Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Middle East, Ban pledges to help settle all key issues within 24 months

In Middle East, Ban pledges to help settle all key issues within 24 months

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

20 March 2010 – Visiting Ramallah today where he witnessed the challenges Palestinians face first-hand, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his commitment to help the Israeli and Palestinian sides reach a settlement in the next two years.

“Indirect talks,” Mr. Ban told reporters after meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, “are not the end result,” and there are “no other alternatives” to direct negotiations.

The Secretary-General arrived in the region from Moscow, where he attended yesterday's gathering of the diplomatic Quartet, comprising the United Nations, the European Union (EU), Russia and the United States.

The group issued a joint statement in which it called for the sides to immediately resume talks to pave the way for a settlement “that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its neighbours.”

Mr. Ban today called for both parties to restart talks with “sincerity and flexibility,” noting the substantial progress that had been made before talks stalled more than one year ago.

The time is ripe, he said, for the sides, with the international community's backing, to “engage in proximity talks first then move forward to direct negotiations for a final settlement of all these issues.”

With Israel's recent announcement of plans to erect 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem having been strongly condemned by the Quartet, “I sincerely hope that the Israeli authorities refrain from taking such unilateral actions which may undermine and prejudice the final outcome of the negotiations,” the Secretary-General said.

He appealed for a “politically conducive atmosphere” to allow negotiations to progress on a foundation of mutual understanding.

Mr. Ban, who will visit Gaza tomorrow, welcomed the Israeli Government's approval yesterday of UN humanitarian projects, including the building of housing units, a flour mill and sewage treatment facilities.

“These are first positive steps, but much more needs to be done,” he said as he saw the so-called Area C, which covers 60 per cent of the West Bank and remains largely off limits to Palestinians.

“I am deeply concerned about this worsening humanitarian situation” for the Palestinian people, he said “I will urge again the Israeli authorities to remove roadblocks, ease these crossings and permits, these are some very important issues which we will continue to work on.”

Before attending a dinner in Jerusalem this evening hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, Mr. Ban told reporters that he welcomes the country's commitment to the two-State solution, but underscored the need for a settlement freeze.

“I know how much Israelis yearn for lasting security,” he said. “That is my goal too. I am here to say that peace is just not necessary and urgent. It is also achievable.”

The Secretary-General today also expressed his deep distress and concern over reports of the deaths of two Palestinian teenagers in the West Bank.

In the statement issued by his spokesperson in Jerusalem, he also condemned today's rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

“The Secretary-General strongly appeals for calm and an end to violence, particularly at this critical juncture.”

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Quartet calls for immediate resumption of Middle East peace talks

Friday, March 19, 2010

ATFP Backgrounder on Jerusalem in International Relations

March 19, 2010 - 5:00pm
ATFP Backgrounder on Jerusalem in International Relations
March 19, 2010

Numerous recent developments have reconfirmed the centrality of Jerusalem to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These developments are perceived as prejudicing permanent status issues and therefore complicating a resumption of talks.

Quartet Aims for Independent Palestinian State Within 24 Months

Quartet Aims for Independent Palestinian State Within 24 Months

Top international diplomats on Friday pushed for a final Middle East peace settlement that would create an independent Palestinian state within 24 months. The international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators also called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity following an Israeli announcement it planned to build new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.

The Quartet met in the Russian capital and issued a formal statement read by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The Quartet believes these negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the two parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation which began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors," he said.

Mr. Ban met other senior Quartet officials, from the United States, the European Union and Russia.

While the Quartet has no enforcement power, it called on the international community to contribute immediate, concrete, and sustained support to the Palestinian authority.

The statement also condemned Israel's recent announcement that it planned to build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The Quartet has consistently called for Israel to restrain settlement activity.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again urged both sides to show restraint.

"The goal of the Quartet, like the goal of the United States government, is to get the proximity talks re-launched. We do not think unilateral actions by either party are helpful," Clinton said.

Secretary Clinton also said the U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will visit the region following Friday's Quartet meeting. He will meet separately with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Following Friday's talks, the quartet also condemned Thursday's rocket attack from Gaza that killed a Thai farmer in Israel and reiterated a call for the immediate release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized by Gaza militants in 2006.

Political analyst Alexey Malashenko at the Moscow Carnegie Center told VOA the Quartet meeting can be summed up as a call to avoid extremist provocations.

Malashenko says the way out of the [Middle East conflict] is slow and painful and requires awareness that a solution will probably take decades. In the meantime, he adds, the effort entails conflict management, which is probably the most important thing today. In that respect, the analyst says the Quartet is doing a good thing.

The group also underscored the need for a solution to the continuing deterioration in Gaza that addresses Israel's legitimate security concerns. On Jerusalem, the Quartet recognized the city's importance not only for Israelis and Palestinians, but also for Jews, Muslims, Christians. Its status, according to the Quartet, can be secured through good faith negotiations for people around the world.

Urgent Action Needed from Churches for Middle East Peace

Support the Administration's Efforts

To Get Israelis & Palestinians Serious about Negotiations


This week the White House was inundated with emails from Christian Zionists after the Administration criticized Israel for announcing the approval of a plan to build 1,600 apartments in an east Jerusalem neighborhood.

As a CMEP supporter, you have a unique voice, one of moderation and compassion for the dignity of every human being. The White House and Congress need to hear from you so they know you appreciate their efforts to hold both sides accountable. Only a balanced approach will enable the US to guide both parties to peace.

The need for the resumption of meaningful negotiations to achieve a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is more urgent than ever. Just this week, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing the Commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), General Petraeus said, "The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR (area of responsibility)… Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas."

Tell your Representative that, as a Christian, you appreciate the Administration's efforts to encourage both parties to get serious about meaningful negotiations.

Need pertinent summaries of recent top news and opinion concerning Palestine and Israel: VISIT ATFP & sign up for their daily briefing...

World Press Roundup: Middle East News

Sign up to receive the World Press Roundup!

Keep up to date with what is going on in the Middle East with ATFP's World Press Roundup

Fallout from the settlement controversy continues: PM Netanyahu proposes confidence building measures with Palestinians; Special Envoy Mitchell will return to the region; Charles Krauthammer says Pres. Obama is picking on Israel but the Christian Science Monitor says settlements threaten world security; the Quartet calls for a Palestinian state within two years; most Israelis see Pres. Obama as friendly and fair; Anshel Pfeffer says Netanyahu has lost this fight and Doron Rosenblum says he is trying to please his father; Susie Becher says Israelis have to face the fact that dominating all Jerusalem and peace are incompatible; JJ Goldberg says the confrontation was inevitable; the journal of Shas calls present Obama "a stone throwing Palestinian." Israeli forces bomb Gaza. Palestinians say they're going to try to reduce dependence on Western training. Israel's Foreign Ministry is concerned it is being branded an apartheid state. The US imposes sanctions on Hamas-related organizations. The ADL slams Gen. David Petraeus for suggesting Israeli policies harm US interests, but Alan Philps says the US military in general is taking a harder line towards Israel.

March 18, 2010
Coverage continues to focus on the US-Israel settlement controversy: the US may be rethinking negotiation plans; the New York Times says the administration see an opportunity; Israel rejects US demands to limit construction in Jerusalem, but reports suggest an unannounced freeze may be imminent; Pres. Obama and Israeli Amb. Michael Oren both say there is not a crisis; Mustafa Barghouti says Palestinians should not stay on the sidelines; the Christian Science Monitor says the US must keep up the pressure; a Ha'aretz commentary says Israel needs tough love; Arabs say hopes in Obama are dwindling; Osman Mirghani says Arabs should take advantage of this opening; Francis Matthew says the issue is not just future building but existing settlements. The Forward looks of assertions that Israel's policies are threatening US interests. A rocket fired from Gaza kills a Thai worker in southern Israel, among claims of responsibility include an Al Qaeda-like organization. The first planned Palestinian city in the West Bank gets a US government grant. A Ha'aretz editorial says Israel's closure of West Bank nonviolent protest villages is an attack on free speech. Ali Jarbawi says the PA state and institution building program shows Palestinians are serious.

The Palestinian State and Institution Building Program
Documents detailing the state and institution building program of the 13th Palestinian Government, including the overall plan and priority interventions for 2010.

OF HARVEST AND FLIGHT ... a poem by Deema Shehabi



Beneath a wet harvest of stars in a Gaza sky,

my mother tells me how orchards
once hid the breach of fallen oranges,
and how during a glowing night

of beseeching God in prayer,
when the night nets every breath
of every prayer,
my uncle, a child then, took flight

from the roof of the house.
The vigilant earth had softened
just before his body fell to the ground,
but still there's no succumbing to flight's abandon;

our bodies keep falling on mattresses,
piles of them are laid out on living room floors
to sleep multitudes of wedding visitors:
the men in their gowns

taunt roosters until dusk,
while women taunt
with liquid harvest in their eyes,
and night spirits and soldiers

continue to search the house
between midnight and three in the morning.
On the night of my uncle's nuptial,
I watch my mother as she passes

a tray of cigarettes to rows of radiant guests
with a fuschia flower in her hair . . . .
Years before this, I found a photograph
of her sitting on my father's lap,

slender legs swept beneath her,
like willow filaments in river light.
His arm was firm around her waist;
his eyes bristled, as though the years of his youth

were borders holding him back
and waiting to be scattered.
Those were the years when my mother
drew curtains tightly over windows

to shut out the frost world of the Potomac;
she sifted through pieces of news
with her chest hunched over a radio,
as though each piece when found

became a story and within it
a space for holding our endless
debris. But in truth,
it was only 1967, during the war,

three years before I was born . . . .
But tonight, in Gaza beneath the stars,
I turn towards my mother
and ask her how a daughter

can possibly grow beyond
her mother's flight. There's no answer;
instead she leans over me
with unreadable long-ago eyes

and points to the old wall:
the unbolting of our roots there,
beside this bitter lemon tree,
and here was the crumbling

of the house of jasmine
arching over doorways,
the house of roosters
and child-flight legends,

this house of girls
with eyes like simmering seeds.

© by Deema K. Shehabi


Deema Shehabi

Flight Over Water

Light in the Orchard

Deema K. Shehabi

Portrait of Summer in Bossey

Lights Across the Dead Sea

Deema K. Shehabi is a writer, editor, and poet. She grew up in the Arab world and attended college in the US, where she received an MA in journalism. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in several anthologies and literary journals including the Atlanta Review, The Poetry of Arab Women, Crab Orchard, DMQ Review, Flyway, The Mississippi Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She currently resides in Northern California with her husband and two sons.
~ poet Deema Shehabi.
Palestinian Americans
Deema Shehabi: Poet and editor

To interview Deema Shehabi contact the IMEU at 714-368-0300 or

Acclaimed Palestinian-American poet and editor Deema Shehabi aspires to offer poetry that is both aesthetically crafted and that tells the Palestinian narrative. "People have a tendency to dehumanize one another," Shehabi says. "The Palestinian experience provides a vastness and a broad context that can reaffirm our human values because it constantly challenges narrowly constructed notions of nationalism, patriotism, and the like."

Shehabi was born in Kuwait in 1970. She came to the United States in 1988 to attend Tufts University, where she received a BA in history and international relations. In 1993, she received an MS in Journalism from Boston University.

Shehabi says her poetry is "inspired by a sense of loss, combined with the tragedy of the Palestinian experience." Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals including The Atlanta Review, Bat City Review, Crab Orchard, The Mississippi Review, Drunken Boat, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and the Kenyon Review. She has published works in anthologies such as The Poetry of Arab Women and Contemporary Arab-American Poetry and has been nominated for a Pushcart prize. Deema Shehabi has also worked in writing and editing for several book publishers and magazines, including Ulysses Press, Nuclear Times, and most recently, Veggie Life where she was managing editor.

Shehabi's father hails from Jerusalem, and her mother is from Gaza. She has visited both Palestinian cities with her family on numerous occasions. Her earliest memory was the contrast between the sparse landscapes of Kuwait and the "lushness of the orange and lemon groves" that she saw in Gaza when she visited there. "It was heaven," she says.

Deema Shehabi also recalls an experience that took place at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv when she visited at age 9. "When we arrived, I could see my uncle waiting behind the glass on the other side to greet us" she explains. "At the same time I was aware of this intense tension between my mother and the Israeli interrogator." Shehabi says that the two extreme emotions encapsulated in that moment -- the excitement about seeing relatives combined with the palpable hostility between the interrogator and her mother -- left its mark. The experience even informs her writing today.

Currently, Shehabi is working on a new collection of poems and is Vice President for the Radius of Arab-American Writers (RAWI). She plans to establish a contemporary reading series for Arab Americans in the future.


UNWRA Photo gallery: Mud brick houses in Gaza

Photo gallery: Mud brick houses in Gaza

18 March 2009

More than 4,036 houses in the Gaza Strip were totally destroyed or damaged beyond repair in Israel’s 23-day military conflict in late 2008 and early 2009.

Rebuilding these homes has been almost impossible because Israel has not allowed cement and building materials into Gaza since June 2007, saying they could be used for military purposes.

View the photo gallery

A new project by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aims to build around 120 mud-brick houses for dozens of homeless families in the next few months. Each house costs about US$10,000 and takes three months to build.

While the houses offer better conditions than tents and can stand for 100 years, they are not meant as a long-term solution.


Mud brick houses in Gaza

UNRWA and the Blue Balloon

Gaza Games

The Flight: 1948

Flying High

Running Dry

Camp Life

Photo archive