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Israeli Palestinian Confrontation, June 1, 2011

Written by MEIR AMIT INTELLIGENCE AND TERRORISM INFORMATION CENTER

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News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (May 25-31, 2011)

This past week one rocket hit was identified in Israeli territory (May 28). It fell in an open area in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done. It was the first rocket hit since April 18.

The Egyptian government announced the continuous opening of the Rafah crossing (with the exception of Fridays and holidays), and on easing restrictions on passage through it. Senior Hamas figures applauded the decision, which was another example of the improvement in relations between Hamas and the new Egyptian regime. The decision did not include the transfer of goods, which will continue to be smuggled in, along with weapons, through the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.

Important Terrorism Events in Israel's South

This past week one rocket hit was identified in Israeli territory (May 28). It fell in an open area in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done. It was the first rocket hit since April 18.

Developments in the Gaza Strip

The Crossings

This past week between 207 and 249 trucks carrying merchandise entered the Gaza Strip every day. In addition, several tons of building materials and hundreds of tons of cooking gas were delivered (Website of the Israeli government coordinator for the territories, May 31, 2011).

The Rafah Crossing

The Egyptian government announced it would keep the Rafah crossing open continuously (with the exception of Fridays and holidays) and for longer hours than previously. As of May 28 Gazans over the age of 40 and younger than 18, as well as women of all ages and students studying in Egypt will be able to use the crossing without permits. Gazans entering Egypt for medical treatment will need only medical authorization. On the first day of the new rules 400 Gazans entered Egypt, and more than 100 returned to the Gaza Strip.

The decision did not include the transfer of goods, which will continue to be smuggled in, along with weapons, through the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.

Senior Hamas figures applauded the Egyptian decision. The Arab and Palestinian media reported that to date the Hamas security forces will take responsibility for security at the crossing (without the presence of international observers). Reportedly, after the establishment of a national unity government the issue will be deliberated anew (Wafa News Agency and Al-Jazeera TV, May 25; Voice of Palestine Radio, May 30, 2011).

The Political Confrontation

The Israeli Prime Minister's Speech to the American Congress and Reactions to It

On May 24 Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spoke before the two Houses of the American Congress. His speech was received sympathetically and with standing ovations from the Congressmen.

The main points of the speech were the following (ITIC emphasis throughout):2

The right of the Palestinians to establish a state: Netanyahu said he recognized the right of the Palestinians to an independent state, and that "the Palestinians share this small land with us." He said "We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens" and that the Palestinians "should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state."

Recognition of the State of Israel: Netanyahu blamed the lack on an agreement on the Palestinians. He said peace had not yet been achieved "[b]ecause so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it." He said that the "conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state." He called on Mahmoud Abbas to stand before his people and tell them he accepted the Jewish state.

The borders of the Palestinian state: Netanyahu said that the Israeli people and he himself would "be prepared to make a far reaching compromise," but made it clear that the "compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967." However, he said, "[i]n any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. But... the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967." He also said that "a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous."

Education for hatred: Netanyahu criticized the Palestinians, saying they are "simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees."

The problem of the refugees and the future of Jerusalem: Netanyahu said that "the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel." Concerning Jerusalem, he said that "only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel."

Responses from the Palestinian Authority

Netanyahu's speech led to a wave of criticism from the Palestinian Authority:

Mahmoud Abbas, PA chairman, claimed that the speech distorted facts and proved that Netanyahu had distanced himself from the peace process. He said he objected to Netanyahu's calling Israel "the land of the [Jewish] forefathers," to his referring to a united Jerusalem under Israeli rule, to the demand for an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and to his emphasis on solving the problem of the Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state. Mahmoud Abbas emphasized that the Palestinians still preferred negotiations, but that if no progress had been made in negotiations by September 2011, they would appeal to the UN (Wafa News Agency, May 25, 2011).

Saeb Erekat, member of the PLO's executive committee, said that the speech proved to the Palestinians that Israel "is not a partner in the peace process," and that Netanyahu "twisted the facts" (Al-Jazeera TV, May 25, 2011). In a different interview he said that if Israel publicly adopted the two state solution with the 1967 borders and committed itself to the Road Map and other commitments, the negotiations would continue. If not, the Palestinians would appeal to the UN Security Council (Voice of Palestine Radio, May 9, 2011).

Nabil Shaath, member of Fatah's central committee, called the speech "a call to war, not peace," claiming, by inference, that peace without Jerusalem, the return of the refugees, the 1967 borders and a freeze on building in the settlements would be unacceptable. He claimed that Barack Obama did not want the Palestinians to advance politically or appeal to the UN, but rather enter into negotiations which "would continue forever" (Al-Arabiya TV , May 25, 2011).

Responses from Hamas

Hamas spokesmen objected strongly to Netanyahu's speech and urged the Palestinian Authority to return to the option of "resistance" [i.e., terrorism]:

Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, called on the Palestinian Authority to "leave the negotiations" with Israel, saying that Netanyahu's speech, which expressed "Israel's true position," committed the Palestinians to strengthening the "resistance" [i.e., terrorism]. He called for political activity to be united with the "resistance" and to "adhere to the principles of the Palestinian people," foremost of which was the Palestinian refugees' "right of return" to the territory of Israel (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 25, 2011).

Mahmoud al-Zahar, senior Hamas figure, expressed strong opposition to any arrangement which would "steal portions of Palestinian land." He asked why Israel and the United States had fixated on the 1967 borders and not those of the Partition Plan of 1947. He claimed that no Palestinian would accept what Netanyahu and Obama were offering. He also claimed that Israel would not cede anything unless it sensed a real threat to its security, and called for a united "resistance" [i.e., terrorism] program for all the Palestinian organizations (El-Khabar, May 25, 2011). In addition, while on a visit to Egypt, he said the Palestinians had not yet lost hope that President Obama would support the Palestinian cause, but said that "the Jews" ran the American Congress and controlled the decisions made by the United States, so the likelihood of that happening was small. He said again, as in the past, that the Jews had been expelled from many countries because of "the Jewish character" (Al-Masrawi, May 26, 2011).

Response from Hassan Nasrallah

Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, referred to Netanyahu's remarks in a speech he gave to mark the IDF's withdrawal from south Lebanon (May 2000). He said the United States and Israel had made their position clear and delivered a "death blow" to the Arab peace initiative. He called on the Arab League to annul the initiative and to declare its definite objections, at the center of which was opposition to the negotiations. He also called on the Palestinians to unite around the "resistance" [i.e., terrorism and violence], and on the Arab world to support them. He called for "millions" of Arabs from all the Arab countries to go to Israel's borders and attempt to cross them. He quoted Khomeini, who said that "if every Muslim takes a pail of water and spills it on Israel, it will float and vanish and there will no longer be a need for war" (Al-Manar TV, May 25, 2011).

The Palestinian Authority Plan to Appeal to the UN in September 2011

The Palestinian Authority continues its political and propaganda activities concerning its planned September appeal to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders whose capital is East Jerusalem.

Saeb Erekat, member of the PLO's executive committee, said that the activities were taking place in two spheres: with the nations of the world to achieve recognition from them and to raise the status of the Palestinian delegations; and with the UN, to have Palestine admitted as a member nation. To that end the Palestinians should appeal to the Secretary General for admittance, and the Secretary General will in turn present their request to the Security Council. The Council will appoint a committee which will present its conclusions to the General Assembly 35 days before its session.

Saeb Erekat said that for the request to be deliberated in September, the Palestinians had to begin the process at the beginning of June 2011. He added that if the Security Council vetoes the request the Palestinians could still appeal to the General Assemble and receive recognition as a "non-member state" in the organization (on condition they received 51% of the votes in the General Assembly) (Voice of Palestine Radio, May 29, 2011).

The Internal Palestinian Arena

The Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Agreement

Following the speeches by American President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, which urged the Palestinian Authority to reexamine its reconciliation agreement with Hamas, sources within the PA and Hamas stressed that rescinding the agreement was not on the agenda. Moreover, the Palestinians would continue to implement the agreement, even the issue of the mutual detentions, which are still a stumbling block.

Nabil Shaath, a member of Fatah's central committee, visited the Gaza Strip on May 26 to promote the implementation of the agreement. He met with Ismail Haniya, head of the de facto Hamas administration, and other senior figures representing the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other organizations operating in the Gaza Strip (Wafa News Agency, May 26, 2011).

After the visit, Nabil Shaath and Muhammad Awad held a press conference. Shaath said that the issue of detentions [of operatives of the various terrorist organizations] in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip was expected to be concluded in the coming days. He said that the Palestinian Authority would provide residents of the Gaza Strip with passports (Al-Aqsa TV, May 29, 2011).

Senior Hamas Figures Relate to the Issue of Recognition of Israel

In view of the internal Palestinian reconciliation agreement, the Hamas leadership was forced to relate to the issue of the recognition of Israel. They strongly reiterated that Hamas would not recognize Israel. For example, Salah al-Bardawil called President Obama's demand that Hamas recognize Israel "a media trick." He claimed it was "out of the question that Hamas recognize Israel," either politically or ideologically, because "Israel stole its territory" (i.e., the territory of the State of Israel was "stolen" from the Palestinians). He called on Fatah to end the negotiations and security coordination with Israel and return to its "natural place" as "a national liberation movement" (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 23, 2011).

Salah al-Din Abu Sharkh, of Hamas' political leadership, said at a meeting with officers in Hamas security forces that the internal reconciliation agreement was meant "to force Israel into a corner" and cause all Palestinians to adopt the path of "resistance" [i.e., terrorism and violence]. He said Hamas would most likely join the PLO, but without recognizing Israel, accepting the conditions of the International Quartet or recognizing agreements which "humiliated" the Palestinians. He said that Hamas recognition of a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders was not a concession, because according to the instructions of Hamas founder sheikh Yassin, it could be done as part of "dividing the process of liberation into stages," which did not mean ceding the rest of "Palestine" (Website of the political and moral direction authority within the interior ministry of the de facto Hamas administration, May 11, 2011).

Deployment for the So-Called Naksa Day

In Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and throughout the Arab world calls continue to be issued via the social networks and media for extensive anti-Israeli activities for Naksa Day (which commemorates the Arab defeat in the Six Day War which began on June 5, 1967). The Hamas media are participating in the call.

A group using Facebook and calling itself "the third intifada," posted its plan for activities lasting from June 3 to June 7 (Facebook, May 24, 2011):

June 3: Masses of people throughout the Muslim world (including Judea and Samaria) are supposed to pray and call for the liberation of Jerusalem and Palestine. Marches are supposed to be organized to Al-Aqsa mosque and the churches in Jerusalem. Should the marches be prevented from reaching their destinations, prayers will be held at the roadblocks. Marches in the Gaza Strip are also expected to be held to the border crossings with Israel.

June 4: "Rush to the Golan Day" will be held in Syria, during which Syrian civilians will try to cross the border in the Golan Heights. Such activities may begin on June 3 as well, and there will also be marches on June 5 (Facebook, May 25, 2011).

June 5: After afternoon prayers in the mosques, marches are planned in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan to the borders with Israel, with volunteer participants from throughout the Muslim world. Marches to the Israeli embassies will be held in Europe. In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Israeli cities "marches and confrontations with 'occupation' soldiers will be held along the border."

June 5: A demonstration is supposed to be held at Maroun al-Ras in coordination with the Lebanese authorities. Fatah members in Lebanon may also participate in the march. In addition, preparations are being made for launching a ship (NOW Lebanon website, May 25; Al-Nashra, May 30; Facebook, May 23, 2011).

June 7: Marches are supposed to be held in Judea and Samaria and within Israel to Jerusalem. A convoy is expected to reach the Gaza Strip. The participants in the day's activities will "swear allegiance to Jerusalem."

In Israel, the IDF Spokesman said that the Israel-Syria border is "a closed military area" and civilians are forbidden to approach it. If they approached it, said the Spokesman, they would "endanger their safety." He also said that IDF forces were on alert throughout all the relevant sectors lest there be a recurrence of riots similar to those of Nakba Day (IDF Spokesman's website, May 20, 2011).

Convoys and Flotillas to the Gaza Strip – Update

The Upgraded Flotilla (Freedom Flotilla 2)

Preparations continue for Freedom Flotilla 2, due to set sail during the third week of June. Vangelis Pissias, a Greek activist and one of the senior flotilla organizers, said that despite Egypt's decision to open the Rafah crossing, the flotilla would set sail as planned. He claimed the "siege still continued" as long as Israel controlled the Gaza Strip's air and naval space and limited the merchandise which could be brought into or out of the Gaza Strip (Agence France-Presse, May 30, 2011). Spokesmen for the other organizations participating in the flotilla, particularly spokesmen for the Turkish Islamist IHH, reiterated their determination to launch the flotilla.

In the meantime, Lloyd's said it would refuse to insure a ship if the owners were attempting to help Hamas, and should local law be broken by a ship they had insured, the insurance would be invalid.3

The African Convoy to the Gaza Strip

Preparations continue for the South African aid convoy to the Gaza Strip, and its organizers are enlisting volunteers and equipment. The convoy, which will depart from Cape Town, is the result of an initiative taken by two Muslim organizations operating in South Africa: the Al Quds Foundation and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC). They were joined by other Muslim organizations, broadcasting stations, charitable societies, universities, colleges and Muslim schools in South Africa. Like the Freedom Flotilla 2, the convoy is supposed to depart during the third week of June, and it will pass through several African countries. Its humanitarian assistance will be sent by sea to an Egyptian port, possibly El Arish, where it will join the convoy.4

Another South African convoy is apparently being organized by the South African Relief Agency (SARA)5 in collaboration with other groups, and will depart from Durban. The convoy is will travel by air and overland and was supposed to leave on May 15 (Nakba Day). Apparently difficulties arose with the Egyptian authorities regarding its entrance into the Gaza Strip, and its departure was delayed. According to its registration forms, participants must be at least 18 years old and preference will be given to truck drivers, construction specialists, media correspondents, social workers and business and financial experts.

Lebanon

UNIFIL Force Attacked

On May 27 in the region of Sidon an IED was used to attack a vehicle belonging to UNIFIL's Italian battalion. Six soldiers and two passersby were injured; two of the soldiers were seriously wounded. No organization claimed responsibility for the attack. The Lebanese security forces claimed that a network of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, affiliated with the global jihad, were behind it.6 The attack took place very close to the location of the network's attack on UNIFIL's Irish battalion in 2008 (Al-Safir and the Daily Star, May 30, 2011).

UNIFIL_vehicle

One of the UNIFIL vehicles after the attack (Al-Manar TV, May 27, 2011).

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center opened in 2001. It is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC) , an NGO dedicated to the memory of the fallen of the Israeli Intelligence Community and it is located near Gelilot , north of Tel Aviv. It is headed by (Col. Ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich .

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