Tag Archives: Palestine Liberation Organization

Analysis: Hamas wants bigger regional role

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has set an ambitious agenda for his new term, seeking to transform his Islamic militant movement that rules Gaza into a widely recognized political force, but without making concessions toward Israel needed for international acceptance.

Re-elected last week, Mashaal will try to deepen ties with regional powers Qatar, Turkey and Egypt, which have already given money or political support to Hamas-run Gaza and could be conduits to the U.S. and Europe, several leading Hamas figures said. Mashaal will also push for a power-sharing deal with his Western-backed Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas ideology, rejecting existence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East, stands in the way. The international community insists it will deal with Hamas only if the Islamic militants recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous interim peace deals — conditions Mashaal has repeatedly rejected, though Abbas and his Fatah movement accepted them two decades ago.

Mashaal “wants Hamas to be a recognized and legitimate player,” said Jordan-based analyst Mouin Rabbani, who frequently meets with Palestinian politicians, including Hamas members.

“The challenge and conflict is that he has to demonstrate he can do so without going down the same path as Fatah,” he said. Fatah, for years the dominant force in Palestinian politics, has been severely weakened by years of failed talks with Israel on terms of a Palestinian state.

Key to Mashaal’s plans is a political deal with Abbas, as a possible springboard for joining and eventually taking control of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group widely recognized as representing some 11.6 million Palestinians world-wide, according to official Palestinian figures. The Fatah-dominated PLO is largely inactive now, but it remains attractive to Hamas as a way of gaining international status.

A Hamas deal with Abbas would have to wait until the latest U.S. push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations plays itself out.

Setting up a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem through negotiations with Israel remains Abbas’ goal.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the region this week to try to restart talks between Israel and Abbas. Chances of that in coming months appear slim because gaps remain wide between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Abbas won’t complicate Kerry’s mission further by renewing talks now

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Official: US to bring Arab states into peace push

A Palestinian official says the U.S. is seeking to bring Arab countries into efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the coming weeks.

Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a top official in the Palestine Liberation Organization, says that “U.S. efforts will increase in coming weeks and will include other Arab parties, such as Jordan and Egypt.”

Abed-Rabbo told a local radio in the West Bank on Monday that an Arab League delegation will visit Washington as part of these efforts.

Israel has said it’s ready for immediate talks, while the Palestinians say Israel must first freeze settlement building on lands it captured in 1967, which Palestinians want for their future state.

During his visit to Mideast last week, President Barack Obama sided with the Israeli view.

…read more
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AP Analysis: In Mideast, partial deal tantalizes

As the U.S. president prepares to reinsert himself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his best hope may be to set aside grand hopes for a final agreement and make do with a partial deal.

An interim settlement would leave neither side with full satisfaction, and the Palestinians in particular strongly oppose it for fear that it will become permanent. But with gaps seemingly unbridgeable on the same key issues that have scuttled all previous peace efforts, a piecemeal approach may be just enough to yield a sovereign Palestinian state, albeit an imperfect one.

Barack Obama heads to the region Wednesday in a long-awaited trip whose agenda includes hopes of restarting negotiations. The White House has been careful to lower expectations, saying Obama will mainly listen and learn as he speaks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But U.S. officials confirm the idea of an interim agreement, while not their preference, has been under consideration. One U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said new Secretary of State John Kerry “is looking for options on a way forward” and that an interim arrangement has been among several ideas being explored.

“The challenge of diplomacy is to try and find areas where progress can be made, and not always try and seek a complete solution when one is not in the cards at present,” said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. who has served as an informal adviser to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s new government, which was inaugurated this week, includes key moderate partners that want movement on the Palestinian front and can bring down the government if they choose.

The Palestinians will be a hard sell. They want a state in all of the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. From their perspective to suffice with that territory — leaving Israel with over three-quarters of what was British-ruled Palestine until 1948 — is compromise enough.

“If Israel was serious it would have offered a solution based on the two states, but Israel wants to annex Jerusalem and large parts of the West Bank by such an offer,” said Ahmad Majdalani, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Previous peace talks under more dovish …read more
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Palestinians urge boycott of Jerusalem marathon

Palestinians are calling for a boycott of a marathon race in Jerusalem that winds through the city’s eastern sector. Palestinians claim it as their capital.

The third annual Jerusalem marathon takes place Friday. Previous races have drawn thousands of runners from around the world and attracted international brands as sponsors.

In a statement Tuesday, the Palestine Liberation Organization called on marathon participants and sponsors to withdraw their support.

It says the marathon is another Israeli policy “aimed at exerting Israeli control over the occupied city.” A spokesman for Jerusalem’s municipality counters that the marathon is a “symbol of co-existence.”

Both the Palestinians and Israel claim rights to Jerusalem. Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and considers the whole city its capital. Israel‘s claim is not recognized internationally.

…read more
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Leader of Palestinian group injured in Syria bomb

Palestinian officials say the leader of a Palestinian group based in Damascus is among those injured by a car bomb that killed more than 30 people in the Syrian capital.

Nayef Hawatmeh, who is head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, suffered light wounds in his hands and face when he was hit by flying glass. His office is about 500 meters (yards) from the site of Thursday’s explosion in central Damascus, which killed at least 31 people and injured more than 200 others.

An official in Hawatmeh’s office, Rashid Qweider, told The Associated Press that Hawatmeh was briefly hospitalized following the explosion.

Hawatmeh, a Greek Catholic, formed the Marxist DFLP in 1969, one of the major factions within the Palestine Liberation Organization.

…read more
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Palestinians despair over likely Netanyahu win

Palestinian officials largely view Benjamin Netanyahu‘s expected re-election with despair, fearing the Israeli hard-liner’s ambitious plans for settlement construction over the next four years could prove lethal to their dreams of a state.

Some in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ circle hold out hope that President Barack Obama will re-engage in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and, freed from domestic electoral considerations in his second term, get tougher with Netanyahu on settlements. One aide suggested Europe is ready to jump in with its own peace plan if Washington is not.

But short of trying to rally international opinion, it seems Abbas can do little if Netanyahu wins Tuesday.

Israeli polls indicate that a majority of seats in Israel‘s 120-member parliament will go to right-wing, pro-settler or Jewish ultra-Orthodox religious parties, with Netanyahu’s Likud the largest among them. Netanyahu could comfortably form a coalition government with these parties, seen as his natural ideological allies.

Even if he adds a centrist party to the mix, he’s unlikely to shift course from the pro-settler policies of his current government.

Under Netanyahu, construction reportedly began on nearly 6,900 settlement homes in the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, along with Gaza and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians want to set up a state in the three territories.

That’s a bit less than what was started by Netanyahu’s predecessor, but many of the new homes are deeper in the West Bank, the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said this week. Thousands more apartments are in various stages of planning, Peace Now said, predicting an “explosion” of settlement construction in coming years.

Since 1967, Israel has moved more than half a million of its citizens to the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The conflict with the Palestinians and the fate of the occupied lands, hotly debated in Israel for decades, were largely missing from Israeli political discourse this campaign season. The centrist Labor Party, which led peace talks with the Palestinians in the past, has shifted almost exclusively to domestic concerns, such as growing income gaps.

A research department in the Palestine Liberation Organization, reviewing Israeli party platforms, concluded that most parties proposed to manage the conflict with the Palestinians, not end it.

“This appears to scorch all hopes for the internationally endorsed two-state solution,” the department wrote in an internal memo distributed to Palestinian officials and foreign diplomats.

Abbas aide Mohammed Ishtayeh said he and other senior officials have been watching the Israeli campaign closely.

“The first strong impression is that peace is not on the agenda of the Israeli parties, and it’s clear that Netanyahu is winning,” he said.

A Netanyahu victory “will be hard for us because it means more and more building in the settlements.” he added.

Palestinians believe hopes for their state are slipping further away with each new settlement home, and that partition of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River may soon no longer be possible.

Abbas has warned in a series of meetings with visiting Israeli politicians and mayors in recent months that Netanyahu’s policies will force Israelis and Palestinians to live in a single state, said an Abbas aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about closed-door discussions.

President Abbas warned Israeli party leaders that in the short run, this one state imposed by Netanyahu will be an apartheid state, but in the long run, our grandchildren will ask for equality,” the aide said.

Settlements are at the core of the paralysis in peace efforts talks since late 2008. Netanyahu refuses to freeze construction, rebuffing Abbas who says there is no point in negotiating while settlements steadily gobble up more of the occupied lands.

The standoff is likely to continue, though the Palestinians believe their diplomatic leverage has improved.

In November, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. The vote, while largely symbolic, affirmed the 1967 frontier which the Palestinians want to be the base line for future border talks. Netanyahu, while willing to negotiate, wont’ recognize the 1967 lines as a point of reference and wants to keep all of Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.

Some Palestinian officials hope Obama will now be tougher with Netanyahu. Palestinians were disappointed in Obama‘s performance in his first term, with the president seen as having backed down in a showdown with Netanyahu over settlements.

Earlier this week, there were signs of a more assertive president.

An American columnist with close ties to the White House described Obama‘s disdain for Netanyahu, warning that Israel‘s relations with the U.S. could suffer if the Israeli government doesn’t change its policies. The columnist, Jeffrey Goldberg, quoted the president as saying that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

Nabil Shaath, another Abbas aide, said the Obama administration needs to become more assertive.

The Americans “keep talking about negotiations and the need to restart the negotiations,” said Shaath. “But what is needed is for the U.S. to pressure Israel to stop settlement activities and to go to real negotiations, to reach an agreement within six months.”

Europe might also get more involved, he said. France, Britain and Germany are working on a peace initiative and are trying to get the U.S. on board, he said, adding that “there is nothing written on paper.”

Palestinian officials have said they might also try to challenge a Netanyahu-led Israel in other ways, including by seeking war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court over settlement building. However, such a move would likely anger the U.S. and Abbas has not taken any concrete steps in that direction.

While those around Abbas privately agonize over four more years of Netanyahu, many ordinary Palestinians seem indifferent to the outcome of the vote.

Wajdi Sbeih, an electrical engineer from the West Bank town of Ramallah, said he’ll watch the results Tuesday night, but won’t care much. “The Labor Party came, the Likud came, but when it came to the Palestinians, they all had the same politics,” he said.

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Laub reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Dalia Nammari in Ramallah contributed.

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