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

Scores of Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa for Passover

JERUSALEM (AA) – Scores of Jewish settlers forced their way into East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Tuesday to celebrate the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover.

"Over 237 Jewish settlers stormed the compound in celebration of Passover," Firas al-Dibs of the Religious Endowments Authority, a Jordan-run authority responsible for overseeing the city's Muslim and Christian holy sites, told Anadolu Agency.

He said the settlers toured the site under the protection of dozens of Israeli police officers.

According to al-Dibs, more than 700 settlers had stormed the Al-Aqsa compound since the beginning of Passover last week.

Passover, which commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt during the time of Prophet Moses, is considered one of the most important holidays on the Jewish religious calendar.

Last year, more than 1,500 settlers forced their way into the Al-Aqsa compound during Passover.

For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount", claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.

Germany criticizes Netanyahu’s annexation plan

                       <p>By Ayhan Simsek </p>  <p>BERLIN (AA) - Germany on Monday criticized Israel’s new settlement plans and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. </p>  <p>Prime Minister Angela Merkel's government is “gravely concerned” by recent reports of the expansion of Israeli settlements, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr told a news conference in Berlin. </p>  <p>“The federal government, as wall as our EU partners, consider these settlements in the Palestinian territories a violation of international law and one of the main obstacles to a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians,” she said. </p>  <p>Adebahr also criticized Netanyahu’s controversial pledge to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins the national election this Tuesday. </p>  <p>“We stand firmly behind the international agreed principles of a negotiated peaceful solution. The latest statements about plans for a unilateral annexation of parts of West Bank clearly contradict that,” she stressed. </p>  <p>Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.</p>  <p>International law views the entire West Bank as “occupied territory” and considers all Israeli settlement building there as illegal.</p>  <p>Roughly 650,000 Jewish settlers currently live on more than 100 settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.  </p>  <p>The Palestinians, for their part, want both these territories -- along with the Gaza Strip -- for the establishment of a future Palestinian state. </p>  

Russian FM condemns US decisions on Golan, Jerusalem

By Laith Joneidi

AMMAN, Jordan (AA) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday decried recent U.S. recognition of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and Syrian Golan Heights.

"We condemn the illegitimate U.S. decisions regarding the Golan and Jerusalem," Lavrov said during a joint news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in capital Amman.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory, which Israel occupied in 1967.

The move came after Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in late 2017 and moved his country's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year, triggering world outcry.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the decades-long Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

"We have discussed the Middle Eastern political settlement and we are concerned about what has been happening in the Palestinian territory," Lavrov said.

The top diplomat went on to affirm Moscow's support for solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, adding that other "attempts will not lead to good results".

Commenting on the so-called "deal of the century" – a U.S.-backchannel plan to reach a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel –, Lavrov said: "We do not have any information about it but the speculations spark deep concern."

The terms of Washington's peace plan remain vague. However, according to recent speculations, Palestinian refugees will be asked to concede their right to return to historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

For his part, Jordanian foreign minister said there is "a continued Russian-Jordanian dialogue regarding the Syrian crisis and we work within the framework of the international community to achieve a political solution."

Asked whether Jordan discussed the "deal of the century" with U.S. officials, Safadi said: "As minister Lavrov said, we do not know its details and we do not know what would the U.S. say about it."

"The only solution for the Palestinian-Israeli struggle is to end [the Israeli] occupation," Safadi said.

Lavrov is slated to meet the Jordanian King Abdullah II during his visit.

  • Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

Turkey’s top cleric marks Muslim holy night

            By Ozgun Tiran,Ufuk Ertop <br>

KIRKLARELI, Turkey (AA) – One of the most important things that Lailat al Miraj reminds us about is al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) said Tuesday.

Ali Erbas marked Lailat al Miraj, or the “Night of Ascension”, during a program organized by a mosque in Turkey’s northwestern Kirklareli province.

“I pray that this holy night brings blessings to the entire Muslim world,” Erbas said.

“Al-Aqsa Mosque must be free,” he added.

Lailat al Miraj is observed in Turkey as one of the five holy nights when the minarets of mosques are illuminated and there are special prayers.

The event marks the night that Allah took Prophet Muhammed on a journey from Makkah to Jerusalem and then to heaven.

The night is generally observed on the 27th day of the Islamic month of Rajab, the seventh month in the Islamic calendar.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

UPDATE – Israel razes Palestinian building in occupied E. J'lem

            ADDS MORE DETAIL</p>    <p>By Abdel Raouf Arnaout <br>

JERUSALEM – Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished a Palestinian-owned residential building in occupied East Jerusalem's Shufat refugee camp.

The house was reportedly razed on the pretext that it had been built “without official permission”.

According to witnesses, Israeli police, accompanied by municipal workers, used heavy machinery to demolish the two-story building, which was still under construction.

In recent years, Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality has ordered the demolition of Palestinian homes with increasing frequency, usually on the pretext that they had been built without government authorization.

Local and international rights groups, for their part, say the municipality deliberately avoids granting construction permits to Palestinian residents while allowing numerous Jewish-only settlement units to be built in the area.

In a related development, seven Palestinians in East Jerusalem were reportedly injured by Israeli troops on Tuesday.

In a statement, the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC) said two people were struck by rubber bullets after clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths at the nearby Qalandiya checkpoint.

The two have since been taken to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, while five others were treated at the scene after being exposed to excessive teargas, according to the PRC.

Israel razes Palestinian building in occupied E. J'lem

            By Abdel Raouf Arnaout <br>

JERUSALEM – Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished a Palestinian-owned residential building in occupied East Jerusalem's Shufat refugee camp.

The house was reportedly razed on the pretext that it had been built “without official permission”.

According to witnesses, Israeli police, accompanied by municipal workers, used heavy machinery to demolish the two-story building, which was still under construction.

In recent years, Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality has ordered the demolition of Palestinian homes with increasing frequency, usually on the pretext that they had been built without authorization.

Local and international rights groups, for their part, say the municipality deliberately refrains from granting construction permits to Palestinian residents while allowing Jewish-only settlements to be built in the area.

In a related development, a Palestinian child in East Jerusalem was reportedly injured by Israeli gunfire on Tuesday.

In a statement, the Palestinian Red Crescent said the child was struck in the head by a rubber bullet after clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian youths near the Qalandiya checkpoint.

The extent of the child’s injuries remains unclear.

Palestinians slam Brazil for opening J’lem trade office

                            <p>By Abdelraouf Arnaout and Nour Abu Aisha</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>JERUSALEM (AA) – Both the Ramallah-based Palestinian government and Gaza-based resistance faction Hamas on Monday condemned Brazil's decision to open a diplomatic trade office in Jerusalem.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Adnan al-Husseini, minister of Jerusalem affairs for the Palestinian government, described the move as “a flagrant breach of international [UN] resolutions and a violation of the rights of the Palestinian people and their eternal capital [Jerusalem]”.  </p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Al-Husseini also decried a visit by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Jerusalem’s Al-Buraq Wall (known by Jews as the “Western Wall”), accusing Brazil of “accepting Israel’s illicit attempts to take over [occupied] East Jerusalem”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>On Sunday, Bolsonaro arrived in Tel Aviv for a four-day visit. On Monday, he visited the Al-Buraq Wall, located in East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Hamas likewise decried Brazil’s decision to open a representative office in the flashpoint city, which, it asserted, “violates international laws and customs regarding Jerusalem”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>Bolsonaro’s tour with Netanyahu, the group added, “is seen as a recognition of the legitimacy of the [Israeli] occupation”.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>A leader of Brazil’s Social Liberal Party, Bolsonaro won presidential elections last October. Not long afterward, Bolsonaro announced plans to relocate Brazil’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.</p> 

Israel army detains 11 Palestinians in occupied W. Bank

            RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) - The Israeli army rounded up 11 Palestinians in overnight raids carried out across the occupied West Bank, according to a military statement issued on Monday.</p>  <p>The individuals were detained for “suspected involvement in popular terrorist activities”, the army said without elaborating on the nature of said activities.</p>    <p>Detained individuals have since been referred to the relevant authorities for further investigation, according to the statement.</p>  <p>The Israeli army frequently carries out wide-ranging arrest campaigns across the occupied West Bank on the pretext of searching for “wanted” Palestinians. <br>

According to estimates, roughly 5,800 Palestinians are currently languishing in Israeli detention facilities, including women, children and a handful of lawmakers.

In a related development, a group of Jewish settlers on Monday vandalized several Palestinian vehicles in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood, where they also spray-painted racist slogans on the walls of Palestinian homes, according to witnesses.

Attacks by Israeli settlers usually target Muslim and Christian holy sites in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Arab villages located inside Israel.

The Beit Hanina neighborhood is located near the Jewish-only Pisgat Ze'ev settlement, which was built in the early 1980s on expropriated Palestinian land.

According to Palestinian figures, more than 650,000 Israeli settlers currently live on 196 settlements (built with the Israeli government’s approval) and more than 200 settler “outposts” (built without its approval) across the occupied West Bank.