Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Revised Hybrid Model as Solution

May 10, 2017

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

“Hybrid” model

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

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

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

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

Download PDF

 

Constructive unilateralism updated

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

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

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

Source: Fathom

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

 

The settlement question can be solved be constructive unilateral steps

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

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

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

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

mideast peace process alternatives

Economic aspect

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

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

palestine facts

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

My conclusion

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

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

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

 

Related background papers:

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

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

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

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

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

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

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

innovated palestinian nation

 

 


Israel-Palestine Conflict: Regional Approach

March 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

 

Regional approach

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

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

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

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

Palestine-Jordan confederation, Three-state option

Jordanian Option sinks into oblivion

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reincarnation of Jordanian Option

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sinai Option

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

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

 

My conclusion

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

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

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

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Related article: Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


Towards The Israeli Great Jerusalem

March 4, 2017

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

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

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

The bill

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

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

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

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

The end of Two-State?

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

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

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

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

Spatial shaping

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

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

nayttokuva-28

Spatial shaping is being achieved by four, complementary components:

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

nayttokuva-27

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

My view

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

nimeton-115

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

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

Related articles:

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

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

UNESCO: The Temple Mount Is Sacred Only To Muslims

Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Will Obama Reset The Middle East Peace Process?

 

ISRPAL


Palestinian Terrorism against Israel, 2016

February 16, 2017

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

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

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

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The various types of attacks changed, as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Hamas vaalitunnelmissa ja Israelin pelotemuistutus

Hyökkäystunneleista matkailukohde

Israel: 9 kuukautta terroria – yli 200 terrori-iskua

Poikkeuksellinen terrorisolu pidätetty Israelissa

Ramadanin kunniaksi terrori-isku Tel Aviviin

Lasten vihakoulutus jatkuu Gazassa

Gaza’n tunnelisota jatkuu kaikilla rintamilla

Hamasin poliittinen siipi menettänyt asemiaan sotilaalliselle

Israel varautunut ydinterroriin

Tunnelisodankäynnin uusi aika: Israelin maanalainen ’Rautakupoli’

Gazalainen syytteeseen terrori-iskujen suunnittelusta Ukrainassa ja Israelissa

Palestiinalaispoliisi hyökkäsi IDF:n sotilaita vastaan

B’Tselem aktivisteja pidätetty

 

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

February 8, 2017

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

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

 

New level of West Bank construction

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

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

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

 

Israel as legal occupant of the West Bank

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

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

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

A trial which escaped the media’s awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

napoleon


Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila – site


Paris Peace Conference – From Nonsense Idea To Fruitless Outcome

January 26, 2017

“I must say that this conference is among the last spasms of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near.” (PM Benjamin Netanyahu)

French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

French FM Jean-Marc Ayrault at Paris Peace Conference, January 15, 2017 (Photo: Facebook)

The much-discussed Paris Middle East Conference ended Sunday 15th Jan. 2017 with a rather bland statement reaffirming support for a two-state solution, and a call to stop violence and “ongoing settlement activity.” From the very beginning the French initiative of the Paris Middle East Conference was ill-planned bad idea: it had wrong timing, wrong participants and its agenda and content – a working draft of the communique – was seriously biased. No wonder that the result was null and void. The best result of Paris peace conference might be its ending without outcome; it can be concluded that in Paris sundown actors speculated on worn-out idea and dead end roadmap without new visions nor real stakeholders.

While the Conference can be doomed as waste of time whereas the developments on the ground seemed to get boost in opposite directions.

Wrong timing and participants

The fact that France is home to one of the most important Muslim communities in Europe and the largest Jewish community could be seen as giving Paris the mandate to hold the summit. In addition Israeli-Palestinian violence came especially since the early 2000s and the second Intifada on French soil, commonly referred to as the “import of conflict.” The outbreak of anti-Semitic violence, rioting and other actions were particularly evident during the last war in Gaza in the summer of 2014; a synagogue was stormed and slogans such as “Screw you Jews, France isn’t yours” were chanted by the crowd at gatherings “in support of Gaza.” An “unprecedented anti-Semitic climate led many Jews of France to emigrate to Israel.

However France’s desire to establish itself as a central player in the peace process, and now “Paris Peace Conference”, experienced a failure already before it started due bad timing: to organize international summit conference, just days before the inauguration of the new US President and the swearing in of his new administration in Washington. With no representatives from the new US administration or from the two parties who are directly involved, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, the conference essentially offered no new platform on how to restart the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

Some 70 countries and international organizations, including the foreign ministers of more than 30 states, participated to “Paris Peace Conference . However British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson intentionally kept away from the Paris conference, but he gave the British representatives – some junior officials – clear instructions not to sign any statement of its conclusions, thus giving a clear indication of where the loyalty of the British government will lie in the future. Australia also refused to sign the final document. Canada and many other EU member states chose to send only second-ranking officials to the summit instead of their foreign ministers. Newly appointed UN Secretary-General António Guterres also chose not to attend.

An idle declaration…

A copy of a working draft of the communique published by Ha’aretz included a general expression of support for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution and broad ideas about how the participating states can contribute towards this, without either a specific definition of what the final resolution should look like or any clearly defined follow up action. A draft summary statement says the participating countries will not recognize unilateral changes to 1967 borders, including Jerusalem.

final_declaration_of_paris_conference_2017It remained to be seen if the final version will be more concrete and detailed – it wasn’t. In the conference conclusions, the participants (except for the UK and Australia) confirmed their support for a two state solution with a call to the two parties directly involved in the peace process to dismiss any government representatives who do not share this goal. But the text of the final conclusions was softened after pressure from the outgoing US administration; criticism of Israeli settlements was balanced by the inclusion of a statement of the need to stop (Palestinian) terrorism and incitement. The final communique also shied away from explicitly criticizing plans by Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, although diplomats said the wording was meant to send a “subliminal” message. While the declaration contains all the right elements, it emerges as a water downed document without any details or new ideas. It states the obvious when it calls on each side to refrain from unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on final status issues such as Jerusalem, borders, security, and refugees.

Full Text: Paris ‘Peace’ Summit Joint Declaration, January 15, 2017

…of no effect

Already the timing of the conference suggested that any measure adopted in Paris could remain a dead letter – and so happened as after Paris – Monday 16th Jan. 2017 – Britain, Balkan countries block EU from adopting Paris declaration. The fallout was reflected just one day after the Paris summit, as the 28 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for a pre-scheduled EU-Council meeting in Brussels without issuing a statement adopting either UN Security Council Resolution 2334 or the declaration that emerged from the Paris conference. The British Foreign Secretary decided to block the adoption of the Paris summit conclusions by the EU foreign ministers, hence causing further embarrassment for the EU during a week which was intended to demonstrate EU solidarity and unity for the peace process. The Jerusalem Post has learned that France was pressing inside the meeting for the EU to adopt the Paris declaration, but these efforts were rebuffed by Britain and some Balkan states keen on getting off on the “right foot” with US President-elect Donald Trump when he takes office.

maxresdefaultIn addition U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry eased Israeli suspicions Sunday in a phone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he provided assurance that the Paris peace conference would not lead to any kind of concrete outcome at the U.N. Security Council or elsewhere. Kerry promised Netanyahu that the United States would not assist in passing a resolution against Israel in next Security Council meeting, due to follow both the Paris conference and December’s passing of Resolution 2334 against the settlement enterprise.

Expectations were high on the Palestinian side that the Paris conference would outline the two-state solution and determine a time-plan for its implementation. There is nothing of this in the statement nor any follow-ups after that.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member, expressed on Wednesday (18th Jan. 2017) her gratitude and appreciation to the French government for its initiative to organize an international peace conference of foreign ministers and diplomats in Paris on January 15, and “for putting the Palestinian issue back on the global agenda.” “Nevertheless,” Ashrawi noted, “it is evident that Israel and its proxies managed to water down the Joint Declaration and weaken its effectiveness. The Declaration omitted any reference to the creation of the Palestinian state on 1967 borders and restricted that “to ending the occupation that began in 1967 which does not necessarily conflate with the boundaries of the state.” “Absent effective follow-up mechanisms with the responsibilities of arbitration, monitoring and evaluation, and concrete engagement, the outcome of the Conference becomes just another verbal exercise. “We regret the unfortunate stance of the British and Australian governments, as well as the UK going so far as to prevent the EU Foreign Affairs Council from adopting the Declaration. (Source:The Palestine Chronicle  ).

Way forward

Palestinian conflict from my point of view is not via outside bystanders ala Paris Peace Summit but with real actors who were not participating to this playacting – such as given in following picture:

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

MidEast peace play: Starring | Photo credit: BICOM

An analysis  BICOM Forecast: The Middle East in 2017  gives a wider context – it  is available as a PDF below:

 Download PDF

  Meanwhile elsewhere…

While diplomats were formulating their declaration the developments on the ground showed a huge gap between high-flown statements and reality on the grassroots. Here some highlights:

According WIN Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is proposing to incorporate a handful of towns located outside of Jerusalem into Israel’s capital, essentially annexing them to Israel in the process. “Today I will propose at the security cabinet that we pass the ‘Greater Jerusalem Law’ that includes extending Israeli sovereignty to the surrounding communities of greater Jerusalem,” continued Katz. “This is a necessary first diplomatic step in the era of President Trump.” Katz’s plan essentially goes farther than that of Education Minister and Jewish Home party Chairman Naftali Bennett to officially declare the town of Ma’ale Adumim as a part of Israel. The “Greater Jerusalem Law” would also incorporate Givat Ze’ev to the northwest of Jerusalem as well as Beitar Illit and the Etzion regional bloc of communities, which are directly southwest of Jerusalem, into Israel’s capital.

The Local Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem on Sunday approved the construction of 560 units in the eastern part of the city, beyond the Green Line, after US President Donald Trump formally took power. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat stated, “We went through eight difficult years of [former US President Barack] Obama’s pressure to freeze construction.” Also on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his security cabinet that Israel will expand construction in settlement blocs in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (Source: JPost)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday [24th Jan. 2017] announced their approval for construction of approximately 2,500 new housing units in Judea and Samaria. Most of the units are planned for the existing blocs of Israeli communities and are based mainly on prior decisions and commitments by previous governments. Liberman also authorized construction of an industrial area meant for Arabs near Tarkumiyah, in the Hebron area. It is designed to be one of the largest in the region and includes diversified industrial components. (Source: United with Israel)

Former US President Barack Obama, in his waning hours, quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which Congress had been blocking. A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said a written notification dated January 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office. (Source: United with Israel)

mailservice-2Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 15th Jan. 2017 signed an agreement to renew cooperation on joint water projects benefiting Israeli and Palestinian residents of the West Bank after a six year freeze in activities. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), and Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, signed an agreement to restart the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee (JWC). (Source: i24News )

After a friendly telephone discussion on 22nd Jan. 2017, US President Trump invited PM Netanyahu to come to Washington for a meeting next month, to discuss close cooperation in a number of areas, including Iran’s nuclear program and the renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians. “The President emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal”, according to a White House statement. (Source: GPO/Israel)

The Arrow Weapon System (AWS), the upper-most tier in the Israeli strategic capability, entered into a new era on 18th Jan 2017 in its defense from ballistic missiles threats.Earlier the AWS consisted of Arrow-2 interceptors, and has now added for the first time the Arrow-3 operational interceptor (made by Israel Aerospace Industries/MLM). The Arrow-3 interceptor capabilities enable longer range, higher altitude (exo-atmospheric) and more precise ballistic missile engagements. The combined interception capabilities of the Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 will significantly reduce the possibilities of ballistic missiles impacting the State of Israel. (Source: IsraelDefence )

After a decade of failures to implement reconciliation agreements between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a new deal took place in Moscow. According Al Jazeera – on 18th Jan. 2017 – the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time. Earlier, both Fatah and Hamas showed many signs that they were neither willing nor interested in having a genuine agreement that bridged the intra-Palestinian divide, as the current status quo is convenient for them especially with the absence of any forms of popular local accountability . Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Moscow, said the agreement in Russia signals the Palestinians “looking away” from the United States, which has been involved in the peace process for decades. “Historically, peace discussions have been dominated by the US. They are looking for a different approach, and Russia certainly offered a different approach,” she said. The Moscow declaration provided an opportunity for the Palestinian political leaders to shape a new reality, it remains to see if they really seize the opportunity this time round?

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Related article: Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East


Update: Mideast Peace Process

July 5, 2016

ISRPALMideast peace process, or more precisely negotiations to solve Israel-Palestine conflict, has been in deep freeze nearly two years. Officially the international community is repeating the need for talks to implement Two-State-Solution, however the main stakeholders –leaders of Israel and Palestinian Authority – have not even met despite that offices of PM Netanyahu and President Abbas are almost neighbors and despite that outside facilitators have tried to organize informal meetings when both leaders have been same time in same foreign capital.

If direct or facilitated negotiations don’t start so the alternatives are the zero-option, unilateral decisions, regional or part-solutions. The zero-option describes the present situation which in course of time might be drifting towards One-state solution. Unilateral decisions can be made both parties, at best – if they are constructive – they can lead part-solutions or even in long run to Two-State. Regional solution might be e.g. Three-State solution where Gaza will be returned to Egypt and main part of West Bank to Jordania, like they were before Six-Days-War ( more in ”The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ). One pragmatic part-solution could be Hamas-Israel deal about long term ceasefire or implementing Sinai option or Palestinian-Jordanian confederation or both.

 

IPConf

 

 

The Quartet Report

The Middle East Quartet is a foursome of nations and international and supranational entities involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. The group was established in Madrid in 2002. (More about the Quartet: Office of the Quartet )

Mideast_quartetThe newest report was published on 1st July 2016 and describes in its eight pages the stalled peace process without any new initiatives. The core point of the report is that according it the Israeli policy “is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.””This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state”. In addition Israel should stop building settlements, denying Palestinian development and designating land for exclusive Israeli use that Palestinians seek for a future state, the Middle East peace “Quartet” recommended. The Quartet said urgent affirmative steps needed to be taken to “prevent entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”

The report claims Israel had taken for its exclusive use some 70 percent of Area C, which makes up 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and includes the majority of agricultural lands, natural resources and land reserves. Under the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s, Israel retains full control over Area C, where large tracts have been declared closed military areas.“Israel should implement positive and significant policy shifts, including transferring powers and responsibilities in Area C,” the Quartet report said.

Also amid a spike in violence, the Quartet criticized Palestinian leaders for “not consistently and clearly” condemning terrorist attacks and said illicit arms build up and militant activities in Gaza – controlled by Islamist group Hamas – must stop. The whole report Report of the Middle East Quartet – the European External Action Service in EAAS page.

 

The Israeli view

The statement of Israel government welcomes the Quartet’s recognition of the centrality of Palestinian incitement and violence to the perpetuation of the conflict. This culture of hatred poisons minds and destroys lives and stands as the single greatest obstacle to progress towards peace. The report unfortunately says nothing about the payments made by the Palestinian leadership to terrorists and their families. The graver the violence, the greater the payment. This Palestinian practice must stop.

Israel shares the Quartet’s historical commitment to advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace through direct, bilateral negotiations without preconditions.

In previous agreements, Israel and the Palestinians committed to discuss every difficult issue exclusively through direct, bilateral negotiations. Nevertheless, the record shows a history of repeated Palestinian rejection of offers to negotiate and compromise from Israeli governments across the political spectrum. Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself. According government statement “We regret the failure of the Quartet to address the real core of the conflict: the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in any boundaries.”

From government statement:

The report also perpetuates the myth that Israeli construction in the West Bank is an obstacle to peace. When Israel froze settlements, it did not get peace. When Israel uprooted every settlement in Gaza, it did not get peace. It got war. It is troubling that the Quartet appears to have adopted the position that the presence of Jews living in the West Bank somehow prevents reaching a two-state solution. The presence of nearly 1.8 million Arabs in Israel isn’t a barrier to peace; it is a testament to our pluralism and commitment to equality.

Israel will continue to strive for a genuine, negotiated peace based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision of two states for two peoples. While the report includes numerous factual and policy assertions with which we take issue, Israel will discuss with the Quartet envoys ways to explore moving toward this end.

Source: Government Press Office

 

Israel cannot negotiate peace with itself

The Palestinian Authority President rejected again the opportunity to meet with Israel’s President during a visit to Brussels by both leaders. With both Rivlin and Abbas in Brussels at the same time, the Europeans, very cautiously, proposed to explore the possibility of a Rivlin-Abbas encounter.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz attempted to broker the meeting between Presidents Reuven Rivlin and Mahmoud Abbas 23.6.2016, with President Rivlin keen to sit down with Abbas. President Rivlin said: “I was happy to welcome the initiative by the representative of the EU to set a meeting between me and President Abbas who is also visiting Brussels this very day.”

During a press conference alongside European Union (EU) foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, the Israeli president said he was “very sorry to learn that he [Abbas] rejected such a meeting,” and found it “strange” that Abbas “refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders”.

President Rivlin, who addressed the European Parliament and pledged Israeli support for the two-state solution, added: “We can talk. We can talk directly and find a way to build confidence.” Source: BICOM

European leaders had high hopes for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s June 20-23 visit to Brussels, and none of them tried to hide it. Indeed, the scope of Rivlin’s visit was practically unprecedented. Crisscrossing the Belgian capital, Rivlin met successively with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Belgian King Philippe, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and the EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. In between, Rivlin was also welcomed at the European Parliament, where he gave an address in Hebrew. But unlike the other political leaders Abbas rejected meeting with Rivlin.

 

Unilateral decisions?

One provocative view to issue

One provocative view to issue

From my perspective a new framework is needed, even if some apparent negotiations start the outcome probably will be a placebo to status quo.  Earlier I have referred two new leftist initiatives in my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future, leftist think tank – which both in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future. A quote from Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union. He concludes:

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.

On January 2016, the leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog, unveiled an alternative approach to the issue of Israel’s nearly 49-year old presence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The main point of Herzog’s plan is, that Israel will complete the security barrier around the major settlement blocs. “We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there,” Herzog said. “Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.” (more in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank )

From Israeli side unilateral withdrawal and unilateral annexation are the main strategy options related to West Bank. I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually. Sure this option is promoted by Isaac Herzog, 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.

The Palestinian Authority has already taken constructive unilateral steps by seeking United Nations recognition as a state and building the institutions of statehood in the West Bank.

 

Regional solutions?

The best possibilities to develop negotiated peace process might be in a regional peace track proposed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in which Egypt would facilitate direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Egypt, one of few Arab countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel, is a close ally of the Palestinians and enjoys good relations with Arab states which will be needed to make any potential concessions to Israel to reach a peace deal. Israelis and Palestinians have both been speaking to Sisi’s government about playing a role in talks.

clinton parameters

Cairo wants to build upon the areas of agreement already reached between Israelis and Palestinians during the Kerry-led talks in 2013-2014 and extensive security discussions between the two sides. It’s based on the premise that both sides have had extensive discussions, have discussed various parameters and know what is needed for an agreement. The Egyptians also want to revive the 2003 Arab Peace Initiative originally put forward by Saudi Arabia, in which Arab states could make some gestures to Israel in order to secure better conditions for the Palestinians. According CNN an Egyptian official said Netanyahu has shown a “sense of receptivity” to such a process led by Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Part-solutions

On November 2015 Jerusalem Post reported   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. (More in Sinai Option again )

Earlier in August 2015 it was reported in the Times of Israel, that Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire One part of the deal is now coming to reality with new plan of Gaza seaport (more in Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change and background in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal ) Gaza seaport has been one aspect with reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey which talks are now proved to be a success.An expression of new warmer Israeli-Turkish relations was on July 4th, 2016 , as the first truck from the Turkish transport ships arrived from Ashdod Port to the Kerem Shalom crossing. The truck contained a shipment of toys (dolls and teddy bears) as well diapers in cartons bearing the Turkish flag. Ministry of Defense Crossing Authority personnel and COGAT officials unloaded the goods and are preparing them for transfer into Gaza. Source: Ministry of Defense

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict as well Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’. With this context the Gaza seaport is from point of view a positive step forward.

Jordan is Palestine Map low resInstead ‘knife intifada’ and no-talks policy the Palestinians could now think outside the box and reopen talks about the Palestinian-Jordanian confederation structure. The Palestinian-Jordanian confederation means the establishment of two states for two peoples, after the establishment of the Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines. This confederation solution was first raised by Jordan in 1972, but the PLO categorically rejected it in the same year. According to the confederation system, there would be two capitals — Jerusalem for the Palestinians and Amman for Jordanians — a centralized judiciary and one armed force led by the Jordanian king, one centralized council of ministers and one national assembly elected by the two peoples. The state should allow citizens to have full freedom of movement between the two regions.

My bottom line

The components of Two-State solution have been roughly clear last two decades – see e.g. Clinton Parameters – but the final agreement is still missing. The international pressure might lead to talks or negotiations again, with or without outside facilitators, but probably with the same outcome than earlier. So from my perspective unilateral actions are steps forward and in my opinion also to the right direction.

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 implement 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.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Related articles:

Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change

Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas

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

Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

Sinai Option again

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!


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