Israel Refuses to Negotiate with Palestinian Government ‘Dependent on Hamas’

Tel-Aviv – Following long discussions and sharp disputes over the stance towards the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, the Israeli cabinet announced on Tuesday its rejection to negotiate with a Palestinian government “dependent on Hamas”, which Israel describes as “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction” of the country.
 
The statement followed comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said that his government would neither try to prevent the implementation of the Palestinian agreement, nor would it cut relations with the Authority.
 
The Israeli government stressed that Hamas should recognize Israel and renounce terrorism in accordance with the Quartet’s conditions. It also demanded the disarming of Hamas, the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the recent war, and the release of two citizens held by the movement in the Gaza Strip.
 
The government added to these conditions, which Netanyahu had put forward following the signing of the reconciliation agreement last week, the necessity that the Palestinian Authority extend its full security control over the Gaza Strip, including the crossings, and prevent arms smuggling there.
 
It also called for thwarting the Hamas-terrorist network in the West Bank and cutting relations between the movement and Iran.
 
Israel’s security cabinet, which convened on Monday evening, conducted lengthy research on the reconciliation agreement, after which Netanyahu declared that Israel would neither recognize nor accept the agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas.
 
However, he said that he would “not try to prevent its implementation on the ground, and will not cut relations with the Authority.”
 
Netanyahu told his ministers that should the reconciliation agreement be implemented and PA officials return to the civil administration offices in Gaza and control the border crossings, “we must work with them, because this serves the Israeli interests in preventing a humanitarian crisis and improving the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Abbas Opens Recruitment for Security Services in Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he delivers a speech in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

Ramallah- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opened the door to recruitment in the Gaza Strip, in a move that would rearrange the security services in the sector.

Member of Fatah Central Committee Hussein Sheikh said that Abbas signed the decision to open the recruitment in the Gaza Strip to restructure the security establishment, noting that a number of security leaders in the West Bank would head to Gaza in the coming days in order to oversee the structure of the security services there.

“We want a security institution committed to the basic law of the State of Palestine, and its doctrine is to protect the national project and the political program of the Palestinian legitimacy,” he added.

Abbas’ decision came ahead of scheduled meetings with security officials from the West Bank and others from the Gaza Strip, in order to arrange security in the sector.

Sources close to the matter told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the president’s decision would entail “rebuilding the security services and getting rid of any burden.”

“The decision was made in coordination with the Egyptians. They have been informed,” the sources added.

They went on to say that a large number of the PA’s military personnel would be referred to retirement.

“This may also apply to the Hamas military, and then the remainder will be chosen as the nucleus of the new forces in Gaza,” the sources explained.

The Authority plans to attract some 5,000 new recruits in the Gaza Strip. The applicant must be Palestinian holding a Palestinian identity, between the age of 18 and 22. He must not be sentenced to a felony or misdemeanor. He should have a good appearance and have passed the initial medical examination, and not being separated from his previous service by disciplinary decision.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions gather thousands of armed men in Gaza. The weapons of these groups were not discussed during the rounds of Palestinian dialogue in Cairo. It was only agreed that peace and war would be based on a joint decision and that weapons remain in hideouts to be used when needed.

Gaza Instagram Stars Show Different Side of their Homeland

Gaza- Kholoud Nassar and Fatma Abu Mosabah may not be able to leave Gaza without Israeli or Egyptian permission, but their photos can.

Both have more than 100,000 followers on the social platform and say they get recognized multiple times a day in the tiny territory that is home to two million people.

The two women are among a small number of Instagram stars in the blockaded Palestinian enclave, showing followers a different side of their homeland from what much of the world may be used to hearing or seeing.

“I see Instagram as a window,” says Nassar, 26, wearing a pink hijab and fiddling with a toy car that features in many of her pictures.

Mosabah, 21, agrees, saying that “when I open the internet I can talk to people across the world.”

In the enclave sealed off by Israel to the east and north, Egypt to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, it is impossible for Gazans to leave without permission, Agence France Presse reported.

Neither of the women has left Gaza in more than a decade.

Israel also refuses to give permits for tourists to visit the strip, leaving most people outside to imagine life there.

And with three wars since 2008 between the strip’s factions and Israel, many people’s ideas of Gaza center on devastation, poverty and suffering.

The women use Instagram, with its focus on pictures over text and political arguments, to show another side.

“War is a part of Gaza, but it is not all Gaza. I wanted to show there was more to Gaza — as in any country,” Nassar tells AFP in a cafe near the coast in Gaza City.

“Take America: there is poverty, there are destroyed homes, but at the same time there are beautiful places. Gaza is the same.”

“Through these pictures I want people to see Gaza, how people live, eat and work.”

Nassar’s pictures range from young children to harvests, all bathed in a range of colours, while Mosabah shows all sides of daily life.

Both women feature heavily in their own pictures, with wide smiles.

Mosabah agrees that the aim is to “change the perception of Gaza” away from political matters.

“To show its beautiful side, that’s the most important thing. Far from the destruction, blockade and the wars.”
A United Nations official recently said the strip may already be “unlivable”.

Despite Gazans receiving only a few hours of electricity a day in recent months, social media outlets remain popular.

Ali Bkheet, president of the Palestinian Social Media Club, estimates that around 50 percent of Gazans have Facebook, though numbers on Instagram and Twitter are significantly smaller.

He said the decade-long Israeli blockade had made Gazans particularly keen to use social media “to express ourselves and communicate our voice”.

Nassar started before the last war in 2014 and documented the human toll of the conflict.

In the three years since, she has sought to focus on how Gazans struggle through terrible conditions — including creating a “trying to live” hashtag to show how people were putting their lives back together after the war.

The toy car, an old Volkswagen Beetle Nassar carries in her bag at all times and which features in dozens of her photos, has become a trademark helping her connect with others.

People from across the Arab world now send her pictures of the real cars, which she posts on her page.

For Mosabah, Instagram is also a source of revenue — making between $300 (255 euros) and $400 a month from e-marketing and adverts on her page.

In a region where 60 percent of young people are unemployed and the average salary is a couple of hundred dollars, she has carved out a niche for herself.

Sheldon Himelfarb, CEO of US-based PeaceTech Lab which has researched how social media impacts political awareness, said social media can help break down barriers between people across the globe.

But he warned researchers were still trying to assess whether the selective nature of what is published helps or hinders efforts to gain a fuller picture.

“I believe in my conversations with university students. They seem to imply they are more aware about parts of the world than certainly their parents were. But whether or not they are more accurately informed I don’t know.”

Instagram is of course a selective version of life, with the women taking dozens of pictures before deciding on their favorite to show the world.

But despite the thought that goes into their selections, they aren’t protected from the bane of social media — trolls.

Mosabah says she blocks between five and 20 people a day on Instagram who make inappropriate comments.
“Maybe I take a picture with someone, they say the picture is shameful because I was with a man. I do a lot of blocking,” she laughs.

For Nassar, it has even strayed into the real world.

Once she was taking pictures in Beit Lahia, one of Gaza’s most conservative areas, when women started screaming at her.

“There are people here who criticize me — they say ‘you are going out, taking pictures. You should stay at home and cook’,” Nassar says. 

“Maybe because I wear a hijab they criticize me more.”

Abbas to Visit Gaza as Details of Fatah-Hamas Deal Emerge

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in a decade within a month, a top official in his Fatah party said on Thursday after the movement reached a deal with Hamas over political reconciliation.

Abbas “will be in Gaza within less than a month,” Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told Agence France Presse following a breakthrough in talks between the two sides mediated by Egypt in Cairo.

Abbas, who told AFP that the unity deal is the “final agreement” to end Palestinian split, has not visited the enclave since his forces were pushed out in 2007 by Hamas which has controlled it ever since. But last month Hamas agreed to cede powers in Gaza to Abbas’ Fatah-backed government.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement Thursday that the Cairo agreement was reached under “generous Egyptian auspices,” but provided no details.

An Egyptian source close to the talks said intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi had followed the talks closely.

“We congratulate our Palestinian people on the reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo. We make every effort possible to implement it to start a new chapter in the history of our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Reuters.

Some 3,000 police officers from the Palestinian Authority are to redeploy to Gaza as part of the deal, a Palestinian official said.

“According to the agreement, the Palestinian government will be able to take over all its roles in the civil and security sectors, for which 3,000 Palestinian policemen from the …. Palestinian Authority will be redeployed,” the official involved in the talks told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A party to the negotiations said the agreement would see forces of the West Bank-based PA, which is dominated by Fatah, take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Both rivals hope the deal’s proposed deployment of security personnel from the PA to Gaza’s borders will encourage Egypt and Israel to lift their tight restrictions at border crossings, a much needed step to help Gaza revive its economy.

Palestinian Government Sets Economic Reform Plan for Gaza Strip

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah chairs a cabinet meeting in Gaza City

Ramallah– Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah presented on Wednesday highlights of his government’s economic reform plan in the Gaza Strip.

“We have plans ready for action,” said Hamdallah, who remained in Gaza with a group of ministers following a Cabinet session on Tuesday.

“We hope we can invest in industrial areas and gas fields,” he stated, addressing a group of Gazan businessmen.

The prime minister was referring to his intention to reproduce the experience of the West Bank in the establishment of large industrial zones, which is still in its early stages, and to start extracting gas from the natural gas field off the coast of Gaza, which was discovered in 1998.

The Authority highlighted an initial agreement with foreign companies for gas extraction, hoping that the Gaza gas field would be one of the foundations of the Palestinian economy.

In addition, Hamdallah said that his government was looking to improve the business and investment environment in Gaza, to work on the land settlement and water purification projects and to complete infrastructure and sanitation plans.

The economic file will be one of the most important issues that the Palestinian government will have to deal with, in the wake of the high rates of unemployment and poverty, and the significant and dangerous economic decline witnessed over the last period.

According to a recent study, the Gaza Strip incurred losses worth $15 billion over the past ten years.

Hamdallah stressed that his government would work to improve the economic situation, despite the decline of foreign aid by more than 70 percent, the delivery of only 35.5 percent of aid, and with many countries not fulfilling their commitments to reconstruction in Gaza.

The prime minister, however, linked the ability of his government to implement its economic plans with the agreement between Fatah and Hamas on the reconciliation files in Cairo.

“We hope that reconciliation will be a lever for our efforts in this context, which will contribute to improving our economy and the living conditions of citizens,” he said.

Two delegations from Fatah and Hamas are expected to arrive next Monday in Cairo, upon an invitation by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Khalid Fawzi.

On Tuesday, Hamdallah presided over a Cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip, in a move towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas parties.

Fatah, Hamas Leaders to Discuss Unresolved Issues in Cairo

Ramallah- The Palestinian cabinet held on Tuesday a meeting in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the first time in three years, but failed to take any prompt decisions.

Instead, the government decided to send the difficult and complicated files to a meeting of Fatah and Hamas leaders in Cairo next week.

“We are ready to remove all pending issues to the Cairo meeting,” Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said during the meeting held in Gaza at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The prime minister told the crowd on Tuesday, “The only way to statehood is through unity. We are coming to Gaza again to deepen the reconciliation and end the split.”

The Palestinian Authority is asking to completely control the Gaza Strip, including its security, borders and crossing points.

Fatah and Hamas should therefore solve such disputes, in addition to the political program and the elections.

Abbas said on Tuesday that the government should be given the green light to enforce its full authority in the Gaza Strip.

In a video address to the Palestinian unity government, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said, “I have always known that there is an opportunity for peace in the region, on the condition of union between all parties.”

Recently, Egypt has been sponsoring talks for the resumption of Palestinian national reconciliation efforts.

The Egyptian president said that Egypt has forever been a supporter of the Palestinian cause. “The cause has always been at the top of Egypt’s priorities during meetings with world leaders or during international conventions,” El-Sisi said.

He added that the whole world was watching the current efforts to achieve reconciliation between the Palestinian people.

“I have a full belief that the differences should be solved among Palestinians with the support of your Arab brothers, rejecting interference from any foreign powers on the issue,” El-Sisi said.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Abbas and has ruled the impoverished desert enclave of two million people since then.

It is still unknown how Fatah and Hamas would solve their disputes especially the ones related to security issues, particularly in the presence of a militant army in the Gaza Strip. 

Abbas says he only accepts the presence of one army, which is the army of the Palestinian Authority while Hamas says that the weapons of the resistance are not up for discussion.

Hamdallah in Gaza: My Government’s Success Depends on its Ability to Work on Ground

Hamdallah

Ramallah – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said on Monday his government’s success in the Gaza Strip would depend on its ability to work on the ground.

Hamdallah, accompanied by a senior governmental delegation, crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday in a move towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas parties, as his unity government would begin assuming control of the region’s administrative affairs, as well as “security tasks and responsibility for crossings and borders.”

“What Gaza experienced in the years of division can no longer bear any waste of time in stalling and disagreement.

Now it is time to work because the only beneficiary of divisions is the occupation forces,” the Palestinian prime minister said, addressing the welcoming crowds.

“We seek to work with all factions, the private sector, and the civil society to enable the government to fulfill its tasks in the sector, address the repercussions of division and heal the rift that has exhausted every Palestinian and caused major imbalances in the structure of the society and its political system as a whole,” he added, promising that the government would deploy all efforts “to have a positive impact on citizens’ lives.”

Hamdallah highly praised Egypt’s role in the reconciliation, calling on all parties to unify ranks and put “national consensus at the top of priorities.”

The prime minister went on to say: “We are fully aware that the road is still long and arduous, and that we will encounter obstacles and challenges… But our people, who emerged from the rubble of the Nakba, are now able to rise again from destruction and suffering of Gaza, to protect their homeland and their future and to live in freedom and dignity.”

Hamdallah is expected to preside over a meeting of the Palestinian government on Tuesday held at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The government will try to manage the Gaza Strip, which was under Hamas control for more than 10 years.

Hamdallah: We Will Not Accept any Derogation from Government’s Work in Gaza

Ramallah– Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said his government wanted to assume full responsibility of the Gaza Strip and to extend its power over all sectors.

“The government of National Reconciliation will assume its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip, which means that it will begin to work in an effective and comprehensive manner, without any derogation from its functions, responsibilities and powers,” Hamdallah said during a Cabinet session held in Ramallah on Tuesday.

He added that the government would extend its jurisdiction in accordance with the laws issued by the Palestinian president “in all sectors and fields without exception”.

“For this purpose, the government has decided to form a number of ministerial committees to oversee the handover of the crossings, security and government departments, and address all civil, administrative and legal issues resulting from the division,” Hamdallah stated.

Earlier this week, the Palestinian government announced that it would hold a meeting in Gaza next Tuesday to turn the page of the administrative committee formed by Hamas and give the green light for the ministries and institutions in the enclave.

Spokesman for the Palestinian government Youssef al-Mahmoud said: “Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has decided after consulting with President Mahmoud Abbas that the government will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza next week.”

“Hamdallah and members of the government will arrive in Gaza next Monday to start taking over government responsibilities after Hamas announced its agreement to dissolve the administrative committee and enable the government to assume its full responsibilities,” he added.

The Palestinian prime minister called on the Palestinian people and civil society groups to support reconciliation efforts in order to end divisions and “enable the government to carry out its duties to serve our people and our nation.”

Hamas, for its part, welcomed the arrival of the government of Hamdallah to the Gaza Strip.

The head of the movement in Gaza, Yehya Senwar, said that his movement would provide all facilities for the success of the visit at all levels.

Mladenov: Cairo Agreements are the Palestinians’ Last Chance

Palestine

Gaza – UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday that the Cairo agreements represented the last chance for intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

“This opportunity must be well used,” Mladenov said during a visit to the Gaza Strip.

His remarks followed a meeting with the head of Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehya al-Senwar, and other officials, with whom he discussed reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas and the implementation of understandings which have been recently reached in Cairo under the auspices of Egyptian intelligence.

The UN coordinator held a closed meeting with Haniyeh and the Hamas leadership, away from the media.

However, well-informed sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the officials have discussed the possibility to form a UN team to facilitate the implementation of the recent Cairo understandings, adding that Hamas has welcomed the proposal.

Earlier on Monday, Mladenov met with the leaders of Palestinian factions, in the absence of Fatah movement.

The meeting gathered senior officials of the Islamic Jihad, the Popular and Democratic fronts, the People’s Party and other factions to discuss the Cairo agreements, the security situation and siege imposed on Gaza.

In comments afterwards, the UN official said: “The Cairo understandings represent the last chance to complete the Palestinian reconciliation”, calling on all parties to grab this opportunity and achieve its success.

He also noted that he discussed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a plan through which a UN delegation would contribute to the successful implementation of the agreements and enable the Palestinian government to take over its duties in Gaza.

He pledged that he would personally monitor, along with officials in his office, the process of handing over Gaza’s functions to the government and work together to resolve crises in the area.

Mladenov called on all factions to facilitate the task of the government, especially as it would be dealing with many difficult files, including Gaza employees, the humanitarian needs and the complex living conditions.

Palestinian Government to Hold Weekly Session in Gaza

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will travel to Gaza on Monday as part of a fresh push to end a decade-long split between the Fatah and Hamas movements, his government announced.

“Hamdallah has decided after consulting with president Mahmoud Abbas that the government will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza next week,” government spokesman Yusuf Al Mahmoud said in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

“Hamdallah and members of the government will arrive in Gaza next Monday to start taking over government responsibilities after Hamas announced its agreement to dissolve the administrative committee and enable the government to assume its full responsibilities.”

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has made concessions after discussions with Egypt that has urged it to take steps towards reconciliation with Abbas’ Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas said a week ago that it had agreed to steps towards resolving the split with Fatah, announcing it would dissolve the administrative committee, a body seen as a rival government, and was ready to hold elections.

Hamdallah, who is not believed to have traveled to the enclave since 2015, also wrote about the visit on his Facebook page.

“I am heading to the beloved Gaza Strip next Monday with the government and all bodies, authorities and security services,” he wrote.

“We hope all parties and all Palestinians will focus on the national interest to enable the government to continue carrying out all of its functions in a way which serves the Palestinian citizens first.”
  
It remains unclear whether the steps will result in further concrete action towards ending the deep division between Fatah and Hamas.