BalkanBlog, MENA, Middle-East

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.


A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)


In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.


One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.


Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?


According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and 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.

 

Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.


intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat

Appendix:

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:


ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign

 

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MENA, Middle-East

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

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

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

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

Kerry’s plan

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

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

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

Security

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

Territory

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli proposal for borders of West Bank according PM Olmert

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

BDS as thread?

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

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

anti-BDS postcard

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

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

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

Jewish state?

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

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

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

Missing Gaza question?

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

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

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

Jerusalem – Two peoples, One Capital?

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

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

Jerusalem deal according Olmert proposal

Bottom line

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks


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Blue Peace: Red Sea-Dead Sea Pipeline Plan Signed

Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed trilateral Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline plan on Dec. 9th 2013, at the headquarters of the World Bank. The ambitious and contested Dead Sea Signproject aims to replenish the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea by transferring in water from the Red Sea along a 110-mile (180 km long) pipeline. The pipeline will channel 100 million cubic meters of water per annum northward from the Red Sea and will cost an estimated $300-400 million. A BOT tender for the project will be published in 2014. The pipeline will take an estimated three years to complete. The inflow of water from the Red Sea will slow the drying up of the Dead Sea and its concomitant negative effects.

Israel’s energy and infrastructure minister, Silvan Shalom, said it was “a historic agreement that realises a dream of many years… [and] is of the highest diplomatic, economic, environmental and strategic importance.” He and the Palestinian and Jordanian water ministers, Shaddad Attili and Hazem al-Nasser, attended a signing ceremony in Washington.

Located in the Jordan rift valley bordering Jordan to the east, and Israel and Palestine to the west, the Dead Sea is served only by the Jordan River to the North. The water level in the Dead Sea dropped from 390 metres below sea level in the 1960s to 420 metres below sea level at present and will be 450 metres below sea level by 2040. The water surface area has shrunk by a third, from 950 square kilometres to 637 square kilometres.

Dead Sea 1972, 1989, 2011A combination of the mineral content of the water, low content of pollens, the reduced ultraviolet component of solar radiation and the higher atmospheric pressure at this depth have specific health effects which have borne a booming spa-tourism economy. This along with the dramatic scenery and tranquil waters is why it has long been a site of tourism and refuge; King David used it as such and it was one of the world’s first health resorts for Herod the Great.

Red Sea-Dead Sea Pipeline Plan

According the agreed plan of pumping water from the one sea to the other – a project known as the Red-Dead Conduit, or Two Seas Canal – will help to slow the dessication of the Dead Sea, which is famous for its high levels of salt and other minerals that allow bathers to float on its surface. “The inflow of water from the Red Sea will slow the drying up of the Dead Sea,” said the Israeli government. Approximately 200 million cubic meters of water will be drawn per annum. Around 80 million cubic meters will be desalinated at a facility to be built in Aqaba facility with Israel receiving 30-50 million cubic meters of water for the Arava region and Eilat, and with Jordan receiving 30 million cubic meters of water for use in the south. Israel will also sell Jordan another 50 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret for use in the north. The other goals of this project are the generation of electricity by utilizing the difference in elevation between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and the development of tourism infrastructures.

Red Sea - Dead Sea Pipeline. Images courtesy of ESA.

Red Sea – Dead Sea Pipeline. Images courtesy of ESA.

With no action, the sea level is expected to drop by another 150 meters until it will stabilize as a much smaller water body at a level of about 543 meters below sea level by the mid-22nd century,” the World Bank’s January 2013 report explained. Water loss in the Dead Sea has already resulted in dangerous sinkholes, mudslides and landslides in the area and threatens the habitat of many species native to the region.

While the plan is accepted by respective international authorities there is also critics inside Israeli regime. Regional environmental group Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Environmental Protection Ministry have slammed the plan as destructive to the very sea that it aims to save. The Environmental Protection Ministry likewise announced its rejection of the Red-Dead program, stressing that without more informed data and experimentation, such a plan cannot proceed. Citing experts from the Geological Survey of Israel, the ministry said that pumping more than 350 million cubic meters of seawater and brine to the Dead Sea could lead to an outbreak of bacteria and algal growth, causing disturbing odors in the region. Some environmentalists argue that the introduction of Red Sea water containing living organisms could have a catastrophic effect on the unique characteristics of the Dead Sea.

Red Sea-Dead Sea pipe project

Blue Peace

The Red-Sea-Dead-Sea pipeline in one of the key recommendations advocated in a report Blue Peace: Rethinking Middle East Water. As water resources in the Middle East should be considered as a potential source of socioeconomic development and peace, a group of independent Indian experts, the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), was mandated by Switzerland and Sweden the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to flank a process of reflection on this issue on 2009. A series of consultations and meetings took place in 2010, i.e., in Montreux (Switzerland), in Amman (Jordan), and in Sanliurfa (Turkey). The SFG then drew up the “Blue Peace” report based on these consultations, which in end effect brought together a good hundred of experts and leaders from the Middle East. On February 2011 the report was presented in Geneva.The report, prepared with support and input from almost 100 leaders and experts from Israel, the Palestine Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Turkey, also stated that water crisis can be converted into an opportunity for regional peace.

Blue Peace recommendations

The Blue Peace essentially requires a comprehensive approach. This ”hydro-diplomacy” can be defined as “regional cooperation that creates dynamics of trans-boundary basin economic development through integrated water resources management.”It is necessary to act on several fronts at the same time, and yet it is possible to choose different entry points of intervention as per social and political dynamics. The report presents a roadmap for action beginning with efficient internal management, storage and distribution; the establishment of Cooperation Council for Water Resources for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey; and separately launching of a high level Confidence Building Initiative between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This initiative’s key responsibility is to answer the specific challenges caused by the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. This initiative’s key responsibility is to answer the specific challenges caused by the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. As an example of successful cooperation, water management can also create the circumstances necessary for socioeconomic development and peace in these countries.

More about Blue Peace in “The Blue Peace – Rethinking Middle East Water: Complete report” Download (PDF, 3128 KB) :

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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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Israeli vs Palestine Refugees – In, Out and No Return

One element by solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the question of refugees or better their right to return. When the “refugee issue” is discussed within the context of the Middle East, people invariably refer to Palestinian refugees, not Jews displaced from Arab countries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel has launched a new international campaign entitled “I am a refugee”. The purpose of the campaign is to increase international awareness of a little-known refugee group – Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Before 1948 nearly one million Jews lived in the MENA region (Middle-East & North Africa) outside of the sc Brittish Palestinian mandate; after a half decade only few thousand were left. A documentary movie ”The Forgotten Refugees” gives some background to these Jewish communities in the Great Middle East.

Wider context of the Refugee question in MENA

Thriving, prosperous Jewish communities existed in the Middle East and North Africa ( aka MENA region) a thousand years before the rise of Islam and more than 2500 years before the birth of the modern Arab nations. These communities, which extended from Iraq in the east to Morocco in the west, enjoyed a lively fabric of life and were influential in the local economies. Until the 10th century C.E., 90% of the world’s Jews lived in regions now known as Arab countries.

On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN voted to partition then British-Mandate Palestine into two states: one Jewish, one Arab. Two states for two peoples. The Jewish population accepted that plan and declared a new state in its ancient homeland but the Arab inhabitants rejected the plan and launched a war of annihilation against the new Jewish state, joined by the armies of five Arab members of the UN. As a result of the war, there were Arabs who became refugees. Also following the declaration of the Jewish state antisemitism and anti-Jewish riots broke out in the Middle East and North Africa ( aka MENA region) and many Jews were driven from their homes – between 1948 and 1952, 856,000 Jews from Arab countries became refugees.

Every year the Palestinians are commemorating sc Nakba (catastrophe) Day, on which they remember the disaster that befell them in 1948, when they lost their war against Zionism and two-thirds of them were displaced from their homes, becoming refugees. While it is perfectly natural for the Palestinians to commemorate their national tragedy, the date they have chosen carries a clear political-ideological message, and it is not one that will encourage would-be Middle East peacemakers.

Besides humanitarian aspect I could mention an economic one too. In a recent conference “Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries” Dr. Stanley Urman, the executive director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, noted that Jewish refugees lost property worth $700 million (around $6 billion in today’s terms ), while Palestinian refugees lost property worth about $450 million (around $3.9 billion in today’s terms ). Since 1950, he said, Palestinian refugees have received $13.7 billion in U.N. funding, whereas Jewish refugees have received just $35,000. (Source Haaretz )

UNRWA – the never-ending mission

At least two aspects explain why there are still refugees after more than six decades:

  • First is Arab leaders’ recalcitrance to accept their brethren and refusing to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
  • Second the United Nations created a separate agency – UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) – with unique principles and criteria.

According UNRWA criteria the refugee status is given not only to the original refugees whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost their homes as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict AND their descendants in the male line. So it isn’t just the first generation that is entitled to this aid, as is the norm for all other refugees the United Nations helps, now the fifth generation is also entitled.

Originally UNRWA was established as a temporary agency. One motivation to agency’s refugee definations might be economic aspect. An article ”Palestinians Refugees Forever” in Haaretz gives following background:

UNRWA states that the Palestinians are occupied – indefinitely. UNRWA has financial and political interests in maintaining this fiction: as long as the Palestinians are refugees, UNRWA is in business. Of the 30,000 people that UNRWA employs, the vast majority are Palestinian: UNRWA is the largest single employer of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Contrast this to the UN High Commission for Refugees, that only employs 5-6,000 people globally, and which focuses far more clearly on resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees and building new lives, and not on maintaining services that prop up the status quo. (Source Haaretz )

Refugees without agency

Millions of Germans who had lived in the Sudetenland and were kicked out at the end of WWII (3 years before 1948). They were not allowed to return and they are no longer refugees because Germany absorbed them. Finland settled some 10 % of its population from territories occupied by the Soviet Union, which from its side transferred new population to new regions. Around 45,000 Hungarians were deported from Czechoslovakia to Hungary, while around 72,000 Slovaks transferred from Hungary to Czechoslovakia, and they are no longer refugees either. Hundreds of thousands of Cypriots who were kicked out of their homes were also not allowed to go back to them, and they are no longer refugees because their fellow nationals on the other side of the island absorbed them.

One aspect with “right of return” should now be highlighted: A recent ruling by the European court of human rights declared that due to the time that had elapsed, Greek refugees expelled from northern Cyprus in 1974 would not be allowed to return to their homes. Now while, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world not the Palestinian refugees – defined by unique UNRWA criteria – the discussion of ”right to return” has so far been quite one-sided.

Israeli point of view

Earlier Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon published his view in informative video ”The Truth About the Refugees” explaining the historical facts relating to the issue of refugees in the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  This video also highlights the issue of the Jewish refugees who were forced out of their homes in the Arab world, and were subsequently absorbed by the State of Israel.

Organisation ”Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa ( JIMENA ) has completed their first comprehensive country specific websites about refugee issue:

My Conclusion

Unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict squanders resources which in more peaceful circumstances could be used for capacity building of civil societies. Keeping refugee question and land dispute on the top of their agenda Palestinian Authorities favor temporary solutions and relief instead of building more permanent institutions. On Israeli side the defense and security takes more and more resources, e.g one Iron Dome missile to drop one Quassam rocket costs nearly $ 100.000. Then there is also a question about effectiveness of foreign aid, but that is the other story outside the issue of this article (see e.g Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks).

In my opinion the Palestinian refugees should be rehabilitated in their place of residence just as the Jewish refugees were rehabilitated in theirs – Israel. There should be an immediate discontinuation of the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee issue. The rehabilitation process implemented this way would minimize the demand for the “right of return” during peace talks so one problem less in agenda.  Sure few years ago there was a preliminary agreement about Palestine returns in Israel but the number was rather symbolic ( 5.000 ).  In any case the insistence of some Palestinian refugees to be given a right of return will be resolved by their immigration into the future Palestinian state that will be established through a peace agreement.

In my opinion the refugee problem described above has some similarities with situation in Serbia after Balkan wars. In Serbia still lives over 200.000 refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons). Like return of Jews back to Arab countries, like return of Palestinians to Israel or West-Bank as well return of Serbs back to Croatia or Kosovo the numbers of returns are insignificant e.g due security reasons. From my point of view to solve refugee/IDP problem the rehabilitation process in the place of residence is good alternative and international aid should be redirected e.g towards effective housing programs instead of keeping alive unrealistic dreams about going back to square one.

 

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Out of Topic: Epilogue Lite

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Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios

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

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

  1. Israel makes a deal with Palestinian representatives

  2. No Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – UN recognises Palestine

  3. Israel annexes part of West Bank – cold peace

Some background

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


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

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

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

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

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

Deal with united Hamas-Fatah front

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

UN option and the effect of unilateral Palestine actions

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


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

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


Unilateral Israeli actions

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

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

As Likud MK Danny Danon said, that

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

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

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

Map by Americans for a Safe Israel (ASFI)


My conclusion

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


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


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

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

Background Annex

Conflicting Views of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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

 
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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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