Palestinian cabinet urges world community to protect Palestinian people

Israeli troops rehearsing to run down West Bank, Gaza

Washington warns Israel of destroying Arab houses in Jerusalem

Moratinos conveys Israel’s wish for appeasement to Syrian, Lebanon

Lebanese-Syrian coordination in the face of challenges

Jordan, Kuwait co-stress Arab peace initiative as solution to achieve peace

The Palestinian cabinet called on the international community, namely the Quartet and the U.S. administration, to “provide international protection for our people”.

President Mahmoud Abbas demanded the U.S. Administration to respond to the Israeli Government’s continuation of its settlement expansion activities in Occupied East Jerusalem.

The President stated that, “The U.S Administration should give us response to such issues.”

This came in context of the President’s answers to journalists’ questions on the Israeli Government’s declaration that it will build 14 settlement units in Jerusalem, simultaneously with the beginning of proximity talks.

He told journalists, following the Ministerial Council’s meeting, that the Palestinian government must carry on with its activities and efforts, and its agenda adopted in order to announce the Palestinian State, legally and officially.

The president added: “We hope we do not be misinterpreted; when we talk about establishment of a State, we will declare it unilaterally.”

Chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting in Ramallah, the President briefed the Cabinet on the latest political efforts. He noted that the first phase of negotiations focused on resolving Israeli-American differences over the mains of resuming Palestinian- Israeli talks.

The President expressed Palestinian commitment to do its part.

He valued the supporting Arab position as manifested in the Arab League resolutions and reaffirmed commitment to Palestinian national positions; no concessions over land or on the right of return. All these issues, he noted, would be placed on the negotiation table, especially the issue of borders and security, which would be discussed in the next four months.

He praised the exceptional efforts of the government, despite existing obstacles and difficulties. He reiterated the need for further achievements while maintaining those achieved in a perfect manner. He expressed his full support to the government plan (Palestine: Ending the Occupation and Establishing the State).

While reiterating the importance on continuing the state institutions and infrastructure building efforts, saying that, those efforts give leverage to the national and political struggle, led by the PLO, to end the Israeli occupation.

The President repeated his call on Hamas to sign the Egyptian proposal for reconciliation as a step towards ending the division and reuniting the homeland and its institutions, “ so we could counter the challenges together and achieve our national plan, mainly ending the occupation and establishing the independent State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad opened the session welcoming the President on behalf of all cabinet members and thanked the President for his guidance. He briefed the cabinet on the latest political developments. He stressed the need for intensified efforts for the implementation of national plan in harmony with the struggle to establish an independent state in parallel with the PLO led political efforts. The Prime Minister affirmed the government’s continued determination to exert its efforts, under the guidance of the President.

The Prime Minister briefed the President on government efforts, focused on establishing the state and creating the proper mechanisms for institutions to take their role upon its establishment. He noted the effort to define priorities, especially on governance, administration and infrastructure until next June; with focus on raising standards of state-institutions while keeping the public informed of developments.

The Prime Minister said the government plan is an effective tool that serves the political effort and provides what is needed on all levels.

He also noted the importance of the Ministerial meeting to be held in Berlin on May 18, which would include ministers of interior, planning, national economy, foreign affairs and education, with their German counterparts. He considered it to reflect the seriousness of the international support to the government plan and in harmony with the Quartet statement.

PM Fayyad considered the Palestine Investment Conference scheduled for early June to be an international phenomena with significant political and economic benefit, while stressing the need to prepare well for this conference, hoping for its success.

The Prime Minister added that the government will seek to guarantee that attention is not diverted from Israeli obligations, in view of fears that Israel may escalate its malpractices as to abort PNA efforts.

The Prime Minister also confirmed commitment to the national strategy for ending the occupation and establishing the State, as the PLO Executive Committee reiterated its commitment to moving in three parallel tracks.

Firstly, the PLO role as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in leading the political process and in mobilizing international and Arab support to Palestinian national rights in accordance with the Palestinian national agenda.

Second, popular and peaceful resistance to occupation, settlements and colonization, settlers’ terror and all other forms of oppression.

Thirdly, proceeding with the Government two-year plan, announced last August, to build the institutions and infrastructure of the State of Palestine.

The Cabinet valued and praised the growing popular support to its plan over the past year and the determination to achieve its objectives.

The Cabinet reaffirmed its full support to PLO decision to participate in the proximity talks and to give chance to the US sponsored peace process, with the given guarantees and affirmations on the need to stop settlement activities and abidance to references of the peace process.

The Cabinet considered that success of international efforts to give credibility to the political process, demands all parties to take direct practical responsibilities for stopping Israeli violations of international law and the roadmap, mainly a total halt to settlement activities especially in East Jerusalem, stopping military incursions and lifting the siege on Gaza as to allow the PNA launch its Gaza Reconstruction Plan.

These efforts would enable the political process to achieve its goals mainly ending the occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state, on `967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Al Nakba Commemoration

The Cabinet called all Palestinians, in the homeland and the Diaspora, to participate in the Al Nakba commemoration activities, organized by the Supreme National Committee to commemorate 62 years to the Nakba. And called for solidarity and focused efforts of the public and civil institutions to enhance the steadfastness of Palestinians on their land.

“The 62nd Anniversary of the 1948 Nakba comes at a time we are focused on ending the occupation and establishing the independent state of Palestine, supported by our people’s determination and steered by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government plan to complete the state institution and infrastructure building. It also comes at a time of growing international support to our legitimate national rights, mainly on ending the occupation and establishing the independent State of Palestine on 1967 occupied land with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The anniversary also coincides with continued Israeli attacks on our people, through settlement expansion, continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, turning the West Bank into isolated areas (ghettos) and continuous isolation and judiazation of Jerusalem, as well as continued settlers attacks on unarmed Palestinians,” the cabinet statement reads.

Recent Israeli attacks include the burning of Al-Luban Al Sharqiya Mosque by settlers, the demolition of Duheniya Mosque in Rafah, the burning of Palestinian lands in Huwara south of Nablus, handing 10 demolition orders to Palestinians in Beni-Naeem in Hebron district and an escalation in Israeli arrests of Palestinians, as 70 citizens were arrested during the first week of May, including seven (7) Jerusalemites who were accused of ‘working with Palestinian security forces’, in a clear attempt to prevent Palestinian institutions presence in east Jerusalem.

The Cabinet reiterated the need for joint international, Arab and local efforts to lift the siege on Gaza, end the division and reunite the homeland. It also called for committing Israel to abide to international resolutions, mainly those clearly calling for ending the occupation and granting the Palestinians the right for freedom, self determination and statehood and resolving the issue of refugees according to UN Resolution 194, as the Arab Peace Initiative calls for.

Settlement Products Banning Campaign

Minister of National Economy briefed the Cabinet on the Popular Awareness Campaign titled ‘door to door’ which aims at creating awareness on settlement products, in order to stop its consumption or use in the framework of the national campaign to banning settlement products. The cabinet valued the readiness of people and university students to volunteer in the campaign and praised the public for their support to the campaign and their positive response.

The cabinet also discussed government efforts to assist Palestinian workers in settlements to re-integrate in the local economy. It also expressed its full determination to create the circumstances for absorbing those workers in the national economy and called on the private sector to give priority for the employment to people who decide to stop working in settlements.

Arab Traffic Week

Transport Minister briefed the cabinet on the traffic supreme council activities, on the occasion of the Arab Traffic Week 4-10 May 2010, for creating awareness to prevent and minimize traffic accidents. The cabinet ratified a proposal to amend the regulations as to improve and raise standards of traffic safety.

The Minister announced the implementation of the new fining system to start next Saturday as to minimize violations. Meanwhile, Israeli servicemen have replayed the occupation of a Palestinian city, more than 40 years after it was run-over by the Tel Aviv regime.

The Israeli soldiers rehearsed the town's capture on Monday with the codename, the Kfir Brigade, the Israeli-based website Ynetnews reported.

Avi Mizrahi, a general serving with the Israeli Defense Forces said, "Today, the situation in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is calm, but our job as an army is to prepare for extreme circumstances."

Israel occupied the West Bank as well as a vast stretch of Palestinian and Arab territories in 1967 before annexing it.

It has dotted the area with checkpoints ever since while continuing to build settlement units in defiance of their own commitments made to the Palestinians and the international community.

The Israeli Army has also been cracking down on peaceful anti-occupation protests by the locals on an almost daily basis, regularly beating, detaining and even gunning down demonstrators.

"There are agents in the West Bank that have not disappeared entirely from the Palestinian scenery and could take part in anti-Israel activity...," Mizrahi claimed.

In Beirut, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Israel is trying to ease tension with Syria and Lebanon.

Moratinos made the statements on Thursday, after Israeli charges that Damascus was smuggling Scud missiles to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

"Israeli authorities asked me to convey a message to Syria and Lebanon, which is that they seek to ease tension, and they expressed their willingness for negotiations," Moratinos told reporters in Beirut.

Israeli President Shimon Peres sparked controversy last month when he accused Syria of supplying the Shiite Hezbollah movement with Scud missiles, a charge Damascus has staunchly denied.

Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran, has refused to confirm or deny the charge.

Moratinos on Thursday ended a Middle East tour that included Israel, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon, saying from the Lebanese capital that Israel had "no desire at all to heighten tension".

"I am returning to Spain with a positive feeling that all ... parties, all countries want to move towards peace," said the minister, whose government currently holds the EU presidency.

"Israeli authorities are committed to seeing indirect negotiations with the Palestinians succeed and the Palestinians expressed the same commitment."

Indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas opened on Sunday under the aegis of the United States amid tension over Israel's refusal to halt settlement expansion in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

Moratinos also said Syria had "a strong desire for peace and for the continuous search through negotiation for a diplomatic solution to any dispute with Israel".

Turkey brokered indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel in 2008 but they were broken off that December after Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip.

On the other hand, the Syrian president and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed Tuesday continued coordination of Lebanese-Syrian stances regarding regional challenges.

Hariri was in Damascus ahead of his upcoming visit on Monday to Washington.

During his official visit to the US, the Lebanese premier is expected to relay to US President Barack Obama the Arab states’ positions on the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and Iran’s nuclear program.

Hariri is expected to address the UN Security Council at the end of his visit to the US.

Tehran recently agreed with Turkey and Brazil to ship a portion of its low-enriched uranium abroad for enrichment, in a deal that many observers thought would avert new sanctions.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a deal with China and Russia on Tuesday for new UN sanctions given Iran’s insistence to continue enriching uranium locally.

According to the National News Agency, President Bashar Assad and Hariri discussed improved bilateral ties and the need to build on past positive stances to promote relations in the interests of the Syrian and Lebanese people.

Hariri’s ties with Damascus witnessed a remarkable thaw after nearly five-year rupture triggered by the assassination of his father, former Premier Rafik Hariri in a bombing widely blamed on Syria. Damascus has repeatedly denied involvement.

Hariri has moved to heal the rift with Damascus at the same time that the Obama administration has sought greater engagement with Syria.

Late Monday night, as Hariri was holding talks in Riyadh with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, Assad stressed that improvement in Lebanese-Syrian bilateral ties harmed the interests of certain parties, adding that visits by Lebanese officials to Syria has positively impacted relations between both countries.

“We will listen to him [Hariri] and to what his government wants and we will be positive and help,” Assad told a number of intellectuals participating in the “Arabism and the Future” conference held in Damascus.

Asked whether Damascus was displeased with the Lebanese premier’s upcoming visit to Washington, Assad said he was not.

“Bothered? Of course not,” Assad said.

Assad also said that Saudi officials “acknowledged Damascus’ important role in Lebanon and had become aware that if Syria had not helped Lebanon overcome its crisis, no one else would have.”

A regional rapprochement between Damascus and Riyadh in November 2009 following four years of tense relations between the two regional powerbrokers facilitated Hariri’s task in forming a national unity cabinet.

Commenting on developments in Lebanon, the Syrian president said Damascus was playing an assisting rather than essential role in promoting dialogue among the Lebanese. “We paid in the past the price of political schism in Lebanon when certain [Lebanese] parties had an interest in divisions and power sharing following the Taif Accord but currently we want to help the Lebanese engage in dialogue,” Assad said.

“However, they will have to decide which Lebanon they want … we call on the Lebanese to agree on their objectives for us to be able to better help them. And the [national] dialogue that kicked off is the right start and our role is an assisting, rather than essential one,” he added.

Commenting on Syria’s position if Israel were to launch a war against Lebanon, Assad refused to comment on whether his country would take part in the conflict.

“I believe the Israelis hope to hear the answer but I will not fulfill their wish. Those are military secrets that we will not disclose since we will not reveal our cards or plans,” Assad said when asked whether the tripartite summit that was held in Damascus signaled that Syria would become involved in a future war against Lebanon.

In February, Hezbollah’s secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, attended a dinner banquet in Damascus hosted by President Assad in honor of his visiting Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The tripartite summit is regarded by analysts as a message by Syria stressing the strength of its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah amid growing Israeli threats.

In Amman, Jordan and Kuwait on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the state-run Petra news agency reported.

The memo was signed in the presence of King Abdullah II of Jordan and Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, who started a two-day visit to the Arab kingdom Monday. His visit is the first by a Kuwaiti leader to Jordan since more than 20 years.

On Sunday, the two countries signed cultural cooperation program that extends from 2010 to 2012. They also signed a memo for cooperation in fields of roads, buildings and bridges.

In talks in Amman on Sunday, the two leaders stressed their keenness to explore new prospects of cooperation between the two countries, especially in fields of commerce, economy and investments.

Discussions also covered efforts to attain lasting and just peace in the Middle East and efforts to resolve the Palestinian- Israeli conflict based on the two-state solution, which envisages the creation of an independent Palestinian state that lives side by side with Israel.