President Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem represents a crucial change in the American policy. This change can be described as a shift from the previous biased mediator position to the new position of the partner of Israel in its plans towards the Palestinians.

 This shift is not only a violation of the international law and the UN resolutions regarding Jerusalem, but also a violation of the 1993 Declaration of principles, signed in the White House and known as the Oslo Accords. According to that Agreement (Article 5), Jerusalem as a whole, including its East and West parts, will be subject to negotiations between the two sides. The agreement also warned against any procedures to be taken unilatarely in a way that would prejudice against the permanent status issues including Jerusalem. President Trump unilaterally decided to go beyond this Oslo commitment and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before an agreement about its borders and its division between the two sides. This is a crucial violation.

 

Process-wise, this move to unilateralism goes against the multilateral/international concerted efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As such, it will give the Israeli government additional motives to increase its unilateral steps to change the landscape of Jerusalem in a way that will leave no place and no space for the East Jerusalem Palestinians in the city. They will face more and more ethnic cleansing and forced migration. Different means will be used in this regard such as evacuation of the Bedouin neighborhoods around Jerusalem, ousting Palestinian communities from the city (such as Kufur Aqab, and Shufat Refugee camps), and identity cards confiscation. 

 The response to this American move might take one of two shapes: the first is to give President Trump a chance to develop the “ultimate deal” and present it to the parties in the coming months. Those who adopt such a position say that President Trump referred in his speech to the two-states solution, the preparation for the deal, and that the borders of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem will be decided by negotiations. That is in addition to his call for preservation of the status of the Holy places in Jerusalem.

The second argues that the hopes on the Americans to present a solution is over after 26 years of trial and error in the negotiations since Madrid 1991 conference till today. As such, this response calls for adoption of another path: to get to the Palestinian State in the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. It includes creating a Palestinian nonviolent campaign for independence, establishing Palestinian facts on the ground, especially in area C, Gaza and East Jerusalem, linking Gaza and West Bank together, promoting the Palestinian people’s unity, stuggling for more international recognition of the State of Palestine, and suing occupation in international courts.

The second looks to be a path for the creation of a new momentum towards Palestinian statehood. It advocates that the Palestinians should start this path, and then to ask the international community to support it as a path to their national emancipation.

As such, the second position argues the hit can be transformed into an opportunity for the Palestinians to get their right of self-determination in their independent state.

Article published in Valdai Club: http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/trump-s-decision-on-jerusalem/

Photo credit: Mohammed Zaatari/AP

Published in Tribune

In today’s speech president Trump announced his decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem without giving details about to which part of Jerusalem, but it is expected to be moved to East Jerusalem. His declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel will have a very negative effect on the peace process, and may even freeze it for the time being, opening the gates for extremists and radicals who will start working underground and even openly. They will be having hubs and will be harbored by many people. In the past they were working secretly and now they will be overtly operating against American and Israeli interests throughout the world. This deal between the Americans and Israel could not happen without an Arab approval of what is called the “Big Deal”, which means that the Palestinians would be having their own capital in Abu Dis, which is located near Jerusalem city. This could not have happened without this kind of deal, without some Arabs. The Palestinians will not be having their own independent state, which they were dreaming of in 1995 when they signed Oslo agreement. Back then the White House already believed that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, even though the other presidents of the US did not have the courage to announce it since then. But Donald Trump announced it without even thinking of any consequences and repercussions that would happen. That is why before he announced it, he asked the military, American Marines, to be ready for any outcome that would take place in the Middle East or anywhere in the world.

 

 

Photo credit: Renewer/Fotolia

 

Published in Commentaries

Trump occupies his post for already a year and during this time his Middle-Eastern politics has become an object of heated criticism from active and retired diplomats, Middle-Eastern experts and political scientists. There is even an opinion that Trump, unfortunately, listens more to his relatives, so it is unclear where the White House ends and where Trump’s family begins. He listens more to the opinions of unqualified people on the Middle East, than to the experienced diplomats. Moreover, the situation in the Department of State remains rather volatile. Despite one year has already passed, many offices remain unoccupied and Tillerson prefers a rather authoritarian mode of management, without listening to the Middle-Eastern specialists. At the same time there are several points of disagreement between Tillerson and Trump on the Middle East, which have become public.

Speaking about this very decision, now I can say that there is absolutely no logic in it. Even from the point of view of the US national interests in the region. There is an opinion that many of Trump’s advisers have planted in his mind an idea that now the situation in the Arab world has changed so much that the Arab states do not pay attention to the Palestinian issue and that his decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize this city as Israel’s capital will not provoke backlash in the Arab world. He thinks that maybe Arabs will have some minor protests, but not like in the 50ies and 60ies. Probably, such thoughts made Trump pass such decision. But there is absolutely not logic in it, and the reaction of Arab states, even of Saudi Arabia that now established special relations with Israel, of Iraq, Egypt, of European states like France, is naturally negative and will complicate the resolution of many other regional issues. This will hamper Trumps policy not only in the Palestinian-Israeli dimension, but also in Europe and in the Islamic world as a whole.

Photo credit Mandel Ngan/AFP

Published in Commentaries
 
Any serious analysis of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict subsequent to the Israeli elections of the 17th of March, will not take the results of those elections as a point of departure, as if these results represent a starting point for a new path. The " new" path was there all the while since the Israeli occupation started in 1967, and ever since one can witness a process of colonization that went on systematically, regardless of the party that was ruling Israel.
This colonization process is practiced since 1967 via five methods that were implemented in different ways during the 48 years that passed since 1967:
First: the colonization of the place, space, territory, and all the land( Judization process). Second: changing the shape of the landscape.Third: displacement,  mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing to tens of thousands of Palestinians. Fourth: the replacement process of Jewish colonizers in the Palestinian Territories in the expense of those Palestinians displaced( the Israelization process). Fifth, The isolation of the Palestinians that were not displaced in fragmented enclaves that are disconnected from each other by the Israeli colonies that exist between each one and the other, or by the separation wall, or by the prevention of freedom of access between the three areas of West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem through the closure system.
These colonization procedures are combined with ethnographic ones. The latter is not excluded to the ethnic cleansing that is taking place only, but it also includes the definition of those isolated in enclaves in different way by each enclave and the other, and as less than Palestinian citizens: in this since the Israeli imposed law considers the Palestinian Jerusalemites to be as " Jordanian citizens residing permanently in Israel", a definition that continued also after Oslo declaration of Principles of 1993. While the West Bank people were considered before Oslo to be "Jordanian citizens residing in areas administered by Israel", and after Oslo they became" Palestinian residents in areas that are under dispute". In regard to the Gazans they were considered prior to Oslo to be " People with unknown nationality residing in areas administered by Israel", and they became to be considered after Oslo as " Palestinian residents in a Palestinian territory".
Upon these categorizations, Gaza of its space that exceeds only a little bit more than one percent of the historical Palestine, is the Palestinian State, according to the Israeli policies. Some add to it Jericho based on 1994 Cairo agreement, and Jenin based on Sharon dismantling of the Israeli colonies there similar to Gaza in 2006.
These Israeli policies continued from 1967 till today regardless of which party/ coalition that was ruling Israel.
In the last Israeli elections, the policies above expressed them selves, also some parties went further building on them towards sustaining the Israeli control over the Palestinian Territories and move from that point to the point of annexation. the programs of the Likud and the right wing parties towards Palestine for the last elections ranged for example between the idea of de facto annexation and de jure  annexation of Area C of West Bank representing 64 Percent of the size of all West Bank. While the Zionist Camp program spoke about a Palestinian State with land swap, keeping the Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley, Annexing the big settlements blocks to Israel, and keeping Jerusalem as the United capital of Israel, while an" arrangement" for the Palestinians to be agreed upon through negotiations. Both the Zionist Camp, the Likud and the right wing Parties agreed on that" no single Palestinian refugee", will be allowed to return to Israel, accordingly to Tzipi Livni's article Failure Not An Option in the special Haaretz magazine for the Israel conference on Peace; and Herzog's policies as the policies of the ZU highlighted in the following piece in the Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/from-annexation-to-right-of-return-what-the-parties-say-about-the-palestinians/
 
It can be concluded Then that the  big political parties in Israel programs did not include the minimum that the Palestinians can live with, further than that some positions of the Zionist Camp gave priority to a war against Hamas or Hizbollah on reaching an agreement with the Palestinian authority, moreover they spoke about a framework agreement rather than a final agreement( Livni), (Apo: Quotation from her speech in Haaretz Conference when she said that there or she hope that a framework agreement will be reached) or about another long period of three years of negotiations without a guarantee what the results will be, and without a commitment to freeze the settlement expansion in the big settlement blocks and in East Jerusalem during the negotiations)( Apo: Quotation from Herzog speeches please),  One also will remember Ms Livni idea of 2007 of getting to a framework agreement that will be put in the drawers, and will not be implemented till Hamas regime in Gaza being dismantled.
Therefore the Israeli elections included roughly two camps: one that is clear on his ideas ranging between de facto or de jure annexation, and the second looks for negotiations but is not presenting the minimum requirements that the Palestinians can accept in order to go back to negotiations.
Some Might argue that if the Zionist Camp succeeded, this might created a situation were a bargaining process might took place leading subsequently to a compromise that will result with the resumption of the negotiations.The Arab List inside the Israeli Knesset would also played a role in creating such compromise in case that the Zionist Camp will need their support to his coalition from outside.
While such a thought presented a possibility that might happened if the Zionist Camp succeeded in the elections, leading subsequently to the resumption of the negotiations, but still such negotiations as the history of the Israeli Palestinian negotiations shown cannot guarantee that an agreement will be achieved given the content of the program of the Zionist Camp presented above that cannot meet the minimum requirements of the Palestinians. 
A better way after 25 years of negotiations starting with the 8 rounds of talks in Washington in 1990, will be by having a clear cut positions, and not the so called " constructive ambiguity formulas" that are capable to resume the negotiations, but are not capable to reach agreements. Many attempts and failures were already made, and there are no space any more for another failure.
Such a better way can be achieved by using the Arab Peace Initiative as a point of departure for a UN Security Council resolution that will create a mechanism for the creation of the Palestinian State besides Israel and on 1967 borders, using tools and procedures that will make Israel move forward regardless to its rejectionist position towards the API and the ending of the occupation.
Around The Arab Summit in Cairo of the 28th   29th of March, the API has become " the only game in town" with the potential to move the Israeli Palestinian track forward. Moreover, the Arab Foreign Ministers gave their support to a UN SC resolution for the API on March 10th 2015 with reaffirmation by the Arab League during the Arab Summit on March 29th 2015, coupled with the announcement by Saudi King Salman Ibn Abdelaziz for a UN Security Council resolution for the implementation of the API and a creation of a special UN envoy to see through with the API's implementation.
To approach the implementation effectively, the components of the resolution can include:
 1. Two states based on 1967 borders with agreed upon equal borders modifications and not only reciprocal ones.
2. Go beyond the unilateral recognition of Israel as a Jewish state controversial issue by the Recognition of the attachments and narratives of both the Israelis and Palestinians, with an arrangement that will respect the aforementioned attachments and narratives.
3. Sovereignty of Jerusalem should not be excluded to one party.
4. Reciprocal security arrangements that meet the requirements of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. 
5. An agreed upon solution the refugee problem in accordance to the UN Resolution 194.
The resolution can include conditions for effective execution:
 
                 1. Commencing with an international conference for peace that will create mechanism for follow-up on the time-framed negotiations; the mechanism will include cooperation between Quartet countries and the Arab League with Jordan and Egypt.
 
                  2. During the negotiations, both sides must fulfill obligations according to previous agreements. The International community will have its disposal tools and procedures to be used against the party(ies) that does not meet its obligations or is unable to go forward with the resolution's implementation. 
 
                   3. The implementation of the resolution will be supported by a follow-up committee that will bridge communication between the Arab League, Quartet, and the parties; while Jordan and Egypt- due to their diplomatic relations with Israel- will communicate between Israel and the Arab League. 
incentives to be provided to the Palestinians to the effect of accepting Palestine as a full-member to the UN.  Additionally, to allow Palestinian reconciliation to be implemented, build Gaza, and create Palestinian facts on the ground in East Jerusalem and Area C of West Bank, and the linking of the West Bank and Gaza; moreover, the tasks of the Quartet office in Jerusalem to be transformed to be equipped with such transformative tasks that will create a symmetry in the ground between the two sides of the conflict. 
As such, one will highly consider the reports coming from New York regarding a possible Quartet process of activating the API as a basis for a resolution on the bi-lateral Israeli-Palestinian track.
The only way out of impasse looks to be a Quartet based plan that will start with a new UNSC clear cut resolution that will be implemented with or without negotiations leading to two States Solution. Russia as an active member in the Quartet might play an important role in that direction.
 
Published in Tribune