Israel – Palestine/Gaza 2014
After 50 days of the Gaza conflict, more than 2,100 people were killed,
most of them civilians, including about 500 children.
Photograph: Majdi Fathi/Corbis
Terms of indefinite ceasefire – brokered by Egypt – expected to be similar to those agreed at the end of 2012 conflict
The war in Gaza ended on Tuesday after Israel and the Palestinians agreed to halt fighting indefinitely, putting an end to seven weeks of catastrophic loss of life and destruction, but on terms which are likely to leave many on both sides of the conflict wondering what had been achieved.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad – the main militant groups in Gaza – the Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed on an open-ended ceasefire beginning at 7pm on Tuesday evening, bringing relief to civilians on both sides of the border.
But the terms of the deal – brokered by the Egyptian government, and reached on the 50th day of the conflict – appeared to be almost identical to those agreed at the end of the previous war 21 months ago. Israel will open crossings on its border to allow the humanitarian aid and construction materials to enter Gaza, and will extend the permitted fishing zone to six miles off the coast of Gaza. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is also to be opened.
More difficult issues will be deferred for further indirect talks between the two parties in a month. They include Hamas’s demands for an airport and seaport in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners, and Israel’s insistence on the disarmament of militant groups and the return of the remains of two of its soldiers killed in the fighting.
Netanyahu saw his chance to run away from Gaza, and he took it
All Israel’s prime minister wanted in the end – after all the promises, and the rhetoric – was to achieve a cease-fire with Hamas at just about any price.
(Haaretz) Without a formal discussion, without a vote, in laconic telephone updates with members of the security cabinet – that is how the government of Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu in August 2014 approved a cease-fire agreement with a terror organization. The same Benjamin Netanyahu who ran for election five years ago, after Operation Cast Lead, on the platform that the mission had not been accomplished, that Hamas rule had to be destroyed and that he was the only one who could do it.
Netanyahu’s conduct during the 50 days of fighting in Gaza highlighted the gap between his statements and promises and the reality. The prime minister, who was the most strident in his statement against Hamas, ended the confrontation with the organization in the weakest position. All he wanted was to achieve a cease-fire at just about any price. When the opportunity came, he simply grabbed it and ran.
The Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel accepted on Tuesday did not deliver a single achievement. The only thing that the prime minister’s spokesmen could boast about on Tuesday was the denial of achievements to Hamas, such as the dissolution of its demands for a sea port, an airport and salary payments. But all those demands will be raised during the negotiations with Hamas that will resume in Cairo next week.
In return for unlimited quiet, Israel agreed to immediately open the border crossings with Gaza to humanitarian aid and to extend the fishing zone to a distance of six nautical miles. Israel also agreed to the immediate entry of construction materials for the rebuilding of Gaza, without any guarantee from either Egypt or Hamas for the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the cement and concrete is not used for the rehabilitation of the tunnels project.
Acting the Landlord: Israel’s Policy in Area C, the West Bank
Counter to international law, Israel encourages its own nationals to settle in the West Bank. Israel allocates vast tracts of land and generous water supplies to these settlements, draws up detailed plans that take into account both current requirements and future expansion, and turns a blind eye to violations of planning and construction laws in settlements.
Some 60 percent of West Bank lands have been classified as “Area C” and are under full and exclusive Israeli control. Area C is home to an estimated 180,000 Palestinians and includes the major residential and development land reserves for the entire West Bank. Israel prohibits Palestinian construction and development on some 70 percent of Area C territory, arguing various rationales, such as being “state lands” or “firing zones.” Israel’s planning and construction policy virtually ignores the needs of the local population: it refuses to recognize most of the villages in the area or draw up plans for them, prevents the expansion and development of Palestinian communities, demolishes homes and does not allow the communities to hook up to infrastructure. Thousands of inhabitants live under the constant threat of expulsion for living in alleged firing zones or “illegal” communities. In addition, Israel has taken over most of the water sources in Area C and has restricted Palestinian access to them.
In theory, Israel retains full control in the West Bank only of Area C. In practice, Israel’s control of Area C adversely affects all Palestinian West Bank residents.
— B’Tselem | The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories Report Summary June 2013
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
Critics of the United Nations’ Relief Agency in Gaza Don’t Have Their Facts Straight
(New Republic) t is a very serious charge to accuse the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Palestine of supporting terrorism and one that Alexander Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky made without a scintilla of factual documentation in their recent opinion piece, “Stop Giving Money to the U.N.’s Relief Agency for Palestinians.”
These two critics have misled the public apparently in hopes of scoring a cheap political shot against a humanitarian agency toiling in one of the most dangerous areas of the world. Despite the extreme danger—eleven of my colleagues have already been killed—UNRWA staff bravely continue to come to work every day to help those civilians most in need. Without their herculean efforts, civil society in Gaza would have already collapsed as UNRWA overwhelmingly provides safe shelter, food, drinking water, health care and sanitation to over a million civilians traumatized by this conflict.
Entitled ideology supporting ‘incineration’ of Gaza resonates with Nazi ideology — Siegman
An astonishing piece by Henry Siegman, at the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center, goes further than this Jewish leader, who escaped the Holocaust himself, has gone before. Siegman categorically defends the right of resistance for a subject people exposed to the violence of occupiers in occupied lands and says Palestinians may exercise the same right of resistance exercised by Jewish people in the 1940s. He uses the words “Dresden” and “incineration” to describe the destruction of Gaza, and then explicitly likens Netanyahu’s ideology of Jewish exceptionalism to the ideology of the Nazis.
Gaza conflict: Israel ‘targets Hamas leader Deif’
(BBC) Hamas says the wife and child of its military commander, Mohammed Deif, have been killed in an Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip.
At least 19 Palestinians have died since hostilities resumed on Tuesday, with both sides blaming each other for the collapse of the Cairo peace talks.
The Israeli military said it had carried out 92 air strikes in response to 137 rockets fired at its territory.
Six weeks of fierce fighting have left at least 2,103 people dead.
Egypt has expressed “profound regret” at the end of the 10-day period of calm and said it will continue trying to secure a lasting truce.
Opinion: Gaza’s larger political context
The conflict is really a proxy war between two larger regional power blocs in the Middle East
By Howard Gerson and Harold Waller
(Montreal Gazette) One way to view the current Gaza conflict, as ceasefire negotiations take place this week, is in a regional context, as a proxy war between Islamist powers such as Turkey, Qatar and Iran, and an unusual alliance of Israel and conservative Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The moderate Sunni Arab states fear the rising tide of Sunni extremism as well as Shiite Iran, whose influence is projected through its Islamist proxies — Hamas in Gaza; Hezbollah in Lebanon; and as supporter of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, where about 170,000 have been killed so far.
Both Israel and the Palestinians are now suffering from these internal Muslim divisions. They are also suffering from something else: the Obama administration’s ambivalent foreign policy, and refusal to take a clear leadership role in relation to regional divisions.
As a result, there has been a terrible human cost in blood in the Gaza conflict, and also the perpetuation of a situation where Gaza’s civilians and the legitimate goal of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip remain hostages of Hamas and its supporters.
The August 1 edition of Foreign Affairs has a number of worthwhile articles related to Israel and Gaza including
Welcome to the Third Intifada
After Gaza, Palestine’s Uprising Will Spread to the West Bank
For Israeli policymakers, another concentrated war against Gaza was preferable to the possibility of another West Bank uprising against Israel, akin to the so-called intifadas that occurred in the late 1980s and the early 2000s. Contrary to what Israelis may have hoped, however, the present war has made a third intifada more, not less, likely.
David Remnick: Gaza and a Summer of Strife
(New Yorker, Aug 4 edition) Last week, Reuven Rivlin, the scion of an old, right-wing Jerusalem family, took the oath of office as Israel’s President. The post is largely ceremonial, but there was meaning in the occasion. Rivlin was replacing Shimon Peres, who was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1994, for his role in forging the Oslo Accords. Peres, who is ninety, is a champion of the two-state solution. Rivlin is a champion of the Israeli settlers. As he has put it, “I wholeheartedly believe that the land of Israel is ours in its entirety.” Tragically, it is Rivlin’s absolutist view that is in the ascendance for so many, both in Palestine and in Israel. ♦
Finnish TV Reporter at Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital: ‘It’s True That Rockets Are Launched Here From the Gazan Side Into Israel’ (VIDEO)
(The Algemeiner) A television reporter from Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat, the “Helsinki Dispatch,” spent the night reporting from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, where she saw Hamas militants launching a rocket from the hospital’s parking lot, confirming a war crime that few journalists have dared report.
Using hospitals, schools and mosques to store weapons or as a military base is against international rules of war. The Al Shifa Hospital, in particular, has been an area of focus after journalists reported that Hamas was using the hospital as a headquarters, but many of their reports were withdrawn, deleted on social media or actually taken off their newspaper websites because of fears for their safety and retribution from Hamas for reporting the truth.
John Reed — Gaza: four end-game scenarios
(Financial Times blog) Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.
The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.
Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.
But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.
As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own):
‘The world stands disgraced’ – Israeli shelling of school kills at least 15
• UN condemns IDF attack on sleeping children as violation of international law
• Strike on crowded market in Shujai’iya during ceasefire kills 17
• Death toll now more than 1,300 after three weeks of fighting
Israel on Thursday was showing no sign of scaling back Operation Protective Edge, with the military reportedly calling up an additional 16,000 reserves as the offensive entered its 24th day.
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.
Why Is Israel Losing a War It’s Winning?
Six reasons why Israel is on the back foot even as it wins the battle against rockets and tunnels
(The Atlantic) 1. In a fight between a state actor and a non-state actor, the non-state actor can win merely by surviving. The party with tanks and planes is expected to win; the non-state group merely has to stay alive in order to declare victory. In a completely decontextualized, emotion-driven environment, Hamas can portray itself as the besieged upstart, even when it is the party that rejects ceasefires, and in particular because it is skilled at preventing journalists from documenting the activities of its armed wing. (I am differentiating here between Hamas’s leadership and Gaza’s civilians, who are genuinely besieged, from all directions.)
2. Hamas’s strategy is to bait Israel into killing Palestinian civilians, and Israel usually takes the bait. Read more
(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.
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
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 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.