The National & Reuters & Agence France-Presse – 2014-02-10 00:20:29
Surge in Israeli Demolitions of Palestinian Homes
The National (Abu Dahbi) & Reuters & Agence France-Presse
RAMALLAH (February 8, 2014) — Aid agencies working in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem expressed alarm yesterday at a spike in Israeli demolitions of Palestinian property coinciding with renewed US-backed peace negotiations.
The statement by 25 aid organisations said the number of demolitions increased by almost half and the displacement of Palestinians by nearly three-quarters between July 2013, when the talks began, and the end of the year, compared to the same period in 2012.
Of the 663 Palestinian structures torn down last year, the highest number in five years, 122 were built with international donor aid.
The International Red Cross announced this week it would stop delivering tents to Palestinians made homeless by demolitions in the Jordan border region of the occupied West Bank, citing Israeli obstruction and confiscation of aid.
“International and local aid organisations have faced increasingly severe restrictions in responding to the needs created by the unlawful demolition of civilian property, in violation of Israelâ€™s obligation to facilitate the effective delivery of aid,” wrote the groups, which included Oxfam and Christian Aid.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war. It quit Gaza in 2005, and the enclave is now governed by Hamas, which is opposed to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbasâ€™s peacemaking strategy.
The Palestinians want the more than half a million Jewish settlers there, along with Israeli soldiers, to leave the occupied territories. Israel balks at such sweeping pullouts, citing historical claims on the biblical lands.
The Jordan Valley, the proposed eastern border of a future independent Palestinian state, has been especially contentious as Israel insists on keeping an army presence there after any peace accord. Palestinians have rejected this, saying a temporary international force should do the job, with Israel observing.
In recent decades, the Palestinian population in the region has declined as the water supply from the River Jordan has been diverted and Israel set up military zones and settlements.
Palestinian activists set up a protest camp in a derelict village there last week. At dawn Israeli forces scattered the group ahead of a mass rally for Friday prayers.
“They came in large numbers with their armoured vehicles but that will not break our will, the popular resistance will continue and will be victorious and we will return,” Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician and member of the sit-in, said.
Security forces and Palestinians also clashed at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalemâ€™s Old City on Friday, with police arresting five people.
“Five were arrested for throwing stones at police officers, and police used stun grenades to disperse rioters,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Several Palestinians were injured.
Jerusalem sees regular clashes between Palestinians and police at the compound that houses the Al Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques in the Old City.
In the northern Gaza Strip, five Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army gunfire on Friday near the border fence, Palestinian medical sources said.
Ashraf Al Qudra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory, said the five men were in their early twenties. He said one was in serious condition from a shot to the chest.
Palestinian witnesses said the soldiers opened fire after they were attacked by stones hurled over the border fence.
Reuters with additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Netanyahu Rejects Kerryâ€™s Warning of Global Boycott over Settlements
JERUSALEM (February 2, 2014) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected remarks by the US secretary of state John Kerry warning of a growing boycott threat if peace talks fail with Palestinians fail.
“Attempts to impose a boycott on the state of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal,” Mr Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“Second, no pressure will cause me to concede the vital interests of the state of Israel, especially the security of Israelâ€™s citizens. For both of these reasons, threats to boycott the state of Israel will not achieve their goal.”
Mr Netanyahuâ€™s remarks came a day after Mr Kerry warned of the potential economic impact on Israel.
“For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high,” the US diplomat warned at a security conference in Munich.
“For Israel thereâ€™s an increasing delegitimisation campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are talk of boycotts and other kinds of things,” he said.
The status quo could not be maintained if the talks were to collapse, he warned.
“Itâ€™s not sustainable. Itâ€™s illusionary. Thereâ€™s a momentary prosperity, thereâ€™s a momentary peace … But the fact is the status quo will change if there is failure.”
Some Israeli ministers directly addressed Mr Kerryâ€™s remarks.
“What Kerry said is offensive, unfair and intolerable,” the intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz of Mr Netanyahuâ€™s Likud party told army radio ahead of the cabinet meeting.
“You canâ€™t expect Israel to negotiate with a gun at its head while it discusses issues critical to its diplomatic and security interests.”
And the economy minister, Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party, which is part of the coalition but against territorial concessions to Palestinians, said: “There is no nation that would give its country up over economic threats, and neither will we.”
“We expect our friends in the world to stand by our side in the face of the anti-Semitic boycott attempts, not amplify them,” he said.
A growing number of governments and international businesses have in recent months said they will not trade with any Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of a Palestinian-led boycott campaign.
The so-called BDS movement â€“ boycott, divestment and sanctions â€“ aims to convince governments, businesses and celebrities to cut all ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories, in a bid to repeat the success of the boycott which ended apartheid in South Africa.
Last week, the US actress Scarlett Johansson was forced to chose between being an ambassador for Oxfam and taking on a new role as the public face of Israelâ€™s SodaStream, which has a factory in the West Bank, after the international aid group said the two roles were “incompatible”.
She resigned her position at Oxfam.
On the same day, Norwayâ€™s sovereign wealth fund blacklisted two Israeli companies involved in settlements construction in annexed east Jerusalem.
Since January 1, the European Union has also blocked all grants and funding to Israeli entities operating beyond the pre-1967 war lines, sparking growing alarm in Israel.
Mr Kerry coaxed Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in late July for nine months of direct talks which will end in April. So far, there has been very little visible progress, with Israeli plans to expand settlements drawing strong protests from the Palestinians.
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