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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BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA

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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crisis management, MENA, Middle-East

Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table

Article (short version) first published as Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table on Technorati.

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.” He is one of the few PLO leaders who refused to move from Tunisia to the Palestinian territories after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which he had strongly opposed. Kaddoumi told the newspaper that giving the West Bank back to Jordan would be a “positive move.”; however he added that the Palestinians should not drop their demand for a right to return to Israel proper. He also said the Palestinians had lost hope of reaching an agreement with Israel that would ensure them their minimal rights. “Unfortunately, Israel has seized most of the lands of the West Bank and the only way left for us is the national resistance,” he said. “Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority and its president do not want any kind of resistance after they got rid of the fighters who say that resistance is the only want to liberate the land.” (Source: JPost )

Kaddoumi’s remarks about returning the West Bank to Jordan apparently came in response to recent statements made by Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal, who served as crown prince between 1965 and 1999. Recently 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.

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.

From Israeli point of view many Israelis view the involvement of the two Arab states that have signed peace treaties with Israel as central in providing security and stability in the territories from which Israel has departed.

UN bid

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

Palestinians are now implementing a diplomatic offensive to get votes in favor of their partial statehood bid, or better say in favor of giving Palestinians non-member observer status, at the United Nations. Palestinians say they intend to ask the U.N.’s General Assembly to vote on the matter on either 15th or 29th Nov. 2012.

Israel and the United States are opposed to the move, saying Palestinians should negotiate their statehood with Israel, not conduct unilateral moves. Also if a Palestinian state is established there, many fear that it would be taken over by Hamas. Last year Palestinians tried and failed to achieve status as a full member state at the U.N. Security Council.

PLO had obtained membership in the international organization in 1974. Mr. Kaddoumi made quite good remark during his interview, mentioned above, that the UN had recognized the Palestinian state declared by Yasser Arafat in 1988, adding that 105 countries had since lent their own recognition. “By going back to the UN, Abbas is falsely creating the impression that he is making achievements that were already achieved,” he said.

My view

As possible solutions for Israeli-Palestinian conflict there has been 3 (Israel, WB, Gaza), 2 (Israel, Palestine) and 1 (Isralestine) state scenarios, then of course allways easy option is a ”status quo” scenario. Here I connect three-state scenario (sometimes described also as nostate option) with Egyptian-Jordanian solution aka Jordan-Egypt option aka Shared Jordanian-Egyptian rule: Amman rules the West Bank and Cairo runs Gaza.

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

Land Gained and Returned

I have been advocating long Three State Option as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For 19 years, Judea and Samaria were part of Jordan, its population Jordanian citizens, and 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 might 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.


As Egypt now is opening Rafah border crossing and when its current leadership better cooperates with Hamas it would be easier than before logistically and politically annex Gaza with Egypt e.g. as autonomous province with cultural and economical independence. Annexing Palestinian West Bank areas similar way with Jordan could decrease Israeli security concerns and hence allow smaller buffer zones and less fragmented area for Palestinians. Once the three-state option is reality the work can begin of building infrastructure and maybe even freedom, democracy, and the rule of law in Egypt and Jordan. (More e.g. in
The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

An excerpt from historical background of disputed territories

I generally ignore Israel’s biblical rights (e.g that the borders of Israel in accordance with the divine promise in the Bible: from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt) related to Judea and Samaria aka Westbank but as they explain one part of Israeli’s arguments today I would like to mention from historical rights the era of tribal periods when the Israelite tribes lived as a confederation. The Torah traces the Israelites to the patriarch Jacob, grandson of Abraham, who was later renamed Israel. Jacob’s twelve sons “Israelites” (also the “Twelve Tribes” or “Children of Israel”) means both the direct descendants of the patriarch Jacob/Israel as well as the historical populations of the United Kingdom of Israel.This united monarchy was established in around 1020 BCE when the tribes united.

 David, the second King of Israel, created a strong unified Israelite monarchy in c. 1006 BCE and also established Jerusalem as its national capital 3,000 years ago. Beginning in the 5th century BCE, the remnants of the Israelite tribes came to be referred to as Jews.

Contemporary history gives more relevant view to present conflict. 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 Jordan river. 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.

In 1948, Arab armies and volunteers – from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Morocco – 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”. Egypt took over Gaza. These areas controlled by Jordan and Egypt from 1948 to 1967 came under Israeli control during the Six Day War of 1967.

As a result of the 1978 Camp David accords – in which Egypt recognized the right of Israel to exist and normal relations were established and Sinai was returned to Egypt. A peace treaty was also made with Jordan and which officially renounced its claim to the West Bank in 1988 when the late King Hussein announced his kingdom was cutting off its administrative and legal ties to the area.

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Arab St., BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Negotiation Slot for a Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some new paradigms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordanian option based to 1922 mandate

Delaying UN bid?

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

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

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

Libyian cars in Gaza

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

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

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

Prospects of Violence

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

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

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

Concept of Demilitarized Palestinian state

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

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

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

Negotiated solution is possible in coming months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My conclusions

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

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

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

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

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BalkanBlog, crisis management

PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict began on Sunday, 23th January 2011 by the Al-Jazeera website with Britain’s Guardian newspaper. A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The Palestinian Papers (“PaliLeaks”) show that Israel indeed had real partner with whom to negotiate issues such as borders, land swaps, settlements, refugees, Jerusalem and even recognition Israel as Jewish state. The authenticity is accepted by both sides. While the greater Middle-East is now in turmoil due the coup in Tunisia, PaliLeaks are causing shockwawes among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world. The papers are giving also perspective to possibilities for two-state solution and US facilitation, mediation, to reach it.

The Palestine Papers

The Palestine Papers, released in the Al-Jazeera website, cover the negotiating period from 1999, before the Oslo process broke down in Camp David, up to the frozen peace talks in 2010. Al-Jazeera is publishing 275 sets of meeting minutes, 690 internal e-mails, 153 reports and studies, 134 sets of talking points and prep notes for meetings, 64 draft agreements, 54 maps, charts and graphs, and 51 “non-papers” – alltogether at least 1,684 documents. The documents revealed by Al Jazeera seems to be much more important than the documents recently released by WikiLeaks.

Some highlights of PaliLeaks are e.g. following details:

  • The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
  • The Palestinian Authoroty agreed first that solely10,000 and finally 5,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return.
  • Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
  • Recognition of Israel as Jewish state
  • How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state while US proposed Palestinian refugees to be deported to Chile and Argentina
  • The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
  • The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
  • How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s 2008-9 war in Gaza.

PA as Israel ally

When Palestine people gave a winning support to Hamas in relatively democrat elections many EU and US leaders made conclusion that voters made a wrong selection. To spread western values and real democracy some actions were taken. British intelligence – MI6 – had remarkable role in fight against Hamas. The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza.

Refugees and their return

Many of the concessions have been considered non-negotiable in the past such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel. Palestine refugees are the people and their descendants, predominantly Palestinian Arabic-speakers, who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Palestine War, (some 750,000) and after the Six-Day War (1967) (280,000 to 325,000). UNRWA’s definition of a Palestinian refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948. The number of Palestine refugees varies depending on the source. For 1948-49 refugees, for example, the Israeli government suggests a number as low as 520,000 as opposed to 850,000 by their Palestinian counterparts. As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps.

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert had agreed (2008) to a proposal that would have seen 1,000 Palestinian refugees given the approval to return to Israel over a space of five years. This would have resulted in a total of 5,000 refugees whose entrance into Israel would have been based on certain criteria and humanitarian grounds. By the following year (2009), PA main negotiator Saeb Erekat appeared to have accepted that choice.

Condoleezza Rice, the Bush administration’s secretary of state, wanted to settle displaced Palestinians in Argentina and Chile as an alternative to letting them return to former homes in Israel and the occupied territories. Rice made the proposal in a June 2008 meeting with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin.

Ms Livni, meanwhile, repeatedly suggested a land swap with the Palestinians, so several Jewish settlements in the West Bank would become part of Israel while Israeli Arab were moved out of Israel. Correspondents say while this move would have been on a limited scale, it is the first time Israel has apparently suggested moving populations to either side of future borders, rather than just swapping land.

On 2004 there was a similar idea that Israel compensate the Palestinians with land occupied by Israeli Arabs. The Lieberman Plan, also known in Israel as the “Populated-Area Exchange Plan”, was proposed by Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Israeli political party Yisrael Beiteinu. The Lieberman Plan only advocates ceding the Triangle Arab communities, the ethnic Druze community, which is pro-Israel, would also remain part of Israel. “Israeli Arabs will not lose anything by joining the Palestinian state. Instead of giving the Palestinians empty land in the Negev, we are offering them land full of residents, who will not have to leave their homes,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in an interview to London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper published in early February 2010.

Where to draw borders

The settlements are a known issue of contention between Israel and the United States; although America has not supported their construction, it has, on some occasions, recognized the realities that have developed over 40 years. Improbability for two-state approach is big without massive withdrawals from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where over 500,000 settlers now live. PaliLeaks are showing serious attemp to find a compromise between total withdrawal to the 1967 border and a redefined border through land swaps.


Latest proposal on 2009 included Israeli annexation of two percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem adjacent to the 1967 line containing about 350,000 setters in big bloc settlements. In return, Israel would evacuate about 150,000 other settlers and transfer to Palestine two percent of its land, of equal quality, next to the southern West Bank and Gaza. Israel’s current leadership (which is dominated by the settler, religious and ideological right) as well as extreme Hamas elements would probably resist this, however leaked documents show that with current PA an agrement might be possible.

As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere. Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: “This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made.” No such concession had been made at Camp David. But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma’ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. the major territorial disputes remain over Ariel, Elkana, Ma’aleh Adumim and the Har Homa suburb of East Jerusalem (which was built after the 1993 Oslo Accords).

Speaking about borders one should note that Israel, in pre-1967 borders covers approximately 19% of British Mandate Palestine (of which 9% is the Negev dessert). The West Bank and Gaza cover approximately 7%, and Jordan covers approximately 74%.

U.S. land swap proposal

By coincidence same day when Al-Jazeera started to publish PaliLeaks, the New York Times published a map of a land-swap proposal prepared by David Makovsky of Washington Institute for Near East Policy , which indicates territory inside the Green Line that Israel would give to the Palestinians in return for the settlement blocs. Makovsky’s D.C. office is located near that of Dennis Ross, who serves as a senior adviser to the Obama administration in the peace process.

Now a Washington think tank with close connections to officials in both Israel and the United States has sketched out realistic borders for a new Palestinian state. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy/David Makovsky Strategic report Imagining the Border Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue includes a series of maps showing detailed options for removing most of the West Bank from Israeli occupation.

According publisher in this new Washington Institute report, David Makovsky analyzes the intersection of demography and geography in the West Bank in order to demystify the territorial dimension of the conflict and facilitate peacemaking. Through detailed maps and in-depth population data, he shows how the parties can use land swaps to meet some of their most important goals, such as minimizing dislocation, ensuring security, and establishing a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Two-State could have agreed many times during last 60 years

The Palestinians have been rejecting compromise deals that would have given them an independent Palestinian state (the first ever in history) for more than 60 years. They rejected United Nations resolution 181 in 1947 dividing the land west of the Jordan river into two states, Jewish and Arab. Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, rejected the Clinton proposals in 2000 at Camp David, and then walked away from the Taba negations in 2001 which would have given him virtually everything he had been demanding.

In November 2007, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Bush administration convened in Annapolis with the unified goal of solving all outstanding issues. Annapolis provided the framework for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians toward bringing an end to the conflict and to all claims.

To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them. My proposal included a solution to all outstanding issues: territorial compromise, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees. ( How to Achieve a Lasting Peace: Stop Focusing on the Settlements By Ehud Olmert Israel PM 2006-2009)


Olmerts Final Status Map, West Bank & Gaza


Most recently, in the 2008 post-Annapolis negotiations, the Palestinians and Israelis almost finalized an agreement negotiated by the two sides. It was to include a Palestinian state on the about 95% of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Arab East Jerusalem, with a land bridge connecting Gaza and the WB. There was to be a land swap between Israel proper and the remaining 5% of the WB along the proposed future border where most of the Jewish settlers live. Israel was also to pay compensation to the descendents of Palestinian refugees.

Alternatives for two-state

In their analysis ( Rethinking the Two-State Solution by Giora Eiland ) the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, concludes that two-state approach may be outdated. Instead they propose sc Jordanian option. Their proposal suggests that

rather than establishing another Arab state, the parties could return control over most of the West Bank to Jordan. Until recently, such an idea was rejected completely by everyone, especially the Jordanians themselves. Today, however, more and more Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have come to believe that this is the right solution. If a Palestinian state is established there (WB), many fear that it would be taken over by Hamas. Such a scenario could have far-reaching consequences for Jordan. To be sure, the notion of pursuing alternative solutions is not yet politically correct, and therefore no official Jordanian or Palestinian support could be given to such efforts at the moment. Nevertheless, tacit support for this idea has been expressed in private talks.

For their part, many moderate West Bank Palestinians believe that an independent Palestinian entity in the West Bank and Gaza would not be a viable state. Sooner or later, this unstable situation would facilitate a Hamas takeover, and moderate Palestinians would prefer to live under a Jordanian regime rather than Hamas. It is important to note that most Palestinians never strove for an independent Gaza–West Bank state in the first place. They want to be free of Israeli occupation and pursue a normal life, but they do not much care about the exact form of the political solution.

The other two-state solution by Fred Schlomka

I have made same conclusions and propagated long – instead of dead road maps towards two-state – 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 could be from administrative point of view stronger as well economically more sustainable. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ).

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship. One may note that between 1949 and 1967 neither of those countries, nor any other voice in the Arab world or among the Palestinians, believed it was right to establish a Palestinian state in those territories, even as a temporary solution until the land was liberated in its entirety.

Motivation?

“If one day we see bloody riots in the West Bank similar to the ones we saw in Gaza, it would be worthwhile to go back to the latest al-Jazeera project. This is yet another step, and apparently a deliberate one, in weakening the PA, a move that one party stands to benefit from: The Hamas movement. It is for good reason that Hamas already uses the term “popular revolution” in its reports”

(Al-Jazeera helping Hamas by Roee Nahmias)

Why the PaliLeaks took place in overall, why they happened now and by whom? These questions are essential while thinking forward now stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The identity of the source for the Palestine papers is not proofed. However among PA there is strong suspicion that a former CIA agent (Clayton Swisher) and a former EU official (Clayton Swisher) were responsible for leaking the Palestine Papers. Also former Fatah security commander Muhammad Dahlan, who has been accused of planning to overthrow the PA leadership, is believed to help to lrak the documents to embarrass and discredit Abbas and his top negotiators.

Related to timing some observers think that the revelation of Palestinian negotiators’ willingness to compromise would not just offend Palestinian pride but instantly spark a wave of revulsion, leading to a Tunisia-style revolt against the PA. Also Hamas accused the negotiators of betraying the Palestinians. From the other side one can also claim that PaliLeaks are preparing Palestinian public opinion for the painful concessions that peace will, one distant day, require.

The first reaction among The Palestinian Authority was that the documents are “a pack of lies”, PA was accusing al-Jazeera of distorting the truth and quoting statements out of context. However after few days, when there were serious evidence that documents are based to facts, the PA (Erekat) said that “ the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace”. Indeed, from Israeli perspective the Palestine papers are helping Israel to understand that there is a partner on the Palestinian side.

Follow-ups?

“Today it is also clear that the process did not fail and was not exhausted…A peace agreement that will end the conflict and protect the national and security interests of Israel is possible.”

(Tzipi Livni)

The two-state solution is now dead and buried by Israel and the PLO. Impossible for anyone (even the BBC) to pretend that there can be an independent Palestinian state. Now we know that the capitulation was total, but still the Israeli overlords of the PLO refused to sign a deal and their friends in the press blamed the Palestinians for being too difficult. They wanted Palestine to be crushed before they would agree to underwrite a few moth-eaten protectorates that they would supervise indefinitely. They wanted Hamas destroyed. The PLO agreed. The recent assault on Gaza was carried out with the approval of Abbas and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, not to mention Washington and its EU. The PLO sold out in a literal sense. They were bought with money and treated like servants.”

(Total Capitulation by Tariq Ali)

The details indicate that Annapolis was the most serious attempt so far at reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal. The Bush team facilitated the removal of 25 Israeli settlements from Gaza and the West Bank in 2005, and pushed for a final-status deal in Annapolis as well post-Annapolis talks. The new round facilitated by Obama team has stagnated, hard line government in Israel is not so eager for compromises and Hamas still has remarkable support among Palestinians being as well the real authority in Gaza strip.

It is claimed that the documents could well destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, a coalition of parties that includes Fatah, which is led by Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Can Fatah survive being discredited to this extent, the time will tell. However the papers, especially the leaked maps, will serve as the starting point for future negotiations.

How the peace process will continue is depending first if/how political leadership of Israel and PA is transforming, second ongoing events in Egypt and Lebanon may have their influence, third indirect Israel-Syria peace talks (“giving up the Golan”) may help peace in north. The most important outside factor may be if there is any progress with negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program.

From my point of view the bottom line is that based on PaliLeaks the peace agreement was more near than ever since 1967 at least with PA. Also two-state solution was and maybe still is realistic – although without Gaza. Despite this in my opinion creating a new Palestinian state in fragmented West Bank is not a viable – or even desired – solution, not economically nor from administrative point of view. A Jordanian option for WB would be more sustainable and three-state solution for WB, Gaza, region and its population.

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