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%.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Beyond Annapolis - Political Paralysis

[Published December 2007]

President Bush will be bitterly disappointed if he is expecting a historic breakthrough in negotiations over the next twelve months between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The doublespeak and hype emanating from Annapolis about those ongoing negotiations needs to be understood in the context of the following key statement made by Israel’s Prime Minister - Ehud Olmert - in his speech at Annapolis:

“The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the road map and the April 14, 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

The reference by Ehud Olmert to “the April 14, 2004 letter” has scarcely rated a mention in the hundreds of Annapolis post mortems - yet understanding its significance and the role it will play in Israel’s conduct of future negotiations with the PLO is crucial.

Prime Minister Sharon explained that significance to Israel’s Parliament on 22 April 2004:

"Since the establishment of the State, we have not received such vast and staunch political support, as was expressed in the President's letter

In the letter, clear conditions are set out for the establishment of a Palestinian state. First and foremost, the Palestinian Authority carrying out its commitments as laid out in the Roadmap: cessation of violence, terror and incitement, dismantling terrorist organizations and implementing comprehensive reforms in the Palestinian Authority.

The letter includes: unequivocal American recognition of Israel's right to secure and protective borders, and as it appears: "defensible borders", American recognition of Israel's right to defend itself by itself anywhere and to preserve its strength of deterrence against any threat, and American recognition of Israel's right to defend itself against active terror and terrorist organizations anywhere, including in areas from which Israel will withdraw.

The United States also expressed its position on the most crucial topics for Israel,in discussions regarding a final status agreement:
(i) on the subject of the refugees, a clear and historic stand was expressed according to which there will be no return of refugees to Israel.
(ii) Likewise,there is American acknowledgement that in any final status agreement there will be no Israeli withdrawal to the '67 lines. This acknowledgement appears in two ways: understanding the facts determined by the large Israeli settlement blocs such as making it impossible to return to the '67 lines, and implementation of the concept of "defensible borders".

The United States believes that the large settlement blocs will remain under Israeli control in every arrangement. Negotiations regarding the final status agreement will take place between Israel and the Palestinians. However, if, during the negotiations disagreement on these subjects should arise, the United States will support Israel's stance and this will allow Israel to be in a better stand. This is an unprecedented accomplishment.”

This letter is obviously going to be a central pillar in Israel’s rejection of PLO demands that the PLO be given every square metre of the West Bank, that the 450000 Jews living there be uprooted and that millions of Arabs be allowed to go and live in Israel.

PLO Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, is too weak to abandon these demands - first made by Yasser Arafat in 1974 - which have been parroted and trotted out by the Arab League ever since.

Six opportunities to create an Arab State between Israel and Jordan have been rejected or missed:
(i) When recommended by the Peel Commission in 1937
(ii) When offered by the United Nations in 1947
(iii) Between 1948 -1967 when the Arabs could have created such a State by the stroke of a pen whilst in total occupation and control of the West Bank and Gaza.
(iv) Between 1967 -1993 when the Arabs refused to negotiate with Israel after losing the West Bank and Gaza
(v) In 2000 when Israel’s offer was rejected and terrorism and violence was espoused by the PLO instead.
(vi) In 2005 when Israel unilaterally removed 8000 Jews living in Gaza and started a withdrawal from the West Bank.

Demographics and Realpolitik have now overtaken this mindless and senseless display of Arab intransigence.

There will be bi -weekly meetings between Olmert and Abbas - lots of “feel good” statements will be issued - and no doubt regular and intensive negotiations will be held between Israel, the PLO and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - but to what purpose?

Unless Abbas is prepared to concede the heavily populated Jewish areas of the West Bank to Israel and abandon the claimed Arab right of return to Israel, these negotiations will become bogged down in the quicksand that marked the frenetic negotiating sessions prior to Annapolis.

Circuit breakers such as a land swap by Israel and token admission of an undetermined number of Arabs to Israel have been floated as possible ways for the PLO to change direction without loss of face. Given the extremely weak and vulnerable position of the PLO at this point of time and the knowledge that any such concessions will not bring an end to the conflict, Israel would indeed be gambling with the safety and security of its citizens if it agreed to any such demands.

Certainly President Bush’s letter does not oblige Israel to make any such concessions.

Despite the posturing and grandstanding at Annapolis, there will be no change in the cycle of nothingness that has existed since President Bush’s euphoric announcement of his “ two state vision” in 2002.

Fruitless negotiations over the next twelve months will see the President’s vision consigned to the shelves of his Presidential Library as a testament to six years of wasted diplomacy.

Paralysis has set in and become institutionalised for the next 12 months as a result of Annapolis - and nothing the President does or says will be capable of producing any discernible movement.

Bush and Rice Revel With The Devil

[Published November 2007]

Annapolis has come and gone but what happened there guarantees that the next 12 months of negotiations to implement the Bush two-state solution will end up going nowhere - just like the fruitless negotiations conducted over the last four years.

Annapolis clearly confirmed that these on-going negotiations with Israel will be undertaken by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - whose Charter specifically rejects the two state solution proposed by the President.

President Bush cannot be unmindful of the PLO’s pivotal role as one of the negotiating parties. He himself read out at Annapolis a joint statement prepared for the meeting which stated in the very first sentence:

"The representatives of the government of the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, represented respectively by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, in his capacity as chairman of the PLO executive committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, have convened in Annapolis, Maryland, under the auspices of President George W. Bush of the United States of America, and with the support of the participants of this international conference …”

If President Bush needed any more confirmation of this fact, Mahmoud Abbas gave it to him in the first sentence of his speech:

“Allow me Mr. President to thank you in my capacity as Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and on behalf of the Palestinian people, for inviting us to this international conference.”

The PLO Charter is as anti the two state solution as could possibly be articulated - stating without equivocation that :

1. Palestine with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit .

2. The Arab Palestinian people reject all solutions which are substituting (sic) for the total liberation of Palestine.

3. The Partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal

4. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based on them are deemed null and void.

5. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history

6. Jews do not constitute a single nation with an identity of its own.

How President Bush and Condoleezza Rice believe the PLO can negotiate in good faith for a two state solution in the face of these fundamental impediments to achieving such a result is one of the great mysteries that remains unanswered after the festivities, hand shakes and toasts have been concluded and everyone has gone home.

The time line for the successful completion of these negotiations is supposed to allow President Bush to leave office in January 2009 as the President who was able to bring peace to the Middle East - certainly an effort worth the Nobel Peace Prize, the eternal gratitude of the nations and the favourable judgement of history if he could pull it off.

But it is obvious this can never happen and that his departure from office will be ignominious and humiliating - unless the PLO first amends its Charter to excise these Articles immediately. President Bush and Ms. Rice should be insisting this be done now if these on-going negotiations are to have any prospect of success.

These amendments were promised 14 years ago but they still remain unchanged as testimony to an organisation that hates Jews, despises the notion of a two state solution and fails to recognise the binding effect of international law.

Mahmoud Abbas simply has no power or authority at the present time to negotiate for a two state solution because the PLO Charter expressly precludes him from doing so.

This is not some kind of technical hair splitting argument. It goes to the entire mindset under which negotiations are to be undertaken and the ability of the negotiating parties to achieve a solution.

Mr Abbas should be required to take steps to immediately repeal these provisions of the Covenant before any further negotiations take place. This is something he can implement - and very quickly. He may not be able to procure the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers, he may not be able to stop terrorist attacks - but he can very easily convene a meeting of the National Council of the PLO to repeal these odious provisions of the Charter.

The capacity of the PLO to deliver peace - even if the above offending and offensive articles were removed today - is also highly questionable.

Respected veteran analyst Danny Rubinstein pointed this out very clearly in an article written by him in Ha’aretz on November 16 when he stated:

“The institutions of the PLO which presumed to represent the entire Palestinian nation have in recent years become obsolete and unimportant. They do not include any representation for a national religious movement like Hamas (which holds that religion takes precedence nationality (sic), although its supporters make up about one third of the Palestinian public...for quite some time now, the PLO has ceased to be a relevant body in Palestinian politics.”

President Bush and Ms Rice must wear rose coloured glasses or have very blinkered vision if they fail to recognise or acknowledge these basic failings in the ability and strength of the PLO to deliver any successful outcome for the President’s two state vision over the next twelve months.

It is incongruous that President Bush and Ms. Rice continue to dine and dialogue with this elderly bespectacled white- haired PLO Chairman in a Saville Row suit who purports to negotiate a two state solution for an organization which forbids it eventuating and which expressly states that its objective is to drive the Jews into the sea and out of a Palestine that belongs only to the Palestinian Arab people.

Allowing negotiations to continue on such a brittle base is a guaranteed recipe for disaster.

The President’s two state vision has never got off the ground since 2003 precisely because Abbas has never been required to have the PLO Charter amended to allow meaningful negotiations to be undertaken. It appears that President Bush and Ms Rice have learned nothing from that unmitigated disaster.

President Bush and Ms Rice will only have themselves to blame at the end of the day when these current negotiations also inevitably collapse.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Annapolis Drop Ins And Mary Poppins

[Published November 2007]

The spotlight is now directly focused on Annapolis as preparations are finalised for the opening night of the proposed revival of the show “Road Map” - first conceived by President George Bush in 2002.

Tickets have been finally mailed out for this eagerly anticipated event to a large number of so far unidentified VIP’s who will drop into Annapolis to attend a gala dinner on 26 November to be followed by a full blown performance the following day. They are slotted to fly out after meeting the two principal actors - Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas - who will be desperately trying to get the show on the road once again after a series of abysmal failures over the last four years

The media are busily speculating who will turn up and who will get the best seats in the house. Hopes are high that prominent and highly influential Saudi Arabian and Syrian entrepreneurs will join the audience to show their confidence in and unqualified backing for “Road Map” rather than their own production “Arab Peace Initiative“ which has not been publicly performed since it was written in 2003.

Optimistic expectations for the successful revival of “Road Map” have been dramatically toned down as disagreements have emerged over the past few months in relation to the precise wording of the program. Constant bickering and feuding between Olmert and Abbas have led to friction between them as each has tried to act out and justify his star role by influencing the content of the program to be presented.

Doubts that the show would be staged have been finally laid to rest as the President and his influential backers - Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - have decided that the show must go on - no matter what - in the best traditions of the theatre of the absurd in which this farce is being played out.

No doubt the producer - President Bush - and the director - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - are hoping that the Annapolis revival will have a happy ending just like the very successful musical “Mary Poppins” currently running in London’s West End and on Broadway.

The storyline in “Mary Poppins” is summarised as follows:

“Jane and Michael Banks are in need of a nanny, every governess has quit and with their mother fighting for women's rights and their father at the bank all hours of the day it is imperative they find a suitable candidate. When their father rips up the advert they wrote, they are resigned to the fact that their next nanny will have none of the attributes they are looking for - then Mary Poppins arrives and their lives change for ever.”

This is remarkably similar to the story that will be unveiled at the revival of “Road Map” in Annapolis:

“Jews and Arabs are in need of a mediator, every previous applicant has quit and with the Palestinian Authority fighting for Arab rights and Israel in occupation of the West Bank all hours of the day it is imperative they find a suitable candidate. As the Road Map is in danger of being ripped up they are resigned to the fact that their next mediator will have none of the attributes they are looking for - then Condoleezza Rice arrives and their lives change for ever”

No doubt Condoleezza would consider herself to be the equal of Mary who modestly spoke of her unique qualifications in the following manner:

"I'm practically perfect in every way, Practically perfect that's my forte. Uncanny nannies are hard to find, Unique yet meek unspeakably kind, I'm practically perfect not slightly soiled, Running like an engine that's just been freshly oiled"

Condoleezza will indeed have the opportunity to strut her wares at Annapolis and attempt to emulate Mary. She indeed has the capacity to change lives forever but current indications are that they will be worsened rather than bettered.

Her mediating effort in removing Israel from control of the Philadelphi crossing on the border between Egypt and Gaza has run more like a rusty engine than a well oiled machine allowing weapons and explosives to be smuggled into Gaza at will - thence to be subsequently directed at Israeli civilian population centres on a daily basis.

Her frequent flying trips to the Middle East using six star executive jets have failed to bring about any change of heart in the demands made by Mahmoud Abbas - unlike the loveable Mary who soared out of the skies and into the hearts of everyone she encountered using just her umbrella to do so.

Condoleezza will confront Mahmoud Abbas who has shown no inclination to play his leading role with any real conviction or authority as he stubbornly clings to his star billing whilst all indicators show he is not really up to the role in which he has been cast.

His co-star Ehud Olmert could soon find himself indisposed for future appearances in “Road Map” due to other commitments of a political and business nature that could keep him centre stage in other places thereby necessitating an understudy to replace him if the Annapolis revival is to be successfully continued.

A new buzz word could emerge to describe the performance at Annapolis rivalling “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” - the title of the smash hit in “Mary Poppins.”

That word could be "Annapolisticclaptrapisovertlysurreptitious”.

Broadly translated it means:

“the talk at Annapolis will be contrived, foolish, insincere and pretentious and will be characterized by misrepresentation of the truth.”

“Road Map” will probably be artificially resuscitated at Annapolis and briefly enjoy a right of return to the world stage, but it can never be the box office success its proponents envisage.

Circumstances have materially changed since the President’s original script was written but the uncompromising position of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority hasn’t. Their continuing failure to act out their roles as described in President Bush’s explanatory program notes guarantees that “Road Map” will continue to languish and finally collapse in a heap like so many other similar stage shows such as “Oslo“ “Madrid” and “Camp David 2000“.

The President needs to go back to the drawing board, thoroughly rewrite the script and completely change the cast and characters. Just a spoonful of sugar can certainly help the medicine go down in the most delightful way.

Maybe then there will be something wonderful to sing and dance about.

Annapolis - Wedding Or Disaster Of The Year?

[Published November 2007]

Best Man - President George Bush - and Matron of Honour - Condoleezza Rice - are becoming increasingly frustrated as the reluctant bride - Israel - and a very impatient groom - the Palestinian Authority - continue haggling over the substantial dowry the groom is demanding from the bride’s family before the wedding of the year can go ahead in Annapolis this month - or maybe next month.

Dr Rice says the bride and groom are going through “knotty discussions” which appear to be heading anywhere but tying the knot. Bridesmaid Tzipi Livni has publicly admitted there are “problems”.

This is certainly not a match made in heaven - rather a catch hatched in hell. The body language and forced smiles say it all. At the moment alarm bells - not wedding bells - are ringing.

President Bush and Condoleezza Rice are both suffering from work overload as potentially catastrophic events in Turkey and Pakistan rapidly unfold to put President Bush and Dr Rice under great stress. Annapolis is probably the last place they want to be thinking about at this moment.

These latest crises are an unwelcome intrusion into Dr Rice’s crowded appointment book as she ponders whether - and when - to send out the wedding invitations. Five years of fruitless diplomacy have stymied efforts by President Bush to get the bride and groom together to conceive the President’s godson - a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

The bride is not yet quite convinced and wants the fourteen years old engagement to continue. The groom wants the wedding now and has downgraded his expectations of having the baby within six months from then to a date no later than January 2009. Conception and birth within that ambitious time frame would be miraculous - even by the Holyland’s standards - given the groom’s sterile performance up till now.

Who to invite and what to talk about at the wedding has presented President Bush and Dr Rice with real headaches. How to get people to even come is an even greater challenge.

Bickering guests are the last thing one wants at Annapolis. Who will sit next to who might be tricky - but a creative events organiser like the State Department will probably come up with suitable table placements to make sure no one feels too uncomfortable.

The pecking order will be important too. Who sits - or stands - to the left and right of the President and Dr Rice- for even a cameo appearance - must be dominating lots of time behind State Department doors.

The timed arrivals of guests and the proceedings will also be watched closely by the myriad press corps assembled behind strategically located barriers. Media placement must also be of great concern to avoid any diplomatic crisis. Will al-Jazira get a better barrier position than CNN, ABC, the BBC or the XYZ?

Should there be a head table or not? Maybe protocol will best be served by having a round table which would symbolically reflect the ever increasing circles the President and Dr Rice have been running around in trying to get this wedding off the ground.

Last minute cancellations are bound to occur causing more grey hairs at the State Department. This is not a wedding to be organised by the faint hearted.

Most weddings suffer from too many speeches usually leaving the guests thoroughly bored. At Annapolis we are told the guests will listen to a joint speech written by the bride and groom which will be either very detailed on the core issues of their future relationship or downright boring and devoid of any material content - depending on which unidentified reliable source you are prepared to believe.

Whilst the bride and groom grapple with what they are going to say, the matchmaker - President Bush - should have no such problems. Indeed he wrote his speech years ago. Hopefully he will dig it up, dust it off and remind those who come to Annapolis of the following three pledges he made to the bride’s father Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 to persuade him that this union could even be a remote possibility:

1. The groom’s family have to give up the idea of living in Israel.

"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."

2. 450000 members of the bride’s family will not be booted out of their homes in the West Bank.

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities."

3. The groom will not get every square metre of the West Bank as part of the dowry.

"As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338."

Come to think of it, Dr Rice should consider limiting her guests to those who are prepared to drink a toast in honour of these three pledges. Guests can tick three appropriately worded boxes placed next to the one requesting their dietary requirements on the return prepaid acceptance card - to ensure they don‘t get to the wedding under false pretences.

Otherwise the probability is that the bride will be left at the altar and no one will get to catch the bouquet.

Sadder still - diplomatic and security reasons will prevent the wedding customs of the bride and groom being celebrated at Annapolis. Jews break a glass at weddings to solemnly remind them - in their moment of extreme happiness - of the destruction of their two Temples in their capitol Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. Arabs choose to fire bullets indiscriminately in the air, sometimes wounding - and even killing - innocent wedding guests and bystanders.

Allowing the possibility of either to occur could turn this wedding into the disaster of the year - if it isn’t already before it has even been held.

Clinton, Carter, Condoleezza and Candour

[Published October 2007]

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack revealed this week that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been talking to ex-Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton about their experiences in trying to negotiate peace between Israel and its Arab enemies.

Carter successfully brokered a peace treaty at Camp David in 1978 between Egypt and Israel, which has endured for 29 years surviving many strains that could have permanently ended the relationship during this period.

Clinton walked away empty handed in 2000 at Camp David after two weeks of intense one on one diplomacy with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat.

Ms Rice certainly needs all the advice and help she can get as she struggles to get her planned international meeting in Annapolis off the ground. Even if she succeeds it could end in so much bitterness and enmity that it could signal the end of President Bush’s vision to create a new democratic Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

Why then did Carter succeed and Clinton fail and what lessons are there to be learnt by Ms Rice?

Three critical differences marked the negotiations that were undertaken by each President:

1. Two sovereign States - Israel and Egypt - were the parties in the Carter negotiations.

One sovereign State - Israel - and one non sovereign entity - the Palestinian Authority - were the parties in the Clinton negotiations.

2. Egyptian sovereign territory - the Sinai - was the territorial issue at the Carter negotiations.

Territory belonging to no sovereign State - the West Bank and Gaza - was the territorial issue at the Clinton negotiations.

3. Up to 7000 Jews faced removal from the Sinai to successfully conclude the Carter negotiations, whilst up to 200000 Jews faced removal from the West Bank and Gaza if the Clinton negotiations were to succeed.

Additionally, highly emotive issues concerning refugees and Jerusalem were the sting in the tail for Clinton’s negotiations once the territorial issue had been resolved.

Israel had no historic territorial claims on Sinai. Israel returned every square metre of the Sinai and removed all 7000 Jews living there to secure peace with Egypt.

In the process Israel also handed over the Alma Oil Field it had discovered valued at over $100 billion - which would have secured energy independence for Israel if it had been retained - as well as military bases and airfields.

100% of Egyptian sovereign territory captured by Israel in the Six Day War was thus returned to Egypt by Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin - for solemn promises of peace contained on a piece of paper.

Arafat similarly demanded the return of every square metre of the West Bank and Gaza in the Clinton negotiations which would have necessitated all 200000 Jews living there being uprooted. If it had worked for Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat - Arafat probably reasoned -why would it not work for him?

There was one great difference.

The land Arafat sought exclusively for himself was “no man’s land “- territory in which sovereignty remained unallocated between Jews and Arabs and whose last sovereign ruler was Great Britain under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine from 1920-1948.

Following Britain’s withdrawal in May 1948, Jordan had seized and occupied the West Bank - dispossessing those Jews then living there - until losing it to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.

Jews - who had been entitled to settle in the West Bank from 1922 under Article 6 of the Mandate as later confirmed by article 80 of the United Nations Charter - started returning to live there after 1967.

Arafat was offered 90% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, refused to take it and ended up with nothing. 450000 Jews currently living in the West Bank complicate any such offer being renewed again.

Condolezza Rice has hopefully learnt the following four lessons from these two Presidential negotiations :

1. Israel has valid territorial claims in the West Bank - the biblical heartland of the Jewish people - created by the League of Nations and the United Nations, that will not be ceded in their entirety.

2. Removing 450000 Jews to satisfy the territorial demands of a non-sovereign claimant with an inferior claim in international law to Israel is a certain recipe for negotiations to fail.

3. Negotiations between Sovereign States are easier to successfully conclude - especially where territorial disputes are involved that have a linkage to those States historically, geographically and demographically as is the case with Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.

4. Negotiations that have failed are not likely to succeed in the future if the same demands continue to be made without any real change by the party who caused the original negotiations to fail.

Sean McCormack said Ms. Rice:

“is a student of history and has a keen appreciation for how we can apply the lessons of history, what we can learn from those who have gone before us”

Her discussions with Presidents Carter and Clinton should have convinced her that further negotiations on President Bush’s two state vision have the hallmark of Clinton failure stamped all over them.

Ms Rice needs to have the candour to tell the President just that and to formulate a policy which can lead to negotiations between Israel and Jordan on the future of the West Bank which can have successful outcomes like those achieved between Israel and Egypt in the Carter negotiations.

President Bush can still leave the Oval Office a winner and avoid being buried in the diplomatic graveyard among those who tried - and failed - to resolve any aspect of the Arab-Israel conflict.

To do so he needs to quickly jettison his two state vision which has gone nowhere in five years. His decision - either way - will become history too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Has President Bush's Vision Succumbed to Reality?

[Published October 2007]

President Bush appears to have abandoned any hope of creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

His closest confidante - the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - suggested as much when she made this blunt observation after her visit to the Middle East this past week:

“I spent a lot of time on security issues, not on-the-ground today security issues, but how would you envision the security of two states living side by side, because they're going to have to come up with a security concept between them. It's one of the problems that we're dealing with, frankly, in the Israeli population. And I heard it not just from the Israeli officials but from a broad range of Israelis. They had the withdrawal from Lebanon and it brought instability in Lebanon. They had the withdrawal from the Gaza, and look what happened in Gaza.

If, in fact, they're going to be asked to withdraw from the West Bank at some point, what does that mean for the security of Israel? That's a fair question. It really is. And so one of the things that I take back is that we are going to need to spend a lot of time thinking about how this state, if we are fortunate enough to be able to bring it into being, how it is going to relate to the security of its neighbor and vice versa.”

This marks the first time that the Secretary of State has so forcefully come to grips with the security guarantees that Israel needs to receive before the President’s two state vision can ever get off the ground.

It would be inconceivable that she would make these momentous comments without first having discussed them with the President.

Ms. Rice would be well aware that when President Bush first spoke of his two state vision on 24 June 2002, he laid down two preconditions necessary for its achievement:

1.The Palestinian people must elect new leaders not compromised by terror
2.These new leaders must build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.

These conditions remain substantially unfulfilled more than 5 years later - and present indications are they are going to be a long time coming - if ever at all.

It was his recognition of this reality that inspired President Bush to call his planned international meeting in Annapolis next month - which he designed essentially to try and advance the fulfilment of these fundamental preconditions. His concern was well founded.

Both persons currently claiming to lead the Palestinian Arabs - Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas - are compromised by terror.

Haniyeh heads Hamas - a movement that openly calls for the destruction of Israel. Abbas - one of Yasser Arafat’s closest advisors - is now the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which is no less vehement than Hamas in its desire to wipe Israel off the map. They only differ in the strategy they wish to employ to achieve their common aim.

A practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty are mere mirages on an invisible horizon.

The Arabs have totally rejected President Bush’s agenda insisting that their attendance at Annapolis be conditioned on substantive agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority being reached before the meeting even begins concerning the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders

Significantly Ms Rice has rebuffed the Arabs attempted hijack of the President’s agenda stating:

“So I know we get very focused on, you know, what will be said about borders, what will be said about Jerusalem, what will be said about the refugees. In fact, a lot has been said over a long period of time about those issues and more will have to be said. But I'm also quite convinced that one of the really crucial pieces that has to be filled in are these concepts of how the states will relate to each other in practical terms concerning security and in practical terms concerning economic issues”

Perhaps the penny is slowly dropping and the realisation is dawning that the Arabs are totally disinterested in Israel’s security concerns and in meeting the very conditions laid down by President Bush as essential if his two state vision is going to be achieved.

The abandonment of the President’s vision does not necessarily mean that the conflict in the West Bank need continue unabated until a democratic nirvana is achieved there under a leader not compromised by terror.

The Arabs have already publicly signalled they would be prepared to consider Israel swapping some of its vacant land in return for keeping those parts of the West Bank populated by 450000 Jews.

Satisfying Israel’s security needs in the context of a territorial resolution that does not involve all of the West Bank remaining under Arab control can be achieved very quickly if Israel and Jordan divide the West Bank between them.

Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel already contains the following guarantees concerning Israel’s security that have stood the test of time for the last 12 years and remained rock solid through several crises:

“1. They recognise and will respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence;

2. They recognise and will respect each other's right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries;

3. They will develop good neighbourly relations of co-operation between them to ensure lasting security, will refrain from the threat or use of force against each other and will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means;”

Negotiations between Jordan and Israel within the framework of this existing peace treaty offer the hope of a better life and prosperity for the Arab residents of the West Bank, will free them from Israeli occupation and achieve a measure of peace stability and security in the region not enjoyed for 60 years.

Such negotiations will not resolve the issue of refugees. No plan can ever hope to do so whilst the Arabs insist on millions of refugees and their descendants becoming citizens of Israel.

Stay with the vision or accept the reality? President Bush at last appears to be succumbing to the reality.

Swap Land for War or Land for Peace?

[Published October 2007]

Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are reportedly looking at swapping land in the West Bank for land in Israel as a means of overcoming the PA's long standing demand that all 6205 square kms of the West Bank be handed over to the PA by Israel as a necessary precondition for peace.

In the best traditions of a Middle East bazaar it seems a great idea for Israel to horse trade 500 sq kms of vacant Israeli land for 500 sq kms of land heavily populated by Jews in the West Bank.

Land swaps are not unknown in the Middle East. In 1965 Jordan exchanged 7000 sq kms of inland desert for 6000 sq kms of Saudi Arabian land fronting the sea shore.

The announcement of a planned land swap to be negotiated within a time frame of six months would certainly go down well at President Bush's international meeting next month and probably be hailed as a major breakthrough in resolving the 130 years conflict between the Jews and the Arabs over the former territory once called Palestine.

It might also just act as the fig leaf necessary to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend the meeting even if the more contentious issues - Jerusalem, water and permitting millions of Arabs to emigrate to Israel - are put on the diplomatic backburner.

President Bush desperately needs a lifeline to prevent his two state vision disappearing forever into the quicksand stirred up by totally inflexible and intransigent Arab negotiating positions.

Certainly the resolution of the territorial dispute over the proposed land to comprise the future Palestinian State would be a notable achievement.

It would herald an important change in the present racist stance of the PA and the Arab League that demands the West Bank be ethnically cleansed of all its Jewish residents - that Jews be tossed out of their homes in breach of international humanitarian law as encompassed in a number of United Nations Conventions.

It would signify the first crack in the negotiating stance of the Arabs that has remained unchanged for the last 40 years - showing a willingness to now be prepared to give something and not demand everything.

Unfortunately the announcement and eventual resolution of such a proposed land swap will not resolve the conflict unless all the other outstanding core issues - Jerusalem, refugees, water, - are also resolved.

Even if such issues were miraculously settled, what guarantee could then be given to Israel by the PA that the border between Israel and the newly created State would become a no go zone for Hamas, Hezbollah and the myriad other terrorist groups hell bent on Israel's destruction - having already unanimously indicated their violent opposition to any proposed settlement with Israel other than its total dismantling?

What guarantee would there be for Israel that those parts of the West Bank accepted by Israel in the land swap deal would not come under mortar fire and rocket attacks from within the borders of the new Arab State as emanated from Gaza virtually without respite when the PA ruled there?

The reality is that until any PA agreement with Israel is endorsed by Hamas, Hezbollah , Islamic Jihad and the Arab League, that agreement runs the risk of being abrogated overnight by the actions of well armed and trained terrorist groups whom PA President Abbas has been too weak to oppose or control in the past.

The risks of continued dealing with the PA alone are therefore so great that any responsible Government in Israel would be putting the lives and security of its citizens at grave risk unless these other belligerent parties were signatories to any peace agreement.

The position would be entirely different if the West Bank was divided between Jordan and Israel - two sovereign countries already possessing a peace agreement that has proved its resilience for the last 12 years.

Land swaps would only be necessary as a last resort if dividing some relatively small areas of the West Bank between Jordan and Israel could not be amicably resolved. A lease to Israel of some Jordanian land as part of their peace agreement shows what can be achieved.

It would not be in Jordan's national interest that any terrorist groups be allowed to flourish in Jordan's newly acquired West Bank territory since they could represent a threat to the Hashemite regime ruling in Jordan. These groups might be tempted to try and overthrow Jordan's King Abdullah if allowed to develop a formidable military infrastructure in the West Bank.

The attempt by the PLO to do just that in 1970 is deeply ingrained in the Jordanian psyche. Jordan has a well trained and disciplined Army and police force - unlike the PA's forces - to meet any such new threat.

Jordan is not faced with the political problems arising out of the falling out between Abbas and former Prime Minister Haniyeh that has split the PA and Hamas into two bitterly opposed factions - destroying any semblance of unity between the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza. Jordan's close ties with West Bank Arabs would be a unifying factor of enormous significance in countering terrorist activities.

The path to resolution of issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and water are already sign posted in the existing peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.

The return of Jordan to rule the Arab sections of the West Bank would recognise the status quo that existed in the Arab occupied areas between 1948-1967. It would bring the hope of stability to the region rather than the chaos and uncertainty that the PA currently represents as one of the principal players responsible for the slide into despair that has befallen Jordan's Arab brothers in Gaza.

Any belief that an agreed land swap involving the PA will be a step on the road to peace is yet just another mirage like so many others that have marked politics in the Middle East since the euphoric endorsement of the Oslo Accords 14 years ago by most of those countries assembling at President Bush's meeting next month.

How wrong they were then and how wrong they will be next month if they rapturously endorse the announcement of this "historic breakthrough".

Land swaps with the PA is a recipe for war. Land swaps with Jordan is a recipe for peace.

Which one Israel chooses will make a huge difference to millions of Jewish and Arab lives.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

President Bush Ambushed By Arab Perfidy

[Published October 2007]

President Bush, supposedly the world’s most powerful man, is being humiliated and hung out to dry by the Palestinian Authority and the Arab League as they use their collective muscle to try and change the focus and possibly cause the cancellation of next month’s international meeting called by the President.

Mahmoud Abbas - President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation - had no compunction in telling President Bush to his face what the agenda should be for that meeting when they met at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on 24 September :

“Mr. President, these days we feel hopeful and we feel and we sense the hope, especially after the call to convene an international meeting during the month of November. We believe that this meeting should deal with the substance and issues of substance that would lead to full negotiations on the permanent status that would lead to a permanent peace and a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Threats of boycotting the meeting by Abbas and various Arab states if the agenda does not meet these demands has sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice into a spin as she embarks on yet another of her trips to the Middle East .

She will be desperately trying to find a face saving formula to bring the Arab States - especially Saudi Arabia - to the November meeting.

President Bush needs to show he can deliver the Arab States to meet with Israel. It is a critical element in building Israel’s confidence to continue negotiations to create an Arab State - the 23rd - between Israel and Jordan.

The Arabs apparently are not so ready to oblige. Their attempt to subvert the meeting by changing the President’s planned agenda is in distinct contrast to their frequent statements applauding President Bush for his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

President Bush certainly had no intention of creating a putative peace conference of the kind demanded by Abbas when he announced the proposed meeting on 16 July stating:

“The world can do more to build the conditions for peace. So I will call together an international meeting this fall of representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. The key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbors in the region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting. She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state“.

This was the way President Bush saw his vision of the two state solution now being best advanced - a solution which has been in deep trouble ever since the President first proposed it four years ago.

Much had changed in the immediate region in just twelve months to bring the President to call this meeting - the ascendancy of Hamas to political control of Gaza, the flight of Abbas and his Fatah faction from Gaza, the sacking of the Palestinian Government, the war in Lebanon and Hezbollah‘s resurgence.

The international meeting was intended and designed as a new and important confidence building block on the way to successfully progressing bilateral discussions and negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - after the last fourteen years of negotiations had got the parties nowhere.

Those negotiations had failed because of the uncompromising stance adopted by Abbas and his predecessor Arafat on two issues of substance demanding that Israel :
(i) withdraw to the pre-June 1967 armistice lines and
(ii) permit millions of Arabs to go and live in Israel.

Abbas now claims that these issues can be resolved within six months of President Bush’s meeting if Abbas’ agenda is adopted - which indicates a total flight from reality. His stance on these issues mirrors the policy of the Arab leadership for the last 40 years. To believe these issues can now be successfully negotiated in six months is the height of absurdity.

The Palestinian Arabs have become victims of their own rhetoric.

It now needs an exceptionally strong leader to take them down a different path and to disavow these fanciful notions - especially when the current Palestinian Arab leadership is so divided and President Bush has made it clear that Israel could not be reasonably expected to meet these demands.

President Bush correctly assessed that Abbas is pathetically weak at the present time and cannot make any concessions on these issues - let alone carry them through -in the face of strident Hamas opposition.

President Bush saw this international meeting as a launching pad to firmly install Abbas in the driving seat. Abbas would steadily assert his credibility and influence with his constituency by firstly rebuilding a totally dysfunctional society with the aid of international financial backing and secondly by receiving diplomatic support to encourage him to change his current intransigent stance on these core issues.

However President Bush’s attempt to chart this path of hope for the future is rapidly descending into high farce. The Arabs don’t want to play ball - Arab intransigence on these core issues still rules the roost.

The Arabs will only have themselves to blame if President Bush washes his hands of the conflict and lets the cards fall where they will.

Will the Arabs blow an opportunity yet again to replace misery and suffering with hope for a better life and brighter future for everyone in the Middle East?

Their current behaviour can only alienate and offend the United States and push it closer towards Israel - its only truly reliable ally in the Middle East.

The two state vision so earnestly supported by a United States President will probably not present itself again.

It’s a crucial make or break time for the two State solution.

Egg on the face is not appreciated by anyone - especially the President of the United States.

Myanmar and Israel - Fighting The Semantic Wars

[Published October 2007]

Is it "Myanmar" or "Burma"? "Yangon" or "Rangoon"?

Burma and its major city Rangoon were renamed Myanmar and Yangon in 1989 by the military junta that had seized power there at that time.

The United Nations has officially recognised these changes in names by one of its member countries

America, England and Australia have not.

President George Bush, and Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and John Howard still continue to use "Burma" and "Rangoon". Such use is deliberate and is intended to signal their total rejection of the junta's takeover and anything done thereafter as a result.

Not a bad way to get your point across - by the use of just one word. Such is the power of semantics.

China, Russia and the Association of South East Asian Nations [ASEAN] on the other hand follow the United Nations and use "Myanmar" and "Yangon".

In their view when you deal with a Government you cannot interfere in the internal affairs of that country. Nothing could be more internal than calling a rose by any other name.

Semantics - especially where place names are concerned - clearly plays a big part in either clouding or clearly defining the real political issues that dog the conduct of foreign relations by many countries.

What is particularly interesting in this current semantic battleground is the role taken by the media. They are split on which terms to use.

President Bush's choice is not the choice of all in the US media.

The Voice of America, the Washington Post, and Time follow the President and use "Burma" and "Rangoon". However the New York Times, CNN and the Wall Street Journal use "Myanmar" and "Yangon".

Reuters, Associated Press and the International Herald Tribune have come down on the side of the United Nations and use "Myanmar" and "Yangon". They would consider themselves as being even-handed in accepting the choice of an independent arbiter.

Deliberate policy decisions are obviously being taken by individual media outlets as to which names to use - probably indicating their political position on the crisis. This is a healthy exercise in freedom of speech rather than all slavishly following each other in their reporting.

Honours are about even in the media's semantic war over Burma/Myanmar.

The media split on Burma /Myanmar is however absent when it comes to using the place names "Judea and Samaria" rather than the place name "the West Bank" to describe the area captured by Israel from Jordan in 1967.

"Judea and Samaria" were the names used by the United Nations in Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947 - the famous Partition Resolution - that is now in the media spotlight once again.

That constituted as official an endorsement as you could get from the United Nations of the correct place names for an area that had been so designated and known for the previous 3000 years.

Judea and Samaria were the two locations of the two biblical Kingdoms of the Jews - the southern Kingdom of Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel, the capital of which was for a time in the town of Samaria. These areas were the cradle of the Jewish Nation. The main religious sites and tombs holy to the Jews are located there. 450000 Jews live there today.

"The West Bank" was only coined by Jordan in 1950 and was used till 1967 to delineate the area west of the Jordan River which had been seized by Jordan in the 1948 Arab- Israel War when Jews living there had been driven out by the Jordanian army. This new name operated to irrevocably sever any historic connection of the Jews with the place of their national birth and existence .

Israel's attempt to reinstate the term "Judea and Samaria" after its capture from Jordan in 1967 has been undermined by clever and persistent Arab use of the term "West Bank" at every opportunity in the media.

Only some right wing Jewish media in Israel and abroad now consistently and repeatedly use "Judea and Samaria"

The Israeli Foreign Office and the Foreign Minister use both as the occasion suits them. The fact that 450000 Jews live there now is apparently of little consequence to the Government that is supposed to be protecting their rights of permanent residence as provided by international law.

The international media have adopted the term "West Bank" without demur in virtually every editorial piece they publish. By extension this territory has now become "occupied Arab land", or "occupied Palestinian territories" as the Arabs ram home their semantic advantage on a daily basis.

The claims of the Jews to these areas have been arbitrarily dismissed by the media pack who hunt together with a broad unanimity and use the term "West Bank" - in stark contrast to the case of Burma/Myanmar.

One news outlet - the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) - has adopted a fair and reasoned stance calling the region "the West Bank ( Judea and Samaria, Israel's biblical heartland)" or "Judea and Samaria ( the "West Bank")".

This small area of land is going to receive blanket coverage in the media over the next six months.

Perhaps those in the media now deliberately making choices on the use of "Burma" or "Myanmar" might take the lead from CBN and make their own individual decisions to acknowledge the 3000 year old geographical names of "Judea and Samaria" alongside the use of the 50 year old term "West Bank" - thus giving recognition to the fact that Jews also have claims there as well as the Arabs.

The old adage "sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me" has been turned on its head by the media's failure to identify the "West Bank" as being also known as "Judea and Samaria."

It is never too late to redress the imbalance.

Newsagencies in Iran and China of all places have used the term "Judea and Samaria" recently. Western media outlets should use both names to dispel the notion of any possible bias in favour of the Arabs.