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Dec. 16, 2014
Daily summary- Tuesday, January 14, 2014
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The PLO’s Executive Committee confirmed yesterday that the current peace process is threatened with collapse if it is not actively backed up by international and recognized terms of reference. The executive committee called on its political committee in a meeting last night to immediately prepare a plan for the implementation of UN resolutions on Palestine’s membership in order to join international UN charters and agreements. The PLO said the main reason for the impasse in the peace process was the continued practices of Netanyahu’s government, namely the unprecedented settlement expansion, aimed at cancelling out the peace process and replacing it with a formula to annex Jerusalem and take absolute control over vast swathes of the West Bank. The Executive Committee also condemned siege and starvation of Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp in Syria, calling on all relevant parties to remove the obstacles in place and halt all military acts in order for food and medical assistance to be allowed entry into the camp. (

A high ranking Palestinian official revealed the details of Secretary John Kerry’s proposals during his meeting with President Abbas at the beginning of the month. The official, who spoke to Al Quds in Amman on condition of anonymity said Kerry proposed that the issue of Jerusalem be resolved by considering Abu dis, Beit Hanina, Shufat, Essawiyeh and Ezzariyeh as Arab Jerusalem, where the Palestinian capital would be established. The source said Kerry did not agree to the Palestinian demand that Israel withdraw from occupied East Jerusalem, saying ‘alternative’ solutions needed to be found that took into consideration the settlement reality and refraining from dividing the city, maintaining it as a unified capital of two states. Kerry did not clarify how this capital would be run. The official also said Kerry called on Abbas to recognize the Jewish state of Israel and also showed his support for Israel’s so-called security demands. Kerry also proposed the same definition of settlement blocs as Israel proposes, which includes major settlement blocs and neighboring settlement enclaves, which he also said would be annexed to Israel. The source went on to say that Abbas remained adamant in adhering to Palestinian rights, including the right of return, which Kerry said was not applicable. (Al Quds)

Palestinian sources announced last night that eight Palestinian refugees had died in Syria as a result of the siege on Yarmouk Camp and the ongoing conflict in the country. The working group for Palestinians in Syria said the deaths included 80-year old Jameel Qurbi, Basel Shihabi, 40, and a woman named Noor, 50, all of who died from malnutrition and dehydration. 10-year old Mahmoud Sabbagh was also killed by a sniper’s bullet in the camp during a march the people participated in, demanding that the siege be lifted. 19-year old Majed Awad and Ziad Al Naji were also shot and killed during the march. Mohammed Taher, from the Khan Al Sheikh camp, meanwhile, died under torture in a Syrian regime prison and Hassan Nofal was killed when an explosive barrel was dropped on his home, also in Khan Al Zeit. (

Humanitarian aid convoys were unable to enter the Yarmouk camp yesterday after being subjected to heavy gunfire according to Palestinian officials. According to the head of the PLO political department in Syria, Anwar Abdel Hadi to France Presse, an aids convoy was shot at when it approached the camp, saying he hoped that a solution could be reached for the convoy to enter. According to an Islamic Jihad representative in Damascus, the convoy had to turn back after being shot at, saying they had not yet identified the source of the gunfire. Abdel Hadi said the convoy was comprised of six trucks from UNRWA that carried 1,700 food packages that would be enough for the families for 20 days. (Al Ayyam)
PLO delegation head in Syria Ahmad Majdalani however, said that armed ‘Da’ash” and “Nusra Front” groups had intercepted the aid convoys and opened fire at them. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

After 20 years of the Qatari job market remaining closed to the Palestinians, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad issued a decree opening up 20,000 job opportunities for Palestinians in his country. Palestine’s ambassador to Qatar Munir Ghannam said the decree was aimed at alleviating the unemployment crisis and supporting the steadfastness of the Palestinian people. Ghannam said he expected the application process to begin within the next few days through the coordination between the Palestinian foreign an labor ministries and according to the needs of the Qatari labor market along with the two corresponding Qatari ministries. He also said the jobs would be announced in Palestinian websites and newspapers for workers to apply. (

Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al Qidra said yesterday that Bassam Ismail Al Farmawi, 29 from Rafah, was killed yesterday while working in a smuggling tunnel. He said Farmawi was killed by electric shock inside the tunnel, making his death the first in several months following the closure of most smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. (

Palestinian medical and security sources said yesterday that a child was injured in two air raids by Israeli war planes yesterday on the Gaza Strip. According to ministry of health spokesperson in Gaza Ashraf Al Qidra, a three-year old child was injured by shrapnel from an air raid that struck a site in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. A local security source also said that a site belonging to the Izzedin Qassam brigades was struck, damaging it. Eyewitnesses said a training site belonging to the Jihad’s Quds Brigades was hit in Khan Younis but resulted in no injuries or damages. The shelling followed an announcement by the Israeli army saying that two mortar rockets had been fired into southern Israel after the funeral of Ariel Sharon. (Al Quds)

Israeli ministry of housing and construction Uri Ariel said last night that the latest tenders announcement for construction in settlements had been carried out in coordination with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Ariel added during an interview with Israel radio, that even if the United States did not like the tenders announcement, construction in settlements would continue. Ariel pointed out that even though the United States was Israel’s biggest ally, “it still did things that we don’t like.” (Al Quds)

President Mahmoud Abbas received last night German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; PLO executive committee member Saeb Erekat said the president called on Germany and the international community to put a stop to Israel’s policies, which are destroying Kerry’s efforts and the peace process. On his part, the German minister said he believed this was a sensitive and crucial stage, calling on both sides to show flexibility to reach a compromise. Steinmeier also said that no more announcements should be made for the construction of settlement housing units, adding that such announcements were contradictory to peace efforts. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)

Egyptian Major General Mahmoud Khalaf said yesterday that Hamas should expect Egyptian military action in Gaza if it did not hand over the Strip to the PA. On a television program, Khalaf said that Hamas was “in trouble” and that Egypt would hold accountable anyone who tampered with Egypt’s security during the revolution and anyone who carried out criminal actions against it. He said that the Muslim Brotherhood was terrorist and had ‘ended forever” and that Egyptian security forces were ‘very strong’ and would not let any criminal get away. (Al Ayyam)

Popular resistance activists in Bethlehem closed off the main gate to the Eliezer settlement yesterday near the main Bethlehem-Hebron road and also planted dozens of olive tree saplings on land threatened with confiscation. The land belongs to Daoud Mousa, from the village of Al Khader near the settlement. The olive tree planting was part of a project in conjunction with the agricultural relief agency and the Arab association for the protection of nature. (Al Ayyam)

A Hamas official said yesterday that the movement must get ‘guarantees’ before agreeing to hold general elections that their results would be recognized. Hamas leader Salah Bardawil said to Xinhua that the movement was currently studying Fatah’s proposal to hold elections six months after the formation of a national unity government within the framework of achieving national reconciliation. Bardawil said they would respond within days, but said they insisted on guarantees that the election results would be recognized and accepted if Hamas won. He also said that Hamas agreed to the general principles of the reconciliation but that ‘details and guarantees were very important too.” (Al Ayyam)

According to the Israeli daily Maariv today, Israel’s ambassadors to the EU warned of the atmosphere in the EU, which they said was promoting the boycott of Israel and not just of the settlements. The newspaper said the ambassadors, who participated in the annual meeting of the Israeli foreign ministry, expressed their fears of the damages that could result from the EU’s policies. A senior foreign ministry official said that the EU was indeed carrying out a boycott policy o settlements, saying they prepared a black list of names of settlers who would have to get a visa to enter European countries even though other Israelis were not required to do so. “This European policy is encouraging other countries in the world to boycott Israel, something which will turn Israel into a shunned state,” said the employee. (سفرا-إسرائيل-الاتحاد-الأوروبي-يشجع-مقاطعة-إسرائيل-وليس-فقط-المستوطنات/)

The “Times of Israel” newspaper said the Egyptian foreign ministry sent diplomats to attend the funeral of former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon yesterday. According to the newspaper, the Egyptian embassy sent its second in line official in the embassy to the funeral, adding that the diplomat’s name was not made public. According to Maariv, dozens of people attended the funeral under tight security measures while several buses, ready to shuttle thousands of people to the funeral remained empty. The newspaper said less than 100 people were there after thousands were expected. (صحيفة-وفد-مصري-حضر-جنازة-شارون.html)
*Hamdallah prepares to solve situation of security members (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Series of earthquakes hit northern Palestine (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Battle of “breaking bones” waged between employee union and government (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Swedish parliamentarian attacks his foreign minister for praising Sharon (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*People of Sinai kill seven Takfeeri Salafists in revenge operation south of Rafah (Al Ayyam)
*Baghdad: 25 killed and dozens injured in car bombing (Al Ayyam)
*Waqf ministry celebrates the Prophet’s birthday with attendance from the President (Al Quds)
* Arab ministerial delegation meets with Kerry; confirms its support for the Palestinian position on all issues (Al Quds)
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Damascus: UNRWA trucks carry food assistance on their way to the Yarmuk camp for Palestinians
Al-Ayyam:1) trucks carrying food aid wait to be allowed into Yarmouk camp; 2) Bethlehem: occupation prevents activists from planting olive trees on land threatened with confiscation in Al Khader
Al Hayat Al Jadida:1) The President while receiving children of the “children’s cries for Yarmouk” campaign in Ramallah; 2) Activists close the entrance to Eliezer settlement and raise the victory sign
Voice of Palestine News
Jerusalem: Israeli occupation troops broke into homes in the Ras Amoud neighborhood of the city, which was part of the overall raids on homes in Jerusalem since the start of the year, which have so far led to the detention of more than 40 youths. Yesterday, police dogs were used in the raids to terrorize the citizens. One house that was raided yesterday only had a woman and child inside. Israel claimed it was searching for weapons in the house, something the family denied.
Also, minors have reported that they have been tortured and sexually harassed during their arrest and after they are taken to police stations. They say they that their genitals have been frisked under the pretext of ‘searches.”
Dozens of buildings have also been photographed in several areas of Jerusalem, ahead of being slapped with demolition orders most likely.
Gaza Strip:  Israeli air planes have finally calmed down after residents heard several explosions in the early morning hours of today. The explosions were mock raids in various areas of the Strip. This follows the F-16 attacks on Palestinian resistance sites. In these attacks, a child was injured by shrapnel in the face. One electricity generator was also damaged in the raid.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
**Head of public relations in the Jericho police, Iyad Durgham, on the shooting death of a young man yesterday
Q: What details do you have about this crime?
An investigation was opened yesterday into the incident. What we know is that this was an act of revenge between the two parties. Khaled Husni Mohammed 24, from Ezzariyeh was killed in the shootout. He was shot point blank in the center of Jericho. The police apprehended the shooter and seized the weapon.
**Minister of agricultureWaleed Assaf, on the plan to compensate farmers who have been harmed by settler attacks
Q: What is the mechanism for compensating these farmers and has the ministry done surveys on these areas?
Yes, we are always surveying and documenting settler attacks and also attacks by the Israeli army through committees that report back to us with their assessments. We do this, not just for documentation – although we have a large and accurate database of these attacks – but it is also used for relief services for the farmers. We have already distributed $1.3 million to farmers affected by settler and army attacks. Part of the compensation – less than $5,000 – is paid directly – and the others are through projects, in conjunction with the EU to rebuild the projects that were destroyed. We want to help the farmers to remain steadfast and also to be able to sustain their source of income and living.
**PLO Executive Committee secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo, on the PLO meeting last night and Israel’s reaction to its decisions
Q:  The leadership took a decision to immediately request full membership in the UN and its agencies. Is this tantamount to declaring the negotiations process failed?
No, this is merely a right of the Palestinians ever since it gained observer state membership for Palestine. Hence, it is imperative that we move forward and request membership in UN and international agencies and sign treaties. We feel this is the right time to take this step regardless of whether there are negotiations or not. We have a right to join.
This is an urgent issue and the steps will be taken soon. The political committee will meet within the next few days to put a plan for this.
Q: Isn’t the issue of the prisoner release linked with the Palestinians’ promise not to go to the UN? Would this affect the release of the  fourth group of pre-Oslo prisoners?
No, I don’t think so. We believe this step is ripe right now from the political aspect because, among other factors, Israel continues to shun all calls to end its settlement activity and continues with its policy to destroy any chances of an independent Palestinian state. It is not respecting any international rules, laws or references.
Q: What about Netanyahu’s reaction, saying President Abbas is not willing to take any decisions for continuing negotiations? What do you read into this?
We are used to this deceptive approach taken by Netanyahu. This is his style of deception and does not convince anyone. What political decisions has he made that have pushed the political process forward? Nothing. Just more settlements and denial of Palestinian rights to a homeland. Netanyahu continues to repeat his despicable ideological claims in order to continue his settlement enterprise, saying all of this land is part of Israel’s historical homeland.
Q: The Israeli housing ministry just announced today that the most recent settlement tenders were announced in coordination with Secretary Kerry. Do you think this is true?
This is a very dangerous statement and means we must demand from Kerry a clarification and response to this statement. This is not American land for them to divide it. It is not even Israeli land. No party can decide the fate of Palestinian land. So we want the Americans to respond and take a clear stance towards the issue of settlements.
More Headlines
Settlers break into the Aqsa and arrest citizen; women barred entry into the mosque
Israeli occupation forces arrested a citizen this morning from the Aqsa Mosque compound and barred four women from entering the grounds. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli police arrested Ihab Jallah, the tourist guide in the compound while we was working with a group of students in the mosque’s compound. The eyewitnesses also said the police prevented four women from entering the Aqsa Mosque without given any reason, confiscating sweets from two of them. This morning, police at the gates of the  compound imposed tight restriction on youth and women from entering the mosque. Furthermore 25 extremist Jews broke into the grounds headed by extremist Yehuda Glick, and toured the courtyard. (
Israeli force detains Hamdallah’s convoy north of Ramallah
This morning, Israeli occupation forces detained the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah between Nablus and Ramallah. According to the mayor of Turmusayieh Rebhi Abdel Rahman, an Israeli force backed up by Israeli police stopped Hamdallah’s convoy, which was on route from Nablus to Ramallah, detaining all of the cars in the group. Military reinforcements soon arrived and prevented the convoy from continuing on its path, ordering it to turn around. Hamdallah refused, insisting on continuing on his way and even putting his car in the middle of the street. Hundreds of cars were subsequently held up on both sides. Government spokesperson Ihab Bseiso said a group of settlers protected by the army intercepted the convoy, saying this was like giving the settlers a green light to carry out these violations against the Palestinians. (قوة-إسرائيلية-تحتجز-موكب-الحمد-الله-شمال-رام-الله.html)
Gaza energy authority calls on Ramallah government to increase amount of fuel to the power station
The energy and natural resources authority in Gaza warned today that the power station could stop working on Fridays and Saturdays of each week because of the methods used by the Ramallah government to send fuel to Gaza. The energy authority said in a press statement that the mechanism for providing fuel via the energy commission in Ramallah to Gaza is through only sending daily amounts to operate the power station in spite of enough funds from the Qatari grant. The authority said these funds were enough to provide much more fuel than what is being sent now, in order to compensate for the fuel lost during the days that the Karem Abu Salem crossing was closed.(طاقة-غزة-تطالب-رام-الله-بزيادة-كمية-الوقود-لمحطة-الكهرباء.html)
Arab Press
ME peace: Kerry’s mission impossible

By Hassan Barari

Long time observers of Middle East politics are skeptical with regard to American efforts to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians Authority. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it perfectly clear that he would oppose any reference to Jerusalem in the framework agreement being worked out by US Secretary of State John Kerry. This statement reveals a rift in the position of Kerry and Netanyahu over the core issue of the conflict.

To be sure, Israeli top leaders see no point of responding positively to Kerry’s relentless effort to jumpstart the peace talks unless the framework agreement is in line with Israeli demands. In the end, many Israeli leaders do not believe that the American administration is in any position to exercise pressure on their government. It seems that short of a presidential interference, Netanyahu is not expected to cooperate with Kerry and act in good faith.

And yet, President Obama learned the hard way that he could not put pressure on the Israeli government. Just two years into his first term, he acknowledged that he had overestimated his ability to impact Netanyahu. For this reason, Obama is not identifying himself with what Kerry has been doing for fear of failure. That does not mean that Obama would not throw his lot if there were a chance for success!

The irony is that it would be highly unlikely that Kerry can sell his framework agreement to the Arab side if Jerusalem is left out. For the Arab side, Jerusalem is the key issue and resolving it can lay the foundations for historical reconciliation between Israel and its adversaries. We all remember when the late Arafat turned down Israeli offer for peace during Camp David talks simply because the Israelis failed to offer enough on Jerusalem. On more than one occasion, Arafat made it perfectly clear that no one can concede East Jerusalem for the Israelis.

It remains to be seen how Israeli leaders can sell their position while the Arabs are united behind the issue of Jerusalem. Of course, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can be flexible but not on Jerusalem. But Netanyahu’s position should not be taken at face value. He understands the centrality of Jerusalem for the Palestinian negotiators and he understands pretty well that if Jerusalem were not on the table, no Palestinian negotiator would show up. It seems that this is exactly what Netanyahu would like to see. Put differently, Netanyahu seeks to undermine the process because the domestic political price for peace is extremely high that Netanyahu may not be able to afford.

Additionally, while Israelis continue paying lip service to the two-state solution, they have been creating facts on the ground to present them as a fait accompli. As soon as Kerry left Israel last week, the Israeli government announced that 1,400 more new housing units would be built on Palestinian land. Netanyahu’s decision to go ahead with the new settlements plan helps him keep his ruling coalition intact. It is as if Netanyahu has to appease the pro-settlement components of his government at the expense of the Palestinians.

While the construction of new housing units and the persistence of settlement activities can destroy the peace process, the Israeli government does not pay any price for defying the international law by building settlements on the occupied territories. Contrary to what the Palestinian negotiators said, there is simply no price tag on Israel’s policy on settlements.

Just a few days ago, the Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, said that President Abbas should forget about peace talks with Israel and find another avenue. This is exactly what would relief Netanyahu. I am not making the argument that Abbas should give in to Israeli terms but I argue that Netanyahu does not feel that he has to start a genuine peace process.

If anything, the American administration should understand that any effort that fails to address the Palestinians’ minimum demands including Jerusalem would have no chance to succeed. Therefore, Kerry’s mission will be futile if he thinks that the Arabs may accept to leave Jerusalem out of the framework agreement or Israel continues its settlement activities.(

The champion of violence

By Avi Shlaim

Ariel Sharon, who died on Saturday after eight years in a coma, was one of Israel’s most iconic and controversial figures. His long and chequered career as a soldier and politician largely revolved around one issue: The conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours. As a soldier he was involved at the sharp end of this bitter conflict. As a politician he became known as “the Bulldozer” on account of his contempt for his critics and his ruthless drive to get things done. Sharon was a deeply flawed character, renowned for his brutality, mendacity and corruption. Yet, despite these flaws, he holds a special place in the annals of his country’s history.

Sharon was an ardent Jewish nationalist, a dyed-in-the-wool hardliner and a ferocious rightwing hawk. He also displayed a consistent preference for force over diplomacy in dealing with the Arabs. Reversing Clausewitz’s famous dictum, he treated diplomacy as the extension of war by other means.

The title he chose for his biography aptly summed him up in one word — Warrior. Like Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Sharon was essentially a fighting machine. His critics denounced him as a practitioner of “gun Zionism”, as a perversion of the Zionist idea of the strong, fair-minded, and fearless Jew. To the Palestinians, Sharon represented the cold, cruel, militaristic face of the Zionist occupation.

In 1953, Major Sharon committed his first war crime: The massacre of 69 civilians in the Jordanian village of Qibya. In 1982, as minister of defence, he led Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in a war of deception that failed to achieve any of its grandiose geopolitical objectives. A commission of inquiry found Sharon responsible for failing to prevent the massacre by Christian Phalangists of Palestinian refugees in Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila camps. This verdict was etched on his forehead like a mark of Cain. But who foresaw that the man who was declared unfit to be minister of defence would bounce back as prime minister?

During the 2001 election campaign, Sharon tried to reinvent himself as a man of peace. His spin doctors cultivated the notion that old age was accompanied by a personal transformation from a sanguinary soldier into a genuine peace-seeker. US president George W. Bush famously described Sharon as “a man of peace”. For the last 40 years, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been my main research interest and I have not come across a scintilla of evidence to support this view. He was a man of war through and through, an Arab-hater, and a pugnacious proponent of the doctrine of permanent conflict. Following his rise to power, he, therefore, remained what he had always been — the champion of violent solutions.

The dominant preoccupation of Sharon’s premiership was the “war on terror” against armed Palestinian groups. No peace negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority took place between 2001 and 2006 and Sharon regarded this as something to be proud of. To his way of thinking, negotiations necessarily involve compromise and he consequently avoided them like the plague. For this reason, he also rejected all international plans aimed at a two-state solution. One was the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offered Israel peace and normalisation with all 22 members of the Arab League in return for agreeing to an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital city in occupied East Jerusalem. Another was the 2003 Quartet road map, which envisaged the emergence of a Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2005.

Sharon was the unilateralist par excellence. His ultimate aim was to redraw unilaterally Israel’s borders, incorporating large swaths of occupied territory. Stage one was to build on the West Bank the so-called security barrier which Palestinians call the apartheid wall. The international court of justice condemned this wall as illegal. It is three times as long as the pre-1967 border and its primary purpose is not security but land-grabbing. Good fences may make good neighbours, but not when they are erected in the neighbour’s garden.

Stage two consisted of the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005. This involved the uprooting of 8,000 Jews and the dismantling of many colonies — a shocking turnaround by a man who used to be called the godfather of the colonists. Withdrawal from Gaza was presented as a contribution to the Quartet’s road map, but it was nothing of the sort. The road map called for negotiations; Sharon refused to negotiate. His unilateral move was designed to freeze the political process, thereby preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and maintaining the geopolitical status quo in the West Bank.

The legal term “depraved indifference” refers to conduct that is so wanton, so callous, so reckless, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the lives of others and so blameworthy as to warrant criminal liability. Sharon personified this kind of indifference in his approach to the Palestinians.

Towards the very end of his active life, he bolted from the Likud to create the centrist party Kadima, but Kadima did not survive his demise. Today, it has only two seats in the 120-member Knesset. So Sharon’s last-minute attempt to bring about a realignment in Israeli politics ended in failure.

His enduring legacy has been to empower and embolden some of the most racist, xenophobic, expansionist and intransigent elements in Israel’s dysfunctional political system.(

‘This story is not over yet’

by James J. Zogby

At this point, we have no idea what US Secretary of State John Kerry is going to propose to Israelis and Palestinians.

Because no comprehensive peace agreement is within reach, we are told that the secretary is working, instead, on a “framework agreement”.

Precisely what this document will look like, what it will include, say and propose to do is still unclear.

Will it merely lay out the issues to be resolved? Will it define the gaps that separate the sides and propose US “bridging proposals”? Will it be issued by the US or will it be signed by the Israeli prime minister and the PLO chairman?

There are, at this point, no answers to these questions because the effort remains a work in progress. That is all we know.

Despite Washington’s refusal to release any information, the US press has been filled with accounts telling a very different story.

Early on, there were reports that the US had fully embraced Israeli concerns on most issues, including Israeli security needs in the Jordan Valley, the insistence that there be no “right of return” for Palestinians and the demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a “Jewish state”.

If everything were going so swimmingly well for Israel, how are we to account for its behaviour last week?

When Kerry met with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter attempted to turn their joint press event into a session bashing the Palestinian leadership, accusing Mahmoud Abbas of embracing terrorists and engaging in incitement, questioning whether Israel had a genuine “partner” in the search for peace.

Kerry was apparently taken aback by this intemperate and uncalled for display of vehemence. But that was not the end of the Israeli counter-thrust.

During this same period, Netanyahu, speaking before various audiences in Israel, announced that he would not sign any agreement that would include a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem or call for an evacuation of controversial Israeli colonies in Hebron and Beit El.

A few days earlier, a group of ministers in Netanyahu’s Cabinet passed a motion to submit legislation to the Knesset calling for the annexation of the Jordan Valley. They followed this vote by a visit to that region’s settlements, pledging their intention to retain control over the area.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s coalition partner Naftali Bennet took the extreme position of announcing that his party would leave the government in the wake of any agreement that required Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Netanyahu’s partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, while praising Kerry’s effort as the “best proposal we can get”, added that he would not accept the “right of return” for even a single Palestinian refugee.

Lieberman also conditioned his support by positing the notion that the “land swaps” with the Palestinians should involve ceding Israel’s largely Arab “Little Triangle” to the new Palestinian entity.

At week’s end, Netanyahu put the “icing on the cake” by announcing tenders for the construction of 1,400 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

If the earlier press accounts are right and Kerry’s efforts have largely endorsed Israel’s positions on most issues, then how do we account for this all-out assault?

It cannot be that Netanyahu was merely shoring up his political position by preparing his base for eventual concessions, since the combined rhetorical onslaught only served to make concessions more difficult.

For the same reason, it is unlikely that the entire effort was designed by Netanyahu in order to demonstrate to the US secretary the precariousness of his domestic political situation.

It may be that Israelis have most of what they want, but want more.

They may be pressing the US to force a framework on the Palestinians that is more of a surrender than an agreement.

But the combined demands they have put forward would make the “framework” a bad joke, one that would destroy the chances for any peace arrangement. Given how much the US has invested in this process, it is unlikely that it would conclude it by issuing such a document.

A more plausible explanation is that Kerry is quite serious and is pushing hard to come up with a framework that advances peace, and this has caused some real discomfort on the Israeli right.

A rule of thumb I have learned in politics is that when, in the midst of private negotiations, one side starts yelling the loudest and then takes its complaints and demands to the press, that side is losing.

This is not to say that I am optimistic or even hopeful.

The way forward remains a long and tortuous path.

I cannot imagine that the Palestinian leadership will surrender and accept a framework agreement that signs away Palestinians’ basic rights. Neither can I believe that the US will offer a proposal that will be rejected outright by Palestinians and Arab public opinion, at large.

The US is aware that there is too much at stake in the region and is not interested in fuelling more discontent.

That is why it is best to take a deep breath and not overreact to rumours and the hyperventilation of the Israeli right. This story is not over yet.(
The miserable joy over Sharon’s death
By Hilmi Al Asmar
The joy that some people took in Sharon’s death embarrasses me because it uncovers the disastrous state of the collective Arab mind, which waits for a divine victory from the heavens instead of from us. We wait for some other hand to take revenge on our enemies, one other than our own. If we had been the ones who killed him, then we would have the right to rejoice. But his death, like a camel in a chamber torture, is nothing to take joy from.
Still, this does not prevent us from contemplating his death from another angle. There were physicians who said that Sharon died after eight years of being in permanent vegetative state, which is distinguished by cycles of sleep and alertness, feelings and dormancy, opening and closing  of the eyes and incomprehensible speech and screaming. The most accurate description of this state was given by Professor Jacob Appel from the Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, who said that these patients are prisoners inside their own bodies and suffer painful torture. This confirms that Sharon was not in a coma or unconscious but was in a terrifying state of wakefulness, which prompts the maximum amount of torture. This is a sign of how God deals with one of his vigilante slaves who has committed atrocities for which he did not deserve the ‘reward’ of death; hence, death became a distant comfort.
Even the funeral of this criminal had a rhythm of its own, different to what we have grown accustomed to in funerals of leaders and presidents. It turned out that no official or figure from Africa, Asia or Latin America showed up, even at the last moment, to participate in Sharon’s funeral. Furthermore, the majority of European countries preferred to lower the level of their representation at the funeral where no more than 700 of his closest acquaintances and family attended, in addition to a few official guests.
In the collective Palestinian and human mind, the name of Ariel Sharon is linked to a series of massacres against the Palestinians – namely the Qibya massacre of 1953, the killing and torture of Egyptian prisoners in 1967, the invasion of Beirut and the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla. He is also known for provoking Muslim sentiments by breaking into the Aqsa Mosque compound in 2000 and for the Jenin massacre of 2002.  He was responsible for the assassination of a number of Palestinian resistance men, namely Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of Hamas. And for this, he fully deserved the seen long years of non-death and non-life.
There is one more side that we must all look at in the life of this killer, which is the aspect of his ‘service to the project of Israel as a criminal state, at least by our standards. By those who advocate this project, his service was ‘pioneering.
It is really unfortunate that the first thing that pops into our heads when we read the biography of this person and his country is how much we are in need of real leaders – not the criminal type like Sharon, but leaders who are loyal to the idea of project of their country. (
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