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


Easier access to data for building ML/AI solutions can become the turning point of cybersecurity

July 3, 2019

Col. Ret. Zohar Rozenberg, VP Cyber Investments at Elron, spoke in the 3rd International Symposium on Cyber Security Cryptology and Machine learning, about the opportunities and challenges associated with ML/AI based cyber security solutions.

Guest post by Adir Alon adir@davidmalits.com

Easier access to data for building ML/AI solutions can become the turning point of cybersecurity,” says former Head of IDF’s Cyber Department

Zohar Rozenberg

Col Zohar Rozenberg of Elron, an Israeli VC company, spoke at the International Symposium in Israel about how data for ML/AI can be a huge advantage when building a suitable defense against cyber-attacks. He said that even though this route “sounds very promising…, (and) can be the real next phase of cybersecurity; the question becomes how real it can get?”


According to Col Rozenberg, “the world needs ML/AI based solutions that are wider than just scanning files”. This is because the amount of data as well as the attack surface in organizations are “infinite”, and “deterministic and rule-based solutions” are insufficient. Additionally, there simply aren’t enough skilled cybersecurity personnel to go around. Therefore, “we need machines to replace many more tasks and to perform tasks humans are either poor at or can’t even perform”.


Moving on to what the challenges are, he said that the first problem is “getting quality data”. “Many ML applications need users data to train on. With GDPR and other privacy regulations, that is not an easy task”. The problem is that companies developing cybersecurity solutions don’t have access to the data they need; and “those who have the data can’t give it to you”.


In another point, he painted the following scenario: “assume a vendor did everything right and managed to reach a point where he has a good solution, working with good results, and even finds a customer to buy and install it”. According to him, progress like this is also fraught with challenges. “In a world with accelerated technological change and thrive for digitization, how fast does the data change in a way that can put the ML out of calibration?”.


In closing, he admitted that even though data and ML can turn the tables on the attack/defense dynamic, “there might still  be areas where the attackers’ ML will have an advantage” like in situations where “an attacker deploys an ML attack engine to learn the DDOS defense system’s logic and then learn how to bypass it.”. According to Col Rozenberg, “As an industry, together with academia, we need to work much more on how to get the right data, how to make the training process more and more efficient, cheaper, easier”.


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.


Israel´s Eastern Border?

June 23, 2019

Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” (US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman)

israel-palestine conflict

No separation = One-State solution

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

From my viewpoint in Israel’s political sphere there is two main lines to approach this dilemma: Right-wing plans for annexation and left-wing plans for separation. In addition there is the maximalist alternative plans from the Right – annex all of the territories Israel gained during the Six Day War – and also the maximalist plans of the Left: a complete withdrawal from all the territories. Few Israelis, nor I, advocate such a policy, so over the years there have been numerous variations on this theme.

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

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

Right-wing plans: Annexation

During last years especially right-wing circles have promote partial annexation schemes – in the territorial, functional, and personal realms – within Area C. These alternatives include confining the annexation to settlement blocs, extending sovereignty to the territory of Israeli settlements, or applying Israeli legislation to Israeli residents of the West Bank. At least 60 pieces of legislation were drafted by right-wing members of the Knesset during the last parliament to move Israel from a state of de facto to de jure annexation, according to a database by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group. eight have passed into law.

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

On the far Right of the spectrum there is e.g. a plan articulated by former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin , who advocates a plan for Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria while the Arab population would either emigrate voluntarily with the aid of a “generous emigration grant” or receive permanent residency – similar to Green Card status in the US – but be unable to vote.

Left-wing plans: Separation

Fence is not a political border, it is not a security border, but rather another means to assist in the war on terror.”(Israeli PM Ariel Sharon)

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

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

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

 

A key factor in determining the West Bank sc Separation Barrier’s (security fence)route was the location of settlements, thereby laying the groundwork for the de facto annexation of 81 settlements (including the 11 neighborhoods built in East Jerusalem). As of September 2017 some 460 kilometers (about 65% of the planned barrier) had been completed. Another 53 kilometers (about 7.5%) were under construction, and construction had yet to begin on some 200 kilometers. 

The security fence/separation barrier is the largest infrastructure project in Israel’s history. Each kilometer of fence costs approximately $2 million.

Domino Effect: The worst scenario by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS)

Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) is a non-partisan movement. Its members are retired generals and equivalents in Israel’s security services (the IDF, the Shin Bet, Mossad and Israel Police). In October 2018 the group published a study Ramifications of West Bank Annexation which describes the worst scenario following possible West Bank, or part of it, annexation:  The Domino Effect.

According study 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.

Until a new security fence is constructed along the new borderline around the annexed territories entry from the Military Administration areas into Israel will be easy. This carries the risk of a drastic rise in security threats. Also according CIS to create a physical barrier between the annexed area and the remainder of the West Bank will require the relocation of the existing Security Fence to a new line, over twice as long (1,787 km compared to approximately 766 km planned of the Security Fence).

A new analysis

Recently, in the midst of the last election campaign (April 2019), a group of retired senior security officials in the defense establishment was telling voters that the elections would spell the difference between separation and annexation. The Commanders for Israel’s Security movement appealed to PM Netanyahu with warning that annexation of parts of the West Bank would endanger the residents of Israel. “The application of Israeli law to all or part of Judea and Samaria – not in the framework of a political settlement – will lead to a chain reaction that will seriously harm the security of the state, its economy and its regional and international standing. We want to warn in advance that what will begin with the application of sovereignty over a limited area will inevitably deteriorate to the total annexation of Judea and Samaria, to the millions of Palestinian residents. The decision of the Knesset to pass the legislation of annexation, however partial, can only be interpreted by the Palestinian Authority and the countries of the region and the world as a slamming of a door to a future political settlement,” the officials wrote.

A new analysis The West Bank’s Area C: Israel’s Eastern Line of Defenseby Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen explores the strategic-military implications of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 lines. Its central thesis is that the creation of such a state, on the heels of the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank, will not only deprive Israel of defensible borders but will almost certainly lead to the advent of a terrorist entity like the one created in the Gaza Strip – at a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland.”

According Gershon Hacohen, Israeli proponents of the IDF’s withdrawal from the West Bank, including most retired IDF/security establishment senior officials, base their strategic-military argumentation on four axiomatic assumptions:

IDF/CIS: Territorial separation between Israelis and Palestinians, including massive evacuation of Jewish West Bank neighborhoods, will delineate borders, reduce friction, and create stability.

In his study Hacohen rejects this strategic-military reasoning altogether claiming that withdrawal from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will confront Israel with an unprecedented security threat:

Massive evacuation of West Bank Jewish neighborhoods will not ameliorate the conflict, as argued by proponents of the twostate solution. Quite the reverse, in fact. The removal of the well-integrated Jewish neighborhoods from the West Bank will force all counterterrorist activities to be launched from inside Israel into the Palestinian population centers, where they will be met with tough resistance, which – as taught by the Gaza experience – necessitates the employment of massive military force.

IDF/CIS: If the security situation becomes completely untenable, the Israeli government will not hesitate to decide to embark on any necessary military operation. Should stability deteriorate to the point of an unbearable threat, the IDF will be able to remove this security threat within days.

Hacohen opposes:

The claim that the IDF will be able to remove the threat of a fullfledged West Bank terrorist entity within days, along the lines of the astounding June 1967 victory, cannot be further removed from reality, even if Israel is not forced to fight on several fronts simultaneously. Suffice it to say that the operational difficulties faced by the Western armies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, especially in densely populated, built-up areas like Mosul and Aleppo, illustrate the callousness of ignoring the existential security-strategic threat attending total West Bank withdrawal and the establishment of a Palestinian state in this area.

IDF/CIS: Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and the end of the “occupation” will give any such military operation broad international backing.

Hacohen opposes:

Judging by the experience of the three Hamas-Israel wars (2008-9, 2012, and 2014), not only would the West Bank’s recapture not receive international legitimacy but Israel would face heavy international pressure to immediately withdraw its forces. The recapture of the West Bank would constitute the conquest of a sovereign state.

Democratic or Jewish state?

According Hacohen proponents of the two-state solution predicate their position on two parallel sets of arguments: political-ideological and strategic-military. On the first level, they claim that Israel’s continued control of the West Bank erodes its democratic nature, while solving this problem by annexing the territory and making its Palestinian residents Israeli citizens will spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

In my opinion this approach is totally correct as also 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.

Security?

In his study Hacohen rejects this strategic-military reasoning altogether claiming that withdrawal from the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and the establishment of a Palestinian state in these territories will confront Israel with an unprecedented security threat; his claim is based on following arguments:

Hezbollah’s operational doctrine – embraced by Hamas with necessary adaptations to the Gaza context, which will almost certainly be adopted in the West Bank after the Israeli withdrawal – foreshadows a lethal security threat from a Palestinian state in the mountainous terrain overlooking Israel’s narrow coastal plain, with its multiple strategic assets.

This security threat will increase considerably in the event of a parallel conflagration in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly Syria. The addition of a West Bank state to the equation is liable to place the IDF in a dire predicament – not only in terms of resource scarcity (manpower, ammunition, intelligence gathering capabilities, etc.) but also because of the operational-strategic constraints on its ability to launch a decisive offensive in the West Bank.

The demilitarization of the future Palestinian state – a precondition for its establishment in the perception of those favoring this option – is a pipedream, as evidenced by the resounding failure to demilitarize the Gaza Strip despite the PLO’s commitment to this step in a number of signed agreements.

The absence of an Israeli presence along the Jordan Valley will create a land continuum between the Palestinian state and the Arab world east of the Jordan River thus making it exceedingly difficult to prevent the arming of the (supposedly demilitarized) new state.

The main weakness, in my opinion, is that Hacohen’s study focuses exclusively on the strategic-military implications of the attempts at conflict resolution rather than their political-ideological dimensions.In the words of Maj. Gen. (res.) Amram Mitzna: “In the age of long-range missiles there is no importance for strategic depth. Agreements will provide us with greater security than strategic depth.”  I also agree with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt. Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz, who said (in Yediot Ahronot, Jan. 16, 2015) that “The IDF will be able to defend every line defined by the political leadership. It is worth noting that the greatest military victory (after the War of Independence) was won in 1967 from within the border that the current leadership describes as indefensible.”

Israel missile defence By Ari Rusila figure

New threads and defence?

Sure also Hacohen is right saying that circumstances now are different than -67, e.g. urbanisation of the fighting space means that military planners have to incorporate the needs of the civilian population into their operational planning while being fully attentive to humanitarian, political, legal, ethical, and media considerations, among others.

In my opinion IDF is well prepared both at technical level as well in its strategy for new circumstances, threads and challenges. In the words of Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot’s August 2015 doctrinal pamphlet The IDF’s Strategy: “The IDF’s main approach to achieving a decision is the creative approach, based on focused offensive elements that target the enemy’s weak points while exploiting relative advantages, notably momentum, pace of action and initiative, whose integration achieves shock and surprise.”

Israel military doctrine

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. 

The fact is that separation e.g. with security barrier seems to be effective : Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, following the erection of the fence. Israeli officials (including the head of the Shin Bet) have said that in the areas where the barrier was complete, the number of hostile infiltrations has decreased to almost zero as the barrier made it much harder to conduct attacks inside Israel.

Sure the security/separation barrier limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within Israeli territory to carry out suicide bombing attacks, but same time terrorist organizations are looking for other ways to attack. One should also note that attacks have decreased due to increased pursuing of Palestinian militants by the Israeli army and intelligence organizations.

Haaretz Poll, May 2019

In my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  have referred some of new leftist initiatives which in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future. I don’t see constructive unilateral steps as goal but more as strategy and process which will lead towards a comprehensive agreement.  It also might be that what’s left of the West Bank will become cantons or autonomy under Jordan’s administrative rule or (confederation).

My view

Partial (right-wing) annexation schemes may be a step away from separation and toward One-State reality – to a single binational state. Partial unilateral annexations might indeed lead to the termination of security coordination by the Palestinian Authority (PA) or its collapse. Israel would be forced to respond to the security and civil affairs vacuum created and the accompanying side-effects, including a potential wave of violence. In such a scenario, Israel will need to seize control of the entire West Bank.  In my opinion this scenario will either end Israel as Jewish state or democratic state.

In my opinion the best solution for Israel-Palestine conflict is the Three-State solution where Gaza will be annexed to Egypt (Sinai option) and most part (80-90%) of West Bank will be annexed to Jordan (Jordan option). This solution however does not have wider support in Jordan nor among international community. Instead the Two-State solution has wide regional and international support but the road map to achieve this outcome has been dead for decades. From my point of view the core challenges in Israel-Palestine conflict are:

  • how some long term solution could be achieved with a minimal evacuation of Jews from the West Bank,
  • how to make, from Israeli side, constructive unilateral actions without endangering cooperation with Palestinian Authority,
  • how to keep door open for viable Palestinian state in future

Implementing Two-State based to separation is not new idea in Israel’s political (centre)left.  Indeed Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed (at the July 2000 Camp David summit and the January 2001 Taba summit) to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the entire Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank, which would also control the Jordan Valley. Similarly sweeping concessions were also made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the November 2007 Annapolis conference.

I didn’t mention Gaza as in my opinion there is already realistic plans for viable Palestinian state or autonomy for Gaza including reconstruction and investment plans, extra land (Sinai Option), border posts and international port etc. First steps to implement these plans have been long-term ceasefire (hudna) between Israel and Hamas and there is already earmarked donations reserved to implement this plan in Arabic states, US, Israel and wider international community.

As preliminary part of coming Trump’s peace deal the same idea like for Gaza – from economic peace to political peace – is possible also in West Bank. In June/July 2019 will be held sc “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain and it is a pivotal opportunity… to share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement. Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries as well Israeli business men will attend to workshop; however, Palestinian officials have confirmed they will not be in attendance.

 

Related articles:

Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach

New Road Maps to the Two-State

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table

Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

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

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

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas [Source: Prof. Hillel Frisch/BESA Center]

 


UNHRC Report Demonizes Israel – Again

March 10, 2019

“A fact-finding group created by terms of reference that seek to direct its conclusions is essentially a waste of time. Its findings, at most, will reassure those whose minds are already made up.” (Prof. Thomas M. Franck)

The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory presented its findings on 28th February 2019. The report focuses on the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip, referred to as the “Great March of Return and the Breaking of the Siege”. The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” said the Chair of the Commission, Santiago Canton of Argentina. (Source: UN press release)

The Commission was mandated by the Human Rights Council in May 2018 to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in the context of the large-scale protests that began in Gaza on 30 March 2018. Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement that the UN Human Rights Council had “produced another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel … No one can deny Israel the right of self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks.”

The independent human rights group UN Watch has released its initial response to the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report accusing Israel of “crimes against humanity” against so-called “peaceful protesters” at the Gaza border. UN Watch engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the inquiry, and expressed disappointment that its detailed submissions of law and fact — including a lengthy submission (summarized in official UNHRC Written Statements here and here) — were almost entirely disregarded.

Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – A/HRC/40/74 (Release Date: 28 February 2019) English PDF | Word )

 

Background according COI

On 7 January 2018, Ahmed Abu Artema, a 34-year-old Palestinian poet and journalist, posted on Facebook the idea of a non-violent march at the separation fence, to draw attention to General Assembly resolution 194 and to the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. In the post, ending #GreatMarchofReturn, he wrote, “what if 200,000 demonstrators marched peacefully and broke through the fence east of Gaza and entered a few kilometres into the lands that are ours, holding the flags of Palestine and the keys to return, accompanied by international media, and then set up tents inside and established a city there.” (Page 6)

In 2011, Ahmed Abu Ratima (or Rteima aka Artema), whose family originally came from Ramle, conceived the idea of Palestinians going peacefully to the separation barrier in protest for their right to return to the homes from which they had been driven, or had fled. So the the idea of a nonviolent march toward the border was thought up as early as 2011 by Ahmed Abu Arteima a spokesperson for the “Great March of Return” before and during the implemented ”March Campaign”. The idea of mass “marches of return” was tried a number of times between 2011 and 2013, and were organized by Hamas activists in Britain and other anti-Israeli activists around the globe participating in the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

For example on 30th June 2012 In the northern Gaza Strip (Beit Hanoun, near the Erez crossing) several thousand Palestinians held a demonstration. Zaher Birawi, a Hamas activist in Britain, said that the activity had been quite successful but the organizers were “realistic.” He said they were aware that had it not been for “weak spots in several Arab-Muslim countries,” many more people could have participated. He consoled himself with the fact that it had been the first step towards the next time and that the marches had caused Israel to be on high alert, which had cost a great deal of money. He called on various people to exert pressure on their regimes and said that all the organizations of the march would meet in the near future to formulate a working plan for the future (al-Aqsa TV, March 31, 2012).

One of the activists involved in media preparations is Zaher Birawi, a Palestinian activist based in Britain who is affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood; Birawi, chairman of the International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza, provided on 5th September 2017 a stage for activity planned in the Gaza Strip on the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated al-Hiwar TV channel, which broadcasts from London and where he is program director.

Asked whether ships would sail to the Gaza Strip in the near future, he answered it had been decided in principle to continue to try to break the “siege” by sea. He said the Freedom flotilla coalition was examining a plan to send one or more ships during the summer of 2018. They were currently discussing details and how to ensure success. He said the flotillas’ main goal is propaganda aimed at keeping the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip and the “siege” as “live” topics in international public discourse. According to Birawi, the objectives of the flotillas are to defame Israel, and to increase the effect of the political and media campaigns accompanying the flotillas.

Context according COI

The “great march” entailed weekly demonstrations by Palestinians near the fence that since 1996 has separated Gaza and Israel (along the Green Line traced by the armistice agreements of 1949), demanding that the blockade imposed on Gaza be lifted and the return of Palestinian refugees…By 2015, the Israeli blockade and restrictions on entry and exit of goods and people had halved the GDP of Gaza and reduced it to a humanitarian case of profound aid-dependency… (Page4)

First one should mention that the takeover by Hamas in 2007 led not only Israel but Egypt as well to impose a land, air and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip. The purpose is to prevent arms, missiles and materials to build weaponry enter to Gaza. Egypt has destroyed over thousand smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Sinai during last years. (More e.g in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )

The real background might be, that Israeli-Palestinian conflict has stepped aside for other Mideast conflicts, such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iranian-Saudi and Shiite-Sunni proxy wars. To bring the Palestinian case back to the agenda and media headlines the new innovations are needed, the ongoing ”knifeintifada” in Judea and Samaria and occasional quassam-fire fro Gaza are interesting issues only in Israel, the Western mainstream media has more newsworthy material elsewhere.

An sure there has been political aims, like COI claims in their report, but those aims seem to be different than COI has in mind. The idea was motivated by Hamas’ strategic hardship, at the center of which is the economic deterioration of the Gaza Strip, for which Hamas cannot provide a solution. Other motivations are the stalled internal Palestinian reconciliation; Israel’s success in striking the tunnels entering Israeli territory (Hamas’ main asset for the “next round”); Hamas’ difficulties with Egypt (the Rafah crossing is still closed most of the time) and with other Arab countries.

Besides internal propaganda in Gaza the march was directed at Hamas’s rivals as well as Israel. Hamas wanted to send a message to the Palestinian Authority, which is learned from the Palestinian Papers was prepared to compromise on the demand that five million Palestinian refugees be given the opportunity to return to “their homes.” Palestinian negotiators know that Israel will never agree to allow millions of Palestinians who claim to be refugees to flood Israel. Hamas, however, insists the refugee issue is non-negotiable.

The report places all responsibility for the current impasse in peace negotiations on Israel. In fact, the Palestinians have rejected every peace plan ever offered to them since before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. Most recently, the Palestinians rejected former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace plan. Placing the blame for lack of peace exclusively on Israel rewards Palestinian rejectionism and Hamas terrorism, undermines Israel’s right to self-defense, and makes a negotiated two-state solution much more difficult to achieve.

A peaceful non-violent march?

In the commission’s view, the demonstrations were civilian in nature, had clearly stated political aims and, despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign. (Page 8)

Some activities, such as the launching of incendiary kites, cutting barbed wire or tyre burning, began to be organized by self-declared “units”, some of them through their own Facebook pages. The commission found no evidence to suggest that they were directed or coordinated by armed groups. (Page 14)

  • In February 17th 2018, four IDF soldiers were injured by an explosive device concealed in a Palestinian flag placed on the Gazan border fence during a Palestinian protest.
  • On 25 March, the IDF fired some ten Iron Dome missiles to intercept what the IDF sensors interpreted to be rockets, but which later turned out to be high-trajectory machine-gun fire during Hamas military exercises conducted in Gaza, which early reports said was directed towards Zikim.
  • In the week prior to 30 March, the IDF arrested a suspect who crossed into Israeli territory from northern Gaza; 2 Palestinians were seen near the now-defunct Karni crossing container port trying to set fire to army engineering equipment close to the border fence; a group of four Palestinians infiltrated Israel near Kissufim; and 3 Gazans, armed with grenades and knives, crossed the border and were captured some 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the border, near Tze’elim. (Source: Wikipedia )

 

Näytä kuva Twitterissä

 Israel Defense Forces:  This is what Hamas claims to be a peaceful protest

There is a lot of examples about incitement to terrorism and genocide by Hamas leaders, few quotes (Source: UN Watch):
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar shouts: “We will tear down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies.” (Al-Jazeera, April 6, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Palestine and Jerusalem belong to us…We will break the walls of the blockade, remove the occupation entity and return to all of Palestine.” (Times of Israel, April 9, 2018)
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh says: “Our people will outnumber the occupation and force it from our land.” (Chicago Tribune, April 20, 2018)
  • Hamas Gaza leader Yehya Sinwar rallies the crowd: “We would rather die as martyrs than die out of oppression and humiliation…We are ready to die, and tens of thousands will die with us.” (New York Times, May 9, 2018)
  • Hamas official Fathi Hamad calls on Muslims: “to kill ‘Zionist Jews’ wherever they find them.” (Times of Israel, July 26, 2018)

Other Hamas admissions showing border violence is part of ongoing armed conflict between Hamas and Israel, and is instigated and supported by Hamas (Source: UN Watch):

  • Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem admits that Hamas pays $200 to $3,000 to the families of Gazans killed or wounded in the rallies. Hamas website (quoted by MEMRI, April 5, 2018)
  • Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahhar admits to Al Jazeera that calling the border protests “peaceful resistance” is “deceiving the public.” (Al-Jazeera quoted by MEMRI, May 13, 2018 statement)
  • Hamas Politburo member Salah al-Bardawil admits in TV interview that 50 out of 62 people killed on May 14 were Hamas members, and more than 50% of those killed at border since March 1 were Hamas members. (Baladna TV quoted by MEMRI and Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 14, 2018)
  • Hamas press release admits that the marches are being conducted by “the organizations of jihad fighters,” and managed and supervised by “combat organizations,” concluding “This is jihad — victory or causing death in the way of Allah.” (Hamas press release published by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) 

(Source: UN Watch )

The Israel Air Force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning again Palestinians not to approach the Israeli border on May 15, 2018

Protected groups

The commission investigated also victims who are entitled to special protection under international law, such as journalists and persons with disabilities. One example happened on 6th April:

Yasser [Murataja], a journalist from Gaza City, was shot in the lower abdomen by Israeli forces at the Khan Younis site while he was filming the demonstrations for a documentary. (Page 24)

The report forgot to mention that filming was made e.g. by drone-camera and the drone was Israeli side above IDF soldiers who so came in danger as their locations were uncovered. In addition Murtaja had a double identity: in addition to being a media person, he was also an operative in Hamas’ security forces. .

Other example from 13th April:

Ahmed [Abu Hussein], a journalist from the Jabaliya refugee camp was shot by an Israeli sniper in the lower abdomen at the north Gaza site while he was taking photographs of the demonstrations… He died of his injuries 12 days later. (Page 24)

An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP member. That was manifested in several ways: the PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him; at his funeral red PFLP flags were carried; and the Ahmed Abu Hussein’s Facebook page posted notices glorifying the PFLP, its leaders and terrorist attacks (such as the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

Remark: Also this PFLP terrorist ( Ahmed Abu Hussein) got treatment in the Intensive Care unit in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel!

Also the report claims that

Israeli army leaflets dropped over Gaza to warn Palestinian demonstrators not to approach the border fence

The Israeli forces also unlawfully shot other demonstrators with disabilities, [such as] Shadi Kashef (23, hearing disability) and Tahrir Wahba (18, hearing disability) (Pages 25-26).

It is nearly impossible for sniper to know if some person – potential thread – has hearing disabilities. To prevent this kind of accidents IDF distributed leaflets to Gazans, in Arabic, to stay away from the security fence and not to jeopardize their lives.

Violations of international human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity?

The shooting by Israeli security forces of Palestinian demonstrators with high-velocity weaponry at close range resulted in killings and long-term, life-changing injuries, including paralysis and amputations. Although this was well known as early as April 2018, Israeli forces continued this practice throughout the period under review. Using such weaponry at short range, and justifying it by the need for accuracy at long range, indicates a disproportionate use of force. (Page 30)

The COI’s statistics for injuries and deaths of Gazans resulting from Israel’s use of live ammunition come from sources inside Gaza, mostly from the Hamas run health ministry, and are difficult to independently verify. In some cases, reports claimed protesters were killed by Israeli fire when actually they were killed by their own fire or explosives (see e.g.here).

The right to life includes the right to a life with dignity. As the occupying Power, Israel has obligations under international law to ensure the health and welfare of the Palestinian population. The commission found that the ongoing blockade of Gaza and its impact on the health-care system in Gaza, and the ensuing deprivation of essential goods and services necessary for a dignified life, including basic medical supplies, safe drinking water, electricity and sanitation, constitute violations of the fundamental rights to life and health, in particular of wounded demonstrators. (Page 31)

Few comments:

  • Israel didn’t block humanitarian aid to Gaza. In opposite ”peaceful demonstrators” attacked to Kerem border-crossing to prevent israeli and international aid cross the border to Gaza.
  • Also during the riots as always before many Gazans got treatment in Israeli hospitals.
  • Some medical supplies were used for other purposes, e.g. helium supposed to use in operational rooms in hospitals was used to fill ball-bombs.
  • Infrastructure in Gaza is in bad condition despite huge international aid as Hamas has used donations for benefit of ruling elite, materials supposed to build homes and public services have been used to build attack-tunnels against Israel, so blaming Israel or blockade is unfair.

However…

The commission found that, on 14 May, at least one gunman fired a weapon at the Israeli forces from within or near the demonstrations at a temporary demonstration site in North Gaza. Firing from the vicinity of a crowd of unarmed demonstrators endangers civilian lives and risks violating the principle of distinction under international humanitarian law. (Page 31-32)

Note words ”at least”.

Hamas terrorist who reached the border fence between Gaza and Israel caught on camera explaining how Hamas forces civilians to participate in violence against Israel.

Upotettu video

 

Bottom line

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza had a choice. They could have used their newly acquired freedom to build a strong economy in that coastal and fertile land, or they could have used that freedom to fight Israel. The fact that they chose the latter is not Israel’s responsibility, but it is not too late for Gaza’s Palestinians to choose a different path; e.g this: Hudna – The Hamas-Israel deal – on the Way.

As before, the UNHRC  once again has proven itself to be a body made up of a built-in anti-Israel majority, guided by hypocrisy and absurdity. Israel has not cooperated with COI as its task de facto was to impair Israel’s right to self-defense, and to demonize the Jewish state.

Removing all context from the events, and erroneously characterize them as “protests,” “peaceful,” and “civilian,” the report lacks any credibility; its proper use is to collect dust in archives among other similar UNHRC reports and high-flying, biased statements.

Israel and Hamas have been engaged in an international armed conflict and also the current events – violent or non-violent – are part of that armed conflict.  Indeed while describing “The Great Return March” as a media-campaign, I would like to transform the famous quote by von Clausewitz into form: Politics is the continuation of war by other means. 

Some of my previous related articles:

Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

Some Aspects About ”The Great Return March” Campaign

“The Great Return March” Campaign Starts 30th March 2018

Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened


Appendix:

NGO Monitor’s initial analysis: The major flaws of the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Gaza border violence

Gaslighting Gaza: Initial Analysis of UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza Riots
February 28, 2019

On February 28, 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the riots along the Israel-Gaza border, which began in March 2018, alleged that “Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law… and may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.” The COI created a “confidential file” of “which is recommended be given to the International Criminal Court (ICC)” and to be used by governments to “consider imposing individual sanctions, such as a travel ban or an assets freeze.”

Methodological Failures

  • In contrast to professional fact-finding standards, the COI clearly established pre-determined legal and factual conclusion and merely gathered “evidence” to fit its desired outcome.
  • In preparing its report, the COI relied heavily on Palestinian sources, including Hamas and terror-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Notably, the COI uncritically adopts the NGOs’ application of a domestic law enforcement paradigm – erasing the context of the armed conflict with Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups – to analyze cross-border violence.
  • The COI used anonymous and unverifiable “testimonies.” When asked during a press conference to provide details about how many of the 325 the interviews it conducted itself or how it selected the 325 individuals reportedly interviewed, the Chairperson of the COI was unable to answer the question and stated he would have to provide that information at a later date.
  • The information provided in the published summary is a near copy-paste from NGO submissions to the COI. For example, all names of Palestinian children killed were provided by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P), an NGO with ties to the Popular of Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group, i.e. one of the parties to the conflict in Gaza. (DCI-P’s submission was prepared in partnership with the CUNY School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Law Clinic.)
  • Reflecting the COI’s lack of expertise and muddled analysis, throughout the report, the COI mixes up the concepts of international human rights and humanitarian law and applicable rules and standards. For example, according to the Commission, the violence along the Israel-Gaza border was not a “military” or “combat” situation and therefore human rights law was the appropriate standard. Therefore, its conclusion that “human rights violations may also constitute “war crimes” is baseless, since war crimes can only where the laws of war are applicable.
  • The UN’s shoddy researching and reporting led them to write identical paragraphs about the same fatality, Mo’min Hams, on different pages of the “protected groups” section of the report.

Minimizing Palestinian Violence, Erasing Palestinian Terror

  • The COI largely erases the dimension of Palestinian violence along the Gaza border, as well as Hamas’ leading role in orchestrating the attacks. NGO Monitor’s two submissions to the COI provided significant detail regarding the presence of violence – including use of guns, Molotov cocktails, stones, burning tires, incendiary kites, etc. as well as the exploitation of children to perpetrate these acts – along the Gaza border. These and other evidence of violence are freely available from open sources. The COI ignored and minimized these armed attacks and reconstituted the riots as “peaceful protests.”
  • According to a statement made at a press conference, the COI deliberately focused on five main riot locations during the specific times of protests. This means that the COI ignored essential context including that the riots were used as diversions to attacks occurring elsewhere at the same time as well as military attacks, shootings and other violence that occurred at other times, particularly at night.
  • Although the COI acknowledges the involvement of terrorist organizations in planning the events along the border, it absurdly insists that “the armed wings of these parties were not represented on the [planning] committee.” In Gaza in particular, the distinction between “armed wings” of terror groups and other branches of these groups is meaningless.
  • The COI whitewashes statements made by Hamas officials that demonstrate Hamas’ role in organizing and directing the violence along the Gaza.  On May 17, 2018, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar stated that “when we talk about ‘peaceful resistance,’ we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support.”
  • On May 16, Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil claimed “I am giving you an official figure. 50 of the martyrs in the recent battle were from Hamas,” referring to clashes that took place on May 14.
  • According to analysis conducted by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, dozens of fatalities named by the COI were members of or were tied to terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).  Among these was 16 year-old Islamic Jihad member Ahmad al-Shaer, indicating the recruitment of children into terrorist organizations.

Baseless Conclusions

  • The COI claims that Israel “intentionally shot”  children, health workers, journalists, and those with disabilities, “knowing” that these people were “recognizable as such when they were shot.”
  • It is unclear how the COI could determine intent of or the information known to IDF soldiers at the time of a given incident.
  • One such disabled individual is identified as deaf. Obviously, an Israeli soldier, at a distance of 150m away, could not possibly know of this person’s condition.
  • In its press conference, COI members admitted that “maybe some of them weren’t visibly children.”

Illegitimacy of the COI

  • None of the COI members has any expertise in international humanitarian law or military operations. Unsurprisingly, then, the report ignores the applicable legal framework and instead lazily refers solely to human rights law, making the absurd claim that “the demonstrations were civilian in nature… and despite some acts of significant violence, did not constitute combat or a military campaign.”
  • The COI was marred by a lack of transparency and accountability. It was allocated the massive sum of $1.5 million to complete this report, yet has kept secret how this money was spent. The identities of the staffers and any consultants employed are not disclosed, making it impossible to independently verify their professional qualifications.
  • The COI was established by the notorious UN Human Rights Council. A body controlled by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and known for extreme anti-Israel bias. Therefore, it is not a true “inquiry,” but rather a rigged effort to recycle the claims of partisan NGOs and to grant them the legitimacy of the UN. This is another round to target Israel via such pseudo-investigations, including the notorious 2009 Goldstone report.

 

 


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila -blog


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