IDF vs Hezbollah Tunnel Warfare

January 1, 2019

“Iran’s annual funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon to attack Israel: 1 billion dollars.  
Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnel: A few million dollars.
Destroying this attack tunnel and protecting Israeli civilians: Priceless.”
(Israel Defense Forces)

Operation Northern Shield, which the IDF launched on 4 December 2018, aims to locate and destroy Hezbollah (terror)tunnels that cross the Blue Line from Lebanon into northern Israel. The operation is part of the ongoing Iran–Israel proxy conflict.

The Operation Northern Shield, following intelligence surveillance of a number of years. is underway via a well thought-out plan that combines intelligence exposure, engineering-based targeted action, and cognitive and diplomatic activity, all of which demonstrate clearly to Lebanon in general and Hezbollah in particular the aims and scope of the operation.

While Operation Northern Shield is still ongoing Israel’s attention is currently focused primarily on preventing Hezbollah to produce and convert rockets into guided long range precision missiles on Lebanese soil.  Probably both Israel and Hezbollah don’t have big interest to escalate the situation now – the future is different issue.

Some diplomatic activity

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) acknowledged the existence of four tunnels near the Israel-Lebanon border, and can confirm that at least two of the tunnels cross the Blue Line” in violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which helped end the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Israel and the United States are proposing a resolution to the Security Council to designate all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization (the European states have designated only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization)

The Russian embassy posted a tweet saying that there is “no doubt that Israel has the right to protect its national security, including to prevent the illegal entry of anyone into the country.”…“we hope that the actions taken for this purpose will not conflict with UNSC Resolution 1701.” Also the United States “strongly supports Israel’s efforts to defend its soverignty,” US National Security Advisor John Bolton wrote on Twitter.

The (End of) terror-tunnels

  • During the first day of the operation, on 4 December, the IDF uncovered a tunnel near the Israeli town of Metula with an estimated length of 200 metres (220 yd) that “extended more than 40 yards (37 m)” into Israel
  • On 6 December 2018, IDF discovered a second tunnel originating from the village of Ramyah near the border,
  • On 11 December 2018, the IDF located a third tunnel crossing into Israel.
  • On 16 December 2018, the IDF located a fourth tunnel crossing into Israel, and that as the tunnel had been rigged with explosives anyone entering it from the Lebanese side would be risking their life.
  • On December 26, 2018, the IDF blew up the fifth Hezbollah terrorist tunnel, which had been located a few days before in the region of the Shi’ite village of Ayta al-Shab (east of the Israeli community of Zar’it). Before the tunnel was destroyed the IDF called on the Lebanese villagers to evacuate the area

According to a senior IDF officer, most of the tunnels in the north exposed so far were “five star tunnels,” of the kind Hamas could only dream about. They had ventilation ducts and electric connections, and some of them had telephones. Some of Hezbollah’s tunnels were dug to a depth of more than 49 yards. They were ten feet wide and almost eight feet high (IDF spokesman, December 27, 2018).

The tunnels Hezbollah burrowed are meant to facilitate the movement and infiltration into northern Israel of hundreds of its fighters as part of its well-established military doctrine that calls for “the conquest of the Galilee.” and its aim is that during the next war, Hezbollah would invade the northern Israeli Galilee region and conquer it. Hezbollah’s operational plan also includes the construction of facilities to launch massive missile attacks on population centers and strategic sites. From Hezbollah’s perspective, the aerial attacks would attract the entire attention of Israel’s military, thereby simultaneously enabling Hezbollah to activate its plan for “the conquest of the Galilee” using its special forces.

Background

Hezbollah has long history of creating underground facilities such as tunnels, this was evident during the 2006 Lebanese war.  However then they served for defensive purposes i.e. moving troops etc but now the tunnels were intended for offensive objectives.  The idea of the tunnels is to transport Hezbollah elite units e.g. with motorcycles into Israel, to make ambushes, kidnap soldiers and terror civilian communities – the same idea which Hamas developed in Gaza before Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014.  Original idea came from lessons learned from Viet Cong activities in -60’s and -70’s.  Hamas shared their experiences with Hezbollah with Iranian financial support. 

IDF started searching for Hezbollah tunnels into Israel in 2013 after residents of northern Israel reported hearing sounds of digging, but failed to find anything. After the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, which saw numerous tunnels dug by Hamas from the Gaza Strip into Israel being uncovered and being utilized in several attacks, the IDF renewed its search for Hezbollah tunnels in northern Israel, and this time found indications that such tunnels existed. A laboratory made up of soldiers from technology and intelligence units was formed to investigate it, based on a similar laboratory investigating Hamas tunnels in southern Israel. A variety of seismic sensors and radar systems were used to locate the tunnels. The operation was planned two and a half years in advance.

After realizing that Hezbollah’s tunnels would need to be dealt with in 2015, a team of IDF military engineers, intelligence officers, and technology experts determined that plans should be made for destroying the tunnels. Senior officers in the IDF Combat Engineering Corps realized that the hard, rocky terrain of northern Israel, as opposed to the soft, sandy terrain of the area where Hamas tunnels were dug in the south, would pose a challenge that the IDF was not accustomed to.

 

Operation Northern Shield: The outcome

The impact of of Operation Northern Shield is significant on Hezbollah’s plan to establish a credible ground threat against Israel. The operation makes clear the improved IDF’s intelligence and detection capabilities and destroying the tunnels as well building the security barrier or wall Negating this Hezbollah capability solidifies Israel’s military superiority and widens the gap between it and the organization in a manner that could affect the balance of deterrence, which has remained stable since 2006.

By refraining from punishing the organization for these violations, beyond By taking only preventive actions against the tunnels, and not punish Hezbollah or to make destroying airstrikes nor land operations, Israel is signaling its intent to maintain the stability and calm along the border. Hezbollah, for its part, is embarrassed and lack of interest in military escalation against Israel at this stage, due to its continued military involvement in the war in Syria, which thus far has taken a heavy toll in resources and casualties (about 2000 dead and approximately 8,000 wounded, and families that need to be supported).

Cement mixers en route to the border

IDF forces continue filling the tunnels with concrete

Bottom line

In  fact word operation describing ”Northern Shield” is an overstatement as the effort consists of engineering activities performed entirely within Israeli territory, with no fire and no maneuvering elements. According IsraelDefense in internal discussions within the defense establishment, quite a few speakers thought it would have been better to avoid destroying the tunnels at this time. The proponents of that view reasoned that it would be better to allow Hezbollah to invest more and more energy in the tunnels, of which the IDF was fully aware, and destroy the tunnels in the future, only in the event of a war – or turn them into a trap.

While Operation Northern Shield is still ongoing is Israel’s attention currently focused primarily on the project run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah to produce and convert rockets into guided long range precision missiles on Lebanese soil. This is also the main explanation for the Israel Air Force campaign during last three years to bomb the supply lines from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah.  Only last year there was over 200 IAF attacks in Syria. Recently civilian airliners have carried in direct flights from Tehran to Beirut advanced weaponry such as Global Positioning System (GPS) components that could upgrade Hezbollah’s arsenal of unguided heavy rockets into precision-guided munitions (PGMs).

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Sources e.g: Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center , Jerusalem Post, IsraelDefense The Institute for National Security Studies

More about Hamas’ tunnel warfare and Israel’s anti-tunnel campaign e.g: Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts  and Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels

 

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Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

December 4, 2018

War or cease-fire? Following the botched undercover IDF operation, Hamas fired  hundreds of rockets and mortar shells at Israel while Israel Air Force responded with massive airstrikes in the Strip. In few days, a cease-fire was reached and relative calm has since been maintained.  However Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created while people from border communities demanded stronger actions against Hamas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is struggling to save his government.

With these kind of recent events the urgent question is how is the Israel government’s Gaza policy developing in coming days/weeks/months.  From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

From escalation…

The recent escalation in Gaza started when an undercover IDF group – dressed in civilian clothes – clashed with Hamas in Khan Yunis, a city in the south of the Gaza,on November 11. The team was installing an advanced surveillance system, listening device, according to Palestinian sources. The Israeli group killed seven members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades including its commander, lost their own commander and escaped into Israel with the help of air support. The incident was followed by a barrage of some 460 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and Israel Air Force responded by firing more than 160 missiles that fell throughout the Palestinian enclave. Hostilities were halted on November 13, when Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire brokered by Egypt. After the incident Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created and there is good change for early elections for Knesset in Spring 2019.

Captured spy gear that the Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’s internal communications system, according Hamas’ military wing.

Related to the botched operation, aired live on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ Gaza City Deputy Chief Khalil al-Hayya claimed  that the Israeli undercover incursion was significant. The Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’ internal communications system. Had it been able to “install the surveillance equipment”, the undercover team would have given Israel the ability “to kill, hack and abduct”, and it would have “possibly made it easy for [Israel] to discover tunnels and other” activities pursued by Hamas, according to the Palestinian side. It was reported that during the most recent round of escalation Hamas’s security forces in the Khan Yunis region carried out an operation to locate Palestinians who had collaborated with Israel . According to reports, a number of suspects were detained. 

Six death sentences handed out by the Hamas  terror group on 3. Dec. 2018 to Palestinians who allegedly “collaborated” with Israel, a Hamas-controlled court also sentenced another eight defendants in Gaza to prison for various periods.The verdicts in the six most recent cases were linked to a botched undercover Israeli commando raid .

Information is mainly one-sided as Israel has imposed broad restrictions on media reporting of the incident.

( Sources: Intelnews.org , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and Haaretz )

 

 

…to relative calm

After the most recent round of escalation and the ceasefire ending it the “return marches” and mini-flotillas continue. Hamas, which is currently interested in calming the situation in order to advance its contacts for an arrangement, has lowered the level of violence (by preventing exceptional clashes, preventing rioters from approaching the border fence and preventing the launching of incendiary kites and balloons). 

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) reported  [28th Nov. 2018], that the past week Hamas continued to supervise reducing the level of violence at the weekly events (the “return march,” the mini-flotilla and the demonstration in the northern Gaza Strip). There were no exceptional clashes with the IDF and no use was made of incendiary kites and balloons. Hamas’ objective was to ensure the continuation of the talks for an arrangement and an internal Palestinian reconciliation as this past week a delegation of senior Hamas figures held talks in Cairo.

Sure Hamas has reduced violence in Gaza-Israel borderline but the West Bank is an different issue. The Israel Security Agency reported  that in September 2018 a Hamas network was exposed. The network planned to carry out attacks in Israel. To that end, Hamas’ military wing recruited operatives in Judea and Samaria and taught them to make IEDs. To transmit messages to operatives in Judea and Samaria, Hamas used residents of the Gaza Strip who had permits to enter Israel for life-saving medical treatment (a modus operandi familiar from the past).

 

Israel’s Gaza Options

From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

Most popular option in Israeli border communities might be destroying Hamas.  This can be made with two methods:

  • By carpet bombing, which will reduce Gaza to rubble – to uninhabitable ruins, or
  • By re-occupying Gaza with massive land operation.

The first option is cheap and effective but cause huge human casualties in Gaza even when Israel gives warnings before bombing as usual.  Probably great part of Gazans would flee to Sinai but great part would stay if Hamas coerces them to act as human shields.  Using this option would lead huge international opprobrium, maybe even to isolation. However main obstacle of this option is IDF ethical code – Tzahal, which has widely accepted values – such as respecting human’s life (also enemies), purity of arms etc – not only in army but in society in general.

The second option is very expensive and both sides would suffer heavy casualties, human and material,  during operation/war and what even worse these huge costs would continue perhaps decades.  Sure in Gaza would be more like Israeli military government than even facades of democracy and Israel would suffer international opprobrium decade or more. 

Both Hamas and know Israelis that despite the fact that Israeli border communities and Gazans suffer, Gaza isn’t causing most Israelis enough troubles to make them willing to destroy Hamas or reoccupy the territory. Hamas understands the “red lines” very well. That’s why it deliberately confined itself to bombarding the south, despite having missiles capable of reaching most of Israel. It wanted to cause as much pain as possible without crossing the threshold that would provoke Israel into war — and it succeeded.

The third and forth options are both short-term fixes:

  • Implementing restricted land operation or 
  • Negotiate a long-term ceasefire – “Hudna”.

Restricted land operation is like small-scale war like in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge  aka Gaza War 2014) or in 2012 (Operations “Returning Echo” and “Pillar of Defense”) or in 2008-09 ( Operation “Cast Lead”  aka Gaza War). All these operations created few years peace,  there were moderated casualties and moderate international opprobrium.  Any of these operations did not seriously harm Hamas and its ability to build stronger army for next round. 

Long-term ceasefire – “Hudna” might bring a similar period, than before clashes of quiet, and it has several obvious advantages: no deaths, no international opprobrium, and greater support within Israel.  At best this option gives some positive vision for future: Hudna can lead to Gaza reconstruction with international Aid and it can be the first step of implementation of regional peace process (or maybe first part of coming “Trump’s Plan” aka “Deal of Century”).  The core idea is to develop welfare in Gaza and so reduce motivation to violence.

The fifth option keeps the status quo, it is the Zero Option and has no progress nor vision for better future.  It implements “tit for tat” strategy and both Gazans and Israeli border communities suffer even more than today as attacks and response might be more effective.

  

The Deal?

According  The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center  since the most recent round of escalation Hamas-Israel deal – or arrangement or hudna – is currently being formulated between Hamas and Israel. The deal is based on understandings achieved before the most recent round. According to the understandings, there will be quiet in return for easing the “siege,” in two stages. In the first stage, which will last for about two weeks, Israel will allow fuel for the power plant and financial aid to enter the Gaza Strip, and extend fishing waters to 12 miles. In the second stage, which ill take about half a year, fishing waters will be extended to 20 miles, a new electric line will be laid from Israel to the Gaza Strip, and gas pipes will be laid for the power plant. In addition, Gazans will be allowed to export merchandise, especially to Judea and Samaria, and restrictions on movement will be eased. According to reports, as part of the understandings Israel will agree to advance the establishment of a sea lane to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas replacing Fatah?

Hamas was established as a social-religious movement, has transformed from a terror organization into a semi-state actor – or de facto a governing entity – in control of the Gaza Strip and its population. There is big probability that Hamas in post-Abbas era will replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy. Hamas has real support on the grassroots and they are leading Palestinian power in struggle against Israel.

A new type of rocket which, according to PIJ claims, was fired at the southern Israeli city of Ashqelon. Its nickname is “The hell of Ashqelon” (Jerusalem Brigades website, 13th Nov. 2018).

General Tamir Yadai, head of Israel’s Home Front Command, issued a frightening warning [28th Nov. 2018] to Israel’s citizens: ”The days are past, when we’ll be fighting in the North or in Gaza, and folks will be drinking coffee in Tel Aviv.” Although Tel Aviv and Israel’s central region have been relatively untouched by Hamas rocket fire and incendiary bombs over the last eight months of hostilities, Hamas rocket capabilities have clearly improved since Israel’s last incursion into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in July-August 2014. Though only guesstimates, Israeli citizens in the south living under the rocket fire say the rockets are at least five times more powerful than what they remembered from four years ago. From the north, Israel faces a still greater threat. Hezbollah is considered the world’s strongest non-state actor, fielding a medium-sized army and a large arsenal of rockets estimated at around 130,000. (Source WIN  )

In ongoing political crisis PM Netanyahu got support from former chief of staff and current political hopeful Benny Gantz, who spoke against “Exploiting our just defensive war for personal or political gain.”

According Debkafile  shortly after Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense minister, the IDF (or ”anonymous “military sources”)  rated as “low” the level of the Hamas threat, and maintained that Hamas does not want a confrontation. And their conclusion: “This was no time for a [major military] operation.” They advised capitalizing on Hamas’ “weakness” to press forward with the diplomatic process.

Bottom line

The relations between Egypt and Hamas have been one of the core questions in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides ongoing process of Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again) will go further as partial solution to conflict.

From my point of view now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on maybe soon coming American plan. In my opinion “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Peace Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options. A major emphasis will be placed on economic investments for the Palestinians, as well as regional cooperation, anti-terror measures and normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel, on the basis of the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. First step could be long term truce – hudna – according Hamas-Israel deal. During this it is possible to develop civil society in Gaza and so reduce motivation to terror. If there is no progress in short term so then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach.

 


Hudna – The Hamas-Israel deal – on the Way

November 6, 2018

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar – affiliated with Hamas – has reported on 3rd Nov. 2018 that according a draft agreement between Israel and Hamas the later will commit to restricting border protests and restict violence until the end of 2018, while Israel will agree to lift 70 percent of its blockade on the Stript and expand the fishing zone to 14 nautical miles. Apparently for the first time since August 2018, significant progress was again made in contacts for an Egyptian-mediated arrangement.

One proof of the progress was the “return march” held on November 2nd Nov., 2018: Participation in the march was limited compared with previous weeks, the demonstrators did not approach the security fence, no attempts were made to break through the fence and no incendiary kites and balloons were launched into Israeli territory and Hamas’ restraint force kept demonstrators away from the fence.

Operatives of Hamas’ restraint force use clubs to keep demonstrators from approaching the security fence (Fatah Facebook page, November 2, 2018).

Despite this 32nd protests – during the “Return March” campaign – were significantly calmer than those 31 held in previous weeks, eighty-seven protesters were wounded, 32 have been evacuated to hospitals, with seven of those being wounded by live gunfire. The rest were treated for tear gas inhalation. However no severe injuries were reported.

A senior Hamas official told Haaretz the Palestinian factions in the Strip decided to put an end to the violent protests along the border with Israel, as well as stop the launching of airborne firebombs. According to the official, the protesters will also stop setting tires on fire and approaching the Israeli side of the border.

The lowered level of violence of the last “return march” was apparently the result of a number of understandings achieved through Egyptian mediation. As part of the attempts to reach an arrangement, an Egyptian delegation headed by Ahmed Abdel Khaliq, head of the Israeli and Palestinian directorate in Egyptian General Intelligence, came to the Gaza Strip. The delegation held a series of meeting with representatives of Hamas, the other Palestinian organizations, and members of the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March.

The Egyptian security delegation meets with representatives of the Palestinian organizations and the Supreme National Authority of the Return March in the Gaza Strip (QudsN Facebook page. November 1, 2018).

At a conference held ahead of Friday’s protests [2nd Nov. 2018], the factions – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and several others – agreed to lower the level of friction in light of the talks brokered by Egypt. The decision also follows Israel’s decision to expand the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza Strip’s coast and transfer funds from Qatar for Hamas salaries.

The Draft agreement

The published draft also includes – i.a. – following clauses:

  • Israel agreeing to allow 5,000 Gazan workers under the age of 40 into Israel for employment,
  • Egypt will open the Rafah crossing, which it has mostly maintained closed since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007.
  • Israel will strive to leave its crossing with Gaza open and the United Nations will advance projects in the Strip that will create tens of thousands of jobs.
  • The Palestinian Authority will pay Hamas civil servants 80 percent of their salaries and not object to Qatar funding Hamas salaries for at least six months.
  • At a later stage Egypt would work to advance the prisoners’ exchange deal between Hamas and Israel and institute a ceasefire of at least three years with international supervision and Russian and UN sponsorship
  • Egypt would work to extend the fishing area to 14 miles, leave the Rafah Crossing permanently open and support infrastructure projects and projects that were expected to provide about 30,000 jobs in the Gaza Strip.

Neither Hamas nor Israel has verified these details. However “Palestinian sources” explained that in fact no lull agreement had been reached, but an equation of “quiet in return for quiet” had been formulated, based on the ceasefire of 2014.

On 31st Oct. 2018, Israel reportedly agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to Hamas to pay the salaries of its civil servants after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose.

Sources: Haaretz , The Jerusalem Post and The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

 


Bosnia Moving from Failed State Towards Dissolution

October 9, 2018

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) is an artificial administrative creature made by foreign powers in Dayton agreement on 1995. It has two political semi-independent entities (federal units) – Serb dominated Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) inhabited mainly by Croats and Bosniacs.  The outcome has been some kind of confederal arrangement set up in Dayton, which provides for an extremely limited central government and broad and virtually unfettered self-government for the RS as well for the FBiH.

General elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on 7 October 2018.  The general election was seen as an indicator of Bosnia’s future direction: moving toward integration in the European Union and NATO or driven by entrenched rivalries and friction. Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik won a race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia’s three-member presidency, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago. Earlier Dodik has prevented Bosnia-Herzegovina from recognizing Kosovo, and opposes joining NATO.  After elections Dodik said, that“The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want,”  adding that voters “punished” his opponent for his “servile policies toward the West.” Ivanic conceded defeat.

The country – Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) – consists of a Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) entity and a Muslim-Croat entity Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) with joint institutions in a central government. Voters cast ballots for the three-person Bosnian presidency, the Serb president, and the two entities’ parliaments and cantonal authorities.

Voters elected the national Presidency and House of Representatives, as well as the Presidents and legislatures of the two entities – Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina(FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS) – and the legislatures of the ten cantons of the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 10 cantons of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina serve as the second-level units of local autonomy and federal units of the of FBiH while the other political entity of BiH, the Republika Srpska (RS), has a centralized government and is divided directly into 63 municipalities. In addition the ethnically diverse Brčko District is a division of its own under the direct jurisdiction of BiH.

A total of 3,352,933 voters were eligible to vote at 5,794 polling stations at home and abroad for some 53 parties, 36 coalitions, and 34 independent candidates that have been confirmed as eligible to run by Bosnia’s Central Election Commission. A total of 3,352,933 citizens were registered to vote: 2,092,336 in the FBiH and 1,260,597 in the RS . Turn out at the level of BiH was 53.36%; FBiH 51.25%; RS 57.30%.

As concerns the BiH Presidency, the preliminary results from 43.42% polling stations indicate that Šefik Džaferović (SDA) won 37.97%, Željko Komšić (DF) won 49.47% and Milorad Dodik (SNSD) won 55.15 % for the Bosniak, Croat and Serb seats in the BiH Presidency respectively. (Source: Wikipedia)

Old Bridge, Mostar, BiH

The outcome

Despite international community’s state building efforts in Bosnia the country is splitting parts; the aim for this artificial creature designed in Dayton agreement was a multi-ethnic state with EU perspective.  Bosnia is now even more divided, with less national identity, 20 percent of population living under the poverty line, with a nightmare triple administration plus international supervising making the country one of the worst place in Europe to do business, even as it seeks to join the European Union. The EU has demanded that if Bosnia wishes to join to EU, it must create a stronger central government. Negotiations – led by EU and U.S over constitutional changes to strengthen the central government have been long and unsuccessful.  

According Stephen Karganovic during the electoral process some Western political manipulation took place to influence its outcome as credible claims have been made that Republic of Srpska’s main opposition coalition alliance is being funded by the US and UK.. USAID and other outfits tied to the US and British governments were injecting funds into the Republic of Srpska, particularly the media and political groups friendly to their agenda, in order to detach the Republic of Srpska from “malign Russian influence.” As a result, the Republic of Srpska is in the throes of the second round of the color revolution which was originally attempted and failed four years ago at the time of the previous general elections in 2014.

Western minions are being funded and covertly supported because they have agreed to revise the 1995 Dayton agreement and to accept the concept of a unitary Bosnian state that would eliminate or eviscerate the Republic of Srpska. They have also agreed to drop Srpska’s veto to NATO membership for Bosnia. Dodik’s rule has been undermined significantly by the corruption and incompetence of his government. These shortcomings have given the pro-NATO and anti-Russian opposition legitimate issues on which to focus and draw votes that they would otherwise not get based on the flawed fundamental policies that they are hired to advocate. (Source and more about this in article Targeted in the Balkans: Russia’s Tiny Ally Republic of Srpska By Stephen Karganovic)

Bottom line

Dodik’s win in elections 2018 will probably mean the restoration of the loose confederal arrangement originally envisaged and agreed upon in Dayton would be regarded by Serbs as satisfactory. Such a system would leave them with an ample degree of self-government in their own virtually independent state. As they could largely ignore the unpalatable government in Sarajevo, and that government would have little effective control over them. For Western powers, NATO and EU the outcome of elections 2018 probably will be there will be a delay of color revolution in the RS. For Bosnia the outcome might be moving from failed state towards dissolution of BiH.

Some earlier articles:

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Between Chances

Rethinking needed after Bosnian elections

Bosnia on the road to the EU, sorry to Dissolution

Bosnia collapsing?

Srebrenica again – Hoax or Massacre?


Appendix: Some background

Bosnian flag with explanation

The three points of the triangle represent the nation’s three ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. The triangle itself represents the geographic shape of the nation itself. The colors represent neutrality and peace, whereas the stars represent Europe.


From Petro$ to Petro¥

August 29, 2018

Few years ago I published an article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$  where I predicted following:

As the Americans and their allies are trying to squeeze Russia and Iran with a combination of economic sanctions and political isolation, alternative poles of power are emerging that soon may present a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated world that emerged from the end of the Cold War.

 

the end of dollar

Now it seems that the development is even faster than I expected. Here an excellent view from Gal Luft, Published by Yahoo Finance on August 27, 2018

 

Thwarting the anti-dollar coalition should be Washington’s top national priority

 

By Gal Luft

August 30, 2018

 

The United States is currently waging economic warfare against one tenth of the world’s countries with cumulative population of nearly 2 billion people and combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $15 trillion.

These include Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea and others on which Washington has imposed sanctions over the years, but also countries like China, Pakistan and Turkey which are not under full sanctions but rather targets of other punitive economic measures.

In addition, thousands of individuals from scores of countries are included in the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Nationals who are effectively blocked from the U.S.-dominated global financial system. Many of those designated are either part of or closely linked to their countries’ leadership.

From a U.S. perspective, each one of the economic entities is targeted for a good reason be it human rights violations, terrorism, crime, nuclear trade, corruption or in the case of China, unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.

But in recent months it seems that America’s unwavering commitment to fight all of the world’s scourges has brought all those governments and the wealthy individuals who support them to a critical mass, joining forces to create a parallel financial system which would be out of reach of America’s long arm. Should they succeed, the impact on America’s global posture would be transformational.

America’s global supremacy has been made possible not only thanks to its military power and its alliance system but also due to its control over the plumbing of global finance and particularly the broad acceptance of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The unique status of the U.S. currency has anchored the global financial system since World War II.

Any transaction done in U.S. dollars or using a U.S. bank automatically brings the trading parties under American legal jurisdiction. When the U.S. decides to impose unilateral sanctions, as in the case of Iran, it essentially tells the world’s governments, corporations and individuals they must choose between halting business with the sanctioned country or be shut off from the world’s number one economy. This is a powerful stick.

Not many companies or banks can afford to give up on the U.S. market or be denied access to U.S. financial institutions.

Revisionist countries that wish to challenge the U.S.-led system see this as an affront to their economic sovereignty. Which is why both Russia and China have developed their own versions of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the global network that allows cross-border financial transactions among thousands of banks. Both countries are also urging their trading partners to ditch the dollar in their bilateral trade in favor of indigenous currencies.

This month Russia was quick to recruit Turkey into the anti-dollar bloc, announcing it would back non-dollar trade with it, after a financial feud between Ankara and Washington broke out. China for its part is using its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative as a tool to compel countries to transact in yuan terms instead of dollars. Pakistan, the number one recipient of Belt and Road money, and Iran have already announced their intention to do just that.

Last month’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit in Johannesburg was a call to arms against the dollar hegemony with countries like Turkey, Jamaica, Indonesia, Argentina and Egypt invited to join in what is known as “BRICS plus” with the goal of creating a de-dollarized economy.

The main front where the future of the dollar will be decided is the global commodity market, especially the $1.7 trillion oil market. Ever since 1973, when President Richard Nixon unilaterally severed the U.S. dollar from the gold standard and convinced the Saudis and the rest of the OPEC countries to sell their oil only in dollars, the global oil trade has been linked to the American currency.

This paved the way for the rest of the commodities to be traded in dollars as well. The arrangement served America well. It created an ever growing demand for the greenback, which in turn enabled consecutive U.S. governments to freely run their growing deficits.

Not anymore. Because so many of the members of the anti-dollar alliance are exporters of commodities they no longer feel that their products should be either priced by a dollar-denominated benchmark like WTI and Brent or be traded in a currency they no longer crave.

For example, when China buys oil from Angola, gas from Russia, coal from Mongolia or soybeans from Brazil it prefers to do so in its own currency and thereby avoid unwanted exchange rate fees on both sides of the transaction. This is already beginning to happen.

Russia and China have agreed to transact some of their traded energy in yuan. China is pushing its main oil suppliers Saudi Arabia, Angola and Iran to receive yuans for their oil. And last year China introduced gold-backed futures contracts, dubbed “petro-yuan” in the Shanghai International Energy Exchange – the first non-dollar crude benchmark in Asia.

The gradual acceptance of digital currencies, backed by blockchain technology offers another way for the revisionists to ditch the dollar in their trading. The Russian central bank indicated that it was considering launching a national cryptocurrency called “cryptoruble” and in the interim it helped Venezuela’s launch of its own cryptocurrency, the “petro,” which is backed by the country’s vast oil reserves. Now BRICS members are discussing a BRICS-backed cryptocurrency.

All of those actions and others point to one direction: In the coming years the dollar will be facing a barrage of attacks with the goal of eroding its hegemony and the energy trading market will be one of the main battlefields where the future of America’s economic dominance will be decided. Any successful attempt to delink commodity trading from the dollar will have a cascading impact not only on the global economic system as we know it but also on America’s posture abroad.

With the overall positive state of the U.S. economy and the remarkable strength of the dollar compared to the currencies of the dollar-busters including the Russian ruble, the yuan, the Turkish lira and the Iranian rial it may be easy to sink into complacency and dismiss the actions of the revisionists as mere pinpricks.

But ignoring the growing anti-dollar coalition would be to America’s detriment. Bull markets eventually come to an end and with a national debt of $21 trillion and growing at a rate of a trillion dollars a year, the awakening could be ruder and sooner than most economists predict.

In the midst of America’s economic euphoria it is worth remembering that one of every four people on the planet lives today in a country whose government is committed to end the dollar hegemony.

Thwarting their effort should be Washington’s top national priority.

The anti-dollar awakening could be ruder and sooner than most economists predict

The United States is currently waging economic warfare against one tenth of the world’s countries.

Published by Yahoo Finance on August 27, 2018

Gal Luft 
– is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and senior advisor to the United States Energy Security Council.


New Road Maps to the Two-State

August 19, 2018

We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there…Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.” (Isaac Herzog)

Ever since the Six Day War in June 1967, innumerable plans have been put forward from the Left, the Right and the Center about what to do with the historic land – and its inhabitants – that suddenly and quite unexpectedly fell under Israel’s control – plans regarding ways to divide sc West Bank up or annex it to Israel, without imperiling the country’s Jewish majority.

A new analysis by Haaretz gives some content for implementing possible Leftist plans in West Bank. At the map by Haaretz  the two-state solution could be achieved with a minimal evacuation of Jews from the West Bank. The suggested numbers are 33 isolated settlements, fewer than 10 000 families and some 46 000 people.

 

For any Israeli government it is necessary to coordinate its actions with the mainstream settler community. According Fathom approximately 590,000 Jews living beyond the Green Line can be divided into three groups. The first group is the approximate 200,000 Israelis who live in the 12 Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, which will undoubtedly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any agreement. The second group is some 300,000 settlers who live in the so called ‘settlement blocs,’ located west of the security barrier which are usually very close to the Green Line. The vast majority of these settlements are also likely to remain under Israeli sovereignty. Only the third group, comprising 90,000 settlers – less than 20 per cent of the entire population of those living beyond the Green Line – who live beyond the route of the security barrier, needs to be addressed at the present time.

 

Leftist approach

The main position of the Zionist Left has been spatial separation between Israelis and Palestinians – “they are there and we are here.”One of the first plans for the West Bank was submitted by then-Labor Party minister Yigal Allon. Allon’s basic idea was to give Israel defensible borders, while not significantly altering the demographic balance of the country. His plan called for Israel to annex most of the Jordan Valley – a ribbon some 15 kilometers in width from the Jordan River to the eastern slopes of the mountain ridge running through the West Bank – to serve as a buffer from attacks from the east. Israel would annex one-third of the West Bank, and give up the other two-thirds. The densely populated Palestinian areas from the mountain ridge to the Green Line would not be annexed, and would either form a Palestinian autonomous region, or – in a later revision of the plan – be confederated with Jordan, and linked to the Hashemite kingdom by a corridor near Jericho.

Allon+ Plan, put forward in 1995 by Benjamin Netanyahu

 

The guiding principle of Allon plan, as well most plans after that, was to retain the maximum number of settlers inside Israel in the minimal amount of territory. This principle is valid also with Leftist plans during last years.

Former Leader of the Israeli opposition – and Labor/Zionist Union – Isaac Herzog proposed to divide the land between the Israelis and Palestinians. Following a quote from interview of Isaac Herzog in Fathom:

I speak in a very frank and open manner. I believe that Israel must move for peace. We must move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and us in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state. We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there…Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.”

Politically, the idea “us here, them there” harkens back to Yitzhak Rabin, who used that as a campaign slogan in 1992. Later former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed a similar unilateral separation in the West Bank. Herzog’s plan seems likely to garner support among the centrist, center-left and even parts of the center-right Israeli voter base.

According Omer Bar-Lev ( MK for the Zionist Union)

If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit.” His steps include a halt to settlement construction beyond the main settlement blocs, passing a compensation law in the Knesset to grant generous compensation to settlers living outside the blocs who want to settle inside Israel, expanding Area B – the territory in the West Bank where the Palestinians have civil control, and Israel has security control – by another 20%, a move that would necessitate taking 20% from Area C, and the evacuation of some 35,000 settlers living in that part of Area C. Once separation is achieved, Bar-Lev hopes the sides will negotiate a final status deal. His map has Israel ceding 95% of the West Bank, and needing to evacuate a total of 70,000 settlers.

According Israeli NGO Blue White Future  Israel should prepare for a reality of two states for two people,

  • by considering transferring areas east of the barrier to Palestinian control in a gradual, monitored and supervised manner. [Note that this part requires coordination and therefore is optional].
  • by enacting a law that allows for voluntary evacuation, compensation and eventual absorption of settlers presently residing on the eastern side of the security barrier, to encourage settlers who wish to relocate within the green line or within settlement blocs, regardless of whether an agreement with the Palestinians is concluded. and
  • by preparing a national plan for the absorption of the settlers who would relocate to Israel proper, whether before or after an agreement is signed. Such a plan should have urban, vocational, social, psychological and other appropriate components.

mideast peace process alternatives

 

Some alternatives?

“The one-state solution is not a solution, but a problem.” (Ori Nir)

The alternative plans from the Right range from extending Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria and encouraging the Palestinians there to leave, to annexing Area C, and giving the 80,000 Palestinians living there Israeli citizenship.

On the far Right of the spectrum is a plan articulated by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, who advocates a plan for Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria that includes the following: Annexing all of Judea and Samaria and making sure that Jewish sovereignty extends everywhere. The Arab population would have the following options: Either emigrate voluntarily with the aid of a “generous emigration grant”; receive permanent residency – similar to Green Card status in the US – but be unable to vote.

A different approach has been proposed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. Liberman advocates taking all of the land – excluding Gaza – from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and redividing it along demographic lines. In this plan, large Jewish settlement blocs would be drawn into Israel, and the area of the “Triangle” with its large Israeli Arab population would be penciled into a Palestinian state.

In addition there is the maximalist alternative plans from the Right – annex all of the territories Israel gained during the Six Day War – and also the maximalist plans of the Left: a complete withdrawal from all the territories. Few Israelis, nor I, advocate such a policy, so over the years there have been numerous variations on this theme.

Recently a new approach to the Jewish-Arab/Palestinian conflict was proposed by sc Federation Movement. Its Federation Plan or Federation Program presents a new approach to the Jewish-Arab/Palestinian conflict. The basic idea is

formulation of a common vision for the federal state by establishment of a federal government, and the division of the country into 30 cantons, 20 of which will have a Jewish majority and ten will have Arab majorities (one of which will have a Druze majority). At first place the federation idea sounds interesting as it seems to solve a basic dilemma in Israeli-Palestinian conflict: how Israel same time can survive as a Jewish state, have real democracy and keep – more or less – post-1967 boundaries especially in West Bank.

Sure there is also a zero-alternative, to do nothing else than keep “status quo”.  This alternative, however, is leading towards undemocratic “One-state” solution, which in my opinion is one of the worst scenarios.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle no one-state israel

My View

The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings/agreement/plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed; The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try. (both plans can be found from my document library ) The parameters of the end-game have been clear the whole time but despite of a number of negotiations the final agreement is missing.

clinton parameters

As possible solutions for Israeli-Palestinian conflict there has been besides 2-State solution also bi-national ‘One-State’ solution, partial solutions like Sinai and Jordan Options and different variations of ‘Three States’ solutions. One of course easy ‘solution’ is zero-option – ‘frozen conflict’ or ‘status quo’ scenario which can be implemented also through pseudo-talks. Today also unilateral actions – instead vain negotiations – can pave way towards some solutions.

In my opinion democratic One-state, Israel-Palestine federation or confederation based on cantons might work in theory but not in practice at least for decades. My argument is that even since early times of British Mandate first the Pan-Islamic and then pan-Arab rhetoric expressed fundamental ethnic and religious objections to Jews and for the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. The history of repeated aggressions by neighbours have also created deep distrust among Jews about Palestinians. This kind of ecosystem and peoples’ minds are challenging to transform peaceful coexistence with eternal enemy; it might take decades and generations to change fundamental ethic values. Besides instead of Israel-Palestine federation or confederation I see Palestine-Jordan confederation much more better model.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

I referred two new leftist initiatives above and in my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future, leftist think tank – which both in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future. I don’t see constructive unilateral steps as goal but more as strategy and process which will lead towards a comprehensive agreement.

The new analysis by Haaretz (How Many Settlers Need to Be Evacuated to Make Way for a Palestinian State ) gives some content for implementing these possible Leftist plans in West Bank.  The map helps to prepare a national plan for the absorption of the settlers inside security barrier; it shows the settlements which will be evacuated from West Bank, it gives the numbers of settlers which helps to plan urban, social, vocational and other needs of operation and to allocate necessary funding and budgeting and all this regardless of whether an agreement with Palestinians is concluded or not. 

Related articles:

Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table

Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The ideal – maybe utopist – long holistic peace process by Ari Rusila


The Causes of Israel’s Zionist Left Decline?

July 29, 2018

The Israel leftist movement has been in decline some four decades and especially since 2001. BESA center has recently publishe two pespective papers (by Gershon Hacohen in BESA and by Shmuel Sandler in BESA)which try to describe reasons for this decline.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen claims that spatial separation between Israelis and Palestinians – “they are there and we are here.” – as the main position of Left has been disastrous. Prof. Shmuel Sandler (emeritus) claims that the two-state framework has long been the preferred international, as well Labor party, solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, however, opting for that solution have been punished at the polls.

Zionist Left

The Israeli Labor Party is a social democratic and Zionist political party in Israel. It was was established in 1968 by a merger of leftist Mapai, Ahdut HaAvoda and Rafi parties. Since Israel independence 1948 all Israeli Prime Ministers were affiliated with the Labor movement and during the 1970s, the welfare state was expanded under successive Labor governments; but, despite its achievements, in the 1977 elections, Labor for the first time ended up in opposition.

In 1977-96, Labor was headed by two leaders: Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. Labor won two elections during that period: in 1984 and in 1992. In none of the elections from 1977 through 1992 did Labor accept the PLO leadership as a partner in a peace process between the Jewish state and the Arab states; in stead the perceived partner was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Future borders between Israel and its eastern partner were drawn according to the Allon Plan, which envisioned Israeli control over the Jordan Valley and strategic territories scarcely inhabited by Palestinians. The position of Labor changed after Oslo accords and Labor accepted the concept of a Palestinian state and Ramallah replaced Amman as the future partner.

Especially since 2001 the Israel leftist movement has been in decline, at least in elections. Following the October 2000 riots and the violence of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Ehud Barak (PM/Labor) resigned from office. He then lost a special election for Prime Minister to Likud’s Ariel Sharon. However, Labor remained in Sharon’s coalition as he formed a national unity government with Likud, Labor, Shas, Yisrael BaAliyah and United Torah Judaism, and were given two of the most important cabinet portfolios; Peres was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was made Defense Minister. Labor supported Operation Defensive Shield, which was conducted in April 2002 against Palestinians in the West Bank. After harsh criticism that Peres and Ben-Elizer were “puppets” of Sharon and not promoting the peace process, Labor quit the government in 2003.

Prior to the 2003 elections, Amram Mitzna won the party primaries, and led the party into the election with a platform that included unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The party was routed in the elections, winning only 19 seats (its lowest ever), whilst Sharon’s Likud won 38 (40 after Yisrael BaAliyah merged into the party). Subsequently, due to internal opposition, Mitzna resigned from the party leadership, and soon afterwards was replaced by Shimon Peres. Despite being omitted from the original right-wing coalition, Sharon invited Labor into the coalition to shore up support for the disengagement plan.

Before the last elections in 2014 Labor, headed by Yitzhak Herzog, and Hatnuah (the Movement party), headed by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, formed new list – Zionist Union – but this could not to make comeback to power. Following the exit of MK Yitzchak Herzog from the Knesset, to become the chairman of the Jewish Agency, Tzipi Livni replaced Herzog as the new head of the opposition but new Labor leader Avi Gabai would continue to be the Zionist Union’s candidate for Prime Minister.

Spatial separation

Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen claims that ever since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, it has been axiomatic among Israeli decision-makers that spatial separation between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital Israeli interest, even if not accompanied by a peace agreement. In line with this thinking, Israelis have been repeatedly promised that the implementation of spatial separation, including the removal of Jews from these territories and the construction of a security fence, would reduce daily friction and create a safer and more stable security situation.

Mr Hacohen asks where a more workable security situation has developed Is it in Gaza after the unilateral disengagement thirteen years ago where complete separation has been effected, or in the West Bank, where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s vision of partial separation prevails?

Mr Hacohen claims that since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the Israeli security forces have been conducting regular counterterrorism activities throughout the West Bank as a matter of course. Generally authorized by the Central Command and the Shin Bet without the need for the approval of the political echelons, this routine activity has given the security forces freedom of action and operational flexibility, which, together with other factors, has ensured relative calm and stability in the West Bank. However in stark contrast, the total spatial separation between Gaza and Israel as of the summer 2005 disengagement has denied the IDF freedom of action beyond the border fence. Not that the IDF’s overall capabilities have been reduced, but by transforming the Strip into an ineradicable terror entity that can exact a heavy price from invading Israeli forces, Hamas has succeeded in placing a strategic “price tag” on a wide range of activities short of overall confrontation. It is no secret that the balance of costs, risks, and opportunities that accompanies the decision to act in Gaza has become infinitely more complex since the disengagement.

israel-palestine conflict

No separation = One-State solution

I addition the border fence enables Hamas to grow stronger and to organize safely under its protective wing. Hamas has managed to build a regular military force comprising battalions and brigades, armed with a large below-ground rocket/missile arsenal and supported by an effective command and control system. None of this would be possible without the full realization of the Israeli leftwing concept of “they are there and we are here.”

Two-state framework as cause of Israel’s Zionist Left Decline

The low standings of the Zionist Camp list, formed before the last elections in 2014 by Labor, headed by Yitzhak Herzog, and the Movement party, headed by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, floated a new demand for change at the top. According Shmuel Sandler the Labor party is thus once again challenging its newly elected chairman, Avi Gabai. But if Labor leaders want their party to become a real contender for the office of Prime Minister and an alternative to Likud rule, they should replace their partner for a durable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict rather than replace their own leaders.

Labor has replaced eight chairpersons in the past twenty years. According Shmuel Sandler the leadership of Labor refuses to recognize is that its main problem is not who leads the party but its identification with the failed Oslo process, which installed the PLO leadership in Ramallah and Gaza (before its loss to Hamas in 2007). A short analysis of the 40 years since Labor’s defeat in 1977 after having ruled Israel since its inception – a turning point in Israel’s political history – shows that the problem is not one of leadership but of political identity. Because it is identified with Ramallah’s behavior and demands in any future settlement, Labor has suffered repeated electoral punishment.

New Leftist approach

Throughout two decades of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” direct negotiation has been perceived as the only paradigm that can lead to an agreement “Two-State solution as its final aim. The failure to reach an agreement has given excuses to the rejectionists and extremists on both sides, allowing them to blame the other party for failure to progress, and destroying the belief within the respective societies that an agreement is possible in the foreseeable future.

Israel’s Left as well sc international community and Arab League have supported Two-Sate solution The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings/agreement/plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try. (both plans can be found from my document library ) The parameters of the end-game have been clear the whole time but despite of a number of negotiations the final agreement is missing.

One provocative view to issue

Both analysts – Hacohen and Sandler – claim that Two-State and spatial separation between Israelis and Palestinians as the main position of Left are the causes of Israel’s Zionist Left decline. My conclusion differs from theirs. From my point of view the new Leftist approach has wide support in Israeli political map besides in Center-Left also in Center and Center Right which support makes its implementing realistic in future. In addition already partly implemented spatial separation with help of security barrier has decreased dramatically suicide bombings from West Bank. Sure behind the border Hamas can build more easily its military capabilities than in West Bank as Hacohen says but as seen during “Great Return March” campaign from April 2018 the IDF (Israel Army) has effective countermeasures and civilians mostly could continue their civilian routines. In West Bank situation is worse as the security barrier and spatial separation are not so ready than with Gaza.

I agree with Sandler that the political identity of Israel’s Left is has been connected with Two-State solution, however not anymore identified with Ramallah’s behavior, as Sandler claims, nor with traditional roadmap of peace process. It is clear that to solve Israel-Palestine conflict a new approach to the peace process is needed; and recently Israel’s Left has done exactly that.

Spatial separation and constructive unilateralism

Already 2012 then Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Labor Party until January 2011, said that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process.

Leader of the Israeli opposition – and Labor/Zionist Union – Isaac Herzog has proposed to divide the land between the Israelis and Palestinians. Following a quote from interview of Isaac Herzog in Fathom :

I speak in a very frank and open manner. I believe that Israel must move for peace. We must move towards the division of the land between the Palestinians and us in order to maintain the future of Israel as a Jewish democratic state… If we reach an agreement to separate from the Palestinians, this will be a victory for Zionism.

According Omer Bar-Lev – MK for the Zionist Union – Israel must give equal rights to all human beings living in the borders of the country. To keep the Zionist vision alive, Bar-Lev proposes that Israel has to separate from the Palestinians. His conclusion:

If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions.

Bar-Lev calls his program as ‘it’s in our hands.’ According him to achieve separation,

the best way to do it is through an agreement with the Palestinians, for sure… However, the probability of both sides, simultaneously, producing leaders who can make that strategic decision, and that strategic compromise, is very low. Israel cannot put its future in the hands of the other side. If we had a partner, then great, we should make an agreement and move forward and sign a two-state solution. However, even if the other side is not prepared to do so, Israel has a lot of steps it can take to begin the separation from the Palestinians.

The plan titled “It’s in Our Hands,” by Omer Bar-Lev calls for Israel to unilaterally define its own borders to ensure its security, would keep control of all of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and bequeath about 60 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, evacuating 35,000 Jewish settlers — less than 10 percent of the total. This plan might be provocative but for me it seems to be realistic tactic towards two-state solution.

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Spatial separation with Jordanian and Sinai options

An Israeli NGO Blue White Future,(“BWF”) is a non-partisan political movement founded in 2009 and seeks to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a “two states for two peoples” solution by facilitating the relocation of settlers so that all Israel’s citizens reside within secure permanent borders that guarantee a Jewish majority. According BWF  a constructive unilateral move is a move by either party that helps to further the achievement of two states, and is in line with the two-state vision as described in the many blueprint proposals for a two state solution. A constructive unilateral move will not become an obstacle once the parties resume negotiations.

Israel should prepare for a reality of two states  for two people, most notably by declaring that it does not have claims of sovereignty over most of the occupied territories, and by planning and acting accordingly, including preparing for the relocation of settlers residing east of the separation barrier to Israel proper. Specifically, its policy should include the following components:

Israel should consistently strive for a permanent agreement according to the principles of the Clinton parameters and other like-minded proposals, while pursuing an unconditional track, independent of any progress that may take place through negotiations.

Israel should refrain from building new settlements and from expanding existing settlements east of the separation barrier and in Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Construction could continue in the settlement blocs and in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Israel should enact a law that allows for voluntary evacuation, compensation and eventual absorption of settlers presently residing on the eastern side of the security barrier, to encourage settlers who wish to relocate within the green line or within settlement blocs, regardless of whether an agreement with the Palestinians is concluded.

Israel should prepare a national plan for the absorption of the settlers who would relocate to Israel proper, whether before or after an agreement is signed. Such a plan should have urban, vocational, social, psychological and other appropriate components.

mideast peace process alternatives

My conclusion

From my perspective both Israeli Leftist initiatives – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future – are steps forward and in my opinion also to the right direction – especially as the prevailing Israel’s Right-wing policy in my opinion is keeping due security reasons discriminating status quo in West Bank and leading towards “de facto” undemocratic “One-State” option, which would destroy Israel as ‘Jewish homeland’. This new Leftist approach can gain more ground in near future as today there is a trend to make regional solution in cooperation between US, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia as Palestinian Authority will be bystander if needed. Related to Gaza there is a good possibility to make at least a ‘Cold Peace Solution’ with Hamas and at best long term development plan by implementing sc Sinai Option with Egypt.

So what are the causes of Israel’s Zionist Left decline if not the ideas of spatial separation or previous identification to old “Two-States” solution? Honestly I don’t know, but I would seek the answer from wider trend e.g. in Europe where the Left-wing parties have lost elections decades after the basics of Western well-fare societies were built in -70’s mainly by them. Last decades the voters have also found more response to their needs from populist movements who are giving simple answers to practical issues – Israel, especially inside security barrier the West Bank scenarios are secondary questions. In Israel it is clear that the increasing population between pre-67 green line and Jordan river opposes with Right-wing parties “Two-State” solution with pre-67 lines, in my opinion Israel’s Zionist Left should clarify its new Leftist approach to peace process and what it means to awerage population in Israel.

My related articles:

Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict

Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


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