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

 

Standard
Arab St., BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Negotiation Slot for a Month

While Palestinians try to unite (Hamas-Fatah deal) and promote their case in UN (recognition of independence) and on the ground (flopped air-flotilla and failed Flotilla II on July) and while so-called Middle East Quartet and EU foreign ministers are making their empty outdated statements to reopen stagnated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations also in Israel there is some need for new initiatives or refresh the old ones.

With the Middle East peace process at a standstill, the Palestinians, backed by the Arab League, have decided to seek full admission to the United Nations as part of what they are describing as a new approach to their national struggle. Israel opposes the Palestinian bid for UN membership and launched a diplomatic counteroffensive in Europe and beyond to oppose the UN vote. It is relying heavily on the United States to persuade the Palestinians to abandon the plan or veto the Security Council vote.

One of newest parts of Israeli counter-offensive is a video on YouTube, where Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon answers the use of such terms as “West Bank,” “occupied territories,” and “1967-lines,” and makes Israel’s case in clear, factual terms without equivocation. Ayalon says Judea and Samaria were taken from the occupying Jordanians during a defensive war and therefore the “settlements” are legal. “The idea behind the creation of the video is distributed in an innovative way and explains the Israeli position in fighting unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” Ayalon said.

The Truth About the West Bank -video
Israel’s Deputy FM Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains where the terms “West Bank”, “occupied territories” and “67 Borders” originated and how they are incorrectly used and applied.

Following the release of the video, the Palestinian Authority put out an official press release condemning the video claiming that it was a “cynical and falsified account of history and international law”. Chief Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erakat demanded an official explanation for the video. In reaction to the condemnation, Ayalon said: “For too long the Palestinian narrative of international law and rights has gone unchallenged and this over the top reaction to a public diplomacy video proves that they are acting like spoilt children who have had their way for too long. They are unable to challenge a single fact in the video and have completely avoided a legitimate and honest discussion on the issues.”

Earlier, Ayalon had proposed a public debate on issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Erekat sent out an official press release calling mentioned YouTube video “a falsified account of history and international law”. Erekat rejected offer. “Erekat is used to telling the world that Israel ‘s policies are illegal and against international law and I offered him the chance to back up his own statements and he is proving unable or unwilling to do so,” Ayalon added. “It demonstrates that their rhetoric is just empty words and slogans and folds like a house of cards once it is tested.” (Source: Press release of Minister Ayalon on 31st July, 2011)

Some new paradigms

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick claims in her new article that Israel has only two options: The Jewish state’s choices are to either annex Judea and Samaria or be destroyed by its neighbors. She concludes following:

If the Palestinians take control, they will establish a terror state in the areas, which – like their terror state in Gaza – will use its territory as a starting point for continued war against Israel. It isn’t only Israel’s experience with post-withdrawal Gaza and South Lebanon that make it clear that a post-withdrawal Palestinian-controlled Judea and Samaria will become a terror state.

The second option is for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria, complete with its hostile Arab population. Absorbing the Arab population of Judea and Samaria would increase Israel’s Arab minority from 20% to 33% of the overall population.Obviously such a scenario would present Israel with new and complex legal, social and law enforcement challenges. Israel would have to begin enforcing its laws toward its Arab citizens in a manner identical to the way it enforces its laws against its Jewish citizens.  But it would also provide Israel with substantial advantages and opportunities. On the other side, annexing Judea and Samaria holds unmistakable advantages for Israel. For instance, Israel would regain complete military control over the areas. Israel ceded much of this control to the PLO in 1996.

Indeed annexation won’t be easy, but if the alternative really is national suicide there could be some sense. A number of peace proposals have included the caveat found in President Obama’s recent speech: that the pre-1967 border can be modified as a result of mutually agreeable land swaps to permit Israeli settlers in areas close to Jerusalem to remain in what is now occupied Palestinian territory, with an equivalent amount of Israeli land to be transferred to the Palestinians.

A totally different approach to one-state solution is the one proposed by Maath Musleh, a Palestinian from Jerusalem and an activist in the Palestinian youth movement. His solution is to combine Israel, West-Bank, Gaza and Jordan together.

A one-state solution that would include the historic land of Palestine and what’s now known as Jordan. This solution could be the answer for all the concerned parties in the conflict; the Zionists, the Palestinians, and the Jordanians. The Jordanian monarchy was established in the early-mid 20th century. After being promised a united Arab kingdom, Abdullah was given a princedom based in Amman. This princedom has evolved to a kingdom due to the influx of Palestinians who were expelled from their homeland. In 1948, Jordan was happy to annex the West Bank to its territories before the disengagement in the 1980s. The king would not have a problem with a one-state solution that includes both historic Palestine and Jordan if he was still the king. This would have to be an honorary position like in the UK. But the refugee question is the core of the conflict. Most Palestinian refugees reside in Jordan. Thus, the large one-state solution would solve the issue without posing a demographic threat to the Jewish presence. With an honorary king ruled by a parliament formed by the residents, equality could be applied to all citizens. (Source Ma’an News Agency)

The proposal of mr Maath Musleh is a bit different than earlier sc Jordanian option. Israel considered a proposal by King Hussein (3/72) to join the West Bank with Jordan as a federation under Jordanian leadership. In the “London Agreement” (4/87) Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and King Hussein unofficially agreed on Jordanian involvement in any resolution for the West Bank. Since then Jordanian option has not been out from agenda but during last years it has been refreshed as part of three-state solution, which also I have been propagated few years.

Jordanian option based to 1922 mandate

Delaying UN bid?

On Palestinian side there has been some discussions to delay UN-bid planed to on September. One reason is the money; first the US Aid money and second Aid from Arab neighbours. A Palestinian-led UN fight over Israel may provoke Congress to call for suspending aid to the Palestinian Authority, which is estimated to have been average of $600 million in annual support to the Palestinian Authority since 2008. The United States is also the single largest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is charged with aiding Palestinian refugees, including those in Gaza. Also Palestinians PM Salam Fayyad reported that of the $971 million in pledges made by donors so far this year, only $330 million had actually been paid. Those arguing most strongly for Palestinian unilateralism, the PA’s Arab neighbors, are among the stingiest with aid — among them, only the UAE, Oman, and Algeria have fulfilled their aid pledges.

Some members in Palestinian leadership are worried it would put the Palestinians on a collision course with the Americans and Europeans, who are the Palestinians’ major founders. One government official noted that “anyone who knows the reality, understands the UN path is a dead end, and the only way to peace and Palestinian statehood is through direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

Besides money there is also some uncertainty between not only Hamas and Fatah (implementation of their recent deal) but between Hamas and other groups in Gaza. According Debkafile Hamas began building fortifications to block the territory’s western boundary with Egyptian Sinai. Hamas is said to be anxious to ward off the spillover of

Libyian cars in Gaza

post-revolutionary chaos from Egypt and Sinai into the Gaza Strip and curtail the new influx of fighters and smugglers from Libya and Sinai Bedouin affiliated with al Qaeda. These groups have gone into the smuggling tunnel business on their own account and are causing mayhem. Hamas blames them for the resurgence of rocket fire into Israel in violation of the informal ceasefire agreed with Israel four months ago. Debkafile reports from sources familiar with the situation in the Gaza Strip report around a thousand shiny new Kia cars with Libyan number plates currently stocked in the Gaza Strip awaiting buyers in Arab countries. Hamas now finds the mafia shaping up between the Libyan intruders in flight from the war racking their country and al-Qaeda affiliates in Gaza and Sinai as a threat to its rule in the Gaza Strip.

On the Egyptian side over Gaza tensions are rising. Israel Hayom reported  on 31.07.2011 that gunmen launched rocket-propelled grenades at the al-Shulaq natural gas terminal (Sinai Peninsula), hitting the pipeline that directs gas to Israel and Jordan. The line, which has not been repaired since a previous attack on July 12, did not contain any gas. In a related development, Egyptian state media reported that at least six people were killed and at least 21 were injured in unrest that began Friday, when more than 100 armed men rode into the town of El-Arish in Sinai and tried to storm a police station. Authorities said some of the attackers waved flags bearing Islamic slogans as they fired shots into the air. Six people reported killed after 100 armed men try to storm El-Arish police station. After the attack on the pipeline and a separate weekend attack on a police station in the port town of El-Arish, Egyptian security sources told Israel Hayom that the new government in Cairo was losing control over part of the peninsula.

"The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is crumbling." | Photo credit: AFP

Prospects of Violence

According analysis ( A Coming Storm? Prospects and Implications of UN Recognition of Palestinian Statehood ) made be The Washington Institute for Near East Policy there are increasing signs of a potential outbreak of Palestinian violence in the near term, with some analysts predicting the eruption of a “third intifada.” The influence of the Arab Spring, the prolonged deadlock in negotiations, and the prospect of a breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation (following the Fatah-Hamas agreement and the potential for the suspension of U.S. funding for the PA) all tend in this direction. In addition, there is growing popular and political support for Palestinian civil disobedience initiatives, which, in the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, have often deteriorated into violent confrontation. There are mitigating factors as well, most notably the improvement of economic conditions in the West Bank and the lasting impact of the recent war in Gaza, that may make many Palestinians reluctant to return to violence.

According analysis mentioned there are bad options, and worse options, not good ones. Policy-makers may need to face the uncomfortable conclusion that whether efforts to frustrate the Palestinian UN initiative succeed or not, things are likely to get worse before there is even the prospect of them getting better. Whether or not Palestine is recognized at the UN, the downward spiral away from peacemaking seems to be intensifying at an alarming pace.

Israel is continuing to strengthen its defence for possible threads. It has successfully tested its Arrow 3 anti-missile interception system, a locally developed system designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles while they are still in the earth’s atmosphere. Once operational, Arrow 3 will become the upper tier of the Israel Defense Force’s multi-tiered active air defense concept, which aims to provide a comprehensive shield against a multitude of rocket and missile threats. Israel currently deploys the improved Arrow 2, which can shoot down long-range ballistic missiles. The Magic Wand and Iron Dome anti-missile systems were developed to shoot down shorter range projectiles. Magic Wand is still in production, while Iron Dome has already proven itself in operational incidents and is being deployed countrywide. (Source Israelhayom , more about Israel’s missile defence e.g in Will Iron Dome balance the HamasTerror? ). This year Israel has also developed both tactics and equipment of IDF to respond possible civilian upraisings (3rd Intifada) over borders and possible war with Hizbollah, which already has transferred more upgraded missiles from Syria to southern Libanon.

Concept of Demilitarized Palestinian state

As one part of solution Israel has called for any future Palestinian state to be demilitarized. During the Oslo Process, Israel insisted on maintaining full control over the external security perimeter of the Palestinian Authority (PA) while granting the Palestinians responsibility for internal security.

The main components of demilitarization are according the analysis made by The Reut Institute following:

  • Entity with no Military, but Police Force
  • Arms Restrictions
  • Israel is Responsible for External Security and Passages
  • Prohibition on Defense Pacts
  • Prohibition on Foreign Militaries or Armed Forces from Entering the PA
  • Special security arrangements for the border regime,
  • Israeli deployment in the West Bank during emergencies
  • IDF early warning stations on Palestinian territory

Negotiated solution is possible in coming months

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

International community and even both sides admit that a negotiated solution would be the best alternative to end conflict however regretting the stagnancy of them during last years. Anyway there has been whole time informal, clandestine talks between parties. According newspaper Haaretz President Shimon Peres has been holding intensive talks with Ramallah in an effort to resume negotiations and head off a unilateral Palestinian statehood bid at the UN in September. A senior Palestinian source in Ramallah confirmed that Erekat met a number of times with Peres, last time end of July 2011. The meetings are being held in complete coordination with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According Haaretz article ( Peres holds secret talks with Palestinians in bid to restart negotiations by Akiva Eldar ) Peres held Tuesday night – 26th July 2011 – a long meeting with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. The two went over maps of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in an effort to find a formula that would bypass the dispute over establishing the June 4, 1967 border as a basis for negotiations toward a final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. One option explored was the exchange of territory, and others was to compensate the Palestinians for settlement blocs annexed into Israel, on the basis of the U.S. proposal that the area of a Palestinian state be equal to the territory of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

“I speak with all sides,” Peres said. “I know that there are exchanges in order to prevent [the crisis] in September and that the differences are very minor… Such a political move (negotiations) will allow for a breakthrough and will transform September into a month of hope,” he said. “I have noted the Palestinian preference for an agreement instead of continuing the conflict in a UN resolution.”

Israel Hayom reports , that Obama administration has ratified George Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon guaranteeing settlement blocs will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal. A quote:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday (1st Aug. 2011) that he had reached a written agreement with the Obama administration according to which Israel would not be required to return to the 1967 borders in any future peace deal with the Palestinians. In addition, any future peace talks would take into account established “realities on the ground” – a term generally used in reference to Israel’s large settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion.

This means, that U.S. believes negotiations should be based on 1967 borders with mutually agreed land swaps and not the borders that existed on June 4, 1967. so taking into consideration the changes on the ground during any future talks. The same sources claim that PM Netanyahu is ready to negotiate with Palestinians based to mentioned principle.

My conclusions

In my opinion UN process – with whatever outcome – does not bring any solution for Israeli-Palestinian conflict more near, even opposite is possible. Unilateral actions or imposed solutions are not sustainable like has be seen e.g with Kosovo case. Thus the negotiation slot during coming one-two months should be used. From my viewpoint real talks can start only without any preconditions. This should be also applied to the paradigms of possible outcome. With two-state solutions also one-state (bi-national or confederation model), Jordanian option and three-state solution should be considered.

I have propagated long for sc “threestate” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution could also be more economically sustainable than other options. It could be a bit further developed by making a buffer zone between Israel and hard-liners in Gaza. With borders agreed by all main parties it is possible to look forwards, build new infrastructure to meet meet the needs of people with refugee status and transform them normal citizens with help of economic-social programmes backed with sufficient international Aid money. (More in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” )

If the outcome will be the two-state solution so then in my opinion the best base is sc Olmert’s proposal on 2008 , which so far in my opinion cleared most part of obstacles to reach sustainable peace for Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One proposal related to two-state solution and land swaps is earlier PM Ariel Sharon ‘s  2005 where for settlements Israel could as exchange land comprising a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank (about 35 miles), on which a railroad and highway could be built. It would be provided security by Israelis but owned and operated by Palestinians. This is just one possibility. (More recent peace proposals in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace).

And finally below a pragmatic hard-line view to issue (The relocation option):

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BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.” (Hamas Charter: Article 7)

The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas came to a draft agreement in last week. The core of the new Hamas-Fatah deal is agreeing to a unity and power-sharing of two parties mentioned. Palestinian division, playing so-called “moderates” against “extremists”, has been key element of US/EU and Israeli policy almost a decade. If the Palestinian unity deal holds it can open the Middle-East deadlock – but which way remains too see. I see at least three different scenarios as outcome:

  1. Israel makes a deal with Palestinian representatives

  2. No Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – UN recognises Palestine

  3. Israel annexes part of West Bank – cold peace

Some background

“This is our answer to the enemy: We have no other home.” (President Peres)


Similar Hamas-Fatah agreements were made in March 2007 In Mecca, which lasted for three months until the outbreak of a five-day war in Gaza, which ended with Hamas taking complete control of the territory. The second agreement was signed in Saana, Yemen on March 2008 by the same signatories as now and it lasted just two days. Last year negotiations were mediated by Germany and Turkey in Damascus, but now entered into a definitive agreement, assisted by the Egyptian intelligence service in Cairo.

After failed previous agreements The Palestinian Authority (excluding Hamas) has had fruitless round of talks with Israel meditated mainly by US, PaliLeaks are giving clear picture offers nad responses to them (more e.g. PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace). During negotiations The Palestinian Authority lost its rest authority as well credibility to achieve any results. Uprisings in Arabstreet this Sring may have been the main reason for Hamas-Fatah deal now as the Palestinian president, Abu Mazen/Abbas, lost his allies – Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman in Egypt. Also Hamas is losing its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad. But The Guardian editorial highlights also the third reason which had little to do with either of the above: Abu Mazen’s faith in Barack Obama finally snapped. US failed to deliver even the limited and partial extension of Netanyahu settlement moratorium. The PLO forced a vote on settlements at the UN security council, despite US pressure, leaving the US alone to cast its veto in a 14-1 vote. Preparations for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood proceed apace (again, in opposition to US policy).

The Israeli government immediately sounded the alarm over the prospect of having to deal with Hamas. “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu warned that the deal could lead to a Hamas takeover of the West Bank. “Hamas aspires to destroy the state of Israel and says so explicitly. The idea of reconciliation with Hamas demonstrates the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and makes one wonder whether Hamas will seize control of (the West Bank) the way it seized control of the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli prime minister said. (Source: The Guardian )

Directly related to the agreement it stopped the joint Israeli-Palestinian security panel because Hamas is of course not allowed into the meetings where joint Israeli-Palestinian (covert) operations against Hamas are planned. The United States is considering to remove its USD 475 million economic support for PA, the EU’s position as a major funder is not yet clear. From its side Israel will hold up an USD 89 million cash transfer to the Palestinian Authority planned for this week to assure that any money transferred to the Palestinians will not reach the militant Hamas organisation.

In parallel, Journal of the Kuwait Al-Rai, referring to Syrian security men, whereas the event of war with Israel, Syria will play a “strong hand” and to compete with Hamas in Tel Aviv bombing missiles. (Both are in possession of Scud missiles; Israel’s new missile defense to respond this threat is described e.g. in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror?)

Deal with united Hamas-Fatah front

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” (Hamas Charter: Preamble)


Hamas-Fatah deal means that now Israel may have got a strong
counterpart on the Palestinian side as any significant Israeli-Palestinian agreement demands involvement of Hamas. So far the reluctance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Israel is his lack of political legitimacy, he officially holds no power (in January 2009 he unilaterally awarded himself a one-year extension as president). Also Abbas’ prime minister, Salam Fayyad’ authority is limited, he ran in the 2006 parliamentary elections and won two seats out of 132.

Fatah is seen as the more secular organisation, which has supported the Oslo Accords which led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Hamas, an Islamic group, opposed the Oslo Accords and continues to refuse to honour past agreements with Israel. The US and EU both view Hamas as a terrorist organisation, anyway its successful imposition of law and order in Gaza have persuaded analysts that peace between Israel and Palestinians is impossible without its involvement.

The factor, which in fact can nullify this negotiation slot, is that Hamas will continue to aim the establishment of an Islamic state in Gaza, the West Bank and the current Israeli territories by force if necessary. Now approved the draft agreement, which final form is planned to sign next week, does not give any indication that the Hamas / Fatah would agree to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past agreements with Israel. Senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmud A-Zahar, makes it clear that despite reconciliation agreement his organization with Fatah, Hamas has no intention of changing its attitude toward Israel: “The transition government will not take part in the diplomatic process.” (Source e.g. Ynetnews)

Haarez editorial gives interesting alternative view to deal compared to the one of PM Netanyahu’s, who hastened to denounce the reconciliation agreement. Here Haarez perspective:

Israel can improve its status if it takes its fate into its own hands. It can be the first to welcome the establishment of a Palestinian sister-state, wish it luck, hold out its hand in peace and express a desire to discuss borders, refugees and settlements issues, this time on an entirely different level − as two sovereign states…On the tactical level, Israel will be able to pass the responsibilities required of a state to the Palestinian side as well, whatever its government.

One base for negotiated peace deal could be the latest Olmert proposal 2008 which may be most far reaching compromise so far.

UN option and the effect of unilateral Palestine actions

Since we can’t defeat Israel in war, we must do it in stages, we must take whatever area of Palestine we can get, establish sovereignty there, and then at the right time, we will have to convince the Arab nations to join us in dealing the final blow to Israel. (Yasser Arafat)


Israel-Palestine conflict is now on crucial stage as September is shaping up to be a key month for peace efforts. The Palestinians say that in the absence of a peace deal, they will take their case to the United Nations. It appears now that a Palestinian state will be imposed – or better say tried to impose – on Israel by the international community as overwhelming majority of U.N. members will vote to give them a state. However since the U.N. General Assembly’s decisions are not legally binding, the vote would be largely symbolic, and it remains unclear what the Palestinians will do after that. International support for the Palestinians has put heavy pressure on Netanyahu to offer his own diplomatic plan to end the impasse. Netanyahu is expected to deliver a major policy speech to U.S. Congress next month. But officials close to the prime minister say he has not yet decided what he plans to say.

Some 110-140 countries is estimated to support Palestinian case in UN, there is also a slight possibility that UNSC will make similar resolution. Besides sending again letter to Jerusalem at its worst there can be discussions about sanctions against Israel; however even today Israel is more diplomatically isolated than ever before and also outside governments there is a growing civil BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel. Despite this economically life in Israel has never been better. According latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s economy grew 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2010, international trade is rising steeply as in the first quarter of 2011, exports rose 27.3%. compared grew of 19.9% in the final quarter of last year. Imports rose respectively 34.7% and 38.9%. Despite hard statements EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner and even ally of Hamas and Iran Turkey’s trade with Israel reached an all time high last year. So international isolation does not seem effect very much.


Unilateral Israeli actions

“(Peace) initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam… There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.” (Hamas Charter: Article 13)

Jerusalem Post reports that ‘Annexation for declaration’ idea advancing in Knesset . True, the Israeli Likud party is already preparing a draft law, which accompanied Israel in Judea and Samaria, or at least its a lot areas with Jewish mayority as well as the Jordan River Valley; this in case that the PA government take its proposal at the UN.

As Likud MK Danny Danon said, that

A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords…The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.

Danon favors responding to a Palestinian declaration of statehood by annexing all of Area C, which includes all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and empty land. He said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should follow the example of his predecessors Levi Eshkol, who annexed eastern Jerusalem, and Menachem Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights. Area C Israeli 59% of WB land and 4% of WB Palestinians.

Israel’s unilateral actions can be understood from its security driven policy. The main thread from Hamas-Fatah deal is that as more motivated, well organised partner with popular support Hamas will override Fatah in West Bank like they have done in Gaza. If Hamas keeps its aim the destruction of Israel, the deal and Hamas takeover would allow it to deploy Iranian and Syrian-supplied Katyusha missiles near all Israel urban centers. From Israel security perspective this brings most of Israel population under thread of hostile missiles and rockets. Be’er Sheva already has been attacked by Grad Katyusha missiles from Gaza, as have been Haifa and the Galilee from Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon.

Map by Americans for a Safe Israel (ASFI)


My conclusion

For the Palestinians internal unity creates a change for developing a new national platform, strategy and representative PLO, which can also implement agreements if needed. If Hamas-Fatah deal makes a commitment to non-violence and recognises also Israel’s right to existence it might be a partner for Israel to make new peace deal. The effect and nature of Hamas-Fatah deal will be tested soon as Palestinian groups on Facebook are calling for violent uprisings against the citizens of Israel, openly planning a Third Intifada on May 15th, 2011. Previous intifadas resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians through suicide bombings and other horrific acts of terror. They are aggressively pursuing their goal of reaching one million supporters.


If Hamas-Fatah deal is neutralizing terrorism it may boost the international community and especially US to put pressure to both Israel and Palestine authorities to find negotiated common solution. This way the deal really can be what Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called “a key window of opportunity” for the entire region. One crucial point for outcome will be PM Netanyahu’s speech before the US Congress next month, will it appease Obama admistration and EU-3 (Cameron, Sarkozy and Merkel) about Israeli intentions in peace process.


One can guess that I am not very hopeful about the peace deal soon after Hamas-Fatah agreement, at least in its current form. Hamas should first change its fundamential course to apply non-violent methods and accept Israel security concerns, and Israel needs time to trust Hamas intentions. Perhaps the best outcome related to three scenarios mentioned could be limited cold peace or truce, plus restricted trade agreements.

Earlier and now I still consider sc Three State-Option the most pragmatic solution. As Egypt now is opening Rafah border crossing and when its current leadership better cooperates with Hamas it would be easier than before logistically and politically annex Gaza with Egypt e.g. as autonomius province with cultural and economical independence. Annexing Palestinian West Bank areas similar way with Jordan could decrease Israeli security concerns and hence allow smaller buffer zones and less fragmented area for Palestinians. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

Background Annex

Conflicting Views of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Every year in USA, campus hate groups such as the Muslim Students Association and Students for Justice in Palestine join a festival called “Israel Apartheid Week”, which also is part of the growing BDS movement (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel). As response the David Horowitz Freedom Center is sponsoring counter-protests on more than 50 college campuses, as part of its Islamo-Fascism Awareness Campaign. From banner below one can open some of the claims from Palestinian side and counter claims from Israeli side to highlight the big difference of views in Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 
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lähi-itä, MENA

Hamasin ja Fatahin diili muuttaa lähi-idän pelikenttää

Hamasin ja Fatahin historialliseksi luonnehdittu sopimus saatiin jälleen aikaan, aiemmat yhteishallitussopimukset tehtiin 2007 keväällä ja vuoden 2009 lopussa ja molemmat jäivät toteutumatta. Sopimukselle on nyt vahva “tilaus” YK:n syksyllä käsitellessä palestiinalaisvaltion perustamista. Ko neuvotteluja käytiin mm Saksan ja Turkin välittäminä Damaskuksessa, lopullinen sopimus tuli Egyptin tiedustelupalvelun avustamana Kairossa. (Aiemmin neuvotteluista kirjoitin mm artikkelissani Fragments of the Middle East peace efforts )

Itse näkisin sopimuksessa toteutuessaan kaksi merkittävää tekijää: ensinnäkin Israel saa vastaansa yhtenäisen neuvotteluosapuolen joka halutessaan voisi tehdä pitävän Israelin ja Palestiinalaishallinnon välisen sopimuksen koska vain Hamasin mukanaolo voisi aikaansaada rauhan tai ainakin aselevon. Toinen edellisen kumoava tekijä on se, että Hamasin tavoitteena edelleen lienee islamistisen valtion perustaminen Gazaan, länsirannelle ja nykyisen Israelin alueille tarvittaessa väkivalloin. Nyt hyväksytty sopimusluonnos, joka allekirjoitettaneen lopullisessa muodossaan ensi viikolla, ei anna mitään viitteitä siitä, että Hamas/Fatah suostuisi tunnustamaan Israelin, luopuisi väkivallan käyttämisestä, ja hyväksyisi aiemmin tehdyt sopimukset Israelin kanssa tai että em asioista edes suostuttaisiin neuvottelemaan.

Israelin puolella Likud-puolue on jo valmistelemassa lakiluonnosta, jolla Israel liittää Juudean ja Samarian tai ainakin sen runsaasti juutalaisenemmistöiset alueet sekä Jordanjoenlaakson itseensä, jos PA toteuttaa valtioesityksensä YK:ssa. Samanaikaisesti kuwaitilainen lehti Al-Rai syyrialaisiin turvallisuusmiehiin viitaten toteaa, että sodan syttyessä Israelin kanssa Syyria tulee näyttelemään ”vahvaa kättä” ja kilpailemaan Hamasin kanssa Tel Avivin pommittamisesta ohjuksin. (molemmilla on hallussaan Scudeja; Israelin uudesta ohjuspuolustuksesta torjumaan em uhkaa lisää kirjoituksessani Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/will-iron-dome-balance-the-hamas-terror/ )

Suoranaisesti sopimus lakkauttanee yhteisen Israelilais-Palestiinalaisen turvallisuuspaneelin koska Hamasta ei luonnollisestikaan päästetä kokouksiin joissa on suunniteltu yhteisiä israelilais-palestiinalaisia (peite)operaatioita Hamasia vastaan. Edelleen Yhdysvallat on sopimuksen myötä nyt poistamassa maan 475 miljoonan USD taloustuen PA:lle, EU:n kanta yhtenä suurrahoittajana ei liene vielä seljennyt.

Edellä olevasta on arvattavissa etten ole kovin toiveikas sopimuksen rauhaa rakentavasta merkityksestä ainakaan nykymuodossaan. Ehkä paras lopputulema Hamasin/Fatahin sopimuksesta voisi olla rajoitettu kylmä rauha eli aselepo lisättynä rajatuilla kauppasopimuksilla.

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crisis management, Middle-East

Time-Out for Israeli-Palestinian talks

A lot of optimism related to the Israeli-Palestinian talks begins to wane. Before last elections USA tried corrupt Israel with offer, which content has different versions, for freezing settlement construction in West Bank and Jerusalem in return. The offer did not succeed thus, the U.S., Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have quietly agreed about time-out and talks will resume in January, 2011.

The time is used first to replace earlier mediator George Mitchell, whom Obama fired, with next high level envoy or even with Mrs Clinton. Second, the time-out is necessary for Palestinians to continue reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah which began last month in Damascus under the Syrian aegis and which can lead an unite Hamas/Fatah delegation representing the Palestinian Authority in January 2011. Third informal negotiations between Hamas and Israel brokered by Germany may continue.

Current publications of new Wikileaks documents are giving some interesting details about cooperation in Middle East. Released documents are indicating that the Government of Israel had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas. Describing is also an Israeli opinion about Palestinian Authority that “only Israeli military operations against Hamas in the West Bank prevent them from expanding control beyond Gaza, without which Fatah would fall.”


The two-state roadmap is expired


Obama’s plan on the table, according informal sources, is providing from base of of the old two-state solution only less than 5% of the West Bank to Israel. This would mean that tens of settlements and two towns should be evacuated, and this Israel hardly would be able to swallow. One should remember that from the 1967 borders it is less than ten kilometers of air travel to Ben Gurion airport and a mere twenty kilometers to Tel Aviv with a Qassam so for security reasons old borders can be seen too hazardous.

Land swaps?

In the past swaps of land has be considered as part of a peace agreement and two-state solution. In theory a land colonized by Jewish settlements could be swapt for land that’s sparsely populated, like the Negev for example.


However there is a newer idea that Israel compensate the Palestinians with land occupied by Israeli Arabs. The Lieberman Plan, proposed May, 2004, also known in Israel as the “Populated-Area Exchange Plan”, was proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu. The Lieberman Plan only advocates ceding the Triangle Arab communities, the ethnic Druze community, which is pro-Israel, would also remain part of Israel. “Israeli Arabs will not lose anything by joining the Palestinian state. Instead of giving the Palestinians empty land in the Negev, we are offering them land full of residents, who will not have to leave their homes,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in an interview to London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published in early February.

Some 46% of the Israeli’s Arabs (622,400 people) live in predominantly-Arab communities in in Israel’s Northern District. According recent surveys among Israeli’s Arabs 83 percent of respondents opposed the idea of transferring their city to Palestinian jurisdiction. I believe that most Israeli Arabs object to trading Israeli citizenship for Palestinian citizenship. However the position would be entirely different if the West Bank was divided between Jordan and Israel – two sovereign countries already possessing a peace agreement that has proved its resilience for the last 12 years.


Are outsiders the obstacle for peace?

“Palestine is Jordan and Jordan is Palestine; there is one people and one land, with one history and one and the same fate.” (Prince Hassan, brother of King Hussein)

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.

My solutions have for years been an agreed or forced population transfers (see, for example, “Gaza War – Could Balkan history show the Way Out?”) and replacement of two-state model with three-state solution (“The Three-State Option Could Solve Gaza conflict”). Immoral, contrary to speeches, etc I admit, however this pragmatic approach might work on the ground. In my opinion three-state solution could also make border changes easier e.g. implementing land swaps mentioned above.

Why, then, exploring these models is so difficult. I think U.S. Republican Senator Sam Brownback may have hit the nail on the head by stating

…the obstacle to pursuing such a plan (3-state plan/AR) comes not from the Palestinians, the Egyptians or the Jordanians, but from our own foreign policy establishment, which has sunk enormous resources into the two-state plan and hesitates to walk away. But the cause of peace requires an honest assessment of what has worked and what has not. The time has come to cut our losses on a failed experiment and pursue regional solutions that will lead to peace and prosperity in a troubled region.”

From point of view of (Western) international community, the situation is somewhat similar to the previous Balkan wars and their solutions – billions of bucks (some 20 billion US Dollars over the last 15 years from international donors for West Bank and Gaza) and a lot of prestige has been squandered to hastily made early solutions and despite this

it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground”

I hope that time-out will be used for replacing the dead roadmap with pragmatic alternatives which may be found at regional level and the role of outsiders should be reduced to facilitating the outcome whatever it will be.

My related articles:


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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East, Yemen

Fragments of the Middle East peace efforts

With the recently launched Palestinian-Israeli peace talks receding into a state of limbo and while Yemen is slowly disappearing from headlines a smaller stories from the Middle East are going on in the marginals of western mainstream media. However these some times crueler actions may change situation on the ground even more than high level official diplomacy.


Knesset. Jerusalem

News from peace talks too often are limited to photo opportunity to see negotiators and host making theatrical handshake – of course studying the outcome of talks one has some base to claim that this staging indeed was the (only) content of meeting. However outside cabinets in theatre of operations actions are following one another although they are not dominating front pages of mainstream media. Here I have collected some fragments of information flow from first part of November.

U.S. strikes to Gaza

A missile fired from an American warship in the Mediterranean hit the car in which Muhammad Jamal A-Namnam, 27, was driving in the heart of

Missile struck Al Qaeda operative's car in Gaza, made by U.S.

Gaza City Wednesday, Nov. 3 and killed him. Namnam was an operational commander of the Army of Islam, Al-Qaeda’s Palestinian cell in the Gaza Strip. He was on a mission on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP to plan, organize and execute the next wave of terrorist attacks on US targets after last week’s air package bomb plot. The Al Qaeda operative’s death by a US missile is the first American targeted assassination in the Gaza Strip against an Al Qaeda target. Up until now, US missions of this kind took place in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia. (Source: DEBKAfile)

U.S. aids both sides with different methods

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that $150 million dollars in direct aid was being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. The latest U.S. aid brings the amount of direct funding for 2010 to $225 million and total assistance to the Palestinian Authority including that through third parties to $600 million, Clinton said. Same time the U.S. government is to move an additional $400 million worth of military equipment to emergency storage in Israel over the next two years. Equipment to stand at Israel’s disposal in an emergency; hike will bring the value of American military equipment stockpiled in Israel to $1.2 billion by 2012. (Source: Haarez)


Other side of refugee issue

Speaking about refugees in the Middle-East a new initiative promoted by the Foreign Ministry calls on Palestinians to “recognize Jews who exiled from Arab lands as refugees.” According to the initial outline of the plan, Israelis hailing from Arab countries will be eligible to demand financial compensation for the property they left behind. “We must remember that more than 850,000 Israelis came from Arab lands without any property, and therefore they are considered refugees. It is definitely an issue that must be raised during our negotiations on a permanent agreement,” said Deputy Defense Minister Danny Ayalon. (Source: Ynetnews)


Targeted killing authority

Lawyers for the Barack Obama administration told a federal judge Monday that the U.S. government has authority to kill U.S. citizens whom the executive branch has unilaterally determined pose a threat to national security. That claim came in federal court in Washington, D.C. in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). The two human rights legal advocacy organisations contend that the administration’s so-called “targeted killing authority” violates the constitution and international law. The ACLU and the CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorise the targeted killing of his son, Anwar Al- Aulaqi. (Source: Obama Lawyers Defend “Kill Lists” By William Fisher).

These “democratic” western values are not so unknown to Yemeni as a Yemeni judge ordered police Saturday to find a radical US-born cleric – Anwar al-Aulaqi – “dead or alive” after the al-Qaida-linked preacher failed to appear at his trial for his role in the killing of foreigners. (Source. Jerusalem Post/AP)


US Predator UAVs now in Yemen – the drone war is expanding

Targetted killing of Anwar al-Aulaqi is coming easier now. In the first week of November, directly after the discovery of two explosive parcels mailed from Yemen to the United States, Washington moved a squadron of Predator drones to a secret base at the Yemeni Red Sea port of Al Hodaydah. Until now, the covert facility – finished in April on a site CIA director Leon Panetta has selected last January – was allotted to US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) units for mounting clandestine raids against Al Qaeda cells deep inside Yemen.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen has so far claimed that the war on Al Qaeda is carried out exclusively by the Yemeni army, however for some time now, US warplanes and drones have been crisscrossing Yemeni skies from their bases in Djibouti and the decks of aircraft carriers offshore. Officials in Sanaa have habitually claimed those sorties were the work of the Yemeni air force, although it has neither the aircraft nor the air crews able to conduct these precision attacks. DEBKAfile‘s Middle East sources note that it is the first time in seven years that US air strike forces are stationed on Arabian Peninsula soil. In 2003, the American Air force dismantled its Saudi base and withdrew to Qatar and Oman.

US Predator - Now in Yemen too

In Washington there is debate going on whether the drone war should be conducted by the U.S. military or the CIA. Both the CIA covert operations directorate and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) brass regard the outcome in Yemen as the key to the larger struggle over control of a series of covert wars that the Obama administration approved in principle last year. The CIA directorate and the two major figures in the Iraq- Afghanistan wars, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, lobbied Obama in 2009 to expand covert operations against al Qaeda to a dozen countries in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. On Dec. 17, less than three months after the Petraeus order, a cruise missile was launched against what was supposed to have been an al Qaeda training camp in Abyan province in south Yemen. The Yemeni parliament found that it had killed 41 members of two families, including 17 women and 23 children. After this and later strikes and when JSOC stumbled badly and failed to generate usable intelligence on al Qaeda targets, the CIA went on the offensive to get the administration to take control of the drones away from the SOF. (Source: DEBKAfile and IPS)

Attacking Iran?

Obama may save Presidency by attacking Iran

At a special White House security consultation last week, Obama said it was time to plant America’s military option against the Iranian nuclear threat visibly and tangibly under the noses of Iran’s political and military decision-makers. In the last few days, three aircraft carriers, four nuclear submarines and marine assault units have piled up opposite Iranian shores. Early Sunday, the influential Senator Lindsey Graham (R. South Carolina), member of the Armed Services and Homeland Defense committees, said: “The US should consider sinking the Iranian navy, destroying its air force and delivering a decisive blow to the Revolutionary Guards.”As part of this strategy, two weeks ago, the White House requested the heads of NATO to draw up operational plans for attacking Iran’s nuclear and military facilities.


Axle of Gaza-Damascus-Tehran

A further round of conciliation talks between PLO/Fatah and Hamas broke up in Damascus Wednesday, Nov. 10, without accord. The Fatah delegation insisted that the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas be the sole sovereign authority for all security services in both territories, Hamas didn’t agree. This dispute will decisively influence the US-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians – if they ever take off. It means that the only accommodation attainable would be, at best, a partial one covering only the West Bank.

Same time the Hamas government’s deputy foreign minister Dr. Ahmed Yousef is actively campaigning for the Gaza regime to form a strategic partnership with Iran on the same lines as the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah alliance. He also invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Gaza. Close ties between Gaza and Tehran will bolster the Palestinian extremists’ military and intelligence ties with Damascus and Hizballah. This will in turn boost the bloc led by Iran and Syria and add to its leverage for derailing any fence-building moves between the feuding Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and perpetuate the division between the two Palestinian entities – one in Gaza and the other on the West Bank. This stronger alliance may also threaten the stability of Jordan, where already Hamas-Damascus controls the local Muslim Brotherhood branch.

The evolving partnership between Hamas and Iran and its negative impact on the prospect of an Israel-Palestinian peace may be the key determinant of the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in recent weeks – not, as claimed in Washington and Jerusalem, the row which has sprung up over 1,300 new Israeli apartments in old-established East Jerusalem suburbs. (Source: DEBKAfile)

My related articles:

The Three-State Option could solve Gaza conflict”

Gaza War: Could Balkan history show way out?”

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks”

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