Arab News Sources
PNN English: PM Hamdallah: We work on advancing the Palestinian statehood strategy in close cooperation with our international partners
Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah confirmed that the government is currently working on advancing the Palestine Statehood Strategy as a means to promote sovereignty. He expressed his hope that participants of the International Conference in Paris will signal their support to “materializing the Palestinian State and capacity building of Palestinian institutions” in the framework of the ongoing exerted efforts to support the Palestinian development and build up the fundamentals of the Palestinian economy. The Prime Minister indicated to the ongoing cooperation with international partners, and particularly the German government to mobilize the necessary support to develop and implement a strategy. The strategy will emphasize in the first stages the transportation sector on the internal and external levels, as well as the energy sector and particularly electricity.
Al Jazeera: Israel's anti-UN steps could lead to 'isolation'
Last Friday, the Israeli government announced that it had suspended $6m in funding to the United Nations (UN), a move described as "an act of protest" against the recent Security Council resolution 2334. Deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, meanwhile, has announced "plans to investigate the activities of the 15 UN facilities operating within Israel in order to determine whether to allow them to continue to receive funding and to maintain the use of their buildings in Israel." "Seeing the government's responses to Resolution 2334, I thought, “Are we going to leave the UN?” said Israeli political journalist and blogger Tal Schneider. “Are we going to see attempts to dismantle an institution that's been there for decades? An axis of strong men - Trump, Putin and Netanyahu - perhaps think they can change the balance of power in the world. We are in a new, uncertain era." Addressing the possibility that anti-UN steps could include the expulsion of staff, a Western official speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity said that such measures would constitute "a path to isolation and pariah status [for Israel]."
Maan News Agency: 10 Palestinian homes demolished in Israeli city, prompting mayor to resign
Israeli authorities demolished 10 homes belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city of Qalansawe in central Israel on Tuesday morning, prompting Mayor Abd al-Basit Mansour to announce his resignation on a visit to the site. Local sources told Ma’an the devastating demolition campaign sparked clashes between Israeli police and residents. Mansour told reporters that, "We have been waiting for approval of a master plan for twenty years, but our request fell on deaf ears. As head of the Qalansawe municipality, who doesn’t have the power to change anything, I decided to send my resignation to the Ministry of Interior.” Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld confirmed to Ma'an that the demolitions took place “based on a court order.” Commenting on the demolitions, Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said that the "complex campaign reflects equal law enforcement in Israel as it should be." Earlier in December, Netanyahu commented on the Supreme Court-ordered demolition of the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona in the occupied West Bank by assuring the soon-to-be displaced settlers that he would commit to “enforcing laws” on “illegal construction” in Israel, referring primarily to Palestinian communities that are often forced to build without Israeli-issued building permits.
Middle East Eye: Pope Francis to meet with Mahmoud Abbas at the Vatican
Pope Francis will grant Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an audience at the Vatican on Saturday, the Holy See confirmed indirectly on Tuesday by announcing arrangements for media coverage of the visit. It will be the third time Francis has met Abbas following an encounter during the Pontiff's 2014 trip to the Holy Land and the Palestinian leader's 2015 visit to the Vatican to attend a canonisation ceremony for two Palestinian nuns. Relations between the Holy See and Palestine were upgraded in 2015 with the signing of an accord expected to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian embassy in the Vatican this year. Israel was angered by the accord, which came two years after the Vatican recognised Palestine as a state. In May 2015, Israel was angered after Francis called Abbas “an angel of peace”.
Hebrew News Sources
Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu: Paris confab “is rigged”
The Middle East parley scheduled in Paris on Sunday is a “rigged conference” that will do nothing to promote the cause of peace, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday. 75 countries are expected to send delegations, with John Kerry leading the US delegation. “We’re all faced here with a great challenge against the forces of terrorism that not only seek to destroy Israel but seek of course to render any possibility of peace totally hopeless,” Netanyahu said. “There are other such efforts that render peace hopeless and one of them is the Paris conference… it’s a rigged conference, rigged by the Palestinians with French auspices to adopt additional anti-Israel stances,” he added. “It’s not going to obligate us. It’s a relic of the past. It’s a last gasp of the past before the future sets in.” The future that Netanyahu was alluding to is apparently the inauguration of US President- elect Donald Trump in the upcoming week. A top French diplomat rejected Israeli assertions that France is trying to impose a peace process or to encourage the Palestinians to seek the international diplomacy route instead of negotiating, adding that at this moment, before Trump takes office, it is important to stress international consensus about the two-state solution. The participants will affirm their commitment to the two state solution, emphasizing that it is the only solution which could guarantee peace and security to Israel, the Palestinians and the region. It will refer to UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Resolution 242 (adopted after the Six Day War), Resolution 339 (adopted to bring an end to the Yom Kippur War), the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the latest Quartet report from July 2016. The statement at the end the conference is expected to include two parts: a political declaration, combined with an incentive package to both sides.
Israel Hayom: Knesset committee passes bill to deny entry to BDS supporters
On Wednesday the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee approved a controversial bill, put forward by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and MK Roey Folkman (Kulanu), that would deny visas and residency permits to people who support the boycott of Israel. It was approved ahead of being presented to the Knesset plenum for its second and third readings. Among those who opposed the bill was committee member MK Yael German (Yesh Atid), who said it would do more to harm Israel than to help it. "The proposed law only provides those who hate us with more flammable material with which to defame us [by making it seem] as if we are trying to silence [people]," she said. Also on Wednesday, the Knesset voted to push forward a bill aiming at prevent organizations deemed as undermining the IDF from entering educational institutions. The legislation, dubbed the "Breaking the Silence bill," passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum, with 51 coalition and Yesh Atid MKs voting for the bill, and 17 Labor and Meretz MKs voting against it. If the bill becomes law, it will allow Education Minister Naftali Bennett to prohibit people or organizations that work to undermine education goals or harm soldiers from hosting events inside educational institutions.
Haaretz: Former U.S. Defense Official: Israel’s Security at Risk Due to Religious Intolerance
Israel’s disregard and disrespect for the non-Orthodox Jewish movements could end up costing it the longstanding support of the United States government, a former senior defense department official with close ties to Israel warned on Wednesday. Speaking at a session of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, Dov Zackheim, head of a new U.S. organization that advocates for Jewish pluralism, noted that the 85 percent of American Jews who do not identify as Orthodox are not accepted by Israel’s religious establishment. Proof that American Jewish support for Israel was weakening, Zackheim said, was that many U.S. Jews today back the BDS movement, many supported the Iran nuclear deal, and not that many were upset when the United States abstained in the recent UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlement policy. “To me, this is a national security threat to Israel,” he said. “It won’t happen tomorrow, it won’t happen next year, but it is coming unless we do something about the 85 percent whose support Israel needs.”
The Times of Israel: Qatar negotiating prisoner swap between Hamas, Israel
A senior Hamas official confirmed Wednesday to The Times of Israel that Qatar and Egypt are involved in mediating between his organization and Israel, but stressed that Hamas will not even begin to talk about releasing Israeli civilians it has detained along with the remains of two IDF soldiers unless Israel first releases dozens of Palestinians it is holding. Hamas is believed to be detaining Avraham Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima, two Israeli men who crossed into Gaza of their own accord, as well as a third, unnamed Israeli civilian whose presence in Gaza is unconfirmed. The Islamist terror group also holds the bodies of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who the army says were killed in the 2014 Gaza war. A senior Hamas official, who requested to remain anonymous, told The Times of Israel that the organization’s position was clear. “We are demanding the release of 58 prisoners from the Shalit deal who were arrested after the kidnapping of the three teenagers before we will even talk about a deal for the return of the bodies [of missing soldiers] and those missing people,” he said, referring to the 2014 abduction and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank by a Hamas cell.
The Guardian: PLO threatens to revoke recognition of Israel if US embassy moves to Jerusalem
Senior Palestinian officials have warned that the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s recognition of Israel – one of the key pillars of the moribund Oslo peace agreements – is in danger of being revoked if Donald Trump moves the US embassy to Jerusalem. Moving the US embassy is highly contentious as it would recognise Israel’s exclusive claim to Jerusalem, most of which was annexed illegally after the 1967 war. The Palestinians also see it as their future capital. The warning came amid increasingly stark warnings over the risk of an “explosion of violence” in the region if the US embassy is moved, and after Abbas himself wrote to Trump to reconsider. In his letter – disclosed on Monday and also copied to other world leaders – Abbas told Trump moving the embassy “will likely have [a] disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region, since Israel’s decision to annex East Jerusalem contradicts with international law”. CNN reported on Monday that Trump’s transition team had told “allies” that it plans to go ahead with the relocation. US state department policy has long held that the status of Jerusalem will only be determined in final talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
UN News: UN agency seeks $813 million to support Palestine refugees fleeing Syria and those in occupied territory
With Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – including East Jerusalem – and those who have fled the conflict in Syria, facing humanitarian crises, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) today launched an $813 million emergency aid appeal. Speaking to UN News, Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General for UNRWA said: “Palestine refugees are among the worst affected by the conflict. Over 95 per cent of those who have remained in Syria – 430,000 – are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance.” Mr. Krähenbühl said that the fact that 917,000 people are now in need of food assistance, a tenfold increase since 2000, is a “scandal.” Of the requested $813 million, $402 is targeted for Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This would allow nearly one million refugees in Gaza to receive food aid and provide rental assistance to 6,500 families and repairs for more than 50,00 families whose homes sustained damage in the 2014 hostilities. The remaining $411 million in the request is intended to provide humanitarian assistance, protection, and basic services to 430,000 Palestine refugees inside Syria, 30,000 who have fled to Lebanon, and almost 17,000 who are now in Jordan due to the ongoing conflict.
The Independent: Half a million Arab Israeli workers strike over demolition of illegal Palestinian homes
Arab citizens of Israel have gone on a nationwide strike after Israeli authorities destroyed 11 Palestinian homes they said were illegal in the central town of Qalansawe. “We condemn the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally for these crimes,” Mohammad Baraka, the head of the High Follow-Up Committee, a representative body for Palestinian citizens of Israel, said in a statement on Tuesday. The committee called on Arab citizens of the Jewish state to stand together to repel “the new attack that the government has taken against us”. Workers in both the public and private sectors were encouraged to participate in Wednesday’s symbolic one-day walk out. It is estimated that of Israel’s 1.5million Arab citizens, around 500,000 took part. More than 5,000 Arab homes in Israel have been destroyed in the last 20 years and Palestinians control of just 2.3 per cent of the state’s land, which activists say is indicative of their status as “second class citizens” of the country. Strikes are a common method of protest for Palestinian citizens.
The Washington Post: Israel says Hamas hacked Facebook accounts, cellphones of army recruits
The Israeli military said Wednesday that its archenemy Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, used a series of fake Facebook accounts to connect with young recruits in an attempt to gain access to sensitive army information. Over the past few months, dozens of soldiers, mostly from combat units, were enticed into chatting with people they believed were young, attractive women in Israel and abroad. Using Facebook, those running the fake accounts encouraged the soldiers to download a “chat” application to their cellphones. The app, for both Android and iPhone, was used by Hamas to access vital data on the phones — contacts, personal text messages and photographs. The app also allowed Hamas operatives to listen to conversations and take covert photos, the officer said. In a video released by the Israel Defense Forces, a soldier recounted he had received a Facebook message from someone he believed was a young Israeli woman. “She sent me a message on Facebook. We spoke a lot over a few days,” he said. “Then she asked me to download this chat app so that we could talk more. I downloaded it, but it did not work. I tried to reach her again on Facebook, but she didn’t answer.” The soldier then described how the app was actually a gateway for Hamas into his life, collecting information about him and his activities in the army even when the phone was switched off. Hamas representatives in Gaza declined to respond to the Israeli army claims.
The Independent: As a young Jew, the news coming out of Israel makes me feel hopeless about ending the Occupation
Five decades of occupation is what led an Israeli soldier, Elor Azaria, to shoot an incapacitated Palestinian man lying on the ground in the head, with 67 per cent of the country now supporting a pardon for his conviction. It is 50 years of occupation that drives someone to take a knife and stab a person in the chest while they wait for their friends by the walls of Old City. It is what causes a Palestinian woman to tell me she’s terrified of getting into a car accident in Jerusalem, in case the police think she’s a terrorist and shoot her on the spot in front of her children. The constant slew of violence coming out of Israel and the occupied territories is a having a detrimental effect on how young Jewish people, like myself, relate to Israel, its history and its politics. Research produced in 2015 shows that 87 per cent of Jews in the UK feel a connection to Israel and believe in its right to exist. But among my peers there is also a growing frustration and distress at a constant cycle of oppression, violence and retaliation; at a political system headed by a recalcitrant Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who would rather spend his days swapping tweets with Donald Trump than move forward with a peaceful vision for Israel and a just alternative to the status quo. Last summer I spent time in the West Bank with a Jewish group carrying out solidarity work with Palestinian communities. It demonstrated the power of human relationships in challenging narratives that are created around the "other". It is fundamentally important that those of us who care about finding a resolution to the conflict build human relationships across dividing lines, to facilitate empathy and understanding among the resentment that overwhelms conversations about Israel and the occupied territories.
Al Jazeera: The BDS struggle in US academia
On January 7, the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted against a non-binding resolution to endorse the call from Palestinian civil society for the academic boycott of Israeli institutions (Yes, 79; No, 113). At that same session, the Assembly voted for a resolution to condemn the boycott (Yes, 101; No, 93). One of the reasons it is difficult for those supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to get their motions passed is that external organisations here [USA] and in Israel add their resources and legal teams to the anti-boycott side. The Brandeis Center is threatening a lawsuit against the MLA if it lets the vote go forward, the collaboration of a group of university heads in Israel, anxious about the pro-boycott connecting their universities to the maintenance of the occupation, and other repressive measures also aided the fight against the boycott. As reported in Ynet, one Israeli group declared that "the fight was … assisted by various Jewish organisations, along with The Committee of University Heads in Israel." Another reason such boycotts are hard to pass in these large and traditional organisations is that they are averse to acting politically. This sometimes takes very particular forms. Why all this concern over which resolutions academic organisations with little political clout or influence issue? One reason is that they are a barometer of how different generations and demographics of younger scholars, who are, after all, future teachers, are positioning themselves on the issue of Israel-Palestine. This generational issue connects with an ideological one as well, and serves as another index to the gradual shift in American public opinion with regard to Palestine.
The Jerusalem Post: No holds barred: Obama and Israel: the final insult
Hanukka demonstrates Jewish rejection of militarism and its glories in favor of Jewish domestication. Although having won one of the great military battles of the ancient world through their defeat of the Assyrian Greek inheritors of Alexander the Great, the Maccabees decide not to stage a grand military parade, or Roman-style triumph, celebrating their victory, but to instead go with their wives and children to illuminate the Temple. When Jews fight they do so merely to protect life and never for glory. Then they return home quietly to their families, a tradition practiced to this day in the IDF. Contrast this with Islamic State (ISIS) seeking to carve out a global Islamic caliphate by the sword. Contrast it with the call of Hamas and Hezbollah to use Islamic arms to vanquish their enemies on bloody battlefields. Yet the Obama administration missed all this and determined that it was the Jewish state’s emphasis on family life and domestication, as evidenced in a desire to build apartments in Ma’aleh Adumim, that is the real cause of discord in the Middle East, as opposed to radical Islamic militarism. But in December, rather than scramble to save the children of Aleppo, President Barack Obama continued to not lift a finger to protect Arabs from being slaughtered. Turns out, he and his national security team were too busy scheming against Israel to take notice. Aleppo was ignored as the administration focused instead on condemning the Jewish state with a UN resolution that will lead to economic boycotts against Israel and the possible detention and arrests of its soldiers, like my son, and its ministers, when they travel abroad. Worst of all, the resolution will almost certainly lead to Israeli leaders and military figures being prosecuted at the International Criminal Court at the Hague.
The Spectator: Britain was wrong to back the U.N’s anti-Israel resolution
The UN has allowed those who want to divert attention in the region away from the real difficulties (in their own societies) to do just that and make Israel-Palestine the regional totem once more. The Resolution will hurt our (UK’s) allies and weaken those who have already taken a risk for peace. After everything that happened last year, why now in the final days of 2016? Why was it more pressing than other disputed territories such as Western Sahara, Kashmir or Tibet? It isn’t.