the US administration over Israeli settlement growth and its lack of support for the two-state solution.

The Jordanian ruler seemed to echo those remarks, calling for intensive US effort to help bridge the gap between the sides, according to Petra.

by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine

Muslims heed calls to avoid holy site over Israeli security measures

July 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Majeda El-Batsh | Palestinians chant slogans outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, due to newly implemented security measures by Israeli authorities, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 17, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Muslims heeded calls Monday not to enter a Jerusalem holy site and protested outside after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the ultra-sensitive compound following an attack that killed two policemen.The compound was largely empty on Monday apart from tourists and Jewish visitors, with Muslims again praying and protesting outside the site instead of entering through the metal detectors.

The Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Several hundred people could be seen praying outside two different entrances to the site around midday on Monday.

There were protests after the prayer, with crowds shouting: “Aqsa mosque, we sacrifice our souls and our blood.” Police later sought to move them back.

“We will not break the solidarity of the people,” said Jamal Abdallah, a Palestinian who now lives in the US state of Arizona and was planning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the situation.

Israel installed the metal detectors after Friday’s attack near the holy site that saw three Arab Israelis open fire on Israeli police.

They then fled to the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.

It was among the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israel took the highly unusual decision of closing the compound for Friday prayers, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian.

The site remained closed on Saturday, while parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also under lockdown.

Israeli authorities said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks, adding that the assailants had come from within the holy site to commit the attack.

They began reopening it on Sunday, but with metal detectors in place, while security cameras were also being installed in the area.

Al-Aqsa officials have refused to enter and have called on worshippers to do the same.

Palestinians view the new measures as Israel asserting further control over the site.

Crowds chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as they gathered near the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday.

On Sunday night, skirmishes broke out between Israeli police and worshippers outside the entrance, with the Red Crescent reporting 17 people wounded.

With tensions high, two mosques in the northern Israeli Arab town of Maghar were targeted overnight, one with a stun grenade and another by gunshots. No serious damage was reported.

One of the two policemen killed in the attack lived in Maghar. Both of the officers were from the Druze minority, Arabs who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

– Netanyahu order –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision to install the metal detectors and cameras following a meeting with security officials on Saturday.

He also spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday night before leaving on a trip to France and Hungary.

Abdullah condemned the attack, but also called on Netanyahu to reopen the Al-Aqsa compound and stressed the need to “avoid any escalation at the site”.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas conveyed a similar message to Netanyahu when the two spoke by phone on Friday in the wake of the attack.

Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past.

A plan developed in 2015 between Israel and Jordan to install cameras at the site itself fell apart amid disagreement over how they would be operated.

The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

by Majeda El-Batsh
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Opinion: The EU Must Keep Building Palestine

June 29, 2017

A recent op-ed suggested the EU is wasting money on wishful thinking for a two-state solution. But Europe’s role in building institutions is vital to Palestinian stability, whatever the eventual outcome

Johan Schaar
Haaretz
Jun 29, 2017 10:22 AM

‘EU aid is safeguarding stability in Palestine, even if a Palestinian state is in doubt’: A Palestinian woman carries supplies donated by the EU in the northern Gaza Strip. April 16, 2006 AP

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In a recent op-ed in Haaretz (Is Europe More Desperate for a Palestinian State Than the Palestinians?) Björn Brenner argues that, “blinded by idealism”, the EU, like no other actor, is wed to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, a solution that has no chance of coming into fruition and that Palestinians themselves no longer want.

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He declared that the EU is therefore wasting European taxpayers’ money when continuing to invest in the institutions of a future Palestinian state, aid that won’t deliver the new state and is ineffective in improving the lives of Palestinians. Instead, the EU should talk to Hamas, broker reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and cease institution-building support in favour of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

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Few would disagree that prospects for the two states are bleak, but Brenner’s account of facts is incomplete and his recipe for a new EU policy is curious.

© AFP / by Sarah Benhaida | Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas makes a statement with US President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017

He hints at the large elephant in the room, the Israeli occupation, without calling it out when he describes an increasingly weaker Palestine on “scattered pieces of land”. In Brenner’s universe, no cause needs to be identified for the current situation, which – mysteriously – “is the way it is”.

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First the facts. The EU is not alone in its support for the two states. This is still the position of the international community, most recently expressed in Security Council Resolution 2334 on 23 December, 2016, which reiterated “its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”

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And Palestinian public opinion? The most recent poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) of March this year, finds that one third supports and two thirds oppose the one-state solution. Almost half support the two-state solution, but 60% believe that it is no longer viable. There is a strong linkage between believing in its viability and supporting it: most of those who think that there will be two states, support it.

The main reason why Palestinians doubt the viability of a future Palestinian state is the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. And the Security Council agrees when it states that the establishment of settlements, “without legal validity and a flagrant violation under international law”, is a “major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace””. There is a reason for “the way it is”, and why Palestinians think as they do.

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‘The EU shores up Palestinian institutions, while Israeli settlements undermine the Palestinian future’: A Palestinian woman protests against Jewish settlements in Hebron. March 26, 2017 MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/REUTERS

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As Brenner points out, many Palestinians currently view the Palestinian Authority as a burden and are highly critical of how it works. But paradoxically, as shown in earlier PCPSR polls, they also see it as a national achievement, one of the few resulting from the Oslo accords.

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So, is it futile for the EU to support building Palestinian institutions if the two-state solution is in doubt? On the contrary. Over the past decades of global climate change, state fragility and conflict we have learnt that what builds a society’s resilience is its institutions. Education, health, social protection, financial services, gender equality, conflict resolution and justice all depend on the presence of institutions at the national and local levels, that include civil society and the private sector.

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If the PA is dismantled and its responsibilities taken over by a reformed PLO, the presence of these institutions will be as important as they are today, to provide stability to Palestinian society. And these are functions that can never be provided by life-saving and protection-oriented humanitarian actors, as we have also learned. Preparedness for several possible scenarios with a long-term focus on functioning institutions is what is required from the EU and other donors in Palestine.

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Finally, Brenner asks about the outcome of “feasibility assessments” of aid programs in Brussels. They are indeed undertaken on a regular basis both as evaluations of ongoing support and in preparing for new decisions, in Brussels as well as in other donor capitals. But their conclusion is not Brenner’s.

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A major evaluation of the EU aid program in 2014 found that much has been achieved in terms of “sustaining welfare for Palestinians, preventing fiscal and economic collapse, compensating for occupation losses, fostering stability and security, and building up capacity”. But it has not been able to remove the main obstacle to Palestinian development, the Israeli occupation, with its movement restrictions, strangling of the Palestinian economy and allocation of resources for settlements.

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It is only through a clear-sighted and credible use of EU and other political means that the two-state solution can be achieved, not something to be expected from aid programs. Other recent evaluations of Danish and Dutch aid have reached the same conclusion, as have the World Bank, IMF and the UN.

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It is curious how a scholar on Palestinian-Israeli political affairs like Björn Brenner can discuss policy options for resolving the conflict while ignoring the large elephant that everybody else can see.
Johan Schaar is the former head of Swedish aid to Palestine in the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem.

Johan Schaar

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.798477

Gaza restarts power station as Egypt fuel eases crisis

June 22, 2017
© AFP | Security forces stand guard as Egyptian trucks carrying fuel enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017
GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The Gaza Strip’s sole power station has been fired up again, the energy authority in the Palestinian enclave said Thursday, after fuel supplies from Egypt helped to ease an energy crisis.

The announcement came after Egypt delivered a million litres of fuel to the station on Wednesday, three days after Israel began cutting electricity supplies to Gaza.

The energy authority said two of the four generators at the power station had resumed operations and residents would now receive around six hours of mains power a day — up from as little as two earlier in the week.

The power plant, damaged by successive wars, was shut down in April after running out of fuel following a row between Gaza rulers Hamas and the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority over taxes.

Islamists Hamas seized control of Gaza from president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple attempts at reconciliation have failed.

However, the Palestinian Authority had continued to pay Israel for some electricity delivered to Gaza until this month, with Abbas indicating they would no longer do so — — prompting the Israeli reductions.

Israel had been supplying 120 megawatts of electricity to Gaza a month, making up about a quarter of the territory’s needs, but announced it would cease to do so this week.

Hamas official Basem Naim said the electricity supplied by the power plant was just enough to balance out the reduction.

He told AFP the Egyptian delivery was an “important step,” obtained after a meeting between Egyptian leaders, Hamas and Abbas’ great rival Mohammed Dahlan — in exile in the United Arab Emirates after a dispute with Abbas.

“We must now find a definitive solution to the electricity crisis because its impact is catastrophic,” said Naim.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday accused Abbas of seeking to spark a fresh conflict by increasing human suffering in Gaza.

He said Abbas’ “intention is actually to continue cuts and in a few months to stop paying for fuel, medicines, salaries and many other things.”

“In my opinion the strategy is to hurt Hamas and also to drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel.”