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, July 25, 2010

Palestine - G8 Novate The Great Debate

[Published July 2009]

The creation of a new Arab State between Jordan and Israel -the so called “two state solution” - is by no means an assured certainty - despite the confident predictions emanating from such influential sources as President Obama and the Quartet over recent weeks that it remains the only viable solution to resolving the 120 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs over the territory once called Palestine.

The latest meeting of the G8 world leaders concluded in L’Aquila Italy on 10 July 2009 appears to have taken a far more cautious approach - refusing to back itself into a corner by endorsing the two state solution as the only viable option to resolve the conflict.

The G8 Summit annually brings together the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In addition, the European Union participates and is represented by the president of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.

The Chairman’s Summary presented by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at the conclusion of the three day meeting included the following statement:
“Looking forward to a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbours, the Leaders reiterated their full support to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and urged the parties to rapidly resume direct negotiations. They also called on them to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap. G8 Leaders remained engaged to fully support the Palestinian Authority including, once a peace agreement reached, through the launching of an ambitious and comprehensive plan that would develop infrastructure and foster economic activities in the future Palestinian State”

This statement is silent on how the G8 sees a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbours being achieved and the G8 was apparently loath to indicate how it could expect that to ever eventuate.

It is noteworthy that whilst the G8 fully supported the two state solution it specifically refrained from endorsing it as the only viable solution - which puts the majority of the G8 leaders distinctly at odds with the pronouncements of President Obama and the Quartet.

Since America, and Russia comprise two of the four members of the Quartet and two of the 8 members of the G8, the failure of the G8 to collectively toe the American and Quartet line indicates considerable doubt by the remaining members of the G8 in the two state solution ever coming to fruition.

The statement also calls for the rapid resumption of direct negotiations. However the senior negotiator for the Palestinian Authority- Saeb Erekat - has angrily denounced the conditions laid down by Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - for the creation of this new Arab state - especially its demilitarization- with the following dismissive declaration:
“Netanyahu will have to wait 1000 years for someone to agree to talk to him”

Interestingly the G8 have also called on the parties to fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap first proposed by President Bush in 2003. These obligations still remain unfulfilled in any substantive detail - despite six years of the most intense international diplomacy to procure compliance.

Indeed one of the complexities to be resolved at the present time is the status of the Roadmap itself and whether Israel and the Palestinian Authority still regard themselves as obliged to negotiate solely on the basis of the proposals laid out by President Bush.

Whilst Israel has indicated its acceptance to enter negotiations based solely on the Roadmap, the Palestinian Authority has been calling for negotiations based on the Arab League Initiative as well.

Until the ground rules are definitively established it is difficult to see how any negotiations can ever commence.

The pledge by the G8 of full support for the Palestinian Authority might give its President - - Mahmoud Abbas - some traction in seeking popular support for his Fatah administration to represent the Palestinian Arabs. It will not and cannot disguise the huge gap in the positions of Hamas and Fatah as they compete for undivided political control of the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.

The G8 statement remains silent on the ability of the Palestinian Authority to enter into a final and binding peace treaty with Israel that would be capable of being honoured or enforced in the face of Hamas opposition to any such treaty - especially whilst the West Bank and Gaza remain divided as separate territorial units under respective Hamas and Fatah control.

The carrot dangled at the end of the statement promising an ambitious and comprehensive plan for the development of infrastructure and economic activities in the future Palestinian State “once a peace agreement has been reached” - amounts to a sober realisation that the billions of dollars that have been recklessly poured into the bottomless coffers of the Palestinian Authority for years by the G8 members - without any substantial improvement in infrastructure or economic activities - will not be repeated by them until a peace agreement has been signed..

The G8 communique amounts to nothing more than a motherhood statement with one notable exception - it does not endorse the two state solution as the only solution to the conflict. Given the difficulties in negotiating such a solution after seventy two years of international efforts trying to do so, this assessment represents a welcome acceptance of reality and lays the way open for alternative solutions to be proposed or adopted by the G8 leaders as the two state solution continues its slide to its inevitable denouement.

Palesine - Freeze Settlements Or Freeze Negotiations?

[Published July 2009]

The demand by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Israel freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank including “natural growth” has now been endorsed at a meeting of the Quartet - America, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - held at Trieste on 26 June 2009.

However that was not the only demand made by the Quartet - although reading the myriad media reports of that meeting one could be excused for imagining it was the sole subject of discussion.

The communique issued by the Quartet contained the following notable demand:
“Noting the detrimental effect of Palestinian divisions and underscoring its desire for these divisions to be overcome, the Quartet called on all Palestinians to commit themselves to non- violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Restoring Palestinian unity based on Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) commitments would be an important factor in this process. while facilitating reconstruction of Gaza and the organization of elections. The Quartet expressed support on this basis, for the ongoing mediation efforts of Egypt and the Arab League for Palestinian reconciliation behind President Abbas and appealed to all States in the region to play a constructive role in supporting the reconciliation process”

Clearly the Quartet itself has come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas is a toothless tiger incapable of negotiating and concluding any form of binding peace treaty with Israel whilst Fatah and Hamas remain engaged in their deadly and divisive power struggle.

Any suggestion that Israel should freeze settlement activity in these circumstances of complete Palestinian chaos and disunity seems premature to say the least.

The Quartet is talking pie in the sky if it believes Hamas will reconcile behind President Abbas. Hamas regards itself as the legitimately elected Government of the Palestinians. Hamas will not abandon that position in favour of anyone - especially President Abbas - who illegitimately clings to the office of President after his term of office expired in January.

Under the Palestinian Authority constitution, if the office of the president is considered vacant, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council - Abdel Aziz Dweik - serves as interim President for 60 days until new elections are held.

Hamas legislator Salem Salemeh made Hamas’ view abundantly clear on 25 June when he stated:
“Dweik is the real president of the Palestinians after Abbas’ term in office expired in January”
[Al-Manar TV 25 June 2009]

His statement followed an attempt by Dweik to hold a press conference inside the Palestinian Legislative Chamber on 24 June that was prevented by Fatah legislators on the grounds that only Abbas had the authority to call such a meeting.

In this politically charged and uncertain environment there is simply no credible negotiating partner to sit down with Israel to implement the obligations under the Road Map.

The prospects of further negotiations at this point in time having any possible chance of success have been highlighted by the Quartet’s own statement that :
“these negotiations must result in the end of all claims.”

Neither Hamas nor Fatah will ever be able to abandon their claim for millions of Arabs and their descendants to emigrate to Israel. It is written into their respective constitutions and forms the very essence of their continued functioning and existence . To concede that right in negotiations would be political suicide and impossible to abandon by either Fatah or Hamas with any certainty that such claim would not be prosecuted at a later time in changed circumstances.

The Quartet continues to persist with the simplistic notion affirmed in its statement that :
“the only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one that ends the occupation began in 1967 and fulfils the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security”

This solution was first proposed in 1937, again in 1947 and could have been achieved at any time between 1948-1967 after Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza were driven out by the invading Arab armies of Jordan and Egypt.

Tried again in 1993, 2000 and now under the Road Map since 2003 - the Quartet have backed themselves into a corner in again persisting with the claim that this is “the only viable solution.”.

There are other alternative solutions to “ending the occupation” of West Bank and Gazan Arabs that remain unexplored and unaddressed which do not have to involve the creation of a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

The Quartet’s stubborn insistence on its solution being the only viable solution indicates the bankruptcy of its thinking. It exposes the Quartet’s inability to adjust to the current political void in the Palestinian leadership that has totally destroyed any prospects of the Quartet’s solution even remotely occurring whilst the reconciliation process urged by the Quartet remains unfulfilled.

To expect any other outcome in negotiations whilst the West Bank and Gaza remain split into separate Fatah and Hamas fiefdoms is naïve in the extreme.

In these circumstances any demand to freeze Israeli settlements is misdirected and mistimed.

Freezing the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority until Hamas and Fatah sort out their differences makes far more sense.

To freeze settlements - in an attempt to induce the political eunuch that the Palestinian Authority presently represents to enter into meaningless and ineffectual negotiations - would be a grave error of judgment on Israel’s part.

There is no point in Israel negotiating with the Palestinian Authority at this point of time given the Palestinian Authority’s lack of legitimacy to enter into any binding commitments that it would ever have the power to enforce.

Freezing the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority until Hamas and Fatah sort out their differences is an imperative to defrosting any attempt by the Quartet to see its solution realised - as remote and distant as that prospect exists after six years of wasted effort so far.

The sooner the Quartet starts to face this reality, the sooner it may gain some credibility in its attempt to bring an end to the 120 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs over the territory once called Palestine.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Palestine - Obama And Netanyahu On Journey To Nowhere

[Published June 2009]

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu appear on the surface to have found common ground in agreeing on the need to end the 120 years old conflict between Arabs and Jews by creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.

However any basis for optimism on this score following their major speeches within ten days of each other is sorely misplaced.

Their apparent unanimity of purpose must be compared to the euphoria greeting similar expeditions undertaken by former President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak in 2000-2001 and President Bush with Prime Ministers Sharon and Olmert between 2003-2008 in concert with the Palestinian Authority - an artificial entity created by the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Both sets of negotiations went nowhere and got nowhere. Those negotiations occurred for the most part under far more favourable political conditions than now exist.

The current power struggle for control of the Palestinian Authority between Hamas and Fatah,the division of power in Gaza and the West Bank between these two foes and their seeming inability to bury their differences represent major obstacles to the successful conclusion of any negotiating process between the Palestinian Authority and Israel and its subsequent maintenance and enforcement.

Even if Hamas and Fatah were to suddenly overcome their differences tomorrow Israel would not want to deal with a unified West Bank/Gaza government in which Hamas was a member.

Mr. Netanyahu’s conditions for agreeing to the creation of this additional Arab state require that it
(i) be demilitarized ,
(ii) have to accept Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel
(iii) have to agree to Israel having defensible borders
(iv) have to recognise Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people
(v) have to settle the problem of the Palestinian refugees outside the borders of Israel.
(vi) have no control over air space or sea lanes

It didn’t take long for senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to express his disbelief at this shopping list when he declared:
“Netanyahu will have to wait 1000 years for someone to agree to talk to him”

There was anger in the Arab world that Netanyahu should be publicly laying down his conditions in advance in an attempt to define the parameters of any future negotiations.

Yet the Arabs had publicly laid down their conditions for the acceptance of such a state in 1967 and haven’t changed or varied their negotiating position since then in demanding that
(i) such state be established on the entire area of land lost by Jordan and Egypt to Israel in 1967
(ii) Jerusalem be its capitol
(iii) millions of Arabs and their descendants be permitted to migrate to Israel.

Refusing to accept anything less has been the root cause of the breakdown of the previous two negotiating processes.

With the parties even further apart in their demands now in the face of Mr Netanyahu’s stated position - President Obama risks the real danger of failing to get the parties to the negotiating table at all.

In attempting to coax the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table Obama tersely told Israel:
“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

No attempt was made by President Obama to explain the basis for his making this statement.

He surely could not be ignorant of the provisions of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine 1922 which gave recognition to the right of close settlement by Jews in the West Bank This internationally sanctioned legal right did not die with the League of Nations but was expressly preserved by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter and remains as legitimate today as when it was first promulgated in 1922 .

Indeed the right to settle in the West Bank was exercised by Jews prior to 1948 and was only then abruptly halted after those Jews still living there were driven out following Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank during the War of Independence. Jewish settlement in the West Bank was not resumed until Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.

United Nations records attest to the critical importance of Article 80.

On 8 May 1947, Rabbi Abba Silver representing the Jewish Agency addressed the First (Political) Committee of the United Nations and he had this to say about Article 80:
“The Mandate [for Palestine], in its preamble, recognises “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and “the grounds for reconstituting” - I call your attention to the word “reconstituting” -“their national home in that country”.

These international commitments of a quarter of a century ago, which flowed from the recognition of historic rights and present needs, and upon which so much has already been built in Palestine by the Jewish people, cannot now be erased. You cannot turn back the hands of the clock of history.

Certainly, the United Nations, guided by the great principle proclaimed in its Charter, “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”, can never sanction the violation of treaties and of international law.

With this situation and similar situations in mind, a specific provision, you will recall, was written into the chapter of the Charter of the United Nations which deals with territories which might become trusteeship territories, and which is therefore especially applicable to territories now under mandate. This is Article 80 of the Charter…”

In evidence given to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine on 7 July 1947, David Ben Gurion as a representative of the Jewish Agency said of Article 80:
“This is the special Article of the Charter which applies to Palestine. It was introduced only because of Palestine.”

President Obama’s claim denying the legitimacy of the settlements therefore flies in the face of the Mandate and the United Nations Charter. He needs to justify his stance with a statement far more explanatory and detailed than his one line throwaway.

American Presidents never seem to learn from the failure of their predecessors. President Obama appears hell bent on joining them in pursing their failed goal of creating a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel.

That has proved for past Presidents - and will continue to prove for President Obama- to be simply unachievable.

Palestine - Twelve Billion Reasons To Change Direction

[Published June 2009]

International donors have now started to renege on US$12 billion dollars in pledges made by them in Paris in December 2007 and at Sharm El Sheikh in March this year. Their decision threatens to send the Palestinian Authority into financial meltdown and political oblivion.

The following circumstances have contributed to this situation:
1. The Palestinian Authority continues to reject any form of rapprochement with Hamas leaving the Arab civilian populations of the West Bank and Gaza under separate Arab administrations and political control.

2. Negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel have failed to procure the creation of a new Arab State between Jordan and Israel with little chance of those negotiations being reconvened. Offers made by Israel to bring this solution to fruition have been rebuffed by the Palestinian Authority which continues to maintain the same unchanged demands made by the Arab League for the last 42 years.

3. The global financial crisis has caused international donors to reconsider whether their dollars should now be directed to more worthy international projects that have a reasonable prospect of eventuating rather than run the risk of ending up in a bottomless pit pursuing a solution that so far has failed to get to first base despite the most intense international diplomacy ever seen to try and make it happen.

Donor resistance to meeting pledges publicly surfaced when the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee On Assistance For The Palestinians [AHLC]- Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Store - made an impassioned plea to donors attending last week’s meeting of the AHLC in Oslo on 8 and 9 June to not default in meeting their commitments.

The AHLC was established in 1993 following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Donor members have since then poured tens of billions of dollars into the West Bank and Gaza with very few benefits that can be readily ascertained. Much of the money has reportedly ended up in Swiss bank accounts instead of being used for the benefit of West Bank and Gaza’s Arab populations.

Donors attending the Oslo meeting last week had good reason for putting away their chequebooks when Mr Store told them:
“The mission of the AHLC can only be effective if it works in concert with a dedicated effort to forward the political process. And consequently - when the political process stalls, the majority of donors lack the necessary motivation to maintain their contributions.

Certainly tipping more money into the pool in the face of the current stalled political process appears be a most imprudent and reckless investment.

Mr Store further confirmed that
“an increasing number of donors are not living up to their pledges,”

that the
“Palestinian Authority is heading towards fundamental financial crisis” and “is hanging on by a thread.”

Mr Store urged donors to meet their pledges to prevent the demise of the Palestinan Authority saying:
“The international donor community’s support to the Palestinian Territory is in essence political, not humanitarian. Our aim is to help facilitate the creation of a two-state solution where Israeli occupation is replaced by a free and sovereign Palestinian State, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Without this clearly defined political horizon, donor commitment at the current level can hardly be sustained. Again I believe that continued lack of a political horizon can help explain why a growing number of donors are becoming lukewarm”

The AHLC’s defined political horizon has clearly failed to eventuate.

Many donors might well regard their donations as being humanitarian in nature to provide financial relief and assistance to the civilian population rather than political. Many could take the view that their donations should not now be used to prop up the Palestinian Authority in its struggle with Hamas for control of the West Bank and Gaza streets. Mr Store’s remarks could well have offended many donors and given them additional reason to stop meeting their pledges.

Mr Store told the donors:
“Sooner rather than later, the West Bank and Gaza must be reunified as indivisible parts of one territory, under one Authority … Because absent a modicum of Palestinian political and territorial unity, it will be exceedingly difficult to negotiate, let alone implement, a final-status agreement that stands a chance of ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”

In doing so Mr Store effectively exposed the weakness of President Obama’s efforts in Cairo the previous week urging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sit down and resume negotiations. The chances of getting an agreed agenda mutually acceptable to both parties is not going to happen.

Until the Palestinian Authority and Hamas resolve their differences and come up with a unified platform that recognizes the Jewish State of Israel, the prospects of getting Israel to positively respond to President Obama’s plea will prove to be a total waste of time and effort.

The AHLC needs to urgently review its two state political horizon because the reality of that ever occurring is now further away than ever. It cannot expect donors to maintain their financial commitments in the face of the total chaos and conflict that the divisions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority presently pose.

Perhaps Mr Store should be quietly whispering to Jordan whether it could make good use of the $12 billion dollars by replacing the Palestinian Authority and entering into negotiations with Israel to allocate sovereignty in the West Bank between Jordan and Israel.

Such a political horizon could result not only in the international donors being ready to meet their existing obligations but could well trigger an even greater financial response in the recognition that this way forward represents the most realistically attainable political solution which benefits not only Jews and Arabs but the donor countries themselves.

If the non-payment of pledges leads to the demise of the Palestinian Authority and the return of Jordan to the West Bank after previously having occupied it between 1948-1967 then perhaps such non-payments will signal the most effective international response available in helping to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs.

In a region where honouring obligations is rare the international donors would certainly be justified in deciding to end their relationship with the Palestinian Authority which has singularly failed to achieve the objective for which it was created in the euphoria of the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

Biting the hand that feeds you ultimately has its consequences - as the Palestinian Authority is now starting to see.

Palestine - Some Home Truths And Missed Opportunities

[Published June 2009]

Jews and Arabs are destined to become engaged in many years of further fighting, trauma and suffering unless President Obama does a complete backflip by adopting a different stance to that he expressed in his long awaited speech at Cairo University on 4 June 2009.

The President has jumped head first into a bottomless hole in unequivocally proposing to his Cairo audience that the two state solution - the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan - remains the “only resolution” to end the 130 years conflict between Jews and Arabs in relation to the territory once known as Palestine.

President Obama has conveniently chosen to ignore that 94% of former Palestine has already been divided into two states - the Jewish State of Israel (17%) and the Arab State of Jordan (77%) - with both of those States being parties to a peace treaty executed by them in 1994.

Sovereignty in the remaining 6% of former Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - still remains unallocated between Jews and Arabs.

The idea that sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza be divided other than between Jordan and Israel (and possibly Egypt) has resulted in a journey to nowhere for the last 62 years. President Obama has now joined former American Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush in embroiling himself in brokering a solution that has no possible chance of succeeding.

This has not been for want of trying by the international community or President Obama’s presidential predecessors.

Missed opportunities by the Arabs to create a separate independent sovereign Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza have been squandered on at least six notable occasions in the past 62 years:

1. When offered by the United Nations in 1947
2. During the 19 years between 1948-1967 that Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza - where not one Jew or Jewish town or village was located following the expulsion of all Jews living there as a consequence of the 1948 War of Independence
3. Between 1967-1988 when the Arabs refused to deal with or negotiate with Israel on the future of the West Bank and Gaza
4. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1993
5. In 2000 at Camp David in negotiations brokered by President Clinton between PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Barak
6. During negotiations conducted under President Bush’s Roadmap between 2003-2007 and under the Annapolis process between 2007-2008.

The failure to create a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel has been the result of the following intransigent and uncompromising Arab demands:

1. Their inability to accept the existence of a Jewish State in any part of former Palestine
2. Their refusal to receive anything less than 100% of the West Bank and Gaza
3. Their unwillingness to abandon their demand that millions of Arabs and their descendants be allowed to return and live in what is now Israel.

What magic formula President Obama intends to use to remove these barriers to achieving his two state solution was not articulated by him in Cairo.

Until he does so he is merely posturing and grandstanding, saying what the Arabs want to hear but remaining silent on what the Arabs need to do to make the President’s two state solution have any chance of getting off the ground.

President Obama’s approach to Jews living in the West Bank was hasty and ill considered as he told his applauding audience in Cairo:
“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)”

The Jews possess the entitlement in international law to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in the West Bank under the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine - an international trust that has been preserved under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

Anyone suggesting therefore that Jews do not have the inalienable right to live in the West Bank and reconstitute their National Home in areas designated by the Mandate where international sovereignty is yet to be determined is sliding on very thin ice. President Obama’s call to Israel to halt what has been conferred on the Jews by international law needs to be firmly resisted.

Whether that right should be exercised at this particular moment is a different issue. Denying that such a right exists does not help one iota in ending the conflict. In fact it exacerbates and fuels Arab intransigence in seeking sovereignty in every square centimetre of the West Bank and Gaza to the total exclusion of any Jewish claims.

President Obama failed to mention United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 337 and President Bush’s letter dated 14 April 2004 to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. These documents make it clear that Israel cannot be expected to return to the fragile armistice lines that existed in 1967.

Security remains the overriding concern for Israel as it seeks to protect its citizens from armed organizations and States that refuse and will never concede that Jews are entitled to have a state in their biblical ancestral and internationally recognised homeland.

Israel will not be returning to the 1967 armistice lines now or in the future. Until the Arabs accept this reality President Obama’s speech in Cairo will become just the latest in a long list of required reading by diplomats and university students enrolled in international relations courses trying to fathom out why it has been impossible to determine sovereignty in an area of land the size of Delaware for the last 62 years.

Well may they all shake their heads in disbelief.

Contrary to President Obama’s prescription the only solution that now has any chance of working is the division of sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between Israel, Jordan and Egypt determined in direct trilateral negotiations between those three states.

The sooner President Obama focuses his thoughts on this solution the sooner we might see an American President who will succeed where others before him have so ignominiously failed.

Palestine - Jordan Jittery But Not To Worry

[Published May 2009]

King Abdullah of Jordan has obviously got a bad attack of the jitters as Israeli politicians now focus their attention on Jordan returning to re-occupy the heavily Arab populated areas of the West Bank - as Jordan had previously done so successfully between 1948-1967.

The hysteria emanating from Jordan at such a suggestion indicates that Israel’s politicians have touched a raw nerve that Jordan has long tried to gloss over - the fact that Jordan comprises 77% of former Palestine and has a pivotal role to play in the West Bank if there is ever to be any hope of peace between Arabs and Jews.

Sixteen years of negotiations since 1993 aimed at creating a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan in the West Bank have proved a total failure. Yet the delusion that such a State could ever be created continues to be perpetuated by a very carefully scripted and media managed performance by King Abdullah that has apparently seduced President Obama into believing he will be able to succeed where others before him have ignominiously failed.

President Obama will be in for a rude shock and end up in the same state of disbelief and disillusionment that befell his predecessors Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush

Jordan’s Foreign Minister was concerned enough at the debate in the Knesset this week to summons Israel’s Ambassador and issue him with a strong protest:
“on a motion on a so-called two states for two peoples on the two banks of the Jordan River”

His concern might be well justified if he were reacting to the following statement made by Lebanese writer Farid Salman on OTV on 6 May 2009 as reported by Middle East Media Research Institute:
“Jordan is an invention. Transjordan, which was an emirate, and later became the Hashemite Kingdom, is part of Palestine. Britain created it in order to crown one of the sons of Hussein,from the Arabian Peninsula, over part of Greater Syria - over Palestine. This continues to be the perpetual reason… Without removing it, the Palestinian issue will not be resolved. It’s impossible.”

Farid Salman’s statement contains within it the call for the overthrow and removal of King Abdullah and an end to Hashemite rule.

President Jimmy Carter was moved to point out as long ago as 11 October 1982 in Time that Jordan as a nation was
“a contrivance arbitrarily devised by a few strokes of the pen.”

Again one could argue that Carter would not have been sorry to see Jordan’s Hashemite rulers disappear and the country be renamed Palestine.

However the current furor in Jordan over this week’s debate in the Knesset is an over reaction by a nervous Hashemite regime that sees the sword of Damocles hanging over the Hashemites every time someone mentions the origins and history of Jordan.

Jordan’s response has been topped by a remarkable outburst by Israel’s President Shimon Peres who has called the idea of two states for two peoples a
“baseless hallucination”
(Haartez 27 May)
The proposal that Jordan step in to fill the void left by the collapse of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is sound and represents the only alternative option now open to be pursued in trying to end the conflict between Jews and Arabs that has continued for the last 120 years.

There have been countless statements made by Arab leaders attesting to the fact that Jordan forms part of Palestine and that there is no distinction between a Palestinian and a Jordanian.

Abu Iyad was able to tell the Near East Report on 8 January 1990:
“When the Palestinian State and unity is established the Jordanian will be a Palestinian and the Palestinian a Jordanian”

Even Yasser Arafat was moved to admit in Der Spiegel in 1986:
“Indeed Palestinians and Jordanians are one people. No one can divide us”

It is clearly in Israel’s national interest that Jordan’s entry into the West Bank not result in the Hashemite regime being replaced by a rogue leadership. Jordan would have to be given security guarantees by Israel to prevent any such eventuality happening, which given the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan would surely be forthcoming.

A massive injection of international funds flowing to Jordan to enable the rehabilitation of the West Bank and advance the interests of the Arabs living there would revitalise the area and offer hope for real peace and co-operation between Jews and Arabs who would continue to live where they are without having to move or sell up.

The creation of Jordan may have been an invention or a contrivance but it exists as fact today and has survived to become the homeland of the Arabs of former Palestine. Extending its borders to embrace the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank is the master key to separating Jews and Arabs and removing the barriers and roadblocks that currently impede normal communication and contact between the Arab residents of the West Bank. Extending Jordanian citizenship will give them the right of self determination they have long sought to obtain.

The creation of the Palestinian Authority was another invention or contrivance that proved to be a total failure and now needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Jordan is a success story and the Hashemites are entitled to take full credit for what has been achieved since independence was granted in 1946.

The creation of a new Arab state between Jordan and Israel in the West Bank would be another invention or contrivance with no basis to support it historically, geographically or demographically. Rather than advance the cause of peace it would represent a threat to the continued existence of both Israel and Jordan.

King Abdullah might not relish being thrown into the spotlight. However he better get used to it.

Jordan’s role in resolving the conflict won’t go away.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Palestine - Pope Abandons Morality For Politics

[Published May 2009]

Pope Benedict has given Jews and Catholics throughout the world every reason to believe that if you can’t trust the Pope to keep an agreement then who can you trust?

The Pope on two separate occasions during his visit to the Holyland this week has seen fit to plunge into the world of Middle East politics using the long established tradition of saying one thing to the Jews and something very different to the Arabs.

On his arrival in Israel he declared:
“I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

His Jewish hosts would have welcomed the Pope’s use of the term “homeland” with no definite opinion being expressed by His Holiness on another State needing to be created between Israel and Jordan.

The Jews would have been happy to hear the borders had to be both secure and internationally recognized. This would support Israel’s stance in previous negotiations that any new Arab State between Israel and Jordan could not be established in 100% of the West Bank. You could even say the Pope was seen to be endorsing United Nations Resolution 242 which prescribes the very same formula.

Speaking in the presence of PLO Chief and extant President of the Palestinian Authority - Mahmoud Abbas - the Pope had changed his tune just two days later:
“Mr President, the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders,”

Gone were the secure borders. The homeland was to be sovereign, secure and at peace with its neighbours. No mention was made of who those neighbours might be,

The Arabs could be excused for interpreting this pronouncement as the Papal endorsement of the destruction of Israel and its replacement with one Palestinian state secure and at peace with its neighbours Jordan and Egypt.

One can only wonder what made the Pope make two such utterly contradictory statements in the space of forty eight hours.

“Popespeak” had reached new heights in totally confusing what the Pope intended to convey. If his words of wisdom were meant to be ambiguous and evasive the Pope certainly achieved his objective. Contradictory statements like these however don’t advance the peace process but only heighten and encourage the maintenance of different political stances adopted by the conflicting parties.

The real disappointment in the Pope’s remarks however came from the Pope’s cardinal breach of Clause 11(2) of the Agreement signed between Israel and the Holy See in 1993 which states:
“The Holy See while maintaining in every case the right to exercise its moral and spiritual teaching-office, deems it opportune to recall that owing to its own character, it is solemnly committed to remaining a stranger to all merely temporal conflicts, which principle applies specifically to disputed territories and unsettled borders.”

There is no ambiguity in these clear and precise words.

The inexcusable breach of these terms by the Pope in both of his addresses signifies the ease with which agreements can be abandoned - even by one recognized as occupying a position among the most moral held by any human being.

The Pope had properly told both his Arab and Jewish hosts that his visit was intended as a pilgrimage. He may well have been able to inspire them had he stuck firmly to that agenda and not plunged headlong into a minefield that continues to claim as victims the most powerful politicians on this planet.

His attempt to play the base political game and emulate the long line of politicians who have traced the same path in the Middle East speaking with forked tongues was a disaster.

Any claim by the Pope to become an independent interlocutor of moral authority disappeared with his intemperate statements breaching the Vatican’s own well defined guidelines.

The prospects of achieving any sort of peace agreement between the Jews and Arabs has now become more distant than ever.

The Pope’s constant host at his side throughout the visit was the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem - Archbishop Fouad Twal, Perhaps some clarity and meaning to the Pope’s thinking can be gauged by a statement made by Archbishop Twal to Vatican Radio on 21 June 2008:
“The majority of our priests, nuns, schools, families are in Jordan. We need to see a link to Jordan…”

Jordan indeed remains the key to solving the long running conflict between Jews and Arabs - be they Moslem or Christian

Until Jordan becomes fully engaged in any negotiations on the allocation of future sovereignty in the West Bank no possible prospects of meaningful progress can emerge.

Papal intrusion into politics is most unwise especially where the Pope in this case has made a specific commitment to remain detached from the current conflict.

In breaching rather than observing that commitment the Pope has failed the most basic of tests that human beings are asked to respect and observe - sticking to an agreement. His failure to do so is a matter of great regret.

Palestine - Abdullah's Plea Is Obama's Poisoned Tea

[Published April 2009]

“Mr Churchill, if you were my husband I’d poison your tea“. - Lady Nancy Astor
“And if you were my wife I would drink it” Winston Churchill

Jordan’s King Abdullah has offered American President Obama the proverbial cup of poisoned tea in His Majesty’s address to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on 24 April.

His Majesty sought to induce President Obama to take the first sip of the poisoned chalice when claiming:

“Every country in the Middle East, and perhaps even the world, sees the United States as being the key to achieving peace ….Now is the time for the United States to lead, to ensure no more time is wasted. Failing to act means that we will all lose. The status quo is simply untenable. The dangers are too many and too big to ignore.”

There needed to be in His Majesty’s view:
“An effective peace plan for 2009 and beyond - a plan of negotiations that can achieve concrete results quickly and stop the drift towards confrontation. I say plan, not process, for a reason. The very term “peace process“ is an “artifact of history“. When it was coined in the 1970’s, the idea was to break the decades of deadlock by taking an incremental approach. ..the old idea has seen its day. We have reached the time for the end -game, in which all sides can win"

In King Abdullah’s further view;
“ … the groundwork is there. The two-state settlement has been agreed by the parties and the entire international community… The path for peace can go only through the two-state solution. No other solution can offer the justice that people demand and respect. And no other solution can give people a reason to take risks peace requires.”

King Abdullah’s address is both deficient in its analysis yet encouraging in its prescription.

He has failed to recognize that Israel and Jordan - not the United States - hold the key to achieving peace for the following salient and compelling reasons:
1. Jordan comprises 77% of former Palestine

2. Jordan’s population overwhelmingly comprises Arabs born in Eastern or Western Palestine

3. Jordan and Israel are the two successor states in former Palestine exercising sovereignty over 94% of that territory. It is only in the West Bank and Gaza (6% of former Palestine) that sovereignty remains unallocated between Jews or Arabs.

King Abdullah’s view that the two state solution - the creation of a new sovereign Arab state between Israel and Jordan - is the only path to peace must be seriously questioned.

This proposed solution has been attempted and has failed - despite the most intensive efforts ever seen in international diplomacy over the last sixteen years. Led initially by the United States between 1993-2003 and thereafter by the Quartet - the United States ,the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations - this proposal has failed to achieve any breakthrough of even minimal proportions during the last sixteen years.

It also failed when rejected by the Arabs in 1937 and 1947. It could have happened at any time between 1948-1967 but was never even contemplated or pursued by the Arab League.

This dead horse has well and truly become an artefact of history along with the “peace process“ - and no amount of wishful thinking can bring it back to life. Events on the ground have made such a proposal impossible to achieve without massive human displacement and humanitarian suffering.

Three states - one Jewish and two Arab - in former Palestine - is not going to happen. To countenance that proposal would certainly invite possible claims to establish a second Jewish State in the West Bank or a third Arab State in Gaza. One can imagine the level of international support such proposals would receive.

The West Bank at the present time is no man's land - the Wild West of the Middle East - where no one exercises internationally recognized sovereignty.

However a plan of negotiations that can resolve sovereignty and achieve concrete results within the framework of a two state solution - one Jewish, one Arab ,- in former Palestine - without necessitating one person leaving his current home - should be encouraged and promoted as a welcome step in the right direction.

Jordan and Israel’s Peace Treaty signed in 1994 and their status as the Jewish and Arab successor States in Palestine provide the vehicle - and legal justification - for establishing such a plan of negotiations that can achieve results to end the “untenable status quo” in the West Bank by the simple expedient of redrawing the existing international boundary between Jordan and Israel.

In accordance with King Abdullah’s ideas, such a plan of negotiations can achieve concrete results quickly - involving as they would face to face negotiations between these two key players and immediately adjoining neighbours in the region for the last 60 years.

Viewed as a border dispute between two peaceful neighbours, the resolution of the current conflict takes on an entirely different perspective.

Perhaps creative American leadership - involving offers of diplomatic, military and financial assistance - can encourage such negotiations being undertaken between Jordan and Israel.

But America would do well to leave the conduct of any such negotiations to the chairmanship of someone else like the Secretary General of the United Nations.

America needs some time out from the tortuous peace processes that have engaged successive American Presidents with very little to show - except egg on their faces.

Winston Churchill - the principal architect for Jordan and Israel’s existence today because of his pivotal role in the creation of the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations in 1922 - might well be fearful that both Israel and Jordan would be eager to poison his tea today for creating the hostile environment in which they both currently find themselves. He might just drink it down to escape their protestations at what has subsequently occurred over the last 90 years.

President Obama is not yet in that position. He should quietly decline the proffered cup of tea from King Abdullah.

Instead he should suggest King Abdullah invite Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over to the Royal Palace for a quiet chat over a cup of tea to see if they can agree on this idea to give real meaning to King Abdullah’s remark to his Washington audience:
“It is time for a partnership, courage and action”

Netanyahu’s taster should still take a slurp first. You never know who you can trust these days.

Palestine - Pressure Points And Predictions

[Published April 2009]

“A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is but often prompts us to rearrange the past.”
Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983), The Passionate State of Mind, 1954

US special envoy George Mitchell has turned American foreign policy on its head following his latest visit to the Middle East.

In the space of 24 hours Mr Mitchell presented conflicting statements on President Obama’s supposed policy to settle the 130 years old conflict between Jews and Arabs over the territory once called Palestine.

Standing next to Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on 16 April 2009 Mr Mitchell declared
“U.S. policy favors in respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a two-state solution which will have a Palestinian state living in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel”

Speaking after his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the next day Mr Mitchell said:
“The US is committed to the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state, where the aspirations of the Palestinian people to control their own destiny are realized. We want the Arab peace initiative to be a part of the effort to reach this goal… A two-state solution is the only solution”

Suddenly overnight:
1. a favoured solution becomes the only solution.

2. the Arab peace initiative of 2002 (already having been rejected by Israel) is to be part of the effort to reach this goal when it was not mentioned the day before.

3. the new Palestinian state to be established must be sovereign and independent (though apparently now not necessarily democratic or contiguous because of the presently irreconcilable dispute between the rival Hamas and Fatah Governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank) and

4. Mr Mitchell just happened to overlook mentioning to President Abbas that this newly created Arab State would have to live in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel.

As an exercise in saying to his respective hosts what they each wanted to hear, Mr Mitchell may have been doing an excellent job.

However as an attempt to bring some resolution to the current conflict by telling both Jews and Arabs what the new American administration’s policy actually is - his visit can only be seen as a complete disaster and a waste of time.

America may not want to talk to Hamas but they can certainly find out what effect this mealy mouthed effort by Mr Mitchell had on Hamas by reading the reported remarks made by Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar on 17 April 2009 in his first public appearance since the Gaza offensive four months ago:
“We cannot, we will not and we will never recognize the enemy in any way shape or form”

His comments would no doubt be enthusiastically endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the 1.2 million Gazans who elected Hamas to power in 2006 and saw Fatah routed in Gaza in 2007. The enemy for Hamas is not only Israel, it is also Fatah.

If America now believes the two state solution is the only solution - then it can only come about if America brings pressure to bear on the Palestinian Authority and Israel to answer the following questions.
1. Is the Palestinian Authority prepared to recognize Israel as the Jewish National Home reconstituted pursuant to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter?

2. Does the Palestinian Authority intend to persist with its demand that every square centimeter of the West Bank be ceded to it by Israel or is it prepared to accept less in exchange for an equivalent land swap by Israel?

3. Is the Palestinian Authority still committed to former Arab residents of what is now Israel being given the right to return and live there and if so what would be the appropriate number Israel should accept?

4. Is Israel prepared to allow the creation of a 22nd Arab State between Israel and Jordan with full and unfettered access and control over its air space and maritime waters?

5 Is Israel prepared to remove all the Jewish residents of the West Bank. If not what number are they prepared to remove and from where?

6. Is Israel prepared to accept the return of any former Arab residents to live in Israel and if so how many?

7. Is Israel prepared to reconsider its stance on adopting the Arab peace initiative?

America - unequivocally and unambiguously - needs to present its own answers to both parties on these questions after first gauging their responses and then lay down its own terms as the price for America’s continuing involvement in helping the parties achieve a final resolution of their conflict.

Failure by America to elicit satisfactory and positive responses to these questions from the Palestinian Authority and Israel will only ensure that one can continue to predict with absolute certainty that the two state solution is not going to be the solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict.

Living the dream but experiencing the nightmare that has preceded this vision for the last 61 years has proved a dismal failure. How much longer will this farce continue to be paraded as the only solution to the conflict? It is about time that the parties put up or shut up.

Ignominious visits such as that undertaken by Mr Mitchell this week only underscore America’s need to get some answers from the parties to the above questions or vacate the scene - unless it completely revamps its thinking and starts to look at options other than the two state solution.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Palestine - Passover And Perfidy

[Published April 2009]

Jordan’s King Abdullah - in talks with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on 8 April - highlighted the importance of the role of Europe and the world community
“in pushing forward the peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides towards the establishment of a just peace based on relevant UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative.”

according to a royal court statement [RTT News 9 April 2009]

The King’s failure to include the Annapolis process - begun in 2007 - as part of such peace talks certainly amounts to an admission by him that Annapolis has been effectively dead and buried so far as he is concerned. He is to be congratulated for his recognition of the end of a process that was doomed to fail from the day it was announced.

His Majesty needs to elaborate on what he meant by the term “relevant UN resolutions”. Another royal court statement explaining and elaborating what resolutions King Abdullah had in mind would help clarify and explain his rather vague and presently unchallengeable remark.

The King was more precise in urging Europe and the world community to push forward the peace talks based on the Arab peace initiative.

However His Majesty is well aware that the Arab peace initiative - dreamt up by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 - has been rejected by Israel. He also knows that the initiative has been offered on a “take it or leave it basis “ by the Arab League preventing Israel making any possible amendment or modification to its terms.

King Abdullah’s current call for serious negotiations on the basis outlined to Mr. Miliband is therefore just a lot of hot air with no substance whatsoever. His present call will do nothing to help bring an end to the conflict between Jews and Arabs over the West Bank and Gaza- an area of land that once comprised 6% of the territory formerly called “Palestine“.

It was no doubt pure coincidence that King Abdullah’s meeting with David Miliband occurred on the eve of Passover - the Jewish festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian slavery and bondage .

David Miliband might therefore do better to focus on the real nature of the current dispute that caused him to meet with King Abdullah by considering the following statement of David Ben Gurion made to the United Nations Commission on the Partition of Palestine in 1947

“Three hundred years ago a ship called the Mayflower set sail to the New World. This was a great event in the history of England. Yet I wonder if there is one Englishman who knows at what time the ship set sail? Do the English know how many people embarked on the voyage? What quality of bread did they eat? Yet more than three thousand three hundred years ago, before the Mayflower set sail, the Jews left Egypt. Every Jew in the world, even in America or Soviet Russia, knows what kind of bread the Jews ate - Matza. Even today the Jews worldwide eat Matza on the 15th of Nisan. They retell the story of the Exodus and all of the troubles Jews have endured since being exiled, saying: This year, slaves, next year, free! This year here - Next year in Jerusalem, in Zion, in Eretz Yisrael. That is the nature of the Jews.”

If David Miliband does not have the answers to the Mayflower questions posed by Ben Gurion then he has a large department of public servants to help him find the answers.

Mr Miliband would however certainly be well aware of the perennial call made by the Jews - “next year in Jerusalem “ - that inspired the Balfour Declaration in 1917 calling for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”.

The League of Nations subsequent conferral on Great Britain in 1922 of the Mandate for Palestine gave recognition “to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”.

Few would have thought that just three months later 77% of Palestine would be closed by Great Britain to Jewish settlement and the establishment of the Jewish National Home and that the sovereign Arab State of Jordan (Transjordan as it was then called) would eventually be created on that major proportion of the territory of Palestine - free of any Jews whatsoever - just 24 years later.

This perfidious act by Great Britain in 1922 was dictated at the time by Arab pressure - as was an equally perfidious act in 1939 when Great Britain restricted the entry of Jews into Palestine - the prospective Jewish National Home - at a time when a safe haven for all Jews fleeing Nazi persecution was urgently needed.

Now once again 87 years later Arab pressure demands that a second Arab state be created on the remaining 6% of former Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - where sovereignty still remains unallocated between Arabs and Jews.

Great Britain has been prepared to turn history and international law on its head to encourage and support such a demand which has been impossible to achieve after 16 years of wasted diplomatic effort to make it occur. Arab intransigence has ensured - and will continue to ensure - its failure

David Miliband needs to take King Abdullah aside and quietly ask him one question :

“Your Majesty you now are the ruler of Jordan - 77% of Palestine - which we the British conferred on your family in 1922 and subsequently granted independence to in 1946. When will Jordan be prepared to enter into serious negotiations with Israel as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine to resolve the issue of sovereignty in the West .Bank and Gaza and so finally complete the division of Palestine into two sovereign States one Jewish - Israel and one Arab - Jordan?”

If he can get a definitive answer from King Abdullah Mr Miliband will have gone a long way to finally ending the conflict between Jews and Arabs over sovereignty in the former territory of Palestine and completing the work left unfinished when Great Britain handed back the Mandate to the United Nations in 1948.

No doubt Mr Miliband will find it hard to get a direct answer from King Abdullah. But he needs to do so if the current international demand for a “two state solution” is to have any meaningful or realistic hope of ever eventuating.

Meanwhile Jews the world over will continue to eat Matza and express thanks that they have been spared to personally see the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in its biblical homeland with Jerusalem as its capitol after 2000 years in exile and its continued existence as the one and only Jewish State in the world.

Paletine - Annapolis Aborted And Road Map Thwarted

[Published April 2009]

April Fools Day was an appropriate day for Israel’s newly elected Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to tell the world what every Government feared would happen when Benjamin Netanyahu formed Israel‘s new Government:

"There is one document that obligates us - and that’s not the Annapolis conference - it has no validity"

Showing a little more backbone than the spineless diplomats who had spent thousands of fruitless hours and involved their countries in pledging billions of dollars in progressing Annapolis , Mr Lieberman delivered a polite message to those who consider themselves the leading democracies in the world:

"The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis - nor did the Knesset,” Lieberman said.

“The one document that obligates Israel” - and he stressed that Israel is bound by its ratified commitment - “is the 2003 road map, officially called ‘A performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict"

The shock and horror at Mr Lieberman’s pronouncements displayed by such world leaders as Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy was ill considered and very hasty.

Had they taken some real time out from saving the world’s headlong plunge into depression - instead of making statements on the run - they would have been able to focus on what Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the gathering of world leaders assembled in Annapolis on 27 November 2007

"The negotiations will be based on previous agreements between us,UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338,the Roadmap and the 14 April 2004 letter from President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel."

Letters from Presidents to Prime Ministers are important documents and none was more important than the one President Bush wrote to Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 to procure Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza.

That letter made it clear - amongst many other commitments - that the Arabs could not expect to regain 100% of the West Bank and Gaza in the Annapolis negotiations. The Arabs however refused to play ball and insisted on 100% - not the 93% offered by Israel - plus an additional area from Israel’s sovereign territory to make up the remaining 7% that would be retained by Israel.

Instead of pressuring the Arabs to accept this proposal the Quartet - America, Russia, ,the European Union and the United Nations - sought to pressure Israel into more concessions that would have seen the West Bank ethnically cleansed of Jews who had returned to live in their biblical heartland since 1967 - after having been kicked out of there in 1948 by six invading Arab armies.

In going for Israel’s jugular the Quartet cut its own collective wrists and - with assured predictably - failed to get an agreed outcome by the Annapolis expiry date - 1 January 2009.

Crocodile tears are now the order of the day. Like the Annapolis Conference they are a total waste of time.

Remarkably the Quartet appears to have learnt nothing from the Annapolis journey to nowhere as it continues to persist with its call to make the West Bank a “No Jews “ zone - which is both racist and offensive in the extreme.

Perhaps these “world leaders” should now reflect on the only game in town - the Roadmap - and ponder why it has not got off the ground in the six years since it was first mooted and endorsed by the same intrepid Quartet - and why it will surely continue to languish and die on the vine.

Mr Lieberman failed to mention that the Roadmap had only been accepted by Israel with fourteen reservations expressed to President Bush on 25 May 2003.

The first of those reservations (quoted in part following) immediately indicates why the Roadmap will not succeed either:

"In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure, collection of all illegal weapons and their transfer to a third party for the sake of being removed from the area and destroyed, cessation of weapons smuggling and weapons production inside the Palestinian Authority, activation of the full prevention apparatus and cessation of incitement. There will be no progress to the second phase without the fulfillment of all above-mentioned conditions relating to the war against terror. The security plans to be implemented are the Tenet and Zinni plans."

The Roadmap is indeed performance based and the Arabs - and the Quartet - have got to get on the stage and play their parts if the Roadmap is to have any chance of being fulfilled.

There is nothing unambiguous in these demands - dismantle Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other terrrorist groups, end weapons smuggling and weapons production.

The Quartet needs to get serious - and soon. The Quartet’s special envoy - Tony Blair - needs to stop pussyfooting around and tell the Arabs to put up or shut up. No doubt he will retreat yet again from taking this principled stance.

Mr Lieberman may not be Foreign Minister for very long as he faces corruption charges that somehow seem to plague every prominent politician in Israel. But the course he has charted is one that can be followed with complete propriety by anyone who might succeed him.

International diplomacy is based on making and scrupulously abiding by what has been signed and agreed upon between parties to a conflict.

Israel sought nothing more than to have the parameters of the Annapolis negotiations honoured and observed. Those who now seek to pillory it for maintaining such a standard only demonstrate their inability and ignorance to comprehend and understand those parameters. Israel’s reservations to the Roadmap need to be understood if the next ten years is not to be spent in futile negotiations.

Perhaps the Quartet might now turn its attention to some critical international agreements that are binding on the Quartet and the rest of the world - the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

It is these two documents that lay the foundations for ending the conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours - the division of sovereignty in the West Bank between Israel and Jordan by redrawing the boundary between these two successor states in the territory once called Palestine.

The sooner the Quartet acts on these two forgotten documents, the sooner those crocodile tears might end.

Palestine - Netanyahu's Knockout Narrative

[Published March 2009]

As Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to form Israel’s next Government there are many politicians around the world hoping against hope that he fails in the mission entrusted to him by President Shimon Peres.

Mr Netanyahu is not cast in the mould of Israel’s current caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who clings to power without a party or a base of political support.

Netanyahu will come to the job - if he succeeds - with a firm parliamentary majority and a party solidly behind him that will enable him to attempt weave his own magic in trying to bring peace between Jews and Arabs.

He has a very different story and narrative to tell that has not been heard for a long time.

He does not favour the “two state solution” which would see the creation of a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan. He has seen 15 years of wasted effort trying to create such a state disappear down the diplomatic drain. This solution was always a fiction based on nothing in history, geography or demography to support or justify its creation.

Pursuing such a solution involved the creation of another fiction - the Palestinian Authority -which has mutated and produced the son of fiction - Hamas - and any multitude of offspring with any and every name one can dream up to glorify death, martyrdom and the end of Israel as the one and only Jewish state in the world.

Netanyahu favours a different kind of “two state solution” based on the allocation of sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan - a de facto position that existed between 1948-1967 until Jordan foolishly joined its Arab compatriots to wipe Israel off the face of the map and got soundly trounced in the process.

Israel has enjoyed a signed peace treaty with Jordan since 1994, That peace treaty has survived many pressures that could have easily seen it torn up and trashed. That it hasn’t is a tribute to both countries and demonstrates that Jews and Arabs can live at peace with each other even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Netahyahu’s narrative is neither novel nor new. However it is a narrative whose revival has become vitally urgent for one simple reason - there is no other solution that can break the current impasse short of war.

Netanyahu best encapsulated his views when he made the following statement to the United Nations on 11 December 1984.

"Clearly, in Eastern and Western Palestine, there are only two peoples, the Arabs and the Jews. Just as clearly, there are only two states in that area, Jordan and Israel. The Arab State of Jordan, containing some three million Arabs, does not allow a single Jew to live there. It also contains 4/5 of the territory originally allocated by this body’s predecessor, the League of Nations, for the Jewish National Home. The other State, Israel, has a population of over four million, of which one sixth is Arab. It contains less than 1/5 of the territory originally allocated to the Jews under the Mandate…. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Arabs of Palestine are lacking a state of their own. The demand for a second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine, and a 22nd Arab State in the world, is merely the latest attempt to push Israel back into the hopelessly vulnerable armistice lines of 1949."

The demography may have changed in the last 25 years but the history and geography haven’t

No amount of diplomatic doublespeak can gloss over the fact that in 1946 Jordan became an independent sovereign Arab State in 77% of historic Palestine - whilst Israel became an independent sovereign Jewish state in 17% of historic Palestine in 1948.

The remaining 6% - West Bank and Gaza - belongs to neither Jordan nor Israel. Dividing these last pockets of Palestine between Israel and Jordan {and possibly Egypt with whom Israel also has had a peace treaty since 1979) seems to have reasonable prospects of succeeding if the parties negotiate in good faith having regard to the existing populations of both Jews and Arabs living there at present.

Politicians are notorious for changing their minds but they don’t easily foresake basic historical and geographical realities.

Netanyahu will hopefully challenge the flawed logic of the Quartet - America- Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - in swallowing hook line and sinker the absurd notion that an Arab living in Ramallah is somehow religiously, ethnically, socially and culturally different from an Arab living in Amman - just one hour's drive away.

Why each needs a separate state to thrive and prosper in, to be independent and to exercise self determination remains unexplained. Why do they need two armies, two arsenals two governments and two bureaucracies? Why they can’t live together under the banner of one unified State where they presently reside and work- as they did between 1948-1967?

Arab spokesmen from Jordan’s King Hussein to PLO leader Abu Iyad endorsed the view decades ago that these Arabs were one people with one history and one fate.

Trying to quarantine Jordan from playing any active role in resolving the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza - and the return of Jordan to occupy the pre-eminent position it once possessed there - has been pure folly and resulted in death, injury and trauma for both Jews and Arabs over the past 40 years - and one could argue even longer - that could have been avoided.

Allowing Jordan to ignore or escape its responsibilities as one of the two successor State to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine has allowed a firm political base in international law to be undermined with the shallow thinking that has led to the collapse of the “two state solution” heralded with such fanfare by President Bush in 2003.

Diplomats with egg on their face are now readying themselves to push an equally irrational and fictitious plan - the Arab League Peace Initiative - to create the illusion and the mirage of peace.

They all need to be challenged - and Netanyahu has the knockout narrative to sock it to them.

Palestine - Clinton Comes Calling

[Published March 2009]

It didn’t take long for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a running jump into the quicksand which so spectacularly claimed her husband - President Bill Clinton - in 2000.

On her first visit to Israel this week Secretary of State Clinton also nominated President Obama as another candidate for the slippery slide into oblivion when she told Israel’s President Shimon Peres on March 3:

“During the [Sharm el Sheikh] conference, I emphasized President Obama’s and my commitment to working to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and our support for the Palestinian Authority of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.”

The two state solution - involving the creation of a 22nd Arab state between Israel, Jordan and Egypt - has been effectively pronounced dead and buried as a result of:

•the demise of the negotiating process begun in 2003 pursuant to the Roadmap endorsed by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations
•the failure to achieve the two state solution by the self imposed deadline of 31 December 2008.
•the departure from power of two of its main proponents - former US President George Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
•the loss of political power and control in Gaza by the Palestinian Authority and the PLO and their replacement as governing authority by Hamas.
•the probable formation of a Government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu - which will oppose any two state solution that accepts a fully sovereign and independent Arab state between Israel and Egypt

What rabbit out of the hat does Ms Clinton and her President think they can produce so as to succeed where so many before them have tried and failed abysmally over the last 15 years?

Continued reliance on the Roadmap to achieve the two state solution seems futile. President Obama would be loathe to promote his predecessor’s failed plan. Even he must realise that pursuing a plan that could not even get off the ground after six years of trying is an idea he should continue to pursue any further.

The unyielding and intransigent Arab negotiating demand made during the Roadmap negotiations that Israel cede any claim to 7% of the West Bank means that 500000 Jews would have to be kicked out of their homes for those negotiations to succeed. The Arab demand for 100% of the West Bank and Gaza has been repeated ad nauseam for the last 40 years and has been one of the central issues that has plagued every effort to create the two state solution.

Offers of land swaps between Israel and the West Bank have already been rejected in the Roadmap negotiations. Demographics now make such a two state solution impossible to achieve.

The Arabs must moderate their negotiating stance on this issue. There is no indication they have the slightest intention of doing so.

Perhaps the Secretary of State intends embarking on a romantic cavalcade through the Middle East in pursuit of the adoption of the proposals contained in the Arab League Initiative - dreamt up in 2002 by Saudi Arabia but sidelined as the parties embraced the Roadmap instead.

She will be disappointed. The Arab League Initiative contains a specific demand calling for Israel to cede any claims to even one square metre of the West Bank and Gaza.

The Arab League has made it clear that its proposal is a “take it or leave it” proposal - not subject to negotiation in any respect. Israel will have no choice but to “leave it” - if it does not wish to sign its own death warrant.

Perhaps Ms Clinton is fooling us all and in the best traditions of diplomatic doublespeak is using the term “two state solution” to mean the division of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan. This would see perhaps 90% of the West Bank become part of Jordan and the remaining 10% become part of Israel and represents the only possible breakthrough to end the long running conflict.

Ms Clinton and President Peres both seemed blissfully unaware of the threat posed by Hamas to Israel - and to Palestinian Authority President Abbas who was given the thumbs up by Ms Clinton at her meeting with President Peres.

As Ms Clinton stood side by side with President Peres trying to outdo him in their protestations of undying affection for each other - President Peres observed:

“… even now, they [Hamas] continue to fire. We don’t know the reasons why are they doing it. We don’t know the goals they want to achieve. We know their intentions, which is basically negative—to destroy peace.”

Regrettably the Secretary of State was unable to enlighten President Peres on Hamas’ declared intention to wipe Israel off the map by using Gaza as the forward staging post whilst at the same time undermining Abbas‘ legitimacy to head the Palestinian Authority.

Instead she soothingly replied:

“ … the continued rocket attacks against Israel must cease. I don’t, like Shimon [Peres], understand the provocation that Hamas is determined to present.”

In this scenario of total ignorance billions will be poured into Gaza only to see parts of it razed to the ground in a very short period. Nine hundred million dollars from a cash strapped US economy will disappear without trace as Israel continues to respond to these continuing indiscriminate Hamas rocket assaults on its civilian population centres.

Abbas has been reduced to the status of a political eunuch. US support for his continuing rule seems odd as diplomats from other nations line up to visit Gaza and enter into a dialogue with Hamas.

And so our intrepid Secretary of State had nothing better to say than admire President Peres for his determined efforts to seek peace over his lifetime by saying:

“I always come away from my times with you both inspired and encouraged to think more deeply and more broadly. And I also am silently challenged by your ceaseless optimism about the future.

This is a man for whom the expression “The glass is half full” was invented.”

Perhaps this expression could be equally applied to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. Their intentions to pursue peace are without doubt earnest, honourable and sincere.

One thing is certain however - they will need many full glasses to drown their sorrows as they unsuccessfully pursue the two state solution as the path to peace during their respective terms of office.

Palestine - Perpetual Pantomime Pursues Peace

[Published February 2009]

Benjamin Netanyahu has finally been given the go-ahead by Israel’s President Shimon Peres to try and form Israel’s next Government. This heralds the next round in the farce that passes for “the peace process” in the Middle East.

The solution to the problem - what to do with the 6% of Palestine that still belongs to no one - needs to take a new direction and Netanyahu intends to do just that.

Gone are most of the old cast - President George Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. They will be replaced by rising new stars President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who will be joined this time round by resurrected 90’s star Netanyahu and former bit player George Mitchell - both of whom have a chance to achieve real fame if they perform better than they did so long ago.

The PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas has just managed to hold on to his leading role but is being challenged by Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh - an enterprising upstart who has already assumed a lot of the lines once spoken exclusively by Abbas.

“Explosive and set to rocket to stardom” could be how his captive audience in Gaza might describe Haniyeh.

Haniyeh’s superstar aspirations have been dealt a blow as Paris, London and New York exclude him from centre stage . He had temporarily gone into hiding last month - to escape his Israeli critics. This followed his disastrous performance in Gaza resulting in his unpopularity increasing even further worldwide. Little has been heard from him since. But no doubt he is soon set to make a comeback. Old actors never die - they only put on different clothes and still act out the same roles.

Lurking in the wings are two understudies for the Arab lead roles - Egypt and Jordan. They could soon find themselves starring on the Gazan and the West Bank stages in a repeat of their unbroken record running performances between 1948-1967. They are presently reluctant to return to the stage so intensive negotiations to get them to sign on the bottom line will be required.

Every actor has his price and the bargaining will be hard. Holding on to power and survival in the global economic downturn are two fertile areas to be explored in concluding successful negotiations to get them back on stage again. The royal patronage afforded by Jordan’s King Abdullah could be just the catalyst to spark a real revival in a pantomime that has sadly lost the plot.

The latest attempt to revamp the tired old Roadmap script will prove to be a waste of time, energy and effort.

The Roadmap - a blockbuster written in 2003 in the best traditions of Hollywood and underwritten by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - has turned out to be a damp squib despite billions of dollars being spent to help it - and its principal actors - earning a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Arabs wanted 100% of the happy ending and were not prepared to share it with the Jews.

Now that’s not really negotiating - most would call it insanity . But then again nothing has changed in Arab thinking for the last 90 years.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee was not sucked into awarding the much sought after Prize to Bush’s Roadmap script following the disastrous decision in 1994 to award it prematurely to Shimon Peres, Yitzchak, Rabin and Yasser Arafat for their starring performances in the Roadmap’s forerunner - Oslo.

Born to great acclaim in 1993 on the White House stage before a television audience of billions and a host of VIP’s sitting in the front stalls to witness the performance live - Oslo was to disappear some six years later in a welter of recriminations as the temperamental actors spat their dummies and stormed off the stage.

History has now repeated itself with the demise of the Roadmap. However this time the actors have quietly left the stage with no encores as the curtain descended on yet another failed attempt to create a box office success.

The Arab Peace Initiative - written in 2002 and now enthusiastically promoted by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference - has been touted as the new script to get the show on the road again and the crowds through the turnstiles.

This was made very clear by PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo in a press release to Ma’an News Agency on 12 February when he announced:

"Our options are clear toward the coming Israeli Government. [The PLO] will not deal with any new Israeli Government if it does not respond to the Arab Peace Initiative and halt settlement expansion.

US President Barack Obama, his Middle East Envoy, George Mitchell, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton know full well the obstacles preventing accomplishing a just solution to the establishment of a Palestinian State.

These obstacles were not set up by the Palestinians and we will not accept an alternative economic solution to the political situation.

Anyone who thinks that we, the Palestinians and the Arabs, are out of options - is mistaken “

The Arab Peace Initiative was rejected by Israel five years ago precisely because it mandated Arab sovereign control in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza. It will be rejected again - for the same and many other reasons - not only by Netanyahu but by any new Government eventually formed in Israel.

Until the Arabs agree to divide the West Bank with the Jews, ticket sales to future performances of this ongoing farce will continue to plummet.

President Obama might do well to head off this flop just waiting to happen by introducing a new song (with apologies to Noel Coward) into the next staged production of this long running fiasco:

“Don’t put your plan on the stage dear Yasser Rabbo
Don’t put your plan on the stage
Its a bit of an ugly duckling
You must honestly confess
And the width of the plan would surely defeat
Its chances of success”

If the PLO don’t want to sing this song then the understudies - Egypt and Jordan - might just find themselves center stage in the glare of the spotlights much sooner than they think.

Palestine - The Lieberman Factor

[Published February 2009]

It has not taken long for media commentators to jump on the bandwagon and label the biggest winner in the Israeli elections - Avigdor Lieberman - as an “anti-Arab politician” (Scotsman 12 February) and a person “who holds abhorrent views” (Telegraph 12 February).

This form of generalised character assassination should be rejected and the media should be required to justify the policies of Lieberman that lead to those kind of general comments and labelling to be made.

The Telegraph has totally misrepresented and distorted Mr Lieberman’s policy in relation to resolving competing Arab and Jewish claims to the last 6% of the land once called Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - in which sovereignty still remains unallocated between Arabs and Jews more than 60 years after the other 94% was divided between Israel and Jordan.

Mr Lieberman’s policy on this issue was stated by the Telegraph in the following terms:

“Mr Lieberman thinks that what we call the “peace process” has been a mistake from the start. Put simply, Mr Lieberman rejects every facet of President Barack Obama’s thinking on the Middle East. When the nationalist leader has real power in Israel, the country could find itself on a collision course with America’s new administration.

The following official policy of Lieberman’s party - Yisrael Beytenu - however tells a different story:

“Trading Spaces Moving The Border Between Us, Not Among Us.

The responsibility for primarily Arab areas such as Um-Al-Fahm and “the triangle” [presently in Israel - ed. comment] will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In parallel Israel will officially annex Jewish areas in Judea and Samaria [the West bank - ed. comment]. Israel is our home. Palestine is their home.”

This policy does not reject - indeed it confirms - President Obama’s thinking on the Middle East calling for a “two state solution” involving the creation of a new Arab State in the West Bank between Israel and Jordan.

Lieberman is not the rejectionist politician on “the peace process” that the Telegraph would ask its readers to believe .

Lieberman and Obama are clearly united in wanting a two state solution to the conflict resulting in the creation of a 22nd Arab state between Israel and Jordan.

Lieberman’s policy affirms that Yisrael Beytenu does not support Israel’s return to the 1967 armistice lines - incorrectly called “the 1967 borders” by the Telegraph. This particular use of incorrect terminology - embraced by Arab negotiators - serves as a stark reminder that you don’t always believe what you read.

Lieberman is not unique in embracing this policy.

His view is shared by:
1. every major political party in Israel,
2. President Bush and the former Israeli Government in the Roadmap negotiations and
3 is enshrined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

President Obama will not retreat from this position, ignore the Security Council Resolution and demand Israel cede 100% of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. The facts on the ground will simply not allow this to happen. 500000 Jews cannot be kicked out of their homes in the West Bank.

Indeed the reality is that no two state solution can possibly happen until the Arabs accept the inevitability that there will be no return by Israel to the 1967 armistice lines.

President Obama will need to bring the Arabs to this realisation if he is to succeed where President Bush failed. Given the intransigent stance by the Arab League on this issue for the last 40 years it would indeed be a miracle if he could bring about a change in Arab thinking on this fundamental issue.

Lieberman’s policy to cede Israeli sovereign territory to the Palestinian Authority that presently contains solely Arab residents in exchange for Israeli sovereignty over West Bank land that presently contains solely Jewish residents has come in for a fair amount of unjustified criticism.

Yet this policy calling for the separation - as far as is practically possible - of the Jewish and Arab populations has been at the heart of every proposal for partitioning Palestine between the Arabs and Jews since the Mandate for Palestine was first formulated in 1920.

It was the same policy that led to the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947.

The Peel Commission in 1937 eloquently summed up the benefits of partition in the following terms:

“The advantages to the Arabs of Partition on the lines we have proposed may be summarized as follows:—

(i) They obtain their national independence and can co-operate on an equal footing with the Arabs of the neighbouring countries in the cause of Arab unity and progress.

(ii) They are finally delivered from the fear of being swamped by the Jews, and from the possibility of ultimate subjection to Jewish rule.”

“The advantages of Partition to the Jews may be summarized as follows:—

(i) Partition secures the establishment of the Jewish National Home and relieves it from the possibility of its being subjected in the future to Arab rule.

(ii) Partition enables the Jews in the fullest sense to call their National Home their own; for it converts it into a Jewish State. Its citizens will be able to admit as many Jews into it as they themselves believe can be absorbed. They will attain the primary objective of Zionism—a Jewish nation, planted in Palestine, giving its nationals the same status in the world as other nations give theirs. They will cease at last to live a minority life.”

Lieberman’s policies tread well established precedents for resolving the Arab - Jewish conflict in former Palestine.

Perhaps media like the Telegraph should take the time and make the effort to read and understand Lieberman’s policy rather than engage in sensationalist journalism that only hinders rather than enhances the prospect of a resolution of this ongoing conflict between Arabs and Jews.

Palestine - Obama Quicksteps Into The Quicksand

[Published February 2009]

America’s Ambassador to Jordan - Robert Beecroft - lost no time in maintaining the illusion of momentum created by America’s Special Envoy to the Middle East - George Mitchell - following Mitchell’s departure from the region last week after first visit there as President Obama’s nominee.

Ambassador Beecroft gave a revealing interview to the Jordan Times on 5 February - coinciding with a report by Sandy Tolan in The Christian Science Monitor on 4 February - that the Roadmap negotiations to create a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan - the so called “two state solution” - were on “their death bed “.

This grim news had come in the wake of articles written by

(i) John Bolton - former US ambassador to the United Nations - in the Washington Post on 5 January,
(ii) Daniel Pipes - American International Analyst - in the Jerusalem Post on 6 January and
(iii) Professor Efraim Inbar - Director of the Begin-Sadat Center For Strategic Studies in Israel - in Ha’aretz on 26 January

proposing that Jordan and Egypt resume their 1948-1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza respectively to fill the void created by the failure of the Roadmap negotiations to bring about the two state solution by its highly publicized 31 December 2008 birth date.

Ambassador Beecroft’s response to such a proposal was short and sweet:

“Bolton is not part of the Government. He does not speak for the Government. The position of the US is very clear … the policy of the US is a two state solution - Israeli and Palestinian states [that live] side by side.

That is the end of the isssue …it has appeared in the press … but there is no official support for anything other than the two-state solution”

One would imagine that these were not “off the cuff” remarks made by a diplomat without the approval of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Beecroft is not your ordinary run of the mill diplomat. Prior to taking up his position in Jordan on July 17, 2008 he had served as Executive Assistant to Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and as Special Assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. He had previously been stationed at the U.S. embassies in Riyadh and Damascus.

Clearly his views echoed those of President Obama just one week earlier on Al Arabiya television::

QUESTION: Will it still be possible to see a Palestinian state—and you know the contours of it—within the first Obama administration?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it is possible for us to see a Palestinian state—I’m not going to put a time frame on it—that is contiguous, that allows freedom of movement for its people, that allows for trade with other countries, that allows the creation of businesses and commerce so that people have a better life…

Amazingly not one mention of the Roadmap or the intention to press on with the two state solution had been specifically made by Ms Clinton in the 63 pages of the transcript of the proceedings to confirm Ms Clinton’s appointment as Secretary of State on 13 January 2009.

In his own confirmation hearings before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 1 May 2008 Mr Beecroft had been most effusive in his praise of Jordan stating:

“We [America] have no closer friend or ally in the Arab world than Jordan….Jordan is committed to the Roadmap and is tangibly supporting the process..”

Jordan is clearly uncomfortable at such reports suggesting that it return to the West Bank.

Xinhua News Agency on 1 February reported Jordan’s King Abdullah telling George Mitchell :

“We need to act quickly - without wasting time - on negotiations based on two states and not be diverted by new proposals”

Whilst President Obama and Ambassador Beecroft have obliged Abdullah by endorsing America’s commitment to the two state solution, it is significant that neither mentioned the Roadmap as the route to follow to achieve that end result.

Only one other plan on the table seeks to attain that goal - the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative. This just happens to be King Abdullah’s preferred option.

However this Initiative has been rejected by Israel for the same reasons that have seen the downfall of the Roadmap negotiations - the Arab demands that Israel return to the 1967 armistice lines and that millions of Arabs (and their descendants) who fled to escape the 1948 War between Israel and six invading Arab armies be allowed to return and live in Israel.

Whilst current Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert has expressed an interest in negotiating with the Arab League on its proposal, the Arab League has indicated that it is not interested in any discussions and the proposal is offered on a “take it or leave it” basis.

Mr. Olmert bows out of politics next week and predictions appear to favour the election of a new right wing Government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu that would - like the current Government - not be prepared to agree to either of these Arab demands.

President Obama will quickly find himself sinking in the quicksand that claimed former American Presidents - Carter, Clinton and Bush - if he embarks on trying to achieve any two state solution in the current political climate prevailing in the West Bank and Gaza.

Before he takes the plunge President Obama would do well to contemplate the following advice of respected author and journalist Tom Segev who has accurately summed up the current situation in an article written by him in this month’s Le Monde Diplomatique:

“All possible solutions for ultimate peace are already on the table - and none can be realised. Even Obama himself can do nothing to create final peace. Making life more liveable for this and the next generation seems the improvement that is most possible and the most urgent.”

Ambassador Beecroft’s peremptory rejection of Jordan returning to the West Bank to make life easier for the Arab residents living there - and thereby freeing them from Israeli occupation by restoring the status quo existing between 1948-1967 - may well turn out to have been too hasty and ill advised.

America may have to pressure its closest ally in the Arab world to do just that.

In the Middle East it is always preferable to dance to the slow waltz than the quickstep.