Tag Archives: Annapolis conference

Into Gaza –Out Of Peace Negotiations For Israel

Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told foreign diplomats that Israel would reoccupy the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip if that was the only way to halt Kassam rocket attacks on neighboring cities. Secretary of State Condi Rice is attempting new efforts to restart the apparently stalled peace negotiations with President Abbas which have broken down due to the Gaza rocket situation. Livni made clear “we cannot afford this kind of exreme Islamic state controlled by Hamas” and unless rocket attacks cease, “we might find outselves in a situation where we have no other choice” but to send troops back into Gaza. She also blamed President Abbas for weakness by deciding to halt further discussions with the Israel government on resolving issues between Israel and Palestinian leaders.

Hamas in Gaza has been able to control the situation and decide whether Abbas can continue to pursue peace with Israel. They are undertaking a dangerous gamble, but so far it is working by allowing it to decide the course of Israel and Abbas actions. Israel still doesn’t grasp the importance of engaging in peace discussions with all groups including Hamas. Israel actually believed President Bush had an idea on how to achieve peace by the fiasco of the Annapolis Conference which excluded Hamas. The Hamas leadership has placed on the table an offer of a hudna, a cease fire in which neither side is allowed to continue military operations. Israel should accept this offer and insist Hamas must participate in peace talks along with Abbas.

Annapolis Success– We Can Debate Process, Not Substance!

Ghassan Khatib, writing in the Cairo Daily News points out that even those who had limited expectations about the Annapolis conference were disappointed by its failure. The two sides failed to make any political progress toward agreement, to agree on even what they would discuss at future meetings, or what even are the end goals of the process. The only thing everyone agreed upon is the necessity of having a process in place. This had led, according to Khatib, to cover up the lack “of substantial political progress by exaggerating the process itself.” He makes a contrast between Annapolis which accomplished absolutely nothing but is considered a success by the Bush people while Clinton’s 200 Camp David negotiations actually made some limited progress and it is viewed as a failure. Khatib regards the conference as “useful to Israel” since Olmert can come across as being a recognized leader, and it allowed America to dominate negotiation in the Middl East. He also believes the person most damaged by the conference was President Abbas. “He will be faced with..blame, including from some of his closes aides and members of his delegation for the failure of Annapolis, including the decision to sign onto the poor joint statement that was read at the end by US President George Bush.” Khatib believes Arabs are justifiably furious at the Bush statement that Israel is “the state of the Jewish people.” This is regarded by many Arabs as insulting to the Arab Israelis.

What will happen in the coming months when there is no progress on the Israel-Palestinian conflict? has Bush or his underlings considered that possibility? Was any thought given to the importance of some agreement that both sides could cite as evidence negotiations can be successful? This writer believes the United States should withdraw from serving as a mediator and turn that responsibility over to Turkey. The Turkish government has excellent relations with both Israel and the Arab world. They are trusted by both sides. George Bush has absolutely no trust among Arab peoples.

Mission Impossible For Mission Accomplished Man!

Today marks the beginning of the Annapolis conference which supposedly will deal with issues related to resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. After seven years of doing very little about this issue, President Bush is now claiming a great interest in resolving a complex problem. His failure to push hard on the Israel government in order to obtain an agreement regarding establishing key issues on the agenda or to clarify a timetable to attain goals has placed a damper on the meeting. The Saudi foreign minister has already indicated he won’t even shake the hands of Israel representatives. Part of the problem in accomplishing anything is the president’s lack of knowledge regarding historical developments in the region or understanding the desires and needs of Palestinian leaders. According to Flynt Everett, who was a key advisor to Condi Rice, he was at a 2002 meeting at which Bush stated that once Palestine had a democratic government its leaders would cease making a fuss about borders or its desire for control of east Jerusalem.

The reality of this conference is the inability of President Abbas to make broad decisions since Hamas controls Gaza and the lack of political leverage for Prime Minister Olmert who confronts hostile groups in West Bank settlers and religious leaders. The prospect is a more likely wonderful time for photographs of smiling people, but it is doubtful if Bush will proclaim “Mission Accomplished” after this conference.

Turkey Expects Annapolis Invitation

The Turkish government is expecting an invitation to next week’s meeting in Annapolis to discuss the Middle East, with particular attention to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A top Turkish diplomat noted, “We have made it clear to the U.S. and other concerned parties that broader participation in the conference is essential if they want more legitimate ground for future talks.” Last week, Turkey hosted a meeting between President Peres of Israel and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Turkey has extremely close working relations with Israel and is probably the major Muslim nation with whom the Israel government feels confident it can secure honest cooperation. As a diplomat noted, “Both of us should see the fact that Turkey and Israel need each other for regional stability.”

An interesting follow up from the Annapolis conference might be to ask Turkey to serve as the host center for future Israel and Palestinian discussions. The Muslim Justice and Development Party of Turkey is anxious to foster stability in the Middle East and the Turkish army has close working relations with its Israel counterparts. If a future agreement necessitates placing foreign troops in certain areas to secure peace, the Turkish army would be the logical choice since it is trusted by Israel military leaders. Perhaps, it is time for the United States to step away from serving as a mediator between Israel and Palestine and allow the Turkish Muslim leadership to assume that role.

Israel Urged By Turkey To Back Syrian Attendance At Annapolis

The Turkish government is presently hosting a meeting with Israel President Peres and Palestinian President Abbas in hope of fostering peaceful relations. President Gul urged Israel to support the presence of Syria at the upcoming Annapolis conference but the Israeli leader was hesitant since he charged Syria is hostile to peace. Gul also emphasized the importance that “tangible and cocnrete results” will emerge from the conference. He also supported the desire of Abbas that all meaningful issues related to the Middle East should be open for discussion at the conference. Peres responded: “I believe we can make peace with Palestine, it takes time to make peace.”

Perhaps, the United States might learn the importance of allowing regional powers such as Turkey to assume leadership in moving the Middle East forward toward peace. Gul is right that all issues must be discussed, that Syria should be invited, and that the end result has to be more than talk. Peres is right that peace takes time, but it is also important for immediate steps in order to build some momentum to further the progress. After all these years of talk and promises, the region is anxiously seeking concrete results today, not in some unknown future.

Hamas Fires On Arafat Memorial Service In Gaza

Thousands of people gathered on Monday in a Gaza square to remember their fallen leader Yasser Arafat. It was the first major opposition rally allowed by Hamas which seized Gaza from the Fatah several months ago, but Hamas leaders feared forbidding the gathering would antagonize the Gaza population. As people listened to speeches, gunfire suddenly sounded and within a few moments six lay dead while dozens were wounded. People fled for their lives as guns sounded in the air. Fatah spokesperson, Mohammed Dahlan asserted the firing began when people from a nearby Islamic university entered the square, but Hamas claims Fatah began the firing. The Fatah leadership in Gaza believed the huge mass of people was an expression by the Gaza population that it disagrees with the Hamas seizure of power.

This incident is further evidence of a deep seated fissure between Hamas and Fatah which currently makes difficult reaching an agreement with Israel. This makes even more important the necessity of inviting Hamas to the Annapolis conference in order that other Arab nations can assist in the process of bringing these factions together.

Annapolis Peace Conference: Did You Ever Get The Feeling You Wanted To Go, Stay, Go?

The Bush legacy of posturing defiance at the world, insulting nations, and creating chaos is not readily shaken off when it comes to organizing peace meetings. Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak is urging inclusion of Syria in the upcoming Annapolis conference, but the Syrian government has limited trust or confidence that anything worthwhile will come from a Bush initiative. According to its Ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, “We don’t seriously believe that this is a peace conference that will lead to anywhere. Forgive us if we deduce that this is only about a photo opportunity and about people in Washington D.C. telling their electorate, ‘look don’t accuse us of only starting wars, we’re working for peace in the Middle East.” Syria wants the issue of return of the Golan Heights placed on the agenda but Secretary Rice has stated that only the topic of Palestine-Israel issues will be discussed.

It may be unfortunate, but the prospects for the Bush administration actually achieving fruitful talks about Middle Eastern issues may never occur. There has been too much Bush rhetoric about evil nations and refusal to exert pressure on Israel to make changes for peace. President Abbas of the Palestinians is urging that an outcome of the meeting must be firm goals with timelines, but Prime Minister Olmert refuses to accept such outcomes. Perhaps, the Syrian ambassador is really on target– is the only rationale for meeting to provide another photo op?

We Need Peace Now Says Palestinian Leader

President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the need for achieving resolution of key issues at the upcoming Annapolis meeting if violence is to be averted in the Middle East. He identified a serious difference between his position and that of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert — he wants a detailed agenda working toward specific goals while Olmert prefers a vaguer document without a definite timetable. Abbas fears the outbreak of further violence in the region unless issues dividing the two groups are addressed and resolved.

Veteran Palestinian lawmaker, Hanan Ashrawi gave a guest lecture at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in which she pleaded for dialogue between the opposing groups. She stated bluntly the need by Palestinians for achieving peace with Israel. ‘Violence and extreme ideology of Israel feeds violence and extremism on the other side. And that’s what led to the election of Hamas.” She said you can’t wait until “every single Palestinian becomes peaceful” but must engage in dialogue. One step might be for both sides to cease dwelling on past statements since enough expressions on the desire for violence can be found among Palestinians and Israelis. It’s time to focus on the future.

Israel Cabinet Minister Urges Inviting Hamas

Ami Ayalon, a minister in the Israel cabinet urged his nation’s leaders to invite Hamas to participate in the upcoming Annapolis conference because such “a call would cause Hamas to crumble ” due to the “internal struggles taking place within the group.” On Monday, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, raised Palestinian concerns that internal struggles within the Israel government were also an issue since there apparently wasn’t complete support for how to deal with the conference. “The Palestinian position is clear. We won’t go to the conference unless we reach an agreement with Israel on the final status issues and a clear timetable for the implementation of any agreement between the two parties.” In the meantime, President Shimon Peres told visiting Indonesian reporters “if everything goes well, it is actually possible to solve all the problems in two or three years.”

it is clear the conference has yet to identify a process of negotiation as well as what will immediately be implemented and what will take time to finalize. Peres raises a realistic concern that all problems can not be solved within a few months and some may take years to achieve. Perhaps, there is a middle ground between a Palestinian desire for specificity and an Israel desire for moving slow. Prior to the conference both parties might identify which issues can be resolved within a short time frame and which would necessitate a longer time period. This might persuade Palestinian negotiators they are not going through a long talk without any concrete results.