Netanyahu’s “explicit support or implicit consent”… .

Even Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu has now said tensions re: the Haram Al-Sharif are the cause of the October 2015 violence…  But Netanyahu boastfully says Israel did nothing wrong, and he’d never say he did something wrong.

No, the Palestinias are entirely to blame.

Chemi Shalev, US bureau chief for Haaretz, has just written this:

“just as the U.S. has been hard-pressed in the past to accept Israeli explanations that lowly civil servants are solely responsible for the announcements of massive building projects in settlements that have often enraged and embarrassed U.S. administrations – remember the March 2010 debacle during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit – they are likewise finding it difficult to digest that provocative tours by government ministers of the Temple Mount, calls by coalition Members of the Knesset to upend the status quo, religious edicts by venerated rabbis and public chanting by their disciples to burn down the Muslim mosques in order to rebuild the Jewish temple – that all of these could be going on against Netanyahu’s explicit support or implicit consent”… This full analysis by Chemi Shalev is posted here here.

Avi Issacharoff reported this afternoon in the Times of Israel that Netanyahu – who insists he’s maintaining the “Status Quo” on the Haram Al-Sharif (as he defines it, the Status Quo is unwritten) — refuses to return to the Status Quo of 28 September 2000 (when Ariel Sharon’s visit there with a massive amount of armed Israeli security forces, as a result of which the Islamic Waqf lost possession of the keys to the Moghrabi Gate where non-Muslim visitors enter:

    “Israel recently rejected a Jordanian proposal that would have seen the Hashemite Kingdom begin to oversee visits to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem instead of Israel, Arab sources told The Times of Israel on Monday. During recent meetings between officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jordanian government, the latter proposed giving the Jordanian-run Muslim Waqf control over entry to the contested holy site — as it had until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. Since then Israel has effectively exerted control over entrance to the Temple Mount complex, which is considered Judaism’s holiest site and the third holiest to Muslims.

      The current outbreak of violence has been fueled by rumors that Israel is plotting to take over the area, where Jews can currently visit but not pray. Israel has adamantly denied the allegations, saying it has no plans to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, and accused the Palestinians of incitement by spreading the rumors.
      (In addition) According to a report in a Kuwaiti Arabic-language paper on Monday, Israeli officials proposed in a clandestine meeting with PA security officials that Palestinian plainclothes police officers be stationed on the Temple Mount. The meeting reportedly took place in Ramallah last Saturday. Undercover Palestinian police had been stationed on the Temple Mount in a similar fashion before the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
      (There is no indication in Issacharoff’s report as to whether or not Palestinian security officials agreed…)

    The Jordanian suggestion came as France submitted a United Nations proposal for an international presence on the Temple Mount, to ensure that the status quo is upheld. Netanyahu on Saturday slammed the French proposal and the Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the French ambassador in Israel over the matter”. The Issacharoff report is published here.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said an international presence was not necessary, as Netanyahu has declared he will maintain the “Status Quo” — “Israel understands importance of that status quo. What’s important is to make sure everybody understands what that means”, Kerry noted.

Is Kerry beginning to catch on?

"Either you give us the Jordan Valley, or we'll take it!"

Muhammad Shtayyah, member of the Palestinian Negotiations team, told journalists in the West Bank village of Dura al-Qarya’ today that in direct Israeli-Palestinian talks sponsored by Jordan in Amman earlier this year, the Israeli delegation told the Palestinians straight-out: “Either you give us the Jordan Valley, or we’ll take it”.

He scoffed, with a laugh, when asked if the Israeli position wasn’t more nuanced. “It was exactly like that” — and in those words, he said.

According to reports in the Israeli media, Israeli envoys expressed some perhaps-ironic regret for the usual Palestinian negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, saying they missed him.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last August that Israeli demands for the Jordan Valley were a main stumbling block in the negotiations, as we reported here.

Negotiations have restarted fitfully, and without any progress, two or three times after the point where some new proposals were made by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September 2008 [who soon resigned when under investigation for corruption charges]. The Palestinian leadership then broke off negotiations at the end of December 2008, when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a massive three-week military operation in Gaza that was purportedly aimed at Hamas targets [which were seen everywhere]… Under the Obama Administration, two attempts to restart direct talks were grudgingly attended by an unsatisfied Palestinian delegation. Both attempts ended abruptly when new Israeli settlement building was announced — though the U.S. continues to say that it’s aim is to get the two sides to reengage.
A third set of meetings, which the Palestinians did not want to acknowledge as negotiations and which they said they attended only out of courtesy, was held in Amman earlier this year, and led to a formal exchange of letters between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

Dr. Shtayyah [his name can be spelled a number of different ways in English, including Ishtayya] was elected to the Fatah Central Committee in its last General Conference in Bethlehem in August 2009, after which he was obliged to relinquish his post of Minister of Planning. He is still the head [apparently at ministerial-level] of the Palestinian Economic Commission for Reconstruction and Development, PECDAR, set up at the start of the Oslo process in 1993, and is also an advisor to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He was the Palestinian negotiator in direct contacts with Israeli envoys in Amman over a period of weeks, earlier this year. These talks were held at the invitation of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, with active American encouragement. Jordanian officials acted as facilitators, and American and Quartet envoys were also present.

In 2003-4, the U.S. reportedly objected strongly, in private meetings, to Israel’s plans to extend The Wall down the length of the Jordan Valley.

But, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has recently openly stated Israel’s position that it would be necessary, for Israel’s security, to maintain a security presence along the Jordan River which is the boundary between the West Bank and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly complained about the Netanyahu position on the need for Israel to maintain a long-term security presence in the Jordan Valley.

Shtayyah said, “We asked the Israelis, ‘What are you afraid of?'” And, he said, “Israel told us they don’t trust Jordan”.
[note: ironic joke…]

Israel has consistently expressed — in public at least — great confidence in the peace treaties it has concluded with Jordan [in 1994] as well as earlier with Egypt [in 1979].

Shtayyah told this reporter that the Palestinian leadership believes there should only be Palestinian and Jordanian forces on the border between the West Bank and Jordan. He also said that Jordanian officials told Palestinian negotiators that they fully agree with this position.

“But”, he added, “we don’t know exactly what the Jordanians say [in phrivate] to others”.

Amira Hass on Israel's dangerous complacency

Amira Hass has just written a brilliant free-association analysis in Haaretz which explains part of what is going on here, now:

    “Thinking America guides Jewish-Israeli society in its policy toward our very own red Indians. Why should we be less successful than the United States, Canada or Australia, which, as they came into being and gained world eminence, wiped out – to differing degrees – the societies and communities that lived there before? When it comes to us, why should people not forget what they have forgotten about those countries, which now present themselves as bastions of enlightenment? Now, when the remnants of the first peoples in those countries dare to demand rights, a share in resources and compensation, they no longer endanger whites and their hegemony. And this could be just as true for us. We will hold out another 20 or 50 years, continue robbing the goat and the hill and grinding down the poor, encouraging emigration, buying off and suppressing the leadership, arming and going to war. Until this nuisance of a national, cultural and political entity that is demanding its rights all but disappears. This train of thought is so logical that most Israelis are not even interested in discourse about solutions”

    “Thinking big makes us forget that, unlike the model we admire and seek to emulate, we are a minority in the region. And the region is evolving and demanding a change in the rules of the game that have been so convenient for the United States and Israel. The real question is not whether the solution is ‘two states’ or ‘one state’. History in any case does not recognize end points – every stage leads to another. Visions are also not lacking. The visions must develop and change during the struggle for equality and justice, otherwise they will become gulags. The question was, and is, how much more bloodshed, suffering and disasters will be needed until the Jewish regime of discrimination and separation, which we have created here over the past 64 years, crumbles…

    Continue reading Amira Hass on Israel's dangerous complacency

"Direct" talks on life support as Israeli settlement "moratorium" nears end

Just hours before the Israeli unilaterally-declared settlement “moratorium” expires on 26 September, the U.S. and the parties involved are looking for a way to keep the talks going.

U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State [Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs] Jeffrey Feltman told reporters in New York on Friday, where world leaders are still hanging around the margins of the UN General Assembly, that “Yes, we are urging Israel to extend the moratorium. Yes. And we also are making clear to the Palestinians that we do not believe that it is in their interest to walk out of the talks. We do not believe that it helps them achieve their national goals if they would walk out of the talks. But we – but at this point, we are urging both sides to create the atmosphere that is most conducive to reaching a successful conclusion for negotiation and for both sides to take the negotiation process seriously … [W]e we want to see a two-state solution that’s an anchor for comprehensive peace. The best way to get to a two-state solution is through negotiations. The Palestinians and the Israelis have started a serious process. It is a process that is not going to be without difficulties. The gaps on some issues are quite wide. But it’s nevertheless the – a promising way for the Palestinians to achieve their goal of statehood, for the Palestinians to have a state that they can call their own”.

Asked by a journalist if “it’s counterproductive for every time Abbas sees something that he doesn’t like to walk out of the talks”, Feltman replied: “We don’t think either side should be using the threat to walk out to interrupt a process that has the promise of bringing Israel security and bringing the Palestinians a state”.

Continue reading "Direct" talks on life support as Israeli settlement "moratorium" nears end

Gideon Levy: "Everybody knows what the Palestinians want"

Writing after the Tuesday meeting in Washington between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — in which Obama said he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible, and certainly by September when a nine-month [the duration was decided after considerable haggling] “settlement freeze”, Gideon Levy said in Haaretz that “When direct talks become a goal, without anyone having a clue what Israel’s position is – a strange negotiation in which everyone knows what the Palestinians want and no one knows for sure what Israel wants – the wheel not only does not go forward, it goes backward”.

This is posted here.

Mitchell: He's no James Baker, no Kissinger

Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus has written today that “U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who returned to Israel this week, has not achieved anything in his visits so far. Despite the halo he won by his successful mediation in Northern Ireland, he is no James Baker. Nor is he Henry Kissinger. Baker was tough and didn’t like our tricks. Kissinger, who was closer to his president, knew how to turn algebra into arithmetic, as Zalman Aran once reportedly said. Mitchell’s views on solving the conflict, as he outlined them back when he chaired a presidential commission in 2001, may have been reasonable, but they were unfeasible at that time. He believed Israel had to freeze settlement construction and the Palestinians had to stop the terror attacks. Yet Mitchell’s visit this week could be very important, if he abandons his slow mediation and instead puts a more definite and effective presidential plan on the table. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed publicly to a two-states-for-two-peoples solution, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ response was peculiar [sic]. Instead of agreeing to begin negotiations, he demanded that Israel first freeze construction in the settlements and added several other conditions. This refusal appeared on the face of it like a continuation of the Palestinian tradition of not missing any opportunity that could be missed. For Netanyahu’s approach, at least in theory, marked a dramatic turnabout that put his stand in line with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s formula – the 1967 lines plus territorial swaps. Mitchell said in a television interview that he believed it was possible to reach an agreement within two years. But the truth is that the chances of an agreement are getting smaller – not least due to the settlement-freeze policy adopted by U.S. President Barack Obama, on one hand, and Netanyahu’s condition – that the Iranian nuclear issue must be solved first – on the other”. This article can be read in full in Haaretz here.

For that matter, neither is George Mitchell a Brent Scowcroft, either …

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister rebuffs UN concern on East Jerusalem and Gaza

Concerns expressed by the UN’s high-level Special Representative for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, about recent and possible future evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and about the continuing blockade against Gaza, were rebuffed in a meeting on Sunday with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

UN Special Envoy Robert Serry and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon - 9 Aug 2009

UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry to the left, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on the right, photo by Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In a press summary sent to journalists by email, the Israeli Foreign Ministry reported that “The Deputy Foreign Minister emphasized that Jerusalem is an extremely important and sensitive issue not just for Israel, but for the Jewish people as a whole. Ayalon stressed that Jerusalem remains the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel and as such Israeli law is applicable there. There is a consensus view on this issue, not just in Israel but around the Jewish world. The Deputy Foreign Minister reemphasized the important humanitarian steps that Israel has taken in Judea and Samaria towards the Palestinian population there. ‘We would like to further alleviate the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and at the same time it is important that the international community will increase the pressure on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit’ Ayalon told Serry during the meeting”.

In other words, Serry received a resounding rebuff.

On the 2nd of August, the day two families of Palestinian refugees were evicted from their homes by Israeli Border Police at gunpoint and replaced by Jewish settlers, Serry issued a statement saying that “today’s totally unacceptable actions by Israel… to allow settlers to take possession of these properties.” And, he said, the evictions violated the International Quartet’s calls for Israel to “refrain from provocative acts in East Jerusalem.”

Gershon Baskin: It's the OCCUPATION

Gershon Baskin, co-Chairman with Palestinian Hanna Siniora of the Israeli-Palestinian media center, who has also become a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, wrote this week that “At the outset of Oslo, the world, including the Arab world (and also including the supporters of peace in Israel and in Palestine), actually believed that the peace process was about ending the occupation, peace between two states living side-by-side, building cross-boundary cooperation in every field possible, ending violence and ending the conflict. During those optimistic days, several countries without diplomatic relations with Israel established them, and several Arab countries even allowed it to open commercial interests offices in their countries. Some Arab countries even opened their own representative offices in Israel. This was possible because they believed the Oslo peace process would bring an end to the occupation. They had good reason to believe that. The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement of September 1995 stated clearly: ‘The two sides agree that West Bank and Gaza Strip territory, except for issues that will be negotiated in the permanent status negotiations, will come under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Council in a phased manner, to be completed within 18 months from the date of the inauguration of the council’. The agreement further stated: ‘Redeployments of Israeli military forces to specified military locations will commence after the inauguration of the council and will be gradually implemented’. The interpretation of these sections was that prior to the beginning of permanent status agreements Israel would have withdrawn from more than 90 percent of the West Bank. The US and the Palestinian calculated then that the land area connected to permanent status negotiations, meaning the settlements, accounted for 2%-5% of the West Bank (counting the built-up areas of the settlements with a radius of about 100 meters from the last home in each settlement). The ‘specified military locations’ was estimated to account for about 2% of the West Bank. When Binyamin Netanyahu was first elected in 1996, a ‘conflict’ of interpretation developed between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. At that time I saw a document produced by the legal department of the Foreign Ministry explaining that the new interpretation of the Prime Minister’s Office was incorrect. It stated the following: According to the Prime Minister’s office, the settlement areas in question are based on the statutory planning maps of the civil administration and not on the built-up areas. Those zoning maps provide the settlements with about 40% of the West Bank. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s office stated that instead of ‘specified military locations’ the real intention was ‘security zones’ – meaning that the entire Jordan Valley is a security zone, all of the areas around settlements are security zones, the bypass roads to settlements are security zones, and so are all of the lands adjacent to the Green Line. In other words, 60% of the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands, and in the negotiations with the Palestinians Israel would retain well above 10% of the West Bank, and if possible more. This, according to the Palestinians and even the US, was a major breach of the agreement and it was one of the significant reasons for the failure of the entire process. At that point, the process ceased to being about ending the occupation … Ariel Sharon always believed, as did other Likud leaders,that the settlements would be the best way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. It turns out that they were probably right. Many today even question the very viability of a Palestinian state because of the settlements. Yet the entire international community … believes that a Palestinian state must be established on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders. There is no other solution to the conflict. Instead of dealing with that reality, the government is trying to pressure the US and the EU to transform the peace process into a regional peace process. Netanyahu, Barak and other members of the government think that if they agree to a three-month settlement freeze, not including Jerusalem, the world will consent. The EU and the US in private meetings with Netanyahu and in public statements have insisted that Israel must focus on the settlement issue and not on tricks to avoid making the difficult decisions. All settlement building must stop”…

But, what is actually happening?

Obama speech in Cairo on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable"

Without comment (it is everywhere) here is the section of Obama’s big-deal, well-rolled-out, historic speech in Cairo on Thursday 4 June in which he speaks about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

Obama speech in Cairo 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Pete Souza

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Pete Souza

“The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

“America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

“Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

Obama speaks in Cairo on 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Chuck Kennedy

“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

Obama speaking in Cairo on 4 June 09 - Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Chuck Kennedy

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

“Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Obama finishes speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009 - Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Photos are official White House photos from Flikr photo stream – this one is by Pete Souza

“Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

“Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

“America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

“Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer”…

OBAMA interview with NPR: Israel should take U.S. interests into account

The new U.S. President Barack H. Obama said during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) show hosts Michele Norris (of NPR’s All Things Considered program) and Steve Inskeep (of NPR’s Morning Edition) that: “Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region”.

In other words, Obama would like to see Israel take into consideration U.S. interests, as well as vice versa which has been the normal state of affairs up till now…

The excerpt from the OBAMA interview in which he speaks on this matter can be listened to here.

Obama speaks with Mahmoud Abbas on his first day in White House - 21 Jan 09

In the White House photo, above, Obama is making his first phone call in office to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking about Afghanistan (in advance of his widely-anticipated address to the Muslim world later this week from Egypt, but applicable world-wide) Obama said that “Every time you have civilian casualties, that always complicates things … whether [it’s in] a Muslim or non-Muslim country”.

Israel’s YNet news website reported today that “Speaking to NPR, Obama argued it is in Israel’s best interests to make peace. ‘I believe that strategically, the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israel’s security’, Obama said. Over time, in the absence of peace with Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems on its borders’.” This YNet report can be viewed in full here.