100,000 Qaem missiles in Lebanon trained on Israel: Iran cmdr.

The IRGC's second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, speaks during the pre-sermon address to worshippers at the weekly Friday Prayers in Tehran on July 1, 2016. ©IRNA

The IRGC’s second-in-command, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, speaks during the pre-sermon address to worshippers at the weekly Friday Prayers in Tehran on July 1, 2016

A senior Iranian commander says the Tel Aviv regime is on the verge of complete collapse, stressing that more than 100,000 Qaem missiles based in Lebanon are ready to target the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

“Today, only in Lebanon, more than 100,000 Qaem missiles are ready for launch… so that any time the Zionist regime seeks to repeat its previous mistakes with miscalculations, these missiles would… come down on the heart of the Zionist regime and be the prelude for a big collapse in the modern era,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said on the occasion of the International Quds Day in the pre-sermon address to worshippers at the weekly Friday Prayers in Tehran.

He added that tens of thousands of other long-range missiles with a diverse range of destructive power and great precision are based in different parts of the Muslim world and are ready to “wipe out one malevolent and black spot from the political geography forever.”

The Iranian commander said that the Israeli regime’s military planning doctrine has no “strategic depth”, adding that grounds have been prepared in the Muslim world to wrest back the occupied Palestinian territories from the Israeli regime.

Salami added that the era of Israeli and US dominance over the Muslim world has come to an end and they have understood that they must change their policies.

The late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, named the last Friday of the lunar fasting month of Ramadan as the International Quds Day.

Each year, millions of people around the world stage rallies on this day to voice their support for the Palestinian nation and repeat their call for an end to the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities and its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

The PA launches large-scale security campaign in Jenin

JENIN, (PIC)– The Mayor of Jenin Ibrahim Ramadan announced, in his meeting with representatives on the security apparatuses and institutions in the governorate on Wednesday, the expansion of the security campaign in Jenin following President Mahmoud Abbas’s orders. The campaign aimed at targeting the lawbreakers and those who try to wreak chaos after Eid al-Fitr, according to the Mayor.  Local sources affirmed to the PIC’s reporter that the campaign followed summoning large-scale security reinforcement from Jericho and Ramallah to Jenin including Unit 101 which is known for storming refugee camps.  Jenin has recently been witnessing an unusual large-scale security deployment of the PA’s security forces in light of a status of tension prevailing since the latest incidents in the governorate, the sources added.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

IOF detains 5 Palestinian children for few hours

JENIN, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) detained late Thursday five Palestinian children for few hours before releasing them. Local sources affirmed that five boys from Zabouba town west of Jenin were detained for few hours for an alleged stone-throwing attack. The detained minors were taken for investigation in Salem military camp before being released.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

Arrests reported as clashes break out in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested at dawn Friday a Palestinian young man from Hussan town west of Bethlehem to the south of occupied West Bank. According to Palestinian security sources, the young man Dia Azoul, 23, was arrested after Israeli forces violently stormed and searched his family house. His lap top and mobile phones were confiscated during the raid. Similar raid campaign was carried out in al-Khuder town where several local homes were violently stormed and searched which led to the outbreak of violent clashes. During the clashes, Israeli forces heavily fired teargas bombs towards local homes. No injuries were initially reported.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

Going green: Morocco bans use of plastic bags

As Morocco’s ban on plastic bags comes into effect, green campaigners worry consumers will need time to change habits.

Morocco is the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States

Rabat, Morocco – As a ban on the production and use of plastic bags comes into effect across Morocco on Friday, green campaigners say that the country’s consumers may need years to fully comply with the new law.

A landmark bill passed by the Moroccan parliament last October banned the production, import, sale and distribution of plastic bags across the country.

The bill, which became law on July 1, is part of a larger environmentally conscious effort across the North African country to go green.

Morocco ranks alongside Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia as one of the world’s greenest countries, a fact partially due to its ambitious goals to crackdown on carbon emissions.

Recent sustainability measures have turned the country into a green leader among developing nations, and the city of Marrakesh is due to host a global climate change conference in November 2016.

But as the July 1 deadline approached, shops, street sellers and retailers across the country scrambled to stockpile reserves of reusable bags. The change, they say, will not be easy.

READ MORE: Morocco’s colonial heritage in higher education

The country’s battle with the plastic bag has been in the works for years. Efforts in 2009 to ban the production and use of black plastic bags, which litter the country’s streets and beaches, were only partially successful, as authorities struggled to curtail informal production of the bags.

Morocco is the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the United States. It uses about three billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. That means, on average, that each one of Morocco’s 34 million people uses about 900 bags a year.

A blanket ban on the use of plastic bags will take some getting used to, says Jennie Romer, a New York-based lawyer.

“It’s a big cultural shift with that type of broader law,” she said. “As long as the government has the motivation to really enforce that. There is a lot of potential. The government entity that is implementing it has to be completely on board in order to make that really happen in practice.”

While Industry Minister Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the initiator of the bill, did not return requests for comment, he said on his Twitter account that “several alternative solutions” will be made widely available, such as bags made of paper and fabric. He added that “freezer bags were excluded.”

For weeks now, awareness campaigns throughout the country have been warning Moroccans against the use of bags, which take hundreds of years to degrade. Their message is simple: plastic bags are unhealthy and dangerous for the ecosystem in a country that struggles to clean its streets and where fields of rubbish plague the local environment.

“They do it to promote the image of Morocco as an environmentally friendly country, which is partly true, but not completely,” Mamoun Ghallab, a sustainable development consultant, told Al Jazeera during a recent beach clean-up event in Casablanca.

Ghallab said the government hasn’t done much to raise environmental awareness. Some campaigns about littering have been done, he added, but their cartoonish design made them only marketable to children.

“If citizens are not aware of the concerns and the challenges we’re facing, things will go much slower,” Ghallab said. “Everything begins and ends with the citizens.”

But the UN Environmental Performance Review of Morocco, which has analysed the country’s environment protection progress since 2012, reported that Morocco “fails to address environmental challenges, which can gradually become economic and development challenges”.

Moroccan cities only collect 70 percent of solid waste, according to a 2013 study released by the German Society for International Cooperation. And the World Bank has reported that less than 10 percent of collected waste is disposed of in an “environmentally and socially acceptable manner.”

Yassine Zegzouti, 30, president of local advocacy organisation Mawarid, said it is possible for Morocco to totally ban plastic bags, but that changing consumer habits will be the most challenging part.

The government has shown a commitment to putting the ban into practice, he said, not only through TV spots encouraging citizens to change their habits, but also by investing millions of Moroccan dirhams into encouraging the industry to transform their production of the bags.

“The formal sector will need four to five years to comply with the new law,” said Zegzouti.

“But the use of plastic bags is anchored in [consumer] habit,” said Zegzouti. “All actors need to change these habits to not have any damage in the future.”

(Source / 08.07.2016)

EU to push forward with two-state conference, with or without Washington

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (L) meet at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, May 15, 2016

European capitals are busy with the organization of an international conference on the two-state solution, which would elaborate on the French Middle East Peace Initiative. Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the preparative conference in Paris June 3. European leaders, including more Israel-leaning countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, agree that the next phase would include both. According to a senior European Union official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, all EU foreign ministers decided to support the French initiative in order to challenge the parties and bolster the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

EU officials believe that not much can come out of such a conference without the United States playing an active role. Therefore, if the United States remains passive, the conference can be only of preliminary nature, to set a policy platform for future negotiations. And so if the conference eventually takes place before a new US president is sworn in (with a lame-duck administration in Washington) — with the United States effectively playing a passive role — Brussels will probably take the lead, to avoid a diplomatic vacuum.

The EU official told Al-Monitor, “Europe has decided to play a more independent role regarding the two-state solution process, especially given the transition in Washington and the uncertainty about the next president. Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution is a key strategic interest of most European countries, as it affects the fight against fundamentalist terror and the security of the Mediterranean. Hence we would like to formulate the terms of reference and the structure for future negotiations.”

According to the source, EU headquarters’ officials — under the guidance of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini — are coordinating content and moderation of such a conference mainly vis-a-vis French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is fully in the know.

The conference is planned to take place in Paris toward the end of the year, possibly after the US presidential election Nov. 8. The Quartet (United States, EU, United Nations and Russia) would be the one inviting the parties to the international peace conference, which would be based on the Quartet report published July 1. All participants of the Paris conference of June 3 will be invited, including the Arab League, in addition to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The terms of reference of the conference will be the Quartet report. The parties will not be asked to adopt the report, but to negotiate on its basis.

The structure of the conference is already taking shape: Quartet representatives at the level of foreign ministers and the UN secretary-general will chair it; the opening plenary session will include speeches by all parties. It will also delineate a structure of negotiations, according to the following guidelines: a plenary session for reporting about and monitoring the negotiations; a bilateral committee of Israel and the PA only, to negotiate on the basis of the Quartet report all permanent status issues; and a multilateral track with Israel, the PA, the Arab League, Egypt, Jordan and Quartet representatives.

Concerning the bilateral Israel-Palestinian committee, it will work on core issues, starting with borders between the two states and security measures, including anti-terror cooperation. The two parties will establish subcommittees of negotiations on the following issues: settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water and other infrastructure issues, future bilateral relations between the two states and mutual recognition.

With these issues to be discussed bilaterally, the multilateral track will negotiate the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative; the construction of economic regional cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade, the environment and water (resembling the multilateral negotiations started by the Madrid conference of 1992; and the launch of regional security cooperation, mainly in the fields of anti-terror and curbing the dissemination of nonconventional arms.

The EU seems determined to go ahead with such plans, despite US hesitance and Israeli opposition. Given the alternative of a policy vacuum in the region — which will most probably lead to a violent outburst between the Palestinians and Israel and to greater difficulties in assembling an Arab-West coalition against the Islamic State — it would be important for the United States and Israel to reconsider their positions on such a conference.

US President Barack Obama would not want to leave behind him a region plagued by an armed intifada.

As for Israel, even the right-wing Netanyahu government must comprehend that a viable peace process based on a global consensus is in Israel’s interest. It can always express its different position within the negotiations’ framework. Israel’s identity, security, morality and position in the world stand only to gain from an internationally monitored two-state solution process.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

Pro-bezettingslobby voert campagne tegen het CDA

Na een turbulente maand op het dossier Israël-Palestina begint vandaag voor de Tweede Kamer het zomerreces.

De turbulenties begonnen met een “algemeen overleg” op 26 mei over de “Midden-Oosten vredespolitiek”. Aanvankelijk leek dat debat tussen minister Koenders en de Kamercommissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken uit te monden in een herhaling van politiek vrijblijvende zetten. Maar in het verlengde ervan gebeurde toch iets betekenisvols.

Op 14 juni vonden stemmingen plaats over moties die de partijen na het debat hadden ingediend. Drie krachtige moties werden dankzij de steun van het CDA aangenomen: de eerste voor meer steun aan Israëlische mensenrechtenverdedigers, wie de Israëlische regering de mond wil snoeren. Een tweede tegen de schaamteloze vernielingen door het Israëlische leger van Europese ontwikkelingsprojecten. En dederde voor een daadkrachtige Europese politiek ten aanzien van Israël-Palestina, waarbij sancties aan de orde kunnen zijn.

Campagne tegen het CDA

Nog voor de stemmingen sloeg het pro-Israël kamp helemaal door. Christenen voor Israël opende frontaal de aanval op het CDA. Deze fanatieke organisatie uit Nijkerk, die de Israëlische bezetting van Palestina actief steunt, mobiliseerde massaal de achterban om de CDA-fractie dagenlang met e-mails te bestoken.

Christenen voor Israël-directeur Van Oordt vertelt de ene na de andere leugen over het CDA
in een uitzending van de christelijke zender Family7

Parallel verschenen lasterlijke publicaties als “Hoe het CDA Israël laat vallen”. Geen twijfel: het CDA was het doelwit van een georkestreerde campagne van groeperingen en activisten die de bezetting steunen en elkaar in anti-Palestijnse stemmingmakerij willen overtreffen.

Dat deze campagne uitgerekend tegen het CDA is gericht, is geen toeval. In de getalsmatige verhoudingen in de Tweede Kamer geeft het CDA bij stemmingen de doorslag. Het CDA bepaalt of de partijen die Israël onvoorwaardelijk steunen een meerderheid hebben. Dat zijn: VVD, PVV, ChristenUnie, SGP en de Groep Bontes/Van Klaveren. Of de partijen die de bezetting afwijzen: PvdA, D66, GroenLinks, SP, Partij voor de dieren, 50Plus en de Groep Kuzu/Öztürk.

Onder leiding van Maxime Verhagen steunde het CDA Israël blind en onvoorwaardelijk. Wie dat doet, steunt feitelijk ook de bezetting. Onder zittend partijleider Sybrand Buma sloeg mijn partij vanaf 2012 een evenwichtiger koers in. Daar had de achterban van het CDA ook opdracht toe gegeven, door in meerderheid te stemmen voor deze principiële positie in het CDA-verkiezingsprogramma:

“Een alomvattend vredesakkoord voor het conflict tussen Israël en de Palestijnen zal echte vrede brengen in het Midden-Oosten. Een levensvatbare tweestatenoplossing, met als uitgangspunt de grenzen van 1967, is daarbij het doel. Bilateraal en via de EU zet Nederland zich daar voor in. De internationale gemeenschap zal de voorwaarden voor een duurzame vrede moeten scheppen, op basis van het internationaal recht. Om de kans op vrede te behouden zijn drukmiddelen nodig, die de partijen bewegen beleid te staken dat een rechtvaardige oplossing in de weg staat.”

Het stemgedrag van het CDA op 14 juni was volledig in overeenstemming met die positie. Aantijgingen dat het CDA zich “definitief tegen Israël keert” zijn misleidend en kwaadwillig. Het CDA begint zich eindelijk van Israëls illegale en gewelddadige bezetting te distantiëren – niet van de staat Israël. Dat cruciale onderscheid verdoezelen de bondgenoten van de bezetting doelbewust. Als het aan hen ligt, zullen de Palestijnen nooit vrij zijn.

VVD flankeert bezetting

Geen enkele partij in de Tweede Kamer is anti-Israël. Er zijn alleen partijen die tegen de bezetting zijn. De VVD kan daar niet toe gerekend worden. Formeel steunt de VVD de twee-statenoplossing, maar in de praktijk flankeert zij altijd het beleid van de Israëlische regering. Dat komt neer op steun voor de bezetting.

Een recent voorbeeld: jarenlang heeft de Europese Unie gewerkt aan richtlijnen voor een correcte etikettering van producten uit Israëls illegale nederzettingen die werden verkocht met het onjuiste en misleidende label ‘made in Israel’. In november heeft de EU die richtlijnen eindelijk gepubliceerd, mede op aandringen van het kabinet.

Na het debat van 26 mei heeft VVD-buitenlandwoordvoerder Han ten Broeke een motie ingediend tegen de handhaving van de richtlijnen. Daarmee heeft hij zich gewillig voor het karretje van de Israëlische regering laten spannen, die steevast klaagt dat Israël eenzijdig benadeeld wordt.

Met de motie heeft Ten Broeke het ware gezicht van de VVD laten zien: die stond haaks op het kabinetsbeleid en dreigde Europese consumentenwetgeving te ondermijnen die universeel van kracht is. Aan Israël gaf zij het signaal af dat de ultranationalisten in de regering-Netanyahu kunnen doorgaan met het roven van Palestijns land voor het uitbreiden en economisch exploiteren van nederzettingen. Wanneer beginnen zich VVD-ers te roeren die deze extreme koers afwijzen?

Gelukkig ging Ten Broeke’s feestje niet door. Zijn motie haalde geen meerderheid – doordat het CDA tegenstemde. Ten Broeke sloot zich vervolgens publiekelijk aan bij de anti-CDA campagne, die de bondgenoten van de bezetting hadden gelanceerd.

VVD-buitenlandwoordvoerder Han ten Broeke mobiliseert op twitter tweetalig tegen het CDA, nadat zijn motie door een tegenstem van het CDA geen meerderheid haalde

Hetze tegen BDS-beweging

De campagne tegen het CDA diende er ook toe om een Kamermeerderheid af te dwingen voor een motie die de SGP, ChristenUnie en VVD gezamenlijk hadden ingediend. Die motie was het werk van NGO Monitor, een rechtse organisatie uit Israël die de bezetting steunt en die onder het mom van “transparantie” mensenrechtenorganisaties bestrijdt. Rechts-nationalistische organisaties die geen enkele transparantie bieden, laat NGO Monitor ongemoeid.

De betreffende motie beoogde de subsidiëring door de Nederlandse overheid van Palestijnse maatschappelijke organisaties die “BDS” steunen te beëindigen. Zoals u weet, is BDS de internationale campagne voor sancties, desinvesteringen en boycotacties, tot Israël het internationaal recht naleeft.

BDS is een Palestijns initiatief, dat in Palestina op brede steun kan rekenen. Het is een vreedzaam en democratisch middel van maatschappelijk protest en verzet tegen Israëls gewelddadige bezetting en decennialange onderdrukking van de Palestijnen.

BDS wordt beschermd door de vrijheid van meningsuiting en vergadering. Dat heeft hetkabinet herhaaldelijk verklaard. Het kan de Israëlische regering en clubs als NGO Monitor niet deren. Om de bezetting te kunnen voortzetten, willen zij de BDS-beweging breken.

De Israëlische regering schuwt niet om daarvoor “cyber warfare” in te zetten. NGO Monitor zoekt parallel bondgenoten die het politieke handwerk willen doen. In Nederland heeft het die dus gevonden bij de SGP, ChristenUnie  – en de Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie.

Helaas heeft het CDA deze anti-BDS coalitie aan een Kamermeerderheid geholpen: de anti-BDS motie werd op 16 juni aangenomen. Het kabinet heeft gisteren per Kamerbriefop de motie gereageerd. Die brief is defensief geformuleerd, maar bekrachtigt in wezen het eerdere kabinetsstandpunt in reactie op Kamervragen:

“De beweging die oproept tot «Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions» (BDS-beweging) wordt door een groot aantal NGO’s ondersteund. Het feit dat zij dat doen is voor het kabinet geen afwijzingscriterium voor financiering, aangezien uitlatingen of bijeenkomsten van de beweging worden beschermd door de vrijheid van meningsuiting en de vrijheid van vergadering, zoals onder meer vervat in de Nederlandse Grondwet en het Europees Verdrag voor de Rechten van de Mens.”

“Geen afwijzingscriterium” – laten we hopen en bewaken dat de pro-bezettingslobby niet alsnog haar zin krijgt.
Rapport Midden-Oosten Kwartet

BDS is ook een reactie van burgers op het falen van de internationale politiek om een rechtvaardige en duurzame oplossing voor het Israëlisch-Palestijnse conflict te bewerkstelligen. De afgelopen weken was er wat hoop dat de internationale politiek in beweging zou komen: het “Midden-Oosten Kwartet” (VS, EU, VN en Rusland) werkte aan een rapport over de bedreigingen van de twee-statenoplossing.

Op 1 juli werd dat rapport gepubliceerd. Het stelt ernstig teleur, aangezien het de menselijke en politieke gevolgen van Israëls illegaal beleid totaal miskent. Bovendien ontkent het de extreme machtsongelijkheid tussen Israël en de Palestijnen. Veelzeggend is dat het internationaal recht niet één keer wordt genoemd. Mede daardoor staat het rapport op gespannen voet met de principiële positie van de EU.

De aanbevelingen van het rapport zijn volstrekt vrijblijvend. Hiermee geeft het Kwartet wederom het signaal af dat de internationale politiek niets gaat doen aan het schrijnende onrecht en de bezetting, die in 2017 een halve eeuw duurt. Zo wakkert de internationale politiek paradoxaal genoeg BDS aan. Niemand hoeft ervan op te kijken als de BDS-beweging nóg meer momentum krijgt.

Netanyahu naar Nederland

Het zomerreces van de Tweede Kamer duurt tot 6 september. Diezelfde dag komt de Israëlische premier Netanyahu naar Nederland, in het kader van het Nederland-Israël Samenwerkingsforum dat in 2013 gelanceerd is. Netanyahu spreekt dan ook achter gesloten deuren met de Tweede Kamer. Van maatschappelijke zijde wens ik Netanyahu een passende ontvangst toe.

Hartelijke groet,

Erevoorzitter The Rights Forum

(Source / 08.07.2016)

How does Sisi really feel about Egypt’s constitution?

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) waves as he arrives for the opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal, Aug. 6, 2015

During a meeting with a delegation from the US Congress on June 26, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the Egyptian Constitution includes unprecedented provisions regarding the rule of law and democratic practice. This is the same constitution that, during a meeting with Egyptian university students in September, Sisi described as “a constitution written with good intentions,” but then added, “States are not built with good intentions.”

During a November BBC interview, Sisi said his statements about good intentions had been misunderstood, and he pledged not to seek amendments to the constitution or exercise more power than it affords him.

Mustafa Kamel Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor the president’s statements about the constitution differ depending on whether he is addressing the West or Egypt. He said this is common in Arab politics in general and added that, in his view, the president’s statements to the Egyptians on the constitution are more indicative of what is going on in his mind.

According to Sayed, Sisi thinks the constitution limits his authority and is worried by the powers it grants parliament. For example, parliament shall give its vote of confidence to the prime minister appointed by the president, and parliament can withdraw confidence from the president.

However, Sayed claims parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal is not fully committed to the articles of the constitution. As an example, he noted parliament’s approval of the fiscal 2016-17 budget despite the budget’s apparent violation of the constitution regarding health, education and housing spending.

Sayed said the current Egyptian administration’s way of developing and implementing the state’s general policies is unconstitutional, adding that Article 150 of the constitution stipulates that, jointly with the Cabinet, the president shall set the state’s general policy. This has not been achieved, according to Sayed, as the president did not set a program that defines the general policy of the state when he ran for office. Sayed said that had the prime minister enjoyed the autonomy guaranteed by the constitution, he would have asked for a role in the setting and implementation of the state’s general policy.

“Egypt is not a constitutional state,” Sayed said. He noted that a constitutional state respects constitutional provisions and strives to achieve the separation of powers, all while preserving citizens’ rights and freedoms, freedom of the press and the circulation of information. Sayed expects talks to start near the end of Sisi’s first presidential term about amending Article 140 of the constitution. Article 140 sets the presidential term to four calendar years and permits the re-election of the president only once.

Fouad Abdul Nabi, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Menoufiya, talked to Al-Monitor about what he described as Sisi’s ongoing violation of the constitution. As an example, Abdul Nabi noted that the president agreed with Cyprus and Greece on the delimitation of the maritime border in the eastern Mediterranean region, and signed the Renaissance Dam document of principles. Sisi prompted the prime minister to sign the maritime border demarcation with Saudi Arabia, under which Egypt ceded to the kingdom the islands of Tiran and Sanafir — without referring to the legislative authority in accordance with Article 151 of the constitution. This article allows the legislature to represent the state in its foreign relations and conclude and ratify treaties upon the approval of the House of Representatives.

Abdul Nabi also accused Sisi of circumventing Article 216 of the constitution by dismissing the former head of the Central Auditing Authority (CAA) Hisham Geneina in a controversial move. The article prohibits the dismissal of heads of regulatory bodies except in specific cases. Abdul Bani stressed that Sisi issued Law No. 89 of 2015 before the parliament was formed to grant himself the authority to dismiss the heads and members of regulatory bodies.

According to Abdul Nabi, the former CAA head had not violated the constitution, as Article 219 stipulates that the CAA is responsible for monitoring the funds of the state, implementing the state budget and independent budgets, and auditing final accounts.

Abdul Nabi said Sisi’s decision to impose a state of emergency in the north of Sinai Peninsula — issued April 28 and submitted to parliament May 8 — is a clear violation of Article 154 of the constitution. That article says the president, after consulting with the Cabinet, must submit a state of emergency declaration within seven days to the House of Representatives, which can then act on the proposal as it deems fit.

“The Egyptian administration is only using the constitution to boast in front of the West that Egypt has a constitution that elevates freedom, democracy and the values of citizenship,” Abdul Nabi said.

The current constitution can theoretically be described as the most fascinating in the modern era, he said, but the Egyptian administration, and especially the executive power, are systematically breaching the constitution, especially the articles that preserve the rights of citizens and safeguard their freedoms.

Mohamed Abla, who was on the 50-member committee tasked with drafting the constitution, told Al-Monitor he is disappointed by the House of Representatives’ failure to act on what he described as the executive branch’s ongoing violations of the constitution.

Abla, like Sayed, believes Sisi shifts his statements about the constitution depending on his audience, especially when he is seeking to improve his image with foreign countries. But the truth, Abla said, is that some provisions worry the president, especially those that relate to the period of his term and the powers granted by the constitution to the parliament and government.

Abla also agreed with Sayed’s assessment that Abdel Aal violated the constitution to pass the budget of 2016-17, which did not meet constitutional mandates on how much must be spent on education and health. He criticized the parliament speaker’s assertions that the spending proportions for these sectors were set by the 50-member committee and that the constitution was written in a transitional stage.

Abla added that the consensus among the authors of the constitution is positive — not negative as the parliament speaker thinks — and stressed that members of the committee reviewed the history of Egypt’s constitution to draft the current version, knowing that this constitution garnered the confidence of more than 98% of Egyptians.

“We lack serious partisan work and freedom of the press. So who is monitoring the implementation and respect of the constitution?” Abla asked. He also said that at the end of Sisi’s current presidential term, Sisi will seek to amend some articles of the constitution, as he believes he can pass any amendment he wants in the absence of any opposition or partisan work.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

Israel orders demolition of prisoner’s family home

JENIN, (PIC)–  The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) on Thursday ordered the family of the Palestinian detainee Ahmad Abu Zaid to evacuate their home pending its demolition in ten days. The Israeli Supreme Court turned down on appeal filed by the family to cancel the demolition order. The IOA set a 10-day deadline for the evacuation of the family home, which covers 100 square meters and shelters 10 members. The demolition also targets four shops in the ground floor. The order was issued on allegations that prisoner Abu Zaid assisted three youths who carried out an anti-occupation stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Bab al-Amoud area some five months ago. The three youngsters were killed by the Israeli army right on the spot.

(Source / 08.07.2016)

Will upcoming local elections unite Palestinians, or divide them even further?

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (R) gestures during a meeting with Hanna Nasir (L), chairman of the Palestinian Central Election Commission, in Gaza City, Jan. 30, 2013

The Palestinian government has set a date for local elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The elections, which will include 414 local bodies, will be held Oct. 8, according to a June 21 announcement.

According to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, a local body is a local government unit within a specific administrative geographic area, the borders of which are based upon official maps recognized by the Ministry of Local Government.

Under the Palestinian Local Elections Law of 2005, there should be enough candidates on each electoral list to fill a majority of the seats allocated to the electoral district. The candidates list shall be considered closed, and the names of the candidates appear in order of priority.

On June 23, the Central Election Commission released the official timeline for the local election process, starting with registration, announcement and vetting of candidacy and publicity before the voting itself and the announcement of the final results.

Although local elections are supposed to be held every four years, according to the election law, they have only been held once in all Palestinian territories in the past 10 years. The last elections to cover all the Palestinian territories were held in 2004-2005 and included 262 local bodies. In 2012, only the West Bank held elections for about 340 local bodies, while Hamas boycotted them, claiming the movement’s members were being pursued by the Palestinian security services.

The Palestinian local elections include large local bodies in cities as well as small local bodies that manage affairs in towns and villages such as water services, markets and building permits. The size of local bodies varies with the changing Palestinian population, and some towns may wish to have their own councils out of fear of being neglected by large cities. These elections are held by agreement with the Ministry of Local Government affiliated with the Palestinian Authority.

Yousef Rizqa, who served as information minister in the 2006 Hamas government, told Al-Monitor, “The Palestinian government in Ramallah did not discuss with Hamas in Gaza the necessary conditions for holding local elections, such as transparency, campaigning, electoral courts, appeal mechanisms, and the condition of holding elections in the West Bank and Gaza simultaneously, free from the influence of the Palestinian security apparatuses in the West Bank and their shameful interventions. In this context, during the Birzeit University elections back in April, the Palestinian security services arrested a number of Hamas-affiliated students.”

Rizqa added, “However, Hamas would participate in the local elections once the conditions for fairness and the needs of a democratic process are available. Hamas might participate in these elections by teaming up with political and civil society organizations. This time, Hamas’ participation will not be the same as in 2005, when it entered the local and legislative elections with its own Change and Reform list.”

Some claimed that the Palestinian local elections that took place in 2004-2005, the first electoral experience for the local bodies, were compromised by the authorities’ inability to properly monitor all the polling places in the Palestinian territories.

Those elections were the first to include Hamas since the formation of the PA in 1993. The movement won in most districts, particularly in the local bodies in the Gaza Strip. Hamas won a majority in 34 out of 68 local bodies in the West Bank and four out of seven in the Gaza Strip. But after the movement took over the Strip in June 2007, it appointed members to the rest, taking control of most of Gaza’s local bodies. This situation begs the question of whether Hamas would approve and allow the holding of the elections in Gaza, or if it will participate in them. Meanwhile, the Palestinian street is torn between expressing its satisfaction with the local bodies’ performance and protesting the quality of some of their services.

Many problems have been plaguing local bodies in the Gaza Strip: Israel has been preventing the entry of raw materials needed for infrastructure projects under the pretext that such materials can be used by Palestinian factions for military purposes. Israel has also been preventing the entry of machinery, equipment and parts needed for sanitation projects.

In addition, the consensus government in Ramallah has yet to provide the operating budgets for local bodies in Gaza.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Faisal Abu Shahla, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in Gaza, urged Hamas “not to disrupt local elections in Gaza, since not holding local elections denies the Palestinians’ right to vote.” He said, “Hamas has to hold the elections and respect democracy so Palestinians are able to express their opinions. Hamas does not have the right to disrupt the elections in Gaza for partisan reasons or refuse to participate in the West Bank elections under the pretext of a lack of integrity.”

However, Hamas has yet to announce its official position on the local elections. Perhaps it is still undecided. Different positions expressed by some of its leaders indicate that the debate within the movement is ongoing.

In this context, Hamas held a meeting in Gaza June 27 with a number of Palestinian factions including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad, but no decision seems to have been made.

For his part, Ismail al-Ashqar, a Hamas leader and the head of the security committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said June 25 that any local elections without a national consensus are unacceptable.

On June 26, Hamas’ official spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri criticized the government’s announcement before a national consensus was reached to prepare to hold elections. He also revealed that Hamas had submitted questions to the Central Election Commission to which the movement is still awaiting answers before announcing its final position.

According to a May poll conducted by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at an-Najah National University in the West Bank, more than 75% of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank desire to participate in local elections, should they be held.

Omar Shaban, head of PalThink for Strategic Studies in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The unification of the elections in Gaza and the West Bank is essential for Palestinian reconciliation. I have met with some Hamas officials in Gaza and they did not have any positive answers about participating, as they demand that local, legislative and presidential elections be held as one package. But the PA in the West Bank does not agree, and this is why the chances of holding the elections in Gaza are slim.”

Shaban added, “Meanwhile in the West Bank, Hamas could boycott the elections for security reasons, as it fears the Palestinian security services would crack down on it. Nonetheless, if [Hamas] decides not to participate or disrupt the elections [in Gaza], Palestinians would be disappointed, as it would widen the gap between the [West Bank authorities] and Hamas-controlled local bodies in Gaza.”

Nearly 100 days separate us from the October elections, sufficient time for Hamas to carefully make its final decision. Hamas may be aware that if it approves the elections, the chances of reconciliation with Fatah will increase, and the financial and administrative burdens on the local bodies it controls will decrease.

But if Hamas refuses to participate because the Palestinian government did not consult with it before issuing its decision to set a date, the existing division in the Palestinian street will deepen further.

(Source / 08.07.2016)