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Israel aims to stop Palestinian Authority ‘collapse’: PM office

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Israel’s security cabinet on Sunday adopted a declaration to “prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority” while demanding an end to “its anti-Israel activity”, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The vote by Israeli ministers, which included no specific plans, came days after a major military raid on the West Bank city of Jenin that killed 12 Palestinians as well as one Israeli soldier.

Mr Netanyahu’s hard-right government in January announced a series of sanctions against Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority – which nominally controls parts of the West Bank – over a push to get the UN’s top court to issue an advisory opinion on Israeli control of the territory.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said at the time the Israeli sanctions were aimed at “pushing (the PA) to the brink … financially and institutionally” and part of “a new war against the Palestinian people”.

The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday voted for a “draft decision submitted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” which says “Israel will act to prevent the collapse of the Palestinian Authority,” the premier’s office said.

The declaration also presents a series of demands for the PA to “cease its anti-Israel activity in the international legal-diplomatic arena” as well as “incitement” and “illegal construction in Area C” of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control.

It is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits in Area C, which covers about 60 per cent of the territory.

Another demand was to stop “payments to the families of terrorists”, referring to stipends provided by the PA to families of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and to families of prisoners in Israeli jails, or detainees themselves, including those convicted of killing Israelis.

As part of the sanctions imposed in January, Israel withheld dozens of millions of dollars in tax revenues from the PA over its financial support for militants.

The Israeli government also ordered a moratorium on Palestinian construction plans in parts of the West Bank, which Israel has held since the 1967 Six-Day War.

The statement on Sunday from Mr Netanyahu’s office said the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant will present “steps to stabilise” the embattled PA.

Israeli media said the proposed measures may include the establishment of industrial zones for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank and other moves to support the Palestinian economy.

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Article source: The Australian / AFP |July 10, 2023

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Analysis | Despite the Pressure, the Palestinian Authority Couldn’t Rein in the Violence Even if It Tried

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The sequence of events, which began with an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday morning, followed by two shooting attacks in Jerusalem over the weekend, demonstrate that this is not a usual “one-off occurrence,” but rather an escalation which could spiral in several directions.

In Israel, events are judged based on the number of Israeli victims and the possible responses. Much less public attention has been paid to the string of Palestinian deaths over the past month in the West Bank. The deaths went mainly under the radar in the Israeli media against the backdrop of the Israeli government’s plans to weaken the country’s judiciary, the court’s disqualification of Shas leader Arye Dery to serve in the cabinet as well as LGBTQ rights. What happened on the other side of the West Bank security barrier was to remain there.

From the beginning of the month until last Thursday morning, the Palestinian Health Ministry had recorded 20 Palestinian deaths in clashes with Israeli forces, most of them in the Jenin area. What changed last Thursday morning wasn’t the fact that Israel conducted a raid in the area but rather its scope and the large number of Palestinian fatalities – 10.

The Israeli narrative – that the raid was necessary to foil a terrorist attack and that the targets were wanted members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas – convinced no one on the Palestinian side. In every possible location – from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office in Ramallah to Hamas’ command headquarters in the Gaza Strip – the uncensored pictures of the raid were posted.

Palestinian anger and frustration were felt everywhere, and everyone feared what the future would bring. Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s comment last week regarding the prospect of a second Operation Guardian of the Walls, referring to the name given by the IDF to the 2021 military conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, began to look more and more tangible.

Concurrently, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas convened the Palestinian Authority’s leadership and announced that security cooperation with Israel would cease, while Egyptian mediators worked hard on the axis between Gaza and Jerusalem to control the factions in the Strip as well as Israel’s response.

The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah was subject to pressure from Washington and the Arab world in a bid to prevent an escalation. Until Friday evening it appeared that the two sides would contain the situation despite the difficult scenes and the seeping anger in Jenin. As Hamas called for a reaction in the West Bank, attention in Israel shifted to preparing for large anti-government demonstrations on Saturday.

The painful response from the Palestinian side actually came at two locations that Abbas and the Palestinian security forces don’t control – with two shooting attacks in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The gunman at the synagogue in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood was 21-year-old Khairi Alkam, who killed seven Israelis and wounded three.

In the shooting and wounding of an Israeli father and son the following day, the gunman was a 13-year-old who hadn’t even been born when the second intifada began in 2000. Palestinian factions and social media users praised the two gunmen, and emphasized the utter lack of hope among the new generation of Palestinians.

Activists on the ground from Abbas’ Fatah movement no longer even believe in dialogue and security cooperation with Israel, and discourse about a diplomatic horizon sounds like a pipe dream to them. Even the people in Abbas’ office understand that talk of a diplomatic process is a nonstarter at the moment.

Israel’s far-right government is seeking to respond strongly to the terrorist attacks, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli security officials understand that more force won’t necessarily serve as a deterrent. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

There are still three parties that can play a role in addressing the situation. One is the Biden administration, which needs to shake itself out of its apathy and prove that it is somewhat different from the Trump administration, not only when it comes to its rhetoric. The other two are Jordanian King Abdullah and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, with whom Netanyahu wants to strengthen ties.

As of right now, one can only hope that a responsible adult will be found to stop the dangerous spiral and prevent further bloodshed.

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Article source: Haaretz | Jack Khoury | Jan 29, 2023

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Palestinian Authority says it will end co-ordination with Israel

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The Palestinian Authority said Thursday it would cease co-ordinating with Israel on security after nine Palestinians were killed during a battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

Early Friday the Israeli military launched airstrikes on Gaza in response to militant rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamlist Hamas.

The PA and Israel work closely together to fight militants in the West Bank, a policy unpopular among the Palestinian public, according to polls. Israeli security officials say co-ordinating with Ramallah is a key pillar of stability in the area.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to cut security ties several times during crises with Israel but hasn’t always followed through. The Israeli army declined to comment.

The Israeli army said troops raided the Jenin refugee camp as part of an operation against Palestinian militants who had planned an imminent attack against Israelis. Soldiers killed at least six militants in the resulting battle, the army said, adding reports of additional deaths were being examined.

An uninvolved Palestinian woman — 61-year-old Majda Obeid — was also killed in the fighting after she was shot in the neck while standing by the window of her home, according to Palestinian health officials and two of Ms Obeid’s daughters. The Israeli army is looking into the reports, an Israeli army spokesman said.

Another Palestinian died from wounds sustained during separate clashes with Israeli forces near Jerusalem, raising Thursday’s total death toll to 10, the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said. The Israeli army referred questions to police, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Israel’s southern border threatened to retaliate for the killings in the northern West Bank. Around midnight on Thursday, they appeared to follow through with the threats. Two rockets were fired from Gaza, but both were shot down by Israel’s air defence systems, the Israeli military said.

When the Israeli army raids Palestinian areas, its officers often warn their Palestinian counterparts in advance so as to avoid potentially deadly mix-ups. Opponents of the Palestinian Authority say this makes Mr Abbas and his colleagues partially responsible for bloody raids such as the one that took place in Jenin on Thursday.

Tensions across the West Bank have surged since a series of attacks by Palestinians and Arab Israelis — including several from the Jenin area — left 19 dead inside Israel between March and May 2022. The Israeli army responded by launching Operation Wavebreaker, in which the army stepped up its raids into Palestinian areas to break up suspected militant cells.

At least 146 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in 2022 in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest toll since 2004, according to the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem. So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal.

Israeli officials say most of those killed during Operation Wavebreaker were members of militant groups or involved in violence. At least some appear to have been uninvolved civilians, including a teenage girl killed by Israeli fire during a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin in mid-December.

Israel says its West Bank operations are necessary to combat the rising threat from Palestinian militant groups, especially in areas where Mr Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in parts of the occupied territory, has seen its grip weaken in recent months. Palestinian officials say Israeli military operations undermine their control and help fuel a cycle of violence.

The US criticised Mr Abbas’s decision to sever security ties. US officials have worked in the past to talk Mr Abbas down from ending co-ordination with Israel.

“Far from stepping back on security co-ordination, we believe it’s quite important that the parties retain, and if anything, deepen security co-ordination,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said on Thursday night.

The Israeli army said troops entered the refugee camp midmorning on Thursday after receiving intelligence that Palestinians affiliated with the Islamic Jihad militant group were planning an imminent attack. Militants opened fire on troops, who shot three of them dead, the army said.

Israeli soldiers shot and killed another three armed Palestinians while surrounding and storming the building in which the militant cell had holed up, the Israeli military said. No troops were injured in the firefight.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed “the courage and resourcefulness of the soldiers who prevented attacks that could have cost many lives.”

A spokesman for Mr Abbas called the Jenin incident a massacre and criticised the international community for not pressuring Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians. Hamas, the Islamist militants who rule Gaza, said Israel’s “killing and criminality” wouldn’t stop “the great revolutionary tide.” The Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-government in parts of the West Bank, was created in the 1990s during talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Many Palestinians hoped it would one day become an independent Palestinian state, but the peace process has been stalled since 2014.

Over the past year, some young Palestinians have formed local militias and targeted Israeli soldiers and civilians. The armed groups have become a key challenge for both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Political analysts say tensions could further escalate under Mr Netanyahu’s new right-wing coalition government, which has vowed to take tougher measures against Palestinians aimed at curbing violence.

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Article source: The Australian / Wall Street Journal | Aaron Boxerman &Fatima Abdul Karim |January 27, 2023

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