Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Starvation and stalled talks

A flurry of activity has been set in train ahead of a US presidential visit to Palestine-Israel, but few are optimistic about peace, writes Khaled Amayreh from Ramallah

Palestinian prisoners
Palestinian prisoners
Al-Ahram Weekly

While the Obama administration is pressing both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to resume stalled peace talks, officials and spokespersons from both sides see slim chances for a successful return to a peace process many observers say is dead.
President Obama and the US secretary of state are scheduled to visit Palestine-Israel in March in what may be the last chance to save the two-state solution vision.
Realities on the ground show that the same old obstacles impeding a genuine revival of the peace process remain unchanged, including unrelenting Jewish settlement expansion and Israel’s adamant refusal to end its military occupation of the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This week, Netanyahu reiterated his recalcitrant attitudes towards the conflict with the Palestinians, saying that occupied Arab East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control in the context of any prospective peace deal.
He also reasserted earlier stands that any potential Palestinian entity would have to meet Israel’s security needs, including allowing the Hebrew state to have effective control on border crossings as well as having the final say in security matters and foreign relations.
Netanyahu also repeated the mantra that Palestinians would have to recognise Israel as a “Jewish state”. The term “Jewish state”, which may look innocent to the uninitiated, is a euphemism for giving Israel the supposed right to strip millions of non-Jews (ie Palestinians) of Israeli citizenship or to expel them to a future Palestinian state.
“Reaching peace with this man [Netanyahu], with this mind set, is more than impossible. He is offering us a Mickey Mouse entity under Israeli control and he expects the international community to cheer him and take this as a sign of good will on his part,” said Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a prominent Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) official.
Abed-Rabbo added “if this is what he is going to tell Obama, then the resumption of peace talks will be utterly meaningless.”
The PLO official, who was interviewed on Radio Palestine Tuesday, said he was pessimistic due to the fact that the Israeli leadership continued to adopt prevarication, deception and misrepresentation of facts as their modus operandi towards the peace process.
“We heard these lies a thousand times. If Israel is unwilling to acknowledge the principle of withdrawal on the basis of 4 June 1967 borders, then it is pointless and futile to speak of a genuine peace process.”
Another PLO official, Saleh Raafat, of the Feda Party, also ruled out the possibility of progress in the stalled peace process anytime soon.
“It would take a miracle to make Obama succeed in his mediation. In fact, it is a mockery of reality to call American efforts “mediation”, given the umbilical alliance between the US and Israel.
“Obama will not pressure Israel to the point of forcing it to give up the occupied territories and recognise the legitimacy of usurped Palestinian rights.”
On Monday, Netanyahu said he would meet the Palestinians any time, any place. However, Palestinian leaders dismiss Netanyahu’s words as cheap propaganda intended to give the Americans a pleasant impression about Netanyahu.
While generally pessimistic about the potential of Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel-Palestine, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah seem desperate to engage the Americans anew in the hope of stirring the stagnant waters of the Middle East peace process.
President Mahmoud Abbas will dispatch Palestinian negotiator Saeb Ereikat to Washington this week in order to ask the Obama administration to kick-start the peace process.
However, given Israeli intransigence, it is doubtful whether “bridging proposals” by the Americans will be acceptable to the sides.
Moreover, the overall outlook would be even bleaker if we add to this domestic US political considerations, especially overwhelming Jewish influence over the US Congress.

HUNGER STRIKES: Meanwhile, Israel has been reacting with callous indifference to the ongoing agony of Palestinian hunger strikers protesting their unlawful incarceration in Israel jails and detention camps.
One of the hunger strike inmates who has been on the verge of death is Samer Issawi. According to his lawyer, the health conditions of Issawi, 35, deteriorated markedly after staging an on-again, off-again hunger strike for over 200 days. Medical sources familiar with Issawi’s conditions said he is now suffering from irreversible health problems, including damage to the nerves and vital internal organs.
His family say he could die at any moment.
“The Israelis are more than sadist, more than insensitive, they are decidedly criminal,” said Issawi’s sister Sherine.
“We don’t appeal to the Israelis to release him. We know they have no hearts. But we do appeal to freemen and women, people with honesty and human conscience around the world, to pressure the Israeli government to release Samer and his colleagues.”
Sherine also accused the Israelis of “playing a sadistic game with our family”.
“They wait until he is a few minutes or a few hours from death before taking him to hospital. This is an unmistakable message they communicate to all Palestinian hunger strikers and their families that any new or potential hunger striker would have to die or approach death before having his demands met, if ever.”
Issawi, who was arrested more than seven months ago, committed no acts of violence.
The only charge Israel levels against him is that he violated the terms of his release as part of the so-called Shalit deal two years ago, when Israel released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release by Hamas of a captured Israeli soldier. The alleged violation was to visit a friend in the West Bank.
Ayman Sharawneh, from the town of Dura, is also facing possible death due to his prolonged hunger strike in protest against his unlawful detention.
A third Palestinian prisoner, Direr Abu Sisi, is suffering “sharp physical and psychological pain” in Israeli jails. His lawyer said Sisi was being fed rotten and unhealthy food by his Israeli prison wardens.
Sisi, a mechanical engineer, was abducted by agents of the Israeli Shin Bet in the Ukraine two years ago. Israel accuses him of playing a part in manufacturing missiles in the Gaza Strip, a charge he vehemently denied.
Palestinian officials have warned that the death of any prisoner would ignite the entire region and spark off a new uprising that even the PA couldn’t put down.

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