Resumption Of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

July 21, 2013

<img source="http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSLHPjqrrmKitfMzTIeUfoIZkim6sHG2DWE2cCzuaT2NXztmjpVNA" alt="Israel and Palestine map."</img>Some hope to break the Israeli-Palestinian vicious circle emerged when it was announced about resumption of peace talks . Dr. Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, will travel to Washington next week to meet Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, for what is supposed to be direct negotiations after five years of stagnation. Both representatives participated formal negotiations in 2008 when the final agreement almost was reached.

New talks are possible due active and skilled shuttle diplomacy implemented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who succeeded where both his predecessor Hillary Clinton and his superior, President Barack Obama, failed. However this is only start of the process and before final status talks there is need to agree over the foundations of the negotiations themselves, how to start, how and when to finish. A lot of obstacles is waiting, for example involvement of Hamas and Gaza to negotiations. Also from its part European Union tries to sabotage negotiations with its groping foreign policy and its foolish directives.

Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy

For years the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to negotiate unless some preconditions are accepted. The main demands before peace talks have been that the border of the future Palestinian state would be along lines that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War and that Israel halts all construction in West Bank settlements. Israel has refused, saying negotiations should resume without conditions.

On his sixth trip to the Middle East in five months as America’s top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, continued his effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that floundered and collapsed in 2008. And on 19th July 2013 Kerry was able to announce that Israel and the Palestinians will meet end of July 2013 in Washington to finalize an agreement on relaunching peace negotiations for the first time in five years.

According to media reports, but not confirmed by Secretary Kerry, Israel has agreed a package of incentives for the Palestinians – including restraint in settlement building, the gradual release of prisoner serving long sentences for terror offenses, and economic projects in the West Bank – whilst the Palestinians are expected to suspend unilateral efforts to seek recognition in international bodies.

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/mfa.gov.il/mfa_Graphics/content/accumulator_default_img.jpg" alt="Israel government sign."</img>After Kerry’s announcement on the Resumption of the Diplomatic Process PM Netanyahu released the following statement: “With the resumption of the diplomatic process, we are faced with two main goals: Preventing the creation of a bi-national state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River that would endanger the future of the Jewish state and preventing the establishment of an additional Iranian-sponsored terrorist state on Israel’s borders, which would endanger us no less.”

The carrots

Kerry has highlighted a 2002 offer by the 22-nation Arab League to make peace with Israel in return for a Palestinian state broadly inside borders that existed before Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in 1967. At the 2002 Arab League Initiative, which proposed full Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for a series of conditions, including the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel. However, in May this year, a high level Arab League delegation, after meeting with Kerry, agreed to change the language of the Arab Peace Initiative from its rigid demand for a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines to accepting “comparable,” mutually agreed and “minor” land swaps.

Related to settlements it has claimed that they kill the two-state solution but this from my perspective is not obstacle after the now revised Arab League Initiative. 80% of the settlers live in large blocs close to the Green Line. To connect those blocs up to Little Israel will require a land swap of about 6%. That is doable. This has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. While 20% of the settlers live outside these green line blocs, these settlements will not be part of Israel proper, after a proposed deal so some 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel and also this is doable.

Kerry has offered the Palestinians a package of economic incentives to restart the talks.According to the secret Kerry plan (not confirmed anywhere) as one of these concessions, Kerry wants Israel to permit the Palestinians to build in Jericho for their prospective state an international airport for direct civilian flights to and from America and Europe. Those flights would cross Israeli air space and be coordinated with Israeli flight control authorities. Kerry envisages the transformation of the entire Jericho region north of the Dead Sea and near the Jordanian border into a busy hub for galvanizing the economy of the future Palestinian state. He wants Israel to hand over to the Palestinians the Kalia region on the northern shore of the Dead Sea. Kibbutz Kalia, albeit part of sovereign Israel from its inception in 1948, is nonetheless one of the assets Kerry wants Israel to cede to the Palestinians. Israeli concessions would not end at the northern Dead Sea coast, according to the secret Kerry plan; it would be just the first in a series of land and sovereignty handover granted the Palestinians in trilateral negotiations among Israel, the Palestinians and the United States. The Palestinians would also be awarded by the process a three-year economic reconstruction program for boosting their Gross National Product by 50 percent and slashing unemployment from 21 to 8 percent.

The Olmert proposal

“Reaching an agreement is possible; it is realistic, but you need to want it and you need to pray that the leadership will want it.” (Ehud Olmert)

<img source="https://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/olmertpage002.png" alt="Olmert proposal for Israeli-Palestinian future borders."</img>

The last time Israelis and Palestinians conducted formal final status talks was under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But his successor PM Netanyahu has formally rejected the proposals that Olmert made at the time to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

New negotiations are not starting from scratch, both Livni and Erekat have many times been looking the same almost agreed map according which Israel would annex 6.3% of the area of the West Bank, a move which would enable around 75% of the population of Jewish West Bank settlements to remain in their homes. In return for this, land would be transferred to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8% of the area of the West Bank. In addition, a ‘safe passage’ route linking Hebron in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be established. Besides border issue also other core questions – such as future arrangements in Jerusalem and the refugee issue – were earlier almost solved. More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace .

<img source="https://i1.wp.com/scm-l3.technorati.com/13/03/17/75487/Olmertpage003.png" alt="Olmert proposal for future borders of Jerusalem, map."</img>

EU trying to sabotage peace negotiations

While U.S. has implemented their active shuttle diplomacy in the front line the EU’s rearguard are trying to put obstacles for peace process. Just when peace diplomacy on the ground was at crucial point the EU published its directive which mandates that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.” The EU explained that the goal of the directive was to draw a solid line between the state of Israel and the “occupied territories,” especially over issues that concern EU cooperation.

In Jerusalem, officials said that the EU directive essentially determines that – given the absence of an agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians – 100 percent of the territory in Judea and Samaria belong de facto to the Palestinians.

Trade with the EU in 2012 amounted to $36.6 billion. Israel imported $22.4 billion worth of goods from the EU that same year. Also the Palestinians were not so pleased as the Arab side is also going to be harmed by this EU directive; Palestinian laborers are going to lose their livelihoods as a result of the decision to exclude settlement enterprises from future cooperative agreements. A generous portion of the labor in Judea and Samaria is Palestinian and for example many joint Israeli-Palestinian agricultural projects situated in West Bank are funded by members of the EU and now in danger.

According to a report in Ma’ariv, Israel has threatened to pull out of the EU’s massive science and technology project, “Horizon 2020″. Israel is the only non-European full partner in the project, and is supposed to invest 600 million Euro (785 million US dollars) in the project over 7 years. Besides the financial hit the EU project would take as a result, the move would be a serious blow to the project’s prestige and success. Israel is a central partner in the projects that Horizon 2020 undertakes, and part of these project’s successes are dependent on Israeli human resources and research.

EU wishing to be included in the peace process should change their directive for example expressing that the territories of east Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights are in dispute and their fate will be determined through direct negotiations.

<img source="https://arirusila.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/unslogans.jpg?w=296&h=314" alt="UN slogans."</img>

These principles might describe EU too?

Gaza question

In my opinion question about Gaza should be solved at early stage during coming negotiations. Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule.The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

A new reintegration strategy is needed instead of isolation, it should reconnect Gaza with the West Bank to lessen Hamas’ grip on Gaza. To be effective at least following components should be included to the new strategy for Gaza:

1) Economic component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish trade links with Gaza. Israel should expand the amount of trade allowed from its territory, and also reopen trade from the West Bank. Gazans should be allowed to open an export corridor through Israel. Allowing goods to flow between Gaza and the West Bank will change Gaza’s economy away from illicit trade with Egypt and strengthen the moderate middle class

2) Social component encouraging Israel and the PA to reestablish the suspended transit corridor for Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza.Allowing Gazans to visit the West Bank and vice versa will help restore the social bonds and build national consciousness required for statehood.prepare Palestinian institutions for elections and to empower PA for peace deal..

3) Political component preparing the PA for Palestinian national elections.The Palestinians have not held national elections since 2006, and governing institutions required for statehood are losing legitimacy as a result.

Implementation of this new approach could be made with help of international advisory group composed of those countries already friendly with Hamas (Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt), plus countries (Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia) more likely to take into account the Fatah-dominated PA’s views. Sure this policy change poses risk, however the more certain danger is in perpetuating a status quo that benefits Hamas.

My conclusion

In Israel big part of population thinks that Israel as strong Jewish state can best defense their interests and hard line government to implement their wish. Palestinian leadership is defending rights of local Muslim population, refugees and vision of Palestine state. Hard line Palestine groups – with remarkable popular support – is implementing their vision with terrorist acts. In outside power centres especially in Anglo-Saxon world both Israeli and Palestinian interest groups are putting their pressure to western capitals. Many outsiders admit that both sides have good base for their claims.

Now I am more optimist than pessimist with this new round of talks. The status quo is too expensive situation both economically and politically for both Israel and Palestine. The deal would allow both parties to look forwards – the deal would release resources for economic development and for building capacities in society. There is also regional need to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict as other more serious conflicts are spreading in the (Great) Middle East

If negotiations however again fail so from my perspective Israel could concentrate to talk solution with Egypt and Jordan. I have propagated long for “three-state” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable. (More in The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )


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Israeli Elections 2013 As Jump Start For Peace Process?

January 20, 2013

Elections 2013Israeli PM Netanyahu decided elections to be held in 22nd January 2013, in advance of the November 2013 deadline. The immediate cause for early elections might be his troubles to agree budget cuts with his coalition colleagues.

The key issue in Israeli politics during last decades has been the Israeli-Palestinian peace process but this time differ; socioeconomic questions rises to top of agenda. While the Israeli economy is slowing the ruling coalition has proposed budget cuts and already some social protests occurred summer of 2011.

Other issues are the Iranian thread and PM Netanyahu’s leadership skills to copy with it, tensions between secular and religious Jews in Israel especially related to military service and a debate about how to break the deadlock in the Palestinian issue which has close link to worsened relationship between U.S and Israel.

Israeli Elections 2013 Factbox

34 parties are competing in the upcoming Israeli national election that will be held on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The Knesset, the Israeli parliament, is elected directly by the voters, not through a body of electors. Elections to the Knesset are based on a vote for a party rather than for individuals, and the entire country constitutes a single electoral constituency. The 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. However, the minimum required for a party to win a Knesset seat is 2% of the total votes cast.

Who will be the parties and leaders running in the next election?

The 120 seat Knesset is elected on a directly proportional party list system. Each party submits a list of candidates for the Knesset and the entire country votes as a single constituency, with each voter choosing a party list. No single party is likely to win much more than 30 seats, so after the election the President will ask the party leader most likely to be able to form a majority coalition to attempt to form a government.

  • Likud: Led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s main centre-right party is looking to maintain its role as the dominant party in the government, and will be expecting to emerge as the largest party by a good margin. Likud currently enjoys consistent rates of support and polls indicate that Netanyahu is seen as the most appropriate politician to be Prime Minister, and is the most trusted on security and defence issues.
  • Kadima: Currently the largest faction, the centrist Kadima party has recently elected Shaul Mofaz as its leader, replacing Tzipi Livni who consequently resigned from the Knesset. Mofaz took over a party which has been struggling in the polls since the summer of 2011. The shift in focus to socioeconomic issues left Kadima, which was focused largely on promoting the peace process, somewhat irrelevant. Although Mofaz is a respected former IDF chief of staff, defence minister and a determined politician, he has not established himself as an alternative to Netanyahu as Prime Minister. His short lived coalition with Netanyahu earlier this year further damaged his and Kadima’s standing.
  • Yisrael Beiteinu: This right-wing party, led by hawkish foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, was the third-largest in the current Knesset and played a prominent role in the government. Recently, the party has adopted a more vocal position on the exemption of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox from military service.
  • Labour: After years of falling support, Labour will be looking to capitalise on the renewed interest in socioeconomic issues following the socioeconomic protests of 2011. Under the new leadership of Shelly Yachimovich, a former journalist with a strong record on social issues, Labour has sought to reclaim its social-democratic brand and has succeeded in re-energising its activist base, on which it will rely upon in the upcoming election.
  • Shas: Although the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party has been led by Eli Yishai for over a decade, Shas has been unable to recreate the popular fervour it possessed under its previous political leader Aryeh Deri in the 1990s. Shas will try to energise its supporters against public anger at ultra-Orthodox exemption from military service, and in defence of welfare benefits that favour its constituents.
  • Meretz: Following widespread disillusionment with the peace process after the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada, the left wing, secular Meretz became an almost inconsequential political faction. Under the new leadership of Zehava Galon, the party could enhance its power to a small degree with the support of upper-middle class liberal and Kibbutz voters.
  • Atzmaut: After splitting from Labour, five MKs under the leadership of Defence Minister Ehud Barak formed this new centrist faction, which is now essentially a vehicle to return Ehud Barak to the Knesset so he can remain as Defence Minister. However, in some polls, the party does not succeed in crossing the electoral threshold (2% of the votes).
  • Yesh Atid (‘There is a Future’): The entry of former journalist Yair Lapid into politics may be one of the biggest changes in the next Knesset. Lapid has positioned himself as a centrist outsider and will run on a consensual messages of social responsibility and equality of the social burden. Recent polls predict the new party may receive up to 10-12 seats, but it is unclear whether the party will be able to sustain its momentum once the campaign heats up.
  • Smaller parties
    • United Torah Judaism: An ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi party.
    • National Union: A right-wing national religious party with strong support from voters in West Bank settlements.
    • Mafdal: Another right-wing national religious party with strong support from voters in West Bank settlements.
    • Ra’am-Ta’al: A national-Islamic Arab party promoting an end to Israel presence in the West Bank and recognition of Arab-Israelis as national minority. Ahmad Tibi is the faction’s most prominent MK.
    • Hadash: A Jewish-Arab socialist party supporting Israeli-Arab peace and promoting a left-wing socioeconomic agenda.
    • Balad: An Arab nationalist party led by MK Jamal Zahalka.

More about parties in interactive Parties Guide by Haaretz and about key election candidates in chart by BICOM.

Israeli leaders outline final election positions

BICOM (the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre) describes the final election positions of Israeli leaders as follows:

With Israel set to vote on Tuesday, party leaders yesterday positioned themselves on policy issues and the composition of the next government.

Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was interviewed in Maariv, Israel Hayom and Jerusalem Post, indicating it is unlikely that West Bank settlements will be removed under his leadership during the coming four years. He told the Jerusalem Post that a “real and fair solution” to the conflict with the Palestinians “doesn’t include driving out hundreds of thousands of Jews.” He also conceded that he and US President Obama “have our differences.”

However, Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni said yesterday that apparent discord between Obama and Netanyahu is the “tip of the iceberg,” warning that Israel is facing “growing isolation” in the absence of peace talks. She then called for “a central Zionist unity government,” in order to tackle “a diplomatic, social and security emergency situation.” Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, told Channel Two “There is no chance of achieving peace in this generation. The Tzipi Livnis are deluded.”

Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Shelly Yachimovich pledged, “if I form the next government, Livni will be the foreign minister” and reiterated that Labour will not join a Netanyahu-led coalition. At a party rally, she said, “All the rest of the parties have locked a place for themselves in the government, as if it was already chosen…We’ll either be in charge of forming the government – or we will be the leaders of the opposition.”

Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid emphasised that his party will only join a government that will implement a universal draft, pledging not to enter a coalition “of the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox, which will use the middle-class as if it is its personal cash machine.”

The results?

A series of surveys was published in Israel, giving a final indicator of how the country might vote in next week’s election. Each of the polls indicates that the Likud-Beitenu list headed by current-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be the largest faction in the next Knesset, the Labour Party is likely to be the second largest party followed by Jewish Home. Looking at the political map as a whole, the right-wing and religious bloc of parties will win the centrist and left-wing parties with margin of 12 – 26 seats – a range that all but guarantees Netanyahu a third term in office.

2013ISREL

The former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who has recently been cleared of corruption charges and relieved of community service, could have been an alternative of hope to the Netanyahu regime; however he did not join to the race even Kadima MKs, businessmen, public opinion leaders and regular citizens were pressuring him to do so. After four years in which the center-left bloc was missing a dominant leader, Olmert could have changed the situation entirely. Amid the stalemate in the peace talks with the Palestinians, the shaky relations with western countries, the fear of a brutal war with Iran and the sense that there is no hope for a better future – Olmert could have been the real alternative. But sadly not now.

While right- wing block has united their lines Kadima, the largest party in the outgoing Knesset and the main opposition to Netanyahu’s government, will split among no less than eight different factions. None of these parties will have enough power to seriously challenge the next coalition as the centre  and the mainstream Zionist left is more fragmented than ever.

One more aspect has its effect to result. According to statistics 80 percent of Israeli citizens over the Green Line voted in the last election, while the average rate in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beersheba is 57%. The numbers presented by Peace Now come from 2009, when 64.72% of eligible Israelis voted. One can guess that votes from disputed territories favour more the right than the left.

EL2013

Peaceprocess on the sidelines before elections

As mentioned above the peace process has drifted on the background. The problem is that most Israelis consider the prospects for success in peace talks to be slim. The way they see it, Ehud Olmert in 2008 and Ehud Barak in 2000 offered the Palestinians a reasonable deal and they didn’t take it. Even when Israel got out of the Gaza Strip unilaterally the Palestinians weren’t satisfied, bringing Hamas to power and using the area to fire more rockets at Israel. However a good base for new peace talks is the fact that governments in Israel are relatively stable.The total number of governments that have fallen by no-confidence votes in all of Israeli history is one (in 1990).

The most notable exception is former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, running at the head of ‘Hatnua’, (The Movement) a new party she has created. Of all the candidates competing in the Jewish, secular, Zionist centre-ground, she is the one most prepared to make the peace process a central part of her offer. She led Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians in 2008, and she is the one arguing that Israel should make every effort to resume final status talks in the belief that it’s possible to finish the job.

but jump start on March

The European Union was drawing up a detailed new plan to jump start peace talks. The plan is reportedly to be presented after the Jan. 22 elections. The plan includes clear timetables for the completion of the negotiations on all the core issues in the course of 2013 and it will include a clause demanding that Israel halt all settlement construction. As the British and French foreign ministries are sponsoring the initiative, also backed by Germany, it could ultimately be adopted by the EU as a whole. The EU plan’s ultimate objective was to bring about the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital. however this EU initiative probably is as insignificant for peace process as always before.

Israel Radio also reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah believes that peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will resume next month. Israel Radio quoted him as saying that the start of U.S. President Barack Obama’s second term and the end of the Israeli election would serve as a window of opportunity for the sides to reconvene.

In my opinion the most important cause for new peace talks is the new pro-American Sunni Muslim-led axis which American diplomats established in Cairo last month. This opens possibilities for alternative solutions and process instead of old brain-dead two-state solution and its road map. (More this in my previous article A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move )


A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move

January 1, 2013

Article first published as A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move on Technorati.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II had a secret meeting in Jordan during Xmas. After leak to media it was officially confirmed (PM press office) that the two leaders discussed Syria’s Chemicals – whether Syrian President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against rebels in the civil war and whether they could fall into the hands of radical elements. However the real agenda of the meeting is more interesting. Debkafile’s sources reveal that the issue was the aspects of a possible confederation between a Palestinian West Bank state and the Hashemite Kingdom. The meeting can be seen also in wider context as part of the new Sunni-Muslim-led pro-US axis.


According Debkafile the Jordanian option has become a focal talking point in Amman, Washington and Palestinian centers. Netanyahu brought some pointed questions to the highly confidential one-on-one at the Hashemite palace: He asked the king how much responsibility would Jordan undertake in controlling West Bank security and intelligence activity? What were his plans for extending such control from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip? And how would Jordan’s intentions fit into the security arrangements demanded by Israel in both territories as part of any accord with the Palestinians?

Jordanian option on the move

As Jordan has already recognized Israel and the two nations maintain full diplomatic relations the recognition process – a Palestinian state by Israel and Israel by the Palestinians as the national state of the Jewish people – would be skated round. While the UN General Assembly’s Nov. 29 upgraded the Palestinians to non-member observer status the Palestinian Authority is acting like representing an independent state and therefore eligible to join Jordan as a confederation partner. This kind of approach might be easier also for Hamas which would be saved from having to recognize the state of Israel.

There are more straws in the wind attesting to the confederation project being on the move. According Debkafile’s sources in early December, the Palestinian Authority’s Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) secretly advised certain Palestinian leaders “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan and other parties in the international community.” With these he probably was referring to Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar – these are the members of the pro-American Sunni Muslim-led axis which American diplomats established in Cairo last month in the course of Israel’s Pillar of Defense operation in Gaza and the negotiations that led to an Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

On Xmas eve 2012 it was revealed that Turkey had assumed its role in this new bloc by dropping its two-year boycott of military cooperation with Israel within the framework of NATO. Ankara initially cut off ties of cooperation over the IDF raid of the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship which was on a mission to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In recent months, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo and the Turkish MIT intelligence director Fidan Hakan maintained back-channel interchanges and laid the groundwork for the two governments to start working together.


New boost for new approach

Nearly two months 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 are 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.”

In the same article I reported about statement made by Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who served as crown prince between 1965 and 1999. Recently October 2012 in a meeting with Palestinian citizens in Jordan, Prince Hassan bin Talal made an unusual statement, saying that the territories of the West Bank are actually part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He added that the two state solution is irrelevant in the current stage.


Some background

The Jordanian option has on occasion been raised as a promising approach. Given some of the facts from history this is not surprising, after all, most of Jordan’s population is Palestinian. In 1948, Arab armies attacked the newborn State of Israel. Transjordan annexed the area intended for an Arab state, and renamed itself the Kingdom of Jordan, calling the annexed area the “West Bank”. In 1967 West Bank came under Israeli control during the Six Day War of 1967.

Jordanian option is implementing three-state solution – in its no-state meaning – if both West Bank and Gaza are annexed to Jordan. However more practical solution on the ground might be to annex Gaza to Egypt as this would be the three-state solution in its full meaning advocated e.g. I. Since 1967 Israel has maintained the separation between the West Bank and Gaza through different political and security means, such as leaving Jordanian laws in effect in the West Bank while leaving Egyptian laws in effect in Gaza, and substituting some of those laws with military statutes.

I have been advocating long Three State Option as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 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 Palestinian state that was planned to be established in the area. If three state solution 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 as well from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas.

Further development after Israeli elections

Die Zukunft zeigt sich in uns – lange bevor sie eintritt” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

The Aim for the next stage of Israel-Palestinian negotiations after Israeli elections on January 2013 seems to be a long-term interim accord, while the core disputes on permanent borders, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the future of Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria would be leaved to a later round of negotiations at some unspecified time in the future.

During election campaign Netanyahu and his party has been described as extreme right-wing nationalists who consistently refused to talk peace with the Palestinians. This is usual in Israel where hard rethoric transforms more moderate after elections. So if and when PM Netanyahu wins the poll it is possible that he also will return to the peace track after forming his next government, indeed it has also claimed that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed to resume peace negotiations in March 2013. Recently Israeli media published reports that PM Netanyahu planned to invite opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to join the next cabinet in her old job as lead negotiator in talks with the Palestinians. However it is estimated that Netanyahu has reserved that role for himself.


The bottom line

Man muss das Unmögliche versuchen, um das Mögliche zu erreichen” (Hermann Hesse)

Personally it is very refreshing that Jordanian option 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 view has 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. Now it is also more acceptable than few years ago.

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Palestine – Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks

April 9, 2010

No Results: 12 Billion Dollars Disappeared in Palestine”. This headline popped recently to my eyes. First I was thinking that it is Zionist propaganda or comment in some hard-line Israel newspaper. Then I saw that headline was based to a learned discourse of Dr. Ghania Malhis – chairwoman of the board of trustees at The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) and former senior economist in the League of Arab States. MAS was founded in Jerusalem in 1994 as an independent non-profit institution to contribute to the policy-making process by conducting economic and social policy research. Presentation of Dr. Malhis was held in UN Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People on 25 March 2010 in Vienna.

The core conclusions of Dr. Ghania Malhis were that, despite the considerable economic help from various institutions of the international community and NGOs – about 20 billion US Dollars over the last 15 years

it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground” and

the GDP of 2009 is 13% lower than the GDP of 1999, and the GDP per capita is 30% lower for the same years”.

Her original study “International Assistance in Support of the Palestinian Economy: The Role of Regional Partnerscan be found here as pdf file and it has been my main source for this article.

The Aid

Dr. Malhis summarizes the International assistance to the Palestinian people as follows:

The international assistance to the Palestinian people has an accelerated annual growth rate. The average annual contribution from 1994-2000 represented 500 million dollars and jumped to an average of 1 billion dollars a year from 2001-2005. Although 2006 witnessed a slight decrease registering 716 million dollars, the numbers rapidly escalated to 1.5 billion dollars in 2007, 1.7 billion in 2008, 1.8 billion in 2009 and is expected to reach almost 2 billion dollars in 2010.

the International community and Arab countries have managed to mobilize substantial resources to assist the Palestinian people amounting to no less than 12 billion dollars over the past 15 years. An additional 6 to 8 billion dollars were also mobilized during that same period through an array of active Arab and international civil society organizations and NGOs.

These numbers are also exclusive of the assistance provided through popular national campaigns from the Arab region, NGOs and other informal channels. These are estimated to have exceeded 5 billion dollars over the past decade mostly in the form of relief campaigns and food and cash donations. These numbers neither include the contributions provided by Arab governments to the UNRWA budget where the bulk of its expenditures are used to support its activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, nor the expenses associated with hosting more than 4 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

These numbers are of course highly encouraging when taking into consideration the size of the targeted part of the Palestinian people which do not exceed 3.9 million people in the occupied Palestinian territories and their GDP does not exceed 4.5 billion dollars annually according to the 2009 estimates.

The Impact

The impact of the international assistance is however poor if not even non-existent. Quote from study:

It has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground, even when taking into consideration the substantial investment carried by the Palestinian private sector in the occupied Palestinian territories, including those made by the Palestinian Diaspora as according to findings, these investment represent one third of the national GDP.

And despite donors’ generous assistance and contribution, we witnessed an incessant increase in the need for the Palestinian Authority to borrow from local banks to meet its obligations whereas the accumulated public debts of the Palestinian Authority to the local banking system has exceeded 733 million dollars in mid 2009 with accumulated arrears payments to the private sector of 188 million dollars; and therefore affecting the private sector’s ability to mobilize financial resources.

The main economic and social indicators are confirming the poor impact as expressed in table below:

Main Economic and Social Indicators (from study of Dr. Malhis)

– In 2009, the GDP is 13% lower than that of 1999 and the GDP per Capita 30% lower for that same year.

– The production capacity in the occupied territories was higher in the early nineties prior to the peace process, and the registered contribution of the agricultural and industrial sectors to the GDP did not exceed a mere 18.2% and only contributed to 29.2% of employment.

– The exports coverage to imports became a feeble 19%.

– The ability of Domestic Production to cover domestic national consumption has highly deteriorated resulting in an increase in dependency on Israeli imports and a heavy reliance on Arab and international aid to finance the cost of these imports.

– We have also witnessed a decrease in the Palestinian authority revenue stream resulting in its turn in an evident deterioration in its ability to provide basic services such as health, education, social development and security unless heavily subsidized by Arab and international donations and aid to support its expenditures.

– In 2009, international support was required to address a budget deficit of 61.4% equivalent to 39% of the Palestinian GDP.

Whatever progress there has been in the establishment of Palestinian Authority institutions, along with security, fiscal and administrative reform efforts, the bottom line is that these tens of billions of dollars spent in the past decade have ultimately failed to bring back the performance witnessed in 1999 on the socio-economic front.

The Mistakes

The study gives also indication about mistakes and causes of them related to transforming Aid into progress on the ground. From study:

These numbers and facts are giving us a clear indication that these practices and contributions have failed to capitalize on the resources mobilized, quite the contrary; one cannot but feel that these resources have been wasted. When the outcome of more than a 12 billion dollar investment results in such disastrous numbers, then it is obvious that immense mistakes were made on a strategic level.

Looking back, the mistakes done were not the responsibility of a sole partner, rather it has been the result of collective failures of all stakeholders from the Arab countries, to the International donor countries and institutions to the Palestinian Authority and Israel as well as the cumulative effect of an assistance that became donor and even charity driven rather than investment driven.

The Arab countries have also deviated from their decisions taken in the October 2000 Arab Emergency Summit in Cairo where it was clearly stated that emergency relief to the Palestinian people has to be coupled with developmental aid, and that 80% of the Arab funds mobilized should be channelled into investments to enhance the capacity of the Palestinian Authority and supporting it in creating a viable independent economy, more integrated with Arab, Regional and international economies in order to reduce its heavy reliance on lessen the smothering imposition of Israel.

The approach taken was a reactive one, where donors’ countries responded to crisis after crisis rather than work on an active engaged plan to build a stable environment and therefore avoid and pre-empt crises. Thus resources were wasted in trying to compensate and respond to the urgent needs of the Palestinian losses as a result of the aggressive Israeli policies and practices such as closures, embargo, confiscation of agricultural land and, control of water resources, demolition and destruction of agricultural produce, industrial plants and services, public and private properties, impediments to trade and crippling the movement of goods and people. The cost of such practices overshadowing all resources mobilized by donors therefore resulting in an always negative impact no matter the size of the investment.


Palestinians Responsibility

While International donors had only slight idea what they want to achieve with their donations and even worse strategy how to implement foggy visions in beneficiary region it’s clear that the Palestinian Authority also hold a sizeable responsibility. They failed to invest the funds mobilized by Arab and International donors on development, they used Aid to cover their current running expenditures and filling their own pockets instead of sustainable development.Hundreds of millions were invested by the PLO though private investments in businesses, restaurants, supermarkets in the US with no records kept with tens of millions lost for ever. With no one bothering to protect public funds, one has to wonder how many hundreds of millions people and individuals within the PLO and Fatah were able to make out of having monopolies for distributions of fuel, food, and other monopolies granted by Arafat and the PLO.

From study:

The Palestinian Authority failed to provide developmental sustainable solutions to unemployment, choosing governmental recruitment over encouraging and nurturing a vibrant productive economy to create jobs. They have also chosen to take the easy way to improve public revenues by financing the budget deficit through increasing the trade balance deficit, as well as competing with the private sector through public investments in vibrant sectors of the economy rather than invest in infrastructure to enable the private sector to flourish.

The Palestinian Authority has also failed to timely address allegations of misuse of funds, power and mismanagement as well as a lack of accountability and transparency in addition to fostering a large public sector that exceeds the national needs.

Our efforts need to multiply and result in well-studied strategies for development that will reflect our sincerity and commitment to the Palestinian people. These efforts need to be translated into massive reforms and visionary partnerships between donors, the Palestinian Authority and key sectors of Palestinian society, which would signify a paradigm shift in developmental strategies, a main component of which needs to be a capable and innovative workforce.

And the working model that can most effectively translate such strategies into positive realities is one that proposes to bring together prudent Arab, International public and private actors, progressive coordinated policies, a responsible private sector and an engaged civil society, whose purpose is to create a highly skilled, dynamic workforce that will push the Palestinians towards sustainable and balanced development. We need to work together to create the much needed infrastructure for a flourishing Palestinian economy, one that nurtures creativity and innovation, a productive knowledge economy that will allow the Palestinian people to build a life and not just an existence.


My Opinion

I do not believe that the case of Palestine is unique with development projects by big donors. In my earlier articles I have described some similar aspects and critical examples. More e.g.

From my viewpoint the first task for donors should be to put Aid programs into general context. Today seems that donors framework is fixed only to two-state solution. So Aid is going to state-building activities e.g. to construct some infrastructure in Gaza. When some building is ready and Hamas use that facility for their activities, Israel Defence Forces destroy it, then donors build it again and IDF destroys it – again and again the same vicious circle. In my earlier articles I have proposed other alternatives e.g. population transfer to get some buffer zone between IDF and Hamas (more in “Gaza War: Could Balkan history show way out?” ) or changing two-state solution to three-state option (more in “The Three-State Option could solve Gaza conflict” ). Putting other options on the table could give totally different vision to international Aid and maybe some positive outcome to beneficiaries too.

From project management point of view I like to highlight following aspects:


* At planning stage the correct information from the field should be provided, not only high level marketing reports
* The Aim(s) and output should be clearly defined and understood by both donor and beneficiary
* The final project plan should include realistic Logical Framework Approach (LogFrame)
* At implementation stage the events on the ground and the progress reports should be compared to verification measures in LogFrame
* The feedback from the event on the ground level and about inappropriate connections on the management level should be used to make necessary correction to original plan
* If the aims of original plan look unreachable or the methods with implementation are incorrect the financier should have courage to stop project when it is still ongoing without waiting yearlong investigations to be ready
* Internal investigations should be supported not prevented by donor management.

There is also question if aid money should be channelled through beneficiary government or through civil society/NGOs. My answer is complicated. First there is difference if we speak about emergency aid or more long term state building projects. In emergency case I think that effective actions can be made even without state authorities, directly on the field, in second case results are very difficult to achieve without government commitment.

Speaking development projects on the ground – not on emergency stage – there are many alternatives depending individual cases. Easiest for donors is to give aid through generalized budget support – results can vary from state to state and be like in Palestine, nonexistent. Through sector program assistance is the other option. Then it is possible contract international or national NGOs for implementation or give aid through multilateral mechanisms such as World Bank, UN programs etc. The core question too is to find in each case right balance between aid through government or aid through civil society organizations.

Whatever channel for Aid is selected from my viewpoint the core issue is to apply the Logical Framework Approach for implementation as well some more improved versions of it. The Logical Framework Approach is the matrix (the Logframe), which summarises what the project intends to do and how by selecting a preferred implementation strategy. It also analyses, what the key assumptions are, and how outputs and outcomes will be monitored and evaluated. From following link you may find the basic matrix of LogFrame idea: logical-framework2

In challenging and fast transforming environment there might be wise to use some improved LogFrame method such as the Appreciative Inquiry tool developed by SIDA, where the focus is placed on the things which are working well, and on finding positive action alternatives for resolving a situation. As LFA is found by many to be an overly problem-oriented model the Appreciative Inquiry tool is analysing also motivation and driving forces. Also useful might be further developed Social Framework, rather than a Logical Framework, because it emphasises people and their relationships, rather than more abstract events and processes.

But like I wrote earlier even the best project plans and their implementation can fail, unless they are coupled with a political solution with realistic vision about future.


The bottom line

Just look at the empirical reality on the ground. There is no Palestinian state, never was intended to be, and there isn’t one! (opinion from discussion forums)

There seems to be a huge gap between fine ideas/plans/collected money in Brussels and their reasonable distribution at local level in Palestine. The biggest mismanagement or misuse of Aid money is not according my opinion local criminal activities. The strategic error has made in international level by not knowing the demands or challenges on the ground, not adjusting ideas and plans according local needs or the moment of Aid delivery, using indefinite mixture of emergency relief and long term planning, lack of simple and unambiguous development strategy and strategic leadership. The real crime will be if international community does not correct earlier errors and practices at strategic level – only after that one can demand smoothly flowing project at local level. The strategic error is to use Aid funds only in a right way, not to right purposes.



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

March 29, 2010

If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence.
If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.

(In an email from the Baltimore Zionist Division)

Diplomacy is the art of conducting international relations with tact and skill in an effort to form alliances and agreements, whereas hypocrisy is the practice of professing false virtues. (Ophir Falk)

Since last Gaza War on December 2008 the peace process of Israeli-Palestine conflict is going backwards again. Hamas is firing its qassams to Israel and Israel Defence Force responds; Palestine authority is still missing, Israel government has more hardliners than before and International community is making their hypocritical useless statements without any new initiative or an outline for the future; even U.S.-Israeli relations have declined due Israeli building projects in East Jerusalem.

It should be remembered that in 1918, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France were handed more than 5,000,000 square miles to divvy up and 99% was given to the Arabs to create countries that did not exist previously. Less than 1% was given as a Mandate for the re-establishment of a state for the Jews on both banks of the Jordan River. In 1921, to appease the Arabs once again, another three quarters of that less than 1% was given to a fictitious state called Trans-Jordan. (Jack Berger, May 31, 2004.)

Settlements as dividing factor

A few years ago the people of Israel voted for a government that dismantled 10,000 Jewish homes in the hope for peace. The dismantlement led to disaster and instead of peace – Israeli civilians were targeted by Palestinian missiles. Last year the people of Israel voted for a government that wants to build homes rather than destroy them.


The halt to settlement construction is a key demand by the Quartet of Mideast negotiators who are trying to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem, claiming the entire city as Israel’s eternal capital.

Before discussing the settlements, Jerusalem and other final-status issues Palestinian Authority PA) should recognize Israel’s basic right to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. After that the PA could come to an agreement with Israel, and finally set the border lines. Once the borders are set, then Israel will not support building of settlements in the PA area.

Settlements Established and Evacuated 1967-2008 -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

Jerusalem

The announcement of a routine planning approval for 1,600 dwellings in the East Jerusalem settlement neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo precipitated a crisis in U.S. – Israel relations, especially when information of project came during U.S. VP Bidens visit in Israel. U.S. as well later EU condemned this latest dwelling project and for Palestine Authority settlements are regular excuse to skip negotiations.

In a defiant speech last week to the leading pro-Israel lobby in the United States, Israel PM Netanyahu said Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem are “an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem … The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied … The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital”.

East Jerusalem’ is not only the Old City. The eastern section of Jerusalem is larger than the western section (77 square kilometers vs. 45 square kilometers); it contains more than half the city`s residents, Jews and Arabs. In 1967, after occupying the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, the government of Israel annexed East Jerusalem and an additional tract of Palestinian land; Israel applied Israeli law to the eastern parts of the city, and granted residency rights to 66,000 Palestinians registered by census as its inhabitants. This status is different from citizenship: it does not enable its holders to participate in national elections and can be revoked at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior. Two legal systems apply to East Jerusalem residents: IHL (the laws of occupation), and Israeli law. (My source and more from JNews )

Jerusalem expansion plans -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

Jerusalem-map-march-2010-copy-784x1024

There was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since 1860. Jews lived all over Jerusalem, and fought courageously in the War of Independence in 1948 to maintain their hold on it but in the end lost many lives and the east part of the city. That is when it was divided for the first time.

Israelis divide the Palestinians to five communities, as a means of control. There are the Israeli Palestinians, who are full Israeli citizens, enjoy the right to vote and have delegates in the Knesset. There are the East Jerusalemites who are not citizens, but have only resident permits and who are separated from the West Bank by the wall. There are the West Bank Palestinians who live in the five percent of the West Bank on the west side of the wall that Israel has, de facto, annexed to Israel, but who are also cut off from Jerusalem and forbidden to visit Israel. There are the West Bank Palestinians to the east of the wall. And there are the Palestinians in Gaza.


One vs. Two States

So far resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has had two options on the top of agenda. The first is aim of two states for two peoples and the second is a bi-national Palestinian-Israeli state in which Palestinians and Israelis would have equal rights or a Palestinian-Israeli confederation, in which two states share joint political institutions – a one-sate option.

The two-state solution is becoming more and more impossible by the day as Israel continues to build more and more settlements on Palestinian lands. There is hardly enough land to form a viable Palestinian state at this time as it is. But judging by the actions of the settlement movement and its supporters, the one-state solution seems to be the preferred solution. However the Israeli and Palestinian definitions of a two state solution are very different. Palestinian idea of a two-state solution may be supported but only if the border is the 1967 border and refugees are given the right of return, an Israeli viewpoint can be different with these two aspects.

In Israel there is a group that believes that a bi-national state is inevitable because with Jewish and Palestinian communities so entangled in the West Bank, it will be almost impossible to divide them. However same time there is some base to claim that there is too much animosity and dehumanization among the Palestinian population that would make a peaceful co-existence between them and Israelis virtually impossible.

If one would like to take a cynical point of view so a de facto one state is the current reality on the ground. Israel rules all mandatory Palestine from Jordan to the Mediterranean. There is one regime based on ethnicity and security and Israeli control. Progress towards two-state solution seems unlikely.

Projection of Israel’s West Bank Partition plan 2008 -map (Foundation for Middle East Peace)

is_v18n3_map_west_bank_partition

Population transfers as pragmatic solution

If some ethnic groups hate each other and when both can base their views and claims to selected parts of hundreds or thousands of years so basically there only two peaceful solutions: to train tolerance for generations developing same time living conditions or separate the groups by ethnic lines.

After WWII Germans moved e.g. from Poland inside new borders. Finland settled some 10 % of its population from territories occupied by the Soviet Union, which from its side transferred new population to new regions. Israel itself is mainly settled by immigrants and e.g. in last twenty years over half a million people with some Jewish origin has come from ex-Soviet Union. In smaller scale more or less forced population transfers have been emptying Jewish colonies in Gaza. To be successful these kind of population transfers must be supported by effective re-settlement programmes.

More or less forced population transfers

(Data mostly taken from Ben-Dror Yemini, MidEast Truth Forum, January 15, 2009)

Within less than a century, between 7 million and 10 million Balkan refugees have been uprooted from their homes. After WW2, between 12-16 million Germans were forced out of Sudentenland (Czechoslovakia), Romania, Hungary and Poland into Germany; many of them had not supported the Nazis during the war. 14 million people were exchanged between Hindu India and Moslem Pakistan.

In 1994, 540,000 Moslems fled Christian Armenia for Azerbaijan and 360,000 Armenian Christians fled Azerbaijan for Armenia. As Israel did with the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Armenia absorbed the Christian refugees, while — just like the Arab refugees from Israel — the Moslem refugees languish in Azerbaijani refugee camps.

From the late ’80s on, 75,000 non-Moslem blacks from Mauritania were exiled to Senegal and Mali, while 75,000 Arabs fled to Mauritania. Ethnic conflicts in the Sudan continue — between Muslim Arabs and black animists in the South; and between Muslim Arabs and black Muslims in Darfur. 3 t0 4 million black farmers of Darfur have fled Arab-dominated Khartoum, where some 200,000 to 400,000 black Muslims have already been killed.

Cyprus has been split between Christian Greeks and Moslem Turks; this included a population exchange, where 200,000 Greeks and 50,000 Turks were shifted.

Even before Israel became a state and increasingly after that, more than 800,000 Jews were forced to flee the Arab countries, where many of them had lived way before the Arabs Conquest; most of them came to Israel.

When it became a state in 1948, Arabs left to avoid the coming war, fled in fear incited by their own press or were forced by their leaders to leave Israel. The Arabs claim 650,000-750,000 up to a million refugees, while the UN Acting Mediator in October, 1948 set it at 472,000, of which 360,000 required aid (UNRWA is now supporting 4.5 million of their “descendants”.) Of all the refugees, only these Arabs have demanded the right of return.

More about issues e.g. in my article “Gaza War – Could Balkan history show way out?


Three-State Option?

I wonder why there is not more discussion about a “three-state” approach, where Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution could also be more economically sustainable than other options. It could be a bit further developed by making a buffer zone between Israel and hard-liners in Gaza. From my point of view the best way to do this is to relocate population from Gaza some 50-100 km SW to Sinai. There is possible to build new infrastructure instead again repairing existing one. With good planning and implementing economic-social programmes backed with sufficient international Aid money it is possible also to create more sustainable economy than today’s Gaza. More in “The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict”.


My Conclusions

If the EU would stop propping up Hamas and the PA with money and verbal support, there might actually be a chance of peace. Why should the Palestinians want to settle with Israel when they can line their pockets, buy the latest weaponry, and maintain their “clients” by holding out and continuing to receive support from the EU?” (Talkback Ynet)

The failure of U.S. in promoting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians may be related to fact that again the plans are made on Washington’s drawing board without understanding regional circumstances and mentality in the Middle East; the growing gap between reality and idealistic day-to-day politics is now demonstrated not only as strain in the U.S. Israel relationship but also as declining U.S. credibility among Palestinians.

The same – as U.S. foreign policy – can be said about EU’s foreign policy (if one can found that some where). EU does not seems to have any vision nor strategy and initiatives for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Modest attempts to use carrots (squandering aid to capacity building in West bank and Gaza) and no use of sticks (e.g. embargo) reduce EU’s foreign policy activities to empty statements (“The European Union has condemned all the settlement activities”).

From my viewpoint the basic truth of the matter still stands: Israel is the only nation in the Middle East that holds free elections, enables freedom of speech and cherishes similar values to those of average European and American people. This said I must add that there is not only a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but a battle between those who believe in a mixed, tolerant and non-racial society, and the forces of ultra-nationalism in both Israel and Palestine.


The bottom line: Quality Peace

I would like to conclude that instead of rigid high-flown statements and dead road maps international community should facilitate the Middle East peace process through following three principles


  • Negotiations will be restored without prior conditions.
  • The talks should be implemented by local stakeholders, not under supervision of outside powers
  • The international community – outside powers – should support any common agreed outcome of talks e.g. with financial aid programs

This approach means that an outcome – which I describe with term quality peace – is not possible to achieve imposed from top to field e.g forced by international community or other outsiders; with that kind of approach one can only freeze the conflict not solve it. The only way for quality peace is through motivation or at least commitment of individual, clan, community, ethnic groups, wider society or state to resolve conflicts through dialogue by acceptance and at least tolerance of differences. (More in my article “Quality Peace”)



Election Bazaar in Iraq ongoing

March 9, 2010

“democracies make elections, elections don’t make democracies”

The counting of Millions of votes cast in Iraqis elections is going on to choose the right ones from more than 6,000 candidates from 86 political groups to gain seats in the 325-member assembly. Some violence occurred – 38 citizens were killed and around 100 were wounded in result of bombings. The country’s electoral commission called it a “glorious day” and a victory for Iraq. While election hype and afterwards PM selection and government coalitions are taking headlines some other aspects before, during and after elections may have more effect for the future of Iraq.

Comments from West have praised democratic development and even the UN Security Council Monday hailed parliamentary elections in Iraq as an “important step” toward strengthening the country’s national unity. From my point of view democracy played minor role in elections and the outcome probably will be splitting ethnic/religious entities instead of national unity.

Background information related to Iraqi elections as well later the results can be found from following link , which includes an interactive map with Province Overview/Details, Political Coalitions, Seats Distribution and later with Winning Candidates of Iraqi elections 2010 made by Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite TV network.

The De-Baathification Campaign

The anti-Baathist campaign in Iraq was strong having its influence to selection alternatives. The Accountability and Justice Commission successfully banned hundreds of candidates from the March 2010 elections for alleged Baathist ties. Unlike the barring of candidates, which was of questionable legality, the February 2008 Accountability and Justice Act actually says that Baathists are not allowed jobs in the Interior and Defence Ministries. Many southern provinces that are controlled by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law list have also created their own committees to weed out former regime members in the local governments.

Parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq and his Iraqi National Dialogue Front, who were part of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement are the most prominent of those banned. U.N. mission in Iraq sent a letter to the Election Commission calling on it to reject the banning of candidates. Parliamentarian Mutlaq said that he would appeal his case to the courts. United Nations asked Accountability and Justice Commission to reverse its decision. They replied by telling the U.N. to stop interfering in Iraqi affairs.

Vice President Joe Biden criticized Accountability and Justice Commission and said that it wasn’t being impartial and suggested that banning candidates should be postponed until after the election. Head of the Accountability and Justice Commission Ali al-Lami rejected the idea. Government spokesman later said that the U.S. was interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.

Press reported that of the 511 banned candidates, 72 were from former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement, and 67 were from Interior Minister Jawad Bolani’s Unity of Iraq Alliance. Later Accountability and Justice Commission reinstated 59 candidates saying that there were errors in their paperwork. On January American commander of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus said that the Accountability and Justice Commission was working at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. Commission responded by accusing Petraeus of working with Baathists.

And where goes the oil money?

The key element to understanding the future development of Iraq is the struggle about oil income, which same time draws lines between central government and regional/local authorities. On December 2007 the Basra branch of the Fadila party reflected local regionalism sentiment and made an unprecedented demand for a one-dollar fee per locally-produced barrel of oil to be set aside for the governorate in a special fund. Basra holds maybe 60 to 70% of Iraq’s oil (currently producing more than 1,000,000 bpd) and despite remarkable oil income has one of the lowest standards of living in the country. Despite a failed referendum initiative in January 2009 the Maliki government indicated its preparedness to give Basra 50 cent per barrel of oil. When news about this broke last May, it was immediately followed by demands from Kirkuk, Iraq’s second biggest producer (maybe 600,000 bpd) for a similar half-dollar per barrel fee. The new article 43 of the budget was accepted and went even further: So one dollar will be paid to the relevant governorates for 1) each barrel of produced oil; 2) each barrel refined oil (the biggest refineries are in Bayji in Salahaddin province and Dura near Baghdad) 3) each 150 cubic metres of produced natural gas. And not only oil, but also, 20 dollars will be paid for each foreign visitor to the “holy sites” in the governorates!

Related to oil income struggle between Kurds and central government one interesting detail is that in budget some money has been set aside for the interesting separate heading of “oil exports via Turkey”. These funds are intended to enable the Kurds to at least cover the operating costs of the foreign oil companies (DNO and Genel) that briefly began exporting from Kurdistan last year but received no payment since Baghdad does not recognize their contracts, thereby forcing the the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to make any payments from its own purse.

The new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success.

Occupied oil field

One small episode related interests in Iraq politics and oil took place on December 2009, while Iranian soldiers occupied an oilfield called al-Fakka on the Iraqi side of the border with Iran in the Maysan governorate. Episodes like the Fakka incident ultimately serve as political theatre that will deflect attention from the more fundamental question about Iranian influence – at the level of high politics in Iraq, and through a constitution that works in Tehran’s best interest. One can only speculate about the possible explanations for the Fakka occupation itself, which may range from everything like local issues in the Maysan area via internal disagreements on the Iranian side of the border to the possibility that Tehran would like to test Maliki.

A similar lack of concern was expressed at the Nahrainnet website, which is frequently mislabeled a “Sadrist” website but in reality seems more like an Iranian-inspired pan-Shiite website that seeks to bring ISCI and Sadrists together over issues like support for the Huthis in Yemen. More in an article of Gulfanalysis.

Oilfields for sale

International oil industry is making its share with partitioning Iraq. The second licensing round for Iraqi oilfields was carried out recently by the oil ministry in Baghdad. On the one hand, the contracts won by foreign companies will prove controversial because Iraq remains in the middle of a chaotic process of political transition and has yet to agree on a legal framework for the oil sector. On the whole, the mostly unsuccessful first and partially successful second licensing round have ended up producing an outcome that seems more sustainable than if all the contracts on offer had been immediately awarded to foreign companies as planned. If that had happened, the whole package would have been attacked both for selling Iraqi oil on the cheap and for marginalising the domestic oil industry.

In the event, a more balanced picture emerged, even if some of the failed offerings from round one (including Zubayr and West Qurna Phase 1) have since been awarded to foreign companies in separate deals (led by Italian and US firms respectively). In addition to Rumayla which was awarded to a Sino-British consortium in the first round in June, the successful bids in the second round include most notably the giant project West Qurna Phase 2 (in Basra; awarded to a consortium led by Russia’s Lukoil and also including Norway’s Statoil in a smaller role) and Majnun (Basra; Shell), plus Halfaya (Maysan; CNPC), Gharraf (Dhi Qar; Petronas), Badra (Kut; Gazprom) and Qayara and Najma (near Mosul, both to Sonangol of Angola). The new agreements also include partnership stakes for Iraqi state oil companies, and the “leftover” fields that were not awarded will be developed by the Iraqis themselves as well (Middle Euphrates, East Baghdad, and a group of fields near Kirkuk).

The first licensing round for Iraqi oil produced surprises and what many analysts describe as a “meagre” outcome: Only one out of eight oil and gas fields was awarded, the giant Rumaila field in the Basra area where a service contract was won by a consortium of BP and the Chinese CNPC.The two last weeks have seen considerable confusion about the Iraqi oil ministry’s position concerning oil exports from Kurdistan, where the regional authorities have signed a number of exploration and drilling deals with foreign oil companies without consulting Baghdad.

Ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey — and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it. On the other hand, the Turkish leadership draws ever closer to Iran, which provides 38% of Turkey’s oil and 25% of its natural gas. Ankara and Tehran also have geopolitical affinities (especially in fighting Kurdish separatism). Together, they offer the best alternative to the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia) in terms of supplying Europe with Iranian natural gas. Iraq has also discussed northern export routes through Turkey, including linking up to the Azeri-Turkish Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum (BTE) line, the planned Nabucco (Iran-Europe) pipeline, and the ongoing Arab Gas Pipeline (AGP) project. The proposed AGP pipeline would deliver gas from Iraq’s Akkas field to Syria and then on to Lebanon and the Turkish border sometime in 2010, and then on to Europe.

Votes for sale

For many voters it seems to be too insecure to wait that their selections on election days would bring some change for their living conditions. According Uruknet some of the nation’s poor, the right to vote does not mean having a say in who leads the country; it means having something to sell to make desperately needed cash. With intensive campaigning now under way in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive ballot, votes have become a precious commodity, a fact not lost on many ordinary people who care little for politics but who struggle to make ends meet.

“Elections are a beautiful opportunity to get some money,” Ahmad Salam said. “There are lots of people willing to sell their votes, and lots of people who want to buy them.” A mechanic by trade working in the impoverished Sadr City slum of north-eastern Baghdad, Mr Salam has taken on the role of an election agent with a difference. He collects votes and then offers them en masse to whichever party is prepared to make the highest bid, taking a commission for his efforts. “I have 100 people who have given me their vote to sell,” he said outside the small garage where he is employed as a casual worker, earning a few dollars a day. “None of them cares who wins, none of them thinks it makes any difference, so they give me their vote, and I sell it.” According to Mr Salam, some of the poorest voters were prepared to take as little as US$5 (Dh18) to guarantee their allegiance in the election booth. Most charge more, between $20 and $100, depending on the number of voting-age adults in their family.

One other example is Zuhair Aqeel, also an election agent, who collects votes and sells to the highest bidder. “I have done this work in every election since the first in 2005. From the last elections I earned enough to buy a small taxi which has given me a good living. “This year I hope to do even better and I think I will be able to get one of the candidates to promise me a job in a government office or as an administrator in the police or army. If I get that, I will be comfortable; I’ll have a stable salary and a stable life.”

Federation option?

The basic question, related also to sharing of oil incomes, is if Iraq is heading now more towards a confederation or a federation. The Kurds want the former, with the only role of the central government to send them some regular development money. The Kurdish autonomy is well accepted by other Iraqis but think that at least in the oil sector there should be a role for the central government. The presidency council allows the Kurds to go on with their contradictory position of demanding confederation (and threatening with secession) even though they know that even the most optimistic geological estimates will leave them as the junior partner in terms of oil reserves.

The hot spot for development Kurdish autonomy is Kirkuk, which has been subjected to two successive policies of ethnic modifications during the past four decades: a planned and systematic arabization policy and ethnic modification in favour of the Arabs by the previous regime between 1968 and 2003; then a planned kurdification and ethnic modification in favor of the Kurds. For Iraqi Turkmens to be recognized as the third main ethnic community in Iraq, with rights and duties equal to those of the Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, namely: the recognition of the Turkmen language (Turkish) as the third official language of the country; the effective participation of the Turkmen community at all levels of power in Iraq, by the inclusion of their political representatives in the supreme institutions which govern the country, such as the Presidential Council, Government Council, Parliamentary Presidency, Supreme Council of Justice, Chief of Staff of the Army, of the Police and of the Security. Turkmens have been excluded from these institutions since the invasion of Iraq, as the political power, under the Anglo-American occupation, from 9th April 2003, has been attributed on an ethnic-sectarian basis and exclusively to the parties who collaborated with the Occupiers (Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis). More e.g. Uruknet.

The incorporation of Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is seen as likely. Arabs, Turcomen, and other ethnic groups that left Kirkuk following the 2006 sectarian violence will no longer be eligible voters in Kirkuk. In 1957, Kurds made up about 48 percent of Kirkuk’s population; they are now almost certainly well over 50 percent. Shia members from the southern provinces also have an incentive to support a future Kirkuk petition, as this would help secure Kurdish support for a southern Shia region where substantial oil revenues would go directly to the regional government.

Same time with election mess the Slaughter of Iraqi Christians has started. Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to escape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation. Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a “humanitarian emergency” and that “hundreds of Christian families” left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to Asia News. The situation “is dramatic”, he said, and warned that Mosul could be “emptied completely of Christians”. lack of security is due to a political vacuum in Mosul, with Arabs running the city and not sharing power with the Kurds. He said he remains hopeful that peace could return after the elections.

My guess is that ethnic/religious groups will strengthen their positions as result of elections, the self-governance/autonomy of provinces will increase at cost of central government and if the country can avoid total splitting the future of Iraq will be that of federation/confederation.

My Conclusions

From my point of view there is some base for following conclusions related to Iraqi elections 2010 and events around them:

  • Elections showed some tendency towards democracy in Iraq especially if compared to some traditional allies of western powers in Arabic world
  • After successful licensing round for Iraqi oilfields with multiple winners there is good change to develop Iraqi energy field, sustainable economy and get wealth for further development
  • The role of occupying forces is declining and Iraqi people (or at least leading tribes) are taking development work more to their own hands; as consequence the stability of Iraq probably will increase
  • Coming deals regarding government, sharing revenues and administration will reflect the fragmentation of politics along sectarian and ethnic fault lines.
  • Iranian influence, its amount still unclear, will reflect how internal issues are intertwined with regional ones.
  • The final results will indicate whether Iraq has moved away from the sectarian climate of 2005 or will it continue with a slightly more national-sounding rhetoric.
  • The challenge for nation building is that Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis probably have their religious or ethnic identity, however it is questionable if they share an Iraq identity. This may result Iraq splitting into three entities/states a bit similar way like Bosnia after Dayton. The outcome may well be a confederation/federation of these strong entities.

The new tradition of non-negotiation

January 11, 2009

I am a bit worried about a trend at the beginning of year 2009 – a trend I hope will not dominate the rest of the year.  The phenomena in my mind is the new tradition of non-negotiation.  Crisis management and solving conflicts will be much more harder if local stakeholders are unable even to talk each other.

Few examples from last weeks:

  • Israel does not negotiate with Hamas so war and human catastrophe will continue before some outsiders are broking s.c. temporary ceasefire or truce while sustainable solution would need long and deep negotiations between local partners.
  • U.S. and Iran are discussing in UN and direct talks we must wait until new President takes his office in White House.  Let’s hope that situation does not escalate before that. If real talks had been implemented earlier some today’s problems in Middle East could be now smaller or non-existing.
  • Separatist government in Kosovo province does not want talk with Belgrade authorities about technical details of UN six-point plan from November 2008 before Belgrade recognizes Kosovo;  Belgrade will talk with Pristina’s separatist government only when they act under UNMIK (administration of Kosovo international protectorate) umbrella.  So many practical problems will not be solved.
  • Russia and Ukraine and EU knew problems with gas deliveries years ago, last October was clear that after New Year deliveries maybe stop – no constructive talks even Xmas-week.  When homes in Europe started frozen there seemed to be no hurry to negotiate.  When finally EU broke the deal to accept EU monitors to check if Ukraina is stealing gas from pipes or not the last delay was waiting if Ukraina will sign the agreement.  Big mess again when leaders are not willing to discuss in due course.

It is amazing how on the modern time of information society the authorities are not discussing common problems.  Everywhere else the information flow is huge, on-time debate over today’s conflicts is going on around the globe.  Some forums are of course for those who in principle are thinking same way over issues but also real unlimited and open forums are available.  Internet is full of  ideas, arguments, real-time situation information, proposals and solutions.  It is sad that when we have all real-time information and modern communication means those who can deside do not bother to have simple old fashion or modern discussions with their colleagues.


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