Palestinians giving up on statehood, Israeli ex-security chief says

The Times of Israel reports: The death of the two-state solution among the Palestinians is no secret to the Israelis, nor is it mourned by government officials. To the political echelon, the threat of a binational state is not sufficiently tangible, and the possibility that radical Islam will take over the West Bank if there should be a peace agreement seems more real.

But things sound different in the defense establishment, and particularly among those who have left it. Quite a few former generals, Shin Bet directors and Mossad chiefs have warned any number of times that maintaining the status quo in the territories, which has become a kind of strategy in Netanyahu’s era, could change the face of the State of Israel.

“I’m hearing from various Palestinian officials with whom I am in contact that they have given up on the two-state solution as an option for resolving the conflict,” says former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin, 59, who now owns a hi-tech firm in Herzliya. [Continue reading…]

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Palestinian split widens as unity government quits

AFP reports: The Palestinian unity government formed last year in a bid to heal rifts between Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party resigned on Wednesday, an official said.

An aide to president Mahmoud Abbas said that prime minister Rami Hamdallah “handed his resignation to Abbas and Abbas ordered him to form a new government.”

Discussions to form a new government would include consultations with the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, he said.

Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, however, told the official PA news agency WAFA that Hamdallah had not handed in his resignation.

Officials have said the planned dissolution of the government, made up of technocrats, had been under discussion for several months because of the cabinet’s inability to operate in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have condemned the unilateral dissolution of the government, a decision they say they were not consulted over. [Continue reading…]

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Palestinian discontent with Abbas is growing

The New York Times reports from the al-Amari refugee camp in the West Bank: Residents of this cinder-block ghetto, a few miles from the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, recently removed his portrait from the camp’s entrance.

Then they sought to embarrass Mr. Abbas by roundly rejecting his son’s bid to lead a local sports club. And in case the message was not clear enough, after the vote, men paraded through the streets chanting, “Tell your father that Amari camp doesn’t like you!”

Much attention has focused recently on the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent disavowal of a two-state solution and his shattered relationship with the Obama administration.

But of perhaps equal importance is a growing discontent in Palestinian ranks, much of it focused on Mr. Abbas. While the United States and Europe seem ever more ready to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank, some Palestinians are questioning whether their leader, who celebrated his 80th birthday last week, will be able to seize the opportunity. [Continue reading…]

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Netanyahu’s ‘no-Palestinian-state’ vow raises questions about security coordination

McClatchy reports: Khawla Zeitawi is pregnant with twins, and her husband is not at her side.

Instead, her husband, Jasser Abu Omar, is in an Israeli prison, accused of being part of a terrorist cell that crafted explosives in a Nablus apartment. Zeitawi asserts that her husband is innocent, jailed on bad information from Palestinian law enforcement as part of ongoing security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“Security coordination is treason,” Zeitawi said in her home in Jamain, a village near Nablus in the West Bank. “The Palestinian Authority is giving Israel a service for free.”

Since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, its security organizations have worked closely with Israel to share intelligence, arrest suspected militants and limit demonstrations in the West Bank. That cooperation was suspended during a Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada, but has been a robust part of life in the West Bank since 2007 – and a lightning rod for complaints among the Palestinian public for almost as long.

Earlier this month, the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council voted to suspend security coordination. That vote was to protest Israel’s withholding of tax revenues, an action Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered earlier this year to punish the Palestinians for applying for membership in the International Criminal Court.

On Friday, Netanyahu ordered the release of the tax revenues, which Israel collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf at a rate of $127 million a month. But that’s unlikely to silence Palestinian doubts about the security agreement, especially after Netanyahu won reelection in part by vowing never to allow a Palestinian state to rise while he’s prime minister. [Continue reading…]

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If the peace process is over, what’s Plan B for Palestine?

Israeli Settlements Timeline Chart 1966-2014 — Gaps of data in some years mean that the information is not available.

Alan Philps writes: Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election declaration that there would be no Palestinian state under his government was hardly a bombshell. Though he has on occasion declared his support for a Palestinian state, it never felt like a genuine commitment. His disavowal of Palestinian statehood has merely torn away a mask that had become transparent.

In diplomatic circles, however, Mr Netanyahu’s coming clean is a game-changer. The prospect of a Palestinian state, however distant, has been the corner stone of all Middle East peace efforts. Without some kind of agreed process, diplomats fear that Israel and Palestine are heading for a new explosion.

The peace process is what justifies the US preserving the status quo. When Washington vetoed the Palestinian Authority request for statehood at the UN Security Council in December, the justification was that it was “more likely to curtail useful negotiations than to bring them to a successful conclusion”. Without any prospect of “useful negotiations”, it is hard to see how the US could to that again.

Likewise ,it would be hard to justify the US and European Union continuing to fund the Palestinian Authority, a government in the West Bank whose popularity, such as it is, depends solely on its ability to pay 160,000 public sector salaries. If Israel wants the land, why should it not have to pay those salaries? And if there is no prospect of gaining their own state, why should Palestinians continue with the security cooperation that helps Israelis sleep at night? [Continue reading…]

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Palestinian leaders see validation of their statehood effort

The New York Times reports: Under most circumstances, an Israeli leader’s frank admission that he would never agree to a Palestinian state would be a disaster for the Palestinian leadership. But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said precisely that in the heat of the recent election campaign, it seemed to have the opposite effect, validating the unilateral approach the Palestinians have decided to follow.

“We will continue a diplomatic intifada. We have no other choice,” said Assad Abdul Rahman, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central council and executive committee, its top decision-making body.

With Mr. Netanyahu having dropped, for now at least, the pretense of seeking a two-state solution, the Palestinians can argue to Europe and the United States that they no longer have a negotiating partner, strengthening their case for full statehood and recognition in the United Nations, as well as membership in important international bodies. They are already members of the International Criminal Court and Unesco.

“If somebody said, ‘We are with two states, and real negotiations,’ we would return to negotiations,” said Assad Abdul Rahman. “But there is no partner for that.”

In addition to considering seeking full statehood at the United Nations, the Palestinians may now curtail security coordination with Israel, reducing Israel’s ability to seize suspected militants in the West Bank, two P.L.O. officials said.

“There is a feeling that if there really is no hope for the peace process, the best thing they can have is an Israeli government that will advance its own isolation,” said Nathan Thrall, senior analyst with the Middle East and North Africa Program of the International Crisis Group. [Continue reading…]

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Gaza suffers in growing isolation

Zvi Bar’el reports: “What do they give us here? Three pitas and a little food; it’s not enough even for a small child,” Alaa Kullab complained to the Palestinian news agency Safa. He said his eight-person family, which has been living in a school in Rafah ever since this summer’s war in the Gaza Strip, received only five beds.

“We have no heaters, and we’re forbidden to use hotplates,” added Kullab, who began a hunger strike along with another resident of the school a few days ago.

More than 20,000 of the 450,000 people displaced by the war still live in schools or other shelters arranged by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Last month, UNRWA announced that it would no longer pay displaced families’ rent or fund reconstruction of their houses, because it was out of money, having received only $135 million of the $725 million it needs.

“People come to our offices crying and threatening, but we have no way to help them,” an UNRWA employee told Haaretz. “Children are freezing cold, they suffer from malnutrition and even the little food they get is unsuitable.”

Next week, cleaning workers at Gaza’s hospitals are expected to strike again, since the Palestinian government hasn’t produced the back pay it promised to persuade them to end the last 16-day strike. Some 45,000 government employees in Gaza have yet to receive their January salaries, and they may get only 60 percent, as they did last month, because Israel has frozen tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority. The PA says the transfers amount to over half the costs of these salaries.

In October, a donor conference netted pledges of $5.4 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction, but only about 2 percent of this amount has arrived. Both the reconstruction and the reopening of the border crossings, especially with Egypt, depend on implementing a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, but due to disputes between the rival organizations, this still has not happened. [Continue reading…]

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Threat of violence silences Palestinian journalists

Asmaa al-Ghoul writes: How loud is the voice you hear when you sit down to write a press report? How small is the prison cell you imagine yourself ending up in once you publish your article? The man you imagine pointing a gun at your head, is he wearing a mask? These are thoughts that lead one to delete the most important and powerful piece of information from an article. Some thoughts even lead you to delete the article entirely.

A late 2014 study by the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms found that 80% of Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza practice self-censorship of their writing.

Journalist Ghazi Bani Odeh, who conducted the survey, “The Official Media and Freedom of Expression,” told Al-Monitor that attacks and harassment, and thus fear of them, are the main causes leading journalists to censor themselves. [Continue reading…]

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Why the Palestinians are finally giving up on Obama and the U.S. peace process

Zack Beauchamp writes: “If you want,” PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi offered, “I can call him right now.” The “him” in question was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This was mid-November 2014; I was with a group of journalists in Ashrawi’s Ramallah office, and we were all asking her about the dramatic flameout of John Kerry’s effort to produce an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in late April. Ashrawi decided to phone a friend — President Abbas — to answer our questions. And Abbas, as it turned out, was in a talkative mood.

Abbas told a story about Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed peace talks that differed greatly from what other participants have said publicly. But what was in many ways more important than the details of his story was the attitude it conveyed toward the US: a total collapse in trust. The senior Palestinian leadership has come to believe that the United States is utterly incapable of budging Israel in negotiations and thus of bringing peace. Long-simmering Palestinian frustration with America, which Palestinians have always seen as hopelessly biased towards Israel, has finally bubbled over.

The new Palestinian approach is a sharp break with the past. For over 20 years since the historic 1993 Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, there’s been one dominant strategy on all sides for achieving peace in the Holy Land: direct, American-mediated talks between the two sides. The US-led negotiations of 2014, known as the Kerry talks, were in part a last-ditch effort to keep that process alive. The Palestinians had already begun moving away from the old model of talking directly with the Americans and Israelis and towards a campaign to isolate and pressure Israel internationally. But it looked to many like the Palestinians were bluffing, or only hedging — trying to bring more pressure to direct peace talks, not sidestep them. [Continue reading…]

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Israel to ask U.S. Congress members to halt aid to Palestinians

Haaretz reports: After freezing the transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, Israel is taking additional steps to punish the PA’s for its request to join the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

A senior Israeli official said on Sunday Jerusalem would be contacting pro-Israel members of the U.S. Congress to ensure the enforcement of legislation stipulating that if the Palestinians initiate any action against Israel at the ICC, the State Department would have to stop American aid to the PA, which comes to some $400 million annually. The stop-gap funding bill was passed in Congress last month.

Both houses of the new Congress to be seated later this month will be controlled by the Republican Party, with many key positions filled by senators and representatives who are pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian. The law regarding the Palestinians initiating action at the ICC is strongly worded and states that President Barack Obama cannot waive a decision to halt aid to the PA. [Continue reading…]

Zvi Bar’el writes: The half billion shekels ($128 million) in tax revenues that were to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority, but which were frozen by Israel last Friday, are a little bit less than the amount the PA spends on salaries for its employees in a single month.

This fact underlies the grave fear that the authority will be forced to delay salary payments until it finds a different solution.

It is worth recalling now that one of the main justifications for the protest in the Gaza Strip before Operation Protective Edge, which encouraged Hamas to attack Israel last summer, was the complete ban imposed by Jerusalem on the transfer of the tax money from the PA and Qatar, to the Islamic movement’s government in Gaza.

We can learn from this that any sanctions imposed by Jerusalem on the PA could very well serve as a double-edged sword against Israel. [Continue reading…]

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Israel to halt transfer of tax revenues to Palestinians following ICC bid

Haaretz reports: Israel has decided to freeze the transfer of half a billion shekels (more than $127 million) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians following the Palestinians’ recent attempts to join the International Criminal Court, an Israeli official has told Haaretz.

“The funds for the month of December were due to pass on Friday, but it was decided to half the transfer as part of the response to the Palestinian move,” the official said.

Israel, he said, would not let the Palestinians’ actions go unanswered. “We are a law-abiding nation that actively investigates its own conduct, and we can prove that easily.” [Continue reading…]

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Now I understand how and why the Palestinians lost Palestine

Ghazi Hamad, deputy foreign minister of Hamas, recently wrote an op-ed in Arabic appearing on Arabic websites and which has now been translated into English and published with his permission by the Times of Israel: I was very hesitant before I wrote this “harsh” title. I erased it time after time and rewrote it. But every time I reread the article, the title jumps to my mind and drags me towards it.

The title hit me while I was attending a meeting of some political powers. I was listening to them talk for more than three hours and it seemed futile, lost, insipid.

It was not the first meeting I left feeling aggravated. I had previously taken part in discussions, be it bilateral between Hamas and Fatah or “national” dialogue that brings everyone together. I attended tens of conferences, seminars and workshops for “brainstorming.” But this time a profound sadness overcame me and feelings began to consume me. What are they saying? What are they doing? What time are they wasting? What world are they living in? Suddenly, a thought popped into my mind, unbidden: Now do you understand why Palestine is lost?

It was dangerous, frightening and scary. I no longer have any doubt that these sterile seminars and workshops that were repeated a thousand times, were nothing but blabbering, rumination of the past and fleeing from facing the facts.

I recalled many of these summits, agreements and understandings that have been signed since 1993 until the Shati Agreement in 2014… they passed in a moment and disappeared.

It seemed to me that we had lost dozens of years in haggling, disagreements and differences over texts that did not bring us anything but more resentment and fragmented, failed solutions. And because of the devolvement of these issues, I look at where we have arrived after a twenty year political process of failure and searching for success on paper, and I look at the state of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in terms of its weakness and attenuation, and I look at the political and societal division and how our divisions have sharpened until it became an indispensable tradition?

What calamity did the Palestinians create by themselves for themselves?

We have always held the Arab regimes responsible for the loss of Palestine, which is an indisputable matter, and have equally faulted the Western regimes for their collusion and unlimited support for Israel… But what is our share in bearing responsibility? [Continue reading…]

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Joining International Criminal Court wouldn’t guarantee Palestinians a war crimes case

The New York Times reports: The political fallout from the Palestinian move Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court is likely to be swift and profound.

Israel is expected to withhold tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, restrict officials’ travel and possibly advance settlement activity in sensitive spots in the West Bank. The United States Congress may cut off $400 million in aid to the Palestinians. The already dim prospects for renewing peace talks now seem null.

But legal repercussions from last summer’s war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, or Israel’s settlements, would take longer and face many hurdles.

The cases Palestinians plan to bring against Israel, and potential counterclaims against Palestinian officials, are unlike any the International Criminal Court has tackled in its dozen-year history. The Hague court, facing new scrutiny after the collapse last month of its case against the president of Kenya, may be wary of wading into the fraught politics of the Middle East, though doing so could help it rebuff longstanding criticism of its emphasis on pursuing African despots.

“It may jump at the chance because it’s under fire,” Geoffrey Robertson, a British lawyer and author, said of the court, which he follows closely. “This is an opportunity to get out of the endless African wars and to do something which is very much in the public eye, and very much of public importance,” he added. “It would be a new and possibly productive way to deal with the cloudy legalities.” [Continue reading…]

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Palestinians request membership of ICC

Al Jazeera reports: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a document at a meeting in Ramallah requesting membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Abbas signed the document on Wednesday, a day after a UN Security Council (UNSC) failed to pass a resolution that had aimed to set a deadline for Israel to end its occupation of territories sought by the Palestinians.

The president also signed a raft of about 20 other treaties, aligning Palestine with various international organisations.

The decision sets the stage for filing a war crimes case against Israel for its actions in Gaza. Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to take action following the announcement. [Continue reading…]

Julian Borger writes: ICC membership is a powerful weapon but it is also double-edged. It defines the geographical area in which such crimes can be investigated, and the Palestinian leadership could also define a time period for the prosecutors to examine, but it cannot dictate the target of such an investigation. For example, if Abbas now seeks a retroactive investigation of the last bloody bout of violence in Gaza last summer, as he has the right to do, both the Israel Defence Forces and Hamas would be scrutinised for their actions.

That was one reason for delay. Hamas is Abbas’s principal challenger on the Palestinian political scene, but he wanted to secure its approval before making a final decision on ICC membership. There were other reasons for caution. The threat of joining the court was also one of the few meaningful bargaining chips Abbas could take into the negotiating chamber with his Israeli counterpart, Binyamin Netanyahu. Now it has been used, he is virtually empty-handed. But such chips are only of any use when there is a dialogue and a diplomatic process. Right now, there is neither.

It is not the first time the Palestinians have sought redress at the ICC, which has been reluctant to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As long ago as 2009, they went to the court in The Hague with an ad hoc request for a war crimes investigation in the wake of an earlier Israeli offensive in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead. The chief prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno Ocampo, took three years to decide on the status of that request before announcing in 2012 that it was a decision about Palestinian statehood that could only be taken by the UN general assembly. In November 2012, the UN voted to recognise Palestine as a non-member observer state, which gave it the right to join the ICC and make ad hoc requests for investigations. Moreno Ocampo’s successor as prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, ruled that Palestine’s new status could not be applied to its 2009 request for an investigation. If the leadership wanted such an investigation, Bensouda argued, it would have submit the request again. But Abbas came under intense pressure from the Israelis, Americans, British and other Europeans not to do so, backed up by threats of financial and economic sanctions.

Wednesday’s decision will exact a price in the form of such punitive measures that could cripple the Palestinian Authority. But Abbas clearly decided he had been treading water for far too long. A fter the defeat on Tuesday of a UN security council resolution demanding an end to occupation by 2017, and with his popularity plummeting, he has sought to carve out as much Palestinian sovereignty as he can as a political legacy. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times adds: “There is no question mark as to what are the consequences, that there will be immediate American and Israeli financial sanctions,” said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. “Those sanctions will gradually become more and more crippling, and this could indeed be the beginning of the end of the P.A. They fully realize that.”

A poll in December by Mr. Shikaki’s group found that just 35 percent of Palestinians approved of the president’s performance, down from 50 percent before the fighting in Gaza. If there were elections now, the poll found, Mr. Abbas and his more secular Fatah party would be defeated by Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates the Gaza Strip. Reconstruction in Gaza after the devastating war has stalled amid continuing acrimony between Hamas and Fatah despite an April reconciliation pact, and analysts said Mr. Abbas was desperate to show that he was effective.

“They have to take some meaningful steps to recover anything of their really shredded credibility,” Nadia Hijab, executive director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, said of Mr. Abbas’s team. “That fig leaf of action is growing steadily more tattered. They keep saying it’s a new paradigm and they want to use international tools, but now they have actually been put on the spot.”

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U.S. will veto Palestinian UN bid

Ben Caspit writes: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Rome on Dec. 15, in an effort to formulate a joint position in response to planned moves by the Palestinians at the United Nations in the coming weeks.

Following the meeting, the big question still lingered: Would the Americans cast a veto over a potential Palestinian request that the United Nations’ Security Council recognize Palestine as an independent state? Netanyahu did not divulge to reporters who accompanied him on the plane whether he received an American guarantee for the sought-after veto. White House officials said the issue was still being debated.

On the night of Dec. 16, however, it became known that the decision has been made. The Americans will indeed cast a veto over the Palestinian request. This veto will be welcomed with satisfaction in Jerusalem. Surprisingly enough, Ramallah will also receive it with understanding. [Continue reading…]

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Europe’s frustration with Israel on peace talks tests U.S. diplomacy

The New York Times reports: The United States finds itself caught between growing European pressure to do more to advance Middle East peace and Washington’s traditional support for Israel, which is in a heated election campaign and reluctant to make unilateral concessions.

That dynamic was at the center of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Rome and Paris on Monday. Amid rising European frustration with the collapse of the peace process, the Palestinian Authority announced Sunday that it would press for a United Nations Security Council resolution this week setting a time frame for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and for recognition of Palestine as a state.

At the same time, France, Germany and Britain were busy drafting a resolution that would call for an immediate resumption of peace talks to lead to a sovereign Palestine, United Nations diplomats said.

Sweden has already recognized Palestine as a state, various European legislatures have urged their governments to do the same, and the European Parliament is expected to vote on a nonbinding resolution recognizing Palestine on Wednesday.

Hoping to find a way to redirect those efforts, Mr. Kerry spent Monday meeting Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and European foreign ministers. He is scheduled to visit London on Tuesday to see Palestinian negotiators and the leader of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, on what has been a hastily organized trip. Mr. Kerry may find help from the Jordanians, who would have to put forward a Security Council resolution for the Palestinians and have said they are not yet committed to doing so this week.

On Sunday evening, even before meeting Mr. Kerry, the Palestinians announced their plan to press for a vote on their resolution at the Security Council as early as Wednesday. The move seemed to be an effort to pressure the United States either to veto the resolution or to come up with language, in any French-sponsored resolution, that is closer to the Palestinian position.

But with the announcement, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was also responding to internal politics after the death last week at an anti-settlement demonstration in the West Bank of a Palestinian minister, Ziad Abu Ein, who was in an altercation with Israeli forces. The Palestinians have put the blame for his death on Israel, which says he died from a stress-related heart attack. [Continue reading…]

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Abbas backs Egypt crackdown on Gaza tunnels

AFP reports: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he supported Egypt’s crackdown on tunnels linking the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the Sinai Peninsula and any other action the country took to protect itself from militants, according to a media report Thursday.

“We have supported all the precautionary measures taken by the Egyptian authorities to close the tunnels and stop the trafficking of arms and the passage of people between Gaza and the Sinai,” Abbas said in an interview with Egyptian magazine Al-Ahram Al-Arabi due to be published on Saturday, extracts of which were published by MENA news agency.

“We will continue to support any measure protecting Egypt from danger,” Abbas was quoted as saying. [Continue reading…]

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Palestine minister’s autopsy results disputed

Al Jazeera reports: A Palestinian official has said that the autopsy on Ziad Abu Ein’s body proves that Israel’s actions led to the death of a Palestinian minister, while Israel disagrees with the findings of the same autopsy.

Abu Ein died on Wednesday shortly after an Israeli border policeman shoved and grabbed him by the throat during a protest in the occupied West Bank.

Thousands of Palestinians attended his funeral in Ramallah on Thursday. Israel has beefed up its security forces in the West Bank as fresh protests were expected over the minister’s death.

The head of the Palestinian civil affairs, Hussein Al Sheikh, told a Palestinian radio that the autopsy, which was carried out overnight, showed Abu Ein died because of a beating by Israeli soldiers and inhaling large amounts of tear gas, adding that Israelis delayed his transfer to the hospital.

He also said the Israeli forensic expert, who was present at the postmortem, agreed to the findings of the autopsy.

However, the Israeli side rejected agreeing to the findings.

“Israeli officials said that heart attack was the reason why the minister died, adding that it might have been brought on when was he grabbed in the neck by an Israeli soldier,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said. [Continue reading…]

Human Rights Watch: Multiple witnesses have described how a senior Palestinian official who died on December 10, 2014 had been assaulted by at least three Israeli border police. The witnesses all stated that the official, Ziad Abu Ein, 55, had not used any force against the Israeli forces, and that the security forces were suppressing a peaceful demonstration against Israel’s unlawful West Bank settlements. The evidence of the witnesses all suggested that Abu Ein could not reasonably have been seen to pose any threat to the security forces, meaning the assaults on him were unlawful.

The border police had blocked Abu Ein, the Palestinian Authority minister responsible for dealing with Israeli settlements and the separation barrier in the West Bank, and a group of about 120 other people from reaching an area near Turmus Ayya, a Palestinian town north of Ramallah, where they planned to plant olive trees. Four witnesses said that the protest was peaceful, accounts that video recordings and photographs of the confrontation by news media and protest participants corroborated.

“Israeli forces marked Human Rights Day by assaulting Palestinians peacefully attempting to plant olive trees, including a senior official who posed no physical threat and then died,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Israel’s allies should demand accountability for the assault, and for an end to the illegal settlement land-grabs that Abu Ein was protesting.”

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