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PART OF KERRY’S PROPOSALS: AMERICAN TROOPS IN JORDAN VALLEY; FOUR OPTIONS FOR RESOLVING REFUGEE ISSUE
News leaks about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals for a settlement yesterday revolved around the possibility of deploying US troops on the Palestinian side of the Jordan Valley as an alternative to an Israeli presence, something the Palestinians rejected, saying they would only accept full Palestinian sovereignty over Palestinian land.
Furthermore, according to Palestinian official, Kerry proposed four options to solve the Palestinian refugee issue, none of which is the right of return. The official, who spoke to the Jordanian newspaper “Al Ghad” on condition of anonymity, said the options included giving refugees the option to move and resettle in Canada or to stay in their current places of residence, especially in Jordan, which hosts over than 42% of the 6 million registered Palestinian refugees. The official also said Kerry gave a third option, which was to live within the borders of the future Palestinian state, while the fourth choice revolves around requesting residency inside Israel, which would be based on certain criteria and regulations placed by Israel on a ‘humanitarian basis”. He said Kerry added that the three choices – with the exception of living in a Palestinian state – would only be possible with the approval of the other party [Canada, Jordan and Israel]. Apparently Kerry made it clear that he thought the best option was for the refugees to stay where they are in Jordan and to deal with the Lebanon refugees as a priority. He also stressed that under no circumstances do the options include the right of return.
Apparently, the British Chatham House has begun an in-depth study on the ‘scope and mechanisms of compensation” for Palestinian refugees. (Al Quds)

SETTLERS BURN ENTRANCE TO MOSQUE IN NORTHERN WEST BANK; ATTACK FARMERS IN BURIN
Early this morning, Jewish settlers burned down the entrance to the Ali Bin Abi Taleb Mosque in Deir Istya near Salfeet. According to settlement official in the northern West Bank Ghassan Daghlas, a group of settlers set fire to the entrance of the mosque but residents of the village were able to prevent the flames from spreading to the rest of the building. The settlers also scrawled five racist slogans on the mosque walls threatening to take revenge on Arabs, especially after the Qusra events. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665302)
In related news, a number of settlers from Bracha attacked farmers from the village of Burin south of Nablus while they were opening up a new country road east of the village, near the settlement. The villagers said the settlers pelted them with stones but that the people were still able to prevent them and the Israeli army from approaching the bulldozer which was opening the road. (Al Ayyam)

21 PEOPLE PERISH FROM HUNGER IN YARMOUK CAMP; DOZENS OF WOMEN MISCARRY
According to the working group for Palestinians in Syria, 21 people have perished from hunger because of the ongoing siege imposed on the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus. The group said that the 21 have died since the beginning of the month after the siege which has continued for 185 days and which has resulted in the depletion of food, medicines and baby formula. The group also said that epidemics have spread inside the camp because of piled up trash and the halt of all infrastructure services such as electricity, means of communication and internet. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665289)
Furthermore, member of FIDA in Syria, Khaled Abu Hayja’ said yesterday that dozens of Palestinian women had miscarried in Yarmouk camp because of the lack of sufficient food and nutrition. He said infants had died because no milk formula was allowed to enter and supplies had been depleted. (http://www.alquds.co.uk/?p=123171)

PRIME MINISTER TO ISRAELI POLICE: YOU ARE A DESPICABLE DOG ON OCCUPIED LAND
After the convoy of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was stopped at an Israeli checkpoint in Turmusayieh yesterday by settlers and Israeli soldiers, an Israeli source claimed that Hamdallah’s driver was speeding. The source also said that Hamdallah refused to continue until he was apologized to, calling an Israeli police officer, “a despicable dog on occupied land” according to the Israeli source. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665069)

THE PA CONSIDERS THE ISRAELI “ATTACK’ ON ABBAS AS A REJECTION OF PEACE
Yesterday, the PA said it considered what it called the Israeli ‘attack’ on President Mahmoud Abbas because of his stances in peace negotiations as the Israeli government’s rejection of peace. Presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeineh said in a statement that the attack on President Abbas from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister and a group of Israeli officials exposes the depth of this government’s rejection of any real and viable peace. He also said that the Israeli statements against Abbas “reaffirm the need to immediately begin preparing a practical plan for reaping the benefits of the State of Palestine according to UN resolutions.” Abu Rdeineh called on the Israeli leadership to reevaluate matters and abide by the terms of reference and obligations of the peace process instead of placing obstacles and destroying the efforts of the American administration through its settlement activities. (http://www.alquds.co.uk/?p=122953)

ISRAELI EDUCATION SYSTEM TO EXCLUDE LEBANON INVASION AND DISENGAGEMENT FOM GAZA FROM SHARON’S HISTORY
The Israeli ministry of education has decided to dedicate next week to giving all students in Israeli schools a special lesson about Ariel Sharon and his life. According to the Israeli news website Walla yesterday, the students will be given a lesson about Sharon, depicting him as a shepherd and a family man with a military history, highlighting his leadership qualities. The lesson will not, however, mention anything about the first Lebanon invasion of 1982 or the disengagement from Gaza and its subsequent evacuation of settlements there. According to the Hebrew-language site, the exclusions are aimed at “cleaning up Sharon’s past’”. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665285)

PALESTINIAN DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION RAISED IN DENMARK
Palestine and Denmark signed an agreement yesterday to upgrade the diplomatic status of Palestinian representation in Denmark. The signing took place at the Danish foreign ministry between Palestine’s ambassador to Denmark, Amr Hurani and Danish foreign secretary Holger Nielsen. The upgraded status will grant Palestine’s mission in Denmark full diplomatic status, similar to embassies of independent countries.  (Al Quds)

EGYPTIAN CITIZENSHIP REVOKED FROM ZAHHAR AND ABU MARZOUQ
The security committee responsible for granting Egyptian citizenship to Palestinians after the January 25 revolution and during the tenure of isolated President Mohammed Mursi, decided to revoke the citizenships of 17 Hamas officials yesterday, including Mahmoud Zahhar and Mousa Abu Marzouq. A security official in the Egyptian interior ministry also said that the security committee was looking into the papers of all Palestinians who obtained Egyptian citizenship, most of whom are from the Gaza Strip, in order to ensure that they went through the proper procedures and regulations, which the committee said, applied to Zahhar and Abu Marzouq. They said some of the 17 leaders had obtained citizenship as a ‘favor’ from Mursi and upon recommendation from the Muslim Brotherhood. (Al Quds)

WORKERS’ UNION: STRIKE HAS REACHED 95%; WE WILL CONTINUE ESCALATING BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT EVADED AGREEMENTS
Head of the public servants’ union Bassam Zakarneh said yesterday that percentage of striking public servants is between 85% and 95%.  Zakarneh said their activities would continue and escalate after the government ‘closed the door to dialogue’ and evaded all of their agreements. The most significant demands being made by the union is for applying an official pricing for transportation and for overtime in addition to pension and salary issues. (Al Ayyam)

OCCUPATION AUTHORITIES BAN PALESTINIANS FROM APPEALING CONFISCATION OF THEIR PROPERTIES
The commander for the Israeli central army command Nitzan Alon issued a military order prohibiting Palestinians from appealing Israeli decisions to confiscate their properties with the West Bank military governor. Israel radio said that the Palestinians would only be able to appeal the decisions in the Israeli High Court. Meretz party head Zahava Gal-On called on the Israeli government legal advisor to request from the defense minister to cancel the order, saying it goes against all laws and conventions of justice and fairness. (Al Ayyam)

MAJDALANI: PREVENTING AID FROM REACHING YARMOUK CAMP IS A WAR CRIME
PLO executive committee member and member of Palestinian delegation to Syria said yesterday that the prevention of food and relief aid by armed forces from entering the Yarmuk camp in Damascus was a ‘war crime’ aimed at using the Palestinians as hostages and human shields. Majdalani warned these armed groups in a press conference that their ‘problem will no longer just be with the Syrian state, but also with the entire Palestinian people,” adding that they would not allow Palestinians to be used as human shields. Majdalani blamed the armed groups of Al Nusr, the Golan hawks and Ahrar al Sham for the gunfire. (Al Ayyam)

ISLAMIC JIHAD’S FAILED ATTEMPT TO BRING DOWN ISRAELI PLANE LAST WEEK
Israel radio said last night that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad failed last week in its attempt to shoot down an Israeli plane in Gaza skies. The radio quoted Palestinian sources saying that the Jihad tried to shoot a ground-air missile at an Israeli plane last week but did not succeed. According to the radio, jihadist Mohammed Ijlah, who participated in the attempt, was killed, apparently by some technical malfunction. (http://qudsnet.com/news/View/262873/اذاعة-الجهاد-الاسلامي-فشلت-بمحاولة-اسقاط-طائرة-اسرائيلية-الاسبوع-الماضي/)

ISRAELI ARMY WARNS OF VIOLENT SETTLER ATTACKS
The Israeli army has recently warned of attempts by right wing settlers to avenge the Qusra incident by going into Palestinian villages fully armed, which it said “might result in dead bodies.” The warning came after the investigation into the Palestinian youths detaining and humiliating 15 settles who had raided Qusra last week. Israel’s Channel 10 broadcast the results of the investigation, which indicated that the next confrontation between settlers and Palestinians could be ‘bloody” given the willingness of the two sides to enter into such a confrontation and of the settlers’ determination to enter the village in order to take revenge. (http://safa.ps/details/news/120455/جيش-الاحتلال-يحذر-من-هجمات-عنيفة-للمستوطنين.html)

PALESTINIANS TO GO TO THE UN IN APRIL
A senior Palestinian source said the Palestinian decision to go to the UN will be put into effect as soon as the period designated for negotiations ends. According the source, which spoke to Xinhua, the leadership was still committed to giving the negotiations a chance until April , but said if they failed they would go to the UN and join international agencies. The source said the Palestinians did not want the American administration to hold it responsible for the failed negotiations, in addition to its desire to secure the release of the final batch of prisoners. (http://safa.ps/details/news/120454/مصدر-فلسطيني-التوجه-للأمم-المتحدة-في-نيسان-المقبل.html)
Headlines
* Hollande: the Pope could be beneficial in the Syrian and Palestinian files (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
* The President receives a letter from Cameron and receives delegation from the Armenian patriarchate (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Israel continues incitement against President; soldiers and settlers intercept PM’s convoy (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Ya’alon ‘opens fire’ on Kerry; Washington calls his statements ‘insulting’ (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Biden repeats to Netanyahu Washington’s objection to settlement expansion (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Warning against European boycott of Israel (Al Quds)
*Egyptians vote for constitutional amendments amid conflicting statements on voter turnout (Al Quds)
*Washington calls on Netanyahu to publicly reject position of defense minister who criticized Kerry (Al Quds)
*Arrest campaigns in Azzun, Nablus and Hebron (Al Quds)
*Palestinian apologies for illegal weapons in Prague embassy (Al Ayyam)
*Bennet attacks Abbas: he does not want peace, he is no different than Arafat (Al Ayyam)
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Cairo: Egyptians queue at ballot stations to cast their votes on the constitution  
Al-Ayyam:Ramallah: signs and loaves of bread with the words “We are all Yarmouk”, during a solidarity sit-in; 2) Cairo: hundreds of Egyptians wait to vote for a new constitution at a voting station in Abbasiyeh; inset – Defense minister Sisi inspects a polling office In new Egypt.
Al Hayat Al Jadida:1) Prime Minister Hamdallah when his car was intercepted by settlers; 2) Children participate in sit-in in solidarity with Yarmouk camp, in Ramallah; 3) settlers attack villagers of Borin, backed by settlers
Voice of Palestine News
Nablus:
** On burning a mosque in Dir Estya, in Salfit district.
I talked to the Director of Salfit Waqf, at 3:00 in the morning a number of settlers (more than 11 settlers), and the tried to burn the mosque, where part of were burnt, some worshippers who attended the mosque very early in the morning and managed to extinguish the fire, and were surprised with slogans sprayed on eth walls of the mosque, saying: “Blood for blood”, “Price Tag – Qusra” etc... And saying that what happened in Qusra will be repeated, they also sprayed slogans hostile to Palestinians and Prophet Muhammad.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
** Salah Judah, Director of Salfit Waqf, on burning a mosque by settlers.
Q: Can you tell us more regarding burning Ale Ben Abi Taleb mosque in Dir Estya?
After midnight, almost at 3:00, a group of settlers attacked the mosque and burned parts of it; settlers also sprayed slogans against Arabs like “Arabs should leave”, and other slogans relating to the Qusra incident and slogans cursing Prophet Muhammad.
Q: Did you know where these settlers came from?
The mosque is close to the main road form the western side of the village, citizens couldn’t catch the settlers but theirwakefulness prevented burning the mosque. This is the settler’s answer to the Palestinian’s desire for peace. The Israeli occupation came to the area and saw the mosque and we are waiting to see what their answer will be now.
Q: What is the damage?
Thank God, the damage was very small, again, only worshippers wakefulness. Only the mosque’s door and some parts of the carpet were burnt.
Q: Did you record any other attacks in Dir Estya other than the mosque?
No, but yesterday the Israeli army tried to storm the village but was confronted by the citizens. This mosque was attacked in the past by settlers in addition to burning 3 vehicles.

** Ghassan Daghlas, Responsible for the settlement file in northern West Bank, on the same issue.
Q: What can you say regarding the attack in Dir Estya?
It is clear that settlers’ gangs reached everywhere even inside the green line, like what happened in Kufur Qasem, and we are ready for the confrontations, we are waiting for them everywhere. This mosque is at the outskirts of the village but citizens were ready. Settlers are afraid to get inside the Palestinian villages especially after what happened in Qusra, Jaloud and Qariout.
Q: We understood that this came as an answer to what happened in Qusra?
Of course, the slogans sprayed show this.
Q: So they have the courage to go into Palestinian villages.
Yes, again the mosque is far from the village center, but yes, we have to be ready in this area, Dir Estya is surrounded with 23 settlements, guarding committees should be very aware in such areas. Yesterday we were at Burin, and the citizens there wanted to open a road to one of the houses, and suddenly more than 30 settlers came and tried to prevent us from doing so, then the occupation army came with bigger numbers and confrontations erupted.
Q: with regards to the guarding committees, reports by the occupation army said the settlers would storm villages and take revenge of Qusra, how can these committees be strengthened and be always ready?
We are communicating in all areas, these committees should be strengthened and they should be coordinated with the local councils, this very much needed as part of the popular resistance.

** Masa’od Ghanayem, Arab MK, on visiting Gilboa prison.
Q: Can you tell us more about your visit?
This visit is part of periodic visits we pay for political prisoners especially those from inside the green line, this visit was specified to see the prisoners vies on releasing prisoners including those from inside the green line.
Q: And what did you hear from them regarding this release agreement?
I felts they are very optimistic, since they don’t have any other way for being release other than this way. They said they would like the PA to insist on their release in the fourth batch in March, and not allowing the Israeli Government to make any exceptions since they are considered Israeli citizens.
Q: Do you have any fears regarding this issue?
Yes, statements by Netanyahu and other ministers show that there is a huge pressure from the right-wing, but if Abu Mazen and the Americans insist on the release it will happen, and they will be released as agreed s as part of the 104 prisoners.

** Naser Abu Baker, Deputy Head of the Journalists Syndicate, on reopening the Journalists Syndicate’s headquarters in Jerusalem.
Q: Now the headquarters is ready to be reopened, is there an Israeli agreement for this?
First of all we don’t wait for anyone’s agreement, especially not the occupation, to live on our land, especially when it comes to the journalists’ syndicate who decided to reopen its headquarters in Jerusalem, which is the main headquarters. We rented an apartment in Nsiebeh building in Salah Adin, and its being furnished in preparation of the reopening in the coming days.
Q: How will you be working form the capital while the occupation is there?
First, our people is in Jerusalem, and tens of journalists who are members of the Syndicate are in Jerusalem, so it is very natural that this headquarters be reopened, we hope that the occupation will not do any procedure against the syndicate, since if this happens their syndicate will be exposed to the measures and procedures from the international journalists union.   The Palestinian Syndicate is a member of the international Journalists union and any procedures against us will be against the union.
More Headlines
Population of Gaza over 1.8 million people
Assistant deputy minister of interior in the Hamas government in Gaza Ahed Hammad announced yesterday that the population of Gaza at the end of 2013 had exceeded 1.853 million people. in an interview with the government-run Al Ra’y radio station, Hammad said that 50.67% were male and %49.33 were female, adding that the Gaza governorate reached 700,000 people, the Khan Younis governorate 360,000 people, the northern governorate 3023,000 people, the central  district, 260,000 and the Rafah district 231,000. (http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/483336)
Hollande: The Pope could be beneficial in the Syrian and Palestinian files
French President Francois Hollande said yesterday that he believed Pope Francis “the supreme moral authority” could be ‘beneficial’ in resolving the Syrian crisis and the Palestinian question, making his statement 10 days ahead of his first visit to the Vatican since he took office. Hollande said the Pope could be instrumental in the current negotiating process between Palestinians and Israelis, saying he intended on discussing the issue of “Middle East Christians” who are under threat today and forced to flee in many cases. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
Palestinian apologies for illegal weapons in Prague embassy
The Palestinian foreign ministry offered its apologies for the presence of weapons found in the headquarters of Palestinian ambassador Jamal Jemal in Prague, who died on the first of January in an explosion the police found was ‘incidental’. A statement said that a high ranking representative of the foreign ministry offered an official apology on Monday for the hidden and illegal weapons and for the tragic death of Jemal. It said that the Palestinians had ‘come to the appropriate conclusions” and had taken measures to prevent similar incidents happening again. (Al Ayyam)
Israeli soldier threatens student in Hebron with death
A female Israeli soldier threatened a young female student with killing her if she went to school. According to Aseel Jaber, while she was going to school, a female Israeli soldier at a checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque stopped her and told her to turn around, forcing her to go a much longer path. On her way home from school, she passed by the same checkpoint, but was surprised right after crossing when the same female soldier jumped her from behind, putting her hands around her neck and choking her. She took her to an army post and hit her in the legs and chest with the butt of her rifle. “She held me for about an hour, telling me to order anyone who approaches the checkpoint to turn back, or she would shoot me,” Jaber says. “When she released me she warned that the next time around she would not arrest me, but kill me.” (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665311)
Israel agrees to release a former minister and PLC member on condition of deportation from Jerusalem
The Israeli high court agreed this morning to release Jerusalemite PLC member Mohammed Totah and former minister Khaled Abu Arafah after 24 months in jail on condition that they be deported from Jerusalem. The two were jailed for allegedly entering Jerusalem ‘illegally” after their Jerusalem ID cards were confiscated from them. They were also charged with membership in Hamas. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=665343)
Arab Press
Abbas faces uphill task

By OSAMA AL SHARIF

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas knows that the time has come for him to make the toughest decision of his long political career. He has been involved in peace negotiations with Israel for more than 20 years with little to show for it.

Times have changed since he first engaged the Israelis in secret peace talks in Oslo, Norway, to produce what looked then like a historic deal to end decades of conflict. But the core issues have not changed even when Israel’s leaders reneged on that deal and held the late President Yasser Arafat hostage in his Ramallah headquarters more than 10 years ago until his death.

His successor, Abbas, was viewed as a moderate and there were suspicions by his Palestinian critics that he would accept what Arafat had rejected at Camp David in 2000. But he held on, negotiating with Ariel Sharon, then Ehud Olmert and now with Benjamin Netanyahu, through US interlocutors.

But Abbas was always under pressure to resume peace talks without conditions. His demand that Israel freezes settlement activities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank was rebuffed by Netanyahu. The first term of President Barack Obama brought some hope to the Palestinians. But Obama’s attempt to corner Netanyahu and produce an historic deal fell through. For a while the Palestinians were out of options, until John Kerry took over from Hillary Clinton and vowed to revive peace talks.

Today and after six months of mostly secret negotiations, Kerry says the two sides are close to signing a new understanding on final status issues. He appears to be the only one who believes that a deal can be reached. Netanyahu is as elusive as ever. But Abbas knows that he is the one expected to make the big compromises.

Little is known about Kerry’s set of proposals. But Palestinian reaction to them has been tepid. On Saturday Abbas told supporters that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state nor will he accept a deal that does not consider East Jerusalem the capital of the future Palestinian state. He said he will never abandon the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, nor will he accept the presence of Israeli soldiers in the Jordan Valley.

On his part Israel’s hard-liner Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quoted, as saying on Sunday that Israel must accept Kerry’s proposal for a framework agreement with the Palestinians since “any other proposal from the international community won’t be as good.” He was quoted earlier as saying that Israel rejects the right of return, will not withdraw from East Jerusalem or the Jordan Valley. Moreover, he said that his party would never support an agreement that does not involve an Israeli surrender of territory inside the 1967 lines where Arabs predominate. He was referring to a suggestion that in proposed land swaps Israel will relinquish areas in the Galilee where 300,000 Israeli Arabs reside as part of Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state.

Kerry’s controversial proposals have also been questioned by Jordan, a keen observer of bilateral negotiations. For the first time ever Jordan has said that it will back a deal so long as it meets the conditions of its highest national interests. There have been warnings by prominent Jordanian officials against a “secret” deal that could be struck between Abbas and Netanyahu undermining Jordanian interests especially on refugees, borders and East Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials were quick to respond that Jordan and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are coordinating positions and see eye-to-eye on all issues.

Kerry will be back in the region soon and he will exert pressure on Abbas to embrace his proposals. The Palestinians were told last week that Kerry would not point the finger at Israel if his mediation efforts collapse. There were threats that the US and the European Union (EU) may suspend aid to the PA if talks fail.

Abbas will have to rise to the occasion. What Kerry is offering is nothing more than Israeli conditions and demands. It is a humiliating deal that aims at liquidating the Palestinian cause once and for all. His options are few and difficult. If he accepts he will go down in history as the leader who sold out his people and their inalienable rights. If he rejects the deal he faces a fate similar to that of Arafat, at least in the political sense.

Abbas can always fight US pressure if he can count on Arab support. He can carry out previous threats to disband the PA and declare the West Bank an Israeli occupied territory. He can take his case back to the United Nations and end America’s monopoly on peace negotiations. Abbas must make bold decisions because the stakes have never been higher for the Palestinians.(http://www.arabnews.com/news/509181)


Concerns about Kerry’s mission

By Hasan Abu Nimah

It still is difficult to take any of the components of the American plan for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for granted.

There have been a lot of indicative leaks that could not be but authentic. There has also been much skepticism on both sides, with both Palestinians and Israelis expressing deep dissatisfaction with the circulating ideas presented to them.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made it clear that he would not compromise on the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, he would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and he would not accept anything less than East Jerusalem as we knew it before 1967 as the capital of the Palestinian state.

“Not Abu Dis,” he loudly said.

This tough talk of the Palestinian leader was backed by the Arab League follow-up committee that met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris last Sunday, according to a statement by Riad Al Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister who is a member of the said nine-member ministerial committee.

The position of Israeli leaders, on the other hand, is the usual ultra-extremist on all pending issues, as well as provocative, with construction projects on occupied Palestinian land announced successively to drive the message through that Israel is bent on destroying Kerry’s peace mission.

Although Abbas’ pronunciations tend to dash the hopes of those who often count on additional concessions from the Palestinian side to narrow the gap that Israeli intransigence keeps expanding, the expectation that a secret deal is already on the table, awaiting maturity, is constantly feeding Jordanian fears that the terms of the said deal could jeopardize the Kingdom.

That looks unlikely in view of the Israeli handling of Kerry’s scheme.

Israel continues to do the exact opposite of what would create a better climate for productive discussions, totally mindless of Washington’s efforts.

The latest Israeli announcement of a new plan to build 1,400 settler housing units on Palestinian land has prompted strong reaction from EU policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who demanded that Israel stop construction immediately.

Ashton described the settlements as illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace that would render the two-state solution impossible.

The new construction project announcement was postponed for a few days, until Kerry completed his last visit to the region and left.

Under the prevailing conditions, there is good reason to believe that it is highly unlikely that there would be any deal, and therefore no worries should be justified — for the time being.

Paradoxically, however, the Israeli intransigence seems to be the “desired” safety valve against a bad deal.

What is needed is not just that; not just a temporary escape from what continues to be clandestinely woven in dense darkness for the region at the very expense of the rights of its peoples.

The whole approach to peacemaking should be radically revised by returning the entire file of the Arab-Israeli conflict to where it belongs: the United Nations.

The solid guarantee to block incorrect and biased shady deals is the application of international law, not the continued coercion of the weaker side in favor of the unduly immune aggressor and occupier.

The undisputed reality, secret or not, is that Kerry’s ideas are indeed worrying, and should be worrying, not only to the Jordanians but to the Palestinians as well. They should also be worrying to all those who claim to be sincerely pursuing peace and stability in this turbulent region by resolving the historical Arab-Israeli conflict.

If Kerry’s ideas were to see the light, they would further radicalize and destabilize the entire region, as they would be rewarding Israeli aggression and compounding flagrant injustice inflicted upon the Palestinians, and indeed others, for the last six decades.

The Kerry proposals, if what is circulating about them is accurate, do compromise, to put very mildly, the basic terms of legality, international law, fairness and justice.

Apparently the starting point of Kerry’s proposals is the Israeli position on all so-called final status issues. His endeavor is to redesign Israeli demands in a manner that could make them palatable to the Arab side.

According to press reports, Kerry sought the amendment of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative to include language recognizing Israel as a state for the Jewish people.

I need not elaborate on the disastrous implications of such an idea, implications that far exceed the abolition of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, one of the many Jordanian-related concerns.

This fear was further aggravated by other reports indicating that Kerry tried to push forth the formula that the right of return should not apply to Palestinians who acquired nationality of a third country.

Other reports spoke of a lip service reference to Jerusalem meant to placate the Palestinians.

Kerry did not challenge Israeli rejection of any reference to Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israelis and Palestinians, on the grounds that the Palestinians are entitled to East Jerusalem, as stipulated in the renowned two-state formula, in the many Security Council resolutions and the Quartet roadmap.

Instead, he offered to reduce the wording to simply say that the Palestinians aspire to have Jerusalem as their capital. Nothing could be more non-committal and empty.

This is another major concern for the Jordanians.

Jordanian officials repeatedly assert that while they would never want to act on behalf of the Palestinians or directly involve themselves in the negotiations, they would not accept any political deal that jeopardizes their national interests.

Naturally, when it comes to the so-called final status issues, the Israeli illegal settlements, Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees, it is hard to distinguish between what is a Jordanian interest and what is a Palestinian interest.

The simple fact is that what is good for one is good for the other and what is bad for the Palestinians would unquestionably be harmful to the Jordanian national interests as well.

But that only applies once we focus on the Jordanian-Palestinian narrow circle at the very heart of the historic dispute.

The wider circle involves the entire region and often affects events worldwide.

It is becoming increasingly harder not to link the many recent world crises and wars to the perpetual Israeli aggression and the failure of the so-called international community to resolve it rightly and justly.

This region will not enjoy stability, progress and safety while this conflict lasts.(http://jordantimes.com/concerns-about-kerrys-mission)



World must act to save Yarmouk camp in Syria

By Ramzy Baroud

The international community and Palestine solidarity groups everywhere ought to place Palestinians in the refugee camp in Syria on top of their agenda.

The title was more baffling than revealing. ‘Abbas orders immediate food supplies to Yarmouk camp in Syria’, was the headline in a news report by the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA) on December 28, 2013. The article itself was no less confounding. The WAFA report, which was written in a way that conveyed a sense of urgency, spoke of orders emanating from Ramallah in the West Bank, to send food and other supplies to Palestinian refugees in Syria’s largest refugee camp, in order to stave off starvation. “The president’s decision came following reports that five Palestinian refugees have died of hunger in the besieged camp,” according to the report.

But the suffering of Yarmouk started much earlier and many have reportedly perished as a result of the war. Why didn’t Abbas issue such ‘orders’ then? Needless to say, by the time of writing this article on January 11, neither any supplies reached the camp nor were Abbas’ ‘orders’ taken seriously.

Yarmouk is disowned, as millions of Palestinian refugees were also disowned when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo Accords more than 20 years ago. Over time, the refugees — especially those in the shatter or diaspora — grew less relevant. For years, they desperately called for attention and received none. It did not take much political savvy to predict the magnitude of the disaster befalling already stateless Palestinian refugees in Syria. Some of us wrote about it in the early months of the war, warning of a repeat of the Iraq scenario, where Palestinian refugees paid a heavy price in terms of blood and endless suffering, to finally find themselves living in refugee camps at border crossings in Jordan and Syria. However, what is unfolding in Syria now is the worst-case scenario, as Palestinian refugees, particularly in Yarmouk, are paying a hefty price for Syria’s cruelest war. They are starving, although there can be no justification, nor logistical explanation for why they are dying from hunger.

Spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Chris Gunness, told AFP that “at least five Palestinian refugees in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk have died because of malnutrition, bringing the total number of reported cases to 15,” since September 2013. The camp, which is located south of Damascus, had once housed nearly 250,000 Palestinians, including 150,000 officially registered refugees. After three years of a brutal war, Yarmouk is now nothing but in ruins and houses only around 18,000 residents who could not escape. Reporting for the BBC from Damascus, Lyse Doucet quoted aid officials who told her “the gates of Yarmouk were slammed shut in July and almost no aid has been allowed to enter since then”.

Perilous circumstances

There has been a semi-consensus among Palestinians that they should not be embroiled in Syria’s war. However, the warring parties — the Syrian government, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other Islamic groups — tried to use every card in their disposal to weaken the others. The result has been devastating and is taking place at the expense of the refugees. Apart from the 1,500 reportedly killed Palestinians and thousands more wounded, the majority of the refugees are once again on the run, although in more perilous circumstances. According to a statement by UNRWA on December 17, 2013, “of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced in the country and an estimated 80,000 have fled; 51,000 have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield”.

Yarmouk was established in 1957 to shelter thousands of refugees who were expelled from Palestine at the hands of Zionist militias in 1947-48. Although Palestinians in Syria were generally treated well, if compared to the very poor standards set by other Arab countries, thousands of men found themselves victims of occasional political purges of the Syrian government. An example of this followed the 1983 fallout between late Syrian president Hafez Al Assad and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

But the latest disaster is the worst to strike the refugee camp. In December 2012, rebels of the FSA tried to gain control over the camp. Fierce fighting ensued, followed by aerial bombardment of Yarmouk by government airplanes on December 16. Dozens were reportedly killed and thousands fled for their lives. In July, government forces staged a tight siege around the camp, which continues until this day.

Despite the obvious signs of danger surrounding Palestinian presence in Syria, only then did the Palestinian leadership attempt to negotiate a special status for Yarmouk so that the stateless Palestinians were kept out of a conflict that was not of their making. Some Palestinian factions allowed themselves to be used by other regional powers to declare political stances regarding the conflict in Syria. The refugees should have never been used as fodder for a dirty war and all attempts at sparing them have failed.

The failure has been across the board. Typically, the so-called international community is at the forefront of this shameful episode. “There’s deep frustration in the aid community that a world which came together to deal with Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal cannot do the same when it comes to tackling a deepening humanitarian crisis,” reported Doucet.

‘Peace process’ mirage

The same could be said of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah, which is chasing after another ‘peace process’ mirage that is surely doomed to fail. Why doesn’t Abbas put all of his frivolous talks and appointments on hold and lobby the international community to save Yarmouk?

Hamas too has much soul-searching to do. The embattled faction played politics in Syria, evacuated its top officials, closed down its offices and simply relocated elsewhere, while the refugees suffer and starve alone.

The situation is getting worse. Ayman Abu Hasham, the director of the Palestinian Refugees Support Network in Syria, told Ma’an last Friday that hundreds of refugees “face imminent death in the coming 10 days unless a safe supply line is opened”.

Meanwhile, Chris Gunness continues to speak of the “fatal consequences” and “profound civilian suffering” in Yarmouk. “Residents, including infants and children, have been subsisting for long periods on diets of such things as stale vegetables, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water.”

The world must act now. The international community and Palestine solidarity groups everywhere must place Palestinian refugees top of their agenda. Food should never be a weapon in this dirty war and Palestinians should not be starving to death, no matter the motive or the logic.(http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/world-must-act-to-save-yarmouk-camp-in-syria-1.1277543)
Opinions
Accepting occupation
Al-Khaleej Editorial
Didn’t Arab and Palestinians get tired of the absurd negotiations? Didn’t they realize after the Madrid talks more than 20 years ago that Israeli will not give them anything, and that the American sponsor “Sponsors” Israel’s interests and its security, and it does not care for the rights of Arabs and Palestinians?
Since the first moment the Palestinians and Arabs agreed to be engaged in negotiations, it was clear they were facing an occupation, Israel does not want a settlement nor the United States is serious in achieving it, as it will not pressure Israel, which is demanded to implement the resolutions of international legitimacy, since it is the aggressor state occupying the land, and there will be no settlement without removing the results of the aggression.
What happened and is still happening in that the Palestinians and Arabs are those who offer concessions, the victim is waiving its right to the offender, even in cases of no compromises... However, the negotiations continue, and each time it’s resumed we go back again to square one.
Here, Israeldoes not bear responsibility, not even the United States, but Arabs are the ones responsible for the futile negotiations, and for accepting a political fraud by Tel Aviv and Washington.
Arabs bear responsibility because they have abandoned the international reference represented by the United Nations and its resolutions, and recognized the US role, which is biased and hostile to Arabs’ rights, and accepted compromises and concessions.
.. They bear responsibility because they have declared that "peace is a strategic choice" and dropped all other options in facing an enemy that is expansionist, aggressive, racist and xenophobic... And they live confused, and turn between their abilities and potentials and contempt... In addition to a damaged will.
Howcan a sheep live with a wolf? How can we anticipate honey from hornets? Although they know that negotiations are a fraud, they continue with its forever.(http://www.alkhaleej.ae/studiesandopinions/detailedpage/10f3a102-961b-452d-a1f5-a3599410ac21)

Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian State and not its suburbs
Al-Quds Editorial
Some media sources reported attributing to a Palestinian official described as informed of what Secretary of State John Kerry presented to the Palestinian side during the Palestinian-Israeli talks on various issues that are outstanding, needs to be confirmed or denied by American official sources. These sources usually refrain from commenting on the negotiations, on the basis of an agreement or understanding between the different parties to the negotiations to keep it confidential to ensure its success, as was said at the time.
Irrespective of the credibility or lack of credibility of these leaks, every position regarding central issues in the negotiations needs to be discussed and evaluated. Here we address one issue in these leaks, the future of Jerusalem and the view regarding the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights in the Holy City, based on the city being the eternal capital of the future Palestinian State, that no peace process can succeed without being based on the 1967 borders in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy.
According to these leaks -and we remind that these leaks were confirmed and not denied - the future capital of a Palestinian State would be on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in Beit Hanina, Shuafat, Issaweyeh and Abu Dis, not in the old city and its surroundingneighborhoods in east Jerusalem in its demographic and urban notion. This shows the Israeli position rejecting what it calls the “Division of Jerusalem”, and insists on continuing the occupation of the Holy City, claiming it is the unified indivisible capital of Israel.
Jerusalem inside the walls, which was occupied with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, is the capital of the Palestinian State, without any compromise on the outskirts of the Holy City that were annexed by a unilateral decision of the Jerusalem municipality after the occupation. Saying that the Palestinians would concede on Jerusalem - including Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the old town in general -is not true. This city is very important for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, and no Palestinian leader can or have the authority to concedeit whatever the pressure exerted on them is. A historical example is the refusal of late President Yasser Arafat to accept Israeli sovereignty even over under Al-Aqsa mosque through the excavations carried out by Israel in the Camp David negotiations in 2000.
Jerusalem is an integral part of Palestine according to Oslo which is the bases for these negotiations. The international community has agreed on the framework for a final settlement must be based on the establishment of a Palestinian State on the 1967 borders. According to all the interpretations of the resolutions of international legitimacy, of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, Jerusalem is an occupied city as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, so that those resolutions are applicable for Jerusalem, as well as the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.
East Jerusalem in its 1967map is the capital of the future Palestinian State. Any position not in line with the resolutions of international legitimacy is unacceptable and unenforceable, because the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim peoples and the world condemned this position, both during the negotiations and in any debate outside the negotiations.(Al-Quds)
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