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PA slams Netanyahu’s ‘unacceptable’ pledge to develop Ma’ale Adumim

A top Palestinian official on Tuesday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to “destroy” the two-state solution by pledging to further develop and even effectively annex one of the biggest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called Netanyahu’s comments “totally unacceptable.”

“This is an attempt by Netanyahu to destroy the two-state solution and a clear refusal of any attempt to revive the peace process, especially by the United States,” he said.

Earlier Netanyahu, visited the city of Ma’ale Adumim where he vowed to build thousands of new homes and threw his support behind a bill to redraw Jerusalem’s municipal borders to include the settlement.

The comments drew an angry condemnation from the Palestinians and created a new test for the Trump administration, which has been working for over eight months to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

Netanyahu said during the visit that he was announcing a period of “enhanced development.”

“We will build thousands of housing units here,” he said. “We will add the industrial zone needed and the expansion needed to allow for the advanced development of this place.”

“This place will be part of the State of Israel,” he added.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state and consider all of Israel’s settlements to be illegal — a position that is widely shared by the international community. Israel says the settlements’ fate should be resolved through negotiations.

Maale Adumim is a settlement of roughly 40,000 people just east of Jerusalem.

Israelis widely expect that Ma’ale Adumim will be annexed as part of a land swap under any future agreement with the Palestinians. Critics argue, however, that extending Israeli sovereignty to the large settlement, and a parcel of land known as E-1 between it and the capital, would effectively sever the northern and southern halves of the West Bank, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.

US President Donald Trump has taken a softer line toward the settlements than his predecessors, and his key advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and ambassador to Israel David Friedman, have longstanding ties to the settlement movement.

Even so, Trump has still asked Israel to show restraint.

Early this year, Israel shelved a proposal to annex Maale Adumim under apparent pressure from the White House.

Trump’s Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has been in the region meeting with the sides as part of his effort to restart talks.

There was no immediate reaction from Greenblatt’s office to Netanyahu’s comments.

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ABBAS SAYS PA MUST CONTROL EVERYTHING IN GAZA INCLUDING SECURITY

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday said he would not accept a scenario in the Gaza Strip, in which Hamas’s armed wing would be able to hold onto its weapons.

Abbas’s comments came several hours after PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Hamas Politburo Chairman Ismail Haniyeh met in Gaza in a bid to start work on ending the decade-long territorial division between the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas has has controlled Gaza since 2007 when it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA.

“Everything needs to be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority,” Abbas told Egypt’s CBC, a popular Arabic television station, in an interview. “I’ll be even more clear—I will not accept reproducing the Hezbollah experience in Lebanon…We are one state, one system, one law and one weapon.”

Hezbollah maintains control of a number of militias, over which the Lebanese state does not have control.

Abbas’s remarks highlighted the sharp difference of opinion between him and Hamas’s leadership on the future of Gaza’s security.

Last week, both Hamas Deputy Chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya and Hamas Politburo member Musa Abu Marzouk said that Hamas’ armed wing’s weapons are not up for discussion.

“No bartering or touching the weapons of the resistance,” Hayya said in an interview with al-Jazeera last Wednesday evening. “We will fight the occupation with all means of resistance until [it] is wiped away.”

Experts estimate that Hamas’s armed wing is compromised of some 25,000 members, who have thousands of guns, rockets and other weapons.

Abbas also said that he will imprison anyone, other than the PA, who possesses weapons.

“If someone from Hamas has a weapon, I’ll put him in prison. Also if someone from Fatah has a weapon I’ll put him in prison,” he said.

In previous reconciliation attempts, Abbas’s party, Fatah, and Hamas failed to reach an agreement on the issue of Gaza’s security.

Hamas says it won’t even discuss giving up weapons if PA takes over Gaza

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that the Gaza-based terror group is not prepared to discuss the dissolution of its military wing during talks with the Fatah party, as the two sides attempt to form a unity government.

Also on Thursday, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar claimed the terror group’s ability to target the center of Israel with rocket fire had significantly increased since the last war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. He added that the elusive commander of the terror group’s military wing, Muhammad Deif, supports the reconciliation attempt.

“This issue [of Hamas disarming] is not up for discussion, not previously and neither will it be in the future,” Abu Marzouk said in an interview with the semi-official Turkish news agency Al-Andalous. “The weapons of the resistance are for the protection of the Palestinian people, and it is inconceivable that Hamas will lay down its weapons as long as its land is occupied and its people dispersed.”

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has a reported  27,000 armed men divided into six regional brigades, with 25 battalions and 106 companies.Fatah and Hamas have been at loggerheads since Hamas violently took control of the Strip in 2007, with the two groups operating separate administrations.

It has fought three conflicts with Israel since the terror group took control of Gaza.

Hamas announced earlier this month that it had agreed to steps toward resolving the split with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government — known as the administrative committee — and was ready to hold elections.

That statement came after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials and as Gaza faces a mounting humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by retaliatory moves by Abbas following Hamas’s decision to set up the administrative committee to govern the enclave in March.

While Abbas welcomed Hamas’s dissolution of the administrative committee, he didn’t commit to removing PA sanctions on the Strip.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is slated to travel to Gaza on Monday to begin reinstating the PA’s control over the Strip.

Reconciliation attempts between the two sides have failed numerous times, and one of the biggest sticking points has been who will control the border and security in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Marzouk also said in his comments on Thursday that Hamas would not be willing to accede to the demands of the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union, and United Nations — that it renounce terrorism and agree to accept past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which is the largest Palestinian political umbrella group.

Despite refusing to give up its military, Hamas on Thursday reiterated that it is completely committed to the idea of a unity government.

“Hamas will not remain a party to the division in any way,” said Sinwar, in remarks given during a closed meeting with journalists that were later published by Palestinian media outlets.

“The page of the previous stage must be turned over, and we must move into the future to build our national project,” he added.

“In 51 minutes the Qassam Brigades can hit Tel Aviv with the same number of rockets that it fired during 51 days in the last” war, said Sinwar, During that war, Hamas fired thousands of rockets at Israel, a small percentage of which made it to the Tel Aviv area.Sinwar also boasted about improvements in Hamas’s military capabilities to strike Israel’s densely populated Tel Aviv region.

In a surprising statement, Sinwar said that Deif, the leader of the Qassam Brigades — who is wanted by Israel for multiple acts of terrorism including the orchestration of suicide bombings, and who Israel has tried to kill numerous times — is “strongly supportive” of the reconciliation efforts.

US ‘withdrew veto’ against Palestinian reconciliation

In his statements on Thursday, Abu Marzouk claimed Hamas was informed that the US was ending its opposition to a Hamas-Fatah unity government.

“We received information from sources of our own, and other Western diplomats, confirming that the United States has lifted its veto on Palestinian reconciliation,” he said.

The Hamas leader said the removal of American opposition grants Abbas “the space to take a bold step to end Palestinian division, as America formed a primary obstacle.”

On Thursday the Quartet, of which the US is a part, welcomed the PA’s impending return to the Gaza Strip as part of renewed reconciliation efforts with the Hamas.

It said renewed PA control over Gaza “is critical for efforts to reach lasting peace.”

The latest reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas come as US President Donald Trump has sought to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and met separately with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

In apparent contradiction of Abu Marzouk’s statement, last week, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt slammed Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip and called on the PA to retake control of Gaza and urged the international community to help this process come to fruition.

“Relief from the suffering in Gaza can only be found when all interested parties gather together to help the Palestinian people and isolate Hamas,” Greenblatt said, accusing Hamas of using money meant for Gaza’s civilian population on terror infrastructure.

FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER TWO YEARS, PA TO HOLD CABINET MEETING IN GAZA

 

For the first time in more than two years, the Palestinian Authority will hold a cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip next Tuesday, official PA media reported on Monday morning.

“[PA] Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in consultation with President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a decision to hold the government’s weekly cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip,” PA government spokesman Yousif Mahmoud said in a statement.

The decision came just over a week after Hamas announced the dissolution of its governing body in the Gaza Strip, also known as the administrative committee, and invited the PA to take its place. Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.

Hamdallah and other members of the government are scheduled to arrive in Gaza on Monday “to begin assuming responsibility” for the territory, according to Mahmoud.

However, it is not clear if Hamas will fully relinquish control there. In previous reconciliation attempts, Hamas agreed to cede control over civil affairs in the Gaza Strip but refused to do so for security affairs.

Hamdallah last visited Gaza in March 2015 to discuss rehabilitating the area’s infrastructure with Hamas and other factions in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.

The PA prime minister tweeted on Monday that he will be accompanied to Gaza by “all government bodies and authorities and the [PA] security forces.”

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou welcomed the PA’s pending arrival but called on Abbas to rescind punitive measures.

“We welcome the arrival of the government to the Gaza Strip. We wish it success and excellence in performing its responsibilities and undertaking its duties,” Qanou told al-Rai, a Hamas-affiliated news agency. “[We also hope] the punitive measures against Gaza will be undone simultaneously with the government’s visit.”

Over the past five months, Abbas has ordered a series of cuts to the budgets allocated to Gaza for electricity, medical services, government employees’ salaries and other purposes in order to pressure Hamas to dissolve its administrative committee and permit the PA to operate there in its place.

Hamas had hoped Abbas would immediately cancel the measures after it announced the dissolution of the administrative committee and its invitation for the PA to take its place. However, Fatah officials said over the past week that the measures would be rescinded only after the PA fully assumes responsibility there.

AMNESTY SLAMS PA, HAMAS FOR CLAMPDOWN ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

 

Amnesty International on Wednesday slammed the PA and Hamas for what it called a clampdown on freedom of expression in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively.

“The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, on journalists and the media in a bid to silence dissent,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International. “This is a chilling setback for freedom of expression in Palestine.”

In early August, the Palestinian Authority arrested five journalists, who work for Hamas-affiliated news outlets, for allegedly “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities,” according to PA-run media in the West Bank.

The arrests came after the PA issued a new cyber crimes law, which permits authorities to imprison anyone “who aims to publish news that would endanger the integrity of the Palestinian state, the public order or the internal or external security of the state.”

Palestinian civil society groups, including the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, have called on the PA to rescind the cyber crimes law.

In June, the PA also blocked several websites critical of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Hamas arrested two journalists in June and detained other journalists and activists over comments critical of Gazan authorities on social media.

According to evidence gathered by Amnesty, one of the detained activists was likely tortured in Hamas’s custody.

The PA recently released the journalists it arrested in August, while Hamas also set free a journalist it jailed in June.

A 2017 Freedom House report characterized the West Bank as “not free” and gave the territory a freedom score of 28 out of 100. (0=least free and 100=most free) The same report described Gaza as not free and gave the area a freedom score of 12.

Frustrated with US, Abbas said to be weighing dissolving the PA

Disillusioned about US efforts to revive the peace process, the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering dissolving the PA and renewing a Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, Arabic media reported on Wednesday.

Abbas’s deliberations come ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday night with a US peace delegation after quietly meeting with leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

According to the report in the Lebanese daily Al Hayat, which cited unnamed “reliable” sources in the PA, Abbas is waiting for Kushner and Trump’s envoy to the region Jason Greenbelt to give him a written response to his conditions for returning to the negotiating table, namely “freezing settlement construction in the West Bank and working towards a two-state solution.”

The Palestinians are also reportedly renewing their bid to halt Israel’s settlement expansion through the International Criminal Court. The report said a PA delegation will travel Thursday to the ICC’s headquarters in the Hague in order to meet with the court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

On Tuesday, Ahmad Majdalani, a top aide to Abbas, said the Palestinians asked Kushner for the US position on two key issues — Israeli settlements and support for Palestinian independence — during his last visit to the region in June.

“Since then we didn’t hear from them,” he said.

“We hope they bring clear answers this time,” he added. “If not, then the peace process cannot be resumed because we cannot negotiate from scratch.”

Should Abbas dissolve the PA, according to the Al Hayat report, he would transfer governing power back to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the historic umbrella group for Palestinians. Abbas is head of the PLO.

Abbas is reportedly working to hold a meeting of the Palestinian National Council, which is the highest legislative body of the PLO and elects the PLO leadership. The PA president is aiming to hold the meeting before next month’s UN General Assembly, at which he is slated to give a speech.

In 2011, Abbas initiated the Palestine 194 campaign, which, in the absence of fruitful peace talks, sought to win Palestinians a state through international forums.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, addresses the November 25, 2013 meeting at the United Nations, New York. (photo credit: United Nations)

At the time, the administration of former US president Barack Obama promised to veto any resolution granting the Palestinians full UN membership in the Security Council.

In 2012, the Palestinians changed course, and instead submitted a resolution to be granted status as an observer state in the UN through the General Assembly. The resolution passed, which allowed Palestinians to co-sponsor resolutions and to join treaties and specialized UN agencies, such as the ICC.

Trump has asked his delegation to focus the talks on this trip around several broad themes, including finding “a path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combating extremism [and dealing with] the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,” according to a senior White House official.

While Ramallah has officially welcomed US peace efforts, officials have begun to grumble about what they see as a lack of US commitment to a two-state solution or finding a way forward, as well as a bias toward Israel’s positions.

Abbas said on Sunday that the entire Trump administration was in “chaos,” and indicated that the White House disarray was affecting peace efforts.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (2nd R) at the presidential residence in Ramallah, West Bank, on August 20, 2017. (Osama Falah / Wafa)

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told a delegation of dovish Israeli lawmakers visiting Ramallah.

Recently, off-the-record remarks by Kushner — made to a casual gathering of congressional interns — were leaked to the media in which he said there may not be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

PA, EGYPTIAN AND JORDANIAN FMS MEET IN CAIRO AHEAD OF US MIDEAST VISIT

 

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri met in Cairo on Saturday, days before US President Donald Trump’s administration plans to dispatch a high-level delegation to the Middle East.

On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmad Abu Zeid said that the aim of the trilateral meeting is to discuss coordinating positions before the Trump administration delegation’s arrival in the Middle East.

“The goal of the meeting is for the three states… to consult and coordinate before the visit of the American delegation to the region,” Abu Zeid said.

The White House delegation, which is expected to travel to a number of Middle Eastern countries including Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in the coming days, is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Middle Eastern leaders. The Trump administration delegation will comprise senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and US deputy national security advisor Dina Powell.

According to a White House official, Trump believes the relative calm in Israel and the Palestinian territories at the current moment presents an “opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace.”

Last week, the Executive Committee, the top PLO body, called on the Trump administration to declare that it supports the two-state solution and to ask Israel to halt settlement construction.

“The Executive Committee urged the American administration to back the principle of two states along the 1967 borders and ask the occupation authority, Israel, to halt colonial settlement activities,” an Executive Committee statement published on August 12 said.

The Trump administration has refrained from taking clear-cut positions on both the two-state solution and settlements, bucking former President Barak Obama’s policies on the issues.

Trump told a White House press conference in February that he “is looking at two-state and one-state” and that he is “happy with the one that both parties like.”

Since February, neither Trump nor his White House staff have backed a two-state or one-state solution.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has reportedly tried to convince Israel to limit settlement construction, but steered clear of condemning or calling it illegal.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said on Monday that the Palestinians are considering turning to international bodies including the UN if the US administration fails to revive a “serious peace process.”

Ahmad defined a “serious peace process” as one in which the US and Israel announce their support for a two-state solution and Israel halts settlement activity.

Abu Zeid, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, also said the three foreign ministers will hold talks about coordinating positions before the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York City in September.

PA ARRESTS FIVE JOURNALISTS FOR “LEAKING” SENSITIVE INFORMATION

 

Five Palestinian journalists have been arrested in the West Bank by Palestinian Authority security forces in what a human rights monitoring group has termed a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

All five were arrested at or near their homes on Tuesday night by the General Intelligence Service, according to Shireen al-Khatib, monitoring and documentation associate at the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (Mada).

A senior security source quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said four journalists were being held on suspicion of “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities.” The source said an investigation was under way.

Khatib identified the journalists as Tariq Abu Zayd and Ahmad Halaika of Al-Aksa television, a Hamas-run station, Qutaiba Kasem who writes for the Asdaa website, Mamdouh Hamamreh of the pro-Hamas al-Quds television and Amer Abu Arafa of the Shehab news agency. The Wafa report mentioned all the journalists except for Halaika.

Abu Arafa was arrested after his home was searched and his computer and mobile phone seized, Khatib said.

A West Bank journalist who requested anonymity said “this is not the first time journalists are being arrested but it is the first time five are arrested in one night.”

In the view of the journalist who spoke with The Jerusalem Post the arrests might be aimed at pressuring Hamas to release Fouad Jaradah, a reporter for the PA’s Palestine TV, who was arrested in Gaza on June 8 and was later accused of collaborating with the authority.

“Journalists are paying the price of the Fatah- Hamas conflict,” the West Bank journalist said.

Of the accusation that the five journalists arrested on Tuesday had leaked sensitive information, he said: “No one believes that.”

The Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights, which monitors rights abuses in the PA, demanded the immediate release of the journalists and called on the authority to “stop the persecution of journalists for their journalistic work.” It termed the arrests a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights termed the arrests a “dangerous development.”

In a statement it criticized both the PA and the Hamas government.

“PCHR follows up with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and warns of the arbitrary use of legal texts or fabricating charges to beat their political rivals. This results in serious consequences on the legal system, rights and freedoms in general.

“PCHR calls for releasing the six journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the validity of the charges against them will be proven in accordance with proper and transparent procedures.”

The human rights group al-Haq, which is also based in Ramallah, said the arrests “come in the wake of a dangerous regression in the condition of rights and liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, especially freedom of opinion and expression and journalistic work.” It said that authorities had blocked journalists from covering peaceful gatherings.

PA government spokesman Yusuf Mahmoud said he could not comment on the arrests since they were under the purview of the security apparatus. But he took issue with the criticism that the PA was harming freedom of expression.

“The authority in all manners respects freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” he said. “This is guaranteed in the agreements signed by the national authority and in the law.

The authority adheres to the freedom of journalists and citizens and greatly respects that.”

In June, the PA blocked access to 11 websites that back Hamas or Muhammad Dahlan, a bitter rival of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel, Jordan, PA to hold first-of-its-kind joint firefighting and rescue exercise

Israel will join Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as well as three European countries, for a first-of-its-kind joint drill of their emergency services.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, the Middle East Forest Fire exercise, or MEFF, is slated to take place from October 22 to 26 in Jordan and Israel, and will include rescue forces from Italy, France, Spain and Croatia.

The exercise will test the capacity of all sides to cooperate in major rescue operations, including a focus on firefighting, rescues from collapsed buildings and other emergency situations.

The planning stage of the exercise is set to take place in Jordan before the field training begins in Israel.

Palestinian firefighters from the West Bank city of Jenin arrive to help extinguish a fire in the northern Israeli city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The exercise will pit rescue crews against a forest fire in the Carmel region similar to the one that claimed 44 lives in 2010, as well as fires in the towns of Yatir and Amatzia. At Kibbutz Lahav in the south, rescuers will face a fire that threatens the village’s buildings and includes people trapped in its path. In the central city of Lod, forces will practice rescuing people from a building that collapsed after a gas explosion.

Jordan will send two helicopters, 60 rescuers, 40 fire engines and 15 medical teams, Israel Hayom reported. The Palestinian Authority is slated to send two firefighting planes, a command plane and transport planes, as well as 15 rescuers and 40 fire engines.

France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia will each send medical and rescue teams and firefighting planes.

Israel’s own contingent is set to include both civilian rescuers from the Fire and Rescue Services and military teams from the Home Front Command.

PA, MOROCCO PRESS AFRICAN LEADERS TO BOYCOTT AFRICA-ISRAEL SUMMIT

 

http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/PA-Morocco-press-African-leaders-to-boycott-Africa-Israel-summit-501282

 

The Palestinian Authority and Morocco are working to upend an Africa-Israel summit scheduled for Lomé, Togo, at the end of October, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to African diplomatic officials, the PA is putting pressure on Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé to cancel the summit, and is also urging Muslim countries in Africa not to attend, saying that going to the conference will show support for Israel and be a setback for the Palestinian struggle.

Togo will send invitations to all 54 African states to attend the four-day Africa-Israel summit, while between 20 and 30 heads of state are expected to take part. Israel has diplomatic ties with 40 of the 48 sub-Saharan African states.

According to the officials, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked to meet Gnassingbé at the African Union summit held in Addis Ababa at the beginning of July and urged him to reconsider the Africa-Israel summit. One senior African official said this was the first time Abbas had ever asked to meet the Togolese leader, who has been in office since 2005.

Gnassingbé’s reply, according to sources familiar with the meeting, was that he is running his country in the way he sees fit, that he is friendly with both Israel and the Palestinians, and that if the summit is something that can help strengthen Israel’s economy, then that is something that is ultimately good for the Palestinians as well.

Gnassingbé is scheduled to visit Israel next week for a private three-day visit, during which he will also meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been here three times in the past year and also met with Netanyahu when the premier attended the Economic Community of West African States conference in Liberia in June.

Like the Palestinians, according to one African diplomatic official, Morocco has been urging African states not to attend the planned parley, but the Moroccans’ reasons are different: They are unhappy with Israel’s inroads into Africa because they view Israel as a competitor on the continent.

“Morocco is trying to come back to Africa as a superpower,” the source said. “They see Israel as competition, and are telling African leaders to be careful about attending the summit, and that it will create problems for them in getting subsidies from Saudi Arabia or Islamic organizations.”

Interestingly, the source said, neither Algeria nor the Saudis has taken any measures to try to keep African leaders from attending the summit. Neither, he pointed out, has South Africa, Israel’s harshest critic in sub-Saharan Africa, and the country that has stood in the way of Jerusalem being granted observer status at the African Union.

According to the official, the South African government is more occupied now with internal turmoil within the African National Congress party than with an Africa-Israel summit in Lomé. Gnassingbé is intent on holding the meeting regardless of any political risk involved, the official said. One of the main reasons is that it will add to his and Togo’s prestige.

“If you hold an Africa-Africa summit, nobody cares, including the international media,” the official said. “Nobody will write or publish anything because you have some kind of African summit almost every day. But if you do something with Israel, you will get some kind of coverage – either positive or negative – because Israel is involved. Since the summit is taking place in Togo, people will talk about the president and his country, and they will see him as an actor on the international stage.”

The source said that the media coverage expected from the summit is almost as important for Togo as the summit itself. The added value, he said, is there is also good chance that some of the more than 130 Israeli companies that will be present at the summit will chose to do business in the country.

The summit, which has been almost two years in the planning, will focus on security, counter-terrorism, economic ties and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, health and education as well as new technology. It is taking place at time when Netanyahu has made strengthening ties with Africa one of his top foreign policy priorities.

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