Archive for Peace process

Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

UN body debates Gaza war report

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, International community, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Peace process, Pictures, USA foreign policy, War crimes with tags , , , , , , , , , on 15/10/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 15th October 2009

Source: BBC News

_____

Navi Pillay in Geneva, 15 Oct

Pillay says punishing war criminals is vital for building peace

Members of the UN Human Rights Council are debating whether to endorse a report into the Israeli offensive in Gaza last winter.

The report by veteran South African judge Richard Goldstone accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.

Israel rejects the Goldstone report as biased. Its UN envoy says endorsing it would be a setback for peace hopes.

The UN human rights chief has backed the report and called on both sides to investigate the alleged crimes.

“A culture of impunity continues to prevail in the occupied territories and in Israel,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at the opening of the special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

She called for “impartial, independent, prompt and effective investigations into reported violations of human rights and humanitarian law.”

‘Setback for peace’

Israel has already come under pressure from its allies – including the US, UK and France – to investigate the UN allegations.

But Israel’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, said the resolution threatened to “set back hopes for peace”.

The text of the draft resolution says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should monitor Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the report.

It also contains a condemnation of Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, another issue likely to divide the Council.

A vote is expected on Friday.

At its first debate two weeks ago, the Council decided to delay its response for six months.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at first agreed to this under pressure from the US aimed at getting the Middle East peace process back on track.

But after much public criticism at home, he demanded that the debate be reopened.

Report findings

The Goldstone report accuses Israel of using disproportionate force and deliberately harming civilians during the 22-day conflict which began on 27 December 2008.

Palestinian Hamas militants are accused of indiscriminate rocket fire at Israeli civilians.

The report urges the Security Council to refer allegations to the International Criminal Court if either side fails to investigate suspects within six months.

Israel has rejected the evidence, saying it has already investigated its troops’ conduct, clearing most of the subjects of wrongdoing. Hamas has also denied committing war crimes.

Israeli military action destroyed thousands of homes, hundreds of factories and 80 official buildings in Gaza.

Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed in the violence between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.

Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 – fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

The issue of Israeli settlements

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, Videos, West Bank with tags , , , , , on 20/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday 20th September 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Despite a wave of protests and talks on the issue, Israeli settlement construction continues.

George Mitchell, the US envoy to the Middle East, met Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, during his latest tour of the region and although the meeting was described as “good”  by the prime minister’s office, there was no deal on the thorny issue of settlements.

The US wants Israel to temporarily halt its expansion into Palestinian land, especially in the occupied West Bank.

Mitchell and Netanyahu are set to meet again and the special envoy wants to secure an agreement ahead of possible three-way talks between Netanyahu, Barack Obama, the US president, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

So, where does that leave Obama’s peace initiative? And is the US willing to force its ally to compromise?

Inside Story, with presenter Shiulie Gosh, discusses with guests Raanan Gissen, a former senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, Michael Hudson, a professor of International Relations at Georgetown University, and Azzam Tamimi, the director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought.

Obama to host Netanyahu-Abbas talks

Posted in Fatah, Hamas, History, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: Sunday September 20th 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Obama, right, will meet Abbas, left, and Netanyahu seperately before the there-way talks [File: AFP]

The White House has announced that the US president will host three-way talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday.

Barack Obama is due to meet Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, separately before the three go into a joint session, the White House said.

The meeting is expected to take place in New York before a session of the United Nations General Assembly, the White House said, “to lay the groundwork for the relaunch of negotiations, and to create a positive context for those negotiations so that they can succeed”.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, welcomed Obama’s personal involvement in the peace process, but indicated low Palestinian expectations for a positive outcome.

“At this point, I think President Obama must convey to the world that one side is undermining efforts to resolve the peace process,” he told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“This meeting is not about resuming negotiations. I don’t think we will come out of this meeting with Netanyahu agreeing to resume negotiations or stop settlement expansion.”

‘Comprehensive peace’

Talks have been stalled since Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip last December and Abbas has repeatedly said that they will not restart until Israel commits to a complete freeze of settlement building in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, wrapped up a mission to the Middle East on Friday having failed to secure the concessions necessary for the peace process to resume.

He said that the three-way meeting planned for Tuesday showed Obama’s “deep commitment to comprehensive peace”.Al Jazeera’s John Terrett, reporting from Washington DC, said: “The general assumption was that George Mitchell was flying back to Washington a failure.

“After half a dozen trips to the Middle East he had failed to secure a trilateral meeting at the UN General Assembly next week.

“I suspect the Americans would have preferred to keep the drama going right the way through the opening stages of the General Assembly and out late as Wednesday or Thursday.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to commit to either a permanent stop to settlement expansion, as demanded by the Palestinians, or the year-long halt that Washington was believed to be calling for.

Instead he has suggested that Israel could be prepared to stop building new settlements for six months while negotiations resume.

‘Commitments and agreements’

Maen Areikat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mission to the US, said that no conditions had been attached to Tuesday’s planned talks.

“We haven’t laid down any conditions. We have been asking all along for all parties to meet their obligations,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington DC.

“We Palestinians feel that we have met a lot of our obligations under previous commitments and agreements and phase one of the road map [for peace].”Israel so far has failed to meet any of their obligations.”

Areikat said that the efforts of the Obama administration were encouraging but “we will have to see what kind of discussions we will have on Tuesday”.

But Akiva Eldar, the chief political columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said that it was Abbas that would be under pressure going into the meeting.

“He can’t afford to go home empty handed again, and what I mean by empty handed is without a full commitment from the Israelis to stop all the operations in the settlements,” he said.

“[Netanyahu] can come out of the meeting with President Obama and can say something such as ‘we have agreed on some formula that will alllow the settlers, especially those in Jerusalem, to maintain a normal life’.”

More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements on land occupied by Israel following the 1967 war, land that the Palestinians see as vital to any future independent state.

‘Unrealistic demand’

Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli national security adviser currently with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, told Al Jazeera that the Palestinians’ demand for a total end to all settlement building was ultimately impossible.

“The demand that there be a total and complete Israeli freeze not only in the West Bank as a whole, but including Jerusalem, was an unrealistic demand,” he said.

“No Israeli prime minister could have agreed to that.”

Meanwhile, Ismail Haniya, the deposed Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, condemned Abbas’s decision to meet Netanyahu.

Speaking at prayers in Gaza for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, Haniya said “it does not obligate the Palestinian people to anything”.

“No one is authorised, not the PLO nor anyone else, to sign any agreement that violates the rights of the nation and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Negotiations exclude Hamas

Posted in Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, Videos with tags , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

_____

Barack Obama, the US president, is attempting to seal an Arab-Israeli peace deal that has eluded the region for more than six decades.

In the fourth of the series, Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin looks at the consequences of a peace plan without the involvement of Hamas.

US and Israel seek settlements plan

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date Published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English
_____

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said progress is being made towards restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

His comments came after talks in London with George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, which both described as “very productive”.

During four hours of talks the two discussed the issue of Israeli settlements as a major hurdle to the peace process.

A joint statement released after the meeting said an Israeli delegation would visit the US next week to follow up on the talks, although it did not elaborate on any measures Mitchell and Netanyahu may have agreed to.

According to the statement the two parties “agreed on the importance of restarting meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and working toward a comprehensive peace, and that all sides need to take concrete steps toward peace.”

However, Israel has resisted calls from Barack Obama, the US president, to freeze settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

A freeze is key to the resumption of peace talks, and Israel’s reluctance to budge on the issue has led to a rare rift in US-Israeli relations.

Iran ‘deal’

Mitchell has been pressing Israel to halt construction as a confidence-building gesture to the Palestinians.

According to some media reports he was expected to offer Netanyahu a tougher US line on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for Israel partially freezing settlement building.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the UN to include Iran’s oil and gas industry in sanctions against the country, a move that could cripple its economy.

An Israeli delegation is due to meet Mitchell next week in the US to continue the talks.

Alastair Crooke, a Middle East analyst who has worked with Mitchell, told Al Jazeera: “I’m sure that Mitchell doesn’t want to get stuck in this single issue for the next month, because the Americans have a deadline.

“They are really keen to get progress on the Palestinian issue before they leave Iraq in the interests of Israeli security.”

After meeting Mitchell in London, Netanyahu, who is on a four-day European tour, flew to Berlin where he met Horst Koehler, the German president, ahead of talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

Abbas ‘meeting’

Following the talks in London, Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, said an agreement with Washington which would allow peace talks to resume could come within weeks.

“The goal is to find common ground with the American administration … on a framework that will allow the restarting of an energised peace process,” he said.

“For that process to be meaningful, the Arab world has to be part of it.”

Israeli media reports have suggested that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of next month’s meeting of the United Nations in New York.

In Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official, said: “No one, neither from the Israelis nor from the United States contacted us for such a meeting but it could happen as a meeting but not as holding negotiations.

“What counts is to hold negotiations.”

Peace talks

Settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians want for a future state, are home to 300,000 Israelis, and around 2.5million Palestinians.

Obama has said he opposes all settlement construction, while Abbas has staunchly refused to reopen peace talks until Netanyahu halts all settlement activity.

A survey released on Wednesday showed freezing settlements would be an unpopular move among Jewish Israelis, with almost two-thirds of those questioned by the Maagar Mohot polling company saying they opposed the move.

Netanyahu has said he sees the emphasis on settlements as unfair, and insisted conflict in the Middle East is rooted in Arab enmity towards Israel.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that a settlement agreement is indispensible to a peace deal because it prevents a “Palestinian independent contiguous state from emerging”.

However, he said that there had been little progress in Wednesday’s meeting.

“After nine months of telling Israel that they must stop the settlements, an entire government telling the American envoy in London today that they won’t stop the settlement building within the settlements. That is a failure of a meeting.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that his government was unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

Speaking in London at his meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, he had also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

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.