Politics as usual in Ramallah this weekend

The Jerusalem Post has a story today informing us that a report presented to members of the Israeli Knesset last Wednesday, and “compiled by the MACRO Center for Political Economics as part of its Position Papers on Social, Economic and Political Issues distributed to MKs and ministers on a biweekly basis to give them an overview of the major issues on the Knesset agenda”, has determined that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s chances of being reelected are slim, and the likelihood the Palestinian Authority will be able to hold successful presidential elections in January is as low as ever“. The report added that “there is little legitimacy Abbas could expect to garner from the political contest. Last Thursday, Abbas indicated he wouldn’t run in the January elections, blaming the lack of diplomatic progress between the PA and Israel as the reason”… [However, contrary to what this article stated, the Palestinian Central Election Commission is not Hamas-run…] This JPost article can be read in full here.

At the PLO’s Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in Ramallah today (held not in the Muqata’a, but this time in the more neutral venue of the Palestinian Red CRescent Society headquarters), Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, “announced that the PLO’s Central Committee would meet in December, when it would take ‘all means necessary’ to protect the institutions of the PA and presidency, and would ‘refuse any blackmail deals proposed by Hamas’,” according to a report published by Ma’an News Agency. According to Ma’an, the purpose of the PNC meeting was to commemorate “the fifth anniversary of the death of late President Yasser Arafat and the Declaration of Independence [that] rhe PNC passed … during its 19th session in Algeria on 15 November 1988”. Ma’an made no mention of any decision by the PNC on the issue of Palestinian President Abbas’ decision not to run in the next elections — or of Abbas’ subsequent decision to endorse the Palestinian Central Election Commission’s decision that it would be impossible, in the current conditions, to hold the elections that Abbas declared should be held on 24 January. [The PNC has more than 650 members world-wide, but there appeared to be something like 100 present at this session in Ramallah today.] This Ma’an report is posted here.

Hamas said earlier this week that it would prohibit commemorating the 1988 Proclamation of the State of Palestine, then reversed its decision today.

A report in Haaretz today says that a U.S. official told the London-based Saudi-owned “Pan-Arab” newspaper that the U.S. will not press for negotiations “before all sides are ready.” The same Haaretz report added that “Palestinian officials had said in talks with U.S. diplomats earlier this week in Ramallah that nothing short of an Israeli commitment to a complete settlement freeze would bring Abbas to reconsider his recently made threats of resignation”. This report can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, an annual event hosted by one of the weathiest Israeli-American businessmen, Haim Saban, has gotten underway, and, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post, “Unique to this year’s event, the delegates will travel to Ramallah on November 15 and meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad“. According to this report, “Slated to attend are former US president Bill Clinton, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham – the highest-level US delegation ever to attend the conference”. This report can be read in full here.

Yesterday, the JPost reported that JPOST “Construction projects are continuing to move forward throughout parts of the capital annexed after the Six Day War, The Jerusalem Post has learned, despite remarks made this week by Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias that not a single construction project had been authorized in the West Bank or east Jerusalem since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office at the end of March. The construction work continues as Israel, the US and the Palestinians argue about all building beyond the pre-1967 Green Line, with the Palestinians demanding a full freeze as a precondition for resuming peace talks, the US urging a freeze but not as a precondition, and Israel expressing a readiness to weigh a freeze in the future … Haim Erlich, the coordinator for policy development at Ir Amim, an NGO which wants Jerusalem ‘equitably shared’ by Israelis and Palestinians, this week produced a list of more than 20 new projects in east Jerusalem that were currently being considered for approval by the municipality … ‘There were times when the Jerusalem municipality was not authorizing any building in east Jerusalem’, Erlich said. ‘And now they’re authorizing a number of projects. It shows that it is up to them, and they are making the decisions. Maybe the Housing and Construction Ministry isn’t directly involved, but construction projects are certainly going ahead’ … While the bulk of the ongoing housing projects are being built on privately-owned land and not officially subject to the Housing and Construction Ministry’s authorization, at least one of them – a three-pronged construction project for more than 750 housing units in the northeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev – has moved forward during Netanyahu’s term in office … Erlich added that the municipality’s district planning committee, through which all applications for building authorization must pass, was connected to the government. ‘Every project must go through the district planning committee, which is made up of government representatives’, Erlich told the Post on Wednesday”. This JPost report is published here.

The JPost also reported yesterday that “IDF troops used ammunition equivalent to live bullets against protesters at Ni’ilin on Friday, a site where a weekly protest by Palestinians and left-wing activists from Israel and abroad are held against the West Bank security barrier. The military ordinarily only uses protest-dispersal means such as tear gas canisters and a recently introduced ‘skunk bomb’ which is harmless but exudes a pungent stench. One Border Police officer was lightly hurt in Friday’s clash when he was hit by a rock. He was given preliminary treatment at the scene and later taken to a hospital. A rioter [sic] at Friday’s protest said the military fired ‘tutu bullets’, small metal pellets similar to those fired by BB guns but of a larger caliber (0.22 inches vs. the BB gun pellets’ 0.177 inches). The man said ‘tutu bullets’ have not been used against protesters since May. According to a press statement issued by left-wing NGO Betselem on July 9th, IDF Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avihai Mandelblit said in response to a query from the organization that ‘tutu bullets’ are not considered a protest-dispersal means. Mandelblit told Betselem back in July that the rules for using ‘tutu bullets’ are “‘estrictive, and parallel to the rules of engagement when using live ammunition’ … The IDF confirmed that 0.22 inch pellets were used on Friday. ‘The use of such ammunition is done against protesters where the use of violence has been ascertained, according to the restrictive protocol followed in incidents such as this’, a statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said”. This JPost report can be viewed here.

Today, Ma’an News AGency reported that “At least six demonstrators were arrested in the northern West Bank after they breached a section of Israel’s wall on Saturday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said. The protesters said they intended to march to lands that were left isolated behind the wall in Deir Al-Ghusun, northeast of Tulkarem, and managed to break open one of the barrier’s gates before Israeli soldiers invaded the village. One demonstrator was lightly injured after being struck with a rubber-coated bullet in the leg, onlookers said. ‘Today’s demonstration was the opening salvo for a public campaign by the Deir Al-Ghusun municipality and the affected farmers’, said Anarchists Against the Wall, an Israeli group, in a statement. ‘As the demonstration was coming to an end, a large group of soldiers surprised a group of the protesters by closing in on them from the direction of the village, and arrested 18 of the village’s youth’ … The wall in the area of the village cuts deep into West Bank land, leaving about 2,500 dunams (620 acres) of the village’s land on its west side, affecting 120 land owners, including dozens who have never received permits to tend to their farmland … Palestinian demonstrators breached the wall near Ramallah on Monday. Last Friday, protesters in the village of Ni’lin also managed to tear down a section”. The IDF reported that six persons “were detained for damaging the barrier” northeast of Tulkarem. This Ma’an report can be read in full here.

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