Wildfires [+ wild rumors] 60,000+ people evacuated in Haifa area

On the third day of wildfires in Israel and the West Bank, international help began arriving, but conditions suddenly worsened significantly in the morning, particularly in the Haifa area. Israeli authorities ordered the evacuation of at least 60,000 people.

UPDATE: By nightfall, The Jerusalem Post reported here that “80,000 residents have now been told to evacuate”.

Almost exactly six years ago, a similar fire grew out-of-control, some 42 people died in the flames, and Israel’s lack of preparedness to fight fires was exposed. Israel was prepared to fight wars, but not fires. See our earlier reports on that fire in this blog, here and here and here.

In December 2010, Israel had no firefighting airplanes – none.  Since then, Israel has apparently acquired 12 firefighting airplanes, but still needed more in the Haifa area today. Netanyahu, according to the Jerusalem Post story mentioned above, “said that Israel’s squadron of some 12 firefighting aircraft was not enough, and that he turned to other countries for assistance. By midnight, he said, a total of 10 planes will have arrived from Russia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Turkey. The [US] Supertanker, however, is the only plane with the capabilities to operate at night, and will arrive in approximately 28 hours”.

    Haaretz: “It was almost six years ago to the day that Israel suffered its worst natural disaster ever. The fire that erupted in the Carmel Forest in northern Israel on December 2, 2010, lasting four days and claiming 44 lives, remains a national trauma.  About 17,000 Israelis were evacuated from their homes during that disaster, and thousands of acres of forest were destroyed. It took U.S. intervention, in the form of a Boeing 747 Supertanker flown across the Atlantic, to extinguish the last flames…The weather conditions then were remarkably similar to those today, as Shahar Ayalon, Israel’s former fire and rescue commissioner, notes. For that reason, he says, he was not surprised by the outbreak of the latest fires. ‘You have a combination of drought conditions and dry winds from the east, and this is the result,. he told Haaretz. ‘It’s to be expected’. Clearly, Israel had been caught unprepared in 2010. It did not have the manpower or the equipment required to battle a fire of that magnitude. Nor did its command and controls systems operate as they should have… Ayalon was appointed head of Israel’s firefighting authorities in 2011, not long after the Carmel disaster, and remained in his post until six months ago. During this time, he says, ‘everything that was promised was fulfilled’.  In recent years, according to Ayalon, 800 new firefighters were recruited – almost doubling the size of the force. A squadron of firefighting planes was established, and 20 new fire stations were opened around the country”. 
    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium – report posted here.

However, Reuters reported that “Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party which supports settlements in the West Bank where Palestinians seek statehood, said on Twitter that arsonists were disloyal to Israel, hinting that those who set the fires could not be Jewish. ‘Only those to whom the country does not belong are capable of burning it,’ he said in a tweet in Hebrew”. This was published here.

The Reuters report also noted that “On social media, some Arabs and Palestinians celebrated the fires and the hashtag #Israelisburning was trending on Twitter”.

This did not happen in 2010 — a lot has changed since then…

The weather has been a big factor in these fires, both in 2010 and in 2016.

As Reuters stated, “The fires have been burning in multiple locations for the past three days but intensified on Thursday, fueled by unseasonably dry weather and strong easterly winds…Local weather forecasters have said the tinder-dry conditions – it has not rained in parts of Israel for months – and strong winds are set to continue for several days and they see little prospect of normal seasonal precipitation arriving”…

UPDATE: By midnight, YNet reported here: Eight Palestinian firefighter vehicles, escorted by the Commander of the Jenin Civil Administration, made their way to Haifa to help extinguish the fires raging in the city. In 2010 the PA did provide succor in the Mount Carmel Forest fires”.

UN office in Ramallah closed by protests about Palestinian prisoners

The UN office in Ramallah has been closed this morning by protesters angry about the UN’s inaction on the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, particularly those held for “security” reasons under Administrative Detention procedures. Some 125 Administrative Detainees are now on the 41st day of a hunger strike to protest Administrative Detention and the conditions under which they’re being held.

A photo — Tweeted by Ahmad this morning, and posted here.

Ahmad @ANimer – .@UN office in #Ramallah is closed
#PalHunger #UNClosed pic.twitter.com/0iGCIk9vV4

UN office in Ramallah closed in Ramallah by protesters angry about lack of support to prisoners
UN office in Ramallah closed in Ramallah by protesters angry about lack of support to prisoners

The image was also Tweeted here by Diana Alzeer @ManaraRam
Outside the #UN building sprayed by activists today! UN = UNFAIR/ UNHELPFUL. UN offices are shut down today! #??_???? pic.twitter.com/ViNXZl7NbR

There was headway being made against Administrative Detention in 2012, but momentum was lost due to lack of support from some Palestinian activists who disputed its relative importance [affecting only approximately 200 people, by contrast with the 5,100 or so being held under other military court rules.

Haaretz newspaper has published an editorial here calling for a “review” of how Israel uses Administrative Detention. It’s subhead says: “Israel must…stop using it wholesale to perpetuate the occupation”.

Continue reading “UN office in Ramallah closed by protests about Palestinian prisoners”

A review of the findings: Arafat's mystery death [murdered by poisoning]

Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qidwa told Al-Jazeera, here, that the reason there had been no autopsy on Yasser Arafat is “because the Palestinian people would have seen with their own eyes a huge betrayal, and a big crime committed against them – the crime of killing their own leader.”

From the very beginning, al-Qidwa said [to me + to others] that he believed his uncle, Yasser Arafat, had been poisoned.

He said it again in Al-Jazeera’s latest investigative documentary on Arafat’s death, “Killing Arafat”, aired on November 10: “There was clear evidence that this was a case of assassination, that Yasser Arafat was actually killed by, by poison”.

It became clear relatively quickly at the Muqata in Ramallah in October 2004 that Arafat had more than a bad case of the flu.

Saeb Erekat, perennial Palestinian chief negotiator, told Al-Jazeera that during Arafat’s final days at Percy Military Hospital outside Paris, he received a phone call from Nasser al-Qidwa, who was at the hospital. Al-Qidwa, Erekat said, asked him “to tell the Americans to ask the Israelis for the antidote.” No further information was given about what the Americans may have said or done – but no antidote seems to have been produced. Arafat died on 11 November 2004.

Over a year ago, Al-Jazeera’s documentary, What Killed Arafat?, which aired on 4 July 2012, reported stunning findings from a Swiss lab which indicated possible Polonium-210 poisoning.

This news was a jolt to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, though they had already survived, nearly unscathed, Al-Jazeera’s January 2011 “Palestine Papers”, here, a special series of reports based on documents leaked from Ramallah offices that revealed embarrassing details about Palestinian negotiating conduct during direct talks with Israel.  Clayton Swisher, now Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Journalism Manager, worked on the “Palestine Papers”.  He then worked – in close collaboration with Arafat’s widow, Suha [who’s lived abroad, with her daughter, for years] – on the two documentaries investigating Arafat’s final illness and death.

Some in the Palestinian leadership believed Al-Jazeera was out to get them.

There were subliminal messages: In “What Killed Arafat?”, Swisher states that at the time of Arafat’s death, “Regime change is exactly what Washington + Tel Aviv had in mind”.  This is superimposed over archival footage of Mahmoud Abbas speaking about democracy to the PA’s Legislative Council [PLC].

That documentary also included the archival audio of Suha Arafat calling Al-Jazeera from the hospital in France in 2004 and saying, live on air, in a strident tone: “Let the honest Palestinian people know that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris.  You have to realize the size of the conspiracy.  I tell you, they are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive”.  This audio is superimposed over footage of Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmad Qurei’a, and Sa’eb Erekat being received soon afterwards at the Elysees Palace by France’s then-President Jacques Chirac.

Nevertheless, within hours of the broadcast, Mahmoud Abbas ordered Palestinian cooperation with any investigation. By contrast, Abbas reportedly opposed an autopsy at the time of Arafat’s death – reportedly, “to avoid any problem with the French authorities”…

Nabil Shaath said in “Killing Arafat” that “the French did not really encourage an autopsy”…

Suha had also reportedly opposed an autopsy, but she denied it adamantly again, in “Killing Arafat”.  She has told Al-Jazeera that she simply was overcome and in shock, and did not even think of it.   She then told Le Figaro, in August 2012, that it would have been “dangerous” to bring up poisoning right after Arafat’s death.

However, according to an account written by two Israeli journalists in 2005, Suha refused doing a liver biopsy in a French hospital four days before his death.  Neither she nor her daughter returned to Ramallah for the burial in the Muqata’a, which was a chaotic scene. Arafat’s body was returned to Ramallah by Egyptian helicopter in a sealed coffin on 12 November 2004, and buried in the midst of a churning crowd inside the Muqata’a.  However, according to a lengthy report by Suzanne Goldenberg, published  here on 16 December 2004 by The Guardian newspaper, Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, then the chief Palestinian religious official, had been upset by the non-observance of tradition during the burial, and supervised the exhumation of Arafat’s body at 2 am.  The body, according to this account, was removed from the sealed coffin, and reburied in a shroud.    Tamimi told The Guardian: “We broke the cement and the stones, and we took the coffin out. I saw him, touched him and prayed over him, and I was able to bury him properly”.  Then, the story added, “guards returned the body to its place, a cement container that was built to line and preserve the gravesite in the hope that one day Arafat would be borne to Jerusalem following the creation of a Palestinian state”.

In any case, although poisoning was suspected, there was apparently no effort, even at the time of Arafat’s burial in Ramallah, to take samples from his hair or fingernails for later testing.

Swisher just reported, in “Killing Arafat,” that the decision not to do an autopsy was taken by the “Palestinian leadership.”

After the broadcast of “What Killed Arafat?” in July 2012, the Palestinian investigation is now more closely run by Mahmoud Abbas.  Abbas’ term as President of the Oslo-Accords-created Palestinian Authority has arguably expired [after Arafat’s death, he was elected to a four-year term in January 2005,  which was then extended for another year, until January 2010, to allow for simultaneous balloting on a new Palestine Legislative Council, but the Fatah-Hamas rift has justified indefinite extension].  Abbas continues to hold office until new elections which he himself must call — he has already been ruling by Executive Decree under emergency powers since mid-2007.   Meanwhile, like Arafat, Abbas has consolidated all three  reins of Palestinian political power, including the leadership of Fateh, the largest Palestinian political movement, as well as the Chairmanship of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [the position which carries with it the title he assumed last year, when he signed the application for UN membership: President of the State of Palestine]…

Meanwhile, Swisher became subject to conspicuous surveillance during working visits to Ramallah, was insulted and treated with disdain by Palestinian security personnel [all shown, in “Killing Arafat”]. The antagonism between Swisher and the Palestinian leadership has only increased.

Swisher has Tweeted this telling result from an Al-Jazeera Arabic opinion poll:
Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher 13 Nov — In a poll commissioned by @kasimf viewers were asked “Do you think the PA wants to find who killed #Arafat. Of 10,438 polled, 93% answer NO.

Continue reading “A review of the findings: Arafat's mystery death [murdered by poisoning]”

Palestinian Investigation Ctte says Swiss + Russian lab reports confirm Arafat was poisoned – but by what? Investigation continues…

At the Ramallah Muqata’a press conference Friday morning, the Palestinian Committee Investigating the death of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said there’s no doubt Arafat was poisoned — but they don’t know what substance, exactly, was used to kill him.

The head of the Palestinian Investigation Committee Tawfik Tirawi  said that two reports have now been received — one from Switerland and the other from Russia.

Tirawi said that both reports show that: 1.) “Abu Ammar” [Arafat] did not die from age, 2.) or from a disease, and 3.) it was not a natural death.   “The reports provide scientific points” to support the argument, he said.

Dr. Abdullah Bashir, a Jordanian medical doctor originally hired by the Yasser Arafat Foundation, said that both reports concluded that Arafat had died of  “illness as a result of a poisonous substance”.

But the Swiss + Russian labs + experts came to different conclusions about the Polonium they each found. Swiss conclusion: their test results “moderately support” the possibility of  Polonium poisoning.  But Russian experts concluded there’s not enough evidence.

Dr. Bashir told journalists that the Russian Federal Biomedical Agency had looked at their results, and compared them with the development of Arafat’s symptoms + illness, which resulted in the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to say that it was Polonium that had poisoned Arafat.

He said that both Swiss + Russian reports confirmed that Arafat’s illness and death had been caused by some “toxic substance” — which was either not examined at the French hospital in 2004 — or,  if it was tested, the results have not been revealed.

Tirawi said, however, that “other toxic substances” were found in forensic testing of Arafat’s remains + “new facts” had been discovered that require more study.   He did not identify them.

“We know our people need to know” about Arafat’s martyrdom, Tirawi said, and they “need and have a right to know the complete truth”. Tirawi reported the arrival of the two reports to Fatah’s powerful Central Committee [of which he is a member] on Thursday, and the Central Committee asked the Investigation Committee to give the press conference as soon as possible.

After the exhumation of Arafat’s body and the forensic sampling for testing in late November 2012, the samples were taken out of Ramallah and to Europe by French diplomatic valise, the Palestinian committee said in the press conference.

Dr Abdallah Bashir, head of the medical sub-committee of the Palestinian Investigation noted, twice, that French authorities were supposed to keep Arafat’s biological samples for 10 years, but didn’t.

Tawfik Tirawi, Chairman [Abbas-appointed] of the Palestinian Investigation Committee said, however: “the French hospital + French Government know the complete truth and all the details about the martyrdom of Yasser Arafat”.

This is one of the few points on which Tirawi and Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher seem to agree.

Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher 7 Nov
French officials know what killed #Arafat [See here … via @Le_Figaro

The French know everything, Tirawi said suddenly, with intensity, but “Israeli is the basic + only one to be accused + we continue to investigate all details”.

He then waved a document that he said was a collection of all Israeli + even American statements about getting rid of and killing Arafat…

Tirawi said that he had been conducting his own investigation [away from the spotlight] for years, and had questioned  hundreds of Palestinians + non-Palestinians inside + outside the occupied Palestinian territory. He seemed confident that his investigation will find the culprit[s], adding “we must find not only the substance but also the tool”.

Continue reading “Palestinian Investigation Ctte says Swiss + Russian lab reports confirm Arafat was poisoned – but by what? Investigation continues…”

Slow but building reaction to the publication of the Swiss report finding polonium in forensic testing of Arafat's remains

Reaction built slowly on Thursday to the previous day’s revelations about a Swiss lab’s new findings of Polonium in Arafat’s remains after forensic testing that followed last year’s exhumation.

A press conference has been announced for Friday morning at 10:00 am in the Ramallah Muqata’a.  Tawfik Tirawi, Chairman of the committee appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to look into reports that Polonium poisoning caused the death of the late Palestinian leader, will preside.

Continue reading “Slow but building reaction to the publication of the Swiss report finding polonium in forensic testing of Arafat's remains”

Swiss lab finds very high levels of Polonium in Arafat's bones and in burial shroud + soil

After nearly a year of waiting, following the November 2012 exhumation of the remains of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat from his mausoleum in the Ramallah Muqata’a, Al-Jazeera reported today that a Swiss forensics laboratory in Lausanne found very very high levels of Polonium 210 in Arafat’s bones, in his burial shroud, and in the soil in which his body was buried.

Al-Jazeera report on Swiss lab test results finding Polonium in Yasser Arafat's remains
Al-Jazeera report on Swiss lab testing on Arafat's remains

The Polonium found in Arafat’s rib + hip bones was many times higher than normal [18 to 36 times, “depending on the literature”], Al-Jazeera reported.  The Polonium levels in the soil in which Arafat’s remains were buried were also 18 times higher than normal…

The Swiss report says “tests on specimens taken from bone fragments + tissue scraped from Arafat’s decayed corpse + shroud  “moderately support the proposition that [Arafat’s] death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210”.   Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher said that “on a scale of confidence of 1 to 6 [with 6 being strongly confident], scientists say the data supports poisoning at level 5″…

The test results come almost exactly nine years after Arafat’s death on 11 November 2004. His final illness began suddenly late on the night of 12-to-13 October. Arafat had been trapped by Israeli forces for the previous two years in two rooms in the Muqata’a Presidential Headquarters [a former British-Mandate era Government Quarters which served as an Israeli prison during the First Palestinian Intifada], confined in unhealthy circumstances in close quarters and under stress, sleeping under a table with the shell-damaged building crumbling around him.

Poisoning was suspected early on, at least by Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qudwa, who was Palestinian Ambassador to the UN in New York and then Palestinian Foreign Minister. But polonium was not considered, in 2004. It was not until 2006 [and it was in November] that defected Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, living in London, was quickly diagnosed [with British Government help] with Polonium poisoning, during a reported-and-publicized three-week agony in a hospital before he died.

Clayton Swisher from Al-Jazeera’s Investigations Unit, whose “What Killed Arafat?” report in early July 2012 here revealed the Swiss lab’s initial surprise finding of Polonium after testing Arafat’s clothing and led to the decision to exhume Arafat’s remains for forensic testing. Swisher just broke the “Killing Arafat” story this week [Wednesday evening] on Al-Jazeera, here.

There’s also a Youtube, which Swisher called a “news package” [a full documentary will apparently air on Sunday]:

Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher 6 Nov – Watch news package for @aljazeera on #killingArafat Swiss report here

In Swisher’s Youtube “news package”, Arafat’s daughter Zahwa says she’s relieved, but wants “to know who killed him and the motive + ambitions behind it”…

The full 108-page Swiss report, in English, is also posted here on Al-Jazeera’s website, and:

Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher — Read and decide: Swiss forensic report on Arafat’s death http://aje.me/19CYjxY via @AJEnglish #killingarafat

No autopsy was performed at the time of Arafat’s death in Percy Military Hospital outside Paris, France in early November 2004. Just before his death, Suha had called Al-Jazeera Arabic’s Ramallah correspondent Walid al-Omary, and she was given on-air access to make emotional accusations that Palestinian leaders on their way to Arafat’s bedside wanted to kill him “and he’s still alive”.

Suha told Clayton Swisher in 2012 that at the time she was so upset she didn’t even think of an autopsy, it didn’t even occur to her.

The Swiss forensic team from the University Hospital Center in Lausanne reportedly handed over its report in Geneva to Suha Arafat’s lawyers and Palestinian officials on Tuesday.

Tawfik Tirawi, named by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to head a Committee of Inquiry into Arafat’s death, seems to have been in Geneva for this event, along with the Jordanian forensics expert Dr. Abdullah al-Bashir on the Committee.  This was reported by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, here. Dr. Al-Bashir was originally engaged earlier, in late 2010, by the Yasser Arafat Foundation headed by Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Qidwa, who has long suspected that Arafat was poisoned. Dr. Al-Bashir initially contacted French hospital authorities in 2011, without much success.

Continue reading “Swiss lab finds very high levels of Polonium in Arafat's bones and in burial shroud + soil”

Do the Americans know how to do peace talks? Can they get a final status agreement within nine months?

Well, they have tried it before — the Annapolis process, Wye River, Camp David July 2000 and let’s not forget former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker announcing “here’s my phone number, call me when you’re ready”…]

Kerry's Iftar - full table - US State Dept on Monday 29 July 2013

Kerry’s Iftar – full table – US State Dept on Monday 29 July 2013

Above photo Tweeted by @michelghandour + posted here

Secretary Kerry Iftar dinner for Israeli + Palestinian Negotiators
Secretary Kerry Iftar dinner for Israeli + Palestinian Negotiators

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

Israerli + Palestinian negotiators at Secretary Kerry Iftar Dinner
Israeli + Palestinian negotiators at Secretary Kerry Iftar Dinner

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

So, as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said at a joint press conference in Washington on Tuesday evening [with an emotion-laden voice, before apparently impulsively kissing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on both cheeks],  there’s now a second chance:

“A new opportunity is being created for us, for all of us, and we cannot afford to waste it…”

Saeb Erekat + John Kerry + Tzipi Livni after press conference Tuesday
Saeb Erekat + John Kerry + Tzipi Livni after press conference Tuesday

Photo taken + Tweeted by AP Photographer Charles Dharapak + posted here

Kerry said, at the beginning of the press conference on Tuesday, that:

“As all of you know, it has taken an awful lot of work and a long time, a lot of time, to reach this new moment of possibility in the pursuit of an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

He said one striking thing at the end of his prepared remarks:

“I think everyone involved here believes that we cannot pass along to another generation the responsibility of ending a conflict that is in our power to resolve in our time. They should not be expected to bear that burden, and we should not leave it to them. They should not be expected to bear the pain of continued conflict or perpetual war”.

And in between, he said:

“The United States will work continuously with both parties as a facilitator every step of the way. We all understand the goal that we’re working towards: two states living side by side in peace and security. Two states because two proud peoples each deserve a country to call their own. Two states because the children of both peoples deserve the opportunity to realize their legitimate aspirations in security and in freedom. And two states because the time has come for a lasting peace.

We all appreciate – believe me – we appreciate the challenges ahead. But even as we look down the difficult road that is before us and consider the complicated choices that we face, we cannot lose sight of something that is often forgotten in the Middle East, and that is what awaits everybody with success. We need to actually change the way we think about compromise in order to get to success. Compromise doesn’t only mean giving up something or giving something away; reasonable principled compromise in the name of peace means that everybody stands to gain. Each side has a stake in the other’s success, and everyone can benefit from the dividends of peace.

We simply wouldn’t be standing here if the leaders – President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu – and their designated negotiators and all of us together didn’t believe that we could get there”…

A few weeks ago, just after Kerry’s flying visit to Ramallah on 19 July, Rami G. Khouri wrote here: “I have not given up hope that a negotiated peace can one day be achieved, but I pretty much have given up hope that it can be attained through renewed negotiations mediated these days by the United States … It is impossible to expect both sides under their current leaderships to make major substantive concessions on core issues simply in order to get to the negotiating table, where they will not be able to agree on a final accord that addresses the big sticker items of land, settlements refugees, and Jerusalem. The strategy now being used seeks to formulate vague agreements simply to resume negotiations will not work because the imprecision of positions on settlements, borders or mutual recognition necessary to restart the talks only cements the inability of both sides to achieve a permanent, comprehensive agreement”.

So what happened in the last ten days? One thing, apparently, was the U.S. issuance of still-unpublished “letter[s] of assurance”, in which the American administration took a stand in favor of concrete positions [such as, the negotiations will be based on pre-4-June 1967 borders, which changed things for the Palestinians…]

US President Obama + VP Biden meet Palestinian + Israeli negotiators
US President Obama + VP Biden meet Palestinian + Israeli negotiators

This photo was Tweeted by the US State Department and is posted here.

Now, Khouri wrote, in a piece entitled “What Do We Learn from 45 Years of Negotiations?”, syndicated by Agence Global and posted here, that he was disappointed in Kerry’s call, Monday [and Tuesday] for a “reasonable compromise” — Khouri said Kerry “sounded more like a high school guidance counselor speaking to teenagers who had an argument”.

Continue reading “Do the Americans know how to do peace talks? Can they get a final status agreement within nine months?”

In the Israeli Cabinet meeting that voted to release 104 Palestinian prisoners: Naftali Bennett says it's easier + more efficient to kill rather than capture "terrorists" …

The Israeli Cabinet meeting on Sunday which decided, after hours of debate, to free “104 prisoners” [Palestinians held in Israeli jails], was also the occasion of another significant happening.

 Yediot Ahronot publishes Naftali Bennett's reported remarks about killing terrorists
Yediot Ahronot publishes Naftali Bennett's reported remarks about killing terrorists

This image is posted here.

During the Cabinet meeting, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett [Industry, Trade & Labor + Religious Affairs], who leads the third-largest party in the current government [The Jewish Home — he lives in the West Bank], is reported here to have said:

Mairav Zonstein had one of the first versions on +972 magazine. She posted an update which nevertheless continued to report the same remarks attributed to Bennett [and shown in the photo above]:

“The economy minister and Jewish Home party head was arguing with National Security Adviser Ya’akov Amidror about the prisoner release. According to the Hebrew-language report in Yedioth‘s print edition, Bennett ‘proposed a problematic and controversial way for Israel to avoid having to put [captured terror suspects] on trial’.
Bennett: ‘If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them’.

Amidror: ‘Listen, that’s not legal’.

Bennett: ‘I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that’.”

Some people have more problems with the “I’ve killed lots of Arabs – no problem” than with the “simply kill terrorists” part. Both are awful. And, worse, Bennett clearly means “Arabs” when he says “terrorists” in the lines cited above.

The update published by +972 Magazine has two parts:
(1) Yediot Ahronot reported that Bennett says his remarks “were taken out of context” [whatever that means] and
Continue reading “In the Israeli Cabinet meeting that voted to release 104 Palestinian prisoners: Naftali Bennett says it's easier + more efficient to kill rather than capture "terrorists" …”

Qaddura Fares: many things are not clear about the pending prisoner release

A slightly different version of this story appeared earlier today on +972 Magazine, here.

****************************

“No, I am not satisfied”, said Qaddoura Fares, crisply, commenting on the Israeli Cabinet vote Sunday — after hours of debate and delay for persuasion of the unconvinced —  to release 104 Palestinian prisoners.

Qaddura Fares photo from Ramallah press conference posted on Israel Radio website - interviewed 28 July 2013
Qaddura Fares photo from Ramallah press conference posted on Israel Radio website - interviewed 28 July 2013

That vote led immediately to a formal invitation from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to both Israeli and Palestinian negotiations to come to dinner in Washington the very next day, for 1st direct meetings [since January 2012].  The State Dept officially announced resumption of “direct final-status negotiations”, and on Monday Pres Obama welcomed the arrival of Israeli + Palestinian representatives to “formally resume direct final status negotiations”,

Qaddoura, a Fatah leader [who, years ago, was a member of what was then-known as “Young Fatah”] spent many years of his youth in Israeli jails, and is now head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, which works to help Palestinians being tried in Israeli courts — most often, military — and held in Israeli jails.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had given Kerry a list of the 104 longest-held Palestinian prisoners, and Kerry sent that Palestinian list to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.  Kerry reportedly pressed for their release, and pinched hard when Netanyahu tried to strike off Palestinians who are either Israeli citizens or Permanent Residents of East Jerusalem.  Over the weekend, Netanyahu relented but said he would put the matter to a Cabinet vote on Sunday.

Netanyahu said in a statement published on Facebook on Saturday that “heads of state are at times required to make decisions that go against public opinion when matter of national import is at stake”.

But Netanyahu didn’t want to shoulder this responsibility alone, and said he would submit the matter to a vote in the regular meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday.

He also said the release would happen during the negotiations, not before — and he said it would stop if the Palestinians did not behave well.

Then, Netanyahu started making phone calls to try and get  support for the cabinet vote on the prisoner release…

Israeli government officials said that if Mahmoud Abbas could ask for the release of Palestinians with full Israeli citizenship,  this would imply that the PLO, and not Israel, is responsible for these men.

So, did the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday make the decision that the Palestinians awaited, and the Americans pressed for?  It’s not entirely clear.

Continue reading “Qaddura Fares: many things are not clear about the pending prisoner release”

Despite opposition, a Palestinian delegation will go to Washington on Monday to start talks after Israel's Cabinet approves release of 104 Pre-Oslo Prisoners

After hours of deliberation, Israel’s Cabinet voted on Monday to authorize the release of 104 of the longest-held Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

There was a delay of one and half hours before the start of the cabinet meeting, as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu moved to shore up his own Likud party and make sure he had enough votes to pass the motion.’

Citizens were protesting outside Netanyahu’s office. A mountain of meanness was being expressed about the prisoner release, and the word “terror” was getting quite a workout.

Dani Dayan, for example, Tweeted this:
@dandayan — Releasing terrorists for peace, is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline, it is dangerous, immoral and irresponsible.
@dandayan — Who did John Kerry set free? My piece at @TimesofIsrael . Releasing terrorists is obscene. http://dlvr.it/3jx4VK
@dandayan — a) I see no reason for any payment for the right to negotiate. b) Release of terrorists is morally flawed

@Marianhouk — Where is the leader who’ll tell his people that both sides have suffered? MT @DanWilliams Netanyahu: “Don’t lecture me abt fighting terror”.

According to Haaretz correspondent @BarakRavid on Twitter, Netanyahu reportedly told Likud ministers that “every Palestinian provocation will result in halting of the prisoner release process”, and also that “every decision to release Arab-Israeli prisoners will be brought back for a vote in the cabinet”…

UPDATE: Barak Ravid later wrote in Haaretz here that this latter proposal was based on a suggestion from Minister Silvan Shalom: “During the debate, Shalom proposed a compromise that eased the way for many Likud ministers to not vote against. Under the proposal, which was adopted by Netanyahu, any decision to release Israeli Arabs would require a new vote by the full cabinet. Based on the tentative schedule of prisoner releases, such a discussion is likely to take place, if at all, only in another nine months”.

Haaretz writer @AnshelPfeffer Tweeted slightly earlier that:
No PM in #Israel ever lost vote on releasing prisoners. #Netanyahu trying to “convince” ministers meant to show how “hard” the decision is

But, this leads to questions:
@Marianhouk — So it can be stopped if there are problems in talks? MT @rcolebourn – #Israel PM: prisoner releases will only happen after talks start + in a staged way…

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas called his Government ministers to the Muqata’a for a [rare] meeting at 2 pm.

And, a protest demonstration was called by the PFLP in Ramallah at noon.
@DaliaHatuqa reported that according to @Addameer:  A Ramallah demo against negotiations was broken up by PA police who beat protesters, including PLC member Khalida Jarrar

@RZabaneh Tweeted an amazing video of the clashes duringt the #PFLP protest against the resumption of negotiations. http://youtu.be/yF-IfN7Uw1Q

@LinahAlsaafin wrote that Demo against negotiations broken up by Palestinian Authority. PA is now arresting injured demonstrators from Ramallah Hospital v @Addameer

During the wait for the Israeli Cabinet vote, @DaliaHatuqa Tweeted that The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society published the list of names of detainees expected to be released = http://bit.ly/1c2lp3g

And, a PLO official told Haaretz that “The release of all the prisoners was an agreement between the U.S. + Israel, not between Israel + the Palestinians…Based on this agreement, the Americans received our consent to renew talks”…

Continue reading “Despite opposition, a Palestinian delegation will go to Washington on Monday to start talks after Israel's Cabinet approves release of 104 Pre-Oslo Prisoners”