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Dec. 16, 2014
Daily summary- Tuesday, January 21, 2014
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Yesterday, the Israeli government approved a project to build 381 new units in the settlement of Givat Zeev north of Jerusalem. Settlement expert Ahmad Sub Laban said the project was to add a new neighborhood to the settlement that would be linked to bypass road 443. He said the project would change the nature of the land from agricultural land to land used for construction, housing and commercial use along with creating open spaces, all over an area of 170 dunams of land. He explained that the plan included the construction of public buildings, schools and commercial facilities, all closely built next to each other. There will also be the equivalent to townhouses built in the neighborhood, linked to road 443, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, which connects to the speedway.  PLO executive committee member and head of the Jerusalem affairs department Ahmad Qur’ei condemned the settlement project, saying Israel was in a race with time to Judaize the city and impose a new reality, warning against the eruption of the entire situation in Jerusalem. (Al Quds)

A group of Israeli intelligence men broke into the Aqsa Mosque yesterday from the Moroccan and Chain gates. The Aqsa Institute said that 20 members of the intelligence broke in from the first gate while 27 barged in from Chain gate. Furthermore, 17 extremist Israelis headed by Yehuda Glick broke into the mosque as well, touring the grounds under police protection and giving lectures about the alleged temple and where it would be built in the future. According to the Aqsa institute, media sources affiliated with the “temple organizations” said the former Canadian interior security minister visited the Aqsa day before yesterday along with a group of settlers including Glick. The settler break in along with the Canadian minister angered the Aqsa guards and those inside, who demanded that he leave after an argument broke out. (Al Quds)

President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper that “when the state of Palestine is established, there will be no official Israeli presence in it; this is our right.” Abbas also reaffirmed that the Jordan Valley was all Palestinian land occupied in 1967, saying the Palestinians demanded an end to this occupation, including in the Valley. “We will not accept under any circumstances for the Valley to be Israeli or even for it to be leased. This is unacceptable to us.” he made it clear that the Palestinians wanted their state to be established on all Palestinian land occupied in ’67 side by side with Israel. “Anything else that is said in our name or is interpreted otherwise is the business of those who interpret it that way,” he said. (Al Ayyam)
Abbas, however, said that Canada would “play an important role in solving the Palestinian refugee issue” although he pointed out that he has not yet asked Canada absorb any Palestinian refugees. This comes after Israel radio said Abbas had been given a promise by Harper that his country would agree to absorb some refugees within the context of a peace deal with Israel, who now live in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. (

Israeli radio reported yesterday that two Grad missiles were fired last into an empty space near Eilat in southern Israel. According to the radio, the two missiles seem to have been fired from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. No injuries were reported but several cars were damaged from shrapnel. The radio also reported that two mortar rockets were fired from Gaza yesterday into the western Negev; no injuries or damages were reported (Al Ayyam)

Western diplomatic sources told the London-based Al Hayat that Secretary Kerry’s team has begun to hold contacts with the Palestinians and Israelis to see about the possibility of extending the negotiations until the end of the year if Kerry’s plan failed, which is the expected outcome. According to the newspapers, Kerry’s plan has been rejected by both sides. It said Netanyahu rejected most of the points, including the equal land swap, Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and the Jordan Valley along with the article about the return of a small number of refugees. The Palestinian rejected the notion of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, declaring parts of East Jerusalem as the capital (instead of the entire sector) the symbolic return of refugees, and the insistence on an equal land swap (the same size as land occupied in 1967). The Palestinian source told Al Hayat the Netanyahu ‘duped” Kerry into thinking he would accept the deal. (صحيفةواشنطن-نحو-تمديد-المفاوضات-بسبب-فشل-خطة-كيري.html)

The Palestinian commission for UNRWA, welcomed the entry of another UNRWA convoy of food aid to the Yarmouk Camp in Syria, calling for the total lifting of the siege imposed on the camp. The commission said the aid was comprised of 200 packages, 30 kilograms each, which is enough for a five-member family for two weeks. No medical supplies were brought in. The commission, “UNRWAPAL” said this was a step in the right direction, expressing hope that the rest of the aid and medical assistance would be allowed entry to the approximately 20,000 refugees besieged inside. Some sick refugees and other humanitarian cases have been allowed exit from the camp as well.

The UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People expressed its concern yesterday for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Yarmouk camp in Syria. In a statement, the committee said that nearly 18,000 people, mostly Palestinian refugees, have been besieged for over four months and are suffering from very harsh humanitarian conditions. It said there were reliable reports saying that a number of the residents were suffering from acute malnutrition; there was also a severe lack of electricity, heating and water, further compounding the situation. The committee commended UNRWA for its efforts and for bringing in food aid to the camp, in spite of the difficulties. (Al Quds)

The Israeli security system, which has been in continuous session, decided that there has been no change in the security predictions in terms of Gaza and Israel’s border with it, adding that there was no desire to escalate the situation. Israel’s public radio “Reshet Bayt” said yesterday that Israel did not want the situation in Gaza to deteriorate, adding that “the response of the air force in targeting an activist was a clear message that we will not allow for the residents of the south to be turned into hostages.” The security establishment however, made it clear that Israel would not accept rockets being fired into its areas intermittently, saying Hamas was responsible for halting all rocket fire. (Al Ayyam)

The Hamas government in Gaza deployed a large number of its forces along the roads leading to barbed wire fence surrounding the Gaza Strip in order to prevent rocket fire towards Israel, according to the Hebrew language daily Yedioth Ahranoth today. According to the newspaper, the deployment of forces came after a meeting held in Gaza last Friday in which Hamas sat with various armed factions and ended in an understanding between them on the need to maintain the calm and not fire rockets. Yedioth quoted an unnamed source in Gaza who confirmed that Hamas sent a speedy message via Egypt to Israel conveying its desire to continue the truce. However, when rockets were still fired, Hamas deployed forces along the roads near the fence, which are searching cars in order to prevent rocket firing. (

In a precedent against settlements, popular resistance activists in the southern outskirts of Bethlehem, took down Israeli flags at the entrances to settlements built on lands of Palestinian towns and villages in the area. According to spokesperson for the PRC in Bethlehem Mohammed Breijiyeh, the settlers put up the flags at the entrance to the settlements, which infiltrate Palestinian land, for provocation’s sake. He said the settlers “who stole this land, its water and its agricultural resources, have no right to enjoy it and to exercise their freedom at the expense of the freedom of the Palestinians”, adding that the PRC would be like a hawk, making sure they pay the price for their occupation and settlements. Breijiyeh also said that Israeli settlement and military facilities were legitimate targets of the resistance, adding that 2014 would be the year of resisting settlements and settlers. “Let them say goodbye to the security and safety in which they are now living,” he said.
A coordinator for the PRC Hasan Breijiyeh, said the activists took down the flags, starting with the Taqoua settlement built on the land of Taquo’, then at the entrances to Efrat, Eliezer and Daniel, built on lands from Al Khader and Irtas. (Al Ayyam)

Israeli occupation authorities demolished two commercial buildings yesterday in Dair Samet and Beit Awwa, the second which was a warehouse for electrical appliances. Confrontations broke out as the bulldozers began to demolish the facilities, with one Palestinian youth hit with a bullet and moderately injured. 15 others suffered teargas inhalation. (Al Ayyam)

The Israeli army continued its raids yesterday into various areas of the West Bank in addition to settler attacks on citizens and their properties. An unidentified Palestinian youth was shot and injured near the settlement of Toulin west of Hebron after which he was detained and arrested. Israeli forces also prevented farmers from the village of Um Khayr from reaching the lands, arresting five of them, including two women. Two teens and brothers were also arrested east of Yatta – Hussam Hathalain, 16 and his brother Omar, 17.  Later on 58-year old Maleeha Hathalain was also arrested as were 19-year old Tareq and 38-year old Bakheeta from the same family.
Furthermore, last night settlers attacked Beit Fourik near Nablus but were warded off by the residents. Clashes later ensued between the residents and the settlers from Yitzhar, who threw rocks at houses but were protected by the army.
Yesterday also, settlers set up a mobile home on agricultural land from the village of Wad Rahhal, south of Bethlehem. According to Hassan Brijiyeh, the mobile home is a precursor to setting up a settlement outpost in the area ahead of constructing a new settlement that would be linked with Efrat. (Al Quds)

Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni and Israeli PM enjoy Yitzak Molcho headed to Washington where they will meet Secretary of State John Kerry, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, in order to discuss the framework agreement to be put forth by the US to the negotiating parties within weeks. The other purpose of the visit is to prepare for the meeting between Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry which will be held either Thursday or Friday of next week on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum in Switzerland. Next week Palestinian officials will hold talks with Kerry in Washington. (Al Quds)

Two Arab MKs protested the speech of Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper yesterday before the Knesset after he likened the boycott of Israel to ‘a form of anti-Semitism”. During his speech, both Tibi and Abu Arar left the hall. Tibi said Harper’s speech ‘provoked him’ and was contrary to the spirit of respect for peoples, saying he would fit perfectly as a member of the Likud. Tibi interrupted Harper when he rejected the European boycott of settlements, saying he was ‘hypocritical’: “This is against settlements! What is your opinion on settlements?” he demanded, adding, “Don’t deceive the people – you belong in the Likud seats.”  Abu Arar was also critical, asking Harper why he did not ‘talk about the occupation,” accusing Israel of ‘racism against the Arabs and apartheid against the Bedouin. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Syria’s permanent representative to the UN Bashar Al Ja’afari said yesterday that Israel has never been interested in peace, accusing some countries in the region of working to lift the pressure off of it. in his speech to the Security Council session on the Middle East, Ja’afari said Israel, as a colonialist state, has always responded elusively to peace initiatives and negotiations, using the false justification of security concerns to consolidate its occupation and impose facts on the ground. he said some countries wanted to lift the political and diplomatic pressure off of Israel and end any hope of putting a stop to its occupation of Arab land. (
*Obama: the chances of reaching a peace deal are less than 50% (Al Ayyam)
*Martyr Khanfar from Silet Al Thaher laid to rest; bodies of two more martyrs to be handed over tonight (Al Ayyam)
*Bennet: a Palestinian state would destroy the Israeli economy (Al Ayyam)
*Financial Times: retreat in dealings of financial institutions with Israeli banks for their funding of settlements (Al Ayyam)
*Israeli businessmen urge Netanyahu to seek an agreement; warn of escalating boycott (Al Ayyam)
*President to begin four-day visit to Russia (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Ministry of Health warns against using a diet product that contains internationally-banned materials (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*UN excludes Iran from Geneva-2 conference (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*PA protests to Australia on statements by its foreign minister about settlements (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*New report documents impact on dispersed families between Gaza, Israel and the West Bank (Al Quds)
*The President: We want Jerusalem to be an open capital for all religions(Al Quds)
*New attacks to stifle landmarks of the Ma’manallah cemetery in Jerusalem 
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Damascus: two members of the Syrian Red Crescent during the evacuation of a refugee from the Yarmouk camp
Al-Ayyam:1) Jenin: thousands participate in funeral of Majdi Khanfar from Silet Al Thaher; 2) Hebron: Two youths face off with occupation forces during the demolition of shops in Deir Samet; 3) A child eating a piece of bread with his family in Yarmouk camp
Al Hayat Al Jadida:1) The President and Harper during a press conference in Ramallah; 2) Citizens walk in funeral of Khanfar in Jenin; 3) occupation bulldozers demolish a factory in Deir Samet
Voice of Palestine News
Jerusalem: The Ma’manallah cemetery in Jerusalem was hit with another blow when new units were set up atop Muslim graves. Yesterday, Israeli authorities turned part of the cemetery into a dump site and also doghouses. This is a very dangerous attack on this very prestigious cemetery, which has the graves of prominent Muslim figures.
Israeli authorities also decided to set up a dump site for solid waste at the main entrance to the Shufat refugee camp. This is the second dump site in Jerusalem, the second one being near Abu Dis. These sites will be used to get rid of waste from surrounding settlements, which will have dangerous health risks to the people.
As for the new settlement project on Palestinian land northwest of Jerusalem, which the Israeli government approved, this will eventually impose a new reality in the area and link these settlements to the main 443 Tel Aviv –Jerusalem Road. The entire area will be surrounded by settlements.
Yesterday, for the first time, Jewish settlers brought in foreign visitors to the Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, including a former Canadian minister. Scuffles took place between the settlers and the Aqsa guards and they were escorted out. Also, Israeli intelligence members broke into the grounds from Chain gate, which goes against regulations.
Hebron: Yesterday, clashes broke out in Hebron and one young man injured, now identified as being from the Abu Sakur family. He was shot near the Talum settlement west of Hebron. He was detained by occupation forces for hours before being taken to hospital in Jerusalem. He is now in critical condition;
Gaza: Egypt announced today that the Rafah border crossing would be opened, after an 11-day closure. It is opened from 9 this morning for three days, still under the same humanitarian conditions. Contacts are being made to try to secure the reopening of the crossing completely and permanently.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
**Coordinator of national committee against the wall and settlements, Hasan Breijiyeh, on activists’ bringing down Israeli flags at the entrances to settlements and the new mobile home set up by settlers
Q:  Do you think this latest move by the popular resistance movement sends a clear message?
Yes. You know that settlers go to any piece of land and plant an Israeli flag in it, making it theirs. They then bring in trailers and mobile homes and it eventually becomes a settlement. We took a strategic decision to take down all of these flags on the roads and from places they consider as memorial sites for their dead, etc. and all of the flags in front of settlements. So this was our message to the settlers, that their presence on this land is illegal and illegitimate. We want them to know that this occupation and these settlements – which is the cheapest existence for them – will now become much more expensive for them.
Q: People in Wadi Rahhal are afraid that this new mobile home set up on their land is a precursor to building a new settlement and more confiscation of  their land. what do you think?
The area south of Hebron is one of the most targeted areas by Israel. There is the Gush Etzion settlement bloc there – 12 settlements in this bloc – and Wadi Rahhal is in this area. The Israelis claim this area is part of Greater Jerusalem. This is a race with time and they want to put a mobile home in every possible corner to build a settlement in its place. As a resistance movement, we will make sure there are activities to protest this and we are aiming to make 2014 the year of resisting settlements.
**Attorney Jawad Bulous, head of the legal department at the Prisoners’ Club, on administrative detainees
Q:Why did administrative detainees decide to return to military courts after boycotting them?
The prisoners had decided before that at the beginning of the year, they would do an assessment of their protest steps and how the Israelis reacted to them. Last week, a delegation from the prison services met with representatives of administrative detainees and reviewed their demands; the delegation asked for some time to show the prisoners that their conditions would improve, including in the numbers of detainees in prisons. The prisoners decided collectively to give the prisoners services a chance to prove their promises and thus appear before court. but this ‘chance’ will end on March 31. If things don’t change, they will go back to boycotting courts and other steps such as hunger strikes.
**PLO executive committee member and head of the Palestinian delegation in Syria, Ahmad Majdalani, on the situation in the Yarmouk camp in Syria
Q: How are you following up the situation in Yarmouk? Are things going as planned?
Until now, things are  going well, even though the distribution is happening slowly. There is confusion and chaos because people are flooding the distribution centers, slowing them down. Each head of the family comes with their family records to be given the rations. But most of the people come either without their records or more than one member comes, etc. things can get very chaotic. Also, there is only one entrance to the camp so it takes time to get out the sick people and the same time to bring in the truckloads of aid. Yesterday, only three humanitarian cases were able to leave the camp, including a 1.5 year-old child. This means their families as well, though. We have recorded around 560 serious humanitarian cases, recommended by the Palestinian Red Crescent, who need to be treated in hospital.
Q: Is there a time limit on how long you can bring in aid to the camp?
No, there is no limit – it is open and it is ongoing. We are planning to continue until all of the aid reaches to every family in Yarmouk and until everyone who wants to leave the camp is allowed and able to. Today the dialogue committee is supposed to go to the camp to meet with the armed groups and guarantee that the camp is freed of all weapons and armed groups. The truth is, all of the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria are in a difficult situation. 
More Headlines
Occupation forces raid the home of freed prisoner Samer Issawi
Joint Israeli municipality teams and border guard troops stormed this morning, the home of freed prisoner Samer Issawi in the Jerusalem suburb of Essawiyeh. Samer’s father told Maan news agency that a large Israeli force raided their home this morning, photographed the outside courtyard, the hallways, entrances and exits. The troops then left. The home was built in 1998 and was fined by Israeli authorities for NIS60,000, which the family paid. The father said the family has been trying to obtain a construction license for years but to no avail. Now, the family is afraid that the municipality will demolish their home and displace the family, especially since another apartment building belonging to the family was demolished at the beginning of this year.
Yesterday, Israeli intelligence forces also raided the home and handed Samer a summons to appear before the Israeli police on January 27. (
Six Palestinian refugees killed in Syria
The Palestinian working group for Palestinians in Syria said yesterday that six Palestinian refugees were killed during shelling on the Dar’aa refugee camp. The group said two children were among the dead and that the remaining refugees were living in fear of more shelling and sniper fire. (استشهاد-ستة-لاجئين-فلسطينيين-في-سوريا.html)
40% of the area of Palestine is Israeli military camps
A report published by the Hebrew-language daily Haaretz today showed that the Israeli army has taken over around 40% of the area of historical Palestine, whether for military bases or training areas. The report said most of the army basis today are found in the south of occupied Palestine. Still, dozens of the bases are in the center of the country over a 54,000 dunam area of land, mostly in Jerusalem areas. Some military units, the report said, have their base out of rented buildings, mostly in the Gush Dan area. The report said the Israeli defense ministry doles out around NIS100 million a year to rent offices, homes and apartments for this purpose. (من-مساحة-فلسطين-معسكرات-وقواعد-إسرائيلية.html)
Arab Press
US-Israel alliance strange but ‘stable’

By Ramzy Baroud

Israel is often viewed by Washington politicians as the most “stable” ally in the Middle East. But stability from the American perspective can mean many things. Lead amongst them is that the “ally” must be unconditionally loyal to the diktats of the US administration. This rule has proven to be true since the US claimed a position of ascendency, if not complete hegemony over many regions of the world since World War II. Israel, however, remained an exception.

The rules by which US-Israeli relations are governed are perhaps the most bewildering of all foreign policies of any two countries.

An illustration of this would be to consider these comments by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon quoted in the Israeli news portal Ynetnews. “The American security plan presented to us is not worth the paper it’s written on,” he said, referring to efforts under-way since July by American Secretary of State John Kerry, “who turned up here determined and acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor.” Kerry “cannot teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians,” said Ya’alon.

So far, Kerry has made 10 trips to the Middle East with the intention of hammering out an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Based on media reports, it seems that the potential agreement is composed in such a way that it mostly accommodates Israel’s “security” whims and obsessions, including a proposal to keep eastern West Bank regions and the Jordan Valley under Israeli military control. In fact, there is growing interest in the idea of “land swaps” which was floated by Israel’s notorious Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 10 years ago.

“When Mr. Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel, he was branded a racist firebrand,” wrote the Economist on Jan. 18.

“Liberals accused him of promoting the forcible ‘transfer’ plan, akin to ethnic cleansing, proclaimed by a rabbi, Meir Kahane, who vilified Arabs while calling for a pure Jewish state.”

Those days are long gone, as Israeli society drifted rightward. “Even some dovish Israeli left-wingers find such ideas reasonable.” Back then, the Americans themselves were irked, even if just publically, whenever such ideas of ‘population transfers’ and ethnic cleansing were presented by Israel’s ultra-right politicians. Now, the Americans find them malleable and a departure point for discussion. And it’s Kerry himself who is leading the American efforts to accommodate Israel’s endless list of demands — of security and racial exclusiveness even if at the expense of Palestinians. So why is Ya’alon unhappy?

The defense minister, who sat immediately next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Kerry, was unapologetic about his reasoning: “Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the River Jordan will endure.” It means unrelenting Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is hardly an innocent bystander in all of this, although for diplomatic reasons he often entrusts his government minions to deliver such messages. The prime minister is busy issuing more orders to populate the occupied West Bank with Jewish settlements, and berating every government that rejects such insidious behavior as being anti-Israel, ‘pro-Palestinian’ or worse, anti-Semitic. This was the case again in recent days following another announcement of settlement expansion.

On Jan. 17, Netanyahu called on Europe to stop its “hypocrisy.” On the same day, Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain, “accusing their countries of pro-Palestinian bias,” reported the BBC online. According to the ministry, the “perpetual one-sided stance” of these countries is unacceptable.

Yet, considering that Europe has supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories for decades, economically sustained the ‘Jewish state’ and its over 100 illegal Jewish settlements, and continue with its often unconditional military support of Israel, the accusations may appear strange and equally bewildering to that of Ya’alon against John Kerry.

How could a country the size of Israel have so much sway over the world’s greatest powers, where it gets what it wants and more, hurls regular insults against its sustainers, and still asks for more?

European countries found themselves in Israel’s firing line because a day earlier, the four EU countries took the rare step of summoning Israeli ambassadors to object to the Netanyahu government’s latest announcement of illegal settlement expansion (that of an additional 1,400 new homes). EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton has even went to the extent of calling the settlements “an obstacle to peace,” although hardly an advanced position considering that Israel’s colonial project in Palestine has been in motion for 46 years.

But even that is too much from the Israeli point of view. “The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses?” Netanyahu asked as if baffled by a seemingly foreboding act, in a Jan. 16 press conference. He even had the audacity to say this: “This imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace,” and also this, “I think it pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians: ‘Basically you can do anything you want, say anything you want and you won’t be held accountable’.”

There is no sense in arguing with Netanyahu’s strange logic, but the question regarding Israel’s stronghold over the US and EU remains more pressing than ever, especially when one considers the ruckus in US Congress. No, the congress is not revolting because of the unmitigated power of the Zionist lobby, but for something far more interesting.

There seems to be a level of confusion in US Congress because members of the Senate are yet to feel serious pressure by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over a bill that proposes more sanctions on Iran.

“The powerful pro-Israel lobby has not engaged in a shoe-leather lobbying campaign to woo wayward senators and push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote on the bill ... While the group supports the bill — authored by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — it is not yet putting its political muscle behind a push for an immediate vote,” reported Politico, citing key senators and their aides.

To say the least, it is disturbing that the US Senate is completely bewildered that AIPAC, which lobbies for the interest of a foreign power, is yet to provide its guidelines regarding the behavior of America’s supposedly most respected political representatives.

“I don’t know where AIPAC is. I haven’t talked to anybody,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “I don’t know what they’re doing,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). This alone should shed some light on the seemingly bewildering question of the ‘strong bond’ and ‘stable’ alliance of Israel and the US — and to a lesser degree EU countries. This is not to suggest that Israel has complete dominance over US foreign policy in the Middle East, but to ignore Israel’s indispensable role in shaping the outlook of US foreign policy is dishonest and inconsistent with the facts, to put it mildly.(

Myths that are impediments to peace

by James J. Zogby

In a recent meeting with a congressional candidate, I was reminded of the power of the myths that define conventional wisdom about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the challenge they pose for rational discourse.

In rapid succession, my visitor rattled off a number of statements revealing how much he did not know about the conflict and how steep the climb for those who seek a just peace is.

My guest’s views of the conflict were both distorted and unshakable. They also reflected the attitudes of many lawmakers in Washington.

He was convinced, for example, that “Arafat turned down the best offer ever and turned to violence”; that “Palestinians would never accept to live at peace with Israel”; and that “President Abbas was incapable of selling any peace agreement to his people”.

Despite holding firm with these mind-numbing negative views, my visitor insisted that he was a “peacenik” and expressed hope that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts would bear fruit, helping to bring about an end of the conflict.

As disconcerting and irrational as this disconnect might be, it represents for many candidates an easy way out. It puts them in a position where they do not have to challenge the most hardline elements among pro-Israel voters, while at the same time still feigning support for peace.

I argued, for a time, with my visitor, knowing full well that I wouldn’t make a dent. After deciding I had had enough, we parted and I resolved to write about this frustrating encounter.

My first observation is that the myths that defined my visitor’s views of the conflict are ahistorical. A prime example is the fervently held notion that “Arafat turned down the best offer ever and turned to violence”.

This was first put forward by president Bill Clinton in 2000. It was a great applause line, but it just was not true.

Rob Malley (a Clinton NSC official who was at the Camp David negotiations) debunked this “best offer ever” myth in his brilliant debate with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak in the New York Review of Books (August 9, 2001). The Mitchell Report (commissioned by Clinton and presented to president George W. Bush in 2001) put to rest the “turned to violence” portion of this myth.

Reality is far more complex than the myth would allow.

Barak’s offer at Camp David was never clear — he would not commit it to writing. Nevertheless, despite the impasse at Camp David, Israeli and Palestinian teams continued to engage in prolonged negotiations at Taba, which came quite close to an agreement. But with elections looming, Barak suspended the Taba talks. He lost the election and that was the end of the negotiations.

Arafat did not reject a “deal”, negotiations were aborted before they could conclude in a “deal”.

The violence was not started by Arafat in response to Camp David. The spark that ignited the second Intifada was Ariel Sharon’s provocative demonstration at Jerusalem’s Haram Al Sharif.

After Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli guards, the Palestinian street erupted, quite spontaneously, owing largely to pent-up frustration with the hardships of the occupation and failure of the peace process to deliver the much hoped-for change.

The myths are also disturbingly racist since they imply that Palestinians are, by their nature, angry, violent and not to be trusted. The pervasiveness of this myth is, by itself, one of the major impediments to peace.

The reality is that Palestinians are real people who have endured dislocation, dispossession and decades of a cruel occupation. Of course they are bitter and angry — not by their nature, but because of the reality of their circumstance.

By suggesting that it is the Palestinian nature, the myth absolves the Israelis of any responsibility and implies that no matter what changes might occur, Palestinians will always be a threat.

My visitor’s myths are also apolitical, implying that the conflict is existential and not a political matter that can be resolved.

The problem, in the way the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been framed in the West, is that Israelis are seen as the full human beings with hopes, rights and the need for security, while the Palestinians are seen only as a problem to be managed and dealt with so that the Israelis can live in peace.

If Palestinian rights are acknowledged, then just solutions can be found to issues like property rights, sovereignty and self-determination.

To the extent that these rights are trumped by Israeli concerns, Palestinian concerns are ignored or given short shrift. To the extent that proposed solutions only address the needs of Israelis, Palestinians will reject them and no self-respecting Palestinian leader will be able to “sell crumbs” to his constituency.

In the end, these myths are also self justifying and self defeating. If we say we want peace, but treat Palestinians as less deserving of rights than other people and, therefore, offer them “take it or leave it” proposals that are humiliating, of course they will be rejected.

The believers of the myths can then feel justified in their conviction that Palestinians really do not want peace and the conflict will continue. That is why holding these views about Palestinians while still claiming to support peace and a “two-state solution” is also self defeating.

The real challenge for peacemakers is to reflect on the vision projected by President Barack Obama in his Cairo and Jerusalem speeches — to recognise the equal humanity and rights of both peoples and to forge solutions based on that reality, and not on myths.(

Status of Jerusalem may again scuttle peace talks

By Daoud Kuttab

Ever since the current Palestinian-Israeli negotiations commenced, all the leaked information about the talks focused on borders and whether Israeli soldiers will be present in the Jordan Valley. Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state received a lot of coverage. But while the Palestinian refugee issue received scant coverage, one topic was totally ignored: Jerusalem.

The US sponsors, along with the Israelis, might have thought that keeping Jerusalem out of the framework agreement would be the best way to avoid having the process blow up in their faces. Such an idea is clearly in violation of the agreement, reached at the start of the talks, that all permanent status issues are on the table and will be discussed.

Once it became clear that Jerusalem was going to be off the table, the Palestinian and Arab side went to work. First, it was Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) meeting with a delegation of East Jerusalem institutions and assuring them that no solution will be found unless East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state. Then off to Marrakesh, where the Moroccan sponsored Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee met and reiterated the same position. Jordanian and Palestinian officials also met and reportedly agreed to create a special $1 billion fund to support the occupied city of Jerusalem.

The sudden Arab flurry over Jerusalem brings back memories of what happened near the end of the 2000 Camp David summit that included US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Then, as now, the issue of Jerusalem — and not the refugee issue, as was reported in some places — was the deal breaker. Arafat adamantly refused to compromise on Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem and especially the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Under pressure, he turned to the Arab leaders and talked to them from Camp David with a simple question that he knew the answer to: “Do you agree to any deal that doesn’t include Jerusalem?”

The negotiations over Jerusalem are generally separate from the border discussion, even though in Palestinian eyes, East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian independent state on the 1967 borders that the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized. When Israelis discuss borders and possible land swaps, they are always referring to the West Bank minus Jerusalem, which Israel annexed, insisting that the unified Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of Israel.”

In dealing with the Jerusalem issue three issues need to be resolved. What happens to the various neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, which have been heavily settled by Israel since 1967? Almost as many Israeli Jews as Palestians live in East Jerusalem. The second issue of contention is the status of the 1 square kilometer (0.6 square miles) that is within the walled area of the Old City of Jerusalem. This area includes the Jewish quarter, and Palestinian negotiators have said that they are fine with that specific quarter being part of Israel. The third area of contention is the status of the holy places in Jerusalem, which are the cradle of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

These areas of contention have been addressed in study after study and in tens of proposals on how best to resolve them. From the concept that sovereignty should reside with God and that the issue should rather be how the city is administrated, to the idea that in the contentious area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque Palestinians have sovereignty over anything above ground while Israel has control over anything below ground, where they claim the remnants of the destroyed second temple exists.

Clinton made specific contributions to how to resolve the Jerusalem issue. In what is referred to as the Clinton Parameters, Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem will be part of the Palestinian state while the Jewish neighborhoods belong to Israel. The city should be united and open to all as well as its holy places.

Jordan, which signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1994, has stipulated in Article 9 that “Israel recognized the special role of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem and committed itself to give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines in negotiations on the permanent status.”

Ignoring the difficult issues of Jerusalem are definitely deal breakers. While Palestinians and Israelis differ the most on the future of the holy city — among all contentious issues — it makes little sense to ignore or delay coming up with some basic understandings on how the future of the city and its inhabitants will be resolved. Any attempt to gloss over this issue will most likely blow up the entire peace process.(

Liberating Jerusalem with slogans!
Al Quds Al Arabi Editorial
At the opening of the Jerusalem Committee conference on Friday, Moroccan monarch, King Mohammed VI warned against voicing empty slogans and requested not to use the cause of Jerusalem as a means of futile biddings. Unfortunately, however, these slogans, shiny speeches and repeated recommendations were the outcome of this meeting, which was held 12 years too late.
On the one hand, the Islamic Cooperation Organization’s Secretary General, Iyad Madani spoke once again about the red lines that the Islamic world would not allow to be crossed by anyone under any circumstances, even though they have been crossed each and every day. As for UN Secretary General ban Ki Moon, he copied previous letters and sent it to the conference, in which he confirmed that any legal or administrative measure Israel takes for the purpose of changing the nature of status of Jerusalem” would not gain any legal legitimacy”, since these measures contradict the stipulations of international law. The truth is, Ban Ki Moon is supposed to be the caretaker of these international laws, but sees every day how they are breached and does nothing.
As for the recommendations of the committee, stated in 34 articles of its closing statement, it did not bring anything new or different from the recommendations of the 20 previous sessions, except for a clause that calls on member states to “organize work trips at various levels to Jerusalem and to encourage Arab and Muslim businesspeople to contribute to supporting the city.”
This call raises fears that it will be exploited for normalization with Israel. Those being invited to visit Jerusalem must first visit Israel’s embassies to get a visa. They are not allowed entry into the city, which is denied to Palestinians, except through permission by Israeli authorities, which will take advantage of these visits to normalize with Arab countries. What may also be cause for fear is that some Arabs will use this visit for tourism at Israeli resorts.
At the practical level, the closing statement called for an increase of the budget of the Beit Al Mal Fund (the executive wing of the committee) to $30 million from its former $20 million. The member states would not commit to paying their contributions to it. Morocco took most of the amount upon itself (many thanks).
Compare this to Israel, which allocated a budget of $15 billion to its plans to Judaize the city, in addition to projects of Jewish funders around the world, including Irving Moskowitz, who put more towards Judaizing Jerusalem then all of the Arabs put together paid to maintain the city’s Arab character.
The recommendations of the Jerusalem committee came in tandem with Israel’s announcement to build 1,076 new settlement units in the occupied city, not to mention the campaign for demolishing Arab homes, the escalating excavations, raids, and desecration of the Aqsa Mosque. Each day more and more Israeli settlers, army and intelligence break into the Aqsa’s grounds as part of their plan to impose Israeli sovereignty on holy sites in the city and promote the Jewish presence there. This is in addition to the ever increasing harassment of Palestinian Jerusalemites aimed at stripping them of their ID cards and eventually expelling them from the city.
Preserving Jerusalem and its cultural identity and maintaining the Arab, Islamic and Christian character of it will not be achieved through statements of condemnation and  rhetorical speeches. It will only occur with practical measures starting with stopping any normalization with Israel and boycotting its products which can be found all over Arab markets, at a time when European markets are banning them. It will happen through offering real financial support to face the danger facing Jerusalem.
All of this means there is a huge disproportion between the seriousness and determination of Israel and the Jews in controlling the city and stifling its Arab and Islamic character, and between the chronic Arab and Islamic complacency in failing to formulate real plans to resist this judaization and pressure the international community, especially the United States, in halting these Israeli measures while waiting for a peace deal. (
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