Middle-East

Jordanian Sheikh: Allah gave Israel to the Jews

Jordanian Sheikh Ahmad al-Adwan adheres to his unconventional interpretation of the Koran, and is not afraid to enrage the Palestinians and their supporters. A Jordanian Quranic scholar, and former postal worker, cited the Quranic sources that affirm Islam and Judaism should have friendly relations and that ‘Palestine’ should be for Jews.

In December 2012, Sheikh al-Adwan visited Israel and met with Jewish Rabbis including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in order to discuss peace and reconciliation between the religions. He was interviewed after the visit, which was published a few months ago on the ‘Israel in Arabic’ site. ‘Mida’ (a news and intellectual website which aims to present the public with information and opinions not common in the Israeli media) has now presented an English translation of this important interview, which allows a look into unconventional positions and facts, which are not sufficiently well-known in the Israeli and worldwide media.

Jordanian Sheikh Adwan

Here are some of the key points of this interview (Note: Koran verses were taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation, available at Project Gutenberg ):

Allah may He be praised wrote in the Torah that this is the land of the sons of Israel, he bequeathed the Holy Land to the sons of Israel and called the land by this name (the Land of Israel) and so it is stated by the Holy Koran: “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.” [Koran 5:21]. This holy verse is a “Kushan” (deed) which confirms that this land is granted to the Jews. It is also said “We made the Children of Israel inheritors of such things.” [Koran 26:59], and in the following verse “And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land (of promise)”” [Koran 17:104] and there are many additional holy verses which prove and confirm this.

All should know that the Holy Land is their [the Jews’] land and that Jerusalem is the direction towards which they pray and during their readings and ceremonies, as God said in the Koran “Turn then Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque” (in Mecca) [Koran 2:144]. This verse effectively cancels out the prayer towards al-Aqsa (the Temple Mount) and all traditions regarding al-Aqsa for Muslims.

It is also said in the Koran “Even if thou were to bring to the people of the Book all the Signs (together), they would not follow Thy Qibla; nor art thou going to follow their Qibla;” [Koran 2:145]. That is, God created two directions for prayer [“Qibla” in Arabic]. One he designated for Muslims – this is the Kaaba in holy Mecca, while the Jews’ prayer direction is al-Aqsa which is holy to the Jews, this in spite of the nations of the world, because this is the command of God, the King of Kings who chooses how to run His world.

The Palestinians are the killers of children, the elderly and women. They attack the Jews and then they use those (children, the elderly and women) as human shields and hide behind them, without mercy for their children as if they weren’t their own children, in order to tell the public opinion that the Jews intended to kill them. This is exactly what I saw with my own two eyes in the 70’s, when they attacked the Jordanian army, which sheltered and protected them. Instead of thanking it (the Jordanian army), they brought their children forward to (face) the Jordanian army, in order to make the world believe that the army kills their children. This is their habit and custom, their viciousness, their having hearts of stones towards their children, and their lying to public opinion, in order to get its support.” (Source: ‘Mida’ )

Palestine?

To the opinion that the Kingdom of Jordan in its present borders is the Palestinian State Sheikh al-Adwan has clear position:

The State (Jordan) was blessed with the glorious and honorable leadership of the Hashemites, a strong Jordanian nation connected to its land of tribes and families, and proud and brave men who support and embrace the present leadership and support its call for peace. Anyone who says this is the Palestinian State is either asleep or a daydreamer…a terrorist and a wicked person.

A quote from the answer to question if Sheikh al-Adwan believes that those who call themselves “Palestinians” have a right to establish a state on the Jews’ historic land?

How can they (the Palestinians) have the right to establish a State on the Jewish Land of Israel, which Allah granted and bequeathed to the Jews? More than that, even if all the inhabitants of the land forgot their right, or went crazy and collaborated with those who call themselves “Palestinians” to establish a state for the latter, they won’t succeed, and Allah will not allow this until the Day of Judgment, this because Allah Himself willed and specifically wrote in His book that this land will be the land of the People of Israel under Israeli sovereignty so that no-one would later dispute it.

Mandate for PalestineWith this question I have a bit different approach as I see Palestine in relation to British mandate. From Israeli point of view the legal rights to the land are based to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the League of Nations San Remo Conference of 1920. The geographical area called Palestine was to become a homeland for the Jewish Homeland. The land was administered as British mandate. Britain split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan on the eastern bank of the River Jordan. This part is now known as the modern Kingdom of Jordan. The Peel Commission of the late 1930’s endeavored to partition the western portion of the original Jewish Homeland into Jewish and Arab mini-states, the latter to mollify Arab rioters fomented by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, an close ally with Hitler during WWII

Coming back to the present time for example Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb (on 31st Oct. 2012) with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan(More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move , Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

Palestinian state
Similar approach

Besides Al-Adwan few other muslim scholars have similar approach. For example Abdul Hadi Palazzi – secretary general of the Italian Muslim Assembly – accepts Israel’s sovereignty over the Holy Land, and says the Qur’an supports it as the will of God as a necessary prerequisite for the Final Judgment. He accepts Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, if the rights of other religions are protected. He quotes the Qur’an to support Judaism’s special connection to the Temple Mount. (Source: Wiki) Also Muhammad Al-Hussaini (Leo Baeck Rabbinical College, London) has similar Muslim-zionist position as he understands the text of the Qur’an to award the Holy Land to the Jews for all time, and he holds that Muslims can be convinced of this interpretation. (Source: Wiki )

Opposite approach

On the other hand the Islamic State (IS) – formerly known as ISIS – the terror group wreaking havoc and death across Iraq and Syria, has promised a Holocaust against the Jews. The Algemeiner brings us this report of a disguised Israeli reporter who interviewed an American-born member of IS, a report that shows the terrorists’ intentions, as well as the truth behind their many foreign-born members. Posing as “Abed al-Islam Afifi,” 26, from Paris, the reporter contacted Abu Turab via a cellphone app.

From Syria, we’ll expand the caliphate, Allah willing, and Hizbullah and the Jews will meet their fate, and soon,” vowed an American-born 26-year-old Islamic State (IS) fighter in Aleppo, Syria …

IS boasts that dozens of American youths, and hundreds from various countries in Europe have joined its ranks and have already entered Syria and Iraq to fight alongside various factions, in part, thanks to easy access to information on the internet …

Dr. Muhammad Al Atawneh, a senior faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggested that these young people understand Islam and organizations like IS via non-religious sources. “For these young people, this is a protest. They see radical Islam as an alternative to the failure of nation-states. They go to the edge of the edge, talking about the caliphate, but no one there knows what ‘caliphate’ really means,” he said. “There is tremendous ignorance on the subject,” Al Atawneh said. “They’re very confused in matters of religion. The distortions and gaps are so abysmal, it is impossible to understand what texts people who chop off heads are following.” (Source: The Algemeiner )

ISIS five-year plan

ISIS five-year plan

My view

Personally, from my perspective the religious aspects related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are insignificant. In my opinion the legitimacy of Israel is based on anti-Semitism through centuries and especially implementation of Holocaust during WWII. Based to this unique experience – as far as I can see – the Jews have all right to their newly established homeland; sure newborn Israel same time has violated the rights of Arabs living West side of the River Jordan but as said in my opinion the claim of Jews compared to Arabs is more justified in this region.

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Peculiarities of Operation Protective Edge

In Israeli-Palestinian conflict the policy “meet quiet with quiet” turned on July 2014 to violence leading to ongoing operation Protective Edge. Again one can see usual vicious cycle like few times before: Hamas terrorizes Israeli civilians with rockets, Israel responds and tries to disarm Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure, the innocent civilians on both sides of the border are paying the price, once again, and that military action will not guarantee long-term stability or peace.

Hamas is trying to claim a symbolic victory over Israel. But the longer the conflict lasts, the more complications the militants in Gaza face as they see their threat of force erode with time – that their tool is becoming less effective. Since the beginning of the operation, more than 2200 terror targets in Gaza have been eliminated, however the real conflict is yet to follow if all three possible stages – an integrated air and sea assault, a ground operation from the Army, and the third part if needed would be expanding the operation including recruiting more reservists- will be implemented. The coming days will show whether this conflict will end as earlier ones or is it sliding into a full-blown war.

Media attention in Israel and abroad is starting to shift to Ukraine for the first time in days after reports are flooding in that a Malaysian Airlines commercial jet was shot down. Already earlier there was competition for media space due IS(IS) activities in Iraq and Syria. My forecast is that in one to three weeks (depending how deep ground operation Israel implements) there will be a ceasefire for two-three next years.

End of story? Not yetas in my opinion this time there are few aspects which are significant in comparison to earlier operations. I would like to highlight three of them: Increased capacity of Hamas, critical attitude from Arab states which is making the political impact of Hamas operation less effective and civilian to combatant deaths ratio.

Reinforcements 1: New rockets

Hamas has now better capacity to implement its operations due two significant means – the new longer range rockets and the offensive tunnels. A novelty in this latest conflict is the apparent use by the Palestinians of an even longer-range system – thought to be a Syrian built-missile – the Khaibar-1. This was first used earlier this month and has a range of up to 160km which brings Israel’s northern coastal city of Haifa within reach. A weapon that crops up in some of the reporting has the designation M-302 which has a similar range. Range here is crucial. Bringing the population of major Israeli cities under threat, however inaccurate the weapon, causes huge disruption and fear.

Hamas rocketsEarlier Hamas has used shorter-range systems like heavy mortars and Grad and Qassam rockets with ranges of up to 48km (30 miles) and 17km respectively. They threaten towns and cities in southern Israel, like Sderot, Ashkelon and even Beersheba and the port of Ashdod. There is also the longer range Fajr-5, sometimes also designated the M75. It can reach up to 75km, threatening major population centres like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.


Here is a report from Israel Defence Force (IDF) intelligence on Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket arsenal:

Short range (15-20 km)

  • Over 2,000 units of self-produced rockets (15 km)
  • Over 3,500 units of smuggled rockets (15 km)
  • Approx. 500 units of self-produced Grad rockets (20 km)
  • Approx. 300 units of smuggled Grad rockets (20 km)

Medium range (up to 45 km)

  • Approx. 400 units of self-produced improved Grad rockets (45 km)
  • Approx. 1,600 units of smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km)

Medium-Long range (up to 80 km)

  • Over 500 units of self-produced medium range rockets
  • Several dozens of rockets (80 km)

Long range (100-200 km)

  • Tens of long-range rockets (100-200 km)

In Total: Approximately 9,000-10,000 rockets

The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza. However for example using the Fajr-5 brings huge practical problems. It is heavy and fairly large – some 6m (20ft) tall. It requires mechanical handling and needs to be pre-positioned in hidden launch sites and camouflaged from the prying eyes of Israeli drones.

Besides new rockets of Hamas there is also other increase of similar capacity. Armed groups linked to Fatah say they began launching rockets and mortar shells into Israel Wednesday 16th . The Nidal Al-Amody force of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for firing Grad and 107 millimeter rockets toward Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha and the Sufa Crossing from Gaza. Communiques specifying the attacks were published on Fatah’s official Facebook page. On 17thanother armed force associated with Fatah, the Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions, claimed responsibility for launching two Grad rockets at Ashkelon and four mortar shells at Kibbutz Nir Oz. Fatah’s FB title: “The Al-Aqsa Brigades and the Abdul Qader Husseini Brigades have proven today that they are the most loyal to the blood of the martyrs.”

For the first time in this conflict rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel, targeting the northern town of Metula early on Friday. According to defence sources they were likely fired by a Palestinian group, and not by Hezbollah.

In addition it’s now been discovered that what the IDF shot down on 14th July was not a rocket, but an unmanned drone launched from Gaza. This represent an escalation of Gaza’s capabilities and attempts to attack Israel. The drone was shot down by a Patriot missile and it was the first time a Patriot has been launched at a target in Israel in 20 years.

Reinforcements 2: Offensive tunnels

Offensive tunnels have become a strategic weapon for Hamas in recent years. Gaza militants were en route to ambush the string of agricultural communities that are just a few hundred feet of fields away from the border. Israeli border kibbutz became a war zone.It highlighted the potency of Hamas’ network of border attack tunnels: the Islamic militants penetrated Israeli territory three times in three days and want to open a new front in the battle against Israel by targeting the border kibbutz. (Source and more in WSJ )

Hamas tunnelsIsraeli sources admit that they have been surprised by the extent of the tunneling under the border. This “blind spot” in Israeli intelligence can be explained by the strict compartmentalization of the digging operation in Gaza, which was not carried out not by Hamas members, but by families from Rafah which specialize in tunneling. These families controlled the smuggling tunnels from Egypt and were brought in as contractors by Hamas. Israel is now claiming that a large proportion of the concrete it allowed into Gaza in recent years for civilian building was used in the tunnels’ construction. This tunnel system was designed to be the Palestinian Islamists’ highest strategic asset, Around 16,000 men, around 15 percent of Hamas’ fighting strength, were assigned to the tunnel project in the last five years and substantial funds.

On Oct. 10th , 2013 Israeli Army discovered a tunnel dug by Palestinians from east of Abasan, in southern Gaza.According Al-Monitorthe passageway lies 20 meters underground, is 2.5 kilometers long, and has a ceiling high enough to accommodate a man of average height. The tunnel is also remarkably wide. Its construction required 800 tons of concrete and cost an estimated $10 million. Some 100 workers toiled on it for more than two years. It was equipped with a communications network and electricity and contained stockpiles of cookies, yoghurt and other foods to allow for stays of several months.

Hamas tunnelsDefense analysts admit that the threat of the cross-border attack tunnels is even more potent than Hamas’s rocket arsenal because of the risk of mass casualties or a kidnapping from the border. Israel’s military said destroying the Hamas tunnel network has become a main goal of their ground operation into the Gaza Strip, in addition to stopping rocket fire. (Source WSJ )

So far, Hamas has lost 13 of these kind of offensive tunnels, some of which Israel possesses both ends of, with Israeli troops having taken control of the entry points in Gaza. Still ahead of the Israeli operation, after the troops finish cleansing Shejaiya are similar challenges to dismantle Hamas’ offensive capabilities in another three of their Gaza City strongholds: Shaati, Al Bureij and Nuseirat, before Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure can be said to have been disarmed. Israel is making every effort to find and destroy all of the remaining tunnels before Operation Protective Edge comes to an end. It is estimated that construction similar tunnels takes around three years.

Civilian deaths

“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”(The Hamas guidelines to Gaza Strip social media users for reporting events and discussing them with outsiders)

The role of civilians during ongoing operation Protective Edge is traditional one: Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations intentionally target Israeli civilians and use the population of Gaza as human shields, storing and firing rockets from within populated areas. One example during this ongoing operation was when twenty rockets have been hidden in a Gaza school operated under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, officials from the organization confirm. UNRWA officials in Israel are summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where they apologize to Israel for the incident. Despite this United Nations officials handed the rockets found in Gaza school over to Hamas so they can be shot at Israel.

Israel aims to targets included buildings used by the Hamas leadership, the homes of senior Hamas members, tunnels, underground launchers, communications infrastructure, military bases, and weapons caches. The IDF and Shin Bet intelligence agency joint targeted the homes of a series of Hamas leaders that were used as command and control centers by the military wing of Hamas. Israel does not intentionally target Palestinian civilians; in opposite the IDF takes extraordinary measures to avoid Palestinian civilian deaths. This is the core difference between Israeli and Hamas approaches and in my opinion it will give justification to this discussion about disproportion.

The former Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, gives an insider view to civilian casualties in conflicts:

The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.”

As example Col.Kemp probably has earlier Gaza operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). The militants are hiding, and their weapons are located, among their own people. For example, Israel has bombed 1,100 targets in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, with an average of one civilian killed per 14-15 attacks. In the war in Kosovo, 500 civilians were killed in 900 air attacks by NATO forces, i.e. more than one fatality per every two attacks.

Hamas rocketsIt is worth noting that many of the civilian casualties can be attributed to Hamas’s use of human shields, as they have encouraged civilians over and over again to become human shields as an “effective strategy” in the PR war against Israel. In addition, several of the rockets fired from Gaza have never made it on to Israeli soil, and may be partially responsible for Palestinian Arab deaths from within Gaza itself. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, over 100 rockets fired at Israel have fallen short of their targets, causing an unknown number of deaths. In addition Hamas has also during Operation Protective Edge executed many Palestinians due to collaboration or spying for Israel.

gaza land crossings activityIsrael is attempting to avoid civilian casualties with warning strikes (rockets which make a noise but do not explode), telephoned warnings to specific houses, as well as broadcasts to the civilian population urging them to distance themselves from armed groups and their infrastructure. (More in my articleMinimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict) Israel has kept open crossings for goods to enter the Gaza Strip, in contrast to Egypt which keeps its Rafah border with the Strip mainly closed. Medical patients from Gaza continue to enter Israel for life saving treatment on a daily basis. IDF warnings have been documented in certain cases, and even the civilians in Gaza admit in a number of instances that they were warned by the IDF. (More in Globes )

Saying all above I estimate that the civilian to combatant deaths ratio during Operation Protective Edge will be much higher than in previous operation as the targets are now better hide among civilian population and because of encouraging civiliansto become human shields.

Speaking about Israeli civilian deaths I expect them to be minimal like during earlier operations. Sure more people are in danger due to Hamas’ new rockets but also there is better Iron Dome system for protection. Iron Dome batteries are made up of interceptor missiles: radars and command systems that analyse where target missiles might fall and only intercept those deemed to be heading for civilian areas. ( More about Israel missile defence in my article ( More about Israel missile defence in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? ) . Israel has also invested – as opposite to Hamas – lot of efforts for warning signals and shelters for Israeli civilians. All this means that the death ones in Israeli side will be soldiers especially if ground operation takes more weeks to end.

iron dome

Hamas losing political support

Hamas must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe. The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen. There weren’t automatic mass demonstrations against Israel and the West. No major riots or countless photographs of Israeli and American flags on fire across the region. (Source and more: ClarionProject )

The offensive waged by Hamas against Israel from the Gaza Strip has sparked intense criticism in the Arab media, reflecting the movement’s deteriorating status in the Arab world.Media in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt blame Hamas’ actions for inviting Israeli counter attacks and prioritizing conflict over the safety of the Gazan population and criticized the leadership for waging war far from the conflict, a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) report shows.


For example in an article titled “Gaza Is not All Hamas”, Dr. Nagla Al-Sayyid, a columnist in the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that Hamas was losing its legitimacy because it was trading in the blood of Palestinians while exploiting the financial aid it was receiving to promote its political and ideological interests. Dr. Amal ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Hazzani, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote that Hamas sacrifices the people of Gaza while falsely claiming victory over Israel. “Adding fuel to the fire of the Gaza victims is the repeated media hypocrisy and the disgusting tear-jerking speeches that we don’t stop hearing every time Hamas decides to sacrifice some of the people of Gaza. Only rarely do they speak the truth. The Arab street doesn’t want to hear anything aside from curses against Israel, and that is easy, because we’ve been cursing it for over 60 years. After Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash’al criticized Egypt’s Gaza policy by saying, “We expect the Egyptian army [to use its] spirit of heroism for the sake of its Arab nation,”many columnists in the Egyptian media responded with fury. For instance, in an article titled “Why Isn’t Khaled Mash’al Giving His Life In Gaza?”, columnist Hamdi Razaq argued that, while Egypt is defending the Palestinian cause, Hamas has “sold” it to the MB, and Mash’al himself is enjoying a life of luxury in Qatar. He wrote: “Where is your spirit of heroism, Abu Walid [i.e., Khaled Mash’al]? Join your brothers. The media in Syria, which is likewise resentful of Hamas and its leaders due to their support for the rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad, also slammed this movement, saying that it has abandoned the resistance in favor of a Western plan to destroy the Arab world, and that Mash’al has chosen to manage the war not from Gaza but rather from Doha, the capital of Qatar, a country known for its support for the MB and “in whose palaces the Israeli and Western intelligence cells nest.”

Finally also Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry blamed Hamas for the situation, telling Egyptian newspaper editors, “The parties that oppose the Egyptian cease-fire initiative bear responsibility for the Palestinian blood being shed.” (More about cease-fire intiative in Bicom article)

What’s motivating Hamas to commit suicide – or temporary one at least – now? One reason might be that the last few months it has become quite clear that the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip is dictating the fate of the movement and its leaders. Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing is closed; there aren’t enough tunnels to bring in ammunition, luxery items and other merchandise for profits of Hamas elite which lacks money to pay salaries to its bureaucrats and fighters.

The latestPew poll  shows that only 35% of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hamas. About 63% of those in Gaza and 47% of those in the West Bank have an unfavorable view. That means that the political position of Hamas has done a 180 degree turn. The survey also found that 65% of Palestinians worry about Islamic extremism, consisting of 79% of those in the Gaza Strip and 57% of the West Bank.

Safeguarding civils Israel vs Hamas

When Hamas first took the Gaza Strip it presented itself as fighting the corrupt Fatah administration, but now the people of Gaza have seen that they are no different. Both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have been suffering for some time now from a serious loss of credibility. The decision to launch rockets on the part of Hamas represented a cynical attempt to regain the loss in credibility. One reason for weakening popularity might be that people in Gaza see how corrupt the ruling elite is. For example in contrast to most refugee families, in 2010 PM Haniyeh reportedly purchased a 2,500 square meter plot of land in Gaza City for $4 million. Globes reported that in order not to draw attention to the purchase, he registered the land in the name of his daughter, Nabil. Since then, he has continued purchasing real estate, under the names of his 13 children. The paper also reported that there is no shortage of million-dollar villas for sale in Gaza, and no shortage of people to buy them, mostly Hamas officials. According to Dr Ahmed Karima, a senior lecturer at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Hamas has transformed from a resistance movement to a political party representing no less than 1,200 millionaires. Other Hamas officials who have become rich since the group staged a violent coup in Gaza in 2006 include Politburo Chief Khaled Mashal, who enjoys a bank stash of $2.6 billion, much of which is stored in Qatari and Egyptian banks. (Source and more e.g in Jewishpress )

On the other hand in the West Bank residents speak admiringly of the Islamist militant group Hamas while despairing that Abbas’s advocacy for nonviolence has led nowhere. It is claimed from The Palestinian side that the timing of Protective Edge is aimed at derailing a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that brought together the various factions, including Hamas, under Abbas’s leadership. The battle between Israel and Hamas has laid bare just how little impact the unity deal had on the ground. Abbas has virtually no presence in Gaza, and he lacks the ability to influence events there. Anyway an indisputable loser of ongoing operation is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who this spring was Israel’s partner in U.S.-brokered peace talks but has now been relegated to bystander status.

From Israeli side the official justification for yet another shelling of the Gaza strip, after the 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defence” and the December 2008 “Operation Cast Lead” is the usual one. These strikes are necessary, the Israeli government claims, to destroy devices and bases used for the launching of rockets aimed at Israeli towns. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, terrorists from the strip have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel.

Political solution?

Military action, however, is not a long-term solution, as Israeli operations in 2012 and 2008-9 showed. Israel seized Gaza in 1967 and withdrew in 2005. It is hard to see how re-occupation would serve Israel’s interests. American-mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed in April 2014. After that, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reached a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, which has lost support in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. That moment could have been a chance to erode Hamas’s political standing further and boost Palestinian moderates like Mr. Abbas. The agreement created a government that had no Hamas members, reaffirmed the Palestinian Authority’s longstanding commitment to living in peace with Israel, and would have given the authority a foothold in Gaza.

Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. Many Israelis however understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.The current escalation in Gaza is partly result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. In my opinion the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests.

The first step probably will be a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. After that a possible scenario could be implementing Palestinian reconciliation deal with Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections and start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations again on the basis of two-state solution. As this method has been used last twenty years without progress I have doubts also this time. The Palestinian leaders have “rejected several opportunities to establish a Palestinian state and develop Palestinian civil society.” They fear that “accepting reconciliation would transform the Palestinians … from the world’s ultimate victim into an ordinary nation-state, terminating decades of unprecedented international indulgence;” it would force them “into responsibility, accountability and the daunting task of state building.”

On basis of reading different analysis and looking the mood in some social media forums I think that the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground from the centre-left to the centre-right. One of the possible solutions is The Bennet’s sovereignty program. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed to apply Israel’s sovereignty to Area C, beginning with the major settlement blocs. After the recent breakdown in the negotiations with the PLO Bennet said that this was the time for Israel to put its own initiative on the table, and start to “move forward after 20 years of trying one track, which has met with no success.” Likud Ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, have spoken recently about applying Israel law to Area C of the West Bank.

The Oslo Accords divided Judea and Samaria into three areas: Area A, B and C. Area A comprises some 18 percent of the territory, and was transferred to the control of the Palestinian Authority, which enjoys most governmental powers. Authority in Area B, making up 22% of the territory, was divided between Israel and the Palestinians, with Israel retaining security control, and civil matters given over to the PA. Area C, comprising some 60% of the territory – including all the Jewish settlements – remained in Israeli hands. There are an estimated 350,000 Israelis and 70,000 Palestinians in Area C. Under Bennett’s plan, the Palestinians would be offered full Israeli citizenship.The proposal includes removing IDF roadblocks in the territory left under Palestinian control, Areas A and B, as well as investing in infrastructure there and pursuing massive economic development. (Source: Jpost )

My conclusion

So my conclusion about operation Protective Edge is that it updates Hamas capasity to terror Israel as well shows the ability of Israel to protect its civilian population. After too many civilian deaths on Palestinian side and after Hamas capacity is destroyd enough for couple of next years and when Hamas in their propaganda can show its strength to fight against Israel there will be ceasefire facilitated by Egypt, Qatar and/or USA in one to three weeks. After that there might be some peace talks round again without result and both parties start to implement their unilateral actions. Is this forecast right or wrong remains to see, but this kind of scenario is from my perspective very possible.

civilians hamas vs Israel

Appendix:

Materials regarding IDF’s efforts to avoid harming civilians

(Communicated by the Israeli Government Press Office)


IDF call to warn the population prior to attacking in the Gaza Strip
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yvQz3SQxGI&list=PLObnKQho8o8PNUxfldeGNOsDFdazchJH8&index=21>

Warning Flyer distributed by the IDF to warn the civilian population of Shuja’iya before an operation
<https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/490811849718259712/photo/1>

Israeli Air Force cancels a planned strike due to civilians being in the area
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuL-OA84p54&index=17&list=PLObnKQho8o8PNUxfldeGNOsDFdazchJH8>

Hamas gathers civilians on a rooftop, to serve as human shields, causing the IDF to avoid an attack
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTArVIHDelg&index=9&list=PLObnKQho8o8PNUxfldeGNOsDFdazchJH8>

IDF transfers humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIm_hf-fG3E&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg>

Video showing the warning given to “Wafa” hospital prior to attack, and the large secondary explosions indicating that the place served as a hiding place for weapons
<http://youtu.be/8O9AHzUKYk8>

Materials indicating Hamas use of civilians as human shields and other violations by Hamas of International Law

IDF video explaining the issue of human shields in Gaza, and placing civilians within the line of fire
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzFgIhFKII8&feature=youtu.be&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg>

Hamas Spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri admits: The human shields policy is effective
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ6S0-o3uFI&list=PLQWAIPjg0J35g5R7YnlksFFUF4i_IaGOj>

Hamas Spokesman, Mushir El-Masri, calls civilian population not to leave their homes
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TERz6YgOIGo&feature=youtu.be>

Spokesman of the Hamas Military Section, Abu Ubeida admits to using youth as warriors: We manufactured a quarter of a million hand grenades and our boys will throw them instead of throwing rocks
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_UbLHNFAv4&feature=youtu.be>

Flyer by the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior calling civilians not to comply with IDF evacuation warnings
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2lB76qTkQA&feature=youtu.be>

Gaza citizens admit that Hamas forbids them from leaving their homes (3:15 mins) <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMUdU3AqlyQ&feature=youtu.be>

Violations of International Law by Hamas
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOAVEpfusvQ&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg>

Hamas uses an ambulance to help militants escape a battle area
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7O114V9PdmM&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg&index=7>

Stockpile of ready-to-fire rockets hidden by Hamas next to a school in Gaza
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u57yxd753f8&index=9&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg>

Hamas militants shoot from residential homes
<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfbjO2WznEk&index=10&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg>

Video proving that Hamas uses explosive tunnels
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn2Vee_N8SM&list=UUawNWlihdgaycQpO3zi-jYg&index=2>

Aerial photo of shooting next to a hospital and a mosque
<http://www.idfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Shujaiya-square.jpg>

Infographic: Terror tunnels in Shuja’iya
<http://www.idfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/xray-cityspaen.jpg>

IDF infographic of an aerial photo about Shuja’iya
<https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/490833439222804481>

Journalist in Gaza tweets: Hamas militant in Shuja’iya fighting wearing women’s clothing
<https://mobile.twitter.com/janisctv/status/490864436518080512>

Washington Post report: Hamas militants placing rockets in a mosque in the north of the Gaza Strip
<http://m.washingtonpost.com/world/gaza-residents-scramble-to-make-most-of-five-hour-truce/2014/07/17/e5485fce-0d7e-11e4-8341-b8072b1e7348_story.html>

UNRWA admits: Hamas hid rockets in one of our schools in Gaza <http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-strongly-condemns-placement-rockets-school>

A second case in which UNRWA admits to finding a stockpile of rockets hidden in one of their schools
<http://www.unrwa.org//newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-condemns-placement-rockets-second-time-one-its-schools>

Collection of photos of tunnels dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip <https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=45644610@N03&q=tunnel>

Articles

Article on Hamas use of civilians as human shields
<http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20669/E_111_14_2032155167.pdf>

Article on Hamas use of mosques for military purposes
<http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20672>

Article on Hamas use of schools for military purposes
<http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/he/article/20680>

Article on use of the home of a Hamas terrorist for storing weapons
<http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/he/article/20677>

Article on use of medical facilities and ambulances for military-terrorist purposes
<http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/20683>

Epilogue:

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BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Does Israeli Society explain Its Superiority in The Middle East?

In Arab and Iranian dictators’ propaganda there is almost no problem that is not caused by the existence of Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy. Most of the Arab and Muslim states do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. However the freest Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East live in Israel. The Israeli government is the only one in the Middle East that is elected by free citizens — including Arabs and Muslims. Ironically even Islamic values seems better to be implemented in Western countries than in any country in world dominated by Islam.
In my opinion the modern society based on (Western or European) civilization or cultural history might explain the huge imbalance in the Great Middle East.The core reason for the imbalance between societies in the great Middle East might be from my point of view in the role of religion in different societies – in the lines between religion and secularism , between state and religion, between theocracy and democracy.

 

Why are Muslims so backward and powerless?

All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.(Richard Dawkins)

Why Arabic Spring transformed itself Islamic winter and why also after that it is so difficult to establish some kind of constititional democracy in any Arab country even if the majority of population demands the change of regime. A quite good answer I found from article Why are Muslims so backward and powerless? written by Dr.Farrukh Saleem, the Pakistani Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank established in 2007 and an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Some highlights from his article describing not only Arab states but Muslim world in general:

  • There are an estimated 1,476,233,470 Muslims on the face of the planet: one billion in Asia, 400 million in Africa, 44 million in Europe and six million in the Americas . Every fifth human being is a Muslim; for every single Hindu there are two Muslims, for every Buddhist there are two Muslims and for every Jew there are one hundred Muslims. There are 57 member-countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), and all of them put together have around 500 universities; one university for every three million Muslims. The United States has 5,758 universities and India has 8,407. In 2004, Shanghai Jiao Tong University compiled an ‘Academic Ranking of World Universities’ , and intriguingly, not one university from Muslim-majority states was in the top-500.
  • As per data collected by the UNDP, literacy in the Christian world stands at nearly 90 per cent and 15 Christian-majority states have a literacy rate of 100 per cent. A Muslim-majority state, as a sharp contrast, has an average literacy rate of around 40 per cent and there is no Muslim-majority state with a literacy rate of 100 per cent.
  • Some 98 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world had completed primary school, while less than 50 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same.
  • Around 40 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world attended university while no more than two per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same.
  • Muslim-majority countries have 230 scientists per one million Muslims. The US has 4,000 scientists per million and Japan has 5,000 per million. In the entire Arab world, the total number of full-time researchers is 35,000 and there are only 50 technicians per one million Arabs. (in the Christian world there are up to 1,000 technicians per one million).
  • Furthermore, the Muslim world spends 0.2 per cent of its GDP on research and development, while the Christian world spends around five per cent of its GDP.

Dr. Saleem concludes that the Muslim world lacks the capacity to produce knowledgeand continues his statistics:

  • Daily newspapers per 1,000 people and number of book titles per million are two indicators of whether knowledge is being diffused in a society.
  • In Pakistan, there are 23 daily newspapers per 1,000 Pakistanis while the same ratio in Singapore is 360. In the UK , the number of book titles per million stands at 2,000 while the same in Egypt is 20.

Sothe Muslim world is failing to diffuse knowledge.Exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports are an important indicator of knowledge application. Pakistan’s export of high technology products as a percentage of total exports stands at one per cent. The same for Saudi Arabia is 0.3 per cent; Kuwait , Morocco , and Algeria are all at 0.3 per cent, while Singapore is at 58 per cent. So the Muslim world is failing to apply knowledge. Interestingly, the combined annual GDP of 57 OIC-countries is under $2 trillion. America , just by herself, produces goods and services worth $12 trillion; China $8 trillion, Japan $3.8 trillion and Germany $2.4 trillion (purchasing power parity basis). Oil rich Saudi Arabia , UAE, Kuwait and Qatar collectively produce goods and services (mostly oil) worth $500 billion; Spain alone produces goods and services worth over $1 trillion, Catholic Poland $489 billion and Buddhist Thailand $545 billion. In addition Muslim GDP as a percentage of world GDP is fast declining.

Why are Muslims powerless?
Dr. Farrukh Saleem‘s final conclusion: Because they aren’t producing, diffusing and applying knowledge. And, the future belongs to knowledge-based societies.

Country Literacy rate (all) Male Literacy Female Literacy
World

Israel

Egypt

Iran

Iraq

Lebanon

Jordan

Morocco

Libya

Tunisia

Syria

Saudi Arabia

84.1%

97.1%

72%

85%

78.2%

87.4%

93.4%

56.1%

89.2%

74.3%

79.6%

86.6%

88.6%

98.5%

80.3%

89.3%

86%

93.1%

96.6%

68.9%

95.6%

83.4%

86%

90.4%

79.7%

95.9%

63.5%

80.7%

70.6%

82.2%

90.2%

43.9%

82.7%

65.3%

73.6%

81.3%

 

Quite the contrary in Israel

For comparison Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to the following:

  • Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Three Israeli universities are ranked within the top 100 universities in the world. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has risen 4 points from number 57 in 2011 to 53 in 2012, according to the Shanghai Academic Ranking. The Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) was ranked 78th, and the Weizmann Institute of Science was ranked 93rd. The Tel Aviv University ranked in the top 150 while the Bar Ilan University and the Ben Gurion University were both ranked in the top 400. When ranked according to specific fields, Israel fares even better. In Mathematics, three universities made it to the top 100; The Hebrew University in 16th place, Tel Aviv in 30th and the Technion in the top 74. In Computer Science, four Israeli schools were ranked in the top 100. The Weizmann Institute was ranked 12th, the Technion came in 15th, the Hebrew University 27th, and Tel Aviv University – 29th.
  • Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin – 109 per 10,000 people – as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed. Twenty-four percent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees – ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland – and 12 percent hold advanced degrees.
  • Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions. Israel places first in this category as well.
  • In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the US (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech). On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech start-ups. Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the US and outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies. Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship – and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 – in the world.
  • Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.
  • Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.
  • Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.
  • Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita as well Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books and has more museums per capita than any other country. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

All this from a country just 60 years young while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth. Israel is a success story, and it seems that it will continue: Israel’s acceptance into the exclusive club of OECD, as well last year into EU’s Horizon 2020 program and CERN constitutes recognition of its accomplishments. Its integration into the global economy is further evidence that it is not isolated internationally. In the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will be negotiating from a position of strength. By contrast, the Arab states that are dealing with the challenges of modernity are in a severe economic, social and political crisis, particularly since the Arab Spring, and the power gap between Israel and its Arab neighbors has steadily widened. A strong economy is a significant factor in the building of military might and also in a society’s ability to withstand a protracted conflict.

Despite Islam’s rise in the region, which is problematic for Israel, Egypt and Jordan have stuck to the peace treaties. Israel continues to have unofficial relations with the Gulf emirates and the North African states. The fluctuations in relations between Israel and the Palestinians have almost no effect on the relations between Israel and most of the world. Relations with the Muslim world have actually improved since Israel established good relations with Muslim states in the Caucasus and central Asia, which became independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Non-Muslim Countries Lead in Islamic Values!

We must emphasize that many countries that profess Islam and are called Islamic are unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination.”( Hossein Askari)

In a BBC interview, Hossein Askari, an Iranian-born academic, Professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University said a study by himself and colleague Dr Scheherazde S Rehman, also rates Israel (27) as being more compliant with the ideals of the Koran than any predominantly Muslim country. Not a single majority Muslim country made the top 25 and no Arab country is in the top 50. In doing the study they applied the ideals of Islam in the areas of a society’s economic achievements, governance, human and political rights, and international relations, he said. On that index “Muslim countries do very badly,” he said and accused them of using religion as an instrument of power.

Looking at an index of Economic Islamicity, or how closely the policies and achievements of countries reflect Islamic economic teachings – Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Belgium round up the first 10”. In their ‘Overall Islamicity Index’, a measure that encompasses laws and governance, human and political rights, international relations, and economic factors, “the rankings are much the same: New Zealand, Luxembourg, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands; and again only Malaysia (38) and Kuwait (48) make it into the top 50 from Muslim countries,” he said.
If a country, society, or community displays characteristics such as unelected, corrupt, oppressive, and unjust rulers, inequality before the law, unequal opportunities for human development, absence of freedom of choice (including that of religion), opulence alongside poverty, force, and aggression as the instruments of conflict resolution as opposed to dialogue and reconciliation, and, above all, the prevalence of injustice of any kind, it is prima facie evidence that it is not an Islamic community,” he said.

Source and more in An Economic IslamicityIndex by Scheherazade S. Rehman and Hossein Askari and in BBC interview .

My conclusions

So, why are Muslims so powerless? Answer: Lack of education. All we do is shouting to Allah the whole day and blame everyone else for our multiple failures! ( Dr. Farrukh Saleem)

In my opinion the core obstacle to democracy in Arab countries is that a big share of population does not have access to many-sided information sources nor they don’t have means to make a critical analysis even about that limited information which they can reach. When biased (ruling regime) tv-broadcasts, rumours and fanatic provocatours lay the basis to ones personal decisions the public opinion easily reflects the will of others.

The cause for the huge imbalance between societies in the Great Middle East might be in the role of religion in different societies. In Israel there is a clear line between religion and state, and in overall European or Western countries have embraced secularism. In Arab or Muslim dominated countries Islam is more than a religion and it is primarily a political system controlling all aspects of the life of the believer. The main difference of approaches is that in democracy, laws are made by people but in Islam the laws made by people are not recognized as the laws are made by God and the ruler, as the executioner of divine law, is not accountable to the people. In a strict theocratic system with Allah alone at its head and where allah’s law is interpreted by a ruling body of clerics is absolutely incompatible with democracy as there is no room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.

The progress and the political and economic reforms that spread across the world during the 20th Century largely skipped the Arab world and much of the Muslim world. Come the 21st Century, with all the new technological power and information, not only with Al-Jazeera, through the internet and social networks that we are familiar with; and it hits these societies with a harsh blow; it exposed the citizens of these countries to what they had been missing. This caused a huge turmoil as these changes did not occur gradually, allowing for economic and political liberalism. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy.

Different paths of development – or lack of that – in Israel vs Arab countries are creating in my opinion basic obstacle to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As democratic constitutional state Israel must deal with more or less undemocratic regimes, tyrannies,dictatorships. At best the peace treaties can gain time for some period, at worst the treaty is immediately forgot after ceremonies and photo-opportunity. From my perspective peace process can be successful only if it sprouts from the grassroots of society – otherwise it is both pointless and useless.

 

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Middle-East

Fatah-Hamas Accord can be more an Opportunity than an Obstacle

hamas-fatah flagPresident Abbas’ Fatah movement – the dominant group in the PLO and which governs parts of the West Bank – and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip announced a unity agreementon 23rd Apr. 2014. The seven-year split between Fatah and Hamas aka the Islamic Resistance Movement has cut off Gaza and its 1.7 million people from the West Bank and e.g from negotiating efforts. The move envisions forming a unity government within five weeks, resumption of Palestinian Legislative Council (the parliament of the PA, was dissolved following the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza) and holding national elections six months after a vote of confidence by the Palestinian parliament. Discussions would also continue about “general freedoms,” including the release of Fatah and Hamas prisoners held by the opposite party, the return of Fatah-affiliated public employees to Gaza.

 

The Palestinians are fundamentally divided: Hamas, which represents about half of them, rejects any dialogue with Israel and seeks a Palestinian state on all Israeli land while the PA wants a state within 1967 borders. The earlier reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas were signed in Mecca (2007) , Cairo (May 2011) and Doha (February 2012) but had never come to fruition. More earlier deal in Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios )If the agreement this time holds the unity deal could in my opinion create a game changer in Mideast peace process – either by establishing Palestinian negotiation partner strong enough to make painful compromise deal with Israel or leading to unitary actions of both sides.

Timing

Hamas, the weaker party, has suffered from stagnation in Gaza and the loss of support from Egypt after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood so the deal now was the best option. Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels.

Since Egypt’s military ousted President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood on July 2013, Sinai has become increasingly lawless and plagued by violence. The Sinai violence since last summer has killed around 500 people. The violence has also targeted Israel on occasion. In January, two rockets were fired on Eilat, an important Israeli tourist resort and commercial port. The city came under fire last year too and its airport was closed in August as a precaution. In February, four people were killed after an Islamist group exploded a bomb on a tourist bus carrying South Korean pilgrims across the Egyptian border into Israel. However, now Egypt claims that the military had complete control over the situation and there is obvious stability in Sinai. Some 1,380 operations had been conducted by the military against Islamists since September 2013 and the Egyptian army had destroyed more than 1,500 smuggling tunnels into Sinai from the Gaza Strip. (Source e.g Bicom )

Israel and the Palestinians have been negotiating since 1993. The current unity deal came only few days before last U.S. led negotiation process expired. Now it is again time for stand-by, all parties are waiting the outcome and reactions about Fatah-Hamas deal and coming months will show its effects.

The expired talks

To summarize these last talks one can claim that the negotiations have failed once again. From the beginning the two sides decided that the talks would be held without any preconditions, but with commitments. Israel accepted the Palestinian commitment not to approach U.N. institutions to advance Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian demanded that Israel release the “heavy” prisoners and got dozens of murderous terrorists released.

That process is now seemingly officially dead and results or progress practically non-existent if not backward development. In previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008 the core questions were almost agreed. In 2008, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented Abbas with another generous peace offer: most of the West Bank, plus some Israeli territory in land swaps, for a Palestinian state; removal of tens of thousands of settlers; a division of Jerusalem; a secure corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza; a symbolic return of 5,000 Palestinian refugees to Israel, and multi-national supervision of holy sites in Jerusalem. To me the progress seems now to be going backwards. ( More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peacehttp://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/palileaks-land-swaps-and-desperate-search-of-peace/ ) However one should appreciate that in any case Kerry had held over 50 meetings with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last nine months. As peace talks now expired or went to stand-by, there is good or bad change for further unilateral actions.

Reactions

Israeli and American officials expressed fears after the reconciliation was announced that Jerusalem would be left to negotiate a peace treaty with a terror group that does not recognize its right to exist. Israeli official has described that Abbas speech after unity agreement as “administered the coup de grace to the peace process today”.I disagree; from my perspective US efforts to broker a peace deal had not totally failed, but were after “reality check” currently in a “holding period” waiting next moves from Palestinian and Israeli sides. “There is no reason to be alarmed by the Fatah-Hamas agreement. This actually could be an opportunity for us,” says Knesset member Meir Sheetrit (the Hatnua Party chairman) as he attempts to moderate the aggressive responses evinced by Israel’s prime minister and the right-wing ministers toward the news of the Palestinian reconciliation. (Source: Al-Monitor )

On the Israeli left, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said the reconciliation was the result of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s lack of initiative. “The burden of proof on [the agreement’s] meaning is on Abbas,” Herzog stated. “Its advantage is that it may include Gaza in future agreements with the Palestinians.” On Saturday (26.4.2014) Herzog called on key coalition partners Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid to abandon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the likely event that the peace process cannot be revived, and to form a coalition with Labor that would make serious advances towards peace. Justice Minister Livni, who heads the Hatnua faction and who is the chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians, and Finance Minister Lapid, who is the leader of the Yesh Atid faction – the second largest in the Knesset – are both seen as center-left leaning politicians. Both have called peace negotiations a central component of their coalition membership. (Source The Times of Israel ) Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Netanyahu had pushed Abbas toward Hamas and then asked the PA president to choose between Hamas and Israel. “Any reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank is necessary, as long as any agreement between Abbas and Israel includes Hamas, which would include the end of violence [from Gaza],” she explained.

There was early news that Hamas had not ruled out recognizing Israel – instead the decision would be made in the framework of the group’s efforts to join the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is managing peace negotiations with Israel, as part of the new reconciliation effort. The statement came hours after Abbas said that PLO would continue to recognize Israel and renounce violence. (Source and more: The Times of Israel ) However Taher al-Nunu, Ismail Haniya’s media advisor, strongly denied a remark attributed to him by the Washington Post, according to which Hamas intended to recognize Israel (Quds.net, April 27, 2014). He said Hamas would never recognize Israel. Hamas’ international spokesman Hossam Badran also rejected the idea that Hamas had any intention of “recognizing so-called Israel.” He said that recognizing “the legitimacy of the Zionists” was something that was to be rejected and not even discussed (Facebook page of Hossam Badran, April 27, 2014). (Source: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

On April 29 (2014), Israel began economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the heels of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. This is accomplished by deducting the PA’s debts from the tax money that Israel collects on the PA’s behalf in accordance with economic agreements signed following the Oslo Accord. A major source of these funds is the taxes imposed on merchandise imported to the territories via Israel, and these funds often comprise as much as a third of the PA’s budget.These funds serve the PA for payment of its employees’ salaries. (Source: Al-Monitor )

Israel’s Plan B

Ten years ago, when Mr Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel. On Jan 2014 FM Lieberman proposed again to transfer the towns and villages of the Wadi Ara Triangle (“The Triangle” including Umm al-Fahm, Taibe, Tira and Kfar Kassem) to the Palestinians. The swap would see Israel cede sovereignty over 10 towns, home to 300,000 Israeli-Arabs, along the Green Line, to the PA. Israeli-Arabs and their representatives in the Knesset refuse to consider a territory swap. PM Netanyahu nor Israel’s left-wing movements condemned this proposal. On April 2014 FM Lieberman reiterated his proposal on his Facebook page: “I can promise that [the city of] Umm al-Fahm will be part of the Palestinian state and not part of Israel”.A bit different idea came from economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a coalition hawk who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, who proposed to annex Area C – about 60 % of the West Bank- to Israel; in Area C Israel maintains civilian and security control over as part of the Oslo Accords. Palestinians living in those areas would become full Israeli citizens, Bennett said. (Source The Times of Israel ) I don’t keep this proposal realistic for long term as for Palestinians it would be very hard to rule the remaining WB with or without own state. This problem might lead practically towards one-state solution from Israeli point of view negative demographic outcome.

territorial cahanges in possible mideast peace talksIsrael well might implement a ‘Plan B’ (Institute for National Security Studies, 2014), to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states would be based on voluntary Israeli concession of territories outside of the large with Israel on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resett within the state’s temporary borders.

Other unilateral actions could be to cement Israel’s hold in by establishing a Jewish prayer facility alongside the Muslim mosques on the vast Temple Mount plaza, and to build the strategic E1 quadrant that connects Jerusalem to its eastern security anchor in Maaleh Adumim. This would give a signal that Israel is serious about keeping Jerusalem united under their sovereignty.

Dr. Mordechai Keidar, an expert on the Israeli-Arab sector, and an Arabic literature professor at Bar-Ilan University has even more radical proposal – sc Eight State Solution. Keidar called for Israel to divide the PA into seven emirates according to regional clans. The eighth location is Gaza (not shown) which already operates as a de facto state.

“Israel should dismantle the PA by stopping [the transfer of] money and by all other kinds of measures,” he stated. “[And] then, [it] should create on the ruins of the PA seven emirates in the West Bank based on the cities – Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus (Shechem), Tul-Karim, Qalqaliya, and the Arab part of Hevron…Each of these emirates should be based on the local clans, which are powerful – which are loyal to themselves, unlike the PLO.” (Source: Arutz Sheva )

8-state mideast solution
Palestinian actions

Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi stated “the two-state solution does not exist. The two-state solution is over. We must return to the option of one Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.” Tirawi added “Palestinians, Palestinian leadership, listen to me: The only solution before us is the historic solution presented by Fatah in 1968.” The reference to 1968 constitutes a clear call for Israel’s destruction through armed conflict.

 

PA President Abbas has few times quoted as saying that if the diplomatic stalemate continued, he would ask Israel to “take the keys” and resume responsibility for areas where the Palestinian Authority (PA) currently operates. This position was echoed by Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash who warned Israel that the PA would be dismantled if the situation does not change by the end of 2014. ( Source: Bicom )The dissolution of the authority would thrust the whole responsibility for the disputed territories on to the Israeli government, the pragmatic arrangements which keep the relations between the two Peoples within a framework of limited normality would fall away and finally there would not only be no partner for peace; there would be no partner for anything.

Responding to Netanyahu’s announcement on Thursday that he plans to push forward a new Basic Law to “legally anchor” Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the Palestinian official issued a statement that the PLO already recognized Israel in 1988 and again in the 1993 mutual recognition agreement signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. “If Netanyahu wants to push the Palestinians into the corner he should also remember that the only reference to the Jewish State is the 1947 UN Resolution 181. The Palestinians, as such, will be ready to consider recognizing Israel as the Jewish State only based on Resolution 181. (Source: Haaretz )

My view

We cannot underestimate the danger of long-range missiles and short-range minds.” (Ron Prosor)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate from his people to reach any agreement with Israel: his term in office expired in January 2009. For Abbas Hamas-Fatah deal is a boost to his sagging popularity and same time a likely blow to any challenge from Mohammed Dahlan and other potential rivals if elections go ahead. For Hamas, ending the dispute means the Islamist movement would have to cede exclusive control over the Gaza Strip — an area that has been turned into a semi-independent Islamic emirate over the past five years. As for Fatah, unity with Hamas means paving the way for the Islamist movement to extend its control to West Bank — something Abbas and his supporters are afraid of and cannot afford. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

hamas rocket threadOne should remember that militant Hamas won a Palestinian election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Abbas in 2007 who’s legal authority expired already few years ago. For years, the Israelis have been telling the world that there was no Palestinian to negotiate with – because Mr Abbas did not represent the Palestinians of Gaza. After Hamas-Fatah agreement – if it now is also implemented – and especially after possible Palestinian parliamentary and presidential electons this obstacle is removed. Sure it remains to see how Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (apparently also party to the deal) will be integrated into the PLO, which officially represents the Palestinian people internationally.

Both the US and Israel have expressed disappointment with the announcement of a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, which further complicates efforts to secure an agreement to extend peace talks with Israel. I agree this in short term but in general consider the deal giving more possiblities for long term solution. During this and previous peace talks it seems that at final stages President Abbas allways avoided to make decisions. One reason might be that he knows that he could not implement the compromise deal, he could even be ousted from his already illegitimate position as president. Secondly even if Abbas would sign the deal what would its worth be as he represents at best only one fraction of West Bank Arabs. After Hamas-Fatah deal Abbas in my opinion can represent wider Arab population in WB and Gaza as well even better the selected leaders after parliamentary and presidential elections hopefully in 2014..

US, EU and the Quarted demands that future Palestinian government must agree to recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. I don’t have doubts that future Palestinian leaders couldn’t at least formally agree these conditions.

Read more from my earlier articles:


P.S:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East  by Avi Bell is a good description about Israeli-Palestinian dilemma – and Western hypocrisy – as follows:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East by Avi Bell

If Israel refuses to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it refuses to negotiate. If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see negotiations with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it is trying to avoid negotiations. If the Palestinians make preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians have to force Israel to be serious in the negotiations.

If Israel makes no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace. If the Palestinians make no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see that making offers of peace with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes an offer of peace and the Palestinians reject it, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because Israel is not willing to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would accept.

There are variations on this, e.g.,:

If Arabs make war, but offer to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because the Arabs offered peace. (Thomas Friedman/Arab “peace” initiative) If Israel makes war, but offers to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel made war. (Defensive Pillar, Lebanon II, etc.)

If Arabs attack, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel provoked the Arabs to attack. If Israel attacks, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel attacked.

If Palestinians carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians feel they have no choice but to carry out acts of terrorism. If Palestinians try to carry out acts of terrorism, but Israel foils them, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because Israel is carrying out anti-terror actions against the Palestinians even while there is no terrorism.

If Palestinians don’t try to carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are good and innocent and Israel uses terrorism as an excuse to mistreat Palestinians.

fatah-hamas signs

 

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BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.


A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)


In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.


One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.


Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?


According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.

 

Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.


intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat

Appendix:

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:


ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign

 

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MENA, Middle-East

The Kerry Plan For Israel And Palestine – Can It Work?

Israeli-Palestinian peace talksUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s intense shuttle diplomacy helped resume Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in July 2013 and were to take up to nine months, until April 29 this year. Now Kerry is now planning to present a US framework plan that will lay out what Washington considers the core concessions Israelis and Palestinians need to make for a fair, lasting deal.

The exact content of the US framework plan remains uncertain for peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). However it is preindicated that it will call for a phased Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria based on the 1949 lines, with “unprecedented” security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. The framework plan includes Israeli withdrawal from disputed territories of West Bank but will not include certain settlement blocs, Israel will compensate the Arab side for this with Israeli territory. The plan will call for Palestine to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into pre-1967 Israel.

Neither side is pleased with framework plan as such however both sides probably are poised to accept the forthcoming, non-binding agreement with sufficient reservations to make it meaningless, yet enabling Kerry to demonstrate a “successful diplomatic coup.”

Kerry’s plan

Israel lobby in USAUS Secretary of State John Kerry’s is now finalizing a framework for final status talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Kerry‘s plan will include following components according his speech to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on 24 January 2014:

  • an independent state for Palestinians wherever they may be”
  • security arrangements for Israel that leave it more secure, not less”
  • a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem; an end to the conflict and all claims”
  • mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the nation-state of the Jewish people”

Kerry gave specific attention to security, commenting, “the Israelis rightfully will not withdraw unless they know that the West Bank will not become a new Gaza.” There has been consultations with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders over a “security structure that meets the highest standards anywhere in the world” in the Jordan Valley, incorporating “a layered defence” system. Israel and the PA disagree over the necessity of Israeli troops to stay in the Jordan Valley in the event of an Israeli withdrawal.

Security

In a New York Times interview published on Sunday (Feb. 2nd 2014), Abbas presented his positions on security issues, saying that Israeli troops could remain in the territory of a Palestinian state for five years after the signing of a peace agreement. Abbas also said that an American-led NATO force could patrol a future Palestinian state indefinitely. Abbas said the NATO force could stay “for a long time, and wherever they want, not only on the eastern borders, but also on the western borders, everywhere. The third-party can stay. They can stay to reassure the Israelis, and to protect us.” “We will be demilitarized,” Abbas said. “Do you think we have any illusion that we can have any security if the Israelis do not feel they have security?” Abbas said the Palestinian state would not have its own army, but only a police force, meaning that the NATO force would be responsible for preventing weapons smuggling and terrorism. Abbas also suggested that Israeli settlements could be phased out over the course of a timetable similar to his five-year proposal for the Israeli military withdrawal.

Territory

“What Israel has won on the battlefield, it is determined not to yield at the [U.N. Security] Council table.” (David Ben-Gurion when threatened with U.N. Security Council sanctions)

New talks are possible due active and skilled shuttle diplomacy implemented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who succeeded where both his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his superior, President Barack Obama, failed. Kerry has highlighted a 2002 offer by the 22-nation Arab League to make peace with Israel  in return for a Palestinian state broadly inside borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967.In May 2013, a high level Arab League delegation, after meeting with Kerry, agreed to change the language of the Arab Peace Initiative from its rigid demand for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines to accepting “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps.80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will need a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in earlier talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. While 20% of the settlers live outside these green line blocs, these settlements will not be part of Israel proper, after a proposed deal so some 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel and this is doable.

Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on 30th Jan. 2014 that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would stay in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state. The sides, he said, will negotiate with the expectation of reaching a final deal by the end of 2014. (Source: The Times of Israel)

An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason why a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.” An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office said Sunday Binyamin Netanyahu believes Jewish settlers should have the option of staying in a future Palestinian state. In Davos, he told the World Economic Forum Saturday that he did not intend to uproot any Israelis in a peace deal. The prime minister sees no reason a Palestinian state should be “ethnically cleansed.”

More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

Israeli proposal for borders of West Bank according PM Olmert

For peace deal I consider that Israel needs to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines with territorial swaps, when just 60 to 90 percent of settlers need to be included in the settlement blocs. The outcome of Kerry’s plan might well be close to that what PM Olmert offered to PA on 2008. Themap  of this earlier proposal can be downloaded also from my Document library.

BDS as thread?

In WEF/Davos Kerry commented that “for Israel there is an increasing de-legitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there is talk of boycott and other kinds of things,” implying that such a campaign would gain traction if peace talks should fail. Netanyahu said that efforts to boycott Israel will “cause the Palestinians to become entrenched behind their obstinate positions and push peace farther away.” He added that, “no pressure will cause me to give up Israeli vital interests, first and foremost the security of Israeli citizens.” However, Labour MK Merav Michaeli blamed Netanyahu for the volatile rhetoric surrounding boycotts, saying “Netanyahu exposed us to the threat of sanctions … Israeli security is a fantasy if we don’t have a diplomatic treaty, and that includes our economic security.” (Source BICOM ) Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon later responded that a European boycott is preferable to rocket attacks on Ben-Gurion Airport.

I agree with Kerry, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is picking up speed. Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank, has decided to sever its ties with Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, citing “legal and ethical conflicts” with the bank’s activities beyond the Green Line. A Bank Hapoalim statement said that “Denmark’s Danske Bank has no investments, of any kind, with Bank Hapoalim.” The Danish bank’s decision followed a similar decision by PGGM, the Netherlands’ largest pension fund management company, which on Jan 2014 decided to divest from Israel’s five largest banks, saying they either have branches in the West Bank or are involved in financing settlement construction. On the other hand Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, announced on Wednesday that after looking into the matter it sees no reason to end its relationship with three Israeli banks. Sweden’s Nordea Bank — the largest bank in Scandinavia – has asked Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank for clarifications over their activities beyond the Green Line, in what banking experts in Israel defined as a potential pre-divestment move. According to a Jan. 19 report in the Financial Times, the ABP pension fund — the world’s third-largest — and two of Europe’s biggest investment firms, Scandinavian pension fund Nordea and Norway’s DNB Asset Management Group, are also reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks. Sources in the Israeli banking sector said Saturday that the recent moves were, for the most part, only declarative in nature, attempts to make political statements, and are unlikely to come to fruition. (Source Israel Hayom )

anti-BDS postcard

A new study that debunks the myth that Israel is a liability to Europe Added Value: Israel’s Strategic Worth to the European Union and its Member States, a joint report by The Henry Jackson Society and Friends of Israel Initiative, examines the extent to which Israel represents a strategic asset to the EU. The report looks at three key arenas: military, economic and scientific/technological. It finds that Europe is more secure, more innovative and more relevant on the world stage thanks to the tools Israel provides: from unmanned aerial vehicles to intelligence; from energy to pharmaceuticals; and from particle accelerators to high tech start-up. Among the report’s key findings there are e.g thatcontrary to news reports of EU-Israel disagreements – such as European Commission directives to label Israeli goods from the West Bank – by the most important measures, the EU’s relations with Israel are closer than at any time in the Union’s history. With nearly €30 billion in bilateral trade, the EU is Israel’s top source of imports and Israel is Europe’s leading trade partner in the Eastern Mediterranean. As the European economy continues to falter, EU exports to Israel are growing by roughly 5% a year. A world leader in high-tech innovation, Israel is vital in keeping Europe competitive in science and technological. (Full report can be downloaded from my Document Library.)

Israeli government effectively succumbed to a boycott of settlements in order to be eligible for the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, the guiding blueprints for the EU’s scientific research. Also on Jan. 2014, the Israeli flag was hoisted for the first time to join the other 20 flags of the organization’s member states, after UNESCO officially recorded Israel’s accession as a new CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire/European Council for Nuclear Research) member state.

Central Bureau of Statistics’ data indicated that Israeli exports came to $92.5 billion in 2013, despite the global recession and slumping dollar exchange rates, compared to $60 billion in exports in 2010. Broken down by blocs, Europe received the largest share of Israel’s exports (32 percent), followed by Asia (25%) and the United States (21%).

Jewish state?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said thatIt would be “absurd” to expect Israel to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people without reciprocal recognition of Israel as the nation state for the Jewish people. But issue was first raised already 2000 (by Tzipi Livni) and later at the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Today Livni might not view this recognition as a precondition to negotiations. However in my opinion when one state recognizes another it does not imply recognition of its political structure, for example U.S. in 1933 formally recognized the Soviet Union simply as state and not as a communist or Marxist state; and when most of the world’s democracies recognized Israel after its establishment, that too was as a state and nothing more.

From Israeli point of view the meaning of the term “Jewish state” is a state that cannot be flooded by foreigners to the point where it changes its demographic character, meaning there can be no “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. So anyone who would recognize Israel as the Jewish state as part of a peace deal would announce the de facto end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and relinquish any future demands of Israel. From Palestinian side President Abbas stuck to his intransigence on the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, saying it was “out of the question.” Abbas mentioned that Jordan and Egypt were not asked to do so when they signed peace agreements with Israel.

Jordan will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the Kingdom’s foreign minister declared, expressing a latent Hashemite fear of Jordan becoming the de-facto Palestinian state. Jordan is concerned that defining Israel as a Jewish state may eventually lead to the forced deportation of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan river. According to some estimates, approximately half of Jordan’s population of 6.4 million does not hold citizenship. The massive number of non-citizens is comprised mostly of Palestinian refugees, but also war refugees from Iraq and Syria more recently. Over 3 million Jordanian residents are of Palestinian origin. Ever-mindful of a demographic takeover, Jordan has recently begun blocking the entry of Palestinian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. (Source The Times of Israel )

Missing Gaza question?

In my opinion question about Gaza should have been solved at early stage during negotiations. Hamas still has its grip on Gaza even weakened after Sisi’s coup in Egypt. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Rockets are still fired from there and conflict – fights between Egypt armed forces and Islamic militants and rocket fire from Sinai towards Eilat – has more and more moved to Sinai peninsula. For example February 01st, 2014 saw the pipeline that transports gas from Egypt to Jordan being subject of a blow up by militants. The attack is the third of its type in less than a month. The pipeline that connected Egypt to Jordan and Israel has been the target of various attacks ever since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 for ending the Hosni Mubarak regime. These acts of rebellion led to severe disruptions in the flow of gas from Egypt to Jordan and to a complete halt of Egyptian natural gas supply to Israel. On the other hand Israel is less affected by the damage to the pipeline given that it has since discovered enough gas off its shores to keep the natural gas coming for decades to come. Israel’s Leviathan field contains around 19 Tcf of natural gas and is expected to come online sometime in 2017 while its 10 Tcf Tamar field started supplying gas in March 2013. (See more in Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean )

So a new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. Israel and PA should encourage to re-establish trade links with Gaza strengthen the moderate middle class; a transit corridor between Gaza and West Bank would help to restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood. The Palestinians want territory within Israel to build a transport link that connects Gaza and the West Bank, and this could form part of an exchange deal. All this can help politically PA to be ready for Palestinian national elections.

Jerusalem – Two peoples, One Capital?

Jerusalem is one of the key challenge to a deal and at least three dimensions should be solved. The negotiators need to delineate the territorial borders, the political arrangements (for example on the Temple Mount), and then to begin work on the security arrangements that would address all the concerns regarding the territorial and political questions. It is anticipated that the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Palestinian control.

A solution whereby Arab neighbourhoods would come under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish neighbourhoods would stay under Israeli sovereignty is needed. Israel will have to agree to a Palestinian presence in Jerusalem to the point where the Palestinians realize their goal of establishing a capital in the city. Palestinian side has criticized Kerry for offering the Palestinians a capital in the villages of Abu Dis and al-Ram, and not in Jerusalem. Previous negotiations have also proposed a special regime for the Old City.

Jerusalem deal according Olmert proposal

Bottom line

“I hope we reach a deal with the Palestinians, if not, we’ll manage.” (Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon )

“A peace deal will ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state as well as its social and economic prosperity. If Ya’alon does not understand this, he is not fit to continue in his position, and we would certainly be able to manage better without him.” (MK Nitzan Horowitz/Meretz)

The British Guardian newspaper quoted   a “Jerusalem-based source close to the negotiations” as saying that Indyk’s negotiating team has “only have maybe 10% chance of success” in its efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. The Guardian also quoted a former American diplomat who worked on previous rounds of Israel-Palestinian peace talks as dismissing most members of the current American negotiating team as “pencil sharpeners” and “bag carriers.”

Inside Israeli government there is different views as well more or less rude critics against FM Kerry personally and about his peace plan. The outcome might even be that PM Netanyahu will remove Bayit Yehudi from the coalition and replace it with Labor, which is more amenable to a peace treaty. Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog has repeatedly stated that if the coalition lacks support for a peace agreement, Labour is prepared to act as a ‘safety net’ and pledge the support of its 15 Knesset members. However coalition crisis can occur more likely over religion and state than security.

As for the Palestinians, Palestinian Authority (PA) needs to agree to declare an end to the conflict, an end to all claims, and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, PA needs to renounce the right of return of refugees and PA needs to agree to limits on Palestinian sovereignty in deference to Israeli security arrangements. The security arrangements need to provide an answer even in the scenario of a coup – or Hamas can win in elections too – in the Palestinian state so the key question is if Palestinian state has the will or the strength to deal with terrorism.

If negotiations again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan (e.g. from base of Three-State-Solution) or with Arab League. And of course one option are unilateral solutions – Israel annexing Israeli populated areas officially to Israel and PA seeking recognition from international community as state. As any of these options in my opinion are worse than even worst mutual compromise and peace deal I hope all the best for further talks.

P.S:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East”   by Avi Bell is a good description about Israeli-Palestinian dilemma – and Western hypocrisy – as follows:

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East” by Avi Bell

If Israel refuses to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it refuses to negotiate. If the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see negotiations with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because it is trying to avoid negotiations. If the Palestinians make preconditions to negotiations, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians have to force Israel to be serious in the negotiations.

If Israel makes no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace. If the Palestinians make no offer of peace, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because the Palestinians can see that making offers of peace with Israel are pointless.

If Israel makes an offer of peace and the Palestinians reject it, that proves Israel is not interested in peace, because Israel is not willing to make the kind of offer the Palestinians would accept.

There are variations on this, e.g.,:

If Arabs make war, but offer to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because the Arabs offered peace. (Thomas Friedman/Arab “peace” initiative) If Israel makes war, but offers to end it, that proves that Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel made war. (Defensive Pillar, Lebanon II, etc.)

If Arabs attack, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel provoked the Arabs to attack. If Israel attacks, that proves Israel is interested in war and Arabs are interested in peace, because Israel attacked.

If Palestinians carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians feel they have no choice but to carry out acts of terrorism. If Palestinians try to carry out acts of terrorism, but Israel foils them, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because Israel is carrying out anti-terror actions against the Palestinians even while there is no terrorism.

If Palestinians don’t try to carry out acts of terrorism, that proves that Israel is mistreating the Palestinians, because the Palestinians are good and innocent and Israel uses terrorism as an excuse to mistreat Palestinians.

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks


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BalkanBlog, Middle-East

Sinai Terrorism Doesn’t Shake Eilat Tourism

Eilat logo

While the Israeli-Palestinian peace process got new boost forward at the turn of the year in cabinets I spend a week at the seashore in Eilat, a popular (about 2.5 million tourists per year) Israeli destination for domestic and international tourism. I have some doubts about positive outcome of peace talks but not a bit about goal-directed development of tourism in Israel. Here some of my impressions in relation to my previous visit a couple of years ago.

Eilat is modern small town at north end of Red Sea on the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba and part of the Southern Negev Desert. It has also a remarkable history as background. Eilat is first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Exodus, as stations 7 and 9th–13th are in and around Eilat, after the exodus led by Moses from Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. Timna Valley Park is notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and prehistoric tombs dating to the 7th millennium BC at the western edge of Eilat. King David (reign over the United Kingdom of Israel ca 1002–970 BC) conquered Eilat, the border city and King Solomon (reign ca 970 to 931 BC) is described as creating the port of Eilat (then Ezion-Geber)

Border fence

International charter flights are still some few years landing to Ovda military base. From there it takes less than a hour to drive to Eilat via Egypt-Israel border road – Highway 12. Compared to my previous visit significant changes had taken place. An old rusty low and broken fence was still on the border but totally new modern fence with with surveillance equipment was now ready. It was said to include cameras, radar and motion detectors. Also there was much more military presence observing border than before. Two reasons for this improved border security: Arab Spring chaos and illegal migrants.

Egypt-Israel border fence, old and new

Photo credit: Haaretz

The Egypt-Israel peace accord stipulates that the Sinai Peninsula remain a demilitarized zone, however ”Arab Spring made a difference while members of al-Qaeda and other groups affiliated with Global Jihad exploited the security vacuum in Sinai. Terror groups not only blew up the gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan but also of attacked police patrols. A string of terrorist attacks took place near the Israeli-Egyptian border near of the Netafim crossing, about 20 km north of Eilat on Aug. 18, 2011. The attack left 8 Israeli citizen dead, 5 Egyptian police- and army officer died as well 10 of attackers. Assailants crossing in from Sinai used automatic and anti-tank weapons, mortars and roadside bombs for separate attacks on two buses, two civilian cars and a military vehicle on Highway 12. More about this I wrote in my article Sinai Emerged as New Front in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

The new fence was originally planned in response to high levels of illegal migrants who successfully entered Israel across the border, mainly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The total number of such individuals – predominantly economic migrants. – who entered Israel since 2006 is estimated at more than 64,000. Israel – whose population is 8 million. Israel tries to balance the need to control its borders with the need to protect the human rights of those who enter. Due to its adherence to International law, Israel granted protection to about 60,000 people without the need to prove prima facie that they have an individual claim to stay in Israel. Those individuals amount to about 95% of all individuals that entered Israel illegally through its southern border. (Source: ‏MFA Spokesperson press release: On the illegal migrants issue, 6th Jan 2014)

After this increased insurgent movement across the southern border and due the increased activities of terrorist groups in 2011, Israel upgraded the steel barrier project. In January 2013, construction of the 230 km barrier was completed in its main section. The project was set to cost  one bn shekels (£170m, $270m).

The new airport gives a boost for urban development

Returning to Ovda airport via different road I passed the new airport construction in Timna 18 km north of Eilat. North. On July 24, 2011 the Israeli cabinet approved the construction of Israel’s second international airport to be built and Eilat’s new international airport should become operational on 2017. The new airport in Timna will consolidate the commercial aviation operations taking place in Eilat and Ovda which together serve about 1.5 million passengers per year. The new airport in Timna will consolidate the commercial aviation operations taking place in Eilat and Ovda which together serve about 1.5 million passengers per year.

Arrival to Eilat AirportSure the new airport is needed for expanding tourism but I found the old Eilat city airport an experience itself while I earlier by domestic flight were landing to that tiny runway from Red Sea just over seashore rooftops. This city airport has also interesting background as in the 1994 Peace Agreement between Israel and Jordan it was decided that operations were supposed to be transferred from Eilat Airport to Aqaba Airport. The agreement was never followed, however, and an agreement between the two countries in March 1997, stipulated that domestic flights would continue to use Eilat Airport, whilst no further action to move international flights took place. In August 2005, a Katyusha rocket fired from Jordan landed near a taxi traveling just 15 yards (14 m) from the airport perimeter fence. On August 8, 2013, the Israeli Military instructed the airport to cancel all landings and departures after a security assessment but now it operated as usual.

The Eilat city airport is in the middle of town separating residential and old commercial centre from hotel zone. When airport will be closed it will make possible to connect these two areas. According urban plans modifying the airport area purpose and making it a main urban center and hotel zone, stretched around the lagoon, where tourism and residence would co-exist. 2,080 hotel rooms and 1,000 apartments will be built on the site of the Eilat Airport, after it is vacated. The hotel, recreation, and residential plan will also include 275-dunam (63.75-acres) of open public space and pedestrian paths. It also sets aside land for the railway line and an underground train station next to the Eilat Municipality center and central bus station. The plan aims to create an urban continuum between the Eilat town center and the North Beach tourism area and promenade.

Towards premium tourist resort

In Eilat itself some new tourist attractions were completed. Personally most interesting for me was new adventure park near Camel Ranch, people from different ages and skills can enjoy its challenges at three different levels the only limitation seems to be that maximum only some 150 adventurer can be same time on course. The other interesting new construction was Ice Park Eilat including Olympic sized skating rink, real Igloo, snow slide for kids, gallery, multi-dimensional movie theater, shopping mall and restaurants. As Finn I view it a bit jaundiced eye as the Ice Park has wooden cupola of 105 meters in diameter, which is the largest construction made of wood in the Middle East, and one of the largest worldwide. And in desert region where trees are rare while Finns are living middle of forests and are building their bigger constructions from concrete elements. At second stage it’s also planned to add to the Ice Park compound an ethnic styled hotel with 250 suites and as well as a synthetic ski resort to be built on the roof of the hotel.

Ice Park cupole Eilat. Photo credit: WIEHAG GmbH Wood systems

In July 2012, Israel signed an agreement with China to cooperate in building the high-speed railway to Eilat, a railway line which will serve both passenger and freight trains. It will link Eilat with Beersheba and Tel Aviv, and will run through the Arava Valley. In addition there are plans to move the Port of Eilat and the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline terminal to the northern part of the city, as well as to turn it into a university town of science and research, and brand it an international sports city. All these projects are part of a plan to turn Eilat into a metropolitan area of 150,000 people (now some 50 000) and 35,000 hotel rooms. Eilat’s population includes a large number of foreign workers, estimated at over 10,000 working as caregivers, hotel workers and in the construction trades.

The same boost of tourism is not only in Eilat but nationwide. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 3.5 million visitors entered Israel in 2013 and had 22.5 million nights; 3% increase. Leading source countries for incoming were USA, Russia, France, Germany and UK. Tourism’s contribution to the economy in 2013 was NIS 40 billion(nearly 10 milliard USD) and number of direct employees in tourism was 100,000 and double with indirect employees. Tourism Minister Dr. Uzi Landau concluded well saying

“The year 2013 is a record year for tourism and we are proud of that. Despite Operation Pillar of Defense and the security situation in the region, tourists voted with their feet.”(Source:Tourism Statistics for 2013 – a record year for incoming tourism, GPO/Tourism Ministry)

Eilat and Aqaba landscape

Eilat and Aqaba. Photo credit: Haaretz


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