Archive for August 12th, 2011

Jordan’s king warns of new intifada as Israel approves settlements

May 23, 2011

WASHINGTON/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: The prolonged stalemate in the Middle East peace process will lead to yet another war between Israel and the Palestinians, Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“I just have a feeling that we’re going to be living with the status quo for 2011 … Whenever we accept the status quo, we do so until there is another war,” Abdullah told ABC television’s “This Week.”

“If you look to the past 10 years, every two to two-and-a-half years, there is either the intifada or a war or a conflict. So looking back over the past 12 years, my experience shows me that if we ignore the Israeli-Palestinian issue, something will burst,” the monarch said.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of 294 new homes in the Beitar Ilit settlement in the occupied West Bank, anti-settlement NGO Peace Now reported.

It also said that work had started on more than 2,000 settler homes since the end in September of Israel’s 10-month freeze on Jewish construction on Palestinian land.

Peace Now said Barak has also approved building of homes for the elderly and a shopping center in the settlement of Efrat.

The group could not say exactly when Barak had signed off on the projects, although it said that it had seen a letter dated April 28 from the Defense Ministry advising the Housing Ministry of its decision.

The plans still need local authority permits to build but that is considered a formality, requiring no further government action, Peace Now said.

The Defense Ministry, contacted by AFP, issued a brief statement saying that “since the end of the freeze period a few building permits have been approved for communities situated in the [settlement] blocs to meet their living needs.”

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since late September, when the partial Israeli settlement freeze expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.

Peace Now said Sunday that since the moratorium had been lifted Israeli settlers had started construction on about 2,000 homes in 75 different settlement sites.

“This construction might create facts on the ground that will make the price of peace much higher for Israel,” it said in a statement, adding that one-third of the new construction was going on beyond Israel’s West Bank barrier, which itself regularly cuts into land the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Peace Now added that in addition the Israeli government had given planning permission to 800 new homes in 13 settlements.

Peace Now called that decision “not just miserable timing but a miserable policy” and said it sent a “clear message to the Americans.”

The Palestinians have insisted they will not talk while Israel builds on land they want for a future state, and Israel has attracted fierce international criticism for its settlement policy.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said Israel must choose “between settlements and peace.”

But in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech Sunday, Netanyahu issued a blunt statement rejecting the pre-1967 lines as a basis for negotiation.

Meanwhile, Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, will seek Russian backing for a new government after their reconciliation deal at talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday, a delegate said.

“We are expecting that he will show his support for the reconciliation accord and the formation of the new Palestinian government,” Bassam Salhi, leader of the Palestinian People’s Party, told AFP on the eve of the talks in Moscow.

Salhi said that the factions had held talks among themselves over the weekend about the formation of a national unity government, without giving further details.

The factions are due to meet Lavrov Monday morning where they will try to drum up support from Moscow for the reconciliation accord.

Source: The Daily Star.

West Bank businessmen to rebuild Gaza Strip

May 22, 2011

RAMALLAH: Some 100 businessmen from the West Bank will visit Gaza on Tuesday to push forward plans to reconstruct the coastal enclave which was damaged during the 2008-2009 Israeli military operation.

Osama Kohail, head of Palestinian Contractors’ Union, said the businessmen would arrive in Gaza on Tuesday to start consultations for reconstructing the damage.

The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said the Israeli offensive left about 500 families living in tents and destroyed or damaged 11,152 houses.

For its part, Amnesty International said at the time that more than 3,000 Palestinian homes and hundreds of other properties were destroyed during the fighting, and more than 20,000 structures were damaged. In addition to private homes, Israel destroyed factories, workshops, animal farms, orchards, government buildings, police stations and prisons, Amnesty said.

Kohail said that the businessmen would “sign agreements with their counterparts in Gaza Strip to ease the reconstruction efforts.”

The official said his union coordinated the initiative with the Hamas government.

Tens of donor countries pledged more than $4.4 billion to rebuild the war-torn territory at a conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh in March 2009, but little has happened on the ground up to now due to the Palestinian internal split.

As a result of the lack of materials, Gazans manufactured mud bricks in an attempt to overcome the Israeli restrictions.

The United Nations and human rights groups have voiced concern about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel to ease its blockade imposed on the coastal enclave following the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006. Since the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt lifted its part of the blockade.

Groups in Gaza have also focused on bringing in construction materials, such as cement and iron, which would be used to rebuild the damage caused by Israel’s three-week Gaza offensive last winter.

The “fight” between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza over donations that should be allocated to rebuilding the Gaza Strip began after Israel halted its offensive. Control over reconstruction funds would put huge sums of aid money expected to flood in from abroad at Hamas’ fingertips and could also give the group a measure of international recognition.

The PA is urging all parties and others to look to it as the sole channel for administering the construction process. The Gaza-based Hamas government said is the legitimate channel “to any Arab or foreign body that wants to rebuild what has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation.”

However, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo earlier this month.

The two movements agreed to form a transitional government of neutral technocrats to rebuild the Gaza Strip and prepare parliamentary and presidential elections in a year.

Source: Arab News.

Palestinian factions to boycott unity government

May 22, 2011

GAZA CITY: Eight Palestinian political factions affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) will not nominate candidates for the government of technocrats proposed in the unity deal that was reached early this month in Cairo.

The local independent news agency “Maan” reported on Sunday that the factions are protesting the “bilateral monopoly” by Fatah and Hamas movements over the unity government intended to end years of fractured politics in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The factions said in a joint statement that they support the efforts toward unity but hope the deal will also take their views into consideration.

The signatories the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Palestinian Democratic Union, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, Palestinian Liberation Front, the Arab Liberation Front and the Palestinian Arab Front.

The factions including Fatah and Hamas have all signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo this month to end the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and to hold elections in a year.

Source: Arab News.

Jordanian officer killed, four injured in Afghanistan

May 22, 2011

AMMAN: A Jordanian Army officer was killed and four soldiers injured Sunday when a roadside bomb exploded as a humanitarian convoy passed by in the Afghan Lugar province, a spokesman for the Jordanian armed forces said in a statement.

The statement, carried by the official Petra news agency, identified the officer killed as First Lt. Majed Abu Qudairi. ”The four wounded are in good health,” the army spokesman said.

“The General Command of the Armed Forces is making the necessary arrangements with the Jordanian contingent in Afghanistan to bring home the martyr and the wounded, so that they can receive treatment at Jordanian hospitals,” he added.

This is the second Jordanian fatality in Afghanistan in less than 18 months.

On Dec. 30, 2009, a Jordanian intelligence officer, Captain Ali bin Zeid, was killed along with seven leading members of the US Central Intelligence Agency at a US forward base in the eastern province of Khost in a suicidal attack that was carried out by a Jordanian doctor, Humam Balawi.

Balawi turned out later to have been a double agent of the terrorist Al-Qaeda organization and the Jordanian Intelligence Department.

In a related development, Jordan’s top criminal court on Sunday acquitted two prominent Jordanian writers of charges directed against them for strongly criticizing Jordan’s intelligence cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan.

Sofian Tal and Muwaffaq Mahadin were found not guilty on the charges of offending ties with a foreign country, provoking sectarian and racial feuds and calling for the overthrow of constitutional government through violent means.

The new fatality is expected to stir a new wave of criticism inside Jordan, which has witnesses a series of demonstrations over the past four months to press demands for reform and fighting corruption.

The authorities so far kept a tight lid on the number of Jordanian troops operating in Afghanistan to support humanitarian operations there, but NATO’s website put the number at 90 alongside other contributions to the multinational force.

Source: Arab News.

Hamas calls on PA to “reconsider” peace process with Israel

May 22, 2011

Gaza City – The de-facto Hamas government in Gaza on Sunday called on the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to reevaluate its stance in favor of peace negotiations with Israel.

‘The Palestinian Authority (PA) is asked to seriously reconsider and reevaluate its positions,’ Gaza’s Foreign Ministry, led by the Islamist movement, said in a statement.

It should do so following remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.

On Friday, Netanyahu said after meeting US President Barack Obama that Israel would not withdraw to the borders of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

‘This clearly shows that Israel continues with its hostile policies, which reject any peaceful solution whatever its shape and content,’ said the Hamas Foreign Ministry statement.

‘For Netanyahu, the priority is to build more settlements, annex more lands and change the demographic features of the Palestinian territories to impose facts on the ground,’ it said.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and has demanded a Palestinian Islamist state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Its leaders have said in recent years that it would be willing to temporarily accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza only, not in exchange for an end to the conflict, but in return for a long-term truce lasting several generations.

Short-lived direct peace talks between the Netanyahu government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the PA, were suspended late last year, after Israel did not meet a Palestinian demand to extend a construction freeze in Israeli settlements.

Hamas and Abbas, of the secular Fatah party, had been feuding for years, causing a de-facto split between Gaza and the West Bank. But the rivaling parties reconciled earlier this month, with Abbas contemplating a request to the United Nation General Assembly for recognition of Palestine according to its 1967 borders.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Source: Monsters and Critics.

Hamas agreed to Fayyad as finance minister in new unity government

AFP, Sunday 22 May 2011

The Hamas movement has accepted the appointment of Salam Fayyad as Minister of Finance in the new transitional Palestinian unity government, Palestinian Safa news website reported on Sunday. Fayyad is currently Prime Minister of the Palestinian government in Ramallah.

The website reported that a senior Fatah official said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent several messages to Hamas leaders in the past few days urging them to accept Fayyad as prime minister or finance minister.

“President Abbas urged Hamas leaders not to take any hasty decisions that might give Israel an excuse to convince the international community to boycott the Palestinian authority,” the source said.

He added that Hamas leaders said the movement does not mind putting the appointment of Fayyad as finance minister on the negotiation table; however, the movement needed guarantees from President Abbas that there would be no crackdown on movement figures or interests in the West Bank in the future.

Other Palestinian sources added that US President Barack Obama’s recent speech convinced Palestinian leaders that the new unity government must include technocrats who have the approval of the international community.

Source: Ahram.

‘Turkey could host mediation talks between Fatah and Hamas’

22 May 2011, Sunday / CUMALI ÖNAL, CAIRO

Chief Fatah representative Azzam al-Ahmed, who chaired reconciliation talks with Hamas, has said Turkey could very well be the venue for the next round of talks aimed to solve differences between two Palestinian groups.

“Turkey is a brotherly country, not just a friend. We need Turkey more than ever and Turkey needs to be more active,” he told Today’s Zaman, adding that Turkey could very well bring the Palestinian sides together in its own country.

Al-Ahmed dismissed suggestions that Egypt would not want Turkey to take a leading role. “Egypt is no longer the same Egypt.” he said. “We also believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that our martyrs are Turkey’s martyrs.

Whatever upsets us also upsets Turks. Turkey has every right to assist the Palestinians,” he explained.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was not so enthusiastic to amplify Turkey’s role in mediation talks, however. Speaking to reporters in Damascus last month after a meeting with Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, he said, “Egypt has made very valuable contributions on this issue. We have not been attempting to bring the role it [Egypt] played to Turkey. We believe that, with the latest change in the region, Egypt will make many more valuable contributions on the Palestine issue in particular. We believe that we will be engaged in efforts that are not different alternatives but complementary to each other.”

On May 3, both factions signed an Egypt-brokered reconciliation pact agreeing to form a national unity government. The accord, signed in Cairo, ended a four-year rift between the two groups. The differences between the two sides are still being worked out. Al-Ahmed said some of the talks will be held in Moscow at the invitation of Russia. “Turkey could very well invite us to hold talks there as well,” he said, adding that

Turkey has much more clout in the Palestinian issue because of religious, cultural and historic ties.

Al-Ahmed asked Turkey to apply pressure on both sides and positively engage in discussions through dialogue. “Turkey should not hesitate to exert pressure on both sides,” he underlined. Looking back at the past, he said, Turkey has had more contact with Hamas than Fatah. “Turkey could have played an active role in the Palestinian issue but was slow to react. Today, however, it can play a larger role,” he explained.

The chief Fatah representative also blamed Syria for not helping reconciliation talks. “To the extent that the old Egyptian regime played a negative role in talks, Syria was also a negative factor,” he said.

Source: Today’s Zaman.