TIME Palestine

Palestinians Set Deadline for Israeli Occupation

Switzerland Palestinians Geneva Convention
Swiss Ambassador and chairman Paul Fivat speaks to the media during a press conference following the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 17, 2014. Salvatore Di Nolfi—‚AP

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement

(UNITED NATIONS) — Israel suffered back-to-back diplomatic setbacks in Europe on Wednesday, while the Palestinians at the United Nations set a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured nearly 50 years ago by the end of 2017.

In Geneva, the international community delivered a stinging rebuke to Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, saying the practice violates Israel’s responsibilities as an occupying power.

The declaration adopted by the conference of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which governs the rules of war and military occupation, emphasized a prohibition on colonizing occupied land and insisted that international humanitarian law be obeyed in areas affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It called for “all serious violations” to be investigated and those responsible for breaches to be brought to justice.

“This is a signal and we can hope that words count,” said Swiss ambassador Paul Fivat, who chaired the one-day meeting. The U.S. and Israel did not take part.

Israel’s U.N. Mission blasted the gathering, saying: “It confers legitimacy on terrorist organizations and dictatorial regimes wherever they are, while condemning a democratic country fighting terrorism in accordance with international law.”

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, a European Union court ordered the Palestinian group Hamas removed from the EU terrorist list for procedural reasons but said the 28-nation bloc can maintain asset freezes against Hamas members for now.

The Islamic militant group, which calls for the destruction of Israel, hailed the decision, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed outrage.

“It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would continue to defend itself “against the forces of terror and tyranny and hypocrisy.”

The EU court ruled that the terrorist listing of Hamas was based on press and Internet reports and not on “acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities.”

The EU, which has two months to appeal, was considering its next step.

In New York, an Arab-backed draft resolution on ending Israel’s occupation of lands captured in 1967 was submitted Wednesday evening to the U.N. Security Council for a possible vote, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said.

However, Mansour said the Arab-backed resolution does not close the door on further negotiations on the issue, including with the United States, “if they are ready and willing.” The U.S., as a permanent council member, often has vetoed measures targeting Israel in the past.

And Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki earlier said the actual vote might be put off, suggesting a compromise is in the works to avoid a clash in the council.

The draft, sponsored by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians, sets the end of 2017 as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from war-won lands the Palestinians are seeking for a state. The deadline has been pushed back from that of November 2016 in the earlier draft.

Israel fiercely opposes any suggestions that the Security Council can set a framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which broke down again in the spring after the two sides couldn’t agree on the ground rules.

The resolution also welcomes the idea of holding an international conference to launch negotiations on reaching a peace agreement.

The United States was scrambling Wednesday to avert a showdown at the Security Council. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was talking to European and Arab foreign ministers about a potential meeting this weekend in the Mideast, possibly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Obama administration is studying the EU’s court decision but the U.S. continues to consider Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The U.S. hasn’t said how it would respond to the Jordanian resolution, but Kerry took a hard line in meetings this week in Europe against any effort that could interfere with Israel’s elections in mid-March.

“We want to find the most constructive way of doing something that therefore will not have unintended consequences, but also can stem the violence,” Kerry told reporters in London on Tuesday. He said the situation marks “a particularly sensitive moment” given rising tensions between Israel and Palestinians.

Israel did one win diplomatic engagement in Europe on Wednesday, this one at the European Parliament. The lawmakers meeting in Strasbourg, France, stopped short of pushing for an outright recognition of a Palestinian state, urging renewed peace talks instead.

Legislators voted 498-88 in favor of a compromise resolution supporting “in principle recognition of Palestinian statehood” — but as part of a two-state solution with Israel. The resolution supports two states on the basis of 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both.

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Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers John Heilprin reported from Geneva, Mohammed Daraghmen in Ramallah, West Bank; Peter Enav in Jerusalem; Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip; Angela Charlton in Paris; Cara Anna at the United Nations and Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.

TIME West Bank

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian in West Bank

The man has been identified as 20-year-old Mahmoud Abdalla

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man during an arrest operation Tuesday in the West Bank, the military said.

It said Palestinians in the refugee camp of Qalandiya, north of Jerusalem, began throwing stones and explosive charges at soldiers during the operation and that they responded with live fire, killing one man, and wounding another.

Palestinian medical officials identified the dead man as 20-year-old Mahmoud Abdalla.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high in recent months, mostly over a disputed holy site in Jerusalem.

But violence in the West Bank has been at a low level. Israeli security officials ascribe the relative calm to attempts by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to keep the lid on violence as he pushes for a U.N. resolution on Israeli occupation.

Some Palestinian officials have suggested that Abbas will push for the vote on a draft resolution as early as this week that would set a November 2016 deadline for ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

The Palestinian resolution — which is almost sure to be vetoed by the United States — has prompted a diplomatic push by France that still hasn’t been formally introduced.

The French draft speaks of the 1967 Mideast borders as the basis for dividing the land, which President Barack Obama has publicly backed, but it doesn’t include key Israeli and U.S. conditions, such as Palestinianrecognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

TIME Middle East

Palestinians Will Present a Resolution to the U.N. on Israeli Withdrawal

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in Moscow
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks to media about the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (not seen) in Moscow on Aug. 19, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

But Israel wants the U.S. to use its veto to block it

The Palestinians are set to present a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, setting out a two-year time frame for ending Israeli control of the West Bank.

Israel wants the U.S. to use its veto power to block the resolution from passing, but Washington remains undecided, Reuters reports.

“We all want to keep open the hope of a two-state solution and we all want to prevent to the best of our abilities an escalation of the violence on the ground,” an unnamed senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday before flying to Europe to meet with Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Nabil al-Arabi, head of the Arab League, to try and work out a compromise.

Read more at Reuters.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Dec. 5 – Dec. 12

From the ongoing protests against police brutality in the U.S. and the dismantling of the main pro-democracy protest camp in Hong Kong to the British royal couple’s first New York visit and Malala Yousafzai receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Ireland

The Irish Parliament Looks Set to Recognize a Palestinian State

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Irish Parliament in Dublin John Harper—Getty Images

Ireland would be joining the U.K., France, Spain and other countries in extending symbolic recognition

The Irish government accepted a motion Tuesday calling for the symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood “on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in U.N. resolutions.”

On Wednesday, members of the lower house of the Oireachtas, or Irish Parliament, will continue debating the nonbinding bill, which is being put forward by the opposition, Reuters reports. A government spokesman said it would not oppose the motion.

“Recognizing the independent state of Palestine would be a symbolically important expression of Ireland’s support for the people of Palestine’s right to self determination,” said member of Parliament Dominic Hannigan, according to the Irish Examiner.

The Irish upper house passed a similar resolution in October.

Spain, the U.K. and France, have also passed symbolic votes of recognition, however some European countries have gone a step further and officially recognize a Palestinian state, with Sweden recently becoming the largest European nation to do so.

TIME migration

Nearly 5,000 Refugees Were Killed in 2014, Data Shows

Syrian Refugees' Hunger Strike Outside Greek Parliament
Syrian refugees wait in tents during a hunger strike outside the parliamentary building in Athens on Nov. 30, 2014 Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The majority died attempting to cross the Mediterranean

The number of refugees killed while fleeing their home countries more than doubled in the past year, according to data released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which said the toll for 2014 was nearly 5,000

According to the New York Times, citing IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle, about 3,000 of those people drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea, up from 707 out of 2,376 last year.

Doyle added that a majority of the refugees were from Iraq, Syria and Palestine, killed in the process of escaping escalating conflicts.

[NYT]

TIME

French Vote Urges Recognition of Palestinian State

General view of the hemicycle as deputies applaud after the results of the vote on Palestine status at the National Assembly in Paris
General view of the hemicycle as deputies applaud after the results of the vote on Palestine status at the National Assembly in Paris on Dec. 2, 2014. Charles Platiau—Reuters

The vote, approved with 339 votes to 151, is non-binding

(PARIS)— France’s lower house of Parliament voted Tuesday to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state, in the hope that it would speed up peace efforts after decades of conflict.

The vote, approved with 339 votes to 151, is non-binding. But it is a symbolic boost for the Palestinians, amid growing support in Europe for two states. The measure asks the government “to recognize the state of Palestine in view of reaching a definitive settlement to the conflict.”

The French government supports a Palestinian state but has said it’s too early for recognition. France, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, wants peace talks to restart first.

Israel is committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state under a peace agreement, but says such resolutions encourage the Palestinians to avoid negotiations.

On Oct. 30, Sweden’s government became the first western European nation in the EU to recognize Palestinian statehood. Since then, lawmakers in Britain, Spain and Ireland have approved non-binding motions urging recognition.

Last week members of the European Parliament began debating whether they can agree on a common approach for the European Union’s 28 member states.

France — which has western Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, and has seen tensions erupt between them — has sought to keep good ties with Israeli and Palestinian authorities in recent years.

Israel’s ambassador to France spoke out against the proposed resolution last week, saying it was destructive for the peace effort.

TIME France

France Considers Backing Palestinian Statehood

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a debate on the recognition of the Palestinian at the French Parliament in Paris on Nov. 28, 2014.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a debate on the recognition of the Palestinian at the French Parliament in Paris on Nov. 28, 2014. Michel Euler—AP

France would join Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain

France may recognize Palestinian statehood if international attempts to broker a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians fall through.

If France’s parliament passes the non-binding motion on Tuesday, the nation would join Sweden, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain in pushing for a two-state solution to the long-lasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict by recognizing a Palestinian state, Reuters reported Friday.

“If this final effort to reach a negotiated solution fails, then France will have to do what it takes by recognizing without delay the Palestinian state,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius before parliament. “We are ready.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the move as a “grave mistake.”

[Reuters]

TIME Israel

Jewish Nation-State Bill Passed by Israeli Cabinet

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during in his Cabinet meeting in his office in Jerusalem on Nov. 23, 2014 Jim Hollander—AP

The proposed legislation, sometimes referred to as the "nationality law," has set off a debate about Israel's future

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved a bill to call Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people, a measure that critics say could further strain the state’s frayed relationship with its Palestinian population.

The draft legislation, titled “Israel, the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has promised that it will guarantee equality for all Israeli citizens, the New York Times reports.

Yet Palestinian lawmakers deem the bill a threat to the rights of the state’s Arab minority and its democratic principles.

The proposed law’s final wording has not yet been settled. At least one version of the draft law would demote the Arabic language to “special status” in Israel, making Hebrew the state’s sole official language.

The bill passed the Cabinet by 14 votes to six and is now headed to Parliament.

TIME Middle East

Jerusalem’s Fragile Peace Splintered by Bloody Attacks

Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem, Nov. 18, 2014.
Israeli security personnel run next to a synagogue, where a suspected Palestinian attack took place, in Jerusalem on Nov. 18, 2014. Ronen Zvulun—Reuters

The killings of 5 people by 2 Palestinians in Jerusalem has driven a wedge between Arabs and Jews in the uneasily divided city

David Ehrlich, an Israeli writer, has been running a popular literary café and restaurant in downtown Jerusalem for the last 20 years. Popular, that is, except for times like these, when the city is so on edge that people tend to rush home from work and huddle with their families around the television.

“There are hardly any tourists, people from the Tel Aviv area will not come to Jerusalem, and the Jerusalemites just don’t feel like it,” says Ehrlich, whose latest short story collection is entitled Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel. He has employed Palestinians in the café almost since he founded it, making his eatery, Tmol Shilshom, one of countless examples in the holy city of Jews and Arabs working side by side.

“We’ve had Jews and Arabs work together for many years, and I’ve always been proud of it. I feel it’s the right thing in Jerusalem, because we are a mixed city. I don’t believe in segregation anywhere, and definitely not in my city,” Erlich tells TIME. “It doesn’t make sense to me that we’ll live so close by and pretend that the other doesn’t exist.”

But this de facto, often friendly coexistence can mask how very differently Israelis and Palestinians perceive reality. On Monday, the day before five people were killed in a bloody attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians from East Jerusalem, two of Ehrlich’s employees showed him some cell phone images of the body of Yousef al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver whose death is a subject of controversy. To Ehrlich, the mark across the man’s neck made it seem believable that he had hung himself, as Israeli forensic officials ruled. But in the eyes of Ehrlich’s workers, it clearly looked like a murder.

“When horrible things happen, they feel empathy for me and I feel it for them,” Ehrlich explains. “On the other hand, they listen to their news and I listen to mine, and their understanding and reading of events is very, very different.”

The synagogue massacre—the latest in a series of attacks linked to the feud over the Temple Mount, or Noble Sanctuary — has already been dubbed by some in the Israeli and Palestinian media the “Jerusalem Intifada” and by others, the “Jerusalem War.” Some added that it seemed to be taking inspiration from the Islamic State, given the use of knives and an ax in Tuesday’s attack. Many though not all of the Palestinian attacks on Israelis over the last month have been in Jerusalem, and the perpetrators have all come from Jerusalem.

That stands in stark contrast to the Second Intifada, or uprising, from 2000 to 2004, which largely involved suicide bombers from the West Bank. Now, Israelis are finding that they are facing violence that comes from within Jerusalem’s self-declared municipal boundaries – not from beyond the wall or separation barrier built to stop the aforementioned suicide bombers from entering Israel.

This is having a chilling effect on this ordinarily open city. Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian expert in national security at Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem, says that tens of thousands of Palestinians who work, shop and get various services in West Jerusalem are finding that the city is developing invisible boundaries that are becoming dangerous to cross.

“There is more of a gap now between Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem,” he says. “The Arabs who work in West Jerusalem will come under a lot of suspicion, and I can foresee how the response to their presence there will be more negative than ever. There’s no confidence in each other, no trust, and it’s leading us to a more serious conflict.”

The groundswell of terror has been exacerbated by the absence of Palestinian leaders in East Jerusalem, Al Qaq says. Although the 1993 Oslo Accords stipulated that East Jerusalemites could vote in elections for the Palestinian Authority, Israel later deemed PA offices or those connected to its ruling political party, the Fatah faction of the PLO, as an infringement on Israeli sovereignty in the city. Orient House, an East Jerusalem building that served as a PLO headquarters through the 1980s and 90s, was shuttered by Israel’s then-premier Ariel Sharon in 2001 following a suicide bombing which killed 15 people.

“We don’t have leaders we can call on in East Jerusalem to try to calm the situation down, and the leaders in Ramallah have no influence on the Palestinians in East Jerusalem,” Al Qaq says. “What we’re seeing is young people doing it themselves, and not taking orders from anyone.”

Officials in Jerusalem have cautioned Israelis to treat their Palestinian neighbors with suspicion. Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Dan Ronen, the former head of Israeli Police Operations Division during the Second Intifada, suggested Tuesday that the best way to foil potential attacks was to be cautious of “Arab employees and other people who come from East Jerusalem,” adding, “You never know when and how they can do something.” He also suggested that Israel would train those citizens who are armed to be better equipped to use their weapons in an attack. Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, said Tuesday he was encouraging Jerusalemites to join a civilian guard, reviving volunteer patrol units that were important in the state’s early days.

Given this situation, its perhaps not surprising that Taha, a cab driver from East Jerusalem, has been avoiding West Jerusalem in the last few days. “We are afraid to send our kids to school tomorrow, because we hear that settlers want to do marches and revenge attacks. I’m 53 years old, it’s the first time I’m really worried,” said Taha, who asked that his name be withheld due to security concerns. “In the last week, four people got to my taxi and got out as soon as they saw my name is an Arab name. They say things like, oh, I think I made a mistake, this is not the taxi I ordered, and they jump out. When it happens I cannot talk, because I feel very sad.”

Sara Kalker, a mother of two young children, is also unsure of whether to take her kids to school on Wednesday. Their pre-schools are on the edge of the Armon Hanetsiv neighborhood, which is over the Green Line (Israel’s pre-1967 borders) and abuts the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukabar, where the two young Palestinian cousins responsible for Tuesday’s synagogue attack were from.

“Everyone is concerned that something could happen anywhere, but we really feel it here. There are border police all over our neighborhood now. It’s hard to concentrate at work,” says Kalker. She moved here from New York State, where she grew up, weeks before the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. “I got through that, but it’s definitely different being a mother and having to worry now about someone’s security other than my own.” She pauses. “I just want to feel safe. But I don’t really have faith in the ability of the country to solve these problems.”

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