G-8 ministers meet – no questions about Israeli-Palestinian stalemate

After the meeting of Foreign Ministers of G-8 industrial countries concluded in Quebec, Canada, on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Cannon said, tersely, at the opening of a press conference with journalists, that “Now, with respect to the Middle East, we are all committed to see progress on the Roadmap and endorse the Quartet’s March 19th statement. The proximity talks can be an important step towards the resumption of bilateral negotiations“.

OK.  Then, there were absolutely no questions about the current situation from the journalists.  None.

Meanwhile, back here on the ground, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad participated in a Land Day event (marking the confiscation and loss of Palestinian land) in a village in the northern West Bank, Qarawat Bani Hassan, which Israel’s YNet website says ” is flanked by Jewish settlements”.  According to YNet. Fayyad told Reuters News Agency: “”We have to ask ourselves, each one of us: What is it I am going to do today to move this project (state building) forward, an inch, a step … [One day, he said] “we will be able to enjoy that which is an absolute right for all peoples around the world: to live in freedom and dignity in a country of our own”.  This report can be read in full here.

And, according to another report in YNet, inspectors from Israel’s Poultry Council enforcement unit “are working day and night to prevent the smuggling of eggs from the PA (Palestinian Authority) into Israel. Some 6,000 eggs caught on three different occasions this week have been destroyed”. The Palestinian Authority is — as Salam Fayyad implied in his remarks, above — not yet running any country, and the West Bank is under complete control of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Yet, Palestinian eggs cannot be brought into Israel, even for Passover… This is posted here.

Journalists get mad

A group of Palestinian journalists in Bethlehem are mad as hell — and they aren’t going to take it any more (?)

Ma’an News Agency reported today that as a result of what happened at a demonstration at the main Bethlehem checkpoint yesterday (see our earlier report here, protesters and journalists were hit from both sides), “reporters will officially hand over a letter to the PA demanding that those security officers suspected of assaulting journalists be reprimanded. If the PA fails to respond to the letter, journalists say they will boycott all Palestinian official visits in Bethlehem during Easter, particularly that of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Abdul Nasser An-Najjar, head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, told Ma’an that he and the body’s secretary-general fully support the protest. On Monday, PA and Israeli forces cracked down on protesters at a Bethlehem rally who were voicing dissent against the continued detention of the Palm Sunday detainees [a group of 10 Palestinians who were arrested on Sunday while trying to go to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday religious observances, but without a permit]… Journalists said PA forces not only prevented them from covering the rally, but assaulted members of the press. Heated arguments ensued between journalists covering the incident and PA forces, resulting in a sit-in near Rachel’s Tomb by journalists”. This story can be read in full here.

The main Gilo checkpoint into and out of Bethlehem was reportedly closed today until further notice.

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee issued a communiqué today by email giving this report:
“Fifteen demonstrators were arrested by Israeli forces during a peaceful demonstration near Rachel’s Tomb last Sunday, protesting Israeli violations of Palestinian freedom of religion and lack of access to Jerusalem. The demonstrators marked Palm Sunday and demanded to exercise the centuries old Christian tradition of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on that day … After soldiers tried to stop the procession at a checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem near Rachel’s Tomb, demonstrators overwhelmed the few soldiers positioned there with their numbers, and peacefully continued to march towards Jerusalem. [Another account said that a group of demonstrators surprised the Israeli Border Police who were massed on the Jerusalem side by turning to the side and passing through a huge sliding metal gate that was opened to allow the passage of Israeli military vehicles, but no mention of that in this communiqué…] They were, however, stopped by a large contingent of Israeli Police officers a few hundred meters into Jerusalem. When the crowed could not advance farther, a number of Palestinian dignitaries held speeches, after which the protesters began retreating back towards Bethlehem. It was at that point, that the police began its unprovoked assault at the demonstrators, making fifteen arrests, including those of Abbas Zaki of the PLO Executive Committee, four members of local popular committees and an AP photographer. Abbas Zaki is one of the most prominent Palestinian leaders to have been arrested in grassroots demonstrations in recent years … All demonstrators were arrested under the exact same circumstances, and on the same suspicions. The four Israelis and one international detained during the incident, were released that same evening. The Palestinians, however, were subjected to much harsher treatment. The police extended the arrest of all ten of them by 96 hours, which are likely to be extended by another 96 hours even before they will be brought before a judge. While Israelis and internationals are, as a matter of policy, subject to Israeli law, which only allows for a 24 hours detention by the police, Palestinians are subject to Israeli Military Law, which allows for their detention for a period of eight days before being brought in front of a judge … The Army had also used concussion grenades to disperse a demonstration in support of the ten arrestees in Bethlehem today. One demonstrator was lightly injured after a grenade hit his back”.

Meanwhile, other Palestinian journalists are mad as hell because some of their colleagues accepted an invitation by The Israel Project media advocacy organization to spend a day in Tel Aviv, cafe-hopping, being invited to lunch, shopping in malls, and meeting with an Arabic-language-speaking IDF spokesman… This is reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=172106here. One of the Palestinian invitees was teased about it, but in a supportive way, by one of his close friends on Facebook last week…

Hit from both sides: Israeli forces and PA security attack demonstrators in Bethlehem

On Palm Sunday, Palestinian and other protestors tried to march from Bethlehem to Jerusalem without permits — saying that they should not need permits to visit holy sites and attend religious services in Jerusalem.

According to information received by email, “The march, which began after the Palm Sunday service at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, was held to protest a recent aggravation of Israeli restrictions on movement through the checkpoint. Protesters [reportedly about 200] aimed to highlight restrictions on access to Jerusalem on the day marking Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem in Christian tradition”.

Another message said that” The demonstrators marked Palm Sunday and demanded to exercise the centuries old Christian tradition of pilgrimage to Jerusalem on that day …  While Israelis and internationals are, as a matter of policy, subject to Israeli law, which only allows for a 24 hours detention by the police, Palestinians are subject to Israeli Military Law, which allows for their detention for a period of eight days before being brought in front of a judge”…

Four Israeli demonstrators and one international were released more or less straight away, the same evening.  About a eleven others were Palestinians, however — and they were sent to Ofer prison not far from the Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  The Palestinians will be held in prison for at least another four days (including over the first holy days of Passover on Monday night and Tuesday), and their detention could be extended once again.

A second protest march was organized today near the main Bethelehm Checkpoint (“300”, or “Rachel’s Tomb”), and Ma’an News Agency has reported that “Israeli soldiers manning the military installation fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades toward protesters who, in turn, retaliated by pelting empty bottles and stones … [Then] Confrontations further erupted near Rachel’s Tomb when PA forces intervened in the march, attacking protesters.  Heated arguments ensued between journalists covering the incident and PA forces.  Journalists began a sit-in near the tomb as a result.  Fatah’s Bethlehem spokesman Muhammad Lahham told Ma’an that ‘Palestinian security behaved improperly, and despite the fact that we take into account security agreements with Israeli authorities, such assaults against journalists and protesters are never justified”.  This report can be read in full here.

Meanwhile, YNet is reporting that “Israel will allow a shipment of clothes and shoes to be delivered to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip for the first time in its almost three-year-old tight blockade of the enclave, Palestinian officials said on Monday. They said the first 10 truckloads would be arriving via the Israeli-controlled Gaza border point on Thursday … Israel prohibits shipments of cement and steel to Gaza on the grounds that Hamas could use them for military purposes. Its long list of controlled goods also includes items that critics say have no apparent military value, such as children’s crayons and books. Gaza has been getting most of its consumer goods via tunnels from neighboring Egypt operated by smugglers who add on hefty surcharges. Gaza merchants said 10 truckloads would not fill their stocks and demanded that Israel release goods long held in its sea ports. Egypt is building an underground wall to block the tunnels, which have been frequently bombed by the Israeli air forces”… This report is posted here.

And, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent out a Passover message to Jews around the world, saying that: “The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all. These bonds are the source of inextinguishable courage and strength, and provide hope that we can repair this world”… Obama’s statement is reported in full in the Jerusalem Post here.

Total closure of West Bank for Passover holiday

Another Jewish holiday, another total closure of the West Bank (for Palestinians only — Israeli settlers can come and go as they please…)

Early this morning the Israeli Defense Ministry announced a total closure of the West Bank from Sunday through Tuesday, at the beginning of the Jewish Passover holiday which starts at sundown on Monday.

A few hours later, the total closure was extended until the end of the Passover holiday – on 6 April …

Strict restrictions are being enforced by Israeli police against Palestinians trying to enter not only the Haram ash-Sharif mosque esplanade (the Temple Mount) where Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock are situated — but also against Palestinian entry into the entire Old City.

Meanwhile, Palestinian protesters marched through the main Bethlehem checkpoint after surprising the Israeli Border Police, but were stopped and blocked a little bit further up the road to Jerusalem.  It had been previously announced that Palestinian Christians would attempt to reach Christian churches and institutions in Jerusalem — without applying for an Israeli permit.

Some of the arrested Palestinians remain in detention on Sunday night…

A Point of No Return?

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa (former Foreign Minister of Egypt, and before that Ambassador to the UN in New York) said at the opening of an Arab Summit meeting in Sirte, Libya, today that “We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure … This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point”.  This was reported both in Haaretz here, and in the Jerusalem Post here.

Earlier, Akiva Eldar also wrote, in Haaretz, that this is a point of no return: “The strife between Israel and the United States concerns something far bigger than the proximity talks with the Palestinians.  As far as President Barack Obama and his senior advisers are concerned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for nothing less than damaging the standing of the U.S.in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Just as Netanyahu received his standing ovation at the AIPAC conference, Obama and his advisers were ruminating over an altogether different convention – the Arab League begins a meeting Tripoli on Saturday. For the Americans, Netanyahu’s Likudnik speech and the Shepherd Hotel project [20 apartments approved last Thursday — 100 were originally planned — in this strategic location on a lovely hillside between Sheikh Jarrah and the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital on  Mount Scopus…] matched in embarrassment the scandalous announcement of construction in East Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit here…”

On the Shepherd Hotel project, Sima Kadmon wrote in YNet that “For two weeks now, the government has been preoccupied with efforts to mitigate the conflict that erupted in wake of the announcement of Ramat Shlomo construction during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit in Israel. Netanyahu made an effort to convince the Americans that he didn’t know. He begged for a meeting with the president and paid with major diplomatic currency.  What is the probability that under such circumstances, a similar event will take place? Logically speaking, you would think that there would be a zero chance for a repeat. Yet reality is stronger than fiction and logic … For months now, the US Administration has shown great sensitivity to the Shepherd Hotel compound in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The hotel was built on the home of Mufti Sheikh Amin al-Husseini and was purchased by far right billionaire Irving Moskowitz more than 25 years ago. Moskowitz planned to build a Jewish neighborhood at the site, yet for many long years the Jerusalem City Hall and Israeli government did everything in their power in order to delay construction.  Several months ago, the US and British governments exerted their influence in order to prevent construction at the site. The Americans even summoned Israel’s ambassador in Washington and demanded explanations. Moskowitz, who planned to redesign the compound and build about 100 housing units realized it won’t be possible and decided to make do with 20 units. If you enter the Jerusalem City Hall website these days and look into the status of Moskowitz’s construction requests for the compound, you will discover that the obstacles for construction that persisted for dozens of years had been lifted.  When did it happen? That’s right, on Thursday of last week, in the midst of Bibi’s great efforts to appease the US Administration, when a meeting with President Obama was still a craving. Precisely at that time, someone in the Jerusalem City Hall decided to remove the last obstacle to the problematic construction project at the disputed site.” Sima Kadmon’s article can be read in full on YNet here.

A comment by Jason in Haifa, posted below her article, states, however, that “This project started under [the previous Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert in 2007 and it was completed and the only obstacle left was to be paid for and the computer once paid for allows it to go ahead. Also it was the week before and Peace Now leaked it”.

Here is a video — with adequate English subtitles — made by Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Director Hagit Ofran with long-time settlement and land expert Meir Margalit, an opposition member of the Jerusalem City Council.  It is sometimes confusing (Margalit seems to jump between Sheikh Jarrah just north-west of the Old City, and the City of David project which is squeezing Silwan on the south-eastern side of the Old City of Jerusalem) — and does really seem to require some knowledge of the terrain, but is nonetheless very interesting and useful.

The video appears to be directed at an Israeli audience. It says, cautiously, that the City of David is a national park — not that it is a new national park implanted in a crowded Palestinian neighborhood.  However, it does a good job of explaining that a core of settlers are here, surrounded by a new “national park” and protected by a large number of private as well as public security and Israeli government forces.  Still, this video could really benefit from 1.) having a version in English, and 2.) more graphics, especially maps.   And, it gives a good idea of the reach of Jewish expansion at the expense of Palestinian areas in an arc around the eastern side of the Old City.

How can it be, for example, that a private settler organization (Elad) is allowed to conduct its own excavations from its City of David back up the hill, and under the walls of the Old City — as well as under the esplanade that Israelis call the Temple Mount [where the Second Jewish Temple and possibly/probably also the first were located before their destruction, the last time in 70 A.D.] ?  For Palestinians, this same site is known as the Haram as-Sharif, where the extremely important Al-Aqsa Mosque (one of the earliest and most sacred in Islam) and Dome of the Rock (built between 685 and 691 A.D) have been situated and in continuous use for prayer and worship for over 1,400 years (almost all of this time for Muslim prayer, though for about 80 years during the Crusades the Dome of the Rock was used as a Church, and Al-Aqsa was twice destroyed by earthquakes before being rebuilt).

Akiva Eldar’s analysis in Haaretz today also maintains that: “This year’s Arab League summit will be the scene of struggle between the allies of Iran and the allies of America, and the violation of the status quo in Al Quds – Jerusalem – has direct implications for the balance of power between the sides.  Over the last few weeks, Americans have been giving life support to the Arab Peace Initiative, born at the League’s summit in Beirut 2002 and set to be on the agenda this week … Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decisively supported General David Petraeus, the first American military man in years to describe Israel as a strategic burden on the U.S.   Gates said America’s rivals in the Middle East are abusing the standstill of the political process between Israel and the Arabs.  He stressed that he had no doubt a lack of peace in the region was influencing American interests there.  Netanyahu had been hoping to buy time until November’s Congressional elections, which coincide with the deadline he set for the settlement freeze.  But with America’s strategic interest on the line, Bibi’s favorite political game (playing the Jewish community and Congress against the White House and the State Department) isn’t working anymore. Obama decided his moderate Middle East coalition is more important than Netanyahu’s extremist one. This is a point of no return”.   Akiva Eldar’s analysis can be read in full here.

Uri Avnery wrote in his weekly article that this is “not just a ‘crisis’ anymore. It is something really momentous: a basic change in the policy of the US”.

Another report in Haaretz says that the Israeli government has issued a clarification following surprising statements made in Israel on Friday claiming that the American administration might have switched course and decided to stop objecting to settlement expansion in East Jerusalem. Now, the Israeli government has clarified that “any understanding with the U.S. did not mean American backing for Israeli construction in east Jerusalem”. As this story reported, “Netanyahu’s seven-member inner cabinet, which he consults on major policy decisions, met on Friday to discuss ‘understandings’ with the U.S. reached during the prime minister’s trip to Washington” — but a “senior official at the prime minister’s bureau said Thursday that it was unlikely the forum would reach a decision in its first meeting on the issue. ‘It will probably take two or three meetings before any kind of consensus is reached between the seven over the American demands’, the official said”. Meanwhile, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: “Obviously, in the region we are approaching kind of a holiday period … We’ll continue our contacts informally with the parties. But we’ll probably go through a period now of a week to 10 days where everyone’s assessing where we are and still trying to construct the most effective path forward”. This Haaretz report is posted here.

But, the U.S. may not be sitting still, in the meantime. McClatchy Newspaper Group is reporting that “After 14 months of frustration over the moribund Mideast peace process and nearly three weeks of open confrontation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Barack Obama shows no sign of backing down — and may be about to double his bets. The administration is said to be preparing a major peace initiative that would be Obama’s most direct involvement in the conflict to date, and would go far beyond the tentative, indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks that were torpedoed earlier in the month. ‘It is crystallizing that we have to do something now. That this can’t go on this way’, said one of the officials who, like the others, wouldn’t speak for the record because of the issue’s sensitivity … Because of the U.S. political calendar, Obama has limited time to press Israel before it becomes a major domestic political issue during midterm elections … Now, trust between the two sides seems to be at a very low ebb. ‘There’s not a great deal of trust that he believes deeply in the two-state solution’, a former senior U.S. official in touch with the White House said of Netanyahu. ‘There’s a belief that he’s a reluctant peacemaker here’. The Obama administration is said to believe that Netanyahu has more control over Jewish settlements than he admits, and political flexibility to dump his right-wing partners and form a government with the moderate Kadima party if he chose … Netanyahu turned aside a U.S. demand last year for a comprehensive settlement freeze, offering a 10-month moratorium that excluded East Jerusalem … Senior U.S. officials are said to debate whether the unveiling of the 1,600 new apartments at Ramat Shlomo was a deliberate attempt by Netanyahu to avoid peace negotiations, or merely symptomatic of his tenuous control over his own government … Either conclusion bodes poorly for Obama’s attempts at diplomacy. At the White House, however, distrust of Netanyahu ran deep. Maps were prepared, showing how Israel had all but encircled Jerusalem’s Old City with Jewish settlements and even religious theme parks — ‘facts on the ground’ that would preclude a peace deal … By all accounts, the White House meetings went badly, both in substance and tone, as the Obama team pressed Netanyahu to make concessions on Jewish settlements and other issues. Netanyahu balked at some of the requests, which the administration hasn’t made public.
Now, the ball is in his court”. This report from Washington can be read in full here.

A point of no return? A turning point?

Arab politics

1.) Why is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planning to arrive “late” for the Arab Summit in Libya?

2.) The Jerusalem Post reported, citing an AFP story, that “Israeli-Palestinian tensions are affecting US national security interests in the region, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. ‘The lack of progress toward Middle East peace is clearly an issue that’s exploited by our adversaries in the region’ and does affect US national security interests in the region’, Gates was cited by AFP as saying”. This JPost story can be viewed here.

4.) Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post says that “Late Friday evening, Israel Radio reported that Netanyahu holds to the view that Israel must not change its policy in Jerusalem, despite the fact that this was the main point of contentions between Israel and the United States … Earlier, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office threw a complete blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, and also gave very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. According to officials, the US wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks …
However the circle of seven top ministers, known collectively as the ‘Septet’, did not come to any conclusions following the five-hour discussion and will probably only announce the government’s position after the Passover Seder which occurs Monday evening [and lasts … until April 5]. This post is published here.

6.) An LA Times blog reports that “Arab foreign ministers gathered in the Libyan city of Surt [Sirte] in preparation for Saturday’s Arab League summit announced their plan to more than triple aid to Palestinians living in East Jerusalem from $150 million to $500 million in response to the construction of new Israeli settlements, Secretary General Amr Moussa told reporters Friday. The request for more aid was made by the Palestinian Authority, which would presumably be responsible for distributing the money. Other proposals included urging the United Nations to condemn Jerusalem settlement construction, a travel ban on Israeli politicians, stronger protections for the Al Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites and official documentation of Palestinian land confiscated by Israel, Al Jazeera reported. Some delegates even suggested taking the ‘land for peace’ proposal endorsed by Arab states in 2002 off the table. here.

IDF military police begin investigation of last weekend's shootings in Nablus area

The Jerusalem Post’s well-connected Defense Correspondent Yaakov Katz has reported today (Thursday) that “on Wednesday, the Military Police began investigating the shooting of two Palestinians on Saturday near Nablus who were killed, likely by IDF troops, during a protest. The soldiers were supposed to only use rubber bullets”. This news is posted here.

This is a rapid and decisive move — and may be part of the reason that the situation has remained calm on the ground in the West Bank, despite deep Palestinian anger, grief, and outrage.

As early as Sunday night, Haaretz reported here that “IDF doctors met with Nablus hospital doctors .. to examine X-rays of one of the men killed in Iraq Burin, which the Palestinians said show that a live bullet had penetrated his head”.  IDF officials also, of course, had available to them the photoevidence (shown below) compiled by BTselem.  In addition, Katz added in his report today, “IDF officers met with PA security officials and reviewed the CT scan of Qadus’s head to see if they could determine the type of bullet that was used”.  The Haaretz report on Sunday noted that “IDF sources said however it was not certain the bullet was a 5.56 mm., the kind used by the IDF, or a 7.62 mm., used by Palestinian security forces”.

One of the two Palestinian teenagers shot Saturday, Ussayed Qaddous (age 19), died on Sunday following hours of medical intervention, after being shot in the village of Iraq Burin, by what clearly seems to be a live bullet to the brain:

BTselem photo of xray of bullet in skull of youth shot in Iraq Burin on 20 March - died 21 March in Nablus hospital

photo (of xray) taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma a-Deb’i

Our earlier posts on this shooting are posted here and here.

The other Palestinian teenager who was shot, Mohammed Qaddous (age 16) died almost immediately from a single expert shot to the heart, and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the Rafidiya hospital in Nablus.

photos of the mortal wound, below, were also taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma a-Deb’i on Saturday in Nablus:

photo by BTselem fieldworker

photo taken by BTselem fieldworker Salma aDebi

According to Israeli activist Jonathan Pollak, these postmortem photographs show that live ammunition was used: “No rubber bullet in the world would move through a 16-year-old’s torso like that”, Pollack told Ma’an News Agency.

BTselem’s Sarit Michaeli said later that her organization is calling for a military criminal investigation that will look not just into ‘who shot them and why’, but also into the ‘suspected reporting of false facts by the soldiers who participated in the events’ … On Saturday, the Israeli military said live fire had not been used. Spokeswoman Avital Liebowich told the BBC on Monday that had been the conclusion of an initial investigation, and maintained that the army ‘did not give any orders to use live fire’. She said a ‘debriefing’ was taking place at brigade level regarding the incident”. This was reported by the BBC here.

In today’s JPost, Katz reported that “The IDF stressed that soldiers were under strict orders to use rubber bullets to disperse the demonstration on Saturday”.

Btselem also said it wants an investigation into a separate shooting Sunday, in Awarta village also near Nablus, in which two Palestinians who had been detained and were being held by Israeli soldiers, were shot dead.

The JPost article published today reports that “The IDF Central Command has modified its rules of engagement in the West Bank, setting down more stringent guidelines regarding when soldiers are allowed to open fire at Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post has learned. According to the new guidelines, soldiers are not allowed to open fire, even in the air, toward Palestinians who are stoning them. In addition, soldiers driving in an armored jeep are not allowed to shoot at a Palestinian who is about to throw a Molotov cocktail at them … Under the new rules of engagement, they are only allowed to open fire if the Palestinian is throwing a Molotov cocktail at a civilian car. To shoot in the air, soldiers need to first receive permission from high-ranking commanders, something not needed in the past … In the past, soldiers serving in Judea and Samaria were allowed to shoot at Palestinians throwing Molotov cocktails. They were also allowed to shoot in the air to disperse Palestinians throwing rocks”.

According to the JPost, the new regulations actually went into effect “several months ago following the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi as commander of the Central Command” — but, the JPost said, the IDF’s “tactical level” was dismayed.

Yaakov Katz also reports that “The decision to change the rules of engagement was made in line with IDF policy to avoid violence in the West Bank as part of Israeli efforts to bolster the PA. ‘The fear is that violence, shooting and casualties will stymie Israeli and Palestinian efforts to improve the situation on the ground in the West Bank’, one defense official said on Wednesday”.  This Yaakov Katz report in the JPost can be read in full here.

U.S. position on Jerusalem in 1967 + 1969

UPDATE: On Thursday (25 March) Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz that “Netanyahu almost believed the crisis had passed, that he had survived by offering partial, noncommittal answers to the Americans’ questions. Shortly before meeting with Obama, Netanyahu even warned the Palestinians that should they continue to demand a freeze on construction, he would postpone peace talks by a year … But then calamity struck. At their White House meeting, Obama made clear to his guest that the letter Netanyahu had sent was insufficient and returned it for further corrections. Instead of a reception as a guest of honor, Netanyahu was treated as a problem child”… This Haaretz article can be read in full here.

YNet (with Reuters input) reported on Wednesday, after a two-part Obama-Netanyahu meeting, that “The feeling in the White House is that Netanyahu did not deliver on his promises, and that the meeting between the two leaders concluded with a deafening silence and a tense atmosphere”. This report is published here.

Netanyahu’s remarks on Jerusalem in a speech to AIPAC (the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee) — and the almost-simultaneous announcement back in Jerusalem of further movement in approving Jewish housing in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem — had a severe impact on the Israeli government leader’s visit to the U.S.


We don’t know, yet, what Obama told Netanyahu in private. But we do know what the U.S. position on Jerusalem used to be…

A comment [written by bob on March 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm] on a post on Mondoweiss here, reminded me of material I put as a footnote to my last article for Salim Tamari’s Jerusalem Quarterly, here [this article was, contrary to its labelling, not a book review!]

In fact, this comment is identical to what I put in my story ….

Because some of my material had to be shortened in the editing process, I’ll reproduce more of what I wanted to publish in that article — this is all about previous U.S. positions on Jerusalem (1967 + 1969).

1.) U.S. Ambassador to the UN in July 1967, Arthur J, Goldberg:

On 14 July 1967, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg [Representing Lyndon Johnson] stated in explanation of his abstention in a vote that day on a resolution concerning the Israeli extension of its administration to Jerusalem that “this Assembly should have dealt with the problem by declaring itself against any unilateral change in the status of Jerusalem”.

Continue reading U.S. position on Jerusalem in 1967 + 1969

This situation is dangerous…

YNet reported this tonight: “More West Bank violence: Two Israelis traveling on Hawara Road in the West Bank on Tuesday found themselves in the midst of a hail of rocks as nearby Palestinians pelted their vehicle with stones.  The two Israelis sustained light injuries, but were able to get out of the car and opened fire at the attackers”.  This news is reported here.

This is near Nablus, where four Palestinian teenagers were shot dead on Saturday and Sunday.

These two Israelis … “were able to get out of the car and opened fire at the attackers”!

Can the Palestinians do the same? Unthinkable…

UPDATE: On 24 March, Amira Hass reported in Haaretz that “A recent Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court verdict indicates that settlers may fire in the air to repel unarmed Palestinians, a ruling that a Palestinian rights advocate called a dangerous precedent. Magistrate’s Court Judge Hagit Kalmanovitch ruled last month that Abraham Hofi, of the settlement of Halamish, was not guilty of issuing threats or mishandling a weapon when he fired in the air from his father’s balcony on May 6, 2005, after observing three Palestinians shepherding a herd some 100 meters from the settlement fence. The Palestinians, two minors and an adult, testified that Hofi fired at them and that one bullet struck close to the herd. When the Palestinians remained in the area, Hofi and several other settlers went out to confront them … Michael Sfard, legal adviser to Yesh Din, a Palestinian rights group that collected the testimony from the Palestinians involved in the case, said the verdict set a dangerous precedent. ‘It invites civilians to use firearms in non-threatening situations, when the right thing to do is to call the authorities’, he said”. This post can be read in full here.