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.”


Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah reappointed as Kuwait’s prime minister

Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah reappointed as Kuwait’s prime minister
Updated 5 min 16 sec ago

Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah reappointed as Kuwait’s prime minister

Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah reappointed as Kuwait’s prime minister

KUWAIT: Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Sabah has been reappointed as Kuwait’s prime minister under an Emiri order issued on Wednesday, state news agency (KUNA) reported.


American-Iranian citizen Baquer Namazi leaves Iran

American-Iranian citizen Baquer Namazi leaves Iran
Updated 11 sec ago

American-Iranian citizen Baquer Namazi leaves Iran

American-Iranian citizen Baquer Namazi leaves Iran
  • Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official, was detained in 2016 when he went to Iran to press for the release of his son Siamak
  • The US has been pressing for the release of these two men and two other Americans

DUBAI: US citizen Baquer Namazi has left Iran, said a semi-official Iranian website, Khabaronline, on Wednesday, publishing a video showing him boarding a private plane accompanied by a man in Omani traditional dress.
Oman on Tuesday thanked Iran for handing over US citizen Namazi, the Iranian foreign ministry said on its website.
Namazi, 85, a former UN official, holds both US and Iranian citizenship and is one of four Iranian-Americans, including his son Siamak, who had been detained in Iran or barred from leaving the country. 
The United States has been pressing for the release of these two men and two other Americans amid efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major Western powers.
“Wrongfully detained US citizen Baquer Namazi has been permitted to depart Iran, and his son Siamak, also wrongfully detained, has been granted furlough from prison,” a State Department spokesperson told AFP.
It added that the older Namazi “was unjustly detained in Iran and then not permitted to leave the county after serving his sentence, despite his repeated requirement for urgent medical attention.”
“We understand that the lifting of the travel ban and his son’s furlough were related to his medical requirement.”
The United Nations said last week that the pair had been allowed to leave Iran, after an appeal from its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Both were convicted of espionage in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Baquer Namazi was released on medical leave in 2018 and had been serving his sentence under house arrest.
At least two other American citizens are currently held in Iran.
Businessman Emad Sharqi was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for espionage, and environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, who is also a British national, was arrested in 2018 and released on bail in July.
A drive to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal resumed in late November last year, after talks were suspended in June as Iran elected ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi.
The 2015 deal — agreed by Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany — offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
But the United States unilaterally withdrew in 2018 under president Donald Trump and reimposed biting economic sanctions, prompting Tehran to begin rolling back on its commitments.
On Sunday, the United States rejected Iranian reports that Tehran’s release of US citizens would lead to the unfreezing of Iranian funds abroad.
“With the finalization of negotiations between Iran and the United States to release the prisoners of both countries, $7 billion of Iran’s blocked resources will be released,” the state news agency IRNA said.
But the State Department dismissed any such link as “categorically false.”
Billions of dollars in Iranian funds have been frozen in a number of countries — notably China, South Korea and Japan — since the US reimposed sanctions.


Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl
Updated 41 min 42 sec ago

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl

Iran judiciary opens probe into death of teenage girl
  • The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people

TEHRAN: Iran’s judiciary has opened an investigation into the death of a teenage girl, who was reportedly killed during protests over the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since Amini died on September 16 after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly failing to observe the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women.
The street violence has led to the deaths of dozens of people — mostly protesters but also members of the security forces.
“A case has been filed in the criminal court to investigate the cause of Nika Shakrami’s death,” Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency late Tuesday.
“An order to investigate the case has been issued and necessary measures are being taken in this regard,” he added.
Earlier, the prosecutor said 400 protesters were released from prison “on condition of not repeating their actions.”
He stressed, however, that those “who acted against national security” will be dealt with “decisively, seriously and without leniency.”


Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings
Updated 05 October 2022

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings

Lebanese MP Cynthia Zarazir enters Byblos Bank north of Beirut to demand frozen savings
  • First-time parliamentarian enters bank unarmed and demands $8,500 in cash
  • Bank offers a rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar, an 80 percent cut on the value of her funds

A Lebanese member of parliament entered a branch of Byblos Bank north of Beirut on Wednesday with a group of associates to demand access to her frozen savings to pay for surgery.

Cynthia Zarazir, a first-time parliamentarian who was elected in May to represent Beirut, entered the bank unarmed and demanded $8,500 in cash, she said.

“We’ve spent a few days going back and forth to the bank and bringing my (medical) reports and they don’t answer us. I can’t delay this any more. I came to take my money,” Zarazir said by telephone from the bank.

“Today, I came as a I don’t care what my colleagues in the parliament will think. I see right from wrong,” she said.

 

 

A citizen also opened fire on a Bank of Beirut branch in Jbeil after guards prevented him from getting into the bank without a prior appointment, the Lebanese State Agency reported.

The man reportedly pulled out a machine gun from his car and opened fire on the bank, causing damage to the glass door. Security forces arrested him on the scene for further investigations.

Cases of bank hold-ups and protests have snowballed across Lebanon recently as depositors have grown exasperated over informal capital controls that banks have imposed since an economic downturn began in 2019.

Depositors can only withdraw limited amounts in US dollars or the Lebanese pound, which has lost more than 95 percent of its value since the crisis began.

The bank branch shut down after Zarazir entered and a spokesperson for Byblos Bank at its headquarters was not immediately available for comment.

Zarazir said she had rejected an offer from the bank to withdraw an unlimited amount in Lebanese pounds at a rate of 8,000 pounds to the dollar — which would represent a roughly 80 percent haircut on the value of her funds.

“She has not broken the law in any way. She went into her bank to ask for her money. She didn’t even shut the bank down — the management did that,” said Fouad Debs, her lawyer and a founder of the Depositors’ Union advocacy group.

He accompanied Zarazir and spoke to Reuters from the bank, saying the sit-in would continue until the lawmaker had access to her funds.

Tuesday saw four hold-ups across Lebanon, two of them involving armed men demanding their deposits.

Another incident took place on Monday.

Separately, an unidentified assailant fired shots at a Beirut Bank branch in the northern town of Byblos on Wednesday, a security source said.

There were no injuries and the assailant fled, the source said.

Lebanon’s banking association has expressed outrage over the hold-ups. A similar surge last month prompted banks to close for about a week.


Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents
Updated 05 October 2022

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

Newest Hindu temple officially opens its doors to UAE residents

DUBAI: The newest Hindu temple in Dubai opened its doors to worshippers on Tuesday following an official ceremony. 
The new Hindu House of Worship officially welcomed worshippers for the first time following its inaugural by the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence. 
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan inaugurated the temple by lighting a lantern in the temple’s multi-purpose hall on the ground floor, Al-Khaleej Times reported. 

People visit the newly inaugurated Hindu Temple in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, October 4, 2022. (Reuters)


The new temple in Jebel Ali is the latest addition to what is locally known as “village of worship” which already houses nine religious shrines, including seven churches, the Guru Nanak Darbar and Sikh Gurudwara. 
The ceremony was also attended by the Indian ambassador to UAE and over 200 dignitaries, including officials, faith leaders, and members of the Indian community in UAE.