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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Uri Avnery

January 18, 2013

           

 

                                                The Imperator

 

IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him – a meeting with Yasser Arafat.

 

A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.

 

I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president.

 

What about the West Bank?” I asked.

 

Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.” 

 

My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me.

 

 

SHARON’S PLAN was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres – believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.

 

Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in Jordan were battling the Hashemite regime there, Israel came to the aid of the king at the request of Henry Kissinger. I proposed the opposite in my magazine: to aid the Palestinians. Sharon later told me that he, a general at the time, had asked the General Staff to do the same, though for a different end. My idea was to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, his was to create it in the East Bank.

 

(The idea of turning Jordan into Palestine has a generally unknown linguistic background. In Hebrew usage, “Eretz Israel” is the land on both sides of the Jordan River, where the ancient Hebrew tribes settled according to the Biblical myth. In Palestinian usage, “Filastin” is only the land on the West side of the river. Therefore is quite natural for ignorant Israelis to ask the Palestinians to set up their state beyond the Jordan. For Palestinians, that means setting up their state abroad.)

 

 

AT THE time, Sharon was in political exile.

 

In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.

 

When he left the army, Sharon almost single-handedly created the Likud by unifying all the right-wing parties. That’s when I chose him the first time as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year and wrote a large biographical article about him. A few days later, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Sharon was drafted back into the army. His part in it is considered by many as pure genius, by others as a story of insubordination and luck. A photo of him with his head bandaged became his trademark, though it was only a slight wound caused by hitting his head on his command vehicle. (To be fair, he was really wounded in battle, like me, in 1948.)

 

After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of “the battle of the generals”. He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.

 

He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That’s when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.

 

He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and “outstanding personalities” from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.

 

I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims. Sharon fitted the recipe. (As Yitzhak Rabin did later.) Yet during our conversations it became clear to me that he had basically remained a right-winger.

 

In the end Sharon set up a new party called Shlomtzion (“Peace of Zion”), which was a dismal failure on election day. The next day, he rejoined the Likud.

 

The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If Sharon had hoped to be appointed Minister of Defense, he was soon disabused. Begin did not trust him. Sharon looked like a general who might organize a coup. The powerful new Finance Minister said that if Sharon became commander-in-chief, he would “send his tanks to surround the Knesset.”

 

(There was a joke making the rounds at the time:  Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!” For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)

 

However, when Begin’s preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint Sharon as his successor. For the second time I chose Sharon as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year. He took this very seriously and sat with me for many hours, in several meetings at his home and office, in order to explain his ideas.

 

One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the US strategic planners, was to conquer Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini dies, he said, there will begin a race between the Soviet Union and the US to determine who will arrive first on the scene and take over. The US is far away, but Israel can do the job. With the help of heavy arms that the US will store in Israel well before, our army will be in full possession before the Soviets move. He showed me the detailed maps of the advance, hour by hour and day by day.

 

This was typical Sharon, His vision was wide and all-embracing. His listener was left breathless, comparing him to the ordinary little politicians, devoid of vision and breadth. But his ideas were generally based on abysmal ignorance of the other side, and therefore came to naught.

 

 

AT THE same time, nine months before the Lebanon War, he disclosed to me his Grand Plan for a new Middle East of his making. He allowed me to publish it, provided I did not mention him as the source. He trusted me.

 

Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.

 

The army would invade Lebanon and drive the Palestinians from there to Syria, from whence the Syrians would drive them into Jordan. There the Palestinians would overthrow the king and establish the State of Palestine.

 

The army would also drive the Syrians out of Lebanon. In Lebanon Sharon would choose a Christian officer and install him as dictator. Lebanon would make official peace with Israel and in effect become a vassal state.

 

I duly published all this, and nine months later Sharon invaded Lebanon, after lying to Begin and the cabinet about his aims. But the war was a catastrophe, both militarily and politically.

 

Militarily it was a demonstration of “the Peter principle” – the brilliant battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with Israel, which has been completely forgotten by now. The Syrians remained in Lebanon for many years to come. The Israeli army extricated itself after a guerrilla war that lasted 18 full years, during which the despised and downtrodden Shiites in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon became the dominant political force in the country.

 

And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and Sharon was dismissed from the defense ministry.

 

At the height of the Battle of Beirut I crossed the lines and met with Yasser Arafat, who had become Sharon’s Nemesis. Since then, Sharon and I did not exchange a single word, not even greeting each other.

 

 

IT LOOKED like the end of Sharon’s career. But for Sharon, every end was a new beginning.

 

One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: “Those who don’t want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don’t want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister.” Today one could add: “Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon.”  

 

An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: “He was an Imperator!” I find this a very apt description.

 

Like a Roman imperator, Sharon was a supreme being, admired and feared,

generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.

 

One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.

 

He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead Israel. He did not think so – he knew. For him, his personal career and the fate of Israel were one and the same. Therefore, anyone who tried to block him was a traitor to Israel. He despised everyone around him – from Begin down to the last politician and general.

 

His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.

 

When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.

 

Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: “Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!”

 

How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.

 

 

SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): “If force does not work, try more force.”

 

I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. “How can you?” I asked him. His answer: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!” I told him that for me it was the other way round.

 

Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the territory of Israel without limit. His military career started for real in the 1950s when Moshe Dayan put him in charge of an unofficial outfit called Unit 101, which was sent across the border to kill and destroy, in retaliation for similar actions committed by Arabs. His most famous exploit was the massacre of Qibya village in 1953, when 49 innocent villagers were buried under the houses which he blew up.

 

Later, when requested to put an end to “terrorism” in Gaza, he killed every Arab who was caught with arms. When I later asked him about killing prisoners, he answered: “I did not kill prisoners. I did not take prisoners!”

 

At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.

 

 

THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.

 

He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).

 

He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the West Bank into ribbons which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Then he rammed it through the cabinet and the ministries. Not for nothing was he nicknamed “the Bulldozer”.

 

The “Israel Defense Army” (its official Hebrew name) turned into the “Settlers Defense Army”, sinking slowly in the morass of the occupation.

 

However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with Egypt, in order to concentrate on the war with the Palestinians, he destroyed the entire town of Yamit in North Sinai and the adjacent settlements. Later he did the same to the settlements in the Gaza Strip, attracting the enduring hatred of the settlers, his erstwhile proteges. He acted like a general who is ready to sacrifice a brigade to improve his overall strategic position. 

 

 

WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.

 

In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as Israel. His personal history is interwoven with the history of Israel.

 

His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted all over the West Bank – each of them a landmine which will have to be removed at great risk when the time comes.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 12th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

The World Union for Progressive Judaism marks with sadness the passing of –

Ariel Sharon z”l – Throughout his life, he was always in service to his country.  We will ever be grateful for his passion for the State of Israel.  

We share the words of our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism:

“All Rend for 

the Fallen President”  

(Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning 9:14)

 

Ariel Sharon 1928-2014

The Reform Movement in Israel, its communities, its members and its rabbis express their grief over the death of Ariel Sharon, the 11th Prime Minister of Israel;
a native son and lover of his country.

In an era where the willingness to devote one’s greatest personal efforts to “the public need for faith” (from the Shabbat morning prayers) is not obvious, the life’s work of the late Ariel Sharon is another chapter in the story of a generation, who knew that his actions would tip the scales.

In view of his passing on Shabbat “Beshalach” – with the Song of the Sea – we dedicate to his memory this beautiful Gemara passage:

“Rabbi Judah said: [while the Children of Israel stood at the shores of the Sea] Each one argued with the next saying, “I do not want to go into the sea first.” While they argued, Nahshon son of Amminadav jumped up and went into the sea first.”
Bavli Sotah 36, 72

 

Our condolences

to his family

==============================

American Jewish Leaders Mourn Ariel Sharon; Praise Political Pragmatism and Military Prowess

by the Algemeiner Staff

 

January 12, 2014 3:35 pm

American Jewish organizations and their leaders expressed condolences to the family of recently deceased Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, in statements issued Saturday and Sunday.

The groups recounted their experiences working with Sharon who died on Saturday aged 85, and remembered him as a bold and courageous leader.

Robert G. Sugarman, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, “There were few in Israel’s history who contributed so much to the State, who demonstrated courage and bravery as well as keen insight and incisive thinking.”

“Prime Minister Sharon always went out of his way to discuss and take into consideration the views of the diaspora community and valued his role not only as Prime Minister of Israel but also as a leader of the Jewish people,” Hoenlein and Sugarman said.

Leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Abraham H. Foxman remembered Sharon as, “A great military leader who fought in Israel’s five wars,” and who “capped his career by becoming a true statesman and a prime minister who earned the support of a wide swath of the Israeli public and the international community.”

“Through his steadfast leadership, and his courageous advocacy of positions and policies that were often controversial yet always with Israel’s best interests at heart, Prime Minister Sharon helped his people emerge” from the second Intifada, they said. “His legacy is a more secure State of Israel, safe on its borders and resolved to put an end to the campaign of Palestinian terrorism once and for all.”

B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said that, “Israel lost a unique and unusual leader who demonstrated the ability to change his way of thinking and seeking out new paths.”

“He was a brave and fearless soldier, a wise and brilliant leader, who left a lasting impact on Israel,” he said. “Each time Israel was threatened with extinction, Ariel Sharon rose to defend her.”

“He lived the Zionist dream as farmer, soldier and statesman, always mindful of the tremendous responsibilities cast his way on the battlefield or at the diplomatic table,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added.

“With the passing of Ariel Sharon, a defining chapter in Israel’s history goes with him,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “He was a man of towering strength, uncompromising commitment, steely determination, and creative vision.”

“He was among the giants of Israel’s founding generation. Against all the odds, they established the democratic state, defended it against those who sought its destruction, and participated in its remarkable growth and development over the last nearly six decades,” the AJC said. “While he fully understood the importance of military strength and strategic acumen to ensure Israel’s security in a turbulent region, he also displayed a political pragmatism that surprised his external and domestic critics.”

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces highlighted Sharon’s military career. “He fought and won many battles,” the group said. “We appreciate his contribution to the defense of Israel and will remember him as one of the most well respected commanders of all time.”

Rabbi Leonard Matanky, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said, “We are grateful for the many positive contributions he made to the State of Israel.”

The National Jewish Democratic Council called Sharon “a true defender of Israel,” while the Republican Jewish Coalition said, “He was a great warrior who fought wholeheartedly for Israel’s existence, security, and well-being.”

Sharon will be buried in a military ceremony, in a State Funeral,  on Monday, January 13th,  at his ranch in Israel’s Negev. World leaders, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, are expected to be in attendance.

=============================================

Late PM’s bureau chief Dov Weissglass, in a conference call for The Israel Project a few hours after Israel’s eleventh prime minister passed away on Saturday, Weissglass said Sharon and president George W. Bush established a relationship of deep trust and open affection. The strength of that bond between the two leaders and their administrations, he said, helped ensure firm backing from the US for Sharon’s battle against Palestinian terrorism in the Second Intifada.

The partnership also yielded two “significant political accomplishments” for Israel, Weissglass added — citing what he said was written support from the US president for Israel’s retention of major settlement blocs under a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians, and for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in a Palestinian state “rather than in Israel.”

Weissglass’s description of the warm Sharon-Bush relationship contrasted sharply with the strains in ties between the administrations of Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, which have been openly at odds over Israeli settlement expansion and over strategies for thwarting Iran. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly slammed the interim accord on curbing Iran’s nuclear program, negotiated by the US and other world powers in Geneva in late November, as a historic mistake.

Weissglass would not be drawn on how Sharon would have been handling peace efforts with the Palestinians, or whether he would have ready to withdraw from the West Bank if he were prime minister today, saying he didn’t want to speculate on what Sharon might have done.

He did highlight Israel’s current regional strength, however, saying that, as a consequence of the Arab spring and current instabilities in neighboring states, “no single Arab state jeopardizes the existence of the state of Israel.”

On Iran, he specified that Sharon saw the nuclear threat as “an international problem, for the international community to deal with.” Sharon viewed a nuclear Iran as a threat “not just to the Middle East but even to Europe,” Weissglass said. He said Sharon believed Israel “should play a part” in the effort to stop Iran, “but not … a leading role.”

Nevertheless, extolling late leader for making ‘tough decisions’ and realizing ‘peace will make Israel stronger,’ US Secretary of State John Kerry hopes current PM will learn lesson.

Reading through the various statements made by presidents and prime ministers in the aftermath of Sharon’s death, one could get the impression that Sharon, in his 32 years in the Knesset and two terms as prime minister, did nothing but remove settlers from Palestinian territories in the pursuit of peace.

Western politicians, with almost no exception, looked only at Sharon’s life after he broke away from Likud and created the centrist Kadima party in late 2005, soon after he had overseen the dismantling of the Gaza settlements and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, for instance, focused his statement on the one action that the world appears to want to remember about Ariel Sharon: the “painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.” Sharon’s successor, Ban continued, without naming any names, now “faces the difficult challenge of realizing the aspirations of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The Secretary-General calls on Israel to build on the late Prime Minister’s legacy of pragmatism to work towards the long overdue achievement of an independent and viable Palestinian state, next to a secure Israel.”

A statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry also came off as less a personal tribute to Sharon and more a plea addressed to Netanyahu, imploring him to muster the courage to make the concessions necessary for the peace process to advance.

Kerry called Sharon a “big bear of a man,” who, after he became prime minister, “sought to bend the course of history toward peace, even as it meant testing the patience of his own longtime supporters and the limits of his own, lifelong convictions in the process.”
He was prepared to make tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and to give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace,” Kerry said of Sharon.

Tough decisions and difficult choices — that’s exactly what Kerry is asking of Netanyahu (and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, conspicuously silent in the immediate aftermath of Sharon’s passing). “We are now at a point where the choices narrow down and the choices are obviously real and difficult,” Kerry said on January 5, during his last visit in Jerusalem. As he prepared to present the two sides with a “framework agreement,” a position paper trying to help the two sides find some common ground, it was becoming “much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are and what the options are with respect to those choices,” he said.

The Kerry message to Netanyahu in his statement on Sharon could not have been clearer, or more similar to his recent peace-related remarks. Sharon “surprised many in his pursuit of peace,” Kerry stated, “and today, we all recognize, as he did, that Israel must be strong to make peace, and that peace will also make Israel stronger.”

Other world leaders also used the opportunity of eulogizing Sharon to talk about Netanyahu — or rather, talk to Netanyahu.

In a rather formulaic statement, US President Barack Obama paid tribute to a leader “who dedicated his life to the State of Israel,” and then went on to reaffirm America’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. “We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s implied message to Israel’s current prime minister was blunt, as he praised Sharon as a leader who “took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, through a spokesman, applauded Sharon’s “courageous decision” to withdraw settlers from the Gaza Strip, during the Disengagement, a “historic step on the path to a deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.”

But this approach is unfair to the deceased – bless his memory – and that is why we chose the Reform Judaism’s notice as opener to our posting. Indeed – there is much more to this “Bear of a Man” – he had a clear vision – was pragmatic and ready to change approach – but he never left his eye from the ultimate goal of a secure, prosperous, home for Jews living in a peaceful neighborhood – and indeed  he had no  place in his large stomach for those with a narrower vision.
The fact that Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority seemingly, have no intent to send representatives to the General’s funeral is just one little further proof that the recognition that Israel is there as part of a new Middle East has not reached yet their leaders.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

 

 Gibson Bible Atlas   —  Canaan before Abraham

Copyright 1927, 2003

The land of Canaan before Abraham

Annexation and the return of the one-state solution.

Monday, January 6, 2014 – published by the Palestine Center, The Jerusalem Fund, Washington DC – Written by Jack LeVine it was previously posted by Al Jezeera.www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/43942/pid/895

 

From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article is by Mark LeVine was published by Al Jazeera on 2 January 2014.

Mark LeVine writes what he writes – and we like to extend it to its logical target – the establishment of an Abrahamic State that is neither Jewish nor Muslim, in parts of the pre-Abraham Land of Canaan,  and to allow our readers the right to think for themselves and decide if this albatross can fly:

“Annexation and the return of the one-state solution

It was yet another slap in the face of the United States, Israel’s main patron without whom its existence, never mind its ability to maintain an ever intensifying occupation without fear of mentionable consequence, would be very much in question.

In direct response to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to establish a set of “security arrangements” that would, some day (Kerry apparently is suggesting after another decade), allow some level of Palestinian control over the security of the West Bank (wasn’t that supposed to happen during Oslo?  And isn’t it in fact already the de jure arrangement in Areas A and B?),  the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to annex the Jordan Valley permanently to Israel.

Modus operandi

This is, by no means, the first vote or decision taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government to challenge the Obama Administration’s attempts to play at peace-making in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In fact, announcing settlement expansion plans whenever a senior US official is visiting Israel to “jumpstart” or “save” the “peace process” has long been standard operating procedure for the Israeli government, as the Obama Administration learned early in 2010 when Vice President Joe Biden was greeted upon arriving in Israel with the “highly inflammatory announcement” of plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. The Americans feigned anger at the “brutally contemptuous rebuff” to their good-faith efforts to resuscitate Oslo, but no one should have been surprised at the actions of  Netanyahu then, or now. Indeed, Netanyahu has been outmanoeuvering Obama since day one of the relationship.

This latest slap in the face comes after PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again “renounced claims” to Israel within its 1967 borders, this time singling out the one-time Palestinian-populated towns of Jaffa and Haifa, and accepted on-going settlement construction in return for freeing Palestinian prisoners. A few hundred Palestinian “detainees” are wonderful bargaining chips to play in lieu of actual policy changes whenever negotiations get serious.

Not surprisingly, the vote on annexation provoked the usual outcries by Palestinian officials, who decried the “indifference” to and “disrespect” for international law the vote represented.

Falling on deaf ears

This evaluation is certainly true, although the PA attacking Israel for disregarding international law is about as meaningful as the US criticising Saudi Arabia for refusing to let women drive. That is to say, it’s utterly devoid of meaning as long as they continue business as usual, which for the PA means doing whatever is necessary to keep the foreign aid, and salaries, flowing through its coffers.

But this latest attempt to annex the West Bank, as 2013 came to a close, offers both a tantalising glimpse of the future of Israel/Palestine and a good opportunity for Palestinians to start the New Year off in a way that throws the Israeli government back on its heels.  It could also turn the tide in the century-long conflict over the territory of Mandate-era Palestine.  It was not the PA, however, but the liberal Zionist Party Meretz that have taken the lead in doing so however.

Rather than denouncing the latest attempt to annex the West Bank as marking yet another nail in the coffin of a long rotted Oslo peace process, Meretz publicly declared it would no longer oppose votes to annex the Jordan Valley, which increases the likelihood such a vote could in fact pass the Knesset.

Meretz leaders have neither suddenly become territorial maximalists nor have they joined the one or bi-state camp that most self-described Zionists, regardless of how comparatively liberal their politics (from an Israeli perspective), still broadly refuse to support. But I don’t buy the refusal of Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon even to discuss a one-state future as reflecting the true nature of the shift inside Israeli liberal politics.  As the Israeli right becomes ever bolder in asserting territorially maximalist policies, and the religious establishment more blatantly bigoted, there is simply less space for liberal Zionists to operate as both liberal and Zionist.

The fact is that soon Israeli liberals, who are still a sizable minority of the population, are either going to vote with their heads or their feet – if the mainstream of Israeli political culture keeps moving to the right. A democratic state with rough demographic parity with Palestinians suddenly would offer a more positive alternative than an ultra-chauvinistic Jewish state that holds them in almost as much scorn as it does “Arabs” and “Africans”.

A new coalition?

The question is: When will the majority of Palestinians, who long ago lost faith in Oslo and in their hearts would prefer a one-state solution, give up the two-state illusion and come out in force demanding precisely what the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to do – be annexed to Israel, and have the same voting rights as their fellow Palestinians across the quickly evaporating Green Line. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of just this eventuality as the doomsday scenario facing Zionism, which is why a man who did more than almost anyone to create a Jewish-dominated Jerusalem became a firm supporter of two-states.

The PA will never go down this route because it would mean its dissolution and the loss of jobs, money and power for the entire political class, and perhaps the fatal weakening of Fatah along with it. Neither, strangely, would Hamas accept it as it would become moot in a one or bi-national solution.

Of course, while the Israeli right would actually welcome Palestinian acquiescence to the annexation of the West Bank, whose population can be absorbed into Israel without creating a Palestinian majority, their plan for a Greater Israel specifically excludes Gaza, whose incorporation would tip the demographic balance immediately, and permanently, in the Palestinian’s favour. A test of wills and political strategisation would emerge between the two sides as to whether Israel could convince West Bank Palestinians permanently to separate their fortunes from benighted Gaza, or Palestinians once “inside” Israel would constitute a large enough force with 1948 Palestinians and liberal/left Israeli to push, however fitfully, for a bi-national or even parallel states solution.

This leads to a final question:Will 2014 be the year Palestinian and Israeli exhaustion with Oslo and fear of a bleak and chauvinistic future creates the unstoppable force that finally buries Oslo and moves both peoples, and the land they inevitably share, towards a common future?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.

Click here for more Reports and Commentary of the site we tapped.

To view this article online, please go to:
www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/annexation-return-one-state-solution-2014125435732443.html.

==================================================

And an Israeli description of what it looks like now in the Israeli political arena – the Uri Avnery article of this week –
that in the “Gush Shalom” publication was titled more to the point as BIBI & LIBI & TIBI – referring to Dr. Ahmad Tibi, Currently a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, who defines himself as  Arab-Palestinian in nationality, and Israeli in citizenship – thus trying to make sense in a situation that he sees himself as directing his party Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al), an Arab party in Israel, to full rights within Israel.
He is for the two State solution but wants to be an Israeli as well. Can he be the bridge to a One-State solution as well?

 

Uri Avnery

 

January 11, 2014

 

 

 

                                             Bibi & Libie

 

 

 

PERHAPS I am too stupid, but for the heck of me I cannot understand the sense of the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

 

On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.

 

 

Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.

 

 

One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?

 

 

 

THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.

 

 

First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?

 

 

Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.

 

 

Second, that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.

 

 

That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an “agreed” one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.

 

 The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5000.

 

 Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce:  OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want – a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.

 

 On September 10, 1993 – which happened to be my 70th birthday – Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State. 

 

 By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in the “Times” of London on December 17, 1973,  a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that “the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples.”

 

 I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat’s hand.

 

 

 

 THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel – about 20% of Israel’s eight million citizens – is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.

 

 Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry’s peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.

 

 Why, for heaven’s sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his “Israel Our Home” party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.

 

 Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State. 

 

 This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel – not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel’s narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.

 

 The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of  a dozen Arab villages, which were given Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.

 

 Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all.  He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin’s redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman’s borders look completely crazy.

 

 Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300 thousand Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.

 

 

 

 SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?

 

 Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don’t love Israel, they don’t serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.

 

 “Israeli Arabs”, a term they hate, play a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.

 

 Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible(. After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.

 

 The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.

 

 A complicated situation, indeed.

 

 

 

 IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.

 

 There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.

 

 The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.

 

 Now, in the name of “governability” (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.

 

 I was elected three times to the Knesset when the threshold was 1%. Later it was raised to 2%. Now the plan is to raise the threshold to 3.25%, which in the elections a year ago would have equaled 123,262 votes. Only one of the three “Arab” parties crossed this line – and then only barely. There is no assurance that it could do so again.                                                             

 

 In order to survive, they would have to unite and form a large Arab bloc. Many would think that this was a good thing. But it is very difficult to accomplish. One party is communist, another Islamist, another secular-nationalist. Also, competing extended families play an important role in Arab electoral politics.

 

 The Arab lists may disappear altogether. Or two may unite, eliminating the third.

 

 Some Israeli leftists fantasize about a dream party – a united parliamentary bloc that would include all the Arab parties with the Labor party and Meretz, turning it into a formidable challenger of the right wing.

 

 But that would be too good to be true – no chance at all of this happening in the near future.

 

 

 

 IT SEEMS that Kerry and his Zionist advisors already identify with the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish State or, worse, the State of the Jewish People (who were not even consulted).

 

 The Palestinian side is unable to accept this.

 

 If the negotiations come to naught on this point, Netanyahu will have achieved his real aim: to abort the negotiations in a way that will enable him to blame the Palestinians.

 

 As long as we have a Jewish State – who needs peace?

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Majallie Whbee (L) is handed his letter of appointment as roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem, Dec. 31, 2013.  (photo by Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

PAM (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean) was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/majallie-whbee-pam-interview-syria-egypt-palestine-israel.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8862#ixzz2pk5SBy1m

 

Longtime Sharon associate calls on parties to close peace deal

by Mazal Mualem – a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse and formerly the senior political correspondent for Maariv and Haaretz.
She also presents a weekly TV show covering social issues on the Knesset channel. 
Posted January 6, 2014

 

 “The reason that we miss [Ariel] Sharon so much is simply because he knew how to bang on the table and decide yes or no. With Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], nothing is clear … and there is no worse feeling than that.” Former Knesset member and Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee followed former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon almost blindly when he bolted from the Likud Party and established Kadima in November 2005. It was two months before the then-prime minister suffered a stroke and dropped off the public stage, leaving behind him a party in its infancy, a country dealing with the implications of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and an enormous leadership vacuum.

 

Summary? Print Former Knesset member Majallie Whbee, a close associate of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, deplores Israeli leaders for not seizing the moment: “We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to complete an agreement.”
 

 

In the last election, Whbee, who was close to Sharon politically, joined HaTenua Party, headed by Tzipi Livni, but was not elected to the Knesset. He watches from the sidelines now as the glorious party that Sharon hoped to establish, and which was supposed to serve as a political platform to advance a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians, goes through all its various incarnations.

 

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006, and over the past few days his condition has deteriorated considerably, putting his life in danger. The party that he founded split in two because of a serious clash between Justice Minister Livni and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on the eve of the last election. At its peak, Kadima won 29 seats in the Knesset. In the last election, the party, now headed by Mofaz, dropped to just two seats. Until it is proved otherwise, Livni’s party serves as the diplomatic fig leaf for the Netanyahu government. It is a pale shadow of former Prime Minister Sharon’s political vision.

 

Whbee doesn’t know exactly what diplomatic arrangement Sharon intended to reach, but it is obvious to him that the disengagement plan in Gaza was to be continued somehow. “Sharon said, ‘Why do we have to rule over another people?’ He realized that in the long term, the occupation would not lead us to a good place, and he wanted to bring about an arrangement.” Like many senior members of the Likud who followed Sharon on his Kadima escapade, he thinks back now on the diplomatic momentum during Sharon’s term in office and wonders what would have happened had he not collapsed.

 

The interview with Whbee took place one week after he was appointed roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), alongside professor Mohamed Abou El Enein, former speaker of the Egyptian parliament. At a modest ceremony held Dec. 31, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein handed him his letter of appointment. Whbee already has plenty of plans how to promote two main causes: tracking and reducing the scope of civilian casualties in Syria, and supporting an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

PAM was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. This is the first time that an Israeli has been appointed to a senior position in PAM. Considering all the international condemnations and boycotts that Israel is facing, as well as the ongoing diplomatic crisis it is immersed in, Whbee’s appointment is noteworthy.

 

Very soon, Whbee, a Druze, will leave his home in the northern locality of Beit Jann to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the states of the region. He will attempt to use his diplomatic, political and defense experience, as well as his moderate worldview, to promote the assembly’s objectives and to realize the common interests of the countries in the region.

 

Majallie Whbee, when the states of the region are contending with the revolutions and conflicts of the Arab Spring, can anyone even determine what their common interests are?

 

“First of all, there is an interest in the Syrian issue. It is in everyone’s interest to defend the civilian population. Our objective is to flood the world with the problem and to put it on the tables of Europe’s leaders, now that the United States abandoned its plans to attack. What we have here is a Middle East population without anyone to care for it, and it is still at risk. There are Syrian representatives in PAM, too, and that is an advantage. While they are excluded from most places, they are still members of our assembly, and through them we can have an impact. We will demand that they use their influence over the Syrian regime.

 

“But it is not limited to Syria. The situation in Egypt is also difficult. The Egyptian representatives to PAM warn us of the risks posed by Hamas and the [former Mohammed] Morsi government. They are opposed to religious extremism, so they regard Morsi, who supported Hamas, as acting against Egyptian interests. In that sense they regard us, the Israelis, as their allies.”

 

Has your appointment already provided you with new insights into the region?

 

“Yes — that the Arab Spring was exploited by the religious extremists to seize control of the region in a kind of effort to establish a large Islamic force that will extend over several countries. We witnessed the cooperation between Morsi and Hamas, while those forces with a pro-Western orientation fell between the cracks. In that sense, I consider [US President Barack] Obama turning his back on Egypt to have been a resounding slap in the face. Unfortunately, the West did not anticipate fundamentalist factors attempting to hitch a ride on the Arab Spring.”

 

There is an argument that the chaos in the Arab states will actually improve Israel’s security situation.

 

“That is true in the short term. In the long term it is catastrophic, because it is possible that the fundamentalists will take over, and that would pose a threat to us. This leads me to the Palestinian issue. We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to reach an agreement, and Israel is not exploiting that window of opportunity. The situation is that right now the Palestinians do not have the backing of the Arab states. Egypt isn’t helping with anything, and Syria is torn apart. Under these circumstances, it is possible to pressure the Palestinians. [US Secretary of State John] Kerry should bang on the table and bring about an agreement. He should determine the facts and put both sides in a situation in which they have to decide. That is his role as a mediator, because if there won’t be an agreement we will be living by our swords here for many years to come.”

 

The situation of the Palestinians actually seems better than our own in the international arena.

 

“In my opinion, it is important to distinguish the leadership, which wants the conflict to continue. It’s good for those people to be the side that is discriminated against in the conflict. What’s so bad for them? They fight, and somebody else pays. But unlike the leadership, the people want to live a normal life. They want to make a living and improve their quality of life. They are tired of all the struggles and wars. They want normalcy. That is also why I don’t think there will be a third intifada. There is no one who wants to fight that battle, because even the Palestinian mothers are tired. After all, who do they send to blow themselves up with suicide belts? [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen’s sons? [Former Palestinian Chairman Yasser] Arafat’s sons? It is the simple people who struggle to make a living, who end up paying the price.

 

“What’s so bad for the leadership? They continue driving around in their Mercedes and living in mansions, with tight security to protect them. It is convenient for them for the situation to remain as it is, because once a peace agreement is signed and they will be under supervision, it will be hard for them to keep up that kind of lifestyle.”

 

Was Sharon’s disengagement plan a mistake?

 

”In my opinion it was a stroke of diplomatic genius. After all, we had five brigades there, the security costs were astronomical, and soldiers were getting killed and wounded to defend 23 settlements. How was that to our advantage? As soon as Israel left Gaza, the international community granted us legitimacy to act in our defense from within our borders.”

 

 “The reason that we miss [Ariel] Sharon so much is simply because he knew how to bang on the table and decide yes or no. With Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], nothing is clear … and there is no worse feeling than that.” Former Knesset member and Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee followed former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon almost blindly when he bolted from the Likud Party and established Kadima in November 2005. It was two months before the then-prime minister suffered a stroke and dropped off the public stage, leaving behind him a party in its infancy, a country dealing with the implications of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and an enormous leadership vacuum.

 

Summary? Print Former Knesset member Majallie Whbee, a close associate of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, deplores Israeli leaders for not seizing the moment: “We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to complete an agreement.”
Author Mazal Mualem Posted January 6, 2014

Translator(s)Danny Wool

 

In the last election, Whbee, who was close to Sharon politically, joined HaTenua Party, headed by Tzipi Livni, but was not elected to the Knesset. He watches from the sidelines now as the glorious party that Sharon hoped to establish, and which was supposed to serve as a political platform to advance a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians, goes through all its various incarnations.

 

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006, and over the past few days his condition has deteriorated considerably, putting his life in danger. The party that he founded split in two because of a serious clash between Justice Minister Livni and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on the eve of the last election. At its peak, Kadima won 29 seats in the Knesset. In the last election, the party, now headed by Mofaz, dropped to just two seats. Until it is proved otherwise, Livni’s party serves as the diplomatic fig leaf for the Netanyahu government. It is a pale shadow of former Prime Minister Sharon’s political vision.

 

Whbee doesn’t know exactly what diplomatic arrangement Sharon intended to reach, but it is obvious to him that the disengagement plan in Gaza was to be continued somehow. “Sharon said, ‘Why do we have to rule over another people?’ He realized that in the long term, the occupation would not lead us to a good place, and he wanted to bring about an arrangement.” Like many senior members of the Likud who followed Sharon on his Kadima escapade, he thinks back now on the diplomatic momentum during Sharon’s term in office and wonders what would have happened had he not collapsed.

 

The interview with Whbee took place one week after he was appointed roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), alongside professor Mohamed Abou El Enein, former speaker of the Egyptian parliament. At a modest ceremony held Dec. 31, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein handed him his letter of appointment. Whbee already has plenty of plans how to promote two main causes: tracking and reducing the scope of civilian casualties in Syria, and supporting an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

PAM was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. This is the first time that an Israeli has been appointed to a senior position in PAM. Considering all the international condemnations and boycotts that Israel is facing, as well as the ongoing diplomatic crisis it is immersed in, Whbee’s appointment is noteworthy.

 

Very soon, Whbee, a Druze, will leave his home in the northern locality of Beit Jann to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the states of the region. He will attempt to use his diplomatic, political and defense experience, as well as his moderate worldview, to promote the assembly’s objectives and to realize the common interests of the countries in the region.

 

Majallie Whbee, when the states of the region are contending with the revolutions and conflicts of the Arab Spring, can anyone even determine what their common interests are?

 

“First of all, there is an interest in the Syrian issue. It is in everyone’s interest to defend the civilian population. Our objective is to flood the world with the problem and to put it on the tables of Europe’s leaders, now that the United States abandoned its plans to attack. What we have here is a Middle East population without anyone to care for it, and it is still at risk. There are Syrian representatives in PAM, too, and that is an advantage. While they are excluded from most places, they are still members of our assembly, and through them we can have an impact. We will demand that they use their influence over the Syrian regime.

 

“But it is not limited to Syria. The situation in Egypt is also difficult. The Egyptian representatives to PAM warn us of the risks posed by Hamas and the [former Mohammed] Morsi government. They are opposed to religious extremism, so they regard Morsi, who supported Hamas, as acting against Egyptian interests. In that sense they regard us, the Israelis, as their allies.”

 

Has your appointment already provided you with new insights into the region?

 

“Yes — that the Arab Spring was exploited by the religious extremists to seize control of the region in a kind of effort to establish a large Islamic force that will extend over several countries. We witnessed the cooperation between Morsi and Hamas, while those forces with a pro-Western orientation fell between the cracks. In that sense, I consider [US President Barack] Obama turning his back on Egypt to have been a resounding slap in the face. Unfortunately, the West did not anticipate fundamentalist factors attempting to hitch a ride on the Arab Spring.”

 

There is an argument that the chaos in the Arab states will actually improve Israel’s security situation.

 

“That is true in the short term. In the long term it is catastrophic, because it is possible that the fundamentalists will take over, and that would pose a threat to us. This leads me to the Palestinian issue. We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to reach an agreement, and Israel is not exploiting that window of opportunity. The situation is that right now the Palestinians do not have the backing of the Arab states. Egypt isn’t helping with anything, and Syria is torn apart. Under these circumstances, it is possible to pressure the Palestinians. [US Secretary of State John] Kerry should bang on the table and bring about an agreement. He should determine the facts and put both sides in a situation in which they have to decide. That is his role as a mediator, because if there won’t be an agreement we will be living by our swords here for many years to come.”

 

The situation of the Palestinians actually seems better than our own in the international arena.

 

“In my opinion, it is important to distinguish the leadership, which wants the conflict to continue. It’s good for those people to be the side that is discriminated against in the conflict. What’s so bad for them? They fight, and somebody else pays. But unlike the leadership, the people want to live a normal life. They want to make a living and improve their quality of life. They are tired of all the struggles and wars. They want normalcy. That is also why I don’t think there will be a third intifada. There is no one who wants to fight that battle, because even the Palestinian mothers are tired. After all, who do they send to blow themselves up with suicide belts? [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen’s sons? [Former Palestinian Chairman Yasser] Arafat’s sons? It is the simple people who struggle to make a living, who end up paying the price.

 

“What’s so bad for the leadership? They continue driving around in their Mercedes and living in mansions, with tight security to protect them. It is convenient for them for the situation to remain as it is, because once a peace agreement is signed and they will be under supervision, it will be hard for them to keep up that kind of lifestyle.”

 

Was Sharon’s disengagement plan a mistake?

 

”In my opinion it was a stroke of diplomatic genius. After all, we had five brigades there, the security costs were astronomical, and soldiers were getting killed and wounded to defend 23 settlements. How was that to our advantage? As soon as Israel left Gaza, the international community granted us legitimacy to act in our defense from within our borders.”

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This Information comes from Matthew Russell Lee who covers the UN for Inner City Press and the  Free United Nations Coalition for Access (FUNCA).

At UN, Jordan Takes Saudi UNSC Seat, Dodges Dysfunction, Mandela Silence.

 

UNITED NATIONS, December 6, 2013 (St. Nicolas Day) — That Jordan on Friday would get the UN Security Council seat Saudi Arabia rejected was a foregone conclusion. It remained to be seen by how many votes it would win the uncontested election, and what Jordanian foreign minister Nasser Judeh would say afterward.

 

Of the UN’s 193 member states, 185 showed up and voted. Two were “invalid,” and four abstained.
Of the rest, Jordan got 178 votes and Saudi Arabia got one.

 

When Judeh came to the penned-in stakeout after the vote, Inner City Press asked him: Saudi Arabia rejected the seat saying the Security Council is dysfunctional on Syria, a nuclear free Middle East, and the question of Palestine (and Israel). Does Jordan think the Council IS functional? And what does it intend to do on those three issues?

 

Judeh said Saudi Arabia declined the seat for its own sovereign reasons, “which we respect.” He then said Jordan on the Council will work with its “allies” to advance the principles of the UN. Then he left.

 

Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Prince Zeid was there; he has done nitty gritty work at the UN on trying to limit abuse among UN Peacekeepers, and to stop a military figure from Sri Lanka accused of war crimes from serving with Zeid on the Senior Advisory Group on Peacekeeping Operations.

 

While the votes were counted, both Judeh and Zeid greeted Riyad Mansour of the Observer State of Palestine and other diplomats; Inner City Press from a table-less media booth took photos, tweeting some, including of Judeh greeted by Syria’s Permanent Representative Bashar Ja’afari, here.

 

  Before the vote, President of the General Assembly John Ashe announced a minute of silence for the death (and life) of Nelson Mandela. A screen at the front of the room showed Mandela’s picture on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal.

 

By contrast, the French bank BNP Parisbas sent a note to clients that Mandela’s death would not be a “long term driver” of the markets. The International Criminal Court put out a statement — it wasn’t clear if by its judges, or prosecutor, or spokesperson — as did the IMF’s Christine Lagarde.

 

  PGA Ashe said there will be a separate General Assembly session on honor of Mandela.

 

Ashe this week postponed a previously scheduled Inter Governmental Negotiation on Security Council reform from December 5 to December 12.

 

Inner City Press is exclusively informed this is due to a split in Ashe’s six member Advisory Group (Liechtenstein, Belgium, San Marino, Brazil, Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea). There is a GA “Advisory Group” meeting scheduled for the UN’s basement at 4:30 pm today. Jordan will be joining an UNreformed Council.

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Al-Monitor <newsletter@email.al-monitor.com>
Week in Review
Sunday, December 1, 2013

Iran deal recasts regional politics .

The “joint plan of action” agreed on by six world powers and Iran on Nov. 24 is in a short time proving to be a catalyst for a regional trend toward diplomacy and realism.

The mood is already shifting in the Gulf, where there had been resistance if not downright opposition at times to the negotiations with Iran. UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Tehran this week for meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the Kingdom of Bahrain invited Zarif to participate in the Manama Dialogue Regional Security Summit, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to be held Dec. 6-8, as reported by Ali Hashem for Al-Monitor.

In perhaps the most substantial shift, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia released a statement on Nov. 25 welcoming the joint plan of action, saying, “Saudi Arabia views the agreement as a primary step toward a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue provided it leads to a Middle East and Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

In Israel, despite a skeptical public and statements of alarm by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is also awareness among national security leaders that the deal with Iran may have its advantages, and that Israel is poorly served by putting itself at odds with the international coalition that forced Iran to negotiations.

Akiva Eldar captured the broader context of the Iran deal for Israel, writing, “The agreement with Iran was signed a short time after the agreement between the United States and Russia that brought about the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Thus a much more concrete and immediate threat than the Iranian one was removed from the borders of Israel. The decision of the powers to wave a stick instead of landing a blow on the Iranian protectorate in Damascus should have signaled to Netanyahu that this would also be the route they chose to take in the talks with Tehran. It stands to reason that Iran will now be invited to contribute to a renewed effort to end the cruel civil war in Syria. We are witness to the beginning of Iran’s emergence from the international solitary confinement it entered following the revolution in 1979.”

Ben Caspit reports from Jerusalem, “There’s no panic at all among Israel’s professional military echelons. Nobody talks about a catastrophe or an imminent second Holocaust. People discuss the merits of the agreement with levelheadedness and discretion. After all, doomsday prophecies are not their thing. For this, we have Netanyahu.”

Dan Meridor, a member of the Likud Party and former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence and atomic energy under Netanyahu, told Al-Monitor’s Mazal Mualem this week, “It’s a mistake to pick a fight with partners when we’re in the midst of a campaign against Iran, in which the Americans have the main role. Embarking on an offensive of attacks, criticism and scorekeeping harms the common struggle of large parts of the world, the United States, Europe and the Arab countries. The disputes do not help the struggle, but just give the Iranians a reason to gloat. Nothing is achieved by public disputes. The alliance between Israel and the United States is an important component of our powerful image. … Israel needs to be part of the world, to be a partner in this campaign.”

In the United States, there is popular support for the agreement with Iran. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week revealed that 44% of Americans support the interim agreement with Iran and only 22% oppose.

In Congress, while there is still skepticism about the deal, there also seems to be a trend toward legislation that emphasizes a congressional role in Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, rather than the introduction of new sanctions, during the six-month negotiation period. The Iran Nuclear Compliance Act of 2013, introduced Nov. 21 by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is now pending before the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has Senate jurisdiction on sanctions bills.

As reported here last week, the man to watch is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who told NPR’s Diane Rehm that the interim agreement is an “important first step” and that he will look to both Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on whether the Senate should hold hearings and consider more sanctions.

The conversations that have begun about Iran’s nuclear program are already having consequences beyond the nuclear file, including the Gulf, Turkey and Syria. While Kadri Gursel writes that the Turkish “reset” from its failed sectarian policies may require even deeper political changes, Ankara’s shift, which is a work in progress, is already good news for a political solution in Syria, especially with the Geneva II conference to be held on Jan. 22. A real peace process in Syria would mean relief for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, those countries most affected by the spillover of the war, the spike in terrorism and the flood of refugees.

A stable Syrian government, resulting from a successful Geneva II political process, perhaps following elections, would offer a chance for an Israel-Lebanon-Syria peace process. This would mean the eventual demilitarization of Hezbollah, whose raison d’etre is resistance to Israel’s occupation. The reintegration of Hezbollah forces into the Lebanese army and the normalization of Hezbollah solely as a Lebanese political party, and not an armed resistance force, would be a giant step toward solving Lebanon’s perpetual national crisis.

Any deal on Hezbollah would run through Damascus and Tehran, via Moscow’s good offices, en route to Jerusalem, as this column reported last week. While the United States cannot broker this deal, the future of Hezbollah is directly connected to the nuclear negotiations with Iran. For Iran to get relief from US oil and financial sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act, the president must certify to Congress that Iran no longer seeks weapons of mass destruction, is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism and no longer represents a significant threat to US national security interests and allies. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States. So questions about Iran’s nuclear program and its role in the region, including support for Hezbollah, are the endgame in any discussion of a comprehensive agreement.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Arab societies must build ‘citizen-states’

The primary danger facing the Arab world in the wake of successive revolutions is not a wave of political Islam, but rather the state of violent chaos that has resulted from the breakup of former regimes, which had imposed security through repression and violence. This danger comes as a result of the absence of alternative ruling systems to both maintain security and guarantee the participation of various segments of society.

Summary:   t The Arab state system needs to better apply to concepts of civil society.
Author Sami Nader Posted November 14, 2013

Translator(s)Tyler Huffman

What the Arab world is witnessing today is the emergence of Islamist movements that were formerly repressed. This is not a deep-rooted revolution — similar to the Iranian Revolution — that relies on a doctrine with clear features, such as that of Velayat-e Faqih. Political Islam movements in Egypt, and likewise in Tunisia, are divided among themselves. They competed for power within the framework of elections, and did not hesitate to forge alliances with civil forces and movements. Moreover, their experiences in power — and Egypt is the best example of this — have been marked by failure. This is no surprise, given that these movements did not have a program for governance that relied on political, economic and social choices that had been tested on the ground. It is ironic that the army, or some army leaders, have been the ones to save these countries, by transforming themselves into the victim.

In short, the Arab world today is facing a crisis when it comes to the project of building a state. Herein lies the danger and the opportunity at the same time. It is an opportunity for Christians and the other groups opposed to the former regimes and that fear Islamists coming to power to reclaim their role. This can be done through these groups presenting a project for governance to fill that vacuum that occurred as a result of the fall of former regimes, and the Brotherhood’s failure in Egypt and stumbling in Tunisia.

Christians in Lebanon adopted a nation-state project, and they — along with their Muslim compatriots — turned this project into a system of governance to implement the National Pact of 1943. Under this pact, Muslims rejected the idea of becoming part of Syria, while Christians also rejected the existing French protection provided by the mandate. In fact, the idea of a nation state was the prevailing idea in Europe, which maintained wide cultural influence in the Levant and Arab Maghreb. “Nation-state,” in and of itself, is a term that originated and evolved over a full century in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The term was adopted by the Age of Enlightenment, an era which adopted ideas and values that established conceptions of “modernity” and formed a cultural and political system in the face of “divine law.” This latter system resulted in various political and social institutions.

In other words, the nation-state was established to confront the “divine state” — i.e., a state that is based on divine law. The term “nation-state” was brought to the Levant during the Arab Renaissance (Al-Nahda), at the beginning of the 20th century. Levantine Christians were among the most prominent pioneers of this renaissance, and contributed in reviving Arabic language and culture, which had been obliterated by more than four centuries of Ottoman rule.

Notable figures from this period included authors and intellectuals such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naima and Ilyas Abu Shabaki, among others. In fact, the Arab Renaissance was an extension of the European Age of Enlightenment, as it adopted ideas of modernity and entered them into the Arabic language. At the political level, these ideas were translated through nationalist projects that formed the basis of various political parties. The latter include the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party — founded by a Christian, Antoun Saada — and the Arab Baath Party, founded by Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, and Michel Aflaq, a Christian. Even the right-wing Kataeb Party, which was founded by Christian leader Pierre Gemayel, was based on the idea of nationalism.

Thus, Christians adopted the project of a nation-state, and presented it as a model to be implemented in the numerous Levantine societies, which are ethnically and culturally diverse. It is worth mentioning that the idea of the nation-state came together with and blended with the theory of socialist governance and its promises of a fair distribution of wealth, as happened in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century in the wake of the First World War. No one denies that nationalist theory ignited Europe and led to two consecutive wars. Moreover, the theory of socialism — which supported nationalism — collapsed itself with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Even the theory of a sponsor state, which was inherited from socialism, is crumbling under the pressures of globalization and the European structure. It is no surprise that the Arab revolutions are confronting this system that has collapsed in developed countries, and that has fulfilled its function in a certain stage. It goes without saying that the Arab nationalist projects, and the countries that emerged from them, have failed on all levels. They have not been able to achieve widespread participation of all segments of society through moving toward democracy. Likewise, these systems have not fulfilled their promises in terms of economic development. Even at the military level, they have lost all the wars that were waged to recover usurped Arab rights.

The challenge today for Christians and non-Christians who believe in democracy and are eager for modernity, is to present a project that serves as a substitute for the nation-state. It should likewise serve as an alternate for projects that call for a return to religious origins, yet in actuality do not go beyond mere slogans and opposition. The most important thing to come from Christian literature and documents for decades, is the contents of the Synod for Lebanon Charter of 1996. This was issued during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon, and included subsequent work under the title of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod. These documents are devoted to the principle of a civil state as a model for administration in Arab societies, and presented the idea of “Lebanon the Message,” which is based on interfaith dialogue. These documents not only were met with consensus among all spectra of Lebanon, but also resonated throughout the Muslim World, particularly in the wake of the painful events of Sept. 11, 2001. These documents led to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s initiative for interfaith dialogue, which culminated in the Riyadh Declaration in 2008, aimed at founding a culture of peace. A civil state has become necessary to save Arab societies from the specter of a camouflaged return to the old regimes, or the risk of being dragged back to obsolete ideologies as a result of poverty, oppression and deprivation.

In short, it is time to present the idea of a “citizen state” as an alternative for the nation-state. The former should be based on individual freedoms, even if at the expense of nationalist fantasies. 

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Sami Nader
Al Monitor Columnist

Sami Nader is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse. He is an economist, Middle Eastern affairs analyst and communications expert with extensive expertise in corporate strategy and risk management. He currently directs the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, focusing on economics and geopolitics of the Levant, and is a professor for USJ University in Beirut. On Twitter: @saminader

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Coca-Cola

Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine

 FIFA.com) Sunday 10 November 2013
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Trophy touches down in Israel and Palestine

© Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup Trophy has been steadily making its way around the globe through the planned 90 countries, and having just completed its Caribbean tour, it has now landed in the Middle East for the first time.

Bringing the joy of football to the region, FIFA together with Coca-Cola have brought the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour to Israel and Palestine for two days, before heading off to Jordan. Accompanying the trophy for this trip is special guest, former FIFA World Cup™ participant and Argentina national team player and coach Gabriel Calderon. He will be with the trophy through all the local activities that the tour is planning for the coming two stops, where kids from schools, universities and local football clubs will have the opportunity to experience the magic of most powerful symbol in world football.

“I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game. Playing regularly when I was young is what shaped me into the player I turned out to be,” Gabriel said as he arrived in Israel for his first stop. “I am extremely honoured that I have been asked to be part of the tour, and especially to visit this historical region, as it is a cause I truly believe in, and I am happy to play my part.” added the former Argentina star.

Joining Gabriel on the tour in Palestine and Jordan is FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein who is very excited to be welcoming the trophy to his home for the first time.

I think it’s extremely important that every child gets the same opportunities to enjoy the world’s game.
Gabriel Calderon, former Argentina midfielder and coach

The situation in the Middle East has prompted a mandate to be received by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter during the 63rd FIFA Congress. This mandate was brought about by several years of conflict and unrest, making it challenging to improve and develop the game, and as part of FIFA’s statutes to develop the game. The President took this matter to heart to ensure that everyone has equal access and opportunities to play football, and the tour is another sign of the commitment which FIFA and its Partners have outlined to develop the sport in the Middle East.

A special FIFA Task Force, chaired by the FIFA President, was created with the aim to help improve the situation of football in Palestine and Israel, more specifically to analyse different bilateral matters including facilitating the movement of players, referees and equipment in and out of and within Palestine. The ultimate objective is to improve the situation of football in the region, particularly so that FIFA can implement its mission of developing and promoting the game in accordance with the FIFA Statutes.

As a result of the historical meeting, the football associations of Israel and Palestine will implement a mechanism under the umbrella of FIFA that will facilitate the movement of persons and goods. This mechanism includes the modalities and notification requirements as well as the appointment of liaison officers within each association. A meeting will be held under the auspices of FIFA within four months to assess the level of cooperation, with a view to signing a memorandum of understanding at the 2014 FIFA Congress.

To find out more about the stops, the stars and the trophy, visit the official trophy tour’s Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE HERE THAT IN 2022 THE WORLD CUP GAMES WILL BE HELD IN QATAR – this after 2018 in Russia.
FOLLOWING THE 2014 SERIES IN BRAZIL – the home of World Soccer...

Those that qualified for the 2014 games are:

Iran is thus the only Middle East State (or World Cup team – this being different as England is a player rather then the UK) to participate in Brazil.  Israel had to play in the European preliminaries as it is impossible to match it with an Arab State.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The reach of human compassion!
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And from Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine:

If you have California Bay Area friends, do tell them that rabbis Arthur Waskow, Phyllis Berman, and Lynn Gottlieb will be co-leading parts of the High Holiday services with me in Berkeley. The spiritual work we do at our service (which is not a performance but a deep inner process that incorporates as well as the key elements of the traditional service) is not just for Jews or for believers in God, but for anyone ready to engage in spiritual transformation.

Please urge them to check it out at www.beyttikkun.org/article.php/HH…www.beyttikkun.org/article.php/HH… ].

On Yom Kippur, during the Yizkor service, we will also do some grieving for the victims of the Egyptian coup (but also for those killed by Morsi’s regime), for the Syrians killed in their civil war, and for all the other victims of violence in our world. And we will be mourning for the earth as more of its species and more of its life force continue to get violently assaulted by the globalization of selfishness, materialism, and corporate rapaciousness.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Thanks to Olympic lifting by US Secretary of State John Kerry, with perhaps some secret help from the EU, finally direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians were started in Jerusalem this past Wednesday. Right immediately, the day after, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appeared in the region to remind the two sides that the UN was also part of that now inactive Quartet were the fourth player is Russia – a clear structure built for inaction. Just think what the UN has achieved in all other miserable places in the Middle East – this like Syria, Lebanon, and now fast moving Egypt.

In Syria there is already a number for the dead well above 1.000,000 and in Egypt, without large efforts, that number can be surpassed. So, the UN Secretary General comes to the place that is these days the most peaceful in the region and marks territory.

It is just possible, that behind closed doors, the Israelis and the Palestinians of the West Bank under the Abbas leadership, may indeed be planning an agreement in order to avoid the ISLAMIZATION that is killing the region. It is in the best interest of the two sides to compromise behind closed doors and allow for a process of normalization and economic Sustainable Development in the spirit of the 21st Century to be presented later to the World at large. This clearly without the need of bickering sessions at the UN. No problem – when we reach that stage, the UN will be allowed to bless on the final agreed results. But the UN is no place to obtain any practical results.

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Israeli Defense Minister to UN Sec. General: ‘The Only Stable Thing in the Middle East is the Lack of Stability’

August 16, 2013
Reports Zach Pontz

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon meets separately with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, August 15, 2013.

Then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met Friday August 16th in Jerusalem with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and warned him of the dire security situation in the region.

“The only stable thing in the Middle East is the lack of stability,” Ya’alon said.

He added that Lebanon based terror group Hezbollah was Iran’s main weapon against Israel, and warned Ban that the Israeli government has detected Hezbollah activity near Israel’s northern border, in violation of UN Resolution 1701.

“This organization is a state within a state. They get weapons from Iran and Syria,” he said.

“I think today everybody understands that the root cause of the instability in the Middle East and beyond has to do with the convulsion that is historic and cultural in nature of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is merely one of many, many such manifestations,” said Netanyahu.

Ban thanked Netanyahu for his effort to restart peace talks, saying, “I’m here to urge all the leaders to continue along the path to peace and to underscore a shared commitment to walk together to make 2013 a decisive year for Israel-Palestinian peace and peace in the region.”

During his meeting with Ban, Peres also addressed the security situation in the region within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace talks.

“Peace is a real need for both parties, none of us have an alternative. The overall situation in the Middle East is quite bleak and if we can achieve an agreement between us and the Palestinians it is good news in a region that needs good news,” he said.

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In the meantime – as reported by Avi Issacharoff – the same day:

In Egypt – The military claims that armed Muslim Brotherhood supporters opened fire on the soldiers, killing close to 50 and injuring dozens more. Each side recruited the television channel that supports its agenda. The Muslim Brotherhood was backed by Qatar’s al-Jazeera, which broadcast pictures of corpses and injured protesters in an endless loop, while al-Arabiya, which is funded by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which support the Egyptian military, screened a video of supposed Muslim Brotherhood activists wearing masks and firing at unseen targets.

As expected, the bloodshed was condemned by prominent figures in the Arab world and by various political parties in Egypt. Leaders such as Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh — former Egyptian presidential candidate, and a former Muslim Brotherhood activist in his more distant past — who strongly opposed Mohammed Morsi while he was president, criticized the army and their excessive use of violence. Representatives of the extremist al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya organization, the al-Wasat Party and countries such as Qatar, Turkey and Iran, condemned the Egyptian military as well. And to top it all, Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, who was one of the first to stand by the military when protests against Morsi began on June 30, submitted his resignation.

The war for Egypt’s future has returned to international headlines and the Muslim Brotherhood is now demanding that el-Sissi be removed from power in order to restore peace. It is highly unlikely, though, that this will happen any time soon. Right now, Egypt is headed towards the unknown.

The days of Mubarak’s trial-and-error policies and mixed messages are over.

The army has entered a new era of all-out war against Islamic forces in Sinai and against the tunnels connecting the peninsula to Gaza, while at the same time, it is exerting force against the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt. The problem is that there are limits to the force and violence that can be applied, as the situation in Syria underlines. The Syrian army has been unable to suppress the opposition against Bashar Assad even as the death toll exceeds 100,000. Unlike in Syria, though, large portions of the Egyptian population support the military’s harsh policies.

Even as violence continues throughout Egypt, the army continues its efforts to destroy Jihadist headquarters in Sinai. Egyptian armed forces attack from the air and the ground and have managed to hit dozens of targets in the last week alone. The problem is that the number of armed activists that identify with al-Qaeda’s ideology is estimated at 3,000. It will be a long time before the Egyptian army will be able to declare victory in Sinai.

In Lebanon – Any four-year-old kid in Lebanon, and certainly in the Shi’ite community, knows who was responsible for Thursday’s attack in Hezbollah’s Dahieh stronghold of Beirut that killed at least 18 people. You don’t need to be an intelligence operative or a Middle East analyst to recognize that extremist Sunni groups operating as part of the Syrian opposition made good on their promise to strike at Hezbollah and its supporters on their home turf.

This was a response to the dominant involvement of Hezbollah in the fighting against the rebels in Syria. On Thursday evening, the “Brigade of Aisha” even issued a statement of responsibility to make it crystal clear to Hezbollah why it carried out the car bombing.

Yet despite this, a whole host of Lebanese politicians, not all of them Sh’iites, rushed to charge that Israel was involved – allegations ridiculous and in Lebanon too are considered an insult to the intelligence — even when they come from President Michel Suleiman, who claimed that the blast bore the fingerprints of the Israelis, or from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Middle East’s great opportunists, who leveled similarly ridiculous charges.

These politicians, including Suleiman, are worried that an attack like this will prompt a particularly violent Hezbollah retaliation. In pointing the finger at Israel, they are trying to manufacture a common enemy for all Lebanese. Suleiman, who only days ago demanded the disarming of Hezbollah, understands that an attack like this in Dahieh could eventually lead to a complete takeover by the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon and a cleaning out of all pockets of opposition — be they Sunni extremists or rival politicians.

Like many in Lebanon, Suleiman recognizes that the Syrian civil war, which has intermittently seeped into Lebanon, escalated to a still more dangerous level for his country. It was notable that the internet site of Hezbollah’s TV station Al-Manar was quick to publicize comments by the organization’s number 2, Naim Kassam, who said that Israel is deterred from confrontation with Hezbollah “and checks itself before risking any aggression against us.” This was Hezbollah telling all those politicians, and its own people, that, no, Israel isn’t the problem right now.

So, again, the UN Secretary-General is in Israel to mark Territory, but what has he done to bring attention AND ACTION to the problems of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt – did he campaign in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to get them to stop pushing Islamic extremism?

Also, in Nairobi, Kenya, an airport fire took place on the anniversary of twin blasts at US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in 1998.

Kenya has also seen terror targeted at Israelis. In 2002, terrorists blew up an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, killing 13, and launched an unsuccessful attack on an Israeli plane departing from the airport there.

In May of this year, two Iranians were jailed for life for planning massive bombing attacks on Jewish, Israeli and Western targets in Kenya. Defense lawyers claimed that Israeli security official interrogated the two while in Kenyan custody. Kenya and Israeli security agencies have a long history of cooperation, dating back to the Entebbe hostage crisis in 1976.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Op-Ed Columnist at The New York Times writing from Tel Aviv


One-State Dream, One-State Nightmare.

By ROGER COHEN
Published: August 12, 2013

TEL AVIV — Let us deal, on the eve of the first direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in almost three years, with the idea of one state. It hovers out there — as dream and as nightmare — and is best laid to rest.


First the dream: That somehow after all the wars and accumulation of hatred, Israelis and Palestinians can learn overnight to live together as equal citizens in some United States of the Holy Land, a binational and democratic secular state that resolves their differences and assures their intertwined futures.

Oh, what a seductive illusion (at least to some). Let’s set aside for a moment that the regional examples of such multiethnic states — Lebanon, Iraq and Syria come to mind — are not encouraging. Let’s set aside that such a state would have a hard time every May deciding whether to mark a Day of Independence for its Jewish citizens or a Day of Catastrophe for its Arab citizens.

Let’s set aside whether the Jabotinsky Streets of the imaginary country dear to the one-state brigade would become Arafat Streets, or vice versa, and whether to have a Begin Avenue or a Grand Mufti al-Husseini Boulevard. Let’s even set aside the fact that the two principal communities would be in constant, paralyzing battle, causing the best and the brightest to go elsewhere in search of opportunity and sanity.

The central issue is this: One state, however conceived, equals the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the core of the Zionist idea. Jews will not, cannot and must not allow this to happen. They have learned how dangerous it is to live without a certain refuge, as minorities, and will not again place their faith in the good will of others, nor trust in touchy-feely hope over bitter experience.

That is the ineradicable legacy of diaspora persecution and of the Holocaust. Emerging in the 19th century from the static ghetto into the Sturm und Drang of the modern world, the Jews saw two principle routes to emancipation: assimilation and Zionism.

The former was seductive. At first it offered rapid advancement, before it became clear that in this very advancement lay danger. It was a wager on acceptance that the Jews of Europe lost to Hitler: No citizen was more patriotic than the prewar German Jew.

Zionism, by contrast, placed no faith in others’ good will. It sought, rather, to usher Jews to the full realization of their nationhood and so, in a sense, normalize them — make them patriotic about something that was their own.

The world, in the form of the United Nations, upheld this quest in 1947, voting for the division of Mandate Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Arab armies went to war — and the rest is history, including the now almost half-century-old occupation of the West Bank and Israeli dominion over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians.

And that brings us to one state as nightmare, which is what Israel, an extraordinary success story in many regards, faces today. The only way out of this nightmare is two states, one Israeli and one viable, contiguous Palestinian state living in peace and security beside it.

I sat with Yair Lapid, Israel’s centrist finance minister, son of a survivor of Nazi-occupied Hungary, grandson of a Hungarian Jew slaughtered in the camps, and he told me of his father’s repeated lesson: that he came to and fought for Israel so that Jews would “always have a place to go to.”

He said: “I have a lot of respect for the ethos of Greater Israel. I grew up in a house using this language. But we do understand that in the long term, if we stay there, that will be the end of the Zionist idea. We cannot live in one state. This will be a version of one state for two nations, and that this is the end of Zionism. Eventually the Palestinians will come to us and say, O.K., you decided we are not going to have a country at all, so we want to vote. If you say no, you are South Africa in its worst days. If you say yes, it is the end of the Jewish country, and I want to live in a Jewish country.”

Lapid argued that the all-the-land absolutists — Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin among them — are, in their rejection of the two-state idea, undermining the idea of a Jewish state over time and so undercutting the core of Zionism and his own father’s life-shaping message. He is right.

Lapid later issued a statement criticizing Israel’s decision to publish construction bids Sunday for more than 1,000 housing units in contested East Jerusalem and several West Bank settlements. “To poke sticks in the wheels of peace talks is not right,” he said, “and not helpful to the process.” Right again.

One state as delusional fantasy of some Middle Eastern idyll and one state as nightmarish temptation involving the indefinite Israeli subjugation of another people are equally unacceptable.

As the Talmud says, hold too much and you will hold nothing.

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Roger Cohen ought to have visited with Uri Avnery as well – to get it that some in Israel saw reality for a long time.

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But then we find a different point of view – the one we tend to define as wishful thinking

August 14, 2013
Is convergence the object of the peace process negotiations.

By Ted Belman of Israeli Right-wing Israpundit. That found the following:

“I attended a briefing today by an employee of the government who was very involved with everything going on in J&S {Judea and Samaria}. I will try to interview her on Skype and record it.”

She said many things of importance. This is what I can remember:

1. Israel wants the EU and US Aid to continue financing projects in Area C even if this means that the EU has a say in what, when and why of the projects. Thus we are relinquishing our independence or control for this money. The sad thing is that the money involved is a little over $1 billion dollars, just a third of what we get from the US. Better to forfeit the $1 billion and remain in control of J&S.

2. No one including Kerry has confidence in the peace process so why is Kerry pushing it. That’s because it is a cover for a hidden agenda which she would not disclose.

I believe the hidden agenda is to define what settlements will remain in Israel and what will be abandoned. If they can come to terms on this then Israel would be able to build as much as she wants in the blocs that are ceded to her and will refrain from building in the rest. The Palestinian’s would have succeeded in stopping Israel construction in most of Area C.
Israel would have solved the illegal settlement accusation and would be free to build excessively in what has been conceded to her. Of course this means that she will start incentivising the Israelis in the doomed settlements to start evacuating them. This could be done over a five year period as new homes become available for them to move into. Previous administrations called it “convergence”.

3. Both Israel and the US want Abbas and Fatah to remain in power to prevent Hamas from taking over. It may be that Israel agreed to the prisoner release as an aid to Abbas to enhance his appeal to ward off Hamas. Considering that Abbas agreed to enter negotiations and may have agreed to make an interim deal on housing construction he would need this release to cover his ass.

4. Israel supports the building of Rawabi and the new city near Jericho because it concentrates the Arabs and prevents small enclaves from being built. Thus the plan for the city near Jericho is to house the many Arabs living all throughout the Jordan Valley. This is what Israel is trying to do with the Bedouin sprawl in the Negev.

5. We are really talking about a three state solution, Gaza, Palestine and Israel. Very few expect a reconciliation between Gaza and Palestine. Thus they don’t have to be connected. Abbas keeps spending half his budget on paying former Fatah employees living in Gaza. This is to maintain his influence over Gaza but this is a futile exercise. It won’t go on for ever. Some say we are talking about a four state solution if we include Jordan. To this end, Jordan is involved in the talks.

6.The Palestinians have little interest in their environment, sewage treatment, air quality, town planning etc.

7 College grads in the West Bank (J&S) have an unemployment rate of 28%. They represent a destabilizing influence. Israel is trying to raise GDP believing that the better the economic well being, the less terrorism. Avi Bell took issue with this saying there was no study supporting it.

Currently Jewish births exceed 130,000 while Arab births in Israel and J&S are about 80,000. When we factor in Jewish immigration of 20,000 a year and Arab emigration of 20,000 per year, 150,000 Jews are added to our numbers as against only 60,000 Arabs. Looking real good.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Uri Avnery
August 10, 2013

(A shorter version of this article was published yesterday in Haaretz.)

A Federation – Why Not?

AVRAHAM BURG (58) was a member of the Labor Party and for some time the Chairman of the Knesset. His late father was a long-time cabinet minister and a leader of the National-Religious Party, before it became a rabid messianic mob. The relations between Burg sr. and me were quite friendly, largely because we were the only two German-born members of the Knesset.

Burg jr., who still wears the kippah of an observant Jew, joined the Labor Party and was a member of the “eight doves”, a moderate grouping in the party.

Last week Haaretz published an article in which Burg proposed linking the “two-state solution” with a two-state federation. He used the metaphor of a building, the first floor of which would consist of human rights, the second floor would host the two states, Israel and Palestine, and the third the federation.

This brought a lot of memories to my mind.

IN THE spring of 1949, immediately after the signing of the original armistice agreements between the new State of Israel and the Arab countries which had intervened in the war, a group was formed in Israel to advocate the setting up of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and the signing of a covenant between the two nations.

At the time, that idea was considered heretical, since the very existence of a Palestinian people was strenuously denied in Israel.

The group consisted of a Muslim Arab, a Druze Arab and me. After some time, when our attempts to form a new party failed to get off the ground, the group dispersed. (Curiously enough, all three of us later became members of the Knesset.)

We were of one mind concerning a salient point: the borders between the two states must be open for the free movement of people and goods. We did not use the word “federation”, but something like that was on our minds.

After the 1956 Suez war, a new group took up the idea. It was founded by Nathan Yalin-Mor and me and attracted an impressive array of intellectuals, writers and artists. Yalin-Mor was the former leader of the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, branded by the British as the most extreme Jewish terrorist organization and known to them as the “Stern Gang”.

We called ourselves “Semitic Action” and published a document, “The Hebrew Manifesto”, which I still think was and has remained unique: a complete, detailed blueprint for a different State of Israel. It contained among many other things the plan for the establishment of an Arab-Palestinian state alongside Israel, and a federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, to be called “the Jordan Union”.

In the 1970s, Abba Eban floated the idea of a Benelux-type solution, a name derived from the federation-like arrangement between Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. To my surprise, when I first met with Yasser Arafat during the siege of Beirut in 1982, he used the very same term: “A federation between Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and perhaps Lebanon too – why not?” He repeated the same idea, in the same words, at our last meeting, just before his mysterious death.

In the course of time, I dropped the word “federation”. I had come to the conclusion that it frightened both sides too much. Israelis feared that it meant diminishing the sovereignty of Israel, while Palestinians suspected that it was another Zionist ruse to keep up the occupation by other means. But it seems clear that in a small land like historical Palestine, two states cannot live side by side for any length of time without a close relationship between them.

It must be remembered that the original UN partition plan included a kind of federation, without using the word explicitly. According to the plan, the Arab and the Jewish states were to remain united in an economic union.

THE WORLD is full of federations and confederations, and no two are alike. Each one is a unique structure, formed by local circumstances and history. All are based on a covenant – foedus in Latin, hence the term.

The terrible US civil war was fought out between a federation (the North) and a confederation (the South). The federation was conceived as a close union with a strong central government, the confederation as a loose cooperation between semi-independent states.

The list is long. Switzerland calls itself a confederation. Post-Soviet Russia is a federation. Germany is a “federal republic”, and so on.

A federation between Israel and Palestine, with or without Jordan, will have to find its own character, according to its unique circumstances.

But the main point is timing.

Since Burg likened his proposal to a building, it follows that it must be built floor after floor, from the bottom up. That’s how I see it too.

The first floor is the two-state solution. This must be implemented first of all. Any idea about what may come after is meaningless without it.

This means the foundation of the State of Palestine along the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, as a free, independent and sovereign nation-state of the Palestinian people.

As long as this basic idea is not implemented, and the solution of all the connected problems (“core issues”) agreed upon, nothing else has much meaning.

The occupation is a bleeding wound, and it has to be healed in the framework of peace before everything else. There can be no meaningful talk about federation between oppressor and oppressed. Federation presumes partners of equal status, if not of equal strength.

The two-state solution promises peace – at least the formal peace that puts an end to the hundred-year old conflict. Once this peace is achieved, one can – and should – think about the next stage, the deepening of the peace and turning it into a day-to-day reality that shapes people’s lives.

LET’S ASSUME that this round of negotiations, or some future round, will lead to a formal peace treaty, and an end to all mutual claims, as John Kerry puts it. It’s then that the idea of federation should be considered.

What do we have in mind? A close federation or a loose confederation? What functions are the two sides ready – of their own free will – to transfer from the national to the federal level?

Most probably, Israel will not give up its freedom of decision-making concerning its relations with the world-wide Jewish Diaspora and immigration. The same is true for Palestine’s relation to the Arab world and the return of refugees.

What about foreign relations in general? I believe that in all existing federations and confederations, the central authority is in charge of these. In our situation this constitutes a problem. Military and security matters are even more problematic.

As I see it, a federation will be mostly concerned with economic matters, matters of human rights, freedom of movement and such.

But the main point is this: the negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine concerning a federation must be free of pressure, conducted in good faith between equals.

WILL THIS be the end of the road to real peace? I like to think that these are only the first few steps.

If the two-state solution is the first floor, and the federation is the second, one may imagine that the third floor will be a regional union, on the lines of the present European Union.

With the current turmoil in our region, it is hard to imagine that the Arab Spring will lead to any kind of stability. But our memory is short. The EU was the direct offspring of the most terrible of all wars – World War II, with millions of Europeans among the casualties.

A regional organization (I used to call it a “Semitic Union”) that includes Israel and Palestine will be advantageous to all partners in a world where regional groupings are playing an ever expanding role.

But the crown of a new order will be some kind of world governance, which is sorely needed even now. I am fairly sure that it will come into being before this century is over. This is no more utopian than was the idea of a European union a hundred years ago, when a handful of far-sighted idealists first brought it up.

At this point in time, there are a host of problems that can no longer be solved on the national, or even regional, level. The saving of our planet from environmental catastrophe. The regulation of a globalized economy. The prevention of wars and civil wars. The safeguarding of human rights everywhere. The achievement of real equality for women. The protection of minorities. The ending of hunger and diseases. All these need a new world order.

Such an order will necessarily be similar to a worldwide federation. This need not mean the disappearance of nation-states. These will probably continue to exist, as they exist today within the European Union, but with diminished sovereignty.

Can such a world order be democratic? It must be. Some day, humankind will elect a world parliament, as Europeans today elect a European parliament which is steadily taking on new responsibilities.

THESE ARE dreams for the future, though it is worthwhile to think about them even now.

But for us, in this small country, the task for today is to achieve peace – the peace between two nations living in harmony in two sister-states.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Nothing more enlightening then looking through a box of old clippings: Please See – “A Not So-Odd Mideast Couple” – Arafat and Assad – however hateful, could deliver peace – in 1994.

A Not-So-Odd Mideast Couple.
By Stephen P. Cohen from Montreal.

Published by The New York Times on the Op-Ed Page: August 25, 1994

Like it or not, Middle East peace is in the firm grasp of the same tough and idiosyncratic characters we have hated and distrusted in the regional conflict. Our ambivalence about these Arab leaders is becoming a major obstacle in managing the transition from war to peace — especially the implementation of the Palestinian-Israeli agreement and efforts to produce a Syrian-Israeli peace, which would transform the region.

Yasir Arafat makes all the decisions for the new Palestinian authority. This frustrates many Palestinians, the Israelis and virtually all foreigners and world economic institutions.

President Hafez al-Assad is, of course, the supreme authority in Syria. We so much emphasize this fact that we have trouble believing that he has political constraints other than his own inhibitions and rigid positions.


Both leaders are determined to pursue peace by using the very ideas and methods that they have exploited to retain power in the long years of the conflict. They are convinced that their mastery of internal political complexities and of inter-Arab rivalries, and their careful modulation of the conflict with Israel, have enabled them to survive to this watershed. Their peoples, including their harshest critics, share their basic assumption that only they can bring peace to their nations.

Israeli and American officials are convinced that these leaders are essential. With Mr. Arafat, this acceptance is grudging and contemptuous; with Mr. Assad, it is grudging and respectful, but wary. In light of Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization terrorism, public opinion, understandably, shares the grudges more than the acceptance.

These Israelis and Americans believe that peace can succeed only if Mr. Arafat and Mr. Assad abandon their old methods and concepts. Thus, while they acknowledge that Mr. Arafat is the decision-maker, they prefer to deal with his politically weak advisers. That is often a mistake, because the advisers — angry over Mr. Arafat’s habit of using money, jobs and threats to control them — can and do provide advice that is more misleading than helpful. President Assad is admired for his strength, but his critics think his conceptual world is rigid and outdated. His emphasis on a comprehensive peace is seen as empty rhetoric, with a touch of a dream of Syrian hegemony. At most, it is accepted as a euphemism for Syrian influence in Lebanon. It is not seen as a shrewd, practical strategy for managing conflict, either within Syria or with Arab rejectionists. Mr. Assad’s talk of popular support is dismissed by the West as a code word for iron-fisted control and intimidation. The politics of an autocratic state are certainly not the politics of a democracy, but there are political processes nonetheless. Not only does Mr. Assad seek to maintain his monopolistic control over the multiplicity of military and security forces, he also strives to balance rival ethnic groups and regional interests against one another.

Most of all, Mr. Assad’s politics are the politics of maintaining the rationale for rule. Regimes can become captives of their own dogmas and claims. If Syria is the “beating heart” of the Arab world, as Syrians always say, and is pre-eminent in the struggle against Israeli dominance, then Mr. Assad must explain his peace initiatives to cadres of activists who have followed that dogma. The cynical are not as hard to deal with as those who believe too fiercely or those who have built their lives and livelihoods around the maintenance of the security state and the conflict.

Middle East peace is not arriving through the excitement of popular upheaval and overthrow of regimes, as in Eastern Europe. On the contrary, peace is a central part of a calculated policy to prevent such upheaval and chaos. It is a strategy of change to preserve the leaders’ rule and to reinforce it as the barrier to extremism and internecine warfare.

Popular upheaval would mean that extremist anti-Western movements that invoke Islam would come to power. It would mean the eruption of ethnic and political rivalries that could tear the societies apart and wreak revenge against former ruling groups. There would be no wave of democracy and pluralism led by enlightened critics of the regime and supported by emerging Western-oriented middle classes. These forces are not yet politically strong enough to win in a no-holds-barred struggle for succession.


The West’s desire is to see authoritarian rule replaced by democracy and respect for human rights. We want state socialism and corruption superseded by open-market economies. But to condition our diplomacy in any way on the prospect of such transformations may slow the peace process and bring to power the most bitter enemies of peace and Western values.

Like it or not, the two key figures for the removal of the ideology of hatred toward Israel are Mr. Arafat and Mr. Assad, who pursued that enmity with great effectiveness and ruthlessness. In Washington in July, King Hussein of Jordan provided a respite from this hostility. His formal agreement to end 46 years of enmity to Israel produced a wave of good feeling in Israel and America. His benign image is due in part to his Western manners and style, which contrast sharply with Mr. Arafat’s deliberately provocative image.

But the other side of King Hussein’s image is his weakness as an enemy of Israel. This heightens the contrast to President Assad’s insistence on military strength and unabashed willingness to use force. Still, the King has played a weak hand with panache, dignity and determination. Now that he has played it, we must hurry to strengthen it.

Mr. Arafat exploits his own weakness by masterly and maddening brinkmanship, his unique brand of guerrilla diplomacy. He uses his one credible threat again and again — that if he fails, the extremists on the left and right will rise and chaos will ensue.

Mr. Assad flaunts his ability to make war while seeking peace. But he can deliver peace. The burden is on him to show that it can be done comprehensively, relatively quickly and with Israel as a full partner.

We should listen with close attention to President Assad’s analysis. He has led Syria and the forces of rejection almost throughout the period since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. No one knows better than he how the logic and emotion of that rejection can be put to rest. He says he is determined to make peace. He is very convincing to those who hear him (as I did on Aug. 16 in Damascus as part of a Council on Foreign Relations delegation) and to those who overhear him.

Mr. Arafat is determined to build his Gaza-Jericho rump entity into a Palestinian state that lives in peace and economic cooperation with Israel. He has already staked his life on that belief and has maneuvered his people into that gamble. Perhaps we should be a little more reticent in denouncing his strategies for controlling Hamas terrorism and building Palestinian institutions. Maybe we can be more creative in developing economic strategies that fit his style of governing.

Israel’s leaders are dealing with Arab leaders as they find them. Mr. Assad and Mr. Arafat have decided to make peace. There will be a time for different leaders with other values and practices that are closer to ours. But we will never get to that promising next generation if we undermine today’s leaders by burdening the present with our too lofty hopes for the future.

 www.nytimes.com/1994/08/25/opinio…

Stephen P. Cohen is president of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, a small nonprofit organization in Canada.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Harvard launches scholarship honoring Israeli businessman; Scholarship named after shipping magnate Samy Ofer offers full tuition for emerging Palestinian and Israeli leaders.
August 3, 2013, 6:31 am

BOSTON (JTA) — One of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen – Idan Ofer – made a gift to the Harvard Kennedy School to establish the Sammy Ofer graduate fellowship for emerging leaders in Israel and Palestine – his late father – Sammy Offer – was a world class shipping magnate.

The donation made by Idan Ofer in his father’s memory will provide full tuition and other financial support to up to four students annually to attend the Kennedy School, which specializes in global diplomacy. Harvard would not disclose the amount of the donation but described it as generous.

The first fellows are expected to begin in 2014.

Sammy Ofer died in 2011 at age 89. He was one of Israel’s wealthiest businessmen, a global shipping magnate and philanthropist whose international shipping operation grew into one of the largest privately held fleets in the world. In 2007, he donated $25 million to Israel’s Rambam hospital in Haifa.

Idan Ofer, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes at $6.5 billion, said in a statement that the scholarship would have resonated with his father.

“He was a great believer in the importance of education and strong core values in leadership, particularly in the Middle East where generational and political change is taking place,” he said.

David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School, said, “The Kennedy School is a unique environment where students with disparate views and life experiences convene both in and out of the classroom to learn, study, and think seriously about some of the world’s most intractable problems, and Mr. Ofer’s gift fits perfectly with our mission.”

The Kennedy School’s Middle East program is headed by R. Nicholas Burns, who served as under-secretary of state from 2005 through 2008, and served as consul general to Israel in the mid-1980s.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 27th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

nbsp;www.timesofisrael.com/the-jewish-…
 www.timesofisrael.com/the-jewish-…

About Jerusalem: Eat, pray, love in the capital of the Jewish world – A city that encapsulates the history of heaven and earth.
by Tracy Frydberg, The Times of Israel, July 27, 2013.

—————

As papers analyze the possibility of success in the new US led Middle East negotiations, The Times of Israel reminds us of the importance of Jerusalem to Jews and not only to Jews. There will be the need of a lot of good will on all participants in order to come up with a formula that leaves some space to everyone. {that is our own comment.}

—————

As Benjamin Disraeli, the British novelist and statesman said, “The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more; it is the history of heaven and earth.”

The history of Jerusalem is a riveting and fast paced tale. Leaders and empires have come and gone, important holy sites have been built and destroyed, but the spirit of Jerusalem has remained constant.

The Bible refers to Jerusalem in the feminine she, revealing the human-like, delicate nature of the place that transcends far beyond the capacity of any other city. Deeply drenched in rich history and physical holiness, it is left to the individual to define his own relationship and understanding of Jerusalem. In 1967, with the monumental recapturing of Jerusalem’s Old City, Jerusalem was reignited as the focal point of world Jewry.

A sprightly young shepherd who became the legendary hero and ruler of the Jewish people, King David, built a splendid kingdom and city in Jerusalem.
It was his son, Solomon who would go on to build the majestic First Temple. The First Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BCE and the Jews were exiled to Babylon.

It was not until the reign of King Herod the Great that the Second Temple was built and Jews were able to thrive and develop their holy city for the next 160 years. Yet again, tranquility in Jerusalem was not able to last. The Second Temple was grotesquely destroyed by the Romans and the ruthless General Titus in 70 CE.

All that remains of the Holy of Holies is the Western Wall, or Kotel, which Jews from all over the world come to connect with God.

The destruction of the temples set off a chain of empires; under some the city and its people prospered and under others it was left in shambles. Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Caliphates and Ottomans have all claimed Jerusalem as their own.

The foundation of Israel as a Jewish state made Jerusalem the one and only capital of the Jewish world. In 1947, Jerusalem was declared an international capital in the UN Partition Plan. This decision immediately led to an Arab uprising and in 1948 in the War of Independence, the Jewish Quarter was seized by the Jordanian army. Even though the young Jewish nation had lost the Old City, Jerusalem was still declared as the eternal capital of the State of Israel in 1949 and since then has been the seat of Israel’s government.

While the Jewish people have had a constant presence in Israel for the last 3,000 years it was not until 1967 during the Six Day War that after three days of brutal fighting, the Old City of Jerusalem again became a part of the Jewish nation. Ever since there has been a mass migration of Jews and tourists flooding into the ancient city to pray at the Temple Mount.

While the Holy City is a walking tour of the long and exciting history of Judaism, the modern culture and vibrancy of the magical city can stand on its own. Jerusalem is a destination for world travelers, the home of Israel’s government and a source of inspiration for artists and intellectuals alike.

———————-

BUT ALSO

Tel Aviv: The pure white city with a steamy nightlife.
Tel Aviv is consistently ranked among travel guides as the place to be in the Middle East.

While the nucleus of the Jewish Planet lies in Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish State is arguably in Tel Aviv – a hub for business and pleasure. Discover for yourself why the first Hebrew city, which increasingly ranks as one of the most expensive in the world, is actually priceless.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


Kerry announces agreement for resuming Mideast peace talks.
By Jason Hanna. Joe Sterling, and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 3:49 PM EDT, Fri July 19, 2013

(CNN) — The long-dormant Middle East peace efforts got new life on Friday.

An agreement has been reached that “establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between” Palestinians and Israel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Amman, Jordan.

“This is a significant and welcome step forward,” Kerry said.

This came as Kerry visited the Middle East this week and came up with a formula for reanimating peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian territories, a source close to the talks said.

He has been working intensely with the Palestinian side to get them on board.

Earlier Friday, in a meeting in Amman, Jordan, Kerry presented the plan to Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erakat in hopes that it will entice the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

Kerry arrived in Ramallah in the West Bank on Friday afternoon and began a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas for the third time during his current trip to the Middle East.

New city offers vision of better life in West Bank

Kerry said the agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so “we are absolutely not going to talk about the elements now,” he said. If everything goes as expected, representatives for the two sides will join Kerry in Washington “for initial talks within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time.”

“Any speculation or reports you may read in the media … are conjecture … because the people who know the facts are not talking about them,” he said.

Talks based on land swaps, pre-1967 borders?

One of the reports Kerry might have been referencing was a Reuters report quoting an Israeli official who said the Jewish state agreed to a plan for peace talks based on pre-1967 borders and land swaps.

It would be in line with a decades-old United Nations resolution calling on Israel to release territories it gained during a war, a demand that Israel has historically fought. But it would help create contiguous borders for a future Palestinian state that would coexist next to a Jewish state.

Israel’s official reaction to the report has been denial. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the news agency story and questioned who in the government would have made the assertions.

Kerry had set up shop in Amman, Jordan, where he has already advertised the plan to the Arab League and to Abbas. Abbas briefed politicians in Ramallah after returning from his initial meetings with Kerry.

News of the plan triggered a reaction Friday from Mustafa Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian legislator.

“We need written commitments that there are terms of reference including commitment to 1967 borders. We need affirmation or guarantees that there will be no settlement expansions,” he said. Other Palestinians would not accept negotiations as long as they continued to grow, he added.

Israel has recently announced plans to add on to West Bank settlements, drawing angry responses from Palestinians and criticism from Israel’s Western allies.

The major bones of contention in negotiations are:

• The status of Jerusalem. Israel regards the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

• Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The land is known as Judea and Samaria in Jewish history, and Israelis say they believe that territory is part of the Jewish state. The Palestinians say the West Bank is Palestinian land. They also say they’ve been mistreated in their own land for years by Israel’s government, the military and settlers.

• Security. Israel has said it wants to be assured of the safety of its citizens from attacks by Palestinian militants in any peace agreement.

• The status of the Palestinians, who mostly departed Israel during two wars: one that led to the state’s founding in 1948, and one in 1967. Palestinians say some left on their own but others were driven out.

War spoils

Israel took over East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights after it fought Arab states in the Six-Day War in 1967.

Since then, Israel has forged a peace treaty with Egypt and returned Sinai to the country. It annexed East Jerusalem from the Palestinian territories, uniting the historic city to make it the capital of the Jewish state.

But it later unilaterally departed from Gaza, now run by the Palestinian group Hamas.

Israel currently occupies the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and part of Syria’s Golan Heights.

For years, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have made attempts to negotiate, but have repeatedly failed to get the process moving.

========================================================

IN SECRETARY KERRY’S OWN WORDS:

Kerry’s Announcement on Middle East Peace Negotiations
19 July 2013

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
July 19, 2013

REMARKS

Secretary of State John Kerry


July 19, 2013
Amman, Jordan

SECRETARY KERRY: Good evening, everybody, thank you very much for your patience. I apologize for the delay. I’m just going to make a statement, and I’m not going to take any questions at this point in time.

On behalf of President Obama, I am pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This is a significant and welcome step forward.

The agreement is still in the process of being formalized, so we are absolutely not going to talk about any of the elements now. Any speculation or reports you may read in the media or elsewhere or here in the press are conjecture. They are not based on fact because the people who know the facts are not talking about them. The parties have agreed that I will be the only one making further comments about this.

If everything goes as expected, Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, Minister Livni, and Isaac Molho will be joining me in Washington to begin initial talks within the next week or so, and a further announcement will be made by all of us at that time.

I want to thank particularly His Majesty King Abdullah and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who has been really enormously helpful throughout this process. I want to thank all of them for their extraordinary hospitality to our team that has been camped here for several days, and they have helped with all of the logistics and been superb hosts and collaborators in this effort.

I also want to thank the Arab League and the committee, the joint committee – the committee with respect to the peace initiative follow-on — who traveled here during the week and who made an important difference with their statement of support.

And then there are many, many others who have contributed, many other leaders around the world, all of whom have visited here and pushed and advocated and encouraged the notion that these talks could take place. There are too many to list, but they know who they are and we are very, very grateful. It will take their ongoing effort in order to be able to have any chance of making these talks the kind of success they ought to be.

I think all of us know that candid, private conversations are the very best way to preserve the time and the space for progress and understanding when you face difficult, complicated issues such as Middle East peace. The best way to give these negotiations a chance is to keep them private. Everyone knows that this is not easy. If it were, it would’ve happened a long time ago. And no one believes that the longstanding differences between the parties can be resolved overnight or just wiped away.

We know that the challenges require some very tough choices in the days ahead. Today, however, I am hopeful. I’m hopeful because of the courageous leadership shown by President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Both of them have chosen to make difficult choices here, and both of them were instrumental in pushing in this direction. We wouldn’t be standing here tonight if they hadn’t made the choices.

I’m most hopeful because of the positive steps that Israelis themselves and Palestinians are taking on the ground and the promise that those steps represent about the possibilities of the future. The path to resolution of this longstanding conflict in this critical corner of the world, that path is not about fate. It’s about choices, choices that people can make. And this is not up to chance. It’s up to the Israeli people and the Palestinian people and no one else.

So knowing that the road ahead will be difficult and the challenges that the parties face are daunting, we will call on everybody to act in the best of faith and push forward. The representatives of two proud people today have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that the daunting challenges that we face are worth tackling. So they have courageously recognized that in order for Israelis and Palestinians to live together side by side in peace and security, they must begin by sitting at the table together in direct talks.

I thank those leaders. I thank all those who have worked so hard, my team especially, who have been part of this. And I look forward to seeing my friends from this region in Washington next week or very soon thereafter. Thank you very much.

Read more: iipdigital.usembassy.gov/st/engli…

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Now, the hard work truly begins. As the topsy-turvy nature of news reports this week indicate, the road ahead on Peace in the Middle East will be fraught with setbacks, rumors, leaks and denials. Leaders on both – the Israeli and the Palestinian – sides will be tested, as will the United States’ resolve to see negotiations through to fruition.

Vocal Palestinian and Israeli leaders who reject a two-state solution will be working to ensure this effort fails. They are already mobilizing.

The Washington-based Israel Policy Forum’s role (IPF,) in the coming weeks, is clear: provide credible, high-level advocacy and policy resources to support meaningful efforts to craft a two-state solution. We must make the case for two-states to advance Israel’s and America’s interests – they say.
They call for the American Jewish leaders to be adamant that there is no alternative to a two-state solution. The IPF will try to make the case that engaging the Arab Peace Initiative will not only be a critical step to a sustainable two-state solution, but also to aligning the region against the threat of Iran’s regional meddling, and nuclear ambitions. Outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, stated in a recent New York Times interview, “If we can progress toward that goal (a two-state solution), it will better position us to deal with the chaos around us.”

———————————————————

Press Release July 20, 2013 by the Israeli Peace Camp – Gush Shalom that declared:


Negotiations stand or fall on the 1967 borders issue.

“The negotiations due to open in Washington, after all the efforts of Secretary of State Kerry, will stand or fall primarily with one issue: an agreement that the Green Line, the internationally recognized borders of Israel as they were on June 4, 1967, will be the basis for the permanent border between the existing State of Israel and the State of Palestine which will come into existence at its side” says Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc.

“If this is agreed on, we have a breakthrough to a peace agreement with the Palestinians and with the entire Arab world. It then would be possible to hold detailed negotiations of demarking the precise boundary line and define small, reciprocal swaps of territory. Also other issues such as Jerusalem and refugees, highly emotional for both sides, can be solved once it is defined where the two parties stand on the ground and what will be the border between the two states.

On the other hand, if there no agreement on the 1967 borders as the basis for an agreement – and clearly the Government of Israel in its current composition is neither willing not able to provide such an agreement – then negotiations are foredoomed to failure. In that case, the Washington talks will be remembered as a passing episode, followed by escalating violence on the ground and an increasing international isolation for Israel. In such a case, the decision makers cannot disclaim responsibility.”

Contact: Adam Keller +972-(0)54-2340749

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 20th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The desalination revolution

How Israel beat the drought

This country was on the brink of water catastrophe, reduced to running relentless ad campaigns urging Israelis to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture. Now, remarkably, the crisis is over.

By February 26, 2013,
A Christian pilgrim submerged in the Jordan River during a ceremony at the baptismal site known as Qasr el-Yahud near Jericho. (Photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Until a couple of years ago, Israeli radio and TV regularly featured commercials warning that the country was “drying out.”

In one of the most powerful TV ad campaigns, celebrities including singer Ninet Tayeb, model Bar Refaeli and actor Moshe Ivgy highlighted the “years of drought” and the “falling level of the Kinneret.”

As they spoke plaintively to camera, their features started to crack and peel — like the country — for lack of moisture.

Ninet Tayeb in the no-longer-broadcast 'Israel is drying out' commercial (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

So compelling was this ad, so resonant its impact, I hadn’t actually realized it was no longer on the air. Alexander Kushnir put me straight. “We decided it simply wasn’t justified to alarm Israelis in this way any longer,” said Kushnir, who heads Israel’s Water Authority.

How so? Israelis don’t need to watch their water use any more? Isn’t this region one of the world’s most parched? Haven’t we been warned for years that the next Middle East war will be fought over water?

Kushnir’s answers: Yes, Israelis must still be wise with their water use. Yes, emphatically, this is a desert region, desperately short of natural water. And yes, we have indeed been worried for years about the possibility of water shortages provoking conflict.

But for Israel, for the foreseeable future, Kushnir says, the water crisis is over. And not because this happens to have been one of the wettest winters in years. Rather, he says, an insistent refusal to let the country be constrained by insufficient natural water sources — a refusal that dates back to David Ben-Gurion’s decision to build the National Water Carrier in the 1950s, the most significant infrastructure investment of Israel’s early years — led Israel first into large-scale water recycling, and over the past decade into major desalination projects. The result, as of early 2013, is that the Water Authority feels it can say with confidence that Israel has beaten the drought.

Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority (photo credit: Courtesy)

Alexander Kushnir, head of the Water Authority      (photo credit: Courtesy)

Speaking to The Times of Israel from the authority’s offices in Tel Aviv, Kushnir identifies that refusal to “rely on fate” as the key to a genuine strategic achievement — a rare, highly positive change in an age and a region where most of Israel’s challenges appear to be worsening, not receding, much less disappearing.

“How did we beat the water shortage? Because we said we would. We decided we would,” says Kushnir, a big man with a warm smile and a robust Russian accent. “And once you’ve made that decision, you build the tools to reduce your dependence. We’re on the edge of the desert in an area where water has always been short. The quantity of natural water per capita in Israel is the lowest for the whole region. But we decided early on that we were developing a modern state. So we were required to supply water for agriculture, and water for industry, and then water for hi-tech, and water to sustain an appropriate quality of life.”

The National Water Carrier — which takes water from the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret) south through the whole country to Beersheba and beyond — exemplified Israel’s ambition. Contemplated even before the modern state was founded, its planning and initial construction were “a dominant feature of the first Ben-Gurion government — an unprecedented investment,” Kushnir notes. “It stressed our desire to achieve a different reality.”

Carrying almost 2 million cubic meters a day nationwide, that supply line, together with water from underground aquifers, kept Israel watered through the 70s. By the 1980s, though “we had a bigger population, bigger needs and the natural resources were overstretched. So we experimented with a small desalination plant in Eilat. And we began recycling purified sewage, and bringing industry into purifying water.”

“Use any superlatives you like,” urges Kushnir, to describe the fact that, today, “over 80% of our purified sewage goes back into agricultural use. The next best in the OECD is Spain with 17-18%. It’s so justified energy-wise, and environmentally as well.”

But even these innovations weren’t enough to meet the needs of an ever-growing population through the 1990s and into the 2000s, the more so when the rains failed. Average rainfall in Israel is about 1.2 billion cubic meters. But in relatively dry years, it can sink to 900 million.

As the gulf between available water resources and needs widened, Israeli agriculture moved away from water-intensive crops and pioneered enormously improved efficiency, with trailblazing drip irrigation techniques. Israel also increased the use of brackish water in agriculture. And all that still wasn’t good enough. “We knew we had to be careful not to hurt our natural resources,” says Kushnir. “Ultimately, we had no choice but to reduce the supply of natural water to agriculture, and to increase prices, which hurt our agricultural sector.”

Plainly, this was no long-term solution. Elsewhere in the region, poorly managed countries were over-drilling, over-using, and risking major damage to natural sources. “In Syria, for instance, they drilled wells everywhere and destroyed aquifers,” he says. “They had irrational, erratic water management and a lack of government policy.” Even before two years of civil war began, Syrians turned on their taps and got nothing most days of the week.

‘We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with’

“By 2000 our balance was really strained,” says Kushnir. “We would have had to cut back drastically in agriculture or industry or home use and we weren’t prepared to do that. We didn’t want to switch off the water to a population in Israel which has enough problems to deal with.”

The solution was desalination, on a major scale — the third phase in a water revolution that had begun with the water carrier and continued with recycling. The first large desalination plant came on line in Ashkelon in 2005, followed by Palmahim and Hadera. By the end of this year, when the Soreq and Ashdod plants are working, there’ll be five plants — built privately at a cost of NIS 6-7 billion (about $2 billion).

Israel's desalination plant on the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon (Photo credit: Edi Israel /Flash90)

Israel uses 2 billion cubic meters of water per year — which is actually a little less than a decade ago, as efficiencies have been introduced in agriculture (which uses 700 million), and water-saving awareness has permeated. Of that two billion, half will be “artificially” manufactured by year’s end — 600 million cubic meters from those desalination plants, and 400 from purified sewage and brackish water.

“We’re not the world’s biggest desalinators,” notes Kushnir, “but no one has made the shift so fast to a situation where half of its water needs are filled from ‘artificial’ sources. And it means we are now ready for the next decade, without dramatic dependence on rainfall fluctuations.”

Kushnir regards this as a remarkable achievement — “a lesson for the rest of the world,” he says, “or at least those many parts of the world that are grappling with variants of the difficulties Israel has overcome.”

The panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night

So the “Israel’s drying out” ads have gone off the air, and the panicked warnings are over. But that doesn’t mean Israelis should now wash their cars with sloshing abandon, shower for hours, or hose their lawns (if they’re lucky enough to have one) day and night.

“In our region, you always have to save water,” Kushnir stresses. “There has to be intelligent water use. But I’m not going to scream at people anymore.”

The campaigns were demonstrably effective; they reduced water use by at least 10 percent, Kushnir says. “In 2000, it was 100 cubic meters per person per year. Nowadays it’s 90. That saved us a desalination plant.”

But Israel can afford to relax, at least a little. “Our job is to ensure that when you turn on the tap, water comes out,” says Kushnir. “Well, we’ve done that. People have to continue to be smart. This isn’t London or Washington, DC. You have to use water as appropriate to our region. There has to be awareness that water is a precious resource, and we have to manufacture much of it, and that costs money. The manufacture also creates carbon dioxide and that affects the environment. So, I’m not trying to scare the public. You want water, here’s water. Use it. Use it as you want, but use it wisely.”

Where does Kushnir stand on global warming? Does he see it impacting annual rainfall? “There are dramatic changes in water fall,” he responds. “We need to be prepared for graver, longer droughts. If we see global warming having more of an effect, we’ll have to increase the desalination factor. If not, we’ll stay at the current fifty-fifty.

“Personally,” he goes on, “I’m a bit skeptical that global warming is a consequence of human activity. There is partial proof that human activity has exacerbated it. [But] it might be normal fluctuations. Remember,” he adds, “I’m supposed to be skeptical when I decide where to spend our billions.”

For all the announced success, should we be concerned that it might have come too late — that desalination should have been implemented earlier, reducing the heavy pumping from the Kinneret and the aquifers?

Shuli Chen, who works for the National Water Authority, stands in the Sea of Galilee to take a measurement of the water level, March 2007. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“Yes, we could have started desalination earlier. The damage to our natural resources would have been lighter,” Kushnir agrees. “We came very close to the black lines in the aquifers and the Kinneret which could have caused multi-year damage. Did we do harm? I hope not. But we’re moving away from the black lines now, even from the warning red lines. The immediate refilling and rehabilitation of the Sea of Galilee looks nice, but the aquifers are the key and we’re still 1 billion cubic meters to the optimal levels. Yet we’re legitimately optimistic.” (As of late February, the Sea of Galilee was at 210.24 meters below sea level, its highest level in seven years, which is a healthy 2.65 meters above the “lower red line” and 1.56 meters below the “upper red line” — the point at which the lake is considered full.)

At the same time as desalination has supplemented natural sources, he adds, Israel has also become more efficient in the collection of rainfall. “As we improve, our aquifers will refill. Our springs will fill up. Then we’ll really have done our bit.”

What about the rest of the immediate neighborhood, those who work with Israel, and those who are hostile to Israel?

Kushnir says Israel supplies an annual 100 million cubic meters in total to the Palestinian Authority (30 million) and to Jordan (70 million), in line with formal agreements. He says the PA has failed to develop all the infrastructure necessary to maximize available water, and would reach “reasonable, appropriate levels” if it did so. “They can take quite a lot from the eastern aquifer. There are natural sources they didn’t develop. It’s detailed in the interim agreements.” He also says that among Jewish settlers in the West Bank, water use is similar to that inside sovereign Israel.

Kushnir says he meets with the head of the PA’s water authority, Dr. Shaddad Attili. “We speak to them all the time and we tell them how we managed, including by purifying sewage.”

Attili, for his part, last October accused Israel of charging “extortionate” prices for the water it supplies, and the PA has claimed that Israel’s refusal to let it drill in various locations above aquifers, as well as disappointing results from the developments it has introduced, force it to continue to depend upon those Israeli supplies.

“Our water market is no longer subsidized by the state,” Kushnir responds, “not since 2007.”

As for Jordan, Kushnir says the two countries work together effectively. Ever since the Israel-Jordan border demarcation was adjusted under the 1994 peace accord, Jordan has allowed Israel to maintain its drilling facilities inside what became Jordanian territory in the south, “and we help them in the north.”

It was King Abdullah’s father Hussein who would warn about water shortages prompting the next Middle East war. As far as Kushnir is concerned, the Israeli-Jordanian working relationship where water is concerned assuages any such worry. “There is such good mutual respect and interest,” he says. “We help each other. [Relatively speaking,] they have water; their challenge is how to deliver it. There’s the Red-Dead project where we can argue about the specifics. They’re thinking of desalination in Aqaba. They have a plan for use of brackish water. They can solve their problems overall, and we’ll be happy to help.
The Israeli-Jordanian water agreement is an example of a deal where both sides benefit.”

A Palestinian man fills a tank with clean water to be trucked to families who don't have safe drinking water at their homes in Gaza City, in 2010 (photo credit: Wissam Nassar/Flash90)

Beyond Jordan, though, has the fear of drought-stoked conflict disappeared? Israel, Syria and Lebanon have long contested water rights, and intermittently accused each other of abuses. Gaza faces acute water shortages.

“We know that geostrategic changes in the region can endanger our water sources,” Kushnir allows. “We certainly can’t afford to give up our natural resources.”

Treading delicately, Kushnir notes that, despite the new successes, the Dead Sea, for instance, is “missing billions of cubic meters.” One day, he muses, “Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel could potentially redirect the waters of the Litani River,” in Lebanon, to begin to address that challenge. “Of course, he adds, with magnificent understatement, “we would have to be in a situation of constructive dialogue.”

For all that Israel’s new water health is legitimately hailed as a remarkable achievement, that utopian vision — of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel engaged in “constructive dialogue” — would seem beyond the foreseeable ambitions of even the most skilled and optimistic of rainmakers.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This website argued for years that Turkey could have enhanced its world position by allowing enough slack to its own Kurds establishing itself as a bi-National State – Turkish-Kurdish and absorb the Kurdish areas of Iraq, Iran, Syria, as well. They did not – and now Erdogan tries to go for what he thinks is within his reach.

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PKK Challenges Barzani
In Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters talk to each other as they stand guard at the Kandil mountains near the Iraq-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 km (205 miles) northeast of Baghdad March 24, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)

While Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) pursues the cease-fire plan with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the PKK is also involved in a subtle power struggle across Turkey’s borders. This struggle is being played out by the PKK’s efforts to check the influence of Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, over leadership of the Kurds. By engaging in the Kurdistan Region’s messy pre-election politics and supporting the opposition Change Movement (Goran), the PKK is attempting to stifle a third mandate for Barzani, while stirring local criticism of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). These PKK interventions are unlikely to alter the status quo in the region — at least for the forthcoming elections — however; they are fueling political fragmentation and creating additional challenges to regional stability.

 

Indeed, rivalries between the PKK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) are nothing new. During the Iraqi Kurdish civil war of the 1990s, the PKK and KDP engaged in armed conflict against each other, as well as the KDP against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The Ocalan-Barzani competition re-emerged after the Syrian civil war broke out, and as different Syrian Kurdish groups backed by the PKK and its affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) vied for power with the KDP-supported Kurdish National Council. This rivalry continues with Barzani tied to Turkey and attempting to court Syrian Kurdish youth groups and independents away from PYD influence.

Still, Barzani and Ocalan reached a tacit agreement after Ocalan’s imprisonment in 1999, which allowed the PKK to relocate in the Kandil Mountains in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The KRG also tolerates the presence of thousands of PKK supporters in the Makhmour Camp, where they have been residing since 1994 as political refugees. Moreover, despite the rapprochement between Erbil and Ankara, Barzani has affirmed that “the period of Kurds killing Kurds is over” and that the KRG Peshmerga would not engage militarily against the PKK or any other Kurdish group. These efforts have led to a mutually peaceful coexistence between the KDP and PKK, despite the distinctly different ideologies and regional relationships each has developed, particularly with Ankara.

The last six months, however, have seen a shift in PKK tactics inside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Whereas the PKK leader in Kandil, Murat Karaliyan, had previously indicated his willingness to work with Barzani in 2009, he now opposes electing him to a third term as president. The PKK is using its networks and social media to incite local opposition against Barzani and the Iraqi Kurdish parties. For instance, it is encouraging local populations in the Iraqi Kurdish-Iranian border town of Halabja to criticize the KRG and Barzani for lack of services. One of the PKK websites has inflammatory photos and remarks about Barzani’s leadership, as well as other KRG political party leaders.

This shift reflects a reaction to Barzani’s growing power — including his close ties to Erdogan — and his claims or ambitions to become a leader of all the Kurds, expressed in Kurdish as “president of Kurdistan,” which the PKK rejects.

More specifically, the PKK shift coincides with the illness of Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq and leader of the PUK, which has further weakened the PUK and limited any serious competition for the KDP and Barzani’s power. In fact, the rump of the PUK — known as the “Gang of Four” — may have called for a separate list in the planned September elections to reflect its differences and attempts to challenge the KDP. Yet the PUK leadership continues to support and depend upon Barzani as president, particularly as a financial patron.

This is why the PKK is now calling for a “Kurdistan supported by Goran.” Goran remains the only secular Kurdish nationalist party that seeks to remove Barzani from office while pressing for a parliamentary and not presidential system for the region. Goran also has indicated its support for the PKK and affirmed the PYD as the representative of the Kurds in Syria, posing another direct challenge to Barzani and the KDP. The PKK-Goran alliance also is based on shared concerns about Turkey’s regional power and the need to check Erdogan’s influence over Iraqi Kurds and in Syria.

It is unlikely that the PKK will weaken the deeply rooted patronage networks inside the Kurdistan Region that will assure Barzani power and KDP and PUK influence for years to come. Many people, particularly the youth, may support the PKK as true Kurdish nationalists and back Goran; however, they also have been co-opted by the increasingly generous handouts and comfortable lifestyles made available to them by the KRG in recent years. Many others are disinterested in politics altogether or unwilling to pay the consequences of being linked to the opposition.

Still, PKK engagement in Iraqi Kurdish politics matters because it reveals the growing complexity of the trans-border Kurdish problem and the PKK’s political agenda to change the status quo. This challenge will not only be about advancing Kurdish nationalist rights in different states, but clarifying who will represent Kurdish interests and what form these nationalist interests should take. Whatever the outcome, these struggles will likely create a wide opening for more deal-making between Kurdish groups and regional states, keeping the Kurdish nationalist movement fragmented from within and across borders.

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Denise Natali holds the Minerva Chair at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), National Defense University where she specializes in Iraq, regional energy issues and the Kurdish problem. The views expressed are her own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the US government.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 10th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

 

A parched Syria turned to war, scholar says, and Egypt may be next.

Prof. Arnon Sofer sets out the link between drought, Assad’s civil war, and the wider strains in the Middle East; Jordan and Gaza are also in deep trouble, he warns.

May 9, 2013, The Times of Israel

One quarter of the 3000 km.-long Euphrates River runs through Syria but Turkey, situated upriver, has drastically reduced the flow of water (Photo credit: CC BY Verity Cridland, Flickr)

 

Some look at the upheaval in Syria through a religious lens. The Sunni and Shia factions, battling for supremacy in the Middle East, have locked horns in the heart of the Levant, where the Shia-affiliated Alawite sect has ruled a majority Sunni nation for decades.

Some see it through a social prism. As they did in Tunis with Muhammad Bouazizi — an honest man who couldn’t make an honest living in this corruption-ridden part of the world — the social protests that sparked the war in Syria started in the poor and disenfranchised parts of the country.

Others look at the eroding boundaries of state in Syria and other parts of the Middle East as a direct result of the sins of Western hubris and Colonialism.

Professor Arnon Sofer has no qualms with any of these claims and interpretations. But the upheaval in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says, cannot be fully understood without also taking two environmental truths into account: soaring birthrates and dwindling water supply.

Over the past 60 years, the population in the Middle East has twice doubled itself, said Sofer, the head of the Chaikin geo-strategy group and a longtime lecturer at the IDF’s top defense college, where today he heads the National Defense College Research Center. “There is no example of this anywhere else on earth,” he said of the population increase. Couple that with Syria’s water scarcity, he said, “and as a geographer it was clear to me that a conflict would erupt.”

The Pentagon cautiously agrees with this thesis. In February the Department of Defense released a “climate-change adaptation roadmap.” While the effects of climate change alone do not cause conflict, the report states, “they may act as accelerants of instability or conflict in parts of the world.” Predominantly the paper is concerned with the effects of rising seas and melting arctic permafrost on US military installations. The Middle East is not mentioned by name.

But Sofer and Anton Berkovsky, who together compiled the research work of students at the National Defense College and released a geo-strategic paper on Syria earlier in the year, believe that water scarcity played a significant role in the onset of the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, and that it may help re-shape the strategic bonds and interests of the region as regimes teeter and borders blur. Sofer also believes that a “Pax Climactica” is within reach if regional leaders would only, for a short while, forsake their natural inclinations to wake up in the morning and seek to do harm.

Syria is 85 percent desert or semi-arid country. But it has several significant waterways. The Euphrates runs in a south-easterly direction through the center of the country to Iraq. The Tigris runs southeast, tracing a short part along Syria’s border with Turkey before flowing into Iraq. And, aside from several lesser rivers that flow southwest through Lebanon to the Mediterranean, Syria has an estimated four to five billion cubic meters of water in its underground aquifers.

From 2007-2008, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities. The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.

For these reasons the heart of the country was once an oasis. For 5,000 years, Damascus was famous for its agriculture and its dried fruit. Since 1950, however, the population has increased sevenfold in Syria, to 22 million, and Turkey, in an age of scarcity, has seized much of the water that once flowed south into Syria.

“They’ve been choking them,” Sofer said, noting that Turkey annually takes half of the available 30 billion cubic meters of water in the Euphrates. This limits Syria’s water supply and hinders its ability to generate hydroelectricity.

In 2007, after years of population growth and institutional economic stagnation, several dry years descended on Syria. Farmers began to leave their villages and head toward the capital. From 2007-2008, Sofer said, over 160 villages in Syria were abandoned and some 250,000 farmers – Sofer calls them “climate refugees” – relocated to Damascus, Aleppo and other cities.

The capital, like many of its peer cities in the Middle East, was unable to handle that influx of people. Residents dug 25,000 illegal wells in and around Damascus, pushing the water table ever lower and the salinity of the water ever higher.

This, along with over one million refugees from the Iraq war and, among other challenges, borders that contain a dizzying array of religions and ethnicities, set the stage for the civil war.

Tellingly, it broke out in the regions most parched — “in Daraa [in the south] and in Kamishli in the northeast,” Sofer said. “Those are two of the driest places in the country.”

Professor Eyal Zisser, one of Israel’s top scholars of Syria, agreed that the drought played a significant role in the onset of the war. “Without doubt it is part of the issue,” he said. Zisser did not believe that water was the central issue that inflamed Syria but rather “the match that set the field of thorns on fire.”

Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)

Rebel troops transporting two women to safety along the Orontes River, which has shrunk in recent years and grown increasingly saline (Photo credit: CC BY FreedomHouse)

Since that fire began to rage in March 2011, the course of the battles has been partially dictated by a different sort of logic, not environmental in nature. “Assad is butchering his way west,” Sofer said. He believes the president will eventually have to retreat from the capital and therefore has focused his efforts on Homs and other cities and towns that lie between Damascus and the Alawite regions near the coast, cutting himself an escape route.

Sofer and Berkovsky envision several scenarios for Syria. Among them: Assad puts down the rebellion and remains in power; Assad abdicates and a Sunni majority seizes control; Assad abdicates and no central power is able to assert control. The most likely scenario, Sofer said, was that the Syrian dictator would eventually flee to Tehran. But he preferred to avoid that sort of micro-conjecture and to focus on the regional effects of population growth and water scarcity and the manner in which that ominous mix might shape the future of the region.

Writing in the New York Times from Yemen on Thursday, Thomas Friedman embraced a similar thesis, noting that the heart of the al-Qaeda activity in the region corresponded with the areas most stricken by drought. Sofer published a paper in July where he laid out the grim environmental reality of the region and argued that, as in Syria, the conflicts bedeviling the region were not about climate issues but were deeply influenced by them.

Egypt, Sofer wrote, faces severe repercussions from climate change. Even a slight rise in the level of the sea – just half a meter – would salinize the Nile Delta aquifers and force three million people out of the city of Alexandria. In the more distant future, as the North Sea melts, the Suez Canal could decline in importance. More immediately, and of greater significance to Israel, he wrote that Egypt, faced with a water shortage, would likely grow more militant over the coming years. But he felt the militancy would be directed south, toward South Sudan and Ethiopia and other nations competing for the waters of the Nile, and not north toward the Levant.

The NIle River, the lifeblood of Egypt's 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)

The Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt’s 82 million people (Photo credit: CC BY Simona Scolari, Flickr)

As proof that this pivot has already begun, Sofer pointed to Abu-Simbel, near the border with Sudan. There the state has converted a civilian airport into a military one. “The conclusion to be drawn from this is simple and unequivocal,” he wrote. “Egypt today represents a military threat to the southern nations of the Nile and not the Zionist state to the east.”

The Sinai Peninsula, already quite lawless, will only get worse, perhaps to the point of secession, he and Berkovsky wrote. Local Bedouin will have difficulty raising animals in the region and will turn, to an even greater degree, to smuggling material and people along a route established in the Bronze Age, through Sinai to Asia and Europe.

Syria, even if the war were swiftly resolved, is “on the cusp of catastrophe.” Jordan, too, is in dire need of water. And Gaza, like Syria, has been battered by unchecked drilling. The day after Israel left under the Oslo Accords, he said, the Palestinian Authority and other actors began digging 500 wells along the coastal aquifer even though Israel had warned them of the dangers. “Today there are around 4,000 of them and no more ground water. It’s over. There’s no fooling around with this stuff,” he said.

Only the two most stable states in the region – Israel and Turkey – have ample water.

Turkey is the sole Middle Eastern nation blessed with plentiful water sources. Ankara’s control of the Tigris and the Euphrates, among other rivers, means that Iraq and Syria, both downriver, are to a large extent dependent on Turkey for food, water and electricity. That strategic advantage, along with Turkey’s position as the bridge between the Middle East and Europe, “further serves its neo-Ottoman agenda,” Sofer said.

He envisioned an increased role for Turkey both in the Levant and, eventually, in central Asia and along the oil crossroads of the Persian Gulf, pitting it against Iran. Climate change, he conceded, has only a minor role in that future struggle for power but it is “an accelerant.”

Israel no longer suffers from drought. Desalination, conservation and sewage treatment have alleviated much of the natural scarcity. In February, the head of the Israel Water Authority, Alexander Kushnir, told the Times of Israel that the country’s water crisis has come to an end. Half of Israel’s two billion cubic meters of annual water use is generated artificially, he said, through desalination and sewage purification.

For Sofer, this self-sufficiency is an immense regional advantage. Israel could pump water east to Jenin in the West Bank and farther along to Jordan and north to Syria. International organizations could follow Israel’s example and fund regional desalination plants, which, he noted, cost less than a single day of modern full-scale war.

Instead, rather than an increase in cooperation, he feared, the region would likely witness ever more desperate competition. Sofer said his friends see him as a sort of Jeremiah. But the Middle East, he cautioned, is a region where “leaders wake up every morning and ask what can I do today to make matters worse.”

Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF's National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)

Arnon Sofer, a longtime professor at the IDF’s National Defense College, sees a link between the war in Syria and the water shortages there (Photo credit: Moshe Shai/ Flash 90)

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 9th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Return of the Jordan Option
For Palestine.

Vehicles drive toward the Allenby Bridge Crossing July 9, 2009. The Israeli-controlled terminal leading to the Allenby Bridge across the Jordan River is the West Bank’s only land link to the Arab world. (photo by REUTERS/Ammar Awad )
By: Geoffrey Aronson for Al-Monitor Posted on May 8. 2013

A recent visitor to Amman reports some senior Jordanians declaring openly that “there never was a place called Palestine. There is no such thing as Palestine, only Jordan.” Such sentiments, while still a minority view, mark a sea change in the long-standing Jordanian deference to the PLO on developments west of the Jordan River. According to one Palestinian, such views are being encouraged by some voices in Fatah, who fear Hamas’ baton more than Amman’s reluctant embrace, and who no doubt believe, as many veterans in Fatah do, that all it will take to turn Jordan into Palestine is a Palestinian decision to do so.

“Jordan is Palestine” is the mirror image of  “Palestine is Jordan.” Jordanians identified with the latter are not contemplating a confederal agreement between respective Jordanian and and Palestinian states, but rather the restoration of Jordan’s uncontested place in Jerusalem and the West Bank on the eve of the June 1967 war.

The ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is not to be envied. History and geography have played a cruel trick on the leader of this unlikely country. He is squeezed between more powerful and often warring parties, presiding over a population of subjects thrown together by war and circumstance.To its credit, Jordan has succeeded more often than it has failed to construct a popular and workable, if fragile sense of national identity shared by disparate Palestinian and Transjordanian communities during the last nine decades. However, the self-immolation of Syria, Fatah’s failure to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the uncertain promise of the Arab Spring are posing new and unprecedented challenges for King Abdullah II, whose head lies ever uneasy on the royal throne.

The feasting on the corpse that was once Syria poses the most immediate challenge to Jordan, and it was at the heart of recent discussions during the King’s recent visit to Washington in the last week of April. But Jordan’s cascading problem managing the fallout from Syria complements the more essential challenge that has always been uppermost in the mind of Jordan’s political elite as well as its growing Islamic opposition. This challenge, of course, relates to the Palestinian dimension of Jordan’s national identity, and the King’s ability to manage this without his Hashemite or Transjordanian identity suffering as a consequence.

It is against Jordan’s basic nature to make precipitous moves in any direction, yet a dynamic trend favoring a “New Look” in Jordan’s Palestine policy — one that is viewed sympathetically in both Jerusalem and Washington — is hard to ignore.

For many years now Jordan has been confronting a most unwelcome strategic environment to its west, across the Jordan River. Fatah has failed to end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the growing power of Hamas as a political factor has proceeded in tandem. Fatah is no friend of Jordan, where memories of Black September remain etched in the consciousness of the Jordanian elite. But Jordan long ago was forced by its own failures and by circumstances beyond its control to make its peace with the PLO, not only as the recognized representative of the Palestinian people — at least those residing east of the Jordan River —- but also as a strategic buffer against Israeli, American and Islamic/Arab claims against Amman. The PLO, notably after King Hussein’s 1988 disengagement from the West Bank, became Jordan’s insurance policy against the imposition of a solution at Jordan’s expense to Palestine’s problems in West Bank and Gaza Strip.

To Jordan’s dismay, it is being forced to realize that Fatah and the PLO it embodies cannot perform this task. This conclusion has been debated from time to time in recent years. The barometer of these discussions is Amman’s on-again, off-again dance with Khaled Meshaal and Hamas, most notably the 2009 thaw in relations engineered by Gen. Mohammad Dhahabi, who was at the time head of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department. If Fatah cannot be a Palestinian shield protecting Jordanian interests in a quiescent West Bank, it is argued, then perhaps Hamas should be given a go.

The other option, and the one today at the center of Jordan’s agenda, suggests a fundamental rethinking of Jordan’s exit from the West Bank that began with King Hussein’s failure in 1972 to reach an agreement on Israeli withdrawal with Moshe Dayan and that gained momentum with the Arab League decision to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.  Like Jordan’s unenthusiastic turn in Hamas’ direction, this option reflects Jordan’s despair at Fatah’s failure and is a hedge against Fatah’s capitulation to Israel in a deal that would endanger Jordan’s interest in preventing an influx of Palestinians eastward across the Jordan River.

One example of this trend is the “historic,” if precipitous, agreement between King Abdullah and PLO head Mahmoud Abbas in March confirming the Jordanian king’s stewardship of the holy places in Jerusalem.

“In this historic agreement, Abbas reiterated that the king is the custodian of holy sites in Jerusalem and that he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa mosque,” the palace said in a statement. Abbas said that the agreement confirmed “Jordan’s role since the era of the late King Hussein” and that it consolidated agreements established decades ago.

Abbas’ signature marks the first formal Palestinian recognition of Jordan’s central role in Jerusalem and it complements the understanding detailed in Jordan’s treaty with Israel in 1994. The treaty notes that “Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”

Abbas’ interest in formalizing Jordan’s role is a function of Palestinian weakness and stands in ironic contrast to the nominal, and apparently symbolic boost for sovereignty won at the UN last November.

The understanding on Jerusalem reflects the PLO’s interest in Amman as a diplomatic safe harbor, protecting against both Hamas and Israel, and Amman’s readiness to reaffirm its interest in Jerusalem at the PLO’s (and Hamas’) expense.

These interests are not inconsistent with the evolving diplomatic strategy being pursued by US Secretary of State John Kerry. For more than a year, Amman has been a key way station of Washington’s diplomacy, much to the dismay of some in Egypt who preside over long-stalled reconciliation efforts. But unlike President Mohammad Morsi, King Abdullah is interested in being identified with any American effort. Even if opposed to the ideas Kerry is now circulating, Jordan has rarely viewed itself as in a position to reject US efforts.

“Palestine is Jordan” has long been the rallying cry of Israel’s right wing. It is now finding an uncertain echo in Jordan.

Geoffrey Aronson has long been active in Track II diplomatic efforts on various Middle East issues. He writes widely on regional affairs.

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Jordan hails US-Russia plans for Syria peace conference


Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, meeting with US Secretary of state John Kerry in Rome Thursday, threw his support behind the US-Russian call for a Syria peace conference later this month. With over 500,000 Syrian refugees and 2,000 more coming every day, Jordan’s envoy said it’s imperative that a transition get underway to a political resolution that preserves Syria’s multi-ethnic society and borders.

“We are extremely encouraged by the results of the Secretary’s meetings in Moscow with the President and with the Foreign Minister and salute your achievements in that regard by identifying a path forward,” Judeh said at a meeting with Kerry at the US ambassador’s residence in Rome Thursday.

Jordan’s position, Judeh said, is that there “has to be a transitional period that results in a political solution that includes all the segments of Syrian society, no exclusion whatsoever…preserves Syria’s territorial integrity and unity, and…guarantees… pluralism and opportunity for everybody.”

Judeh said he was heading to Moscow Thursday for further discussions.  On Tuesday, Judeh issued a joint call  with Iran’s visiting Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for both sides in Syria’s civil war to enter talks on a transition government.

Kerry, on the final leg of a trip to Moscow and Rome, said Thursday that he had sent US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford on to Istanbul to meet with the Syrian opposition and begin work to persuade them to come to the peace conference. They have expressed misgivings because it would get underway before any agreement on the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although US officials insist US policy hasn’t changed and that they do not see any possibility where Assad could remain the leader of Syria.

“The specific work of this next conference will be to bring representatives of the government and the opposition together to determine how we can fully implement the means of the [Geneva] communique, understanding that the communique’s language specifically says that the Government of Syria and the opposition have to put together, by mutual consent, the parties that will then become the transitional government itself,” Kerry said at a meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

Washington and Moscow actually have common ground on Syria, except for the issue of the sequencing of the transition, Russian foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov wrote  for Al-Monitor Thursday.

“We can say that Russia and the US differ today on only one issue: the sequence of actions,” Lukyanov wrote. “First Assad leaves, then the process of establishing a new political regime in Syria begins, or the other way around. Moscow supports the second version, and Washington the first. As strange as it seems, they are in agreement on everything else: After Assad, there is a risk that Syria will become ungovernable, and the goal of outside forces… is to prevent power from falling into the hands of Islamic extremists.”

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How the Arab League Can Help
Israel, Palestine Negotiate

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani as they meet with members of the Arab League at Blair House in Washington April 29, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Jason Reed)

The April 29 meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and an Arab League ministerial delegation of the Arab Peace Initiative (API) follow-up committee carried a double message.

The first was the United States’ willingness to seriously explore the possibility of resuming negotiations with the aim of ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after visits to the region by President Barack Obama and the secretary of state.

Skeptics worry that a division of labor decided by the US president, whereby he focuses on Asia while leaving the Arab-Israeli conflict to his secretary of state, is not very promising, despite the commitment and personality of the latter.

The second message is that Arabs have been waiting for a willingness to dust off the API, as I have previously argued here, and put it on their agenda with the United States. They are showing a readiness to invest in the Palestinian issue at this critical moment in Syria. The meeting should be the beginning of a process that would also involve intensive US-Israeli contacts and other concerned parties in serious negotiations. Such negotiations should be conducted on a basis different from those that have failed to produce results for two decades.

Yet the Arab willingness to accept the principle of territorial swaps — limited as well as symmetrical in terms of area and quality — was seen by others in the United States and Israel conversely: something to precede the negotiations, or to be addressed separately from the basic issue, which is Israel’s acceptance of the June 1967 borders in conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 242.

Indeed, this resolution should be the basis for a settlement of the conflict and of a resolution of the occupation. The Palestinians have indicated many times their acceptance of minor adjustments to the borders of 1967 — adjustments that will be considered only in the context of negotiations for the two-state solution, not before.

Israel must formally accept the 1967 borders instead of engaging continuously in diplomatic acrobatics over the version of the Resolution 242 in which there is an omission of the word “the” before “territories.” Israel’s aim is to suggest that it does not have to withdraw from all the occupied territories and to legitimize its occupation of the territories it wants to annex. Yet the preamble of the resolution clearly states the inadmissibility of territorial acquisition by means of war, thus invalidating the Israeli argument. Minor, symmetrical adjustments are an integrated part and facilitator of that deal, well defined according to Resolution 242. This does not allow for an unknown offer to be made by Israel.

It is equally important that Israel cease all settlement activity, which Obama mildly criticized during his visit as detrimental to the process. Indeed, they represent a real danger to a peaceful resolution because they systematically destroy any possibility of creating a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

Also, suggesting Arab normalization with Israel as an encouraging gesture toward Israel, a free gift, further complicates matters. The focus must be on the United States and other third parties committed to peace in the Middle East and aware of the dangers of inaction to spell out the guidelines for reaching peace.

These guidelines are found in relevant UN resolutions and earlier agreements. These third parties should stand firmly by these guidelines. This is how the United States, a third party, could make the serious resumption of negotiations on the basis of a clear timetable and not mere discussion. The aim is to reach a comprehensive peace that includes normalization, as is clearly stated in the API, without amendment, despite what some have insinuated.

It is worth noting that amending the API necessitates a resolution by an Arab Summit, a matter that is neither on the collective Arab agenda nor on the agenda of the delegation. It is needless to revive once more, under different names, interim solutions that will take us nowhere but to further crisis and result in more conflicts.

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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