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A new settlement is born in Hebron

As peace talks teeter, three families move into what will be the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s – with the full support and blessing of the army.

Jewish settler families move into the 'House of Contention' in Hebron, April 13, 2014 (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Jewish settler families move into the ‘House of Contention’ in Hebron, April 13, 2014 (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Three Israeli settler families moved into a contested home in the West Bank Palestinian city of Hebron, following a years-long legal battle and culminating on Sunday with the authorization of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The new, fortress-like building signifies the first new settlement in Hebron since the 1980s.

The building in question, which is strategically placed between the Old City of Hebron and the major Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, can house some 20 families.

Palestinians claim that the property was purchased using forged documents, but Israel’s Supreme Court rejected that claim. Settlers buy Palestinian land through straw companies, the most famous of which is named Al Wattan (homeland in Arabic). (Read more about fraudulent settler land purchase tactics here.)

The army on Sunday was present for the settlers’ move-in to the building, which Palestinians call the Rajbi building and settlers call the “Peace House” and “House of Contention.” The move was to designed to allow the settlers to move in on time to hold a Passover seder on Monday night, although the timing in relation to the peace process should not be written off entirely.

Jewish settler families move into the 'House of Contention' in Hebron, April 13, 2014 (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Jewish settler families move into the ‘House of Contention’ in Hebron, April 13, 2014 (Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

The move-in was not only protected by the Israeli army; soldiers even helped connect the building to a water supply, an act of compassion and free labor that thousands of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley and south Hebron Hills could only dream of.

Along with being one of the ugliest examples of military occupation, and one of its only urban instances, Hebron is often times portrayed as “complicated” because it was a...

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'PLO to join 48 int'l organizations, treaties if talks fail'

The current round of peace talks can only continue if the U.S. changes its approach, a senior Fatah official says.


 

The PLO will seek membership in an additional 48 international organizations, treaties and conventions if peace talks are not salvaged by the end of this month, Ma’an news agency quoted senior Palestinian official and Fatah Executive Committee member Nabil Shaath as saying on Monday.

PLO Chairman — and PA President — Mahmoud Abbas began the process of acceding to 15 international treaties and conventions last week after Israel failed to follow through with the release of a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners.

Addressing prospects that the current round of peace talks could still be saved, Shaath said it would only be possible if Washington plots a new course.

File photo of Fatah official Nabil Shaath (Photo by Janwikifoto/CC)

File photo of Fatah official Nabil Shaath (Photo by Janwikifoto/CC)

“If the U.S. becomes convinced that the same approach will make no progress, then it will be possible to save the situation,” Ma’an quoted Shaath as saying. “Otherwise negotiations can’t go on.”

For the past few months, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been working on a framework for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. The State Department has described the document as the outlines of a final-status agreement, the details of which would be filled in during later stages of talks.

Shaath suggested that the very concept of a framework agreement enables Israel to avoid making a serious push for a final peace deal.

“Israel wants a framework for negotiations rather than a framework for a solution,” he said.

In a background briefing by a senior State Department official earlier this year, the framework arrangement was described with Rumsfeldian ambiguity:

It appears the Palestinians are beginning to reject that approach.

More on the crisis in peace talks:
The rejectionist: Netanyahu and the peace talks
The hard choice facing the Palestinians
The peace process is dead, long live the peace process




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Netanyahu's 'gift' of Palestinian statehood

Statements by Israel’s prime minister give insight into the — problematic — way he views peace talks with the Palestinians. And Naftali Bennett’s emptiest threat yet.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated one of the most problematic views that he and his government hold — that any future Palestinian state, if there ever is one, will be a painful, albeit generous gift from him to the Palestinian people.

Responding to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s intent to accede to 15 international treaties and conventions, Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting: “[The Palestinians] will achieve a state only by direct negotiations, not by empty statements and not by unilateral moves.”

There are two fallacies in Netanyahu’s statement.

First is the way Netanyahu views Palestinian foreign policy. If the wrong way to join treaties is “unilaterally,” then it holds that he believes such moves should be made multi- or bi-laterally, i.e., with Israel’s consent. In other words, the Palestinians need Israel’s permission in order to conduct their own foreign policy.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

That fallacious worldview is directly related to Netanyahu’s second, more seriously flawed assertion — that the Palestinians can only achieve statehood through negotiations with Israel.

What that means is that the Palestinians have no inherent right to national self determination but rather, that a Palestinian state can be achieved only through the goodwill of its occupier and master, Israel. It follows that Israel and the Palestinians are not negotiating over the terms of a Palestinian state’s establishment, but over the validity of the very existence of [future] Palestinian state.

Such thinking brings backward the concept of peace talks over a decade, to a time when a Palestinian state wasn’t even on the table.

Bennett’s emptiest threat yet

Earlier Sunday, Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett made one of the more ridiculously empty threats against the Palestinians to be leveled by a senior Israeli official in a long time (save for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s plans for population transfer).

Emptier than his cohorts’ regular threats to annex portions —...

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Protecting the secrets of Israel's settlement enterprise

MK David Rotem unabashedly stopped a vote that would apply Israel’s freedom of information act to the World Zionist Organization’s (WZO) “Settlement Division,” an extra-governmental organization that receives 100 percent of its budget from the State of Israel and is responsible for much of the settlement building in the West Bank.

Why would he do such a thing? When asked by opposition MKs Zehava Galon and Ahmed Tibi, the chairman of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee made no effort to hide his agenda:

“I want to stop you from getting information to use in [petitions to the High Court] aimed at preventing building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank),” Rotem said.

MK David Rotem (Photo: Yotam Ronene / activestills.org)

MK David Rotem (Photo: Yotam Ronene / activestills.org)

MK Elazar Stern, of Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah party, a member of Netanyahu’s coalition, responded, “I support [settlement] building but what do I have to hide? I’m not ashamed of what I do. What is this lack of transparency?”

“You’re turning the [Settlement] Division (of the WZO) into a [body] suspected of theft and lies. Why be afraid of criticism? Your behavior proves that un-Kosher things are going on there,” Stern continued.

As noted by human rights NGO Yesh Din, the last time a vote was brought to apply the freedom of information act to the Settlement Division, “it was thwarted with the oldest trick in the book — the vote took place with only two committee members in the room.”

Israeli democracy, 2014.

(Read the Hebrew text of the Knesset’s press release here, and watch a video of the committee meeting here.)

Related:
European MPs to Ashton: Make Israel pay for settlements
Survey: Israeli Jews tolerate settlements, status quo



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The peace process is dead, long live the peace process

Abbas stopped a few steps short of ‘going back to the UN,’ which he committed to not doing. So where does that leave Kerry’s peace talks?

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

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

The peace process is dead; long live the peace process.

That was the mood Tuesday night among journalists covering the Middle East as news broke that PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was signing onto 15 international treaties – an act which he sort of said he wouldn’t do until next month.

Much of the media immediately assumed that Abbas was “going back to the UN,” or joining UN institutions, or doing something big. That he was saying, “enough is enough” about the peace process. Or that he was doing something.

The thing is, he didn’t actually do anything.

Eight months ago, as part of a package of goodwill gestures orchestrated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Abbas agreed not to join any international institutions for the following nine months – the duration Kerry set for the latest round of peace talks. In exchange, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners who have been languishing in Israeli prisons since before the start of the Oslo peace process 20 years ago.

Read +972′s full coverage of the peace process

Abbas’s dramatic announcement on Tuesday was that, in response to Israel’s failure to release the fourth and final group of prisoners, he was signing letters of accession to 15 international treaties and conventions, not UN institutions. Noticeably absent from the list of treaties was the Rome Statute, which would give Palestine access to the International Criminal Court – the nightmare scenario Israel has been talking about for years.

Nevertheless, most people assumed that Abbas had broken his deal with Israel, or rather, with Kerry.

Hours after Abbas’s announcement, Kerry was asked about the Palestinian president’s decision to go rogue, and “go to the UN.”

“No, he’s not. He is not,” the secretary responded. “Let me make it absolutely clear: None of the agencies that President Abbas signed tonight involve the UN. None of them.”

When the deal...

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Twitter Transcript: Israel's High Court discusses 'infiltrator law'

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E. Jerusalem Palestinians demand running water be restored

In areas where nearly 80 percent live under the poverty line, residents are being forced to buy bottled water for drinking, cooking, showering and cleaning.

Palestinian East Jerusalem residents turned to Israel’s High Court on Tuesday demanding that running water be restored to their homes, after suffering for three weeks without it. The petition was filed on their behalf by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).

The East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ras Shehada, Ras Khamis, Dahyat A’salam and the Shuafat refugee camp, which are cut off from the rest of the city by the separation wall, have gone without running water since March 4.

The Jerusalem municipality does not provide basic municipal services like trash collection to its neighborhoods beyond the eight-meter wall. Even police rarely enter and there is no ambulance service in neighborhoods like Shuafat camp, which are completely surrounded by the wall.

Member of the Swetti family pours water to a put from a plastic bottle, East Jerusalem, March 15, 2014. The family of nine, living in the Ras Shehada neighborhood has been going 10 days without running water. (Activestills.org)

Member of the Swetti family pours water to a put from a plastic bottle, East Jerusalem, March 15, 2014. The family of nine, living in the Ras Shehada neighborhood has been going 10 days without running water. (Activestills.org)

 

A resident of Ras Shehada plugs the building's pipe to a pump to help the water pressure, East Jerusalem, March 15, 2014. The family of nine, living in the Ras Shehada neighborhood has been going 10 days without running water. (Activestills.org)

A resident of Ras Shehada plugs the building’s pipe to a pump to help the water pressure, East Jerusalem, March 15, 2014. The family of nine, living in the Ras Shehada neighborhood has been going 10 days without running water. (Activestills.org)

 

“As a result of the situation, residents are forced to buy bottles of water at exorbitant prices – and this is a population in which 80 percent of people are living under the poverty line. There are elderly, babies, and people with disabilities, and the situation has become unbearable,” said Jamil Sanduka, chairman of the Ras Hamis Neighborhood Committee.

“Anywhere else, if thousands of people were without running...

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Two steps forward, one step back: Israel’s new discriminatory health rights for Palestinians

A new law that extends health insurance rights to non-citizen family members of Israeli citizens discriminates against Palestinians, according to an attorney working on the subject.

Israeli ministers signed the new regulations, which according to a Haaretz report on Monday, will primarily benefit Palestinians who are permitted to live in Israel under “family unification” procedures.

(The Knesset last week extended the formal ban on family unification, which was first enacted 11 years ago at the height of the Second Intifada. The ban, to which humanitarian exceptions are occasionally granted, applies only to Palestinians and therefore primarily discriminates against the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are most likely to marry Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Those Palestinian family members of Israeli citizens who are granted humanitarian exceptions are given military permits to stay in Israel, but not formal residency permits that would allow them to work or make them eligible for any other social rights granted to residents or citizens.)

What the Haaretz report missed, however, is that the new regulation gives far more, and far cheaper social and health rights to non-Palestinian family members in Israel for reasons of family unification.

Furthermore, while Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is attempting to take credit for the new regulation, which despite its discriminatory shortcomings is an important step forward, it turns out that the change is the result of a High Court petition and not, as Attorney Oded Feller of ACRI notes, the good will of any legislator.

Atty. Feller writes on his Facebook page (my translation):

New politics at its finest.

The arrangement for health insurance for Palestinian family members is not a “Yesh Atid” initiative, nor is it borne of anyone’s good will.

It is a settlement that the government was forced to adopt after a petition was filed to the High Court of Justice in 2009. The High Court issued an injunction, the state dragged its feet, and ultimately accepted the settlement. The arrangement was adopted by the health minister and finance minister under the previous government but it took time to be anchored in into new regulations, which is how the current politicians came to take credit.

This is an important arrangement, but one that is discriminatory and inferior to the one that applies to non-Palestinian family members. Filipino, Romanian and American family members are eligible for full...

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IDF kills Palestinian suspected of vandalism

Army claims the teen was attempting to damage the separation barrier; his family says he was foraging for plants.

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of an IDF sharpshooter aiming his weapon (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian suspected of vandalism in the southern West Bank on Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian media reported.

The Israeli military spokesperson said the young man was attempting to damage the separation barrier, Ynet reported. His family asserted `he was picking plants for cooking, according to Ma’an.

The army claimed it first shot in the air and then at the young man’s lower extremities. Nevertheless, this is a case of soldiers using lethal force on a teenager suspected of vandalism.

The Ma’an news agency identified the young man as 15-year-old Yousef Nayif Yousef Sawamrah Abu Akar, from the village of Deir al-Asal al-Fauqa.

The Israeli army has killed six other Palestinians since the start of the month, including a Jordanian judge who was shot to death at the Allenby border crossing.

Related:
Near impunity for IDF soldiers who kill Palestinians
IDF soldiers enter village, kill Palestinian in drill gone awry



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Why the two-state solution needn't stay that way

The two-state solution, imperfect as a final-status agreement, could still be a crucial stepping stone toward achieving a more comprehensive formula for equality and just peace that everyone can live with.

President Barack Obama watches as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) shake hands at a trilateral meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y, Sept. 22, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama watches as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) shake hands at a trilateral meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y, Sept. 22, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

It has been a long time since I’ve heard someone make an optimistic case for the current round of peace talks. Insiders, observers and outliers on every which side of the political spectrum in both Israeli and Palestinian society have every reason to smell failure in the air. History alone makes the strongest case for why the current American-led peace process is doomed. Add the on-the-ground reality into the mix and you’ve got a dismal picture.

To quote former settler leader and two-state opponent Dany Dayan, “20 years after Oslo, the burden of proof is on [two-state] believers, not me.”

But whereas Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the truth of the matter is that few people have accurately predicted some of the most dramatic and world-changing events in modern history.

Addressing the pessimists among us, first and foremost Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, U.S. President Obama said in an interview published Sunday: “If [Netanyahu] does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Read +972’s full coverage of the peace process

Of course, there are other options. The most popular alternative is one, liberal democratic state in which Israelis and Palestinians live on the same land and enjoy equal citizenship under the law. Such an outcome means the end of the exclusive ethnic nation-states of Israel and Palestine as we understand them today, but it does not...

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In Hebron, terror begets a reign of terror

Who do you turn to for redress when your city is occupied by a military force that gives violent settlers almost complete impunity? The roots of segregation in Hebron and Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Palestinian worshipers.

Read this post in Hebrew here.

An Israeli soldier escorts a group of settlers during a tour of Hebron’s old city, February 20, 2010. (Photo by Activestills.org)

An Israeli soldier escorts a group of settlers during a tour of Hebron’s old city, February 20, 2010. (Photo by Activestills.org)

“How can you tell the difference between a Jew from Hebron and other Jews?” the white-bearded tour guide posed in American-accented English on my first visit to the city six years ago. “The Jew from Hebron doesn’t carry a gun,” he continued. “They made sure the Arabs know not to mess with them.”

The guide’s animated narration crackled through the PA system of a packed luxury bus as it descended into Hebron. The group of right-wing Jewish-American benefactors I was accompanying peered out the windows as the scenery quickly went from the suburban landscaping of Kiryat Arba to the shuttered, decrepit and abandoned storefronts of Hebron’s Old City, a veritable ghost town.

Hebron is not like other places in the West Bank. There is no other place where Israeli settlers have taken over the entire urban infrastructure of a Palestinian city. Hebron is a unique occupation in and of itself, an inescapable daily reality of segregation, violence, military control and civilian terror — a microcosm of everything that feels wrong and terrifying in the world.

Imagine, if you can, in an urban area of tens of thousands of Palestinians, placing 700 Israeli settlers and an almost one-to-one ratio of soldiers to guard them. We are not talking about the harassment of lone shepherds on beaten hillsides as the occupation’s violence manifests itself a few miles away.
+972-Hamakom Hebron special coverage
The irony of today’s Hebron is that it is a city, harkening back to the days before Israel’s establishment, that was a place where Jews and Palestinians largely coexisted. That fragile reality was shattered by the 1929 Hebron Massacre, in which a Palestinian mob killed 67 Jews. Those Jews who survived fled en masse.

Fifty years later, Jews returned to the...

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An invitation to Israel's thought police: Haul me in

A Palestinian man from East Jerusalem is summoned by Israeli police for a Facebook status describing his city as occupied.

A Palestinian child sitting in front of a section of the Separation Wall in the refugee camp of Shuafat, East Jerusalem, December 27, 2011. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian child sitting in front of a section of the separation wall that surrounds the Shuafat Refugee Camp, which was annexed to Jerusalem in 1967, Occupied East Jerusalem, December 27, 2011. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

It has been a month since I last visited Occupied Jerusalem. By writing those words, I may be hastening my return to the city, albeit involuntarily.

This week, a Palestinian resident of Occupied East Jerusalem was summoned by Israeli police for describing the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, as the “mayor of the occupation,” Haaretz reported.

East Jerusalem was occupied by Israeli forces on June 7, 1967. Later that month, some 70 square kilometers of Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank were annexed by Israel and handed over to the Jerusalem Municipality, a move that no country in the world has ever recognized.

In 1980, Israel passed a basic law, which carries the weight of a constitutional amendment, officially declaring occupied East Jerusalem as part of its capital. In response, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution declaring the law “null and void” and called on member states to move their diplomatic missions out of Jerusalem. Since then, no country has established or maintained an embassy in the city.

So why was Ameer Abd Rabbo summoned by police for describing reality? Well, because he’s Palestinian.

I am willing to predict that I, a Jew, will not be summoned for writing the same words in solidarity here – but I’ll give it a shot.

“Nir Barkat, mayor of the occupation.”

Abd Rabbo’s case is far from being the first of its kind.

Late last year, +972 reported on of Razi Nabulsi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was arrested for Facebook statuses discussing the occupation and racist laws affecting Arab citizens of Israel. The offensive status read: “One day the nightmare will be over.”

A few weeks later, police rounded up 25 Palestinian social media activists in East Jerusalem.

Of course, such restrictions on expression and political opposition to the occupation are nothing new, within...

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More Zionist than the Jewish state itself

The man who wants to take over the Zionist Organization of America is further to the right and more of a warmonger than the most right-wing government Israel has ever had. 

The Zionist Organization of America was one of the first major Jewish-American umbrella organizations to support the nascent State of Israel. From Louis Brandeis to current president Morton Klein, the organization has seen ideological shifts – and with them varying levels of support. It’s safe to say that the organization’s heyday is long gone.

Morton Klein has headed the organization for the last 20 years and this year, his leadership is being challenged by one Steve Goldberg. The challenger, as I’ll call Goldberg, appears to be even more of an extremist than the man he hopes to make his predecessor – and is certainly further to the right politically than Israel’s own government.

Five takeaways from Goldberg’s ‘campaign video’ (below):

1. Goldberg boasts of representing the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Like Kahane’s other movements, the JDL was classified by the FBI as a domestic terror group for its attacks against Muslims in the United States.

2. Goldberg wants Israel to annex the entire West Bank, a proposition that even the current far-right Israeli government itself shot down just today [Sunday].

3. Goldberg says he believes a two-state solution would be “morally wrong and strategically stupid,” putting him directly at odds with Israel’s current leadership (at least on paper).

4. According to Goldberg, who apparently takes cues from his former client Kahane, Palestine is not Palestine; Jordan is Palestine.

5. When it comes to the Iranian nuclear program and efforts to stop it, Goldberg asserts, “only military action is going to stop Iran from going nuclear … Israel needs to take preemptive military action.” Let’s remember that even Benjamin ‘Bomb Iran’ Netanyahu argues that sanctions should be backed by “a threat” of military force. By saying military action is the only way, Mr. Goldberg is openly defining himself as a warmonger.

h/t Jeremy Elster

Related:
No, Abe Foxman, America is not out to get the Jews
‘Israel-firster’ in context: A response to rightist ‘pro-Israel’ rhetoric



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