Tag Archives: Annapolis

Israel E. Jerusalem Housing Creates Conflict

The Israel government is undertaking construction of about 304 new apartments in East Jerusalem as its prime minister prepares for meetings with Palestinians to discuss peace. President Mahmoud Abbas made it clear there would be serious difficulties in conducting peace if settlement construction continues in East Jerusalem. A Fatah spokesperson, Abu Rdeneh bluntly stated: “there is need to freeze the settlement activities in order to create the appropriate atmosphere to bring progress in the peace process.” President Mubarak joined in the Arab cry for an end to settlement construction and focusing on the only thing that emerged from the famous Annapolis conference– peace talks. Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni sharply criticized the Egyptian effort to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and in response, Egypt’s Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman promised his country would take renewed steps to halt smuggling.

There is a time and place for everything, and right now constructing 304 apartments is the wrong move. Some Israelis, undoubtedly, will argue the point of a principle that Israel has a right to build. The only important principle right now is working for a comprehensive peace, not worrying about a few apartments. In the end, Israel must recognize that East Jerusalem should become the capital of the new nation of Palestine. Israelis have every right to express concerns given the past history when Jordan controlled East Jerusalem and desecrated Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. Hopefully, that era is over and when peace arrives all religious institutions will be accorded respect. Right now, Israel must focus on peace, not apartments.

Prime Minister Olmert Offers Confusing Message About Syria

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered a confusing explanation regarding prospects for peace between his nation and Syria. He told the Israeli newspaper, Yedio Ahronot, that is was his insistence which led to Syria being invited to Annapolis even though Bush opposed the invitation. Olmert said the Bush administration is very concerned about Syria’s action in Lebanon and it will never abandon Lebanon in their struggle against Syria. “We are a ware that Syrians will not get involved in peace talks unless the Americans changed their stance toward them…And, for establishing normal ties with Syria, the Americans will have to betray Lebanon, and the George Bush administration is not willing to do so.”

The nation of Israel should be focusing on establishing ties with Syria and finally resolving the Golan Heights dispute. It is unclear why George Bush should be interfering in a valid approach to dealing with Middle Eastern issues. The Israel government got sucked into the Iraq fiasco because they blindly followed the Bush lead, and now it is important for Israel to be concerned with their own self interests, not those of a man who simply lacks any understanding of the complexities of Middle Eastern life. Of course, all parties should defend Lebanon’s right to determine its own self interests, but America must cease interfering in legitimate opportunities to resolve problems.

Israel-Palestinian Press Reports Death Before Birth

There was widespread consensus among leading Israel and Arab newspapers that Annapolis was anything but a rousing success. In the Israeli Yediot Ahronot, columnist Nahum Barnes noted that nothing less than a “miracle would be required” for a Palestinian state to be created by the end of 2008. Its military expert blasted Olmert for placing restrictions on the military in dealing with the Gaza situation. Maariv, the nation’s second largest newspaper commented in an editorial that “peace agreed for the cameras” and the main achievment was helping Olmert make it through another year in office. It commented that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, “knows that the chances for a peace treaty in a year as as great as Olmert being elected US president next November.”

According to the Arab newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, “the only success at Annapolis is that the conference took place.” It caustically claimed Olmert was the winner since the world now regards nuclear power Israel which has imprisoned 11,000 Palestinians as a fighter for peace. According to experts, the overall conclusion being drawn by Israel and Arab newspapers is that Annapolis in the long run will have proved to do more harm than good.

Rhetoric Is Loud And Will Increase As Annapolis Fails

As Arabs and Israelis gathered in Annapolis to discuss issues related to the Palestinian-Israel conflict, tension was raised in the Gaza strip as Israel tanks and troops moved into the edges of the Hamas controlled area. There is talk of an Israel attack on Gaza to wipe out rocket launching sites once the Annapolis conference concludes. A reporter for The Independent spoke with ordinary Gaza citizens who are caught in a confusing middle between Hamas on one side and the Ramallah-based Fatah on the other side. Ami Ayub, who works in a cemetery that is desperate for cement, but can’t get it due to Israel restrictions, asked the question that was most probably on the minds of most of his neighbors, “After 15 years of negotiation, what are they going to do in a single day?” Farmers in the area are more concerned if they can get their strawberry crop across the line so their product can get sold. Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas militant, roared defiance, “Whoever gives up The Right of Return(for refugees) and Al Quds(Jerusalem) is not for us.” He emphasized that not “one inch” of palestinian land will be surrendered. In a nearby souvenir shop, a man was selling mugs that one could break if the Annapolis conference failed.

We can expect many mugs will be broken all over Gaza because there is scant likelihood anything significant will emerge from the Bush-Rice photo-op meeting. A meeting is most successful if preliminary work establishes the basis for what will be examined. It is doubtful if 40 nations can reach a conclusion about anything within a day. Meanwhile, the absence of Hamas from the session only leads to rhetoric about not surrendering an inch of land or of standing firm on the Right of Return for refugees. A few million refugees are not going to return to Israel any more than a million Jews are going to return to Arab nations from which they fled in the fifties. The issue of Jerusalem can be readily resolved, but questions concerning West Bank settlements are more complex and will require compromise. Too many Israelis and Palestinians refuse to accept the reality of negotiations– both sides must compromise if any solution is to be achieved.

Saudi Arabia And Syria Hesitant About Annapolis Conference

A group of Israel news reporters asked members of the Saudi Arabian delegation if there was any interest on the part of their nation at the upcoming Annapolis meeting to normalize relations with Israel, and they were told, “none.” The Saudi delegation wants no contact with Israel and will even enter the meetings via a separate door. Syria is attending the conference even though they were refused permission to place Israel possession of the Golan Heights as a topic for discussion. However, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqudad will be permitted to address the meeting. An editorial in the Syrian daily, Teshreen stated bluntly the only reason for attending was to deal with the immediate needs of the Palestinian people, and the Syrian delegation realized nothing would be done about their interests and needs. The Syrians believe Israel is trying to force normalization of relations without sensing a need to deal with Arab concerns.

There is no doubt many members of Arab nations are hesitant to attend the Annapolis conference, and a significant problem is failure on the part of its planners to get some prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority about concrete steps each party would take in the process of normalizing relations. The conference lacks a specific agenda items, it lacks a timetable to meeting those items, and it lacks a real sense among its participants that the dream of peace is what impels them to be present in Annapolis.

Will Annapolis Be A Great Disappointment?

The Lebanon Daily Star raises the question as to why did President Bush at this point in time propose the Annapolis conference when to all intensive purposes it is doomed to failure? The editor points out, “all of the principal actors are political weaklings at home, and the very purposes of the gathering” are confusing. The threat of a US-Iranian conflict and continual problems in Gaza hovers over the gathering. “Under these and several other limiting circumstances,” the editor notes, “it is difficult (if not impossible) to see how this effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can succeed where others– with better organization, stronger leadership, and more committed mediators– have failed.”

Part of the problem that is identified by the newspaper arises from Bush’s miserable standing in the Middle East arising from the Iraq War fiasco. The trust level he has is limited. The newspaper challenges the ability or desire of President Bush to place pressure on Israel to make necessary concessions that will move forward negotiations. The inability of Secretary of States Rice to even achieve a commitment from Israel to agree on an agenda, let alone a timetable, is an ominous sign. Likewise, the inability of the Palestinian Authority to compel groups like Hamas to adhere to any agreement does not bode well for this exercise in diplomacy. The invitation to Syria is an important step in involving all groups with concerns to participate, but why has no similar invitation been offered to Hamas?

Annapolis Fiasco Looming? Or, Annapolis Success?

The United States government has issued invitations to next week’s Annapolis meeting to Saudi Arabia and Syria who are asked to join the 40 nations attending. The assembled representatives will meet on November 26 for a dinner, they will spend November 27 working on something, and then conclude on November 28. President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority says his attempts to develop a plan of action for the meeting with Prime Minister Olmert of Israel have failed and his spokesperson, Imer Hammad says it would be a “miracle” if anything worthwhile emerged from the conference. The US State Department insists, “the parties will get to Annapolis in good shape, prepared to accomplish what it is that they set out for themselves.”

One can only wonder on which planet Secretary of State Rice is living. Representatives from 40 nations are arriving at a meeting which has no agenda, no goals, in order to talk about something that no one agrees wishes discussed. The Palestinians are infuriated they are coming to a meeting without a preliminary document which at least outlines general directions of what might be accomplished, and Prime Minister Olmert insists the conference is for a discussion, not for the purposes of reaching any agreements. An observer might well conclude this is simply a typical Bush incompetence in action.

Prime Minister Olmert Takes Steps For Peace– Or Does He?

The Israel Cabinet voted to allow release of 441 prisoners in order o fulfill Prime Ministerf Olmert’s pledge that he would release some of those in jail as a gesture of good will. He also made a strong statement regarding the building of West Bank settlements. “Let’s be straight, we committed ourselves in the road map not to build new settlements and we will not build any.” However, the Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, responded to the announcement by noting, “He omitted from the Israel obligation in the road map that the Israel government must freeze all settlements including natural growth.” There apparently is some confusion as to whether or not Olmert’s statement forbids natural growth of new building arising from the present number of people in settlements.

Prime Minister Olmert insists that Annapolis is “not a conference for negotiation” but a meeting to discuss future negotiation. This stance is bound to irritate other nations who are coming with expectations that something substantial will emerge from the time they are devoting to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. If the only outcome is an agreement to “talk” what exactly is new? Abbas and Olmert have been talking for months so why have a meeting to get them to talk. It would be helpful if Olmert came to Annapolis prepared to make some dramatic offer, but all signs indicate he simply wants more talk.

Hamas Threatens Violence Over Annapolis Conference

As time draws near for the opening of the Annapolis conference called by the United States in order to deal with Israel and Palestinian issues, the rhetoric of Hamas grows increasingly strident. A mass rally of 10,000 people in Gaza demanded that President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority avoid making any concessions which infringed on Palestinian rights or cut off control of mosques in Jerusalem. Khalil al-Haya, a Hamas leader uttered threatening words: “We warn the whole region… against harming Alaksa(mosque) meddling with our basic rights or tightening the siege.. We war of a big explosion.”

The failure to include Hamas in the Annapolis talks merely gives its leaders permission to engage in wild boasts and threats. It is doubtful if such talk would occur when sitting around tables at which Arab leaders from every major nation in the Middle East were listening. Participation at the Annapolis meeting would compel Hamas to tone down its rhetoric and become involved in negotiation and compromises. As long as it remains on the outside, wild talk and threats will continue.

Is Israel Planning A Gaza Invasion?

Reports are circulating that once the upcoming Annapolis Conference is concluded, the Israel army is ready to launch an invasion of the Gaza Strip in order to assume control of the Phladelphi Corridor through which Hamas has been smuggling weapons and money via tunnels that allow individuals to cross over from the
Egyptian side of the border. Al-Quds-Al-Arabi reports this information has been given not merely to Palestinian authorities but to several nations, most probably to Egypt. President Abbas of Palestine is reported to be upset at the planned incursion which he fears will result in complete collapse of Gaz’s infrastructure and result in chaos and increased poverty to its inhabitants.

Perhaps, prior to such an invasion, it might be worthwhile to invite Hamas to Annapolis and place on the agenda the issue of smuggling of weapons. Hamas would then be compelled before an audience of fellow Arab nations to justify allowing weapons to enter. There is a possibility some resolution of the much needed ban on weapons could emerge from such a discussion. What exactly is there to lose by discussing the weapon issue in public before an Arab audience?