Israel – Palestine/Gaza 2013-2014
The tragic self-delusion behind the Hamas war
In the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, weakness is power, and power — well, it’s complicated
(Times of Israel) In the end, when all is said and done, it is Israel that has the upper hand. This is not because of its economic or military supremacy, which are effectively neutralized as a deterrent by Hamas’s sheer willingness to suffer, and to have fellow Palestinians suffer alongside it. Nor is it because Israel has been particularly effective in fighting the global public-relations fight so critical to the conduct of this sort of war. It isn’t even because of Israelis’ measurable and remarkable psychological resilience in the face of indiscriminate rocket fire.
Rather, Israel’s supreme advantage in this war lies in the enemy’s own misunderstanding. The entire edifice of Hamas as an organization, together with its affiliates, allies and ideological fellow travelers, is built to fight a particular kind of war with a very specific sort of enemy. The tragic and ongoing catastrophe that is Gaza will not be healed until the Palestinian national movement starts seeing Israelis for what they are, a flawed but rooted people living in its home, rather than what the Palestinians wish they were, sunburned Frenchmen in a land not their own.
Project “Great in Uniform”
Integrating young girls and boys with special needs in the IDF and community life
May 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — How do special needs children feel when all their friends join the army and they are left to ponder a lonesome fate in a world that has little opportunity to offer? Not special at all. It is difficult enough raising a child with special needs but it is absolutely wrenching to know that once that child reaches the age of eighteen he will need to confront his limitations in the harshest of ways; a soldier he will never be.
Ten years ago, Reserve Major Colonel Ariel Almog, who at that time served as commander of the HFC base in Ramleh, changed that reality with Project “Great in Uniform.” The purpose of this project is to integrate young people with disabilities in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for a stint of three years as part of their preparation for an independent life in the Israeli society. See also YouTube video
Paul Heinbecker– Israel and Gaza: With rights come responsibilities
A central responsibility, in fact a legal obligation of any belligerent in conflict, is to distinguish between civilians and legitimate military targets. Indiscriminate military action is prohibited, as is the deliberate targeting of civilians (Hamas’s indiscriminate rocketing of Israel communities is prima facie a war crime). International law acknowledges that civilian casualties might occur when military targets are attacked, but it requires warring parties to minimize injury and death among civilians. Complexity gives no dispensation from this principle, nor does the unlawful behaviour of the other side.
(Foreign Policy) Thursday’s attack on the U.N. school was one of the ugliest episodes yet in fighting that has been marked by extensive civilian suffering in Gaza. The school was packed with Palestinians seeking refuge from the fighting when it came under heavy fire. In addition to the 16 dead, more than 100 were wounded. It remains unclear, however, who was responsible for firing on the school. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for Israeli forces, said it was possible Israeli shells had struck the compound but suggested errant rockets fire by Hamas could have been responsible.
The strike on the school set off intense rioting in the West Bank, where thousands of protesters clashed with Israeli forces, who shot and killed three demonstrators.
UNRWA Condemns Placement of Rockets, for a Second Time, in One of Its Schools
… in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip. As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and so we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets. The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons.
Gaza death toll tops 500 as U.S. steps up ceasefire efforts
(Reuters) – The Palestinian death toll in an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip jumped to more than 500 on Monday, as the United States, alarmed by escalating civilian bloodshed, took a direct role in efforts to secure a ceasefire.
Despite growing calls for a halt to two weeks of fighting, violence raged on, with Israel pounding the densely-populated coastal strip, killing 28 members of a single family in one strike and four people in an attack on a hospital, medics said.
Israel’s losses also mounted. Following the death of 13 soldiers on Sunday, Israel said seven more troops had died on Monday, including four killed when a group of militants tunnelled across the border from Gaza and fired at their jeep.
(HuffPost) The U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state headed to Cairo on Monday to try to end two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting that has killed at least 508 Palestinians and 20 Israelis and displaced tens of thousands of Gaza residents. The new cease-fire efforts by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry followed the deadliest day of fighting since the escalation erupted on July 8.” The New York Times has an ongoing interactive breakdown of the death toll. Two of the dead Israeli soldiers were American citizens. President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday. Israel said it thwarted two tunnel infiltrations today and denied that one of its soldiers had been captured. The New Republic recaps how John Kerry built an Israeli-Palestine peace plan, and then watched it die. [AP]
Nicholas Kristof: Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East?
Here we have a conflict between right and right that has been hijacked by hard-liners on each side who feed each other. It’s not that they are the same, and what I see isn’t equivalence. Yet there is, in some ways, a painful symmetry — and one element is that each side vigorously denies that there is any symmetry at all.
WITH Israeli troops again invading Gaza and the death toll rising, some of the rhetoric from partisans on each side is oddly parallel. Maybe it’s time to correct a few common misconceptions among the salvos flying back and forth.
… we need to de-escalate, starting with a cease-fire that includes an end to Hamas rocket attacks and a withdrawal from Gaza by Israel. For Israel, this is a chance to use diplomacy to achieve what gunpowder won’t: the marginalization of Hamas. Israel might suggest an internationally supervised election in Gaza with the promise that the return of control to the Palestinian Authority would mean an end to the economic embargo.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Understanding What Hamas Wants
Some commentators, like the excellent Shlomo Avineri, believe that even Palestinian moderates such as Abbas are incapable of making final-status compromises, because they are “genuinely uninterested in a solution of two states for two peoples because they’re unwilling to grant legitimacy to the Jewish right of self-determination.” I don’t disagree that many, many Palestinians fall into this category. But I’m not giving up yet. Where Avineri is right is in his argument that Israel must take the interim steps, regardless of Palestinian participation, to protect its democratic character. Israeli moderates must “demand a complete halt to construction in the settlements, the evacuation of illegal outposts, a reexamination—once the current tension has ebbed—of the Israel Defense Forces’ deployment in the West Bank, and the removal of what remains of the Gaza blockade (possibly in coordination with Egypt after the current fighting ends).”
I’m not hopeful at all that the Netanyahu government will listen to such advice. Because myopia has shown itself to be the enemy of compromise and progress in Israel, and not just in Gaza.
Israel steps up Gaza ground offensive, civilian casualties grow
(Reuters) – Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could “significantly widen” an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians. The Israeli land advance followed 10 days of barrages against Gaza from air and sea, hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel and failed attempts by Egypt, a broker of ceasefires in previous Israeli-Palestinian flare-ups, to secure a truce.
Israel invades Gaza after Hamas rejects truce
‘There is a tank shell every minute,’ said an Israeli security official
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM
(HuffPost) “A five-hour humanitarian truce agreed by Israel and Hamas came into force on Thursday, hours after the Israeli military said it fought Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated from Gaza. About a dozen Palestinian fighters tunneled under the border, emerging near an Israeli community, and at least one was killed after Israeli aircraft bombed the group, the military said.” The New York Times reports that a ground invasion is “increasingly likely.” This graphic breaks down the bloody toll the conflict has taken. And the photographer who captured the heartrending photos of the aftermath of a rocket that killed four Palestinian cousins gives an account of the day. [Reuters]
Israel, Palestinians battle as Egyptian-proposed Gaza ceasefire collapses
(Reuters) – Israel resumed air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after agreeing to an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire deal that failed to get Hamas militants to halt rocket attacks.
The week-old conflict seemed to be at a turning point, with Hamas defying Arab and Western calls to cease fire and Israel threatening to step up an offensive that could include an invasion of the densely populated enclave of 1.8 million.
A desperate plea from an Israeli Jew
We know the roots of this are long and deep. But the truth behind this latest assault is finally coming out: as J.J. Goldberg wrote in The Forward, the Israeli government lied, and created this situation.
For weeks, the government knew that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead. But they instituted a gag order on the media, lied to Israelis and the world, and falsely claimed the mass arrests and collective punishment of Palestinians was all in the hopes of finding the teenagers alive.
In other words, their chosen response was to kidnap the mind of an entire country.
From the very beginning, this has been about punishing Palestinians. From the beginning, the government has been willing to manipulate and use its own people for that goal.
Tony Deutsch comments: Is it not peculiar that neither the article nor the writers of comments mention Hamas’ commitment to the destruction of Israel, or the Hamas rockets being fired from Gaza at the general population in Israel?
Egypt launches initiative to halt Israel-Palestinian conflict
(Reuters) – Egypt launched an initiative on Monday to halt fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants, proposing a ceasefire to be followed by talks in Cairo on settling the conflict in which Gaza authorities say more than 170 people have died.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his decision-making security cabinet on Tuesday to discuss the proposal on the Gaza violence, an Israeli official said.
Netanyahu finally speaks his mind
(The Times of Israel) Netanyahu has stressed often in the past that he doesn’t want Israel to become a binational state — implying that he favors some kind of accommodation with and separation from the Palestinians. But on Friday he made explicit that this could not extend to full Palestinian sovereignty. Why? Because, given the march of Islamic extremism across the Middle East, he said, Israel simply cannot afford to give up control over the territory immediately to its east, including the eastern border — that is, the border between Israel and Jordan, and the West Bank and Jordan.
Egyptians Hoping Israel Will Destroy Hamas
(Gatestone Institute) Over the past week there are voices coming out of Egypt and some Arab countries — voices that publicly support the Israeli military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
They see the atrocities and massacres committed by Islamists on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria and are beginning to ask themselves if these serve the interests of the Arabs and Muslims.
“Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!” — Azza Sami of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Isolated and under attack, Hamas now realizes that it has lost the sympathy of many Egyptians and Arabs.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi has thus far turned down appeals from Palestinians and other Arabs to work toward achieving a new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Israel and Palestinians continue to trade strikes
(LATimes) Despite a unanimous appeal from U.N. Security Council members, Israel and Palestinian militants traded more airstrikes and rocket fire Saturday, with at least one mosque and a center for the disabled among the latest structures hit in the Gaza Strip. The number of dead in Gaza reached at least 159, Palestinian medical sources said, the majority of whom were civilians, according to the United Nations agency for humanitarian affairs. More than 1,000 people have been wounded. Early Sunday, a heavy wave of airstrikes destroyed police stations and much of the security headquarters in the Tel Al Hawa neighborhood in the south of Gaza. Separately, news reports quoted the Israeli military as saying four special forces soldiers were slightly wounded in a raid on a rocket-launching site in northern Gaza. It was the first time Israeli soldiers were known to have crossed into Gaza during the conflict.
GAZA SITUATION CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE
“With rockets raining deep inside Israel, the military pummeled Palestinian targets Wednesday across the Gaza Strip and threatened a broad ground offensive, while the first diplomatic efforts to end two days of heavy fighting got underway. Egypt, which has mediated before between Israel and the Hamas militant group, said it spoke to all sides about ending the violence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in touch with Israel to try to lower tensions.” Israel is claiming that Hamas is aiming rockets at targets deeper in the country and firing them every ten minutes. Read more about how the iron dome, Israel’s missile defense system, works to stop such incoming rockets. [AP]
Israel selects Rivlin as next president
Reuven Rivlin, a staunchly right-wing member of Likud, to take over from Shimon Peres as 10th head of state.
Israel: New president has ‘big shoes to fill’
President Shimon Peres to step down amid political bickering and widespread Israeli apathy towards the presidency.
Pope Francis hosts Israeli and Palestinian presidents for peace prayers
The meeting has also cemented Francis’ reputation as a leader unhindered by diplomatic and theological protocol who is willing to go out on a limb for the sake of peace. Francis capitalized on both his own enormous popularity and the peace-loving heritage of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, to bring the two sides together.
The unusual prayer summit was a feat of diplomatic and religious protocol, organized in the two weeks since Francis issued the surprise invitation to Peres and Abbas from Manger Square in Bethlehem.
Horrors of the occupation go way beyond the settlements
Every decent citizen, both in Israel and around the world, must cry out against the many horrors of the Israeli occupation- which have little to do with any West Bank construction
Horrors of the occupation go way beyond the settlements
(Haaretz) Every decent citizen, both in Israel and around the world, must cry out against the many horrors of the Israeli occupation- which have little to do with any West Bank construction
Rivlin for president
His presidential wish is not tainted by hypocrisy; his demonstrative emotion vests this institution with the heart it needs.
(Haaretz) Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin should be the next president of Israel. First of all, because he’s a nice guy − an argument we should not make light of. It’s no less important than other substantive arguments, notably that he is a liberal and a democrat. Rivlin’s niceness is more than a contrast to the cold-fish image projected by Benjamin Netanyahu, his block-headed intransigence and his extreme positions. The niceness radiated by Rivlin − an inveterate right-winger, yes − is needed to heal Israel’s citizens, who in the waning phase of Netanyahu’s protracted tenure look to be despairing, divided and deeply frustrated.
Palestine – Chronicle of a Foretold Death
The current Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, in a correct fulfilment of its role in the Zionist Programme, has repeatedly heralded the real state of affairs – that is: no return to the 1967 borders; Israel for Jewish people only; Jerusalem is the capital of Israel only; full security for Israel only; no sovereignty to a Palestinian state; no return of Palestinian refugees, and no stop to Israeli settlements.
And this despite the fact that President Obama said on Sept. 23, 2009 at the UN General Assembly that “the time has come to re-launch negotiations – without preconditions – that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees, and Jerusalem”.
(IPS) – Now that Washington has failed to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in spite of Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent strenuous efforts, a quick look at the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would suffice to conclude that the process leading to creating a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel had already been sentenced to failure 117 years ago.
Middle East analysts in Cairo and other Arab capitals have reached the unanimous conclusion that the ‘suspension’ of the Israeli-Palestinian talks and their postponement “sine die” has sounded the death knell for the two-state solution, which has been repeatedly advocated by President Barack Obama.
Uri Avnery: Words, Words, Words
IMAGINE A war breaking out between Israel and Jordan. Within two or three days the Israeli army occupies the entire territory of the Hashemite Kingdom. What will be the first act of the occupation authority?
Establish a settlement in Petra? Expropriate land near Aqaba?
No. The very first thing will be to decree that the territory will henceforth be known as “Gilead and Moab”.
All the media will be ordered to use the biblical name. All government and court documents will adopt it. Except for the radical Left, nobody will mention Jordan anymore. All applications by the inhabitants will be addressed to the Military Government of Gilead and Moab.
WHY? BECAUSE annexation starts with words.
Words convey ideas. Words implant concepts in the minds of their hearers and speakers. Once they are firmly established, everything else follows. (26 April)
Israel suspends peace talks with Palestinians after Fatah-Hamas deal
(The Guardian) Despite confusion over whether Netanyahu or security cabinet took decision, announcement appears to end US-led initiative
Israel has hit back hard following an agreement on Palestinian unity by suspending already faltering peace negotiations just days before the expiry of a deadline for the US-brokered process.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, accused the western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of forming an alliance with Hamas, which he called “a terrorist organisation that calls for the destruction of Israel” – and hinted at further retaliatory measures.
Netanyahu’s comments followed Wednesday’s announcement of a unity agreement between Abbas’ Fatah movement – the dominant group in the PLO and which governs parts of the West Bank – and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. The US and EU also classify Hamas – whose name means the Islamic Resistance Movement – as a terrorist group, but may review their policies in the light of the unity deal.
Roger Cohen: Israel’s Sustainable Success
(NYT) Moving toward a two-state peace — the best outcome for both nations — cannot be based either on the myth that Israel’s current situation is unsustainable or on the myth that the Palestinian Authority, as currently constituted, represents the Palestinian national movement. It can only emerge when a majority on both sides believes, based on the facts, that painful compromise in the name of a better future is preferable to manageable conflict fed by the wounds of the past.
Israel will have to run Palestine if peace talks fail, Mahmoud Abbas warns
Stark warning follows reports Palestinian president may disband Palestinian Authority if talks end by 29 April without extension
He told a group of visiting Israeli journalists on April 22nd their country’s policies had left his government powerless & that, if the peace talks fail, he might just dismantle the Palestinian Authority & hand the responsibility for running the West Bank over to Israel.
Israeli officials dismissed this as an empty threat … But Roni Shaked, a Palestinian expert at the Truman Institute at Hebrew University, disagrees; he is among a number of the Israeli analysts who believe that “for Israel it (Abbas throwing in the towel) would be a disaster … It would mean an increase in terrorism because Abbas is the one who is stopping terrorism against Israel.” And he believes it would strengthen Hamas as the sole surviving voice of the Palestinians. (See Comment Nick’s Gleanings 559 below)
Halt Peace Talks Until Israel Complies With International Law
It’s time for the secretary of state to insist on America’s position on Middle East peace.
By ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FRANK CARLUCCI, LEE HAMILTON, CARLA A. HILLS, THOMAS PICKERING and HENRY SIEGMAN
(information Clearing House) We commend Secretary of State John Kerry’s extraordinary efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian talks and negotiations for a framework for a peace accord, and the strong support his initiative has received from President Barack Obama.
We believe these efforts, and the priority Kerry has assigned to them, have been fully justified. However, we also believe that the necessary confidentiality that Secretary Kerry imposed on the resumed negotiations should not preclude a far more forceful and public expression of certain fundamental U.S. positions:
Settlements: U.S. disapproval of continued settlement enlargement in the Occupied Territories by Israel’s government as “illegitimate” and “unhelpful” does not begin to define the destructiveness of this activity. Nor does it dispel the impression that we have come to accept it despite our rhetorical objections. Halting the diplomatic process on a date certain until Israel complies with international law and previous agreements would help to stop this activity and clearly place the onus for the interruption where it belongs.
Official: PLO to apply for 48 more intl orgs if peace talks fail
(Ma’an) — Additionally, Shaath said the PLO will not continue negotiating to reach “a framework agreement.”
Netanyahu vows retaliation after Palestinian treaty move
(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised retaliatory measures on Sunday after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made unilateral moves towards statehood.
Netanyahu did not immediately specify the action he would take and said Israel remained willing to press on with U.S.-brokered peace talks, but not “at any price”.
On Tuesday, Abbas signed 15 international treaties, including the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and occupations, a defiant assertion of statehood that surprised Washington as it was pushing both sides to continue negotiations beyond an April 29 deadline.
Palestinians denied access to their natural gas fields
(Middle East Monitor) The untapped natural gas reserves in the Gaza Strip are considered one of the most important natural resources for a future Palestinian state (if the two-state solution is adopted), and essential for the state’s development. However, the siege conditions in Gaza prevent the development of the gas fields and there is a risk that the Israeli exploratory drilling companies will drill the gas reserves in such a way that will appropriate some of Gaza’s gas reserves.
International law forbids occupying entities from using, transferring or selling the natural resources of any occupied land. A report by the UN Economic and Social Council says Israel not only prevented Palestinians from accessing and utilising their natural resources, but also depleted and endangered them.
Experts say Israel will continue to tap into Gaza’s natural gas reserves to meet its needs after supplies from Egypt were interrupted amid the unrest in the Sinai Peninsula
Israel’s Wildcard: The Man Who Could Stop The Peace Process
(Spiegel) Naftali Bennett, the head of the the settlements party Jewish Home rejects negotiations with the Palestinians and says he will allow the Israeli government to collapse if necessary. A decision on whether talks will proceed is expected this week.
Obama Urges Netanyahu to Make Peace Now to Avert Fallout
Pressing Netanyahu not to put off the hard decisions on peacemaking, Obama invoked the prime minister’s nickname and paraphrased the words of Rabbi Hillel, the revered Jewish sage.
“When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation,” Obama said. “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved?”
Palestinians Construct Billion-Dollar City on a Hill
(NBC) On a hilltop between Ramallah and Nablus, the new Palestinian city of Rawabi is being built at a cost of $1 billion. Construction began in 2010 and the first of the expected 40,000 inhabitants are due to move in by the end of 2014.
The city’s founder, Bashar Al-Masri, told NBC News last year that the design, planning and construction are all by Palestinians. Though they had sought outside help, he said, there was no input from Israel.
In Rawabi, the brand-new Palestinian city, both sides win
(The Times of Israel) While the prospects of a positive outcome to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians seem iffy, Rawabi is a towering certainty. But the shiny new city on the hill is not only a model of Palestinian entrepreneurship, it is also a little-known exemplar of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
Bashar Al-Masri, managing director of Rawabi, said that though no Israeli companies have been involved in constructing the city, hundreds of Israeli suppliers provide it with raw materials such as cement, sand, electric components and plumbing. He estimated that Israeli businesses benefit from the Rawabi project to the tune of tens of millions of dollars a month. The only political principle Rawabi holds with relation to Israel is no cooperation with businesses in the settlements. (See also PBS Rawabi: A Planned Palestinian City for the West Bank)
Leaked details show modest goals for Kerry’s Mideast peace plan
What Mr. Kerry now is trying to do is extract from Israel something the Palestinians will like in return for the good things Israel will find among his principles.
The quid pro quo, said Ari Shavit, political columnist for the Haaretz newspaper, is most likely accepting the 1967 borders, with minor territorial swaps, as the basis for the Palestinian state – this is the Palestinians’ greatest demand. The borders are the ceasefire line in the West Bank that separated Israeli and Jordanian fighters in 1949 and remained in place until 1967 when Israel overran the territory in the Six Day War.
“It’s the old Clinton formula,” Mr. Shavit said, referring to a 2009 suggestion made by Hillary Clinton: “giving Israel the recognition it wants as a Jewish state, and the Palestinians the borders they want.”
The matter of security for Israel will be another Kerry principle, and news of the two sides’ views on this already has leaked out.
Poll Shows Diminishing Support for Two-State Solution
(Other News) (IPS) – The poll, conducted by Zogby Research Services, showed that barely one-third of Israelis (34 percent) and Palestinians (36 percent) still believe that a two-state solution is feasible. And, while the two-state solution remains the most popular option among both peoples, that support is much stronger among Israelis (74 percent) than among Palestinians (47 percent).
Lead pollster and President of both Zogby Research Services and the Arab American Institute, Jim Zogby, sees these results as very troubling and as boding ill for the potential for U.S. The poll was released just as rumours swirled around Kerry’s efforts, which are expected to produce a framework proposal that Kerry will present to the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships in the next few weeks. While few observers have expressed much hope about the potential for success, Kerry has pressed both sides to work to agree to use his plan as a framework for ongoing talks, despite the reservations they are sure to have.
‘Failed Palestinian peace talks will hit every Israeli in the pocket’
Finance minister warns of boycott by EU partners if deal cannot be reached
(The Independent) Israel’s finance minister has warned that the country could be targeted by an economically costly boycott if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, signalling that concerns about growing international isolation have moved centre stage in Israel’s public discourse.
Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners
By Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University and the author of “The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.”
The fundamental problem with American support for Israel is its unconditional nature. Consequently, Israel does not have to pay a price for acting unilaterally in a multilateral world, for its flagrant violations of international law, and for its systematic abuse of Palestinian human rights.
Blind support for the Jewish state does not advance the cause of peace. America is going nowhere in the Middle East until it makes the provision of money and arms conditional on good manners and, more importantly, on Israeli respect for its advice.
(NYT) On Jan. 14, the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, told the daily Yediot Aharonot, “Secretary of State John Kerry — who arrived here determined, who operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” Even by Israeli standards, Mr. Yaalon’s comments were rather rude. Mr. Kerry’s crime was to try to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that began last July and to stipulate a nine-month deadline. This is the kind of talk that gives chutzpah a bad name.
The episode also reveals a great deal about the nature of the much-vaunted special relationship between the United States and Israel. It suggests that this relationship is a one-way street, with America doing all the diplomatic heavy lifting while Israel limits its role to obstruction and whining — repaying Uncle Sam’s generosity with ingratitude and scorn.
Israeli leaders have always underlined the vital importance of self-reliance when it comes to Israel’s security. But the simple truth is that Israel wouldn’t be able to survive for very long without American support. Since 1949, America’s economic aid to Israel amounts to a staggering $118 billion and America continues to subsidize the Jewish state to the tune of $3 billion annually. America is also Israel’s main arms supplier and the official guarantor of its “quantitative military edge” over all its Arab neighbors.
Gerald Caplan: Harper should see more of Israel than his hosts will show him
(Globe & Mail) The real purpose of the trip, of course, is to help Mr. Harper become an even more unconditional advocate for Israel, although that seems quite impossible. But it’s not Israel that he supports. It’s the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Among the great truths the Canadian delegation will not be reminded of is that Mr. Netanyahu represents only one faction of Israel today, just as Mr. Harper represents only a minority of Canadians.
Countless visitors to Israel return kidding themselves they now know the country. Much of this is carefully organized. Birthright Israel, for example, sponsors free, all-expenses paid 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults aged 18-26. The purpose is quite straightforward. As one board member put it, participants are expected to return home “ready and eager to be advocates for Israel.” Since the program began in 1999, a remarkable 350,000 young people from 64 countries have participated, about 80 per cent of them from the United States and Canada.
The young men and women of Birthright see exactly what the Israeli government wants them to see. That means they get to meet exactly none of the many Israelis who disagree passionately with their government and get to see little or nothing of the Palestinians. It appears the same will be largely true this week for Mr. Harper and his entourage.
Former Israeli PM and military commander Ariel Sharon dead at 85
(Reuters) – Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the trailblazing warrior-statesman who stunned Arab foes with his dramatic turnarounds, died on Saturday aged 85, after eight years in a coma caused by a stroke.
Sharon left historic footprints on the Middle East through military invasion and Jewish settlement-building on occupied land the Palestinians seek for a state but also with a shock decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
The United States and other foreign powers mourned Sharon as a peacemaker, noting his late pursuit of dialogue with the Palestinians. Those negotiations continue under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though differences remain wide. …
Israel unveils plans for more settler homes
Proposed units in occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem draw criticism from Netanyahu’s own coalition partners.
(Al Jazeera) Israel has announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The country’s Housing Ministry said on Friday that it planned to construct 801 housing units in the West Bank, another 600 in East Jerusalem, and re-issue tenders for 582 units in East Jerusalem, all on land seized during the 1967 Six Day War.
The announcement enraged some of the coalition partners of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, as well as Palestinians, who want the land for their future state and who have accused Israel of lacking a commitment to peace negotiations.
Charlie Rose: A discussion about Israel with Ari Shavit, author of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel; David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker and Jeffrey Goldberg, author and columnist for Bloomberg View. Video (18 November)
Uri Avnery: The conscience of Israel’s left
Israel needs peace, it needs reconciliation and acceptance in the region and we’ll never have it without a Palestinian state
(The Independent) As he turns 90, the war veteran, former MP and celebrated peace activist tells Ben Lynfield he still advocates a Palestinian state, and that one is possible in his lifetime
For more than six decades, Mr Avnery has been in the vanguard of the Israeli peace camp, a touchstone of dovishness in Israeli discourse with his sharp denunciations of excesses by the military and championing of rights for the Arab minority, which lived under military rule until 1966. His criticism of the occupation and the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip came early, before it became fashionable, and to this day he scorns the effort to expand Israel and the attempt to rename the occupied territories by the biblical names Judea and Samaria. “I call it Judea and malaria,” he says.
Yet Mr Avnery never crossed the line into anti-Zionism and in that respect remains part of the Israeli establishment he so vociferously criticised, at once a dove and an Israeli patriot.
“I came out of the [1947-49] war totally convinced that: one, we need peace; two, there exists a Palestinian people; and, three, that making peace with the Palestinians means to have a Palestinian state next to Israel,” he recalls in an interview with The Independent to mark his birthday, which fell last month but which he celebrated on Monday by joining a panel discussion on the topic “Will Israel Exist 90 Years From Now?”.
Israel Builds New Settlement To Host Palestinian Peace Talks
(The Onion) As part of their continuing efforts to bring peace to the conflict-stricken region, Israeli government officials announced today the construction of a new settlement on Palestinian lands where future peace talks can be held. “After years of failed diplomacy, it has become clear that we need to make a fresh start, and what better way to do so than by appropriating a small amount of Palestinian territory where Israeli citizens can live and negotiators from both sides can talk about a peaceful way forward?” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, referring to the civilian Jewish community that will be constructed in place of multiple razed city blocks in the West Bank.
The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern
(Stratfor) Israel has existed in three different manifestations in roughly the same place, twice in antiquity and once in modernity. If geopolitics is correct, then Israeli foreign policy, independent of policymakers, technology or the identity of neighbors, ought to have important common features. This is, therefore, a discussion of common principles in Israeli foreign policy over nearly 3,000 years.
The Geopolitics of the Palestinians
(Stratfor) If there was no Palestinian nation in the past, there certainly is one now, and — like many nations — it was born in battle. … not simply that it was born in the conflict with Israel: Palestinian nationalism also was formed in conflict with the Arab world, which has both sustained the Palestinians and abandoned them. Even when the Arab states have gone to war with Israel, as in 1973, they have fought for their own national interests — and for the destruction of Israel — but not for the creation of a Palestinian state. And when the Palestinians were in battle against the Israelis, the Arab regimes’ responses ranged from indifferent to hostile.
Uri Avnery’s columns
South Jerusalem, A blog by Gershom Gorenberg and Haim Watzman.
BBC: History of Mid-East peace talks (August 2010) ; Guide: Palestinian statehood bid (September 2011)
Bill Clinton: Netanyahu killed the peace process (September 2011)
Gilad Shalit release deal (October 2011) Here are some of the main issues surrounding the saga.
Charles Cogan: Reversal of Roles: When the Jews Accepted the Two-State Solution but the Arabs Did Not (November 2011) – some historical perspective
(National Geographic) The tunnels of Gaza are a lifeline of the underground economy but also a death trap. For many Palestinians, they have come to symbolize ingenuity and the dream of mobility. (December 2012)
Inside the UNRWA Classroom - very disturbing
(Middle East Monitor) Alison Weir: American media distortion on Palestine (May 2013)
Israel’s Water Challenge
Israel’s successful efforts to increase water security will lessen one of the country’s geographical constraints. But new sources of water are more energy intensive, and this could increase Israel’s short-term dependence on energy imports unless domestic energy sources are successfully developed.
While Israel enjoys relative national security compared to its neighbors, which are struggling with internal fragmentation, this will probably change eventually. Because concerted military efforts have been required in the past to secure water resources, Israel has had a strong incentive to develop technological solutions to improve water security. Additional domestic water resources — including increasing desalination capacity and continued efforts to recycle water — allow Israel to mitigate one of its inherent geographic constraints. Read more: Israel’s Water Challenge | Stratfor
Israel’s ‘Christmas Eve demolitions’ in the West Bank
(Ma’an) — The United Nations Palestine refugee agency on Wednesday condemned Israel’s latest demolitions of Palestinian Bedouin homes in the West Bank, which UNRWA said displaced 68 people.
The latest demolitions in the West Bank, “the most recent of which occurred on Christmas Eve,” have “severely threatened” the livelihoods of the families that lost their homes, UNRWA Spokesman Chris Gunnes said in a statement.
According to UNRWA, the demolitions that occurred near Ramallah and Jericho displaced 68 people in total, most of whom were refugees, and 32 of whom were children, “including a five year old girl who is paralyzed from the waist down.”
Joseph and Mary can’t make it to Bethlehem, on Banksy’s Christmas card
An image that is purportedly British street artist Banksy’s Christmas card this year started making the rounds on Twitter. The artwork in question is, in many ways, a conventional Biblical landscape painting, which shows what are presumably the figures of Joseph and Mary — she astride a donkey — making their way toward Bethlehem, only to find their route blocked by the graffiti-covered Irsaeli West Bank barrier.
To the left, a shepherd tends his sheep, while in the distant sky a cross-shaped star lights up the heavens over the imposing concrete wall.
We Really Need to Talk About Corruption
(The Tower) The U.S. has made Israeli-Palestinian peace into a top priority. But how can you build a legitimate, peaceful state out of a kleptocratic regime?
If peace were suddenly to break out in the Middle East, John Kerry would undoubtedly assure his place in the Secretary of State Hall of Fame. Defiantly challenging a chorus of naysayers at home and around the world, Kerry launched a new round of Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy on July 29, 2013, and believes he can conclude a deal between the two sides by the end of April 2014.
He has his work cut out for him, however. Extremely difficult, almost impossible issues remain to be resolved, such as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugee claims, and final borders.
But one obstacle is almost never discussed in public, yet has the potential to make even the most successful negotiation end in a spectacular failure. The present efforts to create a Palestinian state are built entirely atop a Palestinian political system that has long suffered from endemic corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, and waste. This problem has dogged the Palestinians at least since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, radically undermining the most basic elements required for successful governance—including the faith of individual Palestinians in their leaders. This hinders the ability to administer international assistance, encourage investment, or build effective institutions.
Jeffrey Goldberg: John Kerry Is Israel’s Best Friend
(Bloomberg) while it may be true that Kerry is seeking a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Israel-Palestine conciliation, he’s also working for something that most Jews, in Israel and around the world, desperately want — a secure Israel with internationally recognized borders that becomes an honored member of the family of nations, rather than a target of never-ending opprobrium.
Nixing Mandela funeral as too costly, Bibi shows world what he’s truly made of
(Haaretz) Israel’s prime minister proves he is not the smug, petty, vindictive, waffling, in-your-face insulting man he seems. He’s something worse.
Israel heads for a terrifying split
(The Economist) … the Israeli government does not have a problem with the terms of the deal that was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Rather, the Israeli government has a problem with the fact that a deal was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Over the course of the negotiations, it has become abundantly clear that Binyamin Netanyahu and the conservative coalition he leads do not want a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons on any terms that Iran would be willing to accept. That puts Israel at loggerheads with the majority of Americans; perhaps more important, it puts Israel at loggerheads with a large fraction of American Jews.
Mr Netanyahu calls the agreement with Iran a “historic mistake”, and insists that “Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat”—in other words, that Israel will strike Iran on its own if it decides the agreement is not working. It is not entirely clear what Israel would regard as “not working”. Up to this point, the Israelis, when forced to provide specifics on what it is they expect Iran to do, have laid out conditions so onerous that they cannot realistically be met by any Iranian government. The Israelis wanted Iran to completely dismantle its entire uranium enrichment programme and eliminate all stockpiles of enriched fuel. They were not prepared to endorse the interim deal, which halts much of Iran’s nuclear programme, walks back some aspects of it and includes intrusive inspections. They insisted on a total Iranian capitulation.
Israeli Leaders Denounce Geneva Accord
(NYT) Officials said that they were not bound by the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and that Israel would be ready to defend itself without assistance from allies.
West Bank Palestinians lose water and land (video)
Palestinian farmers say Israel is cutting Jordan Valley water sources, forcing them to leave their land.
Israel PM halts plans to build settler homes
Israeli PM says plans caused ‘unnecessary conflict’ with international community and potentially hindered Iran talks.
(Al Jazeera) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a reassessment of plans to build nearly 24,000 settler homes, saying he feared an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel’s lobbying against a nuclear deal with Iran.
The right-wing Israeli leader announced the reversal on Tuesday in the face of stiff US opposition to settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Palestinian anger that threatens three-month-old peace talks brokered by Washington
Yasser Arafat polonium poisoning could not have been accidental, Swiss lab says
(AP) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ingested lethal radioactive polonium before his death nine years ago and had high levels of it in his body that could not have been accidental, Swiss scientists confirmed Thursday.
The Swiss lab examined Arafat’s remains and his underclothes and a travel bag that he had with him in the days before his death in a Paris hospital and found that the polonium and lead amounts could not be naturally occurring. The timeframe of his illness and death were also consistent with polonium poisoning, they said.
“You don’t accidentally or voluntarily absorb a source of polonium — it’s not something that appears in the environment like that,” said Patrice Mangin, director of the Lausanne University Hospital’s forensics centre. He said he could not say unequivocally what killed Arafat — the biological samples obtained just last year were far too degraded to determine the cause of death.
Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned with polonium, tests show
Swiss scientists find levels of polonium 18 times higher than normal in first forensic tests on former Palestinian leader’s body
(The Guardian) … Dov Weissglass, a former aide to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister at the time of Arafat’s death, also denied Israeli involvement. “To the best of my knowledge, we had no hand in this,” he said, adding that neither the prime minister nor the Israeli security services had played any part in the Palestinian leader’s demise.
“By the end of 2004, we had no interest in harming him. By then, Arafat was marginalised, his control over Palestinian life was minimal. So there was no logic, no reason.”
Poverty drives change among Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jews
(Reuters) … there are signs of a growing, dispersed movement driving change inside the cloistered, and also poor, community. … The number of Haredim getting job training at specialized centers and studying at academic institutes has been steadily rising, giving graduates a better chance of finding a job and increasing their earning power.
According to Israel’s Council for Higher Education, some 7,000 Haredim were engaged in academic studies in 2012, up from 5,600 students in 2010, with business administration, law and social sciences drawing the majority. The number is projected to rise further in 2013.
Army statistics show the number of Haredim in military service growing steadily over the past few years. In 2008 there were 387 Haredi soldiers. To date there are about 3,500, nearly 10 times as many, ultra-Orthodox soldiers. The number of Haredim who enter national service in civil capacities has also risen between 2010-2012, according to Israel’s Administration for National-Civic Service.
Facing public pressure, the government has been grappling for months with the task of writing a new military draft bill that would slash the seminary student exemptions. The law is expected to be brought to parliament in the coming months.
Jeremy Ben-Ami: Israel, the Palestinians and the one-state illusion
In the Mideast, the two-state solution is not idealism — it’s a practical way to avoid more war.
(LATimes) What nobody needs are delusional visions of one-state fantasists whose remedies have no connection with the real world. We live in an era of nation states and, unfortunately, also in an era of ethnic wars. We seem to be becoming more tribal and more sectarian, not less. We may feel that this is not a good thing, but it is reality.
‘Moving Moment’: Israel Ends Ethiopian Repatriation Program
Some 450 Jews from Ethiopia landed in Israel on Wednesday, the last arrivals in a program to relocate the community to the Holy Land. The campaign, which lasted for nearly thirty years, has been plagued by controversy.
Israeli Lobby Looks to 2008 Law to Justify Request for More U.S. Aid
(IPS) – Israel and its domestic U.S. lobby are already in the early stages of the next 10-year aid package, which would not go into effect until 2017 and will be the first since Congress passed the Naval Vessel Transfer Act of 2008, which requires in part that U.S. military aid to Israel ensure that Israel maintains its “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME) over any combination of states and non-state actors. … Israel does not oppose U.S. arms sales to “moderate” Arab states but insists that these sales be offset by higher quality sales to Israel. “If America doesn’t sell these weapons, others will,” Oren said. “We also understand the fact that each of these sales contributes to hundreds or thousands of American jobs. And we have an interest in a strong and vital American economy.”
Yet the fact that the U.S. economy remains depressed and its recovery slow has already affected aid to Israel. The sequester, or mandatory budget cuts effective earlier this year, sparked debate within pro-Israel lobbying groups about whether to push for Israel’s aid package to be exempted from the cuts.
Palestinians Put Off Peace Talks After Clash With Israel
(WSJ) Israeli forces killed three Palestinians during a raid on a West Bank refugee district, prompting the Palestinian leadership to cancel a round of U.S.-sponsored peace talks set for Monday.
Uri Avnery: I DON’T know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.
If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals.
The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu.
THIS WEEK, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel.
The Israeli-Palestinian ‘peace process’ and US befuddlement
(CSM) It’s like a never-ending upside-down waterfall of groundhog days.
Israel raises temperature in runup to Middle East peace talks
First substantive negotiations with Palestinians for five years to begin amid announcements on settlements and prisoners
(The Guardian) The announcement of a new settlement construction push, made by the ultra-rightwing housing minister, Uri Ariel, appeared to a be a quid pro quo for the release. The move was reportedly co-ordinated with US officials as part of the pre-talks framework. “The Americans agreed to resign themselves to moderate construction in exchange for a prisoner release,” the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported.
Eight hundred of the new homes will be built in colonies across the pre-1967 Green Line in Jerusalem – the part of the city the Palestinians want as capital of their future state. Construction could take two years. All settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.
Kerry: Second round of peace talks in two weeks; all core issues on table
(Haaretz) Secretary of State holds press conference after start of talks in Washington; Obama holds joint White House meeting with Israeli, Palestinian negotiating teams.
Flanked by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Kerry said “the parties have agreed that all of the final status issues, core issues and other issues are on the table for negotiations.” He added that the objective is to reach a final status agreement within nine months. The meeting in Washington Tuesday represents the first direct negotiations since 2010.
Closed Tunnels Could Ruin Hamas
(Spiegel) The smuggling tunnels in Sinai are essential for the economy of the Gaza Strip. But since the unrest broke out in Egypt, they have been closed off — plunging the ruling Hamas party into financial crisis.
Dr. Charles Cogan: Netanyahu Gets The Math
(HuffPost) For someone who only grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state back in 2009, Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have undergone a change of heart…or perspective.
As Nathan Thrall … pointed out, Netanyahu for the first time last May advanced an argument for partition. Since Jews make up less than half of the combined population of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, the purpose of an agreement now is to prevent the eventuality of a binational state. … there are compelling reasons for partition, which both sides seem now to recognize, but there are huge obstacles for each to overcome. Israel has learned that the Palestinians are not going to go away, are not going to vanish into thin air, and the Palestinians have learned (or should have) that Israel is there to stay.
Here’s What John Kerry’s Peace Settlement Will Look Like (Probably)
(The New Republic) … the good news about these negotiations is that there is a deal that both sides could accept under the right circumstances. The bad news (or good news, depending on how you look at it) is that the space for agreement on all core issues is vanishingly small. If one accepts the premise that Abbas is unlikely to accept less than he was previously offered, and that Netanyahu is unlikely to offer more than what Abbas has accepted, we can predict, issue-by-issue, what an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would look like in the unlikely-but-conceivable event that this third time proves to be the charm.
US: Palestinian and Israeli officials to meet
The US State Department says Palestinian and Israeli officials will meet in Washington to discuss resuming negotiations.
Middle East talks will restart in Washington on Monday to set out a plan on potential negotiations, the US State Department has said. … The Palestinian news agency, WAFA, quoted Abu Rdaineh as saying that the first meeting would aim to develop a procedural working plan for both sides to enable them to advance in talks in the coming months
FT comments: Doubt cast on Israeli-Palestinian talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s cabinet is sharply divided, while Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority leader, has few friends in Hamas
Beyond guidelines and the green line, a chance for peace?
(OpenCanada.org) This week the European Union published guidelines that restrict interactions with Israeli settlements. According to the EU directive, an Israeli entity seeking funding from or cooperation with the European Union will have to demonstrate that it has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights. The EU decision follows on the heels of the Arab League’s endorsement of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s formula for restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Many Israeli government figures are criticizing the substance of the directive and the timing of its release, arguing that it undermines Secretary Kerry’s efforts. Was the decision a political one? Is the EU shifting toward a harder stance on Israel? What does the Israeli government’s response reveal about the chances that Kerry can bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the table to negotiate a real and lasting peace? OpenCanada asked Daniel Levy, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, to weigh in.
Times of Oman: Europe hasn’t stopped funding education, research and other projects in Israel but has insisted that Israel must give specific undertaking that European money will never ever be used to finance settlements.
Kerry says Israel, Palestinians lay groundwork for peace talks
(Reuters) – Israel and the Palestinians have laid the groundwork for resuming peace talks after an almost three-year stalemate, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday, although he cautioned the deal was not final and required more diplomacy.
Patrick Martin: Have the European Union’s sanctions made Israel jump?
(Globe & Mail) A bureaucratic guideline being officially published Friday by the European Union has sent political tremors through Israel. The EU, Israel’s largest trading partner with more than $36-billion in trade last year, is forbidding all 28 of its member states from engaging in any funding, co-operation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to anyone residing in a Jewish settlement in territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
For once, Europe is putting its money where its mouth is. While the measure falls far short of trade sanctions, if any Israeli institution or project wants to benefit from EU funding it must sign a guarantee that it operates entirely within the country’s pre-1967 borders and not in east Jerusalem, the West Bank or Golan Heights. In short, the new approach distinguishes, for all practical purposes, between the legal entity of Israel and Israel’s illegal occupation in those territories.
The initiative, which takes effect January 1, 2014, is an emphatic endorsement of the Palestinian argument that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem are usurping land that should be part of a Palestinian state.
‘The era of sanctions against Israel has started’: Official BDS movement statement on new EU regulations against settlements
by Palestinian BDS National Committee
European Investment Bank to stop loans to ‘virtually all’ major Israeli businesses and public bodies
New European Union guidelines will prevent Israeli ministries, public bodies and businesses that operate in occupied Palestinian territory from receiving loans worth hundreds of millions of Euros each year from the European Investment Bank, it emerged today. The EU will also stop awarding grant funding to Israeli ministries, public bodies or private businesses for activities that take place in occupied Palestinian territory, even if they are headquartered inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
According to a leaked version of the guidelines, the EU aims to ensure that its own institutions respect the obligation to not recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, including the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip as well as the Syrian Golan Heights.
Kerry gets extreme makeover as EU sanctions show nasty alternative
(Haaretz) Compared to prospective Euro-punishment, U.S.-sponsored peace talks are now the lesser of evils, even for those seeking an unabated settlement drive
The White House Threatens To End Aid if Palestine Joins ICC
(Scoop) Ramallah is being flooded with threats this month from Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, now on his 5th visit to the Middle East in as many months, Jordan’s King Hussein and reportedly, several others. The message for Mahmoud Abbas is that the Palestinian Authority risks a cut-off of funds and US dis-engagement from any “peace process” as well as the scrapping of the rumored “mega economic & development package” which Kerry aids are currently finalizing, if Palestine goes anywhere near the International Criminal Court.
It’s a tough call for President Mahmoud Abbas and his supporters because Hamas wants Palestine to immediately file cases against Israel at the ICC and so it appears, do a large majority of Palestinians, in Lebanon and internationally.
Occupied territories: “Popular discontent could result in another round of violence” – UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices
At the end of its latest fact-finding visit to Amman and Cairo (22-27 June 2013), the Committee also expressed serious concern at the wide range of Israeli practices that violate its obligations as the Occupying Power of the Palestinian and other Arab territories.
“Israel’s continued detention of an estimated 5,000 Palestinians should be of deep concern to the world,” said Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York, who currently heads the United Nations Special Committee. “Especially 20 prisoners who are on hunger strikes to protest abuses such as arbitrary detention, poor prison conditions, denial of family visits, solitary confinement, lack of access to education and negligent medical treatment.” – See more at: http://www.noodls.com/view/521FB012B2F9BCD1B0EA04136193F1E9B275BBC6#sthash.tjOjkWHd.dpuf
Analysis: Palestinian leader faces stark choices
(AP via Denver Post) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is being propelled toward a stark choice that could come as soon as next week, define his legacy and set the course for his people in a decades-old conflict with Israel.
Abbas’ aides fear he’s being pushed by the U.S. into dropping his conditions for negotiating with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That includes a stop in Israeli settlement construction or acceptance that the basis of a future border is Israel’s frontier before it captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in a 1967 war.
… The sense in Palestinian leadership circles is that there is no significant pressure on Netanyahu to adopt the framework for talks accepted by his predecessor and that a high-stakes choice cannot be delayed much longer.
At the heart of the Palestinian dilemma is that despite the American eagerness for talks and their own desire to end Israel’s 46-year-old occupation, they have low expectations of negotiations with Netanyahu.
New Palestinian prime minister offers resignation
(Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has offered his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas just two weeks after taking office, an official in his press office told Reuters on Thursday. …The official told Reuters Hamdallah made the abrupt, unexpected move because of a “dispute over his powers”.
A note on Hamdallah’s Facebook page said his decision came after “outside interferences in his powers and duties”.
With a moderate as Iran’s new face, Netanyahu will struggle to draw up support for an attack
(Haaretz) Israel would be wise to keep a low profile in the upcoming weeks, but should still make it clear to Obama that Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped regardless of the election results.
Today Israel bids a sad farewell to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that unexpected asset to Israeli public diplomacy, who served it so well during his eight years as president of Iran.
Diplomatic fiasco as PM’s office sends out unvetted statement on peace process
Foreign Ministry workers blast release of joint statement with Poland that denounces ‘unilateral steps’ — thus implying endorsement of settlement freeze
Palestinian PM Hamdallah sworn in, faces Hamas, economic issues
(Reuters) – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his West Bank-based government were sworn in on Thursday and one of their main challenges will be reaching a power-sharing deal with the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza.
46 Years on, Arab-Israeli War Still Leaving Its Mark
(IPS) On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive war against Arab armies amassed on its border. Within six days it had captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip (from which it withdrew unilaterally in 2005), the Sinai desert (which it returned to Egypt in exchange for a peace treaty signed in 1979), and Syria’s Golan Heights. … No immediate prospects exist to reconcile Israel’s hold and Palestinians’ claim over East Jerusalem, even as both peoples believe Jerusalem is the cradle of their religion and their nation and that East Jerusalem belongs exclusively to them.
Isolation Devastates East Jerusalem Economy
(IPS) Israel occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in 1967. In July 1980, it passed a law stating that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel”. But Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and subsequent application of Israeli laws over the entire city remain unrecognised by the international community.
Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory – along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syrian Golan Heights – and Palestinian residents of the city are protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Jerusalem has historically been the economic, political and cultural centre of life for the entire Palestinian population. But after decades languishing under destructive Israeli policies meant to isolate the city from the rest of the Occupied Territories and a lack of municipal services and investment, East Jerusalem has slipped into a state of poverty and neglect.
“After some 45 years of occupation, Arab Jerusalemites suffer from political and cultural schizophrenia, simultaneously connected with and isolated from their two hinterlands: Ramallah and the West Bank to their east, West Jerusalem and Israel to the west,” the International Crisis Group recently wrote.
Kerry to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks
US secretary of state on his fourth visit to Israel in an attempt to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Against Push for Peace Talks, Outposts Continue Israeli Land Grab
(IPS) In recent weeks, international actors, including the United States, have renewed efforts to get Israel to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank in order to restart long-stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. On Apr. 30, the Arab League said it would support potential land swaps along the 1967 Green Line in negotiations of final borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
But the growth of Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank … has been almost entirely omitted from the conversation. Such outposts are often precursors to full-fledged settlements, both of which are illegal under international law. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention also forbids an occupying power from transferring its civilian population to the territory it occupies.
For Palestinians, both settlements and outposts have the same negative impact on their lives. But the Israeli government views only outposts, not settlements, as illegal, sometimes dismantling them for being built without the required permits and then relocating residents to nearby settlements.
Settlements are generally much larger than outposts and receive full services and infrastructure, although the Israeli government does also provide outposts, which generally begin as a few caravans on a hilltop, with basic services such as water and electricity. The Israeli army also protects outpost residents, as it does all other Israeli settlers.
Israel’s Man in Damascus
Why Jerusalem Doesn’t Want the Assad Regime to Fall
(Foreign Affairs) Israel’s most significant strategic goal with respect to Syria has always been a stable peace, and that is not something that the current civil war has changed. Israel will intervene in Syria when it deems it necessary; last week’s attacks testify to that resolve. But it is no accident that those strikes were focused solely on the destruction of weapons depots, and that Israel has given no indication of wanting to intervene any further. Jerusalem, ultimately, has little interest in actively hastening the fall of Bashar al-Assad.
Israel knows one important thing about the Assads: for the past 40 years, they have managed to preserve some form of calm along the border. Technically, the two countries have always been at war — Syria has yet to officially recognize Israel — but Israel has been able to count on the governments of Hafez and Bashar Assad to enforce the Separation of Forces Agreement from 1974, in which both sides agreed to a cease-fire in the Golan Heights, the disputed vantage point along their shared border. Indeed, even when Israeli and Syrian forces were briefly locked in fierce fighting in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war, the border remained quiet.
UN: Improve Palestinian economic conditions
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development is calling on Israel to improve the economic conditions of the Palestinian people. UNCTAD’s report says, “Palestinian poverty in Jerusalem has risen steadily over the last decade,” and 82% of Palestinian children residing in East Jerusalem are impoverished. Al Jazeera (5/8)
Syria Blames Israel for Fiery Attack in Damascus
(NYT) Israel would not confirm that it had carried out the airstrikes, but the four explosions near the Syrian capital demonstrated a firepower more potent than any seen before in the country’s civil war.
No early warning for U.S. on Israeli strikes in Syria
(Reuters) – The United States was not given any warning before air strikes in Syria against what Western and Israeli officials say were weapons headed for Hezbollah militants, a U.S. intelligence official said on Sunday.
Israeli settlers use six times more water than Palestinians — new report
(Electronic Intifada) In a new report released today, the organization exposes how Israel operates a system of water apartheid. Palestinian communities are strangled by Israel’s water policies through unlawful exploitation and appropriation of water resources, confiscation and destruction of water infrastructure and restriction of water supply, it says.
Al-Haq concludes that Israel’s water apartheid policies are based on three pillars. The first pillar concerns the distinction between two racial groups. The second pillar consists of the policies and practices that facilitate the segregation of the population into different geographical areas. The third pillar rests upon the use of “security” laws to “justify” inhuman acts against Palestinians.
Dr. Charles G. Cogan: The Palestinian Occupation: Even (Or Especially) the ‘Gatekeepers’ Say It Isn’t Working
(HuffPost) I saw, earlier this week, the astonishing film, The Gatekeepers, a documentary of interviews with six former chiefs of the Israeli Internal Security Service, the Shin Beth. …
Though the two situations are different in that, unlike the French in Algeria, the Israelis, back in history, had a leading presence in the land they much, much later moved in on; nevertheless, there are similarities. What struck me most about The Gatekeepers was reminiscent of The Battle of Algiers: thousands and thousands of indigenous faces shouting or silently expressing their unhappiness at living under the thumb of foreign occupying forces. Looking at this sea of frustration, in frames that must have come largely from official Israeli footage, I said to myself, how can the Israelis, in continuing an occupation that has lasted over 45 years, hope to contain this movement?
Jonathan Kay: Netanyahu’s pride-swallowing apology is a service to Israel
… As for Obama, he continues to stymie the critics who claimed he was a spineless naïf on the world stage. He hasn’t yet brought peace to the Middle East or destroyed Iran’s nuclear program. But his sheer perseverance on the Israel-Turkey file, combined with his (much mocked) faith in diplomacy and human rationality, has brought together two feuding American allies, and produced a win-win-win for all three nations.
The Daily Beast tells a slightly different story, but admits that [a] “senior Obama administration official said the phone call where Netanyahu apologized to Erdogan from a trailer at the Ben Gurion Airport right before Obama departed the country on Friday was not scheduled until late the night before.”
How the United States Helped Behind the Scenes of the Israel-Turkey Deal
The diplomatic breakthrough between Israel and Turkey announced Friday and touted as the main policy achievement of President Obama’s first trip to Israel was years in the making, U.S. and Israeli officials tell the Daily Beast. Obama played it cool, and didn’t press Prime Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver the apology that finally let the two nations reconcile after a nearly three-year feud, according to Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Obama makes direct peace appeal to the Israeli people
(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama appealed directly on Thursday to the Israeli people to put themselves in the shoes of stateless Palestinians and recognize that Jewish settlement activity in occupied territory hurts prospects for peace.
In a showcase speech in Jerusalem to Israeli university students Text of Obama’s Speech in Israel, Obama coupled his plea with an acknowledgement of the Jewish state’s security concerns in a region destabilized by the West’s nuclear standoff with Iran and civil war in Syria.
But he urged Israel’s younger generation to demand that their politicians take risks for peace in an address interrupted frequently by applause, including a standing ovation for the president during a brief outburst by a heckler. J Street is ecstatic
Yuri M. Zhukov: Trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea — The Coming Dash for Gas
In recent years, resource disputes in the South China Sea have made headlines across the world. But another body of water — the Mediterranean — is rapidly becoming as volatile as its eastern cousin. Exploratory drilling near the coasts of Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey has unearthed vast reserves of natural gas. Competition over the rights to tap those resources is compounding existing tensions over sovereignty and maritime borders.
Ehud Eiran and Yuval Zur: Israel’s Missing Naval Strategy
(Foreign Affairs) A small country hemmed in on its land borders by adversaries, Israel has always relied on the Mediterranean to avoid commercial and political isolation. New developments at sea, including the discovery of natural gas deposits and the growth of illicit trade, will only increase the importance of maritime issues for the country. Israel needs a comprehensive maritime strategy.
Palestinians Prepare a Bitter Welcome for Obama
(IPS) – Many Palestinians seem hostile to the visit.
The U.S. refused to take part in the debate in Geneva on Israeli settlements and their effects on Palestinians, accusing the UN of being biased against Israel. …
There are over 500,000 Israeli settlers in the Palestinian Territories, including nearly 200,000 in occupied East Jerusalem. The settlers live in more than a hundred settlements and about as many outposts, all illegal under international law. Obama … has ruled out demanding a construction freeze in Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Obama’s hands-off approach is sure to be interpreted as a green light to Israel’s newly formed government. The coalition comprises three pro-settler parties with all ministerial positions affecting West Bank settlement activity in the hands of settlers or their supporters.
Israelis Distrust Obama’s Resolve on Iranian Nukes, Syrian Weapons
(Newsmax) Israeli settlement expansion lies at the heart of much of the rancour between Netanyahu and Obama [emphasis added], who has said the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement.
Most major powers regard settlements as illegal under international law and an impediment to peace. The Israelis claim historical and biblical ties to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, home to some 500,000 settlers, and dispute their building in these areas is illegal.
All Israeli leaders since 1967 have backed the settlement movement, but Netanyahu has been especially supportive. Yuval Steinitz, who was replaced as finance minister last Friday, said in November that the government had quietly doubled the portion of the national budget dedicated to West Bank settlements.
In December and January, Israel announced plans to build more than 11,000 new houses on land Palestinians want for a future state. Pro-settler politicians have landed several top jobs in the new Netanyahu government, including the housing minister, who has pledged to keep on building.
Many Western diplomats based in Jerusalem privately question whether the so-called two-state solution, of an independent Israel living alongside an independent Palestine, is still viable given the never-ending expansion of settlement blocs.
Israel’s press says Obama has pointedly not invited students from a university in the West Bank settlement of Ariel to attend a speech he is meant to give in Jerusalem this week.
Israel PM Netanyahu strikes coalition deal with rivals
Political partners to sign agreement to form new government that will be the first without ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties
(The Guardian) Binyamin Netanyahu emerged from seven weeks of deadlocked negotiations with his political rivals on Thursday to announce a coalition deal just days before Barack Obama is due to fly into the country.
A slimmer Israeli government of 22 ministers will be sworn in on Monday with an agenda that places domestic, social issues ahead of the regional security concerns that dominated the previous coalition.
Netanyahu will be prime minister, Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, will be finance minister and Neftali Bennett, head of a party linked to the West Bank settler movement, is minister of trade and industry. Moshe Ya’alon of Netanyahu’s Likud party is to be defence minister, replacing Ehud Barak.
With the deal yet to be signed, Netanyahu told a party meeting on Thursday afternoon: “We have reclaimed the defence portfolio, and the foreign affairs portfolio remains in our hands. These are the ministries most vital to the management of the state.”
Netanyahu’s gambit to bring centrist rival into Cabinet seems to have backfired as coalition crumbles under him
(National Post) It is now uncertain whether Netanyahu will meet an initial deadline next week for forming a new coalition, and it is possible that he will fail altogether and the task will be assigned to a rival, most likely former TV anchorman Yair Lapid, a new political star who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party.
Rivals are also openly talking about the possibility of forcing new elections, just a month after a parliamentary election ended in virtual deadlock.
LEON WIESELTIER: Good Fences, Bad Neighbors: Israel and the Palestinians
(The New Republic) The argument from security cannot account for the precise contours of the partition. “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in and walling out,” declares the most celebrated poem about fences, “and to whom I was like to give offense.” The West Bank wall denotes not only protection but also domination. A wall is an instrument of power, a political interpretation of space. It has two sides, and they are experienced differently. The wall has been cunningly drawn to include many Israeli settlements in the West Bank on the Israeli side of the line: it is a blunt premonition of sovereignty. It has also senselessly disrupted the communal and economic life of many Palestinians. If good fences make good neighbors, then bad fences make bad neighbors
A History of Misunderstanding
In the largest study ever conducted, Israeli and Palestinian researchers reveal that both sides need to take a closer look at the books they teach.
(Slate) Today marks the release of the largest study comparing Palestinian and Israeli text books to date. Most of the experts who sat on an advisory panel for the study said that it set “a new worldwide standard for textbook analysis.” Funded with $500,000 from the U.S. State Department and commissioned by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, a Jerusalem-based group of senior Islamic, Jewish, and Christian religious figures, the study was conducted by a team of Palestinian and Israeli researchers and designed by Yale psychiatrist Bruce Wexler. The results are telling as much as for the good news they bring as for the bad. And so is the reaction to them, notably from the Israeli Ministry of Education, which immediately denounced them as “biased, unprofessional, and significantly lacking in objectivity.” Hmm. Maybe for Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the Israeli right, on the subject of what kids learn in school, there is no place for even-handedness.
An intelligent and even-handed analysis
Jonathan Kay: The rights and wrongs of Israel — as seen from the British Mandate
(National Post) … This emphasis on the British colonialists may seem historically obscure. But because the Mandate was caught in the middle, between Jew and Arab, its chroniclers supplied the last historically authoritative third-party perspective. Seeing the conflict through their eyes provides a valuable reality check on both sides’ self-serving narratives.
(The Economist|Pomegranate) The hawks’ wings are clipped
A better-than-expected performance by a middle-of-the-road party may pull Binyamin Netanyahu back to the centre
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Israeli election results show a shift toward the center
(Foreign Policy) Preliminary results of Israel’s election show a weakened Benjamin Netanyahu, who is nonetheless likely to serve a third term as prime minister, and a surprising shift toward the center. Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu bloc came out on top with a predicted 31 seats out of the 120 in the Knesset. Coming in second, the new centrist Yesh Atid, There is a Future, led by former television personality Yair Lapid unexpectedly took a projected 19 seats. The center-left Labor party came in third taking an estimated 15 seats. Arab parties are projected to have won 12 seats. Netanyahu, entering the race as an overwhelming favorite, toned down the hawkish rhetoric he used to appeal to the right wing during the campaign, and said he would seek “as broad a government as possible.” However, building a coalition could prove to be difficult and might take weeks. According to a senior member of Yesh Atid, whoever wants to include the party in the coalition will have to prioritize the peace process with the Palestinians and ending the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from military conscription. Netanyahu said the first challenge for the new Knesset “was and remains preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
Why Netanyahu failed and Lapid surprised
(Haaretz) Again and again, Netanyahu was photographed at the Western Wall and with IDF soldiers. All this may have looked good on his Facebook page, but it didn’t speak to Israelis’ hearts. Lapid, on the other hand, adapted his message to voters’ interests.
Israeli PM orders eviction of Palestinian activists outside Jerusalem
Move follows creation of village comprising around 20 tents on piece of land earmarked for settlement development
(The Guardian) The Israeli state has swung into action against a group of Palestinian activists who set up a tent village on a rocky hillside east of Jerusalem, with the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, ordering the military to evict the protesters and impose a closed military zone in the area.
Netanyahu demanded the Israeli supreme court overturn [emphasis added] an injunction preventing the removal of the protesters, and ordered the closure of access roads in the area pending a full-scale evacuation.
Israel’s PM plans to build Syria-Golan fence
Binyamin Netanyahu pledges to erect 70km barrier along eastern edge of occupied Golan Heights to stop “jihad” fighters.
(Al Jazeera) Israel worries that Assad might try to draw it into the fighting as a distraction if his situation becomes desperate. An even greater concern for Israel is a scenario in which Assad is toppled, Islamists take his place and gain control of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Naftali Bennett: The Zionist pin-up blazing a trail ahead of Israeli poll
With the most hotly contested general election in years on the horizon, the rhetoric has become increasingly fiery. And blazing a bigger trail than all his rivals is the software tycoon-turned-Zionist pin-up