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Dec. 16, 2014
Daily summary- Monday, February 17, 2014
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President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of Israeli students yesterday that ‘we must not lose the chance for peace and let it slip between our fingers.’ He said this peace must be based on the international legitimacy that Israel was created on. At his headquarters yesterday, Abbas received some 300 Israeli university students, peace activists and politicians and told them that “peace is not a luxury” and that the Palestinians wanted East Jerusalem as their capital. He did say, however that they did not to re-divide Jerusalem but have it as an open city, saying this would be the beginning of real coexistence between the two peoples. Abbas stressed that the basis of peace was international legitimacy based on the 1967 borders and that final status issues must be resolved completely.
The president then addressed the audience, discussing the negotiations process and the obstacles put before it by the Israeli government. When he spoke about the importance of peace, he was greeted by his Israeli guests with applause and a standing ovation.
After the speech, WAFA spoke to a number of the Israeli students on their opinions about Abbas’ speech. Barak Gur, from Tel Aviv said that Abbas showed a strong desire for peace and to meet the other side, adding that there should be more of these meetings between the two people ‘so they could get to know the other.”
Shlomo Faiser, a Haradim Jews, said he always hears from Israeli officials that Abbas does not want peace, but said he heard directly from Abbas that he does want to live in peace side by side with Israel, adding that he was now convinced of this. “I am angry at Israel’s leaders for putting obstacles in front of the peace process,” he said, saying that Netanyahu’s demand from Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state was an obstacle.
Ariela, a university student, said she was surprised at the speech because of her preconceptions about the Palestinian leadership. “Israeli leaders always try to portray him as a man who wants to destroy Israel but we met a human being and a leader who wants peace not just for his people but also for us, the youth in Israel,” she said. The youths said they would carry the message they heard to the Israeli street in order to convince them that the Palestinian people really do want peace. (Al Ayyam)

The Israeli rights group Yesh Din went to the Israeli high court on behalf of a number of Palestinian landowners after the settlement group Amana’ claimed it bought their land inside the Bet El settlement on land belonging to the village of Beteen near Ramallah. The most recent case was the claim that the land was bought from a man already deceased. Yesh Din said it was working on a number of cases shrouded in ambiguity, some of the land which is inside settlements such as Beit El and others that are inside and outside the separation wall. Yesh Din said settlement groups had forged papers in a number of areas in and around settlements, claiming that they had bought the land from its owners who live outside of the West Bank. After further checking, it was revealed that all of contracts were forged or do not have signatures or talk about “public land” without giving any description or registration number for the land. Sometimes there are fake names or names of people who died or whose place of residence is unknown. According to legal sources last night, these settlement companies receive support from high-ranking officials in the Israeli military in Beit El and bank on the land owners not following up on the case of their land. The sources said the settlement companies receive information about the land from the land registration department before making their move on the piece. (Al Quds)

The Israel High Court issued a decision yesterday cancelling an Israeli military order for the confiscation of 4,000 dunams of land from the village of Nahalin in response to an appeal put forth by the landowners, the Nahalin village council and various organizations in the area. According to anti-wall and settlement activist Ghassan Najajreh, the decision is extremely important in terms of the village’s struggle with settlements and the army which wants to take their land and build settlements on it. He said the total area of land already confiscated from Nahalin was around 20,000 dunams. He said the confiscation order was for land near the settlement of Bitar Illit north of the village and near the settlement of Banyas, claiming that it was ‘state-owned land.” (Al Ayyam)

According to Israel’s Channel 7, the Israeli Jerusalem municipality approved yesterday the construction of around 350 new settlement units in the settlement of Talpiot east of the city. According to the channel, the construction and planning committee approved the plan as part of the construction of eight buildings within a larger settlement expansion project. (Al Ayyam)

Yesterday, Israeli occupation bulldozers began building a separation wall around the Cliff Hotel in the Abu Dis district ahead of the Israeli high court decision pertaining to the hotel. Yesterday morning, Israeli bulldozers began placing huge cement blocks around the hotel to isolate it from Abu Dis and annex it to Jerusalem, therefore confiscating the land and claiming it is absentee property. The hotel belongs to the Ayyad family of Abu Dis, all of whom hold West Bank ID cards. According to lawyer Bassam Bahar, Israel has been trying to take over the hotel since 1996 under various pretexts. The high court has yet to give its final verdict on the hotel but the wall is a de facto measure taken ahead of it to preempt the outcome. (Al Ayyam)

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdallah Nsour indicated yesterday that he would ‘take a stance’ if the Knesset decides to withdraw Jordan’s sponsorship over Jerusalem. During a parliament session to discuss the Knesset’s possible decision, Nsour said that it the Knesset wanted to take a decision in contravention to the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel, then Jordan would be forced to ‘take a stance.” The parliament reaffirmed that Jordan should have a ‘clear strategy” to face Israel’s tampering with Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and to take immediate steps to respond to Israel’s attempts to withdraw Jordan’s guardianship over holy sites in Palestine. A number of MPs also called or a reconsideration of the Wadi Ara peace agreement in response to the Knesset’s attempts. (Al Quds)

The Palestinian Authority warned yesterday against any Israeli plan to impose sovereignty over the Aqsa Mosque. Minister of Waqf Mahmoud Habbash said in a statement that there was no sovereignty over the Aqsa and Islamic and Christian places except for the Palestinians, saying this was an Arab, Muslim and Christian right. Habbash was also referring to the Israeli Knesset attempts to “legitimize Israeli break-ins to Al Aqsa which he said were ‘null and void and unacceptable.”
Head of the Waqf in Jerusalem, Sheikh Azzam Al Khatib also warned of the dangers of Israel’s intentions, saying this would “lead to a situation which we cannot know the consequences.” (Al Ayyam)

Israeli government legal advisor Yehuda Feinstein allowed the government yesterday to refrain from defining extremist settlers who carry out attacks against Palestinians and their property in what has become known as ‘price-tag attacks’ as a terrorist organization. Instead, he sufficed with defining them as a ‘prohibited group.” According to the Israeli daily Haaretz yesterday, head of the left-wing Israeli party Meretz Zahava Gal-On called on Feinstein to issue instructions to the government stipulating that the price-tag groups “are a terrorist organization.” She accused the government of allowing hill top vigilantes to evade trial and accountability by using administrative orders. (Al Ayyam)

According to a report published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, there is a growing European refusal towards buying Israeli products made in settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. According to the spokesperson for the food chain store “Keiser’s Tengelmann”, since 2012 there have been no imported products from the West Bank on the sales’ list. The newspaper also said that one director of an Israeli fruit import company said a number of German stores had bound him in writing not to import fruit from the West Bank. (Al Ayyam)

The Hebrew-language daily Haaretz published in today’s edition that the Israeli government had approved tax benefits for 35 settlement outposts in the Jordan Valley and Hebron in order to encourage businessmen and individuals to move to these outposts. Israeli finance minister Yair Lapid approved the benefits in the government meeting yesterday. Justice minister Tzipi Livni opposed, asking that they not be included in the list of Israeli ‘towns’ that receive the benefits, saying this would only encourage more outposts. (

Health minister Jawad Awwad said yesterday that the accumulated debts on his ministry had exceeded NIS700 million and were not threatening towards a halt in importing medicines to warehouses. He said the pharmaceutical import companies are demanding their debts be paid of NIS270 million, threatening the ministry of halting the delivery of medicines to warehouses (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Eighty prisoners in Bloc 3 of the Nafha Prison complained yesterday of the poor conditions they live in, where bugs and mice are found everywhere and where recently, mice gnawed through the ear of one prisoner. A Prisoner’s Club lawyer visited the prisoners who told him that the bloc is full of bugs and mice, saying one reason for this was its close proximity to the watch dog quarters. The prisoners said this was one of the oldest blocs in the prison and that prison services claim it is to put prisoners there temporarily until they are transferred to another bloc. However 80 prisoners were sent there last December and left there. The prisoners said there were 10 of them in one room and that the toilets overflow and the mattresses are molded. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Last night the Palestinians were handed the remains of martyr Mohammed Darabee’, who has been held by Israeli authorities for the past 12 years. the body was handed over at the Tarqumiya checkpoint and will be buried today in his hometown of Dura, near Hebron. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Palestinian officials put in an urgent request for the village of Bateer to be added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, especially since the Israeli separation wall is threatening its archeological landmarks. The request was put in at the beginning of February, and on Saturday, UNESCO responded by saying it would consider the request and would send a delegation to look into the matter, without specifying when the visit would be made. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Israeli occupation authorities demolished this morning agricultural facilities in the Yarza area of the northern Jordan Valley. According to head of the village council for Al Maleh and Bedouin communities Aref Daraghmeh, Israeli troops stormed Yarza and demolished tents and agricultural facilities, adding that the demolitions were still ongoing. He also said that the Israeli troops confiscated a tractor. (
*Settlers break into Al Aqsa; occupation shoots at Gaza fisherman (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Fatah central committee to discuss the organizational situation in Gaza and that of the camps (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Environmental disaster awaits Al Bireh (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*$26.14 million in profit for PADICO Holdings for 2013 at a 42.7% growth rate (Al Quds)
*Sameeh Sbeih director general of Al Quds Bank (Al Quds)
*Waqf council statement: those who play with fire will be burned first (Al Quds)
*Israeli students after meeting President Abbas: there is a Palestinian partner (Al Ayyam)
*Egypt: three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver killed in a bus bombing near Taba (Al Ayyam)
*Maariv: Hamas stopped preventing rocket fire (Al Ayyam)

Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Ramallah: President Mahmoud Abbas shakes hands with Israeli students who he met at his headquarters
Al-Ayyam: Ramallah: President Mahmoud Abbas greets Israeli students, peace activists and politicians his headquarters; 2) Ruins of the tourist bus that was bombed in Taba yesterday
Al Hayat Al Jadida:.1) President Mahmoud Abbas during his meeting with Israeli students; 2) Garbage built up in Al Bireh
Voice of Palestine News
Jerusalem: a decision by the Israeli Supreme Court to stop the construction of the wall near the Cliff hotel in Abu Dies for a week, east of the old city. The occupation bulldozers began construction work of the wall yesterday and surrounding the hotel with the wall, meaning that the lands near the hotel will become under full Israeli control. Activists of the popular resistance implemented activities demolishing parts of the wall around Abu Dies during the last months but the occupation rebuilt these parts.
In another issue, a raise in the number of houses without water in the old city, after municipality and Gihon crews removed water counters; we are talking now about more than 30 houses, all near Al-Aqsa without water. The owners say this is part of pressures imposed by the occupation to evacuate the area from its residents and take control over the real estate in the area.
With regards to incursions to Al-Aqsa, these continue with joining more Rabbis in these incursions.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
** Zeyad Hammouri, General Director of the Jerusalem Center form Social and Economic Affairs, on continuing the dismantling of water counters in the old city of Jerusalem.
Q: With regards to dismantling water counters, how do you follow up on this issue?
Al that happens in Jerusalem is bothering, dismantling water counter, demolishing houses economic pressure, incursions to Al-Aqsa and attacking Jerusalemites… all of these are for one aim evacuation Jerusalemites from the old city, since according to their 2020 plan, they want the old city as a Jewish city. We see all these pressures are not legal; dismantling water counters is illegal even if there is a debt, since water is a right guaranteed by all laws, but what happens in Jerusalem contradicts all international laws…
Q: Are there any legal measure done by you?
Legal measures today are only through Israeli courts, and these don’t assist Jerusalemites, and we can see those through demolition actions in Jerusalem, there is a need for a move by the International community against Israel.
** Khalil Tafakji, Specialist in settlement, on a decision by the Jerusalem municipality to build 350 news settlement units in Talpeut.
Q: More details about this issue, 350 news settlement units in Talpeut east of Jerusalem.
The issue is not the 350 new units or the announcements here and there of building new units; there is a clear Israeli plan to build 58,000 units according to the plan put forward in 1994 that will continue until 2020. What is happening today in Talpeut is building news units in area that used to considered as forbidden areas between Jordan and Israel until 1967 and were confiscated in 1970, now these are areas are being used ti expand settlements according to the clear Israeli vision, that is expanding established settlements and establishing news settlements. If we look at the 350 units, these were preceded by announcing the construction of new units in Jabal Abu Ghnim and Pizgat Ze’ev, we see that the Israeli side decided to end the issue of Jerusalem, by building more units in settlement around Jerusalem, and establishing new settlement outposts inside Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, to create a real change with regards to the residents issue.
Q: I understand that Israel is very close to finalize its 2020 plan?
Of course, we are today at 2014, only 6 years left, and these 6 years are enough to construct 58,000 units, and it can be expanded. So all these announcement are part of the 202 plan.
Q: with regards to settlers’ documents forgery acts, the latest was revealed by Yesh Din, how can we follow up on this issue?
First of all this is not the first time, in 1985 there was a huge forgery operation in Hebron, Al-Arroub, one journalist was even killed for following up on a similar issue in the area of Katanna. This issue is a very old issue and what was revealed is only a small part of what is happening in this regard. What is hidden is much bigger than what is being revealed.
** Mu’taz Bisharat, settlement official in the Jordan Valley, on demolition taking place in the valley at press time.
Q: Tell us more about the demolition in the Valley right now.
Since the early hours of the morning (6:30), occupation bulldozers accompanied with an army force came to Kherbat Yerza in the Jordan Valley, they began demolishing houses of residents, and this is the second demolition of houses in a week in this area. We provided some tents to the citizens there but this is not enough, the occupation is completing the demolition today.
Q: What is the number of demolished houses?
We are talking about houses for 7 families, more than 21 facilities.
Q: what is the Israeli pretext?
The occupation has always new pretext, these areas belong to Palestinian residents, these are lands are registered for the Palestinians in the Land Registry Bureau, but the Israeli pretext is that these lands are located in military areas.
** Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator.
Q: Ma’an quoted you saying that if the negotiations fail the PA will collapse, is this true?
Please read the news item before asking, the item quoted me saying that if negotiations fail we will approach international institutions, this what I said at Oxford university in a lecture the day before yesterday, including international courts, and Netanyahu will then reoccupy the West Bank and this will lead to the collapse of the PA, the PA will not be able to bear this situation, so the alternatives of failing Kerry’s efforts mean the collapse of the PA under the Israeli pressure, and this what I warned the whole world of.
Q: With regards to President Abbas’ meeting yesterday with an Israeli delegation, the Israeli media reported saying that Abu Mazen does not support the return of refugees, and that he does not want to divide east Jerusalem, what really happened in this meeting, and What did the president say?
The president reiterated our support to Kerry’s efforts; he confirmed our support to peace base on the principle of the two state solution in the 1967 borders, he confirmed that Jerusalem will be the east Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine and west Jerusalem the capital of Israel and that the city will be an open city for all, without any derogation of the Palestinian sovereigntyin the city. The president talked about the refugees confirming that this is a personal right for each refugee and that an international mechanism will be establishedto insure that each refugee will have a choice according to the Arab Peace Initiative, and to resolution 194. The president also discussed the presence of the third party in Palestinian without allowing any Israeli to stay in the Palestinian territories; in addition to why we refuse a Jewish state.
Q: Also some reports saying that Hamas will agree to the negotiations, are there any discussions with Hamas regarding this issue?
No I don’t know of such issue, but as you know negotiations are a responsibility of the negotiations department of the PLO, and there is an agreement during previous governments, that is case of reaching an agreement it will be subjected to referendum for all Palestinians everywhere. But in this regard, I heard some statements by Hamas leaders saying they will treat any third party as occupation, this is very bad, this is being used by Netanyahu to reject the presence of a third party, do they prefer Israeli presence in Palestine, this is very dangerous.
Q: some members of the Knesset said that a framework agreement will be concluded soon and that it will include all Israeli reservations, do you have any information about this?
No I don’t have any information; we will know when this will be officially presented.
More Headlines
Israeli bulldozers demolish commercial and residential structures in Ezarriyeh
Israeli occupation bulldozers demolished this morning five residential shacks, vegetable shops and a car wash in the town of Ezzariyeh, ahead of building the separation wall. At around 2:30 a.m. Israeli troops surrounded the area where the Arab Jahaleen Bedouin live, forcing five families out of their shacks. They confiscated the vegetables and equipment in the car wash before demolishing the structures. (
Maariv: Hamas stopped preventing rocket fire
The Israeli daily Maariv said yesterday that Hamas had begun to change its strategy towards the security situation in the Gaza Strip and had stopped preventing rocket fire or pursuing and imprisoning those who fire them. The newspaper pointed to certain factions which it said were ‘dissident” and who were looking to ‘heat up’ the southern region through firing rockets because of internal disputes with Hamas.  It said the security services in Israel had not seen any intervention by Hamas to stop these groups, thus holding it responsible for the latest incidents of rocket fire.  The newspaper claims there is an understanding between Hamas and these groups, which his that as long as their rocket fire does not harm Hamas directly, they would not intervene. (Al-Ayyam)
Settlers break into the Aqsa Mosque; Israeli troops fire at Gaza fishermen
Fourteen settlers broke into the Aqsa Mosque Compound yesterday from the Moroccan Gate under tight Israeli police protection. The 14 settlers received a lecture on the alleged Third Temple and walked around the grounds, all while Israeli police detained the ID cards of Muslim religious students and worshippers at the gates. Additionally, Israeli authorities arrested five minors, two only 14 years old, from Jerusalem and detained them for questioning. Seven others were arrested from various parts of the West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli gunboats shot at Gaza fishermen out at sea, detaining several of them. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
The importance of the Jordanian vision regarding the crises in the region
Al-Dustuor Editorial
His Majesty King Abdullah II visit to the United States and his meetings with the US President, the US administration, Congressmen and American institutions and organizations, allowed an opportunity to translate the desire of the two countries in strengthening their cooperation and contribute to opening up new prospects for partnership, in addition to confirming the Jordanian vision and positionregarding the  developments in the region, especially with regards to the Syrian crisis and the Palestinian issue.
Talking about the importance of the visit of his Majesty the King to the United States will not become complete with issues and topics related to bilateral affairs only, without addressing other issues related to the situation and developments in the region, it goes without saying that his Majesty the King carried with him the concerns of the region and the Arab nation as a whole, from the Syrian crisis and the Palestinian issue and other problems afflicting the peoples of the region, and impede their aspirations in development and stability.
With all these issues, the public has been looking closely and carefully following the Jordanian American Summit, especially that everyone consider his Majesty the King as a leader capable of clarifying the real picture of the situation,due to his realistic wisdom, statesmanship, and insightful vision of maturity and his rational approach in this important strategic area to decision makers in the United States, that possesses the capacity to influence the course of events in the world.
Jordan’s international presence is reflected in its diligence and doing its best to recruit its partnership in serving and protecting the nation's present and future, through clarifying the real picture for influential players in international decision and policy making, and gain support for Arab rights and issues of the nation, due to the high standing of his Majesty the King and his insight and high capacity in providing insights and realistic solutions that will assist in firefighting, ending strife and bring security, peace and stability for the peoples of the region, and ensure establishing the Palestinian State Besides Israel with security and peace, based on a two-State solution and the 1967 borders.
The King's visit to the United States came at a time when the region stands on the edge of a sparking volcano, and is much importance due to Jordan and his Majesty the King’s vision of the situation in the region, and his diagnosis of reality will avoid many crises afflicting the region, as those positions and visionregarding the current situation are determined to overcome obstacles,since efforts to achieve peace in the region and resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a major challenge, which needs Intensifying international efforts in order to achieve the desired progress, in addition to finding a peaceful political solution to the Syrian crisis within the framework of international law, and preserve the unity and cohesion of the Syrian people, and put an end to the violence and bloodshed.(

A call from the heart of Jerusalem… And from Al-Aqsa
Al-Quds Editorial
As is its policy and plans, the occupation Government escalates step-by step against the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, in repeated intrusions of small groups that have been increased and expanded to included Ministers and leaders of political parties, and religious groups, it even reached the extent of a meeting of the Knesset on Tuesday, to discuss the question of imposing what they call Israeli sovereignty over Al Aqsa, instead of the existing Jordanian sovereignty since before the occupation.
According to Knesset member Moshe Fieglin, who proposed the decision, there is a needed to end what he called "racism” preventing some religious from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, so there is a need legalizing the repeated intrusions in preparation for temporal and special division of Al-Aqsa, reaching what they plan in building the Temple, where previously, they prevented such visits and when Sharon made his famous to Al-Aqsa Mosque it ignited the second intifada.
What they plan for Al-Aqsa is no longer or unknown, and they keep implementing their steps as they seeArab and Muslim official silence, these incursions and plansreached a new peak inthe scheduled discussion on Tuesday at the level of legislation and laws, it does not matter if they take a decision or not, the message is clear and the even if the decision is delayed this time, it will be decided next time or afterwards.
Silence is no longer possible, we must move promptly at the highest levels to meet these challenges. The first and immediate responsibility layson the Palestinian Authority and the Jordanian Government, the officialsovereign party of Al-Aqsa before the occupation, and as a result of signed agreement between President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan regarding this issue.
There must be a joint Palestinian-Jordanian initiative seeking Arab and international action to confront these plans at the highest levels, taking decisions away from statements and warnings against any Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa Mosque.
We issue this call from the heart of Jerusalem and from Al-Aqsa, we call with to end the current political stagnation that makes the occupation persists in it practices and implementation of plans, the first kiblah and the third holiest site in Islam, is strongly threatened by real dangers.(Al-Quds)
Arab Press
Abbas considers sacking Palestinian prime minister

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s days in office are numbered, according to reliable sources in the Muqata (headquarters). The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Al-Monitor that for a convergence of reasons they expect Hamdallah to be replaced by President Mahmoud Abbas within a month.

The addition of prime minister to Abbas’ set of titles — president of Palestine and chairman of the PLO — would be in accordance with the Doha Agreement reached with the Islamist movement Hamas in February 2012 and a prelude to possible presidential and parliamentary elections.

While the change of prime minister will most certainly be in compliance with the reconciliation agreement, other problems are brewing within the Palestinian leadership that may contribute to Hamdallah's early departure.

A major dispute between the prime minister and Minister of Waqf (Religious Endowments) Mahmoud al-Habbash has received media attention. Habbash, who has extremely close ties to Abbas, angered Hamdallah regarding the status of income that is collected on behalf of the Islamic waqf. Habbash refused to turn over monies collected for rent of waqf properties, citing religious reasons.

For his part, Hamdallah, who resigned in his first days in office and later withdrew his resignation, has made it clear that he will not accept such rebellion by one of his ministers. Multiple media reports stated that the dispute has reached such a tense level that Abbas will have to choose between his prime minister and one of his most trusted confidants.

A third problem has also rocked the presidential headquarters and will most certainly have a direct effect on the staying power of the prime minister. A report in the Bethlehem-based Palestine News Network stated on Jan. 27 that Abbas drafted a presidential decree that ordered the early retirement of presidential office director Hussein al-Araj. The news item was later withdrawn and removed from the network's server, and replaced by a denial from the Palestinian presidency.

Insiders told Al-Monitor that Abbas is angry with both Araj and his own chief of staff, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, for their role in trying to reduce the sentence of one of their colleagues who was sentenced to six years in jail by a Palestinian military court for attacking a private home and shooting at its residents. Abdel Rahim, who hails from the same governorate as the Prime Minister, Tulkarm, has been the main defender of Hamdallah in the president’s office. When Hamdallah resigned after two weeks into his appointment, it was Abdel Rahim who succeeded in convincing Hamdallah to change his mind. From then, the relationship between the two only grew stronger.

Abdel Rahim is also a member of the powerful Fatah Central Committee and is said to have strong ties with a number of Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan. Abdel Rahim’s ties within Fatah and in nearby Arab countries means that it will be difficult for Abbas to let him go. Abbas and his supporters within the ruling Fatah movement hope that Abdel Rahim’s membership in the Central Committee might end this summer when Fatah holds its seventh congress and elections for its 100-member Revolutionary Council and 20-member Central Committee.

Hamdallah's fate, however, is not necessarily connected only to that of Abdel Rahim and Fatah. His role in ensuring Arab and international funding has been key to his appointment because of his record as a clean and transparent former university president. The need to keep Hamdallah, however, has been reduced lately after his government produced and approved the Palestinian government's 2014 budget. Passing the budget lessens the liability of firing Hamdallah and ensures that any new prime minister will have some financial leeway to operate from.

The pressure on Abbas to choose between Hamdallah and his close confidant Habbash, as well as the scandal around Abdel Rahim, might be a bad combination for the survival of Palestine’s current government.

The easier choice for Abbas would be to side with Habbash and weaken his powerful chief of staff simply by ending Hamdallah's premiership.

According to the 2012 Doha Agreement, Abbas is to temporarily hold the position of prime minister for both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as part of the reconciliation process, and prepare for parliamentary and presidential elections. This would provide Abbas with the political cover he needs without exposing any of his internal conflicts.

It is unlikely that Hamdallah's exit would have much effect on either the peace process or the reconciliation efforts with Hamas. Unlike his predecessor, Salam Fayyad, Hamdallah is not charismatic and has not demonstrated the persuasiveness needed to sway international donors. The reconciliation portfolio will not be affected as this issue is being handled by the president’s office and within the efforts of the ruling Fatah movement. Hamdallah is neither a member of the Fatah leadership nor does he have much say as to what happens in the president’s office. Of course, the position of the international community will depend more on who replaces Hamdallah rather than on his possible departure.(

Israeli Water, Mideast Peace?


Nuclear proliferation, religious militancy and income inequality are all major threats to Middle East stability. Sadly, a new one is brewing: water scarcity.

The human causes are clear: rapid population growth, antiquated infrastructure, the over-pumping of aquifers, inefficient crop practices and pollution from fertilizer and pesticides. Then there are the factors that climate change is accelerating, like evaporation of lakes and rivers and diminished rainfall.

One country in the region might have a solution to these water woes: Israel. It shares the same problems of climate and desertification as its neighbors, but it has mastered the management of water resources, such that it can endure periodic droughts while supporting a growing population. Its water management can not only be a model but can even reduce regional tensions.

Wasteful farming practices — in particular, flooding a field to irrigate it — are the biggest factor behind the regional water shortage. Starting in the 1960s, Israeli farmers abandoned this technique in favor of drip irrigation, which reduces the loss of water to evaporation, gets water to roots more efficiently and, critically, produces crop yields vastly greater than those with conventional irrigation. Israel also treats household sewage as a precious resource, reusing more than 80 percent of it for agriculture. In Iran and many Arab countries, sewage is dumped, which can threaten public health by contaminating wells and aquifers.

There is precedent for Israel’s helping its neighbors with water. Before 1979 —around the time it began to adopt technologies and policies that led to its current water abundance — Israel was Iran’s partner in developing its national water resources.

That cooperation began in 1962, after a severe earthquake in the Qazvin region of Iran killed more than 12,000 people. The earthquake collapsed a chain of wells that engineers had drilled in a qanat, or tunnel, style. Hundreds of thousands were at risk from lack of drinking water. Israel flew in teams of drillers. New water supplies were identified, and a series of artesian wells were drilled. The drilling was such a success that Israel’s water engineering company, today a private enterprise, was hired to identify and gain access to underground resources elsewhere in Iran.

Beginning in 1968, a desalination company owned by the Israeli government built dozens of plants in Iran. These are now aging, while Israel continues to innovate: On its Mediterranean coast, it recently opened an immense, energy-efficient desalination plant. More than half of Israel’s drinking water — purer, cleaner and less salty than natural sources — now comes from seawater.

Cooperation with Iran abruptly ended with the Islamic revolution. Indeed, the Israeli team of water experts was on one of the last direct flights from Iran to Israel in 1979.

Wars over water have been forecast as a coming threat worldwide, and the geopolitical risks can’t be discounted. Syria, ruined by civil war, and Iraq, still an epicenter of religious violence, will suffer even more, as Turkey accelerates its diversion of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to make up for its shortsighted over-pumping of once-massive Anatolian aquifers. Egypt, with 10 times Israel’s population but nearly 50 times the water available, uses water inefficiently, despite the age-old centrality of agriculture to its economy. Ethiopia, upriver to Sudan and Egypt, is asserting water rights to the Nile for its growing population, putting it in tension with Egypt. Yemen might be in the worst shape: Short of immediate, radical steps, it could be out of water in 15 years.

Because of geography and hydrology, the Palestinians’ water future is closely tied to Israel’s. In just the few years of Hamas control of Gaza, the water supply there has been polluted, and though no solution to its coming water crisis is likely without an Israeli role, Hamas has refused to cooperate with Israel.

The Palestinians in the West Bank already receive much of their water from Israel’s national water utility and, sovereignty and symbolism aside, neither a two-state solution nor a continuation of the status quo will change that. Given their proximity to Israel, the Palestinians are likely to be among the few Arab winners in the water race.

Israel’s self-sufficiency in water goes beyond irrigation, drilling, desalination and reclaimed water. It is also dependent on a sophisticated legal and regulatory structure, market mechanisms, robust public education, an obsession with fixing leaks and efforts to catch rainwater and reduce evaporation, among many other tools. Natural plant-breeding methods have raised crop yields with salty, high-mineral brackish water of the kind found, but mostly thought of as worthless, all over the Middle East. Israel has transformed water from a struggle with nature to an economic input: You can get all you want if you plan and pay for it.

No one should wish for a water crisis anywhere. But as water problems grow, one hopes that ideology will give way to pragmatism and may open a door to an Arab and Islamic outreach to Israel. A partnership that starts with engineers and extends to farmers could contribute to deal making, even reconciliation, among leaders. Rather than seeing Israel as a problem, Israel’s antagonists would be wise to see it as a solution.(

Spotlight shines on Palestinian collaborators

By Jonathan Cook

Spate of recent films addressing collaboration with Israeli agents has brought the issue out from the shadows.

Jerusalem - Fadi al-Qatshan is one of the latest casualties of a war taking place in Gaza's shadows, as Israel seeks ever more desperate ways to recruit collaborators while Hamas, the Islamic movement ruling Gaza, enforces tough counter-measures.

The 26-year-old graduate died in November. He was killed not by a bullet or in a missile strike, but when a simple piece of medical hardware - an implant in his heart - failed. His repeated requests to the Israeli authorities over more than a year to be allowed out of Gaza for medical treatment had gone unheeded.

According to his family, Israeli security services knew his life was in danger but denied him a permit to attend a medical appointment at a hospital in East Jerusalem. Gaza's own hospitals, in crisis after years of Israel's blockade, warned him they could no longer help.

Following a request for a travel permit, his family says al-Qatshan received a call from someone identifying himself as from the Shin Bet, Israel's intelligence service. Speaking in Arabic, the man said he knew the device in his heart "might explode any minute". He was urged to "cooperate" in return for a permit.

Al-Qatshan was told he could call the mobile phone number on his screen and arrange an appointment at Erez, the Israeli-controlled crossing that is the only way for ordinary Palestinians to exit Gaza. The agent reportedly rang off with the words, "See you in Tel Aviv", Israel's large coastal city. Al-Qatshan sealed his fate by deleting the number.

'Terrible choices'

Issam Yunis, director of Al-Mezan human rights organization in Gaza City, says his group regularly records cases of Palestinians in desperate need of medical treatment being approached to collaborate. "The choice for these patients is really a terrible one. It is to cooperate with Israel or die in Gaza."

Although Israel is suspected of recruiting tens of thousands of Palestinians as collaborators since its creation in 1948, the practice has rarely attracted more than superficial attention. Palestinians are ashamed that cooperation with the Israeli security services is widespread, while Israel is loath to draw attention to the systematic violations of international law at the root of its system of rule in the occupied territories.

“The choice for these patients is really a terrible one. It is to cooperate with Israel or die in Gaza.” - Issam Yunis, director of Al-Mezan human rights organization

But the issue of collaboration is finally emerging from the shadows, assisted in recent months by a spate of films addressing the subject.

In the running for an Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony next month is Omar, a Palestinian film that places the awful dilemmas faced by collaborators at the heart of its love story.

Omar nudged out of the competition Israel's own entry, Bethlehem, which features a similar story about the fraught relationship between a Shin Bet agent and a young Palestinian informant.

And last month the audience award at the Sundance Festival went to the Green Prince, an Israeli documentary based on the memoirs of Mosab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas leader in Gaza who channeled information to the Shin Bet for 10 years before fleeing to the United States. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, was recently released from an Israeli prison.

With Palestinian collaborators a hot topic in Hollywood, they are also in the spotlight in the occupied territories.

A missile strike that killed Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari in November 2012 - the opening salvo in Israel's eight-day attack on Gaza known as Operation Pillar of Defense - has been widely ascribed to intelligence provided by a collaborator.

In response, Hamas carried out public executions of several suspected informants in the streets of Gaza City, including dragging the body of one behind a motorbike.

'Tightly classified'

According to Hillel Cohen, who has researched Israel's recruitment of collaborators since the state's earliest years, the extent of the problem is difficult to assess. Israel keeps most of the archives on its intelligence operations in the occupied territories "tightly classified".

The use of collaborators, he says, was probably most extensive in the 1970s and '80s, before Israel handed over areas of the occupied territories to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo Accords and before the advent of today's more sophisticated surveillance technology.

Nonetheless, the practice has far from ended.

"Israel still needs people on the ground," says Cohen. "If they want to place a bomb in a car or supply a phone with a hidden tracking device, someone has to do it. The technology can only help so much."

According to Saleh Abdel Jawwad, a politics professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, there are many different types of collaborators.

In East Jerusalem, for example, where Israel hopes to prevent any future Palestinian control of the city, a feature of life are the "land dealers", Palestinians who buy land in strategic areas, secretly on behalf of settler organizations.

Israel also uses economic collaborators, who, for example, act as contractors for Israel in selling its products in the occupied territories. Israel has also tried to recruit political collaborators, in an effort to place them in charge of Palestinian communities or weaken candidates Israel opposed.

But Israel prizes most highly the recruitment of active members of Palestinian national organizations, who can provide reliable information on resistance operations or the movements of Palestinian leaders.

Typically, these collaborators are "turned" after their arrest. They may agree to cooperate under torture or as a way to receive a reduced prison sentence, said Morad Jadalah, a researcher with Addameer, a prisoners' rights organization in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Children recruited

But the most common type of collaborator is the informant, who provides general information about the activities of political groups or the movement of individual activists, as well as the names of those taking part in demonstrations.

Jadalah says when Palestinians are arrested, as they try to cross a checkpoint or during a raid on their village, the weakest and most vulnerable - often children - are targeted during interrogation with a mix of threats, violence and inducements.

Long jail terms and the use of administrative detention - imprisonment on secret charges - are the most obvious threats, but there are other ways to pressure Palestinians in detention, says Jadalah.

"The interrogators may beat them, or threaten to beat or rape their mother or sister, or arrest a close relative. They usually already know something about the family, so they can threaten, for example, to revoke the father's work permit. They may even threaten to spread rumors that the family is already acting as informants."

In other cases, the Israeli security services may offer inducements. "Israel controls most people's lives, including their ability to work and move around. Between 30 and 40 per cent of adults are unemployed. That gives Israel the leverage it needs to recruit collaborators."

According to Jadalah, the Israeli security services usually want general information about the neighborhood where the collaborator lives, or details about a specific person.

Reports suggest in recent years the Shin Bet has been using arrested children to gain information about the leaders of non-violent resistance movements in the West Bank. They have shown special interest in villages such as Bilin, Nabi Saleh and Budrus where well-publicized protests are trying to stop Israel's efforts to build the separation barrier on Palestinian land.

Cohen says the benefit to Israel of controlling an extensive network of collaborators is not limited to the information they pass on.

"It encourages the atomization of Palestinian society. It fosters mistrust within the society and between members of the political movements. When everyone becomes a potential suspect, political passivity is encouraged. That is, in fact, the main goal."

'Infiltrated society'

Yunis, of Al-Mezan, agrees: "We are an infiltrated society. When there is so much suspicion, organized and effective resistance to the occupation becomes extremely hard."

In addition, Jadalah blames the Palestinian Authority for setting a bad example. "When it is clear that our leaders are working with Israel on 'security cooperation' and that they look to Israel for protection, a very powerful message is sent to Palestinian society that only Israel can offer such guarantees."

Hamas, apparently fearful of its inability to organize in the face of extensive collaboration, has officially waged war on Gaza's informants.

Early last year it offered a brief amnesty to existing collaborators, many of them recruited before Israel's 2005 disengagement, allowing them to turn themselves in in return for lenient sentences and financial help for their families. However, it has vowed a policy of zero tolerance since.

Faced with a shrinking pool of collaborators in Gaza, says Yunis, Israel has increased its use of electronic surveillance, especially drones. But it has sought new ways to recruit collaborators too.

That includes exploiting increased opportunities to reach Palestinians in Gaza indirectly, through social media. In particular, youngsters, often those without jobs or whose families are in dire need, are approached via Facebook or receive a call to their mobile phone.

"The caller might introduce himself as a businessman and says he can help them to get a permit out of Gaza. Once they attend the meeting, they are ensnared," says Yunis.

Fishermen are also reported to have been targeted since Israel tightly limited the extent of the waters they are allowed to fish. When they cross out of that zone, they can be picked up by a naval patrol and taken for interrogation in Israel. There they can be pressured to turn informant.

'Desperate' situation

But the most wrenching cases, says Hamdi Shaqura, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, occur with patients such as al-Qatshan who need urgent medical treatment.

Because they are among the few cases that Israel still treats as humanitarian, they and the relative that accompanies them present the Shin Bet with a rare opportunity to try to recruit a collaborator directly.

"These permits from Israel become a tool for blackmail. It is a serious violation of international law. Because Israel still occupies Gaza, the welfare of these patients is fully its responsibility. Israel is obligated to facilitate their movement and access to proper healthcare."

According to the World Health Organization, about 150 patients from Gaza were called for a security interrogation by the Shin Bet last year, including a 16-year-old girl in November. In most cases they were denied a permit afterwards.

"When things are so desperate, it is easier to persuade the family, including the children, to continue working for the intelligence services."- Yadin Elam, Israeli human rights lawyer

Israel also arrested five patients at Erez and six of their companions over the course of last year. They included Mohammed Saber Abu-Amsha, a 33-year-old patient with damage to his eyes, who has been held in prison in Israel since his arrest on December 4.

Amal Ziada, a researcher for Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, said her organization was hoping to launch a new campaign to raise awareness among the Israeli public of the pressures being used against medical patients.

That included lobbying members of the Israeli parliament and taking high-profile cases to the Israeli Supreme Court.

"What these patients go through is a kind of torture," she said. "The danger is that some of them avoid seeking medical treatment because they are afraid. They are worried about being arrested, or the suspicion among other Palestinians that they may have collaborated if they receive a permit."

Guy Inbar, spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli military unit that coordinates civilian matters in the occupied territories, said he awarded permits to Palestinians for medical treatment based only on medical need and the applicant's security record.

A senior Israeli security official said the accusation that Israel used the permit system to recruit collaborators was "baseless". "There have been many recent instances where terror organizations have manipulated people needing humanitarian help so that they assist in carrying out terror operations."

According to an Israeli human rights lawyer, Yadin Elam, most of the collaborators whose cover are blown and manage to flee the occupied territories do not receive the warm welcome in Israel they may have expected.

Israeli authorities divide collaborators into two groups, he says. Important collaborators, categorized as sayanim, or helpers, fall under the responsibility of the defense ministry and receive a salary and status inside Israel.

But most collaborators who reach Israel - numbering a few hundred, according to Elam - are classified simply as "threatened people", referring to the fact that they might be killed if they return to Palestinian areas.

Elam says Palestinians in this latter category are usually left in a desperate situation, sometimes given a temporary permit to stay for a few months, but denied permits for their immediate family or the right to work. Typically they live underground in Israel with their families and drift into crime.

Elam says these collaborators' insecurity, and their frequent arrests, provide an ideal opportunity for Israel to keep up the pressure.

"When things are so desperate, it is easier to persuade the family, including the children, to continue working for the intelligence services."(

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