Kosovo’s Radical Islam

April 6, 2017

Muslims in Kosovo and Albania have historically been liberal; most Kosovans have been decades relatively secular and follow moderate Islam that allows bars on the same street as mosques. Muslims in Kosovo, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, follow the Hanafi school of Islam, traditionally a liberal version that is accepting of other religions. However poverty has made Kosovo fertile ground for Islamic charities from the likes of Saudi Arabia, which offer education and welfare programs but also peddle a hardline vision. Also Turkey’s Islamist government has funded networks of mosques across its Ottoman-era provinces of Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania.

Since the late 1990s, incidents involving Wahhabi groups have extended beyond the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, increasing in frequency in neighbouring states such as Serbia (including Kosovo and Serbian Sandžak), Montenegro (Montenegrin Sandžak), and Macedonia.

 

kosovo bombing

American bombing of Serbian positions in Kosovo in 1999 during the air campaign by NATO. Credit Jerome Delay/Associated Press

From Croatia via Bosnia to Kosovo

Osama bin Laden had offices in Croatia and training camps for the muslims in Bosnia. Osama bin Laden was a CIA ally and the U.S. was fine with him until 1998 when the bombing of the African Embassy happened. During the Bosnian War, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) received financial aid from Iran and Saudi Arabia, and foreign fighters numbering up to 4,000 waged jihad in the war. The Bosnian mujahideen (El Mujahid) was made up of foreign fighters and radical Bosniaks.

After Al-Qaeda and Bosnian mujahideen the focus moved to Kosovo, the training process dates back to 1999, when al-Qaeda terrorists were involved in training the KLA militants in Kosovo. After Nato bombings, Saudi money and influence transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a front of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists. Wahhabism began to spread.

Islamist volunteers in the Kosovo Liberation Army from Western Europe of ethnic Albanian, Turkish, and North African origin, were organized by Islamist leaders in Western Europe allied to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Some 175 Yemeni mujahideen arrived in early May 1998. There were also a dozen of Saudi and Egyptian mujahideen. Since the Kosovo War, there has been an increasing radicalization of Islam in Kosovo. Wahhabism, which is dominant in Saudi Arabia, has gained a foothold in Kosovo through Saudi diplomacy. Saudi money has paid for new mosques, while Saudi-educated imams have arrived since the end of the war in 1999. During UN administration, Saudi Arabian organizations sought to establish a cultural foothold in Kosovo. 98 Wahhabist schools were set up by Saudi organizations during UN administration. Hundreds of Kosovo Albanians have joined jihad in the Middle East. The Kosovo Police arrested some 40 suspected Islamist militants on 11th August 2014. ( Source and more: WikipediA )

mujahedeen army, Bosnia

 

Radical Islamism in the Balkans

There is an increase in incidents involving radical Islamism in the Balkans since the 1990s.

Saber Lahman, was arrested under suspicion that he planned to carry out an attack on the USA Embassy in Sarajevo. He was convicted, but was pardoned later after he served two thirds of punishment in prison. He was arrested again in 2002 for participation in al Qaeda’s plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina and was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. On Christmas Eve 2002, Muamer Topalović, a Wahhabist, killed three Bosnian Croat returnees in their home.

On April 24, 2012, Mevlid Jašarević, a Wahhabi Islamist, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges of attempted murder and other violations in connection with his alleged machine gun attack on the United States Embassy, Sarajevo, on 28th October 2011.

Other incidents in Bosnia were e.g. Zvornik police station shooting , Operation Ruben and 2015 Sarajevo shooting, more about these one can find from WikipediA.

Between 4th and 16th November 2016 Kosovo Police arrested 19 men suspected of links to Islamic State and of planning to carry out attacks in Kosovo and in Albania against Israeli footballers playing a World Cup qualifying match with Albania in Elbasan, central Albania. Unconfirmed media reports have mentioned Kosovo institutions and Serbian Orthodox Church sites as possible Islamist targets. During the arrests, substantial explosives, including 281 grams of TATP, 2.5 kg of other explosive substance, as well as personal weapons and radio-communication devices were found. The people who were arrested were divided into several groups and were being coordinated by two Kosovar ISIS members, Lavdim Muhaxheri and Ridvan Haqifi, the police said. (Source: BalkanInsight )

The Kosovo Albanian terrorism spills over borders, especially to Macedonia. Nearly two years ago was a massive terrorist attack in the quest to create a Greater Albania as over 40 armed individuals fought with police for control of the city of Kumanovo close to the country’s capital. The attackers were from the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), a former terrorist group that was thought to have been disbanded after NATO occupied the Serbian province, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said that some of them had received their militant training in the Mideast. The combined carnage wounded 37 police officers and killed 8 of them, while ultimately eliminating 14 terrorists and leading to the capture of 30 others. (Source:   Sputniknews )

 

 Kosovo, Camp bondsteel

Kosovar jihadists abroad: Some examples

According DEBKAfile four Kosovar jihadists who planned to blow up iconic Venice bridge arrested. Italian counterterror police forces raided several locations 28.-29.3.2017 and arrested four Islamic radicals who planned to blow up Venice’s Rialto Bridge, one of the city’s most visited sites, and kill hundreds of tourists. Venice’s chief prosecutor also disclosed on 30th Mar. 2017 that the authorities had been secretly monitoring the communications of the terror cell members, all citizens of Kosovo linked to ISIS. The radicals were heard expressing joy regarding the March 22 terrorist attack in London, the prosecutor said.

The assassin who shot two American soldiers at Frankfurt Airport in 2011 was an Albanian immigrant. Serbian terrorism expert, Darko Trifunovc, says that the Kosovo Albanian who killed 2 US soldiers in Germany is part of the “white” al-Qaeda being recruited in the Balkans with its center being in Kosovo. The Albanian terrorist, Arif Uka, hails from the town of Kosovska Mitrovica which also happens to be the recruitment center for “white” al-Qaeda that is managed by former Kosovo Albanian KLA gunmen and financed by the Saudis. says another expert, Zoran Dragisic. (Source: Pakistan Christian Post )

Deutsche Welle reports that since 2012, 316 people – including women and children – have left the country to join the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist militia. Of those 316 people, 58 have been killed and 117 have returned to Kosovo, said Baki Kelani, spokesman for Kosovo’s ministry of the interior. According to Kelani, 237 people are being investigated for planning and taking part in terrorist attacks outside Kosovo and also for recruiting, supporting and funding terrorists. Since 2013, 127 of the suspects have been arrested, including an alleged ringleader. According to figures from security experts, 50,000 Kosovars are now members of conservative Islamic groups.

On 20th Jan. 2017 an Albanian man suspected of planning a bomb attack in Vienna was arrested by special forces, Austrian media has reported. The Austrian authorities had been warned about a possible attack by foreign intelligence services. A report from the Kronen-Zeitung newspaper that the suspect had built explosives in Germany. The newspaper also claimed the man belonged to an Islamist group which originated in Albania, and which held sympathies with Islamic State (ISIS). (Source: Foxnews )

On 27 Apr 2008 Foxnews reported that the six foreign-born Muslims accused of planning a shooting attack at the U.S. military base included four Kosovo Albanian Muslims affiliated with the KLA, or the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Terrorist Jihad Wahhabi group. The U.S. officials say their arrests highlight how Islamist groups are using the Balkans region to help in recruiting and financing terrorism.

 

The Telegraph reported that in southern Kosovo the town of Kacanik during 2012-2015 some 24 local menfolk have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, giving the town of just 30,000 people an unwanted reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans. For a nation of just 1.8 million people, it now punches well above its weight in terms of the number of citizens joining Isil. Altogether some 300 Kosovans have joined ISIS, making Kosovo Europe’s biggest contributor per capita. Along with neighbouring Albania, which has fielded around 200, and nearby Bosnia, which around 160, it is now seen as a potential launch pad for ISIS in its bid to establish a new front against Europe in the Balkans.

Sure there has been a lot of murders and violence in Balkans, Western Europe and North America committed by (Kosovo)Albanian mafia but motivation has been mostly money so there is no direct link to Wahhabism/Jihadism/ISIS/Al Qaeda, for example in March 2017 sc Düsseldorf axe terrorist, a Kosovo-born muslim, probably was only mentally ill without terrorism connections. 

Two aspects

When the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization in 1998, the reason wasn’t radical Islam but its links to the heroin trade. By 1999, Western intelligence agencies estimated that over $250m of narcotics money had found its way into KLA coffers. After the NATO bombing of 1999, KLA-linked heroin traffickers again began using Kosovo as a major supply route; in 2000, an estimated 80% of Europe’s heroin supply was controlled by Kosovar Albanians.

In the summer of 2016, the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED) published a study about the influence of religion on Kosovar identity. According to Lulzim Peci, author of the study, 57 percent of Muslim Albanians feel Albanian and 32 percent defined themselves as Muslims first and then as Albanians. “We see a great shift in identity from ethnicity, the so-called language nation, to a religious-ethnic society,” said Peci in an interview with DW.

Payback?

 

 

Quadruple Helix Model

In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. It is estimated that they are the chief perpetrator of drug and people smuggling, trafficking, organ sales etc. Past estimates suggested that ethnic Albanian traffickers controlled 70% or more of the heroin entering a number of key destination markets, and they have been described as a “threat to the EU” by the Council of Europe at least as recently as 2005. In fact, ethnic Albanian heroin trafficking is arguably the single most prominent organized crime problem in Europe today. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Now Columbian drug dealers are setting up cocaine supply bases in Albania and Balkans to penetrate into Europe. Already earlier ethnic Albanians organized the transportation of cocaine from the Netherlands and Belgium towards Italy.

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.

Already 2005 Europol stated that the Albanian organized crime is related to the Islamic terrorism e.g.  where the Brussells based “Bureau also cooperated in other operations, investigating the dismantling of OC (Organized Crime, note AR)  groups that are known for suspicious financial transactions, Albanian organised crime, producing synthetic drugs and related to Islamic terrorism.” (Report here and more e.g. in Balkan route-Business as usual.)

Above I shortly hinted to financial connection between Wahhabi organizations in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Then I pointed historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. The last and maybe the most dangerous connection is link between organized crime and Islamic terrorism because its thread to the rest of Europe.

Today’s trend with economical development policy and projects is called a “Triple Helix Model or Approach”. A triple helix regime typically begins as university, industry and government enter into a reciprocal relationship in which each attempts to enhance the performance of the other. It seems that in Kosovo triple helix model has applied and further developed to “Quadruple or Fourfold Helix Model” where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis.

 

quadruple helix model by Ari Rusila

 

More reading:

My articles: Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state , Balkan route-Business as usual   and Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from Albanian Terrorism and Oraganized Crime in Kosovo and Metohija (K&M) , which also can be found from my document library. Related background information can be found also from “leaked” German Intelligence reports BND report 2005 and BND-IEP report Kosovo 2007 which can be found from my document library under Kosovo headline.

The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”,  prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.

An exellent article in New York Times – How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS by Carlotta Gall – gives in deep background info about Kosovo’s transformation from liberal Islam to ground of Islamic extremism

Testimony on the Genesis of Evil – White Book on Albanian terrorism in Kosovo The book addresses the continuity of terrorist activities by Albanian extremists, beginning with the constituting of the parallel system of Albanian government in Kosovo and Metohija and the pretensions of the so-called Government of the Republic of Kosovo headed by Bujar Bukoshi, covering the founding of FARK and the armed forces of “the Republic of Kosovo”, which united separation-oriented former officers of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, to the founding of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” /KLA/, which at the time of the NATO bombing had more than 20,000 armed members, and the KLA’s transformation and engagement of the former terrorists in the Kosovo Protection Corps.

Kosvovo by Ari Rusila


Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

March 8, 2017

peace arab and hebrewEver since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had his meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington on 15th Feb. 2017, Israeli efforts have intensified to develop alternatives to the single-state or two-state solutions. Also the Palestinian leadership is currently holding intense deliberations – both internally as well with its Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – about the regional approach.

Israel and Palestinian Authority have negotiated two decades about solution based on Two-States, and now maybe more than ever one can claim that the roadmap towards it is the dead end. Instead the situation today is drifting towards One-State option, which is unwanted outcome for both parties. New and “out of the box” ideas are needed. 

According Al-Monitor there are currently three main ways to square the circle and bypass the quagmire of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

  • A “regional peace process” instead of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
  • The confederation with Jordan idea, newly resuscitated.
  • Trilateral land swaps involving Israel, Egypt and Palestine or even a four-way exchange including Jordan.

 

Regional approach

According Al-Monitor what stood out in US President Donald Trump’s statement at the joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15 was the regional approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking – prior to the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, the administration discussed with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan a regional umbrella to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The Palestinian leadership is currently holding intense deliberations, both internally and also with its Arab allies, primarily Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to a senior Fatah security official, Ramallah, in conjunction with its Arab partners, decided to take Trump at his word about the regional approach. Together with Egypt it will suggest to Washington an outline of a new regional approach.

This new outline will be based on three principles. The first principle is that the basis for future peace negotiations is the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Then, on this basis, the second principle is the US administration should hold in the coming months a summit in Washington with the Arab leadership. This summit should focus on preparing a regional peace conference leading to Israel-Palestinian negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative, with the participation of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, chaired by Trump. The third principle concerns advancing the Palestinian statehood issue through an attempt to reach a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation agreement backed by the Arab League. (Source and more in Al-Monitor )

Regional approach does not need – necessary – to be based on Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. From my point of view “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Paece Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options.

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Jordanian Option sinks into oblivion

Unlike any other Arab country, Jordan has a special connection to the Palestinian issue. The West Bank was part of the Hashemite kingdom when it was occupied by Israel in 1967. And since the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, Jordan has been on the receiving end of successive waves of Palestinian refugees from Israel proper, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.

The proposal that the West Bank could be divided between Jordan and Israel, or that Jordan could take responsibility for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, goes as far back as the Allon Plan of 1967. The “Jordan is Palestine” idea suggests that a Palestinian state already exists on the East Bank of the Jordan River, where at least 50 percent of the population is of Palestinian origin.

It’s been decades since the issue of confederation between the Kingdom of Jordan and Palestine was a matter of public debate. The idea gained traction in the mid-1980s and early 1990s as the rift between Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization narrowed and King Hussein and Yasser Arafat appeared to reconcile their differences. In principle, the two leaders agreed that once the state of Palestine is born, it will choose to join Jordan in a confederation between two sovereign states.

But the Oslo process, leading to direct secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel that resulted in the signing of a “declaration of principles” on the White House lawn in 1993, put the idea on hold. Jordan went on to sign its own peace deal with Israel in 1994, and the Palestinians were caught in endless and often fruitless negotiations with Israel under US auspices. That process took a nosedive following the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 and the death of Arafat in 2004.

Under King Abdullah and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the subject of confederation rarely if ever surfaced publicly. Jordan supported the two-state solution and underlined its historical custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, a subject that often marred relations between Abdullah and Abbas. (Source: Al-Monitor )

 

Reincarnation of Jordanian Option

Some five years ago I wrote an article Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table . There I described how Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb on 31st Oct. 2012 with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks were the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades. Kaddoumi is one of the founders of Fatah, and for decades served as head of the PLO’s “political department.”

Recently – 22nd May 2016 – former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali, who negotiated the peace deal with Israel in the 1990s, announced that he personally believes that confederation between an independent Palestine and Jordan is the best option for both people.

He was quoted by a Palestinian news agency as declaring before 100 Nablus notables that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had repeatedly called on Jordan to adopt the confederation option with the Palestinians immediately, and that Jordan had rejected the idea. For Majali, confederation means “a joint legislature and a joint government with equal representation whereby the upper authority will have three main missions — se curity, economy and foreign affairs — and the rest will be the jurisdiction of the joint government.” He also said, “In a confederation, centralization will have to end and the people will have the ultimate choice of how to govern themselves.” (Source: Al-Monitor )

More recently – 20th Feb. 2017 – Israel’s Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, and head of the far-right Jewish Home party, has been referring to the existence of two Palestinian states; one in Gaza and the other in Jordan.

According The Middle East Institute Trump has yet to unveil a detailed vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, if any. There is a feeling in Amman that although the U.S. president talked about concluding a “bigger and better deal,” in reality neither he nor Netanyahu can come up with a better alternative to the two-state solution. Nevertheless, while the two-state solution may have been an ideal one, many analysts have conceded that it is dead and buried. Meanwhile, Jordan can do nothing other than pretend that it is still alive: the alternatives represent an existential nightmare for the kingdom.  (Source: The Middle East Institute)

 

Sinai Option

sinai option by Ari RusilaAccording Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

At its core, the Sinai Option proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported. In addition, the report continued, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders.

 

My conclusion

The geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a planned Palestinian. If Jordanian option will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president; if also Sinai option will come reality so security guarantees will be from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas. Indeed – if both Jordanian and Sinai options were realized the outcome would be Three State (return) Option , which I have been advocating earlier as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Personally it is very refreshing that Jordanian option again is moving on. For decades regional leaders, international community UN etc have sung the praises of Two-State solution as the only option so my views have represented some kind of dissidence. While some prominent politicians now have came to the same conclusion I think that the reasons might be the same as mine: there is some sense with Three-state option, it is both pragmatic and achievable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now it is also more acceptable than few years ago.

My conclusion is that now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on Jordanian and Sinai options. If there is no progress during coming months then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach (more in Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Related article: Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Towards The Israeli Great Jerusalem

March 4, 2017

“There’s no such thing as proper timing, and I expect the prime minister and the ministers to approve the bill come Sunday.” (Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel)

jerusalem-1Jerusalem is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Competing religious, national, and historic narratives – Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – exist side-by-side in the city, in a constant struggle for legitimacy, validity, and survival. Now the bill annexing Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli city in Judea, some four miles from Jerusalem, is likely to be brought to a vote at the Israeli Ministerial Legislative Committee on 5th Mar. 2017.

The bill will make the ongoing de facto annexation of the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem on de jure annexation.

The bill

According JewishPress the bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), wanted to submit it to the committee for a vote several weeks ago, but Prime Minister Netanyahu torpedoed the move, citing the need to avoid upsetting President Trump by acting unilaterally on issues that are entirely outside the purview of US foreign policy. Now that Trump has declared his official disinterest in how a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be reached, the time has come to bring it to a preliminary Knesset vote before Passover.

The bill imposes Israeli law on the city of Ma’ale Adumim, which for close to three decades has been under martial law, like all the other Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria. Basically it is a question of freeing the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria from Army.

The threat against a future Palestinian State is based on the fact that the four-mile stretch of land dubbed E1 by the Oslo accords, between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, would eventually come under Israeli law, too, following the annexation of the young city. (Source and more: JewishPress).

The effort to formally define “Greater Jerusalem” is not a new issue. Earlier – on February 2017 – Likud MK Yehuda Glick introduced legislation entitled the “Greater Jerusalem Sovereignty Law” to formally annex these areas as part of Jerusalem; not long before that, Likud Minister Yisrael Katz introduced legislation to annex much or all of the same area, entitled the “Greater Jerusalem Law that includes extending Israeli sovereignty to the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem: Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and the Etzion Bloc.

The end of Two-State?

Israel’s plans has rise concern in some European capitals. It was claimed that annexations like E1 area by joining with Maa’ale Adumim community – a city of some 40,000 residents   – would cut the West Bank in two and separate it from East Jerusalem which would make any two-state solution impossible. This claim does not hold as bypass roads are the answer.

A completed section of the Palestinian bypass road. Its final completion will enable transportation continuity between the northern and southern West Bank, similar to other existing “fabric of life” roads built for the Palestinians. Credit: JCPA

A completed section of the Palestinian bypass road. Its final completion will enable transportation continuity between the northern and southern West Bank, similar to other existing “fabric of life” roads built for the Palestinians. Credit: JCPA

In addition to improve better traffic flow between the northern and southern WB Israel has already made some investments. In October 2007, the Israeli government expropriated 1,100 dunams of land from four Palestinian villages to build an access road that was given the moniker “the Palestinian quality of life road.” The road was designed to provide for a freer flow of Palestinian traffic between the Ramallah area and Bethlehem. The northern sector of the highway, which runs from Hizma and bypasses Anata from the east, and continues southward toward the A-Zaim checkpoint, has already been paved. Israel invested about NIS 300 million in building the highway. The roadway passes through a tunnel that was dug underneath the Jerusalem-Maa’ale Adumim highway. Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.

Spatial shaping

According Terrestrial Jerusalem (an Israeli non-governmental organization) a policy of allowing Israeli construction in the settlement blocs around Jerusalem grants legitimacy to the establishment of a massive “Greater Jerusalem” under permanent Israeli sovereignty. This, in turn, implies acquiescence to the view that East Jerusalem – both its settlements and its Palestinian neighbourhoods – will be permanently under Israeli control.

Continued settlement expansion within the settlement “blocs” – even at current levels – would not only unilaterally pre-determine borders in areas very much in dispute (consist with Israel’s longtime policy of “spatial shaping” on the ground), it would pose a real and present danger to the very possibility of the two-state solution. Rather than promoting peace or even keeping the two-state solution on “life-support,” adopting a policy of allowing settlement.

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Spatial shaping is being achieved by four, complementary components:

  1. Delineating the base-line border, by means of the route of the barrier
  2. Consolidating the newly defined border by means of settlements
  3. Neutralizing the Palestinian presence within the new borders
  4. Creating infrastructures that integrate the new “Israeli” areas into pre-1967 Israel, and functionally detach the Palestinian population in these areas

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Source and more: Limiting Settlement Construction to the “Blocs” – Implications for Jerusalem, by Terrestrial Jerusalem

My view

I disagree with those views which claim that Israeli Great Jerusalem will be the terminal point of Two-State solution. As a a map – created by HonestReporting – shows the Palestinian waistline — between Ma’ale Adumim and the Dead Sea, is roughly 15 km wide. That’s a corridor no different than the Israeli waistline according pre 1967 boundaries. That’s a corridor no different than the Israeli waistline. Indeed, that has never caused a problem of Israeli territorial contiguity.

nimeton-115

Great Jerusalem plans and e.g. moving US embassy there put the finishing touches to Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel; same time they probably will block fancies of Jerusalem as capital of future Palestinian state. However Palestinian administrative HQ’s mainly are already in Ramallah – next of Jerusalem northern boundary.

I agree with the critical conclusions that a policy of allowing Israeli construction around Jerusalem will unilaterally pre-determine borders as well those components which are implementing sc spatial shaping on the ground; however I support this now ongoing policy. From my point of view de jure annexation transfers the area from Army control under Israeli Law and this change creates more stable and legitimizes the long term development than continuity of the status quo.

Related articles:

Forgotten Court Rule: Israel Is The Legal Occupant Of Judea And Samaria

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

UNESCO: The Temple Mount Is Sacred Only To Muslims

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Will Obama Reset The Middle East Peace Process?

 

ISRPAL


Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016

February 16, 2017

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Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016: Types, Trends and Data is a new bulletin recently issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Full Document in PDF Format HERE but below some highlights from the mentioned report:

Throughout 2016, Palestinian terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Israel continued carrying out various types of popular terrorism attacks(the so-called “popular resistance”). The wave of popular terrorism waned in April. After April, the average monthly distribution was greater than in previous years.
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On the other hand, along the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, the relative calm prevailing since the end of Operation Protective Edge (summer 2014),continued. That was manifested by the continuing decrease in the number of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in 2016. The number of rockets fired into Israel was the lowest since Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and the takeover of the Strip by Hamas in 2007.

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Greater Jerusalem and the Hebron region continued as focal points for popular terrorism. Still prominent but somewhat less so were the regions of Gush Etzion and Ramallah. On the other hand, the regions of Nablus and northern Samaria, which played a central role in the second intifada, played a secondary role in the wave of popular terrorism and attacksin 2016. Most of the terrorists who carried out attacks came from towns and villages near the sites of the attacks.

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The various types of attacks changed, as follows:

1) Stabbing attacks continued as the main type of popular terrorism attack(61% of all the significant attacks carried out in 2016). Prominent over the past year were a stabbing spree on the seaside promenade between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, in which an American tourist was killed, and a stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba in which a 13 year-old girl was killed as she slept in her bed.

2) There was a decrease in vehicular attacks as the wave of popular terrorism waned(about 8% of all the significant attacks in 2016). However, the truck attack carried out on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem in January 2017 was a reminder of how deadly such attacks can be, especially when carried out with heavy vehicles.

3) There was a rise in shooting attacks(23% of significant attacks in 2016). The trend continued during January 2017. Prominent were drive-by shootings carried out in three locations in Jerusalem (two people killed), and the shooting attacks in a pub in central Tel Aviv (two killed) and in the Sarona commercial-entertainment center in the heart of Tel Aviv (four killed).

4) The number of people killed remained high despite the decline in the wave of popular terrorism. In 2016, 17 Israelis were killed, ten in shooting attacks and seven in stabbing attacks.

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The perpetrators of this terrorism have been glorified, celebrated, and honoured by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and even Palestinian civilians.

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Muhannad Halabi, who stabbed and murdered 2 Israelis, Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett, and injured Bennett’s wife, Adele, and their 2-year-old son in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 3rd, 2015. Not only was Halabi, the Palestinian law student, granted an honourary law degree, but the municipality of Surda-Abu Qash, where he lived, has decided to name a street after him. “This is in order to honor Halabi, who carried out a stabbing and shooting operation against settlers in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem,” the independent Palestinian news agency Donia Al-Watan reported on October 14th, 2015.


My related articles about palestinian terrorism against Israel, 2016 (in Finnish):

Hamas vaalitunnelmissa ja Israelin pelotemuistutus

Hyökkäystunneleista matkailukohde

Israel: 9 kuukautta terroria – yli 200 terrori-iskua

Poikkeuksellinen terrorisolu pidätetty Israelissa

Ramadanin kunniaksi terrori-isku Tel Aviviin

Lasten vihakoulutus jatkuu Gazassa

Gaza’n tunnelisota jatkuu kaikilla rintamilla

Hamasin poliittinen siipi menettänyt asemiaan sotilaalliselle

Israel varautunut ydinterroriin

Tunnelisodankäynnin uusi aika: Israelin maanalainen ’Rautakupoli’

Gazalainen syytteeseen terrori-iskujen suunnittelusta Ukrainassa ja Israelissa

Palestiinalaispoliisi hyökkäsi IDF:n sotilaita vastaan

B’Tselem aktivisteja pidätetty

 

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Forgotten Court Rule: Israel Is The Legal Occupant Of Judea And Samaria

February 8, 2017

usrael-palestine conflictISRAELI so-called settlements in West Bank – Judea and Samaria – are a complex issue. As a rule the news and newscasts claim that Israeli construction activities beyond 1967 line will destroy the Two-State idea. During last five decades there has been a continuous flow of statements from sc. international community that West Bank settlements are against sc. International Law.

But besides statements there is actually one trial – which escaped the media’s awareness – and which ruled the opposite: the 3rd  Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria.

 

New level of West Bank construction

World Israel News reports that Israel announced on Tuesday 31st Jan. 2017 the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria. This announcement, made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, follows last week’s statement regarding the construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria and the municipality of Jerusalem’s approval of the construction of 566 new homes in the city. The back-to-back announcements of a total of 6,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria within a single week is almost unprecedented. The statement comes as 42 Israeli families in the community of Amona in Samaria are being removed from their homes because it was allegedly built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

For example the New York Times was using distorted facts on issue as follows: Israel approved 3,000 more housing units in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, the largest number in a wave of new construction plans that defy the international community and that open a forceful phase in the country’s expansion into land the Palestinians claim for a future state. However to build housing units both within existing settlements and in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is not an expansion as the area of land for settlements is not expanding even if the number of houses and Jews living in them is increasing.

On 6th Feb. 2017 the Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Regulation Law by 60 votes to 52. The Regulation Law retroactively gives residents of up to 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes which were built – some accidentally – on private Palestinian land, in return providing the landowner with an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value. However the Law might be overturned by the Supreme Court. (Source: BICOM , more in BICOM briefing: Download PDF)

 

Israel as legal occupant of the West Bank

Israel’s claim in West bank is based e.g. on the following earlier acts of International Law: The Jan Smuts Resolution of January 30, 1919, Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, including the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, The legal title of the Jewish People to the mandated territory of Palestine in all of its historical parts was first recognized on April 24, 1920 when the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council (Britain, France, Italy and Japan), meeting in San Remo, Italy, converted the 1917 ‘Balfour Declaration’ into a binding legal document. This was confirmed by the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne. All these recognized the historical connection of the Jewish People with the Land of Israel.

Sure local Arabs have also historical connections between Mediterranean and Jordan river but they have already received their lands under the Mandate system as (Trans-)Jordania was separated from Palestine during the British Mandate. So Jordan is the Arab Muslim state (kingdom) on 77% of old Palestine made legal 1946-League of Nations. They wanted more and made a war and annexed West bank 1950 which then was reclaimed by Israel 1967. According negotiated Oslo agreements (1995) for administration of West bank there are three areas C=Israel state, B=shared by Israel and Palestinian authority (PA) and A=PLO/PA/Fatah but Jerusalem is not Jordans or anyone elses.

Israel made peace treaty with Jordan – occupant of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 – in 1994 and Jordan does not have any territorial claims in West Bank.

A trial which escaped the media’s awareness

logo3-dreuzIn a historical trial, the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria. As this groundbreaking ruling escaped the media’s awareness, a pro Israel activist – Jean-Patrick Grumberg – has worked to bring this “old news” to light. “I decided to put to work my years of Law Studies in France, and I meticulously analyzed the Court ruling,” Jean-Patrick Grumberg wrote and continued

To make sure I did not overestimate my legal abilities and that I wasn’t over optimistic – as usual-, I submitted my analysis and the Court papers to one of the most prominent French lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, President of Lawyers without borders, to receive his legal opinion. He indeed validated my finding. Then I decided to translate it to English, and it will soon be submitted to Benjamin Netanyahu thru a mutual friend.

The main source of following description is the article in Dreuz.info –  Israël est l’occupant légal de la Cisjordanie, dit la Cour d’appel de Versailles , Publié par Jean-Patrick Grumberg le 25 décembre 2016 – with help of the report by United with Israel about the case.

The story goes back to the ’90s, when Israel began work for for the construction of the Jerusalem light rail. The tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The light rail was completed in 2011, and it crosses Jerusalem all the way through the city. Following this, the PLO/ the Palestinian Authority and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because according to PLO, the construction of the tram was illegal since the United Nations (UN0, the European Union (EU) and other governments consider Israel’s presence there illegal. The Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is unequivocally legal under international law, dismissing a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom and Veolia. To rule on the suit, the Court of Appeals had to determine the legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the region. Their conclusion was that the Palestinians have no right – in the international legal sense – to the region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to all land beyond the 67 line.

british-mandate-for-palestine-1921

It is said that the court decision is only marginally significant for a debate about the legality of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as it’s only talking about transport infrastructure, not e.g. about settlements. However in trial the PLO, explaining that the occupation is illegal, claimed that Israel is violating: Articles 49-6 and 53 of the Geneva Convention, Articles 23, 27 and 46 of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, Article 4 of the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954. Article 27 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, Article 5 of the Convention IX of the 1907 Hague. and Article 53 of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.

So in order to rule whether the light rail’s construction was legal or not, the court had to review the texts of international law and examine international treaties in order to establish the respective legal rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The Versailles Court of Appeal rejected all the Palestinian arguments. Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal considers that Israel is entitled to ensure order and public life in the region, and therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, infrastructure and dwellings. All the international instruments put forward by the PLO were acts signed between states, and the obligations or prohibitions contained therein are relevant to states. Neither the PA nor the PLO are states, and therefore, none of these legal documents apply to them.

The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), who was co-appellant, to pay 30,000 euros ($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to Veolia Transport. Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the Supreme Court, and therefore the judgment became final. This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian legal claim that Israel’s occupation is illegal.

napoleon


Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila – site


BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 403: A Truth-Telling Strategy to Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace

January 29, 2017

The US is usually thought to be biased in favor of Israel, even after its recent acceptance of UNSC Resolution 2334. But for many years, the US has been a big part of the reason why the diplomatic world accepts a false narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict that harms Israel and makes it harder to achieve peace. Washington should move to a truth-telling strategy to dismantle the structure of false views that slander Israel and stand in the way of peace.

Source: A Truth-Telling Strategy to Advance Israeli-Palestinian Peace


Paris Peace Conference – From Nonsense Idea To Fruitless Outcome

January 26, 2017

“I must say that this conference is among the last spasms of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near.” (PM Benjamin Netanyahu)

French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

The much-discussed Paris Middle East Conference ended Sunday 15th Jan. 2017 with a rather bland statement reaffirming support for a two-state solution, and a call to stop violence and “ongoing settlement activity.” From the very beginning the French initiative of the Paris Middle East Conference was ill-planned bad idea: it had wrong timing, wrong participants and its agenda and content – a working draft of the communique – was seriously biased. No wonder that the result was null and void. The best result of Paris peace conference might be its ending without outcome; it can be concluded that in Paris sundown actors speculated on worn-out idea and dead end roadmap without new visions nor real stakeholders.

While the Conference can be doomed as waste of time whereas the developments on the ground seemed to get boost in opposite directions.

Wrong timing and participants

The fact that France is home to one of the most important Muslim communities in Europe and the largest Jewish community could be seen as giving Paris the mandate to hold the summit. In addition Israeli-Palestinian violence came especially since the early 2000s and the second Intifada on French soil, commonly referred to as the “import of conflict.” The outbreak of anti-Semitic violence, rioting and other actions were particularly evident during the last war in Gaza in the summer of 2014; a synagogue was stormed and slogans such as “Screw you Jews, France isn’t yours” were chanted by the crowd at gatherings “in support of Gaza.” An “unprecedented anti-Semitic climate led many Jews of France to emigrate to Israel.

However France’s desire to establish itself as a central player in the peace process, and now “Paris Peace Conference”, experienced a failure already before it started due bad timing: to organize international summit conference, just days before the inauguration of the new US President and the swearing in of his new administration in Washington. With no representatives from the new US administration or from the two parties who are directly involved, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, the conference essentially offered no new platform on how to restart the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

Some 70 countries and international organizations, including the foreign ministers of more than 30 states, participated to “Paris Peace Conference . However British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson intentionally kept away from the Paris conference, but he gave the British representatives – some junior officials – clear instructions not to sign any statement of its conclusions, thus giving a clear indication of where the loyalty of the British government will lie in the future. Australia also refused to sign the final document. Canada and many other EU member states chose to send only second-ranking officials to the summit instead of their foreign ministers. Newly appointed UN Secretary-General António Guterres also chose not to attend.

An idle declaration…

A copy of a working draft of the communique published by Ha’aretz included a general expression of support for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution and broad ideas about how the participating states can contribute towards this, without either a specific definition of what the final resolution should look like or any clearly defined follow up action. A draft summary statement says the participating countries will not recognize unilateral changes to 1967 borders, including Jerusalem.

final_declaration_of_paris_conference_2017It remained to be seen if the final version will be more concrete and detailed – it wasn’t. In the conference conclusions, the participants (except for the UK and Australia) confirmed their support for a two state solution with a call to the two parties directly involved in the peace process to dismiss any government representatives who do not share this goal. But the text of the final conclusions was softened after pressure from the outgoing US administration; criticism of Israeli settlements was balanced by the inclusion of a statement of the need to stop (Palestinian) terrorism and incitement. The final communique also shied away from explicitly criticizing plans by Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, although diplomats said the wording was meant to send a “subliminal” message. While the declaration contains all the right elements, it emerges as a water downed document without any details or new ideas. It states the obvious when it calls on each side to refrain from unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues such as Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees.

Full Text: Paris ‘Peace’ Summit Joint Declaration, January 15, 2017

…of no effect

Already the timing of the conference suggested that any measure adopted in Paris could remain a dead letter – and so happened as after Paris – Monday 16th Jan. 2017 – Britain, Balkan countries block EU from adopting Paris declaration. The fallout was reflected just one day after the Paris summit, as the 28 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for a pre-scheduled EU-Council meeting in Brussels without issuing a statement adopting either UN Security Council Resolution 2334 or the declaration that emerged from the Paris conference. The British Foreign Secretary decided to block the adoption of the Paris summit conclusions by the EU foreign ministers, hence causing further embarrassment for the EU during a week which was intended to demonstrate EU solidarity and unity for the peace process. The Jerusalem Post has learned that France was pressing inside the meeting for the EU to adopt the Paris declaration, but these efforts were rebuffed by Britain and some Balkan states keen on getting off on the “right foot” with US President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office.

maxresdefaultIn addition U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry eased Israeli suspicions Sunday in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he provided assurance that the Paris peace conference would not lead to any kind of concrete outcome at the U.N. Security Council or elsewhere. Kerry promised Netanyahu that the United States would not assist in passing a resolution against Israel in next Security Council meeting, due to follow both the Paris conference and December’s passing of Resolution 2334 against the settlement enterprise.

Expectations were high on the Palestinian side that the Paris conference would outline the two-state solution and determine a time-plan for its implementation. There is nothing of this in the statement nor any follow-ups after that.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member, expressed on Wednesday (18th Jan. 2017) her gratitude and appreciation to the French government for its initiative to organize an international peace conference of foreign ministers and diplomats in Paris on January 15, and “for putting the Palestinian issue back on the global agenda.” “Nevertheless,” Ashrawi noted, “it is evident that Israel and its proxies managed to water down the Joint Declaration and weaken its effectiveness. The Declaration omitted any reference to the creation of the Palestinian state on 1967 borders and restricted that “to ending the occupation that began in 1967 which does not necessarily conflate with the boundaries of the state.” “Absent effective follow-up mechanisms with the responsibilities of arbitration, monitoring and evaluation, and concrete engagement, the outcome of the Conference becomes just another verbal exercise. “We regret the unfortunate stance of the British and Australian governments, as well as the UK going so far as to prevent the EU Foreign Affairs Council from adopting the Declaration. (Source:The Palestine Chronicle  ).

Way forward

Palestinian conflict from my point of view is not via outside bystanders ala Paris Peace Summit but with real actors who were not participating to this playacting – such as given in following picture:

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

An analysis  BICOM Forecast: The Middle East in 2017  gives a wider context – it  is available as a PDF below:

 Download PDF

  Meanwhile elsewhere…

While diplomats were formulating their declaration the developments on the ground showed a huge gap between high-flown statements and reality on the grassroots. Here some highlights:

According WIN Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is proposing to incorporate a handful of towns located outside of Jerusalem into Israel’s capital, essentially annexing them to Israel in the process. “Today I will propose at the security cabinet that we pass the ‘Greater Jerusalem Law’ that includes extending Israeli sovereignty to the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem,” continued Katz. “This is a necessary first diplomatic step in the era of President Trump.” Katz’s plan essentially goes farther than that of Education Minister and Jewish Home party Chairman Naftali Bennett to officially declare the town of Ma’ale Adumim as a part of Israel. The “Greater Jerusalem Law” would also incorporate Givat Ze’ev to the northwest of Jerusalem as well as Beitar Illit and the Etzion regional bloc of communities, which are directly southwest of Jerusalem, into Israel’s capital.

The Local Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem on Sunday approved the construction of 560 units in the eastern part of the city, beyond the Green Line, after US President Donald Trump formally took power. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated, “We went through eight difficult years of [former US President Barack] Obama’s pressure to freeze construction.” Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his security cabinet that Israel will expand construction in settlement blocs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (Source: JPost)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday [24th Jan. 2017] announced their approval for construction of approximately 2,500 new housing units in Judea and Samaria. Most of the units are planned for the existing blocs of Israeli communities and are based mainly on prior decisions and commitments by previous governments. Liberman also authorized construction of an industrial area meant for Arabs near Tarkumiyah, in the Hebron area. It is designed to be one of the largest in the region and includes diversified industrial components. (Source: United with Israel)

Former US President Barack Obama, in his waning hours, quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which Congress had been blocking. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said a written notification dated January 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. (Source: United with Israel)

mailservice-2Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 15th Jan. 2017 signed an agreement to renew cooperation on joint water projects benefiting Israeli and Palestinian residents of the West Bank after a six year freeze in activities. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC). (Source: i24News )

After a friendly telephone discussion on 22nd Jan. 2017, US President Trump invited PM Netanyahu to come to Washington for a meeting next month, to discuss close cooperation in a number of areas, including Iran’s nuclear program and the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians. “The President emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal”, according to a White House statement. (Source: GPO/Israel)

The Arrow Weapon System (AWS), the upper-most tier in the Israeli strategic capability, entered into a new era on 18th Jan 2017 in its defense from ballistic missiles threats.Earlier the AWS consisted of Arrow-2 interceptors, and has now added for the first time the Arrow-3 operational interceptor (made by Israel Aerospace Industries/MLM). The Arrow-3 interceptor capabilities enable longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric) and more precise ballistic missile engagements. The combined interception capabilities of the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 will significantly reduce the possibilities of ballistic missiles impacting the State of Israel. (Source: IsraelDefence )

After a decade of failures to implement reconciliation agreements between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a new deal took place in Moscow. According Al Jazeera – on 18th Jan. 2017 – the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time. Earlier, both Fatah and Hamas showed many signs that they were neither willing nor interested in having a genuine agreement that bridged the intra-Palestinian divide, as the current status quo is convenient for them especially with the absence of any forms of popular local accountability . Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Moscow, said the agreement in Russia signals the Palestinians “looking away” from the United States, which has been involved in the peace process for decades. “Historically, peace discussions have been dominated by the US. They are looking for a different approach, and Russia certainly offered a different approach,” she said. The Moscow declaration provided an opportunity for the Palestinian political leaders to shape a new reality, it remains to see if they really seize the opportunity this time round?

knifeintifada


Related article: Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East


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