Israel dismisses PA's call for Jaradat death inquiry

Officials dismiss Abbas's demand for international probe into death of Palestinian detainee as "predictable" maneuver.

jaradat300 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israeli officials dismissed on Tuesday a Palestinian Authority demand for an international inquiry into the death of Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat as a “predictable” maneuver and part of a larger strategy to bring the international community into the conflict whenever possible.
A call for international involvement is “nothing new,” one official said, and is part of the overall Palestinian strategy.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that “Palestine has officially requested an international commission of inquiry into the death of Jaradat.”
Abbas, speaking to members of the PLO Executive Committee during a meeting in Ramallah, said that a Palestinian forensic expert had already determined that Jaradat died as a result of torture.
“Now we are waiting for an international commission of inquiry to find out how Jaradat was assassinated in prison,” he said.
Israeli officials noted that there were currently three parallel investigations into the death. The Health Ministry was conducting an autopsy, the police were investigating, and – as is the case in all instances of prison deaths – a judge has ordered an inquest.
The officials noted that Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Monday that Israel would be happy to have an international professional look at how it was investigating the incident. The officials also noted that UN Undersecretary- General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman called for an “independent and transparent” investigation, but said nothing about an international inquiry.
Abbas, meanwhile, told the PLO Executive Committee that the Palestinians were facing an “unprecedented Israeli escalation targeting teenagers and children protesting against practices of the occupation and settlers, especially against Palestinian detainees.”
Abbas condemned Israel for re-arresting Palestinians who had been released in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in 2011.
“We don’t know what are the dangerous security offenses they committed to be returned to prison,” he added.
Abbas said that the current protests in the West Bank were in response to Israeli “assaults” on youths and the continued imprisonment of Palestinians. The Palestinians, he emphasized, were not interested in a further escalation of tensions.
“We want to reach a peaceful settlement based on international legitimacy,” Abbas continued.
“We want an end to occupation of the land of the occupied state of Palestine.”
Following the meeting in Ramallah, the PLO Executive Committee appealed to Palestinians to avoid being dragged by Israel into a confrontation.
The committee urged Palestinians to support the struggle of hunger-strikers in Israeli prisons. Referring to the death of Jaradat, the committee reiterated the charge that he had died of torture while being held in Israeli custody.
Israeli officials blasted these types of comments, saying that the Palestinian behavior over the last few days has been to try and escalate the tension, as witnessed by the fact that within an hour of the initial autopsy on the body the PA put out a statement saying that Jaradat was tortured.
The official said that the directives from the political echelon to the IDF have been to show maximum restraint in dealing with the rioting that spread after the prisoner’s death.
“We have no interest in this violence escalating, but are concerned that some inside the PA want it to do so, and are calling for violence,” the official said. “We saw people bused to demonstrations, and heard statements of incitement coming from the PA.”
The official said that the events were not directly impacting on preparations for US President Barack Obama’s trip toward the end of March.
He also said the recent events did not change Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s desire to try to reengage with the PA.
In a related development, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Berlin that Obama would not bring a peace plan on his visit to Israel and the territories, but rather intends to listen.
The announcement of Obama’s visit has raised speculation of a new US push to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But Kerry, speaking to German students during his first foreign trip as Washington’s top diplomat, played down expectations.
“We’re not going to go and sort of plunk a plan down and tell everybody what they have to do,” Kerry said. “I want to consult and the president wants to listen.”
Kerry said that after Obama’s trip, which also includes a stop in Jordan, the US would see how it might pursue peace. He called for both sides to calm down the current situation.
“We really hope everybody will step back a little and try to find a way to proceed very calmly and very thoughtfully in these next days,” he said, “[and] leave the opportunities for peaceful resolution open.”
Reuters contributed to this report.