Archive for January, 2014

Jan 30 2014

Abbas backs NATO peacekeeping role after Israeli withdrawal

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

The Dec. 15 visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry was cut short because of inclement weather. But Kerry, who brought with him four-star Gen. George Allen, has enough time to pass on the bad news. After Allen presented the US-designed security plan for the eastern borders of the future Palestinian state, Kerry transmitted the bad news. The Israelis are insisting that Israeli boots will stay in the Jordan Valley for 10, 15 and maybe as many as 40 years, he reportedly said.

After Kerry left, and as has become routine, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called in what is often referred to as the “Palestinian leadership.” The loose term refers to trusted senior Palestinian officials, advisers and senior media personalities who are often debriefed and consulted with. If any Fatah Central Committee members are in Ramallah, they are usually invited, and some — but not all — PLO executive committee members are often welcomed to these meetings.

A senior official of the Rami Hamdallah government confirmed to Al-Monitor details of this meeting, saying that Abbas was livid about the Israeli offer transmitted via Kerry. The official, who asked not to be identified because of the understanding with Kerry that neither Palestinians nor Israelis are to publicly state the details of closed meetings, said that the Israeli offer shows their lack of seriousness. “They can’t expect Palestinians to wait another 40 years before Israeli soldiers would leave,” he said. Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2014

Crisis in Yarmouk camp in Syria unites Palestinians

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Never in recent memory has any single issue or location unified Palestinians as much as the starvation of the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp just outside Damascus.

The camp, one of the biggest in Syria, has been a target of the internal Syrian conflict, with some opposition forces holed up inside and government forces keeping a tight siege on the camp.

For weeks, Palestine TV has been covering nonstop the siege of Yarmouk. Political leaders are paraded, news of the status of the food shipment updated every hour and a fund-raising campaign has also been initiated. The save Yarmouk drive was not confined to official Palestinian TV. Social media, local groups, demonstrators and communities inside Palestine and out and on both sides of the Syrian crisis have all been recruited to give attention to the besieged camp. The name Yarmouk was even publicly stated during the opening sessions of the Geneva II conference in Switzerland.

What is remarkable is that the save Yarmouk initiative has infiltrated all fields and has been adopted and picked up by political groups that have not seen eye to eye. While Fatah seems to be the lead faction paying attention to Yarmouk and its destiny, supporters of other Palestinian groups, including Hamas, have also joined the bandwagon, collecting donations and making public declarations. Palestinians and their supporters in Jordan, the Gulf and other diaspora locations have also experienced public rallies and fund-raising campaigns. Continue Reading »

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Jan 30 2014

Will Palestinians accept Jewish settlers in Palestine?

By Daoud Kuttab

Following appeared in the Jordan Times and Huffington Post

Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal. The whole world has said so.

When the International Court of Justice in the Hague was asked for an opinion on the Israeli wall built deep into Palestinian territory, the ICJ reaffirmed that occupying powers are not allowed to take property or move their people to areas under occupation.

The illegality of settlements is clearly defined in the 4th Geneva Convention, made into humanitarian law after the relatively prolonged Nazi occupation of France. The Israeli occupation of Palestine since 1967 has lasted more than seven times the German occupation.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was, therefore, totally justified when he told The Associated Press that no settler should remain in the state of Palestine as part of any peace deal.

Erekat was responding to a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which the latter stated that Jewish settlers currently living in the occupied territories could remain in their homes and live under Palestinian rule. The statement was later modified to make this issue a choice for Israeli settlers.

With the exception of Erekat, the Palestinian side was relatively silent, but Netanyahu’s bombshell left many political victims in his own ruling coalition. Continue Reading »

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Jan 27 2014

Israeli report reveals demographic policy in Gaza

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

One of the key obstacles to permanent Israeli control of the West Bank is the presence of Palestinians in it. Unable to physically move them or have them leave voluntarily, Israel has over the years deployed an administrative process that is called “transfer.” The basic foundation of this racist policy is to have administrative policies that “encourage” Palestinians to voluntarily leave and make it very difficult for them to return.

Until the Palestinian National Authority was established in 1993, Israelis used a permit system to carry out this policy. When one left for work or school, a time-based permit was issued. If one overstayed one’s permit, one risked forfeit of the right to return. Now that the Palestinian government issues passports, this practice has lost some of its impact. However, it still applies and as a result continues to subject Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, whose city residency can be revoked after an absence of more than seven years. The demographic reason behind the Israeli “transfer” policy is very clear, although rarely publicly declared. Right-wing Israeli minister Rahavam Zeeve is the exception, as he publicly pronounced his support for transfer.

This politically motivated Israeli policy to gradually reduce the number of Palestinians in the West Bank has been exposed in terms of movement of people from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. A joint report by two Israeli human rights organizations details how thisdemographic policy is carried out. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and Hamoked, the Center for the Defence of the Individual, in January issued a report titled “So near and yet so far: Implications of Israeli-Imposed Seclusion of [the] Gaza Strip on Palestinians’ Right to Family Life.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 27 2014

Jordan eager to represent Jordanian-Palestinian refugees

Published by under Articles,Jordan

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Up until the convening of the Arab League summit in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, in October 1974, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was the official representative of Palestinians. After all, Jordan was home to most Palestinians before 1967, and the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) was part of the kingdom from 1952-1967. Palestinians living on both sides of the Jordan River were — and many still are — Jordanian citizens.

During the summit in Rabat, the Arab League recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the “sole and legitimate” representative of the Palestinian people everywhere. For the most part that has been accepted. But Jordan continues to host the single-largest group of Palestinian refugees: 42% of all registered Palestinian refugees live in Jordan and have full Jordanian citizenship.

It is this fact that has caused Jordan to try to wiggle its way back to some sort of representation. Jordanian governmental and parliamentary officials have recently stepped up their rhetoric about the need for Jordan to play some kind of role in representing those refugees, who are also their citizens. The potential of the success of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s mission has heightened interest by Jordan. Continue Reading »

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Jan 22 2014

Status of Jerusalem may again scuttle peace talks

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Ever since the current Palestinian-Israeli negotiations commenced, all the leaked information about the talks focused on borders and whether Israeli soldiers will be present in the Jordan Valley. Israel’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state received a lot of coverage. But while the Palestinian refugee issue received scant coverage, one topic was totally ignored: Jerusalem.

The US sponsors, along with the Israelis, might have thought that keeping Jerusalem out of the framework agreement would be the best way to avoid having the process blow up in their faces. Such an idea is clearly in violation of the agreement, reached at thestart of the talks, that all permanent status issues are on the table and will be discussed.

Once it became clear that Jerusalem was going to be off the table, the Palestinian and Arab side went to work. First, it was Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) meeting with a delegation of East Jerusalem institutions and assuring them that no solution will be found unless East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state. Then off to Marrakesh, where the Moroccan sponsored Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Committee met and reiterated the same position. Jordanian and Palestinian officials also met and reportedly agreed to create a special $1 billion fund to support the occupied city of Jerusalem. Continue Reading »

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Jan 20 2014

Kerry responds forcefully to Israeli insults

Published by under Articles,US-Middle East

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

US senior officials, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, have for years been the subject of Israeli criticism and overtly nasty insults. For the most part, they have tried to absorb such attacks and continue to pursue a healthy, positive relationship with their most important ally — until now. Secretary Kerry has shown Israelis and the world that he is human and that he and his State Department are not going to take it any longer.

The most recent Israeli attacks coincided with Washington’s plans to provide a bridging plan to break out the fruitless Palestinian-Israeli direct talks. While suggesting such ideas is bound to create opposition on both sides, the Israelis responded with a nastiness the Americans said is unfitting of a trusted ally.

The hard-line Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has been telling anyone willing to listen how he loathes Kerry and his plans. He went so far as to say the secretary’s efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and that his drive for peace was “messianic.” At one point, Ya’alon stated that the US security plan designed by Gen. John Allen is “not worthy of the paper it is written on” and that Americans do not know anything about security. In perhaps the most insulting of all such statements, Ya’alon is quoted as saying that he hopes the US secretary of state wins the Nobel Peace Prize and then “leave us alone.” Continue Reading »

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Jan 16 2014

Peace talks move to Palestinian refugee issue

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Although the United States has insisted to the Israelis and Palestinians that all five permanent-status issues are part of the US-brokered negotiations, it was only when an Israeli radio report mentioned the issue that the topic suddenly gained credibility in the eyes of many skeptics. The Palestine News Network ran a short translation from Israeli radio, confirming that US Secretary of State John Kerry had made reference to the issue of Palestinian refugees and that he had put forward four locations for their absorption.

Kerry’s suggestion no doubt reflects the various discussions, differences and understandings between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians have repeatedly insisted that Israel acknowledge its historic and moral responsibility in creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Many expect that this issue, more than any actual agreement on numbers, could be the gateway to a breakthrough.

After the issue of who is responsible is resolved, it is understood that Palestinian refugees are to be given choices, including returning to their homeland in Palestine, staying where they are or going to certain third countries. The fourth option, which is highly contested, calls for some Palestinians to settle in Israel. The issue is finessed by having this small population absorbed over a number of years based on Israel approving it within the context of family reunification. Continue Reading »

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Jan 16 2014

Palestinians and Arabs will not budge on Jerusalem

Published by under Articles,Palestinian politics

HuffingtonPost-Logo

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Following appeared in today’s Jordan Times.

How similar is today to yesteryear?

When US president Bill Clinton failed to move Palestine Liberation Organisation chairman Yasser Arafat on the issue of Jerusalem at the 2000 Camp David talks, he decided to turn to America’s Arab allies.

He tried and failed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, unable to change Mahmoud Abbas’ position, is trying to do the same. He will also fail.

The contentious issues appear to concern Jerusalem and convincing Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

Kerry began his recent Arab trip with quick visits to Amman and Riyadh, on January 5, before the meeting in Paris, on January 12, with the Arab Peace Initiative follow-up committee.

Shortly after Kerry’s visit, on January 8, Amman was host to a quick visit by the Palestinian president.

He made a statement to the effect that Palestinians will not accept any deal short of having East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine. Abbas also reiterated the Palestinian refusal of any recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Continue Reading »

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Jan 15 2014

Palestinians and Sharon

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

In Arab tradition it is not customary to say bad things about a dead person even if he/she is your biggest enemy. I am not sure that this tradition will work on most Palestinians regarding the Israeli king of the settlement movement, but for some reason the passing of Ariel Sharon after the withdrawal from Gaza and the long years in a coma have taken away some of the bitterness that many felt about Ariel Sharon.

Ask any Palestinian about Sharon and they will rattle almost verbatim the terrible things he has done. Gazans will quickly recall his role in crushing the Palestinian fedayin (guerrillas) in the strip shortly after the 1967 occupation. In Lebanon Sharon’s role in the war to destroy the PLO, his unholy alliance with the Lebanese Phalanges and the role of the Israeli army in allowing for the Sabra and Shattilamassacre will probably be the quick answer to many.

West Bank Palestinians have the image of Sharon with his maps planning one settlement after the other and his calls on the eve of the Oslo Accords to settlers to take over every available hilltop, still ring in many ears.

Sharon’s legacy in Jerusalem can be seen daily by Palestinians walking down from Damascus Gate to the Al Qsa mosque. Halfway down a lWad quarters is a two-story house that Sharon took over as some kind of symbol of Jewish presence in the Palestinian populated neighborhoods of the old city of Jerusalem. A huge Israeli flag and a Jewish menorah remind all of Sharon’s house. Close circuit cameras (among 2,000 in the old city) ensure that no one tries to bring down the flag without being spotted and no doubt later arrested. Continue Reading »

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