Peace Process Hanging in the Balance

Secretary of State John Kerry cut short a tour to Europe Monday to rush to Israel and the West Bank to salvage the US-brokered peace process from collapse.

The reason for the current crisis, the most severe since the beginning the so-called Kerry initiative eight months ago, is the Israeli government’s balking at the release of Palestinian security prisoners, convicted terrorists who Israel has committed to releasing as a gesture to the Palestinians.

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APN's Lara Friedman in Haaretz: What Israeli Palestinian mutual recognition really means.

Unlike Israel's unilateral insistence on the 'Jewish state', Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to find a recognition formula that reconciles two opposing national narratives.

By now everyone has realized that there’s a new issue on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations agenda that’s not going away: The demand that the Palestinians not only recognize Israel - something they have done repeatedly, starting in 1993 - but that they recognize Israel as "a Jewish state," or some similar wording. No such “recognition-plus” demand was made of Egypt or Jordan, nor was it mentioned in the Oslo agreement or subsequent Israeli-Palestinian documents. It made a brief appearance in the Annapolis talks of 2007, but only as a marginal issue. Only In 2009 did it truly come into play, courtesy of Benjamin Netanyahu.

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APN's Ori Nir in Haaretz: Two-staters, unite behind Kerry

kerry_briefing_2014-320x265You don’t have to love everything that the U.S. Secretary of State will present in his 'framework’ paper - but there is too much at stake not to support a chance for peace.

There’s a kind of hush in the peace camp as Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to issue the “framework” for continued Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. And unlike Karen Carpenter's saccharine song, this hush is not intended to make room for the sound of lovers in love. It’s a hush of inhibition, the silence of the skeptics who have known too many past disappointments.

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The Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), which we recently began, focuses on ritual matters, primarily, the details of offerings, including burnt offerings, sin offerings (separate ones to atone for deliberate transgressions and inadvertent failings) and guilt offerings … and what is usually translated as the “peace” offering.

Now, the “peace offering,” of course, doesn’t have to do with a cessation of hostilities, but comes from the root shin-lamed-mem, which denotes both shalom — peace — and shlemut, a character of wholeness. Wholeness is especially relevant to us in these times, when a moment of hope for the other kind of peace presents on the horizon a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians.

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APN's Ori Nir in Haaretz: When will the U.S. Jewish community talk peace?

How will the U.S. Jewish establishment, such as AIPAC, confront the prospect of peace for Israel when it is mired in an echo chamber of self-righteous axioms and simplistic thinking?

At the entrance to the enormous hall at the Washington Convention Center, where some 14,000 chairs were lined up for AIPAC’s conference participants, stood a television reporter holding a microphone, seeking interviewees.

"How’s it going?" I asked. “Not so good,” he replied. “I was sent to do a story on what AIPAC members have to say about prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace and nobody is willing to talk about it. All they want to talk about is Iran.”

He was right. Hard-line statements on Iran elicited long standing ovations, time after time, while hopeful comments on the possibility of peace were all but ignored. It got so bad that two prominent Israelis – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and legendary Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi – had to urge the armada of pro-Israel lobbyists to applaud comments they made about peace. And when Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director of eighteen years, addressed the crowd with a speech that typically sets the policy agenda for the conference, all he spoke about was Iran.

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123% Increase in Construction Starts in 2013

Today, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics released their summary of construction in 2013. The increase in construction starts confirms what Peace Now has been reporting throughout 2013, massive increases in construction in the West Bank. Overall, there was a 123% increase in construction starts in 2013.

The CBS reports that in 2013 construction began on 2,534 housing units. Compared to 2012, which had 1,133 units that began construction.  Furthermore, approximately half of the units (1,161) which began construction were for public buildings. In 2012 there were only 113 units for public buildings that began construction.

Peace Now: "It's official, the Netanyahu government is committed to only one thing: building settlements. It shows the lack of commitment to negotiations and other issues like the housing shortage inside Israel. The state has focused its resources on construction beyond the green line." 
 
To view the CBS report click here

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Is a Settlement Boycott Best for Israel? APN's Lara Friedman in the New York Times

A powerful debate between APN's Lara Friedman and Rabbi Daniel Gordis in the New York Times.

Introduction

Israel’s expansion of settlements in the occupied territories has been an obstacle to the two-state solution, considered the most likely hope for peace with the Palestinians.

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Steven Kaplan and Sanford Weiner in the Jewish Journal: A victory against anti-Israel BDS

Kaplan_Weiner_JewishJournal

Israelis and supporters of Israel are increasingly concerned about international pressure — and with good reason. There was last year’s directive from the European Union, which threatened important Israel-EU cooperation; the recent uproar about SodaStream, which brought Israel unflattering media attention; and the almost daily news of some European country singling out an Israeli company for negative treatment.

Are these victories for the global BDS movement — the movement calling on people and nations to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel? Absolutely not. 

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SodaStream, an Israeli company with a production facility in a West Bank settlement, made headlines recently due to the superstar status of its spokeswoman, Scarlett Johansson. But the real stars of the Israeli business community are those who joined with their Palestinian counterparts in an effort to use their economic heft to urge political leaders to achieve a two-state solution as soon as possible.

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A flawed but compelling narrative has taken root in the debate over SodaStream. It's the story of the politically moderate Israeli businessman building bridges to peace by providing Palestinians good employment. What could be the problem with that?

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