Mandate for Palestine - July 24, 1922

Mandate for Palestine - July 24, 1922
Jordan is 77% of former Palestine - Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza comprise 23%.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bibi's Big Blunder

[Published December 2009]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu incredibly appears to have committed a major blunder in announcing his cabinet’s decision on 25 November 2009:
“ authorizing a policy of restraint regarding settlements which will include a suspension of new permits and new construction in Judea and Samaria for a period of ten months.”
The statement further elaborated on this offer by clarifying that :
“..this suspension will not affect construction currently underway. It will not include the schools, kindergartens, synagogues and public buildings necessary for the continuation of normal life over the period of suspension. Obviously, any infrastructure that may be needed to protect our national security or to safeguard the lives of our citizens will also be provided during this time. … We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital."
Nowhere in the Prime Minister’s statement is there a cut off point for the Palestinian Authority to accept Israel’s offer before it is deemed to be withdrawn.

It seems that this offer is to be kept on foot for ten months during which period the Palestinian Authority will be given the time to decide whether it will enter into negotiations or not.

The Palestinian Authority is clearly not happy with the limited suspension of building activity set out in Mr Netanyahu’s statement and is trying to get America to pressure Israel into making further concessions before agreeing to enter into negotiations.

Y NET News reported the following on 25 November:
“Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements do not constitute a progress which will enable the Palestinians to resume negotiations. Erekat claimed the move was unsatisfactory.

Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said that the resumption of negotiations requires total cessation of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. "We will not accept any arrangement in which Jerusalem is not part of the proposal," Abu Rudeina said."
If the Palestinian Authority eventually decides to enter into negotiations with Israel in say seven months time, that will leave only three months to complete those negotiations. What will happen at the end of those three months if such negotiations have not been finalised? Will further extensions have to be granted by Israel to keep the negotiations alive?

Mr Netanyahu’s statement goes on to say:
“When the suspension ends, my government will revert to the policies of previous governments in relation to construction.”
This would appear to clearly indicate that if the Palestinian Authority does not enter into negotiations in ten months the moratorium period is over.

However if Israel were not to extend the moratorium period once the negotiations had begun - it would soon be branded as irresponsible and the prime cause of any breakdown in negotiations by unreasonably refusing to extend the moratorium period to enable the negotiations to continue.

The longer the negotiations continue the greater the pressure on Israel to extend the moratorium period to allow those negotiations to be finalized.

Since the parties have been negotiating for sixteen years without any result it would not be too unrealistic to assume that the Palestinian Authority could enter into negotiations within the next ten months and thereafter indefinitely delay the end of the moratorium period.

What Israel should have done is make it quite clear that:
1. The Palestinian Authority was to be given until 25 December 2009 to enter into negotiations with Israel.

2. If negotiations were commenced within that time then the moratorium period would be extended until 25 September 2010

3. If negotiations were not concluded by 25 September 2010, no extension of the moratorium period would be granted as a condition of the negotiations continuing.
Israel appears to have fallen into a trap of its own making. It urgently needs to clarify the intent and meaning of its statement and remove any ambiguity as soon as possible.

Juggernaut Coming Down The Road

[Published November 2009]

American broadcaster and Palestinian Arab Ray Hanania’s Two State Peace Plan to allocate sovereignty in the West Bank between Jews and Arabs and end the 130 years old conflict between them has already got off to a flying start.

The main features of his proposal that markedly depart from the current policy of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League are:
1. Israel will be recognised as the Jewish State
2. Jewish settlements in the West Bank will become part of Israel in exchange for an equivalent area of land from Israel to the new Arab state
3. Arabs shall not have any right to emigrate to Israel
4. Arab refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab lands shall be entitled to compensation from an international fund set up to deal with claims
5. Arabs living in Israel shall only vote in elections in the newly created State
The impact of his proposal can be judged by the effect it has already had on Bradley Burston - the columnist for Ha’aretz and senior editor of Ha’

Burstons bio is very revealing:
"Bradley Burston is a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz Newspaper, and Senior Editor of which publishes his blog, "A Special Place in Hell." During the first Palestinian uprising, he served as Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, and was the paper’s military correspondent in the 1991 Gulf War. In the mid-1990s he covered Israeli-Arab peace talks for Reuters. He is a recipient of the Eliav-Sartawi Award for Mideast Journalism, presented at the United Nations in 2006.

Burston was born and raised in Los Angeles. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he moved to Israel, where he was part of a group which established Kibbutz Gezer, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Burston served in the IDF as a combat medic, later studying medicine in Be’er Sheva for two years before turning to journalism."
Burston has been extremely critical of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s current Government.

On 22 July 2009 Burston wrote the following in the Huffington Post:
“Permit me at this point to save some time, and to speak candidly. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, whether they are willing to publicly acknowledge this or not, knows that obstacles are precisely what West Bank settlements were put there to be.

Settlements, whether considered legal or illegal, whether granted overt or blind-eye Israeli government sanction, or placed there by unruly-eyed fanatics who hate the Israeli government almost as much as they hate Arabs, have a common goal.

They were built to be explicit, intentional, physical, literal obstacles to any peace process that would include ceding West Bank land to Palestinians. And that, everyone knows, describes any conceivable future peace process.”
Burston followed this up with the following statement in the Huffington Post on 29 July 2009:
“There is no little irony in the circumstance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose Palestinian recognition of Israel as "the national state of the Jewish People" as a central tool in efforts to stave off peace talks and deflect demands for a settlement freeze.”
Hanania’s proposals have shredded these controversial statements by Burston into tiny pieces.

Burston has been one of the first Israeli-critical journalists to hop on the Hanania bandwagon.

In an article in Ha’aretz on 24 November entitled “A Palestinian peace plan Israelis can live with” Burston enthusiastically endorses Hanania’s proposals.
“What Hanania is proposing is a two state solution that addresses not only quantifiable issues, but underlying emotional grievances, and the anguish in the histories of both sides. Cynics, and, in particular, the extremists among them, will reject it out of hand as simplistic and artificially balanced. But if peace is ever to be made in the Holy Land, it will be made despite extremists and not by them.

As in every potentially workable peace proposal, Hanania’s plan has something in it to upset and disappoint everyone. But its underlying principle of compromise based on mutual respect and compassion, its openness to the needs and wounds of two victimized peoples, and its suggestion that grassroots sentiment for peace can succeed where leaders have so consistently failed, are surely as worthy of serious consideration, as anything currently on the table. “
Israel as the Jewish National Home and existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank are no longer regarded as obstacles to peace under Hanania’s proposals but are recognized now as the eventual outcomes of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

One swallow doesn’t make a summer. However the attractiveness of Hanania’s plan has already been endorsed on a number of web sites in the 14 days since it first saw the light of day.

The real test will come when official responses to Hanania’s proposed plan as the basis for future negotiations are sought from the main parties trying to resolve the current impasse in negotiations - Israel, the Arab League, the Palestinian Authority, America, Russia and the European Union.

The people best able to approach those decision makers for comment are journalists - especially those of the calibre of Hanania and Burston.

In collaboration they already constitute a lobby of great influence. It is not always numbers that count but rather the quality of the people involved who are in a position to get proposals aired and discussed in public and not relegated to the backburner.

The responses when they come will be crucial in deciding whether an immovable roadblock will threaten the end of what has been the most innovative two state solution yet raised.

Somehow I don’t see journalists of the calibre of Hanania and Burston giving in very easily without a long and hard struggle to finally get Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sit down and negotiate within the parameters of Hanania’s proposals.

Sit back, enjoy the ride and watch this space for further developments.

European Union Finally Seeing Reality

[Published November 2009]

The veiled threat by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to approach the United Nations (UN) Security Council to seek its consent to the establishment of a new Arab state between Jordan, Israel and Egypt has received the short shrift it deserved from the European Union (EU).

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt whose country holds the European Union’s rotating Presidency said on 17 November 2009 in Brussels:
“I don’t think we are there yet. I would hope that we would be in a position to recognise a Palestinian state but there has to be one first, so I think it is somewhat premature.
The PA appears to have a totally misconceived notion of the UN as a body that can create states rather than give recognition to States once they have been established - for the purposes of admitting them to membership of the UN.

Mere declarations of statehood are insufficient to receive recognition by the UN and admission to membership.

Applicants seeking admission to the UN need to establish:
1. The borders of the new state
2. Complete and effective control within those borders
It is painstakingly obvious that the PA went way out on a limb when PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared:
“We have reached a decision to go to the UN Security Council to ask for recognition of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital within June-1967 borders. We are going to seek support from EU countries, Russia and other countries.”
The PA has no authority or control in Gaza and only has control of about 40% of the West Bank with Israel’s current consent.

The “June - 1967 borders” are not borders - only armistice lines agreed with Jordan and Egypt who occupied Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 until they were lost to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.

The last recognized sovereign occupier of the West Bank and Gaza was Great Britain as Mandatory Authority under the Mandate for Palestine conferred on it by the now defunct League of Nations.

However the provisions of the Mandate in relation to the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Gaza and the West Bank “without prejudice to the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities” living there - still prevail today by virtue of Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

As in the case of the PA‘s refusal to resume negotiations with Israel on the future sovereignty of the West Bank without preconditions, the current threatened approach to the UN appears to have been some public relations ploy to put pressure on Israel and keep the cause of a Palestinian State in the media spotlight.

It has in fact achieved the opposite result and blown up in the PA’s face.

The PA is clearly desperate and frustrated as it unsuccessfully pursues alternative diplomatic paths to keep the “two state” solution alive.

Negotiations have hit a brick wall as the PA refuses to change its negotiating stance of the last 16 years by even the slightest concession or admission that Israel also has claims at least as good as the PA to sovereignty in at least those parts of the West Bank in which Jews currently reside.

There are a few other home truths the PA seem to have ignored in its proposed UN tour de force:
* The Arabs were offered - and refused - a state by the UN in 1947 in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza plus additional land in what is now Israel.

* The Arabs could have created a state in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza between 1948-1967 when not one Jew lived there ( having all been driven out by the Arabs) and it was under complete Arab occupation and control - yet failed to do so.

* The current demand that Israel now cede 100% of the West Bank and Gaza in the current changed environment of the Middle East to give the PA what could have been achieved 40- 60 years ago is not going to happen.

* UN Security Council resolution 242 has made it clear that the 1967 armistice lines must be replaced by secure and recognized boundaries that ensure Israel’s safety and security.

* Negotiations involving PA territorial concessions in the West Bank to Israel is the only possible way forward. If the PA refuses to offer any such concessions then they can kiss goodbye to any new state being created. The opportunities existing between 1947-1967 will not be returning in 2009 or at any time thereafter.

* The 500000 Jews now living in the West Bank are legally entitled to do so by virtue of the legal rights conferred on them under the League of Nations and United Nations Charter.

* The PA rejected two Israeli proposals in 2000 and 2008 that would have seen the PA receive sovereignty in 90-100% of the West Bank or its territorial equivalent in area. This offer is unlikely to be renewed by the current Israeli government in the light of Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January, the subsequent Goldstone Commission Report and the continuing power struggle between Hamas and Fatah that threatens to divide the West bank and Gaza into warring fiefdoms for the hearts and minds of the Arab residents who live in both areas.

* If the territorial division of the West Bank cannot be agreed upon then discussion on more difficult issues like refugees, Jerusalem, water and demilitarization will be a complete waste of time.
Arab rejectionism for the last 62 years has come - and will continue to come - at a high price.

The Arabs have had 90 years to mature their views since the small territory of “Palestine” was slated for reconstitution of the Jewish National Home and severed from the other 99.99% of the land freed from the Ottoman Empire by the British and the French and designated for Arab self-determination.

The EU’s instant dismissal of the PA’s proposed approach to the UN serves as a warning notice to the PA to return to the negotiating table and be more flexible in its negotiations with Israel if it ever wants to see the two-state option achieved.

The EU has at long last injected some air of reality into the Middle East. Its about time it did.

Palestine - Mountains And Molehills

[Published November 2009]

Judging by the fuss and flurry over the past week you would think that the world was in meltdown unless a resolution was found to finalising claims of sovereignty by Jews and Arabs to a piece of land 280 square kilometres in area (equal to just 5% of the size of Delaware) - forming part of the 5640 square kilometre territory called the “West Bank“.

Everyone involved needs to take a deep breath, calm down and review where this dispute is now at and put it in its proper perspective in the light of the events of the last seven days.

Continuing Palestinian Authority intransigence to concede even one square kilometre of this territory to Israel led to a breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority 12 months ago. Since then there have been large changes in the political landscape including the invasion of Gaza by Israel, the election of a new Government in Israel, the publication of the Goldstone Report and the continuing unresolved division of governance in the West Bank and Gaza between Fatah and Hamas.

The West Bank holds deep emotional and religious ties for the Jews - since it is the biblical heartland of the Jewish people - and is part of the territory within which the Jewish National Home was to be reconstituted under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

430000 Jews also happen to live in these 280 square kilometres pursuant to legal rights conferred on them by the Mandate for Palestine and the UN Charter. Israel also considers retention of this area to be absolutely essential for its security because of its strategic location.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 predicated that an area of the West Bank would be retained under Israel’s sovereignty as part of its secure and recognized borders in any negotiations.

In a fit of pique the Palestinian Authority has now refused to resume negotiations with Israel - ostensibly because Israel refuses to stop building houses and public buildings in the cities and population centres in the West Bank already designated and established for Jewish development - the so-called “settlements“.

For the Arabs, their interest in continuing to reject Israel’s claim to this 280 square kilometres is directed at driving out its Jewish residents and reducing the security of Israel in pursuit of a policy aimed at eventually destroying Israel by creating yet another Arab state - the 22nd - in the world.

The President of the Palestinian Authority - Mahmoud Abbas - threatened this week not to stand for President at the next elections supposedly to be held in January. Such elections are unlikely since his political opponent - Hamas - has the power to stymie the elections and has indicated it will do so.

Abbas is presently holding on to power illegitimately since his term expired last January. The vacancy caused should have been filled by the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council - Aziz Dweik - but Mr Abbas refuses to yield.

Notwithstanding his political impotence - Mr Abbas hoped his threatened resignation would bring forth cries to rethink his resignation because a Hamas nominee might become President.

Some in Israel rose to the bait.

Israel’s ceremonial President Shimon Peres and the failed politician Yossi Beilin headed the Israeli chorus calling on Abbas to recant.

Peres recalled that along with Rabin, he and Abbas were among signatories to the 1993 Oslo peace accord and he appealed to Abbas by name not to quit.
“We both signed the Oslo agreement, I turn to you as a colleague, don’t let go.”
Beilin told the Lebanon Daily Star:
“The resignation threat presents a real danger because there is no other Palestinian leader on the horizon who can enjoy the same international prestige and try to lead his public to an agreement with Israel. If Abbas tells US President Barack Obama he is considering resigning, the American leader should not consider this an empty threat. It would constitute a blow to his administration’s regional policies, following long months of wasted time and empty maneuvers.”

Apparently President Obama was unmoved by such pleas as his Secretary of State reportedly accepted Mr Abbas’s resignation. Abbas had clearly lost the poker game on this score.

Abbas will now no doubt try to hold on to the reins of power in the absence of any elections. However he is a spent force incapable of delivering anything he signs or agrees to.

Statements and contradicting statements were also made by various Arab spokesmen during the week threatening to dismantle the Palestinian Authority. This was yet another attempt to pressure Israel to stop all building activity in the “settlements“ as the price for the resumption of negotiations.

As a tactic it could not possibly work. Israel had already made concessions in this area that Secretary of State Clinton had acknowledged to be “unprecedented” .

In a November 4 interview with Jackie Northam of National Public Radio Clinton said:
“What is so clear is that once borders are decided, the settlement issue goes away. The Israelis build whatever they want in their territory, the Palestinians build whatever they want in theirs,”
America had again spoken to clear the air in an attempt to make Abbas see sense and resolve the issue of borders without delay. Her advice seems certain to be ignored. He is in no position to concede any land without bringing the wrath of Hamas on him.

Just in case Abbas was not listening to Clinton - President Obama had the following to say in a taped video played at the Rabin Memorial Commemoration on 8 November:
"Palestinian dreams of statehood will be deferred unless Israelis are assured of their own safety and security”
The abject surrender of control in Gaza to Hamas has destroyed the credibility and effectiveness of the Palestinian Authority to govern any area of the West Bank in a way that could possibly meet Israel’s security requirements.

There is only one Arab State that can possibly do that - Jordan - the last Arab state to occupy the West Bank from 1948-1967 - and with whom Israel has a signed peace treaty that has stood the test of time and many pressures faced by both countries since the treaty was signed in 1994.

A trial balloon was also floated this week suggesting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad was seeking a new Security Council resolution to replace Resolution 242 in a bid to win the international community’s support for the borders of a Palestinian state. The move was said to be designed to bring stronger pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.

This idea is doomed to failure in the Security Council.

All the Arab huff and puff of the past week should be viewed as failed and desperate attempts by the Palestinian Authority to make mountains out of molehills so as to avoid making decisions on borders and to try and shore up support for its rapid decline in political influence.

The Authority and Abbas have jumped head first into the abyss leaving Israel with no reliable or credible negotiating partner. They should both be replaced by Jordan as Israel‘s Arab partner for negotiations on the future sovereignty of the West Bank.

Until this change occurs President Obama should turn his attention and efforts to resolving the really serious problems that presently confront him - Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, climate change, his own domestic economy, universal health care and terrorism within the military.

Leave the Arabs and Jews alone to first sort out this minimalist territorial issue over a sliver of land.

The agreement on borders still remains the first mountain to be climbed by Arab negotiators. There are others to follow but if this - the easiest to climb - cannot be achieved then it is pointless trying to scale the much higher peaks - refugees, water,Jerusalem, demilitarization - that still remain to be conquered.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Palestine,Peres,Pledges And Poppycock

[Published November 2009]

Israel’s current President - Shimon Peres - has used the 14th anniversary of the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister - Yitzchak Rabin - to pledge that the former Prime Minister’s vision of peace would not be abandoned.
“The goals bravely sought by Yitzhak, with a bold vision and diplomacy, will not be abandoned,” President Peres said.
The President added that:
“even if they are delayed we will achieve his goals.”
Regrettably - however - President Peres was pulling the wool over the Israelis’ eyes by not articulating what those specific goals were and by suggesting they could ever be achieved.

In order to assess the truth of President Peres’s effusive statements - one needs to look at what Mr Rabin himself proposed.

Mr Rabin’s ideas and visions are set out in the speech he delivered to the Knesset on October 5, 1995 - just days before his assassination - when presenting the 300 page “Israeli - Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” for approval.

That speech identified the following goals that Mr Rabin was seeking to achieve:
“We are striving for a permanent solution to the unending bloody conflict between us and the Palestinians and the Arab states.

In the framework of the permanent solution, we aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state, at least 80% of whose citizens will be, and are, Jews.

At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel—Muslim, Christian, Druze and others—will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen. Judaism and racism are diametrically opposed.

We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.

The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:

A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev—as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.

B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.

C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the “Green Line,” prior to the Six Day War.

D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria, like the one in Gush Katif.”
Yet President Peres himself has rejected Mr Rabin’s Roadmap - instead endorsing former American President Bush’s Roadmap which calls for a 22nd independent Arab State - rather than Mr Rabin’s “entity” - to be created between Israel and Jordan.

Releasing murderers of Jews and granting them pardons have now become accepted policy under President Peres.

The Palestinian Authority has already rejected offers in 2000 and 2008 by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert to end the conflict by dividing Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority demands that places like Maale Adumin, Efrat and Beitar become part of the new State of Palestine and continue to insist that Israel returns to the 4 June 1967 lines and forcibly remove 500000 Jews now living beyond it.

Gush Khatif and other settlements in Gaza no longer exist because of Mr Olmert’s unilateral abandonment of Gaza in 2005 and the evacuation of 8000 Jews who once lived there.

Israel no longer controls the border with Egypt and allows flagrant breaches of the Gaza Strip maritime zone for fear of creating a public relations backlash.

The idea that the Arabs will ever recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people is a pipe dream.

Israel’s President need to stop engaging in telling fairy stories by suggesting that Mr Rabin’s ideas and visions can still triumph despite his death.

President Peres needs to truthfully acknowledge that Mr Rabin’s ideas and vision are incapable of fulfillment today as Israel pursues a path that is fraught with much greater danger for the continued existence of Israel than Mr Rabin’s proposals ever contemplated.

Ironically President Peres made the following comment on the occasion of the 13th commemoration of Yitzchak Rabin’s death last year:
“The bullets that were fired into Yitzhak’s back didn’t kill his way, because ideas and visions cannot be killed.”
It was not bullets that killed Mr Rabin’s ideas and vision. It was the abandonment of his policies by those who succeeded him in the corridors of power that has been the real cause.

The official public commemoration service to mark Mr Rabin’s death has been postponed until 7 November because of inclement weather last week. A videotaped message from President Obama is due to be played to a crowd expected to reach 100000.

Hopefully President Obama will not indulge in such duplicity. His message will be awaited with great interest.

Sarkozy Seething - Mediterranean Union Hardly Breathing

[Published November 2009]

French President Nicolas Sarkozy could be excused for being very annoyed at Egypt’s precipitate action in forcing the cancellation of this month’s meeting of the Foreign Ministers from the 43 countries that comprise the Mediterranean Union.

The Union brings together European Union members with States from North Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world and Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world’s most volatile regions.

It didn’t take long for President Sarkozy’s grandiose plan to unravel when the 43 Presidents and Prime Ministers assembled in Paris at its inaugural summit meeting on 13-14 July 2008 and failed to agree on the wording of a final joint communiqué.

The party pooper was the Palestinian Authority - the only non-state entity in the Union - which belatedly objected to the wording adopted by the other 42 members because it might amount to an abandonment of the Palestinian Authority‘s demand that millions of Arabs be allowed to emigrate to Israel.

Apart from being a totally unrealistic demand, the idea that the Palestinian Authority could thwart the Union in pursuit of policies designed to benefit the region as a whole was a harbinger of worse things to come.

Egypt’s decision to force the cancellation of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting this month was a direct consequence of that initial rebuff fifteen months ago.

Egypt's reasons appear to centre on its Foreign Minister not being prepared to sit in the same room as Israel’s Foreign Minister coupled with Egypt’s view that no further proceedings of the Mediterranean Union should be held until Israel resumes negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.-

The last minute cancellation of the Istanbul conference has prompted an unnamed European Union diplomat to tell the Sunday Times of Malta
“We are risking the death of the Mediterranean Union just after being born. The Union is in complete shambles and no progress has been made since its launch, both on the structure of the organisation and its seat.”
President Sarkozy would be absolutely seething at reports in the media that 16.6 million euros was spent on that inaugural President’s meeting in July 2008.

This sum included a dinner for the 43 invited heads of state and government that cost more than 1 million euros. At a cost of about 5000 euros a head for those invited, one must wonder what delicacies they ate.

No doubt Sarkozy watchers and the media will be rushing around trying to get a copy of the menu. It will certainly make interesting reading. The public enjoy being fed this type of information.

Maybe Palestinian Authority President Abbas was suffering from indigestion or some kind of party hangover that caused him to be odd man out when the final communiqué was prepared. He certainly didn’t do his French host any favour - although he might have gained brownie points in the West Bank and Gaza for continuing the struggle for liberation and self-determination on behalf of 4 million Arabs living there and another 4 million living - unintegrated and unabsorbed - in other Arab countries in refugee camps for the last 60 years.

These goals would be seen as far more important by President Abbas than progressing the objectives of the Union in improving the lives of 735 million people living within the member states - including the area presently under control of the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas will have also probably improved his waning image by not succumbing and selling out the Palestinian Arabs whilst himself personally enjoying the pleasures of hospitality on a grand scale as only the French know how.

An apparent beat up has also been made of the fact that President Sarkozy spent 245000 euros building a luxury shower which he never used - according to French opposition MP Rene Dosiere. ABC On Line says it was custom-built for Mr Sarkozy, with power and massage jet buttons and surround-sound radio.

But government spokesman Luc Chatel told Taiwan News that sum was not for a shower for President Sarkozy, but for eight meeting rooms used by the 43 leaders who attended the summit.

French Budget Minister Eric Woerth poured cold water on the shower cost declaring:
“It would be scandalous if it were true, but it is false,” [Expatica 29 October]
The bills for running the Mediterranean Union will continue to roll in and the costs of cancelling the Istanbul Conference will be substantial.

President Sarkozy no doubt will be subjected to criticism for the amount of money he has spent in promoting a vision that had very little chance of success from the outset. He has found out - if he didn’t know before - that dealing with the Arab States is a decidedly risky proposition - particularly if Israel is brought into the equation.

Like so much of the conflict in the Middle East, the Arab states are unable to raise their sights beyond the conflict between Jews and Arabs over two tiny strips of land - the West Bank and Gaza - and focus on the bigger canvas that demands joint action by them in the Mediterranean Union for the benefit of all.

The Union’s priorities are to fight pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, increase solar energy use, build land and sea highways and cooperate on higher education and research. Its goals are meant to be achieved by joint projects, which it is hoped would also help improve regional integration.

Israel probably possesses the greatest expertise of any of the Union’s member nations in water management and conservation as well as the harnessing of solar power.

This appears of little consequence to the Arab states as they continue their micro war against Israel within the Mediterranean Union at the expense of the macro economic impact the Union could have on their lives.

The French Audit report concluded:
“For its scale, the irregular procedures followed and its massive impact on our public finances, the summit will go down as a record of sorts,”
Perhaps that record will soon be surpassed by the brief lifespan the Mediterranean Union enjoys before it is dead and buried by Arab intransigence and pettiness of mind.

"Palestine" Causes Mediterranean Disunion

[Published October 2009]

The Mediterranean Union - and its founding sponsor France - have been dealt a severe body blow as Egyptian intransigence has caused the cancellation of a meeting in Lisbon next week of foreign ministers from the 43 member countries comprising the Mediterranean Union.

The reasons given vary.

According to Ha’aretz (27 October) Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, that Egypt would not attend the conference with Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Sources close to the conference organizers said the Egyptian minister was adamant.
“I’m not coming if Lieberman is there,” he told Kouchner. “Forget it. I won’t sit at a table with him, or even be seen in the same room.”
A different reason emerges in Y Net (27 October) which reports a meeting having taken place between Israel’s Vice Premier - Silvan Shalom - and Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel - Yasser Reda - when Reda told Shalom:
“At the moment the conditions are not ripe for convening such a conference. They may mature when the talks with Palestinians begin.”
Given that Israel is a world leader in programs such as the Mediterranean Solar Plan - a project of the Mediterranean Union to install concentrating solar power in the deserts for the benefits of its members - the cancellation of the meeting in the face of global warming represents a severe set back in world moves to counter the effects of carbon dioxide emissions.

This is the second time in 18 months that France has suffered a serious diplomatic debacle in its efforts to get the Mediterranean Union up and running because of Arab intransigence.

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy previously was forced to eat humble pie after his ground-breaking plan to establish the Mediterranean Union on 13 July 2008 failed to reach an agreed final communiqué because of the opposition to its wording by the Palestinian Authority (PA) - the only non-state member present.

President Sarkozy’s efforts in bringing Israel and 9 members of the Arab League - including Syria - to that inaugural meeting of the Union promised to introduce a ray of light for Israeli-Arab co-operation and an end to regional turmoil.

The images of President Sarkozy, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Mr Olmert smiling and enjoying a three way hand shake would have encouraged President Sarkozy into believing that he would be able to achieve the diplomatic breakthrough that had eluded President Bush’s Road Map for the previous 5 years.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner however had sounded a word of warning when he bluntly told European News (12 July 2008):
“Being around the same table with people you have fought is the beginning of something, it is the wind of hope. I’m sorry to say that the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians are not part of this wind of hope”
Little did Mr Kouchner - or President Sarkozy - imagine that the fundamental disagreements between Israel and the PA would be used by the PA to undermine the grand design of President Sarkozy to bring the nations of the Mediterranean and the European Union together in a new spirit of co-operation and joint venture.

The unfriendly wind Mr Kouchner had felt was shortly to blow away any hopes of an agreed summit position when the PA objected to the wording of the summit declaration.

Why the PA thought it necessary to incur the wrath and displeasure of President Sarkozy by importing the Middle-East conflict into the formation of the Mediterranean Union was puzzling. Quibbling over a few words in an otherwise agreed document remained a mystery - until the PA tried to explain the significance - and insidiousness - of its objection.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters according to Xinhua news agency (15 July 2008):
“The Israelis insisted on the inclusion of the words - “state for the Jewish people” - something we are categorically opposed to. It was out of the question for us to accept this wording. We wanted to ensure the final statement was very clear on this point.”
The Israeli delegation had a different take on what had happened telling Xinhua that
"Israel was in agreement with everything that has been adopted in the declaration because it was done by consensus”
Mr Kouchner was more forthcoming on what had actually occurred to spoil President Sarkozy’s party.

He told Xinhua that the standstill had been caused by the use of the expressions:
“nation state, national state, and democratic state”.
This had resulted in:
"a last minute deadlock between the Israelis and the Palestinians which meant that the final text had to undergo some little changes. The use of the expression “national state” implies difficulties in ensuring the return of refugees to the Jewish State or non-Jewish, Palestinian State.”
How the PA could ever hope to succeed in getting the Mediterranean Union members to unanimously agree to wording in the summit declaration that would support the entry of millions of Arabs into Israel and deny the Jewish people its own State is unbelievable.

These two non-negotiable demands of the PA have long been the sticking points in ensuring that the creation of a 22nd Arab state between Israel and Jordan will remain incapable of fulfillment.

Now these demands had been brought to France by the PA to embarrass and undermine President Sarkozy’s vision - the establishment of the Mediterranean Union.

The supine French reaction to these untenable and badly mistimed demands was entirely predictable.

President Sarkozy could have told the PA to take a cold shower or to re-apply for membership of the Mediterranean Union when it had received international recognition as the governing authority of a sovereign and democratic state. Alternatively he could have suggested the PA be given observer status at the Mediterranean Union until statehood was achieved.

Mindful that any such action would have provoked an Arab walkout, President Sarkozy bit his tongue and chose the diplomatic path - sending the hapless Mr Kouchner on an appeasement journey to ease the frustration President Sarkozy must have felt at this upstart non-state thwarting mighty France at the very moment of what was to be one of its greatest achievements.

Mr Kouchner was left to tell Xinhua (July 15) :
“At the last moment we failed , perhaps for half an hour, to advance due to one word”
That one word was “Jewish”.

It will take more than half an hour and more than one word before these nations are disavowed of their evil intention.

The Arab campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State was once again exposed as it continued in earnest in Paris at the birthplace of the Mediterranean Union.

One Jewish State on this planet remains an anathema to most of the 21 Islamic Arab States as they continue resisting it and calling for its destruction wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.

Mr Kouchner fooled no-one as he bent the French knee in 2008 in deference to this racist alliance that has actively opposed the existence of the Jewish State in its ancient homeland since its establishment 60 years ago.

France’s humiliation again at the hands of Egypt this week serves to remind us that continuing appeasement of the Arabs comes at a great price - in this case the welfare and advancement of all 43 members of the Mediterranean Union - including the Palestinian Authority.

France should insist on the Conference going ahead. To back down is a recipe for disaster and will hold the Mediterranean Union hostage to the demands of any member at any time.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Realities Of The Middle East

[Published October 2009]

Now that Palestinian Authority intransigence and the Jordanian monarch’s cold feet have frozen President Bush’s Middle East peace plan, we are again facing that time honoured lament of Western liberalism:
“why doesn’t the US put more pressure on Israel, why cannot Israel be forced into more concessions?”
But in any event do Mr Abbas and his internationally cosseted entourage really want a peace settlement? A new term is creeping into the Middle East lexicon: Palestinian Authority Incorporated.

This label stems from a growing realisation that the Palestinian leadership has never had it so good, flitting from one capital to another by private jet, with conference-to-conference limousines, police escorts, top hotels and guest palaces, and everything else that goes with the jet-setting potentate. Running a neighbourhood “entity” after this would seem very dull indeed - assuming Mr. Abbas would make the grade in an open election.

But would he? The Wall Street Journal’s Karen Elliott House reported after a Middle East tour last month:
"Almost no one … believes the self appointed President for the Palestinian cause will ever be the directly re-elected leader of the Palestinian people”
She quotes a Jordanian official in Amman:
” The Palestinian Authority isn’t a revolution. It’s a corporation. After all these years, the pay cheques keep coming and the life is good . The Palestinian Authority cares more about preserving its privileges than helping ordinary Palestinians.”
To which Joseph Kraft of the Los Angeles Times syndicate adds the charge that the Abbas Palestinian Authority is:
“ a bureaucracy dedicated to its own survival. Far from being willing to take risks for political goals, Mr Abbas and Co, in this view, prefer to wander from country to country and from summit meeting to summit meeting, selling the cause of Palestine to Arab leaders who need legitimization. The rulers pay out subsidies. In return Mr Abbas gives them the Palestinian Authority seal of fidelity to Arab nationalism.”
What practical good does this do for the average Palestinian Arabs? As the New York Times remarked last November during a peak of Palestinian Authority negativism:
“Let reality now sink in. If those who claim Palestinian leadership cannot contemplate co-existence and persist in preventing King Abdullah and the residents of the West Bank from negotiating a true peace with Israel, then even this territory will soon be out of reach”
And how.

Israeli Government statisticians and demographers predict that within 30 years the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria will reach parity with the projected Arab population of 1.3 million. Long range settlement plans are in hand. The implications of delayed negotiations require no explanation.


The above article was written by Michael Barnard under the title “Realities of the Middle East” and published in the Age Newspaper in Melbourne Australia on Tuesday 26 April 1983 …. 26 years ago !!!!

My contribution to updating the article lies solely in substituting a few words to reflect the different parties.

I could have even left in the acronym for the Palestine Liberation Organization - “PLO” - used by Barnard in his article instead of replacing it with “Palestinian Authority” since the latter is just the reincarnation of the former disguised under a different name.

But essentially nothing has changed for the ordinary West Bank Arab in the last quarter of a century as their leaders have missed countless opportunities to resolve the conflicting Arab and Jewish claims to sovereignty in the West Bank.

Abbas clings to power as unelected President although his term expired last January. Calls for his removal have been mounting because he dared to postpone debate on the Goldstone Report at the behest of President Obama. This was only the latest of his woes as he has to answer questions about his relative silence during Israel’s invasion of Gaza last December and January and his alleged tacit - if not collaborative - approval of Israel’s action to destroy his Hamas challengers for supreme political control of the Palestinian Arabs.

Urged on by well intended but policy deficient “do-gooders” such as Presidents Reagan, Carter, Clinton and Bush, the Quartet and a Moslem dominated UN General Assembly, the Palestinian Authority power brokers have chalked up hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer points, have enjoyed the best food and wines in some of the most expensive hotels and restaurants in the world and collected photo albums full of snapshots with the most famous political and celebrity personages.

Surely a quarter of a century later it is time to heed Barnard’s article (as updated by me):
“Let reality now sink in. If those who claim Palestinian leadership cannot contemplate co-existence and persist in preventing King Abdullah and the residents of the West Bank from negotiating a true peace with Israel, then even this territory will soon be out of reach”
The sooner Jordan is brought into negotiations with Israel to determine Arab and Jewish claims to sovereignty in the West Bank the sooner these junkets and excesses by the Palestinian Authority will be ended.

More importantly the West Bank Arabs will be able to go about their work and raise their children free of war and conflict as fully fledged citizens of Jordan - as they were between 1948-1967 until Jordan’s fatal involvement in the Six Day War saw the loss of this territory to Israel.

Israel will not be returning to the armistice lines that existed between Israel and Jordan on the 6th June 1967 - UN Security Council resolution 242 makes that abundantly clear. It will not agree - in the national interest of preserving Israel as the only Jewish state in the world - to millions of Arabs flooding into its country as migrants.

That is best left to welcoming countries like England, France, Holland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. The world is a big place and opportunities to settle outside one’s country of birth have never been so easy as millions of Arabs leave their existing 21 Arab States for greener pastures.

Will an article like this still be written in 2035? I certainly hope not.

Israeli Palestinians or Palestinian Jordanians?

[Published October 2009]

Former Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Ahmed Qureia first raised the possibility of Israeli residents living in the West Bank becoming Palestinian citizens in any new State created between Jordan and Israel as an answer to forced removal from their existing homes and transfer to Israel.

In an interview in Haaretz on 26 May 2009 the following exchange took place:
“Qureia: “Negotiating the annexation of Ariel to Israel is a waste of time. Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev must also be part of Palestine. Any agreement must guarantee our territorial contiguity; leave historical sites in our hands, especially Jerusalem, as well as natural resources, especially water.”

Question: Do you believe Israel would agree to evacuate Ma’aleh Adumim’s 35,000 residents?

Qureia: “[Former U.S. secretary of state] Condoleezza Rice told me she understood our position about Ariel but that Ma’aleh Adumim was a different matter. I told her, and Livni, that those residents of Ma’aleh Adumim or Ariel who would rather stay in their homes could live under Palestinian rule and law, just like the Israeli Arabs who live among you. They could hold Palestinian and Israeli nationalities. If they want it - welcome."
This theme was taken up by Palestinian Authority Acting Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival in July when he was asked by R. James Woolsey - former director of Central Intelligence under President Clinton - whether the same rights would be available to Jewish citizens of a Palestinian state that were available to the over one million Arab citizens of Israel - such as freedom of religion and speech and the right to vote in elections.

Woolsey also wanted to know whether Jews would be able to sleep at night without worrying that someone might kick their doors down and kill them

Fayyad replied:
“I’m not someone who will say that they would or should be treated differently than Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel. In fact, the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews, to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine, will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel.”
This is an argument that would hold little attraction to Israel or the Jewish residents of the West Bank.

The reasons are manifold and include the following:
1. Jews could never be assured that their security would be protected from terrorist attacks.

2. The history of the conflict indicates that wherever possible Jews and Arabs should be separated to avoid clashes between their respective populations. Israel’s successful integration of 1.5 million Arabs into its population as Israeli citizens could not possibly be repeated in the West Bank. The baggage of hatred between the two populations engendered by the PLO Covenant and the Hamas Covenant would prove insurmountable.

3. The Jewish community could be held to ransom by any assorted rag and tag groups to meet Arab demands for millions of Arabs to be allowed to emigrate to Israel, for Arab prisoners to be released from Israeli jails or for any other reason - even simple extortion of money.

4. The Palestinian Authority has been trumpeting the removal of all Jewish residents living in the West Bank for the last 40 years and has legislated for the death penalty for anyone selling land to Jews. It would hardly be seen as a convincing change of heart if these racist attitudes were suddenly abandoned.
However the parallel proposition that the Arab residents of the West Bank acquire Jordanian citizenship has become increasingly more attractive as the “two state solution” continues to founder after 16 years of failed diplomatic efforts to achieve a breakthrough.

The West Bank and Gazan Arabs are considered to be oppressed and victimised communities who have been deprived of the freedom of movement, ability to access goods and services, export their own products as well as exercise their rights as full citizens of a sovereign Arab state. This loss of dignity will continue as the two state solution evaporates and will need to be addressed in some way if there is to be peaceful co-existence between the Arab and Jewish communities in the West Bank.

These problems can be solved if the international boundary between Israel and Jordan is redrawn so that the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank become part of Jordan and the heavily populated Jewish areas of the West Bank become part of Israel.

The reasons for this occurring are compelling:
1. Jordan is 77% of Mandatory Palestine and will extend its borders to include about another 3% of former Palestine if this solution is adopted.

2. Jordan - as the last Arab State to occupy the West Bank between 1948-1967 - will resume its historical role as the Arab successor State to the Mandate in allocating sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between it and the other successor state to the Mandate - the Jewish State of Israel.

3. The Arab residents of the West Bank will resume their status as Jordanian citizens which they enjoyed until 1988 and will be granted Jordanian passports entitling them to the same political rights as the current Jordanian population.

4. The Arab residents on both sides of the Jordan River will be reunited into one political entity - a relationship which has been acknowledged and recognised by both Jordanian and Palestinian leaders such as the late King Hussein, Crown Prince Hassan, the late Yasser Arafat and Abu Iyad.
Jordanian resistance to such an idea might be anticipated, since Jordan has been very wary of attempts to remove the ruling Hashemite regime and replace it with a revolutionary style Government.

However events in Gaza demonstrate the utter folly of repeating the same coup in Jordan.

Jordan needs to be given security and financial guarantees by the Quartet - America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - to enter into negotiations with Israel to divide sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between them and possibly Egypt.

Given Israel already enjoys signed peace agreements with both Jordan and Egypt and all are already sovereign States - the negotiations could be successfully concluded in a very short space of time.

Such a solution would be preferable to any form of autonomy since it would free the West Bank and Gazan Arabs from Israeli domination and control and allow the West Bank and Gazan Arabs - and indeed all Palestinian Arabs - the right to self determination for which they have been agitating since 1967.

In the absence of such a resolution the future looks very bleak for both Arabs and Jews.

Abbas Gives Obama The Thumbs Down

[Published September 2009]

Palestinian Authority President - Mahmoud Abbas - delivered a stinging rebuff to President Obama during his address at the United Nations last Friday.

Obama had called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority from the same podium at the United Nations just a few days earlier to enter into final status negotiations - “without preconditions” - designed to lead to the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan - the so called “two state solution”.

Obama’s statement had greatly disappointed Abbas who had expected that after six months of intense diplomatic activity by the Americans - Israel would agree to the demand by Abbas - supported by Obama - that Israel freeze all construction and building activity on the West Bank as a condition of Abbas resuming negotiations with Israel after an eight months hiatus.

Israel’s response was to curtail - but not freeze - such activities. This position was ultimately accepted - albeit reluctantly - by the American administration, which had no basis at all for insisting on a freeze anyway since Israel had not agreed to its original inclusion in the Road Map first proposed by President Bush in 2003.

Abbas in his address to the UN made it clear to Obama that Abbas would not be returning to the negotiating table unless there was a complete freeze - and - it would seem - a whole lot of new conditions that Abbas lumped in at the same time.

Abbas told the assembled delegates:
“We call upon the international community to uphold international law and international legitimacy and to exert pressure on Israel to cease its settlement activities, to comply with the signed agreements, and desist from the policies of the occupation and colonial settlements, to release the 10000 - correction approximately 11000 prisoners and detainees, to lift - and to lift the unjust siege imposed on the Gaza Strip….”
Whilst not stating what international pressure should be exerted on Israel to achieve these objectives - Abbas no doubt had in mind the collective economic punishment of Israel’s population by imposing boycotts on the importation and purchase of Israeli products, the sharing of intellectual knowledge between universities and divestment by investors of their share portfolios in Israeli companies.

What is crystal clear is that this shopping list of conditions is unacceptable to Israel and will act as an effective bar to the resumption of negotiations - making President Obama’s call for the immediate resumption of those negotiations just a few days before superfluous and already outdated.

It would need an extraordinary loss of face for Abbas to announce his readiness to resume negotiations in the face of his defiant stance and response to President Obama at the United Nations. His arch enemy - Hamas - would pillory him for his submission to American and Zionist pressure.

President Obama can respond in two ways - either do nothing and let the current state of affairs meander along aimlessly - and dangerously - on the road to nowhere or announce his own plan to break the current impasse.

Before proposing his own plan President Obama would be well advised to put a series of questions to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority so as to gauge their respective attitudes to the following matters:
1. Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish National Home reconstituted pursuant to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter?

2. Does the Palestinian Authority intend to persist with its demand that every square centimeter of the West Bank be ceded to it by Israel or is it prepared to accept less in exchange for an equivalent land swap by Israel?

3. Is the Palestinian Authority still committed to millions of former Arab residents and their descendants of what is now Israel being given the right to return and live there and if so what would be the appropriate number that Israel should accept?

4. Is Israel prepared to allow the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Israel and Jordan with full and unfettered access and control over its air space and maritime waters? If not is the Palestinian Authority prepared to accept something less such as demilitarization?

5. Is Israel prepared to remove all the 500000 Jewish residents living in the West Bank. If not what number are they prepared to remove and from where?

6. Is Israel prepared to divide Jerusalem so that it becomes the capital of both Israel and the new Arab state?
America - unequivocally and unambiguously - needs to present its own answers to both parties on these same questions after first gauging and evaluating their responses and then lay down its own terms as the price for America’s continuing involvement in helping the parties achieve a final resolution of their conflict.

Failure by America to elicit satisfactory and positive responses to these questions from the Palestinian Authority and Israel will only ensure that one can continue to predict with absolute certainty that the two state solution is not going to be the solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict.

Living the dream but experiencing the nightmare that has accompanied this fatally flawed and discredited vision for the last 72 years has proved to be catastrophic for both Arabs and Jews. How much longer will this failed proposal continue to be paraded as the only solution to the conflict? It is about time that the parties put up or shut up.

The thumbs down given to President Obama by Abbas this past week only underscores America’s need to get some answers from the parties to the above questions or vacate the scene - unless America completely revamps its thinking and starts to look at options other than the two state solution.

Obama has already hinted at going in another direction emphasising “dignity” and “security” as the diplomatic drivers in resolving the Jewish-Arab conflict if the two state solution is abandoned.

Such a policy and initiative should surely be welcomed to break the impasse and receive the thumbs up from the international community to enable it to be successfully implemented.

Is Obama Ready To Speak His Mind?

[Published September 2009]

President Obama’s address at the United Nations on 23 September gave some indication that he would soon be releasing his own plan for achieving the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan - the so called “two state solution - that has avoided the best efforts of previous American Presidents for the last sixteen years.

In his carefully crafted address he made the following statement:
“The time has come to re-launch negotiations - without preconditions - that address the permanent-status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians; borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security - a Jewish State of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”
The insistence that such negotiations be opened “without preconditions” was a slap in the face for Palestinian Authority president - Mahmoud Abbas - who has so far refused to enter into such negotiations with Israel until Israel totally freezes all construction activity in the West Bank.

No doubt Obama had hoped that his fruitless trilateral meeting with Abbas and Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - the previous day would have enabled him to tell the United Nations that negotiations were soon to resume. That was not to be.

To compound Abbas’s irrational stance he has now insisted that he would not enter into any negotiations unless their end result would be the withdrawal by Israel from every inch of territory occupied by it since the Six Day War in 1967. [Wafa Palestine News Agency 22 September 2009].

Netanyahu - and previous Israeli Governments - have made it clear Israel would not be obliging Abbas in this demand.

President Obama appears to have supported Netanyahu on this issue by pointedly not calling for an Israeli return to the territorial position that existed at 4 June 1967 - but merely an end to the occupation that began in 1967.

Obama’s insistence that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state also is completely at odds with Abbas’ long standing refusal to accept such a proposal.

Given the above - it is extremely unlikely that Abbas is politically strong enough to get off his high horse, lose face and resume negotiations with Israel without preconditions. Hamas - and his own faction Fatah - will ensure this does not happen.

His preferred course will be to employ the tactics of the past and engage in rhetoric accusing the Israel lobby of controlling President Obama and the Congress and totally ignoring the victims of the conflict and their ongoing suffering.

He will prefer this course and the strong support he expects to receive in his stance from a majority of the morally bankrupt member states of the United Nations who control the affairs of the General Assembly and its Human Rights Council and can pass resolutions ad infinitum excoriating Israel and pursuing a program of delegitimizing Israel as the Jewish National Home.

President Obama has signalled he is not prepared to accept that tactic and allow the question of resuming negotiations and bringing an end to the conflict to meander aimlessly along the road to nowhere.

Slotted into his speech to the United Nations was this clear warning to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority:
“I am not naïve. I know this will be difficult. But all of us must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip-service. To break the old patterns - to break the cycle of insecurity and despair - all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private.”
The President was politely laying down an ultimatum - resume negotiations immediately “without preconditions” or he would publicly speak out and lay down his proposals for achieving the two state solution. If those proposals were not finally acceptable to both sides then America would not become further involved in pursuing the two state solution.

One does not need to gaze into a crystal ball to know that no plan the President publicly reveals will ever be acceptable to the Palestinian Authority.

President Obama will not resile from the demand that Israel be recognized as the Jewish State. He will not stipulate that 500000 Jews living in the West Bank will all have to be kicked out of their homes and businesses. The President won’t insist that millions of former Arab residents and their descendants be given the right to live in Israel.

What President Obama has done at the United Nations has made it very transparent that America is not prepared to be dragged along ignominiously for any further length of time in pursuing an objective that is all but totally unattainable.

Crunch time is fast approaching and for America the two state solution is all but dead and buried.

Other solutions and options need to be explored and pursued to separate the warring parties and allow each to live with one another as President Obama so eloquently expressed in his address:
“And after all of the politics and all of the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why - even though there will be setbacks, and false starts, and tough days - I will not waiver in my pursuit of peace. “
America will not depart the scene but it certainly is ready to abandon the two state solution if the parties cannot get down to business very soon and enter into negotiations to try and agree on its parameters.

“Dignity” and “Security” will soon become the diplomatic catchwords that replace “the two state solution”. After sixteen years of trying to achieve the impossible - the new direction being charted by President Obama at least offers some realistic hope of succeeding.

Abbas Only Tells Half The Story

[Published September 2009]

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has put paid to any prospects of the Palestinian Authority resuming negotiations with Israel after the proposed trilateral meetings to be held with President Obama, Abbas and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House today.

Abbas said at a press conference on 19 September after meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak that as there was no agreement on halting settlement so there could be no agreement on re-launching negotiations because there was no basis. He continued :
“The basis [ for resuming negotiations] we know is the one stated in the Road Map plan,’ ‘Americans are required to continue their commitment of the first article of the Road Map plan, which clearly states that there must be complete settlement freeze including the natural growth,’.
What Abbas failed to tell the assembled media was that Israel had not accepted that proposal in the Road Map.

When President Bush released his detailed Road Map on 30 April 2003, Israel had then sent a letter to President Bush on 23 May 2003 containing 14 reservations it had before it could accept the plan as a basis for negotiation.

Reservation 9 made by Israel to President Bush stated in part:
“There will be no involvement with issues pertaining to the final settlement. Among issues not to be discussed: settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (excluding a settlement freeze and illegal outposts); “
Israel thus made it clear that whilst it was prepared to discuss a settlement freeze (no mention being made by Israel of restricting natural growth) it was not prepared to accept that there be a complete settlement freeze including natural growth per se.

On 23 May 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice made the following statement from the White House:
“The roadmap was presented to the Government of Israel with a request from the President that it respond with contributions to this document to advance true peace. The United States Government received a response from the Government of Israel, explaining its significant concerns about the roadmap. The United States shares the view of the Government of Israel that these are real concerns,and will address them fully and seriously in the implementation of the roadmap to fulfil the President’s vision of June 24, 2002.”
On 25 May 2003, the Israeli Cabinet met and by a majority resolved:
“Based on the 23 May 2003 statement of the United States Government, in which the United States committed to fully and seriously address Israel’s comments to the Roadmap during the implementation phase, the Prime Minister announced on 23 May 2003 that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the Roadmap.

The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement, and resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the Roadmap.”
Nothing could be clearer or more unambiguous - President Bush had accepted Israel’s position that there would be no settlement freeze without it first being discussed and agreed by Israel.

Abbas told Haaretz on 28 May 2003 that the 14 reservations made by Israel had nothing to do with him. He said:
“They don’t interest me,”
Haaretz reported that as far as Abbas was concerned, the only document that mattered was the road map that was finalized in December 2002 and handed over to the parties at the end of April 2003 Nothing more, nothing less. He continued:
“We do not accept each side picking and choosing only those specific elements that are convenient for them in the road map.

The map was prepared last December and we accepted it, despite our own comments and reservations. We wanted to give this initiative a chance, but it’s impossible to continue inventing comments and reservations after it was submitted.”
This was a very aggressive and intransigent - indeed foolish and naive - attitude to adopt in the face of President Bush having specifically invited both sides to comment on the Road Map.

The response from the President to Israel’s reservations acknowledged that Israel’s concerns were real and they would be fully and seriously addressed during the implementation phase.

The past months’ discussions between George Mitchell, Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama in relation to a settlement freeze must be seen and be understood to have taken place within the framework of America’s previous acknowledgment that no such freeze could be imposed on Israel under the Roadmap unless Israel agreed to the terms of any such proposal.

Israel has responded to America’s request by agreeing to curtail - but not totally freeze - settlement activity for some as yet unspecified period whilst negotiations are being held between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This apparently is not acceptable to Abbas. Unless he has a change of heart he intends to spit the dummy and walk away from any further negotiations.

Abbas needs to really take a cold shower and cool down and not tell half the story - especially the half that he does not like.

Gaza,Goldstone and Gallstones

[Published September 2009]

From a legal perspective Israel is not subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court nor do the provisions of the Geneva Convention apply to Gaza since it is not part of the territory of any state signatory - called a “High Contracting Party” - to the Convention.

Gaza still is “no mans’ land” under international law where sovereignty is yet to be decided.

It should be remembered that Israel officially only evacuated Gaza in 2005. It has not ceded any claim to Gaza or parts of Gaza under the rights conferred on the Jewish people pursuant to the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in any part of that territory.

Israel had the inherent right of self defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter if an armed attack was made on it. That it absorbed 7000 rocket and mortar attacks after evacuating Gaza in 2005 before undertaking the invasion of Gaza last December would not have been endured for such a lengthy period by any other member of the United Nations had they been the recipient of such a barrage of rockets and mortars indiscriminately fired into civilian population centres.

There may well be some rotten eggs in Israel’s basket. War is a great dehumanizer and soldiers can act in inhuman ways under the stress of war - and can be very trigger happy especially when the enemy you are confronting does not wear uniforms and hides among the civilian population.

Israel has and is still continuing its ongoing investigations into the invasion of Gaza and will no doubt bring to justice those whose conduct is found to be unacceptable. The Goldstone Commission’s dismissal of these investigations as “pusillanimous” is made without a scintilla of evidence in support.

The Report will be extensively used and quoted to beat Israel over the head in a multitude of UN forums and in the General Assembly as part of the campaign by the 56 members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to delegitimize Israel.

The Report will be used to support new calls for:
(i) economic and political boycotts of Israel
(ii) disinvestment in Israel and
(iii) for outlawing Israel as a pariah state in the international community
The Goldstone Commission came about as a result of a Mandate given to it by the UN Human Rights Council on 12 January 2009 by a vote of 33 to 1 with 13 abstensions. 15 of the 33 affirmative votes were from members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the remainder included countries with disgraceful human rights records like Angola, Cuba, China, Nigeria, the Russian Federation and Nicaragua.

The Commission was appointed on 3 April 2009 and its members comprised Richard Goldstone, Christine Chinkin, Hina Jalani and Desmond Travers.

Goldstone, Jalani and Travers had signed an open letter, published 16 March 2009, addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Security Council Ambassadors. It stated:
“...we believe there is an important case to be made for an international investigation of gross violations of the laws of war, committed by all parties to the Gaza conflict…A prompt, independent and impartial investigation would provide a public record of gross violations of international humanitarian law committed and provide recommendations on how those responsible for crimes should be held to account…We urge world leaders to send an unfaltering signal that the targeting of civilians during conflict is unacceptable…The events in Gaza have shocked us to the core…We must also establish the truth about crimes perpetuated against civilians on both sides."
Christine Chinkin had signed a letter dated January 11, 2009, which appeared in The Times, stating:
“Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence - it’s a war crime.”
In addition, the letter stated:
“The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence …Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence”.
All of the appointed Commissioners had therefore begun this inquiry with their minds made up. Israel was to be hung drawn and quartered. Any semblance of impartiality or lack of bias among the Commission members went out the window before the Commission had even started its proceedings. In failing to disqualify themselves they totally negated the validity of their findings.

Hamas violence against its own Gazan citizens during Israel’s invasion was apparently not deemed to be part of the Commission’s mandate.

A report prepared by Human Rights Watch dated 9 April 2009 alleged that during Israel‘s invasion:
“Hamas security forces or masked gunmen believed to be with Hamas extra-judicially executed 18 people, mainly those accused of collaborating with Israel. Masked gunmen also beat and maimed by shooting dozens of Hamas’s political opponents, especially members and supporters of its main political rival, Fatah.
The internal violence in Gaza has continued since Israel withdrew its forces. Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza have reported 14 more killings between January 18 and March 31, 2009.

So far, this violence has gone mostly unpunished. Despite promises to investigate unlawful killings and other abuses, Hamas authorities, to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, have only investigated one alleged killing by members of their security forces or armed wing…

Hamas security forces have also used violence against known Fatah members, especially those who had worked in the Fatah-run security services of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Of particular concern is the widespread practice of maiming people by shooting them in the legs, which Hamas first used in June 2007, when it seized control inside Gaza from Fatah. According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), the human rights ombudsman organization of the Palestinian Authority, unidentified gunmen in masks deliberately inflicted bullet wounds to the legs of at least 49 people between December 28, 2008 and January 31, 2009. []

The Goldstone Report will not have anything like the political affect that the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution had in the aftermath of its passing by the UN General Assembly on 10 November 1975 until it was subsequently revoked on 16 December 1991.

Israel’s then Ambassador to the United Nations - Chaim Herzog described that resolution in the following terms:
“For us, the Jewish people, this resolution based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper and we shall treat it as such.”
Israel should adopt the same view in relation to the Goldstone Report.

Israel’s response should be to proceed apace to build up the state by the ingathering of Jews from around the world and to continue with its brilliant technological , medical and scientific successes, whilst holding its head high among the nations of the world as a true democracy among a sea of repressive and oppressive regimes. It should make sure that the security of its 7.5 million citizens (including 1.5 million Arabs) is guaranteed from anyone who would seek to attack it and ensure it maintains defensible borders to enable this to happen.

This is the best route for Israel to take to avoid any attack of gallstones caused by Goldstone and his kangaroo court.

Obama Reaches Boiling Point On Settlements Freeze

[Published September 2009]

The announcement by Israel’s Defence Minister - Ehud Barak - on September 7 that Israel will proceed to complete 2500 housing units in the West Bank - and commence building another 455 units there - is Israel’s response to the demand by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank including “natural growth”.

It is also an answer to the Palestinian Authority whose chief negotiator - Saeb Erekat - said on 31 August:
"There can be no middle ground ... He [Netanyahu] needs to stop settlement activities including ‘natural growth’,”
Israel has thus made it abundantly clear that :
1. there will be no “freeze”,

2. that building activity will continue at a rapid pace and

3. that there is no restriction on planning and development approvals being put in place to ensure that building activity is immediately resumed if negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail to reach any concluded agreement within a time frame - possibly six months - expected to be announced by President Obama later this month.
Continuing Palestinian Authority intransigence in refusing to concede one square meter of land in the West Bank to Israel - let alone agree to moderate or concede other claims infinitely far more difficult to resolve - ensure that the resumption of negotiations will yet once again lead to a dead end.

This intransigence has been exacerbated as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas find themselves locked in a bitter power struggle for the hearts and minds of the West Bank and Gazan Arabs.

Indeed the urgent need to patch up their presently irreconcilable differences was endorsed at a meeting of the Quartet - America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - held at Trieste on 26 June 2009.

The communique issued by the Quartet on that occasion contained the following plea:
“Noting the detrimental effect of Palestinian divisions and underscoring its desire for these divisions to be overcome, the Quartet called on all Palestinians to commit themselves to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Restoring Palestinian unity based on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments would be an important factor in this process. while facilitating reconstruction of Gaza and the organization of elections. The Quartet expressed support on this basis, for the ongoing mediation efforts of Egypt and the Arab League for Palestinian reconciliation behind President Abbas and appealed to all States in the region to play a constructive role in supporting the reconciliation process”

Clearly the Quartet itself had come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas was a toothless tiger incapable of negotiating and concluding any form of binding peace treaty with Israel whilst Fatah and Hamas remained engaged in their deadly and divisive end game struggle.

That struggle has continued unabated since June despite the most intensive efforts of Egypt and the Arab League to effect a reconciliation.

President Obama was therefore seriously in error in ever suggesting that Israel should freeze settlement activity in these circumstances whilst complete Palestinian chaos and disunity prevailed.

The Quartet was talking pie in the sky if it believed Hamas would reconcile behind President Abbas. Hamas regards itself as the legitimately elected Government of the Palestinians. Hamas will not abandon that position in favour of anyone - especially President Abbas.

In this politically charged and uncertain environment there is simply no credible negotiating partner to sit down with Israel to implement the obligations under the Road Map or any other proposal President Obama may be contemplating. President Obama’s belief that any negotiations in this current atmosphere can have any possible chance of success is pure folly.

Indeed this view is supported and highlighted by the Quartet’s own statement that:
“these negotiations must result in the end of all claims.”
Neither Hamas nor Fatah will ever be able to abandon their claim for millions of Arabs and their descendants to emigrate to Israel. It is written into their respective constitutions and forms the very essence of their continued functioning and existence . To concede that right in negotiations would be political suicide and impossible to abandon by either Fatah or Hamas.

The Quartet persisted with the simplistic notion affirmed in its statement that :
“the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that ends the occupation began in 1967 and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security”
This solution was first proposed in 1937, again in 1947 and could have been achieved at any time between 1948-1967 after Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza were driven out by the invading Arab armies of Jordan and Egypt.

Tried again in 1993, 2000 and now under the Road Map since 2003 - the Quartet have backed themselves into a corner in persisting with the claim that this is
“the only viable solution.”.
There are other alternative solutions to “ending the occupation” of West Bank and Gazan Arabs that remain unexplored and unaddressed which do not have to involve the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

The Quartet’s stubborn insistence on its solution being the only viable solution indicates the bankruptcy of its own thinking. It exposes the Quartet’s inability to adjust to the current political void in the Palestinian leadership that has totally destroyed any prospects of the Quartet’s solution even remotely occurring whilst the reconciliation process urged by the Quartet remains unfulfilled.

To expect any other outcome in negotiations whilst the West Bank and Gaza remain split into separate Fatah and Hamas fiefdoms is naive in the extreme.

In these circumstances President Obama’s demand to freeze Israeli settlements was misdirected and totally mistimed.

Freezing building in existing Jewish settlements in an attempt to induce the political eunuch that the Palestinian Authority presently represents to enter into meaningless and ineffectual negotiations would have been a grave error of judgment on Israel’s part.

Israel’s agreement to resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority at this point of time will therefore only be a sop to President Obama. Nothing will come from such negotiations.

The Palestinian Authority now need to decide whether they will take part in such negotiations.

Saeb Erekat has toned down his rhetoric of just one week ago telling Haaretz on 7 September
“Israel’s decision to approve the construction of over 450 new settlement units nullifies any effect that a settlement freeze, when and if announced will have”
Given that there will not be any announcement of a freeze - the ball is now firmly in the Palestinian Authority’s court.

To decide whether to negotiate in the absence of any freeze is rapidly coming to the boil - both for President Obama and the Palestinian Authority.

Both are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Will Sharon's Legacy Be Obama's Downfall?

[Published September 2009]

Israel’s former Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon - has been in a coma since 4 January 2006 but his legacy hangs like a heavy cloud over the plans of President Obama to oversee the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly have a lot on their minds as they grapple with a multitude of the world’s current conflicts which - no doubt - have caused massive overloading of their respective memory banks.

Yet this would be a lame excuse for them forgetting about - or seeking to minimize the existence and crucial importance of the letters exchanged on 14 April 2004 between President Bush and Israel’s then Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon.

This correspondence enabled courageous and highly dangerous decisions being taken by Israel to kick start President Bush’s stalled 2003 Road Map - which had been enthusiastically endorsed by Russia, the European Union and the United Nations as the key to resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict by 2005.

The President’s letter provided the catalyst - and the political justification - for Israel unilaterally evacuating the entire Jewish population of 8000 from Gaza and withdrawing Israel’s army totally from there without any preconditions or undertakings being given or sought from the Palestinian Authority.

The Presidential letter set out in detail the framework that President Bush would support as Israel attempted to progress his Road Map towards the creation of this new Arab State between Israel and Jordan for the first time ever in recorded history.

President Bush’s letter clearly - and unambiguously - assured Israel that;
1. The borders of this new Arab State would not encompass the entire West Bank despite successive Arab leaders having demanded this outcome for the previous 37 years,

2. Jewish towns and villages in the West Bank would be incorporated into the borders of Israel

3. The Arabs would have to forego their demand to be given the right to allow millions of Arabs to emigrate to Israel and

4. Israel’s existence as a Jewish State would be non-negotiable

Jerusalem Post Editor David Horovitz joined a group of Israeli journalists who met with President Bush in the Oval Office prior to the President’s visit to Israel to take part in its 60th Anniversary celebrations in May 2008.

In his editorial - published on 14 May 2008 - Mr Horovitz revealed the extent of the American loss of memory - even at that time - concerning the President’s 2004 letter in the following terms:
“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, has been known to minimize the significance of this four-year-old letter. Just last week, for instance, she told reporters that the 2004 letter “talked about realities at that time. And there are realities for both sides….

Bush’s National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has also given briefings to the effect that Israel had tried to overstate the importance of a rather vague letter, which was issued at a time when Sharon was seeking to bolster support for the pullout from Gaza.

And in answering my question, Bush did not at first even realize that I was referring to the 2004 letter. Hadley, who was also in the Oval Office, had to prompt him. “Okay, the letters,” the president then said, remembering.”

This was not simply memory loss but something far worse and more sinister. An attempt was being made - even in 2008 - to downplay America’s clear and unequivocal commitments given to Israel as the price for Israel’s total evacuation of Gaza;

Israel has paid a high price in relying on President Bush’s letter.

Gaza has become a de facto terrorist Palestinian State with Hamas now firmly entrenched as the governing authority.

Israel has - since its evacuation of Gaza in 2005 - sustained a never ending barrage of rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately into Israeli population centres from Gaza by a bewildering variety of terrorist groups and sub-groups who would have had no chance of operating so freely from Gaza if the Israeli Army had remained there.

Gaza eventually paid the price for these gross acts of terrorism with Israel’s invasion of Gaza between December 2008-January 2009. However Gaza still remains defiant and unbowed.

Israel now needs to make it perfectly clear to President Obama and his Secretary of State - Hillary Clinton - that any attempt to resile from President Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon will torpedo the prospects for any further negotiations - that President Obama then will have no one but himself to blame for bringing his own plans to a premature and ignominious end.

Israel’s former Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - neither forgot - nor overlooked - the critical significance of President Bush’s letter to permitting the resumption of any ongoing negotiations.

President Bush and Ms Rice were quick to claim credit for bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority together at the international conference held in Annapolis in November 2007 to announce the breakthrough in the resumption of those negotiations.

Maybe President Bush and his former Madam Secretary were so flushed by their apparent success that they failed to hear - or perhaps hoped everyone might overlook - what Prime Minister Olmert told the gathered world leaders at Annapolis about the course of those future negotiations:
“The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the road map and the April 14, 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

The subsequent failure of the negotiations at Annapolis can be directly attributed to Israel’s insistence that America remain committed to the terms of President Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon - terms that the Palestinian Authority was not prepared to countenance and which led to the breakdown of those negotiations.

As President Obama gets ready to lay out his own proposals for achieving the two state solution, he needs to be reminded of the commitment made by his predecessor to Ariel Sharon. Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - must insist on President Obama remaining committed to supporting the outline of any proposed resolution to the conflict as clearly laid out in President Bush’s letter.

Jews have accumulated many memories - both pleasant and unpleasant - since losing their State, being expelled from there 2000 years ago and being dispersed to all corners of the globe. The Jews steeled themselves to ensure they never forgot who they were, where they came from and to where they would one day return.

Strength comes from remembering - not forgetting.

President Obama and his Secretary of State would do well to remember - and heed - this lesson as they strive to develop their own plan for ending the conflict.