Israeli settlers at risk of losing special West Bank status

Update Israeli settlers at risk of losing special West Bank status
The settlers could lose their ability to use national health insurance for treatment inside the West Bank, and the ability to update their status in the population registry and get national ID cards — something routinely denied to Palestinians. (File/AP)
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Updated 10 June 2022

Israeli settlers at risk of losing special West Bank status

Israeli settlers at risk of losing special West Bank status
  • Most countries view the settlements as a violation of international law
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett supports settlement expansion and is opposed to Palestinian statehood

JERUSALEM: Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank may soon get a taste of the military rule that Palestinians have been living under for 55 years.
If Israel’s parliament does not act, a special legal status accorded to the settlers will expire at the end of the month, with wide-ranging consequences. Lawyers who live in the settlements, including two members of Israel’s Supreme Court, will no longer be allowed to practice law. Settlers would be subject to military courts usually reserved for Palestinians and would lose access to some public services.
While few expect things to reach that point, the looming deadline has put Israel’s government on the brink of collapse and drawn dire warnings.
“Without this law, it would be a disaster,” said Israel Ganz, governor of the Benyamin Regional Council, a cluster of settlements just outside Jerusalem. “The Israeli government will lose any control here. No police, no taxes.”
For over half a century, Israel has repeatedly renewed regulations that today extend a legal umbrella to nearly 500,000 settlers — but not to the more than 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank. After failing to pass on Monday, the bill will be brought for another vote in the Knesset next week in a last-ditch effort to save the governing coalition — and the legal arrangement.
The law underpins separate legal systems for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank, a situation that three major human rights groups say amounts to apartheid. Israel rejects that allegation as an attack on its legitimacy.
“This is the piece of legislation that enables apartheid,” said Jessica Montell, director of the Israeli human rights group HaMoked, which provides legal aid to Palestinians.
“The whole settlement enterprise depends on them enjoying all the rights and benefits of being Israelis even though they are in occupied territory.”
An overwhelming majority in the Knesset support maintaining the separate systems. The main reason the bill didn’t pass was that the nationalist opposition — which strongly supports it — paradoxically refused to vote in favor in an attempt to bring down Israel’s broad-based but fragile coalition government. In a similar vein, anti-settlement lawmakers voted in favor of the legislation to keep the coalition afloat.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements there, many of which resemble small towns, with apartment blocks, shopping malls and industrial zones. The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state. Most countries view the settlements as a violation of international law.
Israel refers to the West Bank by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria, and considers it the heartland of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett supports settlement expansion and is opposed to Palestinian statehood. Israel officially views the West Bank as disputed territory whose fate is subject to negotiations, which collapsed more than a decade ago.
The emergency regulations, first enacted in 1967 and regularly renewed, extend much of Israeli law to West Bank settlers — but not to the territory itself.
“Applying the law to the territory could be considered as annexing the territory, with all the political consequences that Israel did not want to have,” said Liron Libman, a research fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and a former top Israeli military prosecutor.
Failure to renew the bill by the end of this month would have far-reaching consequences.
The Israel Bar Association requires lawyers and judges to reside in the country. Without the law’s carve-out, settlers would not be able to practice law in Israeli courts. That would include two Supreme Court justices, one of whom recently upheld an order to forcibly relocate hundreds of Palestinians.
The bill’s lapse could also result in more settlers who run afoul of the law being tried in military courts — something Israel authorities have long tried to reserve for Palestinian suspects.
The settlers could lose their ability to use national health insurance for treatment inside the West Bank, and the ability to update their status in the population registry and get national ID cards — something routinely denied to Palestinians.
The law also provides a legal basis for Israel to jail thousands of Palestinians who have been convicted by military courts in prisons inside Israel, despite international law prohibiting the transfer of prisoners out of occupied territory. The law’s lapse could force Israel to move those prisoners back to the West Bank, where there is currently only one Israeli prison.
The various consequences are seen as so catastrophic that many Israelis expect the bill to pass or the government to be replaced. It’s also possible that Israeli authorities, who often bend to the settlers’ demands, will find workarounds to blunt the worst effects.
“I’m not worried,” said Ganz, the settler leader. “It’s like when you owe the bank 1 million dollars, you are worried about it, but when you owe 1 billion, the bank manager is worried.”
Asked if the separate legal systems amount to apartheid, Ganz said: “I agree with you, 100 percent.”
His preferred solution is that Israel annex what’s known as Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank where, under interim peace accords, Israel already exercises complete control. Area C includes the settlements, as well as rural areas that are home to some 300,000 Palestinians, according to the UN
Most Palestinians live in Areas A and B — scattered, disconnected population centers where the Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule.
“It’s strange that different populations in the same area have different laws,” Ganz said. “So we have to bring Israeli law to everyone here in Area C.”
Two years ago, Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu flirted with annexation before putting it on hold as part of an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to normalize relations.
The Palestinians, and much of the international community, view annexation as a violation of international law that would deal a fatal blow to any hope for a two-state solution, still widely seen internationally as the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu, now opposition leader, and his allies strongly support the West Bank bill but hope its defeat will speed his return to power. The coalition cannot pass it on its own because a handful of lawmakers — mainly Palestinian citizens of Israel — refuse to vote for it.
The law may have been designed with an eventual partition in mind. But many Palestinians see its longevity as proof that Israel was never serious about a two-state solution.
“They could have easily undone the occupation by just not passing this law, time and again,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian Authority. “It gets passed by the left and it gets passed by the right. That’s why this idea of two states is such a fiction.”


US envoy to Yemen visiting Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations amid Houthi escalation in Shabwa

US envoy to Yemen visiting Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations amid Houthi escalation in Shabwa
Updated 20 sec ago

US envoy to Yemen visiting Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations amid Houthi escalation in Shabwa

US envoy to Yemen visiting Saudi Arabia, other Gulf nations amid Houthi escalation in Shabwa
  • Tim Lenderking’s regional tour is part of the intense diplomatic efforts to extend a UN-mediated truce in Yemen and bolster the peace process
  • He is also expected to rally support and funding for UN efforts to tackle the threat posed by the derelict Safer oil tanker, amid fears of an ecological disaster in the Red Sea

LONDON: The US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, began a tour of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman on Aug. 11, and members of his team have traveled to Jordan, as part of intense diplomatic efforts to extend a UN-mediated truce in Yemen and bolster peace efforts.

“The special envoy and his team will focus on helping to meaningfully expand benefits of the truce to all Yemenis and pave the way for a permanent ceasefire and an inclusive, durable Yemeni-led resolution to the conflict,” the State Department said.

Lenderking will also discuss recent instability in Shabwa and the need for a return to calm after fighting intensified in the oil-rich, eastern province, and highlight the need for additional financial assistance for the Yemeni people.

“The United States has already provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid this year alone, bringing our total contribution to the humanitarian response in Yemen to nearly $5 billion since the crisis began eight years ago,” the State Department said.

“We urge donors both to give generously and to make previous pledges immediately available for the sake of the people of Yemen.”

The head of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al-Alimi, on Wednesday announced moves designed to quickly end sedition in Shabwa and hold to account those responsible.

He added that “the strife that occurred in Shabwa confirms the importance of rallying around the state,” according to a report by the official Yemeni news agency, Saba.

Lenderking is also expected to continue to rally support for UN efforts to raise awareness of the threat posed by the Safer oil tanker, and funding to address it. The vessel, which is moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, holds more than 1.1 million barrels of oil and has had little or no maintenance carried out since the civil war began in late 2014. As a result, its condition has deteriorated to the point where there are fears of a major ecological disaster.

“With about $14 million unfunded and a UN-Houthi agreement to offload the oil to a temporary vessel, we are the closest we have ever been to addressing the threat posed by this derelict tanker,” Lenderking said.

“An oil spill would exacerbate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, cause severe environmental damage, and impact global shipping and other economic activity.”

Meanwhile, the EU said it is very concerned about the recent violence in Shabwa and the reported loss of lives.

“The EU welcomes the efforts of President Rashad Al-Alimi and the PLC to deescalate the situation (in) Yemen,” it said.


UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability
Updated 44 min 44 sec ago

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability

UN rights chief sounds alarm at number of Palestinian children killed, condemns lack of accountability
  • High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said a ‘climate of impunity’ is driving endless cycles of violence
  • So far this year 37 Palestinian children have been killed, including 19 during the intense fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad last weekend

NEW YORK: The UN’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, on Thursday expressed alarm at the “unconscionable” number of Palestinian children who have been killed or injured this year, and called for all incidents to be thoroughly investigated.

The figures soared last weekend during intense fighting between Israeli authorities and the Islamic Jihad group, and subsequent Israeli enforcement operations in the West Bank.

In the past week alone, 19 Palestinian children were killed in the Occupied Territories, raising the death toll since the start of the year to 37.

“Inflicting hurt on any child during the course of conflict is deeply disturbing, and the killing and maiming of so many children this year is unconscionable,” said Bachelet, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights.

A number of Israeli military strikes hit “prima facie civilian objects,” she added, resulting in deaths and damage to infrastructure.

“International humanitarian law is clear,” she said. “Launching an attack which may be expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited. Such attacks must stop.”

Bachelet also highlighted the violations of international humanitarian law by Palestinian armed groups who “launched hundreds of rockets and mortars in indiscriminate attacks, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects in Israel as well as in Gaza.”

According to Israeli authorities, 70 Israelis were injured during the fighting.

While the ceasefire that halted the latest violent escalation in Gaza is holding, tensions remain extremely high in the West Bank, where four Palestinians were killed and 90 injured on Aug. 9 by shots fired by Israeli forces.

Among the fatalities was a 16-year-old boy shot by Israeli soldiers during an arrest raid in Nablus, which also left 76 people injured. Another 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Hebron after some Palestinians threw rocks and fireworks at them.

“The widespread use of live ammunition by Israeli forces in law enforcement operations across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2022 has led to an alarming increase in Palestinian fatalities,” Bachelet said.

So far this year, 74 Palestinians have been killed, many as a result of the use of lethal force by Israeli authorities in a manner described by the UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Territories as a violation of international human rights law.

Bachelet called for “prompt, independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigations” into all incidents in which any person is killed or injured.

“An almost total lack of accountability persists in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, whether for violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in hostilities in Gaza, or for recurring Israeli violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, including incidents of unnecessary and disproportionate use of force,” she said.

“This climate of impunity, along with the long-standing violations, drives the cycle of violence and the recurrence of violations.

“The situation in Palestine is extremely fragile. The utmost restraint is necessary to prevent further bloodshed, including by ensuring that firearms are used strictly in compliance with international standards.”


Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says
Updated 22 min 16 sec ago

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

Russian officials trained in Iran as part of drone deal, US says

WASHINGTON: Russian officials trained in Iran in recent weeks as part of an agreement on the transfer of drones between the two countries, the US State Department said on Thursday.
US officials said last month that Washington had information that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, including some that are weapons capable, and that Russian officials had visited Iran to view attack-capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The claim raised concerns that Iran, which has supplied drones to its allies in the Middle East, was now giving support to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Iran’s foreign minister at the time denied the claim, including in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters during a phone briefing on Thursday that Russian officials had conducted training on drones in Iran “in the last several weeks.”
The United States would “vigorously enforce” its sanctions on both Russian and Iranian weapons trading, he said. The transfers of drones between the two countries was “potentially sanctionable under numerous authorities,” Patel said.
“We remain incredibly concerned about Iran’s use and proliferation of UAVs. They have been used to attack US forces, our partners in the region, and international shipping entities,” Patel said. 


Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
Updated 6 min 43 sec ago

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
  • Navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel

BEIRUT: The crew of a Lebanese Army speed cruiser that was taking part in a security operation off Al-Saadiyat coast on Thursday had to be rescued after their vessel caught fire, according to a statement by the army.

Later it was revealed that seven crew members were saved from the burning vessel.
Other navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel and help put out the fire.

No casualties were reported.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.