Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Sep 01 2015

Palestinian National Council gets new life in Amman

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — The man sitting outside the plush villa in west Amman looks like an old fighter. Security does not appear to be of much concern in Deir Ghbar, a stable Amman suburb and location of several embassies and diplomatic residences. The chain-smoking guard waves visitors through, into the house of Salim Zanoun, speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the highest parliamentary body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and then directs them to Zanoun’s office on the second floor. There’s no metal detector, no body search.

 The office is full of black-and-white photographs of Zanoun with founders of the Fatah movement, among them Khalil Wazir (Abu Jihad), Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) and especially the late Yasser Arafat. A Palestinian flag is perched behind the large office desk, and a huge photo of Jerusalem’s golden Dome of the Rock covers the wall behind it.

Zanoun, a lawyer by training, had on Aug. 26 expressed his unhappiness with the tactics of his fellow founder of Fatah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is trying to push through an emergency meeting of the PLO’s highest body, the Executive Committee, to reshuffle it to his advantage. Zanoun made his position known to the newly selected secretary-general of the PLO’s Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, and later to Abbas. Zanoun and Abbas met alone in Amman Aug. 26. Continue Reading »

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Sep 01 2015

The status quo continues as the ‘two state’ solution collapses

Al ARABIYA News Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

A professional friend who teaches how to produce a highly entertaining TV talk show gives the following advice: begin with those who espouse the most extreme opinions and then conclude with the rational moderate centrist ones.

This advice of the talk show trainer is no longer relevant in the Middle East. The moderate rational centrist point of view has long disappeared from political discussion. All speakers are radical and the moderate political center has long collapsed.

Take for example the Palestinian Israeli conflict. The rational opinion is that the two state solution – Israel and Palestine – on roughly the 1967 borders is the most acceptable way out of the decades old conflict. But other than lip service of world leaders, this solution is nowhere close to reality. Continue Reading »

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Aug 26 2015

The not so independent Parliament

Published by under Articles,Jordan

Jordan times logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The independence of the three branches of the state is the bedrock of democracy. In Jordan, this independence, while guaranteed by the Constitution, one can still witness the inference of the executive branch.

Simply following the Parliament deliberations, which are being broadcast by a local NGO live on YouTube and by Radio Al Balad (ironically not on any of the many publicly owned TV and radio stations) demonstrates this problem.

Subcommittees’ amendments to the government-issued laws are routinely denied, making the process of turning draft laws to a subcommittee a farce and a waste of time and effort by individuals elected from the Parliament plenary itself.

The ineffectiveness of Parliament is reflected in the way members deal with one of its members who was elected on a national party list.

Rula Hroub, from the “Jordan is strong” party, is perhaps one of the most active members of Parliament. She has something smart to say at every session of Parliament. Her interventions are logical and her recommendations for text changes are practical, yet almost every single idea she presents in the House is voted down without any idea why.

Few argue convincingly against her ideas, yet when the speaker of the House calls for a vote, her suggestions repeatedly fail to get the needed votes. The situation has become so predictable that she started to begin her deliberations by saying: “I know this will not pass, but I need to say this for the record.” Continue Reading »

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Aug 24 2015

How one West Bank mosque is reconnecting with local Palestinians

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Azmi Shuokhi has been on a mission for some time now. As the head of the local popular committees for Hebron, he has been trying to convince fellow Hebronites not to abandon the Ibrahimi Mosque. His idea is simple and peaceful: He wants all the Palestinians of the city to hold their social events — especially weddings — on the mosque’s grounds.

 Shuokhi, who is also the head of the consumer protection committee in the city, doesn’t just talk about his idea, he practices it. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Shuokhi explained that he has applied his theory in his own family.

Shuokhi held his own son’s wedding at the Ibrahimi Mosque and invited the local boy scouts to participate in the celebration with their drums and bagpipes. The wedding celebrations were filmed and posted on YouTube May 2. Even the his grandson’s circumcision was celebrated at the mosque Aug. 14.

Shuokhi’s call for increased visits to the mosque aims to stem the tide of Jewish settlers trying to isolate Muslims from the mosque.

Hebron, with a population of over 250,000 people, is the largest Palestinian city and competes with Nablus as the commercial capital of the West Bank. Its population generates about 30% of the West Bank’s economy. Continue Reading »

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Aug 21 2015

The Iran Deal Appears to Have Eased Some of the Conflict in the Middle East

Published by under Arab Issues,Articles

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

AMMAN — Contrary to the claims of Israel and U.S. Republicans, the P5+1 agreement with Iran has eased, not exacerbated, the boiling conflicts in the Middle East. Within a short period of time, a silver lining is appearing in the bloody Syrian civil war.

The legitimate Yemeni powers are retaking large sections of south Yemen without any reaction from the Iranians, who many claimed would move to support the Houthis. In Iraq, the prime minister has passed the most wide-ranging anti-corruption law in parliament, without the Iranians meddling in the affairs of their neighbor, whose leaders happen to be fellow Shiites.

The Libyan conflict also appears to be moving towards a diplomatic resolution as all parties are now meeting in Geneva under UN auspices. The Islamic republic of Iran has not delayed these diplomatic solutions; on the contrary, it appears to have been encouraging them.

Iran and Russia are working together with the aim of finding a political solution to end the Syrian conflict. While various regional conflicts appear to be on their way to being resolved, it is very hard to make a direct connection between the P5+1 agreement with Iran and the easing of these crises. A 48-hour ceasefire was declared in many Syrian cities and was even extended. Continue Reading »

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Aug 20 2015

Palestinian official denies Abbas resignation rumors

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Mohammad Shtayyeh, president of the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, said that the Palestinians’ current political strategy is focused on making Israel pay a price for the occupation of Palestinian lands, while at the same time finding ways to disengage from it economically and at the security level. In response to the Israeli government’s refusal to consider a political horizon, he said, “We will work with various international institutions, such as the United Nations Security Council, as well as world parliaments with the aim of reaching a time-based, end of occupation agreement.”

Shtayyeh, who had been a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid peace talks in October 1991, said that special efforts are being made in Europe to lead Israel to change course politically. He stated, “We are asking European countries to ask dual national settlers to leave the occupied territories, since they are living on stolen, occupied land.”

The senior Palestinian official expressed support for the Iran nuclear deal with the international community and called for a similar agreement to open Israeli nuclear facilities to inspection. He predicted that Iran will have a positive political role in the region, asserting, “The Iran deal is causing changes to Iranian policy; some of these changes are on the Palestinian front, and we want a healthy relationship with Iran.” According to Shtayyeh, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Iran in the next few months to stress the need for Tehran to support the Palestinian cause, not just one faction.

Also a senior member of Fatah, Shtayyeh told Al-Monitor that the movement’s seventh congress will be held Nov. 29, 2015, in Ramallah. He further stated, “This congress will be unique, and we are working on the political platform to be presented to the members for approval.” Shtayyeh is considered a possible contender to assume the top spot in Palestinian politics, but he declined to speak in depth about the issue of succession to the 80-year-old Abbas. He said the subject is only being discussed in the media, asserting, “Rumors about his resignation are not true.”

The text of the interview follows: Continue Reading »

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Aug 19 2015

Time to solve some bridge problems

Jordan times logo

Following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The decades-old conflict with Israel and the aftereffects of the Israeli occupation of what was Jordanian land in the West Bank continue to be a source of hardships and problems for individuals and businesspeople on both sides of the Jordan River.

Attempts to resolve the many problems that continue to reverberate as a result of the 1967 occupation of the West Bank whether by individuals, organisations or foreign country representatives are met with huge difficulties.

Be it the bridge policy, trade issues, the special status of East Jerusalemites or Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian trade, all these issues are faced with immense bureaucracy.

Jordan, like the rest of the world which does not recognise the Israeli occupation, translates this lack of recognition into not treating the King Hussein Bridge as part of an international border.

What applies to movement of people and goods at any other border crossing does not apply on Jordan’s only crossing point into the West Bank. But this lack of legal and political recognition does not make the crossing point any different. Individuals, diplomats, businesspeople and representatives of international organisations cross the bridge in both directions and often have to go through legal and administrative hoops to make this trip easier. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

Israelis lean right toward one-state solution

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Of all the Israelis who spoke out against the burning of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma near Nablus, the voice of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin seemed the most sincere.

 Speaking at a rally in Jerusalem on Aug. 1, the Israeli president rejected the idea that this was an isolated case with no context to it. “Every society has extremist fringes, but today we have to ask: What is it in the public atmosphere that allows extremism and extremists to walk in confidence, in broad daylight?” he asked. American writer Peter Beinart later wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz on Aug. 5 that Rivlin accepted moral responsibility while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “denied and lied about incitement including his own.” This was the clearest accusation against Netanyahu of responsibility for what happened.

But beyond Rivlin’s humanistic exterior is a senior Israeli official who is an ardent supporter of the total annexation of the West Bank to Israel. Rivlin’s actions don’t hide the fact that he, like many in his and Netanyahu’s Likud Party, has a much more radical plan for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The idea of a Jewish one-state solution has been detailed by a member of the current Netanyahu government. Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party (HaBayit HaYehudi) gave specific information in an article published in the Times of Israel of how he would impose such a state starting with annexing Area C. That his party didn’t do so well in the last elections has largely weakened his party, but the idea of a one-state Jewish Israel continues to be reiterated by many Israelis, including many in the presiding Likud Party, the government and the presidency. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

American Palestinians speak out about denied entry to Israel

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Over the course of a few days in July, three US citizens of Palestinian descent were denied entry into Israel. All three have published detailed testimonials of their experiences.

 George Khoury, professor and theologian, has been a naturalized US citizen since 1975. His visit to Israel as part of a religious pilgrimage in late July ended in the detention center at Ben Gurion Airport. For Israeli airport security, the problem was that 46 years ago, in 1969, Khoury had lived in the West Bank city of Beit Jala while he studied at its well-known Latin Seminary. While Khoury, 70, has been a US citizen for over 40 years now, he is still treated as a Palestinian national by the Israeli airport authorities.

In the early morning hours of July 21, Khoury was taken by car to a detention center outside the airport, where he was held for over a day before being rushed back to the airport to catch a departing flight. It then appeared that the security officials thought he was another detainee called Carlos. When they realized he wasn’t Carlos, they brought him back to the detention center where he had to wait for his flight. Khoury was eventually deported back to San Francisco, arriving late on July 23, without having been allowed during the layover in Italy to get his passport and travel to Jordan. He had hoped he could enter the West Bank via the Jordan River crossing or at least continue the Jordanian leg of the pilgrimage he was on.

On July 29, Khoury published the exchanges he had with Israeli passport control officers and the guards at the detention center. Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2015

Is Islamic State threatening Jerusalem’s Christians?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Some members of Jerusalem’s small Palestinian Christian community were worried for a while this summer by what appeared to be threat from Islamic State sympathizers ordering them to vacate East Jerusalem or be killed. The threat turned out to be nothing but hot air.

Concern began to emerge June 28, when leaflets bearing IS’ insignia appeared in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, calling on Christians to leave the city during Ramadan or be massacred on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, the feast at the conclusion of the holy month of fasting.

The Tarazi family has been part of the Greek Orthodox Church for centuries. Margo Tarazi, who works in a family-run tour agency in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that she was never much worried by the threat. “We Palestinians are united and aware, and this kind of thing doesn’t shake us,” she said.

The Palestinian leadership seemed to have reached a similar conclusion. In the weekly cabinet meeting held June 30, the government emphasized the unity of the Palestinian people. It did not stoop to mention the threatening leaflet itself, but the press statement issued after the session denounced the “dubious announcement seeking to harm the unity of the people and to incite a struggle in the holy city.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor that the leaflet was most likely “planted,” arguing that more than 93% of Palestinians are opposed to IS. In an email exchange with Al-Monitor, she stated, “There are those who would like to exploit such a hateful phenomenon for their own ends: raising the spectre of sectarianism in Palestine — a place that has always been pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant — creating a sense of insecurity and fear among Palestinian Christians, particularly in Jerusalem, as a means for the further ethnic cleansing of the city.”  Continue Reading »

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