Weeks before the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may go ahead with plans to annex part of the West Bank lands, the debate continues inside Israel and in the international community about the implications and risks of such a move.
The annexation plan, which may come into effect in July, is in line with the plan announced by US President Donald Trump at the beginning of this year called the Deal of the Century, which stipulates that Israel will annex the territories that most of the international community collects should be part of a future Palestinian state.
“Palestinian groups such as Hamas will use this annexation as evidence of the mistake made by the Palestinians who welcomed the implementation of the territorial settlement,” said Over Zalzberg, a senior analyst in Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
The Palestinian Authority has already declared that it is not committed to any of the treaties it signed with Israel and cut security coordination.
The lack of coordination will become more evident if the Palestinians decide to protest against the annexation of lands and clash with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints and checkpoints. The Palestinian security forces may not prevent this.
Abbas also announced his intention to reject the tax money that Israel owes the Palestinian Authority. This move could cause a major economic crisis in the already weak Palestinian economy.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem later this week. Netanyahu is expected to warn that moving ahead with the annexation plan will harm Israel’s ties with Germany and the European Union, according to Israeli media.
France also warned of grave consequences, saying it would view the annexation as a “gross violation of international law.”
The annexation step is also a blow to Netanyahu, who is seeking to improve relations with Arab countries, according to analyst Salzberg.
The Israeli occupation forces arrested three children who had been shot dead for 20 days in an unstable state of health and in need of medical follow-up and treatment. Our correspondent reported that the children were taken to an unknown destination by the forces. A force of the occupation stormed the town of AbuDis at dawn, raided the house of Abdullah Mohsen and arrested his son Ahmed, the house of Ali Halabia, arrested his son Younis, the house of Jamal Awad, arrested his son Muhannad, tampered with its contents, carried out thorough searches of houses and damaged furniture and cars, and after ascertaining the personalities of the wanted children, they were arrested without allowing them to take their medicines or allow them to change their pajamas. Walid Mohsen, father of the wounded child detained Ahmed Mohsen, said: “The occupation broke into the house in a barbaric way, did not take into account the sanctity of the house or the presence of children, and broke the doors and tampered with the contents of the house, and after verifying the identity of my son, he interrogated him. He put the plastic handles on his hands and put him in the military jeep on the ground, and we don’t know anything about our child despite his health.” It is worth mentioning that the three children were targeted live by live bullets last month, and the wounded child detained Ahmed in the foot was hit by seven bullets, and the second for the young child Younis Ali in his hand and foot, while the third injury of the wounded detainee Muhannad in al-Fakhd area and the condition of the three detainees is unstable and needs medical follow-up.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will continue fighting the Palestinian resistance movements and protecting Israelis despite halting security coordination with Tel Aviv, a senior official has said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, the Palestinian official in charge of relations with Israel and one of the two closest advisers to President Mahmoud Abbas, told the New York Times: “We will prevent violence and chaos. We will not allow bloodshed. That is a strategic decision.”
He added that the PA would arrest any Palestinian who intends to carry out an attack on the occupation from the occupied West Bank, the New York Times reported.
“We are not nihilists, or fools, and we don’t want chaos. We are pragmatic. We don’t want things to reach a point of no return,” he explained.
Meanwhile, he said that the PA’s declaration of halting security coordination with Israel aimed to remind Tel Aviv of the burdens it would assume if the PA disbanded and to demonstrate that the PA could collapse if annexation goes ahead, the newspaper reported.
Last week, Al Sheikh announced that the PA would stop receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in monthly tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA.
“Of course, it is our money,” he told the New York Times. “But I was receiving it on the basis of agreements between me and them.”
“Every day, I’ll be retreating from my responsibilities,” Al-Sheikh said. “I am telling the Israelis, if this situation continues, you will have to take full responsibility as an occupying power. It could go back to like it was before Oslo.”
Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh announced yesterday that civil servants would not be paid at the end of this month due to Israel’s refusal to transfer the tax money, Quds Press reported.
Speaking to journalists, he said: “We paid salaries for March and April, we offered assistance to many poor families and we offered loans with interest rates of three per cent, but we will not barter money with politics.”
“Our employees are ready to bear the consequences of Israel’s withholding of our money. Previously, we remained six months without salaries.”
He continued: “We recognised that we suffer from a fragile financial situation after the outbreak of the coronavirus. We do not have financial reserves or national currency. Our corona crisis deepened due to living under the Israeli occupation.”
Last week, Palestinian officials revealed that Israel is withholding tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority for the month of May until the PA reactivates the security coordination agreement with Tel Aviv.
Government spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem said later that the government had rejected Israel’s “blackmail”.
On 19 May, President Mahmoud Abbas announced the suspension of all agreements signed with Israel including the Paris Economic Agreement, which regulates trade and economic relations between the two parties, in response to Israel’s plans to annex nearly 30 per cent of the occupied West Bank to it.
Like the first flight, Tuesday’s flight from Abu Dhabi will be cargo-only with no passengers onboard, the Etihad spokeswoman told Reuters by email.
“Etihad Airways continues to operate humanitarian flights providing much needed aid to nations within its network and beyond,” she said.
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the UAE or any of the other five Gulf Arab countries, and there are no commercial flights between them. However, shared concerns over Iran’s influence in the region have led to a discrete thaw in ties between Israel and the Arab Gulf in recent years.
Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the first commercial flight between the two countries as a form of “treachery” and a “betrayal” to the Palestinian cause, as he accused them of normalising relations with Israel. He wrote on Twitter:
Today, some Persian Gulf states have committed the biggest treachery against their own history and the history of the Arab world. They have betrayed #Palestine by supporting Israel.
An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters Tuesday’s Etihad flight was completing a shipment of aid from the UAE to the Palestinians.
Back in 2017, two Israeli advisors to the Jerusalem Municipality, David Koren and Ben Avrahami, shared their concerns about Turkey’s increasingly visible role in the Holy City. These two figures oversee all of the municipality’s interactions with Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem. They are fully aware of the fine details of the incongruous interests, discrepancies and tensions among all segments of the local population.
Their article, “Eastern Jerusalem Arabs between Erdogan and Israel” was a wake-up call for Israeli decision makers regarding what they called “countervailing toxic trends in Jerusalem” and a warning about the symbolism of the Turkish flags flying across East Jerusalem and, especially, on what Israelis call the “Temple Mount”, the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. They argued that the Turkish presence is intended to weaken Israel’s hold on the city. Hence, Koren and Avrahami recommended Israel to shield itself by not only limiting the Turkish presence but also by thwarting the “Turkish incursion to Jerusalem”. Since then, Israel has reportedly spared no effort in developing plans to obstruct the Turkish presence in Al-Aqsa and East Jerusalem.
Interestingly, media reports have revealed discussions between Israel and Saudi Arabia about limiting the role of Ankara in Palestinian affairs and replacing it with Riyadh. The two now apparently friendly states have recently held secret talks to discuss having Saudi representatives in the management of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, which is currently under the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
There is no doubt that US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions have started yet another phase in the Middle East’s most chronic conflict in Israel-Palestine. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocating the US Embassy to the city was definitely a game changer. It brought an ancient rivalry to the forefront of the Muslim world: the custodianship of the third holiest site in Islam after Makkah and Madinah, Al-Aqsa Mosque Sanctuary.
As the custodian of the holy sites in occupied Jerusalem, King Abdullah II of Jordan discovered last year that he faced pressure to change his position regarding the status of the sites. Interestingly, King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced an enormous grant for the refurbishment of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its compound. Turkey is increasing its presence in the city.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI (R) and Prime minister Saad Eddine El Othmani (L) in Casablanca on 11 December 2017
All four Muslim players — Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia — have historical claims to guardianship of the holy sites. The Jordanian Hashemites were granted custodianship over Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem in 1924 after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Historically, the Saudis and the Jordanians shared acrimony against the Ottomans. Both clashed with Ottoman armies throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, as they tried to expand their own territories with British help and support.
The monarchy in Morocco has maintained an extraordinary relationship with Jerusalem and provided financial support for the holy sites and people in the city for centuries. One entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is called the Moroccans’ Gate. However, despite the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom and the financial support of the Moroccan monarchy, Israel’s violations, demolitions, closures of Al-Aqsa, expulsions of the Jerusalemites and armed incursions by illegal settlers into the Noble Sanctuary have continued. The Hashemites and the Moroccans have habitually made verbal condemnations but done little else.
So why is Israel concerned about the presence of Turkey and interested in opening the door to the Saudis? Both Ankara and Riyadh are showing more interest in the Holy City and claim historical legitimacy. Immediately after the embassy relocation in 2018 and Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Riyadh challenged the Hashemite custodianship during a meeting of regional parliamentarians. Saudi Arabia also granted $150 million to support the administration of Jerusalem’s Islamic endowments.
The benchmark for measuring how the presence of these rivals can be advantageous to the Holy City and people of Jerusalem is the Israeli stance vis-à-vis these players. In other words, Israeli observers have started ringing alarm bells about the visibility of Turkish flags in the holy city, and reckon that the Turkish presence is not merely to claim historical legitimacy or seek international recognition and support by taking the custodianship of Jerusalem as a bargaining chip. Turkey’s sustainable investment in Jerusalem is multi-dimensional through a series of civil bodies, NGOs and grassroots organisations undertaking charitable initiatives and educational programmes for the benefit of the Palestinian people. This is something that Israel considers a direct threat of a kind that needs to be challenged.
Israel’s response includes denying visas and restricting travel permission to Turkish nationals who intend to visit Jerusalem. It has also abolished jobs for Turkish teachers who work in the city’s schools, and reportedly put restrictions on any school that receives support from the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Association (TIKA) in East Jerusalem. TIKA has invested millions of dollars in the restoration of the Old City of Jerusalem and the provision of food parcels to vulnerable people there. It has also supported businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Turkey’s rising popularity in Palestine is perturbing not only to Israel but also to Saudi Arabia. The historical rivals for leadership of the Muslim world are now leading two divergent blocs in the Middle East. This rift will grow even wider if the Saudi-led bloc decide to dominate the Islamic sites in Jerusalem and make concessions at huge cost to the Palestinian cause for freedom. A cold war is brewing in the Holy City between Turkey and the Israel-Saudi alliance. The way it develops could have serious implications for the people of occupied Palestine.
Israeli troops reportedly knocked down, on Tuesday morning, a number of Palestinian-owned homes in the internationally-recognized occupied East Jerusalem.
Head of the Palestinian committee for defending Palestinian lands in the Sawarha neighborhood, Youmis Ja’far, told media outlets that Israeli soldiers, backed by armored vehicles, invaded the neighborhood and forced local residents out of their homes, before the bulldozers began demolishing them.
Ja’far warned against what he termed stepped up Israeli demolitions of Palestinian-owned properties, across the occupied East Jerusalem, under an ‘unacceptable Israeli pretext, building without permission’.
The local Palestinian activist noted that the Sawarha area is included in Israel’s scheme to construct more colonial settlements in the occupied part of Jerusalem, despite the fact that all Israeli settlements are illegal under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and United Nations Security resolution 242 of 1967.
It should be noted, that earlier, Israeli occupation authorities handed over demolition warrants to four other Palestinian families in the Jerusalem. One of those families had their home funded by the European Union (EU).
In another similar incident, local sources in the Silwan neighborhood, just south of the Al-Aaqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, said that Israeli troops’ bulldozers demolished the home of Aesha Hejazi, a mother of eight children, under the same allegation that the home was built without Israeli permission.
The sources said that the family received a warrant six months ago, but the family is impoverished and was not able to appeal the unjustified demolition.
Israeli troops abducted, on Tuesday at night a young man who suffers from Meninges, near the illegal Itamar colony, built on Palestinian lands near Nablus in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
The father of the abducted young man, Ghassan Nasasra, said that he was informed about the arrest of his son, Mahfouth, when an Israeli intelligence officer called him, shortly before midnight Tuesday, and told him that the army has his son in custody.
He further noted to the Quds News Network that the officer called him, and told him to come to the military base carrying the medicine for his son.
“I thought that my son was at home, I was surprised by the call, the officer even refused to identify himself, and only told me to bring the medicine to the outside gate of Huwwara military base,” the father added, “We went there within the 25 minutes the officer gave us, I then asked to see my son, but the officer refused.”
“My son suffers from a number of issues, and when he does not take his medicine and gets those seizures, he starts acting out in an unpredictable manner,” Mahfouth added, “I am calling on various human rights groups to intervene, all that I know is that he has been taken to Petah Tikva interrogation facility, but I was given no other information regarding his arrest.”
“I thank God that they didn’t kill him, the same way they did when they killed Eyad al-Hallaq in Jerusalem,” he said, “After my son gets his seizures, he starts doing things he isn’t aware of; he becomes unaware of his surroundings, and we still do not know anything about his arrest, especially since the army is not providing any information.”
Many Palestinians suffered, late on Tuesday at night, from the severe effects of teargas inhalation after Israeli troops fired tear gas canisters towards a peaceful Palestinian protest in the center of Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank.
Local media sources and eyewitnesses reported that the protest was held in solidarity with two Palestinian prisoners, held by Israel, identified as Hatem Al-Qawasmi and Omar Kharrout.
Both detainees have been held in solitary confinement for the past 100 days, and are facing dire conditions.
The protest started in the az-Zawiya area in Hebron, and the residents marched towards Mahmoud Abbas Square in the city.
The nonviolent protesters chanted slogans, condemning the solitary confinement, imposed on both prisoners, and calling for their immediate release before the soldiers attacked them with gas bombs and concussion grenades.