West Bank Annexation – A Window of Opportunity or an Apocalyptic Nightmare

June 28, 2020

As of July 1, 2020 the Prime Minister will be able to bring the agreement reached with the United States regarding the application of sovereignty for discussion by the cabinet and the government and for the approval of the government and/or the Knesset.” (Article 29 of the national unity government)

 

Application of Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank is a historic opportunity. According the national unity government deal PM Netanyahu can bring his proposal regarding the application of sovereignty to government as of 1st July 2020. It is a difficult strategic dilemma: Annex now during coming months or not, how much to annex, how big are the risks in West Bank, in Israeli borders and internationally, does ”window of opportunity” close after US presidential elections on November 2020 in case Mr Trump’s rival Joe Biden – who opposes annexation – is elected and reverses US policy?

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed  already 1st June the IDF chief of staff, Lieut. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, to speed up the military’s preparations for developments on the Palestinian front, including the country’s planned annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria. Gantz is believed to have asked Kochavi to present the IDF’s plans for a possible escalation of violence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The IDF has been preparing for annexation-related scenarios for the last six months.

Two-States according Deal of Century (Trump Peace Plan)

Annexation?

Annexation is the term applied when a state unilaterally proclaims its sovereignty over other territory. and many international institutions look that it is forbidden by international law. Many international organizations and states have view that extension of Israeli law and jurisdiction to West Bank is against international law. Some experts, especially in Israel, claim opposite as there is no another state in West Bank or making claims for that territory.  A recent example of annexation was Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, but this approach of international law – whatever it is –  is also flexible as seen e.g. in case of Kosovo earlier.  However in this article I use ”annexation” as a general, not legal, term. 

In terms of territory, Judea and Samaria (West Bank) have not been parts of any sovereign state since the fall of the Ottoman Empire over 100 years ago. Israel, which has controlled those territories since 1967, possesses the only strong claim to sovereignty—but it has never actually claimed that sovereignty. After Ottoman rule West Bank was part of British mandate agreed to serve as Jewish homeland in San Remo 1920. After UN partition plan 1947 – which was accepted by Jewish organizations but not by local Arab representatives, Jordania attacked and occupied West Bank until Israel took it back in Six-Days-War 1967. Jordan and Israel made peace agreement in 1994 where the international boundary between Israel and Jordan follows the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers, the Dead Sea, the Emek Ha’Arava/Wadi Araba, and the Gulf of Aqaba. The section of the line that separated Jordan from the West Bank was stipulated as “without prejudice to the status of [that] territory.”

One of the most significant differences between annexation and current situation is in settlement construction. Currently, building and zoning in the West Bank requires the approval of Israel’s defence minister and prime minister, and can take months or years. Following annexation, it would become a local matter and consequently easier for Israel to build there.

Starting point, exact boundaries are at planning stage or negotiated with Palestinians.

The area

In public debate there has been views that Israel is annexing, or should annex, the entire West Bank, the sc One-State-Solution as its outcome. However areas earmarked for annexation (the precise contours of which are being mapped by Israel and the US) may comprise about 30% of the West Bank according to Trump peace plan (Peace to Prosperity ).

Under the Trump peace plan, which Israel has accepted, Israel can and should declare its sovereignty, and extend its civilian law, over the portions of Judea and Samaria it’s capable of governing effectively and efficiently without military support. So the specific areas that Israel is considering annexing are already primarily Jewish, and already under Israeli control, they are located in area C agreed with Palestinians in Oslo Accords in 1993.

One scenario is a plan for “gradual” Israeli annexation in the West Bank, Mr Netanyahu might initially act to annex just the settlements, which could amount to only 3%, and the remaining 27% later on once the boundaries are agreed with Washington or Palestine Authority.

Gershon Hacohen /BESA gives another aspect which is Israel’s growing residential and infrastructure density. He sees annexation as ”a golden opportunity to develop the West Bank communities. This means that the application of sovereignty calls for the strategic governmental formulation of a new national master plan for the development of Israel’s eastern rampart. The master plan, according Hacohen, could include e.g:

  • To consolidate Jerusalem as a metropolitan city while developing circumferential transportation and municipal infrastructures
  • To fully utilize the open corridor from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea for the saturation construction of hundreds of thousands of housing units.
  • turning the Jordan Valley, up to the eastern ridge lines in Samaria, into a tract of continuous settlement for the absorption of two to three million Israelis.

All these trends exist in Area C, and they offer a guiding framework for organizing the infrastructures of the Palestinian entity in lands controlled by Israel.

One of the Israeli settlements in West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim. Photo credit AFP

 

Different views

Our future doesn’t depend on what the Gentiles will say, but on what the Jews will do.” (David Ben-Gurion)

The declared intention for the implementation of sovereignty in certain parts of the West Bank is prompting vigorous debate in Israel. The matter of applying Israeli sovereignty to certain areas of the West Bank has been disputed both Israeli right-wing and left-wing camps.

Right-wing camp highlights the security risks and that Palestinian Authority (PA) would get half of the Area C – which is agreed to be under Israeli administration due Oslo accords – in addition to Area A and B, which are now full or partial under PA. Settlement leaders are not keen on annexation, either. They have launched a public campaign against the Trump plan. They say annexation would risk opening the door for a Palestinian state while ending any expansion of Israeli settlements in much of the West Bank. .

The left-wing camp, backed by many former army officers and public servants, sees more risks than and opportunity; so far, as the details and terms of annexation can make it more attractive. Leftist view has been that annexation would be counterproductive if not completely fatal for the prospect of an eventual two-state solution. Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz stipulating that they would seek to advance the Trump plan “while pursuing the security and strategic interests of the State of Israel, including the need to maintain regional stability, preserve peace agreements and pursue future peace agreements”.

Some Israeli commentators anticipate swift and terrible ramifications of a decision to annex parts of the West Bank. Their darkest visions include e.g.

  • an intensification of violence between Israel and the Palestinians,
  • a severing of relations by Jordan and Egypt, which might even go so far as to nullify their peace treaties with Israel,
  • the Gulf States that have been tacitly cooperating with Israel on security and intelligence fronts will end their cooperation,
  • the EU will condemn Israel in the strongest possible terms,
  • scores of countries will recognize the Palestinian state,
  • the BDS movement will significantly intensify,
  • antisemitism will reach new heights.

The problem with annexation of Jordan valley is the matter of control of the West Bank’s main traffic corridors. From a security standpoint, IDF should remain in charge of security on the ground. It questionable if the completion of bypass arteries, bridges and tunnels are enough.

As Area C already is in Israel’s control, the annexation could happen with a vote in Israel’s parliament but in practice with almost no changes on the ground. However, if Israel formally declares land as part of its state, it would make it even more difficult to give it up in any future agreement. The main problem would be, that reversal would require in Knesset the support of a large majority (66%) of Israeli MPs and as I understand, that this something which is very unlikely.

My rhetorical question: Does anyone think (except some Palestinian leaders publicly) that this “settlement” would be given to State of Palestine in any possible Peace Deal?  City of Ariel (founded 1978) located between -67 line and security barrier in West Bank:

 

Global response to annexation?

We can disagree with Israel on political issues and still cooperate in other areas, such as the coronavirus and technological matters,” (FM Anwar Gargash, UAE)

Global response to annexation is negative. Sure the Palestinians are against and calling for international pressure. The UN has warned that annexation would most likely trigger conflict and instability in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, the US is likely to block any attempts to pass resolutions at the UN Security Council condemning Israel.

Jordan has said it would be forced to review its relations with Israel if annexation goes ahead. One reason for hardline statements might be that the US call for is naturalizing the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, which is considered by the regime as a severe threat to Jordan’s stability.

Egypt has traditional solidarity with the Palestinians and with their demand for an independent and sustainable state based on the 1967 borders. A Egyptian national interest is the desire for a renewal of negotiations on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which will contribute to regional stability and could – according to the Trump plan – lead to projects worth billions of dollars in Egypt’s own territory.

The Arab world has sharply criticised Israel’s plans. The EU – Israel’s biggest trading partner – says it will use diplomatic means to “discourage” Israel from carrying out its plans. Some member states have called for tougher action, including possible sanctions.

Probably annexation will negatively affect Israel’s relations with the Gulf states. their public opposition to the annexation will likely continue, but so will their quiet security cooperation with Israel, particularly in light of the common interest of curbing Iran’s regional and nuclear aspirations.

In my opinion the global response will be verbally hard against annexation, it will be condemned but as usual there will no meaningful countermeasures as outcome.

 

Palestinian Authority has opportunity to negotiate a better deal

Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose” (Bret Stephens)

Palestinian Authority has opposed  annexation and Trump peace plan  even before it was published. Again the Palestinians seems to be the only nation that ever said “no” to an offer of independence with international support.

PA declared on May 2020 they’re no longer bound by the 1990s-era peace accords that govern Israeli-Palestinian relations, and have begun refusing to coordinate with Israel on matters of daily Palestinian life, from tax collection to policing to cancer treatments — arrangements they’ve found humiliating. The even didn’t took corona aid from UAE as the aid-cargo came via Ben Gurion airport. Ordinary Palestinians are paying the price for the disruptions in funds, policing and medical care. Palestinian authorities also refuse to coordinate with Israel to allow Palestinian patients to travel outside the impoverished Gaza Strip for life-saving treatments, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

Palestinian officials are now refusing to accept any of the tax revenues Israel collects on their behalf, leaving tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants unlikely to get full paychecks this month. The $145 million a month Israel transfers to the Palestinians is estimated to make up about 60% of the Palestinian Authority’s budget.

The Trump peace plan violates no agreement as such. It sets out an ostensible framework for peace between the Palestinians and Israel, including the establishment of a Palestinian state and the granting of considerable economic benefits for the Palestinian people. In my opinion exactly Palestinians have now window of opportunity to get a good deal and finally their own state. And exactly now in coming months when President Trump is in office and wants to make his ”Deal of Century”, winn the next elections and maybe get the Nobel peace prize. So Palestinians have now excellent cards in their hands to get best possible deal for them.

 

My view

The fundamental principle, recognised by Britain’s Peel Commission in 1937  and by the fledgling United Nations in 1947, that the only way to resolve the conflict is to partition the Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, guaranteeing national self-determination for both peoples who claim it as their own.

Comprehensive peace proposals were presented to Palestinian leadership three times in the past – once by the United Nations (1947) and twice by Israel (2000, 2008). All three times, Palestinian leadership rejected broad peace deals, while Israel said yes.

As White House finally published its ”Peace and Prosperity plan” (Deal ofCentury/DoC) , I commented  it as follows:

I agree with President Trump that his Vision is the most serious, realistic, and detailed plan ever presented, one that could make Israelis, Palestinians, and the region safer and more prosperous. In my opinion even at minimum it creates updated framework for possible Israeli-Palestinian negotiation as well possible one-sided Israeli actions if negotiations don’t start. DoC is just the first step and provides the basis for historic progress toward peace. Anyway the best aspect with DoC in my opinion is that it simply mirrors the reality on the ground as it exists today in the West Bank and not high-flown ideas and utopies.

In my opinion the DoC could be even better. From my point of view the map would be more clear if Israel would annex only some 200,000 Israelis who live in the 12 Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the second group of some 300,000 Israelis who live in the so called ‘settlement blocs,’ located west of the security barrier which are usually very close to the Green Line. This kind of approach could be described as constructive unilateralism as this kind of annexation is not foreclosing the possibility of a future Palestinian State and sc Two-State-Solution. The rest 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, could be, if so agreed after possible negotiation with PA, relocated inside barrier and future border.

David Ben-Gurion faced a similar dilemma in 1937 when accepting the Peel Commission’s partition plan, which offered the prospective Jewish State a small fraction of the territory of mandatory Palestine. “The Jewish state now being offered us… is not the Zionist goal, but it could serve as a decisive stage on the way to realizing the larger Zionism,”

A Palestinian counteroffer of direct talks with Israel might be the best and pragmatic approach to resolving the conflict of the century. In my opinion this would be a win-win outcome for Israel, Palestine and President Trump.

 

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Best solution in my opinion: Spatial separation with Jordanian and Sinai options

 

Sources:

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,606, June 15, 2020 ,

Trump peace plan ,

al-Jazeera ,

Council on Foreign Relations ,

Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen/BESA in The Jordan Valley Annexation Dilemma: A Realistic Approach ,

INSS: A Strategic Framework for the Israeli-Palestinian Arena ,

Israel Defense ,

My related articles:

Gaza Options ,

Deal of Century finally released ,

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


Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi Indicted for War Crimes

June 25, 2020

Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and nine other former militants were indicted for war crimes by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in the Hague. The prosecutors said the charges were laid in April before being publicly unveiled on 24th June 2020 according reports by Deutsche Welle as well also AFP, AP, Reuters…

They are “responsible for nearly 100 murders,” according to the prosecutors at the EU-backed Kosovo Specialist Chamber. The victims included Kosovar Albanians, Serb and Roma people, with political opponents also targeted, according to the officials. The group also faces charges of torture, persecution, and enforced disappearance. The officials described the indictment as “the result of a lengthy investigation” adding that the effort reflected the SPO’s “determination that it can prove all of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

KOSOVO2004The 52-year-old Thaçi is one of the most powerful and most experienced Kosovo politicians and like many other present-day Kosovo politicians, or better say clan leaders of organized crime, played a prominent role in the resistance movement that pitted ethnic Albanians against Serbs in what was then a Serbian province. One could note that less than a year ago, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj resigned after he was summoned by the same court on suspicion of war crimes.

DW’s correspondent from the Serb-dominated northern Kosovo, Milica Andric Rakic, described the announcement as “probably the single most shocking event since Kosovo unilaterally declared independence” in 2008. “Thaçi will use any last power lever at his disposal to stop the Court, like he tried to do in December 2015 with the attempt at abolishing the Law on the Specialist Chamber,” she said. She warned that the move might also spark protests by former militants that could escalate into “ethnic violence.”

Despite operating for years and summoning hundreds of witnesses, this is the first indictment ever issued by the Chamber’s prosecutor. The office also accused Thaci and another suspect, former parliamentary speaker Kadri Veseli, of trying to “obstruct and undermine” the tribunal’s work. “Thaci and Veseli are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice,” the statement said according DeutscheWelle .

After Balkan wars Balkan war crimes were prosecuted before the now-defunct International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. The court has now been replaced by the Kosovo Specialist Chamber, an EU-backed body set up in 2015 and also based in The Hague. The Chamber is ruled by Kosovo law, but funded by the EU and staffed by international judges and prosecutors.

 

Background

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. Kosovo is serving as a junction for heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to West Europe through famous Balkan route. Recently 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.

Radical Islamists and OC groups had/have a common interest in Kosovo

Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA aka UÇK) were established mid-90s during war in Bosnia. 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.

Wahhabists, al-Qaeda etc arrived first to Bosnia to help Muslim brigades in their fight against Serbian army and Serb and Croatian civilians

Thaçi and other members of his inner circle were “commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports” . For example the German secret state agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), describes Thaçi’s Drenica group “as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’.” Trading on American protection to consolidate political power, thus maintaining control over key narcotics smuggling corridors, having succeeded in eliminating, or intimidating into silence, the majority of the potential and actual witnesses against them (both enemies and erstwhile allies), using violence, threats, blackmail, and protection rackets,” Thaçi’s Drenica Group have “exploit[ed] their position in order to accrue personal wealth totally out of proportion with their declared activities.” Indeed, multiple reports prepared by the U.S. DEA, FBI, the BND, Italy’s SISMI, Britain’s MI6 and the Greek EYP intelligence service have stated that Drenica Group members “are consistently named as ‘key players’ in intelligence reports on Kosovo’s mafia-like structures of organised crime.”

Kosovo – ruled by clans

 

Whitewashing: From international protectorate to (captured) state

After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) leaders changed their organized 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. Last ten years now political leaders have whitewashed their drugs- and other OC-money by establishing façade-firms as well real enterprises, by success in donor funded investment projects and through privatisation process.

The insignificant economic base was easy to see when creation of the state of Kosovo was ongoing. Official statistics from year 2008 showed that export from Kosovo amounted about 200 million Euro while import increased to 2 billion Euro, which makes trade balance almost 1,800 million Euro minus. If export is covering some 10 percent of import so from where is money coming to this consumption. The estimate is that when export brings mentioned 71 million Euro the organised crime (mainly drug trafficking) brings 1 billion Euro, diaspora gives 500 million Euro and international community 200 million Euro.

Kosovo has a small domestic market and limited industrial production, and its imports remain still higher than exports. According to Kosovo Agency of Statistics, Kosovo’s trade deficit continued to widen in 2018 to EUR 2.97 billion, from EUR 2.45 billion a year earlier, with imports rising to EUR 3.34 billion, from EUR 3.05 billion, whereas exports fell to EUR 367 million, from EUR 596 million a year earlier. IMF estimates that the 2018 balance of payments (net trade in goods and services) to be USD -2.2 billion. According to the World Bank, Kosovo’s overall trade deficit, which includes trade in both goods and commercial services, stood at an estimated 29.1% of GDP in 2018. (Source: Societe Generale )

 

My view

I agree with those who claim that it is clear that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake.

The real power in Kosovo lays with 15 to 20 family clans who control “almost all substantial key social positions” and are closely linked to prominent political decision makers. German intelligence services (BND) have concluded for example that Prime Minister Thaçi is a key figure in a Kosovar-Albanian mafia network.

While I was working in Kosovo after bombings as EU expert for local administration it was clear how Kosovo Albanian ”freedom fighters” started to transform themselves to political leaders of this then international protectorate. International community – via UN/UNMIK, NATO/KFOR, EU/TAFKO/EAR and affiliates – which were administrating Kosovo, was well aware of the direct links between organized crime clans and political leaders (See Appendix below).

The original or better to say official aim of international community was to build “standards before status”, on 2005 the task was seen impossible so the slogan changed to “standards and status”. Even this was unrealistic so Feb. 2008 “European”standards were thrown away to garbage and “status without standards” precipitately accepted by the Western powers. For international community I don’t see any success story with this backward progress.

The reason why this whitewashing was supported by international community might be the need to sustain some kind of stability in Kosovo Albanian part of province. The second reason might be that US and EU could not admit that they selected wrong side already mid-90’s by blaming Serbs about all negative events in e-Yugoslavia. The third aspect might be some economical interests of Washington, Paris and Berlin related to West Balkans. The forth reason might be the opportunity to break Yugoslavia and increase Western influence in this region as Russia was then too weak to support their Serbian friends;   the Pentagon goal already in late 1998 was to take control of Kosovo in order to secure a military base to control the entire southeast European region down to the Middle East oil lands, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo is now reality.

International community could not admit that it was fooled to support the separatist movements in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. This bias was clear during my work in field level, for example the aid and development programs were made to benefit Kosovo Albanian part more than match the needs of Kosovo Serbian part. This bias was clear for everyone and even admitted privately in higher levels but changing policy – decided in Washington and Bruxelles – was impossible to keep the old facade. Now after two decades the real roles of different players in ”operational theatre” are coming more clear for wider public and so far the the indictment of President Thaçi is good step to right direction 

The truth might be as Canadian Major General Lewis MacKenzie, former UN Protection Force commander in Bosnia, cited the admission in an April 2008  statement  to the Lord Byron Foundation:

This anti-Serb bias and sympathy for their “victims” was exploited by the Kosovo Liberation Army, (KLA), an internationally recognized terrorist organization at the time when it commenced killing Serbian security personnel in the late 90s. The KLA hired the same North American PR firms employed by the Bosnian government and successfully won the PR war in spite of the fact their organization initiated the armed conflict.

The current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was the leader of the KLA. He has admitted that the KLA orchestrated the infamous Racak “massacre” dressing their KLA dead in civilian clothes, machine gunning them and dumping them in a ditch and claiming it was a Serbian slaughter of civilians. NATO bought into the ruse and on its 50th birthday looking for a role in the post cold war world the alliance became the KLA’s air force and bombed a sovereign nation from the safety of 10,000 ft.

 

Kosovo

 

More reading:

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

About possible solutions e.g. my articles Dividing Kosovo – a pragmatic solution to frozen conflict and Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements

More about link between organized crime and Kosovo political leaders one can find e.g. from “leaked” German Intelligence report BND report 2005 .

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.

A good article by F. William Engdahl: Washington’s Bizarre Kosovo Strategy could Destroy NATO  .

 

 

Appendix:

Organized Crime in Kosovo, resume by NATO/KFOR

 

 


How to fight a virus: Lessons from cybersecurity

May 28, 2020

Guest Post by Yotam Gutman

Lt. Commander (Ret.) Israel Navy, Yotam Gutman, currently Marketing Director at SentinelOne, wrote down an interesting piece about how healthcare officials can take the lessons learned in three decades of fighting “cyber viruses” and apply these to fight the Coronavirus. To mitigate today’s plethora of rapidly evolving cyber threats, the cybersecurity industry has developed several methodologies. These (after adaptation) could be used to reduce the spread of malicious software and to mitigate its effects.

How to fight a virus: Lessons from cybersecurity
 

Yotam Gutman

There has been a great deal of conversation around the similarities between the spread of the Covid-19 virus and that of computer viruses. And indeed, as the first global pandemic to occur during the age of connectivity, this comparison is valid. But while most focus on how we can leverage the knowledge gained in the “real world” in identifying and stopping the spread of plagues in the virtual world, I would like to offer another perspective.

Perhaps we in cybersecurity can return the favor. Perhaps the medical world can take the lessons learned in three decades of fighting “cyber viruses” and implement these in their fight to mitigate the Coronavirus?

History

Originally, the type of computer software described as “a program that can infect other programs by modifying them to include a, possibly evolved, version of itself” was named “Virus” by Fred Cohen in his 1986 Ph.D. thesis. Another biological reference made its way into the computer lingo when the first worm was unleashed (although the phrase was used in an earlier sci-fi novel).
In the last couple of years, computer viruses, or more widely the panoply of malware as we think of cybersecurity today, have undergone rapid evolution that has made them much more difficult to identify and mitigate:

 

  • More variants: 439,000 new malware variants were detected in 2019. That’s a 12.3% increase over the previous year.
  • More capable: Modern malware threats are far more capable than the old viruses spreading through illegal copies of software distributed via floppy-disks. Today’s malware can steal passwords, exfiltrate sensitive data, encrypt and delete data, and much more.
  • Harder to detect: Malware authors work hard to make their software difficult to detect. This includes hiding it in legitimate documents (aka “weaponizing” Word, PDF and Excel documents), utilizing detection-evasion mechanisms (like avoiding execution in sandboxed environments), and using legitimate software update mechanisms, all to make the work of the defenders harder.
  • More aggressive: Some malware types are extremely aggressive; they scan for open RDP ports, brute-force their way onto a device, and then move laterally within the organization’s network, abusing password-protected servers and seeking sensitive data, all without the knowledge of the victim.
  • Fast: contemporary malware is extremely fast and works at machine-speed to bypass protection mechanisms and achieve its goals—ransomware like “Wannacry” disabled entire organizations in minutes.
Adopting Cybersecurity Response To Fight Covid-19


To mitigate today’s plethora of rapidly evolving cyber threats, the cybersecurity industry has developed several methodologies. These (after adaptation) could be used to reduce the spread of malicious software and to mitigate its effects. I will refrain from discussing the obvious virus/Anti-virus analogy. Obviously, a vaccine for a computer “virus” would be the answer, but estimates suggest that such a vaccine would not be available in the next 12-18 months, and there’s a lot we can do until then:

  • Zero trust policy- A methodology that defies the traditional security assumption that everything inside the perimeter (protected by the firewall) is trusted. The main principle of Zero Trus is “never trust, always verify”. This means that every user is asked to verify their credentials every time they wish to “enter” the organization and that every file and process are being constantly monitored – even if they have been “authorized” to run on the computer.
    In a similar manner, humans should consider that other humans are carriers, and only “trust” them after they have been tested negative (or at the minimum, have had their temperature taken).
  • Detection beats prevention: following a similar line of thought, most organizations today operate under the “Assume a Breach” paradigm. Instead of striving to identify and mitigate 100% of threats 100% of the time, they assume that some threats would be able to infect them and concentrate their efforts on quickly finding these and stopping them before they could do more harm.Similarly, it is prudent to assume that humanity would not be able to vanquish this virus, and we will be playing “whack-a-mole” with it for the foreseeable time. Given that this is the case, it’s prudent to invest in rapid detection of the infection (quick detection kits, even home detection kits), ensure those that are sick are given quick treatment, and continue to monitor the entire population for outbreaks.
  • Segmentation; an important principle that limits the “movement” within the organization, so that intruders cannot move freely and infect other parts of the organization.The real-life manifestation would be to identify infection “hot-spots”, lock these down and then tend to these infected rather than to lock-down entire countries.
  • Risk modeling: it might be possible, perhaps, to provide 100% security, 100% of the time, but the cost to the organization would be detrimental; either the security costs would be through the roof, or the security restrictions imposed to maintain 100% security would cause the business to stand still. Instead, a CISO conducts risk assessments and prioritizes security spending to mitigate the most acute threats and secure the most valuable assets.Healthcare officials should do the same and ensure that the most sensitive segments of the population (elderly, sick) are being shielded from the disease and if need be, are provided with better care.
  • Intelligence intake: fighting a stealthy enemy is hard because you don’t know what to expect. Security professionals, governments, and those in the security industry have been formally and informally sharing information about malware, cybercrime groups, and data leaks for a long time. This has proved to be immensely helpful in fighting and defeating cybercrime rings.Such collaboration should also be adopted by global scientific, medical communities, governments, and healthcare organizations. As this threat is new to humanity, we should all share information about detection and treatment mechanisms, and notify others when we think we’ve made breakthroughs in finding a cure or a vaccine.
Conclusion

We can debate the similarities between biological and computer “Virus” (which, some believe, more resembles a Bacteria than a virus), but the analogy is, for the most part, correct. Viruses are dangerous to the victims, and they spread quickly through the population until a cure, or a vaccine is found. The spread of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our lives is nothing like the world has seen before. It spread almost at machine speed and overwhelmed countries and healthcare organizations. We believe that utilizing the lessons learned by the cybersecurity industry in the past 3 decades could help to thwart the Coronavirus pandemic.

About Yotam Gutman and SentinelOne

Lt. Commander (Ret.) Israel Navy, Yotam Gutman, has filled several operational, technical, and business positions at defense, HLS, Intelligence, and cybersecurity companies, and provided consulting services for numerous others. Yotam joined SentinelOne 6 months ago to oversee local marketing activities in Israel and contribute to the global content marketing team. Yotam founded and managed the Cybersecurity Marketing Professionals Community, which includes over 300 marketing professionals from more than 170 cyber companies.

SentinelOne stormed into 2020 with reports of a $200 million round led by New York-based venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners. This investment, coming just seven months after a previous $120 million series, gave SentinelOne a $1.1 billion valuation and a prominent spot on the global map of leading cybersecurity companies.


Gaza Options

May 1, 2020

The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), created a professional research group for the purpose of suggesting policy that meets the State of Israel’s diplomatic and defense objectives while relieving the severe problem of the Gaza Strip. After mapping the range of alternatives and selecting the five main alternatives, INSS decided on criteria for comparing these alternatives based on Israel’s interests and especially on Israel’s security doctrine. Then INSS made expert analysis of each alternative clarifying the positive and negative consequences and then ranking alternatives.

 

The Gaza Strip has been in an ongoing crisis since the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in 2005, especially since Hamas took over the territory by force. The situation in Gaza is characterized by economic, social, and infrastructural distress—verging on a humanitarian crisis—and influenced by the political rivalry and struggle for leadership of the Palestinian camp between Hamas on one hand, and Fatah and the Palestinian Authority on the other. Hamas’s comprehensive and stable control of the territory, along with its proven ability to cause damage, has led to unofficial Israeli recognition of Hamas as the sole body responsible for the Gaza Strip.

Three rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas (2009, 2012, and 2014) have caused wide-scale destruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and socioeconomic collapse of Gaza has continued since then. Israel restricts the passage of goods and people in and out of the territory in order to prevent building rockets and missiles used to attack against Israel. Egypt has destroyed most part, over one thousand, of smuggling tunnels on Gaza border so that ISIS affiliate jihadist Sinai group could not use Gaza as their support area. In addition, Hamas has confiscated part of reconstruction materials and international donations and invested these resourses to build attack tunnels against Israel instead to build civilian houses, infrastructure and services for Gaza population. All this has caused increasing distress in Gaza. In addition, Hamas has initiated international boycott campaigns, such as BDS, controlled escalation against Israel to place the blame on Israel for Gaza’s distress.

 

Strategic Alternatives

In order to address the challenge that the Gaza Strip poses for Israel’s security, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) published [26/04/2020] its memoranda Israel’s Policy Toward the Gaza Strip: Strategic Alternatives . Five main alternatives were examined—most of which have been raised in the public and military discourse—under the lens of how they serve and advance Israel’s interests.

The five alternatives are as follows:

 

1. Managing the conflict 

2. Extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas 

3. Completely disconnecting the Gaza Strip from Israel and from the West Bank

4. Military operation to overthrow Hamas’s military wing 

5. Creating conditions for intra-Palestinian reconciliation 

 

The Stages of Comparing the Alternatives

The first stage (above) involved mapping the various alternatives and selecting the four main alternatives that are within the control of the Israeli government and one alternative that is not within Israel’s control, yet which Israel can influence and has some degree of feasibility, justifying its examination.

In the second stage, uniform criteria were defined for comparing between the alternatives based on the interests of the State of Israel. The criteria reflected Israel’s national security doctrine: maintaining the character of the state (Jewish and democratic); achieving military stability and calm over time; avoiding escalation into a large-scale war; shaping internationally recognized borders; and maintaining Israel’s levers of influence, aside from military might.

In the third stage, criteria were sorted into three levels according to their contribution to advancing Israel’s interests and based on their importance according to the national security doctrine.

In the fourth stage, each alternative was analyzed. The analysis was conducted by an expert in the field, and it focused on clarifying the positive and negative consequences of each alternative.

In the fifth stage, the alternatives were ranked based on the analysis, and each criterion was given a score from 1 to 5. This tested their sensitivity; that is, whether there is a gap between the results of the qualitative analysis, which was done in the research group, and the quantitative results received by each researcher individually.

In the sixth stage, the scores provided for each alternative were weighted, and the alternatives were ranked.

 

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Alternatives

1. Managing the conflict in accordance with the logic of adjustment and deterrence. Implementing this alternative means strengthening and maintaining deterrence as a tool for exerting ongoing pressure on Hamas in order to weaken it and achieve calm.

2. Extended ceasefire between Israel and Hamas (“ tahadiya ”) according to the logic of an arrangement. Choosing this alternative means recognizing Hamas as the sole body responsible for Gaza.

 

3. Completely disconnecting the Gaza Strip from Israel and from the West Bank according to the logic of disengagement. Choosing this alternative means closing crossings between Gaza and Israel and enabling Gaza a sea outlet and access to the Sinai Peninsula.

4. Military operation to overthrow Hamas’s military wing according to the logic of military victory. Choosing this alternative requires follow-up steps with the aim of influencing and stabilizing the Gaza Strip. This alternative can also be a platform for advancing another alternative, such as maintaining Hamas’s rule but in a very weakened state, or creating the conditions for returning the PA to Gaza and making it the responsible body there, or establishing an international trusteeship in Gaza (an option whose likelihood is very slim).

5. Creating conditions for intra-Palestinian reconciliation and supporting steps in this direction according to the logic of an arrangement; in this alternative, the PA is the only body that represents the Palestinian camp.

 

Connectivity between the Alternatives

According INSS analysis it is evident that none of the alternatives is stable over time. In the diagram below, the connectivity between the alternatives creates a circular dynamic: Implementing an alternative in the short term leads to a different alternative in the medium term and even a return to managing the conflict in the long term. Breaking out of this circularity is only possible in a situation in which the PA returns to ruling and managing the Gaza Strip, thus creating a single functioning leadership for the two Palestinian territories—this is the preferred way to restore security to the Israeli communities near Gaza and to maintain Israel’s regional interests.

According to the diagram above, disconnection appears to be the least stable of the alternatives, as it inevitably leads to implementing another alternative. The alternatives of an arrangement and of a military operation are more dominant, as they both have the potential to substantively change the security situation. An arrangement could reduce the chances of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, a military operation would create the necessary conditions that could lead to the return of the PA to managing Gaza. A military operation could also lead to an arrangement, but this would not necessarily be better for Israel than an arrangement without a military operation. The inability to control the final results and the heavy toll of a military operation—in terms of human lives, costs, and Israel’s international standing—increase the risks inherent in this alternative.

In order to reap the benefits of the arrangement alternative, Israel must help the PA avoid negative consequences. To this end, Israel must strengthen the PA and its standing in the West Bank and, at the same time, not sabotage intra-Palestinian reconciliation efforts. Israel—in coordination with the international community—can strengthen the PA by providing it with a leading role in reconstructing Gaza, while the PA government could handle the reconstruction budgets.

INSS concludes that the preferred option for Israel is for the PA to rule in the Gaza Strip; but without the necessary conditions, Hamas’s rule is the best of the worst from Israel’s perspective, since it also strengthens the coordination between Israel and Egypt.

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My View: The Sinai Option is best for Israel, Egypt and Gazans

The core principle of the Sinai option is: Land AND money for peace.” (Ari Rusila)

The Sinai option is not a new option to solve Egypt-Gaza-Israel conflict. According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] 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. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported . Experts summarise that Sisi’s generous offer stemmed from Egypt’s difficulty in then controlling terrorist groups based in the Sinai Peninsula. According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned.

sinai option by Ari RusilaAccording Middle East Eye (MEE) the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister. He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan. (This and more plans in Herzliya Papers )

According the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to President Mohamed Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”. US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport.  (More in Sinai Option again

From my point of view the Sinai option is both feasible and viable especially if the economic part of ”Deal of the Century” (DoC aka Trump peace plan) will be implemented. It was billed as “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.” The plan calls for a $50 billion mix of grants, loans and private investments over ten years to develop a future Palestinian state’s infrastructure, telecommunications, tourism and health care industries.(more in Palestine: Peace & Prosperity Plan )

If Gazans can – with international support – improve their infrastructure, decrease unemployment by economic development and work permits to Israel and Egypt and live in peaceful conditions they have less reasons to support radical jihadist movements and violence as then Gazans could endanger their the well-being they have achieved.

As in my opinion the Sinai option is the best alternative for Israel, Egypt and Gazans there is still question about West Bank.  It is very possible that PA is not in short term involved to this arrangement.  However only in few years the benefits from this option can be seen as improving living conditions among Gazans and at least there is some positive perspective, way ahead and maybe realistic hope.  Sinai option could be an example that violence and utopies are not the solution but negotiations, compromise and deal might be. If Hamas will get rid off its military wing and can decrease the influence of PIJ and other terrorist groups it can create good change for cooperation with Fatah.  This cooperation can lead to common state – be it federal,  confederal etc – and even to modern democracy. 

 

 


Deal of Century finally released

February 9, 2020

Deal of Century” (DoC) aka ”Trump peace plan” – a long waited Mideast peace plan by the White House – has now been released as its full format. Officially known as ”Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, is a proposal to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Earlier in late June 2019 the economic portion was made for public as the first part of Deal in the Bahrain Conference.

DoC – this “out of the box” plan made by by the Trump administration – is rather a reaction to political realities in MidEast; it is the United States’ redefinition of the parameters for definitively resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in large part espoused Israeli positions. One can describe DoC as an updated version to sc ”Clinton parameters” – created during Oslo process – which were the framework some two decades for negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authority.

 

DoC aka ”Trump peace plan”

[An improved economic situation was]a necessary precondition to resolving what was previously an unsolvable political situation,” (Jared Kushner)

The plan, outlined in a 180 page report, calls for a two-state solution (Israel and a future Palestine) with Israel retaining all of its current West Bank settlements, all of Jerusalem including the holy sites, and security control over the entire West Bank. The capital of the Palestinian state will be in “eastern Jerusalem,” in neighbourhoods beyond Israel’s security barrier.

The plan speaks about an innovative network of roads, bridges and tunnels that enable freedom of movement. The tunnels will be state-of-the-art, according to the plan. It will include tunnels or a covered road that might link Gaza and the West Bank, according to the map.a 34-km. tunnel or covered overpass that links the West Bank to Gaza.

The plan’s map seems to show the Palestinian state extending to large enclaves in Israel’s Negev that will be larger than Gaza itself.

Here are some of the key points, as outlined by the White House:

  • The Vision provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, with Israel retaining security responsibility west of the Jordan River.
  • Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its security footprint.
  • Approximately 97% of Israelis in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Israeli territory, and approximately 97% of Palestinians in the West Bank will be incorporated into contiguous Palestinian territory. Land swaps will provide the State of Palestine with land reasonably comparable in size to the territory of pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza.
  • Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the possibility of a two-state solution.
  • Jerusalem will stay united and remain the capital of Israel, while the capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include areas of East Jerusalem located in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier, where the United States will build its embassy.
  • Palestinian refugees will be given a choice to live within the future State of Palestine, integrate into the countries where they currently live, or resettle in a third country. but refugees will be able to return to Palestinian territory (i.e., the territory controlled by the PA) or to receive reparations from an international fund. After the agreement is signed the status of refugee will be abolished and UNRWA will be dismantled.
  • The Palestinian population located in enclaves that remain inside contiguous Israeli territory but that are part of the State of Palestine shall become citizens of the State of Palestine and shall have the option to remain in place unless they choose otherwise. They will have access routes connecting them to the State of Palestine. They will be subject to Palestinian civilian administration, including zoning and planning, within the interior of such Palestinian enclaves. Such enclaves and access routes will be subject to Israeli security responsibility.
  • Beyond its borders, the State of Palestine will have high-speed transportation links (such as the West Bank/Gaza connection), and until such time as the State of Palestine may develop its own port, access to two designated port facilities in the State of Israel.
  • Two access roads will be built for the benefit of the State of Palestine that will be subject to Israeli security requirements. These roads will enable Palestinians to cross the Jordan Valley to the border crossing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, allow Jordanians and others from the region to enter the State of Palestine.

Small detail of goals in “Economic part” of DoC

The economic portion of the Doc is slightly similar to the Marshall Plan which was aimed to rebuild Western European economies after World War II. This part of DoC (more in Palestine: Peace & Prosperity Plan ) was billed as “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.” The plan calls for a $50 billion mix of grants, loans and private investments over ten years to develop a future Palestinian state’s infrastructure, telecommunications, tourism and health care industries. Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, states that have absorbed Palestinian refugees for decades, would receive nearly half the funding.

 

Some critical remarks

In my opinion the DoC could be even better. From my point of view the map would be more clear if Israel would annex only some 200,000 Israelis who live in the 12 Jewish neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the second group of some 300,000 Israelis who live in the so called ‘settlement blocs,’ located west of the security barrier which are usually very close to the Green Line. The rest 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, could be relocated inside barrier and future border.

There is a risk – according study by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS)that the annexation might lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the absence of an alternative government authority will force Israel to seize control of Areas A and B and to impose upon them a Military Administration regime. The annexation of the entire West Bank will constitute the irreversible abandonment of the trend toward separation and the de facto adoption of a one-state outcome.

I think that the core problem is whether Israel is a democratic state including its Palestinian residents from disputed territories or a Jewish State separating Israeli citizens from most part of Palestinian residents in West Bank; Israel can be democratic only if all its citizens have equal human and political rights.

From my point of view Israel’s borders are defensible even if Israel annexes only 5-15% of West Bank and after Security Barrier has completed. I base this claim e.g. with following aspects:

  • Israel has military and intelligence edge and I don’t have any doubts that it can keep this edge also in future,
  • IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet etc can copy fast and flexible way to any new threads and challenges be they kite balloon or cyber attacks e.g. due first class ecosystem supporting new innovations,
  • IDF is developing whole time both technic and strategic levels and probably it will have also enough financial resources to be updated based to its popular support in Israeli society;  IDF is one of the most respected organisations in Israel.

If aspects mentioned above are valid it makes possible political decisions – negotiated or unilateral – like separation and relocating outposts. (More in Israel´s Eastern Border? )

Two-States according Deal of Century. Source: The White House

The DoC contemplates the possibility, subject to agreement of the parties that the borders of Israel will be redrawn such that the Triangle Communities become part of the State of Palestine. The Triangle is an area southeast of Haifa, near the Palestinian city of Jenin, which includes 14 towns and villages where more than 260,000 Arab Israelis live. These communities, which largely self-identify as Palestinian, were originally designated to fall under Jordanian control during the negotiations of the Armistice Line of 1949, but ultimately were retained by Israel for military reasons that have since been mitigated.

Residents of those areas have protested against the idea that they may one day be redefined as living in a new Palestine state.  I don’t understand why this kind of detail still is in final version of DoC;  one reason why the Triangle is in DoC could be to win support from hawkish Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman who has long advocated for such adjustments in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

 

sinai option by Ari RusilaMy third critical view is related to land swaps in Negev as those planned industrial, agricultural and residential zones are artificial and a bit isolated from Gaza.

In my opinion implementing the sc Sinai Option in cooperation with Egypt would be much better solution to Egypt, Israel and Gazans. This option was last time in public 2014 when – 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. (More in Sinai Option again )

 

 

Is DoC politically realizable?

Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose (Bret Stephens)

Comprehensive peace proposals were presented to Palestinian leadership three times in the past – once by the United Nations (1947) and twice by Israel (2000, 2008). All three times, Palestinian leadership rejected broad peace deals, while Israel said yes. Palestinian rejection – anchored in refusal to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state – remains the primary obstacle to peace. As Israel made major concessions for peace with Egypt and Jordan , so probably Israel will do the same with Palestinians based on DoC and possible negotiations with Palestinians.

Many ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud party as well as the Yamina alliance of right-wing parties are against the Trump plan, if it includes any mention of a Palestinian state. However in my opinion clear majority of center-right and center-left political parties support DoC so saying “yes” to a Palestinian state on what is likely to be some 80% of the West Bank, while also agreeing to a Palestinian capital on the northern and eastern outskirts of Jerusalem beyond the current security barrier.

In Judea and Samaria the PA and Fatah declared a “day of rage” in the Jordan Valley. They also organized protests in cities and at the friction points with the Israeli security forces. However only few dozen Palestinians participated in the protests at the various locations, and in some instances they clashed with the Israeli security forces. As there were no mass demonstrations and the events did not spin out of control, the situation and reactions were completely different than e.g. during 2nd Intifada after failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit to reach final agreement on the conflict.

Arab powers appear to be prioritizing close ties with the United States that are vital to countering Iran over traditional unswerving support for the Palestinians in their reaction to President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan. Despite Palestinians’ rejection of the plan and boycott of Trump over perceived pro-Israel bias, three Gulf Arab states – Oman, Bahrain and the UAE – attended the White House gathering in a sign of changing times. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and the UAE issued statements welcoming the Trump administration’s peace plan.

This time the U.S. initiative has a wide regional support and probably it will gain support also among Palestinian population as it indeed gives “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.” So from my point of view the plan, also its political part, has good change to be implemented also without acceptance from current Palestinian leadership.

Also The United States hopes that DoC will lead to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and then it will be up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take courageous and bold actions to end the political stalemate, resume negotiations on the basis of Doc, and make lasting peace and economic prosperity a reality.

New high-tech Qalandiya Crossing: the process of examination and entry at the crossing has been shortened so that passing through requires only a few minutes as opposed to the hours it required in the past. Source: COGAT

 

My view

Every Time Palestinians Say ‘No,’ They Lose (Bret Stephens)

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. The outcome of the U.S. initiative may well be Two-States but the roadmap is new with regional and economy first approach and this in my opinion gives a better change for positive development and even solution this time.

Prior U.S. and international efforts to settle the more than 70-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict have focused on a process that would leave many of the most sensitive issues to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Trump plan veered from that by presenting a proposed final outcome. No prior conception of a peace settlement, moreover, has gone as far in articulating a plan to foster Palestinian civil and economic vitality.

I agree with President Trump that his Vision is the most serious, realistic, and detailed plan ever presented, one that could make Israelis, Palestinians, and the region safer and more prosperous. In my opinion even at minimum it creates updated framework for possible Israeli-Palestinian negotiation as well possible one-sided Israeli actions if negotiations don’t start. DoC is just the first step and provides the basis for historic progress toward peace.  Anyway the best aspect with DoC in my opinion is that it simply mirrors the reality on the ground as it exists today in the West Bank and not high-flown ideas and utopies.

 

Some of my related articles:

Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

New” Idea: Connecting Gaza to Northern Sinai

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table

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

Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach


Appendix:

From deal to ”Quality peace”

The only way to solve a conflict at any level of society is to sit down face to face and talk about it.” (John W. McDonald)

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Deal of Century is exellent peace plan but does it sole the conflict is other question. From my point of view current peacemaking, peace-building or crisis management structures are not designed to cope today’s modern type of conflicts. In my opinion peacemaking is only secondary action by managing conflicts – a deeper holistic approach is needed to make more sustainable solutions. This approach can have an outcome which I call ”Quality peace”.

More about holistic approach e.g :

Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach

Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?

Civil Crisis Management: Filling the Gaps Between the Aims and on the Ground Effectiveness of a Mission

R2P vs Facades of Interventions

Multifaceted Intervention Practices

Quality Peace?


Elron & RDC Divulge Insights to Danish Innovation Center, Strengthening The Israeli-Denmark Cyber Ecosystem

December 10, 2019

Zohar Rozenberg, former head of the IDF Cyber Department, spoke at Innovation Centre Denmark in Copenhagen to help stakeholders in the Danish Cyber ecosystem learn about Israel’s hi-tech cyber landscape and ecosystem.

Guest Post by Adir Alon, DM Communications:

Elron & RDC Divulge Insights to Danish Innovation Center, Strengthening The Israeli-Denmark Cyber Ecosystem

In an event aimed at building Denmark’s Cybersecurity ecosystem and strengthening business ties between Israel and Denmark, Zohar Rozenberg mapped out the successes and environmental factors which have allowed Israel’s Ecosystem to flourish over the last number of decades. As the former head of the IDF Cyber Department and current VP of Cyber Investments at Elron Electronic Industries & RDC, Zohar holds a unique vantage point at the crossroads between cyber and business needs.

At the beginning of Israel’s startup era, the ability for Israeli firms to develop towards various industry pain points grabbed the attention of a handful of Venture Capital Firms. Today, Israel and Tel Aviv are synonymous with tech innovation and an abundance of early-stage funding. Along a strip spanning 15KM by 3KM between Tel Aviv and Herzliya, one can find 348 Investors with 140 of them investing in cyber technology. Zohar explains that this is due to three strategic factors. Increased demand, government readiness, and traditionally non-digital sectors eyeing integrated digitization.

Having experienced first hand the potential of cybersecurity, many graduates of Israel’s 8200 intelligence unit have years of practical experience in developing ironclad solutions. Many entrepreneurs recognize a specific industry need while in this special unit and continue their cybersecurity pursuit upon completing their service. “Elron & RDC have invested in many companies who focus on addressing key vulnerabilities in specific industries. Cyberattacks have been growing at an astounding rate globally. We are investing in a future that supports the entrepreneur’s in their efforts to secure our data and acknowledge the full potential of our digital age. ”Two cybersecurity initiatives in Elron & RDC’s portfolio are Kindite and Cynario. Kindite addresses the unique challenges of Data security in the cloud era faced by regulated enterprises while Cynario addresses the growing number of incidents in the healthcare field.

The success of many Israeli startups has encouraged a new generation of Israeli’s to view entrepreneurs as rockstars and begin ventures of their own. Although there are an abundance of startups and an abundance of local investors, there is still a separation between these worlds. Each has found new ways to market themselves and cut through the noise that buzzes around Israel’s abundant ecosystem. Meet and greet events along with pitch nights have helped bring the startup and VC communities together for benefits beyond funding. “Rubbing elbows with relevant insiders help all sides understand how they can continue to strengthen cyber ecosystems and better serve the growing global hi-tech community.” Said Rozenberg.

The new ‘advanced technologies’ cyber park being built in the Negev desert city of Beer Sheva. One could add that Israeli cybersecurity exports last year was $6bn.


Western Balkans: Road to EU or U-turn?

October 24, 2019

The European Council held a regular autumn meeting in Brussels on 17th and 18th October 2019. Besides Brexit, Turkey, clima change etc the plan was to determine when to start of negotiations with Republic North Macedonia and Republic Albania for their EU membership. As predicted by many analysts in recent weeks, neither Albania nor North Macedonia received a date at the EU Summit to launch negotiations for their EU accession. EU – again – could not decide the date when to start these negotiations.

In addition to the issue of stability in the Western Balkans region, it also concerns the credibility of European leaders. Namely, at the EU summit in June 2018, they decided that they would assign in 2019 a date for the start of negotiations to North Macedonia and Albania, if they meet conditions for the start of negotiations. For both countries, and especially for North Macedonia, this has been clearly achieved.

Although only France openly opposed EU negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania few more EU members quietly agreed this position. Given that the EU has 27 members (excluding the UK), there is always the possibility of different conditions and blockades. According IFIMES  the EU hesitance can have strategic consequences in the Western Balkans and it is due to uncertainty about EU membership and pressures from the domestic public, that certain countries could change their geopolitical orientation.

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who openly supported North Macedonia and was obviously disappointed, told Reuters that “It’s becoming harder and harder to provide a proper explanation (for the delay). If we agreed with our partners on the steps to take, and our partners are delivering, it is then our turn to deliver.”

Indeed! The EU Commission concluded following in its latest [Council conclusions on enlargement and stabilisation and association process – June 2019] report  related to Albania:

Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with Albania based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.

And related to Norh Macedonia [same report ] as follows:

Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council strongly welcomes the historic and unprecedented Prespa Agreement, as well as the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, and takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.

EU Credibility?

As a decision on issuing a date to begin enlargement talks has already been delayed on two previous occasions Throughout this period, European Commission officials have argued that it is important to send the right message to the nations of the Western Balkans that have carried out reforms demanded by Brussels. They also assert North Macedonia should be rewarded for settling its long-running name dispute with Greece via the June 2018 Prespes Agreement. To give a date to Albania and North Macedonia about starting entry negotiations to the EU is not a big deal. Once given, negotiations to conclude the 35 chapters of the acquis, if ever concluded, could well require a decade. Therefore, for the bloc to grant a date, is irrelevant.

Practically the Eastern EU enlargement for the moment is stopped. Croatia’s membership was exemption and mistake, Turkey’s EU bid is dead as continent simply has no intention of ever incorporating 70 million Muslims and the rest – such as Serbia and other Western Balkans – are still more or less in association process.

According IFIMES  some experts have been pointing out that 15 EU member countries would not be able to fully meet the membership criteria now, which are required from the Western Balkans countries. They also note that Bulgaria and Romania were admitted to the EU membership, as well as Croatia recently, without imposing so strict requirements of the membership.

One example about (Non)functioning of the EU was the dialogue between official Belgrade and Pristina which was led by the EU as a mediator. The dialogue was a fiasco. No significant progress has been made in the last ten years since the Western Balkans region was left to the care of the EU. The justified questions are, is the EU a reliable partner? Same time many Western Balkan countries and other big actors than EU have been active developers.

 

Croatia as typical example

Croatia is typical example of new European behaviour. Actually, Croatia does not respect the decisions of international arbitration court regarding the cross-border dispute with Slovenia. At the same time, Republic of Croatia does not respect the decision of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Courts for the crimes perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia (MICT), by which certain highly positioned officials of Croatia and Croatian Democratic Party (HDZ) are sentenced by absolute decision for participation in the associated crime against Bosnia and Herzegovina. HDZ is a political party against which the process is ongoing at the district court in Zagreb.

It should be added that the position of Serbian community in Croatia suddenly deteriorated after Croatia became full member of the EU. Serbian community was cooperative and important factor, which contributed that Croatia became the EU member. The audit of events from the Word War II is ongoing in Croatia where the attempts are made to rehabilitate fascist and collaboration armies and present them as anti-fascist. Of enormous importance is the position of Jewish community, which still did not resolve the issue of returning its property taken from them. Audit of history contributed that the Jewish community and other anti-fascist associations independently and in fact separately celebrate anniversary of liberation from the concentration camp Jasenovac that was held by the Ustasha regime. Representatives of the Croatian state do not take place at those commemorations. Pro fascist appearances and speeches of the president of the Republic of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (HDZ) and her open involvement in internal affairs in the nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina are evident.  Recently – 2018 – the Croatian government document allows that “Ustasha” (Croatian Nazi brand from WWII) salute “Za dom spremni” (equivalent to Hitler’ “Seig Heil”) can be used publicly.

Croatia – Past and present

Croatia as the EU and NATO member did not resolve open border issues with any of the neighbours except for Hungary, since it inherited that border from former Yugoslavia. Indeed in the Western Balkans it is in conflict with almost all states. The analysts find worrying the fact that the EU and NATO institutions did not react to the behaviour of Croatia when it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, because it is evident Croatia misuses its EU and NATO membership. Many war criminals find their shelter in Croatia.

 

Development without EU functioning

The Western Balkans leaders are aware of the need to take strong steps towards mutual cooperation, which will be aimed at creating better living conditions for citizens and, especially important, stopping the trend of mass displacement of population from the region. Analysts believe that the countries of the Western Balkans must establish strong political, economic, cultural and any other form of cooperation and act jointly towards the EU, as a group of states with clearly defined requirements. Regional cooperation does not mean that the countries of the region have given up their European path and the EU membership, it is important with EU perspective or without it.

One example could be the cooperation within the so-called Višegrad group of countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) which was formed to make it easier and faster for these countries to join the EU and NATO. Therefore, it could be vise for the countries of the region to act jointly towards the EU and / or other foreign policy initiatives.

While (Non)functioning of the EU is obvious the good thing is that many countries in Western Balkans – except Croatia – have been active with their own development work and cooperation. Besides improving their societies e.g. according EU chapters of the acquis they have developed their bilateral and regional cooperation.

Few examples of this:

  • In Novi Sad on October 10, 2019 trilateral meeting between president of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and prime ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and Edi Rama (PS) was held. Declaration of measures for establishment of „small Schengen“ was signed between the three countries. This declaration should help the entire Western Balkans region to start functioning in four key EU freedoms – freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and people.
  • Joint declaration foresees elimination of state border controls and other obstacles to simpler movement in the region until 2021, and also to enable citizens to travel in the region with personal ID card only as well as to find employments anywhere if they have the certificate of their qualifications.Declaration also foresees recognition of diplomas in the region as well as better cooperation in combatting organised crime and support in cases of natural disasters.
  • President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić invited all so-called members of the Balkans six to accept the document about “small Schengen”, regardless of their differences referring to the recognition of Kosovo.
  • The prime minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev said that the initiative for economic networking of the countries in the region should be joined by all six Western Balkans countries (Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo).
  • Also late October 2019 the president of Serbia Vučić held in Belgrade trilateral meeting Serbia-Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina and the joint basis for commencement of works on highway Belgrade – Sarajevo was laid, which is one of the important infrastructure projects.

 

Other players

Today still the EU is overwhelmingly dominant as an external partner, as on average 60% of exports from the six Western Balkan countries go to the EU.  However some other players are active in Western Balkans and this activity could be more attractive in future when enlargement process is blocked or at least frozen.  Few examples:

Turkey has been very active in Balkans during recent years; its trade with the Balkan countries increased to $17.7 billion in 2008 from about $3 billion in 2000. Turkey’s banks provided 85 percent of loans for building a highway through Serbia for Turkish transit of goods to the EU. In 2008, Turkish Airlines bought a 49 percent stake of Bosnia’s national carrier, BH Airlines, and other Turkish companies are keen to invest in shops, supermarket chains and hotels. In addition Serbian exporters have been selling their products in Turkey free of customs duties.

Serbia and Israel have signed an Agreement on bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Israeli investors have so far invested over $500 million in Serbia. The major Israeli investments in Serbia are construction of the Usce business centre and Airport City Belgrade business complex in New Belgrade. Some good background for cooperation is that Serbia was the second country in Europe to recognize Israel in 1948 and Israel refused to support the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, leading to admonishment from the United States. Ariel Sharon criticised NATO’s bombing as an act of “brutal interventionism”. Also Israel does not recognise Kosovo’s independence as a sovereign state.

Related to Russia, according NEWEUROPE , the TurkStream pipeline will surface on the shore of the European part of Turkey near Kıyıköy with gas delivery point at Lüleburgaz for the Turkish customers, and a border crossing between Turkey and Greece in İpsala serving as delivery point for the European customers. Gazprom said on 11 October that TurkStream gas pipeline is going to be brought into operation before the end of 2019. “Construction of the receiving terminal on the Black Sea coast near the Kiyikoy settlement is nearing completion. The landfall section in Russia and the Russkaya CS are ready for operation,” Gazprom said.

Also China has found an opportunity to use the Balkans as an entry point into the lucrative European market. The most notable is the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambitious project to build land and maritime networks that will link Asia with Africa and Europe. Chinese companies have also snapped up critical industries e.g. in Serbia such as a copper mine, a steelmaker and a thermal power plant, along with high-speed rail lines, roads and ports.

Last year 3.6 billion euros were invested in Serbia from abroad and that in 2019 there will be even more.In the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD report for 2018, it was noted that inflows in Serbia grew by 44 per cent to $4.1 billion and that Serbia became the second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment among transition economies.

 

My view

If the Balkans find that too many obstacles are strewn about the road to Brussels, they may well be tempted to set out on the shorter road to Istanbul” (Misha Glenny, Balkan political analyst)

The EU was made as peace project after the end of the World War II and it enabled to ensure permanent peace in Europe and long-term stability. In recent past, in the Western Balkans though, several wars were going on. If EU wants peace project to be continued, it needs to be implemented also in the Western Balkans countries. European leaders have often confirmed their support to the Western Balkans and its Euro Atlantic road, however the real actions are missing. One can estimate that with this inability EU will lose its credibility as partner at least in Western Balkans and the countries might find more attractive possibilities elsewhere e.g. from Russia, China and Turkey.

Many – still non-member – Balkan countries, Turkey and one disputed region (Kosovo) have some vision about EU association. While considering this in my opinion three aspects should be highlighted:

  • Why to join? Due the needs of people or due the needs of Brussels or elite?
  • When related to time-line? Association process is long and circumstances are changing, after EU/Eurozone crisis who know what kind of EU if any still exists, same time other regional and global power-centers are rising and options should be open.
  • Where? Now it is open question if country is joining in future to strict federation with martial law, to some sub-category of loose federation, confederation, open discussion forum or free trade zone only.
  • After this the forth question – how – is the easy one.

The best scenario from my point of view could be some kind of EU Lite version. A bit of similar ”privileged partnership” agreement than planned earlier with Turkey. EU Lite should be build simply to EU’s early basics as economical cooperation area including a customs union, the EU tariff band, competition etc linked to idea of the Common Market. EU Lite could also apply a structure of Confederation. Also some kind of fiscal confederation can be shaped. EU Lite could be described also as a political union and there could be some forum for national parliamentarians and party leaders. Federalist intentions, the EU puppet parliament and the most of EU bureaucracy should from my point of view put in litter basket together with high-flown statements and other nonsense.

More background and sources:

IFIMES/ Research – Western Balkans 2019: Does the EU push the Western Balkans countries to the Russian “hug”? 

Key EU documents of enlargement [2019]:


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila blog


Kosovars Desperately Try to Escape from their Captured OC State

October 6, 2019

US recognition of severed Kosovo province was a serious mistake, leading to an escalation of tensions, instead of calming down the situation in the Balkans … consensus boils down to the fact that nobody knows where Kosovo is” (John Bolton)

In my previous articles I have portrayed Kosovo as quasi-independent pseudo-state which has good change to become next “failed” or “captured” organized crime (OC) State. This individual biased view can be challenged in the forthcoming Kosovo’s early parliamentary election scheduled for 6 October 2019 as this might be the most important election since the country proclaimed its independence on 17 February 2008.

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has now prepared an analysis of the current political situation in Kosovo. The most relevant and interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis entitled “Kosovo 2019 early parliamentary election: the citizens want political changes” from this LINK: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9701

IFIMES believes that the forthcoming early parliamentary election will be the most uncertain parliamentary election since the Republic of Kosovo proclaimed independence. According IFIMES the main task of the new government will be to stop the negative trends in almost every segment of the Kosovo society. The incumbent coalition government (PDK-AAK-AKR-Nisma) has proven to be incapable of resolving the challenges that Kosovo is facing. After 19 years in power they are now characterised by crime, corruption and nepotism. Two billion euros of EU taxpayers’ money have disappeared or been inappropriately wasted in Kosovo… Kosovo urgently needs to carry out decriminalisation of politics.

 

The Kosovo Assembly

The Kosovo Assembly (parliament) has 120 members, of which 20 seats are reserved for representatives of minority communities as follows: 10 seats for the Serbian community, 3 for the Bosniak community, 2 for the Turkish community, 4 for the Roma (RAE – Romani, Ashkali and Egyptians) and 1 for the Gorans. There are 1,060 candidates competing for the 120 seats in the Assembly. 46,917 voters have been removed from the electoral roll, either because they are deceased or they have renounced Kosovo citizenship since the 2017 local election.

In the Kosovo Central Election Commission’s (CIK) electoral roll for the forthcoming early parliamentary election there are 1,937,869 voters in 38 municipalities with altogether 1,780,021 inhabitants. Kosovo citizens in the diaspora have the right to vote. So from electoral roll one can find out that there are more voters than inhabitants in the country. There will be 20 political parties, four coalitions and one independent candidate from the Bosniak community competing at the election.

The Kosovo election law is not promiting democracy either; it prevents the formation of coalitions after elections while it enables pre-election coalitions. For example the Constitutional Court of Kosovo stated that the formation of post-election coalitions was unconstitutional, while in Albania it is unconstitutional to form pre-election coalitions. In any developed – Western – democracy this practices are quite unique.

 

Election 2019

According analysis by IFIMES the main race at the upcoming parliamentary election in Kosovo will take place between the three main political rivals: Isa Mustafa’s Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), Albin Kurti’s “Vetëvendosje” Self-Determination Movement (LVV) and Kadri Veseli’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK). Besides those main three rivals, Ramush Haradinaj with his Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) is trying to enter the race as the fourth competitor.

The public opinion polls carried out in Kosovo have shown a strong downwards trend in PDK’s popularity and the party is now competing for the third place with AAK. Very small differences between LDK and LVV shown in pre-election surveys mean that the winner will be decided in the final part of the campaign. Especially the young generation has recognised refreshment in the political scene through political parties that have not yet participated in the government of Kosovo, such as LVV and its leader Albin Kurti. If LVV and LDK can get mayority in Kosovo Assembly it could be possible to form LVV/LDK coalition – theoritically, as the problem is that one part of LDK’s officials are in close connection with criminal structures in PDK and AAK and want to form coalition with them.

According analysis by IFIMES most undecided voters share the opinion that the incumbent coalition government (PDK-AAK-AKR-Nisma) should be punished for their unprincipled coalition and their connections with crime, corruption, nepotism, intimidation, threats, war crimes, liquidations and extortions. The incumbent government has left nothing but many empty promises and the damage to be paid by future generations of Kosovars.”

Analysts believe that the rule of law in Kosovo is not functioning and that there are no justice, no penalties and no efficient courts. Kosovo citizens live in fear as hostages to the political-criminal structures and (para)military and (para)intelligence units that are symbolised by Kadri Veseli (PDK).

 

The roots of crime in Kosovo

After Kosovo war – during my work there – the [Western] international community aimed to development of the state, promised to build strong institutions inner and regional stability and peace as outcome, thus contributing to stability and peace in the region. They totally failed which is not a surprize as nowhere in the world have political-criminal structures built strong institutions.

UN, EU and Western powers haven’t been successful in fighting corruption and organised crime as the with this fight they should first have to deal with crime and corruption among their own war-time Kosovo Albanian allies.

When the US State Department listed the Kosovo Liberation Army (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.

Western intelligence agencies warned that Hashim Thaci ran an organised crime network in the late 1990s, they knew the KLA were criminals running the drug, slave, and weapons rackets throughout Europe, they knew the KLA was supported by Osama bin Laden (with whom Thaci met personally in Tirana in 1998 to plan the jihad in Kosovo. Despite this Western political leaders backed his Kosovo Liberation Army and its members were transformed as “freedom fighters”.

The main source of organised crime are the former commanders of Kosovo Liberation Army (UÇK) and (para)intelligence services (ShIK) in cooperation with political structures. For example ShIK was not dissolved in 2008 as planned. Also former commanders raised during war huge amounts of money through various sources such as drug smuggling and these funds are still controlled by leading tribe- now political leaders of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK).

Kosovo ex-President and PM Hashim Thaçi (PDK) has tried nearly two decades whitewash these funds with help of one his brothers who has been de facto leading of Kosovo Insurance Bureau (BKS) and controlled the complete financial system through the Central Bank of Kosovo (BQK). After war Thaçi tribe was involved to many privatisation cases threats, intimidation and pressure as their tools. From perspective of State of Kosovo the privatisation has failed completely, being used as a tool for achieving personal profit. The political elites have divided their interest spheres between themselves and operate according to an informal agreement of not working against each other.

Many countries have seen through this whitewashing of crime-money and this has e.g. stopped international recognitions for the past five years. According WikiPedia as of 27 July 2019, the Republic of Kosovo has received 115 diplomatic recognitions as an independent state, of which 12 have since been withdrawn. As of 17 August 2019, 100 out of 193 (52%) United Nations (UN) member states, 23 out of 28 (82%) European Union (EU) member states, 25 out of 29 (86%) NATO member states, and 34 out of 57 (60%) Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states have recognized Kosovo.

Mafia Clans/KFOR sectors -map made by Laura Canali

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)  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.)

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

Bottom line

The recognition of Kosovo was premature and conditioned by great pressure from the former American administration”… “Today, we can see that two-thirds of the international community does not recognize Kosovo … this shows that we are talking about a grave mistake” (Gerhard Schröder)

After Kosovo War international community – UN, EU, etc – tried to re-build some kind of functional society, public services and state in Albanian part of Kosovo, and totally failed to achieve its idea ”standards before status”. In north Kosovo – where most Serbs live – international community also failed but seems that despite this failure the Serbian part has had more positive development. Related to situation in late 1999 – when Western powers helped to ”liberate and save” main parts of Kosovo from Serbs – its seems absurd that now Serbia has become the epicentre of activities in the region and the key factor of peace and stability.

In this early parliamentary election Kosovars desperately try to transform their crime State towards some kind of democracy – to liberate themselves from today’s captured State. I have my doubts about outcome but wish luck for try anyway.

 

 

More reading:

IFIMES research: Link (ENG): https://www.ifimes.org/en/9701 (Research – Kosovo 2019 early parliamentary election: the citizens want political changes)

Link (BSH) https://www.ifimes.org/ba/9700 (Analiza – Prevremeni parlamentarni izbori na Kosovu 2019: Građani žele političke promene)

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 report BND report 2005  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.

About possible solutions e.g. my articles Dividing Kosovo – a pragmatic solution to frozen conflict and Cantonisation – a middle course for separatist movements


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila blog


Securing Maritime Assets Demands a New Approach by Colonel (Ret.) Zohar Rozenberg

August 22, 2019
Below is a fascinating guest post by Colonel (Ret.) Zohar Rozenberg, former Head of IDF’s Cyber Department. 

At this moment, cyber-attacks threaten thousands of vulnerable cargo ships, which carry billions of dollars’ worth of goods. Due to the lack of maritime-specific cybersecurity solutions, vessels are highly susceptible to digitally-led hijackings or even ransomware. This threat can wreak havoc on global shipping– the backbone of modern economics. With Artificial Intelligence functionality, future solutions include autonomous safety mechanisms which recognize that they are the sole line of defense.

Unlike enterprises or fixed-location systems, maritime vessels face unique challenges due to rotating crews and remote positions. A lack of industry-wide cybersecurity practices has robbed the industry of hundreds of millions of dollars. Turning a blind eye to this danger is an open surrender to cyberattacks, leaving countless openings for opportunistic hackers to infiltrate ships’ software systems.  

Hijacked ships being held for ransom or run aground into a reef or dock, risks catastrophic damage to humans and natural habitats alike. Beyond that, the blow dealt with a company’s reputation may take years to recover from, resulting in a significant loss of revenue and consumer confidence. Notably, Maersk’s 2017 cyberattack had a rapid response, resulting in a minimal loss of only 300 million dollars.

In order to secure investments and ensure security, practical solutions must act on their own, without human intervention. 

Unique Challenges
Today’s market has no lack of quality cybersecurity software, but when it comes to the maritime industry and its unique set of challenges, most of the existing solutions do not fit. 

Legacy solutions lack viability. No cybersecurity software accounts for protecting a floating mini-city forced into radio silence. Cargo ships, cruise liners, and offshore rigs face greater cybersecurity challenges than the International Space Station. The difference is: astronauts spend two years preparing for a single mission, while deckhands have zero computer expertise.

Modern maritime vessels rely on unstable, low-bandwidth, and choppy communication. With such a massive area and so few people, there is no room for an IT expert. In reality, the inability to secure a vessel with maritime-focused cybersecurity solutions is of greater concern than a poorly screened crew.

These increasingly digitally-managed ships rely on outdated systems, some running Windows XP, without a means to properly encrypt information. If a compromised ship has been given new coordinates, the onboard system has no cloud to rely on and no IT department to ask. Tech support is simply unavailable at sea.  

Even if a ship’s captain were to determine that a security breach has occurred, they would have no way to address it. Without regulated protocols to secure all connected devices from ship to port, the frequency of cyber-attacks will continue to climb.

Solutions
Crews and cargo transport all kinds of smart devices– each a potential gateway for hackers. The first step to countering a cyberattack is acknowledging it. Any viable system which is expected to block an attack can not shut down and wait for instructions. The risk of irreversible damage is too great. 

Understanding the uniqueness of the challenge and the seriousness of the risk, we at Elron found only one solution which was able to fully meet the needs of securing maritime environments in front of cyber risks.
Comprised of ex-Naval Officers and Cyber Security experts, Naval Dome is the first multilayered cybersecurity solution for critical onboard systems. Offering remote secure access, OTA updates, and anomaly analysis, this application acts as an onboard IT team. It is the first of its kind to offer a hands-off solution. Addresses both internal and external threats, invaders can never reach the navigational or operational systems.Having ample experience to understand this industry’s distinct challenges, they have proven that securing sea bearing vessels can be practical and reliable. This is why Elron has Invested in this venture, helping them to implement their software on ships and platforms of some of today’s largest maritime corporations. We hope their product will bring a greater awareness of what is possible for practical cybersecurity technology. 

Conclusion
An immobile ship loses money and a compromised ship ruins reputation. With our global economy becoming increasingly accessible, we at Elron expect to see a rise in global shipping and cruising. A secure maritime industry is a secure global economy.

To make this a reality, the ecosystem must develop and implement maritime-specific solutions. Rapid and autonomous response cybersecurity solutions are the only option. Patchworking legacy solutions are ineffective and risk the whole ecosystem.

A product that can act quickly and self-correct is an essential piece of technology when it comes to a vessel’s security. Simply encouraging companies to implement a cybersecurity solution by 2021 is not enough. We are investing in securing the industry today.


About Zohar Rozenberg
Colonel (Ret.) Zohar Rozenberg is the VP of cyber Investments at Elron. He retired as a colonel after 20 years at IDF’s 8200 unit where he led and directed several innovative projects and organizations. He was also involved in the founding of the National Cyber Bureau and the formalization of the Israeli national cyber strategy. In 2008, he received Israel’s highest defense award. Col. Rozenberg holds a B.S in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A from Tel Aviv University

Palestine: Peace & Prosperity Plan

July 7, 2019

[An improved economic situation was] “a necessary precondition to resolving what was previously an unsolvable political situation,” (Jared Kushner)

 

Peace to Prosperity” can be seen as the first part of long waited ”Deal of the century”, an “out of the box” plan made by by the Trump administration. It was made for public in the Bahrain Conference late June 2019. The plan is billed as “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.” The political portion of the U.S. plan, is coming after Israeli elections in September 2019.

The United States has now released the economic portion of its proposed Mideast peace plan. The plan calls for a $50 billion mix of grants, loans and private investments over ten years to develop a future Palestinian state’s infrastructure, telecommunications, tourism and health care industries. Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, states that have absorbed Palestinian refugees for decades, would receive nearly half the funding.

The U.S. initiative planed by the Trump administration is pursuing the goal of changing the Palestinian experience from a society of miserable “refugees” into a prosperous society.

The plan itself is laid out in a 40-page document that can be downloaded e.g. from White House webpage. The plan is divided into three parts: unleashing economic potential, empowering the Palestinian people, and enhancing Palestinian governance. Each section is around 10 pages long, which makes them appear equal in importance. The three sections are divided into sub-sections, where a total of 50 different topics are covered, from educational access to property rights and roads and rail connections. In this, the plan appears exhaustive.

Below some highlights from “Peace to Prosperity” plan, The White House  as source:

 

Näyttökuva (109)

 

The economy

The first initiative will UNLEASH THE ECONOMIC POTENTIAL of the Palestinians By

  • developing property and contract rights,
  • the rule of law and anti-corruption measures,
  • capital markets,
  • a pro-growth tax structure and a low-tariff scheme with reduced trade barriers.

This initiative envisions policy reforms coupled with strategic infrastructure investments that will improve the business environment and stimulate private-sector growth. Hospitals, schools, homes, and businesses will secure reliable access to affordable electricity, clean water, and digital services.

Billions of dollars of new investment will flow into various sectors of the Palestinian economy; businesses will have access to capital; and the markets of the West Bank and Gaza will be connected with key trading partners, including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The resulting economic growth has the potential to end the current unemployment crisis and transform the West Bank and Gaza into a center of opportunity.

 

The people

The second initiative will EMPOWER THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE to realize their ambitions, Through

  • new data-driven, outcomes-based education options at home,
  • expanded online education platforms,
  • increased vocational and technical training, and
  • the prospect of international exchanges,

this initiative will enhance and expand a variety of programs that directly improve the well-being of the Palestinian people. It will strengthen the Palestinian educational system and ensure that students can fulfill their academic goals and be prepared for the workforce.

Equally important, access to quality healthcare will be dramatically improved, as Palestinian hospitals and clinics will be outfitted with the latest healthcare technology and equipment.

New opportunities for cultural and recreational activities will improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people. From parks and cultural institutions, to athletic facilities and libraries, this initiative’s projects will enrich public life throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

 

 

The government

The third initiative will ENHANCE PALESTINIAN GOVERNANCE, improving the public sector’s ability to serve its citizens and enable private-sector growth. This initiative will support the public sector in undertaking the improvements and reforms necessary to achieve long-term economic success.

A commitment to

  • upholding property rights,
  • improving the legal and regulatory framework for businesses,
  • adopting a growth-oriented, enforceable tax structure, and
  • developing robust capital markets

will increase exports and foreign direct investment.

A fair and independent judicial branch will ensure this pro-growth environment is protected and that civil society flourishes.

New systems and policies will help bolster government transparency and accountability.

International partners will work to eliminate the Palestinian public sector’s donor dependency and put the Palestinians on a trajectory to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability.

Institutions will be modernized and made more efficient to facilitate the most effective delivery of essential services for the citizens.

With the support of the Palestinian leadership, this initiative can usher in a new era of freedom and opportunity for the Palestinian people and institutionalize the policies required for successful economic transformation.

 

The outcome

The plan aims to double the GDP of the Palestinians, and create one million jobs in 10 years timefrsame. Now the Palestinian GDP is larger than that of Somalia and South Sudan but smaller than Afghanistan’s. GDP per capita is around $2,200 in Ramallah, while it is more than $35,000 in Israel and $4,000 in Jordan. From 2012 to 2016, the Palestinian Authority received a total of more than $4 billion in aid, making them some of the “top recipients of non-military per capita aid in the world.”

With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investment over ten years, Peace to Prosperity represents the most ambitious and comprehensive international effort for the Palestinian people to date. It has the ability to fundamentally transform the West Bank and Gaza and to open a new chapter in Palestinian history—one defined, not by adversity and loss, but by freedom and dignity.

 

My view

The Trump administration has now kicked off an economic portion of its long-awaited plan for Arab-Israeli peace. 

The White House website called the document “a new vision for the Palestinian people and broader Middle East.” However Kushner’s approach – economic development before political settlement – is not totally unique for solving Israel-Palestine conflict. The US vision essentially turns the “refugees” from liabilities into assets, thereby taking the refugee issue off the table. There is an example from year 1959 when UNSG Dag Hammarskjold presented his initiative (UN General Assembly document no. A/4121) absorpt the refugees into the economy of the Arab region financed by oil revenues and international funds up to $2 billion.

The Hammarskjold and Kushner plans had/have similar intentions but faced also with same critics. Putting economic cooperation with Israel ahead of political cooperation was deemed unacceptable, no matter what benefits might create to the Palestinian people. The main objection by Palestinian Authority is that the plan offers an economic vision but postpones the political issues at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The difference is that some members of Arab League now are behind new plan and critics is coming mostly from the current leadership of Palestinian Authority. This makes it easier for Trump/Kushner also to implement the deal.

Comprehensive peace proposals were presented to Palestinian leadership three times in the past – once by the United Nations (1947) and twice by Israel (2000, 2008). All three times, Palestinian leadership rejected broad peace deals, while Israel said yes. Palestinian rejection – anchored in refusal to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state – remains the primary obstacle to peace. As Israel made major concessions for peace with Egypt and Jordan , so probably Israel will do the same with Palestinians.

This time thee U.S. initiative has a wide regional support and probably it will gain support also among Palestinian population as it indeed gives “a vision to empower the Palestinian people to build a prosperous and vibrant Palestinian society.” So from my point of view the plan, also its political part, has good change to be implemented also without acceptance from current Palestinian leadership.

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. The outcome of the U.S. initiative may well be Two-States but the roadmap is new with regional and economy first approach and this in my opinion gives a better change for positive development and even solution this time.

The main sources for  this article have been: BESA, The White House and The Focus project.


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila website


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