Deal with Saudi Arabia prerequisite to end conflict with Palestine: Israel

Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Avigdor Lieberman speaks during the annual Herzilya security conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, June 22, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli Minister of Military Affairs Avigdor Lieberman speaks during the annual Herzilya security conference in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv, June 22, 2017

Israel’s minister of military affairs has called for a deal with Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, as a prerequisite for any agreement to resolve the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.

In a speech at the annual Herzilya security conference near Tel Aviv on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman underlined the need for “a full regional agreement” with what he called “all moderate Sunni states, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”

“The agreement with the Palestinians is a byproduct” of the accord with the Arab countries, Lieberman said.

“The only light at the end of the tunnel is a complete regional agreement. Full diplomatic and economic relations. Not under the table, but on the table,” he added.

The Israeli minister further highlighted the profit of the deal for Tel Aviv, saying, “This would mean an additional revenue of $45 billion for Israel. That’s the potential.”

Citing unnamed Arab and American sources, The Times reported last week that Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime were in clandestine talks to establish official economic relations for the first time since the entity was created on the Palestinian territories some 69 years ago.

Forming economic connections between to two, which would be gradual, could begin by allowing Israeli companies to open shops in the Arab kingdom, or granting El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. permission to fly over Saudi airspace, the report said.

Read more:

Israeli minister urges full diplomatic ties with Riyadh

This handout photo made available by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on June 21, 2017 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (C) sitting as royal family members and other officials pledge allegiance to him at the Royal Palace in Mecca

Separately on Thursday, Israel’s Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to invite Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Riyadh to establish full diplomatic relations.

Speaking at the Herzliya conference, Katz asked King Salman to send newly appointed crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud to the occupied territories, saying, “He (the heir to the Saudi throne) is a dynamic person. He is an initiator. And he wants to break through.”

He further called for creating “an access vis-a-vis Iran” jointly with the Saudis.

‘Abbas after fueling Israel-Hamas conflict’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Lieberman accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to spark a fresh conflict between Tel Aviv and the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance movement Hamas by cutting payments for electricity and other services in the blockaded coastal enclave.

“Abu Mazen (Abbas) didn’t make a one-time cut,” Lieberman said, noting, “In my opinion the strategy is to hurt Hamas and also to drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel.”

Recently, the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority has cut payments to Israel to supply electricity to Gaza, prompting the regime to stop deliveries.

‘Syria responsible for Hezbollah moves’

Meanwhile, the hardline Israeli minister warned Syria against what he described as attempts by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement to open a front against the occupying regime.

“I warn the Syrian government that is encouraging them, both Hezbollah and Iran, from turning Syria to a front base against Israel. The Syrian government will be held accountable for this,” he said. “We are making an effort to warn, but when we have to act, we will not hesitate to act.”

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Qatar’s charity funding in Gaza dries up as Gulf crisis continues

Palestinian workers work on a Qatari-funded construction project in the southern Gaza Strip, June 7, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Mohammad Tuman sat by the door of his unfinished house in Gaza’s Khan Yunis camp contemplating when the second phase of his home’s restoration will be completed. The reconstruction is part of a Qatari project called Maskan Kareem (A Decent House) that restores old houses located in densely populated camps. Several other families are similarly waiting for their house restoration work to be completed.

As Tuman tore some old cement bags, he told Al-Monitor, “After the June 5 Gulf decision to cut relations with Qatar, I am afraid that my house might never be fully reconstructed. It still needs windows and electrical and water repairs. The floors are sandy, and I’m afraid I might be forced to rent a house again. I cannot afford that now.”

Four associations and charities in Gaza operate under Qatari supervision. The Qatar Charity specializes in social development and economic projects, the Qatar Red Crescent offers medical aid, Al-Fakhoora Dynamics Futures Programme provides educational empowerment and scholarships, and the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee focuses on repairing what Israel has destroyed in Gaza.

The Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee, which began its work in October 2012, is one of the largest donor associations in the Gaza Strip. The Qatari grant provided for the funding of several projects in Gaza amounting to $407 million. The committee has carried out major projects in the Gaza Strip, including $160 million worth of reconstruction and housing projects, namely the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani residential city, which includes more than 3,000 residential units and is located in Khan Yunis, and the Salahuddin main street rehabilitation project worth $155 million.

Al-Monitor tried to contact Youssef Ghreiz, the adviser to the head of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee, and Mohammad Haloub, the director of the Qatar Charity, to ask them about the impact of the boycott decision on the Qatari projects in Gaza. They both said they were prohibited from making any statements to any media outlet.

However, an official source in one of these institutions told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the financial support provided to the Qatari institutions in Gaza was suspended 10 months ago and that these institutions have a zero balance in the Bank of Palestine. Meanwhile, the source added, the companies in charge of the construction and reconstruction projects are waiting for the necessary funding.

Asked why the financial support has been suspended, the source said, “The Qatari government established the Qatar Development Fund as a means to manage the Qatari associations and charities around the world, and it stopped funding its development and relief projects in Gaza to confine its financial support under this fund alone. There are financial donations for orphans and poor people that have not made their way to Gaza yet. We are afraid that this suspension might continue in light of the decision to cut ties with Qatar, especially considering that only a few small seasonal Ramadan projects have been carried out in Gaza.”

Maher Tabbaa, the director of public relations and media at the Gaza Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Al-Monitor, “The Qatari projects implemented in Gaza over the past five years are strategic projects that have positively affected the Gaza Strip citizens. For example, the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa city project and the Hamad Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Limbs in Gaza have created thousands of job opportunities in Gaza.”

Tabbaa added that Qatar also invested in large projects in the West Bank, thus creating thousands of job opportunities. For instance, there is the $1 billion Rawabi residential city and the Palestinian national telecommunications company (Wataniya) established in partnership with the Qatari Qtel telecommunications service provider in 2006, whose name became Ooredoo in 2013.

Asked how the Qatari funds would previously enter Gaza, Tabbaa said, “All the funds provided to the previous projects were publicly transferred in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel. The Qatari funds are transferred through the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] program and are subsequently transferred to the Palestinian Monetary Authority, which, in turn, channels the funds to the Bank of Palestine.”

The GCC established the Gaza Reconstruction Program in 2009, and it was open to all Arab countries. The program is managed by a coordinating committee from the GCC states and the Arab contributing countries, in coordination with the Islamic Development Bank and the legal institutions and with help from the relevant financial institutions. The GCC has allocated $1.646 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza after the Israeli war in 2008-09.

As for the implications of the boycott decision on the Qatari projects and the economic and social conditions in Gaza, Tabbaa said, “I expect a major delay and disruption in the completion of the unfinished development projects in Gaza as well as a halt to relief projects in the coming stage, which will worsen the situation in Gaza, but the [projects] will return because Israel won’t allow the situation to explode.”

Meshal bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to Washington, said in an interview June 6 with the Daily Beast, “We are not financing Hamas. We are working in Gaza on reconstruction efforts, building houses and hospitals in coordination with the Palestinians and Israel.”

The material needed to implement the Qatari projects would usually make it to Gaza either through the Rafah crossing, in coordination with the Egyptian side, or through the Israeli side, within a joint committee that included Israel, the PA and Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

It is noteworthy that dozens of Palestinians who benefit from the Qatari projects took part in a solidarity rally held outside the headquarters of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee in the west of Gaza City June 13 along with Qatari charities operating in the Gaza Strip. They were protesting the list issued by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on June 8 that designated Qatari charities, such as the Qatar Charity, as terrorist organizations.

Zuhair al-Daour, the representative of the participants in the solidarity rally, told Al-Monitor, “The relief and development projects provided by charities operating in the Gaza Strip played a major role in stopping the increasing rates of unemployment and poverty, and I am afraid that Qatar might yield to the pressure it is contending with because that would lead to an imminent explosion in Gaza.”

Naji Sarhan, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Works in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor, “Reconstruction projects have been stalled due to the suspension of Qatari support 10 months ago, and the existing budgets are not enough to complete such projects.”

Not only has this ambiguous funding suspension worried Palestinian citizens, but it also worries the Palestinian decision-makers in Gaza, who fear that these projects might suddenly stop as a result of the pressures placed on Qatar.

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Closing bank accounts: Israel’s new policy to displace Jerusalemites

Palestinians wait in line to withdraw money from cash points on 10 May, 2017 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians wait in line to withdraw money from cash points on 10 May, 2017

Israel is closing the bank accounts of Arab institutions in Jerusalem in an effort to displace Jerusalemites and force them out of the city, the Department of Jerusalem Affairs has said.

In a press release, the organisation said the Israeli occupation’s moves against social, cultural, educational, relief, housing, legal or engineering institutions were political and go hand in hand with the Israeli policy of collective punishment against the defenseless Palestinian civilians in order to Judaise the city by force.

Organisations had been told verbally seven months ago that their accounts could be closed however no paperwork was issued to confirm the action, the Director of the Yabous Cultural Centre, Rania Elias, told Quds Press.

Read: Israel’s tough policy on Gaza does not just affect Palestinians, warns Hamas

“The bank specified an amount of money for us to deposit in the account and of course we did that. The bank was to be informed in the case that any sum was added to clarify the source of the funds. And this is what we have actually done,” Elias explained.

“Since the first procedure took place months ago, we tackled the issue from a legal standpoint and hired a lawyer in order to keep track of the issue and pursue all the unjustifiable requirements of the bank so as not to offer them any alleged reason to close the account.”

However, this was in vain as the Israeli bank rejected a bank transfer coming from the EU for no reason.

The groups affected have maintained that their operations are legal, their operations comply with the missions and objectives they have set up for themselves when they were launched and registered, their taxes are paid and that they Israeli auditors to ensure their operations comply with the law.

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers pray at Al-Aqsa on Ramadan’s holiest night

Praying at Al-Aqsa

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Some 300,000 Muslim worshipers from the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, and foreign countries prayed overnight between Wednesday and Thursday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem to mark Laylat al-Qadr, “Night of Power,” one of Ramadan’s holiest nights, according to Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency.Wafa quoted the Islamic Endowment (Waqf), which manages the Al-Aqsa compound, as saying that among the hundreds of thousands of worshippers at the mosque were visitors from various countries, including Malaysia, Turkey, South Africa, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Jordan and Indonesia.Director of the mosque Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani addressed worshipers at the site, saying the masses who came from all around the world to attend the overnight prayers reaffirmed “the Islamic nature of this mosque.”According to Wafa, Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Jerusalem office of the Waqf, condemned Israel’s permit regime and restrictions on movement of Palestinian worshipers from the West Bank, saying “all Muslim worshipers should have the right to access the holy site throughout the year and with no restrictions.”Prayer on Laylat al-Qadr, which is typically observed on the 27th night of Ramadan, is believed by Muslims to be better than 1,000 months of prayers.

 The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest place in Islam, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.During Ramadan, Israeli authorities permit men above the age of 40, women of all ages, and children younger than 12 years of age from the occupied West Bank to enter Jerusalem without a permit on Fridays.

In the wake of a deadly attack at the entrance of the Old City last Friday, which left three Palestinians assailants and one Israeli police officer dead, Israeli authorities enforced a strict crackdown on occupied East Jerusalem, with Palestinians saying they were subjected to “collective punishment” through road closures, arbitrary searches, and mass detentions.
Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli police were conducting physical searches on Palestinians, including women and children, and forcing holders of West Bank IDs to board special buses, which had been deployed across Jerusalem since the early hours of Saturday morning following the attack.
The “deportations” followed a decision from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to revoke family visitation permits issued to Palestinians to enter Jerusalem and Israel for Ramadan, as a punitive reaction to the attack. According to Israeli news site Haaretz, 250,000 Palestinians had their permits revoked.
(Source / 22.06.2017)

Coalition: Int’l Community Should Have Courage to Admit Failure to Protect Syrians Instead of Inventing Excuses

The presidential and political bodies of the Syrian Coalition on Thursday met with a delegation of British diplomats in charge of the Syrian file in a number of neighboring countries. The two sides discussed the latest political and field developments in Syria.

President of the Syrian Coalition Riad Seif talked about the need to support the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) to be able to provide services to civilians in the liberated areas. Seif also called for empowering SIG to administer the liberated areas and restore security and stability to make possible the return of refugees to their homes.

SIG has developed a comprehensive plan to administer the liberated areas and rehabilitate state institutions, including the judiciary and the police, Hakim said, adding that the plan prioritizes the provision of essential services such as health and education.

Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Nazir Hakim said that the task of administering the city of Raqqa must be assigned to SIG, stressing that the people of Raqqa must be allowed to rule themselves. He indicated that this could be “through elections supervised by international bodies.”

“The PYD militia will have to leave the city of Raqqa after it has been liberated from ISIS as crucial step to restoring stability in the city and preventing the emergence of any new extremist organization,” Hakim added. He also said that the people of Raqqa reject the PYD militia, adding that “the United States made a mistake relying on these militias to fight ISIS.”

Nasr Hariri, head of the delegation of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC) to Geneva talks said that Bashar Al-Assad and his regime have committed war crimes claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians. He said that “if there is someone who has the courage to find a solution in Syria, he has to openly say we could not do anything” rather than inventing excuses. Hariri was commenting on remarks by the French President Emmanuel Macaron who on Wednesday said that nobody had shown him “a legitimate successor” to Assad.

The negotiations in Geneva have become about a party that believes in a political solution and that is working genuinely to find this solution and a party that does not want this solution and seeks to sabotage it with the support of its allies, Hariri said. He added that negotiations in Geneva are taking place in the presence of a [UN] mediator who proved unable to shoulder their responsibilities. He noted that the regime has so far refused any real engagement in the political process in Geneva and has committed war crimes that are unprecedented in modern times.

Hariri stressed that the Syrian people will continue their struggle against the dictatorship of Assad, adding that this struggle will not stop until the Syrian people regain freedom and dignity for which hundreds of thousands have sacrificed their lives.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 22.06.2017)

Al-Qassam: Arabs & Muslims have to eliminate the Israeli occupation

Al-Qassam Brigades want to elimnate occupation

Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, called on Arabs and Muslims to adhere to unity and cooperation in order to eliminate the Israeli occupation and liberate Occupied Jerusalem and all Palestinian territories.

The spokesman of al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obaidah, called on Arabs and Muslims, in tweets over his personal Twitter account on the occasion of International Quds Day, to remove “the Israeli cancer” and to halt their side battles.

Abu Obaidah hailed all activists and people who mark the International Quds Day and support the Palestinian people. He urged the massive crowds of the Arab and Muslim nation to commemorate this event.

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Settlers of Yitzhar continue offensive practices south of Nablus

Settlers attack Bourin

Settlers of Yitzhar settlement continued disposing waste and garbage over Palestinian agricultural lands in towns and villages south of Nablus city especially the town of Bourin.

The Palestinian activist, Bilal Eid, told Quds Press that Israeli settlers in the area aim at pressuring Palestinians who live close to those illegal settlements in order to make them leave their homes and lands to make room for the establishment of more settlement projects.

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Algerians slammed for ‘racist’ abuse of sub-Saharan migrants

Image of migrants left stranded along the Algerian-Moroccan border [Wise‏/Twitter]

Image of migrants left stranded along the Algerian-Moroccan border

Amnesty International Algeria has condemned the “hateful” and “racist” campaign against sub-Saharan nationals and refugees that has circulated on social media this week following International World Refugee Day on 20 June.

During a press conference held at its headquarters in Algiers on the situation of stranded Syrians between Algeria and Morocco, Director of Amnesty International Algeria, Hassina Oussedik, expressed regret that “some people have chosen International Refugee Day to lead a racist campaign against sub-Saharan migrants.”

“We have noticed that some people chose that day to lead a racist and shocking campaign against Sub-Saharans, Africans and people of colour,” Oussedik explained before denouncing the calls for violence relayed on social networks.

Yesterday, the hashtag  “No to Africans in Algeria” was widely shared on Twitter where some users called for the “clean up [of] cities in Algeria.

Read: Migrants left stranded between Algeria-Morocco border

Oussedik criticised the “racist remarks and calls for violence” circulating online and called on authorities to take necessary measures by applying laws that condemn violence and racism.

“We must react and show that the people who make these remarks do not reflect the whole of Algerian society. We are an African country. We have compatriots who have a darker skin colour. It is important that we work on tolerance and acceptance of our differences.”

This campaign is a shocking, scandalous event that does not honour Algeria or the Algerians and we cannot remain silent.

Users also took to social media to blast the hashtag and the racism of certain users.


This hashtag is disgusting. Are we not African ourselves? I’m actually sickened by my own people.

Algerians will ruin their own country and do nothing to improve it but will complain about Sub Saharans escaping war

Ugly side of Algeria is rearing its head on social media, (No to Africans in Algeria) is trending

Oussedik further went on to criticise how “the media [has] played a bad role” and called on them to participate in raising awareness and propagating tolerance.

Amnesty has also urged the Algerian government to repeal certain sections of the Aliens Act, including those criminalising the irregular entry, stay and exit of Algerian territory.

“Some people brave all the prohibitions to escape from the dangers and take refuge in Algeria. These laws are a further evil for the migrants and that does not regulate their situation.”

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Government suffers defeat in court by Palestine campaigners over boycott, divestment and sanctions

  • The Government has acted unlawfully by attempting to restrict local councils from pursuing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel  through their pension schemes.
  • Palestine campaigners hailed the triumph the ruling represented for the BDS movement, stating “Today is a victory for Palestine, for local democracy, and for the rule of law.”
  • Administrative Court judge Sir Ross Cranston granted the judicial review on 22 June, determining that the Government had acted for an improper purpose.

 

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has won a key victory for the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the UK government today. War on Want, Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Quakers supported the legal challenge with witness statements.  PSC was represented in the proceedings by Bindmans LLP, Nigel Giffin QC and Zac Sammour.

The embattled minority Tory government suffered a new blow as parts of its Guidance governing investment by Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) were struck down as unlawful.

The Guidance was announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government in September 2016 specifically to curtail divestment campaigns against Israeli and international firms implicated in Israel’s violations of international law, as well as to protect the UK defence industry. This occurred despite a public consultation indicating that 98% of respondents thought this was the wrong thing to do. Pension holders would have been forced into investing in companies that are complicit in human rights abuses contrary to their conscience and beliefs.

The Administrative Court today held that the Government had acted for an improper purpose by seeking to use pension law to pursue its own foreign and defence policy.  Accordingly the relevant parts of the Guidance were held to be unlawful and no longer restrict LGPS in their pension decisions.

In 2005 Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures until Israel adheres to its obligations under international law. It is modelled on the successful South African anti-apartheid boycott of the 1980s. Various local councils responded to the Palestinian call by passing motions to boycott goods from illegal Israeli settlements. Campaigners have been calling for councils to consider divesting from companies complicit in human rights violations in the occupied West Bank, such as Hewlett Packard (HP).

Hugh Lanning, Chair of the PSC said: “Today is a victory for Palestine, for local democracy, and for the rule of law. Absolutely everyone has a right to peacefully protest Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights. This ruling upholds the right of local councils and their pension funds to invest ethically without political interference from the government of the day.

Ben Jamal, Director of PSC said: ”Our recent YouGov polling shows 43% of the public think BDS is reasonable. We couldn’t be happier that this right has been upheld by the Court in the month the illegal occupation of Palestine turns fifty years old. PSC will take forward its campaign for justice for the Palestinian people with renewed vigour.”

Jamie Potter, Partner in the Public Law and Human Rights team at Bindmans LLP said:  “This outcome is a reminder to the Government that it cannot improperly interfere in the exercise of freedom of conscience and protest in order to pursue its own agenda.”

(Source / 22.06.2017)

Israel minister calls for new Gaza war to release captive soldiers

Image of Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel [File photo]

Image of Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel

Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, called for using force to put pressure on Al-Qassam Brigades to release the Israeli soldiers in is holding as prisoners of war, the Sama news agency reported yesterday.

Ariel said that since Avigdor Lieberman became defence minister, Israeli fighter jets have not targeted Palestinians. He called for questions to be asked as to why that was.

The right-wing minister called for a limited military operation inside the Gaza Strip to regain the bodies and release the Israeli soldiers who are thought to have been captured by Al-Qassam Brigades.

Read: Israeli forces assault Palestinian prisoners, relatives

During the major Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, when thousands of Palestinians were killed and wounded by the Israeli occupation forces, Al-Qassam announced it arrested two Israeli soldiers from the battle ground.

Israel said the soldiers were killed in battle however Al-Qassam have suggested that they may still be alive.

(Source / 22.06.2017)