Friday, October 9, 2009
| 8 - 14 October 2009|
Issue No. 967
A different day
Sir -- Things have changed over the past decade between Palestinians and the United States, and much for the better. Yasser Arafat was enticed to attend the Camp David meeting in 2000 with the promise that he would not be blamed if it failed. It did, and he was. President Mahmoud Abbas was recently invited to attend the New York meeting without any such promise. He was not blamed, and the meeting was not a failure.
The meeting dealt with both an immediate crisis and a long term strategic goal. The crisis was generated by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's refusal to budge on the total settlement freeze proposed by the US administration and by Abbas refusing to negotiate without it.
Entering the trilateral meeting, the Palestinians had no expectations that President Barack Obama could deliver a 100 per cent freeze or even find a way out of the crisis, let alone offer a commitment and a mechanism to advance a major strategic goal. However, Obama refused to yield on his own demand for a freeze, set it aside for now, and responded by demanding an even more ambitious and strategic goal: the resumption of final status issues, which Netanyahu did not exactly seek. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama spelled out the parameters for these negotiations: security for all, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. And to add clarity, he said the goal was to end the occupation that began in 1967, and declared settlement activity illegitimate.
Netanyahu may have won the first round on freezing the settlements, but he lost the case on their legitimacy. Moreover, the end game is about establishing a Palestinian state, and that is very much in play. Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution, now twice expressed in official pronouncements, will be seriously tested in new negotiations.
He stymied the quest for a settlement freeze, but he has yet to prove that his opposition was to this one specific issue, rather than to negotiating a genuine end to the conflict.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
from my Senator:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding the state of affairs in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Having recently returned from a visit to the Middle East, where I met with Israeli and Arab leaders, I believe that Israel and its rivals are ready to take a rational step toward peace. But it won't happen unless the United States steps in and acts as a catalyst. Only the United States possesses the authority and the trust -- muted though it may be -- to bring the contending sides together and reach a comprehensive agreement based on a two-state formula.
The precedents are there. In the Yom Kippur War, it was the United States that negotiated the armistice and brought about disengagement. The historic Camp David Accords, pledging Israel's return of the Sinai, would not have happened without the leadership of President Jimmy Carter. President Bill Clinton came within a hair's breadth of forging a comprehensive settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I have long urged a renewed U.S. role in stimulating dialogue between Israel and Syria, as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority. For the past eight years, the United States has played a subdued role, emerging occasionally to encourage the sides to talk.
President Barack Obama's appointment of special envoys to the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan signals a dramatic shift from the detachment of the Bush years. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed this new approach when she declared in her confirmation hearings: "Despite the seemingly intractable problems in the Middle East, we cannot give up on peace." I personally welcome this return to an activist U.S. role. The world should, too.
The Obama administration takes office at a time when the current conflict may move each side closer to compromise if it doesn't drive them further apart. For Israel, that means cessation of hostilities, withdrawal and steps toward a Palestinian state. For Hamas, it means an end to the rocket attacks and acceptance of Israel's right to exist.
During my meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in Damascus in December 2008, there was a clearly articulated readiness to resume stalled negotiations under Turkish sponsorship once the Israeli-Hamas conflict ends. President Assad was engaged and welcoming of the prospect.
The battle with Hamas has interrupted, but not derailed, the peace process. It is significant that not one of Israel's adversaries, with the exception of Iran, sided with Hamas' rocket attacks. Egypt backed the Israeli action, noting the aggressive stance taken by Hamas. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad conceded that Israel had acted in self-defense.
And while there has been widespread anger over the scope of Israel's response, reflecting the mood on the Arab street, there has also been recognition of Israel's right to defend itself. President Assad expressly said that he recognized Israel's security interests.
Forty-five years ago, John F. Kennedy told graduating seniors at American University that peace was the "necessary rational end of rational man." He continued, "peace does not require that each love his neighbor; it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance." This is a pragmatic formula that should suit rational men in pursuit of rational self- interests.
Thank you again for writing. The concerns of my constituents are of great importance to me, and I rely on you and other Pennsylvanians to inform me of your views. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My letter to The Daily Star RE Credit Barack Obama with resolve on a Palestinian state By Hussein Ibish
Excellent to see "Credit Barack Obama with resolve on a Palestinian state" By Hussein Ibish. I like Ibish's Ibishblog www.ibishblog.com and his many thoughtful contributions to a very difficult and often confusing conversation concerning Palestine- and America. His most recent blog post today is a wise warning: Palestine on the brink: only a quick de-escalation can prevent an explosion
It really would be a horrible and senseless tragedy, if after all these years of valiantly struggling to be free, the remnants left of historic Palestine end up totally sabotaged, torn asunder and destroyed by various extremists and hate mongers who scorn the current efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace for Israel and Palestine based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
Anne Selden Annab
Donated By: Helen Zughaib
Limited Edition piece of a set of twenty, done by Lebanese-American artist Helen Zughaib. U.S. President Barack Obama donated the original piece to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. Features nontraditional use of space and perspective.
Bid Increments: $100
Market Value: $1,600.00
The Gala will feature a silent auction of approximately 150 works of art and crafts. For more information on the auction and the items available:
To view the Gala Host Committee:
For more information:
To Purchase Tickets online:
Gala 2009: Palestine Alongside Israel: Liberty, Security, Prosperity
Media contacts: Hussein Ibish, (202) 438-7297
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
5 October 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Palestine Rights Bureau Says Situation in East Jerusalem ‘Deeply Disturbing’
This statement was issued today by the bureau of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People on the situation in occupied East Jerusalem:
Further to the statement by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People of 19 May 2009, expressing concern about illegal and provocative Israeli policies and measures in occupied East Jerusalem, the bureau of the Committee is once again, compelled to voice its alarm about recent developments in the city.
The situation in East Jerusalem is deeply disturbing. The Israeli authorities continue to expand illegal settlements in and around East Jerusalem, as well as take discriminatory measures against the city’s Palestinian residents. On 2 August, following a decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice, Israeli security forces had forcibly evicted nine Palestinian families -- 53 refugees registered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), including 20 children -- from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Their property was handed over to a settler organization.
Moreover, on 7 September, Defence Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of 455 new settlement units. On the same day, the Israel Land Administration published tenders for the construction of 486 units in the “Pisgat Ze’ev” settlement. There are also plans to build 14,000 housing units in the area of the Palestinian village of Al-Walaja, south-west Jerusalem, which would become the largest settlement project in the vicinity of East Jerusalem since the construction of the “Pisgat Ze’ev”, “Gilo” and “Har Homa” settlements.
Most recently, the violent incidents at the Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound demonstrate how tense and explosive the situation in the city is. Any illegal or provocative actions, in particular at or near the city’s holy sites, are prone to escalate into large-scale violence with far-reaching implications.
The bureau of the Committee states most emphatically that continued house demolitions, eviction of Palestinian residents, settlement construction, transfer of settlers or any other legal or administrative measures aimed at altering the status and physical and demographic character of occupied East Jerusalem constitute violations of international law and must be rescinded by the occupying Power. These unilateral policies and actions also sabotage the important efforts by the Quartet and its partners to relaunch permanent status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Moreover, they call into question the credibility of official declarations by the Israeli Government regarding its readiness to resume serious negotiations with the declared goal of reaching a two-State solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders.
East Jerusalem remains part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Achieving a negotiated solution of the question of Jerusalem based on international law and relevant United Nations resolutions is absolutely essential for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and crucial for a durable peace in the whole region. The bureau of the Committee stresses that in the absence of the political will on the part of the Israeli Government to adhere to its obligations, the international community must shoulder the responsibility of ensuring respect for the norms of international law.
The bureau of the Committee also urges the Security Council to implement its own resolutions on the question of Jerusalem. The members of the Quartet must also ensure the implementation by the parties of their obligations under the Road Map. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, for its part, pledges to continue to work in support of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution of the question of Palestine. The status and the future of the Holy City of Jerusalem remain an important integral part of any such settlement.
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Monday, October 5, 2009
Palestinians should trust Obama
October 4, 2009
THINGS have changed over the past decade between Palestinians and the United States, and much for the better. Yasser Arafat was enticed to attend the Camp David meeting in 2000 with the promise that he would not be blamed if it failed. It did, and he was. Last week Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was invited to attend the New York meeting without any such promise. He was not blamed, and the meeting was not a failure.
The meeting dealt with both an immediate crisis and a long-term strategic goal.
The crisis was generated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to budge on the total settlement freeze proposed by the US administration and by Abbas refusing to negotiate without it.
Entering the trilateral meeting, the Palestinians had no expectations that US President Barack Obama could deliver a 100 percent freeze or even find a way out of the crisis, let alone offer a commitment and a mechanism to advance a major strategic goal.
However, Obama refused to yield on his own demand for a freeze, set it aside for now, and responded by demanding an even more ambitious and strategic goal — the resumption of final-status issues, which Netanyahu did not exactly seek. In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Obama spelled out the parameters for these negotiations: Security for all, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. And to add clarity, he said the goal was to end the occupation that began in 1967, and declared settlement activity illegitimate.
Netanyahu may have won the first round on freezing the settlements, but he lost the case on their legitimacy. Moreover, the endgame is about establishing a Palestinian state, and that is very much in play. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution, now twice expressed in official pronouncements, will be seriously tested in new negotiations.
He stymied the quest for a settlement freeze, but he has yet to prove that his opposition was to this one specific issue, rather than to negotiating a genuine end to the conflict. Many parties have yet to be convinced that Israel is serious about ending the conflict because it thinks that it has an inexhaustible base of American support, even if it takes positions that are not aligned with the US national interest.
However, the strategic commitment by the US to Israel does not extend to its occupation of Palestinian land. Obama has made it unmistakably clear that the two-state policy is real, and that he is ready to take political risks to make it work.
The Palestinians know they cannot afford to loose the support of the American president, especially since he has called for immediate negotiations on all the issues, including Jerusalem, deemed settlement expansion illegitimate and invited them to work out the terms of reference. This package offers the Palestinians an acceptable way to resume negotiations.
Palestinians should continue to insist on a full settlement freeze. However to refuse to negotiate without it will simply mean there will be no negotiations, which cannot conceivably serve Palestinian interest. Their historic doubts about Netanyahu, no matter how justified, should not lead to an impasse they will pay for disproportionately.
When Obama asks the Palestinians to put an end to incitement, they should pay attention. It is significant that he found nothing else to ask of them. Outmoded rhetoric in the Arab media may score domestic political points, but comes at a withering cost to the Palestinian cause diplomatically.
The Israeli prime minister has defied the US president by refusing to agree to a complete settlement freeze. This has real consequences for Israel and its leadership. They may be hoping that Obama’s political fortunes sour given the challenges facing his administration and that they can garner more support in the US political system, or that the Palestinians will inadvertently bail them out and help blunt US demands.
They could well lose such a gamble. Obama might continue to be popular and remain insistent on resolving this issue. The American Jewish community is still solidly behind a two-state solution, as are the American people in general. Even a slight devaluation of the strategic relationship with the United States is a risk that Israeli leaders can ill afford.
Since there is no military solution available to either party, these two people must find a way to negotiate a means of living side by side in a narrow strip of land. And, since there cannot be meaningful negotiations without the active engagement of the United States, its policies and national interest are defining issues.
The evolving redefinition of US interests over the past decades inexorably led to official support for the creation of a Palestinian state by the Bush administration, and to the formation of the Quartet, which embodied international support. What we have now in this president and his administration, though they face a myriad of daunting challenges, is a leadership that offers the right policy and political will that might save the Israelis and Palestinians from their dysfunctional relationship.
What happens on the ground as negotiations resume is at least as important as the outcome of negotiations. The status quo — a one-state reality with that state occupying another, stateless, people — cannot be sustained.
The vigorous and proactive state institution-building program proposed by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is the most responsible and creative idea the Palestinians have put on the table since they accepted a two-state solution. The Quartet has just endorsed it. The United States should now mobilize its resources to make it work, and Israel would be wise not to stand in the way.
It seems that Obama is willing to spend resources and political capital to help the Palestinians create the infrastructure of their state, and negotiate its final status. His stand on the illegitimacy of settlement expansion and agreement on terms of reference for final-status talks should pave the way to renewed serious negotiations. After more than a decade of dramatic evolution, the United States led by Obama has finally become as close to an honest broker as the Palestinians can ever expect to be dealing with.