Middle-East

Jordanian Sheikh: Allah gave Israel to the Jews

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

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

Jordanian Sheikh Adwan

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

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

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

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

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

Palestine?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestinian state
Similar approach

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

Opposite approach

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

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

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

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

ISIS five-year plan

ISIS five-year plan

My view

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

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Middle-East

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

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

 

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

Timing

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

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

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

The expired talks

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

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

Reactions

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

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

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

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

Israel’s Plan B

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

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

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

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

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

8-state mideast solution
Palestinian actions

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

 

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

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

My view

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

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

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

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

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

Read more from my earlier articles:


P.S:

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

The Facts Of Life In The Middle East by Avi Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fatah-hamas signs

 

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BalkanBlog, Balkans, Middle-East

Blogging & Web 2.0 As A Tool In The Media War by Ari Rusila

(Editors note: This article is a modified web-version of my article printed in A Flying Finn : Finnish Civil Society Actors in the Global Sphere Melasuo, Tuomo; Nissinen, Petter; Tomperi, Outi (ed.), 2013, published by Tampere Peace Research Institute; ISBN: 978-951-44-9191-7.)

Ari Rusila, MA SocSc, is a Finnish freelancer and project management expert who lives in Jyväskylä, Finland. He has worked mostly in the Barents region, the Murmansk region of Russia and Kosovo/Serbia (Balkans). His main blog, Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog, covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics.

 

Blogging statue

Introduction

Blogging is a part of the social media and Web 2.0 environment. While the first-stage web mainly included websites where people were limited to passive viewing of the content, the new-generation Web 2.0 creates highly interactive platforms that allow the creation of user-generated content, discussion and sharing in the virtual community. Besides blogging, the social media includes social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn…), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (wikipedia, wikimedia, wikileaks…), video sharing sites (e.g. Youtube), folksonomies (social bookmarking, tags) and other web applications (e.g. JavaScript). In conclusion, Web 2.0 has created a totally new level for communication between organizations, communities and individuals, far from the still-existing traditional and industrial media.

I have been blogging1 for over five years and have used some other social media applications for a few years. I have average computer and Internet skills, but programming is beyond my ability. So my experience of using social media is much the same as any ordinary citizen and not at any kind of expertise level. As my blog covers issues such as conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics – and regionally, the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions – I describe my experiences of the social media from that perspective. Another aspect should also be mentioned: I try to have blog articles with a message; in general, I take a position, describe a conflict from my perspective and give arguments for it. As my motto is “the other side of the story”, I never claim that my articles are neutral, or an academic description of different issues – the printed media and broadcasts can more or less pretend to have that kind of approach. In my opinion, when a reader compares my provocative or biased post with information collected from the mainstream media, he or she can get a more comprehensive picture of the related issues or events.

Web updated the media war

The traditional media has had a role in wars and international conflicts for at least a hundred years, e.g during the Armenian genocide it had some influence on the small humanitarian aid from the U.S. and afterwards influenced the trials against the perpetrators in Turkey. However, it was not until a half-century ago that it came clear that media hype can be far more effective than military combat success – as the Vietnam war amply demonstrated. It is said that Vietnam was the first conflict waged and won by the U.S. media.

The civil war in Yugoslavia lifted the media war to a more professional level when Croatian, Bosnian Muslim and Kosovo Albanian separatists employed PR firms to get U.S. public opinion and political leaders on their side, while the Serbs totally ignored the importance of the media. This proved to be a fatal Serb error in twentieth century hostilities, where public relations and media hype can be far more effective than military combat success. Barry Lituchu hit the nail on the head with these sentences2:

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Of course, today with the appalling spectacle of the civil war in Yugoslavia filling our TV screens and newspapers, this old axiom has taken on an uglier, more sinister meaning. If four years ago we could say that the American public was totally uninformed about the conflict ready to unfold, today we can say with equal justification that Americans are doubly or triply misinformed, and dangerously so, about this tragic and completely unnecessary war.

Referring to the Yugoslav civil wars, Barry Lituchy describes the methods as follows3:

All public relations firms working for foreign governments must register with the Justice Department. I found in documents obtained from the Justice Department that while Croatia was contracted to pay Ruder Finn $16,000 a month and Bosnia was to pay $12,000 in 1992, payments in some later months were as high as $200,000, and total payments per year were ultimately in the millions of dollars. Moreover, Ruder Finn was not the only P.R. firm employed in Bosnia. Hill and Knowlton was also contracted early in the war. Waterman & Associates was employed by Croatia. Financial backing came from countries such as Saudi Arabia, which alone funneled nearly $1 billion to the Sarajevo regime from 1993 to 1996, according to the Washington Post, 2 February 1996. Ruder Finn was also contracted by the non-existent “Republic of Kosovo” for $5,000 a month, according to a Justice Department document dated 1 November 1992.

The outcome of this demonizing anti-Serb campaign was so effective that there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that the reported Serbian “rape camps” did not exist, or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs. Challenging the dominant interpretation in the major media became increasingly impossible.

Two decades ago the role of the average citizen with regard to printed or broadcast media was still passive; with social media the situation totally changed to the opposite – ordinary people can be creative through interactive media. The new trend in the present decade seems to be the ‘Internet revolution’. One of the first examples of this was way back in 2001 when the Filipinos famously overthrew their government with the help of text messaging. The latest example of the use of social media in the context of catastrophes or terrorist acts comes from the U.S., where, immediately after the bombs had exploded during the Boston marathon (Spring 2013), tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions, of social media users began to comb through still and video images from the explosion sites, like so many self-deputized CIA agents. These instant vigilantes not only shared images and theories on Reddit, Imgur, Tumbler and countless blogs but also fingered (innocent) suspects, most of them dark-skinned, as potential terrorists.

The use of social media in present day conflicts can be seen from a few examples I have studied or participated in in different roles (as a neutral observer, as writing articles from the grassroots level perspective or as an active participant in the virtual media war).

Case Moldova – Twitter revolution 4,5

After the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia) and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) revolutions, the first attempt at a next-generation demonstration took place in Moldova after the 2009 parliamentary elections. Known now as “The Twitter Revolution” the protest was organized by two youth movements – Hyde Park and ThinkMoldova – using their generation’s social messaging network to gather 10,000-15,000 demonstrators on the streets in Moldova’s capital Chisinau at an event billed as “I am a not a Communist”, which included ransacking the presidential palace and parliament building.

As many as 50 per cent of the eligible Moldovan voters cast their votes for the Communist Party (PCRM). Thus the ruling party won a landslide victory, leaving the other three political parties that made it to parliament far behind. Three other parties managed to pass the 6 per cent threshold required to enter the legislature. All three are in favour of closer ties with the European Union, free-market policies and pursuing NATO membership. The Communists (PCRM) are pro-EU, anti-NATO and less market-friendly.

Election observers from the EU and OSCE accepted6 the voting as fair, though they expressed some concern about interference from the authorities. But the results were a deep disappointment in the capital. Expectation of change was in the air before the voting, but that did not happen.

On the other hand, the demonstration has been characterized in discussion forums (by government supporters perhaps?) as an act where

youth, paid by older internationally-acting manipulators with money, alcohol and drugs, seized a presidential office, planted a Romania’s flag on a president palace and set on fire country’s parliament, demanding inclusion as a province in Romania.”

Natalia Morar, one of the leaders of ThinkMoldova7, described the effort in her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision-making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e-mails.” She said the protests organized under the slogan were organized online: “All the organization was through the Internet, and 15,000 people came on to the street.”

To create a demonstration via social media was easy, but to have a common view of its purpose and manage the crowd seems to have been problematic. That the demonstration turned violent was a surprise to the activists. Mr. Moscovici said the protests were never intended to turn in that direction. “The situation got beyond any expectations,” he said. “If it would have been planned in advance, they would have used Molotov cocktails or other bad stuff. Today they didn’t have any tools to fight back. The stones they got from the ground, from the pavement.” Ms. Morar of ThinkMoldova also distanced her organization from the violence, shifting the blame onto the opposition parties. What bothers her the most, she said, is the suggestion that she and her friends somehow contributed to the violence, which she watched on television. “Believe me, there is nothing at all enjoyable about it,” she said8.

ThinkMoldova gives an example of how a debate can be brought to the street level. One problem is manipulation by the media, etc, which is a common phenomenon in political actions, as well hijacking a demonstration for the purpose of one interest group. In the Moldova case, the two organizations behind the protest condemned the violence and were of the opinion that the opposition parties were behind these acts. The opposition parties deny this and of course it is possible that the Establishment orchestrated the hooligan part of the demonstration to weaken the NGOs. The truth – I don’t know.

The Moldovan experiment showed that Twitter has made some difference since the demonstrations in Ukraine 2004 and Belorussia 2006, which were mainly organized with SMS. It is practical and effective, but from my point of view not a sufficient method for democratic revolution. For protest certainly, for revolution maybe, sometime, somewhere.

Arab Streets: Social media gave good start and bad follow-up

The uprisings and revolutions on the Arab streets a couple of years ago clearly demonstrated the force of the social media in the early stages of those events. A sort of warm-up to the recent cyber war came with the release of a number of US diplomatic cables on Tunisia9by WikiLeaksin late November and early December 2010. The cables gave details about the “Family Mafia” led by the Tunisian President. A Lebanese news website that published the cables, Al-Akhbar, was blocked in Tunisia and attacked by hackers. The political campaign on the Internet escalated with Operation Tunisia10(an open letter to the media, a request for help from journalists, bloggers and hackers) in which activists targeted government sites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. The hackers also got their Open Letter onto the main page of the Government of Tunisia website. During critical days, the social media have been used to help get people out on the streets.

In Egypt the social media played a decisive role by bringing the protest onto the streets. Anonymous leaflets11How to Protest Intelligently – circulating in Cairo also provided practical and tactical advice for mass demonstrations, confronting riot police, and besieging and taking control of government offices. The leaflet asked recipients to redistribute it by email and photocopying, but not to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were being monitored by the security forces.

While the social media was so effective during the uprisings, its role became insignificant immediately after the change of regime. Traditional, better organized religious groups got an almost landslide victory over different “ad hoc” temporary action groups. It seems that with Tweet and FB it is difficult to create any deeper group identity, common vision or commitment.

Iran: Unsuccessful Green revolution, but successful cyber war

The “green revolution” in Tehran started after the elections in the summer of 2009. The Western media relied on its reporters covering the mass demonstrations by opposition supporters. The most news coverage came from Tehran via English-speaking students – the bulk of the opposition demonstrators were drawn from the upper and middle-class students, business and professional classes.

From the post-election surveys it can be seen that the only demographic groups where the opposition candidate Mousavi was leading or competing with Ahmadinejad were the university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. This group had the language skills, equipment and skills for using the social media for their purpose. But relying on them as a source of information gives a totally false picture about the grassroots level in Iran as, according to surveys, only one-third of Iranians have access to the Internet. Commentators portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in the 2009 election, whereas in reality, 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad.

While distributing real-time tweets and pictures of the “revolution”, the Western media totally ignored and downplayed the huge turnout for Ahmadinejad. Worse still, the Western media ignored the class composition of the competing demonstrations – the fact that Ahmadinejad was drawing his support from the far more numerous poor working class, peasant, artisan and public employee sectors while ignoring the provinces, small and medium sized cities and villages where Ahmadinejad had his mass base of support.12, 13

Later, when the core problem (information coming from English-speaking students and highest income class) of the social media as a source of information was clear, and to give a deeper view, I published the traditional information from the Iranian opposition and, especially, from a group named The Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian (Majority) – in Persian: سازمان فدائیان خلق ایران اکثریتSāzmān-e fedaiyān-e khalq-e Irān (aksariat) – which is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime there. The group is banned from open activity within the Islamic Republic, and works clandestinely inside Iran and openly abroad. I published their letter to EU leaders14 as such, and their other letter15 to President Obama related to a planned Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities as, in my opinion, their wise words reflected the grassroots attitude among the Iranian opposition

While social media like Twitter at a regional/local level can be a decisive factor by encouraging the masses to throw out an existing regime, one should remember that the stakes are on a different scale in a real cyber war. The best examples are the introduction of the Stuxnet computer virus into 30,000 computers in Iran’s nuclear reactors and the explosions in October 2009 in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles.16

Israel: The most sophisticated use of social media as a tool of war

The old tradition (called also Pallywood) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of some respected media, such as the BBC, to show “Israel’s aggression” and, at the same time, Palestinians as innocent civilian victims. During earlier conflicts it was usual to bring the dead – anyone who had died or been murdered for reasons of crime during these wars – out from the hospitals in front of the cameras as victims of “Israel’s aggression”. This kind of media war is still continuing on the Internet. The difference with the old times is that while it is easy to create and publish (mis)information, it is just as easy for the public to detect photo manipulations and other fabrications.

During the Israeli Pillar of Defence operation against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, an Arab news site called Alarab Net released a photo17 that shows a family who were allegedly ‘massacred’ in Gaza on its Facebook page on Sunday, 18 November 2012. The caption in Arabic roughly translates into English as “martyred massacred family in Gaza shortly before…” Thanks to Tazpit News Agency’s investigative work, it was found that the photo had originally been published on a news site called Moheet based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, one month earlier, on 9 October 2012. October 19. On the Moheet website, the photo18 was entitled “Syria killed 122 Friday…Assad Used Cluster Bombs.”

And here another example where the Alqassam Brigades published an image which was taken in during the Syrian civil war weeks ago and attempted to pass it off as a picture taken in Gaza during current conflict.

media manipulation in the middle east, Pallywood

Trevor Asserson in YNetNews19:

The only force in the Middle East that can beat the Israeli army is a bunch of ragged reporters. Had it not been for the fear of world opinion the Army would have rooted out Hamas and its rockets… World opinion matters because Israel’s natural friends are democracies. Politicians in democracies will follow public opinion. In today’s digital world, where people can communicate across the world in seconds and access information anonymously from their own homes, the internet is the new battlefield. The BBC, with its halo of ‘impartiality,’ is the world leader in dissimulation. The BBC aired dead Syrian children passed off as Palestinians; a ‘badly injured victim of Israeli bombing’ was filmed moments later walking around healthily. The BBC shrugged it off – “perhaps he just recovered quickly.”

A couple of years ago, the General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) established a Cyber Defense Division in the C4I Directorate, which is responsible for protecting the IDF networks from hackers and infiltrations, to combat this new virtual frontier. While modern cyber warfare is more between skilled specialists, the information war in the social media is possible for anyone who has some kind of equipment and access to the web.

In my opinion, the most sophisticated use of social media as tool of war is the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces (IDFBlog)20. This is a source of information where one can find news from the field, including operational updates, photos and videos. Besides news, the IDF blog also includes wide background information and facts about related issues via different means (images, videos, FB discussions, interactive means, contacts …) and in many languages. The IDF are using Twitter as a means of making conflict, and their part in it, as transparent as possible. They are letting the world know exactly what they are doing, as well as why they are doing it. I think this is incredibly important as Israel is too easily cast in the role of “the bully” by the mainstream press abroad.

Besides blogging, the IDF also work with Facebook21, Youtube22, Twitter23 and Flickr24.

IDF leaflets during Gaza operation

As not all people have access to the social media, Israel has also used old-fashioned methods such as aircraft dropping leaflets in Gaza stating that the residents should “keep their distance from Hamas terror operatives”. There were similar warnings via Twitter. The reason for this kind of early warning was to minimize collateral damage (very bad for the public image) in any conflict.25

A very good example of how the IDF information unit works with the social media is its actions on 14th November 2012, when Operation Pillar of Defence was starting: in the morning, around 9:30 a.m. Eastern time, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted that “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.” Minutes later they tweeted26, “The first target hit, minutes ago, was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of the #Hamas military wing.” The tweet linked to a post on the IDF blog27 that explained: “The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure.”…“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security.” Soon after, a video of the IDF Pinpoint Strike on Ahmed Jabari28 hit YouTube, where it has accrued over 800,000 views so far (despite being blocked and reinstated by YouTube) 29. On the opposition’s side, the Alqassam Brigades30have been live-tweeting their attacks on Israel as well – e.g during Operation Pillar of Defence, tweeting the news of rockets being fired at different cities in Israel every few minutes.

Web 2.0 As a Tool – My conclusions

The Egyptian autocrats removed the Internet from Egypt; the Chinese autocrats removed Egypt from the Internet (an anonymous quote from a web forum)

The Web 2.0 revolution created a collective consciousness over the Internet, and, in addition, the social media also made it possible for large numbers of people to organize and, in certain cases create, attacks against the establishment – in the virtual or real sphere. The social media is different from the traditional/industrial media in many ways, such as quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy and permanence. A Web 2.0 site may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in the social media. This new Internet culture reflects the fact of, or is a process by which, the centre of gravity of the news cycle has shifted to the social media. The critical task is, of course, criticism of the sources, so that what seems like complete democratization of information and news reporting can lead to a tyranny of the mob, even erupting into “virtual” and perhaps even physical violence.

Today’s communication tools are providing new aspects for election campaigns and politics in general. One of them is that modern technology can inspire young voters. Another aspect is that protest is not necessarily channelled via voting but through street democracy.

One can claim that both of these aspects can include undemocratic elements because the majority of the population are not familiar with these tools and directing democracy with violence can gain more than a fair share of power. On the other hand, one can claim that the Establishment has such strong means with which to exercise power that normal elections are insignificant. My position is not clear, because the situation is different in every society.

Web 2.0 has been excellent tool with which to mobilize huge segments of the population with “Colour revolutions” or uprisings. However, the problems start after the demonstrations or even when the regime changes. After changing the regime or ousting a dictator, any further goals are rarely discussed and accepted by the mobilized demonstrators. Indeed, the real aims – labelled the promotion of democracy – can be imported abroad to serve foreign interests (like pro-American economic and foreign policies on Arab streets) or at least one leading domestic interest group. So, in my opinion, the criticism is the core question from this aspect.

I do not think the Western traditional mainstream media are so interested in in-depth critical analysis or investigations, which are a thread for advertising money or other publishers’ interests. The Internet is an excellent medium for alternative critical citizen journalism and even investigative journalism. Speaking about today’s whistle-blowers – the most famous being WikiLeaks – it may be the only medium where these kinds of actions are possible. One can, of course, find a lot of nonsense and what I call Facebook journalism on the Internet. I personally prefer more op-ed articles, alternative perspectives, etc, with good links to background information. In blogging I have changed my approach from daily commentaries to longer and not-so-frequent articles.

I think that at best, the social media can challenge the existing system, policy and initiatives by looking behind the picture from the mainstream media and finding the core interests in ongoing and coming (e.g. Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, military intervention in Syria, etc) interventions, conflicts and high-flown statements, and investigate how the actions are implementing the interests of different lobby groups. The blogosphere can tell what’s really happening and why. The blogosphere can liberate us and our thinking from the mainstream media box. It delivers a huge amount of information and raw material from different shareholders. The critical task is criticism of the sources, but even with this reservation it makes a real change as a virtual think tank – far more than the traditional media.

¤ ¤ ¤

Excerpt: Ari Rusila – My Blogosphere

My motivation for blogging originates from my experience of working in the Balkans. While working in the Balkans I saw a huge gap between the mainstream media and reality, and between high-flown ideas from Washington and Brussels from one side and the grassroots from the other. To change the situation I started to write e-mails and memorandums to policy-makers and comments to different forums – although the response was modest at best. Then I went to different web forums and started blogging, and got much more feedback. My motto is “The other side of the story”.

My main blog is Ari Rusila’s BalkanBlog31, which covers issues relating to conflicts, crisis management and geopolitics, and regionally the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Caucasus and MENA (the greater Middle East and North Africa) regions. The content of the blog is more in-depth analysis or essays from my personal viewpoint on topics mentioned, not daily posts about current events. The main blog has visitors from more than 140 countries, mostly from North America.

There is a Finnish version of the main blog with a little different content: Ari Rusilan BalkanBlog32. I also launched a news portal, Ari Rusila’s Conflicts, where real-time news on diffferent topics was automatically generated from different sources – but no more, as the service provider ended this option. Then there is Themes of Ari Rusila33, which includes some minicourses for e-learning purposes. This site is still partly under construction. In addition to this, there is a more static website, Ari Rusila WebS34. I also participate in a number of community blogs with the same content as my main blog but with a different audience.

Blogosphere of Ari Rusila, Balkanblog, Web 2.0, blogging, social media

Highlights & Achievements 2008-

2013

2012

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Translations of my articles are spreading my message

  • Interviews in international printed and online media: Crimea Policy Dialogue Project (Ukraine)

  • Blog-Zug Hall of Fame (week 43/2012)

  • Blog-Zug Top (week 43/2012)

  • Google Search can give a good score depending how high each article is at any given time (my best is 603,000 hits, normal variation is 7,000 – 200,000)

  • Technorati authority changes according tro article popularity (my scores between 1 -150) h

2011

2010

  • Blog got 1st position among the most visited Babelblogs in Cafebabel.com (The European Magazine)

  • 4,782 views on main blog in one day

  • TOP 10 political blogs rank in Finland (Cision)

  • Article for AC Policy Team/NATO Strategic Concept

  • Translations and forum activities disseminate views

2009

  • TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre, only two selected to participate from Finland

  • Quality Blogging Award in TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition by European Journalism Centre

  • Intercultural Dialogue” Training workshop of Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg for EuroMed bloggers. I was the only one selected from the Nordic countries

  • Platinium contributor to Atlantic-Community

2008

  • Article in New Kosova Report (Kosovo/Serbia)

  • Active participation in different forums and articles referred to

  • International Press Card

Other outcomes

  • Citations in a few academic works

  • Answering questions from researchers and students for their studies or publications

  • Contacted by a few writers and discussions of common issues

  • Helping aid or development workers with advice when they are going on missions

  • Giving official statements to, for example, asylum seekers

  • Contacted by a few moviemakers and giving background information and hints for documentary movies.

Notes:

1See “Excerpt: My Blogoshere

2 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

3 The Spectator (http://www.iacenter.org/bosnia/lituchy.htm)

4 More in Twitter revolution – no coup d’etat but big drama anyway (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/twitter-revolution-) and

5 Twitter Revolution-Case Moldova (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/twitter-revolution-)

6 OSCE report (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2009/04/37142_en.pdf )

7 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0)

8 Source NYT (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/08/world/europe/08moldova.html?_r=0 )

9 (http://213.251.145.96/origin/19_0.html)

10 (http://www.pdf-archive.com/2011/01/04/an-open-letter-to-all-media/an-open-letter-to-all-media.pdf)

11 (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%201_rev2-thumb-600×424-41204.jpg) and (http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/mt/assets/science/assets_c/2011/01/Page%204_rev-thumb-600×424-41213.jpg)

12 More in my articles IRAN – revolution postponed (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/07/07/iran-) and

13 Iran – Twitter – Revolution (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/iran-)

14 Support for Iranian Opposition (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/support-for-iranian-opposition/)

15 US Giving a “Yellow Light” to an Israeli Strike (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/us-giving-a-yellow-light-to-an-israeli-strike/)

16 More in my article Cyber war has became a tool between political and military options (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/cyber-war-has-became-a-tool-between-political-and-military-options/)

17 The “recycled” massacre, transplanted to Gaza. (http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-1.jpg)

18 The original massacre, in Syria. http://www.jewishpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/forgery-21-422×486.jpg )

19 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4315343,00.html)

20 (http://www.idfblog.com/ )

21 (http://www.facebook.com/idfonline )

22 (http://www.youtube.com/idfnadesk )

23 (http://www.twitter.com/idfspokesperson )

24 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline )

25 Minimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict (http://arirusila.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/minimizing-collateral-damage-in-gaza-conflict/)

26 (http://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268722815300169729 )

27 (http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/14/idf-begins-widespread-attack-on-terror-sites-in-the-gaza-strip/ )

28 (http://youtu.be/P6U2ZQ0EhN4 )

29 (http://allthingsd.com/20121115/youtube-blocks-israeli-hamas-assassination-video/ )

30 (http://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade )

31 (http://arirusila.wordpress.com )

32 (http://arirusila.blogit.fi/ )

33 (http://arirusilathemes.wordpress.com/ )

34 (http://arirusila.webs.com/ )

Standard
BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Resumption Of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

<img source="http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSLHPjqrrmKitfMzTIeUfoIZkim6sHG2DWE2cCzuaT2NXztmjpVNA" alt="Israel and Palestine map."</img>Some hope to break the Israeli-Palestinian vicious circle emerged when it was announced about resumption of peace talks . Dr. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, will travel to Washington next week to meet Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, for what is supposed to be direct negotiations after five years of stagnation. Both representatives participated formal negotiations in 2008 when the final agreement almost was reached.

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. However this is only start of the process and before final status talks there is need to agree over the foundations of the negotiations themselves, how to start, how and when to finish. A lot of obstacles is waiting, for example involvement of Hamas and Gaza to negotiations. Also from its part European Union tries to sabotage negotiations with its groping foreign policy and its foolish directives.

Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy

For years the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to negotiate unless some preconditions are accepted. The main demands before peace talks have been that the border of the future Palestinian state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War and that Israel halts all construction in West Bank settlements. Israel has refused, saying negotiations should resume without conditions.

On his sixth trip to the Middle East in five months as America’s top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, continued his effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that floundered and collapsed in 2008. And on 19th July 2013 Kerry was able to announce that Israel and the Palestinians will meet end of July 2013 in Washington to finalize an agreement on relaunching peace negotiations for the first time in five years.

According to media reports, but not confirmed by Secretary Kerry, Israel has agreed a package of incentives for the Palestinians – including restraint in settlement building, the gradual release of prisoner serving long sentences for terror offenses, and economic projects in the West Bank – whilst the Palestinians are expected to suspend unilateral efforts to seek recognition in international bodies.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/mfa.gov.il/mfa_Graphics/content/accumulator_default_img.jpg" alt="Israel government sign."</img>After Kerry’s announcement on the Resumption of the Diplomatic Process PM Netanyahu released the following statement: “With the resumption of the diplomatic process, we are faced with two main goals: Preventing the creation of a bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River that would endanger the future of the Jewish state and preventing the establishment of an additional Iranian-sponsored terrorist state on Israel’s borders, which would endanger us no less.”

The carrots

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. At the 2002 Arab League Initiative, which proposed full Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a series of conditions, including the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. However, in May this year, 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.

Related to settlements it has claimed that they kill the two-state solution but this from my perspective is not obstacle after the now revised Arab League Initiative. 80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will require a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. 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 also this is doable.

Kerry has offered the Palestinians a package of economic incentives to restart the talks.According to the secret Kerry plan (not confirmed anywhere) as one of these concessions, Kerry wants Israel to permit the Palestinians to build in Jericho for their prospective state an international airport for direct civilian flights to and from America and Europe. Those flights would cross Israeli air space and be coordinated with Israeli flight control authorities. Kerry envisages the transformation of the entire Jericho region north of the Dead Sea and near the Jordanian border into a busy hub for galvanizing the economy of the future Palestinian state. He wants Israel to hand over to the Palestinians the Kalia region on the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Kibbutz Kalia, albeit part of sovereign Israel from its inception in 1948, is nonetheless one of the assets Kerry wants Israel to cede to the Palestinians. Israeli concessions would not end at the northern Dead Sea coast, according to the secret Kerry plan; it would be just the first in a series of land and sovereignty handover granted the Palestinians in trilateral negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians and the United States. The Palestinians would also be awarded by the process a three-year economic reconstruction program for boosting their Gross National Product by 50 percent and slashing unemployment from 21 to 8 percent.

The Olmert proposal

“Reaching an agreement is possible; it is realistic, but you need to want it and you need to pray that the leadership will want it.” (Ehud Olmert)

<img source="http://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/olmertpage002.png" alt="Olmert proposal for Israeli-Palestinian future borders."</img>

The last time Israelis and Palestinians conducted formal final status talks was under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But his successor PM Netanyahu has formally rejected the proposals that Olmert made at the time to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

New negotiations are not starting from scratch, both Livni and Erekat have many times been looking the same almost agreed map according which Israel would annex 6.3% of the area of the West Bank, a move which would enable around 75% of the population of Jewish West Bank settlements to remain in their homes. In return for this, land would be transferred to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8% of the area of the West Bank. In addition, a ‘safe passage’ route linking Hebron in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be established. Besides border issue also other core questions – such as future arrangements in Jerusalem and the refugee issue – were earlier almost solved. More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

<img source="https://i0.wp.com/scm-l3.technorati.com/13/03/17/75487/Olmertpage003.png" alt="Olmert proposal for future borders of Jerusalem, map."</img>

EU trying to sabotage peace negotiations

While U.S. has implemented their active shuttle diplomacy in the front line the EU’s rearguard are trying to put obstacles for peace process. Just when peace diplomacy on the ground was at crucial point the EU published its directive which mandates that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.” The EU explained that the goal of the directive was to draw a solid line between the state of Israel and the “occupied territories,” especially over issues that concern EU cooperation.

In Jerusalem, officials said that the EU directive essentially determines that – given the absence of an agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians – 100 percent of the territory in Judea and Samaria belong de facto to the Palestinians.

Trade with the EU in 2012 amounted to $36.6 billion. Israel imported $22.4 billion worth of goods from the EU that same year. Also the Palestinians were not so pleased as the Arab side is also going to be harmed by this EU directive; Palestinian laborers are going to lose their livelihoods as a result of the decision to exclude settlement enterprises from future cooperative agreements. A generous portion of the labor in Judea and Samaria is Palestinian and for example many joint Israeli-Palestinian agricultural projects situated in West Bank are funded by members of the EU and now in danger.

According to a report in Ma’ariv, Israel has threatened to pull out of the EU’s massive science and technology project, “Horizon 2020″. Israel is the only non-European full partner in the project, and is supposed to invest 600 million Euro (785 million US dollars) in the project over 7 years. Besides the financial hit the EU project would take as a result, the move would be a serious blow to the project’s prestige and success. Israel is a central partner in the projects that Horizon 2020 undertakes, and part of these project’s successes are dependent on Israeli human resources and research.

EU wishing to be included in the peace process should change their directive for example expressing that the territories of east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights are in dispute and their fate will be determined through direct negotiations.

<img source="http://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/unslogans.jpg?w=296&h=314" alt="UN slogans."</img>

These principles might describe EU too?

Gaza question

In my opinion question about Gaza should be solved at early stage during coming negotiations. Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule.The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

A new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. To be effective at least following components should be included to the new strategy for Gaza:

1) Economic component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish trade links with Gaza. Israel should expand the amount of trade allowed from its territory, and also reopen trade from the West Bank. Gazans should be allowed to open an export corridor through Israel. Allowing goods to flow between Gaza and the West Bank will change Gaza’s economy away from illicit trade with Egypt and strengthen the moderate middle class

2) Social component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish the suspended transit corridor for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza.Allowing Gazans to visit the West Bank and vice versa will help restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood.prepare Palestinian institutions for elections and to empower PA for peace deal..

3) Political component preparing the PA for Palestinian national elections.The Palestinians have not held national elections since 2006, and governing institutions required for statehood are losing legitimacy as a result.

Implementation of this new approach could be made with help of international advisory group composed of those countries already friendly with Hamas (Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt), plus countries (Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia) more likely to take into account the Fatah-dominated PA’s views. Sure this policy change poses risk, however the more certain danger is in perpetuating a status quo that benefits Hamas.

My conclusion

In Israel big part of population thinks that Israel as strong Jewish state can best defense their interests and hard line government to implement their wish. Palestinian leadership is defending rights of local Muslim population, refugees and vision of Palestine state. Hard line Palestine groups – with remarkable popular support – is implementing their vision with terrorist acts. In outside power centres especially in Anglo-Saxon world both Israeli and Palestinian interest groups are putting their pressure to western capitals. Many outsiders admit that both sides have good base for their claims.

Now I am more optimist than pessimist with this new round of talks. The status quo is too expensive situation both economically and politically for both Israel and Palestine. The deal would allow both parties to look forwards – the deal would release resources for economic development and for building capacities in society. There is also regional need to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict as other more serious conflicts are spreading in the (Great) Middle East

If negotiations however again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan. I have propagated long for “three-state” 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 is both pragmatic and doable. (More in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )


Some of my related articles:

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MENA, Middle-East

Will Obama Reset The Middle East Peace Process?

Coalition negotiations about 33. government of Israel came to an end after six weeks on Freb. 15Th 2013 when the election winners Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi both signed coalition agreements with ruling Likud Beytenu. The swearing-in of a new government will be in early this week – in just two days before the wheels of U.S. Air Force 1 touch down at Ben-Gurion International Airport with President Obama. The situation is pawing the way for new start for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.


The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been at an impasse since the Palestinians pulled out of short lived final status talks in September 2010, after a ten-month Israeli settlement moratorium came to an end. Whilst Israel and Palestinian Authority both claim to support a negotiated two-state agreement, there is no trust between two sets of leaders, with each side doubting the other’s interest in reaching an agreement. In recent months both sides have taken steps deemed provocative by the other, with the PA seeking unilateral recognition at the UN, and Israel announcing new plans for settlement construction in sensitive areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The new Israeli government

With a Palestinian partner that is willing to hold negotiations in good will, Israel will be ready for a historic compromise that will end the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all.”(PM Netanyahu prior to the swearing in of the country’s thirty third government )

If you get even to an interim agreement… I promise you… we will join your government in order to see through such a move.” (Respose of opposition and Labour Party head Yachimovich)


The new Right-Center government (Netanyahu’s and Lieberman’s Likud-Beiteinu, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Naftan Bennet’s Habayit Hayehudi and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua) marks a significant change of direction for Israeli politics with the exclusion of the ultra-Orthodox parties and the entry of a range of disparate parties who agree on ending ultra-Orthodox exemption from national service and a better deal for the middle class.The roots of this transformation are in the social protest movement in the summer of 2011.

The focus of the government will be socioeconomic issues, changing the electoral system, matters of religion and state, which topped the election’s agenda, and the security issues that were not brought up in the campaign because they were a matter of consensus.The new government encompasses a wide range of views on the peace process, from Tzipi Livni, who believes a deal is vitally in Israel’s interests, to Naftali Bennett, who rejects the two-state solution, while PM Netanyahu is somewhere between of them. Government’s combination of doves and hawks may help push peace process forward.

The chief negotiator with the Palestinians will be Livni, whose appointment – a source close to Netanyahu said – would eliminate Palestinian excuses for not coming to the negotiating table. Hatnuah’s election campaign centred on a call to revive peace talks with the Palestinians and Livni herself spearheaded such negotiations during her time as foreign minister in Ehud Olmert’s government. An aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the news of Livni receiving authority to conduct diplomatic negotiations, calling it a positive sign.”She has the knowledge and experience required of the peace process and she knows the Palestinian side’s point of view on the solution,” Nimer Hamad said about Livni. (Source Israel Hayom)

However the cabinet and smaller Septet (or Octet or Nonet, depending, of course, on the number of members) will determine the next government’s most important decisions in key areas of diplomacy and national security. Livni will also be a member of Netanyahu’s inner cabinet. In the meantime, the IDF is already preparing to receive a new defense minister. Ya’alon’s learning curve on the job won’t be a steep one; he has already served as an IDF chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, head of Army Intelligence and GOC of Central Command and has complete professional fluency. Ya’alon’s position on Israeli-Palestinian issue is that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is not a viable peace partner at this time. On the other hand Ya’alon has repeatedly condemned acts of far-right “price tag” violence, comparing them to firing a bullet “at the leg of the state of the Israel and the head of settlements.”

Obama facilitating peace process

“There is no EU plan. The plan is to support the Americans and be ready to be helpful.”
(Andreas Reinicke, the EU’s special representative for the Middle East Process)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has informed that three security issues will take top priority during his meetings with President Barack Obama on his visit, expected to begin on March 20. “The first item is Iran’s advancement toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, their progress continues and Iran has even accelerated their nuclear activities as of late. The second topic will be the Syrian government’s collapse. Finally, we will discuss reigniting the peace process with the Palestinians.The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the public to help decide on the official logo for the U.S. president’s Israel trip, which will be under the slogan “Unbreakable Alliance.”

To ease the blocked talks Israel is considering some gestures for PA during Obama’s visit. These gestures could be for example a specific transfer of land from Area C in the West Bank (which is under full Israeli control) to an Area A status (full Palestinian control). This concerns the transfer of the access roads planned to serve the new city of Rawabi, the first Palestinian planned city under PA rule, near Birzeit and Ramallah, with 10,000 homes, with a population of 40,000. An additional gesture under review is the approval of master plans for ten Palestinian settlements in the Israeli-controlled Area C. These are all Palestinian neighborhoods which today are considered illegal and concerning which the Civil Administration has issued demolition orders. If these master plans are approved, these settlements will be connected to the infrastructure and all construction there will be approved.Two additional gestures are the release of a significant number of Fatah prisoners, arrested before the signing of the Oslo Accords; and the transfer of light ammunition to the Palestinian security forces.

An interesting detail with Obama’s visit in Israel is, that his main speech will not be in Knesset. Instead the US administration announced that President Obama would be addressing university students at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. However rumors began to spread that they chose to sideline students who attend Israel’s newest academic heavyweight: Ariel University which unfortunately is located east of the Green Line. 

Ariel as pioneer

Ariel’s visionary, founder and longstanding mayor, the late Ron Nachman, often told journalists that “Israel is not a laboratory. We don’t have the luxury of experimenting with our future. One mistake and that’s it.” Instead of experimenting with political theory, Ron Nachman created a sustainable reality. He connected the nearby Arab villages to Israel’s electric and water lines and established industrial parks that provide thousands of Palestinians with employment. Ariel’s academic institution, which educates over 500 Arab students while conducting consistent joint research projects with Palestinian academic institutions received recently full recognition as Israel’s eighth and newest university.

Settlements as obstacle of peace?

Obama is willing to play “facilitating role” in peace process during Middle East trip. Considerable diplomatic pressure is now likely to build on Israel to offer gestures to the Palestinians in return for which the Palestinians would re-enter negotiations and hold off further unilateral steps. In the first year of his last term Netanyahu imposed a ten month settlement moratorium, and some measure to rein in settlement construction may come back onto the table.

After PA’s UN bid Israel’s plan to create a settlement called E1 has rise concern in some European capitals. It was claimed that E1 by joining with Maa’ale Adumim community would cut the West Bank in two and separate it from East Jerusalem which would make any two-state solution impossible. Ma’ale Adumim is one of those communities that were expected to become part of Israel in any negotiated settlement. As a a map created by HonestReporting shows the Palestinian waistline — between Ma’ale Adumim and the Dead Sea, is roughly 15 km wide. That’s a corridor no different than the Israeli waistline. Indeed, that has never caused a problem of Israeli territorial contiguity.”


To improve better traffic flow between the northern and southern WB Israel has already made some investments. In October 2007, the Israeli government expropriated 1,100 dunams of land from four Palestinian villages to build an access road that was given the moniker “the Palestinian quality of life road.” Most of the territory was state property. The road was designed to provide for a freer flow of Palestinian traffic between the Ramallah area and Bethlehem. The northern sector of the highway, which runs from Hizma and bypasses Anata from the east, and continues southward toward the A-Zaim checkpoint, has already been paved. Israel invested about NIS 300 million in building the highway. The roadway passes through a tunnel that was dug underneath the Jerusalem-Maaleh Adumim highway. Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.

Good change of succeeding for peace talks

This time I see a good negotiation slot – a window of opportunity – between Israel and Palestine Authority. I think that now is the time to abandon the old fashioned principal that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Even if peace talks will start without any preconditions the parties involved have a common history and experience what has been agreed in previous negotiations. Tzipi Livni led Israel’s negotiating team on final status issues with the Palestinians under the Annapolis process in 2008. They were a detailed and extensive set of talks that made progress on a number of core issues, though with still significant gaps between the parties when the process was brought to an end by the collapse of the Olmert government. This process I have treated more in my previous article PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace.

If or hopefully when the Israeli-Palestinian talks start the best ground in my opinion is sc Olmert’s proposal on 2008 , which so far cleared most part of obstacles to reach sustainable peace for Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the main points in this proposal were e.g following:

a) Israel would annex 6.8% of the West Bank, including the four main settlement “blocs” of Gush Etzion (with Efrata, Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ariel), as well as all of the settlements in East Jerusalem (with Har Homa) in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5% from Israeli territory.
b) The “safe passage” (i.e. territorial link) between Gaza and the West Bank would be under Israeli sovereignty with Palestinian control, and is not included in the above percentages.
c) There will be a special road connecting Bethlehem with Ramallah. thus by-passing East Jerusalem (most likely the same road currently planned around Adumim).
d) Israel would take in 1,000 refugees per year for a period of 5 years on “humanitarian” grounds. In addition. programs of “family reunification” would continue.
e) Israel would contribute to the compensation of the refugees through the mechanism and based on suffering.

If the peaceprocess however does not start so the thread and the alternative scenario could be a unilateral actions of both sides: The Palestinians continue building the institutions of their state, gaining international recognition for their state, and Israel could withdraw from 60-70% of the West Bank and annex the rest officially to Israel.

Prof Asher Susser proposes that if peace deal or solution are impossible so one could talk about armistage instead of solution as in the creation of this two-state solution it is an armistice of sorts also. Now, if Israel aims for an armistice, Hamas can live with that. Susser says: ‘Deterrence as an alternative to occupation. That’s the name of the game. Can we develop an effective deterrent as an alternative to occupation? We have done it in Gaza, we have done it in Southern Lebanon, maybe we should look for ways and means for doing it in the West Bank.” (Source. Bicom )

PA as partner?

Obama’s planned visit has had a negative impact on the Palestinian reconciliation discussions.” (Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri)

Supposedly the Palestinian Authority is in power there thanks to the presence of the Israel Defense Force. Ironically, ending Israeli “occupation” would also bring an end to Abbas’s rule. 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. Hamas claims that the U.S. Administration has been exerting pressure on PA President to refrain from signing any deal with Hamas. Another round of talks between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo few weeks before Obama’s visit failed to produce agreement on the formation of a new Palestinian unity government and holding presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 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.

One can wonder what are Abbas’ real motivations for declaring the “State of Palestine,” as it has been based on false hopes and the depravation of his own people. In the absence of real state-building and direct talks with Israel we will more likely see a third intifada (which many claim has already started with increasing demonstrations and violence on West Bank). However one mustn’t forget that Abbas is Israel’s closest neighbor, only 10 kilometers away from the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

New approach

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, former IDF planning directorate chief and national security advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, brings one interesting aspect to discussion. Eiland claims that If solution is limited only between Jordan river and Mediterrain the change for deal is zero – a broader regional context is needed to boost the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A good place to start would be the proposals for regional solutions and multiparty land swaps. Eiland concludes that widening the circle of actors taking part in a settlement can transform the current deadlock from a zero-sum situation to a win-win scenario. Negotiators need to move, he says, towards a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Arab states take responsibility for solving the conflict and invest concrete, tangible resources in the solution. Options that have to be considered, he says, are a Palestinian-Jordanian federation; shared sovereignty in the West Bank; a three- or four-way land swap involving Egypt and Jordan; and, most likely, a combination of all these approaches. (Source: Resetting the peace process by David M. Weinberg)


Most interesting scenario from my point of view for new peace talks is the new pro-American Sunni Muslim-led axis which American diplomats established in Cairo on December 2012. In my opinion this axis makes views of Giora Eiland more feasible. This opens possibilities for alternative solutions instead of old brain-dead two-state solution and its road map. The process would then move towards a regional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which Arab states take responsibility for solving the conflict and invest concrete, tangible resources in the solution. (More this in my previous article
A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move ) Indeed this kind of approach is quite near Three State (return) Option which I have been advocating long as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

One obstacle with this new approach could be a Jordanian national movement who are anti-Palestinian, more than most Israelis and Right Wing. They don’t want the West Bank, they want the Palestinians in Jordan to go back to Palestine. Therefore, they are the most emphatic supporters of the two-state solution. Not because they like the Palestinians, but because they dislike the Palestinians! However a way to circumvent this problem could be creation a Jordan-Palestine confederation.

In my opinion Obama’s visit could lead to new jump-start of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; besides Israel and Palestinian Authority President Obama will have discussions also with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. How Israel and PA will use – or will they use – this window of opportunity, remains to see.

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Israeli Elections 2013 As Jump Start For Peace Process?

Elections 2013Israeli PM Netanyahu decided elections to be held in 22nd January 2013, in advance of the November 2013 deadline. The immediate cause for early elections might be his troubles to agree budget cuts with his coalition colleagues.

The key issue in Israeli politics during last decades has been the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but this time differ; socioeconomic questions rises to top of agenda. While the Israeli economy is slowing the ruling coalition has proposed budget cuts and already some social protests occurred summer of 2011.

Other issues are the Iranian thread and PM Netanyahu’s leadership skills to copy with it, tensions between secular and religious Jews in Israel especially related to military service and a debate about how to break the deadlock in the Palestinian issue which has close link to worsened relationship between U.S and Israel.

Israeli Elections 2013 Factbox

34 parties are competing in the upcoming Israeli national election that will be held on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is elected directly by the voters, not through a body of electors. Elections to the Knesset are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals, and the entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency. The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast.

Who will be the parties and leaders running in the next election?

The 120 seat Knesset is elected on a directly proportional party list system. Each party submits a list of candidates for the Knesset and the entire country votes as a single constituency, with each voter choosing a party list. No single party is likely to win much more than 30 seats, so after the election the President will ask the party leader most likely to be able to form a majority coalition to attempt to form a government.

  • Likud: Led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s main centre-right party is looking to maintain its role as the dominant party in the government, and will be expecting to emerge as the largest party by a good margin. Likud currently enjoys consistent rates of support and polls indicate that Netanyahu is seen as the most appropriate politician to be Prime Minister, and is the most trusted on security and defence issues.
  • Kadima: Currently the largest faction, the centrist Kadima party has recently elected Shaul Mofaz as its leader, replacing Tzipi Livni who consequently resigned from the Knesset. Mofaz took over a party which has been struggling in the polls since the summer of 2011. The shift in focus to socioeconomic issues left Kadima, which was focused largely on promoting the peace process, somewhat irrelevant. Although Mofaz is a respected former IDF chief of staff, defence minister and a determined politician, he has not established himself as an alternative to Netanyahu as Prime Minister. His short lived coalition with Netanyahu earlier this year further damaged his and Kadima’s standing.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: This right-wing party, led by hawkish foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, was the third-largest in the current Knesset and played a prominent role in the government. Recently, the party has adopted a more vocal position on the exemption of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox from military service.
  • Labour: After years of falling support, Labour will be looking to capitalise on the renewed interest in socioeconomic issues following the socioeconomic protests of 2011. Under the new leadership of Shelly Yachimovich, a former journalist with a strong record on social issues, Labour has sought to reclaim its social-democratic brand and has succeeded in re-energising its activist base, on which it will rely upon in the upcoming election.
  • Shas: Although the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party has been led by Eli Yishai for over a decade, Shas has been unable to recreate the popular fervour it possessed under its previous political leader Aryeh Deri in the 1990s. Shas will try to energise its supporters against public anger at ultra-Orthodox exemption from military service, and in defence of welfare benefits that favour its constituents.
  • Meretz: Following widespread disillusionment with the peace process after the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada, the left wing, secular Meretz became an almost inconsequential political faction. Under the new leadership of Zehava Galon, the party could enhance its power to a small degree with the support of upper-middle class liberal and Kibbutz voters.
  • Atzmaut: After splitting from Labour, five MKs under the leadership of Defence Minister Ehud Barak formed this new centrist faction, which is now essentially a vehicle to return Ehud Barak to the Knesset so he can remain as Defence Minister. However, in some polls, the party does not succeed in crossing the electoral threshold (2% of the votes).
  • Yesh Atid (‘There is a Future’): The entry of former journalist Yair Lapid into politics may be one of the biggest changes in the next Knesset. Lapid has positioned himself as a centrist outsider and will run on a consensual messages of social responsibility and equality of the social burden. Recent polls predict the new party may receive up to 10-12 seats, but it is unclear whether the party will be able to sustain its momentum once the campaign heats up.
  • Smaller parties
    • United Torah Judaism: An ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party.
    • National Union: A right-wing national religious party with strong support from voters in West Bank settlements.
    • Mafdal: Another right-wing national religious party with strong support from voters in West Bank settlements.
    • Ra’am-Ta’al: A national-Islamic Arab party promoting an end to Israel presence in the West Bank and recognition of Arab-Israelis as national minority. Ahmad Tibi is the faction’s most prominent MK.
    • Hadash: A Jewish-Arab socialist party supporting Israeli-Arab peace and promoting a left-wing socioeconomic agenda.
    • Balad: An Arab nationalist party led by MK Jamal Zahalka.

More about parties in interactive Parties Guide by Haaretz and about key election candidates in chart by BICOM.

Israeli leaders outline final election positions

BICOM (the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre) describes the final election positions of Israeli leaders as follows:

With Israel set to vote on Tuesday, party leaders yesterday positioned themselves on policy issues and the composition of the next government.

Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed in Maariv, Israel Hayom and Jerusalem Post, indicating it is unlikely that West Bank settlements will be removed under his leadership during the coming four years. He told the Jerusalem Post that a “real and fair solution” to the conflict with the Palestinians “doesn’t include driving out hundreds of thousands of Jews.” He also conceded that he and US President Obama “have our differences.”

However, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni said yesterday that apparent discord between Obama and Netanyahu is the “tip of the iceberg,” warning that Israel is facing “growing isolation” in the absence of peace talks. She then called for “a central Zionist unity government,” in order to tackle “a diplomatic, social and security emergency situation.” Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, told Channel Two “There is no chance of achieving peace in this generation. The Tzipi Livnis are deluded.”

Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Shelly Yachimovich pledged, “if I form the next government, Livni will be the foreign minister” and reiterated that Labour will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition. At a party rally, she said, “All the rest of the parties have locked a place for themselves in the government, as if it was already chosen…We’ll either be in charge of forming the government – or we will be the leaders of the opposition.”

Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid emphasised that his party will only join a government that will implement a universal draft, pledging not to enter a coalition “of the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox, which will use the middle-class as if it is its personal cash machine.”

The results?

A series of surveys was published in Israel, giving a final indicator of how the country might vote in next week’s election. Each of the polls indicates that the Likud-Beitenu list headed by current-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the largest faction in the next Knesset, the Labour Party is likely to be the second largest party followed by Jewish Home. Looking at the political map as a whole, the right-wing and religious bloc of parties will win the centrist and left-wing parties with margin of 12 – 26 seats – a range that all but guarantees Netanyahu a third term in office.

2013ISREL

The former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who has recently been cleared of corruption charges and relieved of community service, could have been an alternative of hope to the Netanyahu regime; however he did not join to the race even Kadima MKs, businessmen, public opinion leaders and regular citizens were pressuring him to do so. After four years in which the center-left bloc was missing a dominant leader, Olmert could have changed the situation entirely. Amid the stalemate in the peace talks with the Palestinians, the shaky relations with western countries, the fear of a brutal war with Iran and the sense that there is no hope for a better future – Olmert could have been the real alternative. But sadly not now.

While right- wing block has united their lines Kadima, the largest party in the outgoing Knesset and the main opposition to Netanyahu’s government, will split among no less than eight different factions. None of these parties will have enough power to seriously challenge the next coalition as the centre  and the mainstream Zionist left is more fragmented than ever.

One more aspect has its effect to result. According to statistics 80 percent of Israeli citizens over the Green Line voted in the last election, while the average rate in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beersheba is 57%. The numbers presented by Peace Now come from 2009, when 64.72% of eligible Israelis voted. One can guess that votes from disputed territories favour more the right than the left.

EL2013

Peaceprocess on the sidelines before elections

As mentioned above the peace process has drifted on the background. The problem is that most Israelis consider the prospects for success in peace talks to be slim. The way they see it, Ehud Olmert in 2008 and Ehud Barak in 2000 offered the Palestinians a reasonable deal and they didn’t take it. Even when Israel got out of the Gaza Strip unilaterally the Palestinians weren’t satisfied, bringing Hamas to power and using the area to fire more rockets at Israel. However a good base for new peace talks is the fact that governments in Israel are relatively stable.The total number of governments that have fallen by no-confidence votes in all of Israeli history is one (in 1990).

The most notable exception is former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, running at the head of ‘Hatnua’, (The Movement) a new party she has created. Of all the candidates competing in the Jewish, secular, Zionist centre-ground, she is the one most prepared to make the peace process a central part of her offer. She led Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians in 2008, and she is the one arguing that Israel should make every effort to resume final status talks in the belief that it’s possible to finish the job.

but jump start on March

The European Union was drawing up a detailed new plan to jump start peace talks. The plan is reportedly to be presented after the Jan. 22 elections. The plan includes clear timetables for the completion of the negotiations on all the core issues in the course of 2013 and it will include a clause demanding that Israel halt all settlement construction. As the British and French foreign ministries are sponsoring the initiative, also backed by Germany, it could ultimately be adopted by the EU as a whole. The EU plan’s ultimate objective was to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital. however this EU initiative probably is as insignificant for peace process as always before.

Israel Radio also reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah believes that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will resume next month. Israel Radio quoted him as saying that the start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term and the end of the Israeli election would serve as a window of opportunity for the sides to reconvene.

In my opinion the most important cause for new peace talks is the new pro-American Sunni Muslim-led axis which American diplomats established in Cairo last month. This opens possibilities for alternative solutions and process instead of old brain-dead two-state solution and its road map. (More this in my previous article A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move )

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A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move

Article first published as A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move on Technorati.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II had a secret meeting in Jordan during Xmas. After leak to media it was officially confirmed (PM press office) that the two leaders discussed Syria’s Chemicals – whether Syrian President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against rebels in the civil war and whether they could fall into the hands of radical elements. However the real agenda of the meeting is more interesting. Debkafile’s sources reveal that the issue was the aspects of a possible confederation between a Palestinian West Bank state and the Hashemite Kingdom. The meeting can be seen also in wider context as part of the new Sunni-Muslim-led pro-US axis.


According Debkafile the Jordanian option has become a focal talking point in Amman, Washington and Palestinian centers. Netanyahu brought some pointed questions to the highly confidential one-on-one at the Hashemite palace: He asked the king how much responsibility would Jordan undertake in controlling West Bank security and intelligence activity? What were his plans for extending such control from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip? And how would Jordan’s intentions fit into the security arrangements demanded by Israel in both territories as part of any accord with the Palestinians?

Jordanian option on the move

As Jordan has already recognized Israel and the two nations maintain full diplomatic relations the recognition process – a Palestinian state by Israel and Israel by the Palestinians as the national state of the Jewish people – would be skated round. While the UN General Assembly’s Nov. 29 upgraded the Palestinians to non-member observer status the Palestinian Authority is acting like representing an independent state and therefore eligible to join Jordan as a confederation partner. This kind of approach might be easier also for Hamas which would be saved from having to recognize the state of Israel.

There are more straws in the wind attesting to the confederation project being on the move. According Debkafile’s sources in early December, the Palestinian Authority’s Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) secretly advised certain Palestinian leaders “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan and other parties in the international community.” With these he probably was referring to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar – these are the members of the pro-American Sunni Muslim-led axis which American diplomats established in Cairo last month in the course of Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza and the negotiations that led to an Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

On Xmas eve 2012 it was revealed that Turkey had assumed its role in this new bloc by dropping its two-year boycott of military cooperation with Israel within the framework of NATO. Ankara initially cut off ties of cooperation over the IDF raid of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship which was on a mission to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In recent months, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and the Turkish MIT intelligence director Fidan Hakan maintained back-channel interchanges and laid the groundwork for the two governments to start working together.


New boost for new approach

Nearly two months ago I wrote an article Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table . There I described how Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb on 31st Oct. 2012 with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks are the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades. Kaddoumi is one of the founders of Fatah, and for decades served as head of the PLO’s “political department.”

In the same article I reported about statement made by Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who served as crown prince between 1965 and 1999. Recently October 2012 in a meeting with Palestinian citizens in Jordan, Prince Hassan bin Talal made an unusual statement, saying that the territories of the West Bank are actually part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He added that the two state solution is irrelevant in the current stage.


Some background

The Jordanian option has on occasion been raised as a promising approach. Given some of the facts from history this is not surprising, after all, most of Jordan’s population is Palestinian. In 1948, Arab armies attacked the newborn State of Israel. Transjordan annexed the area intended for an Arab state, and renamed itself the Kingdom of Jordan, calling the annexed area the “West Bank”. In 1967 West Bank came under Israeli control during the Six Day War of 1967.

Jordanian option is implementing three-state solution – in its no-state meaning – if both West Bank and Gaza are annexed to Jordan. However more practical solution on the ground might be to annex Gaza to Egypt as this would be the three-state solution in its full meaning advocated e.g. I. Since 1967 Israel has maintained the separation between the West Bank and Gaza through different political and security means, such as leaving Jordanian laws in effect in the West Bank while leaving Egyptian laws in effect in Gaza, and substituting some of those laws with military statutes.

I have been advocating long Three State Option as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a Palestinian state that was planned to be established in the area. If three state solution will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president as well from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas.

Further development after Israeli elections

Die Zukunft zeigt sich in uns – lange bevor sie eintritt” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The Aim for the next stage of Israel-Palestinian negotiations after Israeli elections on January 2013 seems to be a long-term interim accord, while the core disputes on permanent borders, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the future of Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria would be leaved to a later round of negotiations at some unspecified time in the future.

During election campaign Netanyahu and his party has been described as extreme right-wing nationalists who consistently refused to talk peace with the Palestinians. This is usual in Israel where hard rethoric transforms more moderate after elections. So if and when PM Netanyahu wins the poll it is possible that he also will return to the peace track after forming his next government, indeed it has also claimed that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to resume peace negotiations in March 2013. Recently Israeli media published reports that PM Netanyahu planned to invite opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to join the next cabinet in her old job as lead negotiator in talks with the Palestinians. However it is estimated that Netanyahu has reserved that role for himself.


The bottom line

Man muss das Unmögliche versuchen, um das Mögliche zu erreichen” (Hermann Hesse)

Personally it is very refreshing that Jordanian option is moving on. For decades regional leaders, international community UN etc have sung the praises of two-state solution as the only option so my view has represented some kind of dissidence. While some prominent politicians now have came to the same conclusion I think that the reasons might be the same as mine: there is some sense with Three-state option, it is both pragmatic and achievable. Now it is also more acceptable than few years ago.

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