RAMALLAH, West Bank: On a cold winter’s night earlier this month, a convoy of 10 Israeli armored jeeps drove into the heart of the West Bank city of Ramallah and parked in front of the Palestinian police headquarters.
Soldiers fanned out, searching nearby shops for security cameras after a pair of recent shooting attacks against Israelis in the occupied territory. The raid attracted dozens of stone-throwing Palestinians, and the Israelis responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
It was the latest in a series of Israeli raids into urban areas that the Palestinians say undermine their own US-trained security forces. Those forces have been coordinating operations with Israel in the West Bank for years but ties have frayed as the peace process ground to a halt.
“This humiliates the Palestinian Authority,” said Zakariya Musleh, head of Palestinian military intelligence. “It’s a clear message from the occupying power that we are not a partner for peace.”
The Palestinian Authority has faced mounting protests over the security coordination as the Trump administration pursues policies seen by critics as obliterating whatever chance remains for a two-state solution, from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to cutting off economic aid to the Palestinians.
And yet the security coordination with Israel has endured for more than a decade, through one crisis after another, including three wars in Gaza and clashes at Jerusalem’s holiest site.
This is in part because the Palestinian Authority and Israel have a shared enemy in the Hamas militant group, which drove Palestinian security forces from Gaza in a week of street clashes in 2007, less than two years after Israel withdrew from the territory.
The Israeli military declined to comment on the recent raids or the security cooperation.
Alon Eviatar, a retired Israeli colonel who served in the Palestinian territories for nearly three decades, said Israel is aware of the political pressure the Palestinian Authority faces. He said Israeli forces only launch their own West Bank raids in “sensitive cases” when they need to quickly apprehend an assailant or act on highly classified intelligence.
“The Israeli side was afraid (of) a real escalation in the West Bank, especially in Ramallah,” he said, referring to last month’s shootings, in which gunmen killed two Israeli soldiers at a West Bank bus stop and wounded seven Israelis outside a settlement, including a pregnant woman whose baby later died. Israeli forces killed one of the suspected gunmen in December and arrested the other earlier this month. Both were found north of Ramallah.
Palestinian security forces will face another setback at the end of January, when the US is required to cut off its financial assistance because of a law known as the Anti-Terrorism Cooperation Act that was passed with bipartisan support last year.
Under the law, the Palestinian Authority would be disqualified from receiving any US aid unless it agrees to pay court judgments of up to hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of American victims of Palestinian attacks. The deadline for accepting that condition is Jan. 31. The administration and some pro-Israel members of Congress have been looking for ways to preserve the aid, but it’s unlikely a fix will be found until after the shutdown ends.
The court settlements far exceed the aid itself, which totaled $61 million last year. The US has provided more than $850 million to support the Palestinian security forces since 2007, when it ramped up assistance after Hamas seized Gaza.
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the looming cuts should be of more concern to the United States and Israel than to the Palestinians.
“They want that security support,” he said. “The most unpopular thing we are doing now here is security coordination with the Israelis. Believe me, that’s not the way to put pressure on us.”
The US aid is mainly spent on training and equipment, and salaries will not be affected. Israel is believed to support the US assistance, but the prime minister’s office declined to comment on the looming cuts.
As unpopular as the security coordination is, no one expects it to end anytime soon. The Palestine Liberation Organization’s mini-parliament called for ending security coordination with Israel last year, the latest in a long line of heated statements and empty threats.
Abbas has always been staunchly opposed to violence. Cutting ties with Israel would presumably lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli forces are deployed across the occupied West Bank, at military bases and checkpoints between and around nearly every Palestinian town and city.
The funding and training of Palestinian security forces was historically seen as part of the process of building an independent state. But there have been no meaningful peace talks in a decade, and the Palestinians cut all contacts with the Trump administration when it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, effectively siding with Israel on one of the most divisive issues in the decades-old conflict.
These days, Abbas relies on the security forces to preserve his increasingly unpopular rule. The security forces have helped keep a tight lid on Hamas in the West Bank, where they have been accused of human rights abuses. They have also used force to break up protests against Abbas’ policies.
Alaa Lahlouh, a former Palestinian officer who now researches security issues at the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, says the security coordination is deeply unpopular, but that authorities maintain it for political and personal reasons.
“The Palestinian Authority believes the security cooperation with Israel and the United States will enhance its role as a political partner,” he said, adding that they also cooperate for personal reasons. Israel grants special movement privileges to senior Palestinian officials, allowing them to avoid crowded checkpoints.
The raids in Ramallah meanwhile cause “huge damage,” Lahlouh said. “It shows the (Palestinian Authority) is useless in the face of Israel and only powerful when it comes to confronting its own people.”
Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said. Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh…
SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh activity that sees regular attacks against Kurdish forces, Iraqi forces and often civilians.Makhmour is a mountainous area about 70 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km southwest of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for greater security cooperation between Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi security forces to stop Daesh’s insurgent activities.Iraqi officials and analysts have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil for Daesh’s continued ability to wage deadly attacks.Daesh controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, including the remote Makhmour region but also major cities including Mosul.A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.Western military officials say at least 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.A statement from the Kurdistan region’s armed forces, the peshmerga, said Daesh militants attacked the village in the early hours of Friday killing three residents.It said peshmerga forces intervened, resulting in clashes that killed at least seven of their soldiers.Kurdish security and hospital officials said the final death toll was at least 10 peshmerga soldiers and three villagers.In a separate development, Kurdish demonstrators in The Hague stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.
A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the Daesh extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.
Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources said, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building,” The Hague police said.Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.The PKK and Kurdish organizations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulfur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.
Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed
Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut. There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan…
Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines
LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut.
There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan and Harib, the major general told Al-Arabiya, noting that army forces cut the Houthis’ supply line between Bayhan and Harib.
He explained that military operations continued on all fronts, with the southern front seeing most of the action. He also noted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s support with airstrikes.
“Marib is not besieged, and the Houthis are far from achieving this,” he said.
He added that most of those fighting for the Houthis were children and young men.
“They do not care about the children of Yemenis who are killed by the dozens every day,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia.
The coalition announced on Friday night that it had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher south of Sanaa.
The coalition added that it also destroyed a “mine-making workshop” in the capital, stressing that it had taken “preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian structures from collateral damage” during the airstrikes.
US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows. Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the…
CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.
Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.
Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.
Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.
“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.
Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”
The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.
“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”
The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.
They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.
Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.
In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.
Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.
Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.
Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.