Posts Tagged ‘West Bank’

Palestinians are angry at both Israel and their own leaders and believe they have nothing to lose

April 4, 2018
Bloomberg
Nothing left to lose.

 Photographer: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images

The violence last Friday in Gaza, in which 18 Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli troops near the border, was the worst since the war of 2014. But everything is in place for a significant escalation in coming weeks, particularly in mid-May.

A series of major tripwires are clustered tightly together: commemorations of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding on May 14-15; mourning by Palestinians who regard the same event as their “catastrophe” and observe May 15 as “Nakba Day”; and the scheduled opening of a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, courtesy of the administration of President Donald Trump.

Things are likely to get worse because Palestinians increasingly feel they have nothing left to lose. The “March of Return” last week drew unprecedented crowds of up to 30,000 Palestinians from all parts of Gaza society. In a festive and surreal atmosphere, vendors sold ice cream to picnicking families as young men risked their lives by approaching the border.

Over 90 percent of Gaza’s almost 2 million people are refugees from what is now southern Israel. Unlike most other Palestinians, they are still geographically close to the towns and villages from which they were displaced in 1947-48. Since its founding, Israel has had one primary response to Palestinians, armed or not, attempting to go home without permission. The Israeli military reiterated that anyone approaching within 300 meters of the border would face a shoot-to-kill policy.

But things are so bad in the wretched open-air prison of Gaza that the only surprise is that the death toll wasn’t even higher.

One of the most densely populated places on earth, Gaza is now barely habitable. Hunger is rampant. Water is undrinkable. Unemployment is close to 50 percent. Health-care is scanty at best. Electricity is available just two to four hours per day. The once-beautiful seacoast is now a giant sewer. And there’s virtually no way in or out of the territory which, since a violent takeover in 2007 by the Islamist faction Hamas, has been under a lockdown by Israel and Egypt.

For more than 10 years, the people of Gaza have been subjected to the misrule of Hamas, the heavily armed Muslim Brotherhood faction that exploits and intensifies their misery. Last summer, Hamas attempted to use a fictional “reconciliation” agreement with its Fatah rivals, who control the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, to get out of this stranglehold. Hamas sought to get the Palestinian Authority to take up the burden of administration in Gaza, secure badly needed aid and reconstruction money, and, most importantly, win themselves a new foothold in the West Bank, where they have been frozen out since the Palestinian factions split in 2007.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made reconciliation contingent on Hamas disarming, which the militant group won’t consider. Hamas was left virtually without options.

QuickTakeTwo-State Solution

Abbas, too, is badly adrift. He staked his entire career on negotiations with Israel, brokered by the U.S. But that “peace process” has been frozen since the first term of President Barack Obama, and Israel is moving closer to annexing large chunks of the West Bank. Virtually no Palestinians believe anymore that Israel will ever agree to end the occupation and allow them to create their own state.

The Trump administration has reinforced this conviction by abandoning Washington’s long-standing commitment to a two-state outcome, and has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Abbas’s diplomatic strategy therefore now looks like the ultimate fiasco.

The last straw for Abbas came in March, when Hamas tried to assassinate his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah.

Enraged, Abbas has lashed out at all his antagonists in a recent series of unhinged speeches. He bitterly denounced Israel and castigated the Trump administration, describing its peace efforts as “the slap of the century” and calling the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a “son of a dog.” He excoriated Hamas followers as terrorist “thugs and hooligans,” and said the only reason their operatives weren’t being killed all over the world in revenge is that he won’t sink to their murderous level.

Abbas announced a new series of harsh sanctions against Hamas and Gaza, and has been prodding Hamas and Israel toward another conflict, hoping to be the prime beneficiary as his two adversaries scorch each other while Washington scrambles to douse the flames.

With Hamas’s militancy and Abbas’s diplomacy both thoroughly discredited, Palestinian civilians are desperate for a new political dynamic. The recent “March of Return” protests originally promised that, but Hamas has thus far managed to hijack them. Yet if the protest movement leads to another war with Israel, the result could prove catastrophic for Hamas’s political viability. And if widespread unrest spreads to the West Bank, that could fatally undermine the Palestinian Authority.

Both Palestinian Islamists and nationalists are out of options, out of ideas, and out of luck. The Palestinian public is out of patience and nearly out of hope. That’s a combustible formula.

A series of demonstrations in the coming weeks has already been scheduled in Gaza, beginning next Friday. But the mid-May commemorations, set against this backdrop of frustration and despair, look incredibly dangerous.

When an entire people, at almost every level of society and across the political and religious spectrum, seem to have concluded they have nothing to hope for and nothing to lose — that all their dreams will remain deferred for the foreseeable future — an explosion may be inevitable.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Hussein Ibish at hussein.ibish@gmail.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-04-04/israel-palestine-gaza-violence-is-about-to-get-worse

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White House Officials Tell Haaretz Peace Plan Still on the Agenda – and Could Surprise Skeptics

April 2, 2018

Haaretz

The Trump administration thought recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would ultimately push the process forward

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President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, March 5, 2018
President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, March 5, 2018Evan Vucci/AP

Last December, in the days before President Donald Trump’s speech recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the two White House officials in charge of his Middle East peace plan – Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – were busy working the phones. They put out calls to foreign diplomats, senior journalists and influential policy experts in Washington, signaling one clear message: The Jerusalem move isn’t going to harm the administration’s peace plan. To the contrary, they argued: Time will prove that the historic and controversial move only strengthened it.

Kushner and Greenblatt were aware of the anger the speech was going to create on the Palestinian side. They braced themselves for what the administration defined as a “cooling off period” with the Palestinians. But they rejected any notion of a crisis in their peace efforts, and insisted that after emotions calm down, negotiations will remain the best route for all the parties involved in the conflict.

“They had it all figured out – they could clearly draw a scenario of how this decision would cause some obstacles in the near future, but make things easier down the line,” said a person who received a call from the White House before the Jerusalem announcement, and asked not to be named.

Another person briefed by the administration less than 24 hours before Trump’s speech told Haaretz, “They didn’t outright say it, but you could read between their sentences that they believed this would make Israeli concessions more likely in the future. I believe them that they truly thought this would turn out to be a positive thing for the peace process.”

Today, almost four months after the speech, resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations doesn’t look any more likely than it did before Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. The Palestinian leadership, which expressed some hope about the peace process in the first months of the Trump presidency, has been boycotting the administration ever since December. Israeli and Palestinian officials who spoke with Haaretz described the Jerusalem speech as a point that changed the trajectory of the peace talks, causing the Palestinians to swap cautious optimism for disappointment and despair.

Despite these circumstances, however, the small team within the administration that is responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian file isn’t showing any signs of giving up on the goal set forward by Trump last year: reaching “the ultimate deal,” an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. They insist a peace plan is still on the agenda – and claim it could surprise skeptics.

Last week, Kushner spent two evenings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the two spoke at length about the administration’s peace plan. A week earlier, Kushner and Greenblatt hosted representatives from 20 different countries, including Israel and many of its Arab neighbors, for an international summit focused on finding solutions for the economic and security situation in Gaza. Absent from that meeting was the Palestinian Authority, which received an invitation, but chose not to attend.

“We’re realistic. We never said this was going to be an easy lift,” one senior White House official told Haaretz last week. The same official added that the administration was continuing to work on the peace plan. In recent weeks, it has been reported that the plan is close to being finalized, yet the White House still hasn’t set a date for releasing it.

Among the issues that will determine when the plan sees the light of day are the political situation in Israel, the security situation in Gaza and the West Bank, and the fallout from the administration’s decision on whether or not to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. The administration is still hoping to see the Palestinians become part of the process, but is not ruling out publishing the plan even if the PA continues its current boycott.

The Palestinians have been stating for months that the administration is going to fully adopt Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions, and release a peace plan that will be unacceptable to any Palestinian leader who wishes to survive. The senior White House official who spoke with Haaretz said these claims are false.

“We said from the beginning, we’re not going to impose a deal. We’re looking for a realistic deal that will be sellable on both sides,” the official explained, adding, “If it’s only sellable on one side, what’s the point of all the effort?”

By “sellable,” the senior official meant a deal that an Israeli and a Palestinian leader could each present to their publics and convince a significant portion that it is worth pursuing. “It needs to be something that both sides can say, ‘There are some things I don’t like about this, but it’s a realistic path.’ As the president has said, both sides are going to have to make hard compromises,” the official added.

Another White House official involved in the process said, “If we were not serious about advancing a realistic plan, we wouldn’t have invested the time and effort we did. There is no point to such investment for something that has zero chances at succeeding.”

Israeli officials who are in regular communication with the American peace team told Haaretz about two key potential obstacles to the Palestinians’ acceptance of the impending plan. One is the general skepticism on the American side about the possibility of evacuating settlements in the West Bank in the near future, a view expressed by Ambassador to Israel David Friedman during a meeting he had with American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem last month. The second is the possibility that the administration will accept Netanyahu’s demand to give Israel overriding security responsibility over the entire area west of the Jordan river.

If they become part of the plan, these two positions would mean the continuation of the status quo, with all the settlements remaining in place, and the IDF continuing to be a daily presence in the lives of millions of Palestinians. There is no official indication that these ideas are indeed part of the American peace plan, and so far the administration has denied numerous reports about the plan’s contents. But if these policies are eventually adopted by the American side, the Palestinians will probably see it as a plan for maintaining the occupation, perhaps with some slight gestures to decrease its “visibility” for the average Palestinian.

The Israeli officials who spoke with Haaretz said there are indications the plan may also include things that Netanyahu won’t find easy to accept, such as a Palestinian capital in the suburbs of Jerusalem or a partial settlement freeze. The White House, it should be noted, has constantly denied reports claiming that the plan will turn Abu Dis, a town located east of Jerusalem, into the capital of a future Palestinian state. On settlements, it has stuck to one constant line – that “unrestrained” building in them is “unhelpful” to peace – and has denied reports about a more specific or nuanced policy.

In general, the White House has referred to many reports about the potential contents of the plan – including the assessments made for this report by Israeli officials – as speculation and guessing that don’t accurately reflect what they are working on.

The Israeli officials estimated that if the plan indeed includes elements that are less comfortable for Netanyahu, he will try to delay his response to it, in the hope that the Palestinians will reject it before he does, thus saving him a possible confrontation with the right-wing base of his party and coalition.

Following the Jerusalem announcement, along with Trump’s insistence that it had taken the issue of Jerusalem “off the table,” the Palestinians have expressed openness to the idea of international mediation that would include the United States, but not in a leadership position, since they no longer consider Trump an “honest broker.” Abbas outlined such a position in a speech to the United Nations last month. Palestinian and Israeli officials told Haaretz that the American team is opposing that idea, and wants to put down its plan before bringing in any potential mediation partners.

The American team was encouraged last month when King Abdullah of Jordan, one of the most outspoken Arab leaders against the Jerusalem speech, said in an interview that there was no replacement for the United States’ leading role in the peace process. Israeli officials believe, however, that overall, the Jerusalem declaration has made it more difficult for Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries to take a leading role in supporting the Trump peace initiative. This is something the White House strongly disputed, noting that Trump’s successful relationships with prominent leaders in the Arab world, from Saudi Arabia to Egypt, are an asset for the peace team.

“The president has a very good relationship with key players in the Arab world,” the senior White House official said. “The Arabs didn’t like the Obama administration’s policies. Now, even if they didn’t like certain decisions, like the Jerusalem decision, they see that the president is a man of his word. We know that they’re essential, and that we’re not going to have a successful peace deal without their support – monetary, emotional and in other aspects.”

The administration, however, isn’t expecting the Arabs to coerce the Palestinians, and is aware of the limitations of Arab pressure in this issue. Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, told Haaretz last week, ahead of Trump’s meeting with Prince Mohammed, that “there is a very strong incentive for the Gulf states to get closer to Israel – mostly because of Iran – but that doesn’t mean they can force a peace plan on the Palestinians.”

The administration insists, at least publicly, that finally the decisions will have to be made by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders – and that nothing can be imposed on either side. For a Palestinian leader to accept the peace plan, however, it will have to indeed be “sellable” on the Palestinian street, as the senior White House official who spoke with Haaretz stated. “The question is, what do they define as sellable,” asked one Western diplomat who has been briefed on the administration’s efforts. “Do they realize what it would actually take for a Palestinian leader to return to negotiations with Trump after the events of the last four months?”

Netanyahu, for his part, has said on a number of occasions lately that he is not aware of any deadline for the peace plan’s publication, but that he does believe it will ultimately be released. “These are not the usual mediators,” he told some Israeli officials. “These are business people with creative ideas.” A Palestinian official seconded Netanyahu’s words, saying, “They aren’t regular negotiators – and maybe that’s the problem.”

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

March 29, 2018

Haaretz

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

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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.

N-i-r?

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.

Aha.

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.

Bye-bye.

Bye.

Israel army given shoot orders ahead of Gaza border protest — “An explosive, sensitive situation is developing in the entire Middle East, but especially among the Palestinians”

March 28, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Gazans carry away a protester wounded during a clash with Israeli troops by the border fence near the city of Khan Yunis on March 23, 2018

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot has warned the army has been given authorisation to open fire ahead of mass protests on the Gaza border planned for Friday.

Eisenkot said reinforcements, including special forces snipers, had been deployed to the border to counter what he said was the most serious risk of conflict since he took up his post in 2015.

A series of incidents in recent days, including two infiltrations, one by three armed Palestinians who penetrated some 20 kilometres (12 miles) inside Israel, has already sent tensions soaring on the volatile frontier.

Friday’s mass rallies near the border fence mark the start of more than six weeks of planned protests leading up to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem around May 14.

US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the disputed city as Israel’s capital in December has infuriated Palestinians who claim its annexed eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Gazans are being urged to set up a string of protest camps along the Israeli border, each some 100 metres (yards) from the security fence, and the army is braced for attempts to break through.

“We won’t allow mass infiltration into Israel and to damage the fence, and certainly not to reach the communities,” Eisenkot told the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

“The instructions are to use a lot of force,” he said.

“We’ve deployed more than 100 snipers who have been drafted from all the army’s units, mainly from the special units. In the event of mortal danger, there is authorisation to open fire.”

Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, the most recent of which in 2014 ended with a fragile truce.

Asked whether he feared a new conflict, Eisenkot said: “The chance of that happening is greater this year than it was in the first three years of my term.

“There are a lot of negative vectors in the region that are pushing towards a conflict.”

Eisenkot gave a similar warning in a separate interview with left-leaning newspaper Haaretz.

“An explosive, sensitive situation is developing in the entire Middle East, but especially among the Palestinians,” he said.

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

March 28, 2018

Haaretz

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’

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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.

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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.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-idf-chief-of-staff-warns-there-s-a-risk-of-an-escalation-this-year-1.5956331

Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas supporters in West Bank

March 28, 2018

Al Jazeera

At least 55 Hamas supporters arrested in aftermath of explosion that targeted PM convoy in Gaza Strip.

March 28, 2018
'Political detention deepens unreasonable disputes' said Hasan Khreisheh, member of Palestinian Legislative Council [File: Reuters]
‘Political detention deepens unreasonable disputes’ said Hasan Khreisheh, member of Palestinian Legislative Council [File: Reuters]

Dozens of Hamas supporters and activists have been detained in the West Bank over the past two weeks following an attack on the Palestinian Authority prime minister’s convoy in Gaza on March 13.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas for being behind the attack on Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade, calling it an “assassination attempt”.

Hamas denied the allegations and said it was launching an investigation to uncover who was behind the blast.

Almost two weeks after the attack, two suspects were killed in an operation carried out by Hamas security forces. They were identified as Anas Abu Khousa and Abdul Hadi al-Ashab, unaffiliated with any Palestinian political faction.

The attack and the subsequent recriminations marked a serious deterioration in relations between Hamas and the PA.

So far, at least 55 Palestinians have been arrested as part of crackdown by the Palestinian Authority on Hamas supporters.

‘Arrests must stop’

Hasan Khreisheh, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank, told Al Jazeera that the arrest campaign by PA security forces is “incomprehensible and unjustified”.

“These arrests must be stopped in favour for a Palestinian united front to take a stance against the bigger issues at hand, such as US President Donald Trump’s decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem,” Khreisheh said.

“If the PA is serious about confronting these real issues, then they should stop the arrests,” he continued. “In light of what the Palestinian cause is going through, political detention deepens unreasonable disputes.”

The MP said the PA leadership and other factions must intervene to stop the political arrests.

Strained relations

Fatah, the ruling party within the PA, and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw two parallel governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.

But the deal was never fully implemented due to differences within the two political factions, which are the largest in Palestinian politics.

Analysts said the attack on Hamdallah’s convoy was intended to put a strain on reconciliation efforts.

Abdelsattar Qassam, a Palestinian analyst and professor of political science at the an-Najah University in Nablus, accused the PA of practicing tyranny.

“Political arrests in the West Bank represents an assault on people’s freedom of expression and in the formation of public opinion,” he told Al Jazeera.

Qassem pointed out that the Palestinian reconciliation cannot take place under the Oslo agreement, which he considers the source of civil infighting and rivalry among the Palestinians.

“The reconciliation is a theatre play whose objective is to entertain and waste time,” he said.

“As Palestinians, the solution right now is to hold elections, as it is the only option capable of bringing in a new leadership that will deal with the Palestinian people in a new way.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Employee at French Consulate in Jerusalem Admits to Smuggling Weapons From Gaza to West Bank

March 19, 2018

Haaretz

Case was reported on extensively in French press but a gag order was imposed on coverage of it in Israel – even though relevant agencies had already worked on press releases

A 24-year-old employee at the French Consulate in Jerusalem admitted that he smuggled dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip into the West Bank through diplomatic vehicles, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Sunday. Israeli security sources have confirmed the existence of the case.

The employee was a driver and carried an official passport. He was detained for questioning by Israeli security authorities on February 19. A security guard at the embassy was also arrested. The two will stand trial on Monday, most likely in a Be’er Sheva court, for smuggling weapons from Gaza to the West Bank.

 French Consulate in Jerusalem

The case was reported on extensively on Sunday in the French press but a gag order was imposed on coverage of it in Israel, even though the relevant agencies in Israel, including the Shin Bet security service and the Foreign Ministry, had already worked on a press release on matter.

This is not the first time that a security-related case has been banned from publication while it was reported on extensively abroad.

One high-profile example was the case of a man identified as Prisoner X on an Australian website, which was only reported later in Israel following the lifting of the gag order.

The French Embassy issued a statement saying: “The authorities in France are taking the incident in which one if the workers at the consulate general of France in Jerusalem is a suspect with very great seriousness. The authorities in France are cooperating with Israeli authorities.”

Israeli diplomatic officials called the matter “a very difficult event, which we take very seriously.” They added that relations with France are excellent and this will not have an adverse effect, thanking French authorities for their cooperation.

The affair takes place days before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is slated to arrive in Israel, amid the backdrop of a potential visit from French President Emmanuel Macron later this fall. This affair may overshadow the visit.

Two Israeli Soldiers Killed in West Bank Car-ramming Attack — Islamic Jihad: “These are legitimate acts by the Palestinian people, meant to defend themselves and their lands and their holy sites.”

March 17, 2018

Haaretz

ourth soldier moderately wounded ■ Driver questioned at the scene ■ Hamas says attack comes 100 days after Trump’s Jerusalem recognition

.A member of the Israeli security forces stands next to the destroyed vehicle that was used by a Palestinian assailant in a car-ramming attack, West Bank, March 16, 2018.
A member of the Israeli security forces stands next to the destroyed vehicle that was used by a Palestinian assailant in a car-ramming attack, West Bank, March 16, 2018.JACK GUEZ/AFP

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and two others were wounded Friday in a car-ramming attack near the West Bank settlement of Reihan.

The victims were taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital by helicopter. According to the hospital, one of the wounded soldiers suffered a head injury and is in critical condition, while the fourth victim sustained moderate wounds.

The attacker, Ala Rateb Abd al-Latif Kabha

The attacker, Ala Rateb Abd al-Latif Kabha

According to the Israeli military, the deadly incident was a terror attack deliberately targeting soldiers. The driver, Ala Rateb Abd al-Latif Kabha, who has served a prison sentence for security felonies, was arrested and questioned at the scene. He sustained light to moderate injuries and was taken to a hospital near Hadera.

Kabha, 27, is a resident of the town of Barta’a, which straddles the Green Line. Kabha was discharged in April 2017 after serving a 17-month prison term. The Shin Bet said he has been taken in for interrogation.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has ordered the immediate suspension of work permits for Kabha’s family, which has 67 work permits in Israel and 26 commerce permits.

A relative told Haaretz that Kabha is a house painter. “He came to Jenin to purchase paint and was on his way home. He’s not politically affiliated or a part of any organization. We believe this is an unfortunate accident and not a terrorist attack, as they claim,” the relative said.

In a statement, Hamas stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack but noted that the car ramming happened exactly 100 days after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

One of the wounded arrives at Bellinson hospital, March 16, 2018
One of the wounded arrives at Bellinson hospital, March 16, 2018Nir Keidar
Snapshot of a video from the scene
Snapshot of a video from the sceneMDA Israel Spokesperson

Islamic Jihad stated that they “commend the continued intensification of attacks against the occupation’s soldiers and settlers. These are legitimate acts by the Palestinian people, meant to defend themselves and their lands and their holy sites.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, writing on his Twitter account, condemned the attack as an act of terrorism supported by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and promised that “we will act” for the destruction of the terrorist’s home and the punishment of all those who aided him.

Earlier this month, an Israeli Border Police officer and two soldiers were lightly wounded in two separate car-ramming attacks in the northern Israeli city of Acre. The driver was shot by a witness and was hospitalized in critical condition.

Can Trump achieve what others couldn’t?

March 6, 2018

By ABDULRAHMAN AL-RASHED | 

Every US president to set foot in the White House in recent years tried to propose — or did propose — a plan for peace between the Arab states and Israel, except for Barack Obama, who was preoccupied with the matters of other regions.

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In US President Donald Trump’s kitchen, we can smell an almost impossible mission being prepared: A new peace project. President Trump has put the closest person to him, his senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in charge of it. He has also appointed a special envoy for this purpose, Jason Greenblatt, who has started endless journeys to pave the way for the new project.

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Without enough clues, we can’t judge whether or not he will succeed. We all know that no one succeeded before, to the point where achieving comprehensive peace compares to the mythical rise of the phoenix.
Nevertheless, we remain open to optimism. Who knows? It could happen, just like winning the lottery — a very remote yet possible chance.

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The requirements for success are available today. The regional climate, in particular, is better prepared than it was during the days of Camp David in the 1970s, the Madrid Peace Conference in the early 1990s, and the infamous Oslo Accords. It is also certainly better than the climate during which the peace talks in Taba, Wye River, Wadi Araba and others took place.

Everyone is waiting to learn the details of US president’s project and see whether or not he can succeed where his predecessors have failed.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Why do we believe today’s political climate is suitable for a major peace project?

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A wide range of changes have taken place in the Arab region. The people who were most hostile toward the previous peace projects and were keen to sabotage them are now out of the game. These include Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, and Palestinian left-wing parties. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood has been excluded from political power in Egypt and weakened in Sudan, while Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s rule in Iran stands on shaky ground, plus the Tehran regime is involved in Syria and Iraq, and is bound by the nuclear accord and conditional sanctions waivers.

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I will not consider the defeat of terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Daesh because they were not part of the equation in the first place and did not seek to sabotage previous peace projects.

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However, the absence of forces opposed to peace does not mean today’s Arab world is eager for reconciliation. Arabs are simply not thinking of reconciliation or discussing it, instead they are preoccupied with grave issues: Three major wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen, in addition to tensions and extensive security confrontations in areas surrounding the three wars.

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Even this climate that is non-hostile — or indifferent — to peace in Palestine is not enough without a fair peace project. Is there anyone preparing a real peace plan? A plan that is close to Bill Clinton’s, which won the approval of many, including skeptics, but was not applied due to the reluctance of the Palestinian leadership at the time and Israel’s later refusal to have it proposed again.

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This will be a difficult task for Kushner; a young, ambitious man who is close to Trump and has unique relations with Jewish powers in Israel and with a number of Arab leaders.

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Even though the Palestinian cause is no longer a pressing issue, despite the ongoing pain and suffering of Palestinians, Kushner was the one to put it on Trump’s list of interests while the world is distracted by Syria, Iran, Libya and Daesh.

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Everyone is waiting to learn the details of Trump’s peace project and I am part of the long queue that doubts the possibility of its success. For half a century, the world’s leaders have failed to achieve peace between Arabs and Israel, and it won’t be an easy task now that Trump has agreed to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem at no charge.

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Nevertheless, we will wait, listen and judge the project at the right time.

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— Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1260196

Israel arrests Palestinians ‘planning attack on defence minister’

February 18, 2018

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman is seen during a press conference in Tel Aviv on April 21, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel arrested six Palestinians suspected of planning attacks targeting Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Israelis in the occupied West Bank, security agency Shin Bet said Sunday.Shin Bet said the six were affiliated with the Islamic Jihad militant group and were active in the Bethlehem area where they sought to carry out shootings against Israeli civilians and security forces.

In addition, some of the group had been planning to target Lieberman’s vehicle when he travelled to his home in a West Bank settlement.

According to a Shin Bet statement, the suspects had been “trying to obtain explosives to make a bomb, and even reached out to terror elements in (Gaza) for funding.”

“Upon failing to acquire the materials, they decided to create a fake device to receive recognition for their action and enable further attacks,” the statement read.

The six will be charged in an Israeli military court later Sunday.

In 2014, Shin Bet said it had apprehended a Hamas group planning to assassinate then-foreign minister Lieberman by firing a rocket-propelled grenade at his convoy.