New Palestinian party wants to ‘unify resistance to occupation’

A Palestinian protester throws stones at an Israeli soldier in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019

New Palestinian party wants to ‘unify resistance to occupation’

  • The Palestinian Democratic Group is the latest arrival on the territory’s political scene
  • But the party’s motives have been called into question by some

AMMAN: A new Palestinian political party wants to unify factions to increase resistance to the occupation, one of its members has told Arab News.

The Palestinian Democratic Group is the latest arrival on the territory’s political scene, which is dominated by the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah.

It was formally launched on Jan. 3 in Gaza and Ramallah and comprises political parties and civil society organizations.

Qais Abu Layla said one of the group’s most important goals was to unify Palestinian factions to increase resistance to the occupation, and to oppose policies designed to weaken Palestinian democracy and increase fragmentation.

A split between Hamas and Fatah, which has sometimes spilled over into deadly violence, has seen rival administrations run by Hamas in Gaza and by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Attempts to reconcile the two have failed.

“Our position is not only opposed to the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) leadership but also to Hamas. We feel both are responsible for the split and the negative results that it has produced," Abu Layla told Arab News.

"While we oppose the dissolving of the PLC (Palestinian Legislative Council) we believe that the idea of elections within six months can be a way out of the impasse for the reconciliation." 

The elections must include Gaza and Jerusalem and they should be based on proportional representation, he added.

But the party’s motives have been called into question by some.

Suheir Ismael, founding director of women’s media NGO TAM, said the group's scope was too narrow.   

"The group was created after people lost their salaries as members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.  To be honest, most people are very skeptical of any political move that is largely on paper, " she told Arab News.

"If they want to make a difference they need to address people's daily needs, such as the issue of the new social security law that has invigorated Palestinians more than any political position."

Najeeb Qaddoumi, a member of the Palestinian National Council and a senior Fatah leader in Jordan, said unity was an admirable goal but that the new party must be honest and take a stand if needed. 

"Many of its policies are identical to those of Fatah and we call on this new coalition to denounce the undemocratic actions of Hamas especially their latest violent actions in Gaza and their destruction to the studios of the Palestinian Broadcasting corporation,” he told Arab News.

Abu Layla said he was aware of apathy among Palestinians when it came to politics - and even hinted at the party’s potential to flop.

"To be honest there is no guarantee that this group will succeed,  but we have assembled a comprehensive group... we are realistic in our view and know that we have differences between us. But we need to find common ground that is based on the minimum policies that we all agree to," he said.

Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 23 May 2019

Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.