Posts Tagged ‘ Palestine ’

US says closing consulate in Jerusalem no policy shift

March 04, 2019

JERUSALEM (AP) — The United States has officially shuttered its consulate in Jerusalem, downgrading the status of its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians by folding it into the U.S. Embassy to Israel.

For decades, the consulate functioned as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Now, that outreach will be handled by a Palestinian affairs unit, under the command of the embassy. The symbolic shift hands authority over U.S. diplomatic channels with the West Bank and Gaza to ambassador David Friedman, a longtime supporter and fundraiser for the West Bank settler movement and fierce critic of the Palestinian leadership.

The announcement from the State Department came early Monday in Jerusalem, the merger effective that day. “This decision was driven by our global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our diplomatic engagements and operations,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement. “It does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

In a farewell video addressed to the consulate’s Palestinian partners, Consul General Karen Sasahara, who is leaving her post as the unofficial U.S. ambassador to the Palestinians and will not be replaced, maintains that new Palestinian unit at the embassy will carry forward the mission of the consulate, “in support of the strengthening of American-Palestinian ties, to boost economic opportunities for the Palestinians and facilitate cultural and educational exchanges.”

When first announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October, the move infuriated Palestinians, fueling their suspicions that the U.S. was recognizing Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories that Palestinians seek for a future state.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the move “the final nail in the coffin” for the U.S. role in peacemaking. The downgrade is just the latest in a string of divisive decisions by the Trump administration that have backed Israel and alienated the Palestinians, who say they have lost faith in the U.S. administration’s role as a neutral arbiter in peace process.

Last year the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocated its embassy there, upending U.S. policy toward one of the most explosive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians in turn cut off most ties with the administration.

The administration also has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, including assistance to hospitals and peace-building programs. It has cut funding to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinians classified as refugees. Last fall, it shut down the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.

The Trump administration has cited the reluctance of Palestinian leaders to enter peace negotiations with Israel as the reason for such punitive measures, although the U.S. has yet to present its much-anticipated but still mysterious “Deal of the Century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, announced last month that the U.S. would unveil the deal after Israeli elections in April. The Palestinian Authority has preemptively rejected the plan, accusing the U.S. of bias toward Israel.

AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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Israelis to turn historic mosque into museum

February 5, 2019

The Israeli authorities in Tiberias have broken into the historic Al-Bahr Mosque in order to start turning it into a museum, Al-Resalah reported on Monday. The move violates a 2000 agreement between the authorities and the Palestinian community in Israel to maintain the status quo at the mosque, which has been closed ever since. One fifth of all Israeli citizens are Palestinians, the so-called “Arab-Israelis”, and face institutionalized discrimination at the hands of the state.

Israel has demolished hundreds of Palestinian mosques, cemeteries and other religious sites since the state’s creation in 1948. Dozens have been turned into bars and night clubs in Jaffa, Lod, Al-Ramla, Ashkelon and other cities with no regard for their religious significance.

According to Arab48.com, the agreement reached in 2000 has been violated several times, with attacks on the building, including arson. Largely left unguarded, it has been used by drug addicts.

“We have to go to Tiberias and stop the desecration of the holy site which aims to erase any Palestinian symbols in the city,” insisted Mohammad Baraka, the Chairman of the High Committee for Arab Citizens. He said that the Arab citizens in Israel would never accept such a move and pledged to protect the mosque and other holy places.

“Those who forget the agreement to maintain the status quo should know that it was not easy to reach,” said Kamal Al-Khatib, the head of the freedoms sub-committee in the Arab Follow up Committee. “It seems that the right-wing trend is within the mindset of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the head of Tiberias municipality, which is known for its right-wing stances.”

Al-Bahr (“The Sea”) Mosque was built in 1743 by the Muslim ruler of Tiberias, Al-Zaher Omar. It is located on the shore of Lake Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. Since the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948, the mosque has been abandoned and no Muslims have been allowed to enter it. Having been turned into a bar, an agreement was reached in 2000 between the Tiberias municipality and the Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Arab parliamentarians. However, it was abandoned again and Palestinians are not allowed to enter even to clean it.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190205-israelis-to-turn-historic-mosque-into-museum/.

Israeli defense minister resigns over Gaza cease-fire deal

November 14, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister abruptly resigned Wednesday in protest over a cease-fire reached with Gaza militants, in a move that rocked the Israeli political scene and seemed likely to bring about early elections.

Avigdor Lieberman said the cease-fire amounted to “surrender to terrorism” after two days of heavy fighting, and that he could no longer serve a government that endorsed it. Lieberman had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the most intense round of rocket fire against Israel since a 50-day war in 2014, but appeared to have been overruled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

His resignation delivers a major blow to Netanyahu’s coalition government and sparked immediate calls for early elections. Lieberman said he hoped that in the coming days a date would be set for a new vote. The opposition parties joined his call.

The government still has a narrow one-seat majority in the Knesset without Lieberman’s nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu faction, but is unlikely to survive until the next elections, currently set for November 2019.

The party of another Netanyahu rival, Naftali Bennett, has already announced that if he is not appointed defense minister it will also quit the coalition — a move that would trigger early elections. Given Bennett’s sometimes rocky relationship with Netanyahu, it is far from certain he will be given the powerful defense post. Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid Party, said “the countdown has begun” to the end of Netanyahu’s term in office.

Lieberman’s resignation will take effect in 48 hours and Netanyahu will take over the defense portfolio on an interim basis. Netanyahu currently also serves as Israel’s foreign minister. Netanyahu had come under heavy criticism for agreeing to the cease-fire, especially from his own political base and in rocket-battered towns in southern Israel that are typically strongholds of his ruling Likud Party.

Angry residents took to the street Tuesday chanting “Disgrace!” at what they saw as the government’s capitulation to violence and its inability to provide long-term security. Many have openly vowed to never vote Likud again.

“We are third-class citizens here in Sderot and the communities on the border with Gaza,” complained David Maimon, a local resident. “It’s a shame. Instead of helping us and letting us live quietly, they let us suffer.”

Recent months have seen sporadic rocket attacks as well as militant infiltration attempts and a wave of incendiary kites that have destroyed Israeli crops. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. But Lieberman and Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Netanyahu defended his actions at a memorial ceremony in the Negev desert for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. “I see the big picture of Israeli security that I cannot share with the public,” he said. “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire and they know well why. I cannot detail our plans for the future. We will dictate the time and circumstances that are right for Israel and are right for the security of our people.”

“In times like these, leadership is not doing the easy thing. Leadership is doing the right thing, even if it is hard. Leadership is sometime facing criticism,” he added. Lieberman said the cease-fire deal, coupled with a decision to allow Qatar to deliver $15 million in aid to Gaza last week, were too much for him to bear.

“We are buying quiet in the short-term at the cost of severe damage to our security in the long-term,” he said in his resignation announcement. “The weakness we displayed also projects itself to other arenas.”

A gleeful Hamas said Lieberman’s resignation marked a “political victory for Gaza.” “Lieberman’s departure is recognition of defeat and failure to confront the Palestinian resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement. “Gaza’s steadfastness sent a political shockwave.”

The Israel-Gaza frontier remained largely quiet overnight after the heavy fighting of recent days. But on Wednesday afternoon, Gaza’s fishermen’s union said a 20-year-old fisherman was fatally shot on the beach near the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

The Israeli military said it opened fire under standard procedure after the man ventured too close to the border. Hamas had no immediate reaction. During this week’s fighting, Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel in a 24-hour period, while the Israeli military carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. In Israel, one person was killed in a rocket strike and three were critically wounded.

With air raid sirens wailing throughout southern Israel and the explosions of airstrikes thundering in Gaza, the two sides had appeared to be on the verge of their fourth war in a decade. Instead, Gaza’s Hamas rulers abruptly announced a cease-fire and Israel’s Security Cabinet ended a seven-hour discussion with a decision to hold its fire.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and U.N. mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

Hamas has staged near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007. The blockade has ravaged Gaza’s economy, and Israel refuses to lift it unless Hamas disarms, a demand rejected by militant group, which is pledged to Israel’s destruction.

Demonstrators each week have approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed. Israel says it is defending its border against attackers, but it has come under heavy international criticism for shooting unarmed people.

Israel holds municipal vote, Jerusalem chooses new mayor

October 30, 2018

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis are voting in municipal elections across the country. In the closest watched race Tuesday, four candidates are hoping to become the next mayor of Jerusalem — a city with great importance to billions of people around the world.

Ofer Berkovitch, a young secular activist, is running against Moshe Lion, a longtime political activist, Cabinet minister Zeev Elkin, who is supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ultra-Orthodox candidate Yossi Daitch.

If no one captures 40 percent of the votes, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff. Jerusalem is a diverse city, with a Jewish population divided between secular residents, modern Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. In addition, about one-third of the population is Palestinian.

Few Palestinians vote, however, seeing participation as recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem.

Turkey will open Paraguay embassy after its policy shift on Jerusalem

Friday 7 September 2018

Turkey will open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion, the South American country said on Thursday, a day after President Mario Abdo reversed the previous administration’s decision to move its diplomatic mission in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Turkey’s ambassador to Paraguay has been operating out of Buenos Aires. Turkey has a consulate in Asuncion and another in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

By opening the embassy, Turkey is expressing support for Paraguay’s stance on Israel, Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni told reporters.

Paraguay and Guatemala relocated their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem after US President Donald Trump recognized the city as the country’s capital in December, in a move denounced by most of the international community.

In a phone call on Wednesday, US Vice President Mike Pence urged Abdo to stick to his predecessor’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the White House said in a statement.

“The vice president strongly encouraged President Abdo Benitez to follow through with Paraguay’s previous commitment to move the embassy as a sign of the historic relationship the country has maintained with both Israel and the United States,” the statement said.

Hours after Paraguay’s new government announced it would move its embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, Israel responded by ordering the closure of its embassy in Paraguay.

The Palestinian Authority hailed Paraguay’s “honorable” decision on Wednesday, announcing that it will “immediately” open an embassy in the Paraguayan capital.

Most countries do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, arguing that peace talks should determine the city’s final status. Paraguay cited this as one reason to move its embassy back to Tel Aviv.

Castiglioni said he expected to meet his Turkish counterpart at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this month.

Paraguay considers Israel’s decision to close its embassy hasty and disproportionate, and hopes Israeli authorities will reconsider, Castiglioni said.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkey-open-paraguay-embassy-after-policy-shift-jerusalem-1863572311.

Israeli fire kills 6 Palestinians at Gaza protest

October 13, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian health officials say Israeli forces have shot dead six Palestinians, four of them in a single incident, in one of the deadliest days in months of mass protests along the security fence separating Gaza and Israel.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said Friday that four were killed in one location, where the Israeli military said it opened fire on a crowed of Palestinians who breached the fence and approached an army post. No Israeli troops were harmed, the army added.

Two other Palestinians were killed in other protest locations, the ministry said, adding that at least 140 Palestinians were wounded by live bullets. Since March, Hamas has orchestrated near-weekly protests along the fence.

The Israeli military said 14,000 Palestinians thronged the border fence areas Friday.

Extraordinary OIC Palestine summit held in Istanbul

18.05.2018

ISTANBUL

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent out a strong message against Israeli violence that martyred at least 62 Palestinians during the ongoing extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday.

A large number of heads of state and government, including Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Afghan President Ashraf Gani, Kuwaiti Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and Mauritanian President Mohammad Veled Abdulaziz participate in the summit meeting.

Erdogan, OIC Secretary General Yousef al-Othaimeen, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Hamdallah are expected to deliver speeches at the ongoing conference.

The event will enable the Muslim leaders to show a dedicated and joint stance against Israeli actions. A final declaration will be released afterwards.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will also speak at the summit.

A total of 15 OIC members state foreign ministers are attending the gathering, including from Iran, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

Monday’s protests in Gaza coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary – an event Palestinians refer to as Nakba or the “Catastrophe” – and the relocation of the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since the mass Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian protesters have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government claimed that the ongoing Gaze protests constitute a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law does not apply.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/extraordinary-oic-palestine-summit-held-in-istanbul/1150495.

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