The solution of the Palestinian problem did not come closer last year, though some new tendencies in the approaches of the main interested parties have emerged in the context of controversial and rather dramatic events. The decision to address the UN Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state and cease the Israeli occupation by November 2017 was made by Mahmud Abbas as an alternative strategy due to the several factors. Firstly, obviously, he has come to the conclusion that in the current circumstances the political solution of the problem through the negotiations with Israel seems increasingly less obvious. The US have tried to monopolize the settlement process, but the attempts of John Kerry, the Secretary of State, to relaunch the peace process were in vain, having even created irritation of Israeli government. The Quartet of mediators was still marginalized and was not assuring the continuation of the talks, while the attention of the majority of the international community was taken by the tragic events in Iraq and Syria that are also connected with the victorious march of the ISIS militants. This organization which has astonishing financial capabilities, ideological attractiveness, and which enjoys large support from the part of population from the Middle East and other countries despite its extreme cruelty, has filled the major part of political and media space. Secondly, in the current situation Mahmud Abbas felt the decrease of support from his electorate, mainly from the increasingly radical youth, which demands active actions. There is no accident that the HAMAS support by the Palestinians has greatly increased after the Israeli operation in Gaza (7 June – 26 August 2014) under the code name “Protective Edge”. Despite the great casualties and the fact that HAMAS has fairly provoked the full scale Israeli operation, for the majority of the Palestinians they were still heroes, who are still on the front lines of the struggle. Compared to them Mahmud Abbas sometimes seemed indecisive, incapable to achieve practical results. The Palestinian manifestations in the East Jerusalem and on the West Bank (some observers even started to speak about “the third intifada”), the aggravation of the opposition, which attracted the international attention, were creating a background and additional momentum to activate the political initiatives.

And, finally, no doubt that the Israeli government’s line of policy has provoked deep Palestinian leader’s deep pessimism. It seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman who are not interested in the partition of Palestine due to political and ideological motives, were trying to shift the balance of power in the conflict by putting the settlement of relations with the “moderate” states of the Arab world on the first place instead of the settlement of the Palestinian problem. Despite their preoccupation with the ISIS advancement and increase of chaos in the Arab East and even their interest to normalize the relations with Israel, the Arab regimes still are unable to agree to that without creating a Palestinian state or at least without some serious steps in that direction.

Netanyahu’s attempt to pass a law about the Jewish nature of Israel according to which only Jews would have national rights while the other ethnic groups would only have individual rights, has not only lead to the government crisis and snap elections in 2017 but has also made Palestinians very suspicious. The matter is that in 1993 when Y. Arafat agreed to recognize Israel there was no question about any Jewish nature of the state, depriving its other citizens from the national rights. Now Netanyahu demands the Palestinians to accept the Jewish nature of the state as a preliminary condition, and besides in the interpretation included in the new (not adopted yet) law. Lieberman proposed even more severe propositions by connecting the solution of the Palestinian issue with the exchange of territories, what is more, with the Arab citizens of Israel, who, according to him, should be motivated economically to become the citizens of the Palestinian state.

In this situation Mahmud Abbas has decided to bring the issue to the international level. Let alone some positive trends towards the increase of support to the Palestinians in Europe.  In case of success Israel would have been put in front of an accomplished fact of international recognition of the Palestinian state and the occupation of the Palestinian territories would have automatically turned into the occupation of the territory of a sovereign state. In such case Abbas would have achieved a political break through even without starting negotiations with Israel. The rejection of the project of the resolution in the UN Security Council has not closed a possibility to join the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court for Abbas, which will allow him to bring charges against Israel for military crimes by bombarding it by all sorts of lawsuits. On the 2d of January 2015 the Palestinian delegation has submitted the documents to join the Rome Statue and also applications to join 20 international conventions and pacts. Palestine will officially become a member of the International Criminal Court on the 1st of April 2015. This has become possible as in 2012 the UN General Assembly has voted to grant Palestine the status of an observer-state, but not a UN member. Meanwhile, neither Israel, nor the US are members of the Rome Statute and are against Palestinians joining it.

Despite the existing and, probably, coming difficulties, the Palestinian government once again was able to attract attention to the realization of national rights of the Palestinian people. Some observers suppose that some changes on global and regional level may follow the next year. Particularly, the strengthening of the Palestinians on the international arena, the activity of Islamist extremist organizations and the ending presidential term of Obama may motivate the US for more active policy on the Middle Eastern direction. Obama, having become a “lame duck” may especially allow himself exercise more pressure on Israel. All the more so that the US-Israeli pact of strategic partnership signed by him on 19 December 2014 where Israel is called “a major strategic partner” of the US, protects him from the criticism of those who is against the US pressure on Israel (fictional or real). Moreover, this document says that the US will support the Israeli government in its attempts to achieve the political settlement with the Palestinian people that will result in two states living together with peace and security. This is a kind of signal to Netanyahu – the US will improve the Israeli security, but in the meantime the administration will take steps corresponding to the national interests of its own country. However, in order to take such steps Obama’s administration will have to wait till the creation of the new government in Israel after the elections in March 2015, and it may become more right-wing and less flexible that the previous one.

In the rapidly changing situation an attempt of the new monopolization of the settlement process by the US seems unlikely as  it will merely bring any results.  It seems, that both the US and Russia could activate the peace process together despite the existing frictions.  The threat of radicalism and terrorism easily overcoming the borders is one more factor demanding more active steps form the Quartet in general and from the particular EU members, the UN, League of Arab States, the political powers  in Israel striving for peace, from all those who are ready to bring a contribution to the settlement of long and so hopeless Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Published in Russian on MGIMO-University web-site.

Published in Tribune
Saturday, 31 January 2015 22:26

The Three Roles of the Arab Peace Initiative

In the framework of IMESClub-CDCD partnership "Promoting the API" we share the most recent piece by Dr. Walid Salem, IMESClub member.

 

In the current context, almost 13 years after its initiation and after the passing away of King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia who originally initiated the API, the Arab Peace Initiative is seen to have the following three roles: 

First: Getting the Israeli political arena to move forwards on accepting the API as a point of departure to a comprehensive Middle East peace, starting from the operationalization of it in the Israeli-Palestinian track. 

Second: Use the good offices of the API Follow-Up Committee to elevate Palestine to statehood internationally, in order to create better symmetrical position to the Palestinians with Israel in any future negotiations. 

Third: Call for an API based regional approach that can play the role of support for the Palestinians and present incentives to Israel in order to move the peace process forward. 

The main significance of the API is in its presentation as an initiative that represents the consensus of all the 22 Arab countries (and subsequently all 57 Islamic countries) making it a plan of all Arab countries and not only so-called ‘moderate Arab countries’. Therefore the Israeli acceptance of the API will lead to a comprehensive peace with all the Arab (and Islamic) countries regardless of their ideological differences. 

Upon that, it should be stated clearly that the calls made nowadays to use the API to ally with moderate Arab countries against the extremist ones and against Iran is a non-starter; additionally, it contradicts with the internal logic of the API itself. 

The API is about comprehensive peace between Israel and all the Arab and Islamic countries with the Israeli withdrawal of all occupied Palestinian and Arab territories of 1967; it is not by any means about allying with some Arab countries in order to wage hostility or a war against other Arab or Islamic countries. 

Furthermore, the API cannot be used to bring in Arab countries to insert pressure on the Palestinians to make compromises. President Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have already made all the concessions needed, yet the response by Israel has been more settlement expansion and more extremist positions in contradiction to any agreement with the Palestinian leadership. 

Therefore pressure of the API should be placed on Israel and not the Palestinians. One way to do so is by elevating Palestine in the UN to create better negotiation position for the Palestinians with Israel in any coming negotiations, in addition to other incentives (both positive and negative) that the Arabs can use to move the Israeli stances forward. 

The Arab League created two mechanisms for the API promotion/implementation: firstly by delegating Egypt and Jordan to communicate the API with Israel, in which both countries have carried out countless efforts and it is about high time Israel reciprocated instead of presenting proposals highlighting the use of the API as a point of departure to normalize relations with some Arab countries against others. 

The second mechanism consists of the API Follow-Up Committee taking responsibility to communicate the API with the international community. This committee met 5 times with the US Secretary of State John Kerry during the last 9 months-round of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Recently they met twice in Cairo on 29/11/2014 and 15/01/2015. 

During unilateral meetings and ones with John Kerry, the API Follow-Up Committee focused on the issue of elevating Palestine in the international arena in order to give it better symmetrical position on the negotiations table with Israel. Statements and actions of the Committee testify to this. Thus, calling the Committee to act in order to pressure the Palestinians is contradictory to what the Committee itself is already doing. Moreover, this demand to pressure is too much to be asked for when the API has been around for 13 years without a positive Israeli response. In actuality, what is needed is positive responses from Israel rather than pressure on the Palestinians to compromise. 

Finally, an API-based regional envelope can be created to serve as an umbrella for the Palestinian-Israeli bilateral negotiations. Such a regional envelope will not be a forum for alternative negotiations with Israel as Primw Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Liberman wanted. Neither should regional negotiations be conducted in parallel to bilateral negotiations leading to Arab-Israeli normalization before the Israeli withdrawal or another round of controversy similar to the one of the 1990’s Multilateral Working Groups on what would come first: normalization or withdrawal? Subsequently, such controversy led to the collapse of the Multilateral Working Groups. 

The “alternative” then is a bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations supported by a regional API-based umbrella that works in concerted efforts with the Quartet for Middle East peace as was emphasized in a statement by the Quartet itself last week as a result of its meeting in Brussels. 

Walid Salem 29/01/2015.

 

Published in Tribune

In the framework of IMESClub-CDCD (The Centre for Democracy & Community Development) partnership we share the latest paper by Walid Salem on the future of the Arab Peace Initiative after the August Israeli war against the Palestinians. "A setback or new horizons?" – read the text to discover the answer.

 

"During the last June – August Israeli war against the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Palestinians inside Israel, several new proposals were presented by the different Israeli leaders regarding the API. It seemed as if the Israeli leaders had rediscovered the API after 12 years of its presentation. In this regard, proposals about it came from Lieberman, Netanyahu, Yair Lapid and his “Yesh Atid” Party colleague Yaakov Peri, and Tzipi Livni; along with former official security leaders Amos Yadlin, Youval Diskin, and Shlomo Brom. <...>"

 Text available for download in pdf (click the cover): 

Published in Tribune

M.D.: Israel and Palestine are being tossed around: from escalations to more or less successful negotiations. What do you think will be the result of the latest negotiations breakdown and aggravation of situation between Israel and Palestine? 

Irina Zviagelskaya: You know, that the kidnapping of there Israeli teenagers caused this situation. As the security services failed to locate them, Israel resorted to the military actions and arrested dozens of Palestinians who were already released according to the previous agreements. Now there is an ongoing tightening of Israeli position. Israel has accused Hamas of the abduction. But many experts believe, it was not necessarily Hamas to kidnap them. There are many other organizations that act among Palestinians and practically uncontrolled, so they could do it deliberately in order to turn Israeli’s anger against Hamas. Moreover, many people in Israel are disturbed by the creation of Palestinian government of the national unity, though it is a technical one. There are many reasons that have caused the regular escalation of the situation and they are unlikely to be eliminated. In any case, I am very pessimistic concerning the peace talks. As we know, the promises of State Secretary Kerry that the Americans would swiftly achieve a breakthrough turned out to be unrealistic.  The issues to resolve in order to achieve peace are far too complicated.  Moreover, I believe that violent and bloody processes taking place in the region are completely unlikely to encourage compromise in Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

M.D.: How do you think the US overtures with Iran and its potential exit from isolation will influence on the situation in the Middle East and on Arab-Israeli conflict in particular?

I.Z. : As far as the US policy towards Iran is concerned it can hardly be called overtures.  The question is to make Iran renounce its nuclear program. And this corresponds to the interests of everybody; Russia is among the members of the negotiations. Another issue is whether Iran is interested itself to exit the isolation, dispose of all sanctions and reintegrate into the world politics and economy. Not surprisingly, Mr Rouhani, well known for his balanced view, has become President of Iran. Meantime, several experts have voiced their fears that Washington will get the increase of oil production and decrease of oil prices as a result of removal of sanctions and US-Iranian approach. I find this logic doubtful, and taking into consideration the situation in Iraq, oil prices decline is just impossible.

The exit of Iran from isolation can be very positive.  Iran could especially take active part in the settlement in Syria, were it plays a significant role, as we all know. The second moment is of course the situation in Iraq, where Iran has its own interests and where its role is very important.

The current situation in Iraq is very dangerous. There is a crisis of US policy of state transformation by military interventions. As soon as the Americans left in the end of 2011, everything collapsed. It has collapsed because they had created a confessional regime. Relying on Shia majority they have dismissed the army, where the majority was Sunni, they managed to close BAAS party, which was also mainly supported by Sunni. And thus they have not only created a huge resentful mass of Sunni, but also have set a course towards the creation of regime excluding different ethnic and confessional groups.

We now see the results of what has happened. The struggle against extremist Sunni groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Levant is top priority now. If they manage to gain a number of military victories and shift the balance of power to their side, that will mean the most grave crisis in the Middle East.

 

M.D. I just wanted to ask about Iraq in particular. Now Washington officially states that the US has no responsibility of the crisis in Iraq. And actually it implies that it is not going to intervene in the crisis. How much should the situation heat to make the politicians take real actions, as Bagdad demands now?

I.Z. : Well, firstly, besides the official statements there are enough expert estimations that directly show, that the US has invested too much in Iraq in due time. We can say that the current administration is not to blame. Of course, it is not Obama’s administration that launched military actions in 2003. It was Bush’es Jr administration. And for sure it is not the administration to be responsible for the regime building in Iraq and the kind of help that was offered to Iraq. However 4,5 thousand US soldiers have died. The military operation and attempts to reform Iraq have cost great money. And everybody knows about it. What has happened in Iraq just indicates the impossibility to transform a society, which is not ready for it by the means of external intervention. This is a crisis of American strategy in the Middle East as well.

Will the US intervene? I had opportunity to read the declarations of the American President who said, “I do not exclude anything”. In general, everything depends on the future course of actions. If the extremists are allowed to win, it will create a great danger not only for Iraq, but for the whole Middle East. Violence and extremist ideas easily overcome the borders. I believe it is very dangerous for Russia, which has its own Islamic extremists, where we face terrorist, where there are examples of Russian soldiers of fortune who fight for the opposition Syria, quite possibly among the insurgents twisted in the same way. Crisis in Iraq should be taken with all the seriousness.

 

M.D.:  Is it possible that the US are just interested in strengthening of ISIS, as once powerful, it could give a final blow to Bashar Assad’s forces, after which the US can strike the Islamists?

I.Z. : It is impossible to predict who will these people strike. The paradox is that Bashar Assad, unacceptable for the US, is currently carrying tasks, which correspond to their interests. He fights the ISIS and other extremists.

Russia is actively returning to the Middle East now. A new, particular era of relations with Saudi Arabia has begun; we are developing the relations with the UAE. The relations with Egypt, with president Al Sisi, are promising. But I would not agree that Russia expels the US from there. Somewhere Russia and the USA keep competing. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian crisis has increased our rivalry including in the Middle East. But in the meantime we have very important field for cooperation there. It is the Syrian crisis settlement, struggle against terrorism and extremism; it is the desire not to let Iran possess nuclear weapons.

 

M.D.: Maybe my question was not completely correct. Is it possible to say, that the Middle East countries have a growing interest to the relations with Russia themselves?

I.Z.: Yes, it is true. Speaking about the social level, the Arabs are generally tired of the Americans. They were enthusiastic about the inclusion of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia. Because, from their point of view, it has shown the US that not everybody is ready to play by its rules. Furthermore,  many countries in the region always wished to have Russia as a counterbalance in the Middle East.

 

Interviewed by Maria Dubovikova

Published in Interviews

The Palestinian government of the national unity that took oath on the 2d of July 2014 is a technical one – it consists of ministers who are not members of FATAH and HAMAS. Such composition does not pose any difficulties to maintain the relations between the new government and the states where HAMAS is blacklisted and considered a terrorist organization. According to the head of Palestinian Autonomy Mahmud Abbas this government recognizes Israel and all the agreements previously signed with it and it renounces violence. Thus, highlighting the respectability of the new government Abbas has shown the observers that it will not be influenced by the well-known severe approaches of HAMAS.

Overcoming the divide in the Palestinian movement can positively influence the conflict settlement, granting the accomplishment of the agreements from the Palestinian side if they are achieved. It is time to decide for the Israeli government, which has negatively taken such turn of events. One of the most important tasks for the new government is to prepare for the legislative elections.

The new situation opens the possibility for HAMAS to legitimize by gradually transforming into a parliamentary political party. Essentially, in current conditions, when HAMAS is rapidly loosing support in the Arab world (and is banned in Egypt), it does not have many variants.

Published in Commentaries


In my view we need to relax our attention to the aborted Kerry Initiative and focus on Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu is a fundamentalist  ideologue and politician. His political convictions are deeply embedded in the most extreme revisionist interpretation of the Jewish claim to the land. He is  systematically (and successfully) crafting political ambiguity around his plans, in order to gain time vis a vis his Palestinian adversaries, his Israeli detractors and his relations with the American leadership.

Netanyahu, I believe, regards himself as the historic leader. His ambition is to shift history from its current course, which has manifested decolonization as the flagship project of post WWII civilization, to allow Israel a territorial gain that is thus far denied to it.  

In  1949 the UN hosted negotiations that led to accepted ceasefire lines around Israel which were demarcated (green line) according to military gains, rather than the UN partition plan. That has led to the expansion of territory under Israeli control from 55% of historic Palestine/Land of Israel to 78%. The November 1967 UNSC Resolution 242 actually manifested almost universal recognition of the Israeli territorial gains of 1948, on condition any territorial gains of the 67 war are annulled by ending the occupation within the context of a negotiated peace in the Middle East.

For 47 years Israel refuses to relax its hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but never dared declare the territory annexed. "The world would not allow this to happen" goes the usual argument. In my view Netanyahu believes he could actually do that, as the international map of forces has transformed regionally and internationally, and the old paradigm, by which the Palestinian cause is protected by regional and global powers, is totally worn out. Egypt and Jordan are in strategic alliance with Israel, Syria is madly consuming itself in civil strife, the "eastern front" military threat is gone, the strategic threat from Iran is a charade, the Soviet Union, bastion of post WWII decolonization in Asia and Africa, has been replaced by a re-colonizing power as Putin's Russia is. Above all, the EU remains skeptical and the US is losing its grip as the World's lion-power.

The American history, to which Netanyahu was exposed, narrates accolades to the heroic voyage of pioneering settlers who fought wilderness and emptiness to make way for a glorious civilization which succeeded in its struggle against the elements. The lethal confrontations with Indian indigenous tribes are scarcely mentioned. Some of this is also reminiscent of the history of the Dutch settlers in South Africa. Netanyahu is obsessed with the narrative of the empty land waiting in waste for its indigenous people to return and bloom its Biblical landscape again. In this picture there is no room for Palestinians as indigenous residents in the country. To him, today's Palestinians are the descendants of job seekers who realized that the emerging Jewish settlements (as of 1882 onwards) create jobs and income. They simply moved from neighboring territories to reside in proximity to potential gains. We all know how fictitious this imagery is, but Netanyahu believes in repetitious messaging as the best means of creating a narrative. In the face of Prime Minister David Cameron of the UK, while speaking to the "Jewish Knesset" (March 12th), he spelt this fraudulent imagery, claiming "there are no two narratives, there is one truth".  

Netanyahu leads a thrust to deny the Palestinians the right to indigenousness in the land, claiming exclusivity on national religious grounds. One can see this as a reminder of the Hamas Covenant, which portrays a claim of Muslim exclusivity when it comes to the issue of land ownership in the Holy Land of Palestine. That is where Netanyahu risks everything by turning a national conflict into a religious one. This is where his demand stems from, that the Palestinian leadership will recognize Israel as the Jewish nation state. In this demand we find the folded assumption that a refusal will shift the blame for collapse of the peace process towards Abbas, and an acceptance will give Israel a huge headway in the ultimate conflict over exclusive ownership. The Indians in America were offered symbolic (souvenir-shop) autonomy in designated National Parks.  Blacks in Apartheid South Africa were given restricted autonomy in the Bantustans. Netanyahu seems to be playing with the idea that the Palestinians (and the World) will somehow accept a formula by which their aspirations for self-determination will be satisfied with a Palestinian State Autonomy in areas A, B and Gaza. Area C and East Jerusalem are then gradually integrated into Israel. Jewish settlement expansion intertwined with Palestinian forced evictions, mainly in the Jordan Valley and South Hebron range, will result with "facts on the ground".

To sum it up, in my view that is what should lead us in our struggle:

·         Recognition of Netanyahu's objectives and plans.

·         Palestine: Tight peaceful resistance on the ground. Regiment support in regional (API) and international theatres (UNGA, UNSC and agencies).

·         Israel: Energize political resistance within Israel: civic society and parties.

·    International pressure: UNGA, UNSC, EU, bilateral diplomatic channels with Israel, campuses, media, etc. 

For sure, the Israeli Peace Camp needs to move away from the People-to-People paradigm (let us make friends now, peace will follow) in favor of participation in the Palestinian "soft struggle", in its quest to break the yoke of occupation and subjugation, realize its right to self-determination, sovereignty and statehood.

I believe it can be done. I believe we jointly ought to do it.  

Published in Tribune

(1)

The two Palestinian losses

17/04/2010

The Palestinians lost twice already in their struggle against Zionism: One when it was led by the seculars, and now when it became to be led by the religious right wing coalition.

When it was led by the seculars, those seeked to have the Jewish state in the Palestinian Coastal heart-taking magnificent areas. With that the Palestinians lost their coast, but also had maybe more importantly they lost the coastal culture, which was about openness to the other, diversity, tolerance and participation. They were left with the mountains areas of West Bank with its conservative culture, and the periphery of the coast (Gaza Strip) in addition to East Jerusalem as a town that lost its notables in 1948, and was left with a type of middle class that provides services to the Muslim and Christian Pilgrims to the city during the period of 1948 to 1967.

When the religious- right wing coalition take over the leadership in Israel starting from 1977 change in the Israeli government, those seeked the Israeli dominance over the Jewish religious places in West Bank and East Jerusalem, further they were able to move the language of the supposedly left wing labour party to become more religious, especially in regard to the Jewish holy places in Jerusalem, as happened with Ihud Barak in Camp David negotiations in the year 2000.

With this coalition prevailing the Palestinians might be about to lose 1967 territories almost in the same way that they lost 1948 territories. How?

 

(2)

The Permanent Occupation

                 With what described above, the situation is not anymore about “Peace for land” from the Israeli right wing coalition, but more for “Peace for process”, were the process will become the alternative to the “Peace Process”, the right wing coalition needs such a process in order to be the cover of the shift that already took place from the “temporary occupation” formula of the 1970, and 1980’s, to the “permanent occupation” formula that is adopted nowadays.

The adoption of such new formula, came as a result of the settlement expansion (300,000 inhabitants in West Bank, and 200,000 in East Jerusalem, that created the idea of: since we build all of these settlement, so why to demolish them, and more over: why not to build more?

This move to permanent occupation formula is the one that explains why Israel prevent any building in Area C comprising of 64% of West Bank, and explains what is going on in East Jerusalem, moreover it explains the current mood among the Israeli public opinion, who consider the current situation as less risky of any peace agreement, therefore the common “wisdom” became a one that want to keep occupation, and to have peace in the same time.

 

(3)

The irrelevance of the two states

And the one state solution

Those who spend their time then analyzing what should be the better solution: The two states, or the one state solution, should know that this discussion is irrelevant, because the Israeli policies already united all the country as one state that is all under Israeli dominance. This is obviously against both the two states and the one state solutions.  In this regard they consider the West Bank and East Jerusalem territories as holy to the Jews, therefore they consider these lands as Israeli. In regard to the Palestinians living in these lands they consider them to be a “population” that should not be given more than a self administration as much as they accept the Israeli dominance, and if not they should leave to Jordan. In other words the Palestinians rights towards the land are not reconsidered, and the same the Palestinian collective rights as a national group.

With that the historical land of Palestine to be united under the  Israeli authority, while the Palestinians to be dealt with as scattered population that have no rights as citizens.

Therefore, the process is not in the direction of one state solution for both peoples, but a process towards one state solution that is without the Palestinians. How?

 

(4)

Dark Prospects

Such right wing coalition, with such ideas and practices, if not stopped, will continue the process of taking the ground from under the feet of the Palestinians, a process that happened gradually before 1948 leading to the forced migration of the Palestinians of that time. The fear of such new Palestinian exodus is high, given also that it happened already twice historically, one in 1948, and the second in 1967.

The described above might look as impossible, but it looked also impossible in 1930’s, then it happened in 1948. Why?. Because the dynamics emerging from the settlement expansion at that time created processes of uprooting the Palestinians, when  they found themselves outside the country at the end, Today also if the settlement expansion will continue, then it might create the same dynamics.

When some observers saw that the current global realities are not the same like of what was in 1948, one should notice in the opposite that in Israel today there are right wing groups who are ready to have a confrontation with the world, and ready to pay the price of such confrontation, whatever such price will be in the path for taking over all the historical Palestine. The current growing tension between Israel in the USA (reminding of the one with the British Mandate in Palestine in 1940’s), is still in the beginning, and it is expected to heighten in the coming future.

 

(5)

What exit strategies?

None of the political solutions presented nowadays looks relevant or possible, the bilateral negotiations if resumed will create again an endless process of negotiations, the proximity talks if conducted will lead to endless discussions about the conditions of resuming the negotiations, the international Quartet imposed solution is not on the way, and it will declared it will be impossible to implement it in the ground without bringing international or multitelaral forces to the ground of Israel Palestine which does not look likely to happen. The Arab Peace Initiative also do not look like to move with the continuous Israeli rejection of it.

Further than that, when the two states solution became more accepted internationally, and in the Israeli society, the path to it is closing practically with all the Israeli procedures and activities in the ground. In this regard the Fayyad government two years plan, looks to be the last attempt to get to the Palestinian statehood through the Palestinian unilateral track that it initiated, but this plan still to be tested in two issues: How it will be implemented in Area C and East Jerusalem, and how it will re-unite Gaza with the West Bank?. The Failure to solve these two issues due to the Israeli restrictions will lead the plan to end by being the “Economic Peace” plan of Binyamin Netanyahu.

(6)

The other exist strategies:

Characteristics of the Third White Intifada

Since all those strategies presented hereinbefore will not work, the Palestinian public wisdom created another exist strategy, while some observers spend their time questioning if there will be a Palestinian third Intifada or not, and if there is a fatigue among the Palestinians or not, the Palestinian people already created in the ground their third Intifada, which was called by the Israeli professor Shaul Mishal as “The White Intifada”.

Unlike the previous two Intifadas, this one is not looking for quick results, it acts  and work to be permanent, as much as the occupation is permanent. This is its first characteristics.

Its second characteristic is that it is multidimensional. In one hand it expresses itself through the nonviolent activities against the wall in 15 locations such as Balien, Ne’alen, Al-Ma’asarah, Um-Salmoneh, and Shiekh Jarrah. In second hand it expressess itself by the high adoption of the UN “equal rights discourse”, and carrying this discourse to the UN security council, and all the UN and non-Un world structure, using also in this regard the international decisions on the Palestinian issue, and calling for their implementation.

In this regard it includes a variety of activities: Field activities, legal ones, diplomatic ones, and etc.

Its third characteristic is that it brings together the Palestinian-Internationals, and the Israeli activists against occupation together in the ground conducting the activities all the way ahead together.

Its fourth characteristic, is that it includes concerted and coordinated efforts of the civil society organizations, grassroots organizations, and the PA together, were all are participating in its activities together.

This white Intifida is recruiting today more and more international support, especially after the Israeli Army crimes during the last war in Gaza, now the calls for divestment, boycott of the Israeli settlements products, and the calls for sanctions  against the Israeli government policies are becoming louder and louder. Also the calls on the PA to stop the security cooperation with Israel if there will be no peace process any more are going up, in addition to those calling for resolving the PA, while it might be doubtful that this last thing might happen.

In the future, this white Intifada might create more support in the Arab world (including the Arab countries campaign against the Israeli Nuclear power), and more importantly among the Palestinian, in Israel, and other segments of the Israeli society.

Now, it is a new type of Intifada, very slow, and very patient, it is based on the assumption that there are no solutions in the horizon in the short run, therefore it builds for the future, and for accumulating changes for that future, depending on the Palestinian human capital, and supported by the region, the globe, and the Israeli peace camp human capital.

 

The API Regional Network was established by the CDCD and AJEEC-NISPED as part of their project “Building Sustainable Regional Peace based on the API”. This project is funded by the European Union.

 

Published in Tribune

Many countries condemn HAMAS as a terrorist organization. How will the accord between HAMAS and FATAH influence the attitude of international community towards Palestine? What are the potential outcomes of the union for the Palestinians themselves?

HAMAS is in fact is widely considered as a terrorist organization. Moreover, the Egyptian government has prohibited the HAMAS activity after the “Muslim Brotherhood”. However, the peace process between the Islamists and FATAH, which took many years without any result, is close to the conclusion. Let’s hope that it will not reverse. It is an important achievement for Palestinians to overcome severe territorial (Gaza – West Bank), ideological and political divides. A united government allows to carry more responsible international policy and to adopt decisions, which will not be canceled, as they will be backed by a consolidated position. The achieved unity strengthens the Palestinian positions in negotiations with Israel. One should not forget that it is an asymmetric conflict between a powerful regional state and a national movement, the Palestinian administration. The international community is not unanimous at the interpretation of the agreement between HAMAS and FATAH. There are already concerns that the Palestinian positions will get harder and that the HAMAS will impose the more radical line on the whole Palestinian government. It is evident that Mahmoud Abbas has made his first sharp statement-condemning Holocaust to chase away such concerns, to show that they are not justified.

The talks between Abbas and Israel ate to end today, 29 April. The decision about the truce with HAMAS and the union of the two parts of the country was taken just before this long awaited event. How is it possible to interpret such turn of events? Does it mean for example that the Palestinians were not willing to the truce with Israel?

As I have already said, firstly, this reflects the desire of Palestinians to strengthen their positions on the negotiations. They are the ones mostly interested in the fair reconcilement, but the movement towards peace becomes very difficult due to the approach to the discussion of principle and most painful questions of utmost importance for both parties – Jerusalem, territories and refugees. On the one hand, the current Israeli government does not have a great desire to make important compromises. On the other hand, it is more and more difficult to content with another set of interim measures – there is a growing criticism in the Palestinian society, mainly among the youth who do not see any prospects. In such context the agreement with HAMAS will alleviate pressure on the administration. The accord with HAMAS does not only reflect momentary issues, but it shows an evolution of Palestinian Islamists towards the political pragmatism. Having arrived at power in Gaza in 2006, they had to gradually acquire the management experience, take responsibility for the survival of the population in the conditions of blockade.  This normally has a sobering influence on those who has got used to rely mainly on the methods of force. The movement was conducting a social work among the population, but had to increase its scale in the new circumstances. HAMAS has not renounced the ideological principles crucial for it: it does not recognize Israel and the Oslo process agreements and it does not condemn terrorism. This allows Israel to refuse from the negotiations with HAMAS, but not the contacts with them. It is enough to recall the efforts that have led to release of the captured Corporal Gilad Shalid. HAMAS has made a certain path and its further evolution will be faster in the context of collaboration with Palestinian leaders skilled in politics. The creation of national unity government will mean an agreement with the principle “two peoples – two states”, which in fact means both recognition of Israel and readiness to negotiate with it.

How grave for Palestine is the Israeli announcement that it will cease transferring money (about 100 million USD) gathered as taxes on behalf of the West Bank government?

Such kind of sanctions will be painful for Palestinians, they will leave employees without salary; deteriorate the general situation on the West Bank, which does not have a big budget anyway. Unfortunately, it is not the first time when Israel resorts to such measures.

 

Inteviewed by A, Zavadskiy. 
Previously published on the MGIMO web-site in Russian.
Published in Interviews
In the framework of IMESClub-CDCD partnership we publish the new paper: "Realising Peace and Security in the Middle East: The prospects and potential of a regional envelope to comprehensive peace". 
 
 

Executive Summary:

 

                                                                                        By Apo Sahagian

 

As one of the longest running conflicts in modern history, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has attracted much attention from the international community due to its importance for regional and global stability and prosperity. Indeed countless initiatives were undertaken over the decades to bring the conflict to a conclusion, however one after the other the initiatives faced various obstacles that made their implementation rather difficult. As recent as June 2013, yet another initiative was rekindled by the Obama Administration under the supervision of US Secretary of State John Kerry. However the Kerry Initiative included within its framework a valuable feature that holds potential compared to many other initiatives conducted within the past decade: that was the regional envelope that appreciated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the broader picture of the whole Middle East region and its subsequent integration within the negotiations aimed at establishing not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but also peace and security for the region.

The Kerry Initiative is significantly based on the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which was presented by the Arab League promising normal relations with Israel if the latter withdrew from the Arab territories occupied during the 1967 Six Day War, and if it came to a solution- concerning the Palestinian refugees agreed- with the Palestinian leadership. All the 57 Arab League member states and Islamic states represented in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) endorsed the API though Israel until present day has refrained from giving an official response to the incredible offer represented by the API-gesture of the Arab world.

However, the Kerry Initiative adopted the concept of the regional envelope as a reminder of the 1991 Madrid talks which were likewise operated in multi-lateral fashion involving Israel and its neighboring countries. These regional talks testified to the fact that due to the countries’ intertwined links in geography, economy, and future, it was better to approach the search for a solution in a collective manner in which each country’s needs would serve the region’s interest. More than a decade later, the Kerry Initiative resuscitated the notion of a regional envelope based on the API. The negotiations occurring as of January 2014 involve the participation of the Arab League and the API Follow-Up Committee that include Arab countries such as Egypt, Qatar, and Jordan which has asserted its own security and prosperity within the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The involvement of the region’s players has given more impetus to the current negotiations’ ultimate goal.

These policy papers, prepared by the Center for Democracy & Community Development (CDCD), are an in-depth study of the role, contribution, and aptitude offered by the regional envelope. From its base in Jerusalem, the CDCD has for the past 7 years- since 2007- actively promoted the chance extended by the API and its acceptance by not only the political echelons of the region, but also by the societies that will engage each other under circumstances of mutual recognition, understanding, and advantage. In its capacity, the CDCD build a far-reaching network spanning the globe that has within its ranks academics, politicians, former politicians, civil societies, and business men from not only Israeli and Palestinian backgrounds, but also from every country in the Middle East and even from the core of Europe and the West. And certainly the expanding of the API network continues day by day with constant communication with local, regional, and global civil societies, politicians, and also diplomatic missions that have invested their energies into resolving the conflict.

Solidifying its status as the prime address for the API in the civil society arena, the CDCD is proud to expound comprehensive research relating to the regional envelope and the API. Each article within this booklet formulates ideas that bear with fresh exceptional caliber. The CDCD conducted its work with their partners: the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace & Development based in Beer Sheba, and the IKVPax Christi based in Amsterdam. Accompanied with a new partner, the United Religions Initiative based in Amman, the CDCD will focus on furthering the crucial application of comprehensive peace as an essential need for all the region, including within each country and between the regions’ countries.

This publication includes several policy papers about respective roles to be assumed by countries whom yield significant influence and transnational institutions that have vested weight in the region. Naturally the elemental role of the US is analyzed in detail and recommendations offered to enhance the effectiveness of it. Similar methodology has been tasked with the examination of the Quartet’s role. In the first section, Walid Salem & Nimrod Novik shed inclusive light on these issues of the US and the Quartet by also laying out alternative plans to compliment the current negotiations.

But of course for any negotiations to have a semblance of success, a supplementary track that provides accompanying courses of action running parallel to it. This is accomplished in section two by Walid Salem with the assistance of Miles Mabray as they configure the means of creating a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.

Subsequently, Scott Rattner scrutinizes the status and stance of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon vis-à-vis a comprehensive peace based on a regional envelope. His paper delves into the improvement that can be achieved regarding the refugee issues and Lebanon’s own standing strategic needs that can be accommodated with a regional framework.

Following the theme of permanent status issues between Israelis and Palestinians, Cate Bush and Walid Salem dissect the current socio-political situation in Gaza, its functions in the negotiations, and guidelines that will progress the conditions there to bring forth a sustainable stability for a framework of peace.

Next Laura Petrack outlines specific recommendations meant for the regional countries and global players involved in the Middle East, and how with their joined efforts would succeed in a comprehensive framework of regional peace and security. Successively, Jannie Kuik and Apo Sahagian tackle the EU’s role furthermore in highlighting resolutions and stances upheld by the EU and how its role can be of immense importance in advancing the negotiations forwards and simultaneously assisting the situation on the ground by acting on its resolutions and commitments.

While it is demandingly necessary to read and understand the policies in their entirety, the main recommendations concluded by these policy papers are as follows:

Israel must officially respond to the API offer of the Arab League and appreciate the historic potential it can bestow on not only Israel’s security and prosperity, but to also the entire region’s security, prosperity, and ultimate peace. On the other hand, the realization of a truly independent Palestinian state alongside Israel will further enhance the viability and future of Israel and its incorporation into the region when it will no longer need to perceive its neighbors in suspicion and threats. And as the Kerry Initiative states, Israel should allow an economic building of Palestinian statehood including lifting all the restrictions on the Palestinian Economy including Area C, East Jerusalem, rebuilding Gaza strip and creating the link between West Bank and Gaza.

Palestinians must methodically integrate developmental dimension into their non-violent struggle. By using the opportunity presented by the Kerry Initiative, they must build a Palestinian Statehood in a bottom up approach must be embarked , regardless of the status of negotiation and establish link between Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Simultaneously, engaging with the Israeli public should be considered so that the upper governmental echelons of Israel can take heed of the wave of support for peace.

Jordan can play an essential role in security matters relating with Israel and Palestine. It can help the Israeli and Palestinian to create a security strategy and agreement for the Jordan Valley, also by security arrangements from the Jordanian side. Being one of the two states (with Egypt) that were delegated to communicate the Arab peace initiative (API) by the Arab League, Jordan should keep communication the initiative and should have a plan for systematic actions, while also actively help to keep the region peaceful making sure that both sides are secure and motivate the other Arab and Islamic countries to have normal relations with Israel once it has withdrawn from the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied in 1967 as the API states. In the economic sphere, Jordan should encourage Israelis to remove the restrictions on Palestinian economy; encourage in- and export of goods to and from Jordan and via Jordan to the other Arab countries and to the other world countries; and if Israel accepts the API trilateral mega economic projects can be developed between Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

As for Egypt, it should use its peaceful relations with Israel to help with developing security arrangements between Gaza, Israel and Egypt including providing trilateral arrangements in this regard. Similar to Jordan, Egypt is one of the two states that were delegated to communicate the Arab peace initiative (API) by the Arab League. So they should keep communicating the initiative and develop a plan for systematic action. Moreover, for the betterment of Egypt’s stability, Egypt must think of improving Gaza’s economy as part of a neighboring country and opening the border crossing for transferring resources and goods; and encourage Israelis to remove the restrictions on Palestinian economy and encourage in- and export of goods from and to Egypt with Palestinian people.

For the case of Lebanon, there must be means of formalizing and institutionalizing a relationship between the Lebanese and the Palestinian refugees there based on symmetry of rights, responsibilities, and improving the living conditions of the Palestinian camp and non-camp residents. The Lebanese state and the PLO must therefore formalize their relationship, preferably through a specialized body in the PLO (see section below for further details) dedicated to the Palestinians in Lebanon.  Optimally, such a reinvigorated relationship between the two sides would include working with the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency to improve service provision (particularly with regard to education and reconstruction of the overcrowded and dilapidated refugee camps) and ensure their orderly administration.  Only through strengthening the presence of the PLO and their interaction with Palestinian actors and organizations in the camps can material accomplishments be made and assurances given to the Lebanese people that they will not be expected to bear the social and financial costs of Palestinian resettlement

Saudi Arabia must utilize its regional and global position to on one hand define their responsibilities to support the Palestinians and provide incentives to Israel via back channels, and on the other hand play an essential role in moving the process of peace forward through its role in the G20, OIC, Arab League and in the API follow up committee.

Using its position as head of the API follow up committee Qatar can actively work on ideas how the two state solution can be achieved peacefully. Furthermore its position in the Arab League can be used to present achievements made by the API follow up committee work.

The Arab League should first and foremost maintain the offer of the API on the table while addressing Israel directly via media campaigns. Additionally, it should work together with the EU, BRICS, OIC, nonaligned countries, African Union and other international bodies to present a more united position towards the negotiations which would drive for consensual and reasonable solutions. The Arab League should promote the fact that if Israel accepts the API that economic cooperation will come into existence in the whole region and therefore create a stronger economy in the whole Middle East.

The API Follow-Up Committee should offer incentives to both parties if API is accepted and develop a grand plan to build the Palestinian economy and create normal relations between the Arab countries and Israel. And due to Qatar’s headship in the committee, it can host track 2 and track 1, 5 back channel meetings as parallel to official channels to fasten progress.

Serving as one of the more crucial pillars of the international community’s involvement in the region, the Quartet can support to Kerry Initiative to develop peace between the two sides including by giving feedback and creating a process of regular meetings in order to insure a participatory decision making process. And by also developing permanent contact with LAS (League of Arab States), Israel and OIC and other international bodies in order to broaden the process of participation for finding Israeli- Palestinian peace. The Quartet should also encourage the other regional and international countries and the private sector worldwide to take the responsibilities on supporting and investing in the Palestinian economy.

The UN should alert the international community that status quo is unacceptable. Help with communicating the API to Israel and initiate more open talks to Israeli officials. Active pushing for Resolutions 242 and 338 is needed. And the UN should create a new UN resolution that includes mechanisms for the API implementation towards a Middle East comprehensive peace draft. Playing an active role in the Quartet by providing suggestions and feedback to move the Palestinian Israeli negotiation forwards, and by following the implementation of the international community programs of building the Palestinian statehood.

The EU should support the current negotiations by ongoing support for state building in Palestine. This state building should also concentrate on East Jerusalem and  C-areas. Next, the Eu should explore  what its own strategic interest are in order to build its own credibility (based on commitment to human rights, rule of law and non-recognition of legal violations)  in the case of a peace deal. Given the changes in the Middle East, the EU should actively promote a common civil peace building agenda in the Middle East based on the Arab Peace Initiative  and the eventual outcomes of the current peace negotiation.  The new ENP Civil Society Facility and the new Eastern and Southern Endowment for Democracy should focus on peace and democracy.  The EU should look for ways to officially involve the regional players  in the ME into a multi lateral framework dealing with conflict resolution mechanisms.

With its long history of mediating between Israel and the Arab world, the US must alert the international community that the status quo is unsustainable. To that end, it must stress the API to the Israeli public and political arena on one hand, and engage the Arab world in the negotiations on the other. To compliment potential success, they must utilize their wide influence to neutralize any spoilers, while supporting the development and sustainability of a Palestinian Statehood financially and linking Gaza, East Jerusalem and Area C to the West Bank.

All these aforementioned recommendations highlight the crux of what roles must be adopted by the global and regional players to achieve sustainable regional peace and security. Of course, the booklet will emphasize with greater details and even more policies that resound in their efficiency and applicability.

The CDCD and its partners is dedicated to a better future that will hold peace and security for the coming generations that will call the Middle East their home. 

 

Available in interactive iBooks format (for Apple gadgets) in one click:

(hold your device horizontally for a better performance, please!)

 

 

And in PDF format:

Published in Research

The first question is a traditional one for these series: How would you characterize the past decade for the Middle East?

In the past decade, the Middle East has clearly gone through many phases that have shaped the current geopolitical and sociopolitical situation in the Middle East. The most important and significant factor that brought change was of course the Arab Spring. As a result, the whole prism through which the Middle East was viewed has been altered. No longer do the "conventional" political structures remain confident, since the public's voice has gained massive influence. With that change, also comes different state-to-state relations in the region, and how strategies have been formulated. In short, while the Middle East a decade ago was a more rigid framework of politics, today's wave of change has on one hand given it more instability but on the other hand enough space to bring forth sociopolitical progress and security for the entire region.

 

What are the prospects of Arab-Israeli conflict in the current circumstances?

How has the Arab Spring influenced the conflict? It might have been the case that Israel felt isolated from the rest of the region for the obvious reasons, but with the eruption of the Arab Spring, Israel has felt itself closer to the region than it perhaps wants to. First off, the negative consequences of the Arab Spring have been felt in Israel, especially with the civil war in Syria and the political unrest of Egypt.Yet regardless of the situation, the Arab world was able to hold two Arab summits (in one of which the new Libyan government gave their support to the API). Moreover, the API Follow Up Committee headed by Kuwait has met with Kerry at least 5 times. And in this new framework of state interactions, Israel and the world has become aware that the Arab-Israeli conflict needs a solution that is complimented by a regional envelope. This is why we see the current Kerry Initiative having a layer of "regionality" with the Arab League playing a supportive role to the negotiations.

What is a role of civil society in the conflict regulation? Does its role and influence rise or decline?

There is a wide perception that civil society's role ends when there is an agreement. However that is quite incorrect, since civil society must not only work for an agreement but also double its efforts after an agreement is signed, since then it will be the real test to maintain and expand the promise of mutual understanding and cooperation between societies/communities/ and polities. For now, as the negotiations go on, the civil socities on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides have been working hard to spread and sow the seeds of positive peace among the peoples of both societies. This also includes frequent meetings with decision-makers to exchange ideas of how to proceed with peace talks.

What are the three key trends from your point of view that will dominate the international relations in the Middle East this 2014 year?

A. It is safe to say that the international community has understood that the "seperate" problems of any Middle East country must not been seen in an individual manner but in a collective regional approach. And so, the international community will further adopt this regional approach when it interacts with the Middle East.

B. The Israeli-Palestinian will still have a significant attention of the world, as recent remarks by the EU and Secretary John Kerry have indicated the negative ramifications a failure of talks will have not only to Palestine's struggle for nationhood but also to Israel's relations with the world. To contain any failure and its implications will be considered heavily by the international community.

C. The war in Syria and the instability in Egypt will not go missed by the international community's interaction with the Middle East. In order to have a stable region that can be approached comprehensively, the international community will certainly make attempts to limit the negative consequences of Syria and Egypt not to spillover into the rest of the region.

Published in Interviews
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