Archive for the 'Articles' Category

Jul 23 2015

Israel’s small but genuine peace camp

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Their numbers might be small but their presence is, and should be, publicly acknowledged and encouraged. They are the small group of dedicated Israelis who make it their goal to be present physically to express solidarity with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

They are regularly sharing with the people of Bilin, Nabi Saleh or Nilin their Friday protests against the separation wall and settlements.

Now they are present in the south Hebron village of Suisia, supporting Palestinians whose presence is being threatened by oppressive Israeli measures. The culprit this time is the Israeli army itself which is eager to use the lightly populated area as military target practice. They probably prefer Suisia to locations in the Negev because it is close to their homes and more comfortable than the hot desert!

Israelis who show solidarity with Palestinians often face dual discrimination. By taking a strong and public stand with Palestinians they are automatically in the minority in a country that was built on military power and is focused on the love and adoration of its army. While it is true that many Israelis don’t very much like the radical settlers that the army is protecting, nevertheless, these peace activists are on the fringe because they are courageous enough to confront their own soldiers and provide protection for Palestinians by their mere presence. Continue Reading »

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Jul 21 2015

Iran Deal Could Help Palestinian Cause


Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict might get an unexpected shot in the arm as a result of the recently concluded Iran nuclear agreement.

While the P5+1 talks in Vienna focused only on the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability, many are looking for how this agreement will effect regional conflicts. Some of the harshest critics of the deal accuse the Obama administration of making an agreement with what is described as the world’s “leading supporter of terrorism” without dealing with many of the Middle East’s regional issues.

Although those making these accusations have no interest increasing the pressure on Israel, this might be exactly what will possibly happen.

Political posturing has consequences, and the possible success of Obama’s foreign policies over warmongering hawks will not be lost on anyone in Washington.

Last March, the U.S. capital witnessed a rare and unusual event. The prime minister of a foreign country went to the podium of the U.S. congress and bad-mouthed a sitting president in cooperation with his political domestic opponents. This act by Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu will certainly have consequences if and when President Obama will sign the Iran Nuclear deal despite objections of his Republican opponents and right wing Israelis. Continue Reading »

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Jul 14 2015

Why is Israel trying to shut down this Palestinian TV station?


By Daoud Kuttab

When writer-lawyer Sabri Jiryis wrote in 1968 his research about the 165,000 non-Jews that remained in their country when Israel was created in 1948, he called his book “The Arabs in Israel.”

 For many years, the national identity of non-Jewish Arab citizens of Israel has been in flux. They are usually called “Israeli Arabs.” Arabs, including those of nearby Jordan, call them 1948 Arabs. But in recent years, they have settled on the term Palestinian citizens of Israel as the agreed-upon identity for themselves. According to the Israeli Statistics Bureau, Palestinian citizens in Israel today number 1.7 million, 20.7% of the state’s 8.3 million citizens.

When the Palestinian Broadcasting Corp. (PBC) decided to dedicate one of its many satellite stations to Israel’s Arab population, it called the new station F48, angering the right-wing Israeli government. The Falastin 48 station was begun during a June 17news conference on the eve of Ramadan in Nazareth and in the presence of Ramallah-based Palestinian government Communications Minister Riad al-Hassan. Israeli media reported June 18 that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the station to be shut down, although nothing specifically was done to close it.

For years, Palestine TV has dedicated some programming to its Palestinian brethren in Israel, and it was well-received. So the station decided to dedicate one of its many channels to them. The main F48 satellite is based in Cairo, with studios in Ramallah and Nazareth contributing to it. So no licensing is needed from Israel.

On July 9, Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan issued an order announcing that the new station is illegal and not allowed to operate in Israel. While the station targets Palestinian citizens of Israel, its ownership and financial support lie outside of Ramallah. Continue Reading »

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Jul 12 2015

Palestinian leadership faces foggy future


By Daoud Kuttab

The June 30 decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was swift, but the meaning and ramifications of it might be long lasting. The secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, was relieved of his role and later replaced by another executive committee member, Saeb Erekat, based on Abbas’ request. News organizations reported July 4 that chief PLO negotiator Erekat had been appointed by a presidential decree as acting secretary-general of the organization.

 Earlier, on June 21, another decision by the Palestinian leadership to investigate former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, regarding funds he raised from the Gulf in support of needy Palestinians, raised eyebrows.

On June 21, his bank accounts were frozen on unproven accusations of money laundering. No one has been able to explain the reasons behind both these decisions, except to point to the possibility of extreme worry by Abbas and his entourage of an effort to replace him.

These two decisions, along with the general international community’s lack of interest in resolving the Palestine issue, have brought to the forefront the need for a serious discussion about the topic of Palestinian succession. Abbas is 80, yet no vice president has been named nor has any single Palestinian leader been groomed to possibly replace him.

Abbas was elected in January 2005 and was expected to serve a four-year term ending Jan. 9, 2009, but the 2006 elections of a pro-Hamas legislature complicated matters. The takeover by Hamas gunmen of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 made the possibility of nationwide elections all but impossible. The 74 (out 132) Islamist members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elected Abdel Aziz Dweik as council speaker. The Palestinian basic law, a quasi constitution, stipulates that when a presidential position is vacated, the speaker of the council will become president for a 60-day period during which elections for a new president can take place. Continue Reading »

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Jul 09 2015

The Palestinian leadership crisis

Following appeared in the Jordan Times Newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The political black hole that the Arab Israeli conflict has entered and the ageing Palestinian leader forced again the discussion of what will happen in the post-Abbas era.

Two news items recently pointed to the succession crisis in the Palestinian leadership: the sudden removal of Yasser Abed Rabo as PLO executive committee general secretary and his replacement with Saeb Erekat, and the temporary arrest and questioning of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Abed Rabo and Fayyad are subject of unproven accusation, within internal Palestinian circles, of being somehow plotting against President Mahmoud Abbas.

The problem of succession is complicated on many fronts. The regular four-year term of Abbas, who was elected 60 days after the death of Yasser Arafat, finished in 2009. The current Hamas controlled Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) term also ended in 2010.

The Palestinian Basic Law — a quasi constitution — states that in case of the absence of a president (through death, resignation or for health reasons), his place should be taken by the speaker of the PLC for a 60-day period, during which a presidential election is due to take place.

Controversy exists regarding who is the speaker of the PLC, which has not met in years. Continue Reading »

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Jul 01 2015

New report outlines Al-Aqsa Mosque recommendations


By Daoud Kuttab

The status of Islam’s third-holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, has been the subject of many academic and research efforts, most of them with an ideological bias. Israeli Jews consider the site of utmost importance to them and most research associated with Israel reflects this view. Some right-wing Israelis often try to stir up other Jews about access to the compound that houses the mosque, emphasizing that the Jews who won the 1967 war still “don’t have unfettered access,” including the right to pray at the mosque.

Arab Muslims fear Israeli attempts to Judaize the site, or, at best, to impose a policy where the site is shared with Jews, similar to the arrangement at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, where over the past 48 years prayer areas in parts of the mosque are shared by Jews and Muslims. For Muslims, the entire walled and guarded compound that includes Al-Aqsa Mosque — Masjid Omar, the Islamic Museum and the courtyards — is generally referred to as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and is regarded as one holy site.

The highly sensitive issue of Al-Aqsa compound was addressed by the International Crisis Group (ICG) in Brussels with an unprecedented in-depth study. To avoid any linguistic bias, the nongovernmental organization referred to the compound — known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as Temple Mount — as the “Esplanade.”

When Israel occupied Jerusalem in June 1967, the issue of Jews entering the Esplanade area was indefinitely postponed as a result of a convenient ruling by the Chief Rabbinate on June 10, the last day of the Six-Day War. It ruled that because the location is holy to Jews, no religious Jew is allowed to set foot on any of the area that is referred to as the Temple Mount by Jews in order not to defile it. The statement said: “In view of the fact that the holiness of the area never ceases, it is forbidden to ascend the Temple Mount until the Temple is built.” Continue Reading »

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Jun 28 2015

What’s behind Israel’s easing of travel restrictions?


By Daoud Kuttab

When Mohammad Badarneh made it to Jerusalem, he was in awe. He spent hours walking the streets of the Old City, praying at Islam’s third holiest site, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, while posting pictures of what he saw on hisFacebook page. Badarneh, who hails from the northern West Bank city of Jenin, now lives in Ramallah where he works as a reporter for Palestine TV. He was one of tens of thousands of West Bank Palestinians who visited Jerusalem in the first week of the month of Ramadan, which began June 17.

While men over 40 and women of all ages are allowed into Jerusalem without a permit, Badarneh, 25, needed the coveted tasreeh, the physical paper permit, to pass through the Israeli checkpoint.

Thousands of travelers were issued permits on the eve of Ramadan by the Israeli army’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Unit to the surprise of many, including the Palestinian leadership. It isn’t clear what motivated Israel to carry out its far-reaching travel relaxation policy. Is it a genuine first step toward dismantling the occupation, or is it a sign that Israel intends to keep the occupation for a long time and wants to better manage this crisis?

Israel’s unprecedented travel relaxation included, for the first time in 15 years, permits to 500 well-vetted Palestinians to travel abroad via Ben Gurion International Airport, and a similar number of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to travel to Jerusalem via the Erez crossing. A further 50 Palestinian journalists were given permission to enter the holy city to produce reports on Ramadan festivities and general life in Jerusalem. Continue Reading »

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Jun 25 2015

Palestinian independence should start on the economic front

Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

The absence of a political horizon has strengthened Palestinians’ attempts to reach a different form of independence.
Failure on the political front made them work on a more doable idea: to empower Gaza and the West Bank economically through improving trade with their natural Arab environment.

Jordan, which has the longest border with Palestine and the only way in and out of the West Bank, is perfectly situated to help it carry out an accelerated economic boost that can focus on trade, investment and joint projects.
Joint visits by economic, business, industry and tourism Palestinian and Jordanian officials, along with connecting Jericho and other Palestinian areas to the Jordanian electric grid appear to be key components of this process.
But European diplomats working quietly on this front noticed that attempts to improve trade exchanges between Jordan and Palestine are not moving quickly.
Instead of a win-win situation for each side, the trade exchange is apparently subject to political constraints.

Jordanian-Palestinian relations under President Mahmoud Abbas and His Majesty King Abdullah are unprecedented.
Yet, one can detect a certain hesitation in this relationship on the part of the Jordanian government.
Jordan’s uneasiness with the Palestinians was recently revealed in a meeting between a senior official and journalists. Continue Reading »

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Jun 23 2015

Hanan Ashrawi: US must act quickly to save two-state solution


By Daoud Kuttab

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi blasted Israeli attempts to pre-empt the UN report on the Gaza Strip, saying that they’re trying to control the narrative. “They are trying to create a misleading and fabricated narrative so people can react to it,” Ashrawi told Al-Monitor.

 The senior Palestinian official said that Israel “handpicked select individuals to guarantee the outcome at the end.”

The left-wing Israeli website Mondoweiss called the report and the accompanying coverage in The New York Times “a whitewash,” focusing on the fact that the report exonerated the Israeli army for the killing of four Palestinian boys playing soccer on the Gaza shore.

But Ashrawi sounded upbeat as to the changes in international public opinion toward Israel. “We are starting now to see a process of accountability for Israel,” she said.

Ashrawi strongly denied concerns in Jordan that the Palestinians are holding talks with Israel behind the scenes, similar to what happened in Oslo. “There are no secret talks,” she replied to Al-Monitor’s question on the subject, stressing it was the Israelis who stopped this process and they know what’s needed to get back. “They are trying to blame us for walking away, which is a total reversal of the facts. They refused cessation of settlement activities, which is what is needed to be in compliance with international law, they violated a signed agreement to release prisoners and they rejected the 1967 borders as a basis for talks.”

Ashrawi fully rejected Israel’s attempts to build on the idea of land swaps even before any comprehensive deal is agreed to. “They are distorting the borders of Jerusalem saying they will be naturally ours. Show me any agreement where we agreed to land swaps. The issue was raised in talks but not in any signed agreement. They pocket such ideas and want us to start with land swaps as a given,” she said.

The Ramallah-based former professor of English at Birzeit University did not hold much hope for US diplomacy even after the Iran agreement. “The US needs to act differently and I am not sure that they are willing to change or stop giving Israel favors. If the US wants to salvage whatever is left of its standing, it must move quickly and act to undo the damage it has caused by its bias and mistake,” she said.

Ashrawi also did not hold much hope for the talks about the expected French resolution, which she felt might include compromises rather than an actionable mechanism. “We need a resolution with teeth, one that has a follow-up mechanisms such as an international conference and binding arbitration.”

The text of the full interview: Continue Reading »

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Jun 14 2015

UN envoy Mladenov: Absence of political process ‘dangerous’


By Daoud Kuttab

The UN’s recently appointed Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has sounded a strong warning about the absence of any political process. In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Mladenov spoke of the need for the new Israeli government to make a move for peace, calling the current status quo “ultimately untenable.” The peace envoy insisted that such a process must include a freeze of settlement activities, saying, “The absence of a political process today is dangerous for all … particularly given the turmoil in the region.”

Mladenov said that the goal of the UN and the international community is the lifting of the closure on Gaza, generally referred to as a blockade. However, “Before that becomes possible, we will work with the [Palestinian Authority] and the Israeli government to facilitate the entry of much-needed construction materials,” he said.

The UN official called for bridging the division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the framework of legitimate institutions. “Palestine is one, and I will work with determination to support President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Rami] Hamdallah in their efforts toward achieving reconciliation.”

On some of the issues that are holding up reconciliation, the UN official called for the speedy “reintegration of civil service employees and the return of PA forces to the crossings [as] critical parts of such a bottom-up approach to reconciliation.”

As to the continuation of Israeli settlement activities, Mladenov reiterated the position of the UN secretary-general that the international community “will not recognize unilateral actions” on the ground. “I will not speculate on the intentions of the new Israeli government, but rest assured that the UN is looking to Israel to demonstrate its readiness to engage with the Palestinians on building peace, including by freezing settlement activities,” he added.

The full text of the interview follows: Continue Reading »

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