Archive for the 'Palestinian politics' Category

Apr 27 2015

THERE CAN BE NO PEACE WITHOUT AN END TO OCCUPATION

Al-Araby al-jadeed

By Daoud Kuttab

Out of nowhere this week, two prominent individuals came out in support of the two-state solution as the best way to move the dormant Palestinian-Israeli conflict forward.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose organisation is part of the comatose Quartet, spoke at a special session of the UN Security Council in New York about the need for a negotiated solution. “I strongly urge the incoming government to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution,” Ban said.

At the same time, Noam Chomsky and the voluntarily exiled Israeli academician Ilan Pappe produced divergent points of view. While Pappe, known for research into the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, urges the scrapping of the two-state solution and the adoption of the one-state option, Chomsky backs the two-state idea.

These ideas endorsed by the UN head or the MIT professor are not new. They reflect the vast majority of worldwide political thinking as the easiest and fastest way to resolve the nearly half a century of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

What is new is that neither of these men gave any new direction as to how to accomplish this goal in light of the rejection of the current Israeli leader and the majority of Israelis who voted for him in last March’s Knesset election.

It is true that shortly after winning the election (largely due to the statement that there will be no Palestinian state) Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to backtrack, but it would be hard to find any respected Israeli or international figure who does not believe that what Netanyahu said on the eve of the elections is what he truly believes and what apparently most Israelis also agree with. Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2015

Palestine should not be collateral damage of Iran deal

Al-Araby al-jadeed

By Daoud Kuttab

An important question has yet to be answered. Will Arabs and especially Palestinians be the biggest losers in the game being played between Iran, the White House, Capitol Hill and Israel?Arab thinker Azmi Bishara believes that if Arabs stay neutral over the P5+1 framework deal they will become collateral damage. In other words it is not possible to remain neutral in a process that is attractive to Iranian reformers and American liberals.

On the other hand Israel is heavily engaged in two international cases: the international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme and the world’s desire to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

While the nuclear issue appears to be well on its way to being resolved, there is concern that a trade-off between the two cases might take place.

All sides deny any link, but there is concern that the fierce Israeli opposition to agreement with Iran could force Washington to make an unethical trade-off.
The US president, Barack Obama, is facing stubborn opposition from Republicans in Congress, and even from some of his fellow Democrats.

Continue Reading »

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Apr 26 2015

UNESCO resolutions raise Palestinian hopes

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has finally produced resolutions “with teeth.” Elias Sanbar, the permanent Palestinian representative to UNESCO told Al-Monitor that the resolutions adopted April 20 in Paris attempts to address the usual Israeli apathy to UNESCO decisions in a practical way.

Sanbar, who has been the head of the Palestinian mission to UNESCO since 2012 said that in the past, the UNESCO executive board would meet once every few months, issue resolutions and await the Israeli reaction, “and the Israelis simply ignored the resolutions.” Sanbar believes that ignoring the most recent resolutions will have consequences. “The resolutions overwhelmingly passed by the executive board have deadlines and consequences,” he said.

While previously UNESCO would send missions — which were either allowed or denied visits to Jerusalem — UNESCO has resolved to appoint a permanent representative to be stationed in East Jerusalem. The specific wording of the resolution states: UNESCO “[d]eeply regrets the Israeli refusal to implement UNESCO previous decisions concerning Jerusalem particularly 185 EX/Decision 14 and reiterates its request to the Director-General to appoint, as soon as possible, a permanent and eminent expert(s) to be stationed in East Jerusalem to report on a regular basis about all the aspects covering all UNESCO fields of competency in East Jerusalem.”

Sanbar told Al-Monitor that the decision to have a UNESCO officer in Jerusalem was fought the hardest by some of the pro-Israel delegates on the executive board. “The US and especially Germany fought extremely hard against this actionable part of the decision,” Sanbar said. Continue Reading »

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Apr 26 2015

Facebook group shares checkpoint wait in real time

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The first thing that Tanya George does when she wakes up in her Ramallah home is to check the Facebook group “
Status of the Road, Qalandia and Hizma.” She scrolls to the latest entry checks and reads the status of Palestine’s worst checkpoint. If it is crowded, she would take the longer road to her job in East Jerusalem, where she works to support underprivileged students, rather than risk waiting in line for hours, or might decide to do some work at home and leave for the office later.

For most Palestinians, the Qalandia checkpoint is the nearest crossing point from downtown Ramallah to downtown East Jerusalem. Individuals working for international organizations can use a special checkpoint north of al-Bireh, referred to as the DCO checkpoint. A third option is the Hizma checkpoint. The last two are farther away than Qalandia, but faster to get through if Qalandia is backed up. Qalandia also connects Ramallah to Bethlehem via the alternative Wadi al-Nar Road.

The Facebook group monitoring the crossings was started by Richard Khoury, a Palestinian who works for the International Committee of the Red Cross. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Khoury explained how the group was established. “My wife and I live in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, and on weekends we normally go to Ramallah to see family and friends.” Khoury said that after wasting so many hours waiting in line, he and his colleagues at work began exchanging information on traffic backups through Facebook. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2015

New Arab MK jockeys for influence on women’s issues, budget

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The strong showing by Palestinian citizens of Israel in the March 17 Knesset elections, winning an unprecedented 13 seats, has revived hope that the 20% Arab population in Israel can have a strong influence on the workings of the state.

Aida Tuma, one of two Arab women elected to the Knesset, told Al-Monitor that the 13-member Joint List of predominantely Arab parties is expected to wield serious influence in the Knesset committees, saying, “We want to be active in a way to have a genuine positive effect on our people.” Tuma is a member of Hadash, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, who joined Knesset member Ahmad Tibi in the temporary finance committee.

Committee selection usually awaits the formation of the government, but until then, two temporary committees are formed: one for foreign relations and security and the other for finance. “We chose to take two seats in the finance committee because we are sure that if we go for the foreign relations and security committee, they will not allow us to have any effect by moving all-important topics to subcommittees of which we are not members,” Tuma told Al-Monitor by phone on her way to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian leadership.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud won an unexpected 30 mandates, is having a hard time forming a narrow coalition. Israeli media reports say that he prefers a unity government with the Zionist bloc, with 25 seats headed by Isaac Herzog. To pass a confidence vote, Israeli governments need at least 61 mandates out of 120 members of the Knesset. Continue Reading »

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Apr 13 2015

Not 2015 Easter Yet

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By Daoud Kuttab

The Holy Family Latin Catholic Church in Ramallah was packed. Palm Sunday usually brings out the entire family and this year was no different. Children in their Sunday best were clutching on beautifully intertwined palm arrangements as they packed into the church compound that also includes the Ahliya School.

But while mass in Ramallah was on April 5th the church bulletin delivered to all Catholic churches in Palestine detailing the service listed Palm Sunday liturgy as taking place on March 29th.

Unlike the Christians of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Palestinian Christians in Ramallah have decided since 2007 to unify their holiday calendar which differ based on their respective lunar calculations. Christmas is celebrated based on the Gregorian (western) calendar on the 25th of December while Easter church and popular ceremonies are remembered based on the Orthodox (Eastern calendar). A facebookpage has been established specifically for the need to unit the religious celebrations in Palestine. In Jordan the celebrations have been united since 1979 following an appeal by the late King Hussein. But because of the sensitivity of the mother churches in Jerusalem and the complicated agreement (called status quo agreement) made since the Ottoman rule in 1453 churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem each follow their mother church’s calendar irrespective of the requests of their parishes often differing one or two weeks from each other. Continue Reading »

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Apr 09 2015

West Bank boycotts six Israeli companies

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

A boycott declared by Palestinian organizations of six Israeli companies and fruits imported from Israel that have a Palestinian alternative appears to be holding despite some challenges. The decision issued Feb. 9 by a coalition of the main PLO factions called for theboycott of six major Israeli companies: Tnuva, Strauss, Osem, Elite, Prigat and Jafora. Palestinian stores were given two weeks to empty their shelves of the boycotted Israeli products. An attempt by the Israeli dairy company Tnuva to deliver new supplies to Ramallah on March 2 was met with activists destroying the contents in Manara Square in the center of Ramallah.

Palestinian annual imports from Israel amount to $4.2 billion. The decision to boycott the Israeli companies followed continued Israeli decisions to withhold Palestinian tax monies totaling more than $100 million monthly. It wasn’t clear whether the call for a boycott will be eased now that the Israeli government has agreed to release the tax monies; although the actual release has yet to take place following the Israeli decision to use some of that money to offset bills due to the Israeli electricity company.

A visit by Al-Monitor to various supermarkets in Ramallah this month showed none of the targeted products on display. Some shop owners told Al-Monitor that they are smuggling popular products for their loyal customers, but that doesn’t seem to happen in large numbers. Continue Reading »

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Apr 08 2015

Working against a link

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Following appeared in the Jordan Times newspaper

By Daoud Kuttab

Israel is heavily engaged in two international cases. The international efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, and world’s desire to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

While the nuclear issue appears to be on its way to being resolved, there is concern that a trade off between the two might take place. All sides deny that the two cases are linked but there is worry that the fierce Israeli opposition to the US and European frame work agreement with Iran could force Washington to make an unethical trade off.

US president Barack Obama is facing a stubborn opposition to the framework agreement from his Republican opponents in congress and even from some of his own fellow democrats. There is no doubt that the opposition in congress could be eased if the Israelis were to suddenly see the light and realize that the P5+1 agreement is not a bad deal but much better than no deal. Both Israel and the US have repeatedly said that they prefer no deal with Iran rather than a bad deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry and  his team have worked tirelessly to produce the frame work agreement that applies the strictest monitoring regime every created against a potentially nuclear country. The framework accord will be expanded to a full agreement by next June. In return the world community agreed that once a full agreement is signed the international boycott of Iran will be totally lifted. Continue Reading »

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Apr 06 2015

Will PA focus on settlements at ICC?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

No one is saying it out loud, but it appears that the Palestinian leadership is choosing to pursue the settlement track rather than the Gaza track in the war crimes efforts against Israel. Palestinians have publicly talked about pursuing in the International Criminal Court (ICC) war crime cases against Israel for the deaths and destruction in Gaza during last summer’s war and for the ongoing illegal settlement activities in the occupied territories.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) became an official member of the ICC on April 1. And while Palestinian spokespersons are talking about both tracks, they are sending signals that they will not push hard when it comes to Gaza issues.

It appears that the ICC’s prosecutor had already begun examining the Gaza war for possible war crimes back in January, but it appears that this case will take a long time. “There’s no time line, some of the preliminary examinations at the court have been going on for four years,” Richard Dickers, the director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, told Vice News. “What’s underway is only the first phase of the judicial process.”

The ICC is considered a court of last resort. Its official website states that it “will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine.” Continue Reading »

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Apr 02 2015

Wanted a serious inclusive Palestinian Strategy

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By Daoud Kuttab

The state of Palestine officially became a member of the International Criminal Court April1 allowing it to sue Israel for crimes of war. The distance between the ability to sue and an actual conviction is going to be long and arduous and will require a totally new strategy. And such a strategy will require an ingredient that has been missing for year- national unity.

While any new Palestinian strategy must be focused on the ultimate goal of ending the occupation, it is important not to continue using the issue of the ICC as a bargaining chip. Past delays have been made in return for shameful short term gains.

The Palestinian team preparing the case against Israel reportedly has two different areas for which to sue Israel for crimes of war. It can charge Israelis for crimes of war during last summer’s war on Gaza in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed, thousands were injured and buildings including hospitals, schools and homes were demolished. Palestinians can also begin proceedings against Israel for its continued war crimes in the occupied territories namely the colonial settlement activities. Continue Reading »

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