BBC NEWS | 2010/01/09 | 03:17:03 GMT
WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS
- Construction of settlements began in 1967, shortly after the Middle East War
- Some 280,000 Israelis now live in the 121 officially-recognised settlements in the West Bank
- A further 190,000 Israelis live in settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem
- The largest West Bank settlement is Maale Adumim, where more than 30,000 people were living in 2005
- There are a further 102 unauthorised outposts in the West Bank which are not officially recognised by Israel
- The population of West Bank settlements has been growing at a rate of 5-6% since 2001
- Source: Peace Now
The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Palestinians and Israelis to resume peace talks as soon as possible and without preconditions. The call comes as the Israeli prime minister held talks in Egypt, and the Saudi foreign minister was in Syria. Mrs Clinton said that if the border issues for a Palestinian state were resolved, that would iron out differences over Israeli settlements. Her comments came after talks with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh. Mrs Clinton also met Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmad Abulgheith in Washington. Following the meetings, she gave some details about how the US administration views a peace agreement. She called for a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, the year Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. This is a crucial starting point for the Palestinians. She said Israel should have a secure Jewish state that reflects subsequent developments. In other words, some Israeli settlements on occupied land will remain, a key Israeli demand. Continue reading
BBC News | 2010/01/03 | 16:46 GMT
Israel’s hardline Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has told Israeli ambassadors to stop “grovelling” and defend their national honour. He told a shocked audience of some 150 envoys in Jerusalem to “stop turning the other cheek” whenever Israel was insulted, Israeli media report. The envoys were reportedly given no right of reply at the conference. “We received a monologue without being able to hold a discussion,” one unnamed ambassador told Haaretz newspaper.
‘A response to everything’
Israel’s top diplomat, who worked as a nightclub bouncer in his youth in the USSR, is known for his abrasive style. He famously once said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could “go to hell.” “I have seen that some ambassadors identify themselves with the other side to such an extent that they are all the time trying to justify and explain,” he told the ambassadors meeting at the foreign ministry, according to several reports of the event. “Terms like ‘national honour’ have value in the Middle East,” he was reported to have said. “There must not be an attitude of obsequiousness and self-deprecation, and the need to always justify the other side. This is the wrong approach. “We will not turn the other cheek. There will be a response to everything,” the reports quoted him as saying. In an editorial, the liberal Haaretz condemned Mr. Lieberman’s “shamefully bullying approach” and called for him to be sacked.
Reuters | RAMALLAH (West Bank) | Tue Dec 15, 2009 | 7:20pm IST
President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday the Palestinians would only resume peace talks if Israel fully halted settlement building in the occupied West Bank, but ruled out any return to violence. Addressing a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s central council, which is expected to extend his term as president, Abbas dismissed Israel’s partial settlement freeze and said the Israelis did not want negotiations.
Abbas, who is under pressure from the United States and the European Union to resume talks that have been frozen for the past year, said he was not setting terms but simply reiterating Israel’s obligations under the “road map” agreement for talks. “When Israel stops settlement activity for a specific period and when it recognises the borders we are calling for, and these are the legal borders, there would be nothing to prevent us from going to negotiations,” Abbas told the PLO meeting in Ramallah.
Expressing frustration over what he said was Israel’s failure to carry out its obligations, Abbas said: “Where do they want to take us? What is required of us? There is one thing I will not accept: a return to violence.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of delaying talks. Abbas, who replaced the late Yasser Arafat as Palestinian leader in 2004, said Israel was simply deflecting the blame. “It does not want negotiations,” he said. Continue reading
Reuters Mon Dec 14, 2009 10:19pm IST
The Islamist movement Hamas served notice on Monday that it would ignore any decisions by the Palestine Liberation Organisation this week about future leadership and peace talks with Israel. “Hamas will not retreat from Jihad and resistance until it achieves freedom and independence for our people,” Gaza Strip Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a huge rally. “We will not recognise Israel and we will not abandon resistance.” he said. In a speech underlining the split in Palestinian ranks between his movement and the secular Fatah group, the Hamas leader in Gaza said any decisions taken by the PLO Central Council meeting in the West Bank would be unconstitutional. “We say to PLO Central Council members who will meet tomorrow in Ramallah that any decision that contradicts the constitution and contradicts the will of the people, will not be binding,” he told tens of thousands of supporters. Hamas rules the cramped Mediterranean enclave, which was hammered by an Israeli military offensive a year ago. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and after driving out the mainstream Fatah movement in 2007, Hamas took full power.
Fatah said in a statement that the speech showed Hamas wanted to entrench the Palestinian division. Hamas had closed the door on Egyptian reconciliation efforts, it added. As supporters celebrated the anniversary of the foundation of Hamas 22 years ago, Haniyeh promised no wavering from the goal of “a Palestine from the sea to the river (Jordan), a land of Islamic Waqf (religious endowment)”. Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and opposes the Fatah strategy pursued by President Mahmoud Abbas of seeking to negotiate a permanent peace deal. Continue reading
Press release, Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, 10 December 2009
As part of a recent escalation of political arrests in the West Bank village of Bilin, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and coordinator of the Bilin Popular Committee, was arrested by Israeli soldiers.
At exactly 2am last night, seven Israeli military jeeps pulled over at Abdallah Abu Rahmah’s residence in the city of Ramallah. Soldiers raided the house and arrested Abu Rahmah from his bed in the presence of his wife and children. Abu Rahmah is a high school teacher in the Latin Patriarchate School in Birzeit near Ramallah and is the coordinator of the Bilin Popular Committee against the wall and settlements. A previous raid targeting Abu Rahmah was executed with such exceptional violence on 15 September 2009 that a soldier was subsequently indicted for assault.
Abu Rahmah’s arrest is part of an escalation in the Israeli military’s attempts to break the spirit of the people of Bilin, their popular leadership and the popular struggle as a whole — aimed at crushing demonstrations against the wall. Recently, advocate Gaby Lasky, who represents many of Bilin’s detainees, was informed by the military prosecution that the army intends to use legal measures as a means of ending the demonstrations. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/11 | 11:18:35 GMT
Jewish settlers are suspected of being behind an attack on a mosque in the north of the occupied West Bank. Attackers set fire to bookshelves and a large area of carpet in the mosque, and sprayed graffiti in Hebrew on a wall. Palestinian residents of the village of Yasuf clashed briefly with Israeli soldiers investigating the attack. Attacks on Palestinians by settlers are increasing. A number of incidents have been captured on video and received wide publicity. Israeli human rights groups have accused the police and army of running inadequate investigations into such incidents. One group reported that nine out of 10 investigations into alleged attacks on Palestinians by settlers end without anyone being charged.
Some hard-line settlers advocate a “price tag” policy under which they attack Palestinians in retaliation for any Israeli government measure they see as threatening Jewish settlements. One of the slogans sprayed on the wall of the mosque in Yasuf read: “Get ready to pay the price,” Israeli public radio reported. Another read: “We will burn you all.” The village is located near the Jewish settlement of Tappuah. In a statement, the Israeli military said it “views the incident gravely” and that security forces are working to locate the perpetrators. But the local Palestinian governor, Munir Abushi, accused the Israeli security forces of doing too little to protect Palestinians from settler attacks. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/03 | 11:29:45 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is meeting Jewish West Bank settlers to reassure them restrictions on building are only temporary. Mr. Netanyahu was expected to promise settlers that they will be able to continue building after the 10 month suspension ends. He is expected to offer more funding for schools and other services in return for the settler’s support. Restrictions on minor work to existing houses were also reportedly lifted. Tax breaks for settlers were also reported to be among the items Mr. Netanyahu was considering. The meeting in Tel Aviv comes as settlers again said they would not abide by the new limits.
The Palestinian Authority has refused to resume peace talks with Israel unless it completely halts all settlement construction on occupied territory including East Jerusalem, where they want to locate the capital of their future state. On Wednesday, the mayor of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank was arrested after protesters tried to stop Israeli authorities enforcing the restrictions. Avi Naim was apprehended on suspicion of disrupting police, who were trying to enter Beit Arieh to hand out orders to stop unauthorised construction work. Israel’s government declared last week it would restrict residential building in the West Bank for 10 months. But settlers vowed to defy the policy. Palestinians say the restrictions do not go far enough, particularly because they do not include East Jerusalem.
Bloomberg November 25, 2009 17:00 EST
Israel’s government approved a 10- month halt to the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements, a move immediately welcomed by the U.S. and rejected by Palestinians. George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East peace envoy, said the action “falls short of a full settlement freeze but it is more than any Israeli government has done before.” Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the official Wafa news agency that the Palestinian Authority “rejects returning to peace talks without the complete cessation of settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been facing pressure from the U.S. to halt all West Bank settlement- building, which the Palestinians have said is a precondition for resuming peace talks. Efforts by President Barack Obama to bring the two sides together have failed to break the stalemate. Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel wouldn’t halt construction in east Jerusalem or halt public buildings in the West Bank such as synagogues and kindergartens. “This is not an easy step, it is a painful step but we are taking it out of broad national security considerations with the goal of renewing negotiations to achieve peace with our neighbors, the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Jerusalem. Continue reading
Reuters | Sun Nov 22, 2009 | 6:49pm IST
Israeli President Shimon Peres held discussions in Egypt on Sunday on efforts to restart Middle East peace talks after the Egyptian president accused Israel of creating obstacles to a settlement with the Palestinians. Egypt, the first Arab state to sign a peace deal with Israel, has long played a mediation role. That has recently included involvement in a bid to secure an Israeli soldier’s release from Gaza in return for Palestinian prisoners. Speculation has been mounting that a deal to free Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners might be concluded by the end of this month. But sources on both sides have said there was no certainty of finalising a deal by then.
A day before Peres arrived; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told parliament that Israel was making “new obstacles” to peace. “I tell them, stop your practices in the West Bank and lift the siege on Gaza and respond to the call of peace,” he said in a speech to mark the start of parliament’s new session. Egypt and other Arabs have blamed the United States for not doing enough to push Israel to stop building settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Peres, whose post is largely ceremonial, last visited Egypt in July for talks with Mubarak. He was met in Cairo by Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, a witness said. “The two presidents will discuss recent developments in the Middle East, advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and various bilateral issues on the agenda,” the Israeli president’s office said in a statement before the trip. Continue reading
Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 11:38pm IST
Defying the United States, Israel approved on Tuesday the building of 900 homes for Jews on West Bank land it occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed to its Jerusalem municipality. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said President Barack Obama’s envoy, George Mitchell, had asked an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at a meeting in London on Monday, to block the proposed construction at the settlement of Gilo. But a government planning commission approved the addition of 900 housing units at Gilo, where 40,000 Israelis already live. Israel rejects the international description of Gilo as a settlement and says it is a neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the city it claims as its capital. The commission’s decision seemed likely to strengthen the Palestinians’ determination not to resume peace talks until settlement expansion is halted. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev declined comment on the Yedioth Ahronoth report, which said Netanyahu’s negotiator had rejected Mitchell’s request. Regev repeated Israel’s refusal to include areas it annexed to Jerusalem as part of any accommodation of Obama’s calls for “restraint” in West Bank settlement growth. A spokesman for Nir Barkat, the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, issued a statement that seemed to confirm the report, saying the mayor “strongly objects to the American demand to halt construction in Jerusalem.” It was not immediately clear when construction work on the new homes in Gilo would begin. Some 500,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, also captured in 1967, among 2.7 million Palestinians. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war, a move that was not recognised internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Continue reading
Reuters | Tue Nov 17, 2009 | 8:29pm IST
Mahmoud Abbas’s term as Palestinian president will be extended by the supreme body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) when it meets in December, senior PLO officials said on Tuesday. Abbas, the Western-backed leader committed to negotiating peace with Israel, will stay in office, they said. Though Abbas has said he does not want to run again for the presidency, several members of the PLO Central Council interviewed by Reuters said the body would effectively extend his tenure to avoid a vacuum when it expires on Jan. 25. Following his Nov. 5 announcement that he did not want to stand again for the presidency in elections he had called for Jan. 24, the PLO urged Abbas to stay on. However, the debate over his candidacy was rendered largely irrelevant last week when the independent election commission advised him to postpone the vote. Cancellation of the election is now seen as a mere formality. The commission told Abbas it could not organise presidential and legislative elections, mainly because they had been banned in advance by the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, which disputes Abbas’s legitimacy. So his threat not to stand will not arise. Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/09/25 | 08:37:12 GMT
Extensive diplomatic efforts towards reviving Mid-East peace talks have yielded little. The US has continued to demand Israel freeze settlement activity in the West Bank, while Palestinians refuse to negotiate without a freeze. In the second of a two-part investigation, the BBC’s Martin Asser sees the effect of settlements on the lives of Palestinians. They are called the Seven Villages, situated north-west of Jerusalem where the West Bank hills fall away towards the Mediterranean. Though their inhabitants live within the Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem governorate, few get to visit Jerusalem – though the city was “like a mother to us” one man said. While Israelis in nearby Givat Ze’ev settlement bloc zip to Jerusalem by car in minutes, the Palestinian villagers need permission from Israel’s military authorities. If they don’t get permission, apparently the norm, there are roundabout ways past Israel’s defences and into the city, but this risks jail and a stiff fine. Israel says all restrictions are imposed to prevent Palestinian militants wreaking havoc with suicide bombings. But, the Seven Villages is known as a quiet area. Israeli soldiers I spoke to said there was very little militant activity. Palestinian residents insist they are peaceable folk – famers, labourers, some professionals – who just want to live normal, decent lives. Continue reading
The following article was published in renowned International Magazine ‘Le Monde Deplomatique’ which is printed in French and English mainly. Recently it began its editions in few other languages. It is well known for its unbiased dealing with the subject in question. It mainly concentrates on International political and financial affairs. Though the present article came in March 2007 issue, in view of its importance in the context of recent developments I’m reproducing it here for this blog’s readers.
LEILA FARSAKH | Le Monde diplomatique | March 2007
Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas may have afﬁrmed that they want a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conﬂict, but it may be more promising to return to a much older idea.
THERE is talk once again of a one-state bi-national solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The Oslo peace
process failed to bring Palestinians their independence and the withdrawal from Gaza has not created a basis for a democratic Palestinian state as President George Bush had imagined: the Palestinians are watching their territory being fragmented into South African-style Bantustans with poverty levels of over 75%. The area is heading to the abyss of an apartheid state system rather than to a viable two-state solution, let alone peace (1).
There have been a number of recent publications proposing a one-state solution as the only alternative to the current impasse. Three years ago, Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor in the 1970s, wrote that the question is “no longer whether there is to be a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel, but which model to choose” (2). Respected intellectuals on all sides, including the late Edward Said; the Arab Israeli Continue reading
Gideon Levy | Haaretz.com | Sun, November 08, 2009 | Israel Time: 13:18 (EST+7)
Twilight Zone / ‘Worse than apartheid’
I thought they would feel right at home in the alleys of Balata refugee camp, the Casbah and the Hawara checkpoint. But they said there is no comparison: for them the Israeli occupation regime is worse than anything they knew under apartheid. This week, 21 human rights activists from South Africa visited Israel. Among them were members of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress; at least one of them took part in the armed struggle and at least two were jailed. There were two South African Supreme Court judges, a former deputy minister, and members of Parliament, attorneys, writers and journalists. Blacks and whites, about half of them Jews who today are in conflict with attitudes of the conservative Jewish community in their country. Some of them have been here before; for others it was their first visit.
For five days, they paid an unconventional visit to Israel – without Sderot, the IDF and the Foreign Ministry but with Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial and a meeting with Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch. They spent most of their time in the occupied areas, where hardly any official guests go – places that are also shunned by most Israelis.
On Monday, they visited Nablus, the most imprisoned city in the West Bank. From Hawara to the Casbah, from the Casbah to Balata, from Continue reading
IANS | Fri, Nov 6 | 08:24 PM
Tel Aviv Friday deplored a UN resolution backing the Goldstone report that investigated human rights violations during the brief war between Israeli forces and Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip early this year. The UN resolution suggests if either of the two sides fails to launch a credible investigation, then the matter should be submitted to the Security Council, Xinhua reported. Israel has denied any violation of international humanitarian laws. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had appointed a former South African judge Richard Goldstone to investigate any possible human rights violations during the 22-day war in December and January in the Gaza Strip. After a debate, majority of the 192-member UN General Assembly voted in favour of an unbinding resolution that calls upon both Israel and the Palestinians to conduct ‘independent and credible’ investigations into alleged war crimes.
In response, Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement ‘Israel rejects the UN resolution which is completely detached from the ground realities it faces.’ The ministry also said it had the right for self-defence and would continue to act to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. Israel said it launched the offensive in response to eight years of continuous rocket fire from Gaza. At least 1,400 people were killed in the fighting. While defying international pressure for an inquiry based on the Goldstone report, Israel said it has been conducting its own investigation into a number of civilian deaths and other incidents during the Gaza war, including some listed in the report.