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
Friday, 20 March 2015 12:54

Netanyahu's Victory: The masks are down.

Talking about the Israeli elections, the results and its meaning for the Peace Process, let start first with figures. The result is that Netanyahu got 57 seats all together with the right and religious parties’ bloc, and the left-center bloc parties got 53. In the middle there is a centrist party – Kulanu which is quiet moderate according to their declarations made before the elections, got 10 seats. But since this party descent from Likud, the assumption here is that Netanyahu with his 57 seats in the Parliament can form a coalition together with it – so they’ll form the coalition uniting 67 members of Parliament. In the previous elections the right religious bloc all-together had 61 seats. And actually what happened in the current elections is that the right wing parties and the religious forces have lost 3 seats in the Parliament, as Netanyahu took the seats from the ultra-orthodox parties, from the right-radical parties, and became bigger (30 seats), than the second party in the Parliament, which is the Zionist Camp (the former Labor party with 24). And so he gains the right to be the first to form the coalition. So, from my point of view, he made a big victory, but this victory was due to his expanse on the right wing radical parties. And mostly he has done it in the last three days before the elections, because most of the polls predicted him gaining 20-21 sits in the Parliament and he gained 30. So it was a big failure for the pollsters and for the media in Israel, because all of them had been assuming, that the Labor party and the Zionist Camp would win the elections and it appeared to be a disinformation. The real change was between parties but not between the two blocs of the political arena.   

There were also two very bad declarations of Netanyahu, as he stepped out of the Two-State solution and he incited the Arab population in Israel. And by this kind of announcement he gained the popularity among those who are ultra-right and ultra-orthodox. Many voters from the radical nationalist party ‘The Jewish home’, ruled by Nafrali Bennet moved to Netanyahu’s camp. Bennet had 12 seats in the Parliament previously. Now he has only 8. And all the seats he lost, he lost because of Netanyahu’s announcement that he is not in favor of the two-State solution anymore. That was a game changer in the last three days before the elections. 

We should understand also, that there is a big discord inside Israel, inside the Jewish population. We can even say that there are two states in Israel, as the society is divided to 2 blocs. One part of the Israeli society supports the Zionist Camp and the Labor party,’Yesh Atid’ party and ‘Meretz’.It is characterized by a very high gross national product, liberal values of cooperation with the Arab minority, diplomatic moderation, pragmatic security viewpoint. The other bloc is formed by ‘Likud’ party, The ‘Jewish home’, The Ultra-religious parties and Liberman party ‘Israel Beitenu’ . Most of that part is haunted by archaic fears it is prickly, isolationist and conservative and suspicious of the Arab neighbors .with small-income salaries. And however, they suffered a lot from the last years of Netanyahu’s internal social and economic policy, they’ve voted for him.

The result is that it is easier for Netanyahu to form a coalition, than for Labor Party and the Zionist Camp headed by Isaac Herzog.

As far as the future of the Peace Process is concerned, it should be reminded that in the end of the month the gathering of the Arab League will take place in Egypt. And I think that the Arab League will stay with the Arab Peace Initiative declaration. And I think, there is a possibility that Netanyahu would be set to say that he is for collaboration with moderate Arab states, as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt. He understand that main topic that interest Arab leaders is the fight against ISIS and stemming the expansion of Iran. The problem is that he wants to bring this ME collaboration without the Palestinians and in this case there will be no kind of diplomatic solution, and this would even paralyze the negotiations on the matter. Personally, as well as my organization, NISPED-AJEEC and the Peace camp in Israel, we strongly support the API and we see it as a right base for negotiation for peace together with the Palestinians. But the future for us, at least the nearest future, looks very gloomy. I must admit we don’t see any advancement in the Peace Process. One good thing is that the masks of Netanyahu and his government supporting the Peace Process and declaring the Two-State Solution do not exist anymore.

One good thing is that the masks of Netanyahu and his government supporting the Peace Process and declaring the Two-State Solution do not exist anymore.

–Mully Dor

The first announcement of the US administration was saying «Ok. So everything is clear now».

That means that the US is not going to stop the Palestinians, with their attempts to settle the conflict through the UN institutions. And this would probably have good consequences for the situation, compared to what we witnessed in the past, when the US had been automatically supporting everything Israel had been doing. And it was not helping Israel at all. I must admit that I didn’t like the way Obama was reacting to the Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress. He publicly hazed the president and got home safe and sound without paying any prize. The people of Israel saw no act of the US administration when Netanyahu behave like this and they understood that he defeated Obama. It was a big mistake of Obama.

I don’t believe that Netanyahu will be in practice more flexible on the two-state solution after the elections. In the past Netanyahu had been speaking more politely but had no intention to build it. He has been opposing this idea from the first minute. He had been declaring that he supports the conflict settlement on the basis of the two state solution on the international arena, while inside the country, for the home audience, he had been saying, that he don’t believe in it.

But of course it was a populist move to gain votes, but the question is what he is going to do after the elections. There is an important question if he is willing to enter the real negotiations on the two state solution or no. The Kerry initiative has failed, as Netanyahu didn’t want to draw the lines of the borders. He just wanted to stay in power. He is not willing to step into real negotiations and find a solution. He is a Mr. Security, declaring that he will secure the Israelis against Iran, against ISIS, against the Palestinians not believing in the two-state solution.

There is a big question whether this strategy and this policy can exist in the Middle East and in the modern world now. I don’t believe in this. But people actually vote for this policy. This policy will be of becoming isolated, conservative, to prefer any religious values over the democratic and liberal ones, to be a state that is suspicious of its neighbors. 

Published in Commentaries
Thursday, 19 March 2015 18:00

The Week in Quotes (16 March-22 March 2015)

Syria

As we have long said, there always has been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of that process. <...> It would not be, and would never be – and it wasn't what Secretary Kerry was intending to imply ­– that that would be Assad himself.

 – Jen Psaki, State Department Spokeswoman

The only way to put an end to the violence is via negotiations for a political solution, even if that makes talks with the Assad regime necessary.

– Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Foreign Minister

 

Israeli Elections 

The results of the Israeli elections show the success of a campaign platform based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people,

– Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s executive committee

Palestinians do not trust Israel on statements. They trust Israel on practice, and Palestinians have concluded much earlier that Netanyahu and his coalition are not at all interested in the concept of two states, regardless of what they say.

– Ghassan Al Khatib, a West Bank politician

Against all odds, we achieved a great victory for the Likud . . . I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important.

– Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli PM

 

Terrorist Attack in Tunisia

Every Tunisian should feel directly threatened by what happened today. <...>And I think the people of Tunisia will respond as one man.

­– Beji Caid Essebsi, President of Tunisia 

 This deadly attack, which is quite deplorable, should not allow to derail from what many consider the transition from authoritarianism to a system of justice and respect for human rights, the most successful in the region.

– Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.

Extremist terrorist groups seek to undermine the experience of democratic transition in Tunisia and in the region and create the climate of fear among the citizens who yearn for freedom, democracy and peaceful participation in the democratic construction.

– The organizing committee of the World Social Forum.

  

 

TWEET OF THE WEEK:  

Published in Weeks-in-Quotes

Though the elections results are not final yet, one can be sure that the ruling party Likud once again has reaffirmed its positions with a small advantage, and that is why now Benjamin Netanyahu is starting the process of coalition creation. In order to create a coalition he has to gain 61% of 120 members of Knesset. It is only possible in case of Netanyahu's success in attracting so called right-centrist parties. Two parties will probably become the decisive force – Yisrael Beiteinu, which has got six deputy seats, and Kulanu with 10 seats. If he manages to attract them, the qualified majority will be reached and he will be able to present a new government to the Israeli President. As far as the public opinion over the elections is concerned, first of all, the opposition block has also gained many votes, so not everybody in Israel is ready to vote only for the program of Benjamin Netanyahu which is mainly  focused on the security of Israel, many Israelis are more interested in solution of social and economic issues, and that is why they will demand the new government to pay attention right to these issues. So, that is the current situation, I believe it will remain the same and it means that the Middle Eastern policy of Israel will not change. It is possible to predict that the relations with the US will be rather tense as the personal relations between the Israeli Prime Minister and the US president are difficult enough. 

<...> Not everybody in Israel is ready to vote only for the program of Benjamin Netanyahu which is mainly  focused on the security of Israel, many Israelis are more interested in solution of social and economic issues, and that is why they will demand the new government to pay attention right to these issues. <...>

– Tatiana Karasova

As far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, it is not very correct to say that Netanyahu has declared that the two state solution is impossible, as it was widely shared by the media. During the previous elections Netanyahu’s political program included the possibility of creation of an independent Palestinian state. However, it should be admitted, that it contained such preconditions from the Israeli part that it was completely unacceptable for the Palestinian administration. Secondly, I do not think that the new Israeli government is interested in the conflict escalation. I believe, the most important thing for Netanyahu now is to secure the status quo – no peace, no war, just slow negotiations, etc. And it is quite obvious. Though, as I have already mentioned, the increasing pressure from the US is expected, as well as relaunch of the negotiations. But we have been through this. The Israeli government will agree to the negotiations knowing they will be fruitless, as both parties cannot make their positions closer. In case of changes from the Palestinian side, some development may be expected. But as we do not expect important changes from the Israeli side, the Palestinians are unlikely to make such steps either.

Published in Commentaries

Netanyahu’s speech to U.S. Congress on Iran caused a stir among experts who are anxiously following the election campaign in Israel as it enters its final stage. Israeli society decides who will rule the country for the next four years and which political course will be chosen. This affects not only the life of ordinary Israelis, but also the fate of the region. Despite its small size and limited capacities, Israel influences the international agenda and is at the center of several complex relations between states. This becomes especially remarkable when one realizes Israel stands between tree major powers in the world arena: Russia, the U.S. and Iran.

Russia has strong and stable relations with Israel and Israel is among the rare countries which were absent from the U.N. General Assembly vote not to recognize Crimea’s new status. At the same time, Israel considers Iran one of its greatest enemies, while Iran has softened its rhetoric regarding Israel since the step down of Ahmadinejad. Iran still does regard Israel as the troublemaker of the Middle East, however.

Meanwhile Russia has stable relations with the Iranian government and intensifies its ties with Iran against the background of cold Russia-West relations. However, the Iranian youth is much more favorable towards the U.S. than towards Russia. The U.S. supports Israel, but hardly tolerates Netanyahu’s policy. The U.S. clashes with Russia but cooperates with it in the framework of six-party talks on the Iranian nuclear program.

To read the whole article go to Al Arabiya.

 

Published in Tribune


Alongside the damage created by the latest and still-ongoing war between the Palestinians and the Israelis, one can see that the Arab Peace Initiative is gaining more ground this time not as a point of departure for a comprehensive Middle East solution, but as an umbrella for a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf countries seem to be ready to play an active role in that direction. 

The latest war that started in West Bank on the 3rd of June 2014- directly after the abduction of the three young Israeli settlers- and then moved to Gaza, was one that was possible to be avoided if the Israeli government did what democratic countries do with such an event of the abduction of the three young settlers- that is by searching for the assailants and bring them to justice. Instead, the Israeli government launched a big campaign of invasion and detention in West Bank and East Jerusalem, while the Israeli extremists killed the young Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir which by itself created the solidarity of the non-Hamas factions in Gaza whom started launching rockets against Israel, with Hamas later on joining after its Al-Qassam Brigade fighters were killed by a shelling of an Israeli jet. This also happened in a period when Hamas showed more moderation by supporting from the oustide a technocratic government that President Abbas composed and accepted the PA’s return to Gaza. 

It was a war of choice, initiated after the failure of the Kerry Initiative to get the two sides to an agreement. Kerry himself warned several times that violence might erupt if his initiative failed. 

It is also not a war against Hamas; it is a war against the Palestinians, with the aim of pushing them to accept the status quo of continuous occupation of the West Bank, and the control of Gaza strip and keeping it under a tight siege. The high causalities among the civilians and the massive damage of homes, schools, mosques, factories, and institutions indicates that the war is against the Palestinians. 

One can notice that it was part of the interim agreements of 1994 and 1996 between Israel and the PLO to create an airport, seaport and fair passage between Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. The first two were created by the end of the 1990s and several proposals were developed for the third. During the second Intifada, Israel destroyed both the airport and the seaport. Now the Israeli government claims that these issues are part of a permanent status agreement and not the interim one! 

If this is the case, the indirect Cairo negotiations should be transformed to negotiations of the comprehensive solution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict rather than having them as discussions about partial issues such as the amount of permits that Israel will increase for those who pass the crossing borders and the number of trucks of goods allowed to Gaza and others alike that lead to minimizing the Israeli siege around Gaza rather than lifting it as the Palestinian delegation demanded. The new process should be about finalizing and not about reaching a new sustainable temporary arrangement that will keep Israeli control, as was the case. 

When one looks the Palestinian demands, he/she will find these demands as fair and are about linking Gaza to West Bank and Jerusalem, and vice versa (signaling also the lack of freedom of access of West Bank Palestinians to Gaza), and also the seaport and the airport in Gaza should be for the use of all the Palestinians as it was clear in the interim agreement about them, leading also to the free passage that was presented as necessary for the West Bank Palestinians in order to reach the Gaza sea port and the airport for use. The establishment of the airport and the seaport will mean that the Palestinians will have their symbols of independence instead of depending on the airports and the seaports of the neighboring countries in order to travel and to exchange goods. 

With Egypt taking the leading role on the negotiation as the biggest country in the region, the API is brought in as an umbrella to these negotiations that will lead to the presenting the issues of the Palestinian independence as the issues of the negotiations, rather than the previously-traditional failed way of discussing an issue after the other. In other words, it should be negotiations aiming to demarcate the borders between the two states in West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, and decide on the modalities of the relations between the two states. In this regard, the issue of lifting the siege on reciprocal freedom of movement of individuals and goods between the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem is a national Palestinian independence issue, and thus it should be solved accordingly. 

This is the way out, and Egypt looks to be ready to play such a leading role. 

In order to support Egypt doing so, a coordination between the Arab League, the Kuwait leadership of the Arab Summit, and the Arab Peace Initiative Follow-Up Committee will be necessary, and moreover a UN Security Council resolution will be needed in order to define and support this new process for the two states, and an international conference will be required in order to launch and create a new international bid of support and follow up on it, leading to the results on an agreement upon a time frame. 

The Arab Gulf countries, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will be in support of such a process, creating with this an operationalization of the API on the Israeli-Palestinian track. Additionally, Hamas will also be involved in it, being part of the united Palestinian delegation to the Cairo negotiations, leading to peace with all the Palestinians- not with part of them to be against the other, as the conspiratorial proposals presented plant seeds to trigger upcoming wars and internal Palestinian fights between the so-called “moderates” and “extremists”. 

Nowadays, with the Palestinians, regardless of their political color, are waiting to see if the Israeli government will be ready to pick the opportunity and change its directions to peace with all the Palestinians, instead of seeking to “divide and rule”, or seeking- under the API umbrella- to “subcontract” by Israel the moderate Arab countries in order to come to Gaza to disarm Hamas there - as presented in several Israeli proposals- something that will not happen given that none of the Palestinian and the Arab moderates will be ready to accept an offer that is less than the Palestinian independence, and then ally with Israel against other Palestinians. Such wishful thinking will never happen.

 

18/08/2014

Published in Tribune

The recent Netanyahu’s declaration about the impossibility of the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in current conditions is not a piece of breaking news for those who have been monitoring the situation for certain amount of time. It was clear long ago that Netanyahu’s position is to delay and impede such solution by any means. The recent talks brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry that took place from January to April of the last year have clearly shown that the Israeli Prime Minister did not like much the situation when Israel was required to make big territorial concessions and liquidate a part of the settlements. It  was considered as unacceptable. And generally, all the proposals of the US side were in fact rejected. Of course the Israeli part is not the only one to blame for the failure of these talks, Palestinians have also done much to bring them to the impasse. But in this case we are speaking about Netanyahu and his recent comment. Why did he need to openly declare his unwillingness to accept this principle? The matter is that the elections are coming in Israel and Netanyahu is in rather difficult situation. So-called left-centrist forces have created a unitied block – it is the Israeli Labor Party and the party of Tzipi Livni. They have united into a so-called Zionist camp – this is a joint voting list with two leaders – Isaac Herzog from the Israeli Labor Party and Tzipi Livni on the first two slots.  And this list goes head to head with Likud according to all the polls, i.e. the last two months showed that Likud does not have any leading positions compared to the so-called left-centrists. And of course Netanyahu has to take steps in such situation in order to attract more votes. Particularly, of course, the votes of right electorate and those who have not decided yet, are at stake. And now, as the idea of creation of the Palestinian state is generally extremely unpopular in the Israeli society, Netanyahu uses this issue to somehow gain additional votes. I believe that the steps taken in his speech on the Iranian nuclear program in the US Congress, that unleashed a massive public outcry in the world and are still highly commented on, are also connected with the situation over the elections. Netanyahu’s main trump card is the international policy – he positions himself as Mr. Security and he can profit much from such issues to overrun his opponents during the elections campaign. That is why the declaration was made now. Moreover, just recently a big article by a well-known Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea was published in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth , telling that during the afore-mentioned negotiations of the last year Israel was supposedly  offered a number of solutions by the US administration that included the return to the lines of 1967, the solution of  Jerusalem problem by partition and, of course, the creation of the Palestinian state, dismantling of some settlements on the territories. And, allegedly, this document has arrived at the Premier’s office and even received a positive assessment. So there was such an article compromising Netanyahu, and now he and his team have to clean themselves by all the possible means from suspicions to be ready to make such colossal concessions. Though, this is to some extent a disinformation, aimed to compromise Netanyahu once again and show that generally he does not deserve the support of the right-nationalist forces that he enjoys now. So this situation has made him finally dot all the i’s and ultimately declare his  positions.

Published in Commentaries
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 22:35

The day after the Israeli elections

While the European Union prepares to probably launch a new attempt to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement in cooperation with both the Quartet and the USA, we think that such an attempt should be mainly based on the Arab Peace Initiative (API) implementation leading the Israeli-Palestinian track to the establishment of two states living side by side in peace and security- through the following stages: 

First: the pre-negotiation stage. In this stage, a strong engagement with the new Israel government is a must in order to get to terms with the new Israel Prime Minister about what he/she will present later on the negotiating table, and whether this will have to do with meeting the minimum requirements of the Palestinians. 

During this pre-negotiation engagement, the Israeli Prime Minister should also be advised not to demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” or as a “State of Jewish People” as long as he does not clearly define its borders; does not recognize dividing Jerusalem as a city of two capitals for two states; and finally as long as he does not assure the status of the Palestinians of Israel as Israelis citizens so as not to transfer them nor their residency area to the Palestinian state. The Prime Minister should also be advised that this process, being based on the API, will lead to the creation of normal relations between Israel and the Arab and Islamic countries. Based on these preparations, the Quartet should prepare parameters and memorandums to be presented to the parties prior to the resumption of the negotiations, calling the two sides to go back to negotiations. Without such a preparatory stage, it will be a disaster and a recipe to a failure of those negotiations. 

Second: once the previous stage is achieved, the international community should call on the two sides to engage in negotiations on the permanent status issues, starting with a launching of an international conference. The said conference will be attended by the Quartet countries, Arab League, core Arab countries, Israel, BRICS countries, and representatives from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The conference will decide the parameters for upcoming negotiations, and will accordingly set up an international Follow-Up Committee to the bi-lateral negotiations in cooperation with regional committees. The committee(s) will intervene in the negotiations when needed to bring in bridging proposals. Such a committee could include the EU countries like France, Germany, UK- BRICS, Arab League, and key Arab countries. 

These negotiations will take the following into consideration: 

1. The negotiations will be on all the permanent status issues between the two sides without exclusion. 

2. The previously agreed on issues between Abu Mazen and Olmert will be recognized and will not be subject of renegotiation, but will be presented in order to go hand in hand with the implementation plans of what is agreed upon about them. 

3. The negotiations should not be gradual but based on a time table and benchmarks. 

4. The negotiations should aim to the establishment of a Palestinian state, on the 1967 borders, that lives in peace and security with Israel and also an agreement on a just solution for the Palestinian refugee problem. 

5. Negotiations should be directed by the Quartet, in coordination with the Arab League, and the relevant Arab countries in order to push the implementation of the API forward in the Israeli-Palestinian track. Also coordination with different international blocs such as BRICS, will be necessary in order to move the process forward in addition to the revival of some of the multilateral working groups. 

6. Steps to be taken unilaterally by Israel during the negotiation time, in order to build confidence on the process and to fulfill the previous agreement obligation, including: 

i. Allow the return of all 1967 displaced persons to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. 

ii. Allow the free access of goods and individuals between West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. 

iii. Freeze the settlement expansion, and allow the Palestinian building and development processes to go freely in Area C of West Bank. 

iv. Reopen the Palestinian closed institutions in East Jerusalem. 

v. Release the Palestinian prisoners. 

vi. Avoid practicing any incursions to the Palestinian territories. 

While the other steps to be taken by the Quartet/International Community during the negotiations include: 

1. Support the Palestinian development projects in Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. 

2. Monitor the Israeli restrictions and violations in Area C, East Jerusalem, and the freedom of movement between West Bank and Gaza, and take action toward to these violations.

3. Lift the veto against Palestinian internal reconciliation and support holding PNC, Palestinian presidency and Palestinian Legislative Council elections in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

4. Support the Palestinian Authority finances, and the PA project, while also restricting Israel from stopping the transfer of the Palestinian Tax revenues collected in Israel. 

5. Ensure the Israeli commitment toward all its obligations during the negotiations mentioned hereinbefore. 

6. Boycott the Israel settlements products, and avoid investing in those settlements. 

Third: if the International Community fails to get to the upcoming Israeli government to accept the minimum position required for the resumption of the negotiations, then the International Community should present a Plan B consisting of an international plan toward the two states solution, with a timetable and benchmarks to be met by both parties, and to follow the implementation of that plan with the sides using the economic, technological and other means of support existing as carrots and sticks to move the process forward. 

Fourth: the second and third stages, to be accomplished with: 

1. Supporting the Palestinian initiative toward the elevation of the status of the State of Palestine, to become a member state in the United Nations, and also to support the creation of an international coalition from all the countries who voted in favor of accepting Palestine as a non member state in the UN, to work toward the full Palestinian membership in the UN. 

2. Create a systematic cooperation between the EU and the Arab League, based on the articles and the principles of the 13th of November 2012, Cairo, Declaration resulted from the joint Cairo meeting of the Arab and the European Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and work accordingly with a joint plan for the implementation of the API toward the achievement of a Comprehensive Middle-Eastern Peace. 

Support the Palestinian non-violent struggle against occupation, and promote the Israeli, Arab, and International peace camp and solidarity organizations participation in it.

Published in Tribune

The election campaign in Israel is attracting increasingly more attention with the approach of the election date. The elections of 17 March 2015 are early elections. The government composed of different political parties with Likud and right-wing domination has had a difficult time during the 20 months at power. The war in Gaza, the differences about budget, an attempt to pass a law about the Jewish nature of the state, and finally the recent accusations of corruption against Netanyahu and his wife, will all together influence the upcoming choice of the electorate. However, there are also rather stable factors that benefit the right. Nevertheless, the centrist-left block has started gaining points, having virtually reached Likud. Currently the right-wing Likud block led by Benjamin Netanyahu and its opponent Zionist Camp block with Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni at the head receive approximately the same amount of votes according to the preliminary estimations. For example, the survey by Haaretz newspaper made in the beginning of February 2015 shows that Likud can receive 25 seats in Knesset, just two more than the Zionist Camp. Such slight divide between the main contenders indicates that the final voting results may favor any party. The main question is who will have more chances to create a coalition in case of victory.

Much will depend on the ability of centrists and left to increase their support by attracting a part of right electorate – the name of their block (“Zionist Camp”) is definitely aimed at a more ideologized Israeli audience. Netanyahu has deliberately made his political opponents act fast by announcing the snap elections in order to seize the initiative. Both right and left forces have issues here. The case is that the programs of both blocks are rather parallel than competitive. The left focus on social aspects, what is for sure important for the electorate, though their hopes concerning security are traditionally connected with Likud. The Israeli Jews clearly distinguish between personal and state security. While the state security has increased due to the chaos and destabilization in the Arab world, the issue of personal security becomes sharper as the threat of terrorism increases. Cognitive dissonance is natural for the Jewish population of Israel and it directly influences on the political choice of the electorate. On the one hand Israel is the most powerful and efficient in the military domain state in the Middle East. On the other – lives of Jews are still threatened not only in the Middle East but also even in the calm and secure Europe. So the surprising unanimity among the electorate on the success of the previous government and their readiness to see Netanyahu as a Prime Minister again. In the end of January 65% of the respondents expressed their discontent with Netanyahu’s policy as a Prime Minister. The same people stated that he is likely to become the PM once again. However, only 30% really wish him to get into office again. It is of course not much, but Isaac Herzog has even less chances to obtain this post – only 11% consider him a suitable candidate.

Thus, both centrists and left besides the social-economic agenda have to focus much on the settlement of the Palestinian problem, some new ideas of increase of cooperation with several Arab countries, mainly with Egypt and Jordan, in the security domain.

Coalition of centrists and leftish forces, according to its partisans, could come out for the relaunch of the negotiations with the Palestinians, freezing of settlements, dialogue with Arab states on the basis of the Arab initiative, for search of decisions for Gaza together with Egypt and Jordan. When it comes to the security, both the right and the left speak about the same – Islamic terrorism, Iran, etc., but they have different means. For example the left believe that the Iranian problem should be resolved together with the US, and that the Palestinian problem should be solved in order to fight ISIS together with Arabs. The occupation is sacred for the right. And they will do anything to preserve the settlements, hence, the military presence.

How can the present Israeli society be characterized? First of all it remains fragmentized. According to Israeli researchers, there is an escalating conflict of two peoples within the Jewish population of Israel. The number of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) is constantly growing. Coming from poor uneducated layers from small towns, they are very conservative. They prefer that all the life in Israel is regulated by religious norms. The post-modern society is composed of the representatives of educated class, inhabitants of large cities. These two parts of Jewish people have different priorities, views and perceptions. The Orthodox Jews do not care about the peace process and do not need it, and they stay in the reserve for right and religious parties, and what is more they benefit from their demographics.

Finally, the right can also be backed by the important part of ex-Soviet immigrants. They are pro powerful state, decisiveness and toughness in politics, and they associate it with the right. Moreover, they have preserved a genetic repulsion to socialism.

The voting activity also plays a certain role. Generally a high turnout is typical of Israel, but it is not evenly distributed. Among Haredim and religious Jews it is 95%, 85% among the settlers and is not more than 70% among the city dwellers. So, the rights have better chances.

And yet, taking into consideration that both blocks claim virtually the same amount of votes, there is a question whether a viable government can be created. In case of victory both Likud and Zionist Union will get opportunity to create a narrow coalition government, i.e. either a right narrow government or a centrist-left one. Such governments are unstable and it will be difficult for them to pass important decisions through Knesset. Moreover, creating a narrow coalition Netanyahu will also face his political opponents, primarily with Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu and Moshe Kahlon, who left Likud and created his own Kulanu party in November 2014. It can be very challenging to negotiate with them during the creation of a narrow coalition.

For Herzog and Livni a narrow coalition means even less stability and more vulnerability of the government than the right one. It is unclear whether they will be able to create such a coalition or after fruitless attempts they will have to pass this right to Likud according with the Israeli legislation.

Quite possibly, a government of wide coalition could be a decision for both blocks. As some Israeli observers believe, Netanyahu was not always a successful Prime Minister, but he can be a trustful partner. Finally, a government of wide coalition based on both blocks may allow to cut off the most uncompromising ultra-right, what would generally correspond to the Israeli national interests.

Text in Russian is available here (published by MGIMO-University)

Published in Tribune
Friday, 27 February 2015 18:05

My Jerusalem

Jerusalem that looks to be more as if it is the ownership of the Israelis and the internationals, either living in it, or talking about it from outside. What it is represent for me as a Palestinian Jerusalemite?. Why I am also excluded not only when it comes to my rights to the city, and my rights in the city, but also excluded from my right of representing it?

In the ground as many Palestinian Jerusalemites, I have a demolition order to my house since 2002, and as many others a new road that links between two settlements in East Jerusalem started to be created passing exactly at the entrance of my house in Shuafat. 

This is just a minor example of the deprivation of the Palestinian Jerusalemites rights in the city. 

But also I have no right to the city, I am not allowed to make a political claim that East Jerusalem is mine, something that the international community organizations in the city is adapting with, by avoiding to take actions that make Israel angry of them in the city.

Thirdly I have no right to represent my self politically. In the legal level I am obliged to be defined as" A Jordanian Citizen residing Permanently in Israel", as the Israeli authorities define my status, then I am an alien in my city, cannot claim it, and as a" Jordanian" living in Israel as the say, I have to respect the generosity of the Israel of allowing me to live in an "Israeli " territory that was annexed to Israel in 1967. 

Therefore also I have no right to represent my self administratively, and also in the community level. In this level my Arab Municipality was dissolved by the Israeli Authorities in 1967, then I was obliged to deal with an Israeli municipality that do not represent me. Such a municipality imposed on me its community centers that it established inside my communities, and made it the address for providing services to me. 

These are just examples, and there are many others<...>

To read the whole article, please click the preview. 

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Published in Tribune
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