Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leaders must seize opportunity for peace and security... "The Arab League's peace initiative has regained relevance. The initial position between the parties is bleak, but the status quo is not an alternative. The Israelis and the Palestinians must now seize what is perhaps the last opportunity to create peace and security."

Gunilla Carlsson is Sweden's Minister for International
Development Cooperation.
By Gunilla Carlsson

As I now return to Palestine and Israel, I do so with increasing frustration that the chance of a two-state solution risks being squandered.

Developments on the ground speak for themselves. The illegal settlements are expanding and displacing Palestinians who are forced to endure daily harassment and blockades. Many people have to spend hours at checkpoints on their way to school or work. Some are plagued by the fear of being thrown out of house and home. In Gaza, almost total isolation continues.

Every year, the Palestinians' internal political divisions are growing, as is the violence. And on the other side of the barbed wire, the Israelis are living in growing insecurity and isolation, in a region in a process of rapid change.

There is a risk that this frustration will grow and that the world will turn its back on the Israelis and Palestinians. We have a joint responsibility for, and self-interest in, continuing to fight for peace in the Middle East. Twenty years after the Oslo Accords there is still a chance to reach a two-state solution. The United States is currently making significant efforts to enable the parties to return to the negotiating table. The EU is ready to support these negotiations.

The Arab League's peace initiative has regained relevance. The initial position between the parties is bleak, but the status quo is not an alternative. The Israelis and the Palestinians must now seize what is perhaps the last opportunity to create peace and security. Time is running out, and it is not a day too early.

Despite continued occupation and a lack of political progress, Palestinian state-building has advanced. The international community shares the assessment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that the Palestinian institutions live up to the demands that can be made of a functioning state. Today there is a basis -- albeit a fragile one -- for a Palestinian state.

A new strategy will soon be drafted for Sweden’s development cooperation with our Palestinian partners. Sweden will continue to take its responsibility. We will continue our commitment to the whole of the Palestinian territories -- the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

We will focus on contributing to Palestinian state-building efforts. At the same time, we will take the lead in combating the negative development in "Area C" of the West Bank, where the Palestinian institutions are not allowed to operate and where the settlements are displacing the local population.

Sweden's development assistance should make a difference where it is most urgently needed. The Palestinians have become the most aid-dependent people in the world. Development assistance to Palestine is associated with very major risks and the challenges are considerable.

Development assistance requires political progress to yield long-term sustainable results. The occupation and the expanding Israeli settlements are the main obstacles to a two-state solution and also explain the aid dependency. Freedom of movement for people and goods within and out of the Palestinian territories must improve dramatically if the economy is to take off and unemployment is to be reduced. This applies in particular to Gaza, where Israel must do a great deal more. Its isolation is morally reprehensible and politically counterproductive and makes development assistance more expensive.

As for the Palestinians, they must deepen their reform policies, combat all forms of violence and fully respect human rights. The political divisions must end and democratic elections must be held.

Sweden is also an important donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, having contributed approximately $56 million last year. UNRWA has been in existence since 1949 and currently supports five million refugees in the region. We will continue to help alleviate suffering by financing homes, medical care and education. But in the long run this is unsustainable, including from a donor perspective.

In Israel in particular, there are many people who claim that now is not the time to make peace with the Palestinians. When the region is in flames, there is a danger of short-sightedness taking over. And in a cruel twist of fate, the Syrian conflict is forcing Palestinian refugees to move again. They have become the refugees of refugees in the Middle East.

Growing regional instability means that the window of opportunity for a two-state solution is closing. But history will condemn those who do not see the opportunity to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before it is too late.

Israel must realize that occupation is an unsustainable policy in the long run -- for its own sake and for international, regional and economic reasons. Cooperating with the Palestinians is where the opportunities lie -- not in threatening the country’s democracy and security.

The Palestinians must come together in a shared vision of democracy and use peaceful means to achieve recognition from and coexistence with their neighboring country Israel. And this must be followed up with resolute leadership for a united Palestine – for and with all Palestinians.

Frustration must not be allowed to prevail. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders must seize this opportunity for peace and security now.

From the archives... 1971 & 1967

From the archive, 11 June 1971: Inter-faith municipality urged for Old City of Jerusalem

'History has placed our three communities here, and we have to find a spiritual as well as a physical way of coexistence'

An Orthodox nun holds a candle during a procession along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City. Photograph: Baz Ratner/REUTERS
A plan for making the Old City of Jerusalem into an "inter-faith municipality" was suggested yesterday by the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Rev George Appleton, when he spoke to the Council of Christians and Jews in London on "The cost of peacemaking."

He reminded his audience, which included the Chief Rabbi, the Rev Dr Immanuel Jakobovits, that the holy city was only a small area, a little more than one kilometre square, with 26,000 people living inside it. But millions revered it, were moved by it to remember sacred events, and were often better people because of those thoughts...READ MORE

"Created with the approval of the United Nations, the existence of Israel ought to be guaranteed by that body as long as Israel is amenable to the actions of that body. The borders drawn at the time of partition and affirmed by the United Nations in 1956 must be respected by Israeli and Arab alike until and unless they are changed by procedures of negotiation under the aegis of that body." Rev Harold Bosley, Senior Minister Christ Church, Methodist, New York, July 10, 1967: Letter in the New York Times Israeli Territorial Claims

My letter to the Washington Post RE Restrictions on Palestinians living in Israel with spouses now in its 10th year

 Waze, an Israeli mobile satellite navigation application, is seen on a smartphone in this photo illustration taken in Tel Aviv May 9, 2013. Nir Elias/REUTERS  Israeli drivers forgo traditional GPS devices to ride Waze craze
RE Restrictions on Palestinians living in Israel with spouses now in its 10th year

Dear Editor,

Right now the personal loss and continuing impoverishment created by the Israel/Palestine conflict is mainly felt by the men, women and children of Palestine- and the situation is bound to get worse as Islamists and one-state activists actively sabotage support for a two state solution to actually end the Israel/Palestine conflict.  

Boycott Israel too easily becomes a boycott of reasonable, rational, realistic mainstream efforts to free Palestine from a horrific status quo.

AP reports this week that Israel is moving ahead with plans to build more than 1,000 settler homes in the [illegally occupied] West Bank.  The catch 22 of refusing to negotiate while Israel invests in ongoing settlement projects and land grabs traps Palestinians... Given time and no negotiations there will be nothing left of Palestine except stories of exile.

"The only way to honor our tragic histories is to create a future for our children free of man-made tragedy. This means making peace fully, completely and without reservation, between Israel and Palestine." ATFP's Ziad Asali: To honor a tragic history, we must work for peace

Anne Selden Annab

Jordan's King Abdullah II said Saturday extremism has "grown fat" off of the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

From Palestinians' point of view, the law [Israel's Absentee Property Law] has always been controversial. The rights of refugees are a core issue in their conflict with Israel.

John Kerry makes unscheduled   sandwich stop in West Bank ...Kerry is urging an economic package to boost the Palestinian economy. Perhaps as a signal of his commitment, he insisted on paying for his food.

Time Magazine Pictures of the Week: May 10 – May 17... Palestinian refugee children play in front of their family house in Jabaliya Refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip.

"In 1949, the international community accepted Israel's UN membership upon two conditions: That they respect resolutions 181 (two states) and 194 (refugee rights). Neither has been honored. In fact, 65 years later, Israel has not even acknowledged what it did in 1948." Saeb Erekat

Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal...

“Were you really shot in a fight over water?” He winces out his answer: “It wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t about the Muslim Brotherhood. It was about water.”

Former Palestinian fighter now battles for a middle path: Palestinian Mohammed Dajani, from a prominent Jerusalem family, has become a vocal advocate for pragmatism and peace.

Songs and Pictures from Palestine

Palestine now recognised by greater power than US or Israel – Google

Fayyad Steps Down, Not Out

This Week in Palestine: Palestinian Institutions A Story of Perseverance ... Salam Fayyad "This was not about roads, buildings, or infrastructure, despite their importance. This plan was about statehood, citizen participation, and enfranchisement. It was based on the vision of establishing a functional framework where government is accountable and citizens participate in the widest and most effective way possible in decision-making and governance."

"I come from there and I have memories... "

".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine....

The Office of International Religious Freedom (   Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries

Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Refugees and the Right of Return
Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside.  What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them.

UN Resolution 194 from 1948  : The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt