Message in Jerusalem Post: Occupation must end

An opinion piece published today in the Jerusalem Post on “The urgency of Annapolis”, written by MJ Rosenberg, Director of Israel Policy Forum’s Washington Policy Center, says that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lives must end:

“…There are people among us who believe that all is fair in the effort to preserve the settlements and keep the Palestinians under occupation. In a sense, it is not surprising that occupation produces this kind of ugliness. By definition, occupation coarsens the occupier. Furthermore, an occupation that started as the retention of lands won in a defensive war evolved, once the settlement movement began, into a fierce religious nationalist movement that is less about love of Israel than hating those perceived as Israel’s enemies, especially fellow Israelis and Jews. These new nationalists, for the most part, have little use for the State of Israel and its leaders. Their attachment is to the Land of Israel, a place located in the Bible, in their hearts and in the West Bank settlements … These are the Israeli counterparts of the much ballyhooed Islamo-Fascists – although the people so up-in-arms about Arab crazies tend not to see the similarity with their Jewish brethren, and vice versa. That is one of the remarkable things about extremists. They never recognize their mirror image in the people they hate most. One of the many things these fanatics have in common is that their biggest fear is Arab-Israeli reconciliation … Now the crazies on both sides are determined to see Annapolis fail. Israel’s security agencies are on alert, with Olmert under even more protection than usual. Hopefully, the same precautions are being taken by the Palestinian Authority which needs to guard against both attacks on the Fatah leadership and an increase in attacks on Israeli targets. All this adds urgency to Annapolis. Without movement toward peace and an end to occupation, the lunatics on both sides are going to triumph in both Israel and Palestine.¬† Yitzhak Rabin’s son, Yuval, predicts that, at the rate things are going in Israel, [Rabin’s assassin, Yigal] Amir will be freed and his children will be treated as princes of the state. Many Palestinians, for their part, worship suicide bombers and other vicious killers (note the insistence by some Palestinians on the release from prison of Samir Kuntar, the monster whose claim to fame is that he murdered a young family in Nahariya.) The bottom line is that the status quo is a disease that is destroying two societies…” The JPost opinion piece urging movement toward peace and an end to the occupation is here.

Palestinians say Annapolis may be postponed — or it will fail

Two veteran Palestinian representatives who are not currently government ministers have painted a very gloomy picture today of prospects for the Annapolis peace conference.

Nabil Shaath, a former negotiator in the Oslo process from 1994-2000, and former Minister of Cooperation/Foreign Minister in the Palestinian Authoritz, told a conference in Ramallah on Saturday that in the last two to three days the Israelis have said they will not implement anything as long as there are Qassam rockets flying out of Gaza.

Shaath said that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told the Palestinians to have no contact with Gazans or Israel will cut ties — yet at the same time Olmert is holding the (now West-Bank based) Palestinian Authority responsible for ensuring that no rockets are shot at Israel.

Shaath said that in his view, “Annapolis is dead — though it goes against my life-long optimism to say so”.

The only hope to salvage the meeting, he suggested, would be for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to come back without delay to set things right.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at PASSIA-FES conference in Ramallan on 10 Nov 2007

PASSIA panel - 10 Nov 2007

Passia-Fes conference in Ramallah 10 Nov 07

“Yesterday, the Israelis reneged on (1) delivering any implementation of their obligations under the Road Map prior to the Annapolis meeting; (2) on the tripartite committee (reportedly to be composed of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice) to monitor any problems with implementing the Road Map obligations; and (3) they reneged on the document that they were supposed to be drafting with the Palestinians”.

So, Shaath said, “What’s left?” He told the conference, on Palestinian-European relations, that “the death of Annapolis does not mean the end of the peace process”.

He added later: “I am not pessimistic about reaching a solution, but about Annapolis … and about the policies of Olmert”.

What the Americans should do, Shaath said, is the following: set the terms of reference and the rules of the game; set deadlines and timetables for actions on the ground; help draft the document; have monitors in place on the ground during the drafting process to see if anything goes wrong; be prepared to provide peacekeepers once a peace deal is agreed; set up an arbitration mechanism; and put together a program of economic follow-up.

The Israeli program, Shaath said, is “totally incompatible with international law on the question of the 1967 borders, on the division of Jerusalem, and on some reasonable solution to the refugee problem”. And there is no need to use excessive force, as he suggested Israel did: “force is pass√©, force is caduc” Shaath said. “Let’s go to the win-win strategy”.

Earlier, Dr. Charles Kupchan, Europe Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, said that he believed there was a sense of urgency in Washington about the Middle East and Israeli-Palestinian issues. “The U.S. needs a win in this region, and Democrats and Republicans alike see a need for advancement in the peace process”.

He said that “the clock is ticking and time is not on the sides of the Palestinians…I am not a Middle East expert, and I don’t think about the peace process as much as many in this room do, but I’ll be blunt: you (Palestinians) have a very weak hand. Israel has its GDP (gross domestic product), and its Army, and it’s got the land. You (speaking to Palestinians) need to make an offer that the key parties cannot refuse — in particular that the U.S. cannot refuse….I don’t know what offer (that would be) … but if you’re still talking about the ’67 borders and the right of return (of Palestinian refugees), you’re not living in the real world”.

Dr. Nasser Al-Qudwa, former Palestinian Ambassador to the UN in New York, and former Palestinian Foreign Minister, said that “the approach now is to go to Annapolis, which will call for ‘serious negotiations’ afterwards, and that means committees and sub-committees will be established, and there will be talk about the Road Map and all that…This will not lead to any results. What is needed is a stop, a total halt and cessation of settlement activitiy. This is the only possible approach, otherwise, we are just offering a cover for Israeli activities”.

The serving Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made the opening speech in the conference on Saturday in Ramallah. Fayyad said that “This 40-year occupation must come to an end quickly, leading to self-determination and independent statehood for Palestine. The (Israeli) settlement activities must end — especially if the goal is a two-states solution. It is now time to act”.

He added that “Just as we Palestinians are moving forward on security matters, we also want to see a release of our Prisoners. It cannot convincingly be argued that the continued detention of 12,000 prisoners is needed for the security of Israel”.

Salam Fayyad: We are going to work on the Roadmap Phase I

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — who actually lives in a Palestinian suburb that is still within the Jerusalem muncipality, who is reputed to be a technocrat reformer because he previously worked for the International Monetary Fund, and who says that Hamas is “alien” to Palestinian culture — insists, according to today’s Haaretz, that “a Palestinian-American-Israeli commission on implementing the first stage of the road map peace plan will soon begin work … According to Fayad Thursday, the commission will consist of himself, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. security coordinator Keith Dayton. Israeli officials, however, said that while the creation of such a commission was discussed during last week’s visit by U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, neither its composition nor its powers have been finalized. Israel would apparently prefer the commission not to have the power to make binding decisions on who should do what first”.

Lt. General Keith Dayton has been working on beefing up Palestinian security forces. Rumors that he had shipped large quantities of armaments to Fatah forces in Gaza last spring — to use against Hamas, among others — played a major factor in the Hamas decision to move against Fatah and take control of Gaza in mid-June. Now, Hadley’s back. (He never left, actually, but he was rather invisible for a while, as the implications of what had happened in Gaza were being absorbed, and a certain amount of criticism was levelled at the American attempt to arm one Palestinian group against another.)

Hadley has been a prime mover in the Ramallah decision to deploy hundreds of Palestinian policemen in Nablus. On Friday, 300 Palestinian police were deployed in Nablus, according to the Ma’an Palestinian news agency — which added that “The Palestinian security services are facing a complex situation in Nablus. There are still 37 members of the Palestinian resistance being hunted by Israeli forces within the city”.

Kol Israel Radio reported Friday evening that it is “the first time Palestinian security forces have been allowed to deploy in the West Bank since 2002” — when the IDF reoccupied major West Bank cities, and launched a barely-restrained assault on the Palestinian Presidential headquarters compound, the Muqata’a, in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In its report, Ma’an noted that “The Israeli daily newspaper Ma’ariv reported that the agreement on the return of hundreds of police and Palestinian security to Nablus had been drawn up a month and a half ago when Fayyad met Barak and asked him for permission to deploy 500 members of the security services to the city. According to Ma’ariv the Palestinian policemen will have jurisdiction in Nablus during the day but this will pass to the Israeli army during the night”.
Continue reading Salam Fayyad: We are going to work on the Roadmap Phase I

One Palestinian critique

Ghassan Khatib, who runs the Jerusalem Media Communications Center, and who writes a weekly editorial for his Bitterlemons weekly analysis round-up, has just written this week that “Current negotiations are characterized by secrecy, at least on the Palestinian side, thus precluding the input of the public and official decision-making bodies; they have taken place without agreed-upon and declared terms of reference, again leaving the Palestinian side at the mercy of the imbalance of power between the two sides; and, finally, the makeup of the Palestinian delegation, which was apparently influenced by the US, is more or less the same as that for the Oslo talks”.

Khatib has served as the Palestinian Authority Minister of Labor under Yasser Arafat, and as Minister of Planning under Mahmoud Abbas.

“Meanwhile, in the last meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state disappointed the Palestinian side in three ways. First, Rice appeared to place greater importance on internal Israeli dynamics in her expectations of the language and content of any document to come out of the Annapolis meeting. Second, she brought nothing by way of progress in ending Israel’s negative practices in the occupied territories, including a possible relaxation of the Israeli closure regime, an end to settlement expansion or any significant prisoner release. Finally, she also brought no commitment from Israel to a timetable for negotiations …

“Rice left the Palestinian leadership and peace camp in a disadvantaged position vis-a-vis the camp led by Hamas even before the Annapolis meeting has started. This is unfortunate, especially since it is less than two years since Hamas overwhelmingly won Palestinian elections, particularly as a result of the collapse of the peace process and the failure of the peace camp in Palestine to deliver on its promises to the public of a negotiated peaceful end to the conflict.

“If the Annapolis meeting is not itself going to mark progress toward a political settlement that includes an end to the occupation, then it should at least mark the resumption of bilateral negotiations. In this case, there has to be a clear and intensive effort to reduce public expectations both in Israel and Palestine and avoid the exaggerated importance currently attached to this meeting.

“Furthermore, the Arab world is advised to restrict its representation at Annapolis to those countries that already have relations with Israel, i.e., Egypt and Jordan. Attendance by countries such as Saudi Arabia and Syria would mark a diplomatic victory for Israel. Such a victory cannot come for free. If there is to be no end to settlement expansion, no easing of restrictions on movement in occupied territory and no clear commitment to negotiate an end to the conflict at Annapolis, there is no need to grant Israel any diplomatic victory in this way”.- Published 22/10/2007 here .