Wednesday, November 29
The call for a cease-fire coming form P.M. Ehud Olmert is a very positive development and one that ought to be encouraged. He had stated quite clearly various points that any reasonable party could accept. The bloodshed and hate between Israelis and Palestinians has been going on for two long and both sides have achieved nothing apart from further destruction, hate, mistrust and unnecessary loss of life and suffering. Enough is enough! As mentioned in a previous article, the time has come for us to lay down arms and start serious negotiations!
While a cease-fire is a welcome development, it is nothing more than that – a cease-fire! Cessation of hostilities, which according to Hamas and its factions, is a temporary measure – a tahida. President Mahmoud Abbas has reacted positively which is a good sign. The question is whether he will be able to convince the various factions in his government to accept the cease-fire. Dr. Saeb Arekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator, has also expressed support for the cease-fire. He also expressed regret over the sporadic cease-fire violations of the Al Aqsa Brigades.
The cease-fire is very fragile indeed and after all the experiences in the past of failed cease-fires one cannot avoid being skeptical about the implementation of this cease-fire. Nevertheless it is a beginning – hopefully the beginning of better days for both peoples.
Olmert has listed wide ranging concessions to the Palestinian People which at face value seems reasonable and a good basis to make a fresh start in negotiations. Olmert told the Palestinians on Monday that he was prepared to grant them a state; release desperately needed funds and free prisoners if they choose the path of peace. He also said that Israel would pull out of West Bank land and uproot settlements under a peace deal with the Palestinians. One of the sticking problems that will arise is the solution of the Palestinian refugee problem. This painful problem should also be placed on the agenda for solution. It should not be left on the backburner as many Israeli negotiators desire. Perhaps a solution would be in the direction of unification of families and there fore a return of some refugees on these grounds. Another possible solution could be in the direction of financial reparations to those families who are affected. These are possible ideas that should be open for negotiations in a final settlement. Jerusalem should be less of a problem and could be the capital of both Israel and Palestine with various logistic agreements.
The release of the kidnapped soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for many long-term Palestinian prisoners was also emphasized by Olmert. Olmert even had some positive word to say about the Saudi Plan which could also be considered as part of a wide ranging deal with the Palestinians.
Of course, there will be much tough discussions if the Palestinian Authority accepts the peace initiative. There are some pitfalls in the initiation of talks. The main pitfall is that Mahmoud Abbas does not have majority support of Hamas which is the majority faction in the Palestinian parliament. They remain determined not to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The point is that Israel is still an occupying power and if they remain an occupying power then the chance of them recognizing Israel’s right to exist remains remote. This is the main obstacle. Let us look at the situation hypothetically. If Israel never had the territories occupied in the Six Day War, would Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist? After all one must remember that Israel had an existential problem with her Arab neighbours from the day that she was established in 1948. Wars were waged against Israel’s existence even before 1967. This means that the occupation is not the only reason for Hamas not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. The hate for Israel goes beyond the occupation. If there are any doubts about that, the Hamas Charter makes it perfectly clear. There has to be a party to whom Israel can return the territories occupied in the Six Day War. It is absurd to even think about returning territory to Hamas ruled Palestine if they are going to use the territories to launch attacks on Israel in order to destroy her. Highlights from the Hamas Charter are:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "
"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."
"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
If this mind set in the Hamas attitude towards Israel remains, negotiations and long term maintenance of the cease-fire is going to be more of a challenge than a long term reality. The cease-fire will be evasive to both peoples a long time. In order for the cease-fire to be effective, Hamas – the main players have to come to terms with Israel’s existence and all that goes with it. This means cessation of violence and releasing Gilad Shalit. They must embark on a programme for improving economic conditions for the Palestinian people who elected them into power. This means rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by violence. Social services for the Palestinians must be improved as well as cessation of hostile propaganda against Israel. If Hamas changes its attitude towards Israel and shows pragmatism in recognizing Israel, then the path to ending the occupation could be paved. A Palestinian state could take her place alongside Israel and both countries could benefit.
The occupation is bad and it is not in Israel’s long term interests to rule over the Palestinians. It is morally indefensible! The occupation must end but it is imperative that the Palestinians take part in serious negotiations with Israel over ending the occupation so that both sides can benefit. A new approach must be made to move towards peace. The success of the cease fire is dependent on the desire of both parties to the conflict to reach a peaceful solution.
Saturday, November 25
The situation in the south of
The Qassam rockets fall unabated on the citizens of Sderot coupled by Hamas threats that if the Israeli Army does not cease its activity, they will continue their terror until every resident vacates Sderot. The Hamas-Islamic Jihad hate for
When one is faced with an enemy of this magnitude, even army operations are useless.
The terrorists manage to gain world sympathy for their activities. Their propaganda machine portraying themselves as freedom fighters for the liberation of
P.M. Olmert has no agenda for peace. It is all hit, miss, hit again, unintended killings, hit the target at times, and miss again at other times! The result is more suffering, frustration and further escalation of violence! This is the result of “No Agenda”! It just cannot go on anymore! We have all had enough! Palestinians and Israelis have indecisive leadership that is achieving nothing but more hate and bloodshed!
The solution seems to lie in inviting an International Force, as well as observers that have the power to observe rather than being impotent sitting ducks as has been the case in the past, to separate the two sides from killing each other. This seems to be working on
While it is true that there is no trust between
Saturday, November 18
The hate between Israelis and Palestinians goes so deep that on the outside it seems impossible to bring both sides together in meaningful negotiations. Both sides are busy engaging one another in a fight which nobody can ever win.
There is yet another peace initiative by Spain, France and Italy. Does this area need another peace initiative which will not be acceptable? Saeb Arekat, a veteran Palestinian negotiator aptly said, “Do we really need to re-invent the wheel?” He is right! There is such an abundance of Peace Plans, none of which seems to be acceptable by the one side or the other.
The original Road Map Plan is dead and its chances of revival are slim indeed. Hamas is remaining stubborn in not recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It demands a great challenge on the part of Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians when their Hamas leadership is so adamant. It is the desire of Hamas to wear Israel down as much as possible so that it will cease to exist. They accept the fact that they will not succeed in this in the short run, but in the end they will be victorious. They have stated that.
Under these conditions, it is difficult if not impossible to even start any form of negotiations. How do we, Israelis and Palestinians, overcome this obstacle of obstinacy? It seems a “Catch 22” situation with no winners only losers and increased suffering for the Palestinians and for the Israelis as the carnage of blood continues.
We now have to find a way, even unofficially, to end the conflict. Both Israel and Palestine do not have imaginative leadership that is capable of making peace. Perhaps, we, the common people – Palestinians and Israelis – victims of circumstances of which we have no control, must develop ways of communicating with one another, understanding one another’s tragic history and using our past as a pillar to build a future together. Both sides have suffered injustices! We cannot forever live in our past, we owe it to our future generations to build a decent future so that Israelis and Palestinians remain in this area to build it up and strengthen it. We need professional Palestinians here to build a viable Palestinian state that can take its place amongst the world of nations alongside Israel and living in peace for the benefit of both sides. What a wonderful part of the world this area could be! If Palestinians and Israelis lived in peace, trading with each other and helping one another, this area would be so different to what it is today.
Today, with the Internet and advanced means of communication, ordinary Israelis and Palestinians have a powerful means to make peace. We can communicate with each other using the advanced technology available which is beyond the borders of governmental control. We can join dialogue groups in order to chat amongst ourselves. We need that and it can be turned into a powerful tool that could sway governmental decisions on both sides of the great divide in the future. It often happens that in the height of despair, great things can be achieved by both sides. That is the human spirit and I do believe that both peoples have that.
Wednesday, November 15
While the shadow of the terrible tragedy in
An unknown personality has been found who could replace Ismail Haniyeh. Dr. Mohamed Shbeir, a US-educated academic, as the prime minister in a unity government. Shbeir, who has a PhD in microbiology from the
In his interviews to the press he has not committed himself to these conditions which are the key for much needed European,
Despite this, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about cessation of hostilities towards
It would not be surprising if his appointment could create a split between the moderate Hamas members and the hardliners in the Hamas lead Palestinian Authority. The Fatah members, who support rapprochement with
Dr. Mohammed Shbeir has lived and studied in the
It is also important to emphasize the danger of
If Hamas adopts an extremist attitude as it has done up to now, the future for the Palestinian People will be very bleak indeed. Further acts of terror against Israel, such as suicide attacks and Qassam rocket fire in southern Israel, will result in the predictable Israeli Army retaliations and more tragedies like the recent Bet Hanoun tragedy whether intentional or not.
The time has come for both the Palestinians and Israelis to climb down their trees of intransigence. Whether both sides realize it or not, they have a common enemy called Ahmadinajad and both sides must come to terms with that. Apart from that, the long term interest for both sides is obvious. Peace is beneficial to the Palestinians no less than to the Israelis. It will allow the Palestinians to establish a Palestinian state with an economy that will offer job opportunities, education and a sound infra-structure which is lacking today. There is nothing to replace peaceful negotiations between the two sides in achieving a just and lasting peace in the
Saturday, November 11
According to a report in Haaretz 11th November, 2006, the United Nations Security Council will discuss on Saturday a softened version of a proposed resolution calling for a condemnation of Israel for killing 19 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanun on Wednesday because of Israel Defense Forces artillery shelling.The proposed resolution, initiated by Qatar, originally called for an "immediate investigation into the massacre that took place in Beit Hanun" and for Israel to "cease all violence against the civilian population in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem."
The Qatari draft also demanded the deployment of UN observers in the area to oversee the implementation of the cease-fire outlined in the draft. Unfortunately, the record of UN observers in this area has been poor and ineffective. They have had no influence in preventing violence at all.In its current softened version, the resolution no longer calls the shelling a "massacre" and does not include the demand to place international observers in the northern Gaza Strip.The resolution includes a demand that Israel vacate its soldiers from the Gaza Strip.
While the resolution falls short of total condemnation of Israel, it does not take into consideration the provocations of Qassam rocket fire into Sderot and Ashkelon in the south of Israel. The fact that there have been relatively few losses in life and damage to property is because of the inaccuracy of these rockets. However, the psychological damage to victims is great. This, unfortunately, cannot be measured accurately. The UN Security Council resolution in this context shows some balance but falls short of demanding the immediate release of Gilad Shalit the Israeli soldier kidnapped in June.
If Israel would withdraw its soldiers from Gaza then there should be provisions to replace them with an International Force, similar to the International Force stationed in Lebanon. The border between Israel and Lebanon is relatively quiet. At least for the moment, the International Force does seem to be effective. This International Force should have powers of monitoring violations between the two sides and preventing any hostile activity between Israel and the Palestinians. It is odd that the resolution proposed does not make any provisions for that and seems to lay an emphasis on Israeli Army withdrawal without any form of security monitoring on both sides in order to prevent tragedies between the two sides from occurring. The resolution calls for an international enquiry into the tragedy. It is reasonable to assume that an internal Israeli Army enquiry is not sufficient. It is important that the findings of an Israeli Army enquiry be ratified also by the findings of an international enquiry in order to prevent possible Israeli Army cover-ups of this tragedy and thus increase Israel’s credibility. This is positive if it is objective and accepts the evidence of the Israeli side no less than the Palestinian side and reaches a fair conclusion. This is the attitude of Human Rights Watch (HRW) according to reports from Aljazeera.
There are reports of the possible resignation of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Prime Minister in order to pave the way for uplifting the embargo on Hamas. This is not sufficient unless there is a change of attitude on the side of Hamas in ceasing terror and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. However, it may be a sign towards some moderation and a movement towards a new path of recognizing Israel and ceasing violence. After all, Haniyeh has been considered a more moderate Hamas leader. If he leaves the scene, who knows who will replace him? If Haniyeh resigns, this does not mean an automatic facilitation of forming a National Unity Government between Hamas and Fatah. The main sticking points of recognizing Israel and ceasing violence are still not clear.
However, the magnitude of this tragedy is so great and may emphasize the futility of the Hamas present attitude towards Israel. This could cause a change in direction of Hamas’s thinking towards recognizing Israel. Hopefully, it will result in an improvement in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians and a chance for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Wednesday, November 8
Many of us see the heart rending photographs of wounded innocent Palestinian children caught up in the cross fire. It must stop! If we examine a study of Physicians for Human Rights, 57 unarmed Palestinian minors were killed since June this year by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). This does give course for concern. However, we must put all this in the correct perspective. There is no doubt that much of the blame for the situation in Gaza must be laid at the doorstep of Hamas. The extremist rhetoric of hate against Israel comes from there. The refusal of Hamas to become a responsible ruler of its people is a strong factor in promoting this terrible violence! Even in Gaza, there is factional fighting between Fatah and Hamas supporters which prevents any establishment of a national unity government that could rule the Palestinian People. The attempts to form such a government will remain futile for a long time. What we have in Gaza is total anarchy between rival factions with hate and non-recognition of Israel being a pseudo-unifying factor.
Hamas was granted a mandate by the Palestinian people because the previous Palestinian government was corrupt, inept and did not help improve the situation of the Palestinians. Hamas is following the same road of destruction of her people. Their philosophy is blood and hate of Israel! They use this as an excuse so that they can relinquish their responsibility of governing and improving the socio-economic situation of the Palestinian People. If Hamas would govern their people and their economic situation would improve, the motivation for Israel’s destruction would drop and this would weaken the extremists in the Palestinian camp. Now it suits Hamas to remain at the helm by blaming Israel for their inability to govern. This is what keeps them in power. It is bad for the Palestinians if they continue along this path of hate and violence. The Palestinian People will not receive the much needed financial help from the world, apart from Iran, Syria and various other regimes that harbor terrorists. The money that comes from these countries will be used for more terrorist action against Israel by arms-smuggling and establishment of more laboratories for manufacture of Qassam rockets! No money will come in for improving the economic situation of the Palestinians. The result – both Palestinians and Israelis, will lose more innocent people to violence. Suicide bombers will increase their activity because of Israeli military action.
The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority, with its lack-lustre weak leadership under Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the Palestinian People to disaster and further suffering. The situation has reached a stage of almost total hopelessness. The scenes of violence and bloodshed in Gaza are awful and tragic. Where are the leaders of both Israel and Palestine? The cards are in their hands to negotiate peace and security for both peoples.
If we rely on the Israeli Olmert-Lieberman-Peretz axis and the Palestinian Haniyeh-Abbas regimes to negotiate peace, we are doomed to failure. Avigdor Lieberman is now acting Prime Minister of Israel! The moderate Labour Party has capitulated by acquiescing to Lieberman and his Israel Beitenu Party. He has non-compromising views towards the Arabs. Lieberman is on the border of being a racist (if he is not one already!).His inclusion in the Israeli coalition will doom any moves towards peace with the Palestinians even further! The only way to initiate peace between Israelis and Palestinians is to encourage the simple moderate people on both sides of the great divide to meet each other and create an atmosphere of dialogue which will build up trust. We must find ways to meet our fellow Palestinians and talk to them. We must understand each other’s tragic history and use that as a building block to strengthen our common resolve for peace and coexistence so that our tragic histories never repeat themselves. We must strive for an independent Palestinian State living in peace and dignity alongside Israel. The future Palestinian state must be able to ensure a future for its citizens so that they can prosper.
We must never forget that Israelis and Palestinians are bound by a common humanity! It is up to us to bring this to realization so that we can start a peace process amongst ourselves. Israeli people are not war mongers and do not have horns nor are all Palestinians terrorists or supporters of terrorism!
Saturday, November 4
The murderer is gaining legitimacy as the various excuses for his conjugal activities to procreate his kind make headlines. The irony of it all is that it precedes the 11th Anniversary of Rabin’s assassination by a few days. The arguments over the years for conjugal rights for this despicable assassin not only make a mockery of his life sentence, but also for the rule of law concerning premeditated, political murders. The fact that he is no longer a “security risk” gives him the right to marry and consummate his marriage. Assuming a child is born from this despicable union, Yigal Amir will receive parole to visit his son. His wife, Larissa Trimbobler, will have her visiting rights extended and, who knows, in the future another child will be born. This will mean further relaxation on Amir’s prison sentence until it will become a farce and he will be pardoned.
One cannot help asking the question if this pathetic excuse of “not being a security risk” is applicable to Rehavim Ze’evi’s murderers. While they sit in prison they are also not “security risks”. They do happen to be Arab murderers and this is the difference. Let us not pull the wool over our eyes in this matter. Will Ze’evi’s murderers be given conjugal rights should that matter arise for debate? After all there is no difference between Yigal Amir and Ze’evi’s murderers. Both are condemned to life imprisonment for despicable crimes of murder. There is the odour of double standards regarding Jewish murderers and Arab murderers. The big difference is that Yigal Amir is becoming a “folk hero” amongst some extremist right wing religious Israelis (these right wingers are believers of a form of messianic Judaism not to be confused with Jews for Jesus). They are adherents of Jewish Fundamentalism, which is a cancer eating into democracy and human rights in Israel. According to the polls of 27th October 2006, 30% of Israelis are in favor of pardoning Yigal Amir. This was not the case 5 years ago. This percentage will grow larger every year.
Many people will say that Jewish Fundamentalism has lunatic fringe support. That may be the case today, but will it be so in the future? If polls show increasing support for the pardoning of Amir then this despicable mutation of Judaism is definitely on the rise. Its parallels are Islam Fundamentalism and Christian Fundamentalism. Amir is a practicing Orthodox Jew that abides by the philosophy and teachings of this dangerous brand of Judaism.
“Its origins come from the extreme right wing philosophy of the National Religious Party, ruled by supporters of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism, have continuously opposed any and all withdrawals from territories conquered and occupied by Israel since 1967. These fundamentalists opposed Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai in 1978, just as twenty years later they continued to oppose any withdrawal from the West Bank. These same Jews printed and distributed atlases allegedly showing that the land of Israel, belonging only to the Jews and requiring liberation, included the Sinai, Jordan, Lebanon, most of Syria and Kuwait. Jewish fundamentalists have advocated the most discriminative proposals against Palestinians. Not surprisingly, Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir, the most sensational Jewish assassins of the 1990s, and most of their admirers have been Jewish fundamentalists of the messianic tendency.”
Yigal Amir took this philosophy a couple of steps further.
The majority of Israelis still see the assassination of Rabin as a terrible tragedy for Israel. Unfortunately the thought of pardoning Yigal Amir seems to be a rolling stone that gathers moss. Let us hope that the support for Amir’s pardon does not increase despite the disturbing trend of increased support that he is getting from the lunatic right wing religious fringe.
Suggested reading: Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel