Interparliamentary Union criticizes pending Israeli deportation of East Jerusalem Palestinian politicians

Members of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva issued a criticism on Thursday of the pending Israeli deportations of East Jerusalem Palestinian politicians who were elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in January 2006 on the Hamas-backed Change + Reform Party list.

Mohammad Abu-Tir, perhaps the most senior of four East Jerusalem Palestinian men facing “deportation”, is facing expulsion on Sunday 18 July.

An Associated Press report said that the “IPU brings together lawmakers from 155 countries. The U.S. Congress isn’t a member”. This is published here.

The IPU said that deportation would violated the human rights of Palestinian parliamentarians Mohammed Abu Tir, Mohammed Totah and Ahmed Abu Atoun, who were were recently released from prison after serving four-year sentences, for their affiliation to Hamas. A fourth East Jerusalem Palestinian parliamentarian elected in 200, Khalid Abu Arafeh, is also facing deportation.

One question now is what is the IPU going to do to follow-up?

And what will it do if one or more of the deportations are carried out?

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East Jerusalem parliamentarian arrested, facing "deportation"

Facing possible “deportation” — whatever that means in the circumstances — from East Jerusalem, Mohammad Abu Tir, a Hamas-affiliated politician elected in January 2006 to the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC), was arrested this afternoon in Jerusalem (where he is not supposed to be, any more) reportedly by undercover Israeli police disguised as Palestinians, and taken to the Russian Compound in West Jerusalem, where —  if he’s lucky —  he may have a court hearing tomorrow.

A month ago, he was released from jail after serving more than four years, basically for having been elected to the local Palestinian parliament on the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party ticket.

YNet reported tonight that “During a Shin Bet interrogation just hours after his release, Abu-Tir was told he had to leave his hometown Jerusalem within a month (by June 19).  ‘I don’t know what to say, this is an injustice which reflects an attempt at extortion’, Abu-Tir said to Ynet at the time. ‘They told me I must remain in my village (Umm Tuba) and never go to the city. I don’t know the reason for this’.”

Instead, Ynet reported, “Palestinian sources said Abu-Tir was arrested as he left his village, and that among those who arrested him were undercover officers disguised as Arabs. His family was unable to define the area forbidden to Abu-Tir, who holds the second slot on Hamas’ party list”.   This YNet report is published here.

The “deportation” order dates back to before his arrest in the spring of 2006. Last month, Abu Tir and three other Hamas-affiliated elected members of the PLC were ordered to surrender their Jerusalem residency cards to the Israeli police.

Maybe if he had stayed at home, in his village, he would have been left alone?

If he is brought before a court on Thursday, maybe he will at least be able to get clarification of where he’s allowed to be — and where he is banned.

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Deportation: ho-hum, jaded indifference?

Why such jaded indifference to deportation?

Four Palestinian politicians from East Jerusalem – Mohammed Abu Tir, Mohammed Totah, Khaled Abu Arafa, and Ahmed Atoun — all affiliated with Hamas, were recently ordered by Israeli police to turn over their Jerusalem ID cards, which are also their residence permits, and told they must leave “the country” within a month — which would be by the end of this week.

Two weeks ago, the Israeli human rights organization Adalah petitioned to the Israeli Supreme Court to stop the expulsions.

Just a week ago, the Supreme Court declined to hear the petition now on an urgent basis — because it has already scheduled a hearing in September to take up an appeal against the revocation of residency.

Meanwhile, of course, the “deportation” orders may be carried out. But, according to the Supreme Court, that’s no big deal — it is not irreversible.

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DEPORTATION is a violation of the Road Map

Deportation — which Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are still trying to make a condition for the release of certain Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel, in exchange for IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Palestinians since the end of June 2006 — is a violation of the Road Map.

The Road Map was written — and endorsed by the UN Security Council — in 2003, after deportation was devised as the solution to the exit of Palestinian gunmen and other Palestinians who had sought refuge in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during an Israeli raid which became an extended seige.

The deportation of those 29 or so Palestinian men was thought to be for a period of one year, but they are almost all still in exile seven years later, some in Gaza (they survived last winter’s IDF military onslaught), and others in Europe. Those Palestinian men were pressured or persuaded to accept the deportation agreement that had been negotiated — and thus, it became a “voluntary” deportation.

But, since the adoption of the Road Map, which both the Palestinians and the Israelis (despite the 14 reservations listed separately by Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) have accepted, deportation (voluntary or not) has become a violation of the terms of the Road Map — just as much as is the requirement to maintain a settlement freeze.

It’s right up there at the start of Phase I.

Under the heading “Security”, the Road Map says that: the “GOI [Government of Israel] takes no actions undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli construction; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure; and other measures specified in the Tenet work plan”…

The Road Map, which can be read in a number of places including on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.

In case anyone has forgotten, the Road Map introduces itself as “a performance-based and goal-driven roadmap, with clear phases, timelines, target dates, and benchmarks aiming at progress through reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian, and institution-building fields, under the auspices of the Quartet [the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia]. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005 … A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel’s readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established, and a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement as described below. The Quartet will assist and facilitate implementation of the plan, starting in Phase I, including direct discussions between the parties as required. The plan establishes a realistic timeline for implementation. However, as a performance-based plan, progress will require and depend upon the good faith efforts of the parties, and their compliance with each of the obligations outlined below”.

How can Israel deport released Palestinian prisoners? The Road Map says that this should not be done

There was a rather mysterious flurry of rumors and SMS news flashes yesterday that Israel’s Corporal Gilad Shalit — seized in late June 2006 at the Kerem Shalom tri-point where the borders of Israel, Egypt and Gaza meet, and presumably held somewhere in Gaza ever since — was suddenly about to be released. Demonstrations were held yesterday at both sides of the Erez terminal for “passenger crossing” between Israel and Gaza. On the Israeli side, demonstrators were urging that no goods be sent into Gaza as long as Shalit was still held captive, and the International Red Cross still not allowed to see him. On the Palestinian side, demonstrators were calling for the crossings to be opened, and the seige on Gaza lifted — and for the release of some 11,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli detention. There were reports (perhaps wrong) that at least some of the Palestinians were also calling for Shalit to be released…

In any case, despite the rumors and news flashes, nothing happened.

An article published in Haaretz earlier in the week reported that “According to information recently received in Israel, Egypt would like to see negotiations for the release of Shalit resume from the point at which they left off during the final days of the Olmert government. However, the Egyptians have also asked Israel to abandon its plan to exile some of the Palestinian prisoners that will be released in exchange for Shalit’s freedom”.

The same issue — Israeli demands to deport some currently imprisoned Palestinians, either to Gaza or to Europe — arose a few months ago, as we reported at the time here . As we wrote then, the Road Map recognized that this specific issue of deportations was a problem. So, it is hard to see why and how Israel is asking for this now. Does Israel think that a negotiated, agreed deportation of the Palestinians it is holding prisoner would be any more legal, or any more acceptable, or in conformity to the Road Map obligations? Would the Quartet (US, Russia, EU and UN) agree to such a re-writing of the Road Map?

Phase One of the Road Map — endorsed and strongly-backed by the U.S. and the Quartet of Middle East Negotiators (which also includes the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations Secretary-General) requires Israel to stop deportations. The Road Map specifies that the Government of Israel should take no action “undermining trust, including deportations, attacks on civilians; confiscation and/or demolition of Palestinian homes and property, as a punitive measure or to facilitate Israeli constructions; destruction of Palestinian institutions and infrastructure; and other measures specified in the Tenet Work Plan”.

The Road Map was presented in 2003, and was written not too long after the unsatisfactory resolution of the stand-off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in which Israel sent several dozen Palestinian men into what was supposed to be a temporary one-year exile in Gaza or Europe. Those men were put under pressure, in order to spare the community from the effects of the continued Israeli seige in Bethlehem, to agree to be deported voluntarily.

And that’s what would have to happen again, if any country would be asked to accept Palestinian prisoners who would agree to a “voluntary” deportation in order to facilitate Israel’s consent to a prisoner release now.

But the Road Map did not say that “voluntary deportations” are OK, unlike other kinds of deportations which were to have stopped.

And then, there’s always Gaza. No third country would have to give consent. Israel can just decide on its own to send somebody there. On 26 May, for example, Mahmoud Azzam, a Palestinian prisoner originally from Jenin was released from Israeli jail and then deported to Gaza. If there’s another Israeli military operation on Gaza — as some government ministers are urging — that deportation could become a death sentence.

The Quartet said nothing.

Seven years after the seige on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, almost all of those deportees are still in exile, with no end to their ordeal in sight. Deportation is a deeply traumatic experience for Palestinians, after half the population was exiled or displaced in the fighting that surrounded the creation of the state of Israeli in 1948.

The Road Map can be read here.

[Israel’s reservations to the Road Map can be viewed here. Among these is point number 6, which reads: “In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.]

Olmert's office says Hamas has hardened its position in recent days

The office of Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has released an update this evening, suggesting that there has been no progress in talks in Egypt with Hamas on his last-minute push to get IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit released. A Cabinet meeting scheduled for today was earlier postponed until tomorrow.

Much press speculation in Israel was that a favorable deal was imminent.

But — perhaps in an effort to put last-minute pressure on Hamas — the Prime Minister’s office’s statement said, discouragingly, that “it became clear during the discussions that Hamas had hardened its position, reneged on understandings that had been formulated over the past year and raised extreme demands despite the generous proposals that had been raised in this round in order to advance and exhaust the negotiations and bring about the soldier’s release”.
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Hamas reportedly criticizes rocket attacks on Israel coming from Gaza

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that “Gaza’s Hamas rulers issued rare criticism Thursday of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the strip, saying now is the wrong time for such attacks … Hamas said Thursday that it was not behind recent attacks and that it was investigating who was responsible”.

This AP report was picked up and published by Haaretz here.

On 9 March, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center reported that, according to a report on Israel’s YNet, Islamic Jihad said that Hamas arrested ten “activists” who fired rockets towards Israel, and later released nine of them.

Today’s AP story speculated that Hamas “apparently fears that new rocket fire could disrupt the reconciliation talks currently underway in Cairo”.
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The logic of the Olso Accords still continues

During the first Palestinian Intifada, a spontaneous uprising in the West Bank and Gaza that started at the end of 1987 and caught the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership in exile by surprise, any display of the Palestinian flag — or even just showing its colors (green-red-white-black) — was severely repressed by Israeli troops. It was a shooting offense.

At peace talks launched at an international conference in Madrid in 1991 after the Cold War ended — and just a few months after the U.S.-led Desert Storm coalition forced Saddam Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait, amid much Arab commentary about U.S. double standards in the Middle East — the Palestinian delegation had to participate as members of the Jordanian delegation. The Palestinian participants were supposed to be “independent” and not members of the PLO — though the delegation members made it clear during the talks that they deferred to the PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who was in based Tunis at the time.
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Annapolis process did not work, says UN Special Middle East Coordinator

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, told the UN Security Council today that “the inconclusive results of last year’s Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and unmet Road Map obligations, especially regarding settlements” are realities that must be faced — and “squarely addressed”.

Of course, the Serry statement was balanced. Carefully balanced.

But there were several particularly sharp messages.
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