Al-Assad and Israel?

June 10, 2017

“Assad’s Survival Is in Israel’s Best Interest” (Dr. Edy Cohen/BESA)

As US president Donald Trump started his term it was supposed that removal of al-Assad’s regime was not very high in his agenda. However as a Syrian toxic chemical attack occurred and al-Assad was blamed for that , he launched fifty-nine cruise missiles at the airport from which Syrian air force presumably had carried out the strike.

Despite how US acts one should notice that there is already lot of foreign intervention in Syria: Russia, Hizbollah etc are giving weapons and support to al Assad regime; Turkey has frequently attacked against Syrian Kurds; Iran has boots on the ground; US, Saudis etc are giving weapons to sc freedom fighters; Qatar i.a. are financing al Qaeda’s fighters and Kurds get support e.g from Iraq. Israel has prevented modern weaponry transfers from Syria to Lebanon with airstrikes. 

“Assad’s Survival Is in Israel’s Best Interest” is the headline of new analysis by Dr. Edy Cohen from Israeli think-tank and institute BESA Center. According Dr. Cohen  Assad’s regime’s longstanding pretense to raise the banner of all-out war against Israel, since the Yom Kippur War October 1973 the Syrian-Israeli border on the Golan Heights has been conspicuously quiet – neither Hafez Assad nor his son Bashar initiated a single military activity against Israel from Syrian territory.  Today, as Syria no longer capably functions as a sovereign state, a strong Syrian president with firm control over the state is a vital interest for Israel.

When Trump started his term as US president it was believed that his agenda did not include removing the Syrian dictator from power.  However after chemical attack the situation might have changed and there is speculations about  the next ruler – dictator or democratically elected –  of Syria and how will he relate to Israel?

Dr. Cohen asks how the Golan managed to remain quiet for over forty years until the March 2011 violent eruption and answers that during that period, the Syrian regime simply had no interest in starting a war with Israel, it even took care to avoid any confrontation on the Golan front.

Sure Syria supported the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups, and aided Hezbollah in terrorizing IDF soldiers during the IDF’s stay in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah received in -80s, together with the Shiite Amal movement, money and weapons from Tehran via Damascus, however Syria took care to avoid a direct confrontation with Jerusalem – instead Syria tried to obtain the Golan Heights by diplomatic means.

Dr Cohen describes how in 1976, with the entry of the Syrian army into Lebanon and fear of a confrontation between Syria and Israel, the so-called “red lines” were established. Damascus was forbidden to deploy its soldiers south of the Litani River, to introduce anti-aircraft missiles into Lebanon that would threaten the Israeli Air Force, and to harm the Lebanese Christians who were allied with Israel at the time.

Revoked Israel-Lebanon Peace Deal

 

According Dr. Cohen Israel needs a strong president in Lebanon too– not someone weak like Amin Gemayel, who buckled under domestic, and external Syrian and Iranian, pressure to cancel a peace agreement with Israel. The agreement, about which most Israelis know little, was concluded 34 years ago. In 1982, following the Lebanon War, the Israeli government negotiated with President Gemayel via US mediation. After a year of intensive negotiations, representatives of the three sides met on May 17, 1983 in a festive atmosphere in southern Lebanon and later in Kiryat Shmona to sign a peace agreement. That agreement was to bring about security and an ostensible normalization of relations between Lebanon and Israel and culminate in Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon within three months. It was ratified by the Israeli Knesset and the Lebanese Parliament – but President Gemayel bent to pressure and refused to sign.

Dr Cohen concludes that it is clearly not in Israel’s interest to have a president in one of its neighboring countries who cannot rule his own country.  Israel is surrounded by enemies. It needs those enemies to be led by strong, stable rulers who will control their armies and prevent both the firing on, and infiltrations into, Israeli territory. Both the senior and junior Assads succeeded in this and continue to do so to this day, despite the many reports in recent years about Israeli attacks in the heart of Syria.

Syria is no longer able to function as a sovereign state, and this is bad for Israel.  It is foundering in a mire of extremist militias (ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jaysh al-Islam, Palestinian organizations like Ahmad Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, Quwat al-Jalil, and the forces of Padi Malih, as well as the moderate rebels). It is divided into several regions, each controlled by a different organization. With all the regret over the loss of and disrespect for human life, a strong Syrian president with firm control over the state is a vital interest for Israel. Given the Islamist alternatives to his rule, Syria’s neighbors, including Israel, may well come to miss him as Syria is rapidly Lebanonized. The country will be divided into several entities, each controlled by a separate group/sect. This will hardly be beneficial for Israel or for the Middle East as a whole.

(Source and more in BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 476, May 25, 2017: Assad’s Survival Is in Israel’s Best Interest By Dr. Edy Cohen | PDF )

 

An opposite view

Efraim Inbar, professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University has totally opposite view to issue, a view which has also published in same BESA Perspective Papers than Dr. Cohen’s.   Arguing that the continuation of Assad’s brutal regime is a vital Israeli interest does not make strategic sense. A Syria embroiled in a civil war has much less energy and means for hurting Israel than a strong Syria. Nor is the Syria of today able to wage an effective diplomatic and/or military campaign aimed at the return of the Golan. Above all, the survival of the Assad regime is a victory for Iran – the main source of trouble in the Middle East and Israel’s arch-enemy. 

BESA CenterAccording Prof. Inbar, a dysfunctional Syrian state torn by civil war is not a result of Israeli machinations, but a positive strategic development from an Israeli point of view. What is left of the Syrian army is busy protecting the regime and trying to expand the territory it holds. It is not capable of challenging the Israeli army in a conventional war.  A restored Syrian state, under Assad, will secure for Iran the Shiite corridor to the Mediterranean.  An Iranian presence along Israel’s northern border is more threatening than warring Sunni militias.

(Source and more in BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 485, June 3, 2017: Assad Is Bad News  By Prof. Efraim Inbar  |  PDF )

 

Wider perspective

On religious side Syria has a variety of minorities such as the Protestants, the Chaldeans, the Armenians, the Roman Catholics, the Maronite Catholics, the Greek Catholics, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox etc. Indeed Syria has been a safe haven to many minorities surpressed elsewhere. So one can estimate that these religious groups are more afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood or any radical or fanatic group leading the country towards theocracy, better them to keep the current Syrian regime in place.

Speaking about events and their effects in Syria, the energy aspect can not be ignored. Syria is in the middle of two important energy corridors: It links Turkey and the Caspian See to Israel and the Red Sea and it links Iraq to the Mediterranean. There is also new huge energy sources in Eastern Mediterranean – first Leviathan and Tamar fields some 90 kilometres west of Haifa/Israel with estimated 24 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4.3 billion barrels of oil. The existence of these energy fields is also the reason why the Kremlin has created a military foothold in Syria for the Russian Federation. Also Iran has interest to explore and help develop these natural gas fields off the Levantine coast for Beirut and Damascus. If the present regime in Syria falls the question is who would control these energy routes.

Late 2013 The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—along with certain Arab League countries, plus Turkey and Israel, have early December 2013 committed themselves to raising nearly $6 billion seed money for new Islamic Front (IF) in Syria. This coalition wants also USA to particapate onto a plan to oust the Syrian government by funding, arming, training and facilitating a front formed out of an alliance of seven “moderate” rebel factions. Beside of toppling the Assad regime the other benefit would be truncating Iran’s growing influence. The Kurdish Islamic Front also reportedly joined the alliance. None of these groups have been designated foreign terrorist organizations by the US, and therefore,  nothing stands in the way of US funding and support for them.

It might be possible that during Obama Presidency USA did not implemented planned military intervention against Syria as its political leadership knew first that Syrian rebels had chemical weapons, second it knew that Al Assad regime maybe not used CW in Damascus August 2013 and third that Syrian opposition might on the end not be better alternative than Al Assad. Syria Updates: The New Islamic Front And Whodunnit III

On Aug. 2013 I concluded in my article as follows:

Arming rebels and pushing for military intervention will not solve the problem Syria is facing but indeed could lead to the death of thousands of Syrians and to the breaking-up of the country falling under the control of violent fundamentalist Jihadist forces. It will mean the further fleeing of Syrians into surrounding countries which will themselves become destabilised. The entire Middle East will then become unstable and violence will spiral out of control.  Anyway if USA decides to bomb Syria wouldn’t the right address be Qatar-funded mercenaries led by Al Qaeda instead of the Assad regime.

The cases of Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict indicate that the United States could be gradually retreating from the Middle East, Russia is now filling this vacuum. In Syria Moscow and Jerusalem have agreed to coordinate their actions in Syria as well as share intelligence. Intelligence-sharing also greatly benefits Moscow, which receives more balanced intelligence, allowing it to put into perspective the kind of information provided by its allies from the Baghdad coordination center.

Based on main issues during U.S. elections – e.g. have strong isolationist tendencies – it could be predicting President Donald Trump will watch the Mideast conflicts from the sidelines. I conclude that the opposite scenario is more realistic. Trump probably will develop pragmatic relationship with Russia and even make a deal with Putin to stabilize the (Great) Middle East and so there is no need to increase US ‘boots on the ground’ in region. Israel will be the main stabilizing actor in Mid-East so blocking Islamist Jihad as well decreasing refugee crisis which both factors serve Trump’s election campaign goals. 

 

Israel and humanitarian aspect in Syria

Syria may officially be an enemy country, but that hasn’t stopped dozens of Israeli individuals, organizations and government bodies – including the Israel Defense Forces – from doing all they can to alleviate human suffering in the country, even though giving this aid is often dangerous.

Israeli aid to the country comes in many forms, much of it under the radar. Nonprofit organization Il4Syrians, which was founded by a private Israeli citizen at the start of the civil war in 2011, sends food, medicine, coats and basic supplies to Syrians in a perilous cross-border mission. With the help of transports organized by the IDF, some 2,500 Syrian men, women and children have received care in various Israeli hospitals at the expense of Israeli taxpayers and donors. The Israel Trauma Coalition trained clinicians, caregivers and volunteers in Berlin to treat Syrian refugees in that German city. Natan-International Humanitarian Aid, based in Tel Aviv, has provided trauma and post-trauma care to Syrian refugees in Jordan. The nonprofit IsraAID has been rescuing and providing many forms of assistance to Syrian and other Middle East and African refugees pouring into European countries. 

(Source:  ISRAEL21c )

Earlier: “Israel says Assad must stay” – front-page headline in The Times, London, 18 May 2013

 

Bottom line

Despite how USA acts one should notice that there is already lot of foreign intervention in Syria: Russia, Hizbollah etc are giving weapons and support to al Assad regime; US, Saudis etc are giving weapons to sc freedom fighters; Qatar etc are financing al Qaeda’s fighters and Kurds get support e.g from Iraq. The Israelis are privately reluctant supporters of the al-Assad regime. It is a known quantity, with whom negotiation within established parameters is possible. The alternative, of divided Sunni Islamist politics presenting a potentially existential danger to the Jewish state and the region as a whole, is all the more destabilising. EU is bystander as usual however ready to throw their money in when dirty job is done.

The problem in Syria is similar than in Libya. Thinking situation e.g after earlier planned Western intervention the problem in Syria could be the same as in Libya. It looks like there is no one in the Syrian rebel political or military leadership capable of taking over the reins of power in Damascus.

Syria, cradle of civilizations

In my opinion the majority of the people of Syria are calling out for peace and reconciliation and a political solution to the crisis.  The probable short term result will be dissolution of Syria – some kind of new balkanization or Somalization as it already happened in Iraq. The country might fragment, as Kurds and Alawites form their own mini-states. The positive outcome might be that second piece– after North Iraq – of Kurdistan will be established while it remains to see when regions from Iran and Turkey will join to this long-felt need.  From my point of view with this kind of outcome the al-Assad Presidency is not a core question.
 

 

Related articles:

TFF PressInfo # 397: The destruction of Syria and the media

Chemical Fabrications: East Ghouta and Syria’s Missing Children

Syria Updates: The New Islamic Front And Whodunnit III

Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II

Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War

The Four-stage Plan For Syria – Can It Work

Whodunnit in Syria

Syrian Rebels Admit Chemical Attack In Damascus???

Syria: From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media

U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria

Some framework to Syrian crisis

 

 


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

May 10, 2017

 

usrael-palestine conflictDuring last two decades Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a serial of repeated failures reaching peace agreements and implementing e.g. Oslo accords, combined with varying levels of violent confrontations. There is deepening lack of trust between Israelis and Palestinians and more blaming the other side.

This year marks 100 years from the first international acceptance of Zionism in the form of the Balfour Declaration, 70 years since the UN partition resolution, and 50 years since the Six-Day War in which Israel – defending itself – conquered and subsequently occupied the West Bank. It might be a right time to search a new approach for solution. Some aspects of this might be found from Israeli-Palestinian dialog hosted by BICOM, updated constructive unilateralism and my revised hybrid model based on mainly these two developments.

 

The new “hybrid” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making

In late 2016, BICOM hosted a series of private, track-two dialogues between current and former Israeli and Palestinian officials and academics designed to explore new thinking and provide a detailed critique of different ideas to solve the conflict.

Based on these unique discussions, the BICOM research team published on 31st March 2017 a policy paper proposing a new “hybrid” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making.

The dialogue analysed and critiqued four models for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking: Bilateral negotiations focused on agreed parameters; a regional framework; constructive unilateralism; and Israeli-Palestinian confederation. The analysed four models, their descriptions and limitations added with my comments, are presented below as infographs:

 

Comment: Two decades of failures show that with this the progress is non- existing and going even backwards.

 

Comment: The Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 offers Israel with diplomatic recognition from 57 Arab states in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians. The Saudi proposed Initiative was supported by the Arab League at the Beirut Summit 2002 and endorsed again in 2007 by the Arab League Summit. Recently all 15 resolutions passed by the Arab summit on 29th March 2017 were devoted to an indictment of Iran, its Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese surrogate, Hizballah. None of the formal resolutions addressed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However in a separate statement issued later, the Arab rulers reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. According DEBKAfile this was the first Arab summit to refrain from defining Israel’s future borders under a peace deal. This leaves the door open for leeway in the negotiations to take place as part of the new US-Saudi-Egyptian peace initiative.

I support regional model but with different content: Instead of Arab League the key players should be Israel, Egypt and Jordan as then the content could be implementation Sinai option for Gaza and Jordanian option for West Bank.

 

Comment: The difference between Herzl’s generation and post-1948 generations was a first-hand understanding of what the absence of a Jewish state means for Jewish survival. The state represents the difference between autonomy and servility, indeed between life and death. In my opinion Israel-Palestine confederation model would be too close one-state solution which would destroy Israel as “Jewish” state. Instead of this model I see Palestine-Jordan confederation much more better alternative.

Comment: In my opinion the best way forward. I don’t see constructive unilateral steps as goal but more as strategy and process which will lead towards a comprehensive agreement.

“Hybrid” model

While there was little appetite for returning to the classic bilateral negotiation model without prior agreement on parameters, extensive analysis and critiques of each model did generate an interest in continuing to explore the potential of a “hybrid” model, creatively drawing upon components from each of the four different models discussed. Such a hybrid model would involve a regional framework for a peace process composed of a strategically creative deployment of genuinely constructive, and sometimes coordinated, unilateralism, and bilateral negotiations that move from framework agreements through incremental implementation to final status talks.

The advantage of such a model lies in its combination of designing a political horizon or endpoint while harnessing the flexibility of constructive unilateralism, which might begin on a small-scale. Moving away from sequential to parallel incentives, as the Arab League has recently done in the Arab Peace Initiative, and shedding the mantra of ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, would also introduce more flexibility into the process. Finally, seemingly radical proposals found within the confederative model – such as allowing some Israeli settlers to remain in a Palestinian state with a similar number of Palestinian refugees residing in Israel – may also form part of this model, helping to resolve some hitherto intractable core issues.

Comment: I agree that none of the four models alone will bring a comprehensive agreement for Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so a new hybrid approach is needed.  Besides comments above my conclusions about the content of that “hybrid” model differs from above described outcome of BICOM -dialogue.  Below I highlight some aspects of constructive unilateralism, settlement and economic questions,  and regional approach in order to develop a better revised version of “hybrid” model.  

The full paper of BICOM dialogue is available as a PDF below:

Download PDF

 

Constructive unilateralism updated

Blue White Future co-chairmen Gilead Sher and Orni Petruschka argue  that the two-state solution is in political trouble but it is still achievable and imperative to the respective parties. However a different paradigm is needed, one that is not based solely on bilateral negotiations towards a fully-fledged Permanent Status peace agreement and thus does not require mutual trust as a necessary condition for progress.

According Sher and Petruschka a more realistic target – than a comprehensive agreement – is a ‘divorce’ two-state agreement between the parties, focused on phased separation between the sides and an absence of violence.

Instead of moving towards an agreement to two states, we need to define our goal as moving towards a reality of two states, and to advance gradually towards that goal. This approach consists of constructive steps that each side can take, independently of the other, in order to advance a situation – both on the ground and in the political realm – which is closer to two states. This paradigm calls for an increased role of the international community, which should provide a clear vision of the final end goal of an agreement – along the lines of the recent John Kerry six-point speech – and of the ways it will benefit both parties. In addition, the international community should also push the parties to make independent progress towards that destination. In other words, a continuous process that comprises transitional stages while moving steadily in the right direction should be initiated, facilitated, and supported. The respective independent steps should not be considered an exclusive route but rather a complementary – and eventually alternative – component within the context of regional and bilateral negotiations.

Source: Fathom

According Sher and Petruschka constructive independent steps towards a reality of two states could on the Palestinian side involve building governmental institutions of the future Palestinian state; curtailing any incitement within their educational and political systems; working towards a fully functioning democracy which includes all factions that denounce violence. On the Israeli side, one constructive independent step would be to announce that it has no claims of sovereignty outside of the main settlement blocs and to the east of the security barrier i.e. on an area that totals approximately 90 per cent of land the West Bank. Such a statement would carry much more significance than a temporary settlement freeze because it would result in a de-facto cessation of settlement activity in the relevant remote areas outside the blocs.

 

The settlement question can be solved be constructive unilateral steps

Construction activity by Israelis beyond the so-called “Green Line” of 1967 (aka the Armistice Line of 1949) is claimed to be a breach of international law as well an obstacle to peace. However widely it is presumed that Israel will retain high Jewish population centers in the West Bank, known as the blocs, in any final status agreement for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

For any Israeli government it is necessary to coordinate its actions with the mainstream settler community. The 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. These numbers are significantly fewer than the supposedly prohibitive numbers that are often quoted and regarded as an insurmountable obstacle. (Source: Fathom )

According Sher and Petruschka cessation of settlement activity outside the settlement blocs would restore sincerity to Israel’s discourse about the two-state solution. Furthermore, it would convey a crucially important message to the settlers who live in these areas that their current place of residence will eventually not be part of the State of Israel. Such a policy would also immediately require the government to compensate the settlers and offer to relocate them to ‘Israel proper’. Hence, the statement that Israel is relinquishing any long-term territorial claims of sovereignty over the areas located outside of the settlement blocs will necessitate enacting a law that enables voluntary relocation and includes considerable compensation for the settlers.

The Israeli government’s new policy as constituting self-imposed restrictions that will “significantly limit the expansion of settlements beyond the footprint of existing settlements” and not to establish new communities in the West Bank can be seen as respecting US President Donald Trump’s concerns over unfettered settlement construction, and in order to “allow for the advancement of the peace process. At minimal level this policy will mean that Israel may not build in West Bank Area A (the major cities under Palestinian control) and Area B (under Palestinian civilian control and Israeli security authority), and not establish new settlements or outposts.

mideast peace process alternatives

Economic aspect

Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. In his BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 425, Becoming Part of Jordan and Egypt: A Palestinian Economic Imperative he argues that reintegrating into the Jordanian state is an economic imperative for the Arab inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority. Only by once again becoming citizens of Jordan will they be able to challenge the economic stone wall imposed by domestic Jordanian economic lobby groups barring West Bank exports. A two-state solution would lead, not to an economy of peace, but to an economy of violence as lobby groups in both Israel and Jordan shut out the Palestinian state’s exports. The Palestinian state would inevitably react by threatening and committing violence to extract the international aid to which the PA has become accustomed.

While the Palestinians’ economic welfare is ostensibly fairly good, it is a matter of serious concern that neither in Gaza nor in the PA is that status determined by a functioning domestic economy. By far the most important element propping up Palestinian economic welfare levels is financial aid as international donors such as USAID, the EU, individual EU member states and church-related NGOs are ready to foot the bills – roughly one-third of GNP in the West Bank and considerably more in Gaza. In addition there is substantial dividends derived by the 100,000-150,000 West Bankers who work in Israel at far higher wage levels than can be earned in the PA itself. However economic aid in conflict situations often feeds violence directly and indirectly as e.g, arms, smuggling and attack tunnels in Gaza and social aid for familes of WB terrorists are financed by Iran and other donors.

palestine facts

According Prof. Frisch if a Palestinian state comes into being, the manufacturers in the PA and Gaza are shut out from their most important markets: Jordan and Egypt. Prof. Frisch claims that it is Palestinian business groups – Jordan’s major entrepreneurs – who lobby to shut out West Bank industrialists from Jordan’s commercial market. In Egypt, lobby groups act the same way. This is why the import-export trade volume between the PA and Jordan is miniscule and has hardly changed in twenty years. In 2015, total trade between the PA and Jordan stood at a paltry US$167 million. PA exports to Jordan amounted to US$60 million against US$107 million in imports from Jordan. PA exports to Jordan comprise less than 7% of total PA exports. PA exports to the markets of Arab states beyond Jordan, mainly the wealthy Gulf states are only US$61 million, whereas Jordan exports over US$2 billion to Saudi Arabia and Iraq alone.

Prof. Frisch claims that tThe inhabitants of the PA clearly have to be reintegrated into the Jordanian state and that the imperative for reintegration into Egypt is even more dire for Gaza. Only as citizens of the Kingdom do West Bankers have any chance of fighting the shutout and creating a functioning economy geared towards peaceful pursuits. Only the Jordanian option, embedded in a wider regional cooperative setting – for example, one that would commit Israel to allow West Bankers to continue enjoying access to the Israel labor market – can ensure an economy of peace.

More about this in BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 425, March 15, 2017: Becoming Part of Jordan and Egypt: A Palestinian Economic Imperative By Prof. Hillel Frisch; View PDF

Some aspects also in articles Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority by The Jerusalem Center, November 5, 2015 and Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption

 

The [revised] “hybrid” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making

Two months ago I described in my article Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach how the Palestinian leadership was holding intense deliberations, both internally and also with its Arab allies, primarily Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to a senior Fatah security official, Ramallah, in conjunction with its Arab partners, decided to take Trump at his word about the regional approach. Together with Egypt it will suggest to Washington an outline of a new regional approach.

This new outline is based on three principles. The first principle is that the basis for future peace negotiations is the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Then, on this basis, the second principle is the US administration should hold in the coming months a summit in Washington with the Arab leadership. This summit should focus on preparing a regional peace conference leading to Israel-Palestinian negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative, with the participation of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, chaired by Trump. The third principle concerns advancing the Palestinian statehood issue through an attempt to reach a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation agreement backed by the Arab League. (Source and more in Al-Monitor )

Nearly an year ago – 22nd May 2016 – former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali, who negotiated the peace deal with Israel in the 1990s, announced that he personally believes that confederation between an independent Palestine and Jordan is the best option for both people.

He was quoted by a Palestinian news agency as declaring before 100 Nablus notables that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had repeatedly called on Jordan to adopt the confederation option with the Palestinians immediately, and that Jordan had rejected the idea. For Majali, confederation means “a joint legislature and a joint government with equal representation whereby the upper authority will have three main missions — se curity, economy and foreign affairs — and the rest will be the jurisdiction of the joint government.” He also said, “In a confederation, centralization will have to end and the people will have the ultimate choice of how to govern themselves.” (Source: Al-Monitor , more background in Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table )

According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

The geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a planned Palestinian. If Jordanian option will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president; if also Sinai option will come reality so security guarantees will be from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas. Indeed – if both Jordanian and Sinai options were realized the outcome would be Three State (return) Option , which I have been advocating earlier as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

My conclusion

From my point of view “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Peace Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options.  Also in my opinion Israel-Palestine confederation model – as described in BICOM analysis – would be too close one-state solution which would destroy Israel as “Jewish” state. Instead of this BICOM alternative I see Palestine-Jordan confederation much more better model.

Regional approach does not need – necessary – to be based on Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. A consequent absence of a peace process might create the conditions for the emergence of a new paradigm to replace the defunct “two-state solution.”  This new paradigm I call as [revised] “hybrid” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making. 

The traditional paradigm of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at achieving a final status agreement is in deep disarray.  Two-State solution and the roadmap towards it seems to be the dead end at least in the short term and sure with its outdated version. My conclusion is that now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on Jordanian and Sinai options. If there is no progress during coming months then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach (more in Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

 

Related background papers:

Fathom has published an eBook – Two States for Two Peoples – a collection of  essays and interviews drawn from the pages of Fathom focused on the two-state solution and how to reinvigorate it. To download the eBook, click here.

The new “hybrid” approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making by BICOM

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 425, March 15, 2017: Becoming Part of Jordan and Egypt: A Palestinian Economic Imperative By Prof. Hillel Frisch; View PDF

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

innovated palestinian nation

 

 


Kosovo’s Radical Islam

April 6, 2017

Muslims in Kosovo and Albania have historically been liberal; most Kosovans have been decades relatively secular and follow moderate Islam that allows bars on the same street as mosques. Muslims in Kosovo, which was a part of the Ottoman Empire for 500 years, follow the Hanafi school of Islam, traditionally a liberal version that is accepting of other religions. However poverty has made Kosovo fertile ground for Islamic charities from the likes of Saudi Arabia, which offer education and welfare programs but also peddle a hardline vision. Also Turkey’s Islamist government has funded networks of mosques across its Ottoman-era provinces of Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania.

Since the late 1990s, incidents involving Wahhabi groups have extended beyond the borders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, increasing in frequency in neighbouring states such as Serbia (including Kosovo and Serbian Sandžak), Montenegro (Montenegrin Sandžak), and Macedonia.

 

kosovo bombing

American bombing of Serbian positions in Kosovo in 1999 during the air campaign by NATO. Credit Jerome Delay/Associated Press

From Croatia via Bosnia to Kosovo

Osama bin Laden had offices in Croatia and training camps for the muslims in Bosnia. Osama bin Laden was a CIA ally and the U.S. was fine with him until 1998 when the bombing of the African Embassy happened. During the Bosnian War, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) received financial aid from Iran and Saudi Arabia, and foreign fighters numbering up to 4,000 waged jihad in the war. The Bosnian mujahideen (El Mujahid) was made up of foreign fighters and radical Bosniaks.

After Al-Qaeda and Bosnian mujahideen the focus moved to Kosovo, the training process dates back to 1999, when al-Qaeda terrorists were involved in training the KLA militants in Kosovo. After Nato bombings, Saudi money and influence transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a front of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists. Wahhabism began to spread.

Islamist volunteers in the Kosovo Liberation Army from Western Europe of ethnic Albanian, Turkish, and North African origin, were organized by Islamist leaders in Western Europe allied to Bin Laden and Zawahiri. Some 175 Yemeni mujahideen arrived in early May 1998. There were also a dozen of Saudi and Egyptian mujahideen. Since the Kosovo War, there has been an increasing radicalization of Islam in Kosovo. Wahhabism, which is dominant in Saudi Arabia, has gained a foothold in Kosovo through Saudi diplomacy. Saudi money has paid for new mosques, while Saudi-educated imams have arrived since the end of the war in 1999. During UN administration, Saudi Arabian organizations sought to establish a cultural foothold in Kosovo. 98 Wahhabist schools were set up by Saudi organizations during UN administration. Hundreds of Kosovo Albanians have joined jihad in the Middle East. The Kosovo Police arrested some 40 suspected Islamist militants on 11th August 2014. ( Source and more: WikipediA )

mujahedeen army, Bosnia

 

Radical Islamism in the Balkans

There is an increase in incidents involving radical Islamism in the Balkans since the 1990s.

Saber Lahman, was arrested under suspicion that he planned to carry out an attack on the USA Embassy in Sarajevo. He was convicted, but was pardoned later after he served two thirds of punishment in prison. He was arrested again in 2002 for participation in al Qaeda’s plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina and was sent to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. On Christmas Eve 2002, Muamer Topalović, a Wahhabist, killed three Bosnian Croat returnees in their home.

On April 24, 2012, Mevlid Jašarević, a Wahhabi Islamist, was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges of attempted murder and other violations in connection with his alleged machine gun attack on the United States Embassy, Sarajevo, on 28th October 2011.

Other incidents in Bosnia were e.g. Zvornik police station shooting , Operation Ruben and 2015 Sarajevo shooting, more about these one can find from WikipediA.

Between 4th and 16th November 2016 Kosovo Police arrested 19 men suspected of links to Islamic State and of planning to carry out attacks in Kosovo and in Albania against Israeli footballers playing a World Cup qualifying match with Albania in Elbasan, central Albania. Unconfirmed media reports have mentioned Kosovo institutions and Serbian Orthodox Church sites as possible Islamist targets. During the arrests, substantial explosives, including 281 grams of TATP, 2.5 kg of other explosive substance, as well as personal weapons and radio-communication devices were found. The people who were arrested were divided into several groups and were being coordinated by two Kosovar ISIS members, Lavdim Muhaxheri and Ridvan Haqifi, the police said. (Source: BalkanInsight )

The Kosovo Albanian terrorism spills over borders, especially to Macedonia. Nearly two years ago was a massive terrorist attack in the quest to create a Greater Albania as over 40 armed individuals fought with police for control of the city of Kumanovo close to the country’s capital. The attackers were from the so-called “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), a former terrorist group that was thought to have been disbanded after NATO occupied the Serbian province, and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said that some of them had received their militant training in the Mideast. The combined carnage wounded 37 police officers and killed 8 of them, while ultimately eliminating 14 terrorists and leading to the capture of 30 others. (Source:   Sputniknews )

 

 Kosovo, Camp bondsteel

Kosovar jihadists abroad: Some examples

According DEBKAfile four Kosovar jihadists who planned to blow up iconic Venice bridge arrested. Italian counterterror police forces raided several locations 28.-29.3.2017 and arrested four Islamic radicals who planned to blow up Venice’s Rialto Bridge, one of the city’s most visited sites, and kill hundreds of tourists. Venice’s chief prosecutor also disclosed on 30th Mar. 2017 that the authorities had been secretly monitoring the communications of the terror cell members, all citizens of Kosovo linked to ISIS. The radicals were heard expressing joy regarding the March 22 terrorist attack in London, the prosecutor said.

The assassin who shot two American soldiers at Frankfurt Airport in 2011 was an Albanian immigrant. Serbian terrorism expert, Darko Trifunovc, says that the Kosovo Albanian who killed 2 US soldiers in Germany is part of the “white” al-Qaeda being recruited in the Balkans with its center being in Kosovo. The Albanian terrorist, Arif Uka, hails from the town of Kosovska Mitrovica which also happens to be the recruitment center for “white” al-Qaeda that is managed by former Kosovo Albanian KLA gunmen and financed by the Saudis. says another expert, Zoran Dragisic. (Source: Pakistan Christian Post )

Deutsche Welle reports that since 2012, 316 people – including women and children – have left the country to join the so-called “Islamic State” terrorist militia. Of those 316 people, 58 have been killed and 117 have returned to Kosovo, said Baki Kelani, spokesman for Kosovo’s ministry of the interior. According to Kelani, 237 people are being investigated for planning and taking part in terrorist attacks outside Kosovo and also for recruiting, supporting and funding terrorists. Since 2013, 127 of the suspects have been arrested, including an alleged ringleader. According to figures from security experts, 50,000 Kosovars are now members of conservative Islamic groups.

On 20th Jan. 2017 an Albanian man suspected of planning a bomb attack in Vienna was arrested by special forces, Austrian media has reported. The Austrian authorities had been warned about a possible attack by foreign intelligence services. A report from the Kronen-Zeitung newspaper that the suspect had built explosives in Germany. The newspaper also claimed the man belonged to an Islamist group which originated in Albania, and which held sympathies with Islamic State (ISIS). (Source: Foxnews )

On 27 Apr 2008 Foxnews reported that the six foreign-born Muslims accused of planning a shooting attack at the U.S. military base included four Kosovo Albanian Muslims affiliated with the KLA, or the Kosovo Liberation Army, a Terrorist Jihad Wahhabi group. The U.S. officials say their arrests highlight how Islamist groups are using the Balkans region to help in recruiting and financing terrorism.

 

The Telegraph reported that in southern Kosovo the town of Kacanik during 2012-2015 some 24 local menfolk have gone to fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, giving the town of just 30,000 people an unwanted reputation as the jihadist capital of the Balkans. For a nation of just 1.8 million people, it now punches well above its weight in terms of the number of citizens joining Isil. Altogether some 300 Kosovans have joined ISIS, making Kosovo Europe’s biggest contributor per capita. Along with neighbouring Albania, which has fielded around 200, and nearby Bosnia, which around 160, it is now seen as a potential launch pad for ISIS in its bid to establish a new front against Europe in the Balkans.

Sure there has been a lot of murders and violence in Balkans, Western Europe and North America committed by (Kosovo)Albanian mafia but motivation has been mostly money so there is no direct link to Wahhabism/Jihadism/ISIS/Al Qaeda, for example in March 2017 sc Düsseldorf axe terrorist, a Kosovo-born muslim, probably was only mentally ill without terrorism connections. 

Two aspects

When the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization in 1998, the reason wasn’t radical Islam but its links to the heroin trade. By 1999, Western intelligence agencies estimated that over $250m of narcotics money had found its way into KLA coffers. After the NATO bombing of 1999, KLA-linked heroin traffickers again began using Kosovo as a major supply route; in 2000, an estimated 80% of Europe’s heroin supply was controlled by Kosovar Albanians.

In the summer of 2016, the Kosovar Institute for Policy Research and Development (KIPRED) published a study about the influence of religion on Kosovar identity. According to Lulzim Peci, author of the study, 57 percent of Muslim Albanians feel Albanian and 32 percent defined themselves as Muslims first and then as Albanians. “We see a great shift in identity from ethnicity, the so-called language nation, to a religious-ethnic society,” said Peci in an interview with DW.

Payback?

 

 

Quadruple Helix Model

In my earlier article Quadruple Helix – Capturing Kosovo I described how (Kosovo) Albanian organized crime organizations gained remarkable role in Europe. It is estimated that they are the chief perpetrator of drug and people smuggling, trafficking, organ sales etc. Past estimates suggested that ethnic Albanian traffickers controlled 70% or more of the heroin entering a number of key destination markets, and they have been described as a “threat to the EU” by the Council of Europe at least as recently as 2005. In fact, ethnic Albanian heroin trafficking is arguably the single most prominent organized crime problem in Europe today. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Now Columbian drug dealers are setting up cocaine supply bases in Albania and Balkans to penetrate into Europe. Already earlier ethnic Albanians organized the transportation of cocaine from the Netherlands and Belgium towards Italy.

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) were established mid-90s. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society.

Already 2005 Europol stated that the Albanian organized crime is related to the Islamic terrorism e.g.  where the Brussells based “Bureau also cooperated in other operations, investigating the dismantling of OC (Organized Crime, note AR)  groups that are known for suspicious financial transactions, Albanian organised crime, producing synthetic drugs and related to Islamic terrorism.” (Report here and more e.g. in Balkan route-Business as usual.)

Above I shortly hinted to financial connection between Wahhabi organizations in Kosovo and international terrorism and Wahhabis as potential pool for operations. Then I pointed historical and social link between organized crime groups and Kosovo’s political leaders. All this has also its international dimensions. The last and maybe the most dangerous connection is link between organized crime and Islamic terrorism because its thread to the rest of Europe.

Today’s trend with economical development policy and projects is called a “Triple Helix Model or Approach”. A triple helix regime typically begins as university, industry and government enter into a reciprocal relationship in which each attempts to enhance the performance of the other. It seems that in Kosovo triple helix model has applied and further developed to “Quadruple or Fourfold Helix Model” where government, underworld, Wahhabbi schools and international terrorism have win-win symbiosis.

 

quadruple helix model by Ari Rusila

 

More reading:

My articles: Kosovo: Two years of Pseudo-state , Balkan route-Business as usual   and Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo .

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from Albanian Terrorism and Oraganized Crime in Kosovo and Metohija (K&M) , which also can be found from my document library. Related background information can be found also from “leaked” German Intelligence reports BND report 2005 and BND-IEP report Kosovo 2007 which can be found from my document library under Kosovo headline.

The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo”,  prepared by Swiss prosecutor-turned-politician Dick Marty. Investigations conducted by the Swiss diplomat, Dick Marty on behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have revealed the true picture of Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci. In his report to the PACE’s Commission, Thaci is presented as the leader of a criminal gang engaged in the smuggling of weapons, the distribution of illegal drugs throughout Europe and the selling of human organs for unlawful transplantation. The Swiss senator conducted a two-year inquiry into organised crime in Kosovo after the Council of Europe mandated him to investigate claims of organ harvesting by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) after the war with Serbia ended in 1999.

An exellent article in New York Times – How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS by Carlotta Gall – gives in deep background info about Kosovo’s transformation from liberal Islam to ground of Islamic extremism

Testimony on the Genesis of Evil – White Book on Albanian terrorism in Kosovo The book addresses the continuity of terrorist activities by Albanian extremists, beginning with the constituting of the parallel system of Albanian government in Kosovo and Metohija and the pretensions of the so-called Government of the Republic of Kosovo headed by Bujar Bukoshi, covering the founding of FARK and the armed forces of “the Republic of Kosovo”, which united separation-oriented former officers of the former Yugoslav People’s Army, to the founding of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” /KLA/, which at the time of the NATO bombing had more than 20,000 armed members, and the KLA’s transformation and engagement of the former terrorists in the Kosovo Protection Corps.

Kosvovo by Ari Rusila


Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

March 8, 2017

peace arab and hebrewEver since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had his meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington on 15th Feb. 2017, Israeli efforts have intensified to develop alternatives to the single-state or two-state solutions. Also the Palestinian leadership is currently holding intense deliberations – both internally as well with its Arab allies, such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – about the regional approach.

Israel and Palestinian Authority have negotiated two decades about solution based on Two-States, and now maybe more than ever one can claim that the roadmap towards it is the dead end. Instead the situation today is drifting towards One-State option, which is unwanted outcome for both parties. New and “out of the box” ideas are needed. 

According Al-Monitor there are currently three main ways to square the circle and bypass the quagmire of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

  • A “regional peace process” instead of bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
  • The confederation with Jordan idea, newly resuscitated.
  • Trilateral land swaps involving Israel, Egypt and Palestine or even a four-way exchange including Jordan.

 

Regional approach

According Al-Monitor what stood out in US President Donald Trump’s statement at the joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15 was the regional approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking – prior to the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, the administration discussed with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan a regional umbrella to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

The Palestinian leadership is currently holding intense deliberations, both internally and also with its Arab allies, primarily Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to a senior Fatah security official, Ramallah, in conjunction with its Arab partners, decided to take Trump at his word about the regional approach. Together with Egypt it will suggest to Washington an outline of a new regional approach.

This new outline will be based on three principles. The first principle is that the basis for future peace negotiations is the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. Then, on this basis, the second principle is the US administration should hold in the coming months a summit in Washington with the Arab leadership. This summit should focus on preparing a regional peace conference leading to Israel-Palestinian negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative, with the participation of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, chaired by Trump. The third principle concerns advancing the Palestinian statehood issue through an attempt to reach a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation agreement backed by the Arab League. (Source and more in Al-Monitor )

Regional approach does not need – necessary – to be based on Arab Peace Initiative of 2002. From my point of view “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Paece Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options.

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Jordanian Option sinks into oblivion

Unlike any other Arab country, Jordan has a special connection to the Palestinian issue. The West Bank was part of the Hashemite kingdom when it was occupied by Israel in 1967. And since the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, Jordan has been on the receiving end of successive waves of Palestinian refugees from Israel proper, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip.

The proposal that the West Bank could be divided between Jordan and Israel, or that Jordan could take responsibility for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, goes as far back as the Allon Plan of 1967. The “Jordan is Palestine” idea suggests that a Palestinian state already exists on the East Bank of the Jordan River, where at least 50 percent of the population is of Palestinian origin.

It’s been decades since the issue of confederation between the Kingdom of Jordan and Palestine was a matter of public debate. The idea gained traction in the mid-1980s and early 1990s as the rift between Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization narrowed and King Hussein and Yasser Arafat appeared to reconcile their differences. In principle, the two leaders agreed that once the state of Palestine is born, it will choose to join Jordan in a confederation between two sovereign states.

But the Oslo process, leading to direct secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel that resulted in the signing of a “declaration of principles” on the White House lawn in 1993, put the idea on hold. Jordan went on to sign its own peace deal with Israel in 1994, and the Palestinians were caught in endless and often fruitless negotiations with Israel under US auspices. That process took a nosedive following the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 and the death of Arafat in 2004.

Under King Abdullah and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the subject of confederation rarely if ever surfaced publicly. Jordan supported the two-state solution and underlined its historical custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, a subject that often marred relations between Abdullah and Abbas. (Source: Al-Monitor )

 

Reincarnation of Jordanian Option

Some five years ago I wrote an article Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table . There I described how Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb on 31st Oct. 2012 with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks were the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades. Kaddoumi is one of the founders of Fatah, and for decades served as head of the PLO’s “political department.”

Recently – 22nd May 2016 – former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdelsalam al-Majali, who negotiated the peace deal with Israel in the 1990s, announced that he personally believes that confederation between an independent Palestine and Jordan is the best option for both people.

He was quoted by a Palestinian news agency as declaring before 100 Nablus notables that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had repeatedly called on Jordan to adopt the confederation option with the Palestinians immediately, and that Jordan had rejected the idea. For Majali, confederation means “a joint legislature and a joint government with equal representation whereby the upper authority will have three main missions — se curity, economy and foreign affairs — and the rest will be the jurisdiction of the joint government.” He also said, “In a confederation, centralization will have to end and the people will have the ultimate choice of how to govern themselves.” (Source: Al-Monitor )

More recently – 20th Feb. 2017 – Israel’s Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, and head of the far-right Jewish Home party, has been referring to the existence of two Palestinian states; one in Gaza and the other in Jordan.

According The Middle East Institute Trump has yet to unveil a detailed vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, if any. There is a feeling in Amman that although the U.S. president talked about concluding a “bigger and better deal,” in reality neither he nor Netanyahu can come up with a better alternative to the two-state solution. Nevertheless, while the two-state solution may have been an ideal one, many analysts have conceded that it is dead and buried. Meanwhile, Jordan can do nothing other than pretend that it is still alive: the alternatives represent an existential nightmare for the kingdom.  (Source: The Middle East Institute)

 

Sinai Option

sinai option by Ari RusilaAccording Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

At its core, the Sinai Option proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported. In addition, the report continued, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders.

 

My conclusion

The geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a planned Palestinian. If Jordanian option will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president; if also Sinai option will come reality so security guarantees will be from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas. Indeed – if both Jordanian and Sinai options were realized the outcome would be Three State (return) Option , which I have been advocating earlier as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Personally it is very refreshing that Jordanian option again is moving on. For decades regional leaders, international community UN etc have sung the praises of Two-State solution as the only option so my views have represented some kind of dissidence. While some prominent politicians now have came to the same conclusion I think that the reasons might be the same as mine: there is some sense with Three-state option, it is both pragmatic and achievable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now it is also more acceptable than few years ago.

My conclusion is that now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on Jordanian and Sinai options. If there is no progress during coming months then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach (more in Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Related article: Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Towards The Israeli Great Jerusalem

March 4, 2017

“There’s no such thing as proper timing, and I expect the prime minister and the ministers to approve the bill come Sunday.” (Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel)

jerusalem-1Jerusalem is the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Competing religious, national, and historic narratives – Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian – exist side-by-side in the city, in a constant struggle for legitimacy, validity, and survival. Now the bill annexing Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli city in Judea, some four miles from Jerusalem, is likely to be brought to a vote at the Israeli Ministerial Legislative Committee on 5th Mar. 2017.

The bill will make the ongoing de facto annexation of the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem on de jure annexation.

The bill

According JewishPress the bill’s sponsor, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), wanted to submit it to the committee for a vote several weeks ago, but Prime Minister Netanyahu torpedoed the move, citing the need to avoid upsetting President Trump by acting unilaterally on issues that are entirely outside the purview of US foreign policy. Now that Trump has declared his official disinterest in how a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would be reached, the time has come to bring it to a preliminary Knesset vote before Passover.

The bill imposes Israeli law on the city of Ma’ale Adumim, which for close to three decades has been under martial law, like all the other Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria. Basically it is a question of freeing the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria from Army.

The threat against a future Palestinian State is based on the fact that the four-mile stretch of land dubbed E1 by the Oslo accords, between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, would eventually come under Israeli law, too, following the annexation of the young city. (Source and more: JewishPress).

The effort to formally define “Greater Jerusalem” is not a new issue. Earlier – on February 2017 – Likud MK Yehuda Glick introduced legislation entitled the “Greater Jerusalem Sovereignty Law” to formally annex these areas as part of Jerusalem; not long before that, Likud Minister Yisrael Katz introduced legislation to annex much or all of the same area, entitled the “Greater Jerusalem Law that includes extending Israeli sovereignty to the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem: Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Beitar Illit and the Etzion Bloc.

The end of Two-State?

Israel’s plans has rise concern in some European capitals. It was claimed that annexations like E1 area by joining with Maa’ale Adumim community – a city of some 40,000 residents   – would cut the West Bank in two and separate it from East Jerusalem which would make any two-state solution impossible. This claim does not hold as bypass roads are the answer.

A completed section of the Palestinian bypass road. Its final completion will enable transportation continuity between the northern and southern West Bank, similar to other existing “fabric of life” roads built for the Palestinians. Credit: JCPA

A completed section of the Palestinian bypass road. Its final completion will enable transportation continuity between the northern and southern West Bank, similar to other existing “fabric of life” roads built for the Palestinians. Credit: JCPA

In addition to improve better traffic flow between the northern and southern WB Israel has already made some investments. In October 2007, the Israeli government expropriated 1,100 dunams of land from four Palestinian villages to build an access road that was given the moniker “the Palestinian quality of life road.” The road was designed to provide for a freer flow of Palestinian traffic between the Ramallah area and Bethlehem. The northern sector of the highway, which runs from Hizma and bypasses Anata from the east, and continues southward toward the A-Zaim checkpoint, has already been paved. Israel invested about NIS 300 million in building the highway. The roadway passes through a tunnel that was dug underneath the Jerusalem-Maa’ale Adumim highway. Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.

Spatial shaping

According Terrestrial Jerusalem (an Israeli non-governmental organization) a policy of allowing Israeli construction in the settlement blocs around Jerusalem grants legitimacy to the establishment of a massive “Greater Jerusalem” under permanent Israeli sovereignty. This, in turn, implies acquiescence to the view that East Jerusalem – both its settlements and its Palestinian neighbourhoods – will be permanently under Israeli control.

Continued settlement expansion within the settlement “blocs” – even at current levels – would not only unilaterally pre-determine borders in areas very much in dispute (consist with Israel’s longtime policy of “spatial shaping” on the ground), it would pose a real and present danger to the very possibility of the two-state solution. Rather than promoting peace or even keeping the two-state solution on “life-support,” adopting a policy of allowing settlement.

nayttokuva-28

Spatial shaping is being achieved by four, complementary components:

  1. Delineating the base-line border, by means of the route of the barrier
  2. Consolidating the newly defined border by means of settlements
  3. Neutralizing the Palestinian presence within the new borders
  4. Creating infrastructures that integrate the new “Israeli” areas into pre-1967 Israel, and functionally detach the Palestinian population in these areas

nayttokuva-27

Source and more: Limiting Settlement Construction to the “Blocs” – Implications for Jerusalem, by Terrestrial Jerusalem

My view

I disagree with those views which claim that Israeli Great Jerusalem will be the terminal point of Two-State solution. As a a map – created by HonestReporting – shows the Palestinian waistline — between Ma’ale Adumim and the Dead Sea, is roughly 15 km wide. That’s a corridor no different than the Israeli waistline according pre 1967 boundaries. That’s a corridor no different than the Israeli waistline. Indeed, that has never caused a problem of Israeli territorial contiguity.

nimeton-115

Great Jerusalem plans and e.g. moving US embassy there put the finishing touches to Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel; same time they probably will block fancies of Jerusalem as capital of future Palestinian state. However Palestinian administrative HQ’s mainly are already in Ramallah – next of Jerusalem northern boundary.

I agree with the critical conclusions that a policy of allowing Israeli construction around Jerusalem will unilaterally pre-determine borders as well those components which are implementing sc spatial shaping on the ground; however I support this now ongoing policy. From my point of view de jure annexation transfers the area from Army control under Israeli Law and this change creates more stable and legitimizes the long term development than continuity of the status quo.

Related articles:

Forgotten Court Rule: Israel Is The Legal Occupant Of Judea And Samaria

Will (East) Jerusalem be the End of Two-State Illusion?

UNESCO: The Temple Mount Is Sacred Only To Muslims

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Will Obama Reset The Middle East Peace Process?

 

ISRPAL


Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016

February 16, 2017

nayttokuva-24
Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016: Types, Trends and Data is a new bulletin recently issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. Full Document in PDF Format HERE but below some highlights from the mentioned report:

Throughout 2016, Palestinian terrorists in Judea, Samaria and Israel continued carrying out various types of popular terrorism attacks(the so-called “popular resistance”). The wave of popular terrorism waned in April. After April, the average monthly distribution was greater than in previous years.
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On the other hand, along the Israeli-Gaza Strip border, the relative calm prevailing since the end of Operation Protective Edge (summer 2014),continued. That was manifested by the continuing decrease in the number of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip in 2016. The number of rockets fired into Israel was the lowest since Israel’s disengagement in 2005 and the takeover of the Strip by Hamas in 2007.

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Greater Jerusalem and the Hebron region continued as focal points for popular terrorism. Still prominent but somewhat less so were the regions of Gush Etzion and Ramallah. On the other hand, the regions of Nablus and northern Samaria, which played a central role in the second intifada, played a secondary role in the wave of popular terrorism and attacksin 2016. Most of the terrorists who carried out attacks came from towns and villages near the sites of the attacks.

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The various types of attacks changed, as follows:

1) Stabbing attacks continued as the main type of popular terrorism attack(61% of all the significant attacks carried out in 2016). Prominent over the past year were a stabbing spree on the seaside promenade between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, in which an American tourist was killed, and a stabbing attack in Kiryat Arba in which a 13 year-old girl was killed as she slept in her bed.

2) There was a decrease in vehicular attacks as the wave of popular terrorism waned(about 8% of all the significant attacks in 2016). However, the truck attack carried out on the promenade in Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem in January 2017 was a reminder of how deadly such attacks can be, especially when carried out with heavy vehicles.

3) There was a rise in shooting attacks(23% of significant attacks in 2016). The trend continued during January 2017. Prominent were drive-by shootings carried out in three locations in Jerusalem (two people killed), and the shooting attacks in a pub in central Tel Aviv (two killed) and in the Sarona commercial-entertainment center in the heart of Tel Aviv (four killed).

4) The number of people killed remained high despite the decline in the wave of popular terrorism. In 2016, 17 Israelis were killed, ten in shooting attacks and seven in stabbing attacks.

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The perpetrators of this terrorism have been glorified, celebrated, and honoured by the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, and even Palestinian civilians.

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Muhannad Halabi, who stabbed and murdered 2 Israelis, Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett, and injured Bennett’s wife, Adele, and their 2-year-old son in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 3rd, 2015. Not only was Halabi, the Palestinian law student, granted an honourary law degree, but the municipality of Surda-Abu Qash, where he lived, has decided to name a street after him. “This is in order to honor Halabi, who carried out a stabbing and shooting operation against settlers in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem,” the independent Palestinian news agency Donia Al-Watan reported on October 14th, 2015.


My related articles about palestinian terrorism against Israel, 2016 (in Finnish):

Hamas vaalitunnelmissa ja Israelin pelotemuistutus

Hyökkäystunneleista matkailukohde

Israel: 9 kuukautta terroria – yli 200 terrori-iskua

Poikkeuksellinen terrorisolu pidätetty Israelissa

Ramadanin kunniaksi terrori-isku Tel Aviviin

Lasten vihakoulutus jatkuu Gazassa

Gaza’n tunnelisota jatkuu kaikilla rintamilla

Hamasin poliittinen siipi menettänyt asemiaan sotilaalliselle

Israel varautunut ydinterroriin

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Forgotten Court Rule: Israel Is The Legal Occupant Of Judea And Samaria

February 8, 2017

usrael-palestine conflictISRAELI so-called settlements in West Bank – Judea and Samaria – are a complex issue. As a rule the news and newscasts claim that Israeli construction activities beyond 1967 line will destroy the Two-State idea. During last five decades there has been a continuous flow of statements from sc. international community that West Bank settlements are against sc. International Law.

But besides statements there is actually one trial – which escaped the media’s awareness – and which ruled the opposite: the 3rd  Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria.

 

New level of West Bank construction

World Israel News reports that Israel announced on Tuesday 31st Jan. 2017 the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria. This announcement, made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman, follows last week’s statement regarding the construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria and the municipality of Jerusalem’s approval of the construction of 566 new homes in the city. The back-to-back announcements of a total of 6,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria within a single week is almost unprecedented. The statement comes as 42 Israeli families in the community of Amona in Samaria are being removed from their homes because it was allegedly built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

For example the New York Times was using distorted facts on issue as follows: Israel approved 3,000 more housing units in the occupied West Bank late Tuesday, the largest number in a wave of new construction plans that defy the international community and that open a forceful phase in the country’s expansion into land the Palestinians claim for a future state. However to build housing units both within existing settlements and in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, is not an expansion as the area of land for settlements is not expanding even if the number of houses and Jews living in them is increasing.

On 6th Feb. 2017 the Israeli Knesset passed the controversial Regulation Law by 60 votes to 52. The Regulation Law retroactively gives residents of up to 4,000 housing units in West Bank settlements the right to live in their homes which were built – some accidentally – on private Palestinian land, in return providing the landowner with an annual usage payment of 125 per cent of the land’s rental value. However the Law might be overturned by the Supreme Court. (Source: BICOM , more in BICOM briefing: Download PDF)

 

Israel as legal occupant of the West Bank

Israel’s claim in West bank is based e.g. on the following earlier acts of International Law: The Jan Smuts Resolution of January 30, 1919, Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, including the Treaty of Versailles of June 28, 1919, The legal title of the Jewish People to the mandated territory of Palestine in all of its historical parts was first recognized on April 24, 1920 when the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council (Britain, France, Italy and Japan), meeting in San Remo, Italy, converted the 1917 ‘Balfour Declaration’ into a binding legal document. This was confirmed by the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and Lausanne. All these recognized the historical connection of the Jewish People with the Land of Israel.

Sure local Arabs have also historical connections between Mediterranean and Jordan river but they have already received their lands under the Mandate system as (Trans-)Jordania was separated from Palestine during the British Mandate. So Jordan is the Arab Muslim state (kingdom) on 77% of old Palestine made legal 1946-League of Nations. They wanted more and made a war and annexed West bank 1950 which then was reclaimed by Israel 1967. According negotiated Oslo agreements (1995) for administration of West bank there are three areas C=Israel state, B=shared by Israel and Palestinian authority (PA) and A=PLO/PA/Fatah but Jerusalem is not Jordans or anyone elses.

Israel made peace treaty with Jordan – occupant of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967 – in 1994 and Jordan does not have any territorial claims in West Bank.

A trial which escaped the media’s awareness

logo3-dreuzIn a historical trial, the 3rd Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Versailles declared in 2013 that Israel is the legal occupant of Judea and Samaria. As this groundbreaking ruling escaped the media’s awareness, a pro Israel activist – Jean-Patrick Grumberg – has worked to bring this “old news” to light. “I decided to put to work my years of Law Studies in France, and I meticulously analyzed the Court ruling,” Jean-Patrick Grumberg wrote and continued

To make sure I did not overestimate my legal abilities and that I wasn’t over optimistic – as usual-, I submitted my analysis and the Court papers to one of the most prominent French lawyer, Gilles-William Goldnadel, President of Lawyers without borders, to receive his legal opinion. He indeed validated my finding. Then I decided to translate it to English, and it will soon be submitted to Benjamin Netanyahu thru a mutual friend.

The main source of following description is the article in Dreuz.info –  Israël est l’occupant légal de la Cisjordanie, dit la Cour d’appel de Versailles , Publié par Jean-Patrick Grumberg le 25 décembre 2016 – with help of the report by United with Israel about the case.

The story goes back to the ’90s, when Israel began work for for the construction of the Jerusalem light rail. The tender was won by French companies Veolia and Alstom. The light rail was completed in 2011, and it crosses Jerusalem all the way through the city. Following this, the PLO/ the Palestinian Authority and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), filed a complaint with the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because according to PLO, the construction of the tram was illegal since the United Nations (UN0, the European Union (EU) and other governments consider Israel’s presence there illegal. The Court of Appeal of Versailles ruled that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is unequivocally legal under international law, dismissing a suit brought by the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Jerusalem’s light rail built by French companies Alstom and Veolia. To rule on the suit, the Court of Appeals had to determine the legal rights of Palestinians and Israelis in the region. Their conclusion was that the Palestinians have no right – in the international legal sense – to the region, unlike Israel, who is legitimately entitled to all land beyond the 67 line.

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It is said that the court decision is only marginally significant for a debate about the legality of Israel’s actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as it’s only talking about transport infrastructure, not e.g. about settlements. However in trial the PLO, explaining that the occupation is illegal, claimed that Israel is violating: Articles 49-6 and 53 of the Geneva Convention, Articles 23, 27 and 46 of the Regulations annexed to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907, Article 4 of the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954. Article 27 of the Hague Regulations of 1907, Article 5 of the Convention IX of the 1907 Hague. and Article 53 of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions.

So in order to rule whether the light rail’s construction was legal or not, the court had to review the texts of international law and examine international treaties in order to establish the respective legal rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The Versailles Court of Appeal rejected all the Palestinian arguments. Referring to the texts on which the PLO claim is based, the Court of Appeal considers that Israel is entitled to ensure order and public life in the region, and therefore Israel has the right to build a light rail, infrastructure and dwellings. All the international instruments put forward by the PLO were acts signed between states, and the obligations or prohibitions contained therein are relevant to states. Neither the PA nor the PLO are states, and therefore, none of these legal documents apply to them.

The Court of Appeal therefore sentenced the PLO and Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), who was co-appellant, to pay 30,000 euros ($32,000) to Alstom, 30,000 euros to Alstom Transport and 30,000 euros to Veolia Transport. Neither the PLO nor the Palestinian Authority nor the AFPS appealed to the Supreme Court, and therefore the judgment became final. This is the first time that a Court has legally destroyed all Palestinian legal claim that Israel’s occupation is illegal.

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Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila – site


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