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Dec 03, 2012

U.K. and France summon Israeli envoys over settler plan

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 3, 2012 7:35 EST

Israeli children in the Jewish Ulpana neighbourhood, built on private Palestinian land within the Beit El settlement, near Ramallah. File photo via AFP.

Israel’s envoys in Paris and London were called in for consultations on Monday as the Jewish state came under huge diplomatic pressure over its settlement activities which the UN chief warned could wipe out peace hopes.

It was the latest in a series of top-level diplomatic protests over Israeli plans to build 3,000 settler homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank that emerged on Friday with an official source confirming it was payback for the Palestinians winning the rank of a UN non-member observer state a day earlier.

Some of the construction is to take place in a controversial corridor of land east of Jerusalem, called E1, sparking a storm of protests from Washington and Brussels as well as from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who on Sunday warned it would deal an “almost fatal blow” to the prospects of resolving the conflict.

Experts warn that Israeli construction in E1 would completely block the narrow corridor of land running east of Jerusalem, cutting off the northern West Bank from the south.

On Monday morning, Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed it had summoned Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub for talks over new settlement plans, shortly after warning it was weighing a “strong reaction” to the proposals.

And in Paris, Ambassador Yossi Gal was also summoned for consultations at the French foreign ministry, an embassy source told AFP.

Earlier, Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said the two governments were considering recalling their ambassadors for consultations over the plans to build in E1, which the newspaper said they considered a “red line.”

“This time it won’t just be a condemnation, there will be real action taken against Israel,” a senior European diplomat told the paper, which also quoted another diplomat as saying: “London is furious about the E1 decision.”

Quoting diplomatic sources, the paper said Britain and France were coordinating their moves and had “discussed the extraordinary step of recalling their ambassadors from Tel Aviv for consultations” and with a final decision to be taken later on Monday.

E1 is a highly contentious area of the West Bank that runs between the easternmost edge of annexed east Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumim settlement.

Palestinians bitterly oppose the E1 project, as it would effectively cut the occupied West Bank in two, north to south, and sever it from Jerusalem, making the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state almost impossible.

The summoning of the two ambassadors came a day after a strongly-worded warning from Ban, saying he viewed the plans “with grave concern and disappointment.”

“This would include reported planning in the so-called E1 envelope, which risks completely cutting off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank,” his spokesman said in a statement.

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British UK denies drastic steps for Israel on settlements

DEBKAfile December 3, 2012, 5:49 PM (GMT+02:00)

The British, French and Swedish foreign ministries summoned Israeli ambassadors to complain about Israel’s decision to build 3,000 new homes in Jerusalem and West Bank and expedite planning for the E1 area between Jerusalem and the town of Maaleh Adummim. A spokesman for PM David Cameron denied he was weighing the drastic measures [reported by British Sky TV] of recalling the British ambassador from Israel or cancelling trade agreements. The French foreign minister also commented: “There are other ways to show disapproval of Israeli settlement plans other than recalling ambassadors.”

The ambassadors replied that Israel’s response was mild compared with the Palestinian action in applying for nonmember observer status that was approved last Thursday – in violation of its standing agreements with Israel, including the Oslo peace framework accords.


Israel holds back cash transfers to Palestinian Authority
DEBKAfile December 3, 2012, 8:01 AM (GMT+02:00)

The Netanyahu government has blocked the monthly transfer of collected taxes to the Palestinian Authority as further punishment for Mahmoud Abbas’s application to the UN for nonmember status which was approved last Thursday. The NIS.460 million was earmarked for public sector wages. Finance Minister Yuval Steinetz said this amount would cover PA debts to the Israel Electric Corp. UN Secretary joined US and several European governments in slamming Israel for its decision to build an extra 3,000 homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank and expediting planning for the area linking Jerusalem and Maaleh Adummim.

Netanyahu cops flak for hawkish response to Palestinian UN success

Published: 02 December, 2012, 18:11


Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)

The Israeli government’s decision to expand settlements is “a slap in the face for [the] US president,” according to former PM Ehud Olmert. He is the latest to join both domestic and foreign criticism of Israel’s punitive actions against Palestine.

­The Israeli government is unfreezing a controversial construction project in the occupied territories in retaliation for the Palestinian success at the UN. But the harsh stance is drawing criticism even from most loyal foreign allies of the Jewish state, including America. Meanwhile at home the hawkish prime minister faces resurge of opposition forces that can put his re-election prospects in doubt.

Netanyahu is enjoying a rise of popularity following the week-long war in Gaza, with his personal approval rating bouncing 11 percentage points, according to post-offensive polls. Together with his ally Avigdor Lieberman and ultra-orthodox and ultra-nationalist parties, he has a convincing lead two months ahead of the early election in January.

While maintaining domestic support, the Israeli PM is increasingly at odds with foreign friends. At the UN General Assembly vote on Thursday which granted Palestinians an upgraded status of non-member observer state, only nine countries voted against the proposition. Even nations that usually support Israel on most issues like Germany and Britain chose to abstain, and just one European nation, the Czech Republic, voted against.

“For Netanyahu to find himself all alone, with only a reluctant partner in Washington and seven other countries by his side, must surely have come as a shock,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine. It argues that Israel’s brief war with Hamas may have pushed Europeans to demonstrate approval for their Palestinian non-violent rival Fatah and its leader Mahmoud Abbas. The elected president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) champions the statehood bid, while Israel didn’t offer any tangible alternative, the magazine says.


Tough defiant stance

­But rather than toning down its opposition to Palestinian statehood, the Netanyahu government is escalating the tension by taking a series of steps that can only be seen as punitive. Hours after the UN vote it announced construction of new homes in the occupied territories in the West Bank, the territory controlled by Fatah. The development would affect the sensitive E-1 area, the lands east of Jerusalem.

Critics of the previously frozen plan say that if it is carried out, it would dissect West Bank into northern and southern portions and isolate the Arab-inhabited East Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian territories. Daniel Seidemann of Ir Amim, a group that promotes coexistence in Jerusalem, called it “a doomsday scenario” that would “be the death of the two-state solution.”

The move was criticized by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her British counterpart William Hague. Turkish and Arab top officials condemned the construction plan, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying it was “the time to show strong reactions to Israeli policies which undermine the peace process.”

Saeb Erekat, an aide to Mahmoud Abbas, said Netanyahu was “defying the whole international community and insisting on destroying the two-state solution,” with the move.

On Sunday, Israel went on to withhold US$120 million worth of taxes it collected from Palestinians this month. The money would normally go to the PA and constitute a major portion of the Abbas government budget. Israel will hold this month’s allotment to cover West Bank’s electricity debt.


Israeli opposition gears up

­Israeli opposition politicians took the chance to criticize Netanyahu’s hawkish stance. Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who said “the decision to build thousands of housing units as punishment to the Palestinians only punishes Israel … (and) only isolates Israel further.”

Another veteran Israeli politician, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, called it “the worst slap in the face of a US president” who actually supported Israel by voting against Palestinian statehood.

Livni, who resigned from politics in May, made a sudden comeback on Tuesday leading a newly-established party. Olmert is rumored to also join the parliamentary run in a matter of days. An October opinion poll by Haaretz newspaper suggested that if the two were both taking parting in the upcoming election and joined forces with Yair Lapid form the new liberal party Yesh Atid, the left-centrist alliance would be strong enough to challenge the right-wing coalition.

Israel withholds $120mn in Palestinian tax funds as revenge for UN vote

Israel has canceled the transfer of US$120 million collected in taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in response to Palestine’s UN-bid, which saw it granted non-member observer status, thus implicitly recognizing the state.


The halted money, collected in taxes for the month of November, was scheduled to be passed on to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which constitutes a large percentage of the Palestinian budget, including paying the salaries of PA officials, Israeli media reported.

Now, instead, the money will be used to pay for the PA’s debt to Israel’s Electric Company.

The decision was made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and announced during a weekly government cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“This is a Palestinian provocation and an attempt to advance their state without recognizing Israel,” Steinitz stated.

Israel’s change of mind comes as a response to UN’s decision last week. The Palestinian bid was upheld with 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.

The new status allows the PA access to numerous UN agencies, and to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Also, following the status upgrade, Israel announced it will be building 3,000 new settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israel has been charged with collecting taxes on behalf of the PA, since the latter has no access points such as ports, airports, etc. The system is very complex and is governed by the 1994 Paris Protocols with the Palestinians.

Israel collects around $100 million a month in taxes and customs duties on goods imported into the Palestinian territories.

Israel has halted tax revenue money in the past during times of diplomatic tensions.

For instance, in 2008 Israel delayed transferring tax funds to the Palestinian government after Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angered Israeli leaders by urging the European Union not to renew its ties with Israel.

And in 2011, Israel froze $100 million it owed in taxes to the PA in retaliation after UNESCO, the UN educational and cultural agency, decided to admit Palestine as a member.


Explosion in Gaza amid fragile ceasefire with Israel

Published: 02 December, 2012, 03:26
Edited: 02 December, 2012, 14:21


The Gaza Strip (AFP Photo / Marco Longari)

Conflicting media reports coming from Gaza suggest an Israeli strike has hit a residential area, wounding four Palestinians. But others stress it was an industrial accident. This comes amid a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza.

Gaza-based filmmaker and activist Harry Fear told RT that four Palestinians have been injured in the incident – two of them critically injured with one being announced ‘clinically dead’ at Shifa Hospital.

The incident in East Deir Al-Balah occurred around 22:00 GMT. Reports from local media suggest it was a tank shelling attack. So far there has been no reaction from Hamas.

Injured Palestinians belonged to one family and have been wounded by shrapnel from tank gunfire while they were outside their homes, reported Palestinian News Agency (WAFA).

Police are investigating the matter.

One of injured man said that it was an Israeli attack and they were 250 meters away from the Israeli border when it occurred, stated Fear after visiting the hospital.

However other reports suggest it could be an industrial incident.

Fear tweeted that it is a “65% reliability” it was a tank shelling on Saturday night, and ended with a tweet saying, “4 news agencies (inc. the 2 most respected local ones) + 2 of the most respected Gazan journalists reported the same Israeli attack tonight.”

Relations between Israel and Gaza currently stand on a knife-edge more than a week after the cessation of violence between the two sides. Israel’s eight-day Pillar of Defense campaign in Gaza killed some 169 Palestinians, while Gazan rocket fire left six Israelis dead.

Feds consider next move against Palestinian Authority

  • Updated
    9:37 pm, November 30th, 2012
  • 8:57 am, November 30th, 2012
  • Sun News Canada

Feds consider next move against Palestinian Authority



OTTAWA – Canada is reviewing its relationship with the Palestinians before it decides how to retaliate after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to give new status to the Palestinian Authority.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called a huddle of foreign diplomats Friday to discuss his irritated government’s response to events Thursday in New York.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said there would be “consequences” if the Palestinians were granted “non-member observer state” status at the international body without having negotiated a peace accord with Israel.

The upgrade in status gives the Palestinians access to bodies like the International Criminal Court – which the Palestinians could ask to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.

Canadian diplomats from the Middle East, New York and Geneva have been temporarily recalled to Ottawa to brief Baird before the government announces its next steps.

“I want to get a sense from the diplomats what they see on the ground, how they see things going, and how we can effectively respond to what could be a new reality,” he said in a televised interview.

That includes a review of the “full range” of Canada’s bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority, he said.

The cornerstone of that association is the $300 million over five years the government committed in 2007 to assist with peace and security.

That money dries up at the end of March and the feds haven’t said whether the funding will be extended, scaled back or cut altogether.

“We’re not obviously looking at breaking off relations with the Palestinian Authority,” Baird said, a sign the government won’t close its diplomatic post in the region or remove the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Canada anytime soon.

Both the NDP and Liberals have called on Harper not to punish the Palestinians because of fears it could further destabilize the region and damage what they say is Canada’s already tattered image.

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