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Ed Webb

25 years on, remembering the path to peace for Jordan and Israel - 0 views

  • When the secret talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were divulged in 1993, Jordan’s King Hussein felt betrayed. For years he had been secretly meeting with the Israelis to broker peace; now he discovered that they were secretly meeting with the Palestinians and making a deal without consulting him. The PLO, fellow Arabs, had not consulted the king either. He was devastated.
  • In September 1993, Rabin secretly came across the border from Eilat to Aqaba to address King Hussein’s concerns and assure the Jordanians that they would be kept informed about the future of the Oslo process. The meeting was arranged by Efraim Halevy, the deputy director of the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad. Hussein had been dealing with the Mossad and Halevy for years as a trusted clandestine back-channel
  • Clinton supported the peace process enthusiastically. A Jordanian treaty would get his support and help him sell the revival of bilateral relations with Jordan to Americans still angry over the Iraq war, especially in Congress
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  • Jordan had long held back from a peace treaty with Israel because it did not want to get in front of the Palestinians. It did not want a separate treaty with Israel, like President Anwar Sadat had done for Egypt. But now Arafat was engaging in direct talks with the Israelis to make a peace agreement: Jordan would not be alone. Even the Syrians were engaging with Israel via the Americans. Jordan was free to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel after decades of clandestine contacts begun by Hussein’s grandfather King Abdullah without fear of a backlash from the other Arabs
  • On July 25, 1994, Clinton read the declaration on the White House lawn and Rabin and Hussein signed it. It terminated the state of war. Israel formally undertook to respect the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem. All three gave speeches, but the king’s address got the most attention. His speech included a clear and unqualified statement that the state of war was over. He spoke of the realization of peace as the fulfillment of his life-long dream.
  • Rabin had met with the king secretly for almost two decades
  • The Rabin-Hussein relationship was crucial to the success of the negotiations. Both trusted the other. Hussein saw Rabin as a military man who had the security issues under his command. He was convinced that he had a unique opportunity to get a peace treaty and Rabin was central to the opening.
  • The king also saw the negotiation process as almost more of a religious experience than a diplomatic solution to the passions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He spoke movingly of restoring peace between the children of Abraham. He wanted a warm peace, not the cold peace between Egypt and Israel.
  • Jerusalem was also a core issue for the Hashemite family. Despite losing physical control of East Jerusalem in 1967, the king had retained influence in the Muslim institutions that administered the holy sites in the city. The preservation of Jordan’s role in the administration of the third holiest city of Islam was a very high priority of Hussein then, and still is for his son King Abdullah today
  • Clinton had studied the Jordanian wish list carefully. The top priority was for debt forgiveness, amounting to $700 million dollars. Clinton told Hussein that this would be a tough lift on Capitol Hill. If Hussein would meet Rabin at a public ceremony in the White House hosted by the president, Clinton said he could get the debt relief and progress on Jordan’s other requests.
  • The king told his aides that this was the best meeting he had had with an American president since his first with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1959. On July 9, the king told the Jordanian parliament that it was time for an end to the state of war with Israel and for a public meeting with the Israeli leadership. He wanted the meeting to take place in the region.
  • The Jordanian and Israeli peace teams met publicly on the border to start the rollout, followed by a foreign ministers meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan — a way to bring Peres into the photo op but not the negotiations.
  • The Americans got a copy only on the night before the White House ceremony.
  • Jordan and Israel would keep the Americans informed, but the king did not want Washington using its leverage in a negotiation process given the Americans’ closer ties to Israel.
  • Clinton spoke of the king’s extraordinary courage in pursuit of peace. He compared him to his grandfather, who had been assassinated for his talks with Israel
  • Rabin and Hussein addressed a joint session of Congress. Hussein spoke about his grandfather’s commitment to peace. “I have pledged my life to fulfilling his dream.” Both received standing ovations. Behind the scenes, Halevy was lobbying Congress for debt relief. He returned to the region on the royal aircraft with the king and queen.
  • Teams from the two countries met every day, mostly at the crown prince’s house in Aqaba. Hassan supervised the day-to-day talks for his brother.
  • The toughest issues were land and water.
  • The final issues were addressed at another Rabin-Hussein summit meeting in Amman on the evening of October 16. The two leaders got down on their hands and knees to pour over a large map of the entire border from north to south and personally delineated the line. Two small areas got special treatment: Israel would lease the two areas from Jordan so Israeli farmers could continue access to their cultivation. By 4am, it was done.
  • On October 26, 1994, Clinton witnessed the signing of the treaty on the border by the prime ministers of Israel and Jordan. It was only the second visit to Jordan by a sitting American president
  • Many Jordanians felt it was dishonorable to make peace with Israel while the occupation of theIsraelcontinued. Some argue that it legitimates the Israeli occupation. It has gotten progressively more unpopular in the 25 years since the signing ceremony
  • Two years later, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched a Mossad hit team to Amman to poison a Hamas leader. The botched murder attempt created a crisis in the new peace, and Halevy had to be called back from his new job in Brussels as ambassador to the European Union to smooth out the disaster and get the Mossad team released. He would then be appointed the head of the Mossad.
  • Hussein never trusted or respected Netanyahu after it, and the peace has been cold ever since
  • Hussein’s strategic goal of restoring bilateral relations with the United States was achieved
  • in December 1999, I traveled with Clinton and three former presidents to attend Hussein’s funeral in Amman in a strong demonstration of America’s commitment to Jordan.
  • The Trump administration has tilted dramatically toward Israel on all the issues that concern Jordanians about the future of the Palestinian issue, especially the status of Jerusalem. The movement of the American embassy to Jerusalem was a particularly important shock to the peace treaty. If Israel begins to annex parts of the West Bank, as Netanyahu has promised, the Jordanians will be in a corner. The treaty may be more endangered today than ever before.
Ed Webb

Israeli citizen stands trial in Jordan as tensions simmer - 0 views

  • The trial of Israeli citizen Konstantin Kotov started Dec. 2 in the State Security Court of Jordan. He stands charged with crossing illegally into Jordanian territory last October.
  • “Legitimizing settlements and moving to annex the Jordan Valley is not an Israeli decision, it is an American decision. Israel cannot take this step without US approval. Therefore, it is with the US that Jordan has a problem.”
  • Jordanian army held military exercises simulating an Israeli invasion Nov. 25. The drill was dubbed “Swords of Karama” after the battle near Karama village that Israel lost to the Jordanian army and Palestinian factions in 1968. The exercise was attended by King Abdullah and security leaders and members of parliament.
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  • On Nov. 10, Jordan recovered from Israel the Baqoura lands in the Jordan Valley by refusing to renew a 25-year lease under a peace agreement between the two countries. A day later, Abdullah publicly prayed in his military uniform.
  • According to analysts who spoke to Al-Monitor, the source of the tension lies far beyond the borders of the Middle East. It has to do with the US administration proposing its "deal of the century," which favors Israel at the expense of the peace process it purports to further. Jordan sees the two-state solution as a fair solution consistent with its interests.
  • Kotov’s trial comes in the context of high tensions between Jordan and Israel, with IsraeliIsraelBenjamin Netanyahu expressing his intention to annex the Jordan Valley and repeated Israeli violations of Jordanian sovereignty over holy sites including incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, settlement expansion and the administrative detention of Jordanian citizens in Israel.
  • “Jordan deals with Israel based on political and economic issues. It is at odds with Israel regarding the Palestinian cause but is moving forward with bilateral economic projects.”
  • Jordan has a strong relationship with members of the US Congress, but not with the administration. Abdullah has met President Donald Trump only once because of his position toward Israel.
  • A quarter of a century after the signature of the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel on Oct. 26, 1994, their relationship remains lukewarm amid popular and parliamentary demands pressuring the Jordanian regime to end it.
  • Jordan is courting the European Union to condemn Israel’s violations and face the US bias toward Israel
Ed Webb

Middle East Report Online: Hamas Back Out of Its Box by Nicolas Pelham - 0 views

  • by its own reckoning, the attack has resurrected Hamas as a political player in the West Bank. In its attacks on settlers on two consecutive nights in different parts of the West Bank, Hamas demonstrated its reach despite a three-year, US-backed PA military campaign and exposed the fallacy of the PA’s claims to have established security control in the West Bank. “It’s not muqawama (resistance) against Israel,” says ‘Adnan Dumayri, a Fatah Revolutionary Council member and PA security force general. “It’s muqawama against Abbas.”  It also enabled the Islamists to catch seeping popular disaffection across the political spectrum toward a process of negotiations that appeared to Palestinians to be leading into a blind alley of continued Israeli control. Should Abbas fail to negotiate a halt to settlement growth, Hamas in its armed attacks against settlers would emerge from its three-year political wasteland to offer Palestinians an alternative. In contrast to the international media, where the attack was roundly condemned, in Palestine the attack earned plaudits not only from Hamas’ core constituency, but also from a broad swathe of Fatah and secular activists, including some senior actors, disillusioned by 19 years of negotiations based on an ever flimsier framework. Unlike the Annapolis process or the “road map,” the twin Bush administration initiatives that the Obama administration chose to ditch, the current negotiations lack any terms of reference or agreed-upon script. Palestinians ask why Abbas agreed to meet Netanyahu given that none of the Arab targets required to turn proximity talks into direct ones were reached prior to the Obama administration’s announcement of the meeting. When American elder statesman George Mitchell presented the parties with 16 identical questions on the core issues requiring yes or no answers, Israel responded to each with a question of its own. In his August 31 press briefing before the White House meeting, Mitchell again declined to specify if Israel had agreed even to extend its (partially honored) settlement freeze past the September 26 expiration date.
  • To maintain stability, the president’s men have resorted to an increasingly oppressive hand. The PA’s security forces suppress not only Islamist unrest but general dissent -- in late August disrupting a meeting called to protest the resumption of negotiations. Detainees emerge from prisons testifying to interrogators drilling through kneecaps. For all of Fayyad’s claims to have built institutions, in his bid to maintain power and prevent a vote of no confidence, he has neutered the most important, the Palestinian Legislative Council, Palestine’s prime expression of sovereignty. Local elections, designed to showcase the West Bank as the more democratic half of the Palestinian polity, were annulled after its main faction, Fatah, lost confidence in its ability to win, even though Hamas had declared a boycott
  • demographically, Israel is shifting further to the right. Far from shocking Israel into a reality check, the killing of nine civilians from Turkey, a purported ally, in international waters generated an outpouring of self-righteousness. Internationally isolated, Israeli Jews shared the feeling that “the whole world is against us,” and in a surge of patriotism redoubled their support for their government. According to a poll conducted a week after the Gaza flotilla incident, 78 percent of Israeli Jews backed Netanyahu’s policy. Support from Israel’s fastest-growing population sectors, the ultra-Orthodox and national-religious camps, topped 90 percent. The simultaneous news of vast natural gas finds off the coast only underscored these national-religious Jews’ sense of divine protection: They had lost one treasure at sea, gentile approval, and been blessed with another. More trusting in God than Obama, Netanyahu’s government is not configured to sign let alone implement a two-state settlement. For all the external hopes that Kadima leader Tzipi Livni might join the ruling coalition, the prospects for a shake-up in Israel’s political map look at least an election away. Even then, without the emergence of a new, more left-leaning religious force, possibly led by the former ultra-Orthodox leader Aryeh Deri, the nationalist coalition looks set to retain power. Fearful of upsetting his national-religious base, Netanyahu -- always alert to instances of Palestinian incitement -- shied away from condemning Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual mentor of Shas, the coalition’s fourth largest party, who on the eve of the Washington parley called on God to kill Abbas and similarly evil Palestinians. Provided he retains the confidence of his nationalist camp, domestically Netanyahu looks secure.
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  • Netanyahu prefers to focus on conflict management, and not the conflict resolution that would most please the Americans. Locally, his prime concern is to ensure that neither Gaza nor the West Bank threaten West Bank , and on that score, the August 31 shootings notwithstanding, Hamas’ track record in securing the territory it controls is as good as the PA’s. Though his ministers flinch at saying so, their preference for de facto over de jure arrangements (which would dispel their Greater West Bank dreams) tallies more with the agenda of Hamas than that of Abbas. Only pressure from Washington has so far restrained Netanyahu from agreeing to a prisoner release that would win him kudos for recovering Cpl. Shalit, but drape Hamas with garlands for bringing home more Palestinian prisoners than has Abbas. Were it not for external factors, Netanyahu might have reasoned that economic peace stands a better chance of working in Gaza than in the West Bank. In the short term, the late summer shootouts set West Bank and Hamas at loggerheads. Down the road, the interests of the rising new guard of religious nationalists in West Bank and Palestine might yet converge.
Ed Webb

Why a One-State Solution is the Only Solution - 0 views

  • As he tried to rescue what had become known as “the peace process,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that the two-state solution had one to two years left before it would no longer be viable. That was six years ago. Resolution 2334, which the UN Security Council passed with U.S. consent in late 2016, called for “salvaging the two-state solution” by demanding a number of steps, including an immediate end to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories. That was three years ago. And since then, Israel has continued to build and expand settlements.
  • What Trump had in mind has become clear in the years that have followed, as he and his team have approved a right-wing Israeli wish list aimed at a one-state outcome—but one that will enshrine Israeli dominance over Palestinian subjects, not one that will grant the parties equal rights. 
  • Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister has abandoned any pretense of seeking a two-state solution, and public support for the concept among Prime Minister is has steadily dwindled. Palestinian leaders continue to seek a separate state. But after years of failure and frustration, most Palestinians no longer see that path as viable.
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  • Netanyahu and Trump are seeking not to change the status quo but merely to ratify it
  • the only moral path forward is to recognize the full humanity of both peoples
  • Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea live approximately 13 million people, all under the control of the Israeli state. Roughly half of them are Palestinian Arabs, some three million of whom live under a military occupation with no right to vote for the government that rules them and around two million of whom live in Israel as second-class citizens, discriminated against based on their identity, owing to Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Two million more Palestinians live in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the militant group Hamas exercises local rule: an open-air prison walled off from the world by an Israeli blockade.
  • the dilemmas posed by partition long predate 1967 and stem from a fundamentally insoluble problem. For the better part of a century, Western powers—first the United Kingdom and then the United States—have repeatedly tried to square the same circle: accommodating the Zionist demand for a Jewish-majority state in a land populated overwhelmingly by Palestinians. This illogical project was made possible by a willingness to dismiss the humanity and rights of the Palestinian population and by sympathy for the idea of creating a space for Jews somewhere outside Europe—a sentiment that was sometimes rooted in an anti-Semitic wish to reduce the number of Jews in the Christian-dominated West.
  • among Jewish Israelis, annexation is not a controversial idea. A recent poll showed that 48 percent of them support steps along the lines of what Netanyahu proposed; only 28 percent oppose them. Even Netanyahu’s main rival, the centrist Blue and White alliance, supports perpetual Israeli control of the Jordan Valley. Its leaders’ response to Netanyahu’s annexation plan was to complain that it had been their idea first. 
  • one national intelligence estimate drawn up by U.S. agencies judged that if Israel continued the occupation and settlement building for “an extended period, say two to three years, it will find it increasingly difficult to relinquish control.” Pressure to hold on to the territories “would grow, and it would be harder to turn back to the Arabs land which contained such settlements.” That estimate was written more than 50 years ago, mere months after the Israeli occupation of theIsraelbegan. Nevertheless, Israel has forged ahead with its expansion and has enjoyed unflinching U.S. support, even as Israeli officials periodically warned about its irreversibility. 
  • Under Oslo, the Palestinians have had to rely on the United States to treat Israel with a kind of tough love that American leaders, nervous about their domestic support, have never been able to muster.
  • As the failure of the peace process became clearer over time, Palestinians rose up against the occupation—sometimes violently. Israel pointed to those reactions to justify further repression. But the cycle was enabled by Palestinian leaders who resigned themselves to having to prove to Israel’s satisfaction that Palestinians were worthy of self-determination—something to which all peoples are in fact entitled.
  • Today, large numbers of Israelis support keeping much of the occupied territories forever
  • the nakba—the “catastrophe.” The 19 years that followed might be the only time in the past two millennia that the land of Palestine was actually divided. None of the great powers who had ruled over the territory—the Romans, the Byzantines, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mameluks, the Ottomans, the British—had ever divided Gaza from Jerusalem, Nablus from Nazareth, or Jericho from Jaffa. Doing so never made sense, and it still doesn’t. Indeed, when Israel took control of the territories in 1967, it actually represented a return to a historical norm of ruling the land as a single unit. But it did so with two systems, one for Jewish Israelis and the other for the people living on the land that the Israelis had conquered.
  • in the wake of the Holocaust, a UN partition plan presented a similar vision, with borders drawn to create a Jewish-majority state and with the Palestinians again divided into multiple entities. 
  • This formulation contained a fundamental flaw, one that would mar all future partition plans, as well: it conceived of the Jews as a people with national rights but did not grant the same status to the Palestinians. The Palestinian population could therefore be moved around and dismembered, because they were not a people deserving of demographic cohesion.
  • Actual progress in the talks would threaten Jewish control of the land, something that has proved more important to Israel than democracy.
  • Having led the armed struggle against Israel for decades, Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization was known and accepted by ordinary Palestinians. By the late 1980s, however, the group had become a shell of its former self. Already isolated by its exile in Tunisia, the PLO became even weaker in 1990 after its wealthy patrons in the Gulf cut funding when Arafat backed Saddam Hussein’s grab for Kuwait. On the ground in the territories, meanwhile, the first intifada—a grassroots revolt against the occupation—was making news and threatening to displace the PLO as the face of Palestinian resistance. By embracing the Oslo process, Arafat and his fellow PLO leaders found a personal path back to influence and relevance—while trapping the Palestinian community in a bind that has held them back ever since.
  • The time has come for the Palestinian Authority to abandon its advocacy of a two-state solution, an idea that has become little more than a fig leaf for the United States and other great powers to hide behind while they allow Israel to proceed with de facto apartheid.
  • Some will object that such a shift in strategy would undercut the hard-won consensus, rooted in decades of activism and international law, that the Palestinians have a right to their own state. That consensus, however, has produced little for the Palestinians. Countless UN resolutions have failed to stop Israeli settlements or gain Palestinians a state, so they wouldn’t be losing much. And in a one-state solution worthy of the name, Palestinians would win full equality under the law, so they would be gaining a great deal. 
  • A poll conducted last year by the University of Maryland found that Americans were roughly evenly split between supporting a two-state solution and supporting a one-state solution with equal rights for all inhabitants. Yet when asked what they preferred if a two-state solution were not possible (which it isn’t), the status quo or one state with equal rights, they chose the latter by a two-to-one margin. 
  • Israelis would benefit from a shift to such a state, as well. They, too, would gain security, stability, and growth, while also escaping international isolation and reversing the moral rot that the occupation has produced in Israeli society. At the same time, they would maintain connections to historical and religious sites in the West Bank. Most Israelis would far prefer to perpetuate the status quo. But that is just not possible. Israel cannot continue to deny the rights of millions of Palestinians indefinitely and expect to remain a normal member of the international community.
  • not only a new state but also a new constitution. That would both demonstrate their commitment to democracy and highlight Israel’s lack of the same. When the country was founded in 1948, Zionist leaders were trying to expedite the arrival of more Jews, prevent the return of Palestinians, and seize as much land as possible. They had no interest in defining citizenship criteria, rights, or constraints on government power. So instead of writing a constitution, the Jewish state instituted a series of “basic laws” in an ad hoc fashion, and these have acquired some constitutional weight over time.
  • Israelis and Palestinians should work together to craft a constitution that would uphold the rights of all.
  • despite national narratives and voices on either side that claim otherwise, both peoples have historical ties to the land
  • A new constitution could offer citizenship to all the people currently living in the land between the river and the sea and to Palestinian refugees and would create pathways for immigrants from elsewhere to become citizens. All citizens would enjoy full civil and political rights, including the freedom of movement, religion, speech, and association. And all would be equal before the law: the state would be forbidden from discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
  • they would be subject to a very high bar for amendment—say, a requirement of at least 90 percent approval in the legislative branch. This would ensure that basic rights could not be altered by means of a simple majority and would prohibit any one group from using a demographic advantage to alter the nature of the state.
  • the new state would also need a truth-and-reconciliation process focused on restorative justice
  • How many more decades of failure must we endure before we can safely conclude that partition is a dead end?
Ed Webb

The battle for Area C - Features - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • Despite being inhabited since before the creation of Israel, Palestinian Susya isn't connected either to the electricity or water grids, and lacks school and health facilities. Israel has deemed the village "illegal".
  • In June, the Israeli Supreme Court issued six immediate demolition orders for Palestinian Susya. The destruction of more than 50 structures - including residential homes, water cisterns and solar energy panels - could happen any day now, and would effectively wipe the entire village off the map.
  • the village's fate is similar to nearly all other Palestinian communities located in what is known as "Area C" of the occupied West Bank. Area C was first delineated in the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self Government Arrangements, otherwise known as the Oslo I agreement, which divided West Bank territory into three separate categories. Area A is under the control of the Palestinian Authority and encompasses most of the major Palestinian cities. Area B comprises most Palestinian rural communities and is under Palestinian administrative and joint Palestinian- West Bank i security control. Area C is under complete West Bank i administrative and military control, and comprises all West Bank i settlements - including roads, buffer zones, and other infrastructure - and West Bank i military training areas. Less than five per cent of the Palestinian population of the West Bank lives in Area C - yet it covers more than 60 per cent of the Palestinian territory.
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  • Article 27 of this agreement stipulated that in Area C, "powers and responsibilities related to the sphere of Planning and Zoning will be transferred gradually to Palestinian jurisdiction" by 1999. But this transfer of powers has yet to be implemented.
  • In February, IsraeliIsraelBenjamin Netanyahu established a committee to determine the legality of Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank. Known as the Levy Committee, it was composed of two Israeli former judges and an Israeli foreign ministry attorney, all major supporters of the settlement project. The committee concluded that Israel was not an occupying power in the West Bank, that Israeli settlements were legal and that the government should legalise outposts. These findings have led many Israeli, Palestinian and international analysts to conclude that Israel is preparing to annex parts of the West Bank, namely Area C.
  • "People are living their lives above themselves, for the betterment of the nation of Israel, not just because 'here's where I can live'," said Ariela Deitch, a mother of six and resident of the Israeli outpost of Migron.
  • An estimated 3,000 demolition orders remain in place in Palestinian communities of Area C. International agencies are becoming increasingly involved in projects in the area, in what appears to be an attempt to safeguard Palestinians against forced displacement.
  • some 150,000 Palestinians live in Area C, where they face severe restrictions on planning, building and accessing services and the area's natural resources. It is estimated that more than 350,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers now also live in Area C, an increase of more than 15,000 in the past year alone, in contravention of international law
  • "Do you really believe these conspiracy theories that Israel wants to depopulate area C? I mean, it's rubbish," Regev told Al Jazeera. "We are prepared to continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians and hopefully sign new agreements. But in the absence of signing new agreements, it's clear that Israel remains to have jurisdiction in Area C."
Ed Webb

Liberman spawns 'alliance of the underprivileged' - 0 views

  • Israel’s political system is currently ensnared in a dizzying spiral the likes of which it has never known. The unprecedented decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to indict an incumbentIsraelon charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust has rattled Israeli politics, which was already suffering from deep polarization, and this is just the beginning. In a nationally televised response to Mandelblit’s announcement of the indictments on Nov. 21,IsraelBenjamin Netanyahu declared that he is being subjected to an “attempted coup.”
  • Netanyahu, heavily influenced by his legal woes, will push Israel into a third election in less than a year to gin up public support at the ballot box in the hope that his supporters will at least acquit him in the court of public opinion.
  • Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman, whose party holds the deciding votes in the current political deadlock, has not only put him in a bind, but has also created an “alliance of the underprivileged”
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  • The first sign of their alliance appeared in the Knesset following Netanyahu’s harsh Nov. 13 speech accusing the 13 lawmakers for the Joint List of supporting and encouraging terrorism. At the start of the Nov. 19 session of the Knesset Finance Committee, Chair Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox Yahadut HaTorah, thanked his committee colleague Tibi for his ongoing cooperation. “You know how to leverage [this cooperation] for the benefit of the public you represent. You do so with great skill. We see it in the Arab communities too. There is development, and you have played a large role in this, and I thank you for it,” Gafni said. Gafni’s ultra-Orthodox colleague Yinon Azoulai of Shas seconded his assessment, asserting, “With the [Joint] List and Ahmad there always was cooperation, and it is always possible to do more.”
  • Israel’s Arab and ultra-Orthodox citizens — together constituting at least 30% of the population — are the country’s poorest demographic and the largest beneficiaries of its social welfare services. While Netanyahu and his right-wing allies shower generous budgets on the JewishIsraelsettlements and provide their residents with an array of benefits, members of the Arab Joint List and of the two ultra-Orthodox parties have to work hard to advance legislation that benefits their voters.
  • Liberman, who under the current constellation has the power to decide who will be Israel’s next prime minister, is seeking to exclude the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs from power. Thus, these two groups, which would seem to have nothing in common save a possible desire to join forces against Liberman’s onslaught of incitement against them, are striking up a surprising “friendship.”
  • “The clear and present danger is the anti-Zionist coalition of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox Knesset members,” Liberman said. “This is truly an anti-Zionist coalition active in both blocs [left and right]. The Joint List is a real fifth column; there is no need to whitewash and hide it. Unfortunately, the ultra-Orthodox community and its political parties, too, are becoming increasingly anti-Zionist, and it’s time to stop this nonsense that only their fringes [are opposed to the State of Israel].”
  • Such cooperation could crush the protective right-wing and ultra-Orthodox bloc of 55 seats that Netanyahu has built and undermine his mantra that the formation of a center-left minority government supported by the Arab parties would be nothing short of a mass national terror attack.
  • Members of the Joint List are all too familiar with being targets of incitement and delegitimization by Netanyahu and others, but for Shas and Yahadut HaTorah, which have tied their fate to that of Netanyahu, this is a new experience. Thanks to Liberman, they too are now illegitimate, just like their Arab Knesset colleagues.
  • The last time Liberman tried to “bury” the Arab parties, he sponsored legislation raising the electoral threshold in 2014 so that only parties winning 3.25% of the vote could send representatives to the Knesset. The move, designed to exclude the small Arab parties, backfired, uniting the ideologically disparate parties into a single list. This forced union then overtook Liberman’s faction. As of the September elections, they are the third biggest Knesset faction, with 13 seats, while Liberman’s party has eight.
  • For the sake of the sacred goal of survival, there is no need for an ideological glue other than shared destiny, as the four Arab parties – Ta’al, Ra’am, Balad and Hadash — realized in uniting against Liberman and forming the Joint List.
Ed Webb

Is Jordan Valley's annexation already on the way? - 0 views

  • The campaign for the next election is yet to get underway, but it is expected to be uglier and nastier than its predecessors. It most certainly will feature the indictments that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Nov. 21 against Netanyahu for bribery and other corruption-related charges. The annexation of the Jordan Valley is another issue expected to top the political agenda.
  • “The historic decision of the American administration yesterday [Nov. 18] gives us a one-time-only chance to determine the eastern border of the state of Israel and annex the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu proclaimed in the video. “This cannot be done by a minority government dependent on [Arab Joint List leaders] Ahmad Tibi and Ayman Odeh. Therefore, I call upon Benny Gantz to come together with me and with [YIsrael Beitenu leader] Avigdor Liberman to establish a unity government: The first item of this government, on the first day of the new government, is annexation of the Jordan Valley. The nation, and history, will not forgive anyone who squanders such a golden opportunity.”
  • New Right leader Ayelet Shaked is a challenger for credit for the annexation idea. When Shaked served as justice minister, she planted the first seeds for West Bank annexation together with her political partner, Naftali Bennett. Justice Minister Shaked pushed to impose West Bank i law on the West Bank, or in other words, full annexation, period.
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  • The Joint List's Tibi had been in touch with Blue and White in recent weeks regarding a possible minority government. He believes that the timing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that the settlements do not violate international law is not coincidental. According to Tibi, President Donald Trump did not hide the fact that he favored Netanyahu in the September elections in Israel. With his friend in Jerusalem still in distress, why not give Netanyahu a little push to help him in the competition for right-wing votes? “This is an election gift from a president undergoing an impeachment inquiry to aIsraelwho was toppled,”
  • it seems that annexation of the Jordan Valley is on its way, with the encouragement of the Trump administration
Ed Webb

Israel faces world anger over illegal settlement law | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • Israel faced international criticism Tuesday over a new law allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts, although the United States remained notably silent.Britain, France, the United Nations and Israel's neighbour Jordan were among those coming out against the legislation passed late Monday.
  • Pro-Palestinian Israeli NGOs said they would ask the Supreme Court to strike down the law, while Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned the legislation could result in Israeli officials facing the International Criminal Court.
  • Separately to the new law, Israel has approved more than 6,000 settler homes since Trump took office on January 20 having signalled a softer stance on the issue than Obama.
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  • The law could still be challenged, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying last week it was likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court.International law considers all settlements illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, which are known as outposts.
  • To some Israelis, the law reflects their God-given right over the territory, regardless of the courts, the Palestinians and the international community."All of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people," said Science Minister Ofir Akunis ofIsraelBenjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, using the biblical term that includes the West Bank."This right is eternal and indisputable."Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called for the international community to assume its "moral, human and legal responsibilities and put an end to Israel's lawlessness."
Ed Webb

Translation project offers Israelis look into Palestinian literature - 0 views

  • Only 0.4% of Israeli Jews under the age of 70 can read the stories in the original Arabic language, he says. He also points to the fact that according to Israel’s National Library, less than 1% of all literature translated into Hebrew was written in Arabic, and 90% of the translators were Jews
  • The stories of “Amputated Tongue," which all deal in various ways with language deprivation, is written by 57 Palestinian writers from Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and abroad. The impressive compilation of contemporary Palestinian prose was translated into Hebrew according to a unique model by 36 translators, where one Arab and one Jewish translator collaborated. One-third of them were Palestinians. The short stories by some of the best Palestinian writers provide Israeli readers with more than a glimpse of entire lives lived in this land, and of this land.
  • The project lasted three years. Its goal was to give a voice to Palestinian Arabic society in the hostile climate created by Israel’s right-wing regime that views Arabic as an enemy language — as made abundantly clear in the 2018 Nationality Law, which downgraded the status of Arabic as an official language. The anthology targeted those few Israelis who want to know more about Palestinians but have had little exposure to them until now.
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  • The first story in the compilation is by Gaza resident Sama Hassan, titled “No." It tells the story of a woman whose husband repeatedly rapes her, sometimes until she is bleeding, but she cannot utter the word “No." “… Over and over he cut into her flesh, which grew increasingly tough until she emitted a groan of pain. … You are nothing but the family’s property, was the first grating thought. Hands and womb, hands and womb." I told Burbara that the story had shocked me. I put the book aside and could not continue reading for a few days. “We put ‘No’ first on purpose,” she explained. “We wanted readers to feel and tell themselves, ‘Wow, what is she telling us? How will we learn more about the women in Gaza who are not heard.’”
  • Given the nationalistic climate in Israel, with aIsraelwho incites hatred of Arabs, I asked Burbara how many Jewish Israelis she thought would read the book. “That is the million-dollar question,” she answered. “But I believe that if you start to drip water on a stone, it digs into its surface and leaves a mark. 'Amputated Tongue' is the first rain that will drip onto the Israeli stone and dig into it deeper and deeper.”
Ed Webb

Beirut 1958: America's origin story in the Middle East - 0 views

  • No one in Beirut — or Washington — thought that this mission would mark the beginning of decades of seemingly endless American combat missions in the Middle East. In retrospect, Beirut in 1958 was a decisive turning point.
  • Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war pitting the Christian and Muslim communities against each other. The Muslims saw the Marines as enemies intent on keeping a hated President Camille Nemr Chamoun in office against the law. The Lebanese army, a fragile coalition of Christians and Muslims, saw the Marines as uninvited aggressors who were violating Lebanese sovereignty. The American command was prepared for the worst and was ready to deploy nuclear weapons to the battlefield from its base in Germany.
  • A year before, Eisenhower had enunciated what became known as the Eisenhower Doctrine, the first statement by a president stating that America has vital interests in the Middle East and would defend them by force if necessary.
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  • the immediate cause for the dispatch of the Marines: a coup d’etat in Baghdad on July 14. The pro-American King Faisal II had been brutally murdered in the coup, and his government was swept away. In Jordan, then federated with Iraq, Eisenhower said a “highly organized plot to overthrow the lawful government” of King Hussein had been discovered. Actually, the Central Intelligence Agency had foiled the plot several weeks before.
  • said President Chamoun had requested American military intervention to stop “civil strife actively fomented by Soviet and Cairo broadcasts.” It was the only time in the speech that Eisenhower even alluded to what had him really worried that day: the rising political power in the Arab world of Egypt’s charismatic young President Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Arab nationalist movement.
  • It was a less than candid explanation for sending in the Marines. Eisenhower made no mention of the fact that Chamoun was illegally seeking a second term and even claimed Chamoun did not seek reelection. The focus was entirely on Russia and the Cold War, an issue far more Americans understood than the intricate politics of Lebanon or the Arab world.
  • Nasser, meanwhile, was in Yugoslavia visiting the communist government there. Within hours of Eisenhower’s speech, he flew to Moscow. Both Nasser and his host Nikita Khrushchev agreed that they had no warning of the coup in Baghdad or knew anything about the coup plotters, according to recently declassified Soviet documents. Both agreed that the Iraqi coup was the most important development in the Middle East and the American intervention in Lebanon was a sideshow.
  • Nasser was, in the summer of 1958, at the pinnacle of his political career and power. Ironically, he had started his political rise very much as a protégé of the Americans.
  • The British had been completely surprised by the coup in Egypt, but the CIA was not — it had detected the signs of change coming. The agency moved quickly after to coup to establish contact with Nasser.  The point man for the CIA was the legendary Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt, a scion of the Roosevelt family born in Argentina. Kim had visited Cairo before the coup and set up contact with the Free Officers who would carry it out. In October 1952, he returned to Cairo as chief of the CIA’s Near East Division and met with Nasser at the famous Mena House Hotel near the pyramids. Each was impressed by the other and they agreed to a clandestine relationship.
  • Roosevelt led the CIA operation that overthrew a democratically elected government in Iran and restored the Shah to his throne in 1953, immediately making him the darling of both Dulles and Eisenhower.
  • Ike was lucky in the end. His diplomats and generals on the scene in Beirut found a diplomatic way to avoid conflict and prevent the worst. The nuclear weapons were never shipped from Germany to the Mediterranean. After a period of political negotiations, Chamoun was pressured to stand down as president, and the civil war ended.
  • The CIA gave Nasser a few million dollars, far short of what he wanted, to buy arms. Instead, he used it to build a large transmitter for the Egyptian radio program the “Voice of the Arabs” and broadcast his Arabist and anti-colonialist message to the region. Word spread about the source of the money for the tower, and it was nicknamed “Roosevelt’s Erection.”
  • Nasser took a decisive step when he arranged a large arms purchase from the Soviet Union’s client state Czechoslovakia in 1955. This alarmed the Cold Warriors in the West, especially John Foster Dulles, who saw the arms deal as the first significant penetration of the Middle East by Russia. It also alarmed the British and French, who saw Nasser’s growing stature as a threat to their remaining colonies and protectorates in the region such as Aden (part of modern-day Yemen), Algeria, Jordan, and Iraq.
  • Eisenhower opposed the 1956 tripartite invasion of Egypt by Britain, France, and Israel, seeing it as a throwback to imperialism, but the crisis did not improve the American relationship with Nasser.
  • Nasser’s intelligence agents unveiled a Saudi-funded plot to assassinate him, severely embarrassing King Saud, the man Eisenhower hoped would be a pro-American alternative to Egypt for the Arab public
  • The July 14 coup in Baghdad was a complete shock. A brigade of troops was scheduled to pass through the capital en route to Jordan to help back King Hussein against the threat posed by Nasser. Instead, as it entered the capital, it turned on the monarchy. The rebels surrounded the royal palace, and when it surrendered, the king and regent were shot to death. It was a bloody affair. The tanks of the coup-makers were covered with pictures of Nasser, and the crowds that cheered the Iraqi monarchy’s demise also screamed for Gamal Abdel Nasser. The military leaders of the coup said very little.
  • Lebanon’s Chamoun was already asking for American troops, and Jordan was acutely vulnerable. “If the Iraq coup succeeds it seems almost inevitable that it will set up a chain reaction that will doom the pro-West governments of Lebanon and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and raise grave problems for Turkey and Iran.” Israel, Dulles predicted, would take over theIsraeland East Jerusalem “if Jordan falls to Nasser.” The entire Middle East — or at least its Arab components — might fall to Nasser, in his view. Russia would be the beneficiary.
  • At risk was a devastating defeat in the Cold War
  • the British government decided to send paratroopers to Amman to help steady the remnant of the Hashemite monarchy still in power there.
  • Washington agreed to encourage the British to give up their Suez Canal base. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was initially reluctant, but the U.K.’s huge debts from the world wars compelled him to make a deal and the British army agreed to leave Egypt in 1954. Roosevelt had been active behind the scenes in facilitating the deal.
  • The return of the Marines to Beirut in 1982, for example, ended in a catastrophic truck bombing of their barracks that killed 241 soldiers. The wars in Iraq have now seemingly become endless. The region itself is constantly in turmoil, with terrorist attacks in many of its capital cities an all too routine atrocity.
Jim Franklin

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Palestinian U-turn on Gaza report - 0 views

  • Many Palestinians have expressed anger at PA President Mahmoud Abbas for seeming to let Israelis off the hook following Goldstone's trenchant criticism of Israel's blockade of Gaza and attacks on its citizens.
  • Academics and rights workers held a street protest on Monday.
  • Hamas, which controls Gaza, has lashed out at the decision as "shameful and irresponsible", and posters saying "to the trash heap of history, you traitor, Mahmoud Abbas" have appeared in the Strip.
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  • Israel has rejected the evidence and said it had already investigated its troops' conduct, clearing most of the subjects of wrongdoing.
  • IsraeliIsraelBenjamin Netanyahu argued that the report's conclusions would "devastate the peace process", although peace talks are currently stalled anyway over Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.
  • Palestinians and human rights groups say more than 1,400 people were killed in the violence between 27 December 2008 and 16 January 2009, more than half of them civilians.
  • Israel puts the number of deaths at 1,166 - fewer than 300 of them civilians. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israeli soldiers were also killed.
Ed Webb

Israeli FM wants to eject Israeli Arabs - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • The principle guiding peace talks "must not be land for peace, but an exchange of land and people," Lieberman told reporters
  • Asked if Lieberman's position reflected the government's, official spokesman Mark Regev noted that the different parties in Netanyahu's coalition "have different political outlooks." Lieberman has made such declarations before, and the prime minister, not the foreign minister, sets Israeli foreign policy. But the comments threatened to further cloud the negotiating climate at a sensitive time. Palestinians envision theIsraelas the hub of a future state and object to any Jewish construction there. Netanyahu says a 10-month slowdown on building won't be extended beyond its Sept. 26 expiry. There is intense pressure from the U.S. on Israel to extend the slowdown, and at the same time, on the Palestinians not to abandon the talks. Both sides say they expect to reach a compromise.
Ed Webb

Peace talks could benefit from implementing previous agreements - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • Ahmed Qurei does not make do with twiddling his thumbs while waiting for the American rabbit to appear, all the while praying that the hat holds up until the longed-for day arrives. He suggests using the time to rebuild trust between the parties. Such trust should inject optimism into the heart of the Palestinian public by letting people know that the end of the occupation is near. To do that, there is no need for any negotiations or even the formulation of new agreements. Kerry will be able to free himself to deal with the crisis in Ukraine, the negotiations with Iran and maybe even a concerted effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. All that is needed is to go to the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them.
  • Today, Areas A and B cover less than 40% of the West Bank.
  • Instead of pouring money into isolated settlements whose very existence under Israeli sovereignty contradicts the two-state solution, the government should pass an evacuation-compensation law, which will allow tens of thousands of those settlers to return to Israeli territory.
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  • A new survey conducted in late 2013 by the Macro Center for Political Economics in cooperation with the organization Blue and White Future discovered that 28.8% of the approximately 100,000 residents of isolated settlements east of the separation wall — or about 30,000 people — have expressed an interest in being evacuated in exchange for compensation, even before a diplomatic agreement is reached. The survey also found that the region whose residents show the greatest willingness (43.1%) to be evacuated before a diplomatic agreement is reached is the Jordan Valley and the northern shores of the Dead Sea, the very area that the Israeli right wants to annex.
Ed Webb

Michael Brenner: Eyeless in Gaza: Obama's Palestine Flop - 0 views

  • Obama's peace initiative on Palestine suffered a stunning, perhaps fatal, blow last week. IsraeliIsraelBibi Netanyahu rejected out of hand any freeze on theIsraelsettlements which the White House had pressed as a necessary first step toward serious negotiations. The Obama plan is now stillborn, never having drawn a hopeful breath.
  • he will expect to bring the parties into line with only slight resort to coercion. Accordingly, his instinctive avoidance of head-on confrontations will leave him unprepared, psychologically and politically, for the requisite arm twisting with its inescapable political reaction from the Israeli lobby at home.
  • Obama rushed to say that the settlement matter is not so important after all, just a piece of a complex problem. Just as the "public option" was redefined as "just a sliver" of the overall package. There is no virtue in this approach. It is classic avoidance behavior.
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  • The current Israeli government is even more resistant to proposals for a viable two state solution than its recalcitrant predecessors. It may bend but not break unless Obama threatens a rupture of Washington's all purpose commitment to the Jewish state. There is nothing in his performance to date that suggests he has either the necessary conviction or courage to do that.
  • There is no sign that he or his advisors appreciate how constrained Abbas is by the reality of Hamas' popularity eclipsing that of Fatah
  • Unfortunately, Michael Brenner's assessment of the situation seems accurate. My only quibble is with the implication in the article that if Obama was different things might go better. It is also possible, that the US is just in an intractable position on this. US policy is driven by Christian and Jewish fundamentalist Zionist zealots, the military-industrial complex and AIPAC. These disparate forces have controlled US Israel policy for decades now and it hard to see how Obama, regardless of what skills and inclinations he has, could do anything about that. The fact seems to be that the US is constrained to work against its self interest and against a peaceful, equitable solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by its own internal politics and there is just nothing in the foreseeable future that is going to change that.
Ed Webb

'Killing a King' Examines Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin - The New York Times - 3 views

  • “For decades, the protection unit was certain of only one thing when it came to assassination scenarios: The shooter would be an Arab,”
  • Shabak had begun watching the settler fringe, particularly in the Hebron area, where extremists lionized Baruch Goldstein, who had slaughtered 29 Palestinians at worship in February 1994. These gun-toting settlers in knitted skullcaps viewed Rabin’s decision to transfer parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control as an existential threat — a forfeiture of their biblical birthright
  • Members of the mainstream right-wing Likud Party had joined in many of these antigovernment protests. At one particularly raucous rally just after the signing of the Oslo II accords in September 1995, Benjamin Netanyahu — then an opposition leader and today prime minister — stood on a balcony with other hard-line leaders in Jerusalem’s Zion Square as the crowd below chanted “Death to Rabin.” Ephron notes that Netanyahu seemed “unfazed by the mayhem — even as protesters threw burning torches at the line of policemen.” When he spoke, Netanyahu excoriated Rabin, accusing him of having to rely on prime minister i-Arab political parties for support
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  • Amir, Ephron explains, managed to “tip the balance in the right’s favor by killing the one man who had both a vision for peace with the Palestinians and the public confidence required to keep it going, even in the face of terrorist attacks.”
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