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


Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

December 4, 2018

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

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

From escalation…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

…to relative calm

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

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

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

 

Israel’s Gaza Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

The Deal?

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

Hamas replacing Fatah?

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line

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

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

 


The Causes of Israel’s Zionist Left Decline?

July 29, 2018

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

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

Zionist Left

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

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

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

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

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

Spatial separation

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

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

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

israel-palestine conflict

No separation = One-State solution

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

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

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

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

New Leftist approach

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

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

One provocative view to issue

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

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

Spatial separation and constructive unilateralism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Spatial separation with Jordanian and Sinai options

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

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

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

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

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

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

mideast peace process alternatives

My conclusion

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

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

My related articles:

Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict

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

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


Palestinian Leadership After Abbas and Peace Process: Seven Views

May 11, 2018

Since 2005, when Mahmoud Abbas was elected to a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), he still remains in the position without having held any further elections. His departure cannot be predicted, but some scenarios for the new leadership and its effect to the peace process are already made.

BESABESA Center had an online debate (View PDF ) on May 6, 2018, where six analyst answered to the question, if a change in Palestinian Authority Leadership would affect the peace process. Here some highlights about their viewpoints:

Ido Zelkovitz, Head of the Middle Eastern Studies program at Yezreel Valley College and research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa:

The Fatah movement and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Movement) leadership are experiencing a deep internal and external crisis. In retrospect, Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has failed to lead the establishment of a vital and sovereign Palestinian independent state according to the 1967 borders.

Chairman Abbas, who is now in the final stretch of his term of office, has three goals: to leave a legacy, to put policy guidelines in place for the future, and to select his political heir. In order that the issue of succession will not generate internal warfare in Fatah, the leadership must create a mechanism that will help the movement stabilize inner rivals in its high commend. We can assume that Abbas will do everything he can to influence the choice of his successor.

A second important point: it seems that in the new, post-Abbas Fatah, the leadership is going to be more focused on Palestinian domestic affairs. After the election of Abbas’s successor, one can expect Fatah leaders to try to find an answer to Hamas’s challenge of historical birthright as leaders of the Palestinian national movement.

Hamas would like to see reforms and elections take place in PLO institutions that would allow it to integrate into the PLO and take it over from within. This would allow Hamas to replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy.

In the short term, a change in PA leadership will have only a small impact on its ability to move forward with the peace process. As long as the Palestinians are focused on their own domestic politics, the chances for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian channel are slim.

Hillel Frisch, Professor of Political Studies and Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University

At present, the issue of change is hypothetical. Abbas shows no sign of either abdicating or designating a successor and no gumption to take a leap forward on either the issue of Israel as the state of the Jewish people or the right of return. In the longer term, of course, an alliance between pragmatists such as Jibril Rajoub, the former head of preventive security in the West Bank; and Majid al-Faraj, the chief of general intelligence (provided they prevail over other candidates) could pave the way for a Jordanian-Palestinian federation, which is the only feasible option for the inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority.

Rajoub and Faraj share a common security background and have both cooperated with the Israeli security structure. They share a commitment to governance at the expense of ideology, as well as a mutual hostility to Hamas — particularly to Muhammad Dahlan and jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who would be their chief rivals for Abbas’s mantle.

The succession will entail conflict and instability. Consolidation will initially take priority over peacemaking. Instability might have its virtues, for the more unstable the situation, the more palatable a federation between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority will become.

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

 

Amir Tibon, Washington correspondent, Haaretz

Yes. The current leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has failed to create pressure on Israel to change the status quo. This failure is evident on a number of fronts. Abbas had an opportunity in 2014 to accept a fair and reasonable peace plan presented to him by President Barack Obama, which would have put pressure on Israeli PM Netanyahu to either accept it as well or take the blame for the failure of peace talks – at a time when Obama still had more than two years left in the White House and there was a Democratic majority in the US Senate. Instead of doing that, Abbas left Obama’s plan unanswered, saving Netanyahu from a perilous political moment.

On the other hand, Abbas has pushed back against attempts from within his own party to encourage significant civil unrest in the West Bank along the lines of global civil rights movements. By depressing such efforts, he has helped Israel avoid a major international headache. A new Palestinian leader who would be willing to openly accept a plan like the one proposed by Obama, and who would encourage the Palestinian people to take to the streets in support of such a plan and an end to the occupation, could challenge Israel – and perhaps even initiate a change in Israeli politics.

clinton parameters

Also Obama’s plan was based on sc Clinton parameters

Asaf Romirowsky, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and coauthor with Alex Joffe of Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief

In January, the 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas marked his 13th year as chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA), an achievement in the sense that the original term was four years and he has consistently derailed any further elections.

When a new leader is appointed or seizes power, will he have the ability and courage to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis? Abbas, like Arafat, understands the need to promote the notion of a Palestinian state as a way to show readiness for a farewell to arms. However, pragmatically speaking, Palestinian statehood would force the Palestinians to give up the Nakba narrative they have been carrying as a “badge of honor” for over 70 years. Consequently, world opinion would be forced to judge them as a state and not as an underdog. This, of course, has not been the chosen path.

Moreover, Palestinian self-determination has never seen the conflict as one between two national groups with legitimate claims and aspirations. Israel’s existence – indeed, Zionism itself, the very idea of Jewish nationalism – is regarded as wholly illegitimate. Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution was a means of appeasing the West, which desired all parties to live in peace according to democratic, national ideals. However, for Arafat in his day and now for Mahmoud Abbas, the two-state solution is an instrument with which to buy time until the Palestinians can finally overcome and defeat Israel.

The reality is that tactics like unilateral statehood through UDI and other antics have been used to internationalize the conflict and thereby avoid real talks with Israel. Further, they give Palestinian leaders a halo of “normalcy” that undermines every accepted model for peace, even according to UN standards. Unilateralism was never the modus operandi, but rather, mutually agreed-upon concessions by all parties as illustrated by UN Security Council Resolutions 242, and 338, the Oslo Accords, and the Roadmap for Peace.

The Palestinian legacy is rooted in their determination to reject statehood and accept a Jewish state. Talk is cheap. Land and lives are costly. If the Palestinians genuinely want to talk about statehood, any future leader will need to come to terms with accepting and recognizing Israel, get the Palestinians’ own territories under control, stop firing rockets at Israeli towns, and start creating a functioning civil society.

Gregg Roman, Director, Middle East Forum

Most of the decisions made by the Palestinian Authority are designed to either keep the current leadership in power or to spite Israel. Leaders are judged on how they stand up to the Jewish state, not on how well they govern.

The leadership organs and governing structure of the Palestinian Authority (in its current form) are based on a Fatah-centric amalgamation of corrupt kleptocrats and their sycophants. Expecting the resignation, death, or removal of Mahmoud Abbas to change the way the PA operates is naïve.

Real change in the PA must come from the bottom up. The local authorities that control major Palestinian population centers must be either directly elected or appointed by the Israeli authorities. New leadership should be selected on merit and desire to improve Palestinian daily life; it should not be based on party preference (which would eliminate Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, or Fatah candidates). It should emanate from the Palestinian security forces, civil society, and major Palestinian clans and families.

Only Palestinian leaders who are committed to working with Israel to establish their own polity, society, economy, and culture – people who are not focused on rejecting Israel – should be allowed to rule. Setting up a Palestinian entity forged with the goal of developing their own independent governing institutions that build a Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza should be the preferred solution, not replacing one rejectionist with another.

 

Jonathan Rynhold, Director, Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, Bar-Ilan University

Mahmoud Abbas has lacked the courage to make the decisions required to move the peace process forward. Nonetheless, he remained firm in his commitment to non-violence and security co-operation with Israel, which is regarded positively within the Israeli security establishment. Of the candidates for the succession, Muhammad Dahlan would probably be the most inclined to enter negotiations under a regional umbrella, due to his ties to the UAE. This idea has been discussed intensely by Israel, Egypt, the US, and representatives from the Gulf. However, Dahlan lacks support in the West Bank.

Of the other candidates, Gen. Majid Faraj, head of the General Intelligence Services, is considered by the US as most likely to continue security cooperation with Israel and thereby maintain stability. However, once Abbas leaves the stage, the struggle for the leadership is likely to be vicious. In this competition, it is quite possible that some of the candidates will seek to brandish their nationalist credentials by encouraging violence against Israel. In any case, a moderate stance towards Israel is unlikely to be viewed as garnering a political advantage within the West Bank, so the likelihood of diplomatic progress is low, and security cooperation may come under pressure too.

My view

I agree that a change in PA leadership will have only a small impact on its ability to move forward with the peace process, especially if the new leader is anti-Hamas pragmatist like Majid al-Faraj or Jibril Rajoub who have both cooperated with the Israeli security structure – their selection would not change the way the PA operates.

On the other hand in my opinion there is big probability that Hamas will replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy.This view is based to their real support on the grassroots (e.g. in last elections) and their activity in struggle against Israel (like now ongoing ”Return March” campaign). Based on this view I think that Muhammad Dahlan and jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouthi could be the next, and best, post-Abbas leaders of the Palestinian Authority.

From my viewpoint a strong Palestinian leader is needed for progress of the peace process. I compare the similar situation in Israeli side. Ariel Sharon was a strong leader and no-one could claim that he had been earlier too soft with Palestinians. Anyway exactly due his background in 2005 he could implement the Israeli disengagement from Gaza – withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank; the plan and how it was carried out had been criticized heavily. So in my opinion a strong charismatic Palestinian leader is needed to get both governing structure of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian grassroots to accept a bitter compromise with Israel.


Appendix:

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Earlier Prof. Hillel Frisch published an article Israel’s Five Policy Options Regarding Judea and Samaria in BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 336, March 29, 2016 where he made five Israel’s post-Abbas policy options (can be found as PDF from here). The five approaches (none of them ideal) were following:

  • conflict management option,
  • creative friction,
  • constructive chaos,
  • unilateral withdrawal, and
  • unilateral annexation.

My resume of these options is represented below:

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas [Source: Prof. Hillel Frisch/BESA Center]
Unlike in an excellent article by Prof. Frisch I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually. Sure this option was promoted e.g by Isaac Herzog, ex-leader of the Zionist Union, but I understand that the proposal has support in addition to center-left also from center and center-right in Israeli’s political sphere. I would like to emphasize also one aspect namely separate truce with Gaza/Hamas and in best case implementation sc Sinai option which could solve refugee question with positive outcome to some of problems in West Bank too.

If peace negotiations don’t start, they fail again or regional solutions can’t be realized this time so from my viewpoint Israel could independently carry out what I have called a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, where Israel would annex main settlements from West-bank inside the security fence and return to negotiations about other than so solved border issue when both parties feel need to make a long term deal. This solution in my opinion is the best way forward and it even might be possible to implement. If unilateral solutions are made in the framework of constructive unilateralism so this approach might be the right roadmap towards more permanent two-state solution.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

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Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists

April 12, 2018

International aid money for Palestine is supposed to be rebuilding and developing the Palestinian territories. Some Western countries learned few years ago the shocking revelation that thousands of Palestinian terrorists, including men who have masterminded suicide bombings and murdered children, are given cash handouts from aid money. The European Union, US and other Western donors have been duped by assertions that the Palestinian Authority no longer funds terrorists – PA claims to have ended such links two years ago.

Indeed since 2014, the amount allocated to the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs has been removed from the PA budget (in an attempt to disguise the fact that it is the PA that finances the payments to imprisoned and released terrorists). In August 2014, the PA closed the PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and announced the ‎establishment of a new PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, which they claimed ‎would pay the salaries. ‎ Investigations discovered that the PA passes millions on to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – which in turn gives it to convicted terrorists locked up in Israeli prisons and their families. Now, the amount earmarked for the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs has once again been openly included in the PA budget.

Payments in the 2018 budget dealing with prisoners, released terrorists, and families of shahids (martyrs).

On March 4, 2018, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas approved the PA’s 2018 budget, in the sum of around NIS 18 billion (around USD 5 billion). The budget specifies the allocation of funds to government ministries and various bodies. The budget includes two items dealing with the allocation of funds to two institutions subordinate to the PLO that assist terrorists and their families.

The Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs is an institution headed by PA Minister Issa Karake. On May 29, 2014, this institution was made subordinate to the PLO, in order to mislead the donor countries (mainly the United States) and to create the impression that their aid funds are not being used for funding terrorism.

The Fund for Families of Martyrs and the Injured is a PLO institution that takes care of the families of shahids (i.e., terrorists who were killed) and the wounded. This institution receives its budget from the PA. It pays them monthly pensions and provides them with welfare, health, education and rehabilitation services. The fund cares for tens of thousands of families (in 2012 it cared for more than 30,000 families of shahids and injured Palestinians). It operates two central offices, one in Ramallah and the other in Gaza, along with 15 sub-branches throughout Judea and Samaria.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has now made an analysis about the 2018 budget of the Palestinain Authority. According this analysis,

the PA allocated around NIS 1.28 billion (around USD 360 million), approximately 7% of the budget, to two institutions that assist terrorists imprisoned in Israel, released terrorists, and families of shahids (martyrs). The institutions are the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs and the Fund for Families of Martyrs and the Injured, both of which are subordinate to the PLO. Since 2014, the amount allocated to the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs has been removed from the PA budget (in an attempt to disguise the fact that it is the PA that finances the payments to imprisoned and released terrorists). Now, the amount earmarked for the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs has once again been openly included in the PA budget.

 

Some developments (to stop funding of terrorism)

The PA’s 2018 budget: The total budget is NIS 18.089 billion (arrow left). 1st arrow right is an estimate of the amount of external aid and donations to the general budget (NIS 2.160 billion). 2nd arrow right is an estimate of the external grants for development purposes (NIS 630 million). In total, the PA expects to receive NIS 2.790 billion (around USD 790 million) in aid from donor countries in 2018. Hence the allocations for assistance to prisoners, released terrorists, and shahids represent nearly 46% of the foreign aid funds that the PA expects to receive.

The US Congress has already March 2018 passed the Taylor Force Act, which is designed to deny hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid that the Palestinian Authority (PA) uses to incite terrorism and to compensate murderous terrorists and their families. The Taylor Force Act would require the US Secretary of State to verify that the PA has ended its policy of paying off terrorists and their surviving family members. The bill also calls on the PA to publicly condemn terror attacks and to take steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. The legislation easily passed both chambers of Congress with strong bipartisan support, 256-167 in the House, and 65-32 in the Senate. The legislation was named after American war veteran Taylor Force, who was stabbed to death in a Palestinian terror attack that left 10 others wounded in Jaffa in March 2016. (Source: United with Israel )

Other developments earlier:

  • Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.” (US President Trump, 2016)
  • The British government’s Department for International Development in October froze 2016 part of its aid to the PA over concerns it was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists.
  • In September 2016, the German government for the first time admitted that the Palestinian Authority likely grants financial support to terrorists and their families, and vowed to further investigate the matter. It is not clear if Germany has since cut back on funding.

 

The Great Return March Campaign to change focus

After sc Arab Spring 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 ocassional quassam-fire fro Gaza are interesting issues only in Israel, the Western mainstream media has more newsworthy material elsewhere.

The latest innovation is the idea of a massive procession of 100,000 Gazans with the objective of storming the Israel security fence around Gaza to demonstrate the return of Gaza’s refugees to their original homes. Naturally these fence-stormers will not be the original refugees, there is on some tens of thousands of them worldwide and they are at least 69 years old.

The aim of this action is not immediately to kill Israelis but to get attention by getting killed themselves. According to the plan currently being formulated, there will be a series of ongoing events which will take place over the course of six weeks, between March 30 (Land Day) and May 15 (Nakba Day).

The organizers’ objective is to extend the scope of the events beyond the Gaza Strip and to promote marches not only in Gaza Strip but in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. According to the organizers, they are currently coordinating with Palestinians abroad and with Israeli Arabs. The campaign has good financing as Hamas spent $15 million behind the scenes to fund and organize the march to Gaza’s border with Israel. In addition Hamas has applied the same practice than PA to pay compensations to Gazans wounded or killed during demonstrations – payments are $500 about serious wound and $3000 about death during clashes with IDF.

Sources and more background about PA salaries to terrorists and their familes in Palestinian Media Watch , about PA 2018 budget in The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center  and about Return March campaign in my article “The Great Return March” Campaign Starts 30th March 2018


Appendix: Preparing for martyrdom

Rewarding terrorism and brainwashing starts already in kindergartens via hate education:

 

 


Peacemaking – a Holistic Approach

August 22, 2017

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

Today most wars are intrastate ethnic conflicts. However it is important is to put single conflicts in wider context such as game between great powers, struggle over global energy resources and their supply routes, economic profits of military-industrial-complex etc. From my point of view current peacemaking, peace-building or crisis management structures are not designed to cope with this type of conflict so a deeper holistic approach is needed to make more sustainable solutions.

The British think-tank BICOM, has released its new report on Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding projects in Israel and the West Bank. The report finds that grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace building projects work and are a vital missing ingredient in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The report is the first of its kind to attempt a comprehensive review of peacebuilding projects in this area, looking at over 20 years of evaluation data, and based on extensive field work.  [my review about report in article A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding: The report By BICOM ]

Below I try present brief wider context about peacebuilding and – inspired by report mentioned -conclude the key components of a holistic approach of peacemaking.

The context

I think it is important define also peace mediation and different aspects of that. In my opinion the conflict resolution by most peacemakers is an ad hock fire department activity, important but secondary question. The primary issue from my viewpoint is prevention of problems and their causes, or at least awareness of them. So peace mediation is one part of handling conflicts, it should be applied also before armed conflicts, also post-conflict crisis management in short term and seeking sustainable solutions in long term should be integral part of peace mediation and its training activities.

In my article in Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?   I described four traditional ways in which conflicts between two parties are handled:

  1. A wins, B loses;
  2. B wins, A loses;
  3. the solution is postponed because neither A nor B feels ready to end the conflict;
  4. a confused compromise is reached, which neither A nor B are happy with.

These traditional methods have at least following shortages:

  • Basically peace deals are made between elite’s and their (game) interests where participants are calculating are the wins due the peace bigger than the wins due the war.
  • Many times the process is coercive based to will of outsiders not necessary local needs.
  • In my opinion the traditional process will produce temporary – tactical – solutions and the outcome is frozen conflict. The best examples of these are maybe Bosnia after Dayton and Kosovo after Ahtisaari’s pseudo talks.

As alternatives for these traditional methods I have found three better approach [sure there is more but these three are good examples]:

Galtung himself has employed the “TRANSCEND” Method while serving as a negotiator in a number of international conflicts. He tries to break with four unsatisfactory ways – mentioned earlier – of handling a conflict by finding a “fifth way,” where both A and B feel that they win. He views his role as that of helping the parties clarify their objectives, and working to come up with solutions that meet the objectives of all parties. He presents them with concrete proposals that are intended to give both sides the sense that they are winners. TRANSCEND’s “conflict transformation” approach relies on nonviolence, creativity, and empathy to facilitate an outcome where both parties move beyond their stated positions to create a new reality in their relationship. [more in Johan Galtung’s Conflict Transformation Theory]

I think that “Transcend” approach hits the core question in peace-building process. First it is based to wide participation and even commitment of local stakeholders through dialogue, second it goes to the roots of conflicts and third it is future-oriented.  

Peacemaking – a holistic approach

“…long-term grassroots peacebuilding between the contending parties is always essential to achieving peace.” ((Jonathan Powell, the chief British negotiator during the Northern Ireland Peace Process )

In my opinion peacemaking is only secondary action by managing conflicts – a deeper holistic approach is needed to make more sustainable solutions. The main components from my viewpoint opinion are the following:

  • An approach of active or creative peace-building should be applied to achieve long term solutions
  • Dialogue between local stakeholders is the key component in peace-building process as if the parties are willing to discuss the conflict and work toward reaching a holistic resolution the outcome may be sustainable.
  • Dialogue should be applied through high, middle-range and grassroots levels horizontally across the lines of division in a society. There should also be no gap of interdependence of coordinated relationships up and down the levels of leadership in a society – the vertical capacity means developing relationships between higher and grassroots levels of leadership.
  • To understand the true nature of security issues in each particular context it is necessary to apply also a non-western theoretical framework as the non-western social, political and cultural reality demands maybe different approach – or viewpoint – than normal western practice.
  • Creating an environment of lasting peace is the primary goal of peace-building. The main tool can be different creative therapies being used to create peace, within individuals, groups, and societies. Although used primarily to overcome violence, creative peace-building can also be used as a preventative measure to make the foundations of peace stronger, especially when used with children.
  • The value of civilians in post-conflict stabilization has become increasingly clear and should be appreciated at the expense of military alternatives. Dialogue-based interventions will enhance the motivation and capacity of participants to become “agents of change” in their communities so encouraging long-term engagement in peacebuilding.

 


My related articles:

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

R2P vs Facades of Interventions,

Multifaceted Intervention Practices ,

Is Peace more than absence of the War? ,

Could EU lead the 3rd Way out from Confrontation? ,

Quality Peace?


Appendix: Some of my related infographs:

mideast peace process alternatives

 

quality peace by Ari Rusila

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

Solving Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Ari Rusila - https://arirusila.wordpress.com

Solving Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Ari Rusila – https://arirusila.wordpress.com


A future for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding: The report By BICOM

August 14, 2017

“This invaluable report suggests a practical course of action for governments and civil society. While every conflict has different causes and solutions, we know from Northern Ireland that long-term grassroots peacebuilding between the contending parties is always essential to achieving peace.” (Jonathan Powell, the chief British negotiator during the Northern Ireland Peace Process )

 

The British think-tank BICOM, has released its new report on Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding projects in Israel and the West Bank.

The report, titled A future of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, has been written by Ned Lazarus, visiting Professor at George Washington University. It also has a preface by Jonathan Powell, the chief British negotiator during the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The report is the first of its kind to attempt a comprehensive review of peacebuilding projects in this area, looking at over 20 years of evaluation data, and based on extensive field work. The report’s author, Ned Lazarus, has called for successful models of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding “to be scaled up and to receive significant long-term investment” if conditions conducive to peace are to be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.

The report finds that grassroots Israeli-Palestinian peace building projects work and are a vital missing ingredient in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It was written by Ned Lazarus, a Professor at George Washington University and expert on peacebuilding in Israel and the West Bank.

 

The report refers polling by the Israeli Democracy Institute and Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research last summer which concluded that:

  • While 59 per cent of Israelis and 51 per cent of Palestinians still support a two-state solution, these already slim majorities are fragile and threatened by growing fear and distrust between the two peoples.
  • Eighty-nine per cent of Palestinians believe Israeli Jews are untrustworthy; a feeling reciprocated by 68 per cent of the latter. At the same time, 65 per cent of Israeli Jews fear Palestinians and 45 per cent of Palestinians fear Israeli Jews.

Peacebuilding remains controversial and far from achieving its potential reach in both societies. Sure there is at least 164 organisations currently engaged in peace, conflict resolution, or cross-conflict civil and human rights work in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as at least nine degree-granting academic programmes in Conflict Resolution, multiple research centres and a host of less formal, local initiatives. The spectrum ranges from globally connected organisations annually raising several million dollars and implementing dozens of projects, to informal collectives of a handful of activists. However 164 active organisations are but a fraction of more than 20,000 active registered NGOs in Israeli civil society; the proportion is smaller yet in Palestinian civil society, in which any cooperation with Israeli civic initiatives is inevitably branded as “normalisation of the occupation”.

Initiatives most commonly employ classic approaches such as advocacy, dialogue, education, protest and “Track Two” diplomacy – yet growing numbers of projects integrate peacebuilding into practical fields such as economic development, environmental protection, health/medicine and technology, among others.

The report finds that in recent years a number of veteran organisations have closed doors, downscaled or reset strategy, even as new initiatives like Women Wage Peace have risen to prominence. Alongside at least 164 active organisations, the present research finds at least 77 initiatives that have either ceased to exist or whose status is unclear at present, some closing after a decade or more of activity.

Veteran organisations have adapted strategies in response to the volatile context, and a number have evolved into multidimensional peacebuilding “platforms” using diverse methods to address multiple issues. Youth are the most common target population, but growing numbers of projects focus on women and religiously or politically conservative constituencies not typically identified with the “peace camp.”

It is beyond doubt that two decades of failed negotiations and violent escalations have damaged the electoral prospects of the Israeli Left, often referred to as the “peace camp.

Research identifies a number of “best practices” for programme design cited as enhancing the depth and sustainability of positive outcomes, including the combination of uni-national and bi-national dialogue, opportunities to build cross-conflict relationships, a “mixed” approach combining trust-building, interpersonal interaction with explicit focus on conflict content and/or social change in discussions, and substantial follow-up activity after completion of the initial encounter programme.

Examples

The report gives some examples about successful models for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding:

A pair of programmes designed to integrate Arab teachers in Israeli Jewish schools, led by The Abraham Fund Initiatives and the Merchavim organisation, have documented consistent positive effects in terms of prejudice reduction among students. Both programmes have been officially adopted by Israel’s Ministry of Education as part of plans to reach hundreds of schools across the country (Schneider, 2016).

A growing number of practical interventions are designed to tangibly address areas of shared interest or common problems – especially in the “cross-border” realm involving Israeli Jews and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Near East Foundation (NEF) Olive Oil Without Borders project has worked with 3,400 Palestinian and Israeli olive producers since 2013, facilitating the export of 4500 tonnes of olive oil from the West Bank to Israel and producing 25 million dollars in income for Palestinian farmers. The project has also documented positive results in terms of attitudinal change: 90 per cent of participants reported increased trust in “the other” and 77 per cent indicated intention to continue cross-border cooperation.

Summative evaluation of the “History through the Human Eye” dialogue project, led by the Parents Circle Families Forum, found 80 per cent reported greater willingness to work for peace; 77 per cent reported increased belief in the possibility of reconciliation; 71 per cent improved trust and empathy for the other; and 68 per cent increased levels of acknowledgment and knowledge about the other narrative.

Racism and violence – particularly hate crimes targeting Palestinians and Israeli peace activists – have generated many examples of countermobilisation, for example Israeli and international activists now organise annually to join Palestinian farmers for the West Bank olive harvest, to oppose violent harassment by militant “hilltop youth” settlers.

EcoPeace – a trilateral Israeli/Palestinian/ Jordanian environmental NGO – led the Israeli government to show unprecedented flexibility in water diplomacy, by more than doubling Israel’s water supply to Palestinians in the territories (Edelstein, 2016). In recent years, EcoPeace has played a leading role in reshaping transboundary water policy, advancing wastewater treatment infrastructure in the West Bank, and focusing attention on the degradation of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. In 2013 EcoPeace convinced the Israeli government to release fresh water from the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan for the first time in 50 years (Lidman, 2015). More controversially, EcoPeace has campaigned for water to be resolved independently from final status negotiations, advocating for an increase in Israel’s allocation of water to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The latter, according to a 2016 UN report, may be “uninhabitable” by 2020 due to the lack of clean water, among other conditions.

Challenges/analysis

The report gives an analysis of the situation of today’s peacebuilding and here some highlights:

Peacebuilding efforts are inherently complicated by stark asymmetries of power and cultural differences between Israelis and Palestinians and between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and peace advocates struggle with chronic legitimacy deficits in both societies. While positive results for peacebuilding interventions are frequently documented at the individual and local/communal levels, the hostile socio-political context limits the broader impact of most, though not all, interventions to those individuals, institutions or communities directly involved.

Successful models for Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding have been established through a generation of work, under extremely challenging conditions. To achieve broader, longer-term societal impact, it will be necessary to bring such efforts to scale – to significantly expand the scope of programming and make targeted efforts to reach more diverse participant populations. Given the political climate in the region, scaling effective models to achieve broader societal impact will require sustained international funding.

It is beyond doubt that two decades of failed negotiations and violent escalations have damaged the electoral prospects of the Israeli Left, often referred to as the “peace camp. Episodes of racism in Israel have motivated moderate religious and centre-right figures, not associated with the “peace camp” demographic, to become outspoken advocates of dialogue, humanisation of the other and liberal democracy. On the secular Right, a host of former Likud stalwarts have publicly denounced the tide of racism in their party. Israel’s President Reuven (“Ruvi”) Rivlin is most prominent among these territorial maximalists who champion civic equality, the rule of law, and respectful dialogue between Israel’s “tribes” – a thoroughly liberal-democratic, multi-cultural paradigm (Hecht, 2016). Rivlin’s outspoken advocacy, including his public visits to Arab victims of attacks and his social media condemnations of racism, have turned him into a target of the trolls – yet he is apparently undaunted.

Asymmetry is a genuine and profound challenge, inherent to any cross-conflict endeavour – joint peacebuilding initiatives cannot miraculously “transcend” the social contexts in which they are embedded.

 

Conclusions & recommendations 

  • To mobilize the “silent majority” in Israel, peace must not be the trademark of a demographically identifiable “peace camp,” but a crosscutting agenda championed by a coalition of “peace camps,” rooted in multiple constituencies.
  • There is growing recognition among veteran leaders in the Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding community, exemplified by the Peace NGOs Forum, that building broader societal legitimacy is an urgent strategic priority . Effective models of peacebuilding exist – yet they have not been implemented in any significant scope in much of society.
  • Within Israeli society, advocacy campaigns should effectively address the security risks of withdrawing from the West Bank . Peacebuilding advocates must answer the genuine and legitimate security concerns triggered by the Lebanon and Gaza precedents, in which territories became strongholds of Hezbollah and Hamas, leading to increased insecurity and multiple wars.
  • In both societies, but particularly in Palestinian society, advocates should emphasise the growing body of peacebuilding work that is producing concrete practical benefits on issues of shared interest or common concern – economic development, environment, health, medicine, technology – including advocacy for practical policy changes. These modes of peacebuilding are a complement to (and do not come at the expense of) the crucial work of dialogue, education, and advocacy for human rights.
  • As recommendations the report proposes using the research record, share successful strategies and best practices. Civil society and governmental forums relevant to the field, should study the existing empirical research record and disseminate key findings regarding successful strategies, best practices and approaches to the inherent dilemmas of “intergroup encounters” and joint ArabJewish or Israeli-Palestinian initiatives.

For further development the report proposes that policy makers should learn the lessons from the Northern Ireland peace process. Well-funded peace building projects that brought the two communities together were in place 12 years before the Good Friday Agreement and helped make it possible; and what’s the best of it all – the peace continues today. They remain in place today, to protect the agreement and show that long-term investment in peace building can bring lasting change to intergroup relations in a conflict environment. The International Fund for Ireland (IFI) invested more than 900 million Euros in more than 6,000 civil society peacebuilding programmes in Northern Ireland over 32 years.

The full paper is available as a PDF below:

Download PDF


Appendix:

 


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