Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In Jerusalem UN Secy.-Gen. Ban urges Israeli PM Netanyahu to draft a package of goodwill gestures (including a settlement frees) to offer in exchange for the Palestinians’ agreeing to resume direct talks. He then meets with PA Pres. Abbas and PA officials in Ramallah. (NYT, WP 2/2; NYT 2/3; JPI 2/10)

In the evening, unidentified Palestinians fire 8 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Late at night, the IDF directs artillery (2 shells) and helicopter gunfire at open areas northeast of Bayt Hanun, causing no reported injuries. Jewish settlers fr. Yitzhar settlement nr. Nablus stone a Palestinian vehicle driving nearby, breaking a window and hitting a passenger in the head, leaving injuries requiring hospitalization. (HA, JP, YA 2/1; PCHR 2/2; OCHA 2/10)

The New York Times reports that for the past 2 weeks, Palestinians (including the private sector, unions, elements of Fatah, and youth groups) have been holding demonstrations against PA PM Salam al-Fayyad in Ramallah and other cities to protest soaring prices and proposed PA austerity measures, including tax increases, cutbacks on services, and a plan to force retirement on 20,000 civil servants. (Electricity costs, for example, have nearly tripled in the past year.) Protesters demand salary increases and subsidies to compensate for inflation, but the PA faced a $350 m. budget shortfall for 2011. Even with Israeli transfers of VAT taxes restored, the foreign aid received by the PA is not enough to cover recurrent expenses. The demonstrations have been so heated that Fayyad has suspended imposition of the tax hike until mid2/2012 and dropped the early retirement proposal, pending talks to ease tensions. (NYT 2/1)