Friday, May 24, 2019 Last Update: 2:14 PM GMT

Palestine Opens First-Ever Solar Power Station

A solar panel array in the West Bank. (Photo: Social Media)

According to Palestinian officials, the first of four planned solar panel plants has been inaugurated as part of a project which aims to reduce dependence on Israeli power sources.

Palestine’s first-ever solar power station is aiming to produce 7.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity from its Noor Jericho Photovoltaic Solar Park location.

Work on this first phase is expected to be completed in June.

There will be a total of three Palestinian solar parks: Noor Jericho, the largest; Noor Tubas solar park, much smaller with a capacity of 4 MW; and Noor Jenin project with a capacity of 5 MW.

Additionally, thousands of solar panels will be installed on the rooftops of some 500 public schools throughout Palestine to generate another 35 MW.

The Ministry of Education gave permission to use the rooftops of the public schools for solar panels due to a shortage of open land, resulting from Israeli military control of two-thirds of Palestinian land in the West Bank’s Area C.

Israel prevents Palestine from carrying out construction or benefiting from the land in that region.

The Noor Jericho plant will produce power from 20,000 solar panels that will be set up in two stations – one with 4000 panels and the other with 3500 panels – and be distributed by the Jerusalem-based Palestinian electricity company, Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO), which provides power to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho and their area villages and towns.

When all phases of the project are completed, estimated in eight years, it should produce 200 MW of electricity in total or the equivalent to 17% of Palestine’s power needs, according to Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) Chairman of the Board, Mohammad Mustafa.

One of the four plants will be donated by China.

(TeleSur, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Forces Attack Palestinian Child at Checkpoint in the West Bank

An Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank. (Photo: via Ma’an)

Israeli forces assaulted a Palestinian child in the northern West Bank village of Silat al-Harithiya, northwest of Jenin, on Friday, confirmed the child’s father.

Israeli forces, who set up a checkpoint at the Jenin-Haifa Street, pepper-sprayed Amjad Yousef Zyoud, 15, in the face and assaulted him.

https://twitter.com/sinbad_W/status/1131917382727815173

Zyoud was rushed to Jenin Government Hospital for treatment.

Israeli forces frequently pepper-spray Palestinian protestors and journalists across the West Bank.

Although considered a “non-lethal” weapon, pepper spray is a powerful inflammatory agent that can cause serious injury and even contribute to death.

(Wafa, PC, Social Media)

Coalition Impasse Continues in Israel as Lieberman Refuses to Join

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman (L) and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: File)

Five right-wing parties in the Knesset decided to form a minority government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to local news reports Friday, Anadolu reports.

Representatives from the parties gathered to discuss the formation of a coalition government in West Jerusalem.

Former defense chief Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing nationalist party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), represented by five lawmakers, did not attend the meeting.

The parties are currently represented by 60 lawmakers of 120 in parliament. As they failed to gain 61 seats, essential for a vote of confidence, they decided to form a minority government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a leader.

Lieberman was urged to support the minority government by right-wing parties but he wants it mandated that Ultra-Orthodox Jews be recruited in the army.

His party, which did not respond to the call, announced it would not support the coalition unless legislation was enacted to that cause.

Political experts argue the formation of the government could end in deadlock unless Lieberman retreats. Furthermore, the coalition is not likely to attract the support of parties linked to Ultra-Orthodox Jews — the Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) –that each has eight seats.

Notably, Netanyahu has to convince Lieberman by May 28 to form a coalition government. If he fails, President Reuven Rivlin will discuss with parliament the government formation.

The Blue and White Party, led by Benn Grantz, is not likely to be supported by right-wing parties that hold the majority in the parliament. Even if he is assigned to form a government by the president, it will not be an easy task for him to be supported by 61 lawmakers.

In 2018, the Israeli government brought the recruitment of Ultra-Orthodox Jews to its agenda, however, the draft resolution — which also sought to increase the number of soldiers of the Israeli army — was not submitted to parliament due to the cracks in the coalition led by Netanyahu.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Video Shows Jewish Settlers Started West Bank Fires, Contradicting Army Statement (VIDEOS)

A video shows Jewish settlers setting fire to fields in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: via Social Media)

Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has released a video showing illegal Jewish settlers setting fire to fields in the occupied West Bank, contradicting the Israeli army’s claim that the blaze was started by Palestinians.

The Spokesperson’s Unit of the Israeli army was yesterday forced to change its original statement, in which it claimed to have extinguished “a fire set by Palestinians”.

The fires were started last Friday near the occupied West Bank villages of Burin, Urif and Asira Al-Qibliya, all located off Route 60 south of Nablus. Illegal Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar had attacked Palestinians from these villages, with both groups subsequently blaming the other for causing the fires which followed.

Contradicting the Israeli army’s claim of Palestinian culpability, video footage released by B’Tselem showed “two Israeli [settlers] — one of them armed with a Tavor assault rifle — entering grasslands, crouching down and walking away. Moments later, flames can be seen in the area where they’d been standing,” the Times of Israel reported.

B’Tselem added that “[Israeli] soldiers who were standing next to [the settlers] did not arrest them and prevent[ed] the Palestinians from reaching their burning lands”. In a separate video, settlers can also be seen throwing rocks at nearby Palestinian homes while four Israeli soldiers stand idly by.

B’Tselem stressed that the Israeli army had granted “almost total immunity” to the settlers involved in the attacks, noting that none were interrogated or arrested following the incident.

Although the Israeli army today issued a new statement saying “several fires were set and quickly spread” and that, “in addition to the fires, some 20 settlers went down to the outskirts of Asirah Al-Qibliyah and began throwing rocks,” it did not admit its attempts to cover up the settlers’ attacks. The Israeli army also refused to comment on why no settlers had been arrested for the arson.

This is not the first time the Israeli army has been found to have covered up settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Lieberman Likely to Be Renamed Defense Minister amid Coalition Impasse

Israel’s right-wing Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

Far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman is expected to be renamed as Defense Minister, ending weeks of deadlock in talks to form a new ruling coalition in Israel.

According to local media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to hand the defense portfolio back to Lieberman, just six months after he suddenly resigned from the post after a spat about Israel’s policy in the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to a report by Ynet,

“An unnamed source involved in the negotiation process between the Prime Minister and Lieberman said that new guidelines regarding Israel’s strategy towards [Hamas in Gaza] have been agreed on.”

The Israeli daily added that Lieberman yesterday held meetings with the Israeli Army Chief of Staff and Shin Bet officials, with Netanyahu’s approval. “This,” the newspaper said, “has added to speculation” that Lieberman will resume his former role.

Despite today’s apparent breakthrough in coalition talks, Netanyahu still has a number of disagreements to resolve if he is to meet the May 29 deadline to form a government.

Following the April 9 election, he was tasked with forming the new government by Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, due to his position as incumbent Prime Minister.

However, due to the impasse between his coalition factions, Netanyahu was earlier this month forced to ask for a two-week extension to form a government. If he remains unsuccessful by the end of May, the task will fall to presumed opposition leader Benny Gantz, whose Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) alliance won the same number of seats as Netanyahu’s Likud.

Former Chief of Staff Gantz, however, is likely to struggle to form a coalition, given his apparent refusal to work with the Arab-Israeli parties Hadash-Ta’al and Ra’am-Balad and the weakness of the left-wing parties in the wake of the election.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

New Poll: Israel Is Lowest Policy Priority for Jewish American Voters

According to a new poll commissioned by JEI, Israel is the lowest policy priority for Jewish American voters. (Photo: via AJE)

A new survey has found that Israel is the lowest policy priority for Jewish American voters.

According to a poll commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI), “a candidate’s stance on Israel ranks at the bottom of a list of 16 policy priorities of Jewish voters”.

Designed to understand what drives Jewish voters’ “engagement in politics in advance of the 2020 elections”, the poll revealed that “domestic issues dominate the policy priorities of the Jewish community as they determine which candidate to support…as opposed to issues related to Israel.”

While – unsurprisingly – the survey indicated that “the Jewish community continues to identify as strongly pro-Israel”, more than half (53 percent) of those polled “are critical of at least some of the current Israeli government’s policies”.

According to JEI,

“The results also demonstrate that the Jewish American electorate remains overwhelmingly opposed to President Trump, motivated largely by the Jewish community’s positions on domestic policy issues … These include immigration and health care, as well as concerns about rising anti-Semitism, gun violence, and rise of white nationalism, which respondents partially attribute to President Trump.”

Two-thirds of the Jewish electorate remains “firmly aligned with the Democratic Party”, with 25 percent of Jewish voters identifying as Republicans.

Overall, “71 percent disapprove of President Trumps’ overall job performance, 70 percent view him unfavourably, 67 per cent would vote for a generic Democrat over President Trump, and 65 percent would vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden over President Trump.”

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

US, Israel Call for End of UNRWA (VIDEO)

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. (Photo: File)

The United States and Israel on Wednesday called for dismantling the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

Addressing the UN Security Council, US adviser Jason Greenblatt said UNRWA was a “bandaid” and that it was time to hand over services assured by the UN agency to countries hosting the Palestinian refugees and NGOs.

Greenblatt told the council:

“The UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people.”

Moreover, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN made a case against UNRWA at the UNSC on Wednesday, arguing that it creates a special category of refugees for Palestinians.

Last year, President Donald Trump’s administration cut all funding to UNRWA, arguing that it was flawed as Washington pressed ahead with work on proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA provides education and health services to some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, PC, Social Media)

UNRWA’s Budget Deficit Reaches $200m

UNRWA has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1949. (Photo: via UNRWA)

UNRWA’s budget deficient now stands at $200 million, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl revealed today.

During a press conference at the agency’s regional headquarters in Gaza City, Krahenbuhl said:

“The current budget deficit of the Agency’s budget is about $200 million.”

He added:

“We know that we will be subjected to many attacks and criticism, but we will continue to provide services to Palestinian refugees, as mandated by the United Nations, and we will never allow any attempt to destroy the legitimacy of refugees.”

Israel publicly demands that UNRWA be terminated, and the current US administration has suspended its financial support for the agency, which has caused a major funding crisis.

Krahenbuhl stressed that UNRWA is making efforts to “recruit financial support to continue providing services.”

Krahenbuhl said:

“We will make every effort to continue to provide food assistance, especially here in Gaza. As I said before, we need about $60 million to buy food.”

He continued:

“We hope that we will keep schools open next year.”

Krahenbuhl also pointed out that 42 countries and organizations helped UNRWA last year to overcome its financial crisis.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Gramsci and the Palestinian Narrative: Ramzy Baroud Speaks at ‘Nakba71’ in Vancouver (VIDEO)

Ramzy Baroud giving his speech at Vancouver’s Nakba71 meeting. (Photo: Andrew Smith, via Facebook)

Following are excerpts from Ramzy Baroud’s talk at ‘Nakba71 – The Palestinian Narrative’, a meeting held on May 18, in Vancouver, Canada, at the Simon Fraser University to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba – the destruction of the Palestinian homeland in 1947-48. Baroud is the Editor of the Palestine Chronicle.

Excerpts of the excellent talk and reading by Ramzy Baroud at Vancouver's Nakba71 meeting

Posted by Canada Palestine Association on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Israel to Return 65 Boats to Gaza Fisherman

Israel to return 65 confiscated fishing boats to Gaza. (Photo: File)

Israel announced yesterday that it would return 65 confiscated fishing boats to fishermen in the Gaza Strip, the Wafa news agency reported.

This comes after NGOs Gisha – Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights filed a petition on behalf of Gaza fisherman Abdel Ma’ati Habil whose boat was confiscated by the Israeli occupation’s navy in September 2016.

The petition was submitted after the Israeli military agreed to return Habil’s boat by land and at his own expense, without mention of what happened with the fishing equipment which was on board when it was confiscated.

Gisha, Adalah, and Al-Mezan demanded that the Supreme Court order the Israeli military to immediately and unconditionally return Halabi’s fishing boat and equipment, as well as all other boats seized by the occupation belonging to Gaza fishermen.

Gisha Attorney Muna Haddad said:

“Israel routinely seizes boats from fishermen in Gaza and holds them for months, even years, without any legal authority and in violation of international law.”

She added:

“While Israel claims it seizes boats following violations of its restrictions on the fishing zone – restrictions which Israel imposes and changes arbitrarily – this does not justify such severe harm to the livelihood and property of fishermen and their families.”

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)