Archive for Palestinian Authority

Netanyahu urges Palestinian ‘courage’

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 25 August 2009

Source: The Guardian


Brown upbeat on Middle East peace prospects after Netanyahu talks

• PM ‘as realistic as ever but more optimistic than before’
• Brown reiterates call for end to Jewish settlement buildin

Benjamin Netanyahu and Gordon Brown at Downing Street

Gordon Brown said today he was “increasingly confident” that Israel was willing to end settlement activity in the Palestinian territories.

After talks with his Israeli counterpart, Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister said he was “as realistic as ever but more optimistic than before” about peace in the Middle East.

“We share a vision of a secure and confident Israel accepted and welcomed by its neighbour alongside – after decades of waiting – a secure and viable Palestine in a region at peace with itself,” he said.

Speaking alongside Netanyahu in Downing Street, Brown said he had reiterated his call for an end to Jewish settlement building on Palestinian land.

“I made clear that settlement activity was a barrier to a two-state solution,” he said. “I’m increasingly confident, however, that there is a genuine will to make progress, that a freeze in such activity would result in meaningful steps towards normalisation from Arab states.”

Netanyahu, who faces the same demands from the US president, Barack Obama, said he had made clear Israel would not build new settlements or “expropriate additional land”. But he stressed there was a need for facilities to enable “normal life” for Jewish settlers already in the West Bank. “This is very different from grabbing land,” he told reporters.

He said Britain and Israel had “common hopes and common challenges”, but stressed the threat from Iran and the need for Palestinians to recognise Israel.

Netanyahu said Israel had already moved to improve access to the West Bank. With the territory enjoying a period of calm, some Israeli military checkpoints have been lifted and permits for importing raw materials are being granted.

“We have moved, we expect similar movement from the Palestinian Authority and there has not been that movement. That’s an understatement,” he said. “But there has to be that movement. There has to be not merely a partner on the other side, there has to be a courageous partner.”

“They have to say unequivocally ‘it’s over, we are going to make a real peace, it will be a final peace that ends all claims to further conflict’.”

Brown said he deplored Iran’s aggressive comments about Israel. “Such diatribe has no place in a civilised world,” he said. “We also share Israel’s concerns over Iranian ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon.

“Iran needs to co-operate with the international community, to take up President Obama’s unprecedented offer of engagement. Until then, the international community will continue to view Iranian ambitions with suspicion.”

Netanyahu is due to meet the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, tomorrow, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Berlin on Thursday. While Netanyahu will want to emphasise the potential threat from Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons, European leaders are expected to underline their concerns about the spread of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

In Washington the state department spokesman, Ian Kelly, said the US and Israel were “getting closer” to agreement on the resumption of talks. “I don’t want to go into the details of exactly why, but just to say that we’re hopeful that we can resume very soon,” Kelly said.

Hefetz said Israel believed talks could be resumed within two months. Israeli government officials say a compromise under discussion could see Israel freeze building for nine to 12 months, but this will not include East Jerusalem or building that has already begun.

The halt in approvals for new building was dismissed by Netanyahu’s critics. The settlement watchdog group Peace Now said there had been no real slowdown in construction and that settlers could keep building indefinitely, using plans that had already been approved. In a new report, Peace Now said Israeli defence ministry figures showed existing government approval to build more than 40,000 housing units in West Bank settlements.

In his meeting with Mitchell, Netanyahu is expected to stress that Israel will not accept limits on its sovereignty in Jerusalem, in particular in relation to building new housing units in the city, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said he would resume peace talks with Israel, suspended since December, on condition of a freeze on settlement activity. Some 500,000 Jews live in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war and which is home to 2.5 million Palestinians.

Hamas starts the ‘Islamisation’ of Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 14/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 14th August 2009

Source: El País (translated from Spanish into English by 3.071 Km)


The population rejects the plan of the fundamentalists to impose a strict Islamic morality – female lawyers will have to use the ‘hijab’ in court.

A group of young people enter a store and advise the owner to remove the dummy from the window. Underwear for all to see -sometimes suggestive lingerie-  is a long-outdated indecency. As it is that men walk along the beach of Gaza with their uncovered chest.

The police has also requested documentation to couples walking down the street to check whether they were married, although the measure was quickly cancelled after some angry reactions and protests by several NGOs in the Palestinian territory. Guns have fallen silent over the past six months, but Hamas and its government are working in other fields. They now encourage or attempt to impose certain behaviors that are appropriate to Islamic law and morality.

“The campaign is in accordance to our religion and traditions. We have seen some dangers for our youth and our role is to warn our people about these things,” said Taleb Abu Shaar, Minister of Religious Affairs. Although Abu Shaar ensures that no one is forced to do something they dislike, the campaign has met with a rejection greater than expected. And not only among the laity.

Many streets of Gaza are full of posters that encourage, for example, not smoking. It would be very, very strange to see a leader of Hamas cigarette in hand. “Those who do this are not always civil servants, but they are members of Hamas. The posters call for maintaining a decent performance,” said Maru, who lives in the neighboring refugee camp of Jabalia, and is sympathetic to the fundamentalist movement.

The Islamist government and its judicial bodies have decreed that from September the 1st all female lawyers must go to court with the hijab. There are thousands of women working in companies, ministries, hospitals or schools. Of course, driving. Gaza is not Saudi Arabia. The authorities claim that they only seek to apply a law in force since 1930, which regulated the mode of dress of lawyers and judges. It is perhaps the most relevant of a number of measures that cause discomfort in the laity, but also among many of the religious people of the Strip. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights based in Gaza, has criticized the blatant illegality of the initiative.

“Of course, the laity do not like this to happen. But many people who sympathize with Hamas, either. Not that fervently oppose the measures, but they think the Government could focus on more important matters,” Maruan explained. Institutions operate at half gas: Sixteen departments were razed during the war launched by Israel last December. The Palestinian Authority, bitter rival of Hamas, pays from Ramallah the payroll of their former employees with the only condition that they do not work for the islamist government, which has forced the government of Ismail Haniya in Gaza to recruit inexperienced staff. Complaints are heard. “Yes, they might be polite, but they are incompetent,” Maruan adds.

The slow process of Islamisation of the Palestinian society started decades ago. Because religious practices are by no means unique to Gaza. In many cities in West Bank -ever ruled in the past 15 years by a secular-nationalist government- you can not buy a can of beer in a store. Walking by a Muslim woman in Hebron or Nablus who does not cover her head is an equally complicated task. And Ramadan is scrupulously respected in public spaces. Hamas will not be the one to slow down this trend.  “I,” says the director of an NGO in Gaza, “I tried my 16 years old daughter not to wear the hijab. No way. She uses it because she wants to. All her friends wear it.”

As it regards to many other hot topics, Hamas is not monolithic. Several leaders called for further implementation of the controversial decisions. Others preferred to stop. A member of Hamas recognised recently in this newspaper: “Society is not yet ready to implement Islamic laws.” In three years of almost complete dominance of the Strip there were few decisions that led Hamas to further Islamicise the Strip’s society, which has raised harsh accusations from Al Qaeda against the Palestinian Islamist party.

It is difficult to know whether this warm way launched by Hamas  will reduce its sympathies. It may lose from one side what gains from the other. “Old style entrepreneurs are always satisfied to bring a few bags from Israel. The Israeli blockade has left them without any goods. But the blockade is creating a new business network that thrives on the tunnels of Rafah, an industry that  the fundamentalist movement controls,” says the head of the mentioned NGO in Gaza.

Hamas is building its own economic structure, having restored the judiciary and police. “I don’t really think it is losing popular support, although the  discomfort of many people with certain decisions is undeniable,” he concludes.

Can Fatah reinvent itself?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/08/2009 by 3071km

Written by Heather Sharp

Date published: 4th August 2009

Source: BBC News


Delegates at 6th Fatah Council, Bethlehem

Fatah has not held a conference for 20 years

By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Bethlehem

The gleaming black Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs are lined up in front of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

Fatah cars in front of church of nativity (03.07.09)

Many Palestinians are angered by Fatah leaders’ expensive cars

With blasting horns, Mahmoud Abbas’s convoy sweeps through cordoned off streets, whisking the Palestinian Authority president to the first general conference of his Fatah movement in 20 years.

The 2,000 or so gathered members range from ageing Palestinian exiles returning after decades abroad, to former militant commanders from West Bank refugee camps, to Mr Abbas and his suited contemporaries.

The conference’s task, as many see it, is to save Fatah – formed by Yasser Arafat five decades ago to lead armed struggle against Israeli occupation – from disintegration and decline.

The movement’s critics see it as a nepotistic, corrupt and ineffective body whose leadership has given away too much to Israel, and failed to hold the Palestinians together after Mr Arafat’s death in 2004.

When Palestinian voters handed the militant Islamist faction Hamas victory in 2006 parliamentary elections, it was widely seen to be as much punishment of Fatah as it was endorsement of Hamas.

Occupation continued

About 15 years ago, Fatah threw its weight behind peace negotiations as the route to Palestinian statehood.

Attallah Awwad, 17, Bethlehem
We tried armed struggle, it didn’t work; we tried negotiation, it didn’t work – maybe new people will have new solutions
Attallah Awwad, student

But now, to many Palestinians, occupation seems more entrenched than ever with Israeli settlements still growing and the current right-wing Israeli government setting out tougher negotiating lines than the last.

“Fatah has lost a lot,” says Palestinian analyst and editor Khalil Shaheen.

Now, international observers are watching to see whether the movement will update its charter – currently committed to “liquidating the Zionist entity” – and shift formally from liberation movement to political party.

But while Fatah may soften its language on armed struggle, it is thought unlikely to outlaw it altogether.

Doing so would “lose the Palestinian people,” says Mr Shaheen, referring to the risk that frustrated voters would be pushed towards the violent “resistance” espoused by Hamas – a particular concern if unity talks lead to elections tentatively slated for next January.


But in any case, he says, the struggle between personalities seems to be eclipsing the actual issues at stake.

Woman with poster of Marwan Barghouti, Lebanon (03.07.09)

Marwan Barghouti is seen as a potentially unifying figure

A key task for the conference is to re-elect the organisation’s powerful 21-member central committee, a number of whom have died in post in the 20 years since the last conference.

The battle lines within Fatah have long been characterised as a struggle between the ageing exiled ideologues who founded it and the locally born pragmatists who backed peace talks.

But also vying for a say are members of an even younger generation, who have come of age during the two intifadas, or uprisings, of recent decades.

‘Low, dirty and petty’

The talk at the conference is of bringing in fresh blood, controlling infighting and rooting out corruption.

But there are already concerns over who the 700 extra delegates suddenly added to the conference list are and who their votes will go to.

Fatah figure Mohammad Dahlan

Mohammed Dahlan denies claims of corruption

And the run-up to the conference saw an angry row as Fatah’s 78-year-old exiled chairman, Farouk Kaddoumi, who opposes peace talks and refuses to return to operate under Israeli occupation, accused Mr Abbas of conspiring with Israel to murder Yasser Arafat.

“They really fight their rivals in a very low, dirty and petty manner,” says veteran Palestinian journalist Wafa Amr. And, she says, the new generation is no more united.

There are two younger figures considered most likely to gain central committee seats.

One is Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader currently held in an Israeli prison on five counts of murder.

The other, Mohammed Dahlan, is the former head of a powerful security force in Gaza. But he is a divisive figure and widely believed to be corrupt.

While both hold to the general Fatah position of support for a two-state solution, with armed resistance retained as an option if talks fail, they diverge when it comes to dealing with Hamas.

Mr Barghouti, a militant leader during the second intifada who says he is opposed to attacks on civilians, has long been seen as the only figure likely to have anything close to the unifying power of Arafat.

In 2006, he and prisoners from other factions, including Hamas, drafted a document outlining a unifying platform of principles.

Kaddora Fares, Fatah activist close to Marwan barghouti

Mr Fares says Fatah should reach out to Hamas

Kaddora Fares, a Fatah activist close to Mr Barghouti, describes it as the “only comprehensive document” on Palestinian unity so far.

“We have to be realists, to recognise the truth – that Hamas represents a wide community… We have to stop thinking it will be possible to dismantle a movement,” he says.

Mr Dahlan, however, as the leader of security forces in Gaza during street battles with Hamas in 2007, is at the forefront of the feud between the two factions.

His security forces were supported by the US in what some documentary evidence suggests was a Washington-backed attempt to remove Hamas from power.

And well before that, he was reviled by Hamas for his role in previous PA crackdowns against Islamist militants.

‘No-one like Arafat’

In the bustling streets outside the security cordon, there is little hope that anyone can unite the divided Palestinians.

“No Hamas, no Fatah – all no good,” mutters a man carrying a tray of glasses of tea.

“If I am suffering from the sunrise to the sunset who will I elect? Those people who ride a jeep worth 500,000 Israeli shekels ($125,000), or have $1m villas? Will he be my representative?” asks travel agent Khalil Salahat, 50, his voice rising in anger.

Attallah Awwad, 17, may get his first chance to vote next year.

“We tried armed struggle, it didn’t work. We tried negotiation, it didn’t work. Maybe new people will have new solutions.”

But who? He looks blank. “There is no-one like Arafat.”

You can exist if it’s the way I want…

Posted in International community, Israel, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , on 14/06/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 14th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English


Israeli PM lays out peace terms

Israel’s settlement building has been a stumbling block to the peace process [AFP]

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has called for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state, saying this would be key to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In his much-anticipated policy speech on Sunday, Netanyahu called for the immediate resumption of peace talks between the two sides.

“In my vision of peace, two people live in good neighbourly relations, each with their own flag … Neither threaten the other’s security,” he told his audience at Bar-Ilan University, outside Tel Aviv.

“In any peace agreement, the territory under Palestinian control must be disarmed, with solid security guarantees for Israel.”

Netanyahu called for “immediate negotiations for peace without prior arrangements” from the Palestinians, and said he was willing to meet Arab leaders anywhere to discuss the issue.

“I call the leaders of the Arab nations to co-operate with the Palestinians and with us on economic peace,” he said.

Palestinian reaction

But the Palestinian Authority based in Ramallah in the West Bank reacted angrily to Netanyahu’s demands.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, dismissed the speech, saying: “Netanyahu’s remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralysed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions.”

In depth

Profile: Binyamin Netanyahu
World awaits Netanyahu speech
Q&A: Jewish settlements
Netanyahu on peace
Riz Khan: The battle over Israeli settlements
Riz Khan: The future of US-Israeli relations
Inside Story: Roads and obstacles to peace
Inside Story: US and Israel poles apart

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ senior negotiator, called on Obama to intervene to force Israel to abide by previous interim agreements that include freezing settlement activity in the West Bank.”The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise. Tonight, Netanyahu has flipped it over on its backm,” he said.

This is the first occasion that Netanyahu has endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, but many see a disarmed Palestinian state as handing too much power to Israel.

“Netanyahu did not accept the principle of a two-state solution,” Lamis Andoni, Al Jazeera’s Middle East analyst, said.

“He reduced the concept of a Palestinian state to that of a demilitarised entity that would remain under Israeli control.

“This is at best a formula to establish a Palestinian Bantustan that will not end the Israeli occupation but would legitimise Israeli control.”

‘Brothers and sisters’

Israel and the Palestinians relaunched peace negotiations at the Annapolis conference in the US in November 2007.

But the talks made little progress and were suspended during Israel’s war on Gaza in December and January.

The Palestinians have said that they will not restart negotiations unless Netanyahu publicly backs the two-state solution and stops the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

Netanyahu’s terms
A Palestinian state would be demilitarised

Palestinian refugees would be resettled outside of Israel

Jerusalem will remain undivided

Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state

In his speech, Netanyahu briefly defended Jewish settlers, a bloc from which he draws much support, calling them “our brothers and sisters”.He said there would be an end to new settlement building, but vowed that Jerusalem would remain undivided.

Addressing Palestinian, Netanyahu urged them to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

“Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and so it shall remain,” he said.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem correspondent, said: “Significantly, it seems like the word ‘Palestinian state’ was something rather sour tasting that Netanyahu didn’t want to have in his mouth.

“It was only at a very late stage in the speech he actually said ‘we would be prepared to work towards a real peace agreement to establish an independent state living alongside Israel’. But only then if the Palestinians recognised Israel as a Jewish state and if the Palestinian state was to be completely demilitarised.

“So, heavy conditionality from an Israeli prime minister who didn’t seem to actually want to utter the word ‘state’ at all.”

‘Sad day’

Netanyahu’s speech had been heralded in Israel as a response to the address 10 days earlier by Barack Obama, the US president, to the Muslim world, in which he vowed to pursue a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu’s policy speech had been
highly anticipated [AFP]

Obama’s speech raised fears in Israel at the time that Washington might qualify its support to its ally in a bid to improve its relations with the Muslim world.But Hady Amr, the director of the Brookings Doha centre, said Netanyahu’s speech fell well short of Obama’s address.

“Ten days ago, when President Obama spoke, there was so much hope, there was so much vision.

“He spoke about America’s failings over the years … There was none of that in this speech,” Amr said.

“I think this is a sad day for the Jewish people, the Palestinian people, the Arab people, the Israeli people, because this speech does not bring us closer to peace.

“What it does is it lays down conditions. I guess it sets the tone that this is not the Israeli government that’s going to make peace … I think it’s a sad day for the peoples of the region.”

Two years after Hamas won Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , on 14/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by Ayman Mohyeldin

Date published: 14th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English


On June 14, 2007, Hamas drove Fatah out and gained complete control over Gaza [GALLO/GETTY]

Two years to the day after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, the lives of Palestinians in Gaza have seemingly become inextricably defined by two crises.

An internal political impasse has fragmented Palestinian society, reduced the credibility of Palestinian political leaders in the eyes of the public and derailed their people’s momentum for national liberation.Meanwhile, an Israeli-imposed, western-backed siege has created a humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million people trapped inside Gaza.

What happened on June 14, 2007 depends on whom you ask. Even the language used among Palestinians to describe the events of that day reflects their deep ideological divisions.

A difference of perspective

In the eyes of Hamas and its followers, it is known in Arabic as “el hasm” – or “decisive affirmation”.

For them, Hamas decided to end Gaza’s lawlessness, crime and corruption and US-engineered attempts by the subversive Fatah movement to undermine Hamas’s legitimate right to govern after winning the 2006 elections.

The failure of various power-sharing agreements between Fatah and Hamas, national unity governments and attempts to reform the fragmented security services into one cohesive apparatus between the elections in 2006 until June 2007 set the stage for confrontation.

Those who do not share Hamas’s narrative of events call June 14, 2007 the “enqelaab” – the “coup”.

They say that Hamas violently ousted the legitimate Palestinian Authority, overrunning all government institutions with its loyalists.But the critics say the movement and its paramilitary forces were not prepared to govern, nor were they accustomed to the dissent found in the plurality of a democratic society.

Hamas, they say, wanted to dominate Palestinian politics by ballots and by guns – thus jeopardising years of struggle for statehood lead by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Regardless of the classification, those fateful days when Hamas gained and solidified its complete control of Gaza have been a defining moment for the Palestinian people and for the region.

Kareem Lebhour, a reporter for Radio France International, was one of the few international journalists who was in Gaza during the takeover.

He believes that the events of June 14 have been exploited by Arab regimes, the US and Israel for their own political agendas.

“Nobody wanted to see Hamas succeed in governing [after the elections they won in 2006],” he said.

Fearful of losing power to Islamist movements, governments across the region have been very cautious in allowing fair, democratic elections.

Instead, they have pointed to the Hamas takeover as a warning, as fitting the image of “Muslim men in beards with guns” taking over power, Kareem said.

In a near complete reversal from its earlier objective of promoting democracy through the Arab world, the administration of George Bush, the former US president, eased off calls for more democratic reforms across the region, fearing Hamas’s popular win could repeat itself in strategic American allies such as Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States.

Instead, the international community turned its back on the legitimate winners of the Palestinian elections, setting the tone for internal political divisions and bloody clashes between the Hamas movement and its political rivals in the US-backed secular Fatah organisation.

Ignoring Gaza’s reality

If there is one conclusion that all regional players and the US have reached over the past two years, it is that ignoring Gaza’s reality is done at their own peril.

More than 80 per cent of Gaza’s population rely on some sort of assistance [AFP]

If Fatah and the PLO want to carry out elections across the Palestinian territories, they must incorporate Hamas.

If Hamas wants to extend its influence across the geographic divide into the West Bank and cast off its international pariah status, it must tolerate political, social and cultural plurality and demonstrate pragmatism in its dealings with those it ideologically opposes.If the US is serious about achieving a lasting and just peace in the region, it must acknowledge Hamas and what it stands for among the Palestinian people.

And if Israel is to achieve any semblance of security, it will have to deal with Hamas either directly or indirectly.

Life in Gaza

The past two years have been lost time.

Many believe the greatest casualty has been the deliberate social, economic and humanitarian degradation of 1.5 million people forced into abject destitution.

Since 2007, Gaza has passed through isolation, economic sanctions, a brutal Israeli assault – both physical and psychological – and a stifling siege that has made life intolerable.

It has been allowed to happen because of the complicity of the US, European countries, and Arab governments.

Every measure of life in Gaza has grown increasingly worse – from education to health care to economics.

What was once classified as a modest economy has now been reduced to an aid-dependent society with more than 80 per cent of the population relying on some sort of assistance.

Today, the most thriving industry is smuggling, through the tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza.

Nearly 1,000 tunnels have been dug to smuggle everything and anything needed in Gaza.

From basic food to medicine, the tunnels have become Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world and a testament to the indomitable will of the Palestinian people to survive these past two years.

There has been little apparent progress in Gaza since 2006, but some credit Hamas with re-establishing law and order.

Officials in Gaza are quick to cite the reduced crime rate and the security that has been restored by the Hamas-run government and security services.

However, human rghts organisations say it has come at a price.

Political and civil liberties in Gaza have shrunk and they accuse Hamas and its security services of often going beyond the rule of law to enforce the law.

A recent crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority resulted in Hamas security detaining dozens in Gaza.

It is a vicious cycle of revenge, attacks and detentions that has marked and marred the last two years of Palestinian rivalry.

‘The way ahead’

The way ahead for the Palestinians is unity.

Time and time again, from pundits to experts, from the factional leaders to ordinary Palestinians, calls for national unity have become the rallying mantra.

Every round of talks aimed at ending the two-year-old political infighting brings the people a little closer to hope that their lives may soon change.

The way ahead for Gaza will largely depend on how much more the international community – predominantly the US and its Western allies – is willing to tolerate these dire humanitarian conditions.

In his recent speech to the “Muslim World”, Barack Obama, the US president, said that the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security interests”, a suggestion that the status quo is untenable.

Whether the US will mount more pressure on Israel to change the reality on the ground remains to be seen and more of that will be gleamed when Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, outlines his cabinet’s diplomatic agenda for peace on Sunday, the same day as the anniversary of the Hamas’s takeover of Gaza.

Until either one of these crises is resolved, Palestinians in Gaza will undoubtedly find themselves living in the balance between internal political paralysis and external international intransigence to their suffering.

UN pressures Israel on peace policy

Posted in International community, Israel, Palestine, USA foreign policy with tags , , , , , , on 11/05/2009 by 3071km
Date: 11th May 2009
Source: Al Jazeera English

Israeli settlements are a key contention in
the Middle East conflict [AFP]

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has urged Israel to “fundamentally change” its policies towards settlements and commit to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.

Ban told a ministerial level meeting of the Security Council that Palestinians faced “unacceptable unilateral actions” by Israel, such as settlement activity, violence, house demolitions and restriction of movement.

“Action on the ground, together with a genuine readiness to negotiate on all core issues, including Jerusalem, borders and refugees, based on Israel’s existing commitments, will be the true tests of Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution,” he said on Monday.

Ban also said Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel must end and that the Palestinian Authority must develop an effective security structure and state institutions.

In a statement issued by the council following the meeting, all 15 members said that “vigorous diplomatic action” was needed to achieve peace and a two-state solution.

It also urged the Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the UN, the US, Russia and the European Union, to continue such efforts.

Al Jazeera’s Kristen Saloomey, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York. said that not a lot had come out of the meeting other than a sense of urgency over the conflict and a feeling that there was a need to invigorate the entire process.

However, there was a new emphasis on the Arab peace initiative and of the need for a “regional element” to push the process forward, along with a sense of the importance of bringing all the Palestinian factions together, she said.

Israeli boycott

The meeting was called by Russia, current president of the security council, but boycotted by Israel.

“Israel does not believe that the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East,” Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said in a statement.”This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves.”

The meeting comes shortly before Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is to visit the US for talks with President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu said on Monday that he hopes to resume the peace process with the Palestinians in the coming weeks following talks with Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

However, Netanyahu has refused to commit to discussions on an independent Palestinian state, a key factor in global peace efforts to which Israel committed itself under the “roadmap” in 2003.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the US adhered “fully and unequivocally” to the creation of “an independent, viable Palestinian state”.

“We share a sense of urgency. This is a moment that should not be lost,” she said.