EU condemns new burst of Israeli settlement approvals

A general view taken on January 30, 2018 shows buildings in the Palestinian Shuafat refugee camp which is situated in East Jerusalem but surrounded by the Israeli controversial separation barrier. (AFP)
Updated 05 November 2019

EU condemns new burst of Israeli settlement approvals

  • Three million Palestinians live in the territory, alongside more than 400,000 Israelis in settlements seen as illegal under international law

JERUSALEM: The EU has criticized Israel’s advancement of over 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements.
In a statement on Monday, the EU reiterated its longstanding position that all settlement activity on occupied land is illegal and “erodes the viability” of the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now says Israeli authorities approved various planning stages for the construction of 2,342 new housing units in the occupied West Bank last month.
It says Israel has already pushed forward plans for over 8,300 settlement homes this year — an increase of 5 percent over all of 2018.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment, and COGAT, the defense body that authorizes settlement construction, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The EU statement came as the Israeli police said an enquiry had been opened and officers suspended after a video emerged online apparently showing a border guard shooting a Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet.
Israel’s Channel 13 had broadcast the video on Saturday evening, showing border guards — part of the Israeli police — telling a Palestinian to turn back at a West Bank checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.

• Three million Palestinians live in the territory, alongside more than 400,000 Israelis in illegal settlements.

• Israeli checkpoints are key points of friction.

As the man walks away, his arms raised, one of the officers fires a sponge-tipped bullet, ammunition generally used for crowd control but which can be lethal at short distances.
The man instantly falls to the ground, shouting in pain.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the Justice Ministry had opened an investigation into the incident, which he said took place a year and a half ago.
“As soon as the incident became known the female border police officer was removed from duty,” he said.
“The other border policemen who were there were also removed and some of them were transferred from their positions.”
On Sunday, the Palestinian Liberation Organization slammed Israel over the incident and urged the UN to act.
“The video shows the extent of blind hatred and Zionist racism,” it said. Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
Three million Palestinians live in the territory, alongside more than 400,000 Israelis in settlements seen as illegal under international law. Israeli checkpoints are key points of friction.


Fifteen years later, Arafat is sorely missed

Updated 12 November 2019

Fifteen years later, Arafat is sorely missed

  • When Arafat passed away, an airport funeral procession was held in Paris and Cairo while the body was flown by a Jordanian military helicopter to Ramallah
  • While Palestinians look forward to a new generation of leaders, questions continue to dog the Palestinian leadership as to the circumstances behind Arafat’s untimely death

AMMAN: For Rauhi Fatouh, the memories of Yaser Arafat’s last days are as vivid as they were yesterday. 

Fatouh, a Gazan leader who belongs to Arafat’s Fatah movement, was the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council on Oct. 12, 2004 when president Arafat suddenly became sick while holed up at the Muqata headquarters in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli tanks.

Fatouh recalls going with the ailing Arafat to a French military hospital outside Paris along with Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and Ahmad Kurei (Abu Alaa) and a special visitor came by. “We were visited by French President Jacque Chirac who talked about the issue of transition and asked me to follow the Palestinian basic law so that there would be a smooth transition,” Fatouh told Arab News.

Article 37 of the Palestinian law stipulates that if the president of the Palestinian Authority is unable to carry on his duties, the speaker of the Legislative Council will take over for a 60-day transitional period, after which new elections are supposed to take place. 

“We were hoping that this would not happen but everyone including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Abdallah Saleh kept on calling us wanting to be sure that the transition will take place without any obstacles and if it is possible to hold the funeral outside of Palestine so that they can attend.”

When Arafat passed away, an airport funeral procession was held in Paris and Cairo while the body was flown by a Jordanian military helicopter to Ramallah. Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian intelligence, and Foreign Minister Suleiman Abu Ghaith came to Ramallah to attend the funeral.

Fatouh recalls the following sequence of events: “Abbas was elected as chairman of the executive committee and I was sworn in as acting president, as per the Palestinian Basic Law in front of the Legislative Council and the senior court judges. Everything concerning the transition took place in an orderly fashion,” he said noting that he resisted various attempts by people close to him to skip the idea of having presidential elections and stay in power.

One of the first orders of business for the acting president was to respond to the hundreds of letters, requests and laws that were unanswered. “I had to deal with thousands of documents, I vowed not to refuse any request for help from Palestinians needy medical or educational help, but sometimes we had to reduce the amount.”

On his third day in office, Fatouh signed a decree allowing for presidential elections to take place exactly 60 days later. “While some wanted to have simultaneous presidential and legislative elections, I decided to only have presidential elections to fill Arafat’s seat and that took place on Jan. 9, 2005.” Mahmoud Abbas won the presidential elections defeating independent medical doctor Mustafa Barghouti with 72 percent of the vote.

Najeeb Qadoumi, a member of the Palestine National and Central Councils, told Arab News that the absence of Arafat has left a vacuum in Palestinian political life. “We are sad on this occasion because we feel lonely. Arafat was able to move the Palestinian cause from a humanitarian and refugee cause to one of a revolution, a flag, national identity and statehood. Today, whenever you meet anyone and say you are Palestinian, they will mention Arafat’s name.”

While Palestinians look forward to a new generation of leaders, questions continue to dog the Palestinian leadership as to the circumstances behind Arafat’s untimely death. Hamdi Farraj, a left-wing writer from Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp, told Arab News that the mystery must be solved. Palestinian officials, including Arafat’s nephew Nasser Kidwa, insist that Arafat was poisoned, possibly with orders from former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with help from someone close to the late president. “We are further saddened by the fact that the killer of Arafat is still free, eating our food and breathing our air,” Farraj said.

Palestinians are expecting to have legislative elections early in 2020 followed within three months by presidential elections. Abbas has said previously that he has no plans to run again, but Fatah strongman Hussein Sheikh has said publicly that Abbas remains the party’s only candidate. Fatah Secretary Jibril Rajoub, seen by many as the strongest Fatah candidate, has said on Palestine TV that Abbas should be the “wise leader” of the Palestinian people and should give room to others to take his place.

Some analyst also expect Fatah deputy Mahmoud Alloul to be a candidate along with current Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Renegade Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, living in exile in the UAE, has a significant following and is expected to run for office if elections take place. Other possible candidates include Hamas’s leader Ismael Haniyeh and former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as an independent.