Tag Archives: Palestine

Post Annapolis-Abbas Considers Violence As Alternative!

Three months ago, amidst publicity and Bush appearing as an apostle of peace in the Middle East, several nations were brought together to create a guide line for the future. Hamas was not invited to the conference because of their terrorist and violent stance. Three months have passed involving ongoing discussions between Prime Minister Olmert of Israel and President Abbas of Palestine. Today, Mahmoud Abbas admitted, while he was committed to peace as a means of negotiation, and “I can not support a return to armed struggle at this point in time. But, at a later date, this could be an option for the Palestinian people.” He believes Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a dangerous crossroads which must either lead to peace or to further violence.

Abbas argued that Hamas also supports negotiation, but obviously they are not part of discussions. He also hinted if peace is not achieved in the coming months he would have no option other than resigning as president. Abbas is greatly concerned about a possible Israel invasion of Gaza which would result in hundreds of casualties and, most probably, compel him to abandon any further peace negotiations.

The government of Qatar has offered to broker peace talks between Hamas and Israel. this option must be explored because until Kassam rocket attacks cease, the danger of a large scale Israel invasion of Gaza looms large on the horizon.

Arab League Wants Israel Action Or Inaction On Peace

Arab officials wrned Israel they would withdraw the landmark offer of peace and recognition of Israel in exchange for Arab land unless Israel accepts the initiative. The warnings came amidst inceasing Arab impatience with the drawn out negotiations between Israel and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority which don’t appear to be going anywhere. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said “despair would force us to review this option” including withdrawal of the proposal. He accused Israel of “sabotaging” the initiative. Prime Minister Olmert has praised the intiative but has never completely accepted it as the basis for a final peace plan.

One can understand Israel concerns after so many years of failed attempts to reach agreement with Arab nations. The past is over, the present and future should be paramount in the thinking of Israel officials. There is need for some dramatic move on the part of Israel. Recent reports indicate at least one-third of West Bank settlements were illegally seized from Arab owners. Why not announce those settlements will be returned to the original Arab owners? Why not call for talks with Hamas leaders to be held as part of an Arab League session? Why not invite formation of a Muslim Legion to supervise Gaza and control border areas? It is time for action if Israel and Palestinians are to enjoy the benefits of peace.

Is Annapolis A Knife In The Back Of President Abbas?

According to Saleh Al-Naami, reporting from Gaza, a majority of Arab newspapers are wartning Presdient Abbas, head of Palestine, that accepting Israel-American proposals without significant changes will result in large scale opposition to his authority. Statements by Prime Minister Olmert that 2008 is not an obligatory date for Israel to complete negotiations with the PA or by his deputy, Avigdor Lieberman, who suggested that even the end of 2008 may not be an appropriate date to complete negotiations, raise fears among Palestinians about how serious is Israel to work out a compromise. Palestinians are able to draw upon concerns of Israel human rights advocates about continuing construction of housing in West Bank settlements, and the failure to take action against settlers who build without permits from army authorities.

Palestinian critics believe the Bush administration is biased toward Israel and not it has withdrawn a non-binding resolution proposal from the UN Security Council supporting the outcome of the Annapolis meeting. There apparently is increasing pressure on Abbas to resume negotiations with Hamas in order to present a unified Palestinian front. Nehad Al-Sheikhh Khalil, a Palestinian writer, argues, ‘following Annapolis, Palestinian public opinion is increasingly convinced that we are on the threshold of a new catastrophe(Nakba), granting legitimacy to Israel’s plans for mass population transfers now that Bush has characterized Palestine as the national homeland of the Jews.”

This writer argues it is time to recognize the inability of the Bush administration to serve as an objective mediator in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We suggest that Turkey assume the role of mediator since it has excellent relations with both Israel and Arab nations. Bush has squandered any opportunity to be a neutral third party. In the end, neither the United States nor the UN Security Council can arrive at a just compromise which enables all parties to the conflict to believe they have attained a significant attainment of goals. A “compromise” means just that– each side must give up something it desires. We believe it is of paramount importance that the security of Israel as a nation must be guaranteed as well as its protection from terrorist actions. In turn, we believe Israel must withdraw from West Bank settlements and allow Palestinians to assume control of East Jerusalem. All religious centers must be respected as well as the right to pray in them. We also believe there is need for creation of education committees which would work to eliminate hate from school textbooks and pick up on the Turkish proposal for creation of a Middle Eastern Peace University which would include people of all faiths.

Israel Gaza Attack Would Ruin Peace Claims Palestinians

Palestinian authorities told the Jersualem Post that any massive attacks by israeli forces on Gaza would seriously damage any efforts to attain peace. They warned such actions would compel the Palestinian Authority to call off scheduled talks with Israel as a follow up to the Annapolis Conference. Meanwhile, Kadoura Fares, a top Fatah operative in the West Bank, confirmed his faction would fight alongside Hamas forces to resist Israel troops. “Fath will fight alongside all the palestinian groups against the Israel army when it invades the Gaza Strip. In such a case, Hamas won’t be left alone in the confrontation with Israel.”

Palestinian authorities have informed the United States they would not be able to sit at a negotiating table if Israel troops are fighting in Gaza. The path to peace is strewn with potholes and detours as was encountered by those who resolved the Irish conflict or for white Europeans who negotiated with Nelson Mandela. As one Palestinian official noted, “In the post Annapolis era, we are supposed to talk about ways of making peace, instead, here we are talking about preparations for the next war.” The announcement by the Olmert government of further construction of housing in the West Bank is another example of confusion in the Israel government regarding how it intends to confront peace negotiations. Expanding West Bank settlements or pondering invasions of the Gaza Strip are hardly messages of peace and friendship to one’s opponents.

Palestinian Students Stranded In Gaza

The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip which ostensibly was designed to halt further terrorist activities is also being employed to harass Palestinian students who are involved in studying at colleges in Egypt, Europe, and the United States. Israeli authorities agreed last week to allow a group of 254 students to leave their semi-imprsonment and enter Egypt so they might go from that nation to their colleges. However, for some unknown reason, only 199 were allowed to proceed onto Egypt while the remaining 55 were forced to remain in Gaza. As of this date, no logical reason has been offered by Israel authorities for the detention of college students who simply want to attend classes from which they have been barred since June of this year.

This is a minor incident in Palestinian-Israel relationships, but it highlights the sometime complex reasoning of Israel authorities on why person “X” is detained instead of person “Y.” The detainees are college students, not terrorists and the manner in which they are treated is bounded to radicalize some of them who undoubtedly are frustrated at their inability to pursue academic careers.

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.

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?

John McCain Plays The Israel Scare Card To Jewish Groups

Speaking before a meeting of the Presidents of Major american Jewish Organizations, Senator John McCain trotted out typical Republican scare tactics to gain support for the Bush Iraq war. He warned if the United States withdrew from Iraq, the terrible Iranians would step in to fill the void. “All of the conflicts in the Middle East are connected, they are all part of the rise of Islamic extremism, if we succeed in Iraq,other countries will be more inclined to help us and this will take the pressure off Israel.” McCain has repeatedly warned that unless America ‘wins” in Iraq, that nation will become a safe haven for terrorists. He told the audience what they wished to hear that creation of a Palestinian state was an “ultimate end.”

For some obvious reason, Senator McCain did not mention the fact there were no terrorists in Iraq until the United States invaded that nation, threw out Saddam Hussein, and botched up the post war situation. Iran was the sworn enemy of Iraq and vice versa until America turned everything around. The Israel-Palestinian conflict does not have to wait until America “wins” in Iraq –whatever “winning” means– but must be addressed right now. McCain is playing to emotions just as he now goes around playing to right wing religious emotions in America. Jewish leaders should be hearing from the senator about the importance of supporting current peace meetings and leave Iraq out of the equation. For some reason, McCain never explores an alternative scenario –will the resolution of the Palestinian-Israel conflict help in restoring peace to Iraq?

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.