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The inevitable backlash of Ziad Abu Ein’s death

I do not accept that Abu Ein’s death was a result of natural causes, as was concluded by the Israeli pathologists

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

As a prologue, Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein was – I believe - killed by Israeli border forces - as outlined by the Palestinian pathologist report. Something I believe is an indisputable fact. Those who were there on the day believe they saw the Israeli soldier hitting the Palestinian minister in the chest with the butt of his gun, despite the findings of the Israeli pathologist, who claimed he died of a pre-existing heart condition. The troops unleashed what seemed to be a large amount of tear gas at close range at Abu Ein and the other peaceful protesters, who also captured evidence of tanks at the scene on their smart phones.

So I do not accept that Abu Ein’s death was a result of natural causes, as was concluded by the Israeli pathologists, but following an ‘intent-to-kill,’ or at least ‘death caused by grievous-bodily-harm.’ Let there be no doubt in my view on that. We all saw images and videos of the minister as he was dying, holding his hand to his chest after what I believe was a severe beating.

The apparent killing of the minister without portfolio, Abu Ein, should be reason enough for the Palestinian Authority to seek access to the International Criminal Court. I believe the PA is now mulling war crime charges against Israel after Abu Ein’s death. I was told by a high-profile Palestinian official after the event: ‘All options are on the table with Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government proving everyday its unreliability as a peace partner, even resistance’. The Fateh member made a good point.

A great embarrassment

This high profile death must surely be of great embarrassment to Netanyahu's right-wing coalition? I fail to see how it cannot be. The 55-year-old minister was leading a group of Palestinians to plant olive trees near Ramallah’s village of Turmusayya. They were all acting peacefully, carrying out a purely peaceful act that was civic and symbolic. There was no aggression in their actions.

I do not accept that Abu Ein’s death was a result of natural causes, as was concluded by the Israeli pathologists

Raed Omari

Abu Ein’s apparently violent death also came at a time when the world was celebrating Human Rights Day. Surely this must be embarrassing for Israel, a nation that presents itself as the only fully-fledged democracy in the Middle East? And his death came at a time when European nations have been recognizing - symbolically - Palestine as an independent state. Again, surely an embarrassment to Netanyahu's government, which is facing problems internally and is already at odds with the Americans.

Some observers believe the PA’s fury is likely to be short-lived, and expect the Fateh leaders to tone down their fiery statements against Israel once they have absorbed the shock of the death their colleague. However, the Fateh-led PA cannot afford to let Abu Ein’s case pass in peace, especially with the view that an apology from Netanyahu's coalition to ease off and contain their anger is impossible.

The PA has already decided to halt all security coordination with Israel following the death of Abu Ein. And I believe an even bigger blow to the U.S.-sponsored peacemaking efforts would be a decision by the PA to halt all forms of negotiation with the Israeli government upon a solid conviction of Netanyahu’s ‘hawkish’ government as a reliable and trustworthy partner in peace. In the Palestinian case, war is the automatic alternative to peace. There are no grey areas between the ‘no peace and no war’ status in the occupied territory. It is either ‘this or that.’

Plus, the Fateh-led PA has its popularity and a reputation to maintain in the West Bank, as rivaled by the Hamas-controlled Gaza. There is a growing voice within Fateh itself calling for the reinstatement of the movement’s basic principle: armed resistance or third Intifada. An embarrassing outcome for Fateh would be a ‘revenge’ military operation led by Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Harakat al-Jihad al-Islami) launched against Israel carrying the name of Abu Ein.

Kerry’s dilemma

The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to embark on a new round of efforts aimed at bringing the Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table. But his diplomatic endeavor will be faced this time with the undeniable problems caused by Abu Ein’s death. In fact Kerry’s efforts were initially centered on making peace by building confidence between the two parties. How can that be the case now when there would appear to be no way of building confidence? If Kerry’s job was complicated at the time the peace process stalled, it will be definitely be even more so now.

But in my view it is indisputable that the complications we have now are all the result of Netanyahu's ‘hardline’ coalition. It is acting within the Israeli right-wing ideology, which has many taboos and irreversible principles - paramount of which is Jerusalem and the ‘Jewishness of the state of Israel.'

The unrestrained settlement activities in Jerusalem and the Israeli government’s and Knesset’s endorsement of the controversial bill declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people are just examples of such hardline ideology. However there is much self-denial with such ideology, which is either unaware of the facts on the ground, or fully aware but simply disregards them, perhaps in view of the deteriorating conditions of the Arab world following the Arab Spring era.

In the Arab lexicon, the territory within the pre-1967 borders is the ‘occupied Palestinian state.’ This is also established in international law. In this occupied territory, there are about four million Palestinians hoping for an independent state of their own. Palestinians are acting within a collective Arab framework that offers Israel full normalization in exchange of an independent Palestinian state. This is the ultimate compromise Arabs and Palestinian could make.

But again and again, it is up to Israel to give up its long-held ‘fortress mentality’ and act with reason and in the full realization of the outcome, to avoid more isolation within an anti-Israeli region.


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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.