Brazil recognises Palestine
Israel expresses disappointment over Brazil's decision to recognise a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2010 03:51 GMT
Israel has expressed disappointment at Brazil's decision to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, saying it flew in the face of efforts to negotiate a peace deal.
In a public letter addressed to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Friday, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, recognised Palestine as an independent state within the 1967 borders.
The decision came in response to a personal request made by Abbas on November 24, according to the letter published on the foreign ministry's website on Friday.
"Considering that the demand presented by his excellency [Abbas] is just and consistent with the principles upheld by Brazil with regard to the Palestinian issue, Brazil, through this letter, recognises a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders," it said.
The letter refers to the "legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people for a secure, united, democratic and economically viable state coexisting peacefully with Israel."
A statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said: "The government of Israel expresses sadness and disappointment over the decision by the Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva a month before he steps down.
"Recognition of a Palestinian state is a breach of the interim agreement which was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995 which said that the issue of the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be discussed and resolved through negotiations," it said.
Such a move also contravened the 2003 Middle East roadmap for peace, which said a Palestinian state could only be established through negotiations and not through unilateral actions, the statement said, warning that unilateral steps would harm attempts to build trust.
"Every attempt to bypass this process and to decide in advance in a unilateral manner about important issues which are disputed, only harms trust between the sides, and hurts their commitment to the agreed framework of negotiating towards peace," the Israeli statement said.
The international community backs Palestinian demands for a state in most of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, all territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 six day war.
But the United States and most Western governments have held back from recognising a Palestinian state, saying it should be brought about through a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
In a parallel statement, the Brazilian government assured relations with Israel "have never been more robust."
Brazil has offered to help mediate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which were briefly revived in September before grounding to a halt over the resumption of Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.
Abbas says he will not return to negotiations while Israel continues to build on land the Palestinians want for a future state. But Israel has so far refused to impose a new ban.
Over the last few weeks, Abbas has repeatedly said he would explore other options if peace talks with the Israelis collapse, one of which would see him seeking United Nations' recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.
On Thursday, a Palestinian official said Washington had officially informed them that attempts to secure a new Israeli settlement freeze had failed, but US officials refused to confirm or deny the report.
Abbas visited Brazil in 2005 and 2009, and Lula made the first-ever trip by a Brazilian head of state to Palestine and Israel in March this year.
Fatah 'tipped off' about Gaza war
Leaked US diplomatic cable says Israel raised the possibility with Fatah and Egypt about taking control of Gaza Strip.
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2010 20:05 GMT
A leaked US diplomatic cable has raised the possibility that Fatah, the Palestinian group in power in the occupied West Bank, knew that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip before it launched its deadly offensive in December 2008.
The conflict, which ended in January 2009 after three weeks, led to more than 1400 Palestinian deaths and left vast swathes of the Gaza Strip completely destroyed.
According to a June 2009 US embassy cable released on the WikiLeaks website, Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, told a US congressional delegation that his country had asked Fatah and Egypt "prior to Operation Cast Lead" whether "they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas".
Barak said that neither Fatah nor Egypt responded positively to the question, but the suggestion that Palestinian leaders knew in advance of the attack on Gaza could prove massively embarrassing for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
The cable is part of a huge trove of classified US diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks started to release on Sunday, infuriating Washington which regretted the leak and called it an "attack on the international community".
The June 2 cable said that Barak made the comments at a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv aimed at reviving the peace process and providing security in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Fatah has denied that Israel contacted them ahead of the offensive, what Israel calls Operation Cast Lead.
"Nobody consulted with us, and that is the truth," Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel, said. "Israel doesn't consult before going to war."
Egypt did not immediately respond to the allegations.
Salah al-Bardaweel, Hamas' spokesman, said after the cable revelation: "We have not ruled out that Fatah and the Palestinian Authority [that Fatah leads] could have contributed in one way or another in the war against Gaza for political reasons, such as bringing down the Hamas movement and regaining control.
"The Zionist enemy does not take a permission from Fatah or anybody else when they want to launch a war on Gaza but they may seek the opinion of others regarding such a war."
Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a coup in 2007. Israel immediately imposed a crippling blockade on the territory, and attacked at the end of 2008 in a bid to destroy Hamas after suffering rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns.
Memories and maps keep alive Palestinian hopes of return
Refugees remain the most intractable issue of the Middle East conflict, as two new books show
Ian Black Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk, Friday 26 November 2010 13.07 GMT
Memories and maps feature prominently in the experience of Palestinians – a people scarred by dispossession, dispersion, occupation and profound uncertainty about their future. So amid the latest wrangling over the stalled peace talks with Israel come two sharp reminders of the depth of the conflict and how difficult it will be to resolve.
Salman Abu Sitta, a refugee from 1948, has spent years cataloguing the course and consequences of the nakbah (disaster) that Israel's "war of independence" represented for his people. Now he has published an updated version of his massive Atlas of Palestine, stuffed with tables, graphs and nearly 500 pages of maps that trace the transformation of the country starting with its conquest by the British in 1917 and the Balfour declaration's promise to create a "national home" for the Jews.
Aerial photographs taken by first world war German pilots are combined with mandate-era and Israeli maps supplemented by digitally enhanced satellite images that record old tribal boundaries, neighbourhoods and even individual buildings. Most striking are the hundreds of Arab villages that were destroyed or ploughed under fields, as well as postwar Jewish settlements and suburbs. The Abu Sitta family lands, for example, are now owned by Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with Gaza.
Abu Sitta is a leading expert on the nakbah and what is nowadays widely described as the "ethnic cleansing" it involved. There can be no mistaking where his sympathies lie and where he stands in the febrile debate about Zionist intentions. Still, large parts of his account draw on the history of the 1948 war as rewritten by revisionist Israeli scholars in recent years as archives have opened up and old myths been demolished.
He is also a passionate advocate of the "right of return", under which Palestinian refugees must be allowed to go back to their lost lands and property. Refugees are the single toughest issue of the Middle East conflict: the Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO implied that the right would not be exercised inside pre-1967 Israel, but only in a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and so, apart from a symbolic number of family reunifications, there would be no mass "return" to west Jerusalem, Haifa, Lydda or hundreds of now non-existent villages.
The notion was that such an arrangement would be part of a pragmatic final peace settlement that drew a line under a painful past. Abu Sitta, like many Palestinians, fiercely opposed Oslo, and his views have not wavered. What has changed is the sense that as prospects for that elusive two-state solution fade, the only alternatives are either the status quo of Israeli occupation, cementing what some call de facto apartheid, or one single democratic state in which Israelis and Palestinians live peacefully together – and to which the refugees could finally return.
It is hard to imagine how Israel would ever voluntarily agree to surrender the Jewish majority it has within the 1967 borders – the raison d'être of the Zionist movement. Yet it remains taboo even to question whether that right is ever likely to be exercised. Andrew Whitley, a senior official of Unwra, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees, was forced to apologise recently when he called it a "cruel illusion" to suggest that the 1948 refugees would ever be able to go home.
Abu Sitta leafs through his atlas, which includes detailed plans for refugee repatriation, and insists otherwise. "In the age of advanced technology it is quite feasible to compare the rich and meticulously recorded history of Palestine with the existing electronic Israeli record of every Palestinian house and acre of land, who owned it and to which Jewish body it is leased," he writes. "From this, both cultural and physical restoration of Palestine could take place. What remains is the wisdom, enforced by political will, to implement it."
Social scientist Dina Matar also follows "the trajectory of a continuing nakbah," in her fine book about "what it means to be a Palestinian in the 21st century", but her mission is to record voices that are normally heard only in fragments and at times of crisis. This "composite biography" includes personal stories and "reconstructed experiences" from the 1936 rebellion against the British through to Oslo in 1993, and unifies the disparate worlds of Palestinians living in Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and Syria. Individual narratives of suffering, defiance and despair are linked by chapters of factual historical background, and tell of life in refugee camps, the experience of the Jordanian civil war or the first intifada, when the "children of the stones" took on the Israeli military but won only the brief attention of an indifferent world.
Matar, not surprisingly, identifies 1948 as the key date in Palestinian collective memory and notes "the persistent theme that the Palestinian sense of displacement was not the result of one specific event, but an ongoing process, continuing into the present."
Her telling subtitle – "stories of Palestinian peoplehood" – suggests that she too believes that the old aspiration of "statehood" is not likely to be realised any time soon.
Valleys of Hope and Despair
The story of how Palestinians and Israelis in one West Bank village are working together to preserve water supplies.
Witness Last Modified: 15 Nov 2010 09:10 GMT
The battle over access to clean water sources is ongoing across the West Bank, with illegal Israeli settlements frequently blocking access and polluting Palestinian farmers' irrigation.
But in the valley of Wadi Fukin, Palestinian and Israeli villagers work together on projects to preserve water supplies and protect their local environment. This cooperation is exceptional in the region, but the huge gains both sides have made are now threatened.
The separation wall is approaching and will physically divide the communities, putting an end to their collaboration and adversely affecting local water sources.
Local farmer Abu Mazen, some of his neighbours and their Israeli counterparts took the authorities to court to halt the construction of the wall.
This timely film looks at an issue of crucial importance to both Palestinians and Israelis and sets the context to the villagers' legal fight.
Valleys of Hope and Despair can be seen from Sunday, November 14, at the following times GMT: Sunday: 0830, 1900; Monday: 0330, 1400, 2330.
Too late for two states
Palestinians say there can be no meaningful resistance as long as their leadership remains divided.
Robin Yassin-Kassab Last Modified: 14 Nov 2010 13:38 GMT
Nablus is built over deep wells on the narrow valley floor between Mount Jarizeem and Mount Aybaal. Its alleyways brim with ground coffee and spices, abrupt wafts of aniseed, plus honied tobacco bubbling from the argilehs, meat vaporising on the grills, traffic fumes, baking odours, pavement rubbish and dust. By day there is plenty of friendly Arab noise; by night barks and cock crows take over.
Although it is a city of over 130,000, everybody seems to know everybody else. Deeper than that, there is a connecting air of solidarity.
The intricate Old City, and the view of the ochre mountainside, reminded me of Damascus. In fact, Nablus used to be known as Little Damascus. Before Messrs. Sykes, Picot and Balfour chopped up the world, there was a trade route from Nablus (the West Bank) via Irbid (Jordan) to Damascus (Syria). Nabulsis and Damascenes intermarried. In Syria today the famous sweet knafeh is known simply as nabulsiyeh, the Nablus thing.
Nablus is also famed for its olive oil soap. Although local bedazzlement by 'modern' products and (mainly) the obstructions of Israeli occupation have shrunk the industry, factories still operate in the Old City, sourcing their oil from the semi-besieged villages in the nearby hills.
These days life is a little easier than it has been. Palestinians can get to Ramallah fairly fast. They cannot get to Jerusalem, Gaza or Haifa, but they can benefit from some of the European Union/Palestinian Authority cash sloshing around if they are lucky. They can even drive up to the Sama Nablus viewpoint and drink tea without being shot at from the military base above.
But the Nabulsis remain surrounded; they become moreso every day. The Samaritan village up the hill is closed off (the Samaritans, who are Palestinians, are allowed through the checkpoint to work or school in Nablus). Iraq Burin, a nearby mountaintop village, suffers constant land theft as well as physical attacks by settlers and soldiers. In March, two village teenagers were murdered.
On every hilltop, there is a Jewish settlement.
Near Nabi Saleh in the Ramallah area I saw a settlement - caravans, concrete foundations and fenced-off farmland - constructed during the recent 'freeze'. While I was in Palestine the 'freeze' thawed entirely, sparking a rush of new building as well as some orgiastic orchard-burning.
Half of Nabi Saleh's agricultural land and now its agricultural water supply have been stolen by armed men from the neighbouring Halamish colony.
In the Salfit region, the Jewish settlement of Ariel cuts the West Bank into south and north. With its own university and theatre complex, the settlement constitutes a veritable city.
The settlements are linked by gleaming highways to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But these roads are for Jews only. Palestinian roads access only segments of the land, and are controlled by checkpoints and ditches.
Signs alongside these roads indicate Jewish settlements but not Palestinian towns. Forbidden Jerusalem is signposted in Arabic by the Hebrew name "Urushaleem," and only between brackets as "al-Quds" - its ancient and contemporary Arab name.
Mountain of Fire
That is the situation, and for now the Nabulsis bear up quietly. Examples of what will happen when they next make a noise are not only delivered across the airwaves from Gaza but are immediately at hand, embedded in the structure of the city itself.
There are bullet holes in the ornamental windows of the Yasmeen Hotel, scars of Israel's re-occupation of the city centre in 2002, when at least 80 Palestinians were killed and tens of historic buildings were destroyed, including ancient mosques and an Orthodox church.
There are the emptied ruins of entire blocks exploded by F16s. There is a memorial plaque at the site of a home which was bulldozed with a whole family trapped inside. Eight people were murdered there, nine if you count the foetus in the womb of Nabila Shu'bi.
Popularly known as Jabal an-Naar, the Mountain of Fire, the Nablus area has lost 1,600 martyrs in the last decade. Each quarter has a plaque listing local names, and the faces of fighters adorn the Old City walls.
In a strange echo of these posters, and what felt like proof that death's memory is inescapable in Nablus, an icon in the restored Byzantine-Crusader church at Joseph's Well (where Jesus revealed himself as messiah to a Samaritan) shows Archimandrite Philoumenos Khassapis being hacked 36 times by the axe of a fanatical settler in 1979.
Greek tourists and Palestinian Christians pray at the Archimandrite's shrine.
The family of martyrs
After one Friday's prayers I visited the grave of a friend's mother, Shaden al-Saleh. Shaden was a teacher and community organiser. She was executed by Israeli soldiers while embroidering on the step at home. After we had paid our respects, her son and I brushed the needles from the grave of Jihad al-Alul, who was shot in the head on the first day of the Second Intifada, ten years ago.
The 20-year-old had been part of an unarmed crowd confronting soldiers at the Hawwara checkpoint which blocks the city's southern exit. As we swept the needles from Jihad's memorial we chatted with Abu Fadi, whose two martyred sons are nearby. A warm, mournful man, Abu Fadi has made a garden of their tombs. My friend knows him well, as he knows all the families who visit these graves. He says that when his mother died he became part of the great family of the martyrs.
I had come to Nablus to teach a creative writing course. For one exercise I asked the students to write about a moment connecting a character to history. One young woman wrote about her younger self clutching the radio as bombs gobbled surrounding buildings. One wrote about her big brother, not the story of his murder but the story of her finding out. Another wrote about her 12-year-old nephew's funeral. He had been shot in an empty street. His aunt choked with tears as she read out her text.
I feared that I had gone too far, imposing on them a subject they must be constantly picking at. But the class reassured me. One used the word 'therapeutic'. "We never normally have an opportunity to talk about these things," she said.
One reason for the silence is the censoring chill cast over public discourse by the split in Palestinian leadership.
The besieged Hamas government in Gaza rounds up Fatah activists, while the West/Israeli-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) arrests Hamas sympathisers in the West Bank. Six-hundred Nabulsis are currently held in the PA's Junaid prison.
People speak guardedly in public, as they do in any other Arab police state. But many Palestinians call the current system a dual occupation.
When the Israelis choose to they order the PA police off the streets and then take men from their homes. This happened several times during my visit, always at night - once two brothers were taken from the kiosk at the end of my street.
The people in Balata Camp - a place far more harrowing than the graveyard - told me that the soldiers came in most nights.
The Balata refugees have their own graveyard, containing an absurd proportion of young martyrs. But what is more painful than death in Balata is the caged density of the living - the numbers crammed in narrow rooms, the high ratio of men in wheelchairs, the broken faces of the prematurely aged. These people came from Haifa, Jaffa, Acre. They lived in farms, towns and villages within sight of the sea. Today they are not safe even in their breezeblock cells. During the Intifada Israeli troops used to enter their houses by blowing holes through the walls.
No resistance without unity
I saw Haneen al-Zoabi giving a lecture. She is the knesset member who sailed with the Gaza Flotilla and was so shabbily abused while attempting to give her account of events to Israel's parliament. In Nablus, she spoke emotionally about the situation of Palestinian-Israelis, the descendants of those few who escaped ethnic cleansing in 1948.
Citizens but not nationals of the state (nationality is for Jews only), Palestinian-Israelis receive a fraction of the services offered to Jews, are forbidden from teaching Palestinian history in schools and are as likely to be victims of land confiscation as fellow Palestinians in the West Bank. Ninety-three per cent of Israel's land is off-limits to non-Jews and half of Palestinian-Israeli families live below the poverty line.
I heard Jamal Hwayil speak. He was the leader of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin at the time of Israel's 2002 massacre there and now he is an independent member of the Palestinian parliament. He took a clear position on Palestinian division: "Political arrests are wrong. Wrong in Gaza and wrong in the West Bank. Political arrests have no place in a liberation struggle."
A little later he added: "There can be neither meaningful negotiations nor productive armed resistance so long as the political leadership is divided."
Sitting next to this veteran of the armed resistance were Ayed Morrar and Muhammad Khatib, leaders of the 'popular' or non-violent resistance in Budrus and Bil'in villages respectively. Morrar is the star of the film Budrus, which shows him not only uniting Hamas and Fatah activists in his village, but also mobilising the village's women, international activists and even some Israelis against the separation wall that is eating away Budrus' olive orchards. Budrus managed to keep 95 per cent of the threatened land.
From the panel Jamal Hwayil congratulated Morrar for achieving 95 per cent of his immediate objective, but cautioned that the victory was incomplete: five per cent of the land had gone, the wall still stands and the occupation continues.
Hwayil, Morrar and Khatib agreed that armed and unarmed resistance complement each other and that the question of which to employ in any given context was not moral but tactical.
As well as the resisters, there were the sort of people who organised the discussion: articulate, engaged young thinkers analysing the system as apartheid, calling for the system to be replaced by democracy and promoting a Western boycott of Israel as one way to achieve this. Such ideas are growing increasingly influential in civil society, but they have no powerful party to represent them.
West Bank reservations
Meanwhile, as Neta Golan, a West Bank national of Jewish origin, told me: "They've made it very easy to get loans. People in Ramallah have bought cars. The rents are sky high. For the next few years a lot of people are just going to be pleased to pay off the loans."
This is the Tony Blair-Salam Fayyad plan for the West Bank reservations. In the words of political geographer Saed Abu Hijleh the message is "eat, drink, go to the toilet and shut up".
The landscape tells anybody who lives here, squeezed between towers, checkpoints and red-topped Jew-only housing, that it is far too late for two states.
For the refugees caged in camps, still holding the keys to their destroyed coastal homes, two states never sounded like a solution anyway. Palestine-Israel has always been one country.
From Refaat village I could see Tel Aviv's towers twinkling against the gathering gloom, not very far away at all. Israel's rain falls here where I stand, on the first band of hilltops east of the Mediterranean, on the West Bank.
Robin Yassin-Kassab is the author of The Road From Damascus, a novel published by Penguin. He co-edits www.pulsemedia.org and blogs at www.qunfuz.com.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Who will value Palestinian rights?
Fatah-Hamas reconciliation must begin with a vow to stop violating the human rights of those they compete to represent.
Lamis Andoni Last Modified: 09 Nov 2010 11:57 GMT
Hamas and Fatah have resumed reconciliation talks in a bid to heal the rift that has led to the Israeli occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip being governed by two separate bodies.
Previous meetings have failed to unite the two groups, whose differences have brought about the most serious schism in Palestinian history. There is nothing so far to indicate that this latest round of talks, taking place in the Syrian capital Damascus, will be any different.
But the suspension of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), as the latter continues to demand that Israel stop building illegal Jewish settlements, has provided an opportunity for the gap between Hamas and Fatah to be bridged.
The Hamas/Fatah split has served to polarise the Palestinian people, with no other force emerging either to unify the feuding parties or to replace them.
Both movements have historically achieved their claim to legitimacy through armed resistance to Israel. That legitimacy was reinforced through election processes in 1996 and again in 2006, when Hamas won the majority of seats in the legislative council, with Fatah, despite losing its leading status, showing that it remained an important player.
New elections must now be held to reflect the new power balance in the court of public opinion. But before elections can take place, unity must be achieved so that a situation which is conducive to a free and fair vote can prevail.
Holding a mirror
But even before the two groups reach an agreement on a political agenda, which is of utmost importance, they must make a serious commitment to respect the human rights of the Palestinian people. For while Israeli occupation represents the most flagrant violation of basic human rights, Hamas - through the deposed government in Gaza - and Fatah - through the PA - have also inflicted their share of abuses on Palestinians.
Hardly a month passes without Palestinian and international human rights organisations complaining of abuses being committed by one or both sides of the feud. Hamas can justifiably accuse the PA of suppressing its members in the West Bank to appease Israeli security demands, while Fatah can rightly accuse Hamas of repressing its members in Gaza. But neither security concerns, nor claims to represent the Palestinian resistance can justify human rights violations.
Hamas, just like the PA, has arrested people for engaging in resistance against Israel, although it argues that its case is different because it has no security agreements with Israel. But suppression is suppression regardless of who carries it out and it is clear that Hamas is trying to send a message to Israel that it, not Fatah, controls security.
All but a few Palestinian writers and bloggers have failed to hold both parties accountable for these abuses, focusing instead on exposing one while ignoring the other. But an activist or writer should be able to fully support Hamas or Fatah, depending on their own political standing, while remaining committed to human rights and holding a mirror to their own party.
Both parties are participating in a process of self-destruction as long as they continue to ignore the human rights of the people they are competing to represent.
Palestinian human rights organisations are now forced to keep a long record of complaints by Palestinians against Israel, Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-dominated security forces in the West Bank.
Both have been guilty - to different extents on different occasions - of preventing or disrupting protest rallies or meetings, either concocting a justification or simply offering no reason at all.
Most worryingly, both have resorted to torture - leaving lasting scars on the bodies and the consciousness of the Palestinian people.
This ongoing power struggle - for this is largely what it is - over an authority that has no authority, has increased the violations, with each afraid of the challenge the other poses.
The sanest voices in all of this have been those of the Hamas and Fatah detainees in Israeli prisons who have been at the forefront of calls for unity and the formulation of unity platform proposals.
Palestinians have been urging the world to look into Israeli crimes and human rights abuses. They are victims of a colonial apartheid system, which is why participating in the abuse of their own people is not only unacceptable but a crime that must stop.
If the Hamas/Fatah talks are to have any real meaning they must begin with a vow to respect and cherish Palestinian human rights.
Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Israel arrests top Hamas legislator
Israeli troops detain Mahmoud Ramahi, secretary-general of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in the city of Ramallah.
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2010 13:51 GMT
Israeli troops have arrested Mahmoud Ramahi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas sources have said.
The troops stormed the Hamas legislator's home in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Mona Mansour, another Hamas legislator, said Ramahi had called her as the troops entered his house to tell her that he was being arrested.
"Then the phone call disconnected and no one knows where he was taken to," she said.
The Israeli army said Ramahi was one of twelve West Bank Palestinians taken into custody overnight.
The developments come as representatives from Hamas and the Fatah party started a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday night for reconciliation talks.
The political rivals have been fiercely divided since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, limiting Fatah's authority to the West Bank.
Several previous attempts to reconcile the groups have failed.
Omar Abdul Razek, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, told the AFP news agency that Ramahi's arrest appeared to be an attempt by Israel to undermine the reconciliation talks.
"There is no justification for Ramahi's arrest unless Israel's aim is to sabotage the reconciliation process," Abdul Razek said.
Three weeks ago, Hatem Qafaish, another Hamas legislator, was detained in the southern West Bank city of Hebron for what the Israeli army termed "security questioning".
Israeli forces last arrested Ramahi in 2006 in a roundup of dozens of Hamas officials, after members of Hamas seized the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.