Neither Salam Fayyad nor Yasser Abed Rabbo were at meeting with Netanyahu this evening

Palestinian Authority [P.A.] Prime Minister Salam Fayyad did not accompany the P.L.O.’s Chief Negotiator Sa’eb Erekat today to see Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, as previously announced [ten days ago].

The meeting was held in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Jerusalem.

Israeli PM Netanyahu receives 2 Palestinians [center] on 17 April 2012Photo posted on YNet here and also on the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry here – it does not look good for the Palestinians hereinvolved — is that why Salam Fayyad and Yasser Abed Rabbo did not attend?

In the morning Fayyad presided over a meeting of the P.A. cabinet in Ramallah.

By midday, as the P.A. Cabinet meeting was drawing to a close, or soon thereafter, there were hints that Fayyad might not head the delegation that delivered a long-awaited letter signed by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

But, there was then total silence for some seven hours.

Sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., the news broke, via AP [and Tweeted by @diaahadid] that Fayyad had “backed out” of the meeting, and the Palestinian side offered no public explanation.

Continue reading Neither Salam Fayyad nor Yasser Abed Rabbo were at meeting with Netanyahu this evening

Reports: Fayyad to deliver Abbas letter to Netanyahu today

Though there was no announcement of either the time or the place that this will take place, reports indicate that Palestinian Authority P.A. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad will deliver a letter today signed by Palestinian leader [and President of the State of Palestine] Mahmoud Abbas to Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.


      On the other hand, this might not happen after all. One of the main recipients of leaked documents, Barak Ravid, has just reported on Haaretz that “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday morning that the meeting between between Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is likely to be canceled … In an interview with Army Radio, Barak said that Fayyad is not interested in meeting with Netanyahu, because of differences of opinion over the issue of Palestinian tax revenues. In addition to this, a European diplomat and two Israeli officials confirmed that Fayyad is against the passing of a missive to Netanyahu from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, which was due to take place at the meeting, and that he does want to head the Palestinian delegation meeting Netanyahu in Jerusalem. The time and place of the meeting were still unconfirmed on Tuesday morning. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday morning that he had still not been notified by Israel of the time the meeting is due to take place. Erekat also insisted that Fayyad would be attending the meeting … If Fayyad does not attend the meeting, Saeb Erekat will head the delegation. If this is the case, it is uncertain whether Netanyahu would actually attend the meeting, or whether he would prefer Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho to attend in his stead. Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, who is expected to attend Tuesday meeting, told the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, that the meeting’s goal is merely transferring Abbas’s message and that what is important is what happens afterwards”.


This situation becomes even more ridiculous.

We have reported about this letter — draft versions in Arabic + English were leaked to the Israeli media — for the past two weeks.

According to these leaked DRAFT versions, Abbas will say that the P.A. has lost its “raison d’etre” — a nice French term, meaning that Abbas is saying the P.A. has lost any meaning or purpose, so there is no reason for it to exist.

Does anyone else remember the late Yasser Arafat saying in Geneva, when he was being pinched to say certain things in December 1988, after his proclamation of Palestinian independence in Algiers in November 1988, and he said that aspects of the PLO Charter were “caduc” [another French word, meaning something like “no longer valid”, or maybe “de facto, null and void”].

Does this  not mean that Abbas is dissolving the P.A. and turning the keys over to the Israelis — unless of course they immediately recognize the State of Palestine, stop all settlement building, and agree on minor land swaps?

It is not clear what the real and lasting significance of this letter will be.

For one thing, it will not bind Hamas.

Perhaps this is part of the Israeli interest in this “pas de deux” [a dance step, as in “it takes two to tango”].

Though Hamas might not mind too much having the P.A. declare itself “caduc“, the way this move is being choreographed will only entrench the division between the West Bank and Gaza.

The DRAFT version of the letter does say that the Oslo Accords have been rolled back in many areas — and in the same text, the letter notes the Oslo Accords’ insistence that Gaza and the West Bank are parts of a single territorial unit…

Al-Arabiya’s website is reporting that independent P.L.O. Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi [who ran in the 2006 Palestine Legislative Council elections on the same ticket as Fayyad] explained that this letter “is a last ditch effort indicating that we’re doing everything possible in order to realize a two-state solution … We hope that there’s a positive response, but we’re sending a message that, without one, we have a strategy for what follows”.

The same post on Al-Arabiya notes that Abbas told the official Palestinian News Agency WAFA last week that “All options are all on the table for Palestinians, with the exception of dissolving the national authority or withdrawing recognition of Israel. We are not seeking the isolation of Israel, but rather to isolate its settlement policy”…

Salam Fayyad steals a line or two: he is not an ATM machine + he threatens to resign

Actually, Fayyad steals a couple of lines, in an interview this week with AP’s Karin Laub in Ramallah.

The first is the one about not being an ATM machine [Fayyad did not, however, say “unfeeling ATM machine”].

Fayyad told AP, according to Laub’s report, published here, that “he would not serve as finance minister under a different prime minister, bristling at the idea of being kept on because of his strong ties to the donors. ‘That would not work … partly because it would most likely be seen as an attempt by our system to tell the world, here is a face that the donor community has been comfortable with, essentially looking at me more or less as the ATM’, he said. ‘I am not the ATM for the Palestinian Authority. I never was’, he said”.

The original, unforgettable ATM line is attributable to an Israeli official who was explaining, in June 2008, how angry his government was with Fayyad [politics are always personal].

Fayyad, at the time, had written letters to the EU and the OECD — in 2008 — urging them not to upgrade relations with Israel because of its continuing belligerent military occupation of Palestinian territory. The furious Israeli government ordered an examination of possible Palestinian debts to Israel that caused a delay in transfers of VAT and Customs tax to the Palestinian Authority [PA] — a classic go-slow action. According to Haaretz, the then-U.S. Ambassador to Israel [Richard Jones] asked what’s going on, and was told by officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry that “they did not accept Fayyad’s ‘double standards’. ‘We’re not an unfeeling ATM’, one official told him. ‘We too are permitted to get angry when such scummy things are done to us’.” This unforgettable line is reported here.

Continue reading Salam Fayyad steals a line or two: he is not an ATM machine + he threatens to resign

No surprise, yet still a surprise: Fatah reportedly wants to keep Salam Fayyad as PM

Though it’s what all the savvy and not-so-savvy, and all the well-informed and not-so-well-informed, have been saying in Ramallah for weeks, now it seems to be almost official: the Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Fatah met on Saturday [in Ramallah, of course] “to finalize a proposed list of candidates for Cabinet positions. A Fatah official who attended the meeting said Fayyad was chosen to be their candidate [for Prime Minister]. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter”.

This AP report is published today in Haaretz here.

Until rather recently, many in Fatah complained endlessly about Fayyad — particularly about the small number of Fatah appointees in his cabinet.

Continue reading No surprise, yet still a surprise: Fatah reportedly wants to keep Salam Fayyad as PM

Quote of the day – 14th in our series: Abbas said leak of Palestine Papers is a "boring soap opera"

Today’s Quote of the Day — even though it was uttered some three weeks ago — comes from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who “dismissed the leak of hundreds of secret files on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as nothing but a ‘boring soap opera’.”

One place you can find this report published is here.

Abbas also said, to adoring crowds convened by his media counsellors and political advisers upon his return from one of many trips abroad: “We know how to respond to it and how to deal with it … We’re not shocked by this nonsense”.

Yes, the Palestinians know how to deal with it… by letting targeted people, who have become inconvenient, hang out to dry, and then settling scores… Done masterfully.

At a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on Sunday, President Abbas received the report of the investigation committee appointed to look into the Palestine Papers — documents leaked to Al-Jazeera, which prepared a series of programmes in late January detailing shocking behavior in the until-then secret negotiations brokered by the U.S,. first under the Bush Administration in the “Annapolis process”, and subsequently under the Obama Administration.

The documents consisted mainly of staff notes of the sessions prepared by the Palestinian negotiating team, and held by the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) of the Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD). ¨[Al-Jazeera prepared very wierd dramatic reenactments, using actors to represent the main figures, of meetings held under the Annapolis process]. But, Al-Jazeera also had documents leaked from one or more security offices, and from the office of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad…

The investigation committee report relied in part on security interviews with each and every one of the current staff members of the NSU + NAD. The finger seems to point to one or more former — now disgruntled — staff members.

The investigation committee also made a number of recommendations, including the replacement of the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat — who then resigned (after it was recommended that he be replaced), as he vowed he would do on the David Frost interview program aired a couple of weeks ago on Al-Jazeera English.

“If these documents were liked from my office, I and I alone will be responsible for that”, Erekat told David Frost, “if it is proven”… By that time, Erekat was apparently very well aware that most of the documents were leaked from his office. So, he added, in his remarks to Frost, “So, I don’t think I will remain Chief negotiator forever”.

Another recommendation of the investigation committee is that the NSU + NAD be disbanded.

Staff are convinced that this will happen, and note that their contracts all end on the same date — 31 March. The current prediction is that some of them will be absorbed into the President’s office — Abbas is the person responsible for negotiations anyway. However, the royal-court atmosphere in the President’s office, and the backbiting among ambitious people already there — combined with their gross incompetence in explaining the Palestinian position on anything — do not bode well for the future.

This does signal. with yet one more masterstroke, the relentless process of collecting and centralizing all the reins of power in the President’s hands….

And, yes, it proves the sharp correctness of Abbas’ words that this really is all (just) a soap opera — but it is much more discouraging than boring.

Current affairs, via a friend in Ramallah who loves the pointed political satire of the Palestine TV Program “Watan 3ala Watar” (“Homeland on a Shoestring”) – which is posted on Youtube here:

We also learn today that Abbas issued a Presidential decree Sunday (yesterday), in which it has now been ordained that “Targeting Qatar over leaked papers over” in response to the Al-Jazeera programs, as reported here.

Oh, and by the way, this Presidential decree also reportedly bans “local media” from insulting Qatar, too… The “local” journalists — and the international ones, too — have been silent so far…

And, today, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered the resignation of his cabinet … expecting to be asked to form a new and more convenient one.

The Al-Jazeera programs on the Palestine Papers ran for five days — the first three days were hard-hitting, then, once it became apparent how seriously the situation was imploding in Ramallah, with some Al-Jazeera staff saying they feared for their lives — days four and five really pulled punches, and withdrew from more explosive revelations.

Almost all these revelations had been already revealed over the past year in the Israeli media.

All a resourceful journalist, like Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher, had to do was to follow the leads, to track down documents that he knew must exist somewhere. He had the financial backing and the resources of Al-Jazeera to do it, and he had the willing and interested cooperation of disgruntled former staff in Palestinian offices and institutions to do it.

However, it has to be said that for a journalist trying to cover all this, it has been very hard indeed. The Al-Jazeera programs ruined any social life and kept one awake late into the night for over a week. Then, this segue-ing badly right into the Egyptian protests centered on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which confined journalists their computer screens and keyboards for an additional 18-19 days. The effort required endurance, and caused real physical pain, and exhaustion. We badly need a break, some relaxation, a vacation…

Personally, I found then rather reminiscent of the Fahmi Shabaneh expose [about corruption, targetting Abu Mazen’s then-chief of staff Rafiq Husseini] that was only reported because an Israeli TV channel broke the story…

Another Palestinian Death from IDF Tear Gas Used in Bil'in

Another tragedy: Jawaher Abu Rahmeh (Abu Rahmah) of Bil’in, in the occupied West Bank, died on this first day of the year in Ramallah Hospital from the effects of massive quantities of IDF-fired tear gas used to disperse demonstrators at the regular weekly Friday demonstration against the route of The Wall through their village lands.

Doctors at Ramallah Hospital struggled all night to save her life, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee [PSCC] reported by email and on their website.

UPDATE: A photo of Jawaher’s funeral procession on Saturday afternoon is posted on the Twitpic website here:

Jawaher Abu Rahmah's funeral procession in Bil'in on Twitpic

Apparently, Jawaher was mortally wounded from toxic poisoning due to one of the active chemical ingredients used in the tear gas. According to PSCC member Joseph Dana (Ibn Erza), here, Jawaher was unconscious upon arrival at the Ramallah Hospital, and did not respond to treatment.

The tear gas was fired after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad left the village, which he visited in a brief symbolic show of support. [Israeli Security coordinates and reportedly also accompanies Fayyad on his high-profile and well-publicized trips around the occupied West Bank.]

If only Fayyad had stayed longer, and actively participated in the Bil’in demonstration … maybe Jawaher would still be alive this afternoon.

The demonstrators moved out of the village, towards The Wall [which is in the form of a fence in that rural area], where they were met by volleys of tear gas.

The Israeli Supreme Court over three years ago ordered a change — which hasn’t yet happened — in the route of the Wall in Bil’in, where it cuts off and makes inaccessible large swathes of the village agricultural land, apparently in order to increase a “security” no-go zone around an adjacent Israeli settlement [is it Modi’in Illi? or Matityahu Mizrah, as Yossi Gurvitz reported here]. Whichever it is, this settlement is itself over the Green Line, and sitting squarely in the West Bank.

UPDATE: Here is information contained in an email just received from the Stop The Wall campaign — it does not supply a full answer, but it is still information: “At the beginning of the 1980s, the Matityahu settlement was built on a portion of Bil’in land and, at the beginning of the 1990s, another portion of land was confiscated for the Kiryat Sefer settlement. At the start of the millennium, yet another new settlement (Matityahu East) was built on Bil’in’s land. Modi’in Illit is now the most populated Israeli settlement in the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem, with a current population of almost 40,000. According to Israeli government plans, the target population for Modi’in Illit by the year 2020 is almost 150,000 residents”. The same email also notes that “In April 2004, Israel began construction of its illegal Apartheid Wall on the western side of the village. The existing route of the Wall isolates 1,980 dunums, or 49 per cent, of Bil’in’s land from the rest of the village by the Wall”.

Here, via a link on Joseph Dana’s website, is a video of yesterday’s demonstration in Bil’in [note the many yellow Fatah flags, the Israeli musicians, the Palestinian in a wheelchair with gas mask on, and the demonstrators carrying neatly rolled pieces of the chainlink fence]:

A report on the Israeli YNet website here says that “The IDF said that soldiers used tear gas to disperse Friday’s protest in a routine manner. The army added that an initial examination raises doubts regarding Abu Rahma’s [Abu Rahmah’s] cause of death as she initially sustained light wounds, was released from hospital and later died of her wounds in her home”.

The IDF yesterday accused all 250 “rioters” it said were in Bil’in of throwing stones. This makes it a “violent” demonstration, according to the Army’s usual discourse.

Activists present said yesterday that the accusation of stone-throwing was a “lie”.  They maintain that their strategy is to pursue only non-violent resistance.

During the demonstration on Friday, however, Joseph Dana reported by Twitter that he believed Israeli provocateurs had infiltrated the protest to instigate problems… Here is his Tweet from Bil’in (which I retweeted at the time): “There are special forces inside the protest in bil’in. They are preparing an attack on the nonviolent demo from inside” 1:44 PM Dec 31st via Twitter for BlackBerry® Retweeted by you and 19 others

UPDATE: Joseph Dana has just reported on his website that “Small organized groups of protesters then spread across the Wall to try and implement the popular committee’s announcement that he last day of the decade will indeed also be the last day of the Wall on Bil’in’s land. An overwhelming number of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers spread along the path of the Wall, but were not able to stop demonstrators equipped with bolt-cutters from breaching through the Wall in three places. In one place, the protesters actually managed to carry a rather significant chunk of the Wall back to the village”… This is posted here.

UPDATE: A later report on YNet said that “The IDF and the Civil Administration [n.b.-this is also part of the Israeli Army] have opened investigations into the death. IDF sources claimed surprise at the death, because, they said, there had been no exceptional use of tear gas – neither quantity nor type. Muhammad Abu Rahma [Abu Rahman], Jawaher’s uncle, spoke of her activities and the moment she was hurt. ‘She came to all the protests during the last five years’, he said. ‘Yesterday (Friday) they fired an unprecedented quantity of tear gas at us, and Jawaher was trapped in an area where there was a huge cloud of gas. She didn’t manage to get out, lost consciousness, and inhaled large amounts of gas. We managed to locate her only after some minutes, because the gas made it hard to find her’.” This report is posted here.

Jawaher was the sister of Bassam Abu Rahmah, who was killed within minutes of receiving a direct hit to the chest from an IDF-fired high-velocity tear gas cannister at a regular Friday anti-Wall demonstration on 17 April 2009.

Photo of Bassam Abu Rahmah published on the YNet website today:Bassam Abu Rahmah hit by tear gas cannister in Bilin on 17 April 2009 - photo on YNet by Lazar Simeonov

At least two other members of the extended Abu Rahmah family have been shot and injured in demonstrations in recent years. As YNet reported, “Ashraf Abu Rahma [Abu Rahmah], was shot during a protest in Naalian [Nil’in] while being bound. Some six months ago a military court convicted Lieutenant-Colonel Omri Borberg, former commander of the Armored Corps’ 71st Battalion, of attempted threats and the soldier who shot Ashraf with illegal use of weapons. The two were also convicted of conduct unbecoming and their sentence will be given next week”.

And, at least two others members of the Abu Rahmah family have been detained and imprisoned for extended periods. Adeeb Abu Rahmah was released on 12 December. Abdallah Abu Rahmah, whose case has been publicly taken up by the European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton (her statement called him a “human rights defender” whose rights to demonstrate peacefully have been suppressed), is still in jail although he has already served a one-year sentence imposed by a military court. Abdallah, one of the organizers of the weekly demonstrations held in Bil’in, was convicted of incitement (but not on charges of stone-throwing or possession of a weapon). Upon appeal, his sentence has been extended…

Activists present in Bil’in yesterday reported that about 1,000 people were there — more than the usual number. Earlier this year, in an effort to prevent the demonstrations, the IDF issued an order closing the village from 8 am to 8 pm every Friday. Only village residents are supposed to be in the area during those 12-hour periods.

There were many reports yesterday from activists on the spot that unusual quantities of tear gas were being used. Rubber bullets were also reportedly fired by the IDF at the protestors.

The PSCC is now reporting on its website that “Mohammed Khatib, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee said this morning: ‘We are shocked and furious for Israel’s brutality, which once again cost the life of a peaceful demonstrator … In the dawn of a new decade, it is time for the world to ask Israel for accountability and to bring about an end to the occupation.” And, the PSCC website says that Attorney Michael Sfard, “who represents the village in an appeal against the Wall added: ‘The son was killed by a directly aimed projectile, the daughter choked in gas. Two brave protestors against a regime that kills the innocent and doesn’t investigate its criminals. We will not [be] quiet, we will not give up, we will not spare any effort until those responsible will be punished. And they will.” This is posted here.

Ma’an News Agency reported on Saturday that in the demonstration on Friday Israeli forces also hit “one teenager in the face and sending him to hospital”. No further details were given. This Ma’an report is posted here.

Israeli activists announced they would hold a demonstration protesting Friday’s army violence at 19h30 Saturday night near the Israeli Defense Ministry headquarters, or Kiriya, in Tel Aviv.

UPDATE: Activists and journalists on the scene of the demonstration are Tweeting that about 200 people are participating, and that police have declared the demonstration illegal, put up roadblocks, and are beating and arresting participants and “tossing people into vans” — all in downtown Tel Aviv… The protesters blocked Kaplan Street in front of the Kirya for over an hour. Reports indicate that 8 people were arrested — including Meretz former MK Mossi Raz, who was apparently treated roughly. A video of his arrest posted on the YNet website here shows Raz being accosted by surprise, and then grabbed by the arms and marched down a street before being stuffed into a van. He appears to try to reason with the police arresting him. Lisa Goldman, who was right on the scene, reported overnight on +972 Magazine here that “Raz says to the police, as they push and drag him toward the police van, ‘Did you see me resisting arrest? Did you’?!” Another report said he had been slapped by police forces. By 2 am, Joseph Dana sent out a Tweet announcing that all those arrested had been released.

UPDATE: Dana also reported that other demonstrators went to Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv, and demonstrated outside the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, where they “returned” used tear gas cannisters from the Bil’in demonstrations. In an article posted on the website of +972 magazine, Dana wrote that “The tear gas used by the Israeli forces in Bil’in is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc.; a United States company based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. This is the first protest where empty tear gas canisters have been returned to an ambassador’s home. Approximately twenty five Israeli protesters gathered in front of the residence of American ambassador to Israel, James B. Cunningham around 1am local time. The protesters ‘returned’ loads of spent tear gas canisters collected in the West Bank village of Bil’in in protest of the murder of Bil’in’s Jawaher Abu Rahmah. The demonstrators also made noise throughout the Ambassador’s neighborhood informing residents of how American military aid to Israel is being used to kill unarmed and nonviolent demonstrators in the West Bank … The action in front of the American ambassador’s residence completed a day of protest throughout Israel and the West Bank stemming from Abu Rahmah’s death”. This article is posted here.

UPDATE: On Sunday morning, when a Court hearing was held for the demonstrators arrested in Herzliya, it became clear that 11 people had been arrested overnight — “including two women over 60 years old”, Dana remarked — and jailed. Joseph Dana reported that police asked that they be kept in jail at least 7 more days, on charges of “possession of firearms” — i.e., the used tear gas cannisters tossed over the fence at the American Ambassador’s residence — but the Judge ordered an extension for 2 days, for holding an illegal demonstration and resisting arrest. The Court will reconvene on Tuesday.

Salam Fayyad goes to Bil'in, leaves before tear gas is used on demonstrators

Doing what few other Palestinian high-ranking officials and politicians bother to do, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joined the regular Bil’in Friday demonstration against the Wall today, in the rain, on New Year’s eve.

A photo of Salam Fayyad marching in Bilin in the rain, taken by Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra) is posted on a Twitpic page here:

Fayyad marching in bil'in in the rain on Twitpic

Fayyad was defying an IDF ban, issued earlier in the year, on the presence of anyone who is not a resident of Bil’in from being in the area from 8 am until 8 pm on Friday, when the weekly demonstrations are held.

For some reason, the IDF refrained from shooting tear gas until after Fayyad’s early departure from the scene…Fayyad did not march to The Wall, and he was not tear-gassed.

The tear gas was unusually heavy, according to Tweets from those on the scene.  The rain helped limit its dispersion, but there was still an unusually heavy volley of tear gas, according to those present — AFTER Fayyad’s departure (he ususally travels with Israeli Security coordination + more)

The IDF, right on cue (after Fayyad’s departure from the area), has just sent out a Tweet informing us that 250 ” ‘rioters’ in Bil’in now hurling rocks @ IDF forces-area declared closed military zone to prevent escalation but open to village residents”…

Joseph Dana (Ibn Ezra) then Tweeted that this was a lie — demonstrators were not throwing stones, he said.

These pictures were just posted on Salam Fayyad’s website:

Salam Fayyad - from his own website - in Bil'in on 31 December 2010

And here is Fayyad listening to encouraging music with a wet-haired Luisa Morgantini, wearing a necklace from Nuha + Khader’s Galerie Zeinab in Ramallah

Salam Fayyad with Luisa Morgantini in Bil'in on New Year's Eve

UPDATE: IT was later reported that one person was in critical condition in Ramallah Hospital on Friday night, suffering from exposure to the active ingredient in the tear gas. She was reportedly not responding to medical treatment. She is the sister of Basem Abu Rahmeh [Abu Rahmah], killed by direct impact of a high-velocity tear gas cannister on his chest on 17 April 2009. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee reported that “Doctors at the Ramallah hospital are currently fighting for Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s life, after an acute deterioration in her condition this evening. Abu Rahmah suffered from severe asphyxiation during today’s demonstration in Bil’in as a result of tear-gas inhalation, and was evacuated to the Ramallah hospital. She is currently diagnosed as suffering from poisoning caused by the active ingredient in the tear-gas, and is not responding to treatment”.

The Popular Struggle Committee, which had announced earlier that “the last day of the decade will indeed also be the last day of the Wall on Bil’in’s land”, reported that an “overwhelming number of Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers spread along the path of the Wall, but were not able to stop demonstrators equipped with bolt-cutters from breaching through the Wall in three places. In one place, the protesters actually managed to carry a rather significant chunk of the Wall back to the village”…

In Ramallah tonight

In Ramallah tonight, two men who I thought might hold different views both proclaimed their vast new admiration for the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, appointed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

The two, both dear friends, were not well acquainted with each other. Their eyes were locked on each other. They were almost grabbing each others shoulders and circling in a ring, the way Sumo wrestlers do.

But, we were sitting outside on a mild November night, around a cafe table on the porch of one of the more established bistros in one of Ramallah’s original restaurant rows.

Tax collection has reached levels of 70 percent compliance in Ramallah, one of them said admiringly, though he noted that it’s still less in Hebron and other areas in the West Bank.

Maybe they were each just horrified to reveal their real views to each other. This is what they had to say, in public, even among friends.

Nobody mentioned that Fayyad and Abbas are the only two Palestinian officials who are now being permitted by Israeli military officials [who admit that they are doing this because they are annoyed at PA officials] to cross into Jordan IN THEIR CARS. All other Palestinian Authority VIPs have to get out of their cars, and take the bus…

Fayyad and Abbas don’t seem to mind that they still retain this shred of privilege — and don’t seem to realize how unhealthy it is for them to enjoy it … or how bad it was for any PA official to have priviliges under the existing military occupation while most of the population is buffeted by every wind and left to fend for themselves without any support from anywhere.

Meanwhile, the only story that editors want these days is about how Ramallah is in the midst of a boom, full of new restaurants and bars and office buildings. Every journalist in Jerusalem is traipsing across Qalandiya Checkpoint to do the same piece about the now-opening Ramallah Movenpick Hotel — offering Swiss Hospitality.

Quote of the day – (6th in our series)

Haaretz (with an input from Reuters) reported today that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told journalists in Ramallah on Monday that it was important to know “What kind of state does Mr. Netanyahu have in mind when he says ‘Palestinian state? … I think this is a most fundamental question and I believe, without wishing to really prejudge what will happen in the next few days, the next few weeks, we are approaching that moment of reckoning … Some questions really need to be answered … There is not really a whole lot of time to waste”. Fayyad’s remarks are posted here.

Perhaps not wishing to give it any more attention — or perhaps wanting to avoid certain uproar — Fayyad apparently did not want to ask another important question — which European diplomats here in the region say must also be asked, and that is, what do Israeli leaders mean by the “Jewish State” that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, as recently as Sunday, the Palestinians must recognize.

Background: UN General Assembly Resolution 181, passed in November 1947 in response to a British request for a solution to the Palestine Mandate, conferred by the League of Nations, called for the establishment of two states: one Jewish and one Arab. This resolution is the basis for both the 14-15 May 1948 proclamation of the State of Israel, and for the November 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State in his 14 reservations on the U.S.-sponsored Road Map of 2003. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State just before the start of the Annapolis process of negotiations launched in November 2007. Olmert’s successor, Benyamin Netanyahu, periodically repeats the same demand — but has occasionally modified his phrasing to call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as “the State of the Jewish People”.

The Palestinians are all over the place in their responses, and even inconsistent (as if this had not already been done by the PLO leadership and endorsed by the Palestine National Council in 1988). Whatever position they choose, it is universally expressed with great frustration and anger. “We don’t care what Israel calls itself”, the current Palestinian leadership has said. Other Palestinians insist that any endorsement of this formula is tantamount to agreeing to future as well as past ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of Israeli-Arab-Palestinians from “the triangle” of Arab cities in Israel’s Galilee region next to the upper West Bank, and — of course — acceptance of Israel’s refusal to envisage the return of any but a tiny few of those Palestinians (and their descendants) who fled or were forced to flee fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel. Still others respond as if this demand can be treated as some kind of bargaining chip, to be dealt with after the establishment of a real Palestinian state…

From the frying pan into the fire? Abu Tir deportation trial continued until 12 July

An Israeli court on Sunday continued the detention of Hamas-affiliated East Jerusalem politician Mohammad Abu Tir for another week, until Monday 12 July.

On the basis of a “deportation” order pending since 2006, Israeli Police took Abu Tir’s Permanent Residence ID card soon after he was released from jail in May, after serving a more-than-four-year sentence following his election to the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) on the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party ticket.

Three other East Jerusalem Palestinian parliamentarians, elected on the Hamas-backed ticket in 2006, are also under Israeli “deportation” orders — Ahmad Atoun, Mohammad Totah, and Khaled Abu Arafeh. News reports indicate that the Israeli Police have called their families, looking for them. Meanwhile, at least two if not all three have been participating in a public sit-in in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in East Jerusalem, protesting the “deportation” orders.

Israel contends that East Jerusalem Palestinian politicians who serve in the PLC — at least, those on the Hamas-affiliated ticket — are “disloyal” to the State of Israel.

[Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to head an Emergency Government post in June 2007, in the wake of a crisis which saw Hamas expel Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Gaza — is a permanent resident of East Jerusalem without any problem…]

Abu Tir was arrested last week while driving in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem near his home of Um Tubas (Sur Bahr) — and jailed for not having a valid ID card.

He is accused of “illegal entry into the State of Israel”.

Abu Tir and his three colleagues want to stay in Jerusalem for reasons of normal human emotions. They are also taking a political stand in favor of Palestinian national rights.

YNet reported that Abu Tir said in court last Thursday: “I am prepared to do anything in order to stay in Jerusalem”. According to YNet, Abu-Tir “refused the imprisonment alternative offered him by which he would be banished from Israel and NIS 100,000 (about $25,700) bail be posted that he not return to the area within the Green Line”. YNet added that “Abu-Tir’s lawyer, Attorney Osama Saadi, explained that he contacted the interior minister last week on behalf of his client and three other civilians whose permanent resident status has also been revoked. According to him, they asked that a letter be sent regarding talks ‘on the highest levels between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel’. ‘We believe that the decision is not a legal one, but a political one’, said Saadi. He also asked for another opportunity to settle the matter out of court”. This is published here.

If these East Jerusalem politicians are deported to the West Bank — where an adamantly anti-Hamas campaign has been underway for years — they will not be in a comfortable situation.

In fact, they would be going from the frying pan into the fire…

But these pending “deportations, like a number of other “provocative” and “unhelpful” measures, particularly in East Jerusalem, appear to be on hold pending Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week. He is due to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Deportation is an explicit violation of the Road Map backed by the U.S. and the Quartet of Middle East negotiators (U.S., Europe, Russia, and UN). The Road Map has also been endorsed in UN Security Council resolution 1515 of November 200.

Continue reading From the frying pan into the fire? Abu Tir deportation trial continued until 12 July