Gazan artists urge EU not to hold Eurovision in Israel

            By Mustafa Habbush <br>

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – The Association of Palestinian Artists in the Gaza Strip has called on the European Union not to hold this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

The NGO issued the appeal at a Wednesday press conference, attended by dozens of Palestinian artists, outside the EU’s office in Gaza City.

“Singing and music is the language of humanity; it’s the best way to express love, peace and coexistence,” Palestinian actor Nabil al-Khatib told reporters.

But the decision to hold this year’s Eurovision contest in Israel, he added, “only serves to legitimize the persecution of the Palestinian people by beautifying Israel’s racist face”.

“As Palestinians, we were shocked to find out that the biggest international song competition would be held this year in Tel Aviv,” al-Khatib said.

The decision, he added, “will provide support for an occupying power that oppresses another people”.

The Eurovision contest, which will be held this year in Tel Aviv from May 14 to 18, is an international music competition organized by the European Broadcasting Union since 1956.

It is the world’s largest non-sporting event in terms of viewership, typically drawing hundreds of millions of viewers from across the globe.

'We won't let Iran get nuclear weapons': Israeli PM

                             By Abdel Raouf Arnaout</p>    <p>JERUSALEM (AA) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday reiterated his government’s insistence that Iran not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.</p>    <p>“This morning… I heard that Iran intends to continue its nuclear program,” The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying on Wednesday.</p>    <p>He added: “We will not let Iran get nuclear weapons.”</p>    <p>Netanyahu’s remarks come hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran would resume its uranium-enrichment activities if his country’s interests -- as they pertain to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers -- were not guaranteed within 60 days.</p>    <p>Netanyahu has repeatedly stressed his government's rejection of the landmark agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany).</p>    <p>The deal had called for strict curbs on Iran’s nuclear-development program in return for the lifting of longstanding U.S. sanctions on Tehran.</p>    <p>In his remarks to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu also hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the agreement.</p>    <p>Last year, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear deal before re-imposing economic sanctions on Iran’s energy and banking sectors.

UPDATE – Israeli daily publishes terms of 'Deal of Century'

                  *UPDATES WITH REMARKS BY ISLAMIC JIHAD CHIEF

By Abdelraouf Arnaout

JERUSALEM (AA) – An Israeli newspaper published a document Tuesday which was circulated between officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry that details elements of the U.S. back-channel peace plan known as the "Deal of the Century".

No American, Israeli or Palestinian authorities have confirmed the leaked document published by Israel Hayom, which is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. intends to publish its plan next month.

According to the Israeli daily, the plan includes the following main points:

1. Agreement

A tripartite agreement will be signed between Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas. A Palestinian state called "New Palestine" will be established in "Judea and Samaria" (the West Bank) and Gaza, with the exception of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

2. Evacuation of land

The settlement blocs in the West Bank will remain under Israeli control and will stretch to reach other isolated settlements.

3. Jerusalem

Jerusalem will not be divided or shared between Israel and New Palestine and will be the capital of both Israel and New Palestine. The Arab population in Jerusalem will be citizens of New Palestine.

The Israeli Jerusalem municipality will be responsible for all areas of the city except for education, which will be dealt with by the new Palestinian government. The new Palestinian Authority will pay taxes and water costs to the Jerusalem municipality.

Jews will not be allowed to buy Arab homes, Arabs will not be allowed to buy Jewish homes, no additional areas will be annexed to Jerusalem and the present status of the holy sites will continue.

4. Gaza

Egypt will lease new land to Palestine to construct an airport and factories and serve the commercial and agriculture sectors without allowing Palestinians to reside on this land. The borders of these lands and leasing price will be determined between the two parties through the mediation of the supporting countries.

5. Supporting States

The parties that will financially support the implementation of this agreement are the U.S., the European Union and the oil-producing Gulf states.

The supporting countries will provide a budget of $30 billion over five years for national projects in the new Palestine.

The budget will also include the cost of connecting Jewish settlements and large settlements to Israel.

The U.S. will pay 20% of the cost for such projects and the EU 10%, while oil-producing Gulf states will fund 70%, which will be determined by oil revenues of the countries.

Most of the financial support burden will fall on the oil-producing countries because they will be the main beneficiaries of this agreement.

6. The military

The new Palestine will not be allowed to create an army. The only weapons it will be allowed to possess will be light weapons for the police.

A protection treaty would be signed between Israel and New Palestine under which it will pay Israel to defend it from foreign aggression.

The cost of this payment must be determined in negotiations between the parties which would be mediated by the supporting states.

7. Timelines and stages of implementation

When signing the agreement:

  • Hamas will deposit all its weapons, including personal arms, with the Egyptian authorities.
  • Hamas members, including leaders, will continue to receive salaries from supporting countries until the government is formed.
  • The border of the Gaza Strip, including the maritime border, will be open to the movement of goods and workers to Israel and Egypt, as the current situation of the West Bank.
  • Within one year, democratic elections will be held and a government of New Palestine will be elected and every Palestinian citizen will be able to run for election.
  • One year after the elections and establishment of the government, Palestinians held in Israeli prisons will be released gradually over the course of three years.
  • Within five years, a seaport and airport will be established in New Palestine, and until then, Palestinians will use airports and seaports in Israel.
  • The border between New Palestine and Israel will be open to the movement of citizens and goods as is the case with friendly countries.
  • A highway connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be established. China will pay 50% of its cost, while South Korea, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the EU will each pay 10%.

8. The Jordan Valley

  • The Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control.
  • Road 90 will become a four-lane road.
  • Israel will issue a tender to widen the road.
  • New Palestine will be given two new routes to Jordan with crossings under its control.

9. Responsibility

  • If Hamas and the PLO refuse to sign the ‘Deal of the Century’, the U.S. will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.
  • If the PLO signed the deal but Hamas or Islamic Jihad refused, the leaders of these two movements will be considered responsible. In a new war between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the U.S. will back Israel in targeting these leaders.
  • If Israel refused to sign the deal, the U.S. would cease all financial support.
                  <p><br>

Meanwhile, secretary general of the Islamic Jihad resistance group, said he is expecting "an Israeli war on Gaza Strip in the summer".

Speaking to the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV, Ziyad Al-Nakhaleh said that such war would come as part of efforts to apply the so-called Deal of the Century.

"We as a resistance in Gaza are ready for any war," Al-Nakhaleh said.

He described the recent Israeli attacks on civilians in Hamas-run coastal enclave as an attempt to pressure the Palestinian resistance in Gaza.

The Israeli military pounded the coastal enclave over the weekend with airstrikes and artillery barrages while Gaza-based resistance factions responded by firing rockets towards southern Israel.

The violence ended at dawn on Monday, when a ceasefire — the exact terms of which remain unclear — went into effect.At least 27 Palestinians were killed in the exchange and scores more injured, while four Israelis were killed, according to Israeli media reports.

The escalation began last Friday when four Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes on Hamas-affiliated positions in Gaza.

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

Israeli daily publishes terms of 'Deal of Century'

            By Abdelraouf Arnaout</p>  <p>JERUSALEM (AA) - An Israeli newspaper published a document Tuesday which was circulated between officials in Israel’s Foreign Ministry that details elements of the U.S. back-channel peace plan known as the &quot;Deal of the Century&quot;. </p>  <p>No American, Israeli or Palestinian authorities have confirmed the leaked document published by Israel Hayom, which is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.</p>  <p>The U.S. intends to publish its plan next month.</p>  <p>According to the Israeli daily, the plan includes the following main points:</p>  <p>1. Agreement</p>  <p>A tripartite agreement will be signed between Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas. A Palestinian state called &quot;New Palestine&quot; will be established in Judea, Samaria (in the West Bank) and Gaza, with the exception of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.</p>  <p> 2. Evacuation of land </p>  <p>The settlement blocs in the West Bank will remain under Israeli control and will stretch to reach other isolated settlements.</p>  <p> 3. Jerusalem</p>  <p>Jerusalem will not be divided or shared between Israel and New Palestine and will be the capital of both Israel and New Palestine. The Arab population in Jerusalem will be citizens of New Palestine.</p>  <p>The Israeli Jerusalem municipality will be responsible for all areas of the city except for education, which will be dealt with by the new Palestinian government. The new Palestinian Authority will pay taxes and water costs to the Jerusalem municipality.</p>  <p>Jews will not be allowed to buy Arab homes, Arabs will not be allowed to buy Jewish homes, no additional areas will be annexed to Jerusalem and the present status of the holy sites will continue.</p>  <p>4. Gaza</p>  <p>Egypt will lease new land to Palestine to construct an airport and factories and serve the commercial and agriculture sectors without allowing Palestinians to reside on this land. The borders of these lands and leasing price will be determined between the two parties through the mediation of the supporting countries.</p>  <p> 5. Supporting States</p>  <p>The parties that will financially support the implementation of this agreement are the U.S., the European Union and the oil-producing Gulf states.</p>  <p>The supporting countries will provide a budget of $30 billion over five years for national projects in the new Palestine.

The budget will also include the cost of connecting Jewish settlements and large settlements to Israel.

The U.S. will pay 20% of the cost for such projects and the EU 10%, while oil-producing Gulf states will fund 70%, which will be determined by oil revenues of the countries.

Most of the financial support burden will fall on the oil-producing countries because they will be the main beneficiaries of this agreement.

6. The military

The new Palestine will not be allowed to create an army. The only weapons it will be allowed to possess will be light weapons for the police.

A protection treaty would be signed between Israel and New Palestine under which it will pay Israel to defend it from foreign aggression.

The cost of this payment must be determined in negotiations between the parties which would be mediated by the supporting states.

7. Timelines and stages of implementation

When signing the agreement:

  • Hamas will deposit all its weapons, including personal arms, with the Egyptian authorities.
  • Hamas members, including leaders, will continue to receive salaries from supporting countries until the government is formed.
  • The border of the Gaza Strip, including the maritime border, will be open to the movement of goods and workers to Israel and Egypt, as the current situation of Judea and Samaria.
  • Within one year, democratic elections will be held and a government of New Palestine will be elected and every Palestinian citizen will be able to run for election.
  • One year after the elections and establishment of the government, Palestinians held in Israeli prisons will be released gradually over the course of three years.
  • Within five years, a seaport and airport will be established in New Palestine, and until then, Palestinians will use airports and seaports in Israel.
  • The border between New Palestine and Israel will be open to the movement of citizens and goods as is the case with friendly countries.
  • A highway connecting the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be established. China will pay 50% of its cost, while South Korea, Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the EU will each pay 10%.

9. The Jordan Valley

  • The Jordan Valley will remain under Israeli control.
  • Road 90 will become a four-lane road.
  • Israel will issue a tender to widen the road.
  • New Palestine will be given two new routes to Jordan with crossings under its control.

10. Responsibility

  • If Hamas and the PLO refuse to sign the ‘Deal of the Century’, the U.S. will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.
  • If the PLO signed the deal but Hamas or Islamic Jihad refused, the leaders of these two movements will be considered responsible. In a new war between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the U.S. will back Israel in targeting these leaders.
  • If Israel refused to sign the deal, the U.S. would cease all financial support.
  • *Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

Israel to let $30M enter Gaza under ceasefire: Report

            By Esat Firat</p>  <p>JERUSALEM (AA) - Israel will allow the delivery of $30 million in financial aid from Qatar to the Gaza Strip as part of a ceasefire agreement with Palestinian resistance group Hamas, Israel's Kan public broadcaster reported.</p>  <p>In November, Hamas and Israel agreed on a ceasefire that included the delivery of $50 million from Qatar to Gaza in periodical transfers, and $20 million has been transferred so far, the report said.</p>  <p>The Israeli military pounded the coastal enclave over the weekend with airstrikes and artillery barrages while Gaza-based resistance factions responded by firing rockets towards southern Israel.</p>  <p>The violence ended at dawn on Monday, when a ceasefire -- the exact terms of which remain unclear -- went into effect.</p>  <p>No statement on the issue has been made by Hamas.</p>  <p>At least 27 Palestinians were killed in the exchange and scores more injured, while four Israelis were killed, according to Israeli media reports.</p>  <p>The escalation began last Friday when four Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes on Hamas-affiliated positions in Gaza.</p>  <p>*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev

EU, Russia should counter US peace plan: Palestine

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The European Union (EU) and Russia should take action to save a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the U.S. peace plan does not lead to two independent nations, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.</p>  <p>Riyad Mansour said he told EU officials that support for a two-state solution is appreciated, but it is “not sufficient -- they have to act on it&quot;.</p>  <p>Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said Washington's Middle East peace plan, billed 'the Deal of the Century', would be revealed after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.</p>  <p>While Kushner provided no details as to what the plan entails, he said &quot;there will be tough compromises for both sides&quot; and that past efforts have not worked, referencing the two-state solution, a long-held framework for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.</p>  <p>Foreign ministers of the Arab League have rejected the U.S. plan, saying that without giving the legal rights of the Palestinians, these kinds of plans will never bring comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.</p>  <p>Mansour said if the U.S. plan does not end with two independent nations -- Palestine and Israel -- then the EU should take action against it to save the two-state framework.</p>  <p>The European Union could call for an international conference on the basis of the global consensus supporting a two-state solution “to see how we can open ways to move forward&quot;, Mansour told reporters at the UN. </p>  <p>He also said that European countries – particularly France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg -- could offer their support by recognizing the state of Palestine.</p>  <p>In the runup to Washington’s peace plan, U.S. President Donald Trump has moved to isolate Palestinians.</p>  <p>Last year, the U.S. cut all its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees. It also unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Washington office, which served as the de-facto Palestinian embassy in the U.S.</p>  <p>Mansour said Russia could also host an international conference in Moscow, since it is on the UN Security Council and Palestinians are already in talks with Moscow.</p>  <p> 

French NGO slams Israel attack on Anadolu Agency office

             By Can Erozden</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - A French media NGO condemned Israel on Tuesday for an attack on Anadolu Agency's office in the blockaded Gaza Strip.</p>  <p>Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF, or Reporters Without Borders) reminded in a released statement on its website that the Israeli army shelled Anadolu Agency's Gaza office with missiles last weekend.</p>  <p>RSF said 11 Anadolu Agency employees continued to do their work although the building was razed to ground.</p>  <p>&quot;The media shouldn't be considered as part of the conflict, and shouldn't be legitimate military targets,&quot; it said.</p>  <p>Israeli warplanes hit the building Saturday housing Anadolu Agency's office with at least five missiles following warning shots.</p>  <p>No casualties were reported.

UN urges journalists' safety after Anadolu's office hit

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - It is vital that the safety of journalists be protected, regardless of theater, the UN said Tuesday after Anadolu Agency's Gaza office was leveled by Israeli shelling.  </p>  <p>&quot;In any conflict area it is important that journalists' safety be guaranteed,&quot; spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a reporter's question about the attack. </p>  <p>Israeli warplanes hit the building Saturday housing Anadolu Agency's office in the Gaza Strip with at least five missiles following warning shots.</p>  <p>No casualties were reported, but the building was razed to ground.</p>  <p>*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations

Israel postpones deportation of Anadolu Agency reporter

                             By Abdel Rauf Arnaut</p>    <p>JERUSALEM (AA) – An Israeli court Monday postponed the scheduled deportation of Mustafa Kharouf, an Anadolu Agency photojournalist, from the occupied West Bank to neighboring Jordan.</p>    <p>An Algeria-born Palestinian, Kharouf, 32, was detained by Israeli police in January. He had been slated for deportation on May 5 (Sunday) in line with an Israeli court ruling.</p>    <p>Kharouf was reportedly told on Sunday that he would be deported to Jordan the following day.</p>    <p>But his lawyer, Adi Lustigman, from Israel’s HaMoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, a rights advocacy group, filed a request with Israel’s Supreme Court to postpone the scheduled deportation.</p>    <p>On the same day, the court ruled to freeze the deportation order until it had a chance to hear the lawyer’s appeal.</p>    <p>Because he was born in Algeria, Israeli prosecutors are calling for Kharouf’s expulsion from the occupied West Bank to neighboring Jordan -- despite the fact that his family hails from Jerusalem.</p>    <p>For the last 20 years, the Israeli authorities have consistently refused to grant Kharouf a long-term residency permit, forcing him to obtain fresh tourist visas each year.</p>    <p>In earlier remarks to Anadolu Agency, Lustigman said that his client had lived in the West Bank since he was 12 years old.</p>    <p>He has lived in East Jerusalem for over 20 years, where he has a Palestinian mother and a Palestinian wife, and is not a citizen of any other country, the lawyer said.</p>    <p>While Kharouf holds a Jordanian passport that allows him to travel to neighboring Arab states, this does not give him citizenship or residency rights in Jordan.</p>    <p>Since August of last year, Kharouf has worked for Anadolu Agency as a photographer.</p>    <p>Israel occupied the West Bank, which international law still regards as “occupied territory”, in 1967.

After hiatus, Israel allows fuel back into Gaza

                            <p>By Abdel Raouf Arnaout</p>    <p>JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli authorities on Tuesday allowed fuel shipments to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip after a days-long hiatus caused by recent escalations between Israel and Gaza-based resistance groups.</p>    <p>According to the Israeli Broadcast Authority, Tuesday’s fuel shipments entered the enclave through the Kerem Shalom land crossing linking Gaza to Israel and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.</p>    <p>On Saturday and Sunday, the Israeli army pounded the Hamas-run coastal enclave with airstrikes and artillery barrages, while resistance factions responded by firing rockets towards southern Israel.</p>    <p>The violence ended at dawn Monday, when a ceasefire -- the exact terms of which remain unclear -- went into effect.</p>    <p>At least 27 Palestinians were killed in the exchange and scores more injured, while four Israelis were killed, according to Israeli media reports.</p>    <p>The escalation began last Friday when four Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes on Hamas-affiliated positions in Gaza.</p>    <p>*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat</p>