Mideast rivals weigh next moves after Gaza violence

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territory — The aftershocks of the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and bloodshed on the Gaza border are shaking up the region, including the relationship between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his former negotiating partners, Israel and the U.S.

Seething over a perceived U.S. betrayal on Jerusalem, Abbas is preparing to pursue a war crimes complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court that would sharply escalate tensions with Israel.

His domestic Hamas rivals in Gaza have meanwhile seen mixed results after weeks of border protests that failed to break a blockade of the territory but momentarily drew global attention to the long-ignored plight of Gaza.


For decades, the West Bank-based Abbas has pursued a strategy of independence through negotiations, hoping Washington would persuade Israel to cede the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — lands it captured in 1967 — to a Palestinian state.

He clung to this formula through many setbacks, including Israeli settlement expansion.

Palestinian officials say the three-way relationship was held in place by a series of understandings, particularly after the 2012 U.N. General Assembly recognition of a “state of Palestine” gave Abbas new diplomatic options.

They say Abbas pledged not to trigger an ICC probe of Israel’s settlement enterprise, and at the same time have his security forces continued their co-operation with Israeli troops in the West Bank. The U.S. promised not to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, to keep the PLO office in Washington open and not cut aid to the Palestinians.

Abbas no longer felt bound by these understanding after President Donald Trump in December recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — ignoring Palestinian claims to the Israeli-annexed eastern sector — and this week moved the U.S. Embassy there.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Wednesday that he has asked the ICC for an appointment to deliver a “state party referral” of a case against Israel. Such a referral would trigger a preliminary examination which could lead to a full-blown investigation.

It was not immediately clear if an official Palestinian request would speed up the prosecutor’s ongoing preliminary examination, launched in 2015, of potential war crimes in the occupied territories.

Still, an ICC move would sharply escalate tensions between Abbas and Israel.

Abbas isn’t yet ending security co-ordination, avoiding the move most likely to trigger a crisis with Israel and possibly the collapse of his West Bank-based autonomy government.

Meanwhile, Abbas recalled the Palestinian ambassador from Washington this week, cementing an earlier decision to halt contacts with the administration and casting growing doubt on Trump’s ambitions to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.



The Islamic militant group has emerged without tangible achievements from weekly border protests in which more than 100 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli fire since late March.

Hamas has organized the marches, though turnout has also been driven by widespread despair among 2 million residents confined to a tiny, impoverished coastal territory with 22-hour-a-day power cuts.

There’s no sign of a significant easing of the blockade, which was imposed by Israel and Egypt after the 2007 Hamas takeover of …read more

Source:: Nationalpost – News


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