Abbas meets Greenblatt to ‘relaunch peace process’


PRESIDENT Mahmoud Abbas’ meeting with US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and their remarks hit the front page headlines in local Palestinian dailies.

US President Donald Trump’s special envoy met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday at his office in Ramallah city in the central occupied West Bank as part of a fact-finding mission aimed at relaunching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

According to a statement released by the US Consulate in Jerusalem, Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, held a meeting with Abbas during which the two agreed to work together in order to ‘advance genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.’

Abbas had told Greenblatt during the meeting that ‘under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace deal is possible, and that it will enhance security throughout the region,’ and said he was looking forward to discussing the issues during his visit to the White House.

Greenblatt, meanwhile, emphasised Trump’s commitment to facilitating direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, while Abbas committed to ‘preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement.’

Abbas and Greenblatt had also discussed the US and Palestinian Authority (PA)’s commitment to ‘joint determination to combat violence and terrorism.’ Abbas also pledged to ‘heighten his outreach efforts to the Israeli public.’ The meeting also focused on plans to grow the Palestinian economy, while Abbas reiterated his belief that a two-state solution is the most viable solution to the decades-long conflict.

On Monday evening, Greenblatt also held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying on Twitter that the two ‘discussed the regional situation, how progress towards peace with Palestinians can be made, and (Israeli) settlements.’ Greenblatt said that Netanyahu highlighted his commitment to ‘broadening prosperity for Palestinians and sees it as a means of bolstering the prospects for peace.’

Abbas was quoted in al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida stating: ‘Under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace is possible.’ He was also reported in al-Hayat al-Jadida stating: ‘Our strategic choice is to achieve the two-state solution.’

Al-Ayyam said Abbas and Greenblatt conducted ‘positive and deep’ talks, adding that Washington is committed to work for ‘true and lasting negotiated peace.’ The dailies also reported presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh stating: ‘The meeting was positive and encouraging’.

Furthermore, al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida highlighted Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s statements on the suppression of a demonstration by security forces in front of the Ramallah magistrate’s court. Hamdallah was reported in al-Quds affirming that the cabinet would safeguard Palestinians’ freedom of speech and reject any violation of freedom of opinion. He was also reported in al-Hayat al-Jadida as stating: ‘Nobody is above the law.’

Al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida said Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem observed a general strike, protesting Israeli municipality’s measures against education, including imposing the spring holiday on Passover. The dailies said Israeli bulldozers demolished a two-storey Palestinian-owned building under construction in the East Jerusalem town of al-Issawiya and two Palestinian-owned rooms in Silwan.

They said Israeli occupation authorities allowed the Mapping Department of the Arab Studies Society to be reopened in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Hanina and released the department’s director Khalil Tafakji. Al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida said Israeli settlers started to assemble a new settlement outpost on Palestinian land, east of al-Mughayyir village, east of Ramallah.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida said Israeli forces detained 17 Palestinians in overnight raids across the West Bank. Al-Ayyam said forces shot and injured a Palestinian with a live round and caused several others to suffocate during clashes in Sabastiya town, north of Nablus.

It added Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish demanding justice for the killing of his three daughters by Israeli shelling during the 2014 Israeli onslaught on Gaza. It reported Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya stating the Hamas movement is committed to ceasefire and is not interested in any confrontation with Israel.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported Palestinian and human rights factions slamming Hamas’ decision to form a committee in charge of ‘running the affairs’ of the Gaza Strip as an ‘institutionalisation of the Palestinian division’. Al-Quds reported that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) announced it would boycott local municipal elections, scheduled on May 13 in the West Bank.

• The Israeli parliament, Knesset, approved on Tuesday the amendment of a bill that bans politicians from running for the parliament on suspicion of ‘supporting terrorism’. Forms of supporting terrorism include releasing anti-Israel statements and ‘racist inciting statements’ that promote armed resistance against Israel, said the bill.

According to the proposed bill, candidates, including lists and independents, will not be allowed to run for the Israeli parliament elections if they do not recognise Israel as a democratic, Jewish state, or if they ‘incite racism’ or support armed resistance against Israel. If approved, the bill would prevent many Arab political figures in Israel from running for the Knesset elections.

• Five Palestinians were injured after Israeli forces opened live fire at locals during a predawn detention raid Wednesday in Duheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank. Locals said that fierce clashes broke out between local youth and Israeli troops who raided the camp around dawn to detain one young Palestinian man from his home, identified as former prisoner Murad Zeghari.

Three young men were injured during the clashes, identified by locals as Ahmad al-Jeewi, Muath Abu Nassar, and Muhammad Faris Fararja. Witnesses and family members said that 40-year-old Iyad Ibrahim Ramadan was shot in the leg while he was standing on the rooftop of his home in the camp, before his brothers Mahmoud and Shadi rushed him to a car to drive him to the Bethlehem Arab Society Hospital in Beit Jala.

As they were driving through the neighbouring town Doha, Israeli troops opened fire on their car. Mahmoud, 34, sustained injuries after being hit in the head with shrapnel. Shadi, who was driving the car, was unharmed.

The Ramadan brothers are the sons of the Jenin governor Ibrahim Ramadan, who also lives in Duheisha refugee camp. Family members, who witnessed the incident, said that the three men survived by a ‘miracle’ after Israeli troops ‘showered their vehicle with gunshots.’

In response to a request for comment, an Israeli army spokesperson said that a ‘violent riot’ occurred in Duheisha during ‘a routine military activity,’ saying locals threw cement blocks and explosive devices at Israeli forces who ‘responded to the threat by firing towards rioters.’

The spokesperson said that four people were injured, but did not confirm Mahmoud Ramadan’s injury and did not comment on why Israeli forces opened fire on the vehicle. The spokesperson also confirmed that one person was detained during the raid.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank. Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries. Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.