Dozens of top Israeli rabbis sign ruling to forbid rental of homes to Arabs - The religious ruling comes just months after a group of 18 prominent rabbis, including the chief rabbi of Safed, signed a call to that effect.
Dozens of Israel's municipal chief rabbis have signed on to a new religious ruling that would forbid the rental of homes to gentiles in a move particularly aimed against Arabs, Haaretz has learned.The religious ruling comes just months after a group of 18 prominent rabbis, including the chief rabbi of Safed, signed a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.Most of the signatories to the letter are from Safed, a city that has seen an increase in its Arab student population that is enrolled at the town's local college. Safed chief rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who has been criticized in the past for incendiary remarks against Arabs, is the most prominent figure to sign the letter.The group to sign on to the religious ruling includes the chief rabbis of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah, among a number of other cities. Police destroy dozens of buildings in unrecognized Bedouin village in Negev Juma al-Turi and his family sat for hours yesterday looking with disbelief at the ruins of their unrecognized village of al-Arakib, north of Be'er Sheva. The houses, the storage building and the bird cage were all destroyed, and the olive trees uprooted.The village was destroyed after government officials determined it was built illegally on state land. Israel Police forces destroyed about 35 buildings, said residents. Confrontations broke out between the police and residents, and in the end one woman was arrested and six people were detained. Over 1,500 police came to guard the demolition.The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said they were shocked by the demolition. "Destruction of the village was a brutal act by state authorities against its citizens and residents, which destabilizes the foundations of democracy and human rights," said Rawia Abu Rabia, a lawyer with ACRI.The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee said yesterday it would rebuild the destroyed homes. In an emergency meeting held in al-Arakib, the committee also decided to establish a fund to help the families, as well as asking the UN and international human rights organizations to look into the matter. NEW ISRAELI MILITARY ORDER COULD INCREASE EXPULSIONS OF WEST BANK PALESTINIANS Amnesty International has said it is concerned that a new Israeli military order could facilitate the expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank.Military Order No. 1650, which came into force in the West Bank on 13 April, broadens the definition of the term "infiltrator" to include anyone present in the West Bank without a permit issued by the Israeli authorities.Those considered "infiltrators" can be deported to other states or forcibly transferred to the Gaza Strip, and face criminal charges. In a letter to Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday, Amnesty International said that it feared this broad definition could facilitate the expansion of the Israeli authorities' current practice of expelling individuals from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip"This new military order is scandalous in the light of the Israeli authorities' long-standing practice of expelling individuals from the West Bank," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa programme."Since 2003 Israel has forcibly relocated Palestinians living in the West Bank to the Gaza Strip on the basis that their addresses were registered in Gaza." Key statements made by the UN/EU/Arab League/Major Organisations(March – Dec 2010)In March, The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated the goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement - including a Palestinian state - within two years, with Jerusalem as the shared capital. Israel considers areas within the Jerusalem municipality as its territory and thus not subject to the restrictions announced in its 10-month suspension of new building back in 2009. At the UN annual summit held in September, the Arab League chief Amr Moussa warned that the direct peace talks with Palestinians will fail unless Israel extends a partial ban on settlement building in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians want for a future state. In December, Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh signalled a softening of Hama’s long-standing position of prohibiting the ceding of any part of the land of what was British-mandated Palestine until 1948. “We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,” Haniyeh said. He also stated that such a truce would entail “no recognition of Israel and no concessions over any part of the land of Palestine.” The EU was urged by ex-EU leaders in December to impose sanctions on Israel for its continued settlement buliding. Foreign ministers were urged to reiterate that they “will not recognise any changes to the June 1967 boundaries and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100% of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem”. It also asks ministers to set the Israeli government an ultimatum that, if it has not fallen into line by April 2011, the EU will seek an end to the US-brokered peace process in favour of a UN solution. Meir Margolit, A member of the NGO the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, stated that settlement expansion accelerated after the election of president Barak Obama in the US due to fears amid settlers that he will push though a peace deal including final borders. Meanwhile Arab foreign ministers have rejected further Palestinian-Israeli peace talks without a “serious offer” from the US on ending the Middle East conflict. They announced their decision following a briefing from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting in Cairo. Statements on Refugee in Host nations (May – Dec 2010)The Israelis have long called for the refugees to be absorbed into their Arab host countries. But most Arab nations have refused, wishing neither to capitulate to Israeli demands nor to upset the demographic balances of their own populations. Jordan has granted temporary national passports to Palestinians, whilst they are subject to strict political control in Syria. In Lebanon they are denied access to education and health services, they are also barred from working in dozens of professions and are generally paid lower wages than their Lebanese counterparts when they do find jobs. Several thousand Palestinians and Lebanese civil activists converged on central Beirut in late June, demanding more rights for Palestinians, many of whom live in squalid and over-crowded refugee camps. Proposals for a draft law due to be debated in parliament in the very near future would give Palestinians the right to own a residential apartment and would legalise work rights. The issue of granting Palestinians more rights has raised worries it would promote ‘naturalisation’, which some politicians fear will upset Lebanon’s delicate sectarian and demographic balance. In December, The Jordanian government refused to receive any Palestinians deported by Israel from the Occupied Territories under the pretext that they do not have legal residence permits. The source reiterated the government’s stance in rejecting resolution number 1950 issued by the Israeli occupation forces in 2009 and whose implementation started on April 13, 2010. The resolution stipulates the deportation of thousands of Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem and do not carry legal residence permits issued by the Israeli government.In the long run, the official explained, these policies will trigger a drastic drop in the number of Palestinians in the occupied territories and will, in turn, reinforce the Israeli presence. Peace Talks (March – Dec 2010)The Palestinians pulled out of talks in March 2010 after an announcement that Israel had approved plans for new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden. The Palestinian Authority’s formal position is that it will not enter direct talks unless Israel completely halts building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians broke off direct peace talks after Israel launched a military offensive on Gaza in late 2008. Joe Biden, the US vice-president, condemned a plan by Israel to build 1,600 homes on occupied Palestinian land in an East Jerusalem settlement. Palestinian officials refused to hold direct talks unless Israel halted all settlement construction, in line with the demands of the US administration and of the US road map. But Netanyahu, agreed only to a temporary, partial curb to settlement building. It did not include East Jerusalem, or public buildings, or homes where construction had already started. A possibility recently surfaced that US is considering abstaining from a possible UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem. The US usually blocks Security Council resolutions criticizing Israel and is one of five permanent members of Security Council with veto power.  Mahmoud Abbas indicated in September that an end to a settlement freeze wouldn’t necessarily scuttle his participation in talks. Netanyahu ruled out extending the freeze, which expired in September 26th 2010.Mahmoud Abbas was quoted as saying in September that “we accept the state of a demilitarised Palestine.” Demilitarisation has been an essential issue along with the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees, a matter that would have to be “discussed”, according to Abbas. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has maintained that Israel wants the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. The Israeli PM was urged in November by his predecessor to agree a further halt to Jewish settlement building. Mr Olmert, made a thinly veiled criticism of Mr Netanyahu for not having yet agreed to the US request to restore the moratorium in order to restart direct peace talks with Abbas.Mr Olmert claimed that the Palestinians led by Mr Abbas had made a “historic mistake” by not accepting his offer in late 2008. It centred on a territorial deal based on 1967 borders with Israel withdrawing from around 94% of the West Bank. It would have designated Arab districts of Jerusalem as Palestinian, and made a token and limited admission of the descendants of refugees from the 1948 war to Israel, with compensation for other refugees. According to a telegram published in December by Wikileaks, two weeks before Israel’s inner cabinet decided on a settlement construction freeze in Nov. 2009, a senior German government official urged the U.S to threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if he did not agree to a moratorium, Washington would withdraw its support for blocking a vote on the Goldstone Report at the UN Security council.  The US recently declared that it is now abandoning efforts to persuade Israel to renew a freeze on settlement building as part of efforts to revive ME peace talks. Recent Statements by UNRWAIn late October 2010, UNRWA official Andrew Whitley called on Palestinians to prepare refugees for near certainty that they will never return to Israel. The director, who is soon due to leave his New York office post of the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency told the National Council for US-Arab Relations’ annual conference that contacts with Hamas were commonplace.“I think it’s fair to say that all governments, whether they admit or not, have had discrete contact with Hamas,” Whitley said.The EU, along with other members of the Middle East Quartet – The US, Russia and the UN – adopted a policy shortly after Hamas victory in the PA elections in 2006 mandating that it would not deal with Hamas until it committed itself to nonviolence, recognized Israel, and accepted previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. While Russia does hold contacts with Hamas, the EU’s policy – along with that of the US – is that it will do so unless the organisation fulfils those three conditions.Whitley was quoted as saying that “Palestinians must start acknowledging that the refugees will almost certainly not be returning to Israel, so that they can improve their situation”.Palestinians have long maintained a “right of return” to Israel and the homes they – or their ancestors – fled during Israel’s 1948/49 War of Independence. The issue has been one of the most difficult to resolve in peace negotiations. However amid the criticism sparked by his remarks, he quickly withdrew them and publicly apologised. Calling his statement “inappropriate and wrong. Those remarks did not represent UNRWA’s views“. Statements by the United States of America (September 2010 – Present)In late September 2010, US President Barack Obama requested that Israel extend the West Bank settlement construction moratorium by two months. In return the US “will not ask for a moratorium extension beyond sixty days,” according to David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. A string of assurances were given to Israel in return for a two month moratorium extension, among them the guarantee that the US would be “committed to veto any UN Security Council proposal regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the coming year. In addition, Washington would not object to the request of leaving Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley for a prolonged duration”. Officials said Obama has offered much greater military aid should the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to a Palestinian state in the entire West Bank and part of Jerusalem by 2012. In a Nov. 15th interview on Army Radio, Defence Minister Ehud Barak relayed the first high-level confirmation of Israeli media reports of Obama’s defense package, Middle East Newsline reported. Barak said, “The Americans are now offering to complete the deal in return for a 90 day freeze. Furthermore, if we reach an agreement they are offering us a deal six or seven times larger.”The USA has pledged to begin JSF delivery to Israel in 2015. On 16th December, The United States House of Representatives unanimously approved a resolution opposing unilateral declaration of Palestinian state. The resolution introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, slams alestinian efforts to push the international community to recognize a state in such a manner as “true and lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.”The resolution calls on the U.S administration to “deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the UN Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.”It also urges Palestinians leaders to “cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process, including efforts to gain recognition of a Palestinian state from other nations, within the UN, and in other international forums prior to achievement of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians...and calls upon foreign governments not to extend such recognition.” Researched and reviewed by: Luay Majed ZayedOn behalf of: Palestinian Return Centre