The missing element from GCC normalisation with Israel: The Palestinians

The lack of a unified, representative Palestinian leadership, pursuing a path of strategic resistance to Israeli occupation, is part of what makes such increasingly public steps toward normalisation possible

By Ben White

Late October and early November saw a number of well-publicised visits by Israeli ministers to Gulf states, including a surprising trip by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Oman, where he was hosted in Muscat by Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

That trip was followed by Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev’s attendance at a United Arab Emirates (UAE)-hosted international judo tournament, where she found time in her itinerary to become the first Israeli minister to visit the world’s third largest mosque, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Regev’s ministerial colleague, Ayoob Kara, also went to the Emirates, for a telecommunications conference, while Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz followed Netanyahu to Oman for the International Road Transport Union’s annual meeting.

What’s going on?

These visits – to countries with whom Israel does not have official ties – have prompted a rush of speculation about to what extent Israel’s relations with certain regional actors are being normalised, irrespective of the lack of progress towards realising the Palestinian people’s basic rights.

Netanyahu, for his part, is clearly encouraging such an interpretation: the Likud leader claimedhis visit to Oman came “against the background of diplomatic efforts that I have been promoting in recent years vis-a-vis the Arab countries”. He added: “There will be more.”

These visits – to countries with whom Israel does not have official ties – have prompted a rush of speculation about to what extent Israel’s relations with certain regional actors are being normalised

So, what is going on? As the Wall Street Journal put it, Netanyahu views Gulf states “as crucial potential allies in a Middle East that is realigned around opposition to Iran and is less concerned about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land without a signed peace deal”.

From Israel’s point of view then, Netanyahu’s visit to Oman helped advance a number of related goals, including, as summarised by Ronen Bergman, “the hope…that other countries would take courage from this visit and also expose their own covert ties with Israel”.

Promoting the anti-Iran alliance

For the Trump administration, the confrontation with Iran dominates the US approach to the region, including the promotion of an anti-Iran alliance between Israel on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Gulf states, on the other.

Part of that strategy, however, also depends on making progress – or being seen to have made some progress – on the Palestinian question: the hope, therefore, is that Gulf states, like Saudi and the UAE, can pressure the Palestinians to accept a bad deal.

Moshe Ponte (L), president of the Israel Judo Association, attends the Judo Grand Slam 2018 in Abu Dhabi, on 29 October

Jason Greenblatt – who, along with Jared Kushner, has been charged with producing a “peace plan” for Israel and the Palestinians – hailed the recent “statements and/or gestures” from “our regional partners” Oman, Bahrain and the UAE, “signalling warmer ties with Israel”. “A more stable region leads to a stronger and more prosperous region. It is good for all,” Greenblatt added.

In the region, meanwhile, the Gulf states themselves have their own interests at play. For Oman, Netanyahu’s visit was about positioning itself as an important player in the region, one who maintains open lines of communication with a diversity of actors – a valuable “go-between”.

For Saudi Arabia and the UAE, closer – and more public – relations with Israel serve a number of purposes, including the anti-Iran alliance, ingratiation with the Trump administration, the use of Israeli technology in the suppression of internal dissent

For Saudi Arabia and the UAE, closer – and more public – relations with Israel serve a number of purposes, including the anti-Iran alliance, ingratiation with the Trump administration, the use of Israeli technology in the suppression of internal dissent, and economic cooperation more generally.

“Israel is a big economy compared to their size,” bin Salman told The Atlantic in April, “and it’s a growing economy, and of course, there are a lot of interests we share with Israel, and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and countries like Egypt and Jordan”.

No exaggeration

How far can these developments go – and what might stop them?

It is important not to exaggerate the scale of recent events. As one commentator noted in Israeli paper Haaretz, “some of what is being touted as progress with the Arab states has little to do with the Arabs themselves”, with Katz, Kara, and Regev’s trips all occurring in the context of conferences or events organised by international “multilateral institutions, not their host governments”.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it has been suggested that the Saudi crown prince – his credibility seriously damaged – may no longer be able to deliver the goods.

That was certainly the message of a 5 November report published by The Washington Post, where a number of US and Israeli officials “expressed concern” that the crown prince may now “have less leeway to pursue the gradual warming of relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours”.

Egyptian protesters burn an Israeli flag during a demonstration against the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on 7 December, 2017

A foreign diplomat told the paper that while Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to be a key figure in the Trump administration’s regional approach – no less than “the pivot point for a new, transactional Arab relationship with Israel that would undergird the Trump peace programme” – he “is not going to do the heavy lifting expected before now, and they [US officials] are deciding what to do next”.

However, in Netanyahu’s forthright defence of Saudi Arabia’s “stability” – and by linking the importance of that stability to a tempered response to the killing of Khashoggi – there was a sign that Israel’s premier saw “an opportunity to score points with bin Salman in case he stays in power”, a public display of support that could have “significant potential gains down the line”.

In the aforementioned Post report, an Israeli official credited Riyadh with “already playing a main role by allowing or encouraging small diplomatic steps over the past month”, including by sending “signals to Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain condoning diplomatic overtures to Israel”. Israel, and Washington, will not want to lose this role so soon.

But there are two further potential constraining factors: Arab public opinion, and events in Palestine itself.

Constraining factors

As the 2017-2018 regional survey conducted by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies demonstrated, there is overwhelming popular opposition across the Middle East to diplomatic ties with Israel: 87 percent of the Arabs polled “would disapprove of recognition of Israel by their home countries”, with just 8 percent “accepting formal diplomatic recognition”.

While a convergence of US, Israeli and regional interests is the key to understanding why there is a drive towards normalisation, there is a missing factor in analysing how such an initiative is possible. Such developments can only take place in the context of the crisis afflicting the Palestinian political scene, a crisis that has helped create the space regionally for normalisation.

Israel has done nothing to deserve normalisation with the Arab world

Sounds counterintuitive? After all, the office of Mahmoud Abbas, PLO officials, Hamas and others have expressed open dismay regarding Israel’s burgeoning regional ties. But the fact remains that the lack of a unified, representative leadership, pursuing a path of strategic resistance to Israeli occupation, is part of what makes such increasingly public steps toward normalisation possible.

We only need to look back to the 1990s to see how steps taken by Palestinians, and events in Palestine, can directly impact on Israel’s ability to pursue regional normalisation. It was the Oslo Accords which ushered in a period where Israeli officials made numerous visits to countries lacking formal relations with Israel – and it was the Second Intifada which saw such relations regress.

Thus, the question of Israel’s regional normalisation is inextricably related to events on the ground in Palestine and to the initiatives of Palestinians – both leaders and on-the-ground activists – an unknown quantity that the Americans, Israelis, Saudis and others, will be praying does not undermine even the limited gains towards normalisation thus far.

(Source / 19.11.2018)

Israeli Supreme Court Rules to Evict 40 Palestinians in Jerusalem

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40 Palestinian family members will be forced into homelessness, following an Israeli Supreme Court decision to evict them from their homes. The ruling also sets a precedent that will likely result in the evictions of hundreds more Palestinians in a neighborhood that Israeli authorities have designated for ‘Jewish-only’ settlements as part of the E1 Jerusalem plan.

The Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, according to +972 Magazine, is a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, located on the slopes of Mount Scopus, home to about 3,000 residents.

In the 19th century, a small Jewish community lived there, most of which left by 1948, as East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule. In 1956, 28 Palestinian families who were made refugees from West Jerusalem in the 1948 war were settled there through an agreement reached between Jordan and UNRWA.

In recent years, several of these families were evicted as a result of Israeli court decisions to recognize pre-1948 ownership claims made by two Jewish bodies, the Sephardic Community Committee and the Knesset Israel Committee, which enabled Jewish settlers to move into their homes immediately.

Although implemented according to Israeli legal and justice systems, the move set a political double standard that justifies Jewish claims to property held before 1948, but does not allow Palestinians to make similar claims to properties they were forced to leave in West Jerusalem.

This week’s Supreme Court decision denied the Sabag family’s appeal of the eviction order filed against them by the Israeli authorities in Jerusalem.

The family argued that if they were going to be forced to leave the land that they had been settled on by UNRWA in 1948, then they should be allowed to return to the land they had been forced to flee at that time. Several elder family members hold the deeds and keys to the homes they were forced out of by armed Jewish militias in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel on Palestinian land.

Arieh King of the Israel Land Fund, which illegally purchased the homes from the UNRWA trusteeship, told the Jerusalem Post in 2017 that this is one piece of a much larger land grab by his group, “We have now four main compounds that we are working on. In our next phase we plan to house families in two more compounds – one of 300 housing units and the other of 200 housing units. In about 10 years we will have in [the two sub-neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah] Shimon Hatzadik and Nahalat Shimon, some 400, maybe 500 Jewish families.”

King confided with the reporter that the group plans to displace the entire neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah of its Palestinian residents and make the neighborhood into a ‘Jewish-only’ settlement.

The Israel Land Fund is already advertising the property on its website, with an asking price of 5.2 million dollars. The Fund calls it an ‘ideology property’ – a reference to the fact that this is property that is being taken from Palestinians, and that a buyer should have a settler ideology to be able to accept the fact that they will be living on stolen land.

 

The Sabag family has been fighting to keep their homes since 2008.

The company of Nahalat Shimon, which is registered in the state of Delaware, is behind the eviction of the family. Their lawyers have spent millions of dollars on legal fees in the effort to evict the Sabag family from their land.

According to the Israeli paper Haaretz, the Sabag family lawyers filed suit in district court claiming that the land was not properly registered in the Land Registry and asked the court to rule on the ownership. The lawyers say they checked the Ottoman registry documents, including those in the imperial archives in Istanbul, and found problems with the documentation.

Haaretz stated that the district court declined to hear the case, saying the statute of limitations had expired because the land was registered long ago. The Sabags appealed to the Supreme Court, but last week, after a short hearing, the three justices hearing the appeal – Daphne Barak-Erez, Yael Willner and Alex Stein – denied the request and upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Mohammad Sabag, 71, the patriarch of the family, told reporters, “We have two houses in Jaffa, on Hasneh Street and Hagidam Street, and we have 250 dunams [62.5 acres] in Yavneh and also in Ashdod. Why can’t I ask for my property from before 1948?”

The claim that the Israeli Supreme Court based their order on was from 1920 – which undermines their claim that they cannot honor Sabag’s title to his land held in 1948.

(Source / 19.11.2018)

THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION COMES BEFORE DAWN, WEARING A MASK

In occupied Palestine the arrival of armed, masked men outside your home before dawn to take away one of your loved ones is something which families experience each day of the year.
The self-declared ‘most moral army in the world’ kidnapped two young men from the village of al-Mazra’a al-Gharbiyya in the Ramallah district of occupied West Bank early on Monday November 19th.
The village has been hit with the recents killings of Othman Ladadwa and Mohammed Shreiteh and wounding of several residents in recents weeks by Israel’s occupation forces during demonstrations against illegal colony building in the village’s lands.
On Monday the villagers woke to see Bassel Ladadwa and Yahya Rabea’ taken from their homes before dawn by Israeli occupation soldiers.
Rabea’, affiliated with Hamas, is a leader of the Birzeit University’s student council and has been previously imprisoned by the occupation.
Ladadwa and Rabea’ were only two out of a total of 24 people Israel’s occupation forces kidnapped during the night.
Kidnapping of people from their homes during the night, when they are most vulnerable, is a classic hallmark of authoritarian regimes.
(Source / 19.11.2018)

Revealed: Israeli military launched missiles at kids playing on Gaza beach in 2014 without first identifying targets

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Military personnel involved in attack that killed four children told Israeli military investigators attack was launched under assumption that only Hamas members would enter area.

 

The Israeli military launched missiles at a beach in the Gaza Strip during its 2014 offensive without first verifying that its targets were actually Palestinian children rather than combatants, according to investigatory materials that Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) received from the Israeli military.

On 16 July 2014, during the military offensive in the Gaza Strip that Israel termed “Operation Protective Edge”, Israeli naval forces fired missiles that killed four children of the Bakr family – Ahed (10 years), Zakaria (10 years), Mohammed (11 years), and Ismail (10 years) – while they were playing soccer on Gaza City’s fishing beach. Six other civilians were also wounded in the missile attack, including four children from the same extended family.

According to testimony collected by Israeli military investigators from a soldier involved in the missile strike: “The only people entering [that area] are fisherman who stop at the shack located there that was attacked during the operation prior to this incident. The mooring area, at that time, was under maritime closure and there were no fishermen there. In our research, we always work on the assumption that there are only Hamas members there.”

Additional testimony collected by Israeli military investigators revealed that the Israeli military did not take any measures to ascertain whether the targets on the ground were civilians, let alone children, prior to intentionally directing the attacks against them.

On 28 January 2018, Adalah and Al Mezan submitted their additional arguments against the Military Advocate General’s (MAG) decision to close the investigation into the incident.

The two organizations filed their additional arguments after receiving and reviewing very limited portions of the investigatory materials from the Israeli Military Police. In August 2015, the organizations filed an appeal to the MAG on behalf of the victims’ families demanding access to the investigatory materials and a reopening of the probe; more than two years of unreasonable and unjustified delays ensued before Israeli authorities responded by releasing heavily redacted material.

Adalah Attorney Muna Haddad stressed in the additional reservations that this failure to identify targets constitutes a severe violation of the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians during conflict, as mandated by international humanitarian law:

“The Israeli military was obligated to do everything feasible to verify that the individuals to be attacked were not civilians. Entry into a military area is not sufficient in order to [justify] attack and an attack of this nature is therefore a gross violation of the principle of distinction and of Israel’s responsibilities under international humanitarian law.”

In addition, Attorney Haddad emphasized that the Israeli strike was not one of urgent necessity and that the military could therefore have verified – in accordance with its legal obligations – whether its intended targets were civilians or combatants:

“The testimonies reveal that there were no Israeli soldiers in the area and there was no immediate danger posed to anyone, and there was therefore no urgency in carrying out the attack. It was possible to have obtained further intelligence on the nature of the targets in order to verify whether they were combatants or not.”

Nevertheless, Israeli military personnel involved in the incident displayed indifference to the possibility of targeting and harming civilians, including children, and decided to attack on the basis of unverified assumptions.

Adalah and Al Mezan again emphasized that the Israeli military’s investigation into the killing of the Bakr boys has failed to meet the standards of international humanitarian law and violates the universal principles of independence, effectiveness, promptness, impartiality and transparency. Testimonies were taken more than four months after the incident, and investigators – themselves members of the Israeli military – did not bother to gather testimonies from Palestinian eyewitnesses or any of the large numbers of foreign journalists who also personally witnessed the attack.

Additionally, the Israeli military refused to provide large sections of the investigatory materials to Adalah and Al Mezan attorneys.

Reproduced by @IPNOTGlobal Original: https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/9386

(Source / 19.11.2018)

IOF attacked Hebron elementary school with tear gas

HEBRON, PALESTINOW.COM — Dozens of Palestinian students and teachers suffocated after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces toward an elementary school in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, said WAFA correspondence.

Israeli soldiers fired a barrage of tear gas canisters toward an elementary school in the southern part of Hebron city, causing suffocation to dozens of students and teachers. They were all treated at the scene.

To be noted, Palestinian schools in the southern part of Hebron, which is located in Area C of the West Bank, under complete Israeli civil and military control, are constantly subjected to systematic attacks by the Israeli army.

(Source / 19.11.2018)

1,252 housing units have been damaged in the last Israeli military escalation in Gaza

GAZA, PALESTINOW.COM —Hundreds of Palestinian residential homes were damaged in the latest Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, according to a Palestinian official on Sunday.

“A total of 1,252 housing units have been damaged in the last Israeli military escalation in Gaza,” Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Gaza-based Housing Ministry, told a press conference in Gaza City.

He said 77 residential units have been totally destroyed in the Israeli attacks.

“The attacks have caused losses worth $7 million in residential buildings,” Sarhan said, calling on the international community to “intervene to put an end to Israeli aggression and protect civilians and civilian facilities” in Gaza.

At least 14 Palestinians were martyred by Israeli airstrikes and artillery across the blockaded Gaza Strip after rocket fire earlier this week.

On the other hand, at least one Israeli officer was reportedly killed and another injured.

The bloody events came to a halt on Tuesday as part of an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal between Gaza-based resistance factions and Israel.

(Source / 19.11.2018)

Israeli Rogue Forces Wound 70, Arrest 22 Palestinians In West Bank

The Israeli forces beat a 73-year-old mother of one of the Palestinians, when she attempted to help him not to leave with the Israeli rogue troops

During a night raid on Sunday, Israeli occupation forces wounded 69 Palestinians and arrested 22 others in the occupied West Bank.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC), nine Palestinians were wounded by metal bullets coated with rubber and 60 others suffered suffocation due to the heavy use of tear gas.

These Palestinians were wounded during an Israeli night raid to the Palestinian village of Oreef, in the south of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Meanwhile, local sources said that the Israeli occupation forces kidnapped 22 Palestinian citizens in different areas across the occupied West Bank.

During the kidnappings, the Israeli forces beat a 73-year-old mother of one of the Palestinians, when she attempted to help him not to leave with the Israeli rogue troops.

(Source / 19.11.2018)

Israel officers who ordered invasive search of Palestinian woman only face disciplinary action

A Palestinian woman reacts as Israeli troops carry out a search operation in the West Bank village of Awarta 12 April, 2011

An investigation into two officers from Israel’s Security Agency Shin Bet who ordered army soldiers to conduct a vaginal search of a Palestinian woman during her arrest could end with nothing but disciplinary action.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported on Sunday that despite being investigated last year, the two Shin Bet officers continue their work as usual. According to daily, not only have the two officers in question not been suspended from work, Israel’s Civil Service Commission was not informed of the investigation against them.

The case dates back to 2015, when the two officers ordered two female soldiers to conduct a vaginal and anal search of the Palestinian woman during her arrest at her home. The woman was threatened that if she did not comply with the search it would be conducted by force.

READ: Israel soldiers accused of stealing, sexual assault at West Bank checkpoint

(Source / 19.11.2018)

Israel agriculture minister leads settlers into Al Aqsa Mosque

Israeli forces banned Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque to allow Ariel and the accompanying settlers to walk around the compound and perform Talmudic rituals

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Israel’s Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel stormed Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque under heavy protection from Israeli police on Sunday morning, accompanied by dozens of extremist settlers.

Israeli forces banned Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque to allow Ariel and the accompanying settlers to walk around the compound and perform Talmudic (Jewish religious law) rituals.

Israeli authorities continue to restrict the entry of Palestinians to Al-Aqsa Mosque and impose punitive measures on them. Only a few days ago, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered six Jerusalemite Palestinians to be expelled from the mosque and banned their entry into the compound for six months.

An official in the Palestinian Prisoners Club in Jerusalem said that Israeli forces arrested the six Jerusalemites from their homes in the Old City and Silwan, just outside the Old City Walls, several days ago.

READ: Israel Police recommend MKs storm Al-Aqsa more

(Source / 19.11.2018)

Israel army weighs demolition of rebuilt Palestinian home

Palestinians were forced to demolish their home to avoid paying the hefty fine if Israeli forces had to do it

The Israeli military is “currently examining” whether a Palestinian family’s rebuilt home can be destroyed again,

The house of Ahmed Nassar Jarrar was destroyed during Israeli occupation forces’ manhunt for the Palestinian deemed responsible for the fatal shooting of an illegal settler in January. Jarrar evaded capture for a number of weeks, leading Palestinians to refer to him as ‘the Ghost of Jenin’.

His home, situated in Burqin village, just outside Jenin in the north of the occupied West Bank, was destroyed during an Israeli army raid, but an actual demolition order was “never officially issued”, Ynet reported.

READ: Sick, elderly woman homeless as Israel demolishes her home

The paper added that the Israeli army “is currently examining whether the reconstructed house could also be legally torn down”.

Yael, the wife of the slain settler Rabbi Shevah, told Ynet “as long as there is no permanent policy of deterrence against terrorists, this type of thing will keep happening. We need deterrence […] expulsion of terrorist families, house demolitions and much more”.

According to Ynet, Israeli occupation officials “began the demolition procedures for the rebuilt house upon hearing the news”.

PA: International silence regarding demolition of Palestinian homes ‘war crime’

(Source / 19.11.2018)