West Bank “settlement freeze” ends amid Jerusalem riots

Several thousand Israeli settlers and supporters celebrated to mark the end Sept. 26 to a 10-month moratorium on new construction in their West Bank enclaves. “The building freeze is over,” Danny Danon, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, declared as balloons were released into the air at the West Bank settlement of Revava. “Today we mark the resumption of building in Judea and Samaria!” Netanyahu had urged Israeli settlers to show restraint as the limited building freeze expired at midnight. But at Revava, outside Nablus, residents expressed their defiance at a groundbreaking ceremony where a mixer symbolically poured cement into a hole in the ground amid cheers and the blasting of car horns. The celebration was attended by thousands bused in for the occasion. (Reuters, Sept. 26)

The festivities came after days of clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces in annexed East Jerusalem, with Israeli police detaining at least 18. On Sept. 24, several hundred people threw rocks at Israeli troops in the Palestinian neighborhood of Issawiya following reports that a Palestinian baby had died from inhaling tear gas from an Israeli grenade. News of the death was broadcast from loudspeakers on top of mosques in the neighborhood, with youths then setting tires on fire and pelting Israeli forces. The indpendent Palestinian Ma’an News Agency cited unnamed medics as syaing the 14-month-old boy suffocated after the gas was fired at residents and their houses in Issawiya. An Israeli police spokesman said he had not received any reports of injuries and that police were using minimum force to respond to incidents in Issawiya, Silwan and Ras Al-Amoud. (AFP, Sept. 25; Ma’an News Agency, Sept. 24)

See our last posts on the West Bank and the struggle for Jerusalem.

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  1. Palestinian PM schmoozes Jewish establishment
    From JTA, Sept. 22, links added, annotation to follow:

    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, in a meeting with American Jewish leaders, said he rejected violence and would try to eliminate incitement against Israelis to help speed the inevitable creation of a Palestinian state.

    In an unprecedented question and answer session organized by The Israel Project at a private home in Manhattan, Fayyad said violence “has to be dealt out of the equation permanently regardless of what happens in the peace process.” Security, he said, was a vital interest both for Israelis and Palestinians and those who used violence to advance their agendas needed to be prosecuted and punished through due process.

    Fayyad criticized Israeli military incursions into territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority which he said weakened his government’s credibility at a time when it was working hard to improve the lives of Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps, and moving closer to the goal of achieving economic self-sufficiency by 2013…

    Abbas met around 50 Jewish leaders on Tuesday evening at a separate event hosted by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace

    Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project (TIP), called the meeting “historic” and said TIP was honored to host it.

    “Prime Minister Fayyad’s spirit of hope was extremely welcome. We know that some people will criticize us for falling for a Palestinian ‘charm offensive.’ However, there is nothing offensive about charm. More Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, should sit together over dinner and exchange ideas—especially when it can help lead to security and peace,” Mizrahi said…

    Among the attendees were Michael Gelman, chair of the executive committee of the board of the Jewish Federations of North America who is a TIP chairman emeritus and current board member; Misha Galperin, a senior official at the Jewish Agency; Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism; David A. Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee; and Andrew Tisch, chairman of Loews Corp.

    Dr. Ziad Asali, president and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, joined Fayyad in circulating among the guests discussing concerns about the current situation in the region.

    The Israel Project is a non-profit educational organization that provides information about Israel and the Middle East to the media, officials and the public. Among its activities, TIP runs a unique Arabic program which provides information about Israel to the Arab world.

    On Monday in Jerusalem, TIP hosted a news conference with Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Dan Meridor. The following day, it organized two tours for journalists, in Arabic and English, to the West Bank. On Wednesday, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Gabriela Shalev will address a TIP news conference in New York.

    The Jewish Agency (officially the Jewish Agency for Israel) is the international body that coordinates Zionist settlement of historic Palestine. As a report on its own website makes clear, it has been involved in promoting (illegal) settlement of the West Bank at least since 2002. A map on the website of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace outlines various options for what it explicitly calls “annexation” under hypothetical peace deals, with certain areas east of the Green Line being taken by Israel and certain (smaller) areas west of the Green Line going to Palestine. The Israel Project‘s About TIP page boasts that organization “causes hundreds of millions of people around the world to see a more positive public face of Israel.”

    So is Fayyad’s meeting with this assemblage a grave betrayal of the Palestinian struggle, or the kind of dialogue between long-entrenched enemies that will be necessary to bring about peace?

    Weigh in, readers…