Archive for April, 2014

Apr 27 2014

Palestinians may look to Lebanon model for government

Published by under Palestinian politics

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Since the Palestinians have agreed to reconcile and create a national unity government until elections can take place, the debate now focuses on one simple question: Do the conditions imposed on Hamas by the Middle East Quartet apply to any future Palestinian government as a whole or do they apply to every individual member of the government?

After Hamas swept the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, the Quartet — the United States, European Union, the United Nations and Russia — issued three conditions for dealing with any Palestinian government that might be established. It had to recognize Israel, adhere to previously signed treaties and renounce violence. The Islamic movement Hamas has always had a problem with these conditions. It has said it is willing to accept a long-term truce with Israel, but not to recognize Israel or give up the right of resistance, which is guaranteed to people under occupation.

The reconciliation agreement signed on April 23 by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas calls for creating a national unity government consisting of technocrats. The agreement, which implemented the previous Cairo and Doha agreements, suggests that President Mahmoud Abbas act as prime minister until elections are held. One popularly discussed idea is that the Palestinian prime minister have two deputies, one in the West Bank (perhaps the politician Rami Hamdallah) and one in Gaza (most likely Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh). Continue Reading »

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Apr 27 2014

Does Hamas-Fatah reconciliation spell end for peace talks?

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

As the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) convenes in Ramallah on April 26, its mission — to determine the future of peace talks and elect a president and parliament — is easier now that the PLO and Hamas have agreed to implement their reconciliation agreements.

Presidential and parliamentary elections (both inside and outside Palestine) are now scheduled six months after the creation of a unity government. President Mahmoud Abbas has been authorized to consult on the creation of a government of experts and announce the date for general elections. The April 23 agreement in Gaza appears, on paper, to be a total Hamas capitulation to the PLO and Abbas.

The PCC now faces one challenge, the peace talks. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Palestinian-Israeli talks will not be resumed when the April 29 cut-off date arrives.

Before the reconciliation agreement was announced, Salim Zannoun, the speaker of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), stated that he didn’t believe continuing the talks would be productive. In an exclusive interview April 22 with Al-Monitor, Zannoun described his view of the peace talks as “very pessimistic.” The speaker noted that he doesn’t expect “anything worthwhile” to come to the Palestinian people out of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Continue Reading »

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Apr 24 2014

PCC to determine fate of talks

Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Whenever the PLO’s parliament in exile is called to meet, one expects important decisions. This time, the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) will meet in Ramallah on Saturday to decide two critical issues: The future of talks with Israel and elections for president and parliament of Palestine.

The 120-member Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) is considered an integral feature (but not the main one) of the PLO’s Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is considered the highest body in the organisation.

Planning the meeting of the PCC on April 26 is no coincidence. It will begin deliberations a mere three days before the expiry of the nine-month time frame agreed to by Israelis, Palestinians and the US.

The face-to-face secret talks have not produced any tangible results. A nonbiding bridging framework formula was supposed to be presented by the Americans, but was suddenly withdrawn.

Palestinians rejected an open-ended presence of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley and demanded a clear reference to East Jerusalem as capital of the Palestinian state.

Israel rejected the American military plan for the Jordan Valley and insisted that Palestinians recognise Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

Attempts to get the talks extended were abruptly disrupted when the Israelis unilaterally decided not to release the fourth batch of the 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners, as well as the Israeli announcement of further settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope will be the capital of their independent state. Continue Reading »

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Apr 23 2014

Abbas unlikely to dissolve Palestinian Authority

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Palestinians skeptical of the Oslo process have for years been complaining that it has served only to relieve Israel of its obligations as an occupying force, instead of producing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. This has led to repeated calls for thedissolution of the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority (PA).

Empowering a population and allowing it to practice a certain level of self-determination was seen as an initial accomplishment that would serve as a bridge toward total independence. The recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which prior to Oslo had been outlawed as a terrorist organization, and the return of Palestinian leaders and families were seen by many as a partial implementation of the right of return.

For Israel, the Oslo process provided major relief for its occupation forces, freeing them from having to guard populated Palestinian cities. The division of Palestinian-controlled territory into Areas A, B and C was tolerated within a temporary, five-year transition plan. Extending it to more than 20 years was never part of the original deal signed on the White House lawn in 1993. Continue Reading »

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Apr 22 2014

Palestinian Central Council to decide on peace talks

AlMonitor

By Daoud Kuttab

Some of the most important decisions that the Palestinians need to take are expected to come out of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC), due to meet on April 26.

The Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) second-highest legislative body will meet in Ramallah to decide on the peace process and on presidential and parliamentary elections, according to Hanna Amireh, PLO executive committee member.

A last-minute effort is being made by the Ramallah-based PLO leadership to encourage Gaza-based pro-Hamas legislators to attend this important meeting, even though the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) has not yet officially joined the PLO. A high-level delegation from the West Bank will visit Gaza on April 21.

The PCC meeting will take place three days before the end of the nine-month US-led peace talks. This timing is aimed at giving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas maximum negotiating leverage. Direct talks have continued despite the Israeli failure to release the remaining prisoners and the signing on by the state of Palestine to 15 international treaties and conventions. The talks have focused on the extension of the peace talks for another year or at least until the end of 2014. Continue Reading »

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Apr 17 2014

Easter Festivities and Restrictions in Jerusalem

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The dwindling Palestinian Christian population celebrated Palm Sunday in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and even in Gaza. Eastern and Western Christian calendars were united this year, bringing larger numbers to the celebrations than usual. Israel again this year issued permits for Palestinian Christians from nearby Bethlehem and Ramallah to enter Jerusalem to celebrate the Easter festivities.

This season witnessed an increase in Egyptian Coptic pilgrims to Jerusalem. Air Sinai, which used to run four flights a week, increased them to 12, bringing 547 pilgrims to participate in the Easter celebrations.Press reports said that the number of pilgrims participating in Palm Sunday celebrations this year was more than double last year. Some 30,000 are reported to have participated, compared to 12,000 last year.Clergymen in Jerusalem say that the main reason for the increase is that Palm Sunday this year was celebrated on the same day by Christians who belong to the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical churches.In Gaza, Orthodox Bishop Alexas led the tiny Christian Palestinian congregation in celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem one week before his crucifixion.The traditional Palm Sunday celebrations follow the same route that Jesus took some 2,000 years ago, starting from the Mount of Olives neighbourhood of Beit Ania, down past the Church of Gethsemane and up to the old city via the Lion Gate. Boy scouts from various local Palestinian Christian churches usually participate in the pageantry, along with believers, church leaders, tourists and lay persons. Palm Sunday marchers on the traditional path carry branches of palm trees and sing hymns as they remember the days leading to Easter Sunday.Easter in Jerusalem is quite special; various churches and religious denominations hold events, church services and colorful pageants throughout the Passion Week.Greek and Cypriot pilgrims who often stay with local Palestinian Christians participate in these events leading to the Easter morning when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Continue Reading »

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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 09 2014

Abbas Moves Bring Out Israeli Arrogance and Paternalism

HuffingtonPost-Logo

By Daoud Kuttab

The decision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to sign 15 international treaties brought further proof of Israeli arrogance, paternalism and even racist attitudes toward the Palestinians.

Public statements by senior Israeli officials, as well as commentaries and analyses by Israeli pundits show angry reactions to the Palestinian move, something akin to the anger one would read about when slaves did not show enough respect and actually dared “suggest” that they wanted to be free.

The Israeli prime minister set the tone during the start of the weekly Israeli Cabinet meeting. He argued that Palestinians can only get their coveted state through his style of negotiations and based on his conditions, including his new demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz joined the attack with a diatribe reflecting a slave owner mentality: “Truth be told, Mahmoud Abbas is spitting in our faces. The Palestinian Authority exists thanks to us. Not only because of the Oslo Accords, but because of the funds we transfer them, and the security we give them. Otherwise, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as they control Gaza, would also take down Abbas and take over Ramallah.”

Other Israeli officials made similar remarks. Settlements representative in the Cabinet Neftali Bennett mocked the Palestinian president’s UN move: “If he wants to go to the UN, I will buy him the ticket and there he will face a personal lawsuit for war crimes.” Continue Reading »

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