Entries in Palestine (51)


Kerry Tries Reviving Israeli-Palestinian Talks

Matty Ster/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The U.S. and Great Britain are making a new push to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians that have gone nowhere for the past five years.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary William Hague, held talks Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Kerry acknowledged the daunting task that lies ahead in getting the two sides to bend after so much intransigence, telling reporters, "I know this region well enough to know that there is skepticism. In some quarters there is cynicism and there are reasons for it. There have been bitter years of disappointment."

Still, the top U.S. envoy is holding out hope that the Israelis and Palestinians will head back to the bargaining table to work out a deal guaranteeing a separate Palestinian state and more security for Israel.

The major obstacle remains the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Abbas wants them stopped before he'll resume talks with Netanyahu while the prime minister says he'll only consider halting construction once peace discussions get underway.

In spite of the long odds, Netanyahu expressed confidence that talks can happen, adding, "Where there is a will, we will find a way."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Frustrated by Obama’s Trip to the Middle East

(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama’s last day visiting Israel took him back to the West Bank for a cultural stop in Bethlehem. There he toured the Church of the Nativity, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The visit lasted less than an hour, before Obama’s motorcade whisked him off to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport to fly to Jordan. The brevity of the outing – along with just a few hours in Ramallah the day before – angered Palestinians, who felt the president ignored their plight, their desire for an independent state.

“He didn’t offer anything,” said an exasperated Palestinian official with knowledge of the meeting Obama had with Abbas on Thursday. “The problem is, he’s not showing any willingness or vision to implement his vision on the ground.”

“Obama left the way he came,” he added. “We’re wondering why he came.”

In a press conference with Abbas, Obama declined to go further than saying that Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank were not constructive for peace talks. That fell well short of a declaration that they’re illegal, the viewpoint of the international community. Palestinian leaders have maintained that they will not engage in peace talks without a freeze on construction and expansion of Israeli settlements.

“It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands, to restrict a student’s ability to move around the West Bank, or to displace Palestinian families from their home,” Obama said in a speech to Israeli university students in Jerusalem on Thursday. “Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.”

In the West Bank village of Beit Ijza, the Gharib family’s story exemplifies the anger felt by Palestinians seeing settlements expand and encroach on their land.

With seven brothers and three sisters, the family owns a house now surrounded almost on all sides by the Givon HaHadasha settlement. The settlement started as a small cluster of homes in the valley below. But over 30 years it has climbed the hill, surrounding the home. Ten of the family’s original 25 acres were confiscated, and almost all the rest are behind a fence that requires a military permit to access.

The home is circled by fences 20 feet high, with a narrow pathway leading to it from the village of Beit Ijza.

“It’s like we’re in prison,” one of the brothers, Mahmoud Gharib, said. “We have cameras, gates, fences, walls.”

“People in jail have easier conditions than this,” he added.

Asked why they stay in such difficult circumstances and whether they consider selling, the brothers said they and their father before them had been offered blank checks before.

“This is my homeland, this is my house,” Mahmoud said. “The Israelis are stealing the land day and night. I’ll only go from here to my grave.”

Fifteen acres of their land, much of it olive groves, lie beyond the Israeli security fence. They need a permit from the army to access it by crossing through a fence and across a road. Mahmoud complained that the soldiers often show up hours late when they go to harvest their olives, and force them to leave before sundown.

While the Gharib brothers spoke with ABC News, a settler appeared on the other side of the fence. Avi Atias, a 24-year-old construction worker, said the two communities had had problems over the years but live relatively peacefully side by side.

“I can’t see it that way,” he responds when asked why the Gharib family is so angry, arguing that Jews were on this very land thousands of years ago.

“They have the right to stay here if they want. But if it was my decision, I would [not want to live like that],” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Poll: More Americans Sympathize with Israel than Palestinian Authority

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many more Americans continue to side with Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority, but -- with President Obama’s first visit there days away -- most also prefer to leave peace negotiations to the two protagonists, rather than having the United States take the lead.

Fifty-five percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll sympathize more with Israel, vs. 9 percent who side more with the Palestinian Authority, with the rest favoring neither, or undecided.  It’s been a similar gap for many years, including polling back to the 1980s testing Israel vs. the Arab nations of the Middle East.

See a PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Despite that preference for Israel, seven in 10 want the U.S. largely to leave resolving the conflict to the Israelis and Palestinians themselves -- a result that underscores the difficulties in finding a solution to the decades-old conflict.  Preference for the United States to eschew a leading role is 15 percentage points higher than the last time it was asked in an ABC/Post poll, during an outbreak of violence between the two sides nearly 11 years ago.

Even among those who are more sympathetic to one side or the other, regardless of which side it is, about two-thirds don’t want the U.S. to take the leading role.  That preference rises to about three-quarters of those who don’t favor either side.

In another expression of support for Israel, more Americans say the Obama administration has put too little pressure on the Palestinian Authority than too much pressure -- 34 vs. 8 percent.  They split about evenly, by contrast, on whether the administration has put too much or too little pressure on Israel.  About four in 10, meanwhile, think the U.S. has appropriately pressured each side in the conflict.

This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds little sympathy for the Palestinian Authority across groups, always well behind support for Israel.  However, breadth of support for Israel varies considerably, with the Palestinian Authority and frustration with both groups gaining somewhat among less broadly pro-Israel groups.

Among religious groups, sympathy for Israel peaks, at 76 percent, among evangelical white Protestants, falling to 55 percent among non-evangelical white Protestants and Catholics, and bottoming out at 39 percent among those who aren’t religiously affiliated.  Religiosity is a factor as well, with those who attend religious services more apt to side with Israel.

Support for Israel also is broad -- more than seven in 10 -- among Republicans and conservatives alike.  This drops to roughly five in 10 moderates, independents and Democrats, and to just 39 percent of liberals, with more saying they favor neither side, compared with Republicans and conservatives.

A similar pattern plays out on the matter of the Obama administration’s use of influence on each side, with Republicans and conservatives more likely than others to think Israel is being pressured too much and the Palestinian Authority too little.  Majorities of Democrats, not surprisingly, are happy with the pressure the Obama administration’s applying to each side.

On the other hand, when it comes to U.S. involvement in the peace process, there’s agreement across religious, partisan and ideological groups (from 66 to 70 percent) that the two sides should handle negotiations themselves.

Age is another prominent marker of support for Israel, ranging from 48 percent among younger adults to 57 percent of 40- to 64-year-olds and topping out at two-thirds among seniors.  Views that the Obama administration is putting too much pressure on Israel, and is applying too little of its muscle with the Palestinian Authority, also peak among seniors.

Obama is scheduled to leave Wednesday for a two-day visit to Israel and the West Bank, ruled by the Palestinian Authority.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Israel Defends Plans to Build New Settlement Units in West Bank

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- The Israeli government is defending its move to build 3,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank. 

The government made the announcement Friday after the United Nations voted to recognize the Palestinian territories, which includes the West Bank and Gaza, as a “non-member observer state.”

After the settlement initiative was announced, Israeli Cabinet Minister Uzi Landau defended his country's decision, declaring, “We don't tell the British or the French where to build in Paris or London and we do not expect anybody to tell us what to do in Jerusalem.”

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling Israel’s action an “almost fatal blow” to the chances of securing peace and a two-state solution.

The U.N. chief’s office says the building of new Israeli settlements “risks completely cutting off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank." 

The secretary-general warns Israel that the building of settlements in the area is illegal under international law.

Ban Ki-moon says that in the interests of peace, the settlement plans must be rescinded.  He also called on all parties to resume negotiations towards “a comprehensive, just and lasting peace...”

Meanwhile, the British and French governments have strongly objected to Israel's plans, summoning Israeli ambassadors and calling it a "considerable obstacle to the two-state solution."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Palestine Wins 'Observer State Status' at U.N. over US Objections

John Moore/Getty Images(UNITED NATIONS) -- The United Nations has voted to move Palestine a small step closer to statehood. Despite opposition from the United States and Israel,  an overwhelming majority of UN member states Thursday approved a resolution giving Palestine non-member observer state status in the assembly, an upgrade that falls short of full UN membership.

For the resolution's passage, 138 voted in favor, nine voted against, and 41 UN members abstained from voting.

The resolution's supporters saw its passage as a step toward a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.  However, the U.S. joined with Israel to vote against the measure. Immediately after the resolution was passed, U.S. and Israeli leadership explained their "no" votes.  

"This is a meaningless decision that will not change anything on the ground. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that there will be no establishment of a Palestinian state without a settlement that ensures the security of Israel's citizens," Netanyahu's office said in a statement after the vote.

The statement continued, saying that Netanyahu "will not allow a base for Iranian terrorism to be established in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], in addition to those that have [already] been  established in Gaza and Lebanon."

Prime Minister Netanyahu believes peace between Jerusalem and Ramallah can only be achieved through direct negotiations "and not in one-sided UN decisions," and that "by going to the UN, the Palestinians have violated the agreements with Israel and Israel will react accordingly," the statement said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the vote "unfortunate" in a speech she was giving on foreign policy in the U.S.

Ambassador Susan Rice agreed, adding that the move was counterproductive to the peace process.

"Today's unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it," Rice said Thursday.

Rice warned that Thursday's vote should not be seen as a constitution of eligibility for UN membership.

"This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


UN to Vote on Recognizing Palestine as a State

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday will vote on upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to a "non-member observer state."

With 132 of the 193 U.N. member countries having already recognized the state of Palestine, the measure is likely to pass, despite opposition from the U.S. and Israel.

Recognition as a state may give Palestine more pull in discussing border issues with Israel.  It will also give it the right to join U.N. agencies and the International Criminal Court, which would theoretically allow Palestine to bring cases against Israel.

The U.S. has repeatedly called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to abandon the bid. The U.S., along with Israel, argue that the vote is purely symbolic, that it will change nothing on the ground, and that it will be detrimental to peace talks. The vote could also affect U.S. funding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israeli, Palestinian Truce Cracks as Violence, Air Strikes Hit Third Day

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) -- Israeli air strikes and rocket launches from the Gaza Strip stretched into a third day, despite talk of a temporary truce.

Israel said it would stop its aerial bombardment of Gaza while Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visits the narrow enclave, but Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets toward Israel amid the sounds of Israeli missiles landing in Gaza City.

Israel said more than 150 sites had been targeted overnight, including weapons depots and rocket-launching sites.  About 16,000 troops have now been drafted as Israeli troops and tanks mass along the border of the Gaza Strip -- a possible sign of a ground invasion.

Fighting between the two sides escalated sharply Thursday with the first rocket attack from Gaza on Tel Aviv during this burst of violence.  No casualties were reported, but three Israelis died in the country's rocket-scarred south when a projectile slammed into an apartment building.

The last time rockets threatened Tel Aviv was during the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fired Scud missiles into the city.

The death toll in the densely populated Palestinian territory stands at 21, including at least six children, according to Palestinian health officials.

Israel says about 300 rockets have flown into Gaza from Israel since Wednesday, some 130 of which were said to have been stopped by the anti-missile Iron Dome system.

Back in Washington, President Obama has been fielding calls from leaders across the Middle East on the mounting violence.

Aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday that the administration strongly condemns the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.

"Hamas claims to have the best interest of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause," Carney said.

Israeli has targeted more than 250 sites across Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, since the operation dubbed "Pillar of Defense" began Wednesday evening.

The first strike was on Ahmed Jabari, the chief of staff of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades.  It was followed by a wave of air strikes on other militants, buildings and installations, notably launching sites and rockets, which included the long-range Fajar rockets.

Gaza Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh vowed revenge for Jabari's death.  "His blood will not be in vain," Haniyeh said.

The last time the region saw this degree of violence was four years ago, when Israel conducted air and ground invasions of Gaza.  That operation lasted three weeks and left more than 1,400 people dead.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Exhumation of Yasser Arafat’s Remains Begin

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The exhumation of a body is usually not a multi-week process, but workers who began to exhume the body of the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat on Tuesday are expected to take two weeks to complete the task.

A source close to Arafat’s family tells AFP the work is expected to last 15 days.  The exhumation began Tuesday with the removal of concrete and stones from Arafat’s mausoleum in Ramallah on the West Bank.

French, Swiss and Russian experts are involved in the exhumation, which was approved by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after French authorities opened an investigation into Arafat’s 2004 death, following a claim that he may have been killed by a rare radioactive poison.

This past summer, a Swiss institute said it had discovered high levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 on Arafat’s clothing that had been supplied by the late leader’s widow.

The most famous example of someone dying from that toxic substance was former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210 after obtaining political asylum in London in 2006.

Arafat fell into a coma at his Ramallah compound and was transported to France for treatment that failed to revive him.  His official cause of death was listed as a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Yasser Arafat's Death Becomes a Murder Investigation in France

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images(PARIS) -- The 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is now a murder investigation in France.

Prosecutors agreed to look into the matter after Arafat's family pushed for an official investigation into the death of the former chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, who died in Paris at age 75.

Arafat fell into a coma at his Ramallah compound and was transported to France for treatment that failed to revive him.  His official cause of death was listed as a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.

However, a subsequent probe of Arafat's belongings uncovered what were described as "significant" traces of radioactive polonium-210 on his clothing.

The most famous example of someone dying from that toxic substance was former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium-210 after obtaining political asylum in London in 2006.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


U.S. Activist’s Bulldoze Death a ‘Regrettable Accident,’ Israeli Court Rules

Comstock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) – A court in northern Israel Tuesday ruled that Israel and its military were not negligent in the 2003 death of a U.S. activist who was crushed by an army bulldozer.

The judge called the death a “regrettable accident,” and said Rachel Corrie “did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”

“She consciously put herself in harm’s way,” Judge Oded Gershon said, adding that the driver of the bulldozer could not have seen Corrie, 23.

She was wearing a bright-orange jacket and standing between the armored vehicle and a Palestinian home to prevent its being torn down in the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Fellow activists who were with Corrie have no doubt that the bulldozer driver saw her and went so far as to roll over her twice.

“I believe that this was a bad day not only for our family but a bad day for human rights, for humanity, for the rule of law and also for the country of Israel,” the pro-Palestinian activist’s mother, Cindy Corrie of Olympia, Wash., said.

There exists “a well-heeled system to protect the Israeli military, the soldiers who conduct actions in that military to provide them with impunity, at the cost of all the civilians who are impacted by what they do,” she added.

The State Prosecutor’s office called Corrie’s death, which happened at the height of the second intifada, a “tragic accident,” but defended the verdict of the Haifa District Court. In a statement, it repeated the argument that the driver could not see Corrie, adding that it was “a military action in the course of war.”

“The security forces at the Philadelphi Corridor during 2003 were compelled to carry out ‘leveling’ work against explosive devices that posed a tangible danger to life and limb and were not in any form posing a threat to Palestinian homes,” the statement read. “The work was done while exercising maximum caution and prudence and without the ability to foresee harming anyone.”

A military investigation after Corrie’s death found no wrongdoing, so the Corries filed a civil suit in 2005 for the symbolic amount of $1 for the intentional and unlawful killing of Rachel. The United States has criticized Israel for failing to carry out a thorough, credible and transparent investigation, a criticism again leveled last week by the ambassador to Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro.

Fellow activist Tom Dale wrote after the incident, “The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth.

“All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop and gesturing to the crew about Rachel’s presence. We were in clear view as Rachel had been. They continued. They pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. They waited over her for a few seconds, before reversing. They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time.”

The family lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein, is urging the family to take the case to Israel’s Supreme Court.

“This verdict is yet another example of where impunity has prevailed over accountability and fairness,” he wrote in a statement. “In denying justice in Rachel Corrie’s killing, this verdict speaks to the systemic failure to hold the Israeli military accountable for continuing violations of basic human rights.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio