Know More About Palestine

Dec. 16, 2014
Daily summary - Wednesday, January22, 2014
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This morning, two Palestinians were killed in Israeli shelling that targeted a car in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. According to eyewitnesses, an Israeli airplane fired a missile on a car carrying Ahmad Za’aneen, 21 and Mahmoud Za’aneen, 23, killing them both. The Islamic Jihad’s Quds Brigades claimed the two martyrs, saying “their blood will not be spilled in vain; it will be a curse that haunts the occupier everywhere.” In a statement, the brigades also reiterated their adherence to the approach of jihad and resistance until all of Palestine is liberated.
Israeli army spokesperson for the Arabic press, Avihai Adairi later stated that: “The army targeted activist Ahmad Za’aneen, a PFLP member and formerly a member of the Islamic Jihad, who has recently been firing mortar rockets against Israel from Gaza.” He confirmed that the army would continue to act against anyone who tries to harm the security of Israel. (

Last night, the Jerusalem municipality announced its plans to build a new settlement neighborhood south of the city, which would include 1,700 settlement units. According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahranoth, the neighborhood will be built in an area that will be annexed to the city’s structural plan. A meeting today between the municipality and the planning and construction committee will ratify the plan, which is to be called “Morodot Arnona.” According to Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, the plan is aimed at creating solutions for young Israeli couples wanting to live in the city. The announcement was made just days after US Secretary of State John Kerry left the region. (Al Quds)

Archbishop Atallah Hanna of Sebastia [Greek Orthodox] reiterated his rejection of any attempts to “Israelize” Christian Palestinians, stressing on the “cohesion of all of our people and the history that binds us.” Upon receiving a delegation of Christian youths against recruitment, Hanna said that the “Church rejects all attempts to divide and discriminate between the members of our one people and rejects the attempts to separate Palestinian Christians from the rest of the Palestinian people and their Arab ancestry.” He said that these “desperate” attempts would not succeed because the youth have enough awareness and affiliation to shield them from these manipulations. Hanna warned against the deceptive propaganda being spread by the governing Israeli establishment, which has been working overtime recently on official and unofficial websites as part of its battle against the Christian community. He said Israel was trying to urge Christian youths to enlist in the Israeli army. “We will never forget that Israel, which is now trying to recruit our sons and daughters into its army, is the same country that caused the Nakba for the Palestinian people and expelled and displaced them. We will not  forget that it is the same state that destroyed our Muslim and Christian villages and cities and we will not forget that it is the same country that will not allow our people to return to their homes. They confiscate land, prevent us from renovating and maintaining our churches, destroyed and confiscated mosques and Waqf land from the Muslims and turned them into coffee shops and cowsheds.” He said. (

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned yesterday that he would teach Hamas a “harsh lesson very soon” after the increase in rocket fire into Israel. Netanyahu made his threats during a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart Steven Harper, saying they would ‘foil terrorist attacks in their planning stage and respond to those who attack us.” He added that “if Hamas and the other terrorist organizations have forgotten this lesson, they learn it again very soon.” Hamas’ interior ministry spokesperson Islam Shahwan said that Hams has deployed national security forces near the border “in order to protect the agreement over the truce”, adding that the recent rocket attacks were “individual acts.” (

Egyptian sources to Al Ayyam yesterday that Egypt was holding contacts aimed at solidifying the truce in the Gaza Strip in order to protect the people of Gaza, guarantee stability and prevent an all-out Israeli attack on it. The sources said Egypt did not want things to spiral out of control, saying Egypt is intervening out of its concern for the security and safety of the people. They said, however, that the current contacts to calm the situation were not an indication that Egypt had changed its position towards Hamas, saying that the safety of the people came above their positions towards the movement. (Al Ayyam)

Yesterday morning, an explosive device went off between the Kissofim military site and the Sareej gate, 200 meters from the border northeast of Khan Younis. No injuries were reported. In the West Bank, dozens of people suffered teargas inhalation and fainting spells along with three injured by rubber-coated metal bullets in the Aydeh refugee camp near Bethlehem including Fatah secretary in the camp Qassem Al Azraq, who was shot in the head with a rubber bullet. Confrontations broke out last night after the Israeli army raided the camp and were met by rock-throwing youths. Three other youths were injured in Nilin west of Ramallah and two were arrested during an Israeli army raid.
In related news, Israeli settlers smashed the windows of eight cars in the town of Qabalan, south of Nablus. According to settlement file official in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, the settlers attacked the outskirts of the town, smashed the car windows and punctured their tires. They also wrote racist slogans on the walls of homes. In the Bethlehem areas, settlers and the army prevented two farmers from reaching their land in the village of Hussan, which is located close to the settlement of Bitar
In Yatta, near Hebron, settlers also damaged 30 dunams of winter crops. According to popular resistance coordinator Rateb Jbour, settlers from the settlement of Susiya brought in their sheep to graze on the cultivated land, ruining the crops.
Arrests also continued in Jerusalem and Jenin, where undercover Israeli forces raided a supermarket in the city and arrested a young man from inside. A 16-year old youth, son of presidential advisor on legal affairs, Hassan Aruri, was also arrested from his home in Beit Ur-Tahta and another 18-year old in Beit Fujjar (Al Quds)

Israeli sources said that a Palestinian opened fire last night at a settler from Zayt Ra’an settlement west of Ramallah, without any reported injuries. Israeli forces found a shotgun which it claimed was used by the shooter, who threw it away before escaping into the neighboring village of Beit Illu. The army then raided the village, searching for the gunman. (Al Ayyam)

President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday during a press conference with his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu that negotiations with the Israelis are ‘limited to a time period of nine months, adding that there ‘was no talk about extending this period for negotiations but to focus in the next phase on making progress.” He said during the press conference that the Palestinians are insistent on continuing efforts to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.(Al Ayyam)

Two Palestinian officials confirmed today that no arrangements were being made for a bilateral meeting between President Abbas and Israeli PM Netanyahu under the auspices of Jordanian monarch King Abdullah II. Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua that such a meeting had not been posed by either the Jordanians or the Americans. Foreign affairs minister Riyad Al Malki also said it was unlikely that any meeting between the two would take place any time soon.  The clarifications come after Israeli media sources said efforts were being made for a meeting to bring together Abbas and Netanyahu under Jordanian sponsorship by the end of this month. (مسئولان-فلسطينيان-لا-ترتيبات-لعقد-لقاء-نتنياهو-عباس.html)

Israeli occupation authorities handed over to the Palestinian side last night the remains of two martyrs who had been held in the ‘cemetery of numbers’. The remains were returned at the Tabyeh checkpoint west of Tulkarm and their funerals will be held today. The national campaign for the restoration of martyrs’ remains also said that a third martyr, Shadi Hamamra from Hussan, would be returned next Sunday. Hamamreh would be the fourth of 36 martyrs’ remains to be returned. (Al Ayyam)

Two Fatah PLC members Majed Abu Shamaleh and Ala’ Yaghi returned to the Gaza Strip yesterday along with Fatah revolutionary council member Sufyan Abu Zaydeh. Abu Shamaleh and Yaghi left the Strip in 2007 after the division between Hamas and Fatah and remained in Ramallah since then after Hamas refused to allow them to return. Hundreds of Fatah members and supporters met the two at the Beit Hanoun [Erez] crossing along with Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad. The two were allowed to return after de facto PM in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh decided to take a series of conciliatory steps including allowing the parliamentarians to return. Abu Shamaleh said the decision was ‘a good first step.” (Al Ayyam)

Jordanian PM Abdallah Nsur reaffirmed yesterday that Jordan would not accept under any circumstances foreign intervention on its land or any Jordanian soldier on the Palestinian side of the Jordan River, indicating to talks he had with US Secretary of State John Kerry on security measures in the Valley. He also said that Kerry’s visits at the time ‘were not expected to result in any solution to the Palestinian problem but were aimed at developing a preliminary position between the two sides for solving the problem”. Nsur did say, however, that he thought the American administration was serious about reaching a solution to the Palestinian issue. (Al Quds)

The physician’s union in the West Bank said today that they would carry out a series of strikes following the lawsuit filed by the health ministry against the union in the supreme court of justice, calling for a halt to the strikes in hospitals. The strike was prompted by the minister of health, Jawad Al Naji’s decision to lay off doctors. The strike began intermittently two weeks ago. The court will look into the prosecutions’ request today. (إضرابات-واعتصام-لأطباء-الضفة-أمام-المحكمة-العليا.html)

*Presidency condemns new settlement units in Givat Zeev: No peace without Jerusalem; settlements must go (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Israeli settlers and military break into the Aqsa (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Son of presidential legal advisor arrested (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Israel cost America $1.3 trillion in the past 40 years (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis claims responsibility for rockets fired into Eilat (Al Ayyam)
*International lawyers: Syrian officials may face charges of war crimes (Al Ayyam)
*Hamas: liberties file constitutes fertile ground for reconciliation (Al Quds)
*Erekat confirms the leaderships’ rejection to extend negotiations for even one day (Al Quds)
*Cabinet calls for practical implementation of decisions by the Jerusalem committee and Arab parliamentarian union (Al Quds)
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Ramallah: President Mahmoud Abbas and his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu during honor guard salute
Al-Ayyam:Ramallah: President Mahmoud Abbas and his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu during honor guard salute; 2) Scene from the besieged Yarmouk camp two days after aid started to get in
Al Hayat Al Jadida:1) President Mahmoud Abbas and his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu during their meeting in Ramallah; 2) Settlers along with soldiers walk around the Aqsa courtyard; 3) Fatah leaders returning to Gaza speak to reporters at the Beit Hanoun crossing
Voice of Palestine News
Jerusalem: the Israeli Government approved construction of 381 housing units, North West of Jerusalem, at Givat Zeev settlement, and to link the settlement with the Jerusalem Tel-Aviv road.
With regards to the Israeli escalation in Al-Aqsa, we are no longer talking about regular break inns, where higher numbers of security members participate in these break inns, in addition to foreigners being accompanied by settles.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
** Attorney Nesrin Elayan, Association for Civil Rights in Israel, on complaints issued against settlers’ guards.
Q: can you tell us more about these complaints?
These complaints were issued against the guards of settlers and their daily behavior against Jerusalemites in Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, where Jerusalemites are being treated by the guards as enemies, and ones who pose daily danger to settlers. This leads to daily confrontations and attacks against Palestinians.
Q: You issued these complaints as law suites in Israeli courts?
We issued a suite to the Israeli High Court, demanding to evacuate settlers’ guards from Palestinian neighborhoods; since we think what they do is illegitimate. We issued the suite two months ago; we already had one session requesting explanations form the public prosecution. These guards act as police inside these neighborhoods, this contrary to their role as being employed by the Housing Ministry. But at the last session, a couple of day ago, the court said that it does not see any need for its intervention, and that there is a need for this presence.
Q: Can you tell us more what these guards do to Palestinians?
A lot, we hear almost every day of these acts, these are personal guards for settlers, they threat Jerusalemites, attack them, threat them with guns… they attack children when playing in the neighborhoods, we know of shooting incidents and even killing incidents.
** Hisham Al-Aza’ar, Mayor of Qabalan, on settlers’ attack in Qabalan, south of Nablus.
Q: Please tell us more about this attack.
The day before yesterday, settlers entered Qabalan through the main entrance at night, and punctured the tires of tens of vehicles parking in front of houses of its owners, and sprayed provocative and racist slogans on these vehicles.
Q: What slogans did they spray?
Slogans against Arabs and Muslims.
Q: What are the procedures when things like this happen?
We will warn all citizens to be aware of such attacks, and block them.
Q; is there any cooperation between the different protection committees?
Yes we will activate these committees in order to protect ourselves and our property from settlers’ attacks.
** Helmi Al-A’raj, Director of “Hurreyat” center, on a conference on international responsibility for the lives of prisoners in the occupation prisons.
Q: can you tell us more about the objectives of this conference today?
This conference was organized after the issue of sick prisoners became a central issue, after the death of 4 prisoners in less than a year, and the worsening situation of sick prisoners, our main aim is highlight the situation of sick prisoners and their cause, and also to highlight the prisoners issue in general. We think that international community and organizations have to bear responsibility regarding these prisoners. But for several reasons international community is not acting accordingly.
** Fahed Mustafa, Palestinian Ambassador to Russia, on President Abbas’ visit to Moscow.
Q: Can tell us more about the President’s schedule in Moscow?
As you know the president will arrive to Moscow today evening, the visit comes in a very important political timing, in light of what being suggested in eth peace process. The president will have a very tight schedule, starting with a meeting with the Russian President Putin, in addition to meeting with Prime Minister Medvedev and Foreign Minister Lavrov. The President will also meet with the Moscow Patriarch Kirill and Shiekh Rawi Ein Addin, head of Efta’ council in Russia. The president will also meet Arab ambassadors and other. The visit will be for four days, it will be divided into two parts, one in Moscow and the other in St. Petersburg where the President will meet with the Prime Minister of St. Petersburg.
Q: You said this visit comes in a very important timing, will we see any Russian involvement in the negotiations?
As you know Palestine and Russia have very old and good relations, the president also visits Russia to update the Russians. What are being suggested now are important issues, so we need to have these consultations with Russia as a very important power. We think Russia needs to have a more important and active role in the negotiations.
Q: We heard that this visit will also be preparing for a peace conference in Moscow?
The Moscow conference was suggested long ago, even during Annapolis, and this depends on more than one international decision, and we suggested thing conference to stop the hegemony on the peace process.
Q: But are there any preparations to hold this conference?
We can’t say there are any preparations, these are only consultations, we see this as important but it needs the approval of other sides in eth process.
More Headlines
Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis claims responsibility for rockets fired into Eilat
The Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis group, which works out of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula claimed responsibility yesterday for firing two missiles towards Eilat in southern Israel, which did not cause any damages or injuries. In a statement posted on a jihadist website, the group, closely affiliated to Al Qaeda, said that “the main catalyst for the events in Egypt in general and in Sinai in  particular, are the Jews and the pressure put on Egypt to preserve the security of so-called Israel.”  They warned Israel that, “the Jews should know that our war with the enemy from the inside will not make us forget the Islamic nation’s primary enemy.” (Al Ayyam)
Ya’alon: we will continue with assassinations as long as rockets continue
Israeli defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said today that more assassinations would be carried out against those he charged with firing rockets towards Israeli areas from the Gaza Strip, saying the army would continue to strike blows at anyone who tries to harm the security of Israel and its citizens.  Ya’alon’s statements come after this morning’s assassination by the army in coordination with the Shabak of two Palestinians in Gaza accused of firing rockets, even during Ariel Sharon’s funeral. (
Peres: Netanyahu’s demand for recognizing ‘the Jewish state” of Israel will make the negotiations fail
The Israeli daily Israel Today said Israeli President Shimon Peres opposes Netanyahu’s demand of the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish character of Israel, saying that his obstinacy would bring about the failure of the negotiations between the two sides. The newspaper also said that Peres told foreign and Israeli figures lately that Netanyahu’s request was ‘unnecessary”. (بيريس-طلب-نتنياهو-الاعتراف-بيهودية-إسرائيل-سيفشل-المفاوضات/)
Arab Press
The Baffling Politics of Stephen Harper and Israel

By John Bell

A country that could lead globally is mired in a leader's myths from the 19th century.

When one looks at official Canadian government policy towards Israel and Palestine, there doesn't seem to be much that is outstanding. Beyond the language on UN resolutions that provide Canada with room to protect Israel, the basic pillars are all there: Two-state solution, anti-settlements, reference to UN resolution 194 for refugees, etc. Yet, everyone knows that the Canadian prime minister's heart and soul, and his rhetoric, are firmly on one side: With Israel.

"The state of Israel embodies principles that Canada values and respects," Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper went on his first official trip to Israel, as well as to the West Bank and Jordan - a journalist in Toronto remarked to me how happy the often-glum Stephen Harper seemed in the Holy Land.

The media conversation in Canada has been considerable regarding the visit. It has focused on the large size of the visiting delegation, and questioned the wisdom and motivation of this ample devotion to Israel. Is it calculated interest or a moral drive? Some point out that Harper has much to lose by this stance. The parliamentary electoral gains among the Jewish community, although key to three seats in Toronto, are small in comparison to losses among the Muslim community. Certainly, in Europe, where I live, people are baffled by Canada's zealous support for Israel.

Indeed, many Israelis, and not only leftists, take their own politicians' rhetoric less seriously than Harper does.

"He [Harper] can be a member of the Jewish Homeland party [an Israeli right wing party]", one Israeli commented to me.

I have often mused whether even Benjamin Netanyahu, despite public gratitude for Harper's steadfastness, does not also privately wonder about Canada's position. After all, other Western countries give him a much harder time regarding settlements and pursuing peace, and the calculations in the Middle East more concrete. Why this free ride from Ottawa? In 2011, Harper blocked a G8 communique aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian talks, against American wishes, because it called for Israel's return to the 1967 borders.

This general bafflement may be because Harper's stance is personal and ideological, not calculated interest. He may embrace a deeply held view of Israel's place in Christian eschatology, a "moral" position where Israel's existence rights historical wrongs, while also heralding of a Christian messianic future. This translates politically into a view that Israel is a country under threat that needs to be defended - more like Israel of 1966 than 2013.

"Canada supports Israel, fundamentally, because it is right to do so," said the Prime Minister in his speech to the Knesset, a discourse which a CBC reporter said could have been written by Netanyahu. A world of greys does not suit Mr. Harper as much as a landscape where one side is decidedly right and the other decidedly wrong. The fact that the creation of Israel, no matter what one's views on that, has also done another people, the Palestinians, a significant wrong, has little space in this universe. Such contradictions hold little sway in the world of cartoons, of good guys and bad guys thatMr. Harper inhabits.

The fact that the creation of Israel has also done another people a significant wrong has little space in this universe. Such contradictions hold little sway in the world of cartoons, of good guys and bad guys thatMr. Harper inhabits.

Of course, this will be denied. The Canadian Government will point to the announcement of $66 million as a sign of new support for Palestinians, in addition to $30 million last year (a total that is half of previous commitments on a yearly basis).

But, despite the clever legerdemain, the spin, and the stated official positions, Palestinians come a distant second in Mr. Harper's calculations. They are an addendum to the myths of Israel as a bastion of Western civilization. The Palestinians, however, are not the enemies of the West, they are simply a people still ruled by another, and unhappy about it, which is the most human of sentiments.

Mr. Harper is the leader of what may still be the most human of countries, a nation that is expert at keeping political emotions low, and avoiding ideological madness - two keys to finding constructive solutions. In that sense, he represents an exceptional nation, a country rare in its avoidance of national zeal. Yet, the PM is working hard to make it as "unexceptional" as all others: nationalistic, and very certain of its right and wrongs. In this view, Canada as a land of acceptance of difference, and of rule of law is a far second to the excitement of Canadians dying at Vimy Ridge, in Afghanistan, and, potentially, of the F-18 fighter defending Israel against Iran. Not far from this "rebalancing" is the search for national glory and the distant beating of the drums of war, i.e. the absolutely last thing the Middle East needs more of.

Meanwhile, in the reality of the region, in the Palestinian refugee camps that he will not visit, the Palestinians, for all their mistakes, are a people equal to the Israelis in their need for an independent state, a capital in Jerusalem, and in having their historical trauma recognized as much as the Jewish one. Many world leaders and diplomats are working this ground, deep in the muck and the greys, trying to find accommodation and solution, while others dream of right and wrong.

The irony of it all is that, although Canada has suffered rebuke for its position, including the possible loss of its bid for a UN Security Council seat in 2011, the country's reputation has not been permanently damaged. Somehow, Canada's image, as a country of tolerance, has withstood the PM's fervent attempt to paint it in sharper and more dramatic historical colors.

The whole affair may come down to one man's world view, Stephen Harper's, a fantasy while a long suffering Middle East goes on with its battle of tribes, its shifting sands, and its endless "tale of sound and fury". His positions may simply not matter so much there. When Mr. Harper moves on, Canada, its people and its public servants may well return to a more natural role but, in the meantime, the cost is paid by the diminishing of an exceptional country: Harper's positions on the Middle East matter less than the opportunity cost to Canada's role as a catalyst of solutions. A country that could lead globally through its highly educated population, and its past excellence in multilateral diplomacy (not only on the Middle East but on climate change) is mired in a leader's myths from the 19th century, while the realities and challenges of the 21st rage on.(

Balata: A camp of transitory permanence

By Jonathan Brown

Palestinian refugees face the paradoxical nature of 'temporary' shelter which has lasted 63 years, with no end in sight.

Balata, Occupied Palestinian Territories - What does a refugee camp look like? Images of Syria's displaced millions have crystallised the common features, the stereotypes.

Zaatari in northern Jordan is a poignant example. After it opened in July 2012, its population swelled to more than 200,000 in less than a year. It became Jordan's fourth-largest "city". One-and-a-half years later, it is still all tents and temporary structures - the prevailing image is one of impermanence. So what does a permanent refugee camp look like?

One-hundred kilometers west of Zaatari is Balata, the West Bank's largest refugee camp. But, hovering just beyond Nablus in the northern West Bank, it defies the stereotypes. The United Nations opened Balata in 1950, in what was then the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and unlike its younger counterparts, Balata's humanitarian crisis is not at the fore of its character.

Rather, Balata is renowned as a hub of armed resistance to both Palestinian and Israeli military intrusion, and unexpectedly, it's famed for fostering tremendous football talent.

Sentimental ties

“Many in Balata have held onto the keys to their houses in Jaffa, hoping to return one day.” - Ramsis, Palestinian refugee

Ramsis is in his early 20s and still at university. His origins are a delicate issue. Ramsis is careful to make the distinction, he is "from Jaffa; born in Balata". Most refugees here are from Jaffa, near Tel Aviv in Israel.

"Many in Balata," Ramsis told Al Jazeera, "have held onto the keys to their houses in Jaffa, hoping to return one day." The Jaffa Cultural Centre in Balata encourages maintaining sentimental ties to Jaffa; it teaches the camp's residents about their "right to return".

Ramsis is not alone in embracing this lesson.

The isolation, Ramsis said, is not geographical. In reality, Balata is crammed stubbornly into the urban fabric of Nablus. The camp's boundaries are barely distinguishable from Nablus' suburbs at street level; the unsuspecting pedestrian could walk past the camp without realizing it, oblivious to the largely self-sufficient society inside.

Two historical sites of biblical significance loom over Balata's doorstep. Jacob's Well is literally a stone's throw away from the camp's northern boundary. The sacred well is built into the compound of an ornate Greek Orthodox monastery. Tell Balata, meanwhile, is an ancient archaeological site dating from the 2nd century BC, and is crucial in framing Nablus' historical profile. Tell Balata draws a wide international and academic focus.

With the persistent attention Balata's ancient neighbors’ demand, the camp's population is constantly inferring that their place in history is rarely prioritized - at home or internationally. Balata's proximity to these ancient sites and the transparency of the camp's boundaries mean religious tourists from Israel to Nablus regularly travel with armed accompaniment. Too often, these are the ears that hear Balata's message of acute frustration. Too often, Balata is seen resorting to volleys of stones, road-blocks, and flaming tires to deliver this statement.

Living in the maze

"It's where we used to play hide-and-seek," said Ramsis, pointing out a series of 30cm-wide alleys separating the camp's precarious housing.

In the 1950s, the UN allocated tents, one per family, regardless of the family's size.

Seventeen years after it opened, the camp's population was 10,776; this number has swollen close to 28,000 today, but exact figures are difficult to come by. Eventually, the UN replaced its tents with 4x3 meter concrete cubes. More substantial structures were then built on top of the original concrete caves, and this practice continues today. "We build on top when families get bigger," explained Ramsis.

Looking up towards Balata's ever-rising buildings means suppressing claustrophobia and vertigo. It's obvious that moving anything other than people through the maze's narrow streets is hugely problematic. Efficiently moving goods or handicapped people, or undertaking large-scale construction operations, require the use of rooftops.

"When someone dies we use the rooftops to get them out. Also for furniture," Ramsis told Al Jazeera. One house, destroyed during the second Intifada, is slowly being rebuilt in the same plot of land, with much of the materials brought over the rooftops, piece by piece.

Walking through the maze, the consequences of "architecture without architects" is omnipresent. Self-regulated building procedures reflect Balata's "permanent-temporariness" - slap-dash building measures that reflect the refugees' hope of leaving Balata to return to permanent homes in Jaffa. But these building standards present notable issues.

"We are having problems with foundations," Ramsis explained. Looking up at four, even five additional stores, it's not difficult to see how these standards can lead to extreme danger.

Creating permanence?

Passing the only school in the camp, run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), raises questions about replacing the temporariness of the camp with long-lasting infrastructure. "How would they [the UN] do it, though? There is no space for infrastructure," countered Ramsis.

Moreover, removing the temporariness from Balata poses a symbolic threat: It would solidify the camp's existence. Why build lasting infrastructure if you don't plan on staying? "People say they are from Jaffa, or from al-Quds [Jerusalem], and that they only live in Balata. Improvements would be good short-term, but people remember where they come from," Ramsis said. And they want to return.

Hearing, above the other senses, prevails in Balata's maze. The narrow corridors stretching in every direction leave an eerie darkness, even at the height of the day. Glimmers of fluorescent light penetrate into the alleys from small windows of kitchens and ground floor rooms. Chatter, the clatter of pots and pans, and potent smells of meals and coffee in the making brush past you as you squeeze your way forwards. Passing under bullet-ridden satellite-dishes and patched-up bullet holes you see the urban landscape healing itself perpetually.

The maze is interrupted by a commercial street running through Balata's north-south axis. It is wide enough to accommodate the souk and a two directional flow of traffic - carts on wheels, straggles of children, and patched-up cars of all shapes and sizes.

When asked if strangers are welcomed in the camp, Ramsis replied, "As guests... When people here see foreigners, they expect the help will come."

Ramsis told Al Jazeera it was "thrilling" to be seen with international guests. This all seems in stark contrast to the unrelenting and violent reputation Balata earned over the years of the second intifada. As guests, Ramsis said, strangers are safe in Balata. "[Since] you come in peace, if someone gives you abuse, others will shout at him. A mob will gather."

The children

In 2009, 40 percent of Balata's population was under age 14. They all employ the one line of English they are confident with, "What's your name?" Others ask, "Where are you from?" Both questions precede handshakes.

Outsiders are conspicuous in Balata - particularly those with recording devices and cameras. A group of men call out from a metal workshop, then speak quickly among themselves.

"They asked, 'Why are you taking photos of our house?' But the father said it was okay, the other said, 'Welcome',"  Ramsis explained.

It's difficult to reconcile the conflicting nature of Balata: The tremendous hospitality foreigners receive on one hand, and its reputation as a flashpoint of resistance on the other. Ramsis' explanation is simple.

"If you come with force, you will be met with force, you'll be kicked out the door. If you come in peace, you will be treated as a guest," he said. These standards dictate social interaction in much of the world, though here, it is vilified.

A diverse arsenal of weapons still remains in the camp, Al Jazeera is assured, as attempts to remove the caches in December 2013 were met with stiff resistance. "There will always be resistance to the occupation here," Ramsis said.

Balata's redemptive qualities - beyond the hospitality of its people - are few and far between. Football is probably the most unlikely of these.

Before Khalid enrolled in An-Najah University, he was the center-midfielder for the Palestinian youth football team. The high-point of his career was competing in the Norway Cup in Oslo. He described jogging through the streets near Oslo's stadium with his team. Dressed in tracksuits, in Palestinian colors, his team was cheered by pedestrians.

"At no time in Palestine were we allowed to feel celebrated like that. In Norway, we were heroes," Khalid told Al Jazeera, smoking a cigarette and sipping coffee. Asked what it was like to live in Balata, he replied: "You've been there, you know what it's like. It's dirty, loud, overcrowded. It's a terrible place to live."

Football is an important preoccupation in the camp, but the appetite for football is not met with sufficient facilities. In 2011, Merkaz Balata was finalists in the Occupied Territories' Palestine Cup and it still a top team in the West Bank. Its success means there is a communal projection of the camp beyond that of armed resistance. Balata's younger generations can look up to posters of glorified footballers - rather than martyrs.

“You've been there; you know what it's like. It's dirty, loud, overcrowded. It's a terrible place to live.” - Khalid, Palestinian refugee describing the Balata camp

'I'm from Balata'

Life inside the camp is not without tension. Internal power struggles are constantly unravelling. Ramsis described the latest outburst with one family hording a stockpile of weapons and another attempting to disarm it. One person was killed and the family suffering the loss is poised for revenge. All live within a single block.

In Nablus, Balata is considered the closest and most reliable source of guns and drugs. "These are the problems that plague every society… The younger generation has introduced drugs to the camp, but I've never heard about prostitution," said Ramsis.

According to UNWRA, the most pressing problems facing Balata include high unemployment, a bad water and sewage network, high population density, and an overcrowded school. These are issues that resonate with Ramsis' experiences. "People in Balata need food and work," he said.

Frustration is building in Balata. After 63 years of refugee status, hopes of a return to Jaffa are dwindling. It's inevitable that Balata's younger generations will not inherit an urgent belief in their right of return.

Embodying this, Ramsis' young neighbor was asked if he was from Jaffa. "No," he replied. "I'm from Balata."(

As long as the right wing controls Israel, ties with the US will suffer

By Jonathan Cook

Things have come to a strange state of affairs when Washington regards Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s far-right foreign minister, as the voice of moderation in the Israeli cabinet. While Mr. Lieberman has called the soon-to-be-unveiled US peace plan the best deal Israel is ever likely to get, and has repeatedly flattered its chief author, US secretary of state John Kerry, other ministers have preferred to pull off the diplomatic gloves.

The most egregious instance came last week when Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli defense minister, launched an unprecedented and personal attack on the man entrusted by President Barack Obama to oversee the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. In a private briefing, disclosed last week by the Yedioth Aharonoth newspaper, Mr. Yaalon called Mr. Kerry “obsessive and messianic”, denounced his peace plan as “not worth the paper it was written on”, and wished he would win “the Nobel Prize and leave us alone”.

Mr. Yaalon could hardly claim he was caught in an unguarded moment. According to reports, he has been making equally disparaging comments for weeks.

On this occasion, however, Washington’s response ratcheted up several notches. US officials furiously denounced the comments as “offensive” and demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly slap down his minister.

But what might have been expected – a fulsome, even groveling apology – failed to materialize. It was only on Mr. Yaalon’s third attempt, and after a long meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, that he produced a limp statement of regret “if the secretary was offended”.

Also showing no signs of remorse, Mr. Netanyahu suggested that disagreements with the US were always “substantive and not personal”.

With the diplomatic crisis still simmering, Mr. Yaalon returned to the theme late last week, telling an audience in Jerusalem that the US and Europe had a “misguided understanding” of the Middle East and denouncing a “Western preoccupation with the Palestinian issue”.

Not surprisingly, the Palestinian leadership is celebrating the latest evidence of Israel’s increasingly self-destructive behavior. Such outbursts against Mr. Kerry will make it much harder for Washington to claim the Palestinians are to blame if, or more likely when, the talks collapse.

The Israeli government is not only hurling insults; it is working visibly to thwart a peace process on which the Obama administration had staked its credibility.

Mr. Netanyahu has kept moving the talks’ goalposts. He declared for the first time this month that two small and highly provocative settlements in the West Bank, Beit El and a garrisoned community embedded in Hebron, a large Palestinian city, could not be given up because of their religious importance.

That is on top of recent announcements of a glut of settlement building and ministerial backing for the annexation of the vast expanse of the Jordan Valley.

Even Mr. Obama appears finally to be losing hope, telling the New Yorker this week that chances of a breakthrough were “less than 50-50”.

While Mr. Netanyahu may act as though he is doing the White House a favor by negotiating, he should be in no doubt of his dependence on US goodwill. He received a timely reminder last week when Congress voted through a $3.1 billion (Dh11.3b) aid package for Israel in 2014, despite the severe troubles facing the US economy.

In part, Mr. Netanyahu’s arrogance appears to reflect his personality – and a culture of impractical isolationism he has long nurtured on the Israeli right.

With Washington pushing firmly for engagement with the Palestinians, this has started to rebound on him. Israeli analysts have noted his growing insecurity, fearful that any concessions he makes will weaken him in the eyes of the right and encourage challengers to the throne. That explains some of his indulgence of Mr. Yaalon.

But his ideological worldview also accords with his defense minister’s.

It is hardly the first time Mr. Netanyahu has picked a fight over the peace process. Early in Mr. Obama’s first term, he waged a war of attrition over US demands for a settlement freeze – and won. He even dared publicly to back the president’s republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in the 2012 elections.

In unusually frank references to Mr. Netanyahu in his new memoir, Robert Gates, Mr. Obama’s defense secretary until 2011, recalls only disdain for the Israeli prime minister, even admitting that at one point he tried to get him barred from the White House. Mr. Gates criticizes his “glibness”, “arrogance” and “outlandish ambition”.

But the problem runs deeper still. Just too much bad blood has built up between these two allies during Mr. Netanyahu’s term. The feud is not only over Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians but on the related matter of US handling of what Israel considers its strategic environment after the Arab Spring.

Mr. Netanyahu is angry that the US has not taken a more decisive hand in shoring up Israeli interests in Egypt and Syria, and near-apoplectic at what he sees as a cave-in on Iran and what Israel claims is its ambition to build a nuclear weapon.

He appears ready to repay the White House in kind, rousing pro-Israel lobby groups in Washington to retaliate through initiatives such as the bill currently in Congress threatening to step up sanctions against Iran, subverting Obama’s diplomatic efforts.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran Middle East peace negotiator, recently described the Israeli-US relationship as “too big to fail”. For the moment, that is undoubtedly true.

But in his New Yorker interview, Mr. Obama warns: “The old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes: What’s next?”

Israel is wedded to the old order. If the regional strategies of Israel and the US continue to diverge, as seems likely as long as the far-right dominates Israeli politics, the cracks between them are only going to grow deeper and wider.(
A Royal confirmation leading to final solution
Al-Dustuor Editorial
The road to peace is clear and the obstacle to peace is clear, the ones who continue negotiations, and support it by sound intentions and are keen to protect the interests of generations are clear. The way to achieve peace, asthe King said yesterday to a delegation of US House and Senate is the establishment of an independent Palestinian State that is viable in the lines of June 4th 1967, with east Jerusalem as its capital on the basis of the two-state solution, and the resolutions of international legitimacy and the ArabPeace Initiative. This is the way in which a solution to the six decades ongoing conflict, in which the people had been uprooted from their land and relocated,and their history and heritage were stolen.
Despite the tendency of Palestinians and Arabs to pursue peace since the Madrid Conference in 1991, the Israeli occupier who committed many massacres is still maneuvering and lies, and tries to exploit the time to deepen its expansion plan, rather than real peace that will spare the region the scourge of war and its effects on humans, and humane, economic and social logic. But those have aggression and rejecting the other in their genome coming from a say that was misunderstood - "the chosen people", and any of their leaders who pursue peacewill be expelled, besieged or killed as they did with Yitzhak Rabin.
In parallel to rejecting peace, Israelis continue to bite off more Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and attack holy places, notably Al-Aqsa Mosque, where storming operations became organized and systemized on a daily basis, protected by security forces and the Israeli military. Only yesterday, 20 members of the occupation intelligence broke into the blessed mosque through the Moroccans’ gate, and additional 27 security elements broke in from Al-Selselah gate, which is considered to be an exceptional event, these groups toured the compound and moved into the mosques (the Qibly mosque, the old Aqsa, and the Marawani mosque).
Another 27 Jewish Extremists led Rabbi Yehuda Glick stormed Al-Aqsa mosque from the Moroccans’ gate, where also they provocatively toured the compound escorted by occupation forces and protected by them, while listening for descriptions in and information about the alleged Temple and the place of its future establishment, according to their claims, and performed provocative Talmudic rituals. As Al-Aqsa Foundation confirmed in a statement that intelligence and military incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque are part of a plan to impose Israeli sovereignty and strengthen Jewish presence in the site, and at the same time stressed its Muslim Character and Muslims right in the Mosque.
Israelis do do the opposite of what they say regarding peace, and they race time to impose a fait accompli by force and deny Palestinian rights, without caring what major biased powers think, and with international community that is subject to the right of force and power, supporting and encouraging them so there is no pause, not to say the Arab position reaching the importance of the Palestinian issue and not to the sanctity of Jerusalem, that only Hashemite Jordan leadswith its  auspices and all that it owns.(

Israeli practices contradict the spirit of the negotiations
Al-Quds Editorial
The message of the current Israeli Government issued through practices of settlement and occupation do not suggest at all that there are negotiations for a framework agreement for a final settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,but refers unmistakably to an approach towards continuing occupation and unlimited support to settlement expansion that will end once and for all, any opportunity to achieve peace in its minimum form, even with US specifications.
The Government of Benjamin Netanyahu ratified the establishment of 383 new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, added to the thousands of housing units announced for settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. This announcement of settlement expansion poses a challenge to the demands of the Palestinians and international community, which failed to stop for a moment, to put an end to settlement activity and freeze as a first step towards initiating liquidation of settlement, which constitutes the core of occupation.
In parallel, the ongoing settlers’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank without Israeli authorities intervening to put an end to such attacks continue. But many of the settlers' attacks are being perpetrated under the sight of Israeli security forces which, rather than deter settlers, they confront Arab citizens, encouraging settlers to perpetrate further attacks under the protection of the Israeli army and police forces in many cases.
At the same time, Israeli continues with military incursions into Palestinian towns and villages, resulting inthe arrest of dozens of innocent people. A day hardly passes without a number of youths arrested for suspicion that they pose“danger to Israeli security."
These intrusions are conducted at a time when an unprecedented calm dominates the region, which is considered as a kind of provocation to Palestinians who see that negotiations have not even changed anything regarding the Israeli policy towards the Palestinian people, since the 1967 occupation to this day.
The simplest role of the negotiations game is that negotiations should be built on mutual respect, not on domination, oppression mentality and powerful and powerless logics. Continued settlement expansion and brutal attacks by settlers on Palestinians without any deterrent by the Israeli authorities, and the detention of citizens during Israeli incursions, resulting in the injury and martyrdom of Palestinian citizens, are not encouraging signalsregarding the seriousness and credibility of the Israeli Government toward negotiations and the peace process in General.
The main evidence for this analysis is that the negotiations go around in circles, and there are no reports of any real progress. This deadlock in the negotiations with the Israeli settlement and occupation practices sends a message to the international community to act and prevent a collapse of the peace process, if not already collapsed because of Israeli policies which favor settlement over peace, even if it pushes the region to a new and unknown consequences of tension and instability.(Al-Quds)
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