OPINION: Could Israel invade the Hague?

By Asa Winstanley

It has been a long time coming.

Earlier this month, a panel of judges ruled that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could investigate Israel for war crimes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A coalition of Palestinian human rights lawyers celebrated the “landmark” ruling as “a critically important step towards ensuring the rule of law” and “towards ending impunity”.

As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied, and in the case of Israeli war crimes, accountability has been delayed for years – for decades.

More than a year ago, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda concluded her preliminary examination of the situation. She decided that the criteria for war crimes investigations had been met.

But that initial examination in itself had taken no less than five years, with the entire weight of Israel’s network of overseas lobby groups bearing down on Bensouda. Outrageously, she was also sanctioned by the Trump administration.

The ICC ruling this month means that the court in the Hague can now go ahead and investigate Israel for war crimes during events such as Israel’s 2014 war of aggression against the people of the Gaza Strip, and the 2018 protests along the boundary line with Gaza during which Israeli snipers gunned down thousands of unarmed protesters, killing hundreds of them and injuring many, many more.

It is far from clear how long it will take for the ICC to initiate the investigation process. The panel’s ruling on territorial jurisdiction referred to the possibility of “a protracted process” – not exactly an encouraging sign.

Predictably, Israel was not pleased that the ICC has dared to indicate that it will investigate them, even though the panel also ruled it had jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes by armed Palestinian resistance groups such as Hamas.

Israeli politicians and officials went wild, lashing out with all sorts of outlandish accusations and threats of revenge.

But privately, Israel is clearly worried. A report in Haaretz revealed that Israel has drawn up a secretive list of top military and political figures likely to be targetted by an ICC prosecution and has even warned them to refrain from travel for fear of arrest.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s racist prime minister, ranted in a bizarre video posted online that the ICC was investigating “fake war crimes” and that the court’s actions were “pure anti-Semitism”. He threatened that Israel would “fight” the investigation “with all our might”.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the US and UN, also posted a twisted statement baselessly accusing the ICC investigation of being “anti-Semitic”. Erdan was, until recently, the Israeli minister responsible for orchestrating Israel’s global war against the Palestine solidarity movement.

He was responsible for an international campaign of dirty tricks and harassment against Palestinians and their supporters – a campaign very much still at work. Lawyers of the four Palestinian human rights groups who so warmly welcomed the ICC panel’s ruling this month – Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, Addameer and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights – stated that in revenge for their engagement with the court, Israel was subjecting them to collective punishment.

This has been: “A protracted campaign of smears and death threats – all designed to foil, undermine, and deter Palestinian engagement with the court,” they wrote – a covert sabotage campaign reportedly carried out by Erdan’s former “Strategic Affairs” ministry.

Erdan himself is another open racist at the highest levels of the Israeli government. He has openly incited hatred against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and calls for the theft of all remaining Palestinian land in the West Bank by formally annexing the occupied territory, based on “our Biblical right to the land,” he said in 2018.

Israeli politics are made up of the right, the far-right and the ultra-right. On the ultra-right, Israel’s Jewish supremacist Kahanist politicians are even more openly genocidal in their incitement against Palestinians.

Kahanist lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich (who is likely to be part of Israel’s ruling coalition government after next month’s election) called for Netanyahu to expel and destroy an entire Palestinian village in revenge for the ICC’s ruling.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu must order the evacuation of Khan Al-Ahmar tomorrow morning,” he posted on Twitter. “What matters is not what the gentiles will say but what the Jews will do,” he wrote, quoting a phrase attributed to Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

But the award for the most truly demented reaction goes to fake Israeli “law centre” Shurat HaDin, which in reality was founded by Kahanists and is a front group for Mossad and other Israeli spooks.

Some years ago, the group’s director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner wrote a particularly unhinged op-ed, in which she called for Israel to literally invade the Hague, should it ever investigate Israel for war crimes.

Is this the kind of “fight” Netanyahu has in mind?

(Source / 25.02.2021)

Army Invades Al-‘Isawiya and at-Tour In Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday evening, the al-‘Isawiya town and the at-Tour neighborhood, in occupied Jerusalem, and attacked Palestinian protesters.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers invaded the al-Isawiya town, and attacked local Palestinians in a protest tent that was installed on the ruins of the Oleyyan family home, which was demolished by the army two days ago.

They added that the soldiers fired gas bombs and concussion grenades at the protesters, while several youngsters hurled stones at the army jeeps.

Protests also took place after the soldiers invaded several areas in at-Tour and attacked local protesters.

On Thursday at dawn, the soldiers abducted at least eleven Palestinians from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

New report by Israeli NGOs evaluates impact of military invasions of Palestinian homes on families’ mental health

WAFA News: GENEVA, Thursday, February 25, 2021 (WAFA) – “It happens nearly every night. Without warning, without a search warrant, without a court order. While you are sleeping peacefully, a Palestinian family is woken up abruptly.

“Their children are gathered in a room, afraid, trying to understand why they were suddenly yanked out of bed by masked soldiers who are now standing in the middle of their living room, photographing them, opening their drawers, speaking to them in broken Arabic.

“When the soldiers leave the house, they leave behind much more than a mess in the living room. The Palestinian family is left with trauma: with fear of what the next night will bring, children who wet their beds, and a feeling of being unsafe in their own home, of a loss of control. Every such invasion shatters the most basic premise of being a parent – the knowledge that they can protect their children.”

With these words, three Israeli NGOs start the narration of their new report: A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

This report is the product of a joint project launched by Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), and Breaking the Silence in 2018. It presents the practice of raiding Palestinian homes in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) and its impacts.

The report contains data collected on the basis of 158 Palestinian testimonies collected by Yesh Din and 31 interviews conducted by PHRI from Palestinian men and women who experienced an invasion of their homes, as well as 80 interviews conducted by Breaking the Silence with Israeli ex-soldiers who took part in house invasion missions.

Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank, however, are constantly vulnerable to the arbitrary invasion of their homes by Israeli security forces and the severe, resulting harm, said the three organizations.

Invasions by the Israeli military into Palestinian homes in the West Bank are an inseparable part of life under the occupation and the system of control over the Palestinian population. Among the variety of practices that characterize Israel’s military control over the West Bank, the harm caused by home invasions is particularly severe as it robs individuals, families and communities of the fundamental certainty that their home is their castle.

“Our report unquestionably shows: invasions by the Israeli military into Palestinian homes are an inseparable part of life under Israeli occupation and the system of control over Palestinians that it entails,” wrote the three organizations.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Israeli security forces invaded homes belonging to Palestinian families 6,402 times in 2017-2018. This happens routinely, and without a judge’s order, without an entry order, without a search or arrest warrant, often completely arbitrarily and without any suspicion towards the occupants of the house.

Israel does not limit invasion into Palestinian homes to exceptional cases in which there are concrete suspicions against an individual and invading their home is critical to averting the threat they pose.

Military law in the West Bank does not require a judicial warrant confirming the necessity of the intrusion in order to invade the private domain. As such, it leaves Palestinians constantly vulnerable to arbitrary invasions into their homes.

Almost every night, armed Israeli soldiers raid homes, wake women, men and children, and carry out different actions inside the homes of Palestinian residents. According to UN figures, these invasions occur more than 200 times each month. Beyond the harm suffered by individuals and families as a result of the intrusion into their homes, this practice effectively serves as a means to oppress and intimidate the Palestinian population and increase control over it, said the Israeli organizations.

(Source / 25.02.21)

Army Abducts Two Children, Young Man, In Hebron

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Thursday afternoon, two Palestinian children and a young man in the Hebron governorate, in southern West Bank.

Media sources in Hebron city said the soldiers invaded the al-Hawouz area, searched homes and abducted a young man, identified as Ayman Yosri Shannan.

The sources added that the soldiers also abducted two children, identified as Husam Salam al-Maqousi, 16, and Ala’ al-Karnaz, 16, while walking near the main entrance of the al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron.

On Thursday at dawn, the soldiers abducted at least eleven Palestinians from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

Palestinian organizations urge immediate restoration of US aid to Palestinians

Washington (QNN)- The Palestinian American community and US organizations have called for an immediate restoration of the US aid to Palestinians.

In an official letter addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Palestinian American community and US organizations called on Blinken to immediately restore all economic and humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

“We call on the newly elected Biden Administration to immediately intervene in the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis facing the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and to also immediately restore all economic and humanitarian aid to U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees needed to fund critical food assistance, schools, healthcare, and social services,” the letter read.

After reminding of their “crucial role” in electing the US President Joe Biden and of Biden’s promise to put fundamental human rights “at the center of U.S. engagement with the world” and “restore America’s role and voice as a human rights champion on a global scale”, they asked Biden to help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.

“We feel compelled to ask that the Biden Administration act swiftly to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people facing a pandemic and total economic collapse.”

“We call upon the Biden Administration to fulfill its campaign promises and take immediate steps to restore urgently needed economic and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people in the form of assistance to refugees through UNRWA, and work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” they added.

UNRWA, the UN body, supports more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. However, in 2018, the Trump administration had cut financial aid to it and also slashed an aid of more than $200 million to Palestine in the same year.

The Palestinian American community and the concerned organizations pointed to the fact that ‘Israel’, as an occupying force, has been dodging its “moral and legal obligation to ensure that Palestinians have access to a quality Covid-19 vaccine”, as they called upon the US administration to spare no effort to pressure ‘Israel’ into fulfilling its obligations.

“As American citizens, we call upon your Administration to do everything in its power to pressure Israel to fulfill its moral and humanitarian obligations and make vaccine supplies accessible to the entire Palestinian population living under Israeli occupation,” the letter read.

As part of the restoration of aid, the signatories called on the US administration to “reverse the Trump Administration’s policies by prioritizing the restoration of humanitarian aid, including the $25 million in financial assistance to six East Jerusalem hospitals that provide invaluable medical care for patients from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”

“Sadly, the economic and humanitarian crises in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza can no longer be ignored. We look forward to an immediate briefing on a plan of action to ensure that the situation in the West Bank and Gaza is remedied as highlighted above,” they concluded the letter.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

Bernie Sanders slams ‘Israel’ for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before Palestinians

Washington (QNN)- US Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the Israeli occupation government for sending COVID-19 vaccines to foreign allies before sending vaccines to Palestinians.

Sanders was responding to a New York Times tweet stating that “Israel’s vaccine donations to faraway countries have angered Palestinians who say Israel is responsible for the well-being of Palestinians in the occupied territories, where vaccines are scarce.”

“As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for the health of all the people under its control. It is outrageous that Netanyahu would use spare vaccines to reward his foreign allies while so many Palestinians in the occupied territories are still waiting,”

The Israeli occupation government has pledged to send thousands of spare coronavirus vaccines to foreign allies, including the Czech Republic and Honduras who confirmed that ‘Israel’ had promised them each 5,000 vaccine doses manufactured by Moderna. The Israeli news media reported that Hungary and Guatemala would also be sent a similar number.

‘Israel’ has been criticised widely for not giving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip access to the vaccine while it has been praised for its swift vaccine rollout.

Today, 34.62% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University while it excluded the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under Israeli military occupation.

Last month, ‘Israel’ agreed to transfer only 5,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize just the front-line medical workers.

Nearly two weeks ago, ‘Israel’ allowed the Palestinians to send the first shipment of 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines donated by Russia to the besieged Gaza Strip, after it banned the entry of the shipment in the same week.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 2,000 doses of the Russian ‘Sputnik V’ vaccine were supposed to enter Gaza Strip, however, ‘Israel’, allowed the entry of only 1000 doses, which has a population of about 2 million.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a Zoom speech at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Monday that Israel has refused to give vaccines to the Palestinians or even allow vaccine shipments from abroad to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

Under the fourth Geneva Convention, ‘Israel’, as an occupying power, is obligated to provide Palestinians with the vaccines, as the occupying forces are responsible for providing healthcare to the population of the occupied area.

Most states as well as the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, consider ‘Israel’ to be an occupying power.

The UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and many other human rights organizations have called on ‘Israel’ to help make vaccines available to the Palestinians, saying ‘Israel’ is obligated to do so under international law.

“The Israeli government must stop ignoring its international obligations as an occupying power and immediately act to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are equally and fairly provided to Palestinians living under its occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” said Amnesty International.

To date, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there have been nearly 2205 deaths related to COVID-19 among Palestinians in the OPT since the beginning of the pandemic, 546 of them in the Gaza strip. 88295 Palestinians have been infected with the virus.

Recently, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in a phone call to facilitate the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

EU to support Palestine with 20 million euros for COVID-19 vaccines

Occupied Jerusalem (QNN)- The European Union (EU) has declared its readiness to support Palestine with 20 million euros to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said that the EU decided in the virtual meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donor countries held yesterday that it is ready to support Palestine with 20 million euros to buy the vaccines.

“At #AHLC meeting today I confirmed #EU continues to stand in firm solidarity with the Palestinians in fight against #COVID19, providing significant support to tackle health emergencies & economic impact. Ready to mobilise additional funding of up to €20m to help with vaccination,” Várhelyi tweeted.

He added, “I encourage Palestinian & Israeli authorities to coordinate in efficient vaccination campaign & welcome initial Israeli donation. #EU will also help boost recovery. We remain a steady partner for UNRWA and count on its good governance+accountability, including in its education programme.”

Oliver Varhelyi@OliverVarhelyiAt #AHLC meeting today I confirmed #EU continues to stand in firm solidarity with the Palestinians in fight against #COVID19, providing significant support to tackle health emergency&economic impact. Ready to mobilise additional funding of up to €20m to help with vaccination.

Afbeelding

EU spokesman in Jerusalem Shadi Othman also told WAFA that the money will be available once the technical part of this decision is taken care of.

The first batch of 20,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines, a donation of the United Arab Emirates, has arrived this week in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of about 2 million.

The occupied West Bank is still awaiting its share of the vaccine, which will be either purchased by the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority government or donated through COVAX.

‘Israel’ has been criticised widely for not giving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip access to the vaccine while it has been praised for its swift vaccine rollout.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a Zoom speech at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council on Monday that Israel has refused to give vaccines to the Palestinians or even allow vaccine shipments from abroad to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

Under the fourth Geneva Convention, ‘Israel’, as an occupying power, is obligated to provide Palestinians with the vaccines, as the occupying forces are responsible for providing healthcare to the population of the occupied area.

To date, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, there have been nearly 2205 deaths related to COVID-19 among Palestinians in the OPT since the beginning of the pandemic, 546 of them in the Gaza strip. 88295 Palestinians have been infected with the virus.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

Violent confrontations with Israeli forces in Jerusalem and West Bank

Confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces took place in the evening in different areas of the West Bank

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Violent confrontations broke out on Wednesday evening between Palestinian young men and the Israeli occupation forces in the East Jerusalem district of Issawiya and other areas of the West Bank.

According to local sources in Jerusalem, Israeli police forces stormed Issawiya and fired stun and tear gas grenades at Palestinian youths, who responded by throwing homemade firebombs and firecrackers.

Meanwhile, masked young men spray-painted once again national slogans on walls in the neighborhood of Martyr Mohamed Obeid in Issawiya after police forces erased them recently.

In Nablus, confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces took place in the evening in different areas of the province, especially in the southern and eastern districts.

According to local sources, several Palestinians suffered from their exposure to tear gas during violent confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces in Osarin town, south of Nablus.

Israeli occupation forces also fired a volley of rubber bullets at local youths and swarmed the town’s streets before detaining a Palestinian called Raslan Adili from his home.

In the east of Nablus, a large number of Israeli occupation troops stormed the streets of Amman and Askar in the city, amid the intensive firing of rubber bullets and tear gas and stun grenades at local youths

Dozens of military vehicles and troops spread on roads from the Beit Furik checkpoint to Balata al-Balad suburb of Nablus city to secure the access of Jewish settlers to Joseph’s Tomb, local sources said.

Many local young men reportedly were injured by rubber bullets and suffered from inhaling tear gas during confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces in eastern Nablus.

Israeli occupation troops and settlers storm almost every week the eastern area of Nablus to perform rituals at the tomb, which they think is the resting-place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, while locals and Palestinian historians affirm that the grave belongs to a local medieval Muslim sheik called Yousef al-Duwaik.

In Ramallah, one young man suffered from a rubber bullet injury during confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces on the same day afternoon in Abu Shukheidim village.

Similar confrontations also happened in the nearby town of Kobar, west of Ramallah.

(Source / 25.02.2021)

“They do not care about anything; our lives, our children mean nothing to them,” says Palestinian Bedouin

Harb Abu-Elkbash, a 48-year-old Palestinian Bedouin, will spend the ninth straight night under open sky in freezing temperatures.

The Israeli occupation forces raided his village of Hamsa al-Baqia in the northern Jordan Valley and removed his tent and sheepfold.

Despite the severe winter conditions last week as a snowstorm hit Palestine, the Israeli forces removed Palestinians’ tents although they were being assembled to provide shelter to the community and their livestock.

Read More: Coronavirus in Palestine claims 11 lives, 575 new infections

The remnants of tents, sheds, portable toilets, and solar panels belonging to 11 families can be seen strewn across the farmland, said Anadolu Agency.

As villagers like Harb try to rebuild the shelters for themselves and their livestock, the forces return to demolish them again, forcing the hapless community to spend nights roofless.

Read More: Settlers plant trees in Palestinian lands in Hebron to seize them

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Harb said they had finally managed to repair their belongings when Israeli forces demolished them two months ago.

“They came again twice in the past few days and confiscated all our farming tools, portable toilets, and the metal structures for our rooms and tents,” he said.

Last Tuesday, the Israeli forces stormed the village as a delegation of European diplomats was visiting the area – all supplies brought for the people were confiscated.

“We are 65 people living without shelter, water, and electricity,” Harb said, narrating how the Israelis made it a point to destroy the solar panels the Bedouin community was using for power.

“They did not allow me to fetch water from the well that is 300 meters away from my tent. I need to travel two hours every night to bring water for my family. If I go during the day, the army will seize my van,” he said.

Motaz Bsharat, director of the Jordan Valley’s affairs in Tubas, described the situation as catastrophic.

“It is a perfect crime. Among these 65 Bedouins, there are 42 children. They are all living out in the open. The army does not allow us to access the village; we cannot help or rescue them, they confiscate everything,” he said.

“My family came here before 1967, and now the Israelis claim that our lands are military zones and want to expel us,” Harb said.

“They do not care about anything; our lives, our children mean nothing to them.”

Harb, his brothers, and their families are now spending the biting cold winter nights out in the open.

“Our children live in dire conditions. My nephew was just three days old when the army demolished our tents the first time. They took our tents when it was raining,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“The occupation is trying to take the area on the east of the Ayalon Highway to isolate the West Bank and annex fertile lands of Jordan Valley, which is the food basket of the West Bank,” said Qasem Awwad, an official of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission.

More than 200 establishments have been demolished four times, causing financial losses of more than $3 million, according to the commission.

“Hamsa has been completely destroyed nine times, thrice within the first week of February,” he said.

The Israeli occupation forces demolished Hamsa al-Bqaia community four times this month under the pretext that the area is designated for training and displaced its community with a plan to relocate them to another area.

On 3 November 2020, in the largest forced displacement incident recorded in recent years, 73 people, including 41 children were displaced. The structures demolished were residential, WASH and livestock related, of which 29 structures had been provided as humanitarian assistance.

On 1 February, Israeli occupation forces confiscated 25 structures in Hamsa al-Bqaia on the alleged basis that they lacked an Israeli building permit for construction in Area C.

On 3 February, Israeli occupation forces returned to seize a further 21 structures. Sixty Palestinians have been uprooted from their homes, including 35 children. Structures demolished included 21 homes, 17 livestock shelters, and 8 water and hygiene facilities.

On 8 February, the Israeli Civil Administration, accompanied by the military, returned to the Palestinian Bedouin community and confiscated or demolished another 16 residential and animal structures. Thirteen were donor-funded and had been provided as a humanitarian response to two incidents on 1 and 3 February.

On 16 February, the occupation forces confiscated five donor-funded livelihood tents, which were being assembled to provide shelter to the community and their livestock.

Since the start of 2021, the Israeli occupation authorities have demolished, seized or forced people to demolish at least 199 Palestinian-owned structures, including 77 donor-funded, displacing 285 people, including some 150 children. This represents an over 200 per cent increase in structures targeted, and an over 500 per cent increase in donor-funded structures targeted, compared to the equivalent period in 2020, according to The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

(Source / 25.02.2021)

Palestinian elections: The challenge beyond the agreed schedule

After several years of trying to find a way out of their internal political crisis, started in 2007, the Palestinian leaders finally agreed on holding new elections. The legislative elections are scheduled for May 22 and the presidential elections on July 31. Palestinian official reactions showed some enthusiasm. On social media, reactions varied between firm rejection to elections held under the ceiling of the Oslo accords, and some skepticism towards the possibility of the elections even taking place.

The decision of holding the elections has been postponed for 15 years. It came about only as the fruit of discussions between Palestinian factions, that started back in the fall. On September 3, the secretaries general of the Palestinian factions met by video conference, at the call of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting, in which the essential differences between the political factions were heard, despite formulas of brotherhood, aimed to find a common vision to face the plan of the American president, Donald Trump, for the Middle East. The factions who are opposed to Abbas’s policies had once again shown their skepticism about the viability of the peace process, as well as the agreements signed with ‘Israel’. For his part, President Abbas reiterated his attachment to a negotiated solution to the conflict, within the framework of international mediation.

At the end of this meeting, all representatives of the Palestinian political forces, including Abbas himself, displayed a united front against the Trump plan and all signed the final communiqué reaffirming that Palestine was continuing the process of its national liberation and that the main task of the Palestinians was to end the Israeli occupation. Agreeing on the urgent need to regain national unity, they insisted on the need for new parliamentary and presidential elections.

Read More: If you participate with Hamas in elections you will be jailed: Israel said to Palestinian in West Bank

Representatives of Fatah and Hamas a new meeting in Turkey at the end of September agreed to organize the elections within six months. However, no timetable was mentioned to wonder if these elections could take place during the lifetime of the 85-year-old Palestinian president.

Abbas’s succession

This Palestinian attempt to overcome internal divisions is not the first. Since the internal conflict began in 2007, the same leaders have come together every year to try to end their differences, signing a series of agreements. In June 2014, a new Palestinian government of technocrats was formed, for the first time since 2007, for Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians since then have, in theory, one government. However, in practice, the management of ministries remains divided. The ministries located in Ramallah have no real authority in Gaza. A reality that can only be overcome by the election of a new leadership, recognized by all. The succession of President Abbas is therefore an issue in itself.

Read More: Hamas calls Turkey to participate in monitoring the Palestinian elections

So far, Abbas has no successor and the prospect of chaos alarms all the political class. By law, the president of the Legislative Council should assume office in case it becomes vacant until new elections are held. The chairman of the legislative council, elected in 2006, was Hamas member Aziz Dweik, but Abbas dissolved the legislative council in 2007 when the split between the two camps occurred.

If a new president and a new legislative council are not elected while Abbas is still alive, the legal process of his succession is interrupted and could fall at the mercy of internal conflicts within the Fatah party itself.

The urgence of the Gaza Strip

In March of 2018, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza marched peacefully towards the separation barrier, demanding the end of the Israeli blockade. Protests continued every week for two years. At least 340 peaceful protesters were killed by the Israeli army during these marches, and thousands more were wounded and maimed, including journalists, medical staff and children, but the protests continued. Simply, Palestinians in Gaza had more to fear from the continuity of the Israeli blockade, than from Israeli bullets.

In September 2018, a United Nations report indicated that the Palestinian enclave would become uninhabitable in 2020, due to the Israeli blockade. The following month, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, declared Gaza already uninhabitable. The Israeli blockade imposed since 2007 leaves the Palestinian enclave completely destitute, causing a humanitarian crisis, made worse by repeated Israeli military attacks. According to the United Nations, 95% of the water consumed in Gaza is polluted, 80% of families depend on humanitarian assistance, the only power plant operates only 8 hours a day, extreme poverty affects 50% of the population and youth unemployment exceeds 70%.

The Israeli blockade continues, without political objection from the international community, on the pretext that Hamas is ruling the enclave. The Palestinian leadership knows that as long as they are divided, they will not be able to assume their responsibility towards Gaza, and towards the resistance of its population. This does not mean that Palestinian elections will end the blockade, because ultimately it is ‘Israel’ that imposes it. Yet Palestine declared itself a state in 2011, and that state has been recognized by the majority of countries around the world. ‘Israel’ is therefore not officially blocking a rebel enclave, but part of the territory of the State of Palestine.

However, the Palestinian leadership cannot consistently make this argument unless they have one leadership for all of the Palestinian territories, including Gaza. That should also facilitate humanitarian assistance and reconstruction of the territory, under unified Palestinian leadership. However, despite the political and humanitarian urgency recognized by all sides of Palestinian politics, holding elections and ending the internal division has proved difficult. The announcement of a calendar does not yet guarantee that it will be held.

The price of the American promise

Under Trump’s administration, Abbas and Palestine were abandoned by the US administration, which conducted a monologue with Netanyahu and ‘Israel’ for the sole benefit of the occupation state. But US President-elect Joe Biden arrives with the promise of resuming traditional US policies. That of the management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by relaunching the never-ending peace process.

For Abbas and his leadership, this may represent an opportunity to return to the negotiating table as a main player. This could also lead to the return of US financial assistance to the Palestinian government, suspended by Trump in 2016. This promise will come at a price, and that price could be Palestinian internal reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The end of Trump’s calamitous reign has opened a new window for Palestine’s return to the forefront of American international politics, but the challenge facing Palestinian leaders is to make that move back, united.

It’s not all about a date

All calculations put aside, no one can predict the choices of the Palestinians themselves when voting. In the decade which page the world just turned, an entire generation of Palestinians has grown up. Half of the Palestinians in Gaza are under 18. They have gone through three wars, and never left the enclave. In the West Bank, those under 18 – 42% of the population – grew up in a daily context of arrests, house demolitions, and land colonization, behind a concrete wall. Thinking of them, who will their parents vote for?

However, the main issue facing the coming elections remains the fact that they are held under the ceiling of the Oslo accords, and the political order that they created. An order by which Palestine and the Palestinians are reduced to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, not even being sure of counting those in East Jerusalem anymore.

These elections are supposed to unify the Palestinian people, but they completely exclude one and a half million Palestinians living under the state of ‘Israel’ in the 1948 territories, as well as another 5 million Palestinians in exile and diaspora. For many, this fact alone is a consecration of the fragmentation of the Palestinian people. And while the presidential decree states that elections will be held later for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative organ that is supposed to represent Palestinians all over the world, it is still unclear how those elections will be held, and what the role of the PNC will be in the Palestinian political system in the future. All of this remains a reminder, that in a world that is able to tolerate a 54-year-long ongoing occupation, and a 73-year-long ongoing displacement, building a democracy in a country that is not yet free is no simple business.

(Source / 25.02.2021)