Something’s shifted in the Palestinian stalemate
Palestinian protestors take cover behind a barricade as they throw stones at Israeli soldiers during clashes following the funeral of Mohamed Ziad Salayma on December 13, 2012, in the old city of Hebron. Photo by AFP Hazem Bader/AFP)
Palestinians carry the body of Mohamed Ziad Salayma during his funeral procession on December 13, 2012, in Hebron. Thousands in the West Bank town mourned the death of the teenager who was killed by Israeli forces after he allegedly threatened them with a toy gun. France 24, AFP
By Joharah Baker, MIFTAH
December 10, 2012
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, the internal Palestinian climate has never been better. The gestures of unity, the brotherly handshakes and the conciliatory words coming from leaders who only recently were busy blaming the other side for the breakdown in unity talks, are all encouraging signs that just maybe, the Palestinians will finally unite.
The timing is just right for these grand gestures, it should be added. While Palestinian unity was jumpstarted by the events of the most recent Gaza war, the present provides an opportunity for grand shows of solidarity and tolerance. In the next few weeks, the anniversaries marking the founding of both Hamas and Fatah will be celebrated and both the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have given permission to their fellow Palestinians to mark their respective days. This is the first time since the split that Hamas has allowed Fatah to organize their festival on the movement’s anniversary, which falls on January 1. The same goes for the PA, which is allowing Hamas to hold a festival celebrating its movement’s inception in Nablus on Thursday, December 13.
Hamas has even seemed to warm to the idea of holding general elections, something which President Mahmoud Abbas has called for and Hamas has rejected. In Gaza yesterday, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said: “Free and fair Palestinian elections must be followed by partnership and cooperation between factions…Our brothers in Fatah, you started before us, and we are not your replacement but rather your partners. Old disagreements will never come back,” he said, adding that reconciliation was a necessity.
Likewise, President Mahmoud Abbas continued to push for reconciliation. At yesterday’s Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Doha, Qatar, Abbas said that, “Reconciliation is dear to us and for the unity of our people,” adding that a meeting would soon take place in Cairo between the parties to move the reconciliation process forward.
Although it is too early to tell if this reconciliation will actually become a reality – we have been bitterly disappointed before – we still must appreciate what seems like sincere efforts for this to happen.
Of course, this is making Israel squirm. The idea of a united Palestinian people, especially after the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution making Palestine a non-member state, is certainly not to Israel’s favor. And so, it has begun to take preemptive strikes, lashing out at Meshaal and Abbas, saying neither is interested in peace with Israel.
Yesterday, Israeli deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon maintained that there was ‘no difference between Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Meshaal.” Yaalon told Israel radio that, “The only difference between them is that Abbas candy-coats his ideology with pretty words while Meshaal does not”
Other than similar incendiary statements by Israeli officials, the Israeli army has also expressed concerns over a possible reconciliation between the two Palestinian rivals. The army now says it fears if Hamas and Fatah reconcile, this would allow for Hamas to grow stronger in the West Bank, mostly because PA security services would be less likely to arrest Hamas operatives, something which they say is already happening.
If anything gives us a sign that we are on the right track it is when Israel panics. It did so before the UN resolution on statehood and it is now that reconciliation is drawing closer. Still, we Palestinians should not fear the Israeli repercussions of such a move. Israel pushes forth with its plans regardless of our agendas or approaches. Whether we are in negotiations, carrying out military operations or launching a popular uprising, Israel continues to expand its settlements on Palestinian land and entrench its occupation further. They will kick and scream, withhold our money and continue to oppress our people if we unite, but they would have done that anyway.
So, the Palestinians should strike while the iron is hot, so to say. The atmosphere is ripe and we should take advantage of the momentum. Reconciliation is long overdue; but then again, there is no better time than the present.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Palestinian youths, Israeli security forces clash day after Palestinian teen is shot dead at checkpoint; officer who fired at ‘armed’ youth receives death threats
By Ynet reporters
December 13, 2012
The clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops continued in Hebron on Thursday as tension in the region continued to mount over the death of a local teenager.
The 17-year-old Palestinian was shot dead on Wednesday by a Border Guard sergeant when he brandished a gun that later turned out to be fake. The incident occurred at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The officer received threats to her life as photos of her circulated on social networks.
On Thursday morning, dozens of Palestinian youths in the West Bank city threw stones and bottles at troops, who responded with tear gas. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries.
The confrontations followed several days of violent riots in the region. Last week saw two incidents in which IDF troops were forced
to retreat after being attacked by stone-throwing mobs, and on Tuesday an army vehicle caught fire while Palestinian protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and stones at soldiers in Naalin.
The name and photo of the border police officer who fired at the Palestinian teen was released by the Israeli media on Wednesday before being placed under a gag order. Palestinians web users circulated the image, alongside images of other Israeli combat troops, in the social media and international anti-Israel forums.
The messages branded the officer as a criminal and featured threats to her life.
“There’s no escaping death,” one of the messages said. “You’re going down,” said another.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch spoke with the sergeant on Thursday and praised her for exemplary conduct.
“You acted as you were trained, with courage, determination and without hesitation, as is expected of Border Guard combatants,” he said.
The officer recalled on Wednesday that she didn’t have much time to consider her actions.
“I saw the Palestinian pull a gun out of his back pocket and hold it up to the other soldier. I knew I only had a few seconds so I cocked my weapon and looked for the right angle – so as not to hurt the soldier.”
According to the sergeant, she was a few yards away, at the checkpoint post, during the incident. “He (the soldier) asked a Palestinian teenager for his ID. I stepped out to fill out a checkpoint report and I saw the Palestinian attack the soldier and take out a gun.”
AP contributed to the report