MENA, Middle-East

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

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

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

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

Kerry’s plan

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

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

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

Security

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

Territory

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli proposal for borders of West Bank according PM Olmert

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

BDS as thread?

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

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

anti-BDS postcard

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

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

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

Jewish state?

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

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

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

Missing Gaza question?

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

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

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

Jerusalem – Two peoples, One Capital?

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

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

Jerusalem deal according Olmert proposal

Bottom line

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks


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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East

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

If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.
If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.

(In an email from the Baltimore Zionist Division)

Diplomacy is the art of conducting international relations with tact and skill in an effort to form alliances and agreements, whereas hypocrisy is the practice of professing false virtues. (Ophir Falk)

Since last Gaza War on December 2008 the peace process of Israeli-Palestine conflict is going backwards again. Hamas is firing its qassams to Israel and Israel Defence Force responds; Palestine authority is still missing, Israel government has more hardliners than before and International community is making their hypocritical useless statements without any new initiative or an outline for the future; even U.S.-Israeli relations have declined due Israeli building projects in East Jerusalem.

It should be remembered that in 1918, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France were handed more than 5,000,000 square miles to divvy up and 99% was given to the Arabs to create countries that did not exist previously. Less than 1% was given as a Mandate for the re-establishment of a state for the Jews on both banks of the Jordan River. In 1921, to appease the Arabs once again, another three quarters of that less than 1% was given to a fictitious state called Trans-Jordan. (Jack Berger, May 31, 2004.)

Settlements as dividing factor

A few years ago the people of Israel voted for a government that dismantled 10,000 Jewish homes in the hope for peace. The dismantlement led to disaster and instead of peace – Israeli civilians were targeted by Palestinian missiles. Last year the people of Israel voted for a government that wants to build homes rather than destroy them.


The halt to settlement construction is a key demand by the Quartet of Mideast negotiators who are trying to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem, claiming the entire city as Israel’s eternal capital.

Before discussing the settlements, Jerusalem and other final-status issues Palestinian Authority PA) should recognize Israel’s basic right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. After that the PA could come to an agreement with Israel, and finally set the border lines. Once the borders are set, then Israel will not support building of settlements in the PA area.

Settlements Established and Evacuated 1967-2008 -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

Jerusalem

The announcement of a routine planning approval for 1,600 dwellings in the East Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo precipitated a crisis in U.S. – Israel relations, especially when information of project came during U.S. VP Bidens visit in Israel. U.S. as well later EU condemned this latest dwelling project and for Palestine Authority settlements are regular excuse to skip negotiations.

In a defiant speech last week to the leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Israel PM Netanyahu said Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem are “an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem … The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied … The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital”.

East Jerusalem’ is not only the Old City. The eastern section of Jerusalem is larger than the western section (77 square kilometers vs. 45 square kilometers); it contains more than half the city`s residents, Jews and Arabs. In 1967, after occupying the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, the government of Israel annexed East Jerusalem and an additional tract of Palestinian land; Israel applied Israeli law to the eastern parts of the city, and granted residency rights to 66,000 Palestinians registered by census as its inhabitants. This status is different from citizenship: it does not enable its holders to participate in national elections and can be revoked at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior. Two legal systems apply to East Jerusalem residents: IHL (the laws of occupation), and Israeli law. (My source and more from JNews )

Jerusalem expansion plans -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

There was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since 1860. Jews lived all over Jerusalem, and fought courageously in the War of Independence in 1948 to maintain their hold on it but in the end lost many lives and the east part of the city. That is when it was divided for the first time.

Israelis divide the Palestinians to five communities, as a means of control. There are the Israeli Palestinians, who are full Israeli citizens, enjoy the right to vote and have delegates in the Knesset. There are the East Jerusalemites who are not citizens, but have only resident permits and who are separated from the West Bank by the wall. There are the West Bank Palestinians who live in the five percent of the West Bank on the west side of the wall that Israel has, de facto, annexed to Israel, but who are also cut off from Jerusalem and forbidden to visit Israel. There are the West Bank Palestinians to the east of the wall. And there are the Palestinians in Gaza.


One vs. Two States

So far resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has had two options on the top of agenda. The first is aim of two states for two peoples and the second is a bi-national Palestinian-Israeli state in which Palestinians and Israelis would have equal rights or a Palestinian-Israeli confederation, in which two states share joint political institutions – a one-sate option.

The two-state solution is becoming more and more impossible by the day as Israel continues to build more and more settlements on Palestinian lands. There is hardly enough land to form a viable Palestinian state at this time as it is. But judging by the actions of the settlement movement and its supporters, the one-state solution seems to be the preferred solution. However the Israeli and Palestinian definitions of a two state solution are very different. Palestinian idea of a two-state solution may be supported but only if the border is the 1967 border and refugees are given the right of return, an Israeli viewpoint can be different with these two aspects.

In Israel there is a group that believes that a bi-national state is inevitable because with Jewish and Palestinian communities so entangled in the West Bank, it will be almost impossible to divide them. However same time there is some base to claim that there is too much animosity and dehumanization among the Palestinian population that would make a peaceful co-existence between them and Israelis virtually impossible.

If one would like to take a cynical point of view so a de facto one state is the current reality on the ground. Israel rules all mandatory Palestine from Jordan to the Mediterranean. There is one regime based on ethnicity and security and Israeli control. Progress towards two-state solution seems unlikely.

Projection of Israel’s West Bank Partition plan 2008 -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)


Population transfers as pragmatic solution

If some ethnic groups hate each other and when both can base their views and claims to selected parts of hundreds or thousands of years so basically there only two peaceful solutions: to train tolerance for generations developing same time living conditions or separate the groups by ethnic lines.

After WWII Germans moved e.g. from Poland inside new borders. Finland settled some 10 % of its population from territories occupied by the Soviet Union, which from its side transferred new population to new regions. Israel itself is mainly settled by immigrants and e.g. in last twenty years over half a million people with some Jewish origin has come from ex-Soviet Union. In smaller scale more or less forced population transfers have been emptying Jewish colonies in Gaza. To be successful these kind of population transfers must be supported by effective re-settlement programmes.

More or less forced population transfers

(Data mostly taken from Ben-Dror Yemini, MidEast Truth Forum, January 15, 2009)

Within less than a century, between 7 million and 10 million Balkan refugees have been uprooted from their homes. After WW2, between 12-16 million Germans were forced out of Sudentenland (Czechoslovakia), Romania, Hungary and Poland into Germany; many of them had not supported the Nazis during the war. 14 million people were exchanged between Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan.

In 1994, 540,000 Moslems fled Christian Armenia for Azerbaijan and 360,000 Armenian Christians fled Azerbaijan for Armenia. As Israel did with the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Armenia absorbed the Christian refugees, while — just like the Arab refugees from Israel — the Moslem refugees languish in Azerbaijani refugee camps.

From the late ’80s on, 75,000 non-Moslem blacks from Mauritania were exiled to Senegal and Mali, while 75,000 Arabs fled to Mauritania. Ethnic conflicts in the Sudan continue — between Muslim Arabs and black animists in the South; and between Muslim Arabs and black Muslims in Darfur. 3 t0 4 million black farmers of Darfur have fled Arab-dominated Khartoum, where some 200,000 to 400,000 black Muslims have already been killed.

Cyprus has been split between Christian Greeks and Moslem Turks; this included a population exchange, where 200,000 Greeks and 50,000 Turks were shifted.

Even before Israel became a state and increasingly after that, more than 800,000 Jews were forced to flee the Arab countries, where many of them had lived way before the Arabs Conquest; most of them came to Israel.

When it became a state in 1948, Arabs left to avoid the coming war, fled in fear incited by their own press or were forced by their leaders to leave Israel. The Arabs claim 650,000-750,000 up to a million refugees, while the UN Acting Mediator in October, 1948 set it at 472,000, of which 360,000 required aid (UNRWA is now supporting 4.5 million of their “descendants”.) Of all the refugees, only these Arabs have demanded the right of return.

More about issues e.g. in my article “Gaza War – Could Balkan history show way out?


Three-State Option?

I wonder why there is not more discussion about a “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 could also be more economically sustainable than other options. It could be a bit further developed by making a buffer zone between Israel and hard-liners in Gaza. From my point of view the best way to do this is to relocate population from Gaza some 50-100 km SW to Sinai. There is possible to build new infrastructure instead again repairing existing one. With good planning and implementing economic-social programmes backed with sufficient international Aid money it is possible also to create more sustainable economy than today’s Gaza. More in “The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict”.


My Conclusions

If the EU would stop propping up Hamas and the PA with money and verbal support, there might actually be a chance of peace. Why should the Palestinians want to settle with Israel when they can line their pockets, buy the latest weaponry, and maintain their “clients” by holding out and continuing to receive support from the EU?” (Talkback Ynet)

The failure of U.S. in promoting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians may be related to fact that again the plans are made on Washington’s drawing board without understanding regional circumstances and mentality in the Middle East; the growing gap between reality and idealistic day-to-day politics is now demonstrated not only as strain in the U.S. Israel relationship but also as declining U.S. credibility among Palestinians.

The same – as U.S. foreign policy – can be said about EU’s foreign policy (if one can found that some where). EU does not seems to have any vision nor strategy and initiatives for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Modest attempts to use carrots (squandering aid to capacity building in West bank and Gaza) and no use of sticks (e.g. embargo) reduce EU’s foreign policy activities to empty statements (“The European Union has condemned all the settlement activities”).

From my viewpoint the basic truth of the matter still stands: Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that holds free elections, enables freedom of speech and cherishes similar values to those of average European and American people. This said I must add that there is not only a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but a battle between those who believe in a mixed, tolerant and non-racial society, and the forces of ultra-nationalism in both Israel and Palestine.


The bottom line: Quality Peace

I would like to conclude that instead of rigid high-flown statements and dead road maps international community should facilitate the Middle East peace process through following three principles


  • Negotiations will be restored without prior conditions.
  • The talks should be implemented by local stakeholders, not under supervision of outside powers
  • The international community – outside powers – should support any common agreed outcome of talks e.g. with financial aid programs

This approach means that an outcome – which I describe with term quality peace – is not possible to achieve imposed from top to field e.g forced by international community or other outsiders; with that kind of approach one can only freeze the conflict not solve it. The only way for quality peace is through motivation or at least commitment of individual, clan, community, ethnic groups, wider society or state to resolve conflicts through dialogue by acceptance and at least tolerance of differences. (More in my article “Quality Peace”)


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