Who sets US policy on Israel and Palestine?

First published by the Arab Weekly on 15/10/2017

With Trump, Tillerson, Trump’s advisers and his ambassador seemingly working in an uncoordinated manner, it may be a case of too many cooks spoiling the peace broth.

The president of the United States normally sets the broad objectives of the country’s foreign policy, which largely fol­low his party’s platform on the various issues. Day-to-day implementation is normally the do­main of the US State Department, with the secretary of state tradi­tionally being the person to lead the process and clock the required air miles to project the policy and attempts to deliver it.

Donald Trump, however, is no ordinary president and, while he set out his foreign policy dur­ing the election in the same way previous presidents have, he has acted differently when it comes to implementation. This has been the case on issues such as Iran and North Korea, which have caused tensions between the White House and the State Department, with political observers characterising Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s role as “clearing up the mess.”

Trump is certainly committed to bringing peace to the Palestinians and Israelis. It would be, he said, the “ultimate deal.” He promised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done.”

However, unlike his predeces­sor, Barack Obama, who effec­tively passed the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to his Secretary of State John Kerry, Trump appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior adviser on the Middle East. His other key appointments in relation to this were his company lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as special representa­tive for international negotiations, and his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, for the sensitive posi­tion of US ambassador to Israel.

All three key appointees have a strong record of supporting Israel but none of them had experience in foreign policy. They were appoint­ed to a task that has frustrated countless individuals who were far more experienced.

Kushner’s family’s foundation has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the illegal West Bank set­tlement of Bet El. Greenblatt and Friedman are also strong support­ers of the settlement enterprise. While Abbas has met with both Kushner and Greenblatt on several occasions, he has refused to meet with Friedman because of the am­bassador’s determination to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Tillerson has made two visits to the Palestinian territories and Isra­el since his appointment. His visit in May ahead of Trump’s July visit to the region was his first to the Holy Land. Greenblatt and Kushner have made repeated visits.

None of the three has made a substantial announcement on how Trump’s “ultimate deal” would be reached or whether there would be a substantial change in US policy. They claim to still be in an “explo­ration and listening” mode.

However, Friedman has been outspoken since his appointment. He recently referred to the “alleged occupation” of the West Bank and followed it with the astonishing claim that Israel only occupies 2% of the West Bank and that the two-state solution “is not a help­ful term” and “has largely lost its meaning.”

He further stated: “I think the settlements are part of Israel” in comments that seem at odds with decades of US foreign policy. These statements could easily have come from Israel’s Foreign Ministry web­site. It was left to a State Depart­ment spokeswoman to reiterate there was no change in US policy.

With Trump, Tillerson, Trump’s advisers and his ambassador seemingly working in an uncoor­dinated manner, it may be a case of too many cooks spoiling the peace broth.

The US kicks the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal into the long grass

First published by the Middle East Eye on 30/8/2017

Just days after a US delegation visit to Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu declares that Israel will no longer uproot settlements. Any dreams of peace anytime soon are a long way off

 

Say what you want about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but he doesn’t mince his words.

“We are here to stay, forever,” he said earlier this week during an event in the settlement of Barkan, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

“There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel. It has been proven that it does not help peace. We’ve uprooted settlements. What did we get? We received missiles. It will not happen anymore.”

Coming just days after the visit of US President Donald Trump’s “peace team” to the region, led by his senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the timing of Netanyahu’s comments are highly significant.

The readout from the US team’s meetings with Abbas and Netanyahu was largely devoid of content. However, as brief as it was, it confirmed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ warnings that Trump’s peace process plans – and perhaps his White House overall – are in turmoil.

“I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as president of the United States,” Abbas reportedly told delegates from the Israeli political party Meretz during a recent visit.

“Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me,” Abbas said, according to the delegates’ notes.

“I can’t understand how they are conducting themselves with us … Inside [Trump’s] country, there is chaos in the administration.”

The administration may indeed be in chaos, but whether intentionally or out of incompetence, it has kicked the peace process into the long grass and emboldened the Israelis in the process.

A peace plan mystery

Kushner and the rest of the Trump team’s recent visit to the Holy Land was preceded by a whistlestop tour of key Arab countries. It is important to note that no substantive messages emerged about Trump’s proposed peace plan.

The US embassy rstatement from the 23 August meeting between the Americans and Jordan’s King Abdullah II omitted any reference to discussions about the much vaunted two-state solution.

However, quoting a statement from the Royal Court, Jordanian media reported that “talks focused on efforts to push forward the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and relaunch serious and effective negotiations between the two sides based on the two-state solution, which is the only way to end the conflict”.

A subsequent report in Al-Hayat newspaper, attributed to a PA source, said that Trump’s team had indicated that a settlement freeze could not be a precondition for resumed peace talks and that building would continue.

However, a senior White House official told the Times of Israel that Al-Hayat’s report was “nonsense” and said that the comments were never made.

In their meeting with the Palestinians, the visiting delegation reportedly asked for a three to four month grace period to present their ideas. A former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath also said that the Palestinians told the Americans that its demands are “the end of the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the resolution of all permanent status issues, including the right of return for [Palestinian] refugees.”

These demands are the longstanding position of the Palestinians and have not shifted at all.

No room in ‘Netanyahu land’

While the Palestinian position remains consistent, Netanyahu, perhaps feeling emboldened more than ever, continues to harden Israel’s position.

When he promised during the 2015 elections that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch, those seeking to shield Israel from criticism claimed it was just electioneering.

However, this week, Netanyahu went further when he said there would be “no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel”. Netanyahu is not talking about two states with land swaps. He is not talking about “keeping the settlement blocks” along the Green Line. He is talking about all settlements. This has nothing to do with electioneering but rather his long-held beliefs.

There is no room in Netanyahu land for a Palestinian state.

In fact, in June, Israel recently laid the foundations for a new settlement. “After decades, I have the honour to be the first prime minister to build a settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said at the time, referring to the occupied West Bank with its biblical name.

Netanyahu sees the land of historic Palestine from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea as Israel. There is no room in “Netanyahu land” for a Palestinian state.

Increasingly emboldened by the lack of pressure from the international community to move seriously towards peace or face sanctions, Netanyahu is moving the debate from the real issue – how to end a 50-year long occupation – to Israel’s security needs.

He told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on his first visit to the Holy Land this week that Israel’s “most pressing problem” is Hezbollah and Syria, claiming that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) had smuggled weapons into Lebanon for Hezbollah.

“I will do everything in my capacity to make sure that UNIFIL fully meets its mandate,” Guterres responded, adding that the “idea, intention or will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective.”

Netanyahu also called upon Gutteres to “end the discrimination against Israel in some branches of your organisation”, an accusation shared by the US administration and frequently raised by US Ambassador to the UN Nicky Hayley who has promised to end it several times.

On Wednesday, two days after his meeting with Netanyahu, Gutteres called for Israel’s blockade against Gaza to end. It seems their meeting may not have gone as well as the Israeli president thought.

Sign of things to come

While it is dangerous to predict the future, I will take this risk today. As Netanyahu and Abbas prepare to address the UN General Assembly in September, we can read the signs from this week to guess what they will say.

Abbas will plead with the UN to bring decades of Palestinian of suffering to an end, halt illegal settlements and help protect the (non-existent) two-state solution. He is likely to be armed with a recent petition signed by thousands of Palestinian pupils calling on Gutteres and all defenders of human rights to intervene to protect them from Israel’s daily violations which Palestinians have endured for 50 years.

Abbas may ask for the UN to recognise the state of Palestine and may also indicate that if the peace process fails, he will be left with no options but to head to the International Criminal Court.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, may focus on the unfair criticism of Israel, on the real issues as he sees them – which amount to Israel’s self-defined and elastic-security needs. He will talk about the threats from Iran in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the failure of the UNIFIL to do its job and the need to rearticulate its mandate.

On peace with the Palestinians, he will say that settlements are not an obstacle to peace and argue that neither the unilateral actions by Palestinians, nor the imposition of a solution will bring peace. The real obstacle to peace, he will claim, is the Palestinian refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

He will laud the growing “under the table” relations with key Arab countries which share his concerns about Iran, but he will still portray Israel as the victim, not the Palestinians.

It seems that the ultimate deal President Trump seeks is a long way off and, any peace initiative, when it comes, will be biased in Israel’s favour.

Israel will continue to colonise and the Palestinians will continue to suffer a lack of peace or hope for the current and the next generation, neither of which will bring Israel any security.

– Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).  He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwashHe writes here in a personal capacity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave after delivering a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

What better offer does Israel have than the Arab Peace Initiative?

First published by the Arab Weekly on 20/8/2017

The last serious, sus­tained effort to bro­ker a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians was made during the Obama administra­tion by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry. He tried over nine months to advance peace talks but his efforts met with failure and the breakout of the 50-day war on Gaza in 2014.

In his final speech before leav­ing office, Kerry laid most of the blame for the talks’ failures on the Israelis. He claimed that while Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Ne­tanyahu publicly supports a two-state solution, his coalition “is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” which are “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history.”

Kerry then presented his princi­ples for a future final status agree­ment: An Israeli and a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; full rights for all citizens; a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue; Jerusalem as the capital of both countries; an end to the occupa­tion, while satisfying Israel’s se­curity needs, with a demilitarised Palestinian state; and end to all claims by both sides.

Just before the end of the Obama administration’s term, France called a conference of stakehold­ers to discuss a possible way for­ward but that too failed to move matters. Some, including British representatives, thought it odd that the two parties to the conflict were deliberately not invited.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser on the Middle East, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is leading attempts to broker the “ultimate deal.” He has expressed uncertainty about the United States’ ability to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Pales­tinians and told a recent gathering “there may be no solution.”

On August 1, China issued its own four-point plan to move the matter forward: Advancing the two-state solution based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of a new Palestinian state, upholding “the concept of common, comprehensive, coop­erative and sustainable security,” immediately ending Israeli set­tlement building, taking immedi­ate measures to prevent violence against civilians and calling for an early resumption of peace talks, coordinating international efforts to put forward “peace-promoting measures that entail joint par­ticipation at an early date” and promoting peace through devel­opment and cooperation between the Palestinians and Israel. None of the main parties have reacted to the plan.

There is, therefore, no short­age of initiatives from the inter­national community. The most serious one to come out of the Middle East was the Arab Peace Initiative, which was announced by then-Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia during a meeting in Bei­rut in 2002. The initiative calls for normalising relations between the Arab region and Israel, in ex­change for a full withdrawal by Israel from occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) and a “just settlement” of the Palestin­ian refugee problem based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

The initiative was met with en­thusiasm by former US President George W. Bush and generally sup­ported by former President Barack Obama. Trump has referred to it as a basis for the “ultimate deal.” He has said he is in favour of what­ever the two parties agree upon, whether one state or two.

Israel’s reaction from the outset was lukewarm. Its position can be summarised as recognising some of the initiative’s positive ele­ments while insisting that there are issues it would not compro­mise on, including the return of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem and complete with­drawal from occupied Arab land.

Netanyahu rejected the ini­tiative in 2007, when he was the leader of the opposition. He told visiting Arab foreign ministers that “the withdrawal from Gaza two years ago proved that any Is­raeli withdrawal — particularly a unilateral one — does not advance peace but rather establishes a ter­ror base for radical Islam.”

In 2015, he stated “there are pos­itive aspects and negative aspects to it.” While noting that the situ­ation has changed in the 13 years since the deal was proposed, Ne­tanyahu asserted that “the gen­eral idea — to try and reach un­derstandings with leading Arab countries — is a good idea.”

Israel probably believes that some Arab countries see it as a potential ally against Iran and are therefore more likely to offer it more concessions on the final out­come of a deal with the Palestin­ians. The recent tensions in and over Jerusalem showed that was unlikely but Israel still did not feel the need to accept the Arab Peace Initiative.

Palestine must push back against loss of traditional allies

First published by the Middle East Monitor on 4/8/2017

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 29th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 3 July, 2017 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 29th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 3 July, 2017 [Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency]

 

When the PLO asked the United Nations General Assembly for an upgrade in Palestine’s status to “non-member observer state” on 29th November 2012, the motion was passed by a vote of 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions. The vote was met with ecstatic celebrations by the Palestinian delegation and disappointment on the faces of Israeli diplomats. The Israelis knew this could be a game changer, for although they, together with their American ally had scuppered the attempt in the Security Council (UNSC) for full recognition of Palestine as a state, the new status would offer the Palestinians the opportunity to pursue their ‘internationalisation’ strategy.

Having failed to make progress in direct peace negotiations under the auspices of the Americans, the Palestinians used their newly found status to join an array of international organisations and conventions. Palestine had already secured membership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) the previous year, which resulted in Israel freezing its $2 million annual contribution to it.

On 12th April 2014, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed the relevant documentation to join 15 treaties and conventions including the Four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and the First Additional Protocol. Perhaps the most important organisation Palestine was able to join as a result of its upgraded status was the International Criminal Court (ICC), which it formally joined in April 2015. Joining the ICC allows Palestine to bring cases against Israeli officials for alleged crimes, including the 2014 war on Gaza and continued illegal settlement construction.

While Palestine struggles to have resolutions passed in the UN Security Council due to the likelihood that the US will wield its veto to protect Israel, in other forums where the veto does not exist, it has generally secured enough support to pass relevant motions. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) regularly investigates Israeli human rights abuses and passes resolutions condemning its practices. UNESCO has passed important resolutions regarding Israeli policies in East Jerusalem and the status of Hebron’s old city and Al Aqsa Mosque that have raised severe criticism by Israel and its American backer; they were, however, unable to block these without the weapon of a US veto.

Despite these successes, support for the Palestinians in international forums is under threat from a sustained diplomatic effort by Israel to dissuade states and organisations traditionally hostile to it and supportive of the Palestinians to change course.

A Palestinian statehood resolution at the UNSC in December 2014 seemed to have secured enough votes to force the Obama administration to wield the US veto. That was until Nigeria, which has traditionally supported the Palestinians had a last minute change of heart and abstained; meaning the US did not need to exercise its veto. That was despite France, China and Russia voting in favour of the resolution. Nigeria’s Ambassador echoed the US position stating that the ultimate path to peace lies “in a negotiated solution”. This came after heavy pressure on the Nigerians which included telephone calls to the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan by Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

In another first, India’s Narendra Modi made the first state visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister last July. Commenting on a visit in which he physically embraced Prime Minister Netanyahu he said that India and Israel shared a “deep and centuries-old” connection. Suffice to note that that connection had not translated into a similar visit by a sitting Indian Prime Minister since Israel’s creation in 1948. Furthermore, it is worth noting that India is now Israel’s biggest arms market worth about $1bn per annum.

Israel’s relations with China have been developing since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992. China has moved from support for the Palestinians and opposition to Israel to support for a nebulous “just and peaceful resolution” to the issue instead.

Football’s governing body, FIFA, which had been due to sanction Israel for allowing teams from the illegal West Bank settlements to participate in Israel’s league, against FIFA’s own rules. The move was kicked this into the long grass following a telephone call from Israel’s Netanyahu to FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino.

In recent months, particularly following US President Trump’s visit to the region, even Arab states that had unreservedly supported the Palestinians have shown signs of change. Netanyahu insists relations with Arab states which have largely been hostile to Israel is shifting. There has even been talk of limited normalisation by some Gulf States to incentivise Israel to halt settlement construction and re-engage in the “peace process” with Palestinians.

An even greater danger for the erosion of Palestinian support lies in Africa. Prime Minister Netanyahu has long been pursuing closer relations and support from the African continent. On a visit to Kenya in 2016, he said “There are 50 countries in Africa”, “Just about all of them,” he continued “could be allies of Israel. They vote at international forums, and I know people don’t believe this, but I think we can change the automatic majorities in the UN and so on if you begin to shift this.”

The next step in Netanyahu’s pursuit of this change is the forthcoming ‘Africa-Israel Summit’ which has been called for 23- 24 October in Lome, Togo. The Summit’s website sells it as a “framework that will permit the leaders of the trade, security and diplomatic sectors of Africa and Israel to meet, network and collaborate”. It quotes Netanyahu saying Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel”. The last time the Israeli and Togo leaders were due to meet was at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Summit in Monrovia, Liberia back in June. However, the meeting was cancelled following a scuffle between the two leaders’ body guards.

Netanyahu’s attendance at the annual conference was to try and garner support for Israel at the UN and other forums and to “dissolve this majority, this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the UN and international bodies”. The conference saw Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe named the new chairperson of ECOWAS in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

Although the Africa-Israel Summit is still on schedule, pressure to cancel it appears to be growing. Morocco and the Palestinian Authority have reportedly been pressuring the Togolese President to cancel the summit and African countries to boycott it. This pressure must grow rapidly to avoid Israel reaping the fruits of its efforts in Africa, the continent which experienced apartheid in South Africa and which until relatively recently saw its fall. How can Africa, in particular, entertain Israeli apartheid?

The Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu has labelled Israeli policies as Apartheid for over a decade. “I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces,” he said in a statement in 2014. “Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”

The Palestinians may have assumed that Africa would resist Netanyahu’s charm offensive. However, increasingly it seems economic considerations trump human rights. The PLO has representative offices in 20 African countries. Apart from the North African Arab countries and other member states of the Arab League, Palestine has in South Africa and the African National Congress in particular strong supporters of the Palestinian cause. South Africa has been considering downgrading its embassy in Tel Aviv in protest at the lack of progress towards peace and Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership must use every ally to push back against Israel’s diplomatic offensive in Africa or face further erosion of support where it matters for the just Palestinian cause.

برنامج وراء الحدث: جمعة الغضب نصرة للأقصى

مشاركتي يوم ٢١/٧/٢٠١٧ ببرنامج وراء الحدث على قناة الغد

https://youtu.be/0v7TbpBmGRE

Attaque d’al-Aqsa : les Palestiniens quasiment abandonnés

18/7/2017 Middle East Eye FR

La défense de la mosquée al-Aqsa, chérie par 1,6 milliard de musulmans de par le monde, a été laissée aux 300 000 Palestiniens de Jérusalem, qui font face à un occupant particulièrement brutal et impitoyable

 

Les implications de l’incident mortel de vendredi dernier à Al-Aqsa vont bien au-delà du droit à la prière.

Cinq citoyens israéliens ont été tués lors de cette attaque perpétrée à la porte des Lions qui donne accès au complexe d’al-Aqsa, le troisième site le plus sacré de l’islam et également le site le plus sacré du judaïsme, connu sous le nom de mont du Temple.

Les assaillants, trois cousins ​​de la famille Jabareen, étaient originaires de la ville arabe israélienne d’Um al-Fahm, qui se trouve juste à l’intérieur de la Ligne verte. Ils étaient dans le collimateur des forces de sécurité israéliennes qui les considéraient comme des menaces potentielles.

Les deux policiers israéliens tués lors de l’incident provenaient de la communauté druze minoritaire d’Israël. L’un venait de la ville essentiellement druze mais aussi arabe de Maghar et l’autre du village druze de Hurfeish.

Les corps des policiers ont été remis rapidement à leurs familles et ont été enterrés le jour même, alors que ceux des assaillants sont encore détenus par les autorités israéliennes.

La famille Jabareen a monté trois tentes consacrées au deuil à Um al-Fahm, lesquelles ont été rapidement démantelées suite aux ordres du Premier ministre israélien, Benyamin Netanyahou. Lundi, le ministre israélien de la Sécurité publique, Gilad Erdan, a suggéré que les maisons des attaquants étaient susceptibles d’être démolies.

En raison de cette attaque, on pourrait observer dans les jours à venir une augmentation des tensions entre les communautés palestinienne et druze d’Israël. L’enrôlement des druzes dans l’armée israélienne n’est pas apprécié par les citoyens palestiniens d’Israël et par les résidents de Jérusalem, et des confrontations ont souvent lieu aux entrées d’al-Aqsa.

La première fois depuis 1969

Immédiatement après l’attaque, les autorités israéliennes ont évacué le lieu saint, expulsant toutes les personnes qui étaient venues y prier, ainsi que les responsables religieux et les employés du Waqf, l’entité qui administre le site, avant de le fermer. Les prières du vendredi ont été annulées et l’appel à la prière n’a plus été entendu.

Cela ne s’était pas produit depuis qu’un Australien avait mis le feu à la mosquée en août 1969, deux ans après l’occupation de Jérusalem-Est par Israël durant la guerre des Six jours.

Les forces israéliennes surveillent une rue menant à l’entrée principale d’al-Aqsa ce lundi. Les rues et les magasins de la vieille ville étaient vides alors que les Palestiniens protestaient contre les nouvelles mesures de sécurité imposées par Israël (M

Le président de l’Autorité palestinienne, Mahmoud Abbas, a téléphoné à Netanyahou et « a exprimé sa forte condamnation de la fusillade mortelle de Jérusalem et de la fermeture du lieu saint musulman de la mosquée al-Aqsa par Israël », selon l’agence de presse palestinienne WAFA.

Abbas a exprimé son « rejet de tout incident violent de toute part, en particulier dans les lieux de culte », et appelé Netanyahou à « mettre fin à la fermeture imposée du site sacré, mettant en garde contre les conséquences de ces mesures ».

Netanyahou a assuré à Abbas que le « statu quo » en vigueur dans le complexe ne changerait pas et a appelé toutes les parties au calme. Les Palestiniens n’ont pas apprécié la condamnation d’Abbas et sa cote de popularité est susceptible de baisser davantage, faisant de lui un partenaire pour la paix encore plus faible.

Comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ?

Selon le « statu quo » établi suite à l’occupation par Israël de Jérusalem-Est, y compris de la vieille ville, le Waqf jordanien administre le sanctuaire, les musulmans ont le droit d’y prier et les non-musulmans, y compris les juifs, peuvent le visiter mais ne peuvent y prier ou y pratiquer tout autre rituel religieux.

Le rôle spécial de la Jordanie à Jérusalem a été reconnu dans le traité de paix de 1994 entre Israël et la Jordanie, qui stipule qu’Israël « respecte le rôle spécial du royaume hachémite de Jordanie dans les sanctuaires musulmans à Jérusalem ».

Mais le traité ne va pas jusqu’à donner à la Jordanie une autorité juridique, politique ou religieuse sur les sanctuaires islamiques de Jérusalem.

À maintes reprises, Israël a poussé les limites du « statu quo », en particulier en permettant des visites plus fréquentes et nombreuses de colons, de responsables religieux et d’hommes politiques juifs sur le site, ce que les Palestiniens et le Waqf considèrent comme des incursions dans la mesure où elles ne sont pas coordonnées avec ce dernier. Cela a provoqué de fréquentes tensions entre Israël et la Jordanie et fait craindre aux Palestiniens qu’Israël ne cherche à imposer sa souveraineté sur le site.

En 2003, craignant qu’Israël change le statu quo à Jérusalem, Abbas a signé un accord avec le roi Abdallah de Jordanie pour solidifier la responsabilité de ce dernier vis-à-vis des lieux saints musulmans et chrétiens de Jérusalem.

Dans un communiqué, le palais royal jordanien avait alors déclaré : « Dans cet accord historique, Mahmoud Abbas a réitéré que le roi est le gardien des lieux saints à Jérusalem et qu’il a le droit de déployer tous les efforts juridiques nécessaires pour les préserver, en particulier la mosquée al-Aqsa ».

L’accord a également souligné « les principes historiques convenus par la Jordanie et la Palestine en vue d’exercer des efforts conjoints visant à protéger la ville et les lieux saints des tentatives israéliennes de judaïsation ».

Une réaction régionale mitigée

Alors qu’en 2014, la Jordanie a rappelé son ambassadeur pour protester contre les pratiques israéliennes sur le site, sa réaction à l’incident de vendredi dernier et à la fermeture de la mosquée a été plutôt discrète.

Le roi Abdallah a condamné l’attaque lors d’une conversation téléphonique avec Netanyahou et a vivement critiqué la fermeture de la mosquée décidée par Israël, exigeant sa réouverture.

Samedi soir, avant de partir pour sa visite d’État en France, Netanyahu a déclaré : « J’ai demandé à ce que des détecteurs de métaux soient placés aux portes d’entrée du mont du Temple. Nous installerons également des caméras de sécurité sur des poteaux situés en dehors du mont du Temple, mais qui donnent un contrôle presque total sur ce qu’il s’y passe.

« J’ai décidé que dès dimanche, dans le cadre de notre politique de maintien du statu quo, nous ouvrirons progressivement le mont du Temple, mais avec des mesures de sécurité renforcées. »

La déclaration de Netanyahou est contradictoire en soi car les mesures qu’il évoque ne font pas partie du statu quo. La Jordanie, pour sa part, n’a émis aucune autre réaction, ce qui est préoccupant pour les Palestiniens, qui s’attendaient à une action plus forte du roi.

Les Palestiniens sont également consternés par ce qu’ils considèrent comme une réaction discrète du monde arabe et musulman dans son ensemble à la fermeture de la mosquée – à l’exception du Qatar, dont le ministre des Affaires étrangères a déclaré que la fermeture d’al-Aqsa constituait « une grave violation des sites sacrés islamiques et une provocation pour des millions de musulmans à travers le monde ».

La Ligue arabe a demandé qu’al-Aqsa soit rouvert immédiatement et que cesse tout changement du statu quo. L’Égypte et la Turquie ont émis des déclarations plutôt clémentes. La Turquie a exprimé son regret pour l’incident, insisté sur la nécessité que le site reste ouvert et que sa fermeture par Israël soit immédiatement annulée.

Les inquiétudes concernant le troisième site le plus saint de l’islam déclenchent généralement des manifestations dans de nombreux pays arabes et musulmans, durant lesquelles l’on peut entendre les manifestants scander : « Nous sacrifierions notre vie et notre sang pour toi, al-Aqsa ». Ce slogan a été entendu à Jérusalem et en Jordanie, mais nulle part ailleurs.

En fait, la réponse globale du monde arabe et musulman est parmi les plus faibles jamais observées. Cela peut résulter de l’évolution du paysage politique au Moyen-Orient, qui a été provoquée par la récente visite du président américain Donald Trump dans la région et l’accent mis sur le terrorisme durant cette visite.

Après Riyad

Alors que les Palestiniens pourraient faire valoir que pour un peuple subissant une occupation illégale depuis 50 ans, les attaques contre « les forces d’occupation » constituent une forme légitime de résistance et non du terrorisme, le climat qui règne après la conférence de Riyad est moins favorable à cette idée.

La question du terrorisme, bien qu’aucune définition claire n’en ait émergé, est au cœur de l’impasse sans précédent entre le Qatar et quatre autres États arabes, y compris l’Égypte et l’Arabie saoudite.

L’ingérence d’Israël dans le droit des Palestiniens à bénéficier d’un accès sans entrave à al-Aqsa, accès qu’Israël pourrait rétablir progressivement, quoique selon des conditions sécuritaires plus strictes, a suscité leur colère, mais la situation ne retournera pas à ce qu’elle était avant l’attaque sans une action décisive de la Jordanie.

Alors que le monde arabe privilégie l’approche israélienne et américaine d’une paix régionale axée sur la normalisation, les autorités jordaniennes ont peut-être le sentiment qu’elles ne disposent pas du soutien de leurs frères arabes pour assurer le retour au statu quo.

La conclusion, pour le peuple palestinien, et en particulier pour les habitants de Jérusalem, est qu’ils ont été abandonnés.

Non seulement ils ont perdu le soutien de leurs frères et sœurs arabes et musulmans dans leur quête pour la libération, l’indépendance et la liberté, mais la défense d’al-Aqsa, chérie par 1,6 milliard de musulmans de par le monde, a été laissée aux 300 000 Palestiniens de Jérusalem, qui font face à un occupant particulièrement brutal et impitoyable.

Les ministres israéliens pourront se faciliter d’avoir su tirer profit de l’occasion de prendre le contrôle de ce site islamique vénéré, mais l’histoire montre qu’humilier les Palestiniens et écraser leurs espérances ne mènent qu’à davantage de violences.

 

Interview: ‘It seems Abbas has led Palestinians to a dead end’

Interview by Muslim Press on 3/7/2017

Muslim Press has conducted an interview with British Palestinian academic and writer on Middle East Affairs Kamel Hawwash about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is playing in this regard.

“It seems Abbas has led the Palestinians to a dead end. Gaza is still under siege ten years on, the settlements continue to grow in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over 6,000 prisoners still languish in Israeli jails, reconciliation with Hamas has failed and the refugees have not been able to return to their homes in historic Palestine,” Prof. Hawwash said.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview:

Muslim Press: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has recently met with US President Donald Trump. What’s your take on this meeting? Does Abbas speak for all Palestinians? 

Kamel Hawwash: Abbas’ first meeting with the American President in Washington seemed to have gone well. Donald Trump even tweeted that he was ‘honoured’ to meet the Palestinian President but he then deleted the tweet. He continued to repeat his belief that bringing peace between Israel and the Palestinians is the ‘ultimate deal’. The second meeting was less positive. Reports suggested that Trump focused on what Israel calls Palestinian incitement, which had been fed to trump during his meeting with Netanyahu, hours earlier. Trump is said to have accused Abbas of lying to him about his actions to end incitement. It also emerged that Trump had raised the issue of the PA’s monthly payments to families of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs (those killed while allegedly attacking Israelis, including occupation forces). As to the peace process then little emerged from the meetings to give the Palestinians hope. However, Abbas was still committed to negotiations, brokered by the Americans.

MP: Has Israel been pressuring the PA since Trump was elected? 

Kamel Hawwash: Israel has been moving the goal posts again. It is now raising the issue of ending Palestinian ‘incitement’ as a major issue in advance of any negotiations and is requiring that the PA ends payments to families of prisoners and those the Palestinians see as martyrs. It has further been attempting to relegate the importance of reaching a deal with the Palestinians to a secondary issue that is part of a regional deal rather than important in its own right. This has to be set against the context of what Israel claims to be thawing relations with some of the Gulf States and the talk of partial normalisation between Israel and key players in the region including Saudi Arabia.

MP: What are the results of Abbas’s policies toward Israel for Palestinians?

Kamel Hawwash: It seems Abbas has led the Palestinians to a dead end. Gaza is still under siege ten years on, the settlements continue to grow in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, over 6,000 prisoners still languish in Israeli jails, reconciliation with Hamas has failed and the refugees have not been able to return to their homes in historic Palestine. In addition, the PA’s security coordination with Israel is seen as ‘sacred’ by Abbas which the Palestinians find difficult to understand when Israel continues to flout all agreements signed with the PA. The lack of hope is the most dangerous outcome from his policies, despite a small number of achievements, including the upgrade in Palestine’s status to a UN non-member observer state in 2012.

MP: Trump has said he will find peace between the Palestinian people and Israel. How would that be possible while Israel is still expanding illegal settlements?

Kamel Hawwash: It is difficult to see how Trump can bring peace between the two sides considering how biased his team of negotiators is and his in favour of Israel and his choice of US Ambassador. The three key players, his son-in-Law Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador Friedman, could easily be on the Israeli side as they support much of Israel’s policies, especially the settlement enterprise. Trump has not appointed a single adviser who could be seen as pro-Palestinian or indeed an American of Palestinian heritage. He has abandoned long standing US policy regarding the illegitimacy of the settlements and does not mind if the parties want a 2-state or one-state solution. His vision is rather confused.

MP: What’s the significance of Jared Kushner’s meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas?

Kamel Hawwash: This may have finally exposed the bias of the American team towards Israel. Reports indicate Kushner had left his meeting with Netanyahu for Ramallah effectively to pass on Israeli demands to the PA rather than offer some balance or provide an indication of his ideas for relaunching the peace process.

Kamel Hawwash is a British-Palestinian engineering professor based at the University of Birmingham and a longstanding campaigner for justice, especially for the Palestinian people. He is vice chair of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC) and a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). He appears regularly in the media as commentator on Middle East issues. He runs a blog at http://www.kamelhawwash.com and tweets at @kamelhawwash.