"Israel's recently intensified settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is a major obstacle. Settlement activity is contrary to international law and the Roadmap, and must cease. Unilateral actions on the ground will not be accepted by the international community. For its part, the Palestinian Authority should also find ways to help de-escalate the situation and improve the prevailing divisive climate, and to be ready to engage directly in the search for a negotiated solution."
Israel threatens to cut off water and electricity to Gaza
A day later, in response to the possibility of a unity government, Saturday, November 26, Israel said it would cut the supply of water and electricity to the Gaza Strip if Fatah and Hamas form a unity government. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said, "The foreign ministry is examining the possibility of Israel pulling out of the Gaza Strip in terms of infrastructure" as a unity government "would transform the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority and would put an end to any hope for a peace agreement" with Israel. "If the Palestinians have signed an agreement over a unity government, it would make a transfer of funds impossible," a senior government official told AFP.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already threatened to cut off water and power to Gaza in January, 2011. Seventy percent of Gaza's electrical power should be supplied by Israel, but seldom is. Local power plants that are poorly maintained due to the inability to get repair parts because of the Israeli blockage, and power lines from Egypt provide the remaining portion of electricity on an erratic basis.
German "Gunboat Diplomacy" Forces Israel to release $100 million of Blocked Revenues to the Palestinian Authority
In contrast to the Obama administration's mild words and no concrete action toward Israel's refusal to hand over Palestinian revenues, the German government held a sale of a submarine ransom to the Israeli government's release of $100 million in blocked revenues to the Palestinian Authority -- and that had results.
The German newspaper Welt am Sontag on December 4 wrote that Israel released $100 million of blocked revenues to the Palestinian Authority after Germany insisted on the release as a condition for the completion of the sale of a submarine. The submarine is one of six sold by Germany to the Israelis.
A dolphin submarine. Photo by: Tomer Appelbaum
Meeting between Hamas and Fatah held in Gaza on December 4
Hamas and Fatah representatives met in Gaza on December 4 -- a follow-on meeting to the late November meeting in Cairo in which they discussed implementation of the May agreement -- which calls for an interim government to be followed by legislative and presidential elections within a year.
In the Gaza meeting, the leaders of the two groups discussed the formation of the temporary government and the release of political prisoners held by both sides. Both groups have agreed that the release will take place soon. They also "agreed on their full commitment to the Palestinian national reconciliation" that was signed at the May 3-4, 2011 summit. The two groups also agreed to "cooperate and communicate with each other to develop methods to implement the agreement," according to Gaza-based Fatah leader Diab al-Luh.
Incredible Resilience of Palestinians to rebuild Gaza
My strongest impression of Gaza from my visit is the incredible resilience, strength and fortitude of the people of Gaza. 1.6 million Palestinians are attempting to carry on their lives while the Israeli government blockades land and sea access to the country and makes almost daily deadly military attacks on Gaza. The Israelis are attempting to make life so unbearable that Palestinians are provoked into acts of retaliation that then become the Israeli narrative on how the Palestinians are attempting to destroy Israel--Israel that has the largest and most modern military in the region.
In the West Bank, the Israeli narrative focuses on the Israeli "right" in violation of international law to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land, their "right" to destroy with American made Caterpillar bulldozers Palestinian homes in which families have lived for generations, their "right" to erect the 20 foot high apartheid walls that separate children from schools, farmers from their land, merchants from their businesses, and medical patients from hospitals. Israeli military force Palestinians to wait endless hours to try to get through the endless checkpoints, essentially justifying these actions because children throw rocks at them as they, illegally and with impunity, take more and more Palestinian land.
With shortages in housing, schools, hospitals, electricity, water, medical supplies and construction materials and with almost daily attacks from Israeli F16s, Apaches helicopters, naval bombardment or drones, Palestinians still try to have some type of a "normal" existence. Mothers somehow keep their children clean in their small one room housing in the refugee camps. Kids go to overcrowded schools because construction materials to repair and rebuild the schools destroyed or damaged in the Israeli attack have not been allowed in by the Israeli government. Sick and wounded are attended in hospitals in which 150 of the basic 400 types of medicines normally in a hospital are in short supply or out of stock.
Reconstruction with recycled supplies
During our short stay in Gaza, I was struck by how much of the huge amount rubble from the 22 days of Israeli destruction of the infrastructure and private industries of Gaza has been cleared away. Because the Israeli military targeted for destruction the construction companies in Gaza, workers generally have had to take down destroyed buildings-large and small-- by hand. By carefully and patiently removing the pieces of rubble by hand, workers have saved useable pieces of iron bars, wood, stone and cement to be reused in the rebuilding of homes, schools and industries.