Posts Tagged ‘Mahmud Abbas’

Muslims heed calls to avoid holy site over Israeli security measures

July 17, 2017


© 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


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
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


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.

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.

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”.

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.”


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.”

Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails end hunger strike

May 27, 2017


© AFP/File | Palestinian women hold portraits of relatives imprisoned in Israeli jails during a protest in front of the Red Cross offices in east Jerusalem, on May 25, 2017


Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17 have ended their protest, Palestinian and Israeli sources said on Saturday.

Palestinian Prisoners Club chief Qaddura Fares said an agreement had been reached between the strikers and Israeli authorities on improving their conditions.

An Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman confirmed the hunger strike was over.

Israeli authorities conceded to one of the prisoners’ main demands — that they should have two family visits a month instead of the one they were entitled to before the strike, the spokeswoman said.

The resolution of the strike came hours before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A number of the strikers had been in sharply declining health.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had urged US counterpart Donald Trump to raise the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the region earlier this week.

Demonstrations in support of the prisoners had been held across the occupied West Bank leading to repeated bloody clashes with Israeli security forces.

© AFP/File / by Hossam Ezzedine | The leader of hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails, Marwan Barghouti, who has received his first Red Cross visit since the strike began, flashes the victory sign after a court hearing in 2003

Abbas says ready to meet Israel PM as part of Trump peace efforts — Day after Netanyahu trashes new Hamas doctrine

May 9, 2017


© 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

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday Donald Trump was expected to visit the Palestinian territories “soon” and that he was ready to meet Israel’s prime minister as part of the US president’s peace efforts.

Trump is expected in Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip and the Palestinian president said “we are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem” in the occupied West Bank, with speculation it will occur on May 23.

“We told him that we were ready to collaborate with him and meet the Israeli PM (Benjamin Netanyahu) under his auspices to build peace,” Abbas told reporters during talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Abbas met Trump in Washington last week for their first face-to-face talks.

Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centres of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

The stop in Israel is expected on May 22, though it has not been officially confirmed.

A senior Trump aide last week did not rule out the possibility of a presidential visit to the West Bank, but said that it was likely to be contingent on security and Abbas taking concrete steps toward peace.

Trump has been seeking ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.

– Embassy move –

Abbas said Tuesday that “we told him again of our commitment to a peace based on justice, with international resolutions and the two-state solution as references.”

Trump has however sent mixed signals over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He backed away from the US commitment to the two-state solution — Israel and an independent Palestinian state side-by-side — when he met Netanyahu in February.

He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the occupied West Bank.

Trump also vowed during his campaign to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.

At the same time, he has urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

One of Trump’s top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.

by Sarah Benhaida



Hamas seen facing long path to end isolation despite new policy

May 2, 2017


© AFP / by Joe Dyke with Sakher Abou El Oun in Gaza City | Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal unveils the Islamist movement’s new policy document in the Qatari capital, Doha on May 1, 2017

The Islamist movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, unveiled a new policy document on Monday night ahead of a first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose Fatah party remains at loggerheads with Hamas.

Some analysts see the move as an attempt by Hamas to ease tension with regional allies and assuage hostilities with global powers.

Speculation has also mounted over who will succeed 82-year-old Abbas, whose Fatah movement is based in the occupied West Bank, as Palestinian president.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, while it has strained relations with many Arab states.

Some diplomats said while the announcement was potentially positive, they would need more to convince them the party had really changed its approach.

“It is a piece of paper. We will see if there is a real shift or if it is window dressing,” one Western diplomat said.

While still attacking Israel, the document accepts for the first time pre-1967 armistice lines as a matter of “national consensus” — in what many interpreted as implicitly accepting the existence of Israel.

Hamas officials however said that it did not amount to a recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community.

The document also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier, with Hamas officials stressing it was a shift.

One Hamas leader, Ahmed Yusef, told AFP the updated charter was “more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law.”

However the Islamist movement will still not negotiate directly with Israel and the original hardline 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners.

Israel rejected the document, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman accusing Hamas of “attempting to fool the world.”

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008 and maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza.

On Tuesday, there were a number of Hamas-organised protests against the decade-long blockade, with a few thousand protesters taking to the streets in different cities.

– Muted response –

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political analyst in Gaza, said the document sought to help improve regional and global relations.

The document made no reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas was a splinter movement.

In 2013, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt, and the movement has since been suppressed in several Middle Eastern countries.

“Hamas has been isolated regionally and internationally since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring and the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” Abu Saada said.

“It is about assuring Egypt and the other Arab states there is no relationship between Hamas (and the Brotherhood).”

There was little initial public reaction, either positive or negative, on Tuesday.

The United States, Russia and other global players remained silent, with Arab states remaining largely quiet.

The office of UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov did not comment on the contents of the document.

Another Western diplomat said that as the document did not officially recognise Israel or renounce violence, it would be impossible for them to change position publicly.

Congressman Ed Royce, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered a rare reaction, downplaying the document’s significance.

“Until Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist, its words are meaningless. I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organisation as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.”

A third diplomat based in Israel saw some reason to be positive, but stressed it would be unlikely to lead to any shifts in relations in the short term.

“Diplomats have been pushing for a change to the charter for a long time,” he said. “You need extremists to move towards the centre.”

Yossi Mekelberg from the Chatham House think tank in London said that while Israel was publicly bullish, some would interpret it as a positive sign.

But he noted the issue had not received extensive coverage in Western media.

“If you look at Europe, it is pretty self-obsessed right now,” said Mekelberg, also a professor at Regent’s University London. “They are hardly interested in Hamas.

“I think the response from the international community will be that it is a good sign, something to be explored, but we won’t see major shifts.”

by Joe Dyke with Sakher Abou El Oun in Gaza City

New Hamas chief to be announced soon

April 30, 2017


© AFP/File | Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza City on March 25, 2017

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The new leadership of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas will be announced in the coming days, officials said Sunday, while it also prepared to unveil a new version of its charter.

Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said the results of internal elections will be announced “in the coming days”.

A high-ranking Hamas official told AFP that the new leadership will be announced before May 15.

The official said Haniya is likely to be named the new head of the movement, replacing Khaled Meshaal who lives in Doha in exile and has completed the maximum two terms in office.

Hamas runs the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority dominated by president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party controls the occupied West Bank.

On Monday in Qatar, Hamas will unveil a supplementary charter that will formally accept the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Some analysts say the move is a bid to ease Hamas’s international isolation.

The original 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, and there will be no recognition of Israel, as demanded by the international community.

Abbas: Trump ‘serious’ about Israel-Palestine peace

March 30, 2017


© PPO/AFP | Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas attending talks of the Arab League summit in the Jordanian Dead Sea resort of Sweimeh on March 29, 2017
RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – President Donald Trump is “serious” about solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said ahead of a meeting with the US leader.

“The US administration of President Donald Trump is seriously considering a solution to the Palestinian issue,” Abbas told AFP late Wednesday after a meeting of the Arab League in Jordan.

Abbas met with Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt before leaving for the summit and said contacts with the administration were ongoing.

“(There is) continuing dialogue with the American administration and there were a number of issues they wanted our opinion on or our answer to them,” he added.

“We gave them our position on all their questions.”

Abbas is expected to meet with Trump in Washington for the first time in April.

Trump is also expected to meet other Arab leaders in the coming weeks, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Trump caused alarm among Palestinians and many parts of the international community in February when he broke with years of US policy in support of the two-state solution, meaning an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said at the White House before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas said the Arab League summit on Wednesday confirmed that the Arab world had a “clear” vision for peace on the basis of two-states.

In their final statement, the leaders called for a revival of “serious and productive peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” and renewed their commitment to a two-state solution.

Israel’s Netanyahu repeats promise to build new West Bank settlement

March 16, 2017
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he would honor his commitment to build a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first in two decades.

The Israeli leader made the remarks hours before meeting with Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy. Netanyahu said he hoped an agreement could be reached with Washington on future Israeli settlements on land Palestinians want for a state.

“To the settlers of Amona, I repeat, I gave you a commitment to build a new settlement and I will honor my commitment,” Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting.

The Amona settlement, comprising some 40 homes, was built in 1995 without government authorization. It was razed last month after the Israeli supreme court ruled the homes must be removed because they were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Netanyahu is under pressure from his far-right coalition partners to follow through on the promise to Amona’s residents. However, at a meeting in Washington, Trump asked him to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

“We are in talks with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed policy for building in settlements which is agreeable to us, not only to the Americans,” Netanyahu said.

A new settlement would be the first built in the West Bank since 1999. Some 385,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank which is also home to 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014 and settlements are one of the most heated issues. Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their own state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements, built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war, to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests.

In a rare meeting for a U.S. envoy, settler leaders said they met with Greenblatt on Thursday. On his first visit to the Middle East as Trump’s envoy, Greenblatt also met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His meeting with Netanyahu will be their second this week.

Abbas told the Qatari newspaper Al-Watan in an interview that Greenblatt did not make any proposals and had come to listen and report back to Trump.

“When we meet the American president there will be clear answers to the things he has heard from us and it should be enough for him to get a clear view … and propose suitable solutions,” Abbas was quoted as saying.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Larry King)



Netanyahu Tells President Trump’s envoy Israel is ready to freeze construction in some settlements; Working toward agreed-upon policy regarding settlement construction

March 16, 2017

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US special envoy Jason Greenblatt (left) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


MARCH 16, 2017 13:03
Jerusalem Post
The prime minister made this statement on Thursday ahead of his second meeting with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, further stressing his government’s commitment to the settlement enterprise.

Israel and the United States are working on a common understanding with regard to settlement construction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the government on Thursday before heading to a second meeting this week with US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, appointed by President Donald Trump to oversee special international negotiations.

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“This afternoon I will meet again with [US] President [Donald] Trump’s Jason Greenblatt. We are in the midst of a process of dialogue with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed-upon policy regarding settlement construction. Agreed-upon for us, of course, not just for the American side,” Netanyahu said.


“Naturally, this will be good for the State of Israel since we have not been in these processes for many years,” Netanyahu said.

Greenblatt is in the region speaking with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leadership ahead of an anticipated US push for a regional peace deal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an unusual move, Greenblatt met on Wednesday with settler leaders including Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Efrat Council head Oded Revivi, who is the chief foreign envoy for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria.

Dagan said afterwards, “we respect Trump and the new government. We’re please there is a supportive government [in Washington.”

“Our requests are to our government and to our ministers. We must make a drastic change and stop this edicts [against settlement activity] that harm the basic rights” of the residents of Judea and Samaria, Dagan said.

The last US initiative under former US President Barack Obama broke down in April 2014. Palestinians have insisted that talks cannot be renewed unless Israel halts all West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem. Israel in turn has called for a renewal of direct talks without pre-conditions.

It’s believed that Netanyahu has proposed to the Americans that Israel be allowed to build in the settlement blocs — including Gush Etzion, Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Modi’in Illit — while freezing construction in the isolated settlements beyond the security barrier.

Netanyahu is under pressure from right wing politicians in his party and his coalition to annex Judea and Samaria, starting with the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.

Right wing representatives have also been pressuring him to keep his promise to the Amona families to authorize the first new settlement in 25 years.

Netanyahu said on Thursday, “To the residents of Amona, I reiterate: I gave you a promise to build a new community and I will honor that commitment.”

On Wednesday, senior Fatah official Jabril Rijoub told The Jerusalem Post staff that the Palestinians remain committed to a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines.

“We hear good things from Trump and I think that Trump is not playing games with anyone,” he said.

Rajoub called the settlements a “malignant cancer” and an “existential threat” for Israel. The starting point for talks must be a settlement freeze, he stressed.

“The Israelization policy to make drastic change on the ground — this is your crime by international law. Who is supporting what you are doing?” he argued.

Even the US in December gave its de-facto support to UN Security Council resolution 2334 condemning settlement activity, Rajoub continued.

“What is going on is a crime under international law,” he stated and then raised another question- why let “ten-percent of your society lead you to a disaster.”