December 22, 2014 - UNSC Palestinian statehood votes; is there Israeli consensus on UN intervention? and more

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This week, Alpher discusses Jordan's draft resolution to the UN Security Council regarding Palestinian statehood; last week's request from Tzipi Livni to Secretary Kerry to delay the UNSC vote and thereby keep the Palestinian statehood issue off Israel's election agenda lest this generate more votes for the Israeli political right and whether this makes sense; whether there is still an Israeli consensus against UN intervention in the conflict; and why last week's firing of a rocket from the Gaza Strip at an Israeli community on the Gaza periphery was cited by a number of Israeli security commentators and authorities as a step toward renewed escalation of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Q. Jordan has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council regarding Palestinian statehood. The US threatens to use its veto to block it. What is notable about this resolution?

A. The resolution caps a dynamic period of several months during which a number of European countries, and the European Parliament, passed resolutions supportive of Palestinian statehood. It also seemingly preempts a European effort, led by France, to draft a more moderate version, though France was apparently consulted in the drafting of this Arab version (which calls for an international conference to launch negotiations--a recent French proposal). All this is seen by the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem as part of a broad Palestinian-led effort to isolate and castigate Israel internationally.

Notably, the resolution's Palestinian drafters (Jordan, as the current Arab member of the Security Council, was the natural choice for submitting the document) emphasized that they will allow time to consider it, thereby hinting that changes could be made. On Sunday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki stated, "The draft resolution is open to amendments to be submitted by any member state. We will try now to strengthen the draft resolution by adding some texts which are clear language-wise and do not have any ambiguities. The more you review the resolution, the more you feel you can improve or strengthen the text in some aspects in regard to those issues." Maliki, having just acknowledged that the draft resolution is still a work in progress and is not fully "cooked", even expressed the hope the US would not veto an amended resolution.

There are a few areas where the draft resolution seems to reflect Palestinian recognition of the need for a more flexible approach to accommodate well-established Israeli needs. But in many other aspects, rigidity and a doctrinaire approach prevail.

Thus, on the positive side, the resolution calls for borders based on the 1967 lines "with mutually agreed, limited, equivalent land swaps", thereby recognizing that the land swap idea has been embraced by the Palestinians as well as by earlier Israeli governments. It mentions the need to ensure Israel's security as well as that of Palestine, and recognizes that security arrangements "shall be placed at the center of negotiations". It calls for eventual "full implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative", meaning full Arab relations with Israel following a Palestinian settlement. And while it demands implementation of UNGAR 194 from 1949 regarding Palestinian refugees, it does not specifically mention the so-called "right of return" of all refugees to Israel, which is the way the Palestinians usually interpret 194.

But on the negative side, the resolution defines a vision of "two democratic states, Israel and Palestine", living side by side and reaffirms "the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination". By glaring omission, the Jewish people are not granted that right and Israel's Jewish, or Zionist, nature is not recognized. Then, too, Palestine as currently constituted can hardly qualify as a democratic state.

Similarly, the "Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the Palestinian territory" yet the absence of Palestinian Authority or PLO rule over that territory is not addressed. Nor is the fact that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a radical Islamist movement. By the same token, the resolution recalls that in 2012 the World Bank and IMF recognized "progress in Palestinian state-building efforts", but ignores the worrisome deterioration since then in the areas of economy and human rights in the West Bank, particularly since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas dismissed PM Salam Fayyad, Palestine's most successful "state-builder".

The resolution imposes rigid timetables--one key reason for US objections--of a mere 12 months for the conclusion of negotiations and another two years, until the end of 2017, for ending the occupation. The latter deadline ignores the current chaotic situation throughout most of the Arab Middle East and its potential effect on Israeli security. Israelis can take little comfort in the resolution's call for a third-party presence as part of the resolution's over-hasty security arrangements: note that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas reportedly agreed to a five-year security deadline in recent negotiations led by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Then there are the worrisome lacunae. Not only is sovereign responsibility in Gaza ignored. Holy places are not mentioned--merely the need to protect freedom of worship in a shared capital, Jerusalem. This omission, which can be found in so many efforts to formulate a two-state solution, conveniently ignores the fact that "ownership" of the Temple Mount and the Holy Basin in Jerusalem is probably the most intractable issue in final status negotiations. The omission is particularly worrisome in view of recent tension over the Mount and repeated assertions by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that "there never was a temple on the Mount".

To sum up: were this resolution to be enacted by the Security Council--indeed, even if rejected--it might provide a morale boost for the world's pro-Palestinian camp and continue to fuel the Palestinian internationalization campaign. But it would not really further the cause of a just two-state solution. Indeed, like the poorly formulated Kerry initiative that ended last March, it might actually make matters worse.

Q. Apropos the US veto, last week Secretary Kerry reportedly cited a request from Tzipi Livni to delay the UNSC vote and thereby keep the Palestinian statehood issue off Israel's election agenda lest this generate more votes for the Israeli political right. Does this make sense?

A. Kerry reportedly told European Union diplomats that a UN vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution would, at this stage, only strengthen Israel’s hard-line politicians, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett. Kerry allegedly spoke about being warned by former justice minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and former president Shimon Peres that a favorable UN vote “imposed by the international community would reinforce Netanyahu and the hardliners in Israel”. Needless to say, those same hardliners have already taken Livni (now running in a joint list with Labor) to task for "political sabotage" by seeking to manipulate the UN vote in ways that interfere with Israel's elections, while Livni has responded that she did all Israelis a favor by explaining the issues to Kerry.

But would UN passage of a Palestinian state resolution favor the Israeli ultra-nationalist right wing? I doubt it. Of course, right-wing parties would exploit the event to argue that the world is against us, they're all anti-Semites, they've forgotten the Holocaust, etc. The left and center would counter that it is right-wing intransigence and settler expansion that brought us to this impasse, generated a crisis in US-Israel relations, and isolated us internationally. Whom would Israel's large centrist bloc of swing voters listen to? Livni and Peres, in their request to Kerry, appear to be suggesting that they would listen to the angry isolationist right. I'm not sure.

Q. Is there still an Israeli consensus against UN intervention in the conflict?

A. Interestingly, more and more two-state solution advocates on the left and center appear to be coming around to the conclusion that UN intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in the form of a far more balanced Security Council resolution that deals with the needs of both sides, could actually be helpful. The variety of ideas and formulae voiced in recent months and days by experts like Shaul Arieli and Oded Eran appears to reflect the sad conclusion that, on their own or even with the involvement and encouragement of a mediator like the United States, Israel and the PLO are incapable of reaching a two-state solution and that a new Security Council resolution that in effect augments 242 from 1967 might help. Some mainstream analysts add that determination by the Security Council of at least some of the parameters of final status, such as "1967 lands plus land swaps" and "Jerusalem as capital of two states" might compel the next round of negotiations to begin not from scratch, as has been the case until now, but from a set of predetermined UN positions that free both sides' political establishments from having to agonize over them.

UNSCR 242, we recall, generated the "territories for peace" formula that formed the basis for Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. But it never even mentioned the Palestinians. Back in November 1967, the Palestinian issue was not on the international agenda. An updated 242, if carefully drafted for balance, makes sense.

Q. Last week, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at an Israeli community on the Gaza periphery. A number of Israeli security commentators and authorities cited the incident as a step toward renewed escalation of fighting between Israel and Hamas. Why?

A. This was actually the third rocket fired into Israel since Operation Protective Edge of July-August 2014 ended. Hamas, as usual, alleged that the perpetrators were more extreme Islamists and promised to discipline them. Several Hamas spokesmen reiterated that Hamas is committed to rebuilding Gaza and therefore currently rejects conflict.

So much for verbal reassurances. The problem is the pattern, the accompanying deterioration in Israel's apparent capacity to deter attacks, and the rate of Hamas rearmament.

First, the pattern: it always starts with firing by more radical Islamists that Hamas can plausibly deny. Yet in doing so, Hamas ostensibly suggests that it does not fully control the Strip, an argument belied by its capacity to enforce a blanket ceasefire whenever it chooses to honor its pledges. A more realistic understanding suggests that rockets fired by "Islamic Jihad" (last time) or "Global Jihad" (this incident) are "deniable" probes to explore Israel's response.

Second, the status of Israel's deterrence: The first rocket fired from Hamas after last summer's Protective Edge came only 21 days after the ceasefire was declared by both sides. In earlier conflagrations, "Pillar of Cloud" that ended in November 2012 and "Cast Lead" that ended in January 2009, it took 97 days and 225 days respectively before a first rocket was again fired against Israel. This, despite the greater extent of damage inflicted this time by Israel and the fact that Israel's tough approach to Gaza is now mirrored by that of Egypt. The inevitable conclusion is that Israeli (and Egyptian) deterrence is not working against Hamas.

Third, Hamas is rearming rapidly. The existence of a new factory for manufacturing concrete tunnel components (conspicuously bombed by Israel in retaliation for the latest rocket attack) is one indication. Rapidly improving relations between Hamas and Iran, Gaza's principal source of ordnance and weapons know-how, is another. Lately, Hamas has reportedly test-fired rockets into the Mediterranean every few days.

Finally, the economic and political situation in the Gaza Strip remains disastrous. Very little of the billions of dollars in financial aid promised by the Arab world and international community has been delivered. (A Qatar-Egypt rapprochement last week engineered by the Saudis could conceivably soon result in the arrival of massive Qatari civilian aid.) The rate of attempts by Gazan civilians to breach the fence and enter Israel to look for work has risen radically. The Palestinian unity government between Hamas and Fateh, which was intended to provide legitimacy for delivering aid to the Strip, remains a non-starter.

Under these circumstances, the clock is ticking faster and faster on a Hamas decision to escalate the situation and provoke yet another Gaza war. PM Netanyahu has to hope that this can be delayed at least until after Israel's March 17 Knesset elections, lest the fighting be laid at the Likud's electoral doorstep.

Calling Out Israeli Rejectionism at the UN

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the UN Security Council Resolution introduced late Wednesday by Jordan as a unilateral move that would result in “a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria.”  Foreign Minister Leiberman blasted the resolution as an act of aggression against Israel.  Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Steinitz branded it an “act of war.”

What can one conclude except that this resolution is manifestly anti-Israel?  It must, for example, reject Israel’s right to exist and endorse a full Palestinian “right of return.”  It must deny any Israeli or Jewish claims to Jerusalem and require Israel to leave its security in the hands of its erstwhile enemies.  And no doubt it includes text justifying violence and terror against Israel.  More broadly, this resolution must seek to impose on Israel a “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along lines defined unilaterally by the Palestinians.  How could Israel respond to such a text with anything less than outrage?   

Netanyahu, Leiberman, Steinitz, and others critics of the effort must be hoping that people won’t bother to actually read the text of the resolution, because, in fact, it is nothing of the sort. 

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On Chanukah: Real People. Real Pictures. Partners for Peace.

Partners_for_Peace_Day_Six_Smiling(2)

Last week, many were dismayed to discover (as reported in the Forward and +972) that the iconic photo of two young boys, seemingly an Israeli-Jewish child and a Palestinian-Muslim child, was a posed photo taken for the Canadian magazine Maclean’s.

Yes, that photo was staged, but there's no need to indulge in the despairing laments echoing around the internet: there are plenty of real pictures, of real people - Palestinian and Israeli (and two Jewish-Americans, in  day five's picture - APN's own Lara Friedman, and one more coming up), Jewish, Christian, and Muslim - working for a brighter future. In the spirit of Chanukah, we are going to share a picture a day for the next eight days of real, genuine partners for peace.

This is the work we do
These people are real, these pictures are real
Share them and join us in building a peaceful future.

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Chanukah message: Where do we find the light?

Chanukiah

Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Dear Friend,

At the darkest time of winter, Jews celebrate Chanukah, adding one candle each night to increase the light. Many of us place our menorah in a window in fulfillment of the mitzvah to “publicize the miracle” of the small cruse of oil that contained only enough for one day but lasted for eight.

This particular winter is an especially dark time for those of us who have been working for decades to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There’s no denying that the peace process has stalled. The parties are not talking to one another. The Occupation continues unabated. We read of growing violence. Some people have even begun to question the possibility of a two-state solution.

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APN today called on the Obama Administration to support action in the United Nations Security Council regarding Israel-Palestine that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  APN president and CEO Debra DeLee commented:

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December 15, 2014 - Israeli Elections - small signs of hope; and security and violence

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This week, Alpher discusses how the momentum for recognition of a Palestinian state is building up in Europe and at the United Nations and how this affects Israel, particularly at election time; emerging political dynamics as regards Israel's elections; the role of violence in Israeli and American security tactics; whether Palestinian Authority threats to sever security coordination with Israel over the Abu Ein incident are credible.

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"Price Tag" Escalation Timeline: Jan 1, 2011 - present

The following is a timeline of major "Price Tag" attacks (as reported by Israeli sources).  It documents a clear escalation in attacks, and the increasing spread of attacks inside the Green Line.  Italics indicate so-called "triggers" - events or developments that appear to be linked to subsequent attacks - although as has been noted in the Israeli press, "According to the Shin Bet, the right-wing extremists no longer appear to need a 'trigger' to take action, while the targets of the violence are also widening..." We will update this regularly.

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APN's Ori Nir in Haaretz: U.S. Jews, vote for Israel's future

Netanyahu, in the Knesset, stands by an exit sign.

Ahead of the 2015 elections, American Jews should influence Israel's future character – not through their pocketbooks, but by asserting their vision of how a Jewish, democratic state should look.

For American Jews who care about Israel’s future as a democracy, as a Jewish nation-state that champions Jewish values, as a Jewish homeland they can be proud of, Israel’s early elections are a call for action.

The next 96 days leading up to the March 17 elections offer American Jews a rare opportunity to influence Israel's future character – not through their pocketbooks, but by asserting their vision of what a Jewish, democratic state should look like.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's third government fell apart because four of its key coalition members – Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennet and Tzipi Livni – represent very different, even opposing, visions of Israel’s future character. When confronted with the Jewish nation-state bill, the leaders were compelled to form and articulate clearer visions of this; of what it means to be both Jewish and democratic. With the government's dissolution immediately following a breakdown over this issue, the question of Israel's future character is in the air, forming a backdrop to this election season.

What matters most is what happens immediately after the elections, when the decision is made as to which parties make up the next coalition. Will the next coalition be governed by the nationalistic extreme-right, advancing an exclusionary vision, based on a messianic, xenophobic worldview? Or will it be a progressive coalition, reflecting a modern, globalized, pragmatic Israel, anchored in humanistic values, Jewish values, advancing peace, equality, pluralism, tolerance and democracy?

American Jews who are not Israeli citizens don’t have the right to vote in Israeli elections, but that should not preclude them from influencing the state's future. Stuart Eisenstat, one of Washington’s key insiders and most respected Jewish activists, says Jewish Americans believe just that. He was recently recruited to help poll more than 40 Jewish communities worldwide for a study commissioned by the Israeli government on world Jewry’s attitude to the future of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

Describing the study's findings at a talk he recently gave in Washington, Eisenstat was unequivocal. First, he said, Diaspora Jews believe that Israel should not compromise its democratic values – like granting equality to minorities – to accommodate security threats or other constraints. Second, Diaspora Jews increasingly believe that the threats Israel is facing do not grant it immunity from criticism. Third, American Jews are becoming more assertive in addressing criticism about Israeli policies. They do it not only because they believe that Israel should consult with them on issues close to their hearts, whether relating to religious pluralism or to Jewish values such as tolerance, equality and peace, but also because they believe that “Israel’s character has significant influence on how Judaism is regarded around the world by Jews and non-Jews,” Eisenstat said.

Israel’s image is crucial for Jewish continuity in the Diaspora, he said, as well as for the security and wellbeing of Jews living outside Israel, “as we see in France and other countries.” Therefore, “we have a right to a say on these issues,” Eisenstat said, quoting Diaspora Jewish leaders he interviewed for the study.

The coming 96 days offer an opportunity for American Jews to not only exercise that right, but to do so at a time when what they say could make a profound difference.

During this election season, Jewish Americans have a chance to speak up publicly to support those in Israel who share their values and who share their vision of Israel. They have a vast range of tools to do so – traditional and new media, synagogue chains, and numerous Jewish organizations that resonate both in the United States and in Israel. By voicing their visions, Jewish Americans could contribute, indirectly and modestly as it may be, to a future Israel that is for them more a source of inspiration and pride, rather than discord and dissonance.

This article appeared first on December 11, 2014 in Haaretz.

Shalom Achshav Press Release: Israeli High Court Verdict on Peace Now's Six Outposts Petition

illegal outposts320x265On December 7, 2014 the High Court ruled on Peace Now’s petition number 7891/07 which demanded to carry out Central Command’s delimitation orders and evacuate six West Bank outposts. High Court President, Asher Grunis, ruled that the state must evacuate structures in the outposts located on private Palestinian land, but that there is no place for the court to intervene in the state's prioritization of delimitation orders enforcement and did not oblige the state to evacuate structures located on state lands or survey lands, in light of the state's intention to legalize them.

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Hopeless??

Debra DeLee

I know that the headlines are terrible, and that people are throwing up their hands and feeling defeated. "The two-state solution is hopeless," they say. "We will never have peace."

But... consider:

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