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

(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

 

In the IMESClub-CDCD partnership framework we present you a paper by Miles Mabray. 

"This proposal is the result of multiple discussions, conferences, workshops, and papers that have been conducted and written in the past few years of the peace process. The inspiration for this proposal came from discussions that took place over the course of three days (August 15–18) in a European capital among approximately fifty politicians, ex-politicians, and civil society actors from the United States, Europe, Israel, Palestine, and several Arab and other Muslim countries, regarding the possibility of creating a regional envelope to reinforce the initiative of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This proposal explains and outlines the construction, implementation, and promotion of a regional envelope of support for the peace process."


Click to read (PDF): 

Published in Research

 

Question #1: How could you characterize the past decade for the Middle East? Which mistakes were committed by intra-regional and outer-regional players?  

Tatiana NOSENKO: From the beginning, I would like to precise that my discourse is based on the assumption that that the mass manifestation in the Arab countries which had various political consequences are caused strictly by the internal social-economic, political reasons, but not by some external plot.

The Arab countries are now in the period of the political rearrangement. The political systems created during the postcolonial era are facing a crisis. The new generations influenced by the processes of globalization, IT revolution are coming to the arena and voicing their demands on the transformation of political and social life. It is also important that on the wave of  Anti-Western sentiments and rejection of the foreign ideologies (socialism, communism) the traditionalist masses return to Islam as a single universal ideology to solve political and social problems in the Arab world. 

However, it was erroneous, mainly by the USA, to count that the mass manifestation against long living dictatorships would immediately democratize the political systems. The democratic opposition to the authoritarian regimes is not consistent. From the structural point of view the Soviet opposition forces are not to be compared to the Islamic organizations and parties. The Islamists are those who win the dominating positions during the open elections. Thus, they legitimize their right to rebuild social and political life according to the religious canons while the secular principles suffer.

The secular opposition turned out to be helpless in such conditions in Egypt even though it had its representatives in the Parliament. But hopes that the problems could be solved by the return of an authoritarian junta are also untenable.

It seems that the societies with strong traditionalist values and religious principles on the one hand, and with already shaped social layers, based mainly on the secular benchmarks borrowed from the West, have to live through a long way to find the modes of coexistence and dialogue of these inconsistent forces. According to this point of view the repressions and persecutions against the Islamist leaders, e.g. in Egypt, as well as against opposition represented by the military and liberals, like in Turkey, turn out to be erroneous and futile.

As far as the situation in Syria is concerned, it was a big mistake both of the governmental and the opposition forces not to use the possibilities to find a political compromise before the beginning of the full-scale civil war.

The actions of Saudi Arabia, Qatar on the one hand ond of Iran on another who heat the inner conflicts in the Arab countries and use them in the Sunni-Shiah struggle for the regional hegemony are counterproductive and dangerous. The international community actively condemns Iran on this cause, but it is far less determined on which is concerning the Gulf monarchies. 

The stake on the military means to overthrow authoritarian and dictatorship regimes made mainly by the USA seems to have failed. Neither in Iraq, nor in Libya the Western military invasion has not stabilized the situation. However the position “let them fight till the last soldier” is also erroneous. Facing the situation similar to the Syrian with a global humanitarian catastrophe, with one of the key Middle Eastern countries being destroyed causing threat to the peace and stability in the whole region, the international community is unable to act in time and does not have any means to stop the bloodshed. This makes us think anout the efficiency and the effectiveness of the norms of modern international law, about the UN level of adaptation to resolve modern issues.

 

Question #2: Does the Middle East risk to become a battlefield of interests of the USA and Russia as it was during the Cold War once again?

T.N. The current situation can not be compared to the confrontation during the Cold War. Then, each power claimed the dominance in the Middle East; the countries in the region were divided into the “clients” of the USA or the USSR. The anti-American sentiments are very strong in the Arab countries and this undermines the US positions. The conflict between Russia and the USA emerges now from the different vision on the world order after the Cold War. During the last two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union the US became determined in its exclusive role as a protector of democracy, liberty, human rights all over the world and in its right to use any means to do it, including the military ones. Russia, proceeding from the principles of the international law, regards the intervention into the internal affairs of the states unacceptable and considers the military operations to overthrow any regimes, even authoritarian and antidemocratic, unlawful. Moreover, the West often uses double standards defining such regimes.

 

Question #3: What are the prospects of the Middle East Peace Process in the current circumstances?

T.N. Unlike, for example the Oslo process, the ongoing Palestine-Israeli negotiations have begun thanks to the strongest US pressure. The US is extremely interested in their effectiveness. In past several years the American image on the Middle East has suffered greatly due to the number of reasons. The Americans are being reproached for not having protected H. Mubarak regime that was its devoted ally during many decades. Obama decreases military presence in Iraq, where the Iranian influence is growing. He has suspended the military variant of response to the Iranian nuclear program so far, which causes big questions for Israel concerning the reliability of their overseas ally, etc. In current situation the consensus between the Israeli and the Palestinians is called upon to compensate the US losses. Moreover, it will remove the Palestinian problem from the agenda, which is a subject of speculation for all kinds of Islamic radicals.

As far as the sides of the negotiations themselves are concerned, their positive conclusion could be important for Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu in his struggle for political survival. His chances to be reelected are decreasing taking into account the drop of his influence within his own Likud party. But if there is a breakthrough during the negotiations, he might get the support of the electorate. For the Palestinians the status quo and the territorial growth of the settlements means the decrease of chances to establish their own viable state. They need the agreements with Israel to avoid total discredit and collapse of Palestinian Administration.

These factors could work to achieve the agreement.

 

Question #4: The Arab uprisings: who are the winners and losers in the East and in the West?

T.N. I believe that it is early to speak about the losers and the winners in the Arab awakening. They say “You can see the big things from the distance”. It is only possible to say that the destructive forces always profit from chaos and war, so the main aim of both intraregional players and the international community is to 

Published in Interviews

This publication opens series of "IMESClub Interviews". Discussion took place on the 28th of August in Moscow. Professor Vitaliy Naumkin answered several thorny questions posed by IMESClub Pesident Maria Dubovikova . 

 

Maria Dubovikova: I would like to start this conversation with a question that sums up the whole decade. How would you characterize this decade for the Middle East? Which mistakes were made by the intra- and outer-regional players, by the international community?

Vitaly Naumkin: Well, I would prefer not to talk in terms of  “mistakes”, it’s much better to talk about the positive and negative trends.  Speaking about the positive trends that took place in these last ten years, a good economic growth in most countries of the Middle East could be mentioned in particular. After all, we're not just talking about the Arab world, but about the whole Middle East, right?

M.D.: – Yes!

V.N.:  For example a considerable economic success of Turkey can be specially noted. Moreover many Arab countries have experienced economic growth, modernization, and development of modern financial and economic institutions. Somewhere this process was fast, even including some countries that have experienced the "Arab Spring," somewhere rather slow. Good results of economic development were shown, for example, by Egypt. Therefore, we can talk about different trends and shifts that were positive, not negative. Among them there are the process of shaping of the civil society which is however rather limited; spreading, not everywhere of course, of high technologies, especially information technologies. A number of countries are establishing cell-phone networks. The growth of the Internet use. Increasing number of educated youth who are getting education not only in their native countries but also abroad. There are many other trends that can be characterized as concrete steps towards a modernization, modern development and general integration into the basic matrix of global development.

Among the negative trends it is possible to mention stagnation, mainly in the political life, and a number of other processes that especially led to the “Arab Spring”. It is an absence of means of vertical social mobility for people, monopolization of all the levers of state control including financial and governmental resources by the bureaucratic elites. And, of course, high level of unemployment in some countries, poverty, etc.

The Middle East is corroded by the inner conflicts. It is the growth of interconfessional, ethnic, interstate and intraconfessional contradictions, which are often very severe. Also there are many unregulated old conflicts, primarily the Arab-Israeli.

Back to the question about the mistakes, it is possible to name the growth of religious fundamentalism, extremism, inability of the regimes to deal with the terrorism among them. All that leads to the serious deterioration of the image of people living in the region beyond its borders: in Europe, in the West in general. The intrusion of the Allied Forces to Iraq in 2003 can be undoubtedly considered as a mistake. As a result the interventionists failed to provide security, first of all – for the country’s people. In a decade more than 200 thousand people died, several millions became refugees or were displaced within the country, only 400 thousand of 1400 thousand Christians left. There was a mass exodus of Christians from Iraq. The minorities, mainly Christians are discriminated, there are non-stop terrorist acts and the hostility between the Sunni and the Shiah is periodically getting worse. Of course, the situation has partially stabilized – it has ameliorated. But generally it is possible to say that the plans of our US partners to quickly establish a modern democratic state, eliminate the internal conflicts and unite the nation have failed. I believe that Bush's interventionalism was the main mistake and it was replaced by Obama's administration milder attitude to the region and to the interventions. However, Bush's heritage still lives and it will take very long to remove its traces. That is why the interventionalism and the attempts to project their own model of liberal democracy face a severe resistance of the elites and the people. This continues to deteriorate the security in the region and to impede the mutual understanding between the Middle Eastern countries and external players.

M.D.: Speaking about the Gulf countries having the particular influence on the development of the Middle East, how would you estimate their influence? Which effect would the current policy of the two power centers – Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have on the development of Middle East, positive or negative?

V.N.: Regarding the Gulf countries, they largely represent a successful model of development, primarily because they poses huge financial resources. They can easily switch between these resources from one field to another and easily manipulate them in order to neutralize grievances and solve social problems if necessary. But at the same time, these countries do not have any immunity to the existing protest sentiments - while other countries deal with the more severe forms of such sentiments. Take the issue of Bahrain, where there was a very powerful protest movement. Although it was neutralized, the discontent of the two thirds of the population belonging to the Shia and consider themselves disadvantaged remains. There is a difficult internal situation in Saudi Arabia, which also has a grain of conflict.

It is impossible to ignore the intense rivalry between the different states of the Persian Gulf, including one in the religious and ideological sphere. Take a rather intense rivalry between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Qatar relied on the support of the "Muslim Brotherhood" and the Saudis - on the Salafis, and as we can see by the recent Egyptian events, they supported the military coup in Egypt. While previously these countries acted together as supporters of the Islamic protest movement, and was considered that they are leading all new Islamic forces to the power, today their views diverged. Saudi Arabia, before oriented on supporting the Salafist parties, plays well with the new secular forces today, including those representing the old regimes, such as the Egyptian military. Qatar also remains committed to the "Muslim Brotherhood" which has lost ground in Egypt, and together with Turkey acts in their support.

So I am not inclined to consider all the countries of the Gulf as a single entity. For example, the United Arab Emirates sharply opposed the "Muslim Brotherhood" from the outset, limited their activities in the country and subjected their representatives to repression.

The Gulf States are playing a double role in the region. They contribute to the financing of a number of projects in the Arab countries, assist in resolving their economic problems at no charge. But at the same time, impudent aggressiveness with which these countries are trying by force to resolve the internal conflict in Syria, only exacerbates the situation in the region and does not lead the Middle East to peace and stability.

M.D.: In a way, my next question concerns the Syrian problem. As the latest trend shows, Russia has began to play a more significant role in the Middle East and in many respects its interests are in conflict with the US policy. Do you think that the Middle East is able once again to become a field of confrontation of two powers as it was during the Cold War?

V.N.: I do not think it can. Firstly, because Russia does not enter an intense rivalry with the Americans for the area of influence. And the Russian influence in the region, to be honest, is very limited. Russia's main partners are still not the Arab states. This is, for example, Turkey. Although Turkey is a NATO member and wants to be admitted to the European Union, relations with Russia are very active, and developed very well in recent years. Turkey - one of the most important economic partners of our country, and Russia does not also have any sufficient political disagreements with it. The main stumbling stone in Russian - Turkish relations is the divergence of positions on the Syrian conflict. But this difference does not prevent the two countries from moving forward in increasing the volume of trade and economic cooperation, in the implementation of new projects, etc. I'm not talking about humanitarian relationships, the number of Russian tourists in Turkey, a flurry of activity on the business, etc. During the zero-sum game Turkey would be seen as a rival, as it is an ally of the potential enemy - the United States. Today is it impossible to pose a question this way. Moreover, today Russia has sufficient understanding with the Americans in the region. Russia and the U.S. are working together within the framework of the Quartet of international mediators in the settlement of the Arab- Israeli conflict. Our positions on the settlement differ only slightly. Russia, for example, does not consider Hamas a terrorist organization and works with this movement. Russia is more critical than the United States towards the Israel's plans for the development of territories, build settlements, but, nevertheless, the overall positions of Russia and the U.S. to the resolution are very similar, there is a close cooperation. Even on the issue of Iran, where there are serious differences, Russia and the United States will still cooperate acting in the format of the dialogue between Iran and the 5+1. Our country has repeatedly voted for the resolutions related to the response to the opacity of the Iranian nuclear program in UN Security Council. Iranian node in the context of non-proliferation is one of the main areas of cooperation with the United States. The same can be said about Afghanistan, even though it probably refers to Central Asia, but the Afghan issue is impossible to ignore because it is important for the entire Islamic world. As you know, Russia is also actively cooperating with America, without getting into the conflict and the American actions in Afghanistan, it is helping to build the Afghan state, helping the Americans to resolve supply issues of their contingent and ensure its safe withdrawal, acting fairly consistent, regardless of those difficulties that arise in Russian- American relations. Therefore, I see no reason for the rivalry between Russia and the U.S. in the region. Differences will persist. But even in the most tense case - with the Syrian conflict, where Russian and the United States assessments, policy plans and mode of conduct differ radically, there are still common interests. They consist in that firstly neither party wants to allow chaos in this country. At least, I see the interests of the United that way. Another thing is that some Russian politicians today have reason to blame Washington that it wants to create a controlled chaos out there. But still, it is in the American interest, in my opinion, to establish order and stability in the country. Secondly, talking about the coincidence of interests - we do not want to have a state of the Islamic radicals who would cut his throat to everyone who does not think like them there. There are also a common interest is to halt the bloodshed, civil war, to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But their views significantly diverge on how to do it and how to respond to what is going on. But look, despite the radical opposition between Russia and the U.S., they still have managed to agree on joint steps for the Geneva-2, the second international conference on Syria. And the chances are not completely lost yet.

M.D.: Let's go back a little bit back, to the Arab-Israeli conflict, you mentioned, and to the role of Russia and the United States, and then return to Syria. Under present conditions, when the region is absolutely losing its stability, what are the real prospects of efficient and effective conflict resolution? Do they disappear or are they still real enough?

V.N.: It is hard to be optimistic about the Arab-Israeli peace process, although there was a shift. The peace process has been resumed a term of nine months has been set to reach a final status agreement. I honestly do not think that it is possible to do it in nine months. There are several problems, among which it is possible to mention two most painful ones - the issue of Jerusalem and the refugee problem. If it is still possible to anticipate some possibility of compromise on Jerusalem, the problem of refugees today has very aggravated, as the Palestinian self-awareness has strongly increased and it is impossible to deny the right of refugees to return. But for Israel accepting this demand means causing the condemnation by the majority of population, for which such a decision would be a tragedy. For them, the return of Palestinians, let's say, in Haifa, located in what is now Israel, which Palestinians left in 1948, is unacceptable. How can this issue be resolved? In general, it can be solved, but it requires negotiation. Some reasonable Israeli politics offer the Palestinians the option of returning the refugees only to the territory of a future Palestinian state. In this case, the Palestinians will have the right either to return to their lost homes, or the right to compensation. However, these solutions do not suit all the Palestinians. And it is very difficult to suppose that it will be possible to overcome these grave differences in nine months.

Some Israeli partners have an idea to still return to the issue of an interim solution of the problem. To sign an agreement, say, with the exception of these two items, which will be deferred to a later period. Palestinians were always against the interim agreement before. In my opinion, in order to make them do it, they should get some serious concessions from the Israeli side, say, on the territorial issue. Would it be possible to implement it?

The border issue is also not easy, but there can still be an agreement because there is already a preliminary agreement, which can be taken. The idea of swaps, the territorial exchange, is acceptable for the moderate Palestinian elite, and, I believe, it has a potential to be realized.

The question arises whether it is possible to extend the deadline for reaching a final status from a nine-month to something else. Postpone it for a year, say. But in this case, there are legitimate concerns that the period may be extended to infinity, which will bury any hopes of a full settlement.

Today, Obama needs a success. He even wants to achieve something in the Middle East. At the moment, America loses a lot. There is a growing discontent in almost all corners of the Arab world against it. Look at what happened in Egypt! The Americans committed the same mistake twice, first they supported Mubarak, and they still reproached for betting on dictators. Then they quickly passed him and displeased those who hoped that they would support him. The U.S. has long worked with the "Muslim Brotherhood", enthusiastically talked about their democratic aspirations, their moderation, then the same Egyptian masses have allowed the military to remove the «Brothers» from power – now both "Brothers" and the new authorities are dissatisfied with the Americans. Yes, they were, in fact, always dissatisfied, because the United States, in their view, are entirely on the side of Israel in the conflict with the Palestinians. Now the new government of Egypt, the military and the civilian, including even liberal organizations, accuse the Americans of their support for the "Muslim Brotherhood". As a result the image of the United States has suffered greatly, their influence waned, their ability to manage processes occurring in the region declined. In Iraq, too, not everything is going well. In Afghanistan - the same thing. Libya is in a complete breakdown, chaos. Therefore, Obama must achieve at least something. We are not gloating about it, saying that America has lost two wars, that its policy towards the "Arab Spring" has failed. Who knows what will be the outcome of the US threats to launch an air-missile attack on Syria. If they choose a military intervention, it will not lead to the implementation of their goals and will cause huge damage to the region. We are totally against it. And, I think, Russia will support Obama's desire to resolve the Middle East conflict in all circumstances.

M.D.: Returning to the question of Syria. The other day, the Arab League after its meeting has condemned the chemical attack near Damascus, but refused to take part in any operation of the West, which was the completely different reaction compared to the case of Libya. What is the reason of such a sharp turn? Failure in Libya? Or this is some different understanding of the conflict?

V.N.: I believe this is both another understanding of the conflict and the "Libyan syndrome". There is no unity among the Arab countries. But if the Arab sponsors of intervention could push through the support of U.S. intervention, it still would (and it will if they manage) lead only to more bloodshed and to the hatred of more Muslims against the United States, and the people who will do it, will be responsible for it. They will look like American's puppets willing to dump stable regimes for their own selfish purposes. Will have to answer for it. The other day, an American colonel, who participated in the operation in Kosovo, McGregor, very well mentioned for this occasion that there are no bad guys and good guys in civil wars, there are only winners and losers, and one does not need to intervene. Civil wars were everywhere. During the American Civil War more people were killed than today in Syria.  We shall not speak about the casualties during the  civil war in Russia. And we still do not know who were the bad guys and the good guys. Kappel and Kolchak forces were the most brutal punishers. Today, many consider Kolchak a hero. In the civil war there is no right or wrong. So today, if the West wants to intervene in the war and make others win with their help - it will be a disaster. It is not for the West with his limited understanding of Middle Eastern societies to judge who is right and wrong. Not to mention the fact that the Americans will actually be standing shoulder to shoulder with those who hate Americans and their main ally - Israel, with those, who tomorrow, as it has happened in history, will turn their weapons against them, I think it would be a tragic error. I'm sure Obama understands this.

M.D.: To conclude our discussion, I suggest drawing interim results of the "Arab spring": who at the moment is among the losers, and who - among the winners?

V.N.: I do not know, who is who now.

M.D.: Even in case of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt?

V.N.: Well, we see very contradictory results. On the one hand, the Arab peoples have won, because they have shown that they are legitimate citizens of their countries, they can decide their own fate. On the other hand, it turned out that they are losers the same time. Because interest groups, various elites who mainly do not express the interests of the majority of the population, pursuing their own selfish goals, took advantage of the fruits of the mass protest movements. What did, for example, "Muslim Brotherhood" do in Egypt? Taking suddenly unexpected steps towards Islamization and the monopolization of power, they repeated the mistakes of Mubarak and caused resentment among those who voted for them.

 

Published in Interviews
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 03:16

The MidEast World: 2013

This is the first and long-awaited issue of The MidEast World journal, official journal of the IMESClub. This issue is composed of papers and articles, prepared for the VII Russian International Studies Association (RISA) Convention, Section «The Arab Spring». That Section was held on the 29th of September 2012 in Moscow (Russia) at MGIMO and appeared to be the constituent meeting of the Club, as the decision to found it was pronounced and supported by all the participants.
This issue presents texts on the «Arab Spring» with a special focus on the consequences for the Middle East Peace Process.
This issue is partly in Russian and partly in English. The upcoming issues of The MidEast World will be in English only and will be issued in printed and cyber editions.
We wish you a pleasant reading and time to spend with IMESClub experts through their papers.

This issue is composed of articles* by:

With best regards,
IMESClub Directorate


*Please, pay attention to the dates of receipt on the front pages of each article.

 

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