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%.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pouring aid down drains and tunnels

[Published September 2006]

Lebanon and Gaza's five million population continue to enjoy international largesse on a scale not offered to hundreds of millions racked by AIDS, hunger, starvation or conflict in many of the world's numerous trouble spots.

$30 billion in reconstruction and humanitarian aid has already been given to Lebanon and Gaza. This is in addition to the $20 billion shelled out to the Palestinians by UNWRA over the last 58 years.

A further $1.7 billion in international aid has now been promised to repair the latest damage and destruction there following two unprovoked attacks into Israel by terrorist elements operating freely, openly and without Government constraint in both Lebanon and Gaza.

The donors have sent a clear signal to Lebanon and Gaza that they will continue to be compensated for, rather than suffer the consequences of, aggression against Israel emanating from their territory.

One shudders to think what the 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers will also be costing during their sojourn in Lebanon and how that money could have been more wisely spent if the current conflict had not erupted.

The world's donations to Lebanon and Gaza have been an unmitigated disaster.

Given freely and generously and with the best of intentions, donors have never sought to attach any strings or demand full and open accountability.

This has allowed a climate of corruption and nepotism to flourish and to create a cargo cult mentality that has done nothing to help the man in the street to make a better life for himself and his family. It has helped prolong conflict in the region rather than resolving it.

Mohammed Dahlan, the former Palestinian Authority Interior Minister aptly summed up the situation when he said that the funds given to the Palestinians "have gone down the drain and we don't know to where." [Guardian 2 August 2004]

It is a safe bet that this latest infusion of money will also end up being either unaccounted for or spent on reconstruction that will yet once more come crashing to the ground in a pile of rubble when the next clash inevitably occurs between Israel and its' two frontline enemies.

It is now time for the world to reflect on the futility of continuing such unprecedented generosity at the expense of others equally, if not far more, deserving.

Donors need to direct their aid funds to other parts of the world where the money may have a lasting and more beneficial effect assisting people crying out for help who are continuously ignored or receive a mere pittance in aid that often arrives too late.

International donors pouring billions of dollars into the Middle East to repair the consequences of conflict is a complete waste of money whilst the region remains in a state of ongoing belligerence.

This is guaranteed to continue as the Arab League presses its demands for

(i) the return of every square centimetre of land lost by Jordan and Egypt to Israel in 1967 and

(ii) the right of return to Israel - the 22% of former Palestine not now under exclusive Arab control - by former Arab residents of that area.

These non-negotiable demands make any international attempts to end the conflict not worth the effort as President Clinton painfully discovered at Camp David in 2000.

These demands have destroyed the Oslo Peace Process and the Quartet's Road Map. They have completely nullified United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 which recognised that Israel's boundaries would never again be those defined by the armistice lines existing prior to 1967.

The world's four most powerful men - Messrs Bush, Putin ,Chirac and Annan - have been exposed as diplomatic eunuchs in the face of the Arab League's uncompromising stance on these two issues.

Until this intransigent mind set is changed, the continued granting of financial aid will only end up being poured down the network of tunnels that have been so assiduously and painstakingly excavated in both Lebanon and Gaza for the purposes of making war not peace.

The Arab League must be told in no uncertain terms that no further international financial aid will be given to any of its members to repair the consequences of conflict until these demands are dropped and steps are taken to restore sovereignty over each members' territory to the Government of that territory.

Perhaps the withholding of international financial support will bring the breakthrough to peace that has remained so elusive for the past 125 years. If not, at least it will lead to the money being spent where it will be put to better use.

If the Arab League fails to respond then let it answer for and provide the aid to repair the damage and destruction that will inevitably continue to occur if these demands are not abandoned.

There is no light at the end of the tunnels in Lebanon and Gaza, only the promise of ongoing conflict and suffering.

Those who fail to recognize the folly of continuing financial aid for reconstruction in such a region are truly suffering from tunnel vision.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lemmings or Lions?

[Published August 2006]

The ceasefire brokered by the United Nations in Lebanon offers possibly the last chance for political stability to be restored in Lebanon and for Lebanon to rid itself forever of forces over which it has no control.

Will the United Nations and the Lebanese Government seize this opportunity and finally act like lions or will they, like lemmings, continue to rush towards the edge of the abyss into which both have already started to slide and from which both may never get out?

Judging by what is happening, it appears that the lemmings will again prevail over the lions.

Woe betide Lebanon if this is allowed to happen.

The United Nations appears to be balking at giving its 15,000 strong force being sent into Lebanon clear rules of engagement to disarm and disband Hezbollah as Security Council Resolution 1559 demands.

Failure to do so will confirm that the United Nations is not prepared to translate its Security Council resolutions into concrete action.

It will send a clear message to terrorist groups world wide and their sponsoring States that Security Council resolutions are not worth the paper they are written on and that terrorists can continue to operate with impunity from any member's sovereign territory free of international intervention to forcibly remove them.

The United Nations force must be given the right to search for and destroy all armaments not under the control of the Lebanese Government, to stop the delivery of armaments into Lebanon unless expressly approved by the Lebanese Government and to take all steps including armed intervention to disband the structure and organization of Hezbollah's military arm.

Anything less will be a waste of time and lead to Israel intervening once again with even more devastating force to defend its own sovereign territorial integrity.

Hezbollah has justified its continuing occupation of 2400 square kilometres of Lebanon -- one quarter of the country -- as necessary to drive Israel from, and gain Lebanese sovereignty over, 25 square kilometres of desolate land called the Shebaa Farms.

Lebanon condoned this situation by continuing to dispute a ruling by the United Nations in 2000 that this small piece of land belonged to Syria, from whom it was captured by Israel in 1967.

Trading sovereignty over 2400 square kilometres in order to gain sovereignty over 25 square kilometres must surely be the most bizarre decisions ever made by any Arab nation in their ongoing conflict with Israel.

This abdication of its national security and foreign policy has cost Lebanon dearly and has become the catalyst for the abject position in which Lebanon finds itself today.

15000 Lebanese homes have now been totally destroyed, a large section of Lebanon's roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure has been reduced to rubble, its economy set back for 20 years and its environment devastated by an oil spill that threatens the rich marine life in its territorial waters.

A thousand deaths, many more thousands injured and maimed, and countless others traumatised by constant and incessant bombing raids testifies to Hezbollah's foolhardy action in entering Israel to abduct two soldiers, kill three others and then fire a barrage of 3000 rockets into Israel.

It appears Lebanon has not learnt the lesson of the Sheba Farms folly and is still obsessed with gaining sovereignty of the area.

It was deemed so important an issue that it was included in the seven point plan prepared by Lebanon as it urgently sought the current ceasefire, calling on the United Nations to place the area under United Nations jurisdiction until the Lebanese claim to sovereignty was fully settled.

Instead of rejecting that call, the United Nations has stood its decision in 2000 on its head by agreeing to once more deal with Lebanon's claim to the Shebaa Farms within 30 days of the ceasefire resolution.

What will happen if the United Nations reverses its decision? What does this say about the competency of the organization? Will Syria accept such a reversal? Will Israel withdraw? Why did Lebanon have to wait six years and subject itself to such destruction and humiliation before asking the United Nations to review its earlier decision?

Lebanon needs to let go of this issue. It has and will continue to bring Lebanon to its knees if it persists. A loss of face is far preferable to further loss of life and limb.

Lebanon or Lezbollaland?

That is the question that both Lebanon and the United Nations need to answer without delay if Lebanon is to end the suffering and bloodshed inflicted on it for the last 30 years because of its loss of control over its sovereign territory to others with different agendas.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Israel's Illusion, the Arabs' Abyss

[Published July 2006]

Israel's belief that unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza would end Arab intransigence and bring about a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict has turned out to be an illusion.

Instead it has opened up an abyss, which threatens to swallow up Lebanon and Gaza in its wake and set back the development of their societies and economies by at least 20 years.

Syria is struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Shiites seeking refuge as Israel continues its determined assault to end Hezbollah's reign of terror in Lebanon.

Emboldened by what was perceived as Israeli weakness and exhaustion, Hezbollah and Hamas quickly asserted their authority within the areas vacated by Israel, claiming this was the first step in the ultimate destruction of the Jewish State.

The Governments of Lebanon and Gaza chose to tolerate rather than confront and root out these terrorist entities.

Both Governments were strongly supported by their civilian populations.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah openly held court in Beirut. Its headquarters were well known to Lebanese authorities and the media had no trouble in locating their leaders for frequent interviews as they took every opportunity to applaud the targeted murder of hundreds of Israeli citizens and foreign nationals.

They lived openly within Lebanese society and were elected to Government and held cabinet portfolios. This could not have happened without popular support.

Large shipments of missiles and weaponry were routinely unloaded at Lebanese ports in full view of customs, military and police authorities and transhipped through Lebanon to launching sites and military depots in South Lebanon for ultimate use against Israel.

In Gaza frequent demonstrations by tens of thousands of men, women and children marching behind hooded and well armed terrorists burning Israeli and American flags and effigies of Sharon and Bush, clearly indicated Hamas was held in awe, not disgust, by the civilian population among whom was hidden the military stockpile of rockets and explosives.

Hamas was elected to power in Gaza by the overwhelming majority of Gazans whilst Hezbollah established an autonomous State within a State in Lebanon, both clearly expressing their continuing refusal to recognise the sovereign existence of Israel.

Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh believed the time was now ripe to flex their muscles to procure the release of hundreds of convicted terrorists held in Israeli prisons in exchange for a few Israeli soldiers. This had worked very well before with thousands of prisoners being released by Israel in return for the remains of a few dead soldiers and the release of one businessman of dubious reputation.

What better way for Hezbollah and Hamas to retain the support and hopes of their civilian populations than securing the release of husbands and children who could then be enlisted once again to repeat the missions that had led to their imprisonment in the first place.

However kidnapping three Israeli soldiers by incursions into sovereign Israeli territory proved the downfall for these terrorist groups. Such brazenness was the breaking point -- the red line -- that these terrorist groups had not expected their actions would provoke.

Rather than getting expected negotiations by intermediaries to procure the exchange of prisoners, Hezbollah and Hamas unleashed Israel's military might as it entered Lebanon and Gaza in hot pursuit to free its soldiers with the full authority of international law firmly behind it.

Again completely misreading Israel's intentions, both Hezbollah and Hamas started firing rockets into Israel leading to Israel's re-entry into Gaza in force and massive retaliation on Lebanon's infrastructure -- roads, bridges, airports and ports -- which had served as the supply lines for Hezbollah from Syria and Iran

This time international criticism of Israel's right to defend itself has been muted and even Arab countries have been critical of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel now carries the world on its shoulders as it alone seeks to implement Resolution 1559 of the United Nations Security Council calling for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. This will result in the loss of Israeli lives and many casualties as an impotent United Nations does nothing to assert and enforce its own resolutions.

The civilian populations of Lebanon and Gaza have now paid and will continue to pay a huge price for the trust and belief they placed in their would be Saladdins to remove the Jewish State once and for all.

Some have suggested these civilians are innocent victims who did not have the strength to overthrow their oppressors. If true, one would imagine Israel's actions would have brought forward at least some expressions of support from within Lebanon and Gaza. Not a single word has been heard.

The Arab League has now finally pronounced the Road Map proposed by Bush, Putin, Chirac and Annan as "dead". The League is three years behind the times but at least it now recognises the futility of a plan that never had the slightest chance of getting off the drawing board.

So where does the Middle East go from here?

There is but one avenue now -- the removal of Hezbollah and Hamas followed by trilateral negotiations between Israel, Jordan and Egypt on the future sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza.

Perhaps the Arab League will at long last realise the folly of trying to wipe Israel off the map and take these positive steps to end the ongoing 120 year conflict that is now bringing suffering on a scale to their constituency that even they could never have contemplated.