Tag Archives: Olmert

Prime Minister Olmert-No Refugee Discussion

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert once again made clear his nation’s decision not to engage in any discussions regarding the return of refugees who left Palestine during the 1948 war. “I join in expressing sorrow for what happened to the Palestinians and also for what happened to the Jews who were expelled from Arab states. But, he emphasized, “under absolutely no circumstances will there be a right of return.” However, he agreed his nation would is “prepared to be part of an international mechanism that will work to solve the problem.” The refugee issue from the perspective of Palestinians, concerns what they allege were forced expulsion of people from Palestine during the Israel war for independence in 1948. The Israel government also charges over 700,000 Jews were forced to flee from Arab nations during the same time period.

There is no question it is impossible for any Israel government to agree to the return of millions of Palestinians to former lands. However, there might well be room for compromise. At present, over 200,000 Israelis are occupying homes and land on the West Bank which belongs to the state of Palestine. Perhaps, there could be an exchange of that land for peace. I suspect, Olmert would not agree to that exchange of land for peace.

Israel Claims Progress In Negotiations With Abbas

The London based Arabic newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, claims Prime Minister Olmert is reporting significant progress has been made between President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on issues related to the return of refugees, border and security concerns. Olmert has made clear the topic of Jerusalem will be left to the end of negotiations because its future is a “volatile” one. Likud leader, Benyamin Netanyahu, told visiting French President Sarkozy that under no conditions will Jerusalem be divided in any final peace settlement.

Olmert said it was unlikely Israel would hammer out an agreement with Syria which results in opening embassies in both nations while Syria continues having close relations with Iran. He also insisted his nation could not tolerate a nuclear armed Iran and would take steps to prevent this from happening.

Palestinian leaders will undoubtedly insist east Jerusalem be the capital of an independent Palestinian nation. There are many ways to ensure the right for people of all faiths to enjoy access to religious sites while allowing Palestinians the right of making Jerusalem their capital. Olmert’s comments concerning Iran can only be addressed when major powers sit down with Iran for an all-encompassing resolution of issues. A new American president is needed for that to happen.

No Talk, Time For Action, Says Olmert

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear he is not going to discuss issues with Hamas, but will put an end to the Gaza rocket attacks through some form of military action. “Let it be clear,” he told the Israel Cabinet, “we view Hamas as completely responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip. We are not going to accept the (current situation)….But, I will promise one thing. Either there will be quiet or we will act with such force that will impose quiet.” Public Security Minsiter Avi Dichter expressed concern with Egypt’s attempt to mediate because despite this offer, arms are still being smuggled into Gaza.

Hizbullah has virtually let the Lebanese government know it can not control this imposing military force, Hamas has taken control of the situation in Gaza, but the Israel government continues insisting its policy of “no talk” but action, is a successful one. At some point, there has to be a realization that “tough action” policies have been a disaster. There was a Hamas offer for a cease fire, but Olmert rejected it. Einstein once said that stupidity is characterized by continuing to do the same thing over and over again even if it is not successful.

Helpess And Hopeless Peace Negotiations!

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met last week in the ongong process of talk and inaction. They discussed the lack of results from secret talks being held by their respctive foreign ministers on issues related to West Bank settlements, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel, in response to American pleas, did remove some roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank but Palestinian an third-party observers say only a small number of dirt piles have been pushed aside and that the main obstacles to Palestinian traffic still remain intact. Olmert complained West Bank settlements were in clear violation of the roadmap plan while Olmert cited a letter from President Bush in 2004 which assured Israel their West Bank settlements would remain intact in any fnal-status solution with Palestinians.

As the two leaders met to discuss more meetings, Hamas continued its own threats of pssible bombings anddenunciation of any talks. Israel leaders this week warned of war with Iran and the civilian population conducted air raid drills. The only result of all these discussions is no result. Perhaps, that is the Bush plan for resolving Middle East problems. After all, that is the goal in Iraq.

Hamas Offers Cease Fire On Civilians

Hamas leader Mashaal offered to have his organization cease any further attacks on Israel civilians if Israel would end attacks on Palestinian civilians. “We renew our offer to Israel to let the civilians on both parts not be part of the conflict. We renew this offer today.” He also confirmed that captured IDF soldier Gilad Schait is still alive. Mashaal insisted that 1,000 prisoners must be released in exchange for the return of the captured soldier. In an interesting comment, the Hamas leader claims the strength of his organization is greatly exaggerated by Israel and “we have primitive weapon.” Mashaal argued Palestinian suicide bombing only began after Baruch Goldstein killed 28 people who were praying in a mosque.

Even as the Hamas leader spoke, Prime Minister Olmert was telling Secretary of State Rice his government intends to continue building in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Peace Now, the Israel group, issued a report which indicates the supposed feeze on settlement construction has never been accepted by the Israel government and documented at least 101 examples.

Hamas is a violent organization but its violence is also triggered by Israel violence. The American government should be focusing on first getting Hamas and Fatah back together, forging a cease fire, and drawing upon support from Arab nations to begin a meaningful peace process. Peace Now is correct, the freeze on West Bank housing construction is now a dead letter, but the issue of the West Bank will not go away. The Bush administration policy of allowing Israel to do whateve it desires on the West Bank will return to haunt peace efforts by the next person who becomes president of the United States.

Is Israel Defense Minister Barak Interested In Peace?

Mohammed Shehada, head of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing and four associates were told by Egyptian mediators that a truce was now in effect and they could safely return to their homes in Bethlehem which recently had been bulldozed into rubble by the Israel military. As they left the scene, all five were killed in a hail of bullets from members of a special unit of the Israel army. Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended funerals of the men in scenes of anger and mourning that were shown all over the Middle East. Saleh Al-Naam, writing in al -Ahram, raises the question as to whether Israel is committed to the roadmap to peace or is it pursuing its own political and personal policies toward Palestinians.

He regards Defence Minister Ehud Barak as central to efforts to destroy peace efforts and quotes a recent statement: “Israel is committed to pursuing Palestinian resistance fighters who have been nvolved in opertions” that result in death to Israelis. Deputy Defense Minister Amos Harel insists “We will not allow the Palestinians to determine for us the timing, location or conditions of security operations.” Al Naami charges there is a deliberate program in effect by some members of the Israel government to destroy peace efforts in order to find justification for continued construction of housing on the West Bank as well as hoping chaos only results in continued division among Palestinians. He quotes Israel intellelctual Gideon Levy who recently wrote in Haaretz: “Barak hasn’t talked about peace for a long time and he surely doesn’t believe in the peaceful efforts of Olmert. In fact, he does all he can to destroy what little remains of them.”

Among the most important steps Prime Minister Olmert can make in the peace process is firing Barak and placing the Defence Ministry under control of someone who is committed to peace. Barak operates on the assumption Israel should retain the power to make unilateral determinations as to how the peace process will unfold. If a truce has been arranged it must include ceasing of military operations by all parties, not just one.

Hamas Sets Terms For Cease Fire With Israel

Hamas has publicly annunced its terms for establishing a cease fire with Israel as Egypt works behind the scenes to broker a truce that would end Gaza rocket attacks and Israel bombings. Hamas Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said, “There must be a commitment by Israel to end all its aggression against our people, assassinations, killings and raids, and lift the (Gaza) siege and reopen the crossings.” He said a cease fire agreement should be “reciprocal, comprehensive and simultaneous” and should apply both to Gaza and the West Bank. He followed with the normal Hamas rhetoric about not abandoning “our people in the West Bank.”

Egyptian negotiators are attempting to hammer out a deal under which rocket attacks would cease and troops under the command of President Abbas would control crossings. The agreement is in keeping with the 2005 crossings arrangement between the US, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority wich called for placing the crossings under forces loyal to Abbas. Damascus-based Hamas leader Mohammed Nasser said his group was willng to agree on a cease fire if both sdes respected one.

The conditions for a cease fire are now in place. Step one in any movement toward peace is ending violence. A cease fire agreement will not resolve all issues between Palestinians and Israel, but it will prove if a cease fire agreement can be kept, other such arrangements might also be respected by both sides. The road to peace sometimes begins with small steps.

Have Israel and Hamas Agreed To Cease Fire?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab language al-Arabiya television network that Israel had in fact agreed to a cease fire with Hamas. His statement apparently contradicts comments made earlier by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who insisted there was no cease fire agreement with Hamas. According to Abbas, Hamas had obtained a promise from Israel it will end the policy of killing leaders of the militant organization. It appears firing of Kassam rockets and Israel military efforts have quieted down over the past few days. There are reports Secretary Rice during her recent visit began the process of some unofficial exchanges between Hamas and Israel. Olmert did say “if they don’t fire Qaddams at us, we won’t attack in Gaza.” A military source indicated both sides are cooling down their operations before things got out of hand.

Military sources indicate Hamas knows there are three alternatives:
1. If rocket fire stops completely, the IDF will take no further military action.
2. If rockets hit Siderot and other communities near Gaza, Israel will respond with air attacks.
3. If rockets hit Ashketon, there will be ground operations.

The real question is what to do during this lull. If Hamas uses it to resupply without any thought of ending rocket attacks, it will become a disaster for Gaza and for Israel. A loical solution at this point is to include Hamas representatives in peace negotiations with Israel and Abbas.

Jerusalem Blood Bath=Hamas Victory

During the past several months the goal of Hamas has been to throtle efforts at peace betwen Palestine and Israel. The slaughter of eight innocent Jewish youths culminates the triumph of this strategy. In Beirut, Muhammead Fadlallah, spiritual mentor of Hizbullah speaks in the spirit of a true religious leader by describing killing innocent children as the “heroic” Jerusalem operation. Blame for the current fiasco in negotiation for peace can be shared by many individuals ranging from George Bush to Hamas to Abbas to Olmert to the despicable failure on the part of religious leaders on all sides to use their moral influence in furthering the cause of peace. The carnage in Gaza and in Jerusalem did not totally end peace negotiations but it would require a new mental state of mind to ensure any possibility of success.

This blog suggests the following as possible ways out of the current impasse:

1. Draw upon the mediation model in Kenya by asked leaders not involved in the Middle East to help in the process. We suggest Nelson Mandela and Kofi Annan and a representative from Turkey which enjoys good relations with both sides.
2. Involve Hamas at all stages of the mediation process.
3. Bring in a Muslim Army to supervise the Gaza area that would be drawn from Jordan,
Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and Algeria. Israel would reopen exist crossings.
4. Keep Condi Rice or anyone connected to the Bush administration out of the process.
5. Make it known clearly any violations of the interim peace process would result in
punitive action. That means no targeted assassinations of Muslim leaders and no suicide
bombings or rocket attacks.
6. Each side would be compelled to announce one major concession at opening sessions
of the peace process. Israel might announce that any land taken on the West Bank from
Palestinian owners would be restored. Abbas might announce there would not be a
demand for return of all refgugees.
Allow the present situation to continue and disaster will occur.

Israel Warns Palestinians To End Rocket Attacks

Israel warned the Palestinian Authority there would be no independent Palestinian nation unless the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip come to an end. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, said, “There is no hope for any kind of peace or the vision of the Palestinian state which includes the Gaza Strip without real change on the ground.” Prime Minister Olmert, refused to respond to angry calls for action against the Kassam rockets and urged calm. “We need to act in a methodical and organized fashion” rather than allow emotions to take over.

It is pleasantly surprising that Olmert is remaining calm in the face of those seeking revenge. Interior Minister Meier Sheetrit, said an entire Gaza neighborhood should be wiped out so “those in Gaza will understand that we are serious.” The rhetoric of violence plays to powerful emotions but leads nowhere. A mistake was made by the Bush administration in not having Hamas at the Annapolis conference where they would have been forced to confront Arab nations and defend the rocket attacks. This blog urges formation of a Muslim Legion composed of soldiers from Turkey and Morocco who would ensure the end of rocket attacks from Gaza.