Abbas & Fayyad: Do They Have a Mandate? (Khaled Abu Toameh)|
Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 29 August @ 04:36:43 GMT+1 (1119 maal gelezen)
Abbas & Fayyad: Do They Have a Mandate?
by Khaled Abu Toameh
August 24, 2010 at 5:00 am
A president whose term in office expired a long time ago, and a prime minister who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the US Administration to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.
Mahmoud Abbas, the president, and Salam Fayyad, his prime minister, have even won the "backing" of two key decision-making bodies that are largely controlled by their supporters: the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee.
The 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which met in Ramallah last week to approve the Palestinians' participation in the direct talks with Israel, is dominated by unelected veteran officials.
Only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum. This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel.
With regards to the Central Council of Fatah, it remains unclear whether its 21 members ever endorsed the US invitation to hold direct talks with Israel.
Elections for the committee were held on July 8, 2009. The results of the vote, which has been denounced by many Fatah officials as unfair, was that only Abbas loyalists were elected.
Some of the committee members have even issued contradictory statements over the past few weeks regarding the direct talks. In the beginning, most of them seemed to oppose such talks unless Israel agreed to stop settlement construction and recognized the 1967 lines as the future borders of a Palestinian state.
Now, however, most of the committee members appear to have changed their minds -- clearly as a result of immense US pressure on Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
It is not easy for a committee member who receives his or her salary from the Palestinian government to speak out in public on controversial matters.
So here is a president whose term in office expired in January 2009 -- and who has won the backing of only some of his traditional loyalists -- preparing to negotiate with Israel about extremely important issues such as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.
As if it is not enough that Abbas and Fayyad do not have a real mandate from their people, now they are going to lose what is left of their credibility as they appear to have "succumbed" to the outside pressure.
Abbas is in power because George W. Bush and Condaleeza Rice back then told him to stay, even though his term in office had expired.
Fayyad, who ran in the January 2006 parliamentary election at the head of the Third Way list, won only two seats. His number two, Hanan Ashrawi, has since abandoned him, making him the head of a one-man list.
Abbas was forced to appoint Fayyad as prime minister only because of pressure from the Americans and Europeans, who threatened to suspend financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinian president failed to comply.
Fayyad's government was never approved by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, as required by the Palestinian Basic Law. Parliamentary life in the Palestinian territories has anyway been completely paralyzed ever since Hamas forced the Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip.
Officials in Ramallah say that the Palestinian leadership is being dragged, against its will, to the negotiating table with Israel. They say that the only reason the Palestinians agreed to hold unconditional talks with Israel is because of threats and pressure from the Americans and Europeans.
Over the past few months, Abbas and Fayyad had been telling their people that there would be no direct talks with Israel unless their conditions are fulfilled. Now, however, they have been forced to drop all their conditions and are being pressured to the negotiating table by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Besides, who said that Abbas and Fayyad would be able to sell any agreement to a majority of Palestinians? How can any Palestinian buy an agreement from them after they told their people that they are going to the talks only because the Americans and Europeans threatened to cut off financial aid?
Any agreement Abbas and Fayyad bring back home will be seen by many Palestinians as the fruit of "extortion" and "threats" and not as the result of peace talks that were conducted in good faith.
Leaders who do not have a clear mandate from their people will not be able to strike any deal with Israel, particularly when it concerns explosive issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements. The Palestinian leadership's decision to negotiate directly with Israel unconditionally has already enraged many Palestinians across the political spectrum.
Abbas and Fayyad are nonetheless not stupid. The two are well aware of the fact that they do not have a mandate to sign any agreement with Israel. This is why they will search for any excuse to withdraw from the direct talks and blame Israel for the failure of the peace process.
Under the current circumstances, it would have been better had the US Administration thought twice before issuing the invitation for the peace talks.
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Hamas still wants to liberate 'all of Palestine' (Ari Shavit - Haaretz)|
Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 27 December @ 22:09:19 GMT+1 (1006 maal gelezen)
Hamas still wants to liberate 'all of Palestine'
By Ari Shavit, Haaretz Correspondent
The cat is out of the bag: Palestine, all of Palestine. Standing before 100,000 people in the center of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh this week declared the objective of the Hamas movement. The moderate prime minister of the moderate faction of the Palestinian religious movement publicly announced the peace solution for which his government is aiming.
The ultimate solution is not the total liberation of the Gaza Strip or a Palestinian state. It is the liberation of all of Palestine.
Haniyeh did not say so outright, but his words are clear. Hamas is demanding Ramle and Lod, Haifa and Jaffa, Abu Kabir and Sheikh Munis. It is also demanding the land on which this article was written and the land on which this article was printed - the land on which the editorial offices of Haaretz are located and the land on which the Haaretz printing plant is located. The land, the entire land. Greater Palestine.
In recent years, quite a number of experts have promised us that Hamas does not really mean it. Hamas is only playing tough, but its intentions are lofty: cease-fire, Green Line, coexistence. Live and let live. But no message conveyed by any senior Hamas member to any diplomat behind closed doors is equal in status to the message conveyed by Haniyeh to the masses. What counts is only the direct and open statement made by the Palestinian leader to his people. Palestine, all of Palestine. Every piece of Israeli land on which any Israeli citizen lives. His home, your home, our home. The land beneath our feet.
Ostensibly, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is an alternative to Hamas. Two days ago Abbas told Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff that an agreement could be reached within six months. There's one small problem: Similar things were said to us when the Beilin-Abbas agreement was formulated in 1995. Similar things were said to us on the eve of Camp David 2000. Similar things were promised us when the Geneva Initiative was signed in 2003. Similar things were promised us when Israel went to Annapolis in 2007.
But every time an Israeli leader took another significant step toward Abbas, Abbas became evasive. To this day Abbas has not responded positively to the offer of 100 percent made to him by former prime minister Ehud Olmert 15 months ago.
We can understand why Abbas is suspicious of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But it's impossible to understand why Abbas has once again evaded Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, or why the Palestinian "peace leader" has never signed a draft peace deal or offered a peace compromise.
Minister Benny Begin says the reason is that, in its own way, Fatah is also a Greater Palestine movement. Others say the reason is that since Abbas is a refugee from Safed, he will never give up the right of return. Some argue that Abbas wants to but cannot, and others believe he can but doesn't want to.
Whatever the case, Mahmoud Abbas seems to be presenting a mirage of peace. He has been talking about two states for the past 21 years, without being willing to pay the price the Palestinians must pay in order to implement the two-state solution.
The truth is harsh. The occupation is destroying Israel. It is undermining Israel's ethical, democratic and diplomatic foundations. But both Hamas and Fatah are making it very difficult to end the occupation. With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty.
Haniyeh and Abbas are pushing Israel into a trap, each in his own way. Only naifs believe that additional negotiations over a final-status agreement will extricate Israel from the trap. But the alternative to a final-status agreement is not a continuation of the status quo. The alternative is an Israeli initiative. MK Shaul Mofaz's plan is one possibility; a second disengagement is another.
Whatever the case, Israel must deal with the existential threat of the occupation on its own. Time is running out, and the writing is on the wall. "Palestine," the wall is blaring, "all of Palestine."
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Weighing Netanyahu as Peace Maker (NYT)|
Geplaatst door abby op Sunday 27 December @ 22:06:34 GMT+1 (2299 maal gelezen)
The New York Times - News Analysis
December 16, 2009
JERUSALEM — A month ago, Aluf Benn, a senior columnist at the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote an article that shocked many. He said he believed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud party, was seriously interested in making concessions to the Palestinians and coming to an agreement on a two-state solution.
“Nothing I have ever written has caused as much controversy,” Mr. Benn said in a telephone interview. “Colleagues, politicians and friends all said, ‘How can you believe him?’ ”
After a long career supporting Israeli settlements in occupied land and rejecting Palestinian statehood, Mr. Netanyahu said last June that he accepted the two-state idea. Three weeks ago, he imposed a 10-month freeze on building Jewish housing in the West Bank, something no Israeli leader had done before. Settlers are outraged, and Mr. Netanyahu is facing a rebellion in his party. Together with his removal of many West Bank checkpoints and barriers to Palestinian movement and economic growth, these steps went well beyond what many ever expected of him.
Yet skepticism would be a polite way of describing the reaction of the Palestinians and much of the world, who view his steps as either too little too late or a ruse aimed at buying time to pursue his real agenda.
“Rather than make peace its No. 1 priority, Israel continues to prioritize settlements and the relentless colonization of occupied Palestinian land, rendering the two-state solution politically and economically unviable,” Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said this week.
Still, Mr. Benn is not alone in his interpretation. There is a school of thought, both here and in Washington, that says Mr. Netanyahu is going through the same shift experienced by previous hawks who became more conciliatory as prime ministers — Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
“As we say in Hebrew, things look different from there than they do from here,” observed Isaac Herzog, Israel’s welfare minister, who comes from the Labor party, referring to a saying that seeks to describe how responsibility blunts ideology. “My keen impression is that he is serious, perhaps more than people realize. He is saying, ‘Test me,’ and I am afraid the world may be missing a golden opportunity.”
Shimon Peres, Israel’s president and a longtime two-state advocate, said he sought to serve as Mr. Netanyahu’s sounding board and occasional guide. He said he believed that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to cut a deal with the Palestinians but was worried about his political base.
“Calling for a two-state solution was an ideological breakthrough,” Mr. Peres said of Mr. Netanyahu. “He wants to be the man that makes the peace. He is not sure about the cost of it. He wouldn’t like to find himself in a situation where he makes peace and discovers in the morning that he doesn’t have a majority for it. That’s his dilemma.”
The cost is already becoming manifest. Likud colleagues, including Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, are calling for the settlement moratorium to be canceled if Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, does not return to talks that ended nearly a year ago when Israel invaded Gaza. The point of the 10-month building lull, they say, was to offer a gesture that would bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiations.
But the Palestinians have concluded that they can get further by appealing to international bodies than by returning to talks with this Israeli government. Mr. Abbas repeated his rejection of talks without a full settlement freeze at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council on Tuesday. Palestinian politics are also deeply divided not only between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank but also within each group.
A senior Israeli official acknowledged that the building stoppage was also aimed at the Obama administration, which had demanded a settlement freeze last spring.
“The credibility of the United States president is important to Israel, so we had to respond in a positive way,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It was actually decided in the summer, but we waited while the Americans tried to get some response from the Palestinians and Arab states. When that failed, we decided to go ahead anyway.”
The freeze was less than what was demanded by the Americans and the Palestinians. It permits nearly 3,000 units to be completed, includes some 28 public buildings and leaves East Jerusalem out. Still, senior American officials say it will greatly reduce the construction as the months roll on — as many as 15,000 units by some estimates, including one by Mr. Peres. In addition, the American officials say, if the Palestinians return to negotiations, the freeze is likely to be extended.
For Israel’s political right, which considers settling in all of the historical land of Israel to be the core mission of Zionism, such a stoppage is clearly painful.
But aides and analysts say the prime minister’s highest priorities are keeping warm relations with Washington and checking Iran’s nuclear development and regional ambition. The United States believes that it will be easier to stop Iran if Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank. Mr. Netanyahu rejects that linkage, saying once Iran is stopped it will be easier to make peace with the Palestinians, since Iran supports anti-peace elements, like Hamas.
But as Israel faces diplomatic isolation over its war in Gaza a year ago, it has decided to yield to the American argument, at least in part.
Dov Weissglas, a top aide to Mr. Sharon when he was prime minister, recently wrote of the need to take this route in an article in Yediot Aharonot. He said that the settlement moratorium was not enough but that it was a sign of promise to be encouraged.
“No one in the world agrees to Israel’s presence in a majority of the Judea and Samaria territories and the continued construction there,” he wrote. “Israeli persistence will bring upon it diplomatic isolation, and this is something that Israel cannot afford. The freeze plan is an attempt to avoid this. It is not important in and of itself, but as a first sign of a process of understanding and sobriety, it is highly meaningful.”
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Geplaatst door abby op Friday 25 December @ 00:32:36 GMT+1 (2130 maal gelezen)
Building peace without Obama’s interference
A promising, independent Palestine is quietly being developed, with Israeli assistance.
By Tom Gross
The Wall Street Journal
December 3, 2009
It is difficult to turn on a TV or radio or pick up a newspaper these days, without finding some pundit or other deploring the dismal prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace or the dreadful living conditions of the Palestinians. Even supposedly neutral news reporters regularly repeat this sad tale. “Very little is changing for the Palestinian people on the ground,” I heard BBC World Service Cairo correspondent Christian Fraser tell listeners three times in a 45 minute period the other evening.
In fact nothing could be further from the truth. I had spent that day in the West Bank’s largest city, Nablus. The city is bursting with energy, life and signs of prosperity, in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region.
As I sat in the plush office of Ahmad Aweidah, the suave British-educated banker who heads the Palestinian Securities Exchange, he told me that the Nablus stock market was the second best-performing in the world so far in 2009, after Shanghai. (Aweidah’s office looks directly across from the palatial residence of Palestinian billionaire Munib al-Masri, the wealthiest man in the West Bank.)
Later I met Bashir al-Shakah, director of Nablus’s gleaming new cinema, where four of the latest Hollywood hits were playing that day. Most movies were sold out, he noted, proudly adding that the venue had already hosted a film festival since it opened in June.
MORE MERCEDES THAN IN TEL AVIV
Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring. (There was one border post on the return leg of the journey, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, but the young female guard just waved me and the two Palestinians I was traveling with, through.)
The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and I was surprised to see villas comparable in size to those on the Cote d’Azur or Bel Air had sprung up on the hills around the city. Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.
A NEW PLANNED CITY
A new Palestinian city, Ruwabi, is to be built soon north of Ramallah. Two weeks ago, the Jewish National Fund, an Israeli charity, helped plant 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area the Palestinian planners say they would like to develop on the edge of the new city. Israeli experts are also helping the Palestinians plan public parks and other civic amenities.
Outsiders are beginning to take note of the turnaround too. The official PLO Wafa news agency reported last week that the 3rd quarter of 2009 witnessed near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority, with 135,939 overnight hotel stays in 89 hotels that are now open. Almost half the guests come from the U.S or Europe.
Palestinian economic growth so far this year – in a year dominated by economic crisis elsewhere – has been an impressive 7 percent according to the IMF, though Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, himself a former World Bank and IMF employee, says it is in fact 11 percent, partly helped along by strong economic performances in neighboring Israel.
NO, NOT A CONCENTRATION CAMP
In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods – see for example, these photos
from last Friday’s Palestine Today newspaper about the Eid celebrations in Gaza. These are not the pictures you are ever likely to see on the BBC or Le Monde or The New York Times. No, Gaza is not like a “concentration camp,” nor is the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur,” as British journalist Lauren Booth (who is also Tony Blair’s sister-in-law) has said.
In June, The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl related how Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him why he had turned down Ehud Olmert’s offer last year to create a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank (with three percent of pre-1967 Israeli land being added to make up the shortfall). “In the West Bank we have a good reality,” Abbas told Diehl. “The people are living a normal life,” he added with a candor he rarely employs when addressing Western journalists
Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah went further in explaining to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren’t ready to do so by themselves yet.
BORDER DISPUTES ALL OVER THE WORLD
The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. So long as the Obama administration and European politicians don’t clumsily meddle as they have in the past and make unrealistic demands for the process to be completed more quickly than it can be, I am confident the outcome will be a positive one. (The last time an American president – Bill Clinton in 2000 – tried to hurry things along unrealistically, it merely resulted in blowing up in everybody’s faces – literally – and set back hopes for peace by some years.)
Israelis and Palestinians may never agree on borders that will satisfy everyone. But that doesn’t mean they won’t live in peace. Not all Germans and French agree who should control Alsace Lorraine. Poles and Russians, Slovenes and Croats, Britons and Irish, and peoples all over the world, have border disputes. But that doesn’t keep them from coexisting with one another. Nor – so long as partisan journalists and human rights groups don’t mislead Western politicians into making bad decisions – will it prevent Israelis and Palestinians from doing so.
(Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph.)
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In Gaza, Hamas's Insults to Jews Complicate Peace (Steven Erlanger)|
Geplaatst door abby op Monday 30 November @ 00:31:36 GMT+1 (1048 maal gelezen)
An interesting article from April 2008.
In Gaza, Hamas’s Insults to Jews Complicate Peace
— In the Katib Wilayat mosque one recent Friday, the imam was discussing the wiliness of the Jew.
Marwan M. Abu Ras, a Hamas legislator and a scholar, at a mosque in Gaza in January. He offers advice on a program broadcast on Hamas's television station.
“Jews are a people who cannot be trusted,” Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas
told the faithful. “They have been traitors to all agreements — go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing. Look what they are doing to us.”
At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the “Crusaders,” or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He referred to Jews as “the brothers of apes and pigs,” while the Hamas television station, Al Aksa, praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine
is free of Jewish control.
Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas
, for talking to Israel and the United States; its children’s programs praise “martyrdom,” teach what it calls the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation over Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel.
Such incitement against Israel and Jews was supposed to be banned under the 1993 Oslo accords and the 2003 “road map” peace plan. While the Palestinian Authority
has made significant, if imperfect efforts to end incitement, Hamas, no party to those agreements, feels no such restraint.
Since Hamas took over Gaza last June, routing Fatah, Hamas sermons and media reports preaching violence and hatred have become more pervasive, extreme and sophisticated, on the model of Hezbollah
and its television station Al Manar, in Lebanon.
Intended to indoctrinate the young to its brand of radical Islam, which combines politics, social work and military resistance, including acts of terrorism, the programs of Al Aksa television and radio, including crucial Friday sermons, are an indication of how far from reconciliation Israelis and many Palestinians are.
Hamas’s grip on Gaza matters, but what may matter more in the long run is its control over propaganda and education there, breeding longer-term problems for Israel, and for peace. No matter what Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agree upon, there is concern here that the attitudes being instilled will make a sustainable peace extremely difficult.
“If you take a sample on Friday, you’re bound to hear incitement against the Jews in the prayers and the imam’s sermon,” said Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar University here. “He uses verses from the Koran to say how the Jews were the enemies of the prophet and didn’t keep their promises to the prophet 1,400 years ago.”
Mr. Abusada is a Muslim and political independent. “You have young people, and everyone has to listen to the imam whether you believe him or not,” he said. “By saying the same thing over and over, you find a lot of people believing it, especially when he cites the Koran or hadith,” the sayings of the prophet.
Radwan Abu Ayyash, deputy minister of culture in Ramallah, ran the Palestinian Broadcasting Company until 2005. Hamas “uses religious language to motivate simple people for political as well as religious goals,” he said. “People don’t distinguish between the two.” He said he found a lot of what Al Aksa broadcast “disgusting and unprofessional.”
Every Palestinian thinks the situation in Gaza is ugly, he said. “But what is not fine is to build up children with a culture of hatred, of closed minds, a culture of sickness. I don’t think they always know what they are creating. People use one weapon, language, without realizing that they also use it against themselves.”
Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli group, said Hamas took its view of Jews from what it considered the roots of Islam, then tried to make the present match the past.
For example, in a column in the weekly Al Risalah, Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that “suffering by fire is the Jews’ destiny in this world and the next.”
“The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what they have done,” Mr. Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding, “Therefore we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.”
At the end, Mr. Marcus points out, Mr. Astal switches from “harik,” the ordinary word for burning, to “mahraka,” normally used to connote the Holocaust.
Some Hamas videos, like one in March 2007, promote the participation of children in “resistance,” showing them training in uniform, holding rifles. Recent shows displayed Mr. Abbas kissing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
of Israel, under the slogan “Palestine doesn’t return with kisses, it returns with martyrs.”
Programs for Children
Another children’s program, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” has become infamous for its puppet characters — a kind of Mickey Mouse, a bee and a rabbit — who speak, like Assud the rabbit, of conquering the Jews to the young hostess, Saraa Barhoum, 11. “We will liberate Al Aksa mosque from the Zionists’ filth,” Assud said recently. “We will liberate Jaffa and Acre,” cities now in Israel proper. “We will liberate the whole homeland.”
In a play staged at a Gaza cultural center this month, a Palestinian farmer pulls his dead child from a house bombed by Israel.
The mouse, Farfour, was murdered by an Israeli interrogator and replaced by Nahoul, the bee, who died “a martyr’s death” from lack of health care because of Gaza’s closed borders. He has been supplanted by Assud, the rabbit, who vows “to get rid of the Jews, God willing, and I will eat them up, God willing.”
When Assud first made his appearance, he said to Saraa: “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not, Saraa?” She responded: “Of course we are. We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland. We will sacrifice our souls and everything we own for the homeland.”
Along with Mr. Marcus’s group, the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri, also monitors the Arabic media. But no one disputes their translations, and there are numerous Palestinians in Gaza — in the hothouse atmosphere of an overcrowded, isolated territory where martyr posters and anger at Israel are widespread among Fatah, too — who are deeply upset about the hold Hamas has on their mosques and on what their children watch.
While the Palestinian Authority of Fatah also causes some concern — its textbooks, for example, rarely recognize the state of Israel — Yigal Carmon, who runs Memri, said Hamas and its media used “the kind of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish language you don’t really hear any more from the Palestinian Authority, which hasn’t talked like that in a long time.”
Abu Saleh, who asked that his full name not be used because of his critical views, is worried about his children. His eldest son, 13, likes to watch Al Aksa, especially the nationalist songs and military videos. “I talk to them about Hamas, but to be honest, it’s scary and you have to watch it over time,” he said. “When kids are 17 or 18, you don’t know what happens. They get enraged and can attach themselves to radical groups.”
The Prophet Muhammad made a temporary hudna, or truce, with the Jews about 1,400 years ago, so Hamas allows the idea. But no one in Hamas says he would make a peace treaty with Israel or permanently give up any part of British Mandate Palestine.
“They talk of hudna, not of peace or reconciliation with Israel,” said Mr. Abusada, the political scientist. “They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.”
Saraa, the host of “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” is the niece of Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman. Some of the language used against other Arabs upsets him, Mr. Barhoum said, but he insisted that Israel was illegitimate. “No one can deny that all this was Palestinian land and Jews occupied the land,” he said firmly. “Therefore the Hamas charter is based on what Israel has committed against our people and our understanding of Israel and its practices.”
The charter is a deeply anti-Semitic document and cites a famous forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as truth. But “our battle is not with Jews as Jews,” he said, “but those who came and occupied us and killed us.” After all, Mr. Barhoum said, “the Jews who recognized the evil of the occupation stayed outside and refused to come to Palestine as occupiers.”
“The Jews who came, came to occupy and to kill,” he said.
Marwan M. Abu Ras, 50, an imam who taught at Hamas’s Islamic University for 25 years, has an advice show on Al Aksa. He is proud that his show uses sign language for the deaf.
The chairman of the Palestinian Scholars League, and a Hamas legislator, Mr. Abu Ras is popularly called “Hamas’s mufti,” because he is ready to give religious sanction to Hamas political structures.
Last month, he criticized Egypt for closing the Gaza border at Israel’s request. He complained, “We are besieged by the sons of Arabism and Islam, as well as by the brothers of apes and pigs.”
He tried to distinguish between religious and political language, and then said: “The Israelis can’t accept criticism. They overreact, like any guilty person.” Israel for him is an enemy. “This is an open war with Israel, with each side trying to press the other,” he said. A war? “If it’s not a war, what is it?” he asked.
Then he spoke of his son, who tried to volunteer to fight the Israelis at 17. “I convinced him to wait, he had no weapon, until 20,” Mr. Abu Ras said. “Now he’s a member of Qassam,” the Hamas military wing, “and an example for young people.”
Promoting an Ethos
Mark Regev, spokesman for Mr. Olmert, called on “Arab leaders who are moderate and believe in peace to speak out more strongly against extremist elements.” He called the “incitement to hatred and violence standard Hamas operating procedure,” adding, “In Hamas education and broadcasting they turn the suicide bomber who murders the innocent into a positive role model, and they portray Jews in the most negative terms, that too often reminds us of language used in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.”
The “serious question,” he said, “is what ethos are they promoting?”
Hazim el-Sharawi, 30, the original host of the Farfour character on Hamas television, and known as “Uncle Hazim,” has no doubts. It was his idea to have Farfour killed by an Israeli interrogator, he said. “We wanted to send a message through this character that would fit the reality of Palestinian life.”
Israel is the source, he insisted. “A child sees his neighbors killed, or blown up on the beach, and how do I explain this to a child that already knows? The occupation is the reason; it creates the reality. I just organize the information for him.”
The point is simple, he said: “We want to connect the child to Palestine, to his country, so you know that your original city is Jaffa, your capital is Jerusalem and that the Jews took your land and closed your borders and are killing your friends and family.”
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Al-Quds Underground Festival: 'Peace without dialogue? Impossible' (Gil Zohar)|
Geplaatst door abby op Thursday 12 November @ 03:21:37 GMT+1 (1541 maal gelezen)
A cultural dialogue project where Israelis are not welcome? That sounds like one hand clapping, yet the Dutch charity organisation Cordaid and the "Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures" considered the EU money well spent on this 'dialogue project' in Jerusalem's old city.
Peace without dialogue? ImpossibleBy GIL ZOHAR
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There aren't too many English-language journalists who have covered Arab Jerusalem as I have for In Jerusalem
in recent years - reporting on everything from a home in Anata built and demolished four times and now facing a fifth demolition order, to the first shopping mall along east Jerusalem's main drag Salah a-Din Street, which received a building permit after 42 years of bureaucracy; from the al-Mamal Foundation for Contemporary Art inside the New Gate, to a conference on Palestinian refugees at al-Quds University in Abu Dis. These are all stories I have reported in an objective manner.
Thus it was that last weekend I duly RSVP'd to a guests-only invitation to the Al-Quds Underground, touted as an unconventional festival with more than 150 small shows in private spaces in the Old City. Performances included music, storytelling, dancing, short acts and food. Locations were living rooms, a library, courtyards, gardens and more unique places. My expectation of a celebration of Jerusalem's diversity was dashed, however, when I arrived late Saturday afternoon at the Damascus Gate meeting point. Politely asked in English by Jamal Goseh, the director of the a-Nuzha Hakawati Theater near the American Colony Hotel, "Where do you live?" I responded in Arabic that I live in Jerusalem. From my accent and appearance, he discerned that I am an Israeli.
Al-Quds Underground's artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven of Amsterdam then told me, along with some Israeli peace activists who had arrived, that we were not welcome. My reply that I had been invited was to no avail, nor was my guarded threat to pen an expose of their racism.
And so here it is.
For the sake of fairness, I met Twaalfhoven the next day to allow him an opportunity to explain… or dig himself a deeper hole. (Goseh declined my request for an interview.) "We want to bring art to the world," he began. "I sometimes break through the boundaries between art and life. That is the core of my work."
A visionary creator of art happenings such as a dance performance at the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah and the Long Distance Call concert on the rooftops of the Turkish half of the divided Cypriot city of Nicosia, Twaalfhoven said he had vaguely heard that the Arab League had chosen Jerusalem as Al-Quds 2009 Capital of Arab Culture and that the Israeli government had banned the festival as a political event forbidden under the Oslo Accords. "I don't know the details. I thought it was a good idea to bring people together."
Twaalfhoven then added, "The local people told me months ago that Israelis cannot go. Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come."
Apologetic over what had happened, he then spilled the beans. The €50,000 project was funded by the European Union through the Dutch charity Cordaid and the Alexandria-based Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures. To have said no to racism would have meant to scuttle the budget.
Al-Quds Underground's no-Israelis rule is part of a larger policy set by the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee. This BDS movement, founded in 2005, can take credit for the cancellation of Leonard Cohen's September concert at the Ramallah Cultural Palace.
Similarly in 2007, BDS activists succeeded in getting Canadian rock 'n' roll star Bryan Adams to pull the plug on back-to-back concerts in Jericho and Tel Aviv. Organized by the New York-based One Million Voices, the concerts were intended to promote a two-state solution to resolve the festering Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
BDS activists in Europe and elsewhere aim to isolate and discomfit Israel just as South Africa's apartheid regime was targeted in the 1980s. This rejection of normalization of relations is a historic and strategic mistake based on the false analogy between apartheid and Zionism.
Never mind the snub I received Saturday. On a broader level, the BDS movement is missing the point that peace is best promoted at a grassroots level, person to person, Jew to Arab, and Arab to Jew.
Those who think Israel can be pressured into coexistence are mistaken. Two states for two peoples will be embraced when enough people demand it. BDS fosters the illusion that Palestinians can achieve their goal of statehood without ever accepting Israel and Israelis.
Boycott, divest and sanction? I respond, Embrace, invest and encourage. Peace starts among people. Anyone unprepared for honest dialogue with the other is suffering from acute xenophobia. As Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver once remarked, "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem."
Elliott Abrams: U.S. and Israel Had Agreement on Settlements (The Media Line)|
Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 20:00:18 GMT+1 (954 maal gelezen)
Elliott Abrams came to prominence in the Reagan Administration and later served in several national security posts under President George W. Bush. He was Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Democracy Strategy, under President Bush, during which time he also headed the Near East, North Africa desk of the National Security Council. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spoke with Felice Friedson at The Media Line's Mideast Bureau on October 26, 2009.
The Media Line: They say a day is like an eternity in the Middle East, and your involvement in Mideast peace making dates back a long time. First tell me, when we hear the phrase "Middle East Conflict", which specific conflict should come to mind?
Abrams: I think people usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict or if I can put it in a different way, the refusal since 1948. People usually mean the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another way of putting it, I think, is the conflict that results from the fact that since partition in 1948, the Arabs have refused to accept the existence of the state of Israel as a permanent fact. I think that's really what's at the root when people usually refer to the Middle East conflict. Other things in the Middle East, like the case of Iran are usually what we mean when we talk about the Middle East conflict.
The Media Line: Aren't other conflicts like Sunni-Shia greater? Aren't they still considered Middle East Conflicts?
Abrams: But the world is less interested in those and more interested in the ones between Arabs and Jews. The conflicts in which Muslim kills Muslim or Arab kills Arab, Sudan as an example, just don't excite attention.
The Media Line: Media likes to portray Israel as the maverick that's going to mount a dramatic mission over the Iranian sands, neutralizing Iran's nuclear threat. Is Israel capable of doing it? Can it even try without a green light from the Obama White House?
Abrams: I think Israel can do a great deal of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. You know it's not on the level with the U.S. Air Force. Nobody's air force is on the level of the U.S. Air Force, just in terms of size and number of fighters and bombers and tankers and missiles and so forth. I do believe that Israel would set the Iranian program back some years and things can happen in those few years, like the government of Iran is in big trouble internally, it can fall. How long is that government going to last? Ten years? Five years, who knows? I think we should take seriously the fact that both the United States and Israel do have some kind of military option. The Obama administration would like to avoid the use of that option by Israel or the U.S. but so would we all. Everyone would like to avoid an Iranian nuclear weapon without any turn to violence.
The Media Line: The concern is that there are so many different plants throughout Iran; it would take massive armies to take them out almost simultaneously. How could Israel handle that?
Abrams: Nobody is talking about armies and nobody is talking about invading Iran. When I hear people sometimes compare Iran with Iraq, or people say 'you know, if there's a strike on Iran, it'll be just like the Iran-Iraq war. No, no, no. Nobody is talking about anything like that. What we would be talking about is a very brief air strike on a very small number of locations. I don't agree with the view that you hear a lot in Washington and elsewhere that there are so many targets in Iran, it's now impossible to attack them all. It's true. It's impossible to attack them all. But you don't need to attack them all. There are a few critical targets like Natanz obviously, where they have something like 8,000 centrifuges. I think the Iranian regime understands full well that they could be quite vulnerable and set back for some period of time.
The Media Line: There are those who say Iran is an existential threat to Israel? Is that hyperbole?
Abrams: Well if you think about the world in 2009, how many cases are there in which one nation is saying it wishes to eradicate, destroy, annihilate or end the existence of another? There is actually only one, which is the case of the government of Iran. Now, it's a rhetorical device. It's just a matter of making speeches, unless or until they get a nuclear weapon. At that point, we have this amazing combination of somebody in possession of the ability to annihilate saying I would like to annihilate another country. I think it may sound like hyperbole and rhetoric if you're sitting in Washington or London or Beijing, but if you're sitting in a place where the bombs might land, it's not going to sound quite so relaxing.
The Media Line: As we sit here, there are think tanks and strategists, many people, trying to figure out if sanctions or other means are going to make a difference in stopping nuclear proliferation. Do you feel that sanctions work and do you feel that there are other angles that have not been addressed?
Abrams: I think sanctions can work. They worked in the case of South Africa. They worked in that case because they were global, they were multilateral. It's a lot tougher for unilateral American sanctions to work. In the case of Iran, I do think sanctions can still work and I would give you the Iranian offer which they may not be serious about, but the offer to remove all of their low-enriched uranium to Russia. Why would they entertain such an offer? Why would they make such an offer? What is that about? I think it's a sign of weakness on the part of the regime. I think they are desperate to avoid additional economic sanctions. The political situation inside Iran is making them very anxious. In the months since the June election, they have not eliminated opposition to the regime and the regime itself is split. The clerics are split. This is big trouble for the regime and they don't want additional economic sanctions. They will do a lot to avoid sanctions. So if we can, we the P5-plus-1, the global community so called, if we can credibly threaten additional economic sanctions against Iran, I think it is still possible to freeze their nuclear program.
The Media Line: What about individual sanctions?
Abrams: Sanctions by individual countries—
The Media Line: And targeting individuals within Iran?
Abrams: You know, we should be doing that because it's the right thing to do, but it isn't going to be powerful enough. We, the United States, are pretty much sanctioned out. We can't alone deprive Iran, for example, of the ability to import gasoline. 40% of the gasoline they use, they need to import. If the world could agree to prevent that, their economy would freeze very quickly. I think in the current political situation, they would actually agree to a freeze on their nuclear program. I believe that. But I think the question is, whether the Russians and Chinese are going to be willing to go along and allow these kinds of sanctions.
The Media Line: Turning to the groundswell on the ground— young people— many were surprised at how they took to the streets during the elections. Do you feel that much needs to be done to reach out to these young people who oppose what's happening right now in the current government?
Abrams: I think we can try to do things for them. We can try, for example, to get them resources. Most importantly, we should do more broadcasting to make sure they have all the information they need. Fundamentally though, we're not going to overthrow the government of Iran. If anyone is going to change that regime, it's going to be Iranians. I think our critical contribution is to speak freely, openly, candidly and make clear to the people of Iran whose side we're on - namely theirs. My greatest fear about the negotiations that are commencing with Iran is that they legitimize that regime. And that is the thing that we have to avoid above all else— abandoning the people of Iran and giving the government of Iran the chance to say 'the world doesn't care about you.'
The Media Line: Ralph Bunche won the first [Nobel] peace prize for his work in the Middle East back in 1950. There have been five more since. So why is the problem still not fixed?
Abrams: Because it's extremely complicated. I tend to the view that fundamentally problems are not solved at conference tables. They are solved in the real world, and the real world changes are reflected at a conference table, at a negotiation. So what we need to concentrate more on is pragmatic, on-the-ground developments.
The Media Line: You opposed the Oslo accords as being bound to fail. Why did they?
Abrams: You know, my view of Oslo was, they should be seen in the context of a century or century and a half struggle between moderates and extremists on the Palestinian side. Once upon a time it was Haj Amin Al Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, later it was Yasser Arafat, willing, happy to kill Jews for their political ends. But there have always been Palestinians who just want to build Palestine, who just wanted a better life for the Palestinian people. That struggle goes on. It seems to me that what was wrong with Oslo was that just at the point when the extremist leadership of Arafat was really collapsing, Oslo brought them back to center stage.
The Media Line: Israelis fondly look back on the George W. Bush years; a vast majority of them bestowing the term "Pro-Israel" on the former president. How close did President Bush come to achieving some sort of significant agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
Abrams: President Bush was more optimistic about that than I was. I did not think that we were that close. A lot of people were saying - as they said in 1990 and 2000 – they are an inch apart the Palestinians and the Israelis, we're almost there. My sense was always that neither side wanted to go that extra inch because what it meant was a compromise that neither side really wanted. I did not think that the institutional development on the Palestinian side, like the development of the Institute of Justice, including courts and jails and a police force, was sufficient for Palestinian statehood at that moment, [or] sufficient to guarantee Israeli and Palestinian security. I didn't think we were that close. I do think that President Bush deserved the accolade of being very pro-Israel because he was. His speech to the Knesset in 2008 I think demonstrated that. He was also very pro-Palestinian. I don't think that's a contradiction. What he wanted was the best for both sides. He wanted peace, he wanted justice, he wanted a better future for both sides.
The Media Line: President Bush allowed Israeli leaders to believe that he signed-off on the idea that there will be some changes from the 1967 borders in any final settlement. Obama came in and said the new administration had reviewed every note, every memo and every transcript from the Bush years and found no such understanding as described by the Israelis. You said you were there. Are the Israelis on firm ground in believing that some of their post-1967 communities will survive any agreement?
Abrams: Yes, there is no question about that, and in every negotiation there has been, the Palestinians have understood in private that these major communities—the major blocs as we call them are going to stay in Israeli hands. I think that is a fact of life. I would say that in 20 years of negotiations, the Palestinian leadership has privately acknowledged that and talked about things like swaps. We did have an agreement with the Israelis with respect to settlements. It was not written down except in people's private scrawled notes. It was not a treaty. It was not a formal agreement, it was an oral agreement. We had the kind of relationship with Israel that permitted us to do important things on the basis of talking to each other. We didn't have to have treaties ratified by Congress. So the Obama officials are correct when they say 'we've reviewed all the treaties and so forth and it's not there,' but they did not recall what we told them during the transition and they were told about this, as they were told about some other things that they then conveniently forgot later with respect to Afghanistan.
The Media Line: Is it fair to say that when President Bush entered office the focus was on an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, but that when he left office it was between Israel and the entire Arab world?
Abrams: In our assessment of why President Clinton's efforts failed - and he made many powerful efforts to get an agreement - the Clinton administration believed, and we agreed, that the lack of broader Arab support for the Palestinians in the compromises they would need to make was important. So we thought, 'if we ever get around to this, after the Intifada, if there is another round of negotiations, we should try to bring the Arab states in to support the Palestinians.' And that was Condi Rice's idea with Annapolis, to bring the Arab states in early so there is a broader agreement that does involve the Arab states. The heart of it remains the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the Arab states can't substitute for that.
The Media Line: Is the agreement between Israel and all Arab nations a deal Israel can't refuse—or a deal Israel can't sign?
Abrams: I would say it depends about what's in the deal. Israel can refuse if the Arab states make an offer that is simply unreal and I would say the Saudi plan was unreal in the sense that it gave no room for negotiation or compromise over '67 borders period. Later, when it was adopted by the Arab league, with all the refugees returning, or so-called refugees returning—well that's not to happen and those have never been the terms discussed in any serious negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. So the Israelis can refuse and they did. It would be much better if the Palestinians, in these negotiations, someday accept that they are going to have to make difficult compromises. It would be much better if they had the full support of the Arab states and when we get to that point, we can only hope and try to cajole them into agreeing to provide that support.
The Media Line: Help us understand the Middle Eastern version of negotiations without conditions. In your role as an American mediator, how do you deal with negotiators who say there are no conditions as longs as Israel stops building; the Palestinians stop firing missiles, and so on?
Abrams: We've always tried in the United States to talk to [both] Palestinians and Israelis, Israelis and Arabs. We really do want a solution that benefits Israelis and Palestinians. What has been harder sometimes to convey is that we are not going to jam anything down the throats of the Israelis, partly because that's not how we treat allies and partly because the things that people have proposed we jam down their throats are not going to produce peace. That's the other thing. We were able to make an independent assessment of that and also make an Israeli assessment of that. The notion for example, is that the only way for peace is by a square inch by square inch return to the '67 borders. The '67 borders produced war after war after war. Why is that a good thing? I think there is a path forward but again it doesn't start on a table in Geneva or some place. It starts on the ground, particularly in the West Bank.
The Media Line: Prime Minister Netanyahu says an economic foundation for the Palestinians is more important than setting a date for statehood; the Palestinians say he just wants to deflect progress, and Prime Minister Fayyaad set a date for statehood. Who's right?
Abrams: I can understand the Palestinian desire to have a sense of timing in the sense of 'no this is going to take another 50 or 100 years.' I do think that setting a date is not possible [as we saw with] the Road Map. It was called a performance-based road map towards getting a Palestinian state. You can't tell me the date, sitting here today, when there will be an adequate Palestinian military police force, when there will be a court system that works, when Palestinians will be able to provide law and order fully for their own people, and so forth. So I don't understand how it's possible to pick a date out of the sky, and say 'one year, or four years, or two' - who knows? I think what we need to do is move in that direction knowing, that as we move in that direction of course, life for Palestinians is getting better, because each of these improvements is a real improvement in the economy, in mobility, in self-government, in the amount of justice available in the West Bank. That's the direction I would move in. I can understand why Palestinians want to move faster. Anyone in their situation would. I think that the last few decades have proved that efforts to move faster than the real world permits are just going to collapse.
The Media Line: I believe you cautioned against America pushing for Palestinian elections when there was a distinct probability that Hamas would win. Another round of elections is set for January. What would you counsel your successors in the White House to do?
Abrams: You know, Americans believe in elections. We believed in them in Japan and in Germany after World War II. We believe in them in Iraq and Afghanistan these days. We believe it's a way to provide a legitimate government for Palestinians as well. I think the mistake we made in the Bush administration was to allow a terrorist group, Hamas, to participate in the elections and to retain all of their weaponry. I think if you go back to Oslo, terrorist groups were not supposed to participate in post-Oslo elections. I think this is a general view in Europe too that armed groups should lay down their arms, and then participate in elections. The mistake we made was that we did not say to Hamas, 'when you are willing to give up terrorism, and promote political goals by the ballot box, then and just then can you participate in elections in the Palestinian areas.' I'm not opposed to elections in Palestinian areas. I think that you should have to choose between trying to seize power by guns, and offering your program to the Palestinian people peacefully.
The Media Line: How could any process move forward without Hamas and Fatah coming together unified in some way?
Abrams: Well I don't think that unity between a terrorist group and Fatah is a way forward. I think all that does is it destroys efforts to create a new, more moderate, more progressive Palestinian government. You're going to get the lowest common denominator there, which is going to be a Palestinian government that contains terrorists. I don't see how that helps the Palestinian people and in this, I think the Egyptian, and other nations' efforts to force a unity government are an advantage to the Palestinian people. I think terrorism needs to be left behind, and political, economic and social reform - institution building - is the way forward. I am not in favor of anybody doing a coalition government with a terrorist group.
The Media Line: President Abbas is not the most powerful person in the Palestinian areas today, so what can happen if there were elections and Hamas does not come into play and you're left without leadership.
Abrams: Well, somebody is going to win the election and people have a raw memory of the legislative election. Of course, President Abbas easily won the presidential election. The Parliamentary Legislative election was quite close. It was 44% to 41%, Hamas over Fatah. Who knows why or how much of it was religious versus secular or how much of it was a rejection of the corruption of Fatah over Arafat. Some of it may have been that the leadership of Hamas had better politicians. I think it is possible for Fatah to win the elections by saying to the Palestinian people, 'look at what we are doing in the West Bank and how we are doing in the West Bank, and look at Gaza, which is not only living in poverty but is increasingly a kind of Taliban, a Wahabi-type state where Hamas is telling people what clothing to wear, not to mention what they are doing in the schools.' I don't think Palestinians, who I think have the highest literacy rate in the Arab world - I think over 90% - are going to choose to go live in a kind of Taliban-like republic. I think that if Fatah and the PA can perform for Palestinians living in the West Bank, all Palestinians are going to look at that and say, 'you know, that's the way forward.'
The Media Line: A lot has been written about the deterioration in relations between the U.S. and Israel under the Obama administration. What's your take?
Abrams: We achieved a level of trust and confidence and intimacy in the Bush administration, achieved partly during the Intifada, when we gave such strong support to Israel to resist and fight back against terrorism, which in the early years of the Bush administration, was suffering terribly, if you look back at some of the suicide bombings that killed over 1,000 Israelis in total. So we achieved something as yet that I think the Obama administration has not yet achieved. But I think the alliance between Israel and the United States is quite strong. I see it in Congress and I see it in the American people. I don't think people realize, for example, that the majority of American tourists who visit Israel are Christians. The support among tens of millions of Christian-Americans for Israel is really quite overwhelming and tremendous. So I think the relationship between the United States and Israel as countries is as strong as ever. I do think there has been some trouble with the Obama administration and they need to fix it.
The Media Line: Finally, your prediction: where will the Mideast be, peace-wise, when the Obama term in office is over?
Abrams: Well now, I'm a Republican and this raises the question of when the Obama term [will be] over. Is it a one-term presidency or a two-term presidency? Sitting here today, we don't know. It's of course very early on, too hard to judge. I am hopeful. I think that if I can put it in a non-partisan way, and say where will we be ten years from now, I think there is quite a decent chance the people of Iran will have risen up and replaced this regime which they clearly loathe with a different regime. That'll change the Middle East because a lot of the problems of the Middle East are really owed to the regime in Iran. It is plausible to think of real progress toward a Palestinian state. I don't know whether there will be a Palestinian state but I know we will be a lot closer to it because what is happening now in the West Bank seems to me to show the practical way forward. So I know there are a lot of people who say the Middle East is only on the verge of blowing up. I actually think things are going to look better five or ten years down the road than they do today.
The Media Line: Elliot Abrams thank you very much.
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Palestinian anger over Jerusalem is affecting Abbas (Avi Issacharoff/Amos Harel)|
Geplaatst door abby op Monday 02 November @ 19:43:01 GMT+1 (1213 maal gelezen)
The pattern repeats itself: A relatively marginal Jewish organization calls upon the public to hold prayers on the Temple Mount to mark Yom Kippur, Sukkot or, as was the case this week, "Rambam Day" (commemorating Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon's visit to the Land of Israel in the 12th century). These announcements win a great deal of attention in the Palestinian and Arab media, of course.
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Muslim clerics, Palestinian politicians and members of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel urge Muslims to flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque to defend it from Jewish "takeover attempts." On the day of the "operation," these groups arrive at the Temple Mount, accompanied by Arab media representatives (especially the Al Jazeera TV crew). They all wait until 7:30 A.M., when the Israel Police open the Mughrabi Gate to entry by non-Muslims. The Jewish groups do not even bother to show up, but the police who enter to enable the hypothetical visit are greeted with massive stone-throwing.
Meanwhile, Fatah members are in the mosque to express their solidarity and to prove that they aren't being directed by Israel's Arabs, but rather are leading this fight themselves. One of the most prominent figures present is the man who holds the Jerusalem portfolio for Fatah, Hatem Abdel Qader, who was arrested there this week on suspicion of incitement.
As is the case with his fellow Fatah activists, it's doubtful that Abdel Qader really wants the escalation on the mount to spark a conflagration throughout the territories. Their main intention seems to be to make their presence felt, to let off steam and then to return to routine in the compound. But the political environment, and especially the media, pushes them to make very aggressive statements against Israel, including accusations of attempts to damage the Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though nothing has changed on the ground at the Temple Mount in recent weeks.
On Sunday evening, the bureau of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement condemning Israel for "extremist activities at Al-Aqsa." In the extraordinarily scathing statement, the Palestinian Authority accused Israel of sending Jewish soldiers and officers to damage the mosque, and of taking provocative steps against the Arabs of Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is a red line that must not be crossed ... The Palestinian people and its national authority will defend the holy places," declared the statement.
This was the first time Abbas' bureau had used the terms "resistance" and "battle." It also said: "Our people will continue to cling to the land of our holy city and will be victorious in resisting its Judaization, its takeover and the expulsion of its citizens."
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the president's spokesman, called upon the Palestinian people to overcome the disputes and "to unite in the battle to defend Jerusalem and the holy places."
Abbas is nearly the only Palestinian leader who opposed the use of violence throughout the Al-Aqsa intifada, especially the rocket fire from Gaza. The problem is that the current mood - among the media, his rivals in Hamas and even from top Fatah officials - is contagious and affecting even the PA president's bureau.
The most outstanding example of Fatah's new rhetoric, so reminiscent of that of Abbas' predecessor Yasser Arafat, was heard two weeks ago, when several members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council convened at the culture hall in Ramallah. On the stage sat four members of the party's central committee, at least three of whom are considered bitter enemies: Mahmoud Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Tawfik Tirawi and the Fatah representative in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Aynayn. If, a year ago, a Fatah member would have been told that they would sit side by side without fighting, he would certainly have thought it was some sort of fantasy.
It appears that Abu al-Aynan did not exactly call at that gathering for a renewal of suicide attacks, as the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi claimed, but he did praise the muqawama, the resistance, very highly. For his part, Tirawi declared, "We shall resist, we shall resist, we shall resist," and promised the resistance would last for 50 years. (In a conversation with Haaretz afterward, he claimed he said only that if Israel says it will keep negotiating for 20 years, the Palestinians will keep resisting for 50 years.)
The problem is that members of Fatah's military wing - who dropped out of the armed struggle against Israel after Hamas' violent coup in Gaza in June 2007 - could take the talk about resistance literally, and go back to initiating attacks. By the same token, Fatah's attempts to help organize the riots on the Temple Mount are liable to exact a high price in violence. If, in the next round of clashes, an Israeli policeman feels that his life is in danger and reacts by shooting and killing Palestinian demonstrators, as has happened in the past, this is liable to lead to a conflagration, especially given the current dead end in the diplomatic realm.
Rajoub also acknowledged in a conversation with Haaretz that the feeling of frustration and bitterness is indeed affecting the tone of Fatah leaders.
In less than three months, the Palestinian territories are slated to have elections. It is doubtful they will be held if there is no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. However, if Egypt does indeed succeed in getting that Islamic organization to agree to a compromise, the vote will be held nine months from now, in June 2010. And during an election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government still in power in neighboring Israel, it is always better to go back to Yasser Arafat's old, familiar slogans.
The PA, whose leaders urged Israel to take stronger action against Hamas last January, played a key role in the anti-Israel campaign launched over Operation Cast Lead and the ensuing affair of the Goldstone report about the war. And Abbas' attempt to backtrack in the midst of the uproar and stop pushing that report has brought very harsh criticism from home, which apparently is motivating the top Fatah officials' belligerent stance.
Officials from Netanyahu's bureau, the defense establishment and the Justice Ministry are still looking for a compromise to diminish the international pressure surrounding the report, reduce the chances of legal proceedings against top Israel Defense Forces officials in Europe and avoid pushing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi to resign.
At the end of last week, the prime minister released a trial balloon about a potential Israeli inquiry - by means of a hint to journalist Lally Weymouth of Newsweek - but he retreated in light of the angry reaction to this by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Yet, Netanyahu's close associates believe there is no way to avoid some sort of examination, even if it is done without crossing the red line - i.e., summoning officers and soldiers to testify.
A highly placed individual at the Prime Minister's Bureau explained this week in a meeting with guests from abroad why it is so important to Israel to avoid a commission of inquiry over Operation Cast Lead. To this day, he said (clearly hinting at the disengagement from Gaza), it has been customary to think that when statesmen err and make the security situation more complicated, we can always rely on the army to rectify matters. But if we let officers get in trouble because of actions they were required to take, we cannot expect similar responsiveness next time.
On Wednesday, Aluf Benn wrote in Haaretz, rightly, that Israel needs an investigative committee to examine fundamental questions, rather than to rebut exaggerated accusations of war crimes. Benn asked, for example, what the government ministers knew beforehand about the potential impact on Palestinian civilians of a large-scale military campaign in Gaza.
In this regard, at least, there is no dearth of convincing evidence. Ashkenazi did not spare efforts to inform the government that entering Gaza would result in hard fighting and many civilian casualties. Similar things were said a year before the war, when GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant presented the operational plans to the cabinet. Journalists also heard pessimistic assessments from generals in the weeks preceding Cast Lead, and some even overestimated the number of casualties.
Borderline View: A self-imposed boycott (David Newman - Jerusalem Post)|
Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 01 September @ 01:18:14 GMT+1 (1760 maal gelezen)
Borderline View: A self-imposed boycott
Aug. 23, 2009
David Newman, THE JERUSALEM POST
My colleague at Ben-Gurion University, Dr. Neve Gordon, has made headlines during the past few days as a result of an opinion piece he wrote for the Los Angeles Times (reprinted in the Guardian, with excerpts at the bottom of this page) calling for an international boycott of Israel to be accompanied by disinvestment.
It is with a sense of deja vu that I write this column. I work in the same department as Dr. Gordon and despite our close and collegial working relationship, disagree with him on this issue. This is all the stranger given the fact that I have represented Israel's universities in matters related to the attempted (but failed) boycotts by British academics for the past few years.
I see this sort of boycott as both ineffective and unethical, regardless of whether Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is in itself unethical. "Two wrongs don't make a right," but it's a lot more than that - Israel's universities constitute the public spaces where Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and discourse take place.
In today's world, where Israelis and Palestinians talk less with each other than at any time since the beginning of the 1993 Oslo Process, we must value every small opportunity and space where such dialogue, including the strongly felt differences, can be aired.
ANGRY RESPONSES to Gordon's piece from North America's Israel supporters, including the Los Angeles Israeli consul, were not unexpected. The Consul's proposal to counter the critique by setting up an Institute of Zionism (at a university which offers a degree program in Israeli History and Politics and includes the Ben-Gurion Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel, the Ben Gurion Archives at Sede Boker, and from which the leading journal in the field, Israel Studies, is jointly edited) completely misses the point. This is not about advocacy and propaganda, it is about honest dialogue.
Unfortunately, rather than respecting the degree of freedom which Israeli academics enjoy and engaging in the debate opened by the opinion piece, many of Israel's supporters in the Diaspora automatically saw this as a reason to vent their own anger by lashing out at Ben-Gurion University.
Israeli universities include people who hold a full range of political opinions - from the far Right to the far Left. As such, they are to be congratulated, not berated, for their breadth of discourse, and contrasted with comparable institutions throughout the world which do not allow for any critique of political leadership.
At the end of the day, threats by potential and existing donors to cease supporting BGU or any other academic institution because of the political views of one of its faculty members are, in and of themselves, the only sort of boycott threat which has any negative impact.
It is pretty clear that the attempts to boycott Israeli institutions are, with a few minor exceptions, a lot of (unpleasant) hot air. Throughout the UK, university heads have distanced themselves from the vociferous calls on the part of a small disaffected group of union activists, most of whom have few serious academic or scientific achievements to their name.
The British and Israeli governments have signed new academic and scientific cooperation agreements as a clear indication of the fact that, whatever the political differences concerning occupation and the rights of the Palestinians (and the differences are significant and growing), these cannot be translated into attempts to impose collective boycotts.
There are only two groups of people who can actually cause real damage by actively implementing any form of boycott: contributors to Israeli universities who withdraw their support of scientific and social programs, and Israeli academics who mistakenly decide not to attend conferences or not to spend their sabbatical leave at European universities because of what they perceive as an unfriendly and even anti-Semitic atmosphere.
What these institutions are unable to do beyond their declarations, Israeli academics implement by their own actions - boycotting themselves and their potential scientific contributions.
There is, of course, a dilemma involved in an Israeli academic calling for a boycott of the institution for which he works. It is one thing to call for a boycott of the "other," quite another to suggest a boycott of the self while continuing to enjoy the benefits of that institution.
It is the reason why many of Israel's left-wing critiques of government policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians stop short of calling for, or supporting, boycotts.
NONE OF this detracts from the rest of the argument. The occupation continues. We are no nearer a political settlement than we were 10 years ago - perhaps we are even further away.
Israel and the Palestinians have proved, time after time, that left alone to their own devices, they are incapable of resolving the situation.
Gordon argues for strong international intervention, without which there will never be any conflict resolution. But strong intervention requires pressure to be exerted on both sides, each of whom has to make the sort of compromises which they are incapable of doing of their own accord - on such major issues as Jerusalem, refugees and acknowledgement of mutual guilt for having inflicted violence and suffering on the other.
Gordon is absolutely right to worry about the future of his two children, as all of us who are residents of Israel worry. We want them to grow up in a society where the conflict is history, where there is mutual respect between peoples of differing religions and ethnicities, where land and political rights are either separated or shared but equal, where one does not rule over the other.
But this cannot be achieved through sanctions and boycotts, at least not in the case of Israel and the Palestinians.
It is on this point where I strongly differ with my colleague, while respecting his right to make his point publically. This is something which Israel's universities can be proud of. It is this level of democracy, pluralism, and freedom of speech which few in the world, not least many of those proposing boycotts from abroad, can share.
The writer is professor of Political Geography at Ben-Gurion University and editor of the International Journal, Geopolitics.
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West Bank Success Story (Michael Oren - WSJ)|
Geplaatst door abby op Tuesday 01 September @ 00:58:28 GMT+1 (1235 maal gelezen)
West Bank Success StoryThe Palestinians are flourishing economically. Unless they live in Gaza.
By MICHAEL B. OREN
Imagine an annual economic growth rate of 7%, declining unemployment, a thriving tourism industry, and a 24% hike in the average daily wage. Where in today's gloomy global market could one find such gleaming forecasts? Singapore? Brazil? Guess again. The West Bank.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the West Bank economy is flourishing. Devastated by the violence and corruption fomented by its former leadership, the West Bank has rebounded and today represents a most promising success story. Among the improvements of the last year cited by the IMF and other financial observers are an 18% increase in the local stock exchange, a 94% growth of tourism to Bethlehem—generating 6,000 new jobs—and an 82% rise in trade with Israel.
Since 2008, more than 2,000 new companies have been registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Where heavy fighting once raged, there are now state-of-the-art shopping malls.
Much of this revival is due to Palestinian initiative and to the responsible fiscal policies of West Bank leaders—such as Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad—many of whom are American-educated. But few of these improvements could have happened without a vastly improved security environment.
More than 2,100 members of the Palestinian security forces, graduates of an innovative program led by U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, are patrolling seven major West Bank cities. Another 500-man battalion will soon be deployed. Encouraged by the restoration of law and order, the local population is streaming to the new malls and movie theaters. Shipments of designer furniture are arriving from China and Indonesia, and car imports are up more than 40% since 2008.
Israel, too, has contributed to the West Bank's financial boom. Tony Blair recently stated that Israel had not been given sufficient credit for efforts such as removing dozens of checkpoints and road blocks, withdrawing Israeli troops from population centers, and facilitating transportation into both Israel and Jordan. Long prohibited by terrorist threats from entering the West Bank, Israeli Arabs are now allowed to shop in most Palestinian cities.
Further, several Israeli-Palestinian committees have achieved fruitful cooperation in the areas of construction and agriculture. Such measures have stimulated the Palestinian economy since 2008 resulting, for example, in a 200% increase in agricultural exports and a nearly 1,000% increase in the number of trucks importing produce into the West Bank from Israel.
The West Bank's economic improvements contrast with the lack of diplomatic progress on the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiators focus on the "top down" issues, grappling with legal and territorial problems. But the West Bank's population is building sovereignty from the bottom-up, forging the law-enforcement, civil, and financial institutions that form the underpinnings of any modern polity. The seeds of what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called "economic peace" are, in fact, already blossoming in the commercial skyline of Ramallah.
The vitality of the West Bank also accentuates the backwardness and despair prevailing in Gaza. In place of economic initiatives that might relieve the nearly 40% unemployment in the Gaza Strip, the radical Hamas government has imposed draconian controls subject to Shariah law. Instead of investing in new shopping centers and restaurants, Hamas has spent millions of dollars restocking its supply of rockets and mortar shells. Rather than forge a framework for peace, Hamas has wrought war and brought economic hardship to civilians on both sides of the borders.
The people of Gaza will have to take notice of their West Bank counterparts and wonder why they, too, cannot enjoy the same economic benefits and opportunities. At the same time, Arab states that have pledged to assist the Palestinian economy in the past, but which have yet to fulfill those promises, may be persuaded of the prudence of investing in the West Bank. Israel, for its part, will continue to remove obstacles to Palestinian development. If the West Bank can serve as a model of prosperity, it may also become a prototype of peace.
Mr. Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.
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