Arab media personality regrets visit to Israel: 5 things to know from past week
Ex-PA minister says Hamas made ‘fateful’ error in cracking down on Gaza protests; Jordan’s former ambassador to Israel asserts Jewish state and US are ‘killing’ two-state solution
Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel
1. Tricky travel
Aboubakr Khallaf, an Istanbul-based Egyptian media personality, apologizes for visiting Israel in a move that he says violated “the Egyptian nation’s principles.”
- Khallaf, whom Egyptian news sites have described as pro-Muslim Brotherhood, attended the annual international conference of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv in late January. He also toured different areas of Israel and visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
- “First, I…apologize for what I did. My loved ones and friends were completely shocked by my recent visit to the Zionist entity, in which I was aiming to increase [my] knowledge of the occupying Zionist entity firsthand,” Khallaf writes in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Monday. “I acknowledge that I perpetrated a mistake in making this decision, which violated the principles of the Egyptian nation and the media. I have taken enough time to think and ponder and consult loved ones…to deal with this error. I hereby apologize to everyone for this mistake.”
- Khallaf, who has written for a number of Arabic-language websites, has come under heavy criticism for visiting Israel, with social media users calling him a “traitor.” He speaks Hebrew and closely follows Israeli news outlets.
2. A ‘fateful’ error
Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former Palestinian Authority minister of prisoner affairs, argues that the Hamas terror group made a significant error in how it dealt with recent protests against the high cost of living and taxes in the Gaza Strip.
- “Instead of Hamas viewing this popular protest movement…as an apolitical initiative, it saw it as a threat to its rule and perhaps its existence and decided to suppress the people and fight their legitimate and peaceful movement,” he writes in Sawa, a Gaza-based news site, on Wednesday. “In doing so, [Hamas] made a fateful and substantial mistake. Force cannot be the solution to confronting angry masses, searching for their basic rights.”
- Hamas security forces violently cracked down on the protests late last week and early this week, arresting and beating protesters, human rights workers and journalists.
- Security forces have detained 1,000 Palestinians in connection with the protests, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a PA-created rights group, said in a press release on Tuesday.
- Ajrami adds that the demonstrations reflect that Palestinians “can no longer tolerate or endure” the difficult living conditions in the coastal enclave.
- Gaza suffers from high unemployment, widespread poverty and poor electricity and water infrastructure.
- Israel and Egypt maintain heavy restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza. The Jewish state holds that its limitations on movement seeks to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from transferring weapons into the Strip.
3. Cracking down on protests
Jihad Harb, a Palestinian analyst and researcher, writes that Hamas’s violent response to the protests against the high cost of living in Gaza shows it will use immoderate levels of force to stay in power.
- “The Hamas movement is the biggest loser from its [security] services suppressing citizens,” Harb, who often criticizes both the PA and Hamas, writes in a weekly column he distributes by email. “It has strengthened the belief of its opponents that it is a movement that seeks to eliminate them. It has also made clear to citizens that it is quick to employ excessive force to safeguard its rule in the Strip.”
- Videos of the protests show Hamas security forces hitting demonstrators with batons and forcibly entering civilians’ apartments.
- Harb also argues that Hamas must hold officials accountable for suppressing the protests and provide guarantees that the same will not occur again. He also contends that the terror group should undertake policies to deal with the poverty and high cost of living in Gaza.
4. Jordan’s old top diplomat
Former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Muasher accuses the US and Israel of destroying the two-state solution.
- “The American administration and, of course, Israel are officially killing the two-state solution,” Muasher, who has also previously served as Jordan’s ambassador to the US and the Jewish state, writes in the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad on Tuesday.
- US President Donald Trump said in September 2018 that he likes the two-state solution and thinks it “works best.” However, the American administration has not said whether its apparently forthcoming peace plan will back the two-state solution and has consistently refrained from publicly criticizing Israel for settlement building.
- Muasher has recently made a number of harsh criticisms of the US and Israel.
5. Staying away from two-states
Ma’an, a Palestinian news outlet, highlights that Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz refrained from referring to a Palestinian state in an interview with Channel 12 news on Tuesday.
- While Gantz said that Israel should “strive for peace” with the Palestinians, he held back from referring to a Palestinian state.
- Ma’an headlines its article on Tuesday on Gantz’s interview with the Israeli TV station: “Netanyahu’s competitor avoids mentioning a Palestinian state.”
- Gantz is considered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger in the upcoming elections. Since he made a foray into national politics in December, he has not said whether he supports the creation of a Palestinian state.
- Netanyahu has said on several occasions that he supports two states, through not in recent years, but he has also stated that a Palestinian state will “endanger our existence” and pledged no Palestinian state will be created while he is in office.