Tag Archives: Mahmoud Abbas

End of Gaza war doesn’t translate into peace

Palestinians sit outside their house that witnesses said was heavily shelled by Israel during the offensive, in the Shejaia neighbourhood, east of Gaza City August 31, 2014. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Palestinians sit outside their house that witnesses said was heavily shelled by Israel during the offensive, in the Shejaia neighbourhood, east of Gaza City August 31, 2014.

(Reuters) – A week after the guns fell silent in the Gaza war, Israel and the Palestinians seem to have little appetite or incentive for a return to U.S.-sponsored peace and statehood talks that collapsed five months ago.

With conflicts raging in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria – and the future of the Gaza Strip largely uncharted by a broadbrush Egyptian-mediated ceasefire deal – world powers also are not rushing headlong into the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.

The parties themselves, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bickering governing coalition and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, are on a collision course over threatened Palestinian unilateral moves toward statehood and exploration of war crimes prosecution against Israel in the absence of direct talks.

Israel drew Palestinian and international criticism on Sunday by announcing a major appropriation of occupied land in the West Bank, the most significant such move in 30 years.

As head of a governing coalition divided over trading territory for peace, Netanyahu is now speaking, in amorphous terms, of an alternative route towards ending decades of conflict – a “new horizon” – or possible regional alliance with moderate Arab countries alarmed, like Israel, by radical Islam.

Closer to home and with the Gaza situation still in flux, there is nothing on the immediate horizon as far as peacemaking with Abbas is concerned, Israeli government sources said.

Under the Egyptian-brokered truce agreement, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to address complex issues such as Hamas’s demands for a Gaza seaport and the release of Palestinian prisoners via indirect talks starting within a month.

With the start of those negotiations still up in the air, Netanyahu wants to see whether Abbas takes over responsibility from Hamas for administering Gaza’s borders and that measures are taken to prevent the group from smuggling in weaponry.

Netanyahu, who appears to be weathering an approval rating plunge after the Gaza war ended without a clear victor, took a swipe at Abbas last week, summing up a conflict which the Palestinian leader persistently tried to bring to an end.

“Abu Mazen has to choose which side he is on,” Netanyahu told a news conference, using Abbas’s nickname.

The comment harked back to Israel’s decision in April to cut off peace talks with Abbas after he clinched a unity deal with Hamas, a bitter rival that had seized the Gaza Strip from his Fatah forces in 2007.

Those negotiations, on creating a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, were already going nowhere, with Palestinians pointing to expanding Israeli settlement on land they claim as their own and balking at Israel’s demand to recognize it as the Jewish homeland.

REGIONAL PEACE

In an editorial laden with scepticism, Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper questioned whether “as in the past” Netanyahu’s remarks on casting a regional peace net, “are only empty slogans”.

Some of his cabinet ministers are also pressing Netanyahu to get moving on a wider track.

“We cannot and will not allow a situation whereby this ceasefire is the beginning of the countdown to the next round of fire. If we don’t take the diplomatic initiative, this is exactly what will happen,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s chief negotiator in now-dormant talks with the Palestinians, said: “(Netanyahu) has to be put to the test on this.”

Livni, speaking on Israel Radio, said Israel should “create a front with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – those countries threatened by all of those beheaders running around the region”.

But, she said, “they can cooperate with us only if there is a basic minimum of a peace process – dialogue with the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority”.

In the past, Netanyahu has expressed little interest in embracing a regional peace plan, such as the 2002 Arab initiative that offered normalized ties with Israel if it withdrew fully from territory captured in a 1967 war.

But last year, he signaled in a speech to parliament a readiness to consider the proposal, raised at an Arab League summit 12 years ago, as long as it did not contain “edicts”.

Any land-for-peace moves would elicit even more dissent from right-wingers in his government who have been vocal over Netanyahu’s reluctance to heed their calls during the Gaza war for a full-scale invasion to crush Hamas.

For now, he appears to be in little danger of seeing his political partnerships unravel.

About a month into the war, 77 percent of Israelis surveyed in a Haaretz-Dialog poll described Netanyahu’s performance during the conflict as either good or excellent. That figure dropped to around 50 percent after the ceasefire was announced.

But the snap poll taken a day after the truce went into effect showed that despite his flagging popularity, he continued to top, by a wide margin, the list of politicians whom Israelis believed were most suited to lead them as prime minister.

The second-place pick was “Don’t know”.

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Charlie Hebdo Paris massacre: Francois Hollande asked Benjamin Netanyahu not to attend anti-terror march

Netanyahu Hollande

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and French President Francois Hollande attend a ceremony at the Grand Synagogue to the victims of attacks this week, which claimed 17 lives.(Reuters)

French President Francois Hollande requested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not attend the memorial march against terror in Paris at the weekend, it has emerged.

An Israeli source involved in correspondence between the offices of Netanyahu and Hollande told Israeli daily Haaretz that the French leader’s national security adviser, Jacques Audibert, relayed this message to Yossi Cohen, Netanyahu’s national security adviser.

The reason for Hollande’s request is that he believed Netanyahu’s attendance at the march could be “divisive”, according to Israel’s Channel 2.

Hollande reportedly wanted the march to solely focus on French solidarity and not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Jewish-Muslim relations. The same message was given to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli source revealed that a French concern was that Netanyahu would seek to capitalise on the situation for his own political gain with the Israeli snap election just two months away.

Netanyahu initially agreed to the request and announced that he would not be attending the march due to security concerns and would fly later for a visit to the Jewish community.

Yet, Netanyahu changed his mind when he discovered that his Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, and Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, were planning to attend the march and meet with the Jewish community.

Audibert reported told Cohen that Netanyahu’s refusal to accept Hollande’s request would have a negative impact on relations between the two countries.

Hollande’s adviser also said that the invitation would then be extended to Abbas so as not to be seen favouring one party in the conflict.

Approximately 1.5 million people, including 40 world leaders, marched in the streets of Paris following attacks on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher grocery, killing 17 people.

Paris attacks: France holds security meeting

French soldier patrol near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of security measures following the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine - 9 January 2015

The French government has been holding a crisis meeting with cabinet ministers on national security after last week’s deadly attacks.

The meeting comes amid questions over how militants known to the authorities were able to launch the raids in Paris.

The assault on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and separate attacks on police officers and a kosher supermarket killed 17 people.

More than 1.5m people marched in the capital on Sunday in a show of unity.

The French government said the rally turnout was the highest on record. Across France, nearly four million people joined marches, according to an interior ministry estimate.

About 40 world leaders joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity.

They included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

BBC News looks at the memorable moments from the unity march in Paris

President Hollande will meet his cabinet, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, as well as the heads of police and security services on Monday.

Mr Valls said ahead of the meeting that thousands of extra soldiers were being deployed to boost security. Mr Cazaneuve announced that nearly 5,000 police would be sent to protect France’s 717 Jewish schools, and that troops would be sent as reinforcements over the next two days.

In London, Prime Minister Cameron is also consulting senior intelligence and security officials over Britain’s response to the attacks in France.

Last week, Mr Valls admitted there had been “clear failings” after it emerged that the three gunman involved in the attacks – Said and Cherif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly – had a history of extremism.

The Kouachi brothers were on UK and US terror watch lists and Coulibaly had previously been convicted for plotting to free a known militant from prison. Coulibaly met Cherif Kouachi while in jail.

Coulibaly and the two brothers were shot dead on Friday after police ended two separate sieges.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through Paris on Sunday - 11 January 2015President Hollande said that Paris was “the capital of the world” on Sunday as the capital held a huge rally

French President Francois Hollande hugs Charlie Hebdo journalist Patrick Pelloux during the unity march in the streets of Paris - 11 January 2015Mr Hollande led the march, stopping to hug Charlie Hebdo journalist Patrick Pelloux along the way

Coulibaly killed four people at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday before police stormed the building. He is also believed to have shot dead a policewoman the day before.

Ahead of Sunday’s rally in Paris, a video emerged appearing to show Coulibaly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State militant group.

In the video, he said he was working with the Kouachi brothers: “We have split our team into two… to increase the impact of our actions.”

One of the Kouachi brothers said they were acting on behalf of Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda (AQAP). But experts say it is highly unlikely that Islamic State and al-Qaeda, rivals in the Middle East, would plan an attack together.

The video appears to show Amedy Coulibaly explaining his motivation

The attacks in Paris started last Wednesday, when the Kouachi brothers raided the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people – including eight journalists and two police officers.

High alert

President Hollande warned France to remain vigilant on Friday, saying the country faced further threats.

French police are still hunting for accomplices of the three gunmen, including Hayat Boumeddiene, Coulibaly’s partner.

However, she is believed to have left France before the attacks. The Turkish foreign minister said she had arrived in Turkey on 2 January from Madrid, before continuing to Syria six days later.

Mr Cazeneuve has said France will remain on high alert in the coming weeks.

He hosted a meeting on Sunday morning of fellow interior ministers from across Europe, including the UK’s Theresa May, to discuss the threat posed by militants.

Following the meeting, the ministers issued a statement saying that greater internet and border surveillance was needed to combat terrorist attacks.

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How the attacks unfolded (all times GMT)

Map
  • Wednesday 7 January 10:30 – Two masked gunmen enter Charlie Hebdo offices, killing 11 people, including the magazine’s editor. Shortly after the attack, the gunmen kill a police officer nearby.
  • 11:00 – Police lose track of the men after they abandon their getaway car and hijack another vehicle. They are later identified as brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.
  • Thursday 8 January 08:45 -A lone gunman shoots dead a policewoman and injures a man in the south of Paris. Gunman later identified as Amedy Coulibaly.
  • 10:30 – The Kouachi brothers rob a service station near Villers-Cotterets, in the Aisne region, but disappear again.
  • Friday 9 January 08:30 – Police exchange gunfire with the Kouachi brothers during a car chase on the National 2 highway northeast of Paris.
  • 10:00 – Police surround the brothers at an industrial building in at Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km (22 miles) from Paris.
  • 12:15 – Coulibaly reappears and takes several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris. Heavily-armed police arrive and surround the store.
  • 16:00 – Kouachi brothers come out of the warehouse, firing at police. They are both shot dead.
  • 16:15 – Police storm the kosher supermarket in Paris, killing Coulibaly and rescuing 15 hostages. The bodies of four hostages are recovered.

Palestine just joined the International Criminal Court. Here’s what that means.

Last week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a treaty to make Palestine the newest member state of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The move was greeted with jubilation in Ramallah, where there were reportedly fireworks to mark the occasion, and by outrage in the Israeli government.

But the practical consequences of Palestine’s move to join the court are much less clear. Here’s what you need to know about what Palestine joining the court really means, why Israel and the US oppose the move, and what this means for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

1) So is Palestine a member of the ICC now?

Palestinian treaty signing

Mahmoud Abbas signs international agreements, including the ICC’s Treaty of Rome, on December 31, 2014. (Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Probably, but it’s not 100 percent for sure. If news reports are correct, Palestine has acceded to the ICC treaty, and thus completed the main legal process for joining the court. But there are still some significant legal questions to be worked out.

The most important question is whether the court considers Palestine a state. Only states can join the ICC, so if Palestine isn’t a state, then the membership question will be moot. In the past, the ICC prosecutor has said that Palestine couldn’t join the court until it was recognized by the UN General Assembly.

But in 2012, the General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as a state. So, as far as the Office of the Prosecutor is concerned, Palestine has been eligible for membership since then.

However, if challenged, the prosecutor’s decision on statehood could be overruled by the court itself, which could apply a different legal standard that would be at least somewhat more difficult for Palestine to meet.

The second issue is the definition of Palestinian territory. By becoming a member state, Palestine will give the court jurisdiction over crimes occurring within its territory.

But the very nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict means the boundaries of Palestinian territory would almost certainly be a matter of dispute. That issue would also probably have to be litigated before any prosecution could proceed.

2) Does this mean that Palestine can sue Israel, or have Netanyahu dragged off to the Hague for prosecution?

ICC building

The International Criminal Court building in the Hague (VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)

No.

First of all, the ICC is a criminal court, not a civil one. That means that, despite headlines you may have read about Palestine suing Israel at the ICC, the ICC does not actually hear lawsuits.

And the decision about when to bring a criminal case against any individual lies with the Office of the Prosecutor, not with any particular state party. Abbas doesn’t get to force the ICC to take up his case.

What Palestine will be able to do, assuming it clears the legal hurdles described above, is refer particular “situations” to the ICC prosecutor, and request that they be investigated.

Palestine has submitted a declaration granting the court retroactive jurisdiction to June 13, 2014, which includes the Gaza invasion that summer. So any crimes that took place within that period, including those in the Gaza war, could potentially be referred to the court as part of a situation for investigation.

But it’s important to understand that if Palestine makes that kind of referral, it wouldn’t be taken as an invitation to just investigate possible Israeli crimes: any investigation would certainly look at possible Palestinian crimes as well.

The Office of the Prosecutor could investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Hamas or other Palestinian groups, as well as those allegedly committed by Israel.

In any case, it’s actually very likely that the Court wouldn’t have jurisdiction over a number of alleged Israeli crimes. That’s because of a rule called “complementarity,” which strips the court of jurisdiction over crimes that have already been investigated and prosecuted in good faith by a national court.

Israel has a strong judiciary that actively prosecutes war-crimes cases involving its soldiers (even if the courts’ decisions are often criticized as too lenient).

So to exercise jurisdiction over those offenses, the ICC would have to demonstrate that the Israeli courts had acted in bad faith, which is a high hurdle to clear — it requires more than just an acquittal.

However, the issue of building settlements in the occupied territories has not been taken up by Israeli courts, so that could be a more likely target for an ICC prosecution, as discussed further below.

3) What are the chances the ICC will prosecute Israeli leaders?

Fatou Bensouda

 

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (TOUSSAINT KLUITERS/AFP/Getty Images)

The chances of them doing this any time soon are vanishingly small.

First of all, there are a bunch of things that would have to happen before that, and they will take a long time. The ICC will have to make a final determination on the question of Palestinian statehood, as well as the territorial limits on the court’s jurisdiction.

Then the Office of the Prosecutor will have to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if there are serious enough crimes to warrant the court’s attention, and whether national authorities are already handling them.

IT IS LIKELY THAT PALESTINIANS, NOT ISRAELIS, WOULD BE THE FIRST TO FACE TRIAL

If the Office of the Prosecutor determines both that the crimes are sufficiently and that they are not being handled by national authorities, then the next phase is further investigation into specific crimes and individual perpetrators. All of that will take years.

But even if the court does decide to prosecute senior Israeli officials, there is no guarantee that they will actually be arrested, much less tried. The ICC has no police to execute its arrest warrants, which in practice means they often go unenforced.

For example, the court issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in 2009 (and then again, for good measure, in 2010), and he remains in office to this day, resolutely and thoroughly un-arrested.

More broadly, the court has shown reluctance to get involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the past, and there is no reason to believe that attitude has changed.

In the event that the court does decide to bring prosecutions, law professor Kevin Jon Heller has pointed out that it would be far simpler to prosecute Hamas’s leaders than Israel’s, so it is quite likely that Palestinians and not Israelis would be the first ones to face trial.

The discussion around the ICC has focused on the Gaza conflict, but a number of commentators have written that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank could more likely lead to prosecution of Israeli leaders, both because the settlement policy’s architects are at the highest level of government, and because Israeli courts have not prosecuted the matter themselves.

That probably is the most significant risk for Israeli officials — but it doesn’t mean that the risk is large, or immediate.

4) Why is the US so opposed to Palestine joining the ICC?

Kerry Netanyahu

Secretary of State Kerry meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Rome on December 15, 2014 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

Because it’s an act of non-cooperation with the peace process, which the US believes must be negotiated directly between Israelis and Palestinians to ever achieve peace.

The US (and Israeli) position is that joining the ICC is an act of escalation by Palestinian leaders, and one that indicates a lack good-faith involvement in the peace process and that makes the peace process harder.

On December 31st, the State Department issued a statement condemning Palestinians’ decision to join the court, calling it an “escalatory” step that “badly damages the atmosphere with the very people with whom they ultimately need to make peace.”

5) Why did Palestine want to join the ICC?

Palestine at ICC

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki and Palestinian Ambassador to the Netherlands Nabil Abuznaid visit the International Criminal Court in August 2014 (Martijn Beekman/AFP/Getty Images)

There are two theories on this. The first is that this is simply a further step in Palestine’s years-long strategy to gain recognition as a state, one UN agency and country at a time.

Previous steps have included joining UNESCO, the 2012 UN General Assembly vote mentioned above, and an ill-fated attempt to get the Security Council to vote on Palestinian statehood just last week.

The theory behind that strategy is to raise the cost of Israeli occupation by increasing pressure from the international community, and to assert the idea of Palestinian nationhood against a conflict that many Palestinians believe is aimed at robbing them of a state.

The second theory is that the Palestinians actually hope the court will bring charges against Israeli officials, and that exposing them to investigation and prosecution will increase Palestinian leverage in the peace negotiations. However, as explained above, that’s a risky strategy, especially as it places Hamas officials at risk.

6) Will this matter for the Israel-Palestine conflict?

Peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press in 2013, alongside chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Yes, it will probably matter at least somewhat, for three reasons.

First, as noted above, this is an act of non-cooperation with the peace process by the Palestinians. That happens in all peace processes, and this one in particular has suffered an awful lot of setbacks before.

But when one side undercuts the peace process, that makes it harder for the other side to make difficult concessions. In this case, it may make it more difficult for Israel’s leaders to convince Israeli hardliners to agree to concessions, because they’ll be able to argue that Palestine can’t be trusted to engage in good faith. That limits the scope of negotiations, and makes peace more difficult.

At the same time, another view — the one shared by supporters of this move — is that Israel has been so stubbornly resistant to reaching a peace deal that it is necessary for Palestinians to bring greater international pressure to force Israeli leaders to make necessary concessions.

Second, ICC membership limits the opportunity to offer amnesty for leaders on both sides as part of an eventual peace deal, because the ICC wouldn’t be bound by any bilateral amnesty agreement between Israel and Palestine. In other words,

Israeli and Palestinian leaders can’t sign a peace deal in which they promise to grant one another’s leaders amnesty, because that amnesty won’t extend to the ICC. From the perspective of international justice that could, of course, be a good thing.

And it’s not clear that amnesty would ever have been a part of a peace deal anyway. But it’s still a potentially important negotiating chip that has been taken off the table.

Finally, the ICC could impact Palestinian politics if its initial investigation or prosecution focuses on Hamas, which has long feuded with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. That could affect the balance of power within Palestinian politics, and make it more difficult for Palestinian leaders to negotiate with full authority.

Palestinian minister dead after clash with IDF

Ziad Abu Ein, the PA’s settlements minister, dies after altercation with IDF soldiers in West Bank; Palestinian reports say he was struck by a soldier’s gun in the chest and collapsed; Abbas calls event ‘barbaric’.

 

Ziad Abu Ein, the Palestinian Authority’s settlement minister, collapsed and died after he was reportedly struck by an IDF soldier in Turmus Iya in the West Bank Wednesday.

 

Palestinian reports said he was struck by a soldier’s gun in the chest and collapsed. He was then taken to the hospital in Ramallah, where he died.

Ziad Abu Ein

 

Abu Ein was ill and it is possible his illness played a role in his eventual death; it was reported he suffered from diabetes. The circumstances of the event are still unclear.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the death, which he called “barbaric,” saying that “We will take the necessary steps after we learn the results of the investigation into his death’s circumstances.” He called for a three-day mourning period throughout the PA.

Riyad Al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister said that “Israel will pay” for the “murder” of Abu Ein.

Abu Ein taken to hospital (Photo: Reut Mor)
Abu Ein taken to hospital (Photo: Reut Mor)

Hamas also responded to the report, saying it “mourned” his death, and called for the Palestinians to end their cooperation with Israel in response.

Mahmoud Aloul, a leading member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, said he and Abu Ein had been among dozens of protesters carrying olive tree saplings during a protest against land confiscations when Israeli troops fired tear gas at them and later beat some of the participants with rifle butts.

Abu Ein was born in 1959, and was first arrested for security-related offenses at the age of 18, for only a short period. In 1979, he was accused of belonging to a cell that planted a bomb in Tiberias that exploded and killed two people, including 16-year-old Israeli Boaz Lahav.

Abu Ein with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, 2003. (Photo: AFP)

 

He was extradited to Israel from the United States two years later and received a life sentence, but was released in the 1985 Jibril prisoner exchange, and never admitted to the charges.

He was arrested again a few times, mostly preventive administrative arrests, as he rose through the ranks of Fatah and was a member of the movement’s revolutionary council.

In 2006, he became deputy minister of prisoner affairs, and held the position until the creation of the Palestinian unity government in 2014, when he was made chief of the authority for the border fence, settlements, and people’s resistance – a role mirroring the rank of minister.

Picture 22

Violent clashes occurred overnight between Jewish and Palestinian residents in the Shilo area. The clashes occurred after the settlers claimed that Palestinians had stolen a mare, while the Palestinians said the settlers threw stones at cars and destroyed olive trees. IDF forces were brought in to calm the dispute.

Following the clashes, the council heads of several Palestinian villages in the West Bank as well as the Yesh Din organization petitioned Israel’s High Court to evacuate a nearby Jewish settlement, saying that it “serves as a center of illegal activity with the goal of expelling Palestinians from their land.”

Israel seizes 400 hectares of West Bank land

US official describes as “counterproductive” Israeli announcement to appropriate land, said to be largest in 30 years.

The United States has urged Israel to reverse its decision to seize nearly 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank, a move anti-settlement activists termed the largest land grab in 30 years.

Israel announced the massive land appropriation on Sunday in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem just days after Gaza ceasefire.

A Palestinian official said the latest land grab by Israel would cause only more friction after the Gaza war that left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 10,000 injured.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the appropriation. “This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” presidential spokesman Abu Rdainah said.

A US State Department official called the announcement as “counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians”.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.

Peace Now group, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

International criticism

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as “Gevaot”, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has come under international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several kilometres down the road.

About 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

 

Shin Bet head reportedly met with Abbas on Hamas coup

Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen (photo credit: Flash90)
Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen

Palestinian leader said to warn that if borders of Palestinian state aren’t outlined soon, he’ll end security coordination, dismantle PA

Shin Bet security service chief Yoram Cohen met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month to update him on the foiled Hamas plot to overthrow the West Bank Fatah leadership, Israel Radio reported Monday, citing Lebanese media.

In addition, Abbas threatened to end Palestinian security coordination with Israel in the West Bank, and dismantle the PA if future borders of a Palestinian state are not outlined in the near future.

While Abbas initially told this to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during ceasefire negotiations in Qatar, he also conveyed the message to the Shin Bet chief, the report said.

The report was said to have been confirmed by Palestinian sources.

It was the second covert meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders reported recently, as last week unconfirmed reports indicated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas met secretly in Amman,

Jordan, ahead of an agreed ceasefire to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On August 18, the Shin Bet said it had thwarted a Hamas plan to topple Abbas and start a third intifada.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The national security agency said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks.

It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.

The Shin Bet said terror cells were set up in dozens of Palestinian West Bank towns and villages — including in and around Jenin, Nablus, East Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Hebron.

Abbas ordered a probe into the coup plot shortly after the revelation, and said it represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future,” the Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

With regard to the reported threats of ending PA cooperation with Israel, Abbas has repeatedly called for Israel to restart peace negotiations based on the 1967 borders.

On Sunday, Abbas told a Fatah conference in Ramallah that if Israel did not agree to negotiate over a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he would join international bodies, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, without having come to an agreement with Israel.

“Is the Palestinian nation so trivial in our eyes?” he asked.

Abbas also repeated his criticism of Hamas for refusing to accept a ceasefire in Gaza, causing the deaths of thousands of Palestinians.

On Friday, the International Criminal Court prosecutor said that Palestine was now eligible to join the Rome Statute and file war crimes charges against Israel.

Abbas has made various statements in the past week about new initiatives and the consequences if they fail. During an interview with Egyptian television, Abbas said he would soon propose an unconventional diplomatic resolution to the Palestinian conflict, one that is likely to make the US unhappy.

He said the plan would be presented to US Secretary of State John Kerry during an upcoming visit to the region, and added that Kerry was unlikely to accept it, according to a Haaretz translation.

Palestinian sources close to Abbas told Haaretz that the plan would involve handing over responsibility for a resolution to the conflict to international forces.

During another interview with Palestinian TV, Abbas said he intends to demand that Israel and the US outline specific borders for a Palestinian state. If Israel does not respond, “we have what to do,” he said in an apparent veiled threat to take Palestinian demands to the international community.

Netanyahu rejected negotiations on the basis of the pre-1967 lines when Kerry launched his unsuccessful effort at peace talks last year. In recent weeks, the prime minister has said the conflict with Hamas underlines his concern with the need to maintain security control of the West Bank to ensure that the area not turn into another Gaza.

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