Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

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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Apr 03 2014

Abbas turns tables in peace talks with UN move

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

It is not clear whether it was by design or by accident that there is a one-month period between the scheduled date of the fourth Palestinian prisoner release by Israel and the end of the nine-month Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Regardless, Palestinians recognized that the month of April provided them with a unique opportunity to be unshackled from the commitments they made not to join UN agencies before the end of the peace talk timetable.

As Al-Monitor reported as a possibility, Palestinians on April 1 carried out their threat to join UN agencies if Israel failed to release the final 26 prisoners from the 104 that it had agreed to free in return for the Palestinian’s withholding their applications. This is the second time that Israel has reneged on the release of these long-term prisoners, whose incarceration predates the Oslo Accord. Article 3 of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, signed in September 1999, clearly states that these prisoners are to be released.

After the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signaled its approval in a unanimous vote, PLO Chairman and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed documents to join UN agencies in a public ceremony at the Muqata in Ramallah. When completed, the process will prepare the groundwork for a possible Palestinian international lawsuit against the ongoing Israeli occupation and colonization of the lands of the state of Palestine. Continue Reading »

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Apr 02 2014

Palestinians want real change for peace talks to proceed

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The delay of the release of the fourth tranche of Palestinian prisoners and Israel’s bait that it will do so only if the Palestinians agree to extend the talks has failed to get a bite from Palestinian negotiators.

The Palestinians have repeatedly said that the agreement at the start of the nine-month negotiations was that in return for Palestine refraining from joining UN agencies, the Israelis would release 104 long-term prisoners. The prisoners talked about have already served more than 20 years in jail and their release had been agreed to in September 1999 and recorded in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, a copy of which continues to exist on the Israeli Knesset website.

The fact that the Palestinians agreed to make a deal for their release, again, was an act of benevolence and a show of good faith to get the talks started. The idea that the last batch of prisoners be divided between those who have Israeli citizenship or residency and those whose residency is directly connected to the Palestinian government is also unacceptable to Palestinian leaders.

To break the logjam, Israel and the United States are trying new ideas, such as adding more prisoners to be released to the remaining 26 prisoners in return for an agreement by the Palestinian leadership to extend the talks a further six months. Again, the Palestinians are stubbornly opposing any change or compromise on an agreement already made. Continue Reading »

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Mar 30 2014

British minister opposes arming Syrian rebels

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN, Jordan — Hugh Robertson, Britain’s minister of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, has opposed calls to arm the Syrian rebels, instead insisting that all sides need to return to the negotiating table.

“Generally speaking if you want to end a war, arming both sides is not the way to do it,” he told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview on March 26, on the sidelines of his tour of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Robertson noted that Britain has additional motivation for peace because of the presence of some 400 British jihadists that are fighting in Syria. “This increases the importance of a political settlement in Syria. Without it, there will be instability, which will increase extremism and bring about an increase of jihadists.”

On the Palestinian peace process, Robertson noted that his government does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and does not back demands for Palestinians to do so.

Robertson admitted that the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip amounts to collective punishment, but laid the blame for the humanitarian situation on Hamas, which he called a “terrorist” organization. “The single best thing to alleviate the situation in Gaza is to have progress in the peace talks,” he said.

Talking about US President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Robertson stressed the need for the West to “stand by our traditional allies” in the Gulf, noting that Gulf states felt an “existential threat” posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

When asked if success over Iran’s nuclear talks would result in greater pressure on Israel over its nuclear program, Robertson said it had not been mentioned. Continue Reading »

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Mar 30 2014

Palestinians stand firm on prisoner release

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

When Palestinian leaders agreed to suspend their efforts to join various United Nations agencies last summer, the United States assured them that all 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners held by Israel would be released. This was not the first time that the United States had made such a promise. At the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh summit, attended by US, Egyptian, Palestinian and Israeli leaders, agreement was reached that these particular prisoners would be released. Nothing happened, however, until last year, when US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a quid pro quo. Palestinian prisoners would be released in return for Palestine suspending its bid to join UN agencies. Failure to release the prisoners would relieve the Palestinians of their commitment.

The Israelis keep trying to get something new for the same goods. In fact, Israeli attempts to sell the same goods more than once are at the center of a dispute that could blow up this fragile agreement. Israeli officials, including Tzipi Livni, justice minister and head of negotiations, now want the Palestinians to commit to the continuation of the peace talks after the April 29 deadline in return for Israel releasing the last tranche of prisoners. Palestinian officials have rejected this request and warn that they will restart their efforts to join some 63 international agencies if the Israelis carry out their threat not to release the prisoners by the end of March. Continue Reading »

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