EU Ministers expected to issue statement on East Jerusalem today

Today could mark an important step in the Middle East peace process. EU Foreign Ministers are to meet to consider a statement on East Jerusalem and a future Palestinian state.

As the Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reports, there has been heavy lobbying: “Israel is pushing for a text much shorter than the three-to-four-page Swedish draft, and one that would commend Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s housing-start moratorium in the settlements and urge the Palestinians back to the negotiation table. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is trying to convince the 27 EU nations to support the Swedish draft resolution on the Middle East that for the first time refers to ‘Palestine’ [is this true? see below … ] and calls for a resumption of negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state with ‘East Jerusalem’ as its capital. The draft resolution only ‘takes note’ of Netanyahu’s housing-start moratorium, and says the EU hopes ‘it will become a step towards resuming meaningful negotiations’. Such a resolution, were it to pass, would be the first time the EU has called formally for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state … The proposal by Sweden, which this month is winding down its tenure as rotating president of the EU, is also reportedly backed by Ireland, Belgium, Britain and Malta, while Italy, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Slovenia have come out against the wording of the text. France has also opposed the draft on the grounds that more support should be given to Netanyahu for the settlement moratorium, and also because of a feeling that while France supported Jerusalem becoming the capital of two states in a future solution, the modalities of how this would be done should be left to the negotiations”. This JPost article can be read in full here.

The American position on Jerusalem is not totally clear. Officials tell us that the U.S. position has not changed — but what is that position? As I wrote in the latest issue (number 39, August 2009) of Jerusalem Quarterly that officials of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama “have had to press Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyanu, newly-installed after February general elections for (1) a recommitment to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and (2) for a complete end to its settlement activities. European policy, however, continues to emphasize the role of international law and United Nations resolutions, while American policy may have not yet fully recovered from the view that some of that is ‘ancient history’ – and important American policy decisions still hang in the balance. Europe for several decades worked to have an independent policy … There were persistent reports that Obama’s special envoy George Mitchell had, after months of talks, only succeeded in extracting Israeli agreement to a qualified and limited settlement freeze that Israeli officials insisted would not, in any case, be permanent. One Israeli media report even stated that American officials privately told their Israeli counterparts that they would not require a full settlement freeze if the Palestinians did not insist … Netanyahu asserted in mid-2009 that ‘Jerusalem is not a settlement’ — and he made the immediately contested claimed that Jews and Arabs have equal rights to live and build in Jerusalem. In response, a U.S. State Department spokesman, pressed by journalists, explained that, ‘we believe that Israel has an obligation to cease all settlement activity in East Jerusalem or the West Bank or wherever it may be over the 1967 border’. A few days earlier, US Presidential Spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters, that in Obama’s view, Israeli plans to approve additional settlement construction are ‘inconsistent with Israel’s commitment under the Roadmap’ … The U.S.-European convergence of views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may well now be the closest since Europe fell out of favor following its June 1980 Venice Declaration in which it intended to prepare a ‘special role’ for itself in the Middle East, and that it believed the Palestine Liberation Organization should be associated with a new peace initiative that Europe would propose. The nine Western European states who were members of the European Community at the time were apparently persuaded that the Camp David negotiations between Israel and Egypt that started in September 1978 with the sponsorship and strong backing of U.S. President Jimmy Carter might have led to a bilateral peace treaty but had otherwise only exacerbated regional tensions. According to this 1980 Venice Declaration, ‘the time has come to promote the recognition and implementation of the two principles universally accepted by the international community: the right to existence and to security of all States in the region, including Israel, and justice for all the peoples, which implies the recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people … A just solution must finally be found to the Palestinian problem, which is not simply one of refugees. The Palestinian people, which is conscious of existing as such, must be placed in a position, by an appropriate process defined within the framework of a comprehensive peace settlement, to exercise fully its right to self-determination … These principles are binding on all the parties concerned, and thus on the Palestinian people, and on the PLO, which will have to be associated with the negotiations‘ … European leaders did, indeed, stress in the Venice Declaration ‘the need for Israel to put an end to the territorial occupation which it has maintained since the conflict of 1967, as it has done for part of Sinai. They are deeply convinced that the Israeli settlements constitute a serious obstacle to the peace process in the Middle East. The Nine consider that these settlements, as well as modifications in population and property in the occupied Arab territories, are illegal under international law‘. The Venice Declaration also recognized ‘the special importance of the role played by the question of Jerusalem for all the parties concerned. The Nine stressed that they would not accept any unilateral initiative designed to change the status of Jerusalem and that any agreement on the city’s status should guarantee freedom of access for everyone to the Holy Places’. The European position on these two issues still stands to this day – and is now being echoed in statements made by the Obama Administration. What has not been published is the follow-up document approved in December 1980, by the Nine Western European leaders at a summit meeting in Luxembourg, after six months of intensive work to flesh out the European proposal for a new peace initiative. Shortly afterwards, it was suddenly put on hold, apparently out of consideration for the one-term Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, who took office after his inauguration in January 1981. [In the Luxembourg Document] The Nine said they could assert the interest of the Christian world in the holy places in Jerusalem. The Luxembourg document said that withdrawal, as mentioned in UN Security Council resolution 242, means also from East Jerusalem, but that the future of Jerusalem as a whole must be determined in negotiations. The document stated that the situation of Jerusalem in international law is not yet precisely defined, but the Nine did state that they do not recognize either the partition between Israel and Jordan (established in the cease-fire accord of 30 November 1948 and the armistice accord of 3 April 194;, or the Israeli Knesset’s proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (23 June 1950); or the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967; or the fundamental law passed by the Knesset on 30 July 1980, proclaiming Jerusalem as the united and reunified capital of Israel. The Luxembourg document contains several different proposals concerning Jerusalem:
1) Internationalization of the entire city; 2) A new plan of partition which would give juridical value to the situation that existed between 1948 and 1967; 3) A “condominium” between Israel and the Arabs [this was the word used at the time, not “Palestinians”, though that may be what it meant, or it may have wished to be ambiguous] which would involve joint sovereignty; 4) A formula which would include common administration without physical divisions (either keeping de facto unity, without specifying respective sovereignty, or dividing sovereignty without any actual physical division of the city on the ground). In these cases, Jerusalem would be ruled by a municipal authority composed of elected Israelis and Palestinians [similar to a proposal made when the British mandate was still in place, but never implemented]. Religious places would be under the exclusive administration of religious authorities; 5) Internationalization of the Old City – i.e., everything within the city walls, where most of the holy places are. “This would give the Old City the character of the Vatican”, the Luxembourg document said. The Old City would then be administered by a special representative named by the Security Council for a determined number of years. This would require the parties to renounce their sovereignty over the Old City – and this last proposal could be combined and made compatible with most of the earlier options outlined above, the Luxembourg document said … The American chilly and distant reaction to the Venice Declaration and the Luxembourg Documents, caused a European retreat – or a sidelining — that lasted for several decades. The immediate problem, in 1980, was that the American administration of President Jimmy Carter was defensively protecting its heavy political and diplomatic investment in the Camp David strategy it had launched with Israel and Egypt. Carter’s singular focus on the importance of maintaining the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations was apparently responsible for compromising the publicly-stated U.S. position on Jerusalem in 1980 – which, if it did not actually change, at least to become so closely-held that it appeared less critical of Israeli actions concerning Jerusalem. On Carter’s orders, the U.S. abstained from a series of more than half a dozen UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s “Basic Law” of proclaiming united Jerusalem as its eternal capital. The U.S. delegation did not restate the previously-declared American position on Jerusalem [see footnote 1 below] — and just kept quiet … The American silence, or obfuscation, about its position on Jerusalem, adopted for Carter’s political advantage in negotiations, and in an election year, also perfectly suited the worldview of the neo-conservatives who joined Ronald Reagan’s team, and who used this lack of clarity to suggest a much more pro-Israeli policy on Jerusalem … But did Jimmy Carter, who as U.S. president was so protective of the Camp David process that he had invested so much in, when he more recently visited the Hanoun and Ghawi families [evicted from their homes and replaced by Jewish national-religious settlers, see our other posts here] living on the sidewalks in front of their homes in Sheikh Jarrah on 27 August, as part of a delegation of The Elders – a group of former statesmen and women – and brought them a ‘gift of food’, did he remember that in 1980, he instructed officials in his administration just before he faced re-election in what became the final year of his presidency, to be ‘noticeably quiet’ on the subject of Jerusalem? [Footnote 1: On 14 July 1967 (after Israel extended its law and administration over East Jerusalem) U.S. Ambassador Arthur Goldberg (representing President Lyndon Johnson) stated in a UN General Assembly vote that “this Assembly should have dealt with the problem by declaring itself against any unilateral change in the status of Jerusalem … [O]n July 3, I said that the safeguarding of the Holy Places and freedom of access to them for all should be internationally guaranteed and the status of Jerusalem in relation to them should be decided not unilaterally but in consultation with all concerned. These statements represent the considered and continuing policy of the United States … We insist that the measures taken cannot be considered other than interim and provisional, and not prejudging the final and permanent status of Jerusalem”. In his speech before the UN Security Council, Goldberg also read excerpts from two statement issued on 28 June 1967: (1) the first from the White House, which stated that in the President’s view, “there must be adequate recognition of the special interests of three great religions in the holy places of Jerusalem. On this principle he assumes that before any unilateral action is taken on the status of Jerusalem there will be appropriate consultations with religious leaders and others who are deeply concerned … The world must find an answer that is fair and recognized to be fair”; and (2) the second from the State Department, saying that “The hasty administrative action taken today cannot be regarded as determining the future of the Holy Places or the status of Jerusalem in relation to them. The United States has never recognized such unilateral actions by any of the states in the area as governing the international status of Jerusalem”. And, on 1 July 1969, U.S. Ambassador Charles Yost (representing President Richard Nixon) told the UN Security Council that “the United States has always considered that Jerusalem enjoys a unique international standing and that no action should be taken there without full regard to Jerusalem’s special history and special place in the world community … The United States considers that the part of Jerusalem that came under the control of Israel in the June war, like other areas occupied by Israel, is occupied territory and hence subject to the provisions of international law governing the rights and obligations of an occupying power … The pattern of behavior authorized under the Geneva Convention and international law is clear: the occupier must maintain the occupied area as intact and unaltered as possible, without interfering with the customary life of the area, and any changes must be necessitated by immediate needs of the occupation. I regret to say that the actions of Israel in the occupied portion of Jerusalem present a different picture, one which gives rise to understandable concerns that the eventual disposition of East Jerusalem may be prejudiced and the rights and activities of the population are already being affected and altered … We have consistently refused to recognize these measures as having anything but a provisional character and do not accept them as affecting the ultimate status of Jerusalem”. This article can be read in full here.


Meanwhile, with fine irony, Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar writes today: “Who would have believed that Benjamin Netanyahu would get the settler minister Avigdor Lieberman to agree to a settlement freeze? Ever since Netanyahu replaced Ehud Olmert as prime minister, there has been a significant decrease in the number of roadblocks in the West Bank. Peace Now reports that Housing and Construction Ministry tenders for housing beyond the Green Line are at a low. So why are the Europeans now plotting to divide Jerusalem (even though they never recognized its unification)? Why have the Russians vetoed the Quartet proposal to issue a statement of support for the freeze Israel has imposed? What do they want from Bibi? The answer lies in statements Netanyahu made Thursday to settler leaders protesting the temporary settlement freeze. ‘This move makes it clear to key players around the world that Israel is serious in its intentions to achieve peace, while the Palestinians refuse to enter negotiations for peace’, the prime minister told the anxious guests. And to remove all doubt, he added: ‘There is a side that wants [to talk] and another that does not. This move has made clear who is refusing peace’. In other words, we want to get out of the occupied territory, but the Palestinians insist that we stay. Netanyahu has in essentially confirmed that he knew in advance that a limited settlement freeze wouldn’t bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He could have bet that Abbas wouldn’t accept less than what the road map gave the Palestinians more than six years ago: a total freeze that includes natural growth and the immediate dismantling of all outposts established since March 2001. You don’t have to be the head of Military Intelligence to expect that no Arab leader would take part in a move that recognizes, or even implies, Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem” … This Akiva Eldar piece can be viewed here.

Separately, Amos Harel notes in in Haaretz today that “U.S. President Barack Obama has united the settlers. At the moment, the struggle against the freeze is being waged on both sides of the separation fence … America’s demand for a comprehensive freeze has created, for the first time in a while, common ground between Beit Aryeh, Yitzhar and Migron. Settlers of all stripes have signed the High Court petition against the freeze … Foundations have been laid. The past few months, in which the government delayed responding to pressure from Washington, gave the settlers time to organize. Because the date for the freeze was set in late November, great efforts were made to lay hundreds of housing units as facts on the ground. The missions seem to have worked – building continues in many such settlements, viewed as legitimate by the government and exempted from the freeze … The recurring complaint last week, heard among regional council heads across the West Bank, was that the freeze was halting plans about to be carried out, plans supposedly already authorized. It’s a surprising claim, as for years the settlers have complained of being ‘dried out’ by the government, which they claimed wouldn’t allow them to so much as enclose their balconies. If indeed all of the recent administrations, from Sharon to Olmert, ‘dried them out’, then when exactly did these construction projects Netanyahu is trying to undermine actually spring up?” This is posted here.

And, Zvi Bar’el writes, also in Haaretz, that “In 10 months, when the bubble bursts, the High Holidays will be around the corner and the Palestinian Authority will or will not have Abbas and perhaps a united government with Hamas. Netanyahu and the Yesha government will be able to ridicule and celebrate. No one will be able to demand further ‘concessions’, because such a ‘trauma’ must not happen again. Therefore this pseudo-trauma must be magnified. As Rabbi Moshe Levinger shouted to the settlers who were to be evacuated from the Sebastia train station in the mid-1970s, ‘Rend your clothing’ – as Jewish mourners do. The moratorium on construction must be presented immediately as no less than a national disaster, a real holocaust, so that 10 months from now no one will ever consider demanding that the freeze continue. Should, heaven forfend, a peace process begin, this way the State of Israel will know that it is facing off against the entire settler state. The show this time has to be bigger than the one for the disengagement from Gaza. After all, that disengagement was to have assured that there would be no more withdrawals. And suddenly – treachery. Although life this time is easier, because the settlers are not going up against Ariel Sharon or Menachem Begin; it is just Netanyahu, the ball that was meant to be pushed around. But his logic is not that of the settlers. All he wants is to show, particularly to the Americans and generally to the world, that Israel is the one that made the sacrifice. The settlers, in contrast, see every day of the freeze as a national defeat. Their war is not against the Americans or the Palestinians. It’s a matter of them or the government of Israel. It is a struggle for the national consciousness, as they wrote in a document of principles of ‘the renewed Yesha [the council of settlers and settlements]’ (as opposed to the old Yesha, which ‘lost’ Gaza). No more chances must be taken in such a struggle, and the settlers are taking none. This state has 300,000 citizens, and those who want a peace process will have to negotiate with its leaders, not with the Palestinians or Americans”. Zvi Bar’el’s analysis can be viewed in full here.

Gideon Levy: "No one will evacuate one balcony"

Today, the Israeli media reported that “Defense officials believe settlers were behind the torching of a Palestinian home and two vehicles in the West Bank early Sunday, Army Radio reported, in an apparent attempt to avenge a construction freeze in settlements. According to the report, Israeli security forces subsequently searched the area near the home, near Nablus. The incident came shortly before police on Sunday forcibly evacuated about 100 right-wing activists who had blocked roads near the West Bank settlement of Kedumin, in a bid to prevent inspectors from handing out orders to implement the moratorium. The activists included local settlers, girls from a religious high school, regional council leaders, and the settlement’s rabbi. Police arrested one protestor during the confrontation. The clashes coincided with the cabinet’s weekly meeting, during which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his reasons for deciding on the construction halt. ‘These are our brothers; they’re a part of us, and we’re a part of them’, Netanyahu said” … On Saturday, about 200 people led by the chairman of the Yesha council of settlements, Danny Dayan, and MKs Tzipi Hotovely and Uri Ariel convened an emergency meeting in the West Bank settlement of Ofra to discuss tactics to thwart the moratorium. The chairman of the Binyamin regional council suggested, among other things, that ‘everyone begin building. Add a shed, and make it white so that the satellites will pick it up. Build new structures, for B’nei Akiva, for whatever, build them far from the gates so that it will take the inspectors a long time to reach them’.” According to this report, Daan said that “There are people who say that we are violating the law … To them I say: We will disobey the order, we have a moral duty to do so. This is so anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist that we are willing to pay the price. There are orders that we will disobey”. This report can be read in full in Haaretz here.

In another article in Haaretz, Gideon Levy wrote that “Like every production, be it a flop or a hit, the future of this show will also be decided by the audience. In the meantime, as the first act shifts into high gear, the viewers are yawning. The government and the settlers are proud to introduce ‘The Freeze’, a show in which both sides play – in quite unconvincing fashion – already scripted parts. During the first act, no real, historic edict has been issued. Rather, these decrees are just props. Thus, nobody will evacuate one balcony in the final scene. The audience is skeptical. It does not believe the prime minister, who speaks of two states and in the same breath vows that the freeze will soon end, as if it were just a temporary shortage of construction materials that caused it. He pledges that the freeze will not include pergolas and synagogues. Most importantly, he promises that construction will resume in full force immediately after the halt. The audience is even more skeptical of the shrill, ludicrous performance displayed by the settlers, who are staging a bogus protest over the temporary freeze and sounding the manufactured cry of a bully playing the victim. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the settlers do not mean what they say. They freeze and they wink, for the show must go on. The settlers, as is their wont, scream to the high heavens in order to sow fear and warn of what awaits us in the future. Every local council chief in the territories who rips up the orders to freeze building in front of television cameras knows full well that these edicts were issued ‘as if’. Meaning, as if there was a freeze, as if there were edicts, and as if there was resistance. The inspectors apologize, the policemen push and shove a bit, but they also know the truth. The show must go on”.

Gideon Levy added that “It is impossible to lend support to Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan as long as there is a heavy cloud of suspicion hovering over it, one which suggests that this is nothing more than a swindle, an act of deceit designed to appease U.S. President Barack Obama … In the meantime, the settlers are generating just a smidgen of revulsion through their brazen, outrageous and lawless behavior. Yet Holon and Bat Yam are still not showing genuine rage. Even the settlers’ statements championing ‘human rights’, ‘humane living conditions’, ‘morality’ and ‘democracy’ invite only mockery, seeing as they are uttered by the most serial violators of these principles. In order for Tel Aviv and its denizens to react with the same fury – something which should have happened long ago – what is needed is a leader who is truly intent on putting an end to this behavior. But between Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, we do not have such a leader at hand. When the real leader is found and when Tel Aviv really begins to get angry, we will be surprised to find out just how paved the road already is. Yet somebody needs to stand up and point the way”. Gideon Levy’s article can be read in full here.

There is precious little humanity in this conflict these days

Terrible scenes in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem on Tuesday and Wednesday — ugly clashes between the Israeli settlers who have been given the keys to a small house, and the Palestinian family who built the small house as an addition to their family home and who live on the property.

Israeli police cars are now a constant presence in front of the site.  And settler vigilantes ride around in battered unmarked cars,  responding to phone alerts and bringing beefy back-up quickly to suppress any Palestinian protest.  On Wednesday, one settler visiting the group that had taken over the latest house pushed a middle-aged Palestinian woman down as he passed her on the entry sidewalk.   As he left, Palestinian men tried to get the waiting Israeli police to take action against the settler who had pushed the woman.   The settler was joined by a younger man and woman, and laughed as he walked with his companions around the corner, towards a shrine which has been taken over by Israeli religious group, and which Orthodox Jewish visitors believe  is the burial place of Shimon Hatzadik (Simon the Just), a priest in the Second Temple (Palestinians have a different idea about whose bones are in that tomb.)

The police did nothing.

A Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance was called and checked the pushed woman’s her vital signs, before leaving.  The settler, incredibly, returned.  A Palestinian man, and several young Palestinian boys, shouted to him that he was forbidden to enter, and they pushed him out to the sidewalk.

The Israeli police presence has deliberately been kept low, this time, which does reduce general tensions in the area, despite the specific tensions at this now-occupied house.

And, the Israeli police that night seemed to be level-headed and mature, by comparison with others who have lost their cool at checkpoints and in similar situations.  They arrested the settler who had pushed the Palestinian woman + who then laughed in a gloating way.  But, it took them 15 minutes to get the handcuffs on him.  There was no brutality used against the settler — unlike the beatings that were administered by Israeli police and border police to Israelis and international solidarity demonstrators on 2 August when they were protesting the eviction of the Hanoun family from their home up the hill.

The Israeli police then arrested the Palestinian man who pushed the settler out when he tried — inexplicably, but apparently triumphantly — to re-enter the newly-occupied house.

Two young Jewish women, who were living in one or more of the other nearby occupied houses, and who were wearing in the stereotypical multi-layered settler clothing (trousers with skirts, aprons over sweaters over t-shirts, and rasta-type scarfs tied around their heads and behind their ears), chose just that movment to put their babies into strollers and parade up and down the middle of the street, chatting occasionally with the Israeli border police and other security forces there.

Tensions swirled, ebbing and flowing, in that street throughout that afternoon.  It was not the moment to take babies outside — unless you were trying to make a dangerous point.

See the EAPPI (Geneva-based World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel) video of the take-over on Tuesday morning, with organized settler “security forces” assisting the move-in, while an elderly Palestinian woman keeps confronting them and shouting “Itlaa barra!” – “Get Out!”:

In Sheikh Jarrah, a religous-nationalist Jewish group wants to take over some 28 houses (three have already been occupied by settlers) then demolish to make a new large apartment complex for some 200 Jewish families, meaning possibly 1,000 Jewish residents in this small area of East Jerusalem.

This is not (as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat are fond of saying) about “the right of Jews to live anywhere” in the former British Mandate of Palestine — it is about armed evictions, backed by Israeli courts and Israeli police and Border Police.

It is about the lack of leadership, and the lack of any social safety net or any alternative for the Palestinian refugees being evicted from homes built by the UN for them, that they thought were theirs, and that they lived in all their lives. It is about their possessions being thrown outside. It is about their staying on the sidewalks afterwards, carrying the whole weight of the Palestinian national struggle on their own shoulders, without any real backing or support either from the Palestinian leadership or from their compatriots.

It is about families — men, women, and children sitting and eating and sleeping in the baking sun last summer, in the winter rains and cold, in the public view of any passersby, being available to tell their stories over and over again for tour groups of European solidarity types who think that if these Palestinian families only sign one more letter, the world will sit up and take notice — though this hasn’t really happened.

It is also about hatred and ugly contempt.

Palestinian resident of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem Nabil al-Kurd is restrained by his wife while watching Israeli settlers and their security throwing  furniture from a house he built out onto the lawn during the settler take-over of the small building he built for his daughter immediately adjacent to his home…

NY Times photo of Nabil al-Kurd being restrained by his wife as settlers throw furniture from his house onto the lawn

The New York Times reported last week that “The small, one-story structure was built about 10 years ago as an extension of the Kurds’ original home, but it was unoccupied, having been sealed by the authorities after it was determined to have been constructed without the proper permits. ‘The authorities took our keys to the property because we built it without permits’, said Nabil al-Kurd, 66, who lives in the original house. ‘But it seems the settlers can live here without permits’…” This NYTimes story can be read in full here.

These Sheikh Jarrah houses were built by UNRWA in the mid-1950s on land granted by Jordan, whose troops moved into the area in May 1948, during the fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel.   Years after Israel conquered East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank in the June 1967  “Six Day War”, Jewish national-religious groups asserted pre-World War One claims to land and homes in the Sheikh Jarrah area — claims that have been supported by the Israeli courts, but for which, Turkish authorities said earlier this year, no supporting documentation could be found after a search through Ottoman Archives.

Later that night, I arrived home in time to see the end of Al-Jazeera (original Arabic channel) showing many reports about The Video (of a settler in a Mercedes running over a downed Palestinian who had been shot six times after allegedly stabbing or trying to stab the settler’s wife).  The Palestinian was taken to an Israeli hospital (possibly Hadassah in Jerusalem) — which only happens when there is some direct or indirect responsibility for the injury.   Almost incredibly, the Palestinian is still alive — but his family, in Hebron, have not been allowed into Jerusalem to visit, and they say they do not have a clear idea about his condition.

All over the West Bank, Israeli settlers are resisting efforts of Israeli “Civil Administration” (military) inspectors to enforce the recent decision of Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak (a former Israeli Prime Minister who, as Minister of Defense, is now the effective ruler of the West Bank).

And what does the Israeli Prime Minister do about all this? Instead of saying, as a leader should in a situation of such inter-communal tensions (and one of these communities, it should be recalled, is under the occupation of the other) that NO ONE SHOULD TAKE THE LAW [and it is a law whose application generally favors only one of the communities] … NO ONE SHOULD TAKE THE LAW INTO HIS (or HER) OWN HANDS, Netanyahu tries to persuade the settlers that he and they are all “brothers”.

The Jerusalem Post reported that “The atmosphere at the Netanyahu meeting was ‘hard and tense’, said Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein, who said that it was the settlers, rather than Netanyahu, who spoke during the bulk of the meeting. At one point Netanyahu told them, ‘We are not your enemy; we are your brethren’, relayed council head Dani Dayan … ‘We took this difficult decision [a limited 10-month freeze on settlements outside East Jerusalem] in order to move Israel’s widest interests forward’, Netanyahu said during the two-hour meeting … ‘We need to pass through this period together in cooperation … I want you as leaders to hold the steering wheel with us, but there is one thing that is not legitimate. You can protest, demonstrate and express your opinion, but it can’t be that you don’t abide by a decision that was lawfully taken. The real solution is through dialogue and finding solutions during this limited time period‘.” This JPost article can be read in full here.

Yossi Sarid has just written, in an article in Haaretz entitled “I have no brother”, this:  ” ‘The settlers are our brothers’, Prime Minister Netanyahu said this week, trying to convey their holy wrath. But let me make it clear: They are not my brothers. I don’t have any brothers like that, or sisters … When I see a Jew running over a wounded Arab terrorist again and again, I am absolutely certain that any connection between us is coincidental, happenstance, and that I’m obligated to sever it completely. I have to save my human image before I, too, am run over by that silver Mercedes. And when I see Jews expelling Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah – evicting and taking over, getting into warm beds that haven’t even had a chance to cool, leaving entire families in the cold – I am filled with disgust”.  This piece by Yossi Sarid can be read in full here.

UPDATE: Uri Avnery has just written in his article today, which he entitled “kkkitsch”, that: “Israel is a far from monolithic society. It is a vibrant, fermenting mix, with many tendencies, from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. At present we have a government of the extreme right, but there is also a peace camp. There are soldiers who refuse to remove settlements, but there are also soldiers who refuse to guard settlements. Quite a number of people devote their time and energy to the struggle against the occupation, sometimes exposing themselves to physical danger in the process … The Netanyahu government has paid lip-service to the Two-State principle and is violating it every day. It has rejected a full freeze of settlement activity in the territories, the very territories which all governments – including the German one – agree should become the State of Palestine. It is building at a crazy pace in East Jerusalem which – even according to the German government – must become the capital of Palestine. It is carrying out in Jerusalem something which comes very close to ethnic cleansing. Should Ms. Merkel hug this government and smother its face with kisses?” – Avnery asks, on the eve of an important European Union meeting about their position on Jerusalem.