Palestine Update 296
Israel threatens to ban Palestinian products
The Israeli government threatened to officially ban Palestinian products from the Israeli markets unless the Palestinian boycott of Israeli calves and sheep is lifted.
Major General Kamil Abu Rukun, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, stated that “Israel will not allow boycotts of any kind against Israeli produce.” He further added that “Because of the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral decision, which is hurting the economies of both sides, and after several inquiries to resolve the issue on various levels, I have warned that if the situation does not return to normal, we will not allow much of the Palestinian agricultural produce to enter Israel.”
The spokesman for the Palestinian Authorities, Ibrahim Melhem, is not impressed with the threat and responded that Palestinians had a right to diversity in the items in its markets. In order to redirect the economy in the direction of Arab products, the PA has prohibited its farmers to buy calves and sheep from Israeli agriculture since mid-September. Melhem also repeated that the PA has decided to switch from medical services acquired from hospitals in Israel to those purchased from Egypt and Jordan. It should be noted that these measures fit in the PA’s long term strategy of slowly disengaging from the Israeli economy and, therefore, from the occupation.
Source: PNN News
Palestinian obstacles to hold first legislative elections since 2006
Palestinians in the West Bank have not been able to choose their leaders for 13 years. This week it looked like that might change, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas initiated steps to prepare for legislative elections. But major obstacles stand in the way. Abbas said any Palestinian election should take place in “the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip” – the three locations where Palestinians eligible to vote in the elections reside. Yet Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), only has the power to ensure elections in the West Bank. With the rival Palestinian militant group Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Israeli authorities in power in Jerusalem, Abbas faces an uphill battle to secure elections in either location.
Palestinian officials and experts told Al Arabiya English of the challenges ahead. The first major obstacle is East Jerusalem, home to 360,000 Palestinians and considered the capital of a future Palestinian state by the PA. Israel annexed East Jerusalem following the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, a move condemned by the UN and the international community. Israel considers Jerusalem its capital and is unlikely to allow Palestinians to vote within its municipal boundaries. Lawmakers are looking at “creative solutions” for the question of how to conduct elections for Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The second obstacle is the Gaza Strip, which the Israeli government has blocked since Hamas took control of the area in 2007. The Israeli blockade sets up physical challenges to holding and monitoring elections with the West Bank. But just as difficult is the ideological divide between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party, which rules the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Fatah and Hamas are long-standing rivals and clashed in 2007, with over 100 people killed in the fighting.
“Successful holding of parliamentary elections would depend on the cooperation and agreement of Hamas. If it does not cooperate, there will not be elections or would be too complicated to have elections without a clear ‘OK’ from Hamas”.
Abbas’ insistence that Palestinians be governed under the PA “in the framework of one Palestinian political system, one sole legitimate authority, one law and one legitimate weapon” could serve as a key sticking point. Hamas is committed to armed resistance by its founding charter and maintains its own military forces independent of the PA.
If elections were held and Fatah and Hamas did manage to form a unity government, their relations with the international community would be a further challenge. Much of the international community, including the US, designates Hamas as a terrorist organization due to the group’s use of violence, which is supported in part by Iran through financial and military backing. Any involvement of Hamas in the PA therefore risks sabotaging donor aid, a key source of funds. “Holding another election wouldn’t solve this dilemma but only put an exclamation mark next to it,” said Hassan. Given these obstacles, Abbas has not given a timeframe for the elections.
Israel considers allowing Jews to pray in Al-Aqsa
Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Friday that the state of Israel is considering allowing Jews to pray and worship inside Al-Aqsa Mosque. Erdan said: “I am sure this will happen soon, God willing.” He emphasized that “the situation in Jerusalem is heading towards regaining sovereignty and control over the place. We will reach our goal when more Jews express their desire to visit the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa, ed). Then there will be an increasing pressure following an increasing demand. I hope this happens soon. When we reach this stage, we will work and push for changing the historical status quo in Jerusalem in light of respecting the international interests for Israel.”
He also stated that “we should consider the regional situation in the Middle East, which is complicated and complex. I respect the peace deal with Jordan and consider it a very important achievement, but it is impossible to accept a historical mistake. Principles change through time.” Erdan stressed that there are no laws impeding the motion from being ratified, especially if the Israeli Supreme Court backs it.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem’s Islamic leaders warned yesterday that Erdan’s remarks could have grave consequences for the already frail relations between different religious groups and ethnicities in Jerusalem. The Islamic Awqaf Council, the Higher Islamic Commission, the Palestinian Iftaa Department and the Jerusalem Awqaf Department even go so far as to say that Israel might be inciting a religious war.
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