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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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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lähi-itä

Hamasin kohtalokas virhearvio – Israel aloitti vastaiskun

Israel sai lopulta tarpeekseen Hamasin voimistuneista rakettihyökkäyksistä ja vastasi liki miljoonan siviilinsä kärsimään terroriin aloittamalla viime keskiviikkona ”Puolustuspilari” (Pillar of Defence) operaation. Hamas ehkä laski sen varaan ettei Israel vaaliensa edellä vastaisi provokaatioon. Tämä strateginen virhearvio saattaa osoittautua järjestölle kohtalokkaaksi.

Sitten lauantain 10.11. Gazasta laukaistiin Israelin siviilikohteisiin yli 120 rakettia kunnes Israel eliminoi Hamasin sotilassiiven johtajan Gazassa. Hamas puolestaan käytti Iranista saamiaan Fajr-5 ohjuksia iskiäkseen Tel Aviviin ja nyt myös Jerusalemiin, etäämmälle kuin koskaan aikaisemmin. Israel puolestaan on ohjusten pudottamisen ohella keskittynyt ilmaiskuillaan tuhoamaan ensisijassa maanalaisia ohjustukijkohtia ja maanpäällisiä laukaisualustoja. Merkittävä määrä Israelin armeijan joukkoja on siirtynyt Gazan läheisyyteen ja Israelilla on valmius aloittaa maaoperaatiot välittömästi.

Skenaarioni tulevasta on, ettei Israel kykene tuhoamaan edes kaikkia pitkän- ja keskipitkän matkan ohjuksia ilmaiskuillaan eikä niinikään valtaosaa Gazan ja Egyptin rajan alittavista 1200 salakuljeyustunnelista. Hamasin johto lienee taas jo painunut maan alle joten nämäkin maalit ovat vähenemässä. Mikäli erityisesti Tel Aviviin ja Jerusalemiin yltävien Fajr-5 ohjusten käyttö jatkuu se nostaa Israelin ohjuksille uhanalaisen väestön määrän kahteen miljoonaan siviiliin. Tässä tilanteessa pidän maaoperaatioiden aloitusta väistämättömänä. Siviilien osa Gazassa on tällöin jälleen toimia tykinruokana ja propagandavälineenä Hamasin jälleen lymytessä siviilirakenteissa käyttäen kansalaisiaan suojakilpinä. Tällöin nähdään vastaava näytelmä kuin 2008-09 edellisen Cast Lead -operaation aikana: merkittävä määrä siviiliuhreja ja merkityksetön vielä suurempi määrä pontevia kansainvälisiä julkilausumia ja yleistä paheksuntaa. Kohun laannuttua palataan takaisin lähtöruutuun mutta mikäli Israel eliminoi Hamasin vaikutuksen Gazassa saattaa vallanperijäksi tulla vieläkin radikaalimpi joukko militantteja.

Maanalainen Fajr-5 ohjustukikohta siviilikohteiden keskellä (rajattu punaisella)

En ymmärrä lainkaan miksi Hamas välttämättä halusi provosoida Israelin nyt alkaneeseen operaatioon. Kuluvana syksynä merkittävä arabijohtaja Qatarin Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani vieraili Gazassa; toinenkin valtionpäämies, Bahrainin Sheikh Al Khalifa valmisteli omaa matkaansa Hamasin vieraaksi. Mielestäni nämä vierailut lisäsivät Hamasin kansainvälispoliittista uskottavuutta luoden sille mahdollisuuden vaihtaa painopistettä sotilaallisesta toiminnasta poliittiseksi liikkeeksi, terrorijärjestöstä jopa Israelinkin hyväksymäksi Gazan asukkaita edustavaksi neuvotteluosapuoleksi.

Syinä Hamasin valitsemaan strategiaan saattaisivat olla halu ottaa aloite Abbasin PA:lta, johtajuuden varmistaminen Gazassa toimivien radikaalimpien islamistiryhmien puristuksessa tai myös Iranin kauko-ohjaus pakottaa Israel siirtämään huomion Gazaan Iranin ydinlaitosten pommittamisen sijaan. Oli syy mikä tahansa niin nähdäkseni Hamisin johto teki strategisen virhearvion. Sulkiessaan mahdollisuuksien ikkunan kohota poliittiseksi avaintekijäksi se samalla altistui Israelin vastaiskulle joka saattaa siirtää järjestön yhä mitättömämpiin marginaaleihin.

Edellä kuvattua aihepiiriä kuvailen tarkemmin pääblogini artikkelissa

Hamas Miscalculated: Israel Started Operation Pillar of Defense

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crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Hamas’ Miscalculation: Israel Started Operation Pillar of Defense


”In the past 24 hours Israel has made it clear that it will not tolerate rocket and missile attacks on its civilians. I hope that Hamas and the other terror organizations in Gaza got the message. If not, Israel is prepared to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people.” (PM Netanyahu)

Enough is Enough. The escalation of events over the past few days forced Israel to react to the Hamas attacks.The civilians of southern Israel have been under sustained attack from Gaza since last Saturday, November 10th. More than 120 rockets were fired before Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on 14th Nov 2012. An Israeli ground offensive is now almost assured. Hamas probably assumed that Israel won’t launch broad military campaign before Israeli elections, it seems that they made a serious and for many a fatal miscalculation.

The toll the rockets from Gaza have taken on Israeli citizens is heavy. Over one million civilians has lived in range and their lives are threatened with every launch. Now with use of Fajr-5 missiles even two million Israelis are under thread. Approximately 800 rockets and mortar shells have launched since the start of the year a record amount since the end of Operation Cast Lead (January 2009). This peak is similar to the attacks that occurred in 2007-8. Daily life in southern Israel has been totally disrupted. Some 200 rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday 15th, with about 30 intercepted by the Iron Dome system, including between one (IDF version) and three (Hamas version) Fajr rockets fired at Tel Aviv. However, the escalation of events over the past few days forced Israel to react to the Hamas attacks.

For the first time since the Gulf War, a rocket has hit Tel Aviv by Fajr-5 rockets, Iranian-made weapons which can reach a lot further than the ordinary Grad missile. Both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for the attack. This strike is the furthest Hamas has ever struck into Israeli territory and signals a major escalation.

More about terrorism from Gaza see the report Terrorism from the Gaza Strip since Operation Cast Lead: Data, Type and Trends, by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.

Pilar of Defence aka Amud Anan

Aircraft dropped leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings also via twitter a a couple of days ago. These early warnings were not enough.

This operation – Operation Pillar of Defense aka Amud Anan – was planned months ago, but an official launching of it was on Wed 14th when Israel targeted Ahmed Jabari, Hamas’ military chief in Gaza who was responsible for all Hamas terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip in the past decade. Marwan Issa has been named the new commander of Hamas’s military wing. Issa was the deputy of Jabari. Issa headed the Hamas military delegation that traveled to Tehran and Beirut last September and signed secret mutual defense pacts with Iran and Hizbollah. Mr. Jabari (Israel’s OBL) was the first target.

The second phase of the operation was an aerial attack which targeted 20 different targets, all underground, which served as launching pads for various kinds of rockets. So far the IDF has targeted some 70 underground, medium range rocket launching sites in Gaza, and some 200 launching sites in overall. IDF special forces which are already inside Gaza, and another which says that armored battalions are already situated around Gaza, ready to go in. The IDF also deployed more infantry troops to the Gaza Strip, as well as armored combat units that largely comprised Merkava Mark IV tanks fitted with Rafael’s Trophy active protection system that effectively neutralizes the threat of antitank missiles. More and live updates from IDF.

The Israel Air Force carried out precision strikes on the bunkers where Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets had been stored as well as on other caches and launching sites, reducing Hamas’ ability to launch these long-range missiles which are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. As in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began with Israel destroying Hezbollah’s long-range rockets, the most pressing objective was to deny Hamas (and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) the ability to disrupt the lives of those in the greater Tel Aviv area and central Israel by means of long-range rockets.

The aim of Operation Pillar of Defense is to remove a strategic threat to Israeli citizens including by reducing the capabilities of Hamas’ long and short range rocket forces. Additionally, Israel is acting to impair Hamas’ command and control system. According IDF all options are on the table, including ground maneuvers. IDF has not yet confirmation that one part of these rockets have been launched from Sinai, Egypt, which would bring new international aspect on the table.

Underground Fajr-5 launching site/Gaza

The role of civilian population in Gaza seems again to be that of cannon fodder and their value only propagandist. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations hide among the civilian population of Gaza. They also direct their fire at the civilian population of Israel. These actions constitute a double war crime.

I well understand that Israel as no other state would allow a million citizens to be targeted by terrorist organizations without responding. Despite Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005 , Hamas has continued to attack Israel, so one could conclude that they are not fighting against Israel’s (non-existent) presence in Gaza but against Israel’s very existence. Presuming Israel is not about to re-take Gaza permanently, some experts and commentators in Israel have been recommending the latter option.

My view

I really don’t understand the strategy of Hamas during last weeks. In my opinion Hamas is closing the window of opportunity which was opened this autumn. Arguably one of the most powerful men in modern Arab political affairs, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani personally broke the politico-economic blockade in place over Gaza. His meeting with Haniyeh, along with the $400 billion he brought with him, is the first event of this kind since the Islamist movement gained power in 2005.

The official visit of an Arab head of state in Gaza should be considered as a trigger of a developing inclination which will likely alter the Israeli-Palestinian equation. Along with Qatar, Sheikh Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruler, is rumored to prepare his own trip to the Gaza Strip. This would in fact echo an implicit blessing of the Saudi royal family in regards of a new policy aimed at effectively fracturing the Arab-Palestinian relations.

In my opinion these visits could give both a recognition and the boost for Hamas to show political leadership in Gaza. To be recognized as political force – instead to be a terror organization – Hamas could be the partner to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. However Hamas made opposite choice, it started again a military campaign. The reasons for this are unknown to me but might it be so, that Hamas has lost control to more aggressive organizations?

In addition to these diplomatic shifts, Prince Hasan Bin Talal of Jordan stated at the beginning of the month of October that the West Bank is historically linked to the Hashemite Kingdom, thus opening the road again to the integration of these territories to Jordan. By empowering Hamas, Al Thani may be successful in terminating the two–state solution while providing to the Jewish state the possibility to have a multi-faceted approach toward peace negotiations, directly separating the talks with the West Bank from the ones with Gaza, effectively opening the road to a three–state solution. Palestinian statehood in Judea and Samaria would be possible through mutual recognition and far reaching security agreements. Such a deal should no longer be attached to the situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip.

The history of Gaza conflict is known. Israel left the Gaza Strip down to the last soldier, settler and to the last square mile. Hamas, an organization committed to the destruction of Israel, seized control of Gaza. Since the rocket fire continued, an (light) embargo was put in place. Hamas and its satellite organizations proclaim war without end, fire rockets at population centers. The Palestinians could have taken advantage of Israel’s departure from the Gaza Strip in order to prove to the world that they are capable of doing something for themselves – in human development, industry, education, social welfare, etc. Capital is flowing but it is hard to see it on grassroots. But Hamas leadership seems to have different priorities than capacity building of civil society. From my point of view this is their fatal miscalculation.

Some of my related articles:

…and then

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MENA, Middle-East

Sinai Emerged as New Front in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Besides political pressure due the Palestinians’ upcoming bid for statehood at the U.N. in September, Israel is suffering heaviest bombardments since Operation Cast lead in early 2009. Over 150 Qassam and Grad rockets has been fired at Israeli communities since last Thursday when Palestinian terrorists implemented a terrorist attack via Sinai in Southern Israel near tourist resort Eilat. The attack and quick response by Israel Defence Force (IDF) have now escalated and the situation is dangering also Egyptian-Israeli relationship and peace agreement.

The Sinai attack

A string of terrorist attacks took place near the Israeli-Egyptian border near of the Netafim crossing, about 20 km north of Eilat (Israel’s southernmost city) on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. The attack left 8 Israeli citizen dead, 5 Egyptian police- and army officer died as well 10 of attackers. Some victims are still in critical condition.

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 which runs close to the wide open Egyptian Sinai border. All three gunmen who attacked the bus were killed in a firefight with an Israeli special police force. Israeli military sources first estimated that 20 terrorists took part in the attacks – some reaching their targets through Israel, others providing them with mortar cover from Sinai. Seven were killed. Two bodies were rigged with explosives. The Egyptian military told the IDF that its soldiers also killed two terrorists in the Sinai. Now Israel is involved in a dispute with Egypt after three Egyptian officers were killed by Israeli gunfire.

At least three of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the road to Eilat last Thursday were Egyptian citizens, according to a report in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Yaoum. In addition to the three, five Egyptian policemen and soldiers were also killed in the various firefights. Haaretz has learned that 12 terrorists, in four groups, carried out the attack. The groups were dispersed over an area 12 kilometers long. At least some of the attackers wore brown uniforms, similar to those used by the Egyptian Army. The investigation by the Egyptians has shown that Israeli troops entered into the Sinai Peninsula chasing after the terrorists. During the pursuit, fire was exchanged with Egyptian police. Moreover, an Israeli helicopter, according to the Egyptian probe, fired two rockets at the terrorists and fired machine guns at Egyptian policemen. (More: Haaretz )

The Israeli Defense Minister Barak noted the importance of the Peace Agreement with Egypt and emphasised Israel’s appreciation for the level-headedness and responsibility demonstrated by the Egyptians. “Israel is sorry for the deaths of the Egyptian policemen during the attack on the Israel-Egypt border.” (PMO/press)

According analysis made by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center the attack was planned in the Gaza Strip by the Popular Resistance Committees and perpetrated by terrorists who crossed from Gaza into Sinai via smuggling tunnels. They then travelled some 200 kilometers to reach an area of the border protected only by a tattered wire fence, about 15 kilometers north of Eilat.

The week after: Response, Escalation and fragile Ceasefire

I have set out a principle – when the citizens of Israel are attacked, we respond immediately and with strength. That principle was implemented today. Those who gave the order to murder our citizens, while hiding in Gaza, are no longer among the living.” (Benjamin Netanyahu, PM/Israel after Sinai attack)

Israel claimed that the Sinai attack was carried out by terror cells affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip, whose leaders were killed in response to the attacks in an Israel Air Force strike later Thursday afternoon. The PRC members killed in the retaliatory IAF air strike included the head of the terror group Kamal Nirab, who the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said had personally directed and planned the attack. Another man killed in the strike was identified as Amas Hamed, commander of the PRC’s military wing and a resident of Rafah. (Source and more e.g in The Jerusalem Post -article )

On Friday, one day after coordinated terror attacks killed eight in southern Israel, 30 Grad and Qassam rockets were fired throughout southern Israel. The rocket attacks on southern Israel continued Saturday in areas near Be’er Sheva and in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip. (Source: Haaretz ). Israel Hayom reports that Southern Israel continued to absorb rocket fire from the Gaza Strip over the weekend, in the heaviest bombardment the country has seen since Operation Cast Lead in early 2009. By Sunday afternoon, over 100 rockets had been fired at Israeli communities since Thursday. More than a million Israelis within rocket range of Gaza have been warned to heed the instructions of the Homefront Command and remain alert.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad issued a statement detailing the rocket attacks in which the organization was involved between August 19 and 21. According to the announcement, the organization fired 17 standard Grad rockets, nine 107mm rockets, three Quds rockets [of local manufacture], and 22 mortar shells (PIJ’s Jerusalem Battalions website, August 23, 2011). The main faction of the PRC (the Salah al-Din Brigades) reported that its operatives had fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel during the last round of attacks. Thus it can be seen that both organizations played a major role in rocket attacks against Israel in the latest round of escalation (160 rockets were fired at Israel, 120 of them landing in Israeli territory).(Sources: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and MFA/Israel )

Iron Dome in action

IDF sources have reported that Iron Dome batteries had shot down 20 incoming rockets fired by Gaza militants in the first five days of cross-border violence. Iron Dome guardens Gaza borderzone in few places and even if their amounth would be multipled the cover would not be 100%. An additional problem is economic one as every anti-rocket launch cost 40.000 – 100.000 USD; in future Skyguard laser beam system – still at development stage – might be the answer as one launch costs only 1.000 – 2.000 USD. More about Israeli missile defence in article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? .

After a week of violence escalation now is at least temporary over as informal and fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is more or less prevailing. Egypt was active brokering an armistice between Israel and Hamas in an effort to stop the violence of recent days from escalating further, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported on Saturday. According to the report, Cairo has delivered an Israeli communiqué to Hamas, saying that its actions following Thursday’s deadly terror attacks near Eilat meant to target their perpetrators alone; and that it will cease its air strikes on Gaza if Hamas and the Strip’s other militant groups cease their rocket fire on Israel. The newspapers added that Egypt’s efforts are focused on both preventing the violence in southern Israel from spiralling out of control, as well as preventing an wide-scale Israel military campaign in Gaza. (Source: Ynetnews )

Sinai as new front

In 2005 Debkafile intelligence sources reported following:

Al Qaeda has established local terror networks in northern Sinai – centering on el Arish, as well as strongholds in the inaccessible central mountains of the peninsula around Jebel Hillal. In all, the jihadists control roughly one-fifth of Sinai total area (61,000sq. km or 23,500sq. miles). Egyptian forces of law and order have learned not to venture into these bastions or into the areas commanded by age-old smuggler clans who currently collaborate with al Qaeda. This leaves about half of the forbidding desert peninsula inaccessible to Egyptian security forces.

Description above is six years old, however it gives some background to challenge as this was situation during stabile Mubarak time, now after events in Libya and Egypt the thread can be even bigger.

Before Sinai attack early August Israel stopped what would have been a spectacular border terrorist attack planned from inside the Gaza Strip, according to Egyptian security officials. The attack was aimed at the sole pipeline that supplies Gaza with gas. The Egyptian officials said members of Jihadiya Salafiya, an al-Qaida-allied group in Gaza, are suspected of attempting the major attack along with elements of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad. Since the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, similar attacks have been carried out three times now on an Egyptian pipeline located in the Sinai desert that supplies Israel with about 35 percent of its gas needs. All three attacks have been blamed on Jihadiya Salafiya and likeminded Islamist jihad groups. Unlike other radical Islamic organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have demonstrated some pragmatism in aspects of political life while still holding an Islamist worldview, the new al-Qaida organization believes in a strict interpretation of the Quran and that only the Quran can dictate how to act. The Islamist group believes violent jihad is the primary way to spread Islam around the world, including jihad against secular Muslim states. (Source: WND/Did Israel just stop ‘spectacular’ terror attack? )

It seems reasonable, that members of al-Qaeda and other groups affiliated with Global Jihad exploited the security vacuum in Sinai especially after “Arab Spring”. Egypt has accused Sinai terror groups not only blowing up the gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan but also of attacking police patrols. Earlier on Sunday 14th Aug., three Egyptian army brigades of 1,700 men backed by tanks, an equal number of special policemen and 3,400 security personnel drove into the northern towns of El Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah, which is divided between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. In their first clashes with Islamic Liberation Army gunmen, they killed one and detained 11, four of them Palestinians, he Egyptian military communiqué reported. The aim of this operation is/was to retake control of the territory from lawless and terrorist elements rampant there since the Egyptian revolution and responsible for sabotaging the Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan and Syria. It is estimated that some 2,000 well-organized and heavily armed Islamist gunmen resides in Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian forces have fought for control of these mountains several times but failed, ending up with accommodations of sorts with the 350,000 Bedouin tribes sheltering the Islamists and sharing in their smuggling trade. The tribes always came out of these deals in control of the region.

Debkafile’s military sources report that the Islamic Liberation Army – which has declared its objective as the seizure of all of Sinai and its transformation into a Muslim Caliphate – is a conglomerate of five terrorist groups:

  1. Indigenous Bedouin tribes who have a score to settle with the Egyptian army;
  2. Palestinians from the Gaza Strip drawn into extremist Salafi sects which are integral parts of al Qaeda.
  3. Hundreds of adherents of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the murderous Jamaa al-Islamiya who escaped Egyptian prisons on January 29 at the peak of the popular revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak. The former jailbirds made a beeline for Sinai and today constitute the hard operational core of the movement.
  4. Al Qaeda adherents, who made their way to Sinai after violent careers in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  5. Followers of various Egyptian Sufi and dervish orders.

A bit similar information about current relationship between Hamas and more radical groups in Gaza can be found from folloing quote in Israel Hayom :

A senior military source told Israel Hayom on Saturday that a Gaza-based terrorist organization known as the Popular Resistance Committees was responsible for the rocket fire on Beersheba and Ofakim, along with global jihad groups associated with al-Qaida. The source added that Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, was attempting to prevent missile fire in order to prevent continued escalation.

One of the terrorist leaders in Sinai, formerly Osama bin Laden’s doctor, Dr. Ramzi Muwafi, was recently captured by the Egyptian military. Muwafi commanded a terrorist training camp of 40 Al Qaeda operatives near El Arish, the capital of Northern Sinai. It also claimed that hundreds of organization activists were sent to the Sinai peninsula in order to establish an Islamic emirate. (Source e.g: Walla ) Early Wednesday morning, the IDF assassinated Islamic Jihad figure Ismail Zadi Ismail Asmar, who organized the smuggling of Iranian Grad missiles into Gaza via Sinai. Asmar also provided the funding for the 15 or so terrorists who shot up the Eilat highway in southern Israel.

To address the worsening security situation in the Sinai, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told that Israel would agree to let Egypt station thousands of soldiers in the Sinai following last week’s cross-border attacks. Barak said he would agree to the deployment of soldiers and that the Egyptians would be able to “have helicopters and armored vehicles, but no tanks beyond the lone battalion already stationed there.” The new deployment, if it happens, will require modifications of the Egypt-Israel peace accord, which stipulates that the Sinai Peninsula remain a demilitarized zone, with precise and limited numbers of Egyptian forces and the types of weapons they are allowed to bear. (Source: Israel Hayom )

Possible follow-ups

The Sinai attack will sure have consequences and especially in Israel there is now need for for new situation analysis. Some of the considerable aspects of revised positions might be the following:

  • The Sinai attack will change military outlook on borderzone. For three decades since concluding a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel regarded their common 200-kilometer border as safe and non-belligerent. Tank units, armored infantry, airborne radar and early warning electronic capabilities will be strung the length of the Egyptian border. Also building a security fence on Egyptian-Israeli border will be speeded up so that 100 km will be implemented this year in addition to 30 km which is already constructed.
  • The attack on Eilat highlighted how Egypt’s military government is losing control of the Sinai Peninsula. During the midday raid, gunmen ambushed a civilian Israeli bus and attackers also detonated a roadside bomb targeting military vehicles responding to the attack.
  • In Israeli internal politics the events have boosted political parties to seek more cooperation as e.g. Interior Minister Eli Yishai worked to bring the Kadima party into a unity government.
  • Al-Qaeda might be emerging in Sinai. The Arab Spring has made it possible that different Islamist actors, such as Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists and Sufists, can now use constitutional means to come power putting more radical groups, such as Al-Qaeda in marginals. By exploiting the Israel-Gaza situation jihadists however can indirectly confront Egyptian regime and complicate matters for Israel and the outcome may well be unravelling the Egyptian-Israeli relationship most serious way since the signing of the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords.
  • Iran may have cut off all financial support to Hamas due to the latter’s failure to support embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad, diplomatic sources told Reuters on Sunday. Hamas’ 2010 budget reportedly totalled some $540 million, with only a tenth of that covered by tax revenues from local commerce and on goods smuggled in through the Egyptian border.
  • Shiite Crescent scenario

    One alarming scenario is that when U.S. is pulling out of Iraq at the end of this year the country could allow Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Iraq and Syria (if al-Assad is not ousted) to form the “Shiite Crescent” in preparation for war with Israel. Hezbollah has 50,000 missiles, which can destroy targets in Israel and if Syria and Iran join the war, the situation in Israel could be worrying despite the fact that Israel probably would win the war.

  • Israel therefore conceivably could face conflict in Gaza, a conflict along the Lebanese border and a rising in the West Bank, something it clearly knows. This could mean risky three-front war. In a rare move, Israel announced plans to call up reserves in September. Though preannouncements of such things are not common, Israel wants to signal resolution.


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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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