Saturday, September 25

The Freezing Deadline

The deadline on the freezing of settlements ends on the 26th September 2010. President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to pull out of the peace negotiations with Israel if the freezing of settlements in the occupied territories is not extended after that date.

It is unlikely that PM Netanyahu will extend the moratorium on settlement expansion after that date as he risks major coalition crises if he does. One must remember that the present Israeli Government is composed of right wing to extreme right wing parties who are opposed to settlement freezes.

On the Palestinian front, Abbas will heave a sigh of relief and the excuse that he has been seeking to pull out of the peace talks will occur. If he pulls out of the peace talks because building in the occupied territories will commence, his skin will be saved and so will his standing amongst the Hamas supporters in Palestinian street. Abbas has his hands tied by Palestinian extremists who do not want peace. If he would sign any form of agreement with Israel his life would be placed in jeopardy. If the moratorium on settlement expansion continues, it would put Abbas in an embarrassing situation and he would soon find another excuse to pull out of the talks. No amount of US arm twisting will prevent that eventuality in the end.

The greatest losers will be the Obama Administration in the US who has failed to understand the dynamics of the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict. In their naivety towards the region, they (the US) will once again prove their amateurishness in their approach to the conflict. As it is, both sides were brought together screaming by the US Administration for peace talks that neither side believes or wants. Both Abbas and Netanyahu do not really have a mandate from their people to make the concessions and bold decisions needed to achieve peace and put an end to this tragic conflict - the festering cancerous sore in the Middle East - that defies a solution because of extremists on both sides that really hold the balance of power.

Hamas and their extremist Islamic allies are waiting in the shadows in the hope that the peace talks will fail. Netanyahu will supply the reason by the continuation of settlement expansion in order to make a Palestinian state unattainable. The "we told you so" reaction will be quick in coming from Islamist Palestinian terror groups and the pressure on Abbas to pull out of the talks will be enormous.

One cannot avoid asking the question - why were peace talks not started at the beginning of the settlement freeze? It is doubtful if both sides have an answer apart from a myriad of excuses each blaming the other for tardiness, and the US on the side embroiled in its own domestic and economic problems.

As I mentioned in my last article, both Netanyahu and Abbas do not have what it takes to end the conflict finally and so it will continue for a long time to come. Hamas is not interested in recognizing Israel's right to exist and there seems to be a fatwa declared on Israel's total destruction whether there are settlements in the occupied territories or not. As far as they are concerned Israel's existence since 1948 is occupied territory and Israel ("the Zionist entity" as they call it) must be destroyed. The words of the evil President Mahmud Ahmadinajad of Iran have expressed similar sentiments which are a page from the Hamas book of hate.

When one views these doomed peace talks within that context, we can see that without Hamas being involved in the talks, they are bound to fail. It will always be the powerful Hamas mindset in the shadows whose strength in Gaza is absolute, and in the West Bank their influence is stronger than most moderates would like to admit. They are a potential danger to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and a civil war between the Fatah faction and Hamas cannot be ruled out. Any signing of a peace agreement with Israel could be a catalyst for Hamas taking over power in the West Bank and this could result in a blood bath. This would pose a great security threat to Israel as Qassam rockets could be smuggled into the West Bank and there would be risks of further suicide terrorists infiltrating into Israel from there. The current mindset of Hamas is such that it would never negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. All that remains is the devil and the deep blue sea.

The continuation of "peace" flotillas towards Gaza will continue as naive peace-seekers on these vessels under the guise of "humanitarian assistance" to the besieged Palestinians will continue to play into the hands of the evil Hamas rulers of Gaza who are masters of deception. They are corrupt, evil and abusers of human rights of the Palestinian people over whom they rule.

The future of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians seems to be an exercise in futility. The US patronage is bound to fail as it has in the past. Failure to come to terms with the harsh realities on the side of the US must also be held to account for the upcoming failure. It will also dent President Obama's decreasing popularity rating even further. His chance of being a one term president of the US will be further increased.

Saturday, September 11

The Renewed Peace Negotiations

                                                              President Mahmud Abbas and P.M. Benyamin Netanyahu

Rosh Hashanah is upon us and at the same time Eid El Fitr - the conclusion of the month long Ramadan Fast. Both holy days for Jews and Moslems respectively are significant as they fall at the same time. Both holydays symbolize repentance and purification of the soul for both peoples. The Ten Days of Penitence also begins for the Jewish People culminating in Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.

My gut feeling is that both peoples need to realize that their respective faiths have more in common than what divides them. Surely the time has come to understand that the Arab and Jewish people are closely linked in a common destiny. This rings true for both Israelis and Palestinians who must organize themselves and move towards a conclusion of the Palestinian - Israeli Conflict which has embroiled them for generations. After all, both sides wish for a better future for themselves and their children.

Now with the renewal of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians under US patronage perhaps there is a flicker of hope for both sides. Maybe there is no room for great optimism as both sides have so many grudges against each other for historical reasons whether it is Al Naqba (the catastrophe) from the Palestinian side and with it the historical non-recognition of Israel's right to exist and the ongoing tragic Palestinian refugee problem which has defied a solution since 1948 when the State of Israel was established. The Palestinian violence against Israel with its tragic consequences for both sides have resulted in hatred and total lack of trust that will make negotiations for peace between the two sides almost impossible to achieve.

The establishment of the State of Israel had received the legal stamp of the United Nations Partition Plan adopted overwhelmingly on November 29th 1947 by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.[1]and therefore Israel's right to exist is unquestionable and irrefutable.

The Arab leadership (in and out of Palestine) opposed the plan.[88] The Arabs argued that it violated the rights of the majority of the people in Palestine, which at the time was 67% non-Jewish (1,237,000) and 33% Jewish (608,000).[89]
Arab leaders threatened the Jewish population of Palestine, speaking of "driving the Jews into the sea" and ridding Palestine "of the Zionist Plague".[90] On the eve of the Arab armies invasion, Azzam Pasha, the General Secretary of the Arab League, "describing the fate of the Jews" is said to have declared: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".[91] However, Joffe and Romirowsky report that this "cannot be confirmed from cited sources".[92] Six days later, Azzam told reporters "We are fighting for an Arab Palestine. Whatever the outcome the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they like. In areas where they predominate they will have complete autonomy."[93]  (From Wikipedia)

The time has arrived for the Palestinian People to come to terms with Israel’s existence. The character of Israel is that of the majority of the people which is Jewish. Any denial of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state is tantamount to delegitimizing Israel’s right to exist. This does not mean denial of equal rights to Israel’s non-Jewish citizens which comprises 20% of the total population. Of course, the issues arising from the occupation and the Israeli Government's encouragement of settlements in lands conquered since the 1967 June War have to be addressed and a solution found acceptable to both parties in this unending conflict.

There are so many problems and pitfalls as well as the fact that Gaza is not involved in the negotiations because of the intransigence of Hamas in its uncompromising hate for Israel and its continuation of terrorist acts against Israelis. Hamas is an evil organization that terrorizes the Palestinians in Gaza especially those opposing Hamas. Their methods of torture are cruel and relentless in their desire to turn Gaza into an Islamic state under Iran's patronage.

The absence of Gaza at the negotiating table weakens the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas who will be under constant threat and harassment by the Hamas regime in Gaza as well as the Hamas cells in the occupied West Bank.

At the same time, Israel must also show some flexibility by maintaining the settlement freeze or else President Mahmoud Abbas's rather tenuous standing in the negotiations will be further weakened and he will pull out of the negotiations which would result in total collapse of the new US sponsored peace initiative.

However, with all the best intentions of the Obama Administration to achieve a peace settlement, the odds are stacked heavily against an end to this tragic conflict. It could end up like all the numerous attempts in the past that have failed. All that remains of past failures are photographs of forced smiles on the faces of the leaders of their respective peoples and their representatives in the negotiations.

Both Netanyahu and Abbas have huge problems even in the preliminary stages. Netanyahu has a right wing coalition which is supportive of the right wing settler movement and the continuation of building new settlements in the occupied territories. It is unlikely that the coalition will agree to continuation of the settlement freeze even though it was and still is cosmetic. Any signing of a peace treaty with the Palestinians could severely endanger Netanyahu’s coalition and result in its break up.

Abbas also has a large problem. He is weak and does not have much popular support from his own people. An added problem is Hamas which is breathing down his neck waiting for the kill if he signs any agreement with Israel.

These two severe problems are a great threat to a successful outcome of any form of peace negotiations. It is hard to overlook these facts and carry on smiling in the negotiating rooms in the midst of photo opportunities.

How does one overcome these almost insurmountable problems? I really am at a loss for answers. Perhaps there is none.

Maybe a possible change of approach could be an answer. Some years ago I wrote about the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to the South African model but modified to suit the situation between Israelis and Palestinians. The TRC was very successful in South Africa. It may not be the ideal solution but it could create a movement towards reconciliation and building up of trust between the two sides. The head of the commission could come from a neutral country. Representatives of both Israelis and Palestinians could be invited to appear before the commission and each should seek forgiveness from each other for the wrongs committed towards each other. The perpetrators of injustices on both sides should be encouraged to come forward and give evidence without being prosecuted and thus a healing process could be initiated prior to peace negotiations. This of course would be symbolic but if done with sensitivity and understanding could go a long way in building up trust and motivating both sides to achieve peace. It is a dynamic rather than a solution. What better time is there than now, even when viewing it from the Jewish ethic? A process of forgiveness for the wrongs and injustices done to both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples could begin. Both sides need to adopt the difficult and challenging path of reconciliation and a desire to make peace.
Three simple words are so important to solve the conflict without which no dynamic could ever begin - HOPE, TRUST and COEXISTANCE.