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Entries in Palestine (19)


Israel: A Rabbi's War on Palestinians (Yenidunya)

Last week, the leader of Israel's Shas ultra-orthodox religious party reiterated his position that there should be no extension of moratorium on settlement construction when it ends on 26 September.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's provocative words fell like a bombshell on Sunday. Army Radio reported that Yosef calling for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to "perish from this world". Yosef said Palestinians were "evil, bitter enemies of Israel":

Gaza Latest: Cairo Intercepts Missiles, Mossad’s Flotilla Testimony, and Hamas on Direct Talks

God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians. It is forbidden to be merciful to them. You must send missiles to them and annihilate them. They are evil and damnable.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced Yosef's remarks and claimed these statements advocated genocide of Palestinians. Erekat criticised West Jerusalem's silence:
Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement? It is an insult to all our efforts to advance the negotiations process.

On the same day, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley commented:
We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace.

As we move forward to relaunch peace negotiations, it is important that actions by people on all sides help to advance our effort, not hinder it.

Gaza Latest: Cairo Intercepts Missiles, Mossad's Flotilla Testimony, and Hamas on Direct Talks

Missiles Intercepted by Cairo: Palestinian news Agency Ma'an reported on Saturday that Egyptian authorities intercepted a shipment of at least 190 anti-aircraft missiles, rockets, and other ammunition in Sinai and seized explosives and weapons in Rafah.

Mossad to Give Flotilla Testimony: The Turkel Commission, an independent public commission set up to investigate the Freedom Flotilla attack, sent a letter to Mossad's Director Meir Dagan to give testimony. The commission has already called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and top Israel Defense Forces officials for testimony on the decision-making process before the Israeli forces' raid on the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla's lead ship.

Israel: A Rabbi’s War on Palestinians (Yenidunya)
Israel-Palestine Opinion: Hamas, Northern Ireland, and US Diplomacy (Abunimah)

An Israeli military investigation team has already concluded that the operation's planners lacked critical intelligence. The team concluded there were "operational mistakes" but no “operational failures”, and it was possible to prevent the flotilla’s mission to Gaza by political means, such as the opening of land crossings.

Hamas United against Direct Talks: Last week Hamas' Damascus bureau leader Khaled Meshaal stated that the upcoming talks between Israelis and Ramallah were illegitimate and the result of Washington's coercion.

Gaza's leader Ismail Haniyeh followed this with the assertion that the Palestinians cannot give up Jerusalem or any other part of Palestine. Haniyeh said: "Israel is trying in dozens of ways to achieve its goal, and now it is through negotiations."

Israel-Palestine Opinion: Hamas, Northern Ireland, and US Diplomacy (Abunimah)

Abu Abunimah writes in The New York Times:

George J. Mitchell, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.

At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.

Israel-Palestine: The Hamas Factor (Yenidunya)

Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.

The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.

A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.

The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?...

Read full article....

Israel-Palestine: The Hamas Factor

First, Hamas accused its rival Palestinian party, Fatah, of “waging war on Islam and Allah” by detaining and firing hundreds of imams and shutting down hundreds of centers for teaching the Koran in the West Bank". Then, last Sunday, it postponed a meeting with Fatah indefinitely, due to the Palestinian Authority's decision to enter direct talks with Israel.

On Tuesday, Hamas' exiled leader Khaled Mashaal said that direct talks are "illegitimate" and are "the result of coercion by Washington". He called on Fatah to "wake up" and added: "Do not allow for these adventures and sins to take place under your name."

Middle East Inside Line: “Warm” Turkish-Israeli Relations; Latest on Israel-Palestine Talks

Meshaal also called on Cairo and Jordan to "boycott" the negotiations: "The results of these negotiations will be catastrophic for the interests and the security of Jordan and Egypt."

On Wednesday, while Hamas detained four members of the rival Islamic Jihad, a source told Haaretz that the Palestinian Authority has arrested dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank over the past two weeks. In a contrasting sign, Gaza's sole power plant, generating 25% of the electricity for the area, was reactivated after Hamas rulers reached agreement on fuel payments to Ramallah.

Despite all these developments, no one is mentioning Gaza and Hamas ahead of the beginning of the direct talks between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority. Reuters' Douglas Hamilton points to the "ghost at the Mideast banquet":
Even if Israel and the Palestinians can scale a mountain of skepticism and reach a peace treaty in the next 12 months, 40 percent of Palestinians would be part of it in name only, because they live in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers say they will never give Israel what it most wants from a Middle East deal, which is recognition of the Jewish state and a legitimate place in the Middle East.

A settlement to "establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza," as key texts have put it for 20 years, would start life with a fictional element. As things stand now, about 1.7 million Palestinians would be excluded from statehood.

So, what can be done? One option is an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza; in contrast, Hamas could be recognised and invited to the negotiations in Washington. The first possibility would not only discredit Israel in the eyes of the international community but would double violence against West Jerusalem. The second possibility cannot be tolerated by West Jerusalem, given the social and political situation in Israel, and the Palestinian Authority will not be receptive.

Daniel Byman puts forth an intermediate option:
If Hamas cannot be uprooted, it might be convinced to not disrupt peace talks with violence and tone down its rhetoric. In order for Hamas to want a lasting cease-fire, Israel and its allies must change the organization’s decision-making calculus — a process that will require both incentives and threats.

One way to go about this would be for Israel to allow the regular flow of goods into Gaza with international, rather than Israeli, monitors manning the crossing points. Israeli intelligence would still watch what goes in and out to ensure that the monitors did their job, but symbolically the switch would be important.

In exchange, Hamas would commit to a lasting cease-fire and agree to stop all attacks from the territory under its control. Hamas would also close the tunnels and end its smuggling.

Such a deal would allow Hamas to claim credit for improving the lives of Gazans, and it could use the resulting increase in the flow of goods to reward its supporters. For Israel, the regular rocket attacks would come to a complete halt and the threat of renewed attacks would diminish.

This still appears to be wishful thinking. Hamas' priority is not to increase its per capita GDP and become a financial rival of the West Bank. Whatever the economic progress, the Gazan leadership would risk the appearance of being no more than a complementary organisation to Fatah. Instead, Hamas needs its social organisations to obtain as much support as possible from Gazans, in the face of "difficulties", to position itself as preferable to Fatah.

Handing the reins to an international organisation would also raise issues for Hamas, notably over its "transparency" on political and economic areas, and it would take away one of its biggest political weapons --- its claim of insufficient aid for Gazans --- used for the "legitimisation" of its struggle against Israel.

Nor should one expect Hamas to be silent over the prospect of direct talks with a lasting cease-fire. Such a peace agreement could herald the the hardest days for the organisation as it positioned itself both against Israel and against the Palestinian Authority and Fatah.

So, what is left? Hamas will settle for no less than political recognition. If that is not possible in the short term, because of Israel's internal position as well as negotiating stance, then it must be envisaged further down the road. Hammering Hamas after an Israel-Palestinian Authority peace agreement is far more risky than putting in effort for a Hamas-Fatah agreement for a single body representing Palestinians. Only then, can there be a Palestinian leadership with a stronger position, with more acceptance of its legitimacy, both in the eyes of Palestinians and of the rest of the world.

So, if the short-term answer to the "Hamas factor" is No Dialogue Now, that cannot stand --- provided one is looking for stability --- for No Dialogue Later.

Middle East Inside Line: "Warm" Turkish-Israeli Relations; Latest on Israel-Palestine Talks

Ankara's "Friendly Face" to Israel: Weeks after reports alleging that Ankara had been threatened by the US with a cut-off of military transfers unless ties with West Jerusalem improved, senior Turkish officials currently visiting Washington announced their commitment to preserving warm relations with Israel.

The Latest from Israel-Palestine-Washington: Haaretz reports that the Palestinian Authority submitted a paper, prepared by Israeli jurists, saying that --- contrary to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim --- Israel has the authority to freeze construction on private land. The PA demanded that the Obama Administration press for an extension of the freeze to East Jerusalem fr.

However, Haaretz reports,  from sources "close to the Obama Administration", that Washington will be urge Palestinians to soften their stance on Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor's proposal offering the continuation of construction in large settlement blocs but not in isolated settlements. In response to this "concession", land from Area C, which is both governed and controlled by Israel, will be transferred to Area B which is controlled by Israelis but governed by Palestinians.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has proposed the continuation of settlement constructions in parallel with the "natural growth rate", stated on Wednesday that the de facto freeze in East Jerusalem cannot continue after 26 September:
Presently there are 1,000 housing units on the table in Ramot, another 600 housing units in neighborhoods like Gilo, east Talpiot, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev. What, does someone expect that we will continue to freeze 1,600 housing units that went through all the [bureaucratic] procedures?

Pressure on Netanyahu Inside Israel: Speaking at a conference on Tuesday, Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni accused Netanyahu of not being able to prevent the discrediting and delegitimising of Israel at the international level. She welcomed Netanyahu's decision to enter direct talks but warned him: "I hope the prime minister won't enter the talks as a favor to the Palestinians, or to the US, but rather that he will understand that this is in our best interest."

Ministers from the Labor Party are reportedly applying pressure on party chairman Ehud Barak to leave the coalition if Netanyahu turns toward the extreme right and clashes with Obama next month.