Posted tagged ‘PA’

Palestinians: The Message Remains No and No

November 16, 2016

Palestinians: The Message Remains No and No

by Khaled Abu Toameh

November 16, 2016 at 5:00 am

Source: Palestinians: The Message Remains No and No

  • The position of the two Palestinian leaders, Arafat and Abbas, is deeply rooted in the Palestinian tradition and culture, in which any compromise with Israel is considered an act of high treason. Abbas knows that concessions on his part would result in being spat upon by his people — or killed.
  • Hence the PA president has in recent years avoided even the pretense of negotiations with Israel, and instead has poured his energies into strong-arming the international community to impose a solution on Israel.
  • The French would do well to abandon their plan for convening an international conference on peace in the Middle East.
  • Declaring a Palestinian state in the Security Council only makes them look as if their actual goal is to destroy Israel — and they know it. They would be fooling no one.
  • Many in Europe, particularly France, seem be aching to do just that — as a “present” to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to show how submissive they can be; to encourage more “business” with Muslim states, and, they might hope, to deter more terrorist attacks. Actually, if the members of the UN Security Council declare a Palestinian state unilaterally, they are encouraging more terrorist attacks: the terrorists will see that attacks “work” and embark on more of them to help the jihadi takeover of Europe go even faster.

Last week, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas tipped his hand concerning his ultimatum on any revival of the peace process with Israel.

“I’m 81 years old and I’m not going to end my life drooping, making concessions or selling out.”

Thus declared a defiant Abbas at a rally in Ramallah, marking the 12th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

Abbas in this way relayed to the hundreds of Palestinians who gathered in Ramallah to commemorate Arafat: “I have no intention of going down in history as a leader who compromised with Israel.”

Like Arafat, Abbas would rather die intransigent than achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel.

Yet the position of the two Palestinian leaders is deeply rooted in the Palestinian tradition and culture, in which any concession to or compromise with Israel is considered an act of high treason.

Upon returning to Ramallah in the summer of 2000, after following the botched Camp David summit, Arafat explained his decision to reject the offer made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. According to Arafat, Barak wanted the Palestinians to make concessions concerning Jerusalem and its holy sites.

“He who relinquishes one grain of soil of the land of Jerusalem does not belong to our people,” Arafat announced. “We want all of Jerusalem, all of it, all of it. Revolution until victory!”

At Camp David, Arafat and his negotiators demanded full sovereignty over the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, including its holy sites and the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. They also repeated their long-standing demand that the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees be fully implemented, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flock into Israel.

Barak, for his part, is said to have offered the Palestinians a state that would be established on 91% of the West Bank, large parts of East Jerusalem and the entire Gaza Strip. What is certain is that Barak wanted the Palestinian leader to make some concessions on the explosive issues of Jerusalem and refugees.

The Camp David summit failed the moment Arafat realized that he was not going to get all of his demands met. Arafat later informed his confidants that he walked out of the summit because he did not want to go down into history as a leader who succumbed to Israeli and American pressure.

Fast-forward 16 years: Abbas stands near Arafat’s grave in Ramallah and spouts similar sentiments. Vowing to continue in Arafat’s path and honor his legacy, Abbas said that these days he was being “inspired” by his predecessor’s “determination” and “resolve.”

Abbas is at least up-front in his intentions. No one, he says unashamedly — not the Israelis nor the Americans nor the Europeans — ought to harbor any illusions. “Peace” with the Palestinians, says Abbas, means Israel fulfilling each and every demand he — and Arafat — has made. “Peace,” in other words, with no Palestinian concessions.

Arafat continues to enjoy massive popularity among Palestinians because he died without “selling out” to Israel. His hero status hinges on his rejectionism at Camp David.

Had Arafat accepted Barak’s offer at that summit, he would have been condemned as a “pawn” in the hands of the Israelis and Americans, a failed leader who betrayed his people.

Abbas’s self-fashioning himself in the guise of Arafat is not new. For many years, he has been following in the footsteps of Arafat and honoring his legacy. Moreover, Abbas is well aware that, like Arafat, he is not authorized by his people to make any concessions to Israel. This is not merely because Abbas is now in his 12th year of a four-year-term in office.

Like his predecessor Yasser Arafat (left), Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) would rather die intransigent than achieve a peaceful settlement with Israel.

Even if Abbas were a legitimate president, no concessions to Israel would be forthcoming. Arafat was quoted back then as saying that he rejected the Barak offer because he did not want to end up drinking tea with assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to sign a peace agreement with Israel.

Thus, Abbas is in no hurry to return to the negotiating table with Israel. Indeed, for Abbas, there is no negotiation — only demands. He knows that concessions on his part would result in being spat upon by his people — or killed.

Hence the PA president has in recent years avoided even the pretense of negotiations with Israel, and instead has poured his energies into strong-arming the international community to impose a solution on Israel — one that would indeed supply the Palestinians with nearly all their demands.

Abbas and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah want the international community to hand them what Israel will not give them at the negotiating table. Abbas is hoping to achieve his goal through international conferences on the Middle East, like the one being floated around by France, or through the United Nations and other international agencies and institutions.

In fact, this has been Abbas’s sole strategy in recent years: a diplomatic war in the international arena that is aimed at isolating and delegitimizing Israel, in order to force it to comply with all Palestinian demands.

Of course, this strategy has its risks. Yet, if it fails, Abbas will at least depart the scene without being branded with the scarlet letter of “traitor.” His successor, he hopes, will stand next to his grave and pledge to follow in his footsteps, as he himself has done for Arafat. And this is not an idle hope.

Thanks to decades of indoctrination and anti-Israel rhetoric, for which both Arafat and Abbas are also responsible, Palestinians have been radicalized to the point where it is impossible to identify a single leader who would negotiate in good faith with Israel.

Under the current circumstances, any attempt by the Obama Administration — in its remaining months in power — to support a United Nations vote in favor of a Palestinian state will be seen as a reward to those Palestinians who are opposed to a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel.

Many in Europe, particularly France, seem be aching to do just that — as a “present” to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to show how submissive the French can be; to encourage more “business” with Arab and Muslim states, and, they might hope, to deter more terrorist attacks. Actually, if the members of the UN Security Council declare a Palestinian state unilaterally, they are encouraging more terrorist attacks: the terrorists will see that attacks “work” and embark on more of them to help the jihadi takeover of Europe go even faster.

The Obama Administration (and the next US Administration) need to make it clear to Abbas and the Palestinians that the only way to achieve a state is through direct negotiations with Israel, and not additional UN resolutions.

Similarly, the French would do well to abandon their plan for convening an international conference on peace in the Middle East. They need to understand that Abbas and the Palestinians are hoping to use the conference as an excuse to stay away from the negotiating table with Israel — the only country that could really help the Palestinians achieve a state through direct talks. Declaring a Palestinian state in the Security Council only makes them look as if their actual goal is to destroy Israel by allying “two sides of the Mediterranean” against Israel — and they know it. They would be fooling no one.

The message that needs to be relayed to the Palestinians is that UN resolutions and international conferences will not bring them closer to achieving their aspirations. Another message that needs to be driven home to the Palestinian leadership is that without preparing their people for peace and compromise with Israel, the whole idea of a two-state solution is meaningless.

An entire Palestinian generation has been raised on the poisonous idea that even the consideration of compromise with Israel is traitorous. The next US Administration might do well to consider this unpleasant reality.

 

PA UN Envoy Threatening to Make Trump’s Life Miserable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem

November 13, 2016

By: David Israel

Published: November 13th, 2016

Source: PA UN Envoy Threatening to Make Trump’s Life Miserable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem | David Israel | Sunday, November 13, 2016 | JewishPress.com

PA UN envoy Riyad Mansour
Photo Credit: PressTV

In a priceless demonstration of the Arabs’ 600-year long failure to appreciate new realities, Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s UN Ambassador, on Friday warned President-elect Donald Trump that if he dared move the US embassy to Jerusalem, he and his ilk would “make life miserable” for the United States at the United Nations.

“If people attack us by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, which is a violation of Security Council resolutions, it is a violation of resolution 181 of the UN general assembly that was drafted by the US … it means they are showing belligerency towards us … If they do that nobody should blame us for unleashing all of the weapons that we have in the UN to defend ourselves and we have a lot of weapons in the UN,” Mansour said.

Mansour did demonstrate that he was still living on Planet Earth by conceding that the Security Council would not vote to condemn such a move by the US, because, well, the US is a veto wielding member of the Security Council. But that did not hold the PA rep back from warning the incoming president. “Maybe I can’t have resolutions in the Security Council but I can make their lives miserable everyday with precipitating a veto on my admission as a member state.”

Mansour, who served as the Deputy Permanent Observer of the PLO to the United Nations from 1983 to 1994, succeeded Nasser al-Qudwa as Permanent Observer for Palestine to the UN in 2005. On November 29, 2012, 65 years to the day after the Arabs forever ruined their chance for a legitimate state in the UN Partition vote, the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations was upgraded to “non-Member Observer State.” Now, it appears, Ambassador Mansour made sure no further upgrades may be coming. Especially when he promised Trump he would drag him to the International Criminal Court of Justice in the Hague.

Taking Trump to court — now, that’ll scare him.

Mansour warned that “it is illegal to defy Security Council resolutions that the US is party to it that the unilateral action by Israel annexing East Jerusalem is illegal and it is null and void. If the US administration wants to defy international law they are doing something illegal.”

Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem sounds radically different coming from his key advisor Jason Greenblatt than from his other key advisor, Walid Phares. The former has spread enthusiastic promises regarding the move before the election, the latter has told the BBC that the move depended on there being a favorable “consensus.”

On Saturday night’s satirical show Back of the Nation, comic Rotem Abuhav said moving the embassy would be a nightmare, seeing as it would permanently clog the already jammed city traffic, making it impossible for Israelis to receive consular services. Abuhav suggested that from now on, instead of taking a trip to see America, she and her family would just take a trip to the US embassy to take the Visa Application ride.

The Soviet-Palestinian Lie

October 16, 2016

The Soviet-Palestinian Lie

by Judith Bergman

October 16, 2016 at 4:30 am

Source: The Soviet-Palestinian Lie

  • “The PLO was dreamt up by the KGB, which had a penchant for ‘liberation’ organizations.” — Ion Mihai Pacepa, former chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Romania.
  • “First, the KGB destroyed the official records of Arafat’s birth in Cairo, and replaced them with fictitious documents saying that he had been born in Jerusalem and was therefore a Palestinian by birth.” — Ion Mihai Pacepa.
  • “[T]he Islamic world was a waiting petri dish in which we could nurture a virulent strain of America-hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought. Islamic anti-Semitism ran deep… We had only to keep repeating our themes — that the United States and Israel were ‘fascist, imperial-Zionist countries’ bankrolled by rich Jews.” — Yuri Andropov, former KGB chairman.
  • As early as 1965, the USSR had formally proposed in the UN a resolution that would condemn Zionism as colonialism and racism. Although the Soviets did not succeed in their first attempt, the UN turned out to be an overwhelmingly grateful recipient of Soviet bigotry and propaganda; in November 1975, Resolution 3379 condemning Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination” was finally passed.

The recent discovery that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), was a KGB spy in Damascus in 1983, was discarded by many in the mainstream media as a “historical curiosity” — except that the news inconveniently came out at the time that President Vladimir Putin was trying to organize new talks between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Predictably, the Palestinian Authority immediately dismissed the news. Fatah official Nabil Shaath denied that Abbas was ever a KGB operative, and called the claim a “smear campaign.”

The discovery, far from being a “historical curiosity,” is an aspect of one of many pieces in the puzzle of the origins of 20th and 21st century Islamic terrorism. Those origins are almost always obfuscated and obscured in ill-concealed attempts at presenting a particular narrative about the causes of contemporary terrorism, while decrying all and any evidence to the contrary as “conspiracy theories.”

There is nothing conspiratorial about the latest revelation. It comes from a document in the Mitrokhin archives at the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Vasily Mitrokhin was a former senior officer of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence service, who was later demoted to KGB archivist. At immense risk to his own life, he spent 12 years diligently copying secret KGB files that would not otherwise have become available to the public (the KGB foreign intelligence archives remain sealed from the public, despite the demise of the Soviet Union). When Mitrokhin defected from the Russia in 1992, he brought the copied files with him to the UK. The declassified parts of the Mitrokhin archives were brought to the public eye in the writings of Cambridge professor Christopher Andrew, who co-wrote The Mitrokhin Archive (published in two volumes) together with the Soviet defector. Mitrokhin’s archives led, among other things, to the discovery of many KGB spies in the West and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the history of the full extent of the KGB’s influence and disinformation operations is not nearly as well-known as it should be, considering the immense influence that the KGB wielded on international affairs. The KGB conducted hostile operations against NATO as a whole, against democratic dissent within the Soviet bloc, and set in motion subversive events in Latin America and the Middle East, which resonate to this day.

The KGB, furthermore, was an extremely active player in the creation of so-called liberation movements in Latin America and in the Middle East, movements that went on to engage in lethal terrorism — as documented in, among other places, The Mitrokhin Archive, as well as in the books and writings of Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking Communist official to defect from the former Soviet bloc.

Pacepa was chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Romania and a personal advisor to Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu before he defected to the United States in 1978. Pacepa worked with the CIA to bring down communism for more than 10 years; the agency described his cooperation as “an important and unique contribution to the United States.”

In a 2004 interview, FrontPage Magazine, Pacepa said:

The PLO was dreamt up by the KGB, which had a penchant for “liberation” organizations. There was the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created by the KGB in 1964 with help from Ernesto “Che” Guevara … the KGB also created the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which carried out numerous bombing attacks… In 1964 the first PLO Council, consisting of 422 Palestinian representatives handpicked by the KGB, approved the Palestinian National Charter — a document that had been drafted in Moscow. The Palestinian National Covenant and the Palestinian Constitution were also born in Moscow, with the help of Ahmed Shuqairy, a KGB influence agent who became the first PLO chairman…

In the Wall Street Journal, Pacepa explained how the KGB built up Arafat — or in current parlance, how they constructed a narrative for him:

He was an Egyptian bourgeois turned into a devoted Marxist by KGB foreign intelligence. The KGB had trained him at its Balashikha special-operations school east of Moscow and in the mid-1960s decided to groom him as the future PLO leader. First, the KGB destroyed the official records of Arafat’s birth in Cairo, and replaced them with fictitious documents saying that he had been born in Jerusalem and was therefore a Palestinian by birth.

As the late historian Robert S. Wistrich wrote in A Lethal Obsession, the Six-Day War unleashed a protracted, intensive campaign on the part of the Soviet Union to delegitimize Israel and the movement for Jewish self-determination, known as Zionism. This was done in order to rectify the damage to the Soviet Union’s prestige after Israel defeated its Arab allies:

After 1967, the USSR began to flood the world with a constant flow of anti-Zionist propaganda… Only the Nazis in their twelve years of power had ever succeeded in producing such a sustained flow of fabricated libels as an instrument of their domestic and foreign policy[1].

For this the USSR employed a host of Nazi trigger words to describe the Israeli defeat of the Arab 1967 aggression, several of which are still employed on the Western left today when it comes to Israel, such as “practitioners of genocide”, “racists”, “concentration camps”, and “Herrenvolk.”

Furthermore, the USSR engaged in an international smearing campaign in the Arab world. In 1972, the Soviet Union, launched operation “SIG” (Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Zionist Governments”), with the purpose of portraying the United States as an “arrogant and haughty Jewish fiefdom financed by Jewish money and run by Jewish politicians, whose aim was to subordinate the entire Islamic world”. Some 4,000 agents were sent from the Soviet Bloc into the Islamic world, armed with thousands of copies of the old czarist Russian forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. According to KGB chairman Yuri Andropov:

‘the Islamic world was a waiting petri dish in which we could nurture a virulent strain of America-hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought. Islamic anti-Semitism ran deep… We had only to keep repeating our themes — that the United States and Israel were “fascist, imperial-Zionist countries” bankrolled by rich Jews. Islam was obsessed with preventing the infidels’ occupation of its territory, and it would be highly receptive to our characterization of the U.S. Congress as a rapacious Zionist body aiming to turn the world into a Jewish fiefdom.

As early as 1965, the USSR had formally proposed in the UN a resolution that would condemn Zionism as colonialism and racism. Although the Soviets did not succeed in their first attempt, the UN turned out to be an overwhelmingly grateful recipient of Soviet bigotry and propaganda; in November 1975, Resolution 3379 condemning Zionism as “a form of racism and racial discrimination’ was finally passed. This followed nearly a decade of diligent Soviet propaganda directed at the Third World, depicting Israel as a Trojan Horse for Western imperialism and racism. This campaign was designed to build support for Soviet foreign policy in Africa and the Middle East.[2] Another tactic was constantly to draw visual and verbal comparisons in the Soviet media between Israel and South Africa (this is the origin of the canard of “Israeli apartheid”).

Not only the Third World, but also the Western Left ate all this Soviet propaganda raw. The latter continues to disseminate large parts of it to this day. In fact, slandering someone, whoever they are, as racist, became one of the Left’s primary weapons against those with whom it disagrees.

Part of the Soviet tactics in isolating Israel was making the PLO look “respectable.” According to Pacepa, this task was left to Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu, who had achieved the unlikely propaganda feat of portraying the ruthless Romanian police state to the West as a “moderate” Communist country. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, as was ultimately revealed in the 1989 trial against Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena, which ended with their executions.

Yasser Arafat (left) with Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu during a visit in Bucharest in 1974. (Image source: Romanian National History Museum)

Pacepa wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

In March 1978, I secretly brought Arafat to Bucharest for final instructions on how to behave in Washington. “You simply have to keep on pretending that you’ll break with terrorism and that you’ll recognize Israel — over, and over, and over,” Ceausescu told him [Arafat]… Ceausescu was euphoric over the prospect that both Arafat and he might be able to snag a Nobel Peace Prize with their fake displays of the olive branch.

… Ceausescu failed to get his Nobel Peace Prize. But in 1994 Arafat got his — all because he continued to play the role we had given him to perfection. He had transformed his terrorist PLO into a government-in-exile (the Palestinian Authority), always pretending to call a halt to Palestinian terrorism while letting it continue unabated. Two years after signing the Oslo Accords, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian terrorists had risen by 73%.

In his book, Red Horizons, Pacepa related what Arafat said at a meeting he had with him at PLO headquarters in Beirut around the time that Ceausescu was trying to make the PLO “respectable”:

I am a revolutionary. I have dedicated my whole life to the Palestinian cause and the destruction of Israel. I will not change or compromise. I will not agree with anything that recognizes Israel as a state. Never… But I am always willing to make the West think that I want what Brother Ceausescu wants me to do.[3]

The propaganda neatly paved the way for terrorism, Pacepa explained in National Review.

General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, who created Communist Romania’s intelligence structure and then rose to head up all of Soviet Russia’s foreign intelligence, often lectured me: “In today’s world, when nuclear arms have made military force obsolete, terrorism should become our main weapon.”

The Soviet general was not joking. In 1969 alone, there were 82 hijackings of planes worldwide. According to Pacepa, most of those hijackings were committed by the PLO or affiliated groups, all supported by the KGB. In 1971, when Pacepa visited Sakharovsky at his Lubyanka (KGB headquarters) office, the general boasted: “Airplane hijacking is my own invention”. Al Qaeda used airplane hijackings on September 11, when they used planes to blow up buildings.

So where does Mahmoud Abbas fit into all this? In 1982, Mahmoud Abbas studied in Moscow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. (In 1983 he went on to become a KGB spy). There he wrote his thesis, published in Arabic as The Other Side: The Secret Relations between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement. In it, he denied the existence of gas chambers in the concentration camps, and questioned the number of Holocaust victims by calling the six million Jews who had been killed “a fantastic lie,” while simultaneously blaming the Holocaust on the Jews themselves. His thesis supervisor was Yevgeny Primakov, who later went on to become foreign minister of Russia. Even after he had finished his thesis, Abbas maintained close ties with the Soviet leadership, the military and members of security services. In January 1989, he was appointed co-chairman of the Palestinian-Soviet (and then Russian-Palestinian) Working Committee on the Middle East.

When the current leader of the Palestinian Arabs used to be an acolyte of the KGB — whose machinations have claimed the lives of thousands of people in the Middle East alone — this cannot be discarded as a “historical curiosity,” even if contemporary opinion-makers would prefer to ignore it by viewing it as such.

Although Pacepa and Mitrokhin sounded their warnings many years ago, few people bothered to listen to them. They should.

Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.


[1] Robert S. Wistrich, ‘A Lethal Obsession’ (2010) p 139.

[2] Robert S. Wistrich, ‘A Lethal Obsession’ (2010), p 148.

[3] Ion Mihai Pacepa, ‘Red Horizons’ (1990) p 92-93.

Palestinians: “The Mafia of Destruction”

September 21, 2016

Palestinians: “The Mafia of Destruction”

by Khaled Abu Toameh

September 21, 2016 at 5:00 am

Source: Palestinians: “The Mafia of Destruction”

 

  • Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials have turned medical care into a business that earns them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This corruption has enabled top officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to embezzle millions of shekels from the PA budget.
  • In 2013, the PA spent more than half a billion shekels covering medical bills of Palestinians who were referred to hospitals outside the Palestinian territories. However, no one seems to know exactly how the money was spent and whether all those who received the referrals were indeed in need of medical treatment. In one case, it appeared that 113 Palestinian patients had been admitted to Israeli hospitals at the cost of 3 million shekels, while there is no documentation of any of these cases. Even the identities of the patients remain unknown.
  • Hajer Harb, a courageous Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, says she is now facing charges of “slander” for exposing the corruption. She has been repeatedly interrogated by Hamas. The PA regime, for its part, is not too happy with exposure about the scandal.
  • Gaza’s hospitals would be rather better equipped if Hamas used its money to build medical centers instead of tunnels for smuggling weapons from Egypt to attack Israel.

Question: How do Palestinian patients obtain permits to receive medical treatment in Israeli and other hospitals around the world? Answer: By paying bribes to senior Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Those who cannot afford to pay the bribes are left to die in under-equipped and understaffed hospitals, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, apparently some Palestinians are more equal than others: Palestinians whose lives are not in danger, but who pretend that they are. These include businessmen, merchants, university students and relatives of senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas officials, who receive permits to travel to Israel and other countries under the pretext of medical emergency.

Many Palestinians point a finger at the PA’s Ministry of Health in the West Bank. They argue that senior ministry officials have been abusing their powers, in order to collect bribes both from genuine patients and from other Palestinians who only want medical permits in order to leave the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Thanks to the corruption, many real patients have been denied the opportunity to receive proper medical care in Israel and other countries.

A Palestinian man is transferred to an Israeli ambulance at the Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, on his way to an Israeli hospital, July 29, 2014. (Image source: Israeli Foreign Ministry)

This, of course, does not apply to senior Palestinian officials and their family members, who continue to make ample use of Israeli hospitals and other medical centers in Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf and Europe.

Even top Hamas officials enjoy access to Israeli hospitals. In 2013, Amal Haniyeh, the granddaughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, was transferred to an Israeli hospital for urgent medical treatment. A year earlier, Haniyeh’s sister, Suheilah, was also brought to an Israeli hospital for urgent heart surgery.

Haniyeh, however, did not need to offer cash to get his daughter and sister medical treatment in Israel. Indeed, some Palestinians are evidently very much more equal than others.

The corruption in the Palestinian health system, both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has long been a well-known secret. Palestinians without the right connections and without money to hand over to a senior official or physician are fully aware that they would never be allowed to receive what is called “medical referrals abroad.” The signature of a physician or a senior health official is the most precious merchandise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This signature allows patients to receive free medical treatment in Israel and various countries.

The absence of clear regulations to define who is entitled to this privilege have facilitated widespread corruption in the Palestinian health system. Nepotism plays a major role in this form of corruption. The relative of a senior Palestinian official can easily be transferred for treatment in an Israeli, Jordanian or Egyptian hospital, while poor patients from the Gaza Strip can wait months and years before obtaining such permits.

Hamas and PA officials are trading with the lives of Palestinian patients. They have turned medical care into a business that earns them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This corruption, in the absence of transparency and accountability, has also enabled top officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to embezzle millions of shekels from the PA budget.

Although both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have vowed to combat this exploitation of Palestinian patients, the Palestinians themselves report no improvement. They say that more than 70% of the cases of medical referrals to Israeli hospitals and abroad have never been documented, and it remains unclear how and where the money was spent.

In 2013, for instance, the PA spent more than half a billion shekels covering medical bills of Palestinians who were referred to hospitals outside the Palestinian territories. However, no one seems to know exactly how the money was spent and whether all those who received the referrals were indeed in need of medical treatment.

The PA maintains that in 2014, more than 54,000 Palestinians from Gaza received medical referrals for treatment outside the Strip. Health officials in the Gaza Strip, however, say they are aware of only 16,382 documented cases of real patients who received such permits.

Between 1994 and 2013, the Palestinian Authority did not ask Israeli hospitals for detailed bills of the medical treatment provided to Palestinian patients. The money is deducted on a monthly basis from tax revenues collected by Israel and later paid to the PA.

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), a Palestinian group working in the fields of democracy, human rights and good government, to combat corruption and enhance integrity, principles of transparency and systems of accountability in Palestinian society, is one of the few bodies sounding an alarm bell about this abuse.

Last year, AMAN released a report in which it warned against corruption in the Department of Medical Referrals Abroad, which belongs to the PA Ministry of Health. The report pointed out discrepancies in the costs of medical treatment in Israeli and other hospitals, and the actual bills. For example, in one case it appeared that 113 Palestinian patients had been admitted to Israeli hospitals at the cost of 3 million shekels, while there is no documentation of any of these cases. Even the identities of the patients remain unknown.

The AMAN report stated that measures taken by Palestinian health officials to limit nepotism and bribes, and prevent the squandering of public funds, have been insufficient. Physicians, it said, faced pressure from Palestinian Authority officials to issue medical referrals to Israeli hospitals and other hospitals around the world, even to those not in need of them. Some of the cases, the report notes, could have been treated in Palestinian hospitals, and there was no need to transfer them to other hospitals at very high costs.

The PA says that it has asked its Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the scandal. To date, it remains unclear whether substantive measures have been taken against those responsible for the corruption.

Hamas, for its part, continues to hold the PA responsible for the misery of patients in the Gaza Strip. The Islamist movement claims that the PA government is withholding the issuance of medical permits as a means to punish Palestinians for their support of Hamas.

The truth, however, is somewhat different: health officials in the Gaza Strip who are linked to Hamas have also been exploiting the plight of patients. Hamas is uninterested in this coming to light.

Hajer Harb, a courageous Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, recently prepared an investigative report about the corruption of health officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She has been repeatedly interrogated by Hamas.

Harb says she is now facing charges of “slander” for exposing the corruption. She was told by her interrogators that the decision to summon her for investigation came after a physician in the Gaza Strip filed a complaint against her for “defamation.”

Hamas interrogators demanded that Harb reveal her sources and the identity of those involved in the corruption scandal. “I told them that I am a journalist and I cannot provide them with the identities of my sources without a court order,” she said.

“The prosecution told me that I was facing the following charges: impersonation of another person (they claim I did not reveal my real identity during the investigative report); slandering the Ministry of Health, publishing inaccurate and incorrect information and working with ‘foreign parties’ (by preparing a report for a London-based television station under the pretext that the media organization is not registered with the Press Office in the Gaza Strip).”

In her report, Harb wrote about the middlemen who obtain medical referrals to Israeli and foreign hospitals in return for bribes. She approached one of the middlemen and claimed she wanted to travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to marry a man living there. She wrote that she received a permit to leave the Gaza Strip and receive medical treatment in East Jerusalem’s Al-Makassed Hospital after she paid a bribe to a local physician. She also found several forged medical referrals in the name of the son of a senior Palestinian official in the Gaza Strip, who obtained them in order to complete his studies in the West Bank. Harb further located a man who claimed that he works for the PA’s Preventative Security Service and who boasted that he could get a permit for medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip in return for $200. Another Palestinian bought a medical permit to leave the Gaza Strip and work in a restaurant in Ramallah.

Hamas claims to be combating the corruption of officials who are tampering with the lives of Palestinian patients. In reality, it is busy harassing journalists who speak the truth. The Palestinian Authority regime, for its part, is not too happy with exposure about the scandal.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), based in the West Bank, condemned Hamas for harassing Harb. But this critique should be seen more in the context of the power struggle between the PA and Hamas, rather than as stemming from a concern for public freedoms.

In a statement, the PJS criticized Hamas for interrogating Harb as a “grave breach of media work and freedom of expression” in the Palestinian territories. The syndicate emphasized the right of journalists not to reveal the identity of their sources, adding that Harb had abided by all moral, legal and professional standards.

Najat Abu Baker, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who belongs to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, was one of the few politicians in the West Bank who dared to come out against the corruption scandal.

In her words, the corruption in the PA’s Department of Medical Referrals has transformed it into a “real mafia headed by influential figures.” Abu Baker accused the ministry of exploiting the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip and wasting public funds:

“The issue of medical permits has become a business and the only ones who are paying the price are the patients from the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of these patients who have died are the victims of the ministry’s measures.”

She called for a commission of inquiry into the corruption scandal. She noted that many patients from the Gaza Strip have died while waiting for medical referrals while others, who were not ill, were given the permits thanks to nepotism and bribery.

“The merchants of death are tampering with the fate of our patients. It is time to tell the truth so that we can get rid of the mafia of destruction and end their trade in the lives of our patients.”

The medical permit scandal is yet further proof that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority shamelessly exploit their people for political and financial purposes. The PA leverages its power to issue medical permits in order to pressure Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to turn against Hamas. Its officials sell the permits for cold hard cash. Hamas, which continues to hold the entire Gaza Strip hostage, has its own ideas about how money is well spent. Gaza’s hospitals would be rather better equipped if Hamas used the money it has to build medical centers instead of tunnels for smuggling weapons from Egypt to attack Israel. While medical permits are sold to the highest Palestinian bidder, we ask: What is the going rate for a permit for clarity concerning the behavior of Palestinian leaders?

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.

Hamas, Palestinian Authority Target Journalists Ahead of Election

August 23, 2016

Hamas, Palestinian Authority Target Journalists Ahead of Election

by Khaled Abu Toameh

August 23, 2016 at 5:00 am

Source: Hamas, Palestinian Authority Target Journalists Ahead of Election

  • Both of the journalists who were arrested made the mistake of reporting on the suffering of Palestinians living under Hamas rule. These are not the kind of stories that Hamas wishes to see ahead of the local and municipal elections. Rather, Hamas wants to see printed lies of prosperity.
  • It is a puzzle why foreign journalists choose not to report about the campaign of intimidation facing their Palestinian colleagues.
  • One might wonder if the human rights groups neglect these abuses because of their continued obsession with destroying Israel.

Palestinian journalists are at the top of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas hit-list in the crackdown occurring alongside preparations for the Palestinian local and municipal elections, scheduled for October 8.

The crackdown is part of an ongoing campaign by the two rival parties to silence critics in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither Hamas nor the PA tolerates a free and independent media — especially on the eve of a crucial election that could have far-reaching political implications in the Palestinian arena.

A Hamas victory in the upcoming elections would be catastrophic for President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. Such an electoral outcome would be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in their policies and performance.

Hamas, for its part, is investing a huge amount of resources in the election campaign, in hopes that the results would further boost its standing among Palestinians. Hamas fears that a defeat would undermine its power in the Gaza Strip and pave the way for its collapse.

As the election campaign heats up, it is clear that Hamas and the PA agree on one thing: intensifying their repressive measures against Palestinian journalists.

This media crackdown is essentially ignored by international human rights organizations. Why? One reason is that when Israel is not involved, assaults on freedom of the media and expression do not interest them.

Some Western journalists and human rights advocates also treat these cases as “internal Palestinian issues” that are of no relevance to international public opinion. A story about a Palestinian journalist who is arrested by Israel is news. A Palestinian journalist incarcerated or threatened by the Palestinian Authority or Hamas is not.

Take, for example, the case of Ahmed Said, a journalist from the Gaza Strip. Last week, he was arrested by Hamas security forces, who also confiscated his personal computer. Said has a radio show on the Sawt Al Sha’ab (Voice of the People) radio station, where Palestinians call in to voice their grievances and talk openly about the problems they are facing under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.

Before he was arrested, Said had phoned the spokesman of the Hamas police force, Ayman Al Batnihi, to discuss the recent rise in cases of homicide in the Gaza Strip. According to the journalist, the furious spokesman threatened him: “You are causing us a lot of problems and inciting people. I know how to deal with people. You need to be hanged.”

Said is no stranger to this sort of encounter. Last year, he was summoned for investigation for “incitement” against the Gaza City Municipality. The move came after Said used his talk show to talk about the case of street vendor Mohamed Abu Assi, who tried to commit suicide by ingesting poison after Gaza City Municipality inspectors banned him from selling corn at the beach.

Earlier, Hamas arrested another Palestinian journalist, this time for no clear reasons. Mahmoud Abu Awwad, who works for the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, was arrested from his home in the Shati refugee camp on July 25. He too had his personal computer and cellular phone seized.

Ahmed Said (left) and Mahmoud Abu Awwad (right) are two journalists living in the Gaza Strip who were recently arrested by Hamas security forces. Both journalists made the mistake of reporting on the suffering of Palestinians living under Hamas rule.

Abu Awwad’s family have since been banned from seeing him in prison. Their son, they were told by Hamas, is being held for “security reasons.” Abu Awwad, who has been working for Al-Quds for the past three years, had been reporting mostly about the hardships facing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In addition, he was also reporting for the Saudi London-based pan-Arab daily, Asharq Al Awsat.

“Hamas is trying to spread lies to distort the image of my son and justify his arrest,” Abu Awwad’s father told Al-Quds. “He was arrested because he was critical of the situation in the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government.”

Said and Abu Awwad have something in common. Both journalists made the mistake of reporting on the suffering of Palestinians living under Hamas rule. These are not the kind of stories that Hamas wishes to see ahead of the local and municipal elections. Rather, Hamas wants to see printed lies of prosperity.

In the context of its election campaign, Hamas has released a video featuring new houses and neighborhoods, as well as green and clean parks and smiling children. Entitled, “Thank You Hamas,” the video seeks to persuade Palestinian voters that life under Hamas is the best thing that could ever happen to them. And that is why they need to help Hamas extend its control from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank through the local and municipal elections. Journalists such as Said and Abu Awwad are spoiling the effect with their inconvenient truths.

Hamas, however, is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. In the face of its own massive journalistic repression, Hamas dares to criticize the Palestinian Authority for taking similar measures in the West Bank.

Like Hamas, the PA leadership has always been intolerant towards Palestinian (and sometimes non-Palestinian) journalists who dare not toe the party line. Hardly a week passes without hearing about another Palestinian journalist who has been arrested or summoned for investigation by the Palestinian Authority.

In recent weeks, the crackdown on journalists in the West Bank seems to have increased in light of the upcoming elections. The PA too wants to remove from the scene any journalist who might harm its loyalists’ chances of winning the local and municipal vote. In this regard, journalists are easy prey.

One of the recent victims is Mohamed Abu Khabisah, who reports on economic issues for the Turkish news agency, Anadolu. Palestinian security officers who raided his home shortly after midnight in Al Bireh, near Ramallah, seized his personal computer and documents before taking him into custody. His wife, Hana, said she too was briefly questioned about her husband’s source of income and the nature of his work. Palestinian sources say he was apparently arrested for reporting about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa.

Abu Khabisah was the sixth journalist to be arrested by the PA since the decision to hold local and municipal elections was taken two months ago. The other four are Yehya Saleh, Raghid Tabisah Ibrahim Al Abed, Mohamed Abu Jheisheh and Ziad Abu Arrah. In another recent incident, Palestinian security officers raided the home of journalist Musab Kafisheh and seized his personal computer, but did not take him into custody.

It is anxiety that is driving Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in their crackdown on Palestinian journalists. The “security reasons” they tout as an excuse for their repression is a foil for their sense of instability: the less politically secure they feel, the more they strip Palestinian journalists of their ability to report how things really stand in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

So far, so good, from the point of view of Hamas and the PA. Palestinian reporters have been duly deterred. But they are far from the only ones affected.

Foreign journalists rely almost entirely on Palestinian “fixers” and producers for information about what is happening under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Now, local Palestinians will think ten times before they provide their foreign employers with information. Still, it is a puzzle as to why foreign journalists choose not to report about the campaign of intimidation facing their Palestinian colleagues.

One might wonder if the human rights groups neglect these abuses because of their continued obsession with destroying Israel.

Palestinian Authority Pays Terrorists, Families $140M a Year

July 7, 2016

Palestinian Authority Pays Terrorists and Their Families $140 Million a Year Palestinians using foreign aid to reward terrorists for acts that kill Israelis

BY:
July 7, 2016 5:00 am

Source: Palestinian Authority Pays Terrorists, Families $140M a Year

The Palestinian Authority spends roughly 10 percent of its annual budget paying terrorists who attack Israelis and supporting their families, according to expert testimony to congressional lawmakers.

Yigal Carmon, the president and founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority is investing $137.8 million this year in salaries to terrorists jailed in Israel and payments to the families of imprisoned terrorists or suicide bombers, in violated of the Oslo peace accords with Israel.

Wednesday’s hearing took place following a months-long wave of violent attacks waged by Palestinians on Israelis in the West Bank. Last week, a Palestinian attacker broke into a home in the West Bank and stabbed to death a 13-year-old Israeli-American girl in her sleep.

There have been 250 such attacks or attempted attacks by Palestinians on Israelis since October 2015, according to the report of the Middle East Quartet—comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations—issued last week. The assaults have killed at least 30 Israelis and resulted in dozens of Palestinians being killed by Israeli police.

Official Palestinian Authority media have glorified perpetrators of these terrorist attacks. Bashar Masalha, a Palestinian who stabbed U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force to death and wounded several others in March, was hailed on official media outlets as a “martyr” at the time of his funeral.

“We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated last September on Palestinian television. “With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.”

The Palestinian Authority has also furnished terrorists and their families with financial support weighted by the severity of the attack, a matter over which congressional lawmakers expressed outrage on Wednesday.

“These terrorists are not, in fact, lone rangers. They are not lone wolves,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), who chairs the committee, in opening remarks during the hearing. “Instead, these terrorists are the product of the programming done by the PA’s perverted culture that glorifies the willingness to die or to spend time in prison in pursuit of killing or maiming Israelis.”

According to Carmon’s testimony, which was informed by an analysis of the Palestinian Authority’s budget and years of research, the Palestinian Authority transfers funds to terrorist prisoners in Israeli or their families using two Palestinian Liberation Organization funds. The financial support of these individuals is mandated by law.

Prisoners must be provided a monthly salary ranging from $364 to over $3,000 during their detention, and salaries or jobs upon their release. Those who commit the most grievous attacks receive the most substantial monthly payments and are also entitled to jobs in the Palestinian Authority institution upon their release.

Carmon said that it is difficult to determine exactly what percentage of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget is put toward this cause because of a lack of transparency, but estimated that it amounts to about 10 percent.

“It is just outrageous that they pay cold-blooded killers who murder innocent people and call them martyrs,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), the committee’s ranking member, said during the hearing. “I cannot think of anything more disgusting.”

While Abbas two years ago ordered that these salaries not be paid by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs but instead by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Carmon described this as a “deliberately misleading move” to assuage concerns from donor countries worried about their money being funneled to terrorists.

“The source of the money remains the PA, which receives them from donor countries, and the overseeing body remains none other than the PA,” Carmon told lawmakers. He said that countries who provide aid to Palestine, including the United States, are “complicit” in inciting terrorism because the Palestinian Authority uses foreign donations to subsidize terrorists and their families.

“By providing this support, the PA is encouraging terrorism in violation of its Oslo commitment.

Furthermore, the PA has been using money granted by donor countries for this purpose, and by doing so, has made them complicit in encouraging terrorism as well,” Carmon said.

The United States has committed over $5 billion in bilateral economic and non-lethal aid to the Palestinians since the mid-1990s in order to prevent Palestinian terrorist groups from attacking Israel and promote piece in the West Bank, according to a Congressional Research Service report issued in March.

While U.S. law allows the government to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority for paying terrorists and their families, the Palestinian Authority has avoided this by transferring the payments to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, experts said Wednesday.

“The U.S. stipulations have … been evaded by the PA by this deceitful technique of funneling money to terrorists and their families under a different name,” said David Pollock, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“I think that the United States and other countries should … reduce the amount or condition the amount of assistance that they provide to the PA without threatening to or without actually cutting it off completely,” Pollock, added, cautioning that completely ceasing aid could result in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

“I do think that a certain calibrated, limited amount of financial pressure applied, again, by the United States without any loopholes or escape hatches and, if possible, by European and other donors to the PA would be helpful in addressing this immediate issue,” Pollock added.

Members of Congress have pursued legislative action to address this problem. A Senate subcommittee recently approved language inserted into the fiscal year 2017 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that would cut U.S. aid to Palestine by an amount equal to that “expended by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization and any successor or affiliated organizations, as payments for acts of terrorism by individuals who are imprisoned after being fairly tried and convicted for acts of terrorism, and by individuals who died committing acts of terrorism during the previous calendar year.”

The companion bill in the House also includes similar language. The State Department would be responsible for enforcing the law.

Israel has already implemented such action. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday that the country would withhold some tax revenues that it sends to the Palestinian Authority. The amount withheld will be equal to what is “being transferred by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families,” though it is unclear how much it will be.

Some members of Congress took a hardline approach toward the issue on Wednesday. Rep. Ted Yoho (R., Fla.) said that the United States should send a clear message to Palestine that “if these policies continue, we’re done.”

“We are funding hatred. We are funding terrorism,” Yoho said, labeling it “unconscionable” to provide aid to Palestine in the name of peace while the Palestinian Authority is subsidizing terrorists.

Royce said that the United States and its European allies must do more to use leverage against Palestinian Authority to halt the practice of rewarding terrorists.

“If the PA’s irresponsible behavior continues, the whole premise for funding the PA needs to be reconsidered. The U.S. needs to do better at bringing the parties together while holding the parties responsible for their actions. This has traditionally been our role,” Royce said. “Unfortunately, in recent years, the Obama administration has been hesitant to hold the PA accountable—yet has consistently pressured Israel.”

PM: Water poisoning claims prove Abbas no peace partner

June 26, 2016

PM: Water poisoning claims prove Abbas no peace partner Netanyahu brushes off PA president’s ‘halfhearted half-apology’ for repeating debunked hoax story in EU parliament address

By Tamar Pileggi

June 26, 2016, 2:32 pm

Source: PM: Water poisoning claims prove Abbas no peace partner | The Times of Israel

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 26, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Ahead of his trip to Rome for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s recent address at the European Parliament again proved he was an unsuitable partner for pursuing peace.

Abbas last week told European lawmakers in Brussels that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem would end global terrorism, and repeated a debunked hoax story claiming that local rabbis had called for poisoning Palestinians’ water supply. Admitting the claim was “baseless,” Abbas on Saturday apologized and walked back the water poisoning allegation.

 “Abbas again last week proved to the entire world that he is not interested in direct negotiations with Israel,” the prime minister said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

“Worse, he also spread abhorrent lies about the State of Israel and Judaism. True, he quickly apologized, a halfhearted half-apology, but the things he said there were in keeping with what he has said about us on other occasions, including at the UN General Assembly,” Netanyahu said. “Therefore, I think that people can conclude from this who wants to advance peace and a peace process – and who does not.”

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday accused Abbas of peddling lies, promoting incitement and spreading blood libels in his speech.

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 23, 2016. (AFP / JOHN THYS)

President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech at the European Union Parliament in Brussels on June 23, 2016. (AFP / JOHN THYS)

“Israel waits for the day Abbas stops peddling lies and inciting [against Israel]. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement, which fuels terror,” the statement said.

Other senior Israeli politicians and US-based Jewish groups also issued sharp rebukes of the PA president over his remarks.

Following Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu was set to leave for Rome to meet with Kerry, where, according to reports, the two men will discuss the possibility of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the imminent publication of an international report expected to criticize Israeli settlement building.

Netanyahu will reportedly also make a last ditch effort to convince Kerry to soften an upcoming report that is expected to be critical of Israel.

The report by the Quartet diplomatic group — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia — is concerned that Palestinian violence and Israel’s construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is pushing the prospect of peace further away.

Washington, the traditional mediator in Middle East peace efforts, has not taken the lead in recent months, concerned that the situation is not promising and that another round of failed talks would only further embitter both parties.

But France has launched a diplomatic initiative to build international pressure on both sides.

The United States gave the French move a cool reception, but Kerry attended its inaugural meeting in Paris and has called on both sides to take “affirmative steps” to calm tempers and preserve the possibility of peace.