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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Arab St., BalkanBlog, crisis management, MENA

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – Negotiation Slot for a Month

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and failed Flotilla II on July) and while so-called Middle East Quartet and EU foreign ministers are making their empty outdated statements to reopen stagnated Israeli-Palestinian negotiations also in Israel there is some need for new initiatives or refresh the old ones.

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

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

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

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

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

Some new paradigms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jordanian option based to 1922 mandate

Delaying UN bid?

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

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

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

Libyian cars in Gaza

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

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

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

Prospects of Violence

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

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

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

Concept of Demilitarized Palestinian state

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

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

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

Negotiated solution is possible in coming months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My conclusions

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

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

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

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

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BalkanBlog, crisis management

PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace

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

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

The Palestine Papers

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

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

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

PA as Israel ally

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

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

Refugees and their return

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

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

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

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

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

Where to draw borders

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


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

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

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

U.S. land swap proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Olmerts Final Status Map, West Bank & Gaza


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

Alternatives for two-state

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

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

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

The other two-state solution by Fred Schlomka

I have made same conclusions and propagated long – instead of dead road maps towards two-state – for “three-state” approach”, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution could be from administrative point of view stronger as well economically more sustainable. (More e.g. in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ).

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

Motivation?

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

(Al-Jazeera helping Hamas by Roee Nahmias)

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

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

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

Follow-ups?

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

(Tzipi Livni)

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

(Total Capitulation by Tariq Ali)

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

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

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

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

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BalkanBlog, crisis management, Middle-East

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

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

(In an email from the Baltimore Zionist Division)

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

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

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

Settlements as dividing factor

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


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

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

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

Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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


One vs. Two States

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

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

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

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

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


Population transfers as pragmatic solution

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

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

More or less forced population transfers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three-State Option?

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


My Conclusions

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

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

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

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


The bottom line: Quality Peace

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


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

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


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