Analysis News

Why Fatah-Hamas reconciliation might just work this time

Unlike previous efforts, the current Palestinian reconciliation agreement appears to have been cemented from within; and it might just offer a lifeline to Gaza.

By Samer Badawi

Just as word emerged early Wednesday of an imminent unity accord between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized upon the news to issue his Palestinian counterpart an ultimatum: Make peace with Hamas, and you can forget about peace with Israel. In lockstep, Netanyahu’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman immediately dubbed any intra-Palestinian reconciliation a veritable “termination of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

If that was a bluff, the Palestinians did not flinch. By the end of the day, the rival factions had announced a way forward on deals they had previously inked in Doha and Cairo. There would be elections within six months, and in the interim, a unity government—with Mahmoud Abbas the “prime minister” at its helm.

Welcome to the post-Oslo world.

It’s not as if Netanyahu and Co. didn’t see it coming. After all, it was the Israeli government, which controls Palestinians’ access to Gaza from the West Bank, that had waved Fatah delegates through the Erez crossing a day earlier. The rationale must have been simple. One week ahead of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s deadline for a so-called “framework agreement,” the Israeli premier is hell-bent to pin Kerry’s failure on Abbas — even if that means pushing the latter closer to Israel’s sworn enemy, Hamas.

President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas at a joint press conference in Whitehall. (flickr / Cabinet Office CC)

File photo of President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas. (flickr/Cabinet Office CC)

Abbas, for his part, seems oblivious to the charge. As if anticipating Liberman’s bluff, he again threatened on Tuesday to disband the Palestinian Authority should a framework agreement with the Israelis remain elusive. At issue this time, Abbas maintains, is Israel’s refusal to follow through on a planned Palestinian prisoner release. That missed milestone, of course, coincided with Israel’s announcement of 700 new settlement units — a move that Kerry has named “the moment” the on-again, off-again talks finally stalled.

We’ve been here before, no doubt. But this time, there are at least two reasons why the...

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Unafraid: The new generation of Palestinian activists in Israel

For decades, Palestinian citizens of Israel lived in fear of the internal security services. But the new generation of political activists are simply not that impressed by Shin Bet intimidation anymore. 

By Ala Hlehel / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell
(Translated from Hebrew by Dimi Reider)

When I was in my second year of university and my father found out I became politically active, he was terrified. “The Shin Bet will snatch you in the middle of the night and throw you out to Lebanon!” he told me. The generation of my parents, who came of age in the shadow of the military regime imposed by Israel over all Arab-majority areas within its  territory, grew up on Shin Bet fairy tales; tales of its tyranny and, most importantly, of its perceived omnipotence. “They can know your dreams before you even dream them,” warned one uncle, who worked as a subcontracted maintenance man with the police and therefore considered himself immune.

The difference between Majd Kayyal and the generation of the military regime is immense; the threat to chuck us out to Lebanon is not that terrifying anymore. In fact it is not threatening at all, and my own feeling, from my own acquaintance with Kayyal’s generation, is that his generation does not really give a damn that much about the Shin Bet. It is a generation bereft of anxiety and devoid of inferiority complexes, a generation that already a while ago changed its strategy. Instead of constantly producing reactions to the activities of the establishment, this generation is taking it own initiatives, breaking new ground in both political thought and political action. The budding campaign against the Prawer Plan marked a new peak in Arab political activity in Israel proper, in a vivid display of the sheer determination of the new activists vis-a-vis the Israeli establishment. Moreover, it amply demonstrated the new ways of thinking practiced by this new generation, which stand in sharp contrast to the tactics of the old, traditional Arab party establishment.

Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against the Prawer-Begin Plan, BeerSheva, May 12, 2013 (Photo by Yotam Ronen/

Young Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrate against the Prawer-Begin Plan, BeerSheva, May 12, 2013 (Photo by Yotam Ronen/

Majd Kayyal is not alone. Thousands of young Arab-Palestinian citizens are...

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‘The Shin Bet was very nice, and therein lies their racism’

Majd Kayyal, the Palestinian journalist from Haifa who Israel detained incommunicado when he returned from Lebanon, speaks to +972 about what it’s like visiting Beirut as a Palestinian, his Shin Bet interrogation and why Israel wants to deter Palestinian citizens of Israel from visiting the Arab world.

Text by Rami Younis
Photos by Shiraz Grinbaum/

He just sat there. I’d look at him occasionally, taking little sips from his cold beer, looking very peaceful, almost aloof from all the phones and commotion of activists around him. He’d give a piece of advice or share a joke with whoever was beside him, but that’s it. As we were trying to get the rest of the world’s help in freeing all the detainees, Majd Kayyal included, Mbada Kayyal, the father, maintained a cool temperament and nonchalant appearance that I would only learn to understand and appreciate much later.

That was almost three years ago, during the Nakba events of 2011 when Palestinian activists in Syria and Lebanon decided to peacefully march to their southern borders; local activists, Majd among them, were supposed to be waiting on this side of the border. The only democracy in the Middle East decided to preempt this creative, non-violent act of resistance and started arresting people on their way north.

The Kayyal family’s cool temper is not unique to the father and eldest son. Two years ago, in the midst of a demonstration in support of hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners, police brutally beat and arrested 17 activists; Ward, Majd’s younger brother, and yours truly were among them. He was only 16 back then, a minor. While still in custody, police refused to allow his mother, Souhair, to be present with him (as required by law). The latter fought that decision like a lioness outside. Her pressure worked, but Ward, who had been beaten along with the rest of us, refused to leave us behind. Only after his lawyers interfered did he reluctantly leave. The next day, when we were all released following a court remand hearing, Souhair insisted on waiting outside for the very last detainee to walk out. I called her up last Friday and explained that I was interested in interviewing her son, Majd, a Palestinian reporter for the Lebanese newspaper As-Saffir, who was under house arrest, fresh from a five-day secret detention that awaited him back in Israel after...

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An updated list of Israeli demands from Mahmoud Abbas

By Nir Baram

The following is an updated list of Israeli demands from Mahmoud Abbas:

Don’t resign. Fight terrorism. Speak about the Holocaust in a sad tone. Don’t speak about the Nakba. Don’t speak about 1948. Don’t support one state and “the destruction of Israel as a Jewish State.” Recognize Israel. Recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Seek the two-state solution. Join negotiations that lead nowhere. Support the two-state solution. Don’t promote a Palestinian state. Don’t start an intifada. Don’t turn to the international community on behalf of the two-state solution. Fight terror. Denounce terror. Don’t get offended when we then call you a supporter of terror. Don’t mention the right of return. Don’t go to the UN. Don’t join international treaties. Don’t declare a state. Don’t leave your office. Don’t oppose settlement blocs. Don’t dismantle the Palestinian Authority. Don’t threaten us. And stop being so uptight. See? People meet, talk, exchange opinions. What’s your problem, exactly?


Nir Baram is an Israeli novelist. His latest book in Hebrew, World Shadow, was published last year by Am Oved.

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The other ‘1 percent’: On refugees and Passover

When we look around us this Passover, we are not the ones in need of protection, and we are not the ones escaping slavery. Somehow Israel has missed this role-reversal.

Text by Rebecca De Vries and Natasha Roth
Photos by Karen Zack

So spoke the Knesset’s legal representative at a High Court hearing on the Prevention of Infiltration Law at the beginning of this month. The statement adequately summarises the attitude of the Israeli government – and much of the public – toward the ‘strangers’ in our midst. Yes, Israel has an asylum seeker problem, but not the one that is so readily coughed up by the government and media. The essential statistic of the situation – that African asylum seekers/migrants/”infiltrators” make up less than 1 percent of the population in Israel – points to the fact that the problem is not one of security, or demographics. Rather, if it is possible to generate such violence, loathing and exaggeration over so small a percentage of Israel’s society, then the vast problem we have on our hands is one of racism and xenophobia.

In other times and other places our grandfathers, too, once were refugees. Louis Gruenberg (De Vries) was a young boy in Germany when a group of eastern European Hasidic Jews came through his village knocking on any door bearing a mezuzah, asking for food and shelter. With anti-Semitism already on the rise in Germany, the Jewish community was afraid to draw negative attention to itself and, although his family gave the visitors food, they wouldn’t allow them to stay. Later, when Gruenberg was himself in need of help and had to knock on strangers’ doors, he frequently thought of this decision and never stopped feeling guilty about it. Kurt Roth, having fled to the UK from Western Europe in the early years of the Second World War, found himself interned and then deported to Australia by the British government on account of his Austrian citizenship, in spite of his having arrived in England as a Jew escaping Nazi persecution.

Read +972′s full coverage of asylum seekers in Israel

Now, more than seven decades later, we see in Israel the same casual cruelty and outright prejudicial rejection plaguing the lives of those who have come seeking our help. With this in mind, and given the time of year, we have decided to go back...

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A Passover lesson: 'And then we were free'

By Eli Valley

Eli Valley Passover cartoon (page 2)

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. Eli is currently finishing his first novel. His website is and he tweets at @elivalley.

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What progressive Jews can do for Mideast peace

The Middle East peace process is very much a partisan issue in American politics. Until J Street figures out how to solve the problem of Likud penetration of the Republican Party, there is no American solution for the Middle East.

By Thomas G. Mitchell

It appears that Secretary of State John Kerry’s mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has come to an end as Israel refuses to release the last group of security prisoners that it previously promised to release. This is because Jerusalem has no confidence in the peace process, partly based on expectations of the Palestinians and partly based on the composition of the Israeli coalition.

Last summer Secretary Kerry started out on a peace process with only weak backing from President Obama. This is similar to the situation that Secretary of State William Rogers was in during the Nixon administration in 1969. Nixon and Kissinger let Rogers busy himself with Middle East peace in order to keep him from interfering with the foreign policy issues that they were really concerned with like Vietnam, superpower relations, and China. Rogers attempted to negotiate a comprehensive peace settlement among Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Syria based on Israel giving up the territories captured in June 1967 and the Arabs making peace. Neither side was interested in doing what Rogers expected of it. The following year, thanks to escalation in the War of Attrition along the Suez Canal, Rogers was able to negotiate a bilateral ceasefire along the Canal in August 1970 (which Egypt promptly violated by moving its forces forward). Seven years later Jimmy Carter also attempted to negotiate a comprehensive solution and he again failed. He also switched and because of his extraordinary efforts from December 1977 to March 1979 he was able to broker a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House. (Photo: Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report/Library of Congress)

President Jimmy Carter shaking hands with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty on the grounds of the White House. (Photo: Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report/Library of Congress)

Today an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement...

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WATCH: Bringing Israelis face to face with Gaza closure

Although the Gaza Strip is only about 50 kilometers from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, few people are given permission to travel this short distance. One Israeli filmmaker decided to bring Gaza’s separation policy to the heart of the Israeli mainstream.

By Tania Hary

Any illusions that Israel’s policy on Gaza is only about security surely should have been dispelled by the events of this week.

Israel’s highest court struck down the petition of Gaza’s only Olympian runner, Nader al-Masri, who had asked to be able to travel to Bethlehem to race in the second annual Palestine Marathon. Ironically enough, the marathon is meant to be a celebration of freedom of movement.

The state rejected Nader’s request to travel as it didn’t conform to the army’s criteria. Namely it wasn’t considered humanitarian enough and because allowing access for plain old professional opportunities runs counter to “the separation policy.” No one argued that the 34-year-old runner, undoubtedly a role model in Gaza, posed a threat to Israel. And with regard to the separation policy, it’s hard to follow the logic that somehow not allowing one of Palestine’s most accomplished athletes to reach the West Bank contributes to any long-term security goals.

A new short film by Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose, in cooperation with Israeli NGO Gisha , brings the Gaza policy to the streets of Tel Aviv and Bat Yam. Rose asks average Israelis to play the role of a soldier at Erez Crossing who has to decide whether to allow a young girl out of Gaza to visit her sick grandmother in Ramallah.

In reality, decisions like this aren’t made by individual soldiers but rather in the high offices of Israel’s defense ministry, far from the reach or oversight of Israeli citizens, let alone the people impacted by them most – Palestinian residents of the occupied territory.

If there’s any glimmer of hope for Gaza, it’s in the realization of the people in Rose’s film who struggle to defend the criteria they are fictitiously handed. There’s possibility in the “hold on” moment that people experience when they hear about Nader al-Masri or that a girl can visit her sick mother or another immediate relative but aunts, uncles, grandmas – out of the question. In other words, there’s hope when Israel realizes that no purpose is served by blocking travel...

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WATCH: Will Liberman become Israel's next prime minister?

This week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman began signaling that he is interested in dragging the nation into early elections. Just a few days later, Liberman told a crowd of New Yorkers that Israel may soon have a Russian-speaking prime minister. Is one of the most right-wing politicians in the Knesset trying to rebrand himself as a moderate pragmatist?

By Lia Tarachansky/The Real News

Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Canadian filmmaker and journalist with the The Real News Network.

Coming attraction: Liberman the peacenik
Liberman: Citizenship annulment is a condition for peace

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Disturbing the 'peace' in Jerusalem's holiest site

The past 15 years have seen a revival of Jewish extremist movements seeking to upend the status quo around the Temple Mount in the name of multicultural ideals. Betty Herschman says failing to see through this veneer could lead to the enflaming of one of the world’s most combustible hotspots.

By Betty Herschman

The current intensification of religious extremist activities on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif is not a new phenomenon, but rather the ultimate realization of a slow, decades-long crusade. The story behind today’s mounting pressures – from increased attempts to ascend and pray on the Mount to legislative challenges to current arrangements – offers a case study in political alchemy. Through organizational perseverance and the co-opting of the lexicon of religious rights, what have become known as the temple movements have managed to secure the support of the mainstream Israeli establishment while successfully exploiting liberal Jewish ideals.

In their joint 2013 report, Dangerous Liaison: The Dynamics of the Rise of the Temple Movements, Israeli NGOs Ir Amim and Keshev trace the growth of these movements, along with their ideological underpinnings and ties to Israeli governmental institutions. According to the report, over the last decade, a status quo carefully maintained since the Ottoman era has progressively shifted as a result of activity by Jews determined to strengthen the status of the Temple Mount as a Jewish religious center, while marginalizing the claims of Muslims to the Mount.

In the past year alone, hundreds of national religious Jewish pilgrims have ascended the Mount, including groups of rabbis, women, members of Knesset and uniformed soldiers. While the various Temple organizations may have differing goals and varying impacts, a common denominator of religious and nationalist messianism distinguishes the movement as a whole. Religion has becomes a tool for realizing extreme national goals at a site that is a focal point of political and religious tension.

Twenty years ago, these organizations were on the radical fringes of the political and religious map. Since 2000 they have attained a respectable position within the mainstream political and religious right, and have benefited from close ties with Israeli authorities. Likud member Moshe Feiglin actively calls for ascent to the Mount. The Ministry of Education funds curricula promoted by temple groups. The Temple Institute, a group devoted to the rebuilding of the Third Temple, organizes an annual conference promoted and attended by members of the political establishment.

The dangerous...

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Getting guns off the kitchen table – locally and globally

How is it that Israel, a state with substantial arms exports, and which demands tight global scrutiny of the weapons purchased by its neighbors, has not signed a UN treaty to reduce violence against women and children?

By Smadar Ben-Natan (translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

The Knesset Committee for Advancement of the Status of Women is about to discuss a national action plan, initiated by a wide coalition of feminist NGOs, for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325. The resolution calls for the adoption of a gender perspective in peace and security issues, or simply put – for the consideration of women’s special security needs, and of the unique nature of harm they suffer. For the first time, the national action plan includes a reference to the connection between violence against women and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SALW), viewing the reduced presence of such weapons in the public sphere as a means to minimize and prevent violence against women.

This recommendation joins a reform program started by the Public Security Ministry last August, which has resulted in a drop of almost half in the number of armed security guards. In addition, in most cases, armed guards are no longer allowed to take their weapons home. The reform aims to reduce the number of weapons in the public sphere and prevent lethal violence of the type inflicted in past on both women and men, relatives and intimates of security guards.

The realization that the presence of small arms in family settings endangers women in particular is gradually taking root throughout the world. Six months ago, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2117, dealing with restrictions on the proliferation of small arms, calling on all relevant organs to take into consideration the specific effects of this phenomenon on women. The resolution also calls for women’s participation in policymaking, planning and implementing disarmament and security sector reform, for instance, by encouraging the involvement of women’s organizations.

Women from the West Bank city of Bethlehem march to protest honor killings and other forms of violence against women, Bethlehem, November 16, 2013.

Women from the West Bank city of Bethlehem march to protest honor killings and other forms of violence against women, Bethlehem, November 16, 2013.

The resolution also mentions the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), adopted last...

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BDS's Jewish roots: A lesson for Hillel

In all other contexts, the Jewish people have demonstrated that we understand boycotts, divestments, and sanctions to be effective, non-violent tools for political change. So why do we deem them violent and illegitimate when it comes to Israel?

By Alice Mishkin

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/

My introduction to divestment as a tool for activism came in 2005. I was a staff member at the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) from 2005-2006, during the peak of the movement. With the help of our board members who represented organizations like the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the Religious Action Center, American Jewish World Service, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and many more, we led a nationwide campaign calling for divestment. The campaign called on our coalition members to support divestment from those who supported the Sudanese government. Our campaign targeted companies ranging from Fidelity and Berkshire-Hathway to PetroChina and Rolls Royce.

It was in the midst of this campaign that I found my connection to the Jewish community.

The Judaism I grew up with was not one of activism. But at SDC, Judaism was activism and activism was Judaism. I learned about Abraham Joshua Heschel. I learned the scope of Jewish involvement in divestment from South Africa. I put together activist toolkits on divestment to send to synagogues, Hillels and day schools. I organized rabbis to get their congregations involved in our campaign. I learned from some of the biggest Jewish activists of our time just how deeply activism was entrenched in the texts and histories of the Jewish people.

I’ve since worked for American Jewish World Service, spent a year in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a Dorot Fellow, and completed my Masters in social work with a certificate in Jewish communal leadership. My life has become about learning how Judaism and activism intersect. I’ve studied the history of movements marked by disproportionate Jewish participation– Civil Rights, divestment against South Africa and Sudan, feminism. These are movements where Jews have been among the leaders.

These are also movements that have shown the...

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What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture

How can signs of deliberate physical injury be detected years after they were caused? What are the physical and psychological ramifications of torture for its victims? How can we cope with the moral dilemmas raised by treating captives and prisoners? Physicians who attended the first workshop in Israel devoted to locating and treating torture victims share their insights.

By Einat Fishbain / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell’ (
This article first appeared in Hebrew here.

“I must admit that the issue of torture kind of passed me by,” says Dr. Revital Arbel, a senior gynecologist at a hospital in Jerusalem. “It was always out there somewhere, but I guess that I preferred not to see it. Then I monitored the pregnancy and labor of an Eritrean refugee who was raped in Sinai. Although I have been involved in these issues for years, working with victims of sexual assault, this was the saddest birth I have ever seen. I will never forget the sadness in this mother’s eyes when her son was born.

“I monitored the entire pregnancy not knowing she had been raped. When she came in to deliver the baby she was accompanied by an interpreter for the first time, and they told me the story. Slowly the things she had been through in Sinai began to sink in. Like other refugee women imprisoned in Saharonim, she had not been able to undergo a termination of pregnancy at an early stage. It’s hard to realize that women who arrive there pregnant are not given the opportunity to undergo termination. This causes appalling suffering. However late it is, it is always possible to stop a pregnancy in these circumstances – anything rather than see the face of a woman giving birth to her rapist’s child.”

Just as Arbel realized that eventually this suffering would not forever pass her by unnoticed, she received an invitation to participate in the first-ever training program in Israel for physicians and psychologists teaching ways to locate and diagnose torture victims. She accepted the invitation and became one of the first 16 participants to undergo training from foreign experts in working according to the Istanbul Protocol. The workshop is an ongoing project of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in cooperation with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)....

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