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:

 


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.

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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

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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.

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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


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