Apr 24 2014

PCC to determine fate of talks

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Whenever the PLO’s parliament in exile is called to meet, one expects important decisions. This time, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) will meet in Ramallah on Saturday to decide two critical issues: The future of talks with Israel and elections for president and parliament of Palestine.

The 120-member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is considered an integral feature (but not the main one) of the PLO’s Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is considered the highest body in the organisation.

Planning the meeting of the PCC on April 26 is no coincidence. It will begin deliberations a mere three days before the expiry of the nine-month time frame agreed to by Israelis, Palestinians and the US.

The face-to-face secret talks have not produced any tangible results. A nonbiding bridging framework formula was supposed to be presented by the Americans, but was suddenly withdrawn.

Palestinians rejected an open-ended presence of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley and demanded a clear reference to East Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state.

Israel rejected the American military plan for the Jordan Valley and insisted that Palestinians recognise Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

Attempts to get the talks extended were abruptly disrupted when the Israelis unilaterally decided not to release the fourth batch of the 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, as well as the Israeli announcement of further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope will be the capital of their independent state. Continue Reading »

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Apr 23 2014

Abbas unlikely to dissolve Palestinian Authority

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinians skeptical of the Oslo process have for years been complaining that it has served only to relieve Israel of its obligations as an occupying force, instead of producing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. This has led to repeated calls for thedissolution of the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority (PA).

Empowering a population and allowing it to practice a certain level of self-determination was seen as an initial accomplishment that would serve as a bridge toward total independence. The recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which prior to Oslo had been outlawed as a terrorist organization, and the return of Palestinian leaders and families were seen by many as a partial implementation of the right of return.

For Israel, the Oslo process provided major relief for its occupation forces, freeing them from having to guard populated Palestinian cities. The division of Palestinian-controlled territory into Areas A, B and C was tolerated within a temporary, five-year transition plan. Extending it to more than 20 years was never part of the original deal signed on the White House lawn in 1993. Continue Reading »

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Apr 22 2014

Palestinian Central Council to decide on peace talks

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Some of the most important decisions that the Palestinians need to take are expected to come out of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC), due to meet on April 26.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) second-highest legislative body will meet in Ramallah to decide on the peace process and on presidential and parliamentary elections, according to Hanna Amireh, PLO executive committee member.

A last-minute effort is being made by the Ramallah-based PLO leadership to encourage Gaza-based pro-Hamas legislators to attend this important meeting, even though the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) has not yet officially joined the PLO. A high-level delegation from the West Bank will visit Gaza on April 21.

The PCC meeting will take place three days before the end of the nine-month US-led peace talks. This timing is aimed at giving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas maximum negotiating leverage. Direct talks have continued despite the Israeli failure to release the remaining prisoners and the signing on by the state of Palestine to 15 international treaties and conventions. The talks have focused on the extension of the peace talks for another year or at least until the end of 2014. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2014

Easter Festivities and Restrictions in Jerusalem

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By Daoud Kuttab

The dwindling Palestinian Christian population celebrated Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and even in Gaza. Eastern and Western Christian calendars were united this year, bringing larger numbers to the celebrations than usual. Israel again this year issued permits for Palestinian Christians from nearby Bethlehem and Ramallah to enter Jerusalem to celebrate the Easter festivities.

This season witnessed an increase in Egyptian Coptic pilgrims to Jerusalem. Air Sinai, which used to run four flights a week, increased them to 12, bringing 547 pilgrims to participate in the Easter celebrations.Press reports said that the number of pilgrims participating in Palm Sunday celebrations this year was more than double last year. Some 30,000 are reported to have participated, compared to 12,000 last year.Clergymen in Jerusalem say that the main reason for the increase is that Palm Sunday this year was celebrated on the same day by Christians who belong to the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches.In Gaza, Orthodox Bishop Alexas led the tiny Christian Palestinian congregation in celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one week before his crucifixion.The traditional Palm Sunday celebrations follow the same route that Jesus took some 2,000 years ago, starting from the Mount of Olives neighbourhood of Beit Ania, down past the Church of Gethsemane and up to the old city via the Lion Gate. Boy scouts from various local Palestinian Christian churches usually participate in the pageantry, along with believers, church leaders, tourists and lay persons. Palm Sunday marchers on the traditional path carry branches of palm trees and sing hymns as they remember the days leading to Easter Sunday.Easter in Jerusalem is quite special; various churches and religious denominations hold events, church services and colorful pageants throughout the Passion Week.Greek and Cypriot pilgrims who often stay with local Palestinian Christians participate in these events leading to the Easter morning when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2014

Lone-wolf attacks on Israeli settlers increase

AlMonitor By Daoud Kuttab

The April 13 attack against an Israeli vehicle traveling near the Palestinian city of Hebron killed one Israeli soldier, who was traveling as a civilian settler with his family. This action appears to reflect a new Palestinian military strategy that will be harder to control.

Ever since the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the Palestinian Authority, a serious and continuous security coordination effort has taken place. With help from US military and intelligence services, Palestinian-Israeli cooperation has succeeded mostly in stemming the tide of organized attacks against Israel and Israeli settlers. Not only has Abbas reined in his own Fatah militants, but the newly developed Palestinian security and intelligence service made sure that all Palestinian factions — whether left-wing groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or Islamists such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad — are under total surveillance in the West Bank.

But while all known organized groups have either refrained or been prevented from carrying out armed attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, this tight control seems to evade individual attacks. Many Palestinians who have a personal grudge because a relative or a close friend was killed or imprisoned by Israel can and do carry out individual attacks whenever they can and whenever they feel the time is appropriate. Continue Reading »

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Apr 14 2014

The real story on Palestine’s UN treaties

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to join some 15 international treaties will not have any major, direct effect on Israel. Despite the Israeli hoopla about the April 1 accession of Palestine to various international treaties, none of the treaties have any direct impact on the status of the occupied territories.

Palestine committed itself in these treaties to various human rights conventions as well as laws of war treaties. International jurists argue that these treaties actually place more liabilities on the Palestinian government and have absolutely no effect on Israel and its status as the occupying power.

Not only were the Israelis upset with Abbas’ decision — which seemingly has little impact on them — but so was the United States, a supposed global champion for human rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) was so stunned by what America’s UN envoy Samantha Power told Congress that they issued a statement criticizing the US position. HRW said that the United States should “support rather than oppose” Palestinians joining human rights treaties. Continue Reading »

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Apr 14 2014

Peace talks’ failure may boost Palestinian nonviolent resistance

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As Palestinian and Israeli negotiators struggle to extend the peace talks beyond the April 30 deadline, the need for a shift in liberation strategy is quickly becoming a priority.

Two distinct movements are emerging as a possible Palestinian plan B. Neither is based on violence as a viable way to reach independence — a reflection of a lack of faith in the armed struggle. Military resistance groups still remain, but they don’t appear to have any serious, workable plans to change the status quo.

Inside Palestine, various nonviolent popular resistance movements are actively working to highlight oppressive Israeli practices with a focus on the wall built deep in Palestinian territory. Outside Palestine, the most active movement is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Both kinds of movements include Palestinian and non-Palestinian supporters, and both operate under a decentralized leadership, allowing autonomous activities for those expressing solidarity with it.

Neither the BDS movement nor the anti-wall resistance have reached the strength to become an actual game changer. But this can shift quickly if the peace talks collapse and the bulk of Palestinian anti-Israeli efforts are shifted to these movements. Continue Reading »

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Apr 08 2014

Abbas catches Israel off guard

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

No sooner had Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas signed letters of accession to 15 international treaties than Israel began spinning various myths to explain how this came to be. Israeli officials and commentators were in shock while trying to justify how their Palestinian partner could do something without Israel’s prior approval. Abbas appears to have caught the Israelis off guard by signing documents that allow Palestine to join UN bodies and treaties to regulate the rights of a state under occupation, the workings of diplomats and the conventions protecting the rights of women and children.

In trying to explain what happened, Israeli officials and pundits spun and presented almost every conceivable argument except the obvious. That Israel had clearly reneged on an agreement with the Palestinians totally escaped Israeli officials and their spin doctors.

Few remember that the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners was an idea introduced late in the process of resuming peace talks. The original idea was that Israel agree to a framework for negotiations and suspend settlement activities. Israel refused, however, to accept that the aim of the talks was to reach a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. This led to a search for a side, confidence-building agreement. To get past this deadlock, a quid pro quo was suggested: 104 Palestinians imprisoned since before the Oslo Accords — and whose release had already been agreed to in the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum — would be released in return for the Palestinian leadership suspending following up on Palestine’s recognition at the United Nations as a non-member observer state and ascending to various international bodies and treaties. Continue Reading »

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Apr 08 2014

Palestinian radio programs help prisoner morale

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

“Brother Murad, I want to say something to my brother in jail,” says a female voice.

“Go ahead,” Murad al-Sabi replies warmly.

“My dear brother Sameh, I’m sorry no one was able to come to see you. The Israelis didn’t give your brothers permission. I was supposed to see you today, but the Israelis turned me back at the Howara checkpoint. Don’t worry, I have already booked with the Red Cross for the next visit on April 8. Hope to see you then. Take care of yourself. My greetings to your friends, the heroes Ahmad, Ali and Louay and all of the brave men of Palestine. The chains will one day be shattered. Keep your heads up.”

“This is Um Qusai. I am the mother of the prisoner Ahmad Ali, and I want to wish him greetings on behalf of our entire family. We heard from our friends who visited Ofer prison that you were not feeling well. I hope you are better now. I want to tell you the latest on the wedding plans for Nisreen. We have booked a wedding hall for next Saturday for your sister’s wedding. Your brother Numan in Germany will not be able to come, but we expect a happy occasion.”

“Hello Abu Ahmad, this is Qassem. I want to send my greetings to my sister Ala’a and all the heroic Palestinian prisoners held in Hasharon prison. We are fine. Your sister just returned from Amman and she sends her greetings. Her son got a scholarship to study medicine at Jordan University.” Continue Reading »

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Apr 03 2014

Palestinian negotiators multitask

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Modern technological development has brought with it the term multitasking, a term that replaced the popular “Can you chew and walk at the same time”.

Palestinian negotiators are now facing the tough challenge of applying to join various UN agencies while, at the same time, agreeing, in theory, to continue peace talks until the end of April.

The action was publicly demonstrated by President Mahmoud Abbas who signed, on Tuesday, a document allowing the state of Palestine to join 15 different UN agencies.

Until recently, it was believed that Palestinians had to choose between joining international agencies and participating in the negotiations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had extracted a commitment from Palestinians to refrain from such actions in return for Israel’s release of 104 Palestinian prisoners who have spent more than 20 years in Israeli jails.

The release of those prisoners, held since before the start of the Oslo peace process, was agreed to during the Sharm El Sheikh agreement signed in September 1999. Continue Reading »

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