Disorder at Gaza banks as Hamas employees protest no pay as Ramallah staff getting salaries

Gaza banks have been closed after disorder broke out at banks and ATM cash machines when the idled staff of the Palestinian Government received salary deposits in their accounts, while those hired by Hamas in Gaza since the “military” and “political” coups in June 2007 received nothing…

This is a huge internal problem, which is not being addressed with the required speed or seriousness.

Meanwhile, external pressure is building for Mahmoud Abbas action to take control of the Hamas security forces in Gaza — another explosive issue, with no indication of planning or preparation yet, either…

Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year

Here is what the Quartet said after the U.S. issued invitations to Israel and the Palestinian leadership today, to start direct talks in Washington D.C. on 2 September:

“The representatives of the Quartet reaffirm their strong support for direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues. The Quartet reaffirms its full commitment to its previous statements, including in Trieste on 26 June 2009, in New York on 24 September 2009, and its statement in Moscow on 19 March 2010 which provides that direct, bilateral negotiations that resolve all final status issues should ‘lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors’. The Quartet expresses its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations, which can be completed within one year, and the implementation of an agreement”…

Continue reading Quartet on U.S. invitation: negotiations can be completed in one year

Nathan Brown on Salam Fayyad's "state-building"

Excerpts (with thanks to Sam Bahour) From Nathan Brown’s new assessment of Salam Fayyad and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority: “Fayyad has become so indispensible to U.S. diplomacy in particular that there now seems a bizarre knee-jerk reaction to anything bad that happens in Gaza: delivering more money to Ramallah (as happened when the Gaza war concluded in January 2009 or after the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010)…

“Washington tends to make the same mistake over and over in Palestinian politics—searching for (and sometimes finding) a particular individual who has the virtues needed to lead Palestinians in the path the United States wishes at a particular time. In Washington, Fayyad is the indispensible man of the hour, suggesting that once more the U.S. leadership is confusing a useful individual with a sound policy. Nobody I met in Palestine suffers from the same confusion. Even the most earnest officials are frustrated by the political context of their efforts—they see their effectiveness limited by the absence of sovereignty and feel that they are operating in a punishing holding pattern rather participating in an inexorable march toward statehood.

“[A]fter examining Palestinian institutional development on the ground, I see only spotty signs of progress—and there are also profoundly worrying signs of regression as well. Those who cite Fayyad’s success at building institution rarely cite a single institution that has been built. Instead they refer generally to improvements in ‘security’ and ‘rule of law’. (On security, they tend to concentrate on daily policing—where there has been improvement—and overlook the far more checkered record of the intelligence and security services.)  There is a reason for this vagueness. There simply have been few institutions built in Ramallah since the first Fayyad cabinet was formed in 2007. Instead, the focus has been on breathing life and regularizing institutions that were built in previous periods.

“There is no separation of powers; instead there is an increasing concentration of authority in the executive branch. There is no legislative branch. Court orders have ignored; judges have bowed out of some sensitive political issues; and the independence of the judiciary is hardly guaranteed.

“The fact remains, of course, that a campaign for “security” is often synonymous with the attempt to suppress Hamas. And as a result other problems—political interference, illegal detentions—do not seem to have been addressed. Or, rather, they have been addressed—by a decision at senior levels (the security service heads and perhaps the president himself) that the struggle against Hamas takes priority over the law…

This report and analysis by Nathan Brown can be read in full here.

Hilary Clinton: the search for Israeli-Palestinian peace is "never-ending". Bernard Kouchner: France is "very anxious about the situation of the people of Gaza".

Here are excerpts from remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner after their meeting in Washington on Thursday 5 February

Clinton: “We will continue to coordinate closely in the Middle East and cooperate on Gaza, humanitarian aid, and the never-ending pursuit of a just and secure peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians”.

Kouchner: the talks were “mainly on Middle East”

Then Kouchner (but not Clinton), mentioned Gaza:
“[W]e are really very anxious about the situation of the people of Gaza, and we were in agreement together with Madame Secretary of State to make pressure on both side to open the crossing. The Gaza people, they need so-called humanitarian assistance. And we’ll do it together another time, even if this is difficult, because we are facing – all of us – the electoral process in Israel and the idea – very important idea of Abu Mazen, the president of the PLO, the Palestinian Authority, to set up – to try to set up a government of national unity. And we are, of course, supporting Abu Mazen, and we must strengthen him, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, we must access to the people – we must accede to the people – sorry. For the rest, we were at complete agreement to support the Egyptian initiative, and you know that some talks are now – have been developed in Cairo in between the Hamas delegation, the PLO delegation, and we are waiting for the result of that with a very great support to the Egyptian. And there is a meeting in the – I think the – yes, the 2nd [n.b. I think he must have said 22nd] day of February [or maybe he meant the 2nd of March?], yes, in Cairo, and I hope we’ll get better support to Gaza people before this date

In response to a question about Hamas from a journalist:
Kouchner: “Hmm. (Laughter.) Okay. Well, Hamas, you know, we said several times we have no official talk with Hamas. It is, for the time being, impossible. Why? Of course, we have indirect talk in supporting the Egyptian initiative. We were obliged to go through – I mean, the Turks, and the Norwegian people, the Russian, et cetera. And of course, the Egyptian, mainly the Egyptian, because they are talking to Hamas. Why aren’t we talking officially to Hamas? Because they are not part of the peace process. And we’ll certainly talk to them when they would start to talk to the Palestinian themself, to PLO, and certainly, when they would accept the peace process, the signatures of PLO on the Israeli-Palestinian documents and mainly the Arab initiative of peace. That’s the answer. But certainly, this is part — and Tony Blair was right in saying so. In Gaza, if you are not setting up a sort of common task force to get access to the people or this government of national unity, it will be difficult, I know – we know that.

Clinton: “And I would only add that our conditions respecting Hamas are very clear: We will not in any way negotiate with or recognize Hamas until they renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to abide by, as the foreign minister said, the prior agreements entered into by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority” …

Secretary of State Clinton: There's a great exhalation of breath going on around the world … on Israel-Palestinian situation, We'll be working on a series of short-term obectives, but we'll wait until Mitchell gets back

Here are excerpts from remarks with reporters today by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton: “There’s a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that’s being set and the team that’s put together by the President to carry out our foreign policy goals. And as I said when I came here last week, you know, we view defense, diplomacy, and development as the three pillars of American foreign policy. That’s not rhetoric. That is our commitment. That’s how we are proceeding”…

President Obama “reserves the right to engage in whatever way he deems best, at whatever time he chooses to further American interests. And clearly, that is not limited to any one country. It is a broad statement of our approach. We are engaged ourselves in a vigorous policy analysis of a number of problems and challenges that we face around the world. And we will be, you know, rolling out ideas and plans as we go forward. The President and I thought it was important that we, as quickly as possible, set forth our policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, because we knew we wanted to reengage vigorously from the very beginning in the Middle East. And, you know, we chose as an envoy someone who – we have great confidence in his ability to do that. And to carry the message from the President, from myself, from our government that, you know, we’re going to be working on a series of short-term objectives with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian situation, but that we remain committed to the long-term objective of a comprehensive peace that provides security in the context of a two-state solution for the Palestinians …

“QUESTION: both you and the President in the wake of the Israeli-Hamas conflict have talked a lot about the plight of Palestinians while recognizing Israel’s right to self-defense, but you’ve put a lot of emphasis on the Palestinian plight. And I was wondering if you think that the Israeli campaign, given the fact that Hamas is still in control of Gaza and still on the ground and not completely decapitated, do you think that that was a counterproductive mission?

“SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, I think we’ve said all we’re going to say about the Israeli-Palestinian situation as we send our envoy out. I think we want to give him the opportunity to listen and bring back his impressions and information. And we are at this moment focused only on the Israel-Palestinian track. And I think it’s important to put the emphasis where it rightly belongs. We have, as I said, some short-term objectives such as a durable ceasefire, which as you know has receded somewhat today because of the offensive action against the IDF along the border. But of course, we’re concerned about the humanitarian suffering. We’re concerned any time innocent civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, are attacked. That’s why we support Israel’s right to self-defense. The rocket barrages, which are getting closer and closer to populated areas, cannot go unanswered. And it’s, you know, regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza. We are supporting the efforts by the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad to try to support the humanitarian efforts. We will participate with our own contributions. The United States is currently the single largest contributor to Palestinian aid, and we will be adding even more because we believe that it’s important to help those who have been damaged and suffering. But again, this is one of those situations that we’re going to await the report of our envoy. I mean, that’s why we chose Senator Mitchell. We have a lot of confidence in his knowledge of the area and his political ear, so you not only hear what people say but what the meaning behind the words might be. So we’re going to wait and let him report back to us about the way forward…”

Internal Palestinian politics and the peace process

Egypt has delivered invitations to Palestinian officials to a summit meeting of all the Palestinian factions for a “comprehensive national dialogue” in Cairo on 9 November. Egypt also sent along a draft plan, called The Palestinian National Project, for ending the political crisis caused by the fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

Details continue to emerge.

The Egyptian draft calls for the creation of a new Palestinian unity government. The Egyptian proposal also says that democracy is the only option for the principle of rotation of authority while respecting law and order and legitimacy, and it says that support for democracy requires political participation of all parties without quotas. Hamas has been asking for a share of seats in the Palestinian National Council that is proportional to the votes that it won in the last Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006, when it beat Fatah in the balloting. The Egyptian proposal suggests a compromise on when to hold national elections, calling for simultaneous elections, but leaving the date open. It also proposes that the election law should be reviewed in accordance with the needs of the interest of the homeland. Fatah apparently wants both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held simultaneously in 2010 – with President Abbas apparently continuing in office until then. But Hamas says that Abbas’s term ends in January 2009, and has repeatedly said that it believes the present Palestinian Legislative Council must continue until the end of its term in January 2010. The Egyptian draft says the security apparatuses should be rebuilt on a professional and national basis away from factionalism, and that only the security apparatuses would be authorized to defend the homeland and the citizens, with “the required Arab assistance that is necessary to fulfill the process of building and reform”. And the Egyptian plan calls for the formation of committees to begin work immediately on all the proposals, saying that there is no restriction on an Arab participation in any of the committees upon the request of the organizations. The plan says the Palestine Liberation Organization should be re-activated according to a March 2005 Cairo agreement, to include all forces and factions. The Egyptian plan also calls for the election of a new Palestinian National Council “in the homeland and abroad, wherever it is possible”.

According to the proposed draft plan, the Palestinian political factions would agree that the management of the political negotiations is a prerogative of the PLO and the president of the PA. The plan says that any agreement resulting from these negotiations has to be presented before the Palestinian National Council for approval — or a referendum should be conducted “anywhere possible”.

This draft agreement seems to leave a lot of loopholes open – and seems to steer the reconciliation talks in the direction of having all the Palestinian parties conform with the Road Map and the desires of the Quartet of Middle East negotiators. Hamas has apparently expressed reservations on a number of items of the draft conciliation proposal. Hamas Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told AFP that Hamas would request some changes, but that it would “agree to the draft of the agreement and will not reject it, but there needs to be guarantees that what is agreed upon will be implemented,” Hamas Spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum told AFP. Some points need to be modified and some points need clarification, Barhoum said.

While the Egyptian plan proposes a reform of the Palestinian security forces, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported that Hamas has demanded the banishment of four security leaders who, Hamas says, are acting on a factional basis and who are the executors of a policy of arrests against Hamas leaders in the West Bank. By coincidence, YNet said, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also wants to replace two of them — Tawfik Tirawi, head of the PA General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, who would actually be promoted, and appointed Abbas’ special advisor on security affairs with the rank of minister, and Diab al-Ali, commander of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. However, YNet added, the PA is concerned the changes would be perceived as capitulation to Hamas.

Ma’an News Agency reported that Tirawi was in fact dismissed on Tuesday. Ramattan says that he was removed due to professional rivalries. But, Ma’an quoted its sources as denying what was published by local and international news websites about Abbas intention to appoint a new chief of national security in West Bank to replace Diab Al-Ali (Abu Al-Fatah).

Then, on Thursday, JPOST correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh wrote that “Fatah officials on Wednesday criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to dismiss Gen. Tawfik Tirawi, commander of the PA’s General Intelligence Service, noting that the timing was particularly ‘problematic’. Abbas summoned Tirawi late Tuesday night to a meeting in the Mukata ‘presidential’ compound and informed him of the decision to fire him. Abbas offered to appoint Tirawi as his ‘adviser’ on security affairs and to promote him to the status of minister. However, Tirawi said shortly after the meeting that he was not interested in the new job and that he plans to travel to the United Kingdom to study English”.

Khaled Abu Toameh also wrote that “Abbas’s decision to fire Tirawi is believed to be linked to the PA president’s desire to patch up his differences with Hamas. On the eve of the decision, Hamas officials said they had requested that Abbas get rid of Palestinian security commanders responsible for the massive crackdown on the movement’s members and institutions in the West Bank. Tirawi, along with several top PA security officials, had been entrusted by the PA leadership in Ramallah with taking precautionary measures to prevent Hamas from extending its control to the West Bank…A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told The Jerusalem Post that his movement had indeed demanded that Abbas replace Tirawi and other PA security commanders in the West Bank to pave the way for ending the crisis with Fatah. ‘We welcome Abbas’s decision to fire Tirawi, who was responsible for security coordination with the Israelis and who was behind the brutal measures against Hamas [in the West Bank’, the official said. ‘We hope Abbas will take similar measures against all those security chiefs who chose to work with Israel and the Americans against our people’.” The official said his movement was now expecting Abbas to remove Diab al-Ali, commander of the PA’s National ecurity Force in the West Bank, who is also known as a sworn enemy of Hamas. Last month al-Ali raised eyebrows when he threatened that his forces would not hesitate to use force to overthrow the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah is very unhappy, according to Khaled Abu Toameh: ” ‘The timing of the decision to fire Tirawi was very bad’, a Fatah official in Ramallah told the Post. ‘It appears as if President Abbas took the decision to appease Hamas’. Another Fatah operative condemned Abbas’s decision as ‘dangerous’, claiming it would deepen divisions inside Fatah. ‘Many people in Fatah are unhappy with the decision’, he said. ‘They believe that Abbas made a huge mistake’. The Fatah official said he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas’s decision was linked to his desire to extend his term in office beyond January 2009. ‘Some are talking about a secret deal between Abbas and Hamas that allows him to remain in power after his term expires next January’, he said. ‘Hamas wants the heads of the security commanders in the West Bank in return for agreeing to the extension of Abbas’s term. This doesn’t look good’. A senior PA official denied the charges, saying the decision had nothing to do with Hamas’s demand for the dismissal of Tirawi and other commanders. The official said that the decision was taken because Tirawi had refused to report to the PA government of Salaam Fayad in the West Bank.
According to the official, the decision was taken in the context of the US-backed efforts to reform the PA security forces by reducing their number. He added that the proposed reforms call for merging Tirawi’s General Intelligence Service with the rival Preventative Security Force and turning them into a single force that reports directly to Fayad’s government”.
This analysis can be read in full in the Jerusalem Post

Tzipi Livni speaks in part for moderate Palestinians, she says

The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that “we decided to launch negotiations (with the current Palestinian leadership in Ramallah) because it is important to reach an agreement with the pragmatic moderates” who believe in a solution with two states – Israel and Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security.

Livni, who is also deputy Prime Minister, is in charge of Israel´s direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

The head of the Palestinian team is Ahmad Qurei´a (known as Abu Alaa) who participated in the secret “Oslo” track that led to the 1993 diplomatic recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and to a series of “Oslo Accords” that in many but not all aspects are no longer actually in effect.

The two sides have agreed to keep all details of their discussions secret, and there have so far been few if any leaks of what has been happening behind closed doors. But, Livni said, in answer to a question, that she now has “a better understanding of the sensitivities and what is important to them. And I discovered that they are very suspicious when it comes to Israel”.

Now, she said, “we have started to draft part of the agreement, and I also hope they know more about Israeli concerns”:

Livni was speaking at a briefing in Jerusalem on Thursday organized by the Foreign Press Association in Israel

Before even being asked, Livni said she wanted to address the question of whether there could still be an agreement by the end of the year. She said “a timeline is important, but [even] more important is the content. Any attempt to bridge the gap (between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators) which is premature to bridge, or any attempt to avoid the comprehensive agreement we want to reach, can lead to clashes, misunderstandings, and violence”.

Livni said that this is what happened after the failed Camp David peace talks in July 2000, which ended with recriminations and blame – mostly on the Palestinians for not having responded to what was called a major concession by Israel´s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

A provocative visit by Ariel Sharon accompanied by a large and armed Israeli security contingent to the Haram as-Sharif/Temple Mount in East Jerusalem´s Old City a few months later, in late September 2000, ended in clashes with Palestinian protesters, a number of Palestinian deaths and injuries– and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which was characterized by clashes between the Israeli military and the newly-created and armed Palestinian security forces, then a determined Israeli assault on these same forces, accompanied by a re-invasion of Palestinian urban areas. It is only very recently that the U.S. has been helping to retrain and rebuild the Palestinian security capacity – and only to the extent to which Israel permits.

“Here I represent not only the Israeli Government but also the Palestinians, and if we can reach agreement, the international community should respect it. We are working on a comprehensive agreement on the core issues, which will give answers to the concerns of both sides,” Livni told reporters.

It was surprising to hear Livni telling journalists that she was also representing specific points in the Palestinian position. It did not appear to have been a slip of the tongue, but rather a deliberate statement arrived at in prior consultation. Pressing the point, Livni repeated the same formula a little later in the press conference.

“The aspiration of the Palestinians is to have a state that includes the Gaza Strip”, Livni said. She added that if she said anything else, “I would be blamed of doing something against the Palestinian interest – this is what we were accused of before our withdrawal from Gaza[in 2005].”

But the Oslo Accords never even mentioned the words Palestinian State, and only laid out in great detail an interim period that theoretically should have ended in 1999, which should have led to “final status” talks. It was only since the beginning of this year that Israel reported that “core issues” and “final status” matters are now being negotiated between Livni and Qurei´a.

Livni admitted today that “it took some time” in Israel to accept the idea of “dividing the land”. Now, she said, she believes that the former left-vs-right divide in Israeli politics is “something that belongs to the past. Two states is in Israel´s interest, and represents [the will] not only of the government but of the entire Israeli people”.

Livni indicated that in the negotiations, “Everybody is using the formula, and this is the basic understanding between Israel and the Palestinians: two states for two peoples. Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people [– “this is the raison d´etre of the State of Israel”, she added seconds later –] and the Palestinian state will be the homeland for the Palestinians”

“The answer to the [Palestinian] refugee problem is the creation of a Palestinian state”, Livni said. “But unfortunately some Arab and Palestinian leaders are calling for two states but also demanding the right of return to Israel, which is the Jewish state. This is not a theoretical question. This is the basic understanding [between the two negotiating teams] And this is one of the two basic pillars … the other of course is Israel’s security.”

She said that “the borders should not be vague – or say only 1967 lines, plus or minus a percentage. No, we need outlines on the map, so that the day after the agreement there will be no misunderstanding”.

And, Livni said, for Israel, “it is important to know what will be on the other side of these borders … and to know that it´s demilitarized”.

What we cannot afford, she said, is “a failed state or a terror state”.

Livni added that “We have no hidden agenda – a future Palestinian state includes the West Bank and Gaza. This is the Palestinian aspiration. But in order to create a state, they need to give an answer to the situation on the ground”.

Hamas is currently in control in the Gaza Strip.

Livni did not say what she thought should be done about that. Israel has recently concluded a kind of truce (“tahdia”) with Hamas, but has apparently ambivalent views about actually dealing directly with Hamas, something which the U.S. rejects rather more categorically.

Livni has several times in recent months described her view of an overall scenario where “extremists” – and in this group she includes Iran and Iranian-backed Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, but not Syria – as getting stronger.

The task, and the remedy, as she describes it, is to reinforce the “moderates”.

“In Annapolis we decided to negotiate with pragmatic Palestinians”, Livni explained. A simultaneous decision was made, she said, “to delegitimize Hamas and keep the pressure on them” – that is, unless they accept the right of Israel to exist, end terror and violence, and accept the former agreements reached in the Oslo process between Israel and Palestinians, Livni indicated.

She suggested that “since there is no hope with Hamas”, the negotiators are working for what is being called a “shelf agreement”.

Acting very much like a candidate for leadership of the Kadima party to replace the current party leader – and Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert, Livni appeared to be trying to re-cast what is now called in Israel the “Second Lebanon War”.

She suggested that war is a much easier and cleaner affair when the protagonists are states.

Drawing a hypothetical future parallel with the Palestinian situation, Livni said that between two states there could be misunderstandings, and even war. “The Lebanon war could have been ended in a few days if it had just been between states”, she said. “But with a terror organization it is completely different”

Acting for a moment as a candidate for higher office, Livni appeared to criticize the involvement if not predominance of the Israeli military in decision-making – and this appeared to be a reference to the widely-criticized conduct of the Second Lebanon War. Livni said that “The Israeli Prime Minister needs to understand the threats and trends in the region. Preparation is needed, and not only of the army….There are different options, and the Prime Minister needs to put on the table what is the goal of Israel, what are the options, and to choose from then. Then [and only then], we [the political leadership] should ask our military experts what is best, after already choosing between the options”.

Acting very much like a candidate for leadership of the Kadima party to replace the current party leader – and Prime Minister — Ehud Olmert, Livni appeared to be trying to re-cast what is now called in Israel the “Second Lebanon War”.

Livni said that in 2006, “It was important for Israel and the international community not to undermine the Lebanese Government, and we worked against Hizballah in south Lebanon only”.

Now, she said, Hizballah is getting stronger in Lebanon, and is part of the government, so the international community should ask “for state responsibility for the situation in Lebanon”.

She repeated Israeli complaints that the arms embargo contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is “not being enforced”.

UN Security Council resolution 1701 says that there should be “no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”. But, now that Hizballah is part of the government, is this Israeli criticism still legitimate?

Mustafa Barghouti: Getting the Palestinian Legislative Council out of the freezer

Here is the full text of an interview I did yesterday in the Ramallah offices of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, headed by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, who is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council for the Mubadara – Independent Palestine list, and who was Palestinian Authority Minister of Information under the short-lived National Unity Government that was disbanded just about a year ago after Hamas routed Fatah security forces in Gaza.

In this interview, Dr. Barghouti answers questions about the revival — at least in a limited role, at first — of the Palestine Legislative Council, and possible moves towards healing of the split between the West Bank and Gaza by national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas:

Question: Dr. Barghouti, I wanted to ask you first of all about the Palestinian Legislative Council. It reportedly met for the first time in a long time on the 5th of June, last Thursday and welcomed the initiative of President Abbas…

Answer (interrupting the question): Not exactly, no. We did not have a meeting of the Legislative Council. And that was not the purpose of the meeting. The meeting took place as a follow-up of a previous meeting which we had had between heads of different groups in the parliament, because we are very worried about the fact that there is a concentration of all the powers in Palestine in the hands of the government – whether in Gaza or in the West Bank, and both governments practically have eliminated the role of the Legislative Council. And what we are seeing is the government practicing legislative authority in addition to executive authority, although its status, legally, is questionable. We gathered to find a way, in a situation where one-third of the members of parliament are in Israeli jails, obstructing the possibility of reconvening the Council, and with the situation of division between the West Bank and Gaza, where both people cannot reach each other. In the situation of this paralysis caused by these factors, we have to find a way to bring back the role of the Legislative Council. And what we decided was to act although informally but effectively: we had a meeting with the participation of a good number of people from different factions, and we decided to create a committee that represents all the groups, including Fatah, Hamas, Mubadara, DFLP, all the people who are in the Council, to regain the supervisory as well as legislative role of the Council.

What we are doing is that, according to the law, each member of the Legislative Council is entitled to practice his duties, even if the Council is not meeting. So what we are doing is, collectively, translating this individual right into action – which means, we will have three major committees and they will start acting next week.

Continue reading Mustafa Barghouti: Getting the Palestinian Legislative Council out of the freezer

Israelis are playing chess with themselves — letting Hamas wait

Haaretz reported that Egypt expects Israel to implement Gaza truce: “Egypt is expecting Israel to accept and implement the cease-fire proposal agreed on by the Palestinian factions, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s bureau chief said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman is expected to arrive in Israel shortly [UPDATE – It was later announced that Suleiman’s visit would be after Israel has its 60th anniversary celebrations this week] to receive Israel’s official response to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal, Palestinian sources in Cairo said. Speaking by phone to Haaretz from Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Ministry bureau chief Hossam Zaki, who is also the Egyptian ministry’s spokesman, said: ‘The Israelis are giving themselves plenty of time to think and evaluate … Israel can contribute by accepting the Egyptian effort and the tahadiya [calm]’ … The Egyptian effort to reach an agreement with the Palestinian factions bore fruit on Tuesday. After separate talks between the Egyptians and the representatives of each faction, the factions announced they were ready to accept the Egyptian formulation for a cease-fire. Israel, however, objects to the formulation for a number of reasons. Israel is
concerned that Hamas will use the calm to increase its military strength. In addressing this concern, Zaki said ‘Egypt does not control the Gaza Strip but is only a neighbor. Egypt is in contact with those responsible for the Strip’. Zaki also said it was Egypt’s responsibility to act sincerely in order to prevent any violation of an agreement or understanding to which Egypt is a party … The official Egyptian news agency MENA reported that all 12 Palestinian factions whose representatives were in Cairo had accepted the Egyptian proposal. Egypt was not able to get the factions to themselves declare a united position on the agreement, as it had hoped. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak also spoke Wednesday about the agreement with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Israeli sources said they were awaiting official confirmation of the agreement. ‘Meanwhile, they are playing chess with themselves’, a security source said”.
This article can be read in full in Haaretz here .