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%.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Palestine - The One Question President Obama Must Answer

[Published 18 March 2013]

Is there one intrepid reporter - among the scores following President Obama during his momentous visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week - who will be prepared to ask President Obama this one critical question face to face at one of his scheduled press conferences:
“Mr President: Do you regard yourself as bound to accept the written commitments made to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by your predecessor President George Bush in his letter dated 14 April 2004?"

President Obama’s answer to this question is urgently required because of the following commitments made by Sharon’s immediate successor as Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - at the Annapolis Conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007:
"The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.

On conclusion of the negotiations, I believe that we will be able to reach an agreement which will fulfill the vision of President Bush: two states for two peoples.

A peace-seeking, viable, strong, democratic and terror-free Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

A Jewish, democratic State of Israel, living in security and free from the threat of terror—the national home of the Jewish people.

It is clear that the implementation of an agreement will be subject to the implementation of all obligations in the Roadmap, on all its phases and according to its sequence, as concluded between us from the very beginning. We will abide by all our obligations, and so will you."

The Annapolis Conference was unprecedented in the annals of the Jewish- Arab conflict - and its significance is explained by the Congressional Research Service -Library of Congress - in the following terms:
"The United States invited 49 countries and international organizations to send representatives to a conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Attendees included members of the Arab League Follow-on Committee (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen), the G-8 group of industrialized countries, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, fellow members of the international Quartet, members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The size of the gathering signaled strong international support for a peace process. The size of the Arabs turnout was attributed to their need for a strategic alliance with the United States against Iran, but also may have indicated support for Abbas over Hamas."

That Israel’s Prime Minister regarded an American President’s written commitments to a former Israeli Prime Minister - Ariel Sharon - as of critical importance in shaping Israel’s official position in regard to the negotiations to follow - and to publicly incorporate the letter in his speech before such an international gathering - indicates the centrality this letter has had in shaping Israel’s conduct in negotiations with the PLO since 2004.

So what was in this letter that propelled it centre stage into Prime Minister Olmert’s speech to such a distinguished audience?

The letter had been given by President Bush in response to Israel’s planned disengagement from Gaza - a commitment Israel subsequently honoured to the full in 2005 - and for which it has paid a high price ever since in terms of loss of life, injury and trauma suffered by its citizens in on going terrorist attacks and indiscriminate firing of thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian population centres.

The Bush letter was very significant because it contained the following Presidential commitments that were to underpin Israel’s decision to unilaterally disengage from Gaza without any agreement from the PLO:
1. The United States remains committed to President Bush’s vision and to its implementation as described in the roadmap.

2. The United States would do its utmost to prevent any attempt by anyone to impose any other plan.

3. As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.

4. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.

5. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel

6. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.
It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.

This letter was not a purely personal commitment by an American President to an Israeli Prime Minister in a wink and nod agreement made during a private and confidential meeting behind closed doors - a letter that Prime Minister Olmert suddenly discovered and brought out of the closet three years later at Annapolis.

The President’s commitment was approved by the House of Representatives (with Senate concurrence) by an almost unanimous vote of 407 - 9 on 23 June 2004 which:
"strongly endorses the principles articulated by President Bush in his letter dated April 14, 2004, to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon which will strengthen the security and well-being of the State of Israel"

By a vote of 95 - 3 on 24 June 2004, Senators approved nonbinding language that also said it was unrealistic for any peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians to require Israel to return to the borders that existed before the 1967 war.

President Obama’s acknowledgement to be bound by or repudiate President Bush’s commitments to Israel must be raised during his forthcoming visit.

President Obama needs to answer “Yes” or “No” - so that no one will be in any doubt as to America’s position as “honest broker” and sponsor of President Bush’s 2003 Roadmap - should negotiations between Israel and the PLO ever be resumed.

The answer will certainly cause consternation for Israel or the PLO - but the time for playing it straight down the middle in a feigned show of even-handedness is surely over.

All else that the world will be subjected to during the President’s visit will be nothing more than hot air and ceremonial posturing.

Ask the President this one question - and ask it soon.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Palestine - Two New Arab Myths

[Published 14 April 2013]

Two new Arab myths have surfaced in the past week to complicate attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to procure the resumption of the long stalled negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

The first myth can be directly attributed to Mustafa Barghouti - a Presidential candidate for the now defunct Palestinian National Authority - who was roundly defeated by Mahmoud Abbas when elections were last held in January 2005.

Interviewed by Arab American News (AAN) - Mr Barghouti was asked the following question:
AAN: What about the United Nations situation with Palestine being granted Non-Member Observer State status this past fall, any new developments?

Mr Barghouti gave this remarkable answer:
“Not new, but this achievement was very important from a symbolic standpoint, it also eliminated any Israeli claim that the West Bank and Jerusalem are disputed territory. Now they are part of an occupied Palestinian state ... “

This is arrant nonsense.

According to Mr Barghouti there is apparently no need for further negotiations to determine the sovereignty of these areas - only a timetable for Israel to hand them over to the State of Palestine and to arrange for the uprooting of all 500000 Jews presently living there.

If you believe this myth - then you accept that
1. United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 are no longer of any relevance.

2. The 1948 armistice line is wiped off the map and negotiations to establish secure and recognised boundaries for the State of Israel can be shredded.

3. Article 80 of the United Nations Charter has become a footnote in history.

4. The Jewish claim to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine - including the West Bank and Jerusalem - as conferred by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine - is an anachronism. The claimed right of return for millions of Arabs into the State of Israel remains unresolved.

5. The United Nations decision has unreservedly endorsed the PLO’s stated policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in denying Jews any rights of residency or citizenship in the State of Palestine.

6.General Assembly Resolutions of the United Nations create binding obligations in international law.
Kerry’s planned fortnightly shuttle from America to Jerusalem and Ramallah appears to be a waste of time unless this latest myth is quickly nipped in the bud.

President Abbas needs to immediately repudiate Mr Barghouti’s statement.

If Abbas refuses - Kerry should start to shuttle between world capitols seeking declarations unequivocally disavowing any support for the Barghouti myth.

Simultaneously with the Baghouti myth comes the news that the cornerstone for yet another myth - a new museum of “Palestinian culture, history and society” - has been laid in Bir Zeit near Ramallah.

This will be no ordinary museum - as project manager Omar al-Qattan reportedly explained:
“It will be more than a traditional building with archaeological relics. We are looking at an institution that will transcend all boundaries—geographical and political”

Palestinian culture minister Siham Barghuti told AFP that the initiative was:
“A great achievement for the Palestinian people…The link between memory and everything related to it, to Palestinian history, and to having digital contact with Palestinians everywhere constitutes an important step”

The “museum” seems set to become the new repository for perpetuating the fiction of the existence of an indigenous “Palestinian people” or the “Palestinians” going back at least 3000 years to the Canaanites.

Featured exhibits in the museum will certainly not include:
1. The Mandate for Palestine 1922 - that made no mention of the “Palestinians” or the “Palestinian people” - but pointedly only included the then Arab population of Palestine among the “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” and called for “safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion”

2. The report of the Peel Commission 1937 - which again omitted any mention of a Palestinian people - but contained this statement which was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs:
“The problem cannot be solved by giving either the Arabs or the Jews all they want. The answer to the question which of them in the end will govern Palestine must be Neither. No fair-minded statesman can think it right either that 400,000 Jews, whose entry into Palestine has been facilitated by he British Government and approved by the League of Nations, should be handed over to Arab rule, or that, if the Jews should become a majority, a million Arabs should be handed over to their rule. But while neither race can fairly rule all Palestine, each race might justly rule part of it.”

3. Resolution 181 of the United Nations General Assembly dated 29 November 1947 which was also silent in acknowledging the existence of a Palestinian people - but proposed the following recommendation that was again rejected by the Arab population of Palestine:
“Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948. The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described in Parts II and III below.”
Jesus the Jew will no doubt be prominently featured as Jesus the Palestinian. Archeological relics will be conspicuously absent.

Until fact replaces Arab fiction and self-delusion - the conflict between Jews and Arabs will assuredly continue.

Palestine - Obama Chooses Zionism Over Rejectionism

[Published 8 April 2013]

Veteran Israeli peace activist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery points out in his latest article “Obama’s Empathy Deficit in Palestine” that there are two completely divergent Jewish and Arab narratives driving each other’s current claims to the territory once called Palestine.
“Our conflict is tragic, more than most. One of its tragedies is that neither side can be entirely blamed. There is not one narrative, but two. Each side is convinced of the absolute justice of its cause. Each side nurses its overwhelming sense of victimhood.”

Avnery is very upset that President Obama had apparently chosen to empathise with the Jewish narrative during his recent visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.
“The trouble with Obama is that he has completely, entirely, totally embraced one narrative, while being almost completely oblivious to the other. Every word he uttered in Israel gave testimony to his deeply-rooted Zionist convictions. Not just the words he said, but the tone, the body language, all bore the marks of honesty. Evidently, he had internalized the Zionist version of every single detail of the conflict.”

The reasons Avnery attributes for Obama empathising with Israel are shallow and misconceived.
“It was really amazing. He must have studied us thoroughly. He knew our strengths and our weaknesses, our paranoias and our idiosyncrasies, our historical memories and dreams about the future.

And no wonder. He is surrounded by Zionist Jews. They are his closest advisors, his friends and his experts on the Middle East. Even from mere contact with them, he obviously absorbed much of our sensitivities.

As far as I know, there is not a single Arab, not to mention Palestinian, in the White House and its surroundings.”

This shabby explanation indicates little understanding of the multitude of advice that is received by any President from a variety of sources and the need for the President to ultimately sort the wheat from the chaff.

Avnery’s outburst regrettably leaves his readers in the dark by failing to actually quote President Obama’s carefully crafted remarks:
“For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.”

It is indeed this Zionist idea that has been rejected both by Avnery personally and by the Palestinian Arabs in their narrative.

The Palestinian Arab narrative ignores Obama’s sweep of history - starting its narrative from 1948 by characterising the conflict as the “Israeli - Palestinian conflict”- thus allowing such narrative to completely ignore a host of critical events that occurred between 1917-1947.

This rejectionism is clearly evident in article 20 of the 1968 PLO Charter:
"Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Palestine Mandate, and everything that has been based on them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of their own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”

The Palestinian Arab narrative conveniently ignores the fact that the two-state solution was first suggested in 1922 and actually proposed and rejected by the Palestinian Arabs in 1937, 1938 and 1947.

The Palestinian Arab narrative has no memory or remorse for the Arab riots in 1920 and 1929 that targeted and slaughtered Jews or the 1936-1939 Arab revolt which wrought similar havoc on Jews living in Palestine during those turbulent years.

Starting from 1948 the Arab narrative can avoid confronting the reality that Winston Churchill told a delegation of Palestinian Arabs leaders in 1921 urging him to halt Jewish immigration to Palestine:
“It is manifestly right that the Jews,who are scattered all over the world,should have a national centre and a National Home,where some of them may be reunited. and where else could that be but in the land of Palestine, with which for more than three thousand years they have been intimately and profoundly associated?”

The flawed Arab narrative also avoids accepting responsibility for the Arab pressure put on Great Britain to severely curtail Jewish immigration to Palestine between 1939 and 1945 - resulting in hundreds of thousands of Jews perishing at the hands of the Nazis when their lives might have been spared had Great Britain ignored such inhumane Arab demands.

The Arab narrative has always rejected - and will continue to reject - the will of the international community expressed in the 1920 San Remo Conference and the Treaty of Sevres, the 1922 Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the 1945 United Nations Charter.

Avnery’s dismay at President Obama’s adoption of the “Zionist idea” is explained on Avnery’s own website:
“After some years of sporadic political activity, in 1946 Avnery founded the Eretz Yisrael Hatzira (“Young Palestine”) movement, also known as the “Bamaavak (Struggle) group” from the name of its publication, which he edited. This group provoked an unprecedented uproar because of its contention that the Jewish community in Palestine constituted a “new Hebrew nation” within the Jewish people, and that this nation belongs to Asia and is a natural ally of the Arab national movements.”

From Avnery’s viewpoint the Jewish community in Palestine in 1945 had no biblical or historical connection with Palestine - or any right to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in Palestine - despite the League of Nations imprimatur to do so.

Avnery’s rejection of the Zionist idea identified with the viewpoint of the Arab population of Palestine in 1945 - whose opposition to Jews immigrating to Palestine had been violently resisted ever since the Allied Powers decided in 1920 that Arab self- determination should occur in 99.99% of the liberated Ottoman Empire - whilst Jewish self-determination should take place in Palestine - the remaining 0.01%.

President Obama has indeed empathised with the Jewish narrative - which dates the “Jewish - Arab conflict” as having begun in 1880 - not 1948.

Until both narratives at the very least commence from an agreed starting date - one can confidently predict that any talk of peacefully resolving the ongoing and unresolved conflict is a complete waste of time.

Hopefully President Obama has taken the first step to ram this message home.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Palestine - UN Special Rapporteur Bans Free Speech

[Published 31 March 2013]

United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967” - Professor Richard Falk - has taken the extraordinary action to ban posts on his blog page “Citizen Pilgrimage”.

This has happened to myself and at least one other person when we attempted to post comments in response to an article written by Professor Falk titled ” What was wrong with Obama’s speech in Jerusalem”

My detailed comment sought to point out what was right with President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem. It had been published as an article on many Internet pages around the world and reproduced on the web sites of scores of others without editorial amendment.

I presented a considered and reasoned analysis of what President Obama had said. It was not couched in inflammatory or defamatory terms. It considered aspects of President Obama’s speech not referred to in Professor Falk’s article and came to an entirely different conclusion to the views expressed by Professor Falk.

To my amazement Professor Falk’s response to my post was:
“My blog is no longer open for this sort of polemics on the Israel/Palestine conflict. There are many other more important venues to carry on these discussions.”

My reply to Professor Falk - pointing out his decision amounted to the banning of free speech and requesting he reconsider his decision - went unanswered.

I subsequently sought to post an entirely different response to another contributor’s comment - but it was also not published.

One person who sought to post a comment to Professor Falk’s article received the following response:
“Mr. Skolnik: My blog is no longer open for this sort of polemical responses that insult either me or others who submit comments. There are many other venues for this sort of debate.”

Stangely Professor Falk had no similar qualms in publishing the following comment from one of his readers:
“I have been following events in Israel and Cyprus closely, and stand by my assertions. I find it both fascinating and terrifying that Germany is the force behind the Cypriot haircut, in which unscrupulous jewish industrialists, all of whom hold Israeli passports, are having their bank accounts seized and money transferred to Germany. Who would have predicted this turn of events, but really, once you spot the pattern, it becomes impossible to deny this jaw-dropping turn of events, and its ominous implications.”

It is clear that there are many readers of Professor Falk’s blog who would be grossly offended by this Jew-hating language - yet it was published.

I do not seek to silence these Jew-haters airing their views on Professor Falk’s blog. Better the world should be aware such views exist and are exposed to critical comment.

My articles sometimes attract such vile and repulsive comments. Never would I seek to have them expunged. I prefer to respond to such comments or let my readers do so.

But why should a UN Rapporteur concerned with human rights seek to ban the views of others like myself and Mr Skolnik - if he allows such a vile post as this to appear as a comment on the same blog page?

Intrigued by the Professor’s totally unexpected and unexplained reaction to my post - I contacted other sites where his article had been published.

One was a virulently Jew-hating web site called “Shoah - The Palestinian Holocaust” It had no problem posting the identical response that I attempted to post on Professor Falk’s web page

Another was “Ramy Abdeljabbar’s Palestine and World News” - not what one would call a pro-Israel site. It published my response to Professor Falk’s article without indulging in the histrionics and petulance displayed by Professor Falk.

A third site was “Transcend Media Service” - which describes itself in the following terms:
“TRANSCEND International is an experiment in promoting peace by peaceful means throughout the world. Traditionally, institutes have been centered around a building where the people who work together meet on a regular basis. Since many people who share common interests in helping transform conflicts nonviolently and creatively are geographically scattered and cannot usually be physically together, our solution is to create an electronic network of members. This, in addition, diminishes our carbon footprints and contributes to attenuate the global warming crisis.”

Professor Falk is a member of the Transcend Network.

Transcend saw nothing objectionable in posting my response to Professor Falk’s article

Professor Falk needs to understand that attempts by him to ban freedom of expression and free speech on his web site demean himself and his position as a UN Special Rapporteur.

Those in authority at the UN who repeatedly express their support for the protection of human rights must be prepared to act against one of their own by denouncing Professor Falk’s actions in the strongest terms with a view to ending his crass attempt to deny the inalienable right of every human being to speak out and be heard.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and members of the UN Human Rights Council - are you listening or do you endorse Professor Falk’s outrageous conduct?

Palestine - Obama Utters The Magic Word - "Annapolis"

[Published 25 March 2013]

President Obama’s use of just one word - “Annapolis” - stands out among the thousands he uttered during his three day visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman.

His highly significant use of this keyword on 21 March at the Jerusalem International Convention Centre constituted a diplomatic milestone in America’s quest to end the long running Jewish-Arab conflict.
"I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders – Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin – reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets."

What were the “credible proposals” made to the Palestinians at Annapolis?

Why was the mention of “Annapolis” thought far more important to include in President Obama’ speech - rather than “Camp David” and the attempts to broker a two-state solution between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat by President Clinton in 2000?

The answer is to be found in the following statement made by Israel’s then Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - at the international conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 in Annapolis in the presence of some 40 world leaders including many from the Arab world:
"The (resumption of) negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.

On conclusion of the negotiations, I believe that we will be able to reach an agreement which will fulfill the vision of President Bush: two states for two peoples.

A peace-seeking, viable, strong, democratic and terror-free Palestinian state for the Palestinian people.

A Jewish, democratic State of Israel, living in security and free from the threat of terror – the national home of the Jewish people."

President Obama’s Jerusalem speech is the closest he has come to publicly acknowledging that the following commitments laid out in President Bush’s letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 constitute “credible proposals” to end the Jewish-Arab conflict:
1. As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338.

2. The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.

3. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.

4. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.

5. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
Yet President Obama has appeared to have given up one fundamental requirement of President Bush’s Road Map - that any Palestinian Arab state that emerges as part of the two-state solution must be “democratic”

In a carefully worded and crafted speech that spoke in glowing terms of Israel’s vibrant democracy - President Obama was noticeably silent in failing to endorse the same outcome as being necessary for the successful implementation and conclusion of President Bush’s two-state solution.

To this extent President Obama seems to have rejected as unnecessary the express Annapolis commitment made by Prime Minister Olmert to achieve one of President Bush’s most cherished objectives.

The PLO will no doubt see this concession by President Obama as a plus - since it appears to be the inevitable consequence of Hamas and the PLO being unable to end their six years long internecine struggle that has denied the Palestinian Arabs having any say in determining their own future.

America is apparently set on pressuring Israel to give up this demand as a condition of resolving the two-state solution.

Yet in another respect President Obama’s following statement has come down firmly in favour of the commitment made by President Bush in his letter to Prime Minister Sharon - endorsed in specific terms by Prime Minister Olmert at Annapolis - that the Arab world - and Jew-haters around the world - recognize that the Jewish people are entitled to a Jewish state in their ancient, historic and biblically recognized homeland.
"For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts. of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.

That is why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea: the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own. And over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins."

President Obama reinforced that message with an unequivocal one liner:
"Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state."

The steadfast refusal by the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab world at large to acknowledge this simple proposition has been the major impediment to peace ever since its possibility was first suggested in 1920 at the San Remo Conference and confirmed in the 1922 Mandate for Palestine - then actually proposed in 1937 by the Peel Commission and endorsed by the United Nations in 1947.

Are the Palestinian Arabs now seriously ready to take up President Obama’s challenge to resolve their conflict with the Jews in accordance with the credible proposals made by Israel at Annapolis in 2007 - tempered with just one important concession by President Obama dispensing with the need for any agreement on the question of democracy?

That is the message President Obama has sent to President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad - persons whom President Obama personally identified as true partners for Israel in achieving the two-state solution during his Jerusalem speech.

I hope we will not have to wait too long for their answer.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Palestine - Merging Banks Can Reap Huge Dividends

[Published 19 October 2012]

Prince Hassan Bin Talal - Jordan’s former Crown Prince and the uncle of Jordan’s current ruler - King Abdullah - has floated a possible new diplomatic initiative by reminding the world that the West Bank was once part of Jordan.

Prince Hassan pointed out this very important historic and geographic fact whilst addressing a meeting of the Ebal charity organization in Nablus on 9 October.

That meeting had been organised by Jordanian Senate President Taher Al-Masri - indicating that the King in all likelihood would have been given advance notice and approved what Prince Hassan intended saying.

The Jordanian website reported that Prince Hassan told the meeting:
”the West Bank is part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which included both banks of the [Jordan] River”

The report added:
“The attendees understood that Prince [Hassan] is working to reunite both banks of the [Jordan] River, and commended him for it.”

The West Bank and Transjordan had existed as one territorial entity between 1950-1967 following Transjordan’s occupation of the West Bank in 1948 after the newly declared State of Israel had been attacked by six invading Arab armies.

Transjordan - as a result - changed its name to “Jordan” and named the territory west of the Jordan River as the “West Bank”. Until then - the West Bank had been known for thousands of years as “Judea and Samaria” - the biblical and ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.

These decisions were not taken in isolation by a victorious occupier against the wishes of a defeated and dispirited population - but at the request and urging of the exclusively Arab population living in Judea and Samaria. All the Jews who had been living there prior to the 1948 war had been dispossessed and forcefully driven from the area conquered by Transjordan.

A conference was held in Jericho on 1 December 1948 - attended by several thousand people including the mayors of the towns of Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, the Arab Legion Military Governor General and military governors from districts in Judea and Samaria, and other notables.

The meeting resolved:
“Palestine Arabs desire unity between Transjordan and Arab Palestine and therefore make known their wish that Arab Palestine be annexed immediately to Transjordan. They also recognize Abdullah as their King and request him proclaim himself King of the new territory.”

Wells Stabler - America’s charge d’affaires in Transjordan - reported to the Acting Secretary for State in a confidential cable dated 4 December 1948 that following the meeting - a large delegation proceeded to the King’s winter quarters at Shuneh to present the resolution to the King and request his acceptance. The King had replied that the matter must be referred to his government and that he must also ascertain the views of other Arab states. Although usual jealousies and frictions had been apparent during the meeting, the King believed it to be of significance and might be regarded by him as his mandate from Palestine Arabs.

On 6 December 1948 Stabler sent a secret cable to the Acting Secretary for State in which he reported that UN Acting Mediator Ralph Bunche had met with the King - when the following matters had been discussed:
1. The King believed that annexation of Arab Palestine to Transjordan would be an “actual help” in reaching a final settlement.

2. Arab Palestine was then in a vacuum which needed to be filled and Transjordan was in best position to do it.

3. Basically any Palestine settlement rested with Egypt, Transjordan and Israel. Egypt and Transjordan could overcome any opposition from other Arab states.

4. Emir Abdel Majid Haidar, Transjordan observer at the United Nations General Assembly had held talks with Egyptians in Paris but without result.

5. Bunche had hinted to His Majesty that the annexation of Arab Palestine by Transjordan would probably be accepted as fait accompli in view of Transjordan’s present position in Arab Palestine.
The subsequent annexation of the West Bank by Transjordan two years later was only recognised by Great Britain and Pakistan. The failure of other members of the United Nations to recognise such annexation has prolonged a conflict that with a little bit of give and take could have been resolved more than 60 years ago by negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan.

Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and renounced any claims to the West Bank in 1988.

After 19 years of fruitless negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization since 1993 - the settlement of competing claims by Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in the West Bank still remains undetermined.

Prince Hassan’s statement on 9 October clearly attempts to resuscitate Jordan’s territorial claim to the West Bank.

Writing in the 1982 Spring issue of the quarterly publication “Foreign Affairs” - Prince Hassan had asserted:
“We Jordanians must add that practically speaking a settlement must also take into account our perceptions. Small as Jordan is, our country is politically, socially, economically, militarily and historically inseparable from the Palestinian issue”

Indeed the fate of Jordan and the West Bank has been tied together ever since both these areas of the former Ottoman Empire were included in the territory covered by the 1922 Mandate for Palestine within which the Jewish National Home was to be reconstituted.

The attempt over the last 19 years to divide Jordan and the West Bank into two independent Arab states for the first time ever in recorded history has proved an abject failure - leading Prince Hassan to observe that whilst he did not personally oppose the two state solution - that solution was irrelevant at this stage since:
“both sides, Arab and Israeli, no longer speak of a political solution to the Palestinian problem.”

The vacuum existing in 1948 has returned - and once again Jordan is the party that can fill it by opening negotiations with Israel to end the the Jewish-Arab conflict by reunifying the two banks of the Jordan River - taking into account the vastly changed circumstances to those existing 64 years ago.

The dividends could be immense including:
1. The return to Jordan of a very substantial part of the West Bank lost by Jordan in the Six Day War

2. No residents of the West Bank - either Jew or Arab - having to move from his present home

3. The restoration of Jordanian citizenship to the West Bank Arab population

4. The resolution of the competing claims by both Jews and Arabs to sovereignty in the West Bank

5. Placing a political solution to the Palestinian problem in the hands of the Arabs
Seizing this rare opportunity should not be missed.

Palestine - Suspending Disbelief Is An Unbelievable Hoax

[Published 10 March 2013]

Beware failed negotiators like Dennis Ross when they continue to pontificate on the possibility of the two-state solution.

Formerly the United States chief negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1993 to 2001 and a special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011 - Dennis Ross is now a distinguished fellow and counselor to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

In his recent article in the New York Times entitled -“To Achieve Mideast Peace,Suspend Disbelief” - Mr Ross concludes that neither side believes the other side is committed to the two-state solution but that cannot be an argument for doing nothing.

He further states that if the two-state solution is discredited as an outcome - something and someone will fill the void.

Ross speculates that the Islamists of Hamas, with their rejection of two-states, seem primed to fill the void - when he says the conflict will be transformed from a nationalist into a religious one and at that point it may not be possible to resolve.

One can only shake one’s head in amazement that Mr Ross actually believes this is a nationalist conflict and not a religious conflict.

The continuing refusal by the PLO, Hamas and the Arab League to recognise Israel as the Jewish National Home - first decreed with the unanimous consent of the League of Nations in 1922 and incorporated into the United Nations Charter under article 80 in 1945 - indicates that Mr Ross learnt nothing after 8 years in the hot seat as the United States chief negotiator.

Mr Ross asks - so what can be done?

His proposal is one taken right out of fairyland:
"I propose a 14-point agenda for discussions. Twelve of the points — six on the Israeli side and six on the Palestinian side — would be coordinated unilateral moves that each party would be willing to discuss and implement provided that the other side would do its part. The final points would be mutual steps taken concurrently by both sides. The goal would be to chip away at the sources of each side’s disbelief about the other’s commitment to a genuine two-state solution."

In a remarkably contrived display of evenhandedness - 6 discussion points apiece - Mr Ross has gone back to the failed formula of pressing Israel to make concrete commitments in return for PLO commitments that - apart from one - amount to nothing more than sheer hot air.

Israel six-point list is as follows:
1. Only build new housing in settlement blocks and in areas west of the security barrier. This means that Israel would build only in about 8 percent of the West Bank and no longer in the remaining 92 percent.

2. Offer compensation to any Jews to relocate to Israel or the designated blocks.

3. Consent to begin construction of housing within Israel or the designated blocks for all those settlers ready to relocate.

4. In “Area C,” which represents 60.1 percent of the West Bank’s territory and in which Israel retains civil and security responsibility, Palestinians would be permitted economic access, activity and ownership.

5. In “Area B,” which covers 21.7 percent of the West Bank and in which Palestinians have responsibility for civil affairs and for law and order — but not for dealing with terrorism — the presence of Palestinian police and security forces, and their duties, would be allowed to increase.

6. In “Area A,” which accounts for 18.2 percent of the West Bank’s territory and in which the Palestinians have civil and security responsibility, the I.D.F. could specify clear security criteria, which, if met by the Palestinian Authority, would end the incursions.

Mr Ross lists the following six agenda items for the Palestinian side to commit to:
1. Be willing to speak of two states for two peoples and to acknowledge there are two national movements and two national identities.

2. Pledge to put Israel on Palestinian maps

3. Make clear the commitment to building the state of Palestine, without encroaching on Israel, with a particular focus on the rule of law.

4. Commit to ending incitement; stop glorifying as martyrs those who kill Israelis; stop blaming Israel for every evil; stop denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

5. Prepare the Palestinian public for peace.

6. Build permanent housing in refugee camps and allow those families who wish to move out of the camps to be permitted to do so

Apart from the last item on the agenda - and since the PLO has shown itself incapable of bringing about these changes of attitude during the last 20 years of failed negotiations - there is little point in including them.

Perhaps it is time for Mr Ross and others in the international community to consider the principle of reciprocity in negotiations.

To induce Israel to accept Mr Ross’s six point agenda - he needs to propose something far more concrete on the Arab side - something along the lines of the following:
1. The Arab League is to nominate two more of its members to recognise Israel and open embassies between their respective countries.

2. The Arab League and the PLO agree to recognise Israel in its final agreed-upon designated borders as the reconstituted Jewish National Home in accordance with international law

3. Offer compensation to Arabs willing to relocate from Area C to Area A or Area B

4. Consent to begin construction of housing in Area A and Area B to house those Arabs willing to relocate from Area C

5. Hold free and fair elections in the West Bank and Gaza within twelve months irrespective of the state of the negotiations

6. Build permanent housing in existing refugee camps

In the words of Mr Ross:
"These 12 points represent an agenda for discussion that could lead to coordinated actions and change the dynamic between Israelis and Palestinians — and maybe, by restoring hope, show that the government of Mr. Abbas still offers a pathway for Palestinian national aspirations.

These points could, for once, create a virtuous cycle. Such progress is vital if there is to be any hope that the two sides will actually address the core issues of the conflict.

We don’t need more dead ends. It is time to show Israelis and Palestinians that something is possible other than stalemate. Otherwise disbelief and failure will become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Mr Ross - despite your best efforts - your proposal does nothing to reverse the generally held belief that the two-state solution is terminal and has been dead and buried for more than eighteen months.

To propose that your 12 point agenda can suspend that belief by proposing yet another talkfest based on vague intangible commitments by the Arabs is quite frankly unbelievable.