Tag Archives: Arab-Israeli Conflict

Time For Palestine To Join The Arab Spring

Palestinians must decide whether they want to continue living in dire conditions under a brutal Israeli regime or take the plunge, join the Arab Spring and strive for the opportunity to achieve justice and freedom for themselves.

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As uprisings continue to sweep the Arab region, from the North African country of Tunisia all the way to Syria and Bahrain, it is rather astonishing that the Palestinians have not jumped on the bandwagon and joined the Arab Spring movement. After all, it would have been a timely opportunity to join the momentum of those revolutions that continue to strike the region in hope of achieving freedom from brutality. It would have also put the Western nations in a difficult situation. Western Europe, together with the United States, has been very supportive (at least in rhetoric) of the Arab Spring, playing a crucial role in overthrowing Gaddafi and continuing to be an important player in the Syrian civil war. It is well known, however, that the West-especially the United States-shows undeniable support towards Israel. This was witnessed during the last Israeli attacks on Gaza when the United States blamed the Palestinians for the conflict. For this reason, a Palestinian uprising would put the United States in a peculiar position. Could America really continue to show full support to the Syrian rebels and Egyptian civilians, who are once again demonstrating on the streets against their current leader Morsi, yet deny the Palestinians the opportunity to protest against the many grievances: Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the ghetto-like Wall that separates Gaza from the rest of humanity, the illegal settlements, the unfair treatment of Palestinians living in Israel, the shootings of Palestinian children on the Gaza border, the lack of food and clean water due to the Israeli blockade and against the constant threat that Israel will strike again any minute. While western nations are notoriously known for their hypocritical stance when it comes to their foreign policy in the Middle East (which usually reflects their own national interests), the denial of the Palestinian right to rise up against Israel would set in stone what the majority already fear: the West’s lack of concern for human rights of others.

Though the Arab Spring started in 2011, the uprisings are still in full swing and therefore it is not late for Palestine to join the movement. It would be essential for the Palestinians to carry out a peaceful protest (i.e. no rockets from Hamas and no killings of Israelis), but nevertheless a protest that sends out a clear message that they will not back down until some progress is made. This would deny Israel their usual defence: that Palestine is an aggressive region and poses a threat to Israeli national security. This protest should not be about borders, or about a potential creation of the Palestinian state, but about a simple desire to be treated like human beings rather than caged animals. The majority of the international community already support the Palestinians. Not only has Palestine been granted the status of an observer non-member state at the UN, but the reports by the United Nations continue to condemn and criticise the inhumane actions of Israel. If Israel were to retaliate with violence and force against a peaceful uprising by the Palestinians, the Jewish state would risk more alienation from the international community and more disapproval from the general public around the world. A nation cannot continue to survive with a long queue of enemies.

In 2011, the Arab populations took the leap of faith. Many knew that their uprisings could lead to brutal response from their dictators. Some were aware that perhaps they would not survive to see the end of authoritarianism in the Middle East. Yet as the saying goes, when you have nothing, you got nothing to lose. The Palestinians have suffered to the point of near-total submission. However they must use the inspiration from their fellow Arabs who made the decision that enough is enough. Emiliano Zapata, a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution against the dictatorship in 1910 said that “it’s better to die upon your feet than to live upon your knees”. The Palestinians must now make the choice between whether they want to continue living in dire conditions under a brutal Israeli regime or take the plunge, join the Arab Spring and strive for the opportunity to achieve justice and freedom for themselves.

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Photo Credit: Joi

A Palestinian State…In New York

Statehood was granted to Abu Mazen, but what exactly is his state? 

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Mahmoud Abbas’ successful upgrade to Vatican-status in the UN should be seen as a Palestinian victory, in diplomatic terms. Cynics who predicted that Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Defense” was a ploy to highlight the fact that rockets seem to freely launch over walls, thus highlighting Palestinian anathema towards a peaceful coexistence with Israel and thus preventing a UN affirmation of Palestine’s statehood bid were proven wrong. The overwhelming majority of “yes” votes in the UNGA would seem to be an international mandate for rule for Mahmoud Abbas, in the same way that the overwhelming “yes” vote for the partition of the Holy Land seemed to be an international mandate for David Ben-Gurion 65 years ago. November 29, 2012 will be remembered as an historic day for the Palestinian national identity, and rightly so. The international community has taken its most meaningful step towards the creation of a Palestinian state since the dissolution of British Palestine.

This will, in functional terms, accomplish very little in terms of moving towards a viable Palestinian nation-state on two levels. First, Mahmoud Abbas long-sought-after victory at the UNGA is overshadowed by the lack of faith he has from the Palestinian people. At a victory speech in Ramallah, Abbas promised to restore the “unity of the Palestinians and their lands and institutions.” This promise, of course, comes on the heels of Israel’s assault of the Gaza Strip, through which a ceasefire was negotiated between Israel and Hamas, the Islamists who run Gaza, in Cairo – notably without representatives of Fatah at the table. Elliot Abrams notes that Fatah has been in a steady decline since the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, with Hamas being the more popular, and more powerful, of the Palestinian political entities. After all, it was Hamas’ (and Islamic Jihad’s) continued belligerence that sparked the most significant military exchange between Israel and the Palestinians in four years, and it was Hamas who brokered a ceasefire, in which Israel was forced to give significant concessions. All the while, Mahmoud Abbas was readying for his speech to the UN.

More importantly, it is clear that Israel neither takes Abbas seriously nor sees him as a legitimate broker of a comprehensive peace agreement. Talks broke down as recently as 2010 between Israel and Fatah, largely because of Abbas’ inability to cope (this is not a normative assessment of Israel’s settlement policy; this is a criticism of Abbas’ ability to operate politically from the lesser side of a power dynamic) with Israeli intransigence over settlement construction in the West Bank. Israel does not have this problem with Hamas in Gaza, where they have not had settlements since 2006. Israel also greeted the Abbas successful non-member observer statehood bid with plans to build 3,000 new housing units in strategically important territory in the West Bank, which would significantly obstruct Abbas’ vision of a geographically united West Bank, let alone a geographically united Palestine. For better or for worse, and Israel’s new settlement plans have been roundly criticized even by states historically friendly to the Jewish State, this indicates that Israel simply does not accept Abbas’ political will as a political reality. While Fatah should not follow Hamas’ lead and start lobbing Fajr-5’s into Old Jerusalem in order to indicate to Bibi Netanyahu that they are a force to be reckoned with, a near-absolute majority in the UNGA clearly sends a weaker message. Israel recognizes not only that Hamas poses a threat to Israeli citizens in the south, but also that they have a legitimate mandate from the Palestinian people, and that Abbas and Fatah do not.

I have written and published in the past that I believe that de jure partition – partition resulting in the creation of separate states – is the only method in which prolonged, ethnic civil wars can result in lasting peace between the rival populations, and that this is the only solution for peace in the Holy Land. I believe this continues to be the case, although with some doubts as to what this partition might look like. Substantive efforts at peace between Israelis and Palestinians (UNSCOP, Oslo, Camp David) have all pushed for a two-state solution, albeit with slightly different terms. Mahmoud Abbas’ victory at the UN would seem to be a further step in this direction, but is just another episode in the saga of failed peace talks. While international recognition of a Palestinian state is, again, something to be celebrated, the truth of the matter is that none of the central players in this drama, the United States, Bibi and his Likudniks, and the Palestinian populace, gave their vote to Abu Mazen on November 29. Increasingly, at two-state solution seems farther and farther away. Functionally, at least, three sovereign nations west of the Jordan River seem more likely than two.

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Photo Credit:  Neubie

Israel’s Deadly Game of Politics

Desperate times call for desperate measures and it seems Israel has decided that the only way to deter Palestine from achieving an observer state status at the United Nations is to destabilise the region and use the argument that Palestine is not ready to become a state due to its violent and confrontational nature.

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On Wednesday 14th November Israel killed the military commander of Hamas in an airstrike on the Gaza Strip. Hamas said Ahmed Al-Jabari, who ran the organization’s armed wing, Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, died along with a passenger after their car was targeted by an Israeli missile. Jabari has long topped Israel’s most-wanted list. Israel blames him for a string of attacks, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006. The Israeli military says its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants.

The consequences of Israel’s actions were already noticeable just a few hours after the announcement as immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and smaller groups also warned of retaliation: “”Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,” Islamic Jihad said.” There is now a real chance that this event can lead to another full-blown conflict similar to the three week conflict in 2008 and 2009.

However perhaps a full blown conflict in the region is exactly what Israel wanted. On the 29th of November, Palestine will put in a resolution to upgrade the status of Palestine to that of a non-member observer state in the organization. Unsurprisingly Israel with the support of the United States have opposed this move arguing that it will hinder real negotiations, despite the fact that the majority of UN members believe Palestine should be granted a full state membership at the international organisation. Israel has bluntly said that they will consider partial or full cancellation of the Oslo Accords if the United Nations General Assembly adopts the resolution. On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry sent an urgent cable to all Israeli representatives around the world, asking ambassadors to deliver a number of messages to senior officials in those countries as soon as possible. “You are asked immediately at the beginning of the work week to contact the foreign ministry, prime minister’s office, national security adviser or president’s office and request to do all possible to halt the Palestinian initiative because of its far-reaching consequences,” the cable to the ambassadors said. As opposed to the decisions of the UN Security Council, General Assembly decisions cannot be vetoed, therefore the USA cannot play its ace card to prevent Palestine achieving its objective. Despite strong pressure from Israel, the Palestinian President has defiantly said he will not back out from his plan to table the resolution at the United Nations.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and it seems Israel has decided that the only way to deter Palestine from achieving an observer state status at the United Nations is to destabilise the region and use the argument that Palestine is not ready to become a state due to its violent and confrontational nature. Hamas have always argued that asking the UN to grant Palestine a member status would be purely symbolic and would not achieve anything on the ground. For this reason, it is likely that Hamas will retaliate against Israel after the death of Al-Jabari, which is exactly what Israel wants them to do. Abbas is likely to plead to Hamas not to seek revenge at such a crucial time for the Palestinian state, but Hamas (who are already on cold terms with Abbas) are unlikely to listen, giving Israel more ammunition to claim that Palestine is a divided nation and thus do not deserve a place at the United Nations.

While many claim that it would be purely a symbolic matter if Palestine were to become an observer non-member state, the consequences are far greater than that. Netanyahu is fully aware of the fact that the new status as a non-member state would allow Palestine to be accepted as a member of the International Criminal Court of the UN in The Hague and demand Israel and its leaders be tried for war crimes. This is a very serious threat to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land and teh Israeli officials will not take this lightly.

One may argue that the two events (UN resolution vote on the 29th November and Wednesday’s assassination of the Hamas militant) are purely coincidental in their close timing. But as Roosevelt said: “In politics nothing happens by accident”. Not much else needs to be said.

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Photo Credit: Lilachd

Viva La Resistance! Iran, The Bomb & The Middle East

The geopolitical implications of the sudden balance of power that would result from a nuclear-armed Iran are tremendous – a goal which is not unique to the Islamic leadership nor one that can necessarily be deterred by either sanctions or military action.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]sraeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly last week returned the Iranian nuclear issue to the global public forum, albeit depicted in an absurdly Looney Tunes manner. The continuing devaluation of the Iranian Rial is indicating that the US-led sanctions policy is taking its toll on Iranian society, but it is not clear if, or how, this is affecting the country’s controversial nuclear programme. The undertone of Netanyahu’s speech was the threat of military action should the Iranian government cross his red line. The general consensus is that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon for inherently evil devices, especially when the Islamic Republic provides the pro-Israel camp with so much rhetorical ammunition. One explanation that is overlooked in a debate replete with academic theories of international relations is Iran’s championing of the ‘Resistance’.

Sitting upon a mountaintop in Southern Lebanon, Mlita appears rather incongruous with the rest of the mountain scenery and battle-scarred buildings of the nearby villages. It is a slick, modern and, in all honesty, professional museum sited on a former Hizbollah operating base dedicated to the organisation’s war against Israel and the Southern Lebanese Army and, like much of Shi‘i Lebanon, built with Iranian money. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Mlita is that, unlike many other museums, it is commemorating an ongoing event.

The entire location gives a similar impression of an impassioned speech filled with jingoism. It will appear very distasteful to your average tourist as enthusiastic tour guides point out helmets of Israeli helicopter pilots. It is very far from Remarque’s ‘War is Hell’ message as you detect the sense of pride pouring from the central sculpture of twisted metal, fittingly named ‘The Abyss’. It seems the entire museum was built to communicate a particular message to Israel: ‘You invaded us twice, we beat you twice. You are much weaker than the image you project, and we are the ones who exposed this weakness.’ The tone of the site was not of ‘wiping Israel off the map’, but deterrence – or ‘resistance’.  When there is such a deviation from the usual rhetoric towards Israel, it is worth reading between then lines to understand what Hizbollah and their Iranian backers are trying to say.

A particular passage written on one of the many signs dotted throughout the site succinctly expresses one of the most important ideas in the Middle East:

‘From 1948 until the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Israeli enemy imposed on Lebanon and the region one choice: surrender, defeat and submission. On November 11, 1982, a resistance fighter named Ahmad Qassir blew himself up at the Israeli stronghold in Tyr, announcing the birth of a different choice: resistance.’

Despite the desperate attempts by the US (and Europe) to spin the image of the frustrated neutral negotiator and avoid calling a spade a spade, they are not fooling the populations of Middle East who have very different perceptions as to which side is the aggressor. There is a very overt tendency to reduce the very strong Arab emotions to anti-Semitism, which has consistently undermined solutions to this problem. This is not to say that one side is inherently angelic and the other inherently evil, but the recent protests across the Middle East are a very worrying indication of the US’ position in the region.

Consider this: in a era of renewed interest in counter-insurgency, we have heard the populations of areas afflicted with insurgencies referred to as the ‘Vital Ground’, a term taken from conventional warfare to refer to natural features and slapped onto local nationals to help to military commanders focus their operations. The ‘Hearts and Minds’ are the Vital Ground in the War on Terror.

The outrage that has swept across the Middle East over the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is a very clear indication that the US is not in control of this vital ground. Iran, in this sense, is in a much stronger position. Whilst we were criticising the Islamic World’s poor conception of the freedom of speech, no one seemed to ask how so much hatred against the US could spread so fast from such an aberration of a video. We all know how insignificant and intentionally inflammatory the video appeared to us, but no one could quite grasp that there is something wrong when populations of several countries could easily believe a state was behind such a provocation.

Iran is exerting its influence across the region. Israel only does this by the sword. The US does it through a combination of military force and substantial (and mostly military) aid. Iran has won lots of support, at least in Lebanon, by pumping money through Hizbollah into reconstruction that has rebuilt and transformed areas and has shown tangible progress. In Lebanon, Iranian money has rebuilt souks and key infrastructure. Saudi money, on the other hand has built Versace and Armani shops nestled between Porsche dealerships that only the elite of Lebanese society and rich Gulfi tourists can afford. The West is already at a cultural disadvantage to Iran and the current collective disdain for the emotions of the region’s peoples is not a particularly productive strategy, especially if neutralising terrorism is at the top of our list of strategic aims.

Make no mistake, Iran is competing with its major Sunni rivals for influence in the region and there are worrying signs of a Sunni-Shi‘a war of religion, whether in Bahrain, Syria or Lebanon. But unlike Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s resistance credentials are much stronger and it can claim it is the champion on the Palestinian resistance, whether the Palestinians want them to be or not. A nuclear weapon would be the first opportunity for the resistance to seriously level the playing field with Israel – it is a deterrent that inexpressibly outmatches Hamas’ home made Qassam rockets and Hizbollah’s inaccurate Katushyas. The geopolitical implications of the sudden balance of power that would result from a nuclear-armed Iran are tremendous – a goal which is not unique to the Islamic leadership nor one that can necessarily be deterred by either sanctions or military action. When we have witnessed the collective power of the individual to change the political status quo, ignoring the significance of ‘resistance’ is undermining US and European strategic aims in the Middle East.

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Photo Credit: Adobe of Chaos

Reflections On the Burgas Attacks: Iran’s Revenge?

Israel must not repeat the mistakes of the past and vindicate terror by retrenching its policy of striking at Hezbollah’s leaders and key operational personnel. Neither should the Jewish State abort its hitherto high-impact, yet covert, attacks on Iran’s headlong rush towards nuclear weapons capability.

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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n February 12th, 2008, Imad Mughinyah, a master bomb-maker who played a critical operational role in the Lebanese Shia Islamist organisation Hezbollah, perished in a car bomb attack near his Damascus hideout. Since 2010, at least five distinguished Iranian scientists associated with the Islamic Republic’s controversial nuclear programme have been killed in ‘mysterious’ explosions and assassinations.

Though Israel was widely seen as the perpetrator of these incidents, government officials maintained their traditional policy of refusing to publically acknowledge responsibility, whilst hinting heavily that the assassinations served the Jewish State’s national interest.

On Wednesday the 18th of July, 2012, a terrorist detonated his bomb on a bus full of Israeli holidaymakers in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing five Israelis, a Bulgarian bus driver and himself. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to pin the blame on Hezbollah, whom he claimed were operating under Iranian orders, whilst the Pentagon has released a statement to similar effect.

Don’t expect Iran or Hezbollah to publically claim responsibility. Both actors follow similar paradigms to Israel: ‘plausible deniability’ whilst sending a decisive, pugnacious message to a hostile entity. Though Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the bombing, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the attack as a ‘response’ to Israeli ‘blows against Iran’.

The Burgas bombing was neither unprovoked nor random. Both Hezbollah and Iran have sought to manufacture a reciprocal, retaliatory pattern of violence vis-a-vis Israel in order to discourage further assassinations of their personnel. Indeed, Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu, described Wednesday’s bombing as ‘Iran’s revenge’.

‘Deterrence’- the art of persuading a hostile actor that the costs of aggressive acts outweigh the benefits, rests primarily on perception and impact. Thus, the latent deterrence capability of a state or non-state actor is undermined by an inability to fulfil promises of retribution. Iran and Hezbollah’s ability to project a deterrence policy has been patently undermined by a flurry of failed attacks against Israeli personnel in India, Thailand, Georgia and Azerbaijan in recent months.

Wednesday’s attack came precisely eighteen years since Hezbollah’s bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed eighty-five civilians. Like in Burgas, the Buenos Aires incident constituted a dramatic, bloody reaction to an Israeli targeted assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative. Because of the staggering body count and the precedent set by the Buenos Aires attack in internationalising what was previously a Levant-centric conflict, Israel abandoned surgical strikes on the Hezbollah leadership, fearing further mass-casualty international terrorism.

Thus, Israel’s response to the Buenos Aires atrocity presents a successful manifestation of Hezbollah deterrence potential, vindicating terrorism against distant civilian targets. Hezbollah and Iran’s behaviour in Burgas is the product of hard-headed realist analysis of previous Israeli reactions. In short: killing innocent people altered Israel’s behaviour in Hezbollah’s favour.

Israel must not repeat the mistakes of the past and vindicate terror by retrenching its policy of striking at Hezbollah’s leaders and key operational personnel. Neither should the Jewish State abort its hitherto high-impact, yet covert, attacks on Iran’s headlong rush towards nuclear weapons capability.

Though the deliberate slaughter of six innocent civilians must be unequivocally condemned by the civilised world, when framed within the context of multiple stillborn plots, ‘Iran’s revenge’ hardly represents an unequivocal ‘victory’ for the violent Islamist axis in the Middle-East. Had the Hezbollah operative arrested in Cyprus last week fulfilled his objective of shooting down an Israeli commercial airliner, the impact of hundreds of Israeli civilian deaths would have elicited either a dramatic Israeli recalibration of policy in Iran’s favour, or a devastating military response.

Burgas aside, Israel retains its contemporary superior success record vis-à-vis Hezbollah and Iran in preventing retaliatory attacks whilst simultaneously inflicting casualties on high-ranking hostile officials. The prolonging of this superiority is contingent on an as-of-yet unrealised smart, yet stinging, military response to the atrocity in Bulgaria. Israeli officials must institutionalise the strategic lessons from Buenos Aires; that excessive restraint begets further bloodshed, whilst avoiding the ignition of a regional powder keg and full-blown war with Iran and Hezbollah. Israel is winning the covert war, thus a paradigm shift towards open conflict is premature and counter-productive.

A Balanced Negotiating Table: Israel’s Greatest Fear

If we really want to resolve the Middle Eastern crises, we need to recognize Israel’s privileged status and bring it kicking and screaming to the negotiation table.

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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince the summer of 2011 the Israeli government has been steadily ratcheting its rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear issue. Led by the notoriously uncompromising Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu (affectionately known as Bibi), we have been told that the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon would bring a second Holocaust to the population of Israel. The Iranian regime, we are told, is led by extremist mullahs whose ultimate political aim is the destruction of Israel. Whilst the Israelis fear of extermination is undoubtedly understandable (and exacerbated by the Iranian government’s over-inflated political rhetoric), the main fear at the forefront of Bibi and his cabinet’s minds is the inevitable shift in the Middle Eastern balance of power that would challenge Israel’s de facto hegemony in the region.

This nuclear issue proves once again that the Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the heart of the Middle East’s continued instability. It is no coincidence that the very Israeli politicians advocating a military strike on Iran are the same who absolutely refuse to negotiate with the Palestinians on the issue of Palestinian self-determination. If we sanction an Israeli attack on Iran, we are supporting the previously establish precedent that Israel can do what it likes with tacit Western support. Once again, the Israeli spoilt-child is demanding another toy and we are happily giving it to them.

One of the great myths of the current age is that Israel is in a battle for its survival, surrounded by hostile Arab countries and the innocent victim of unrelenting Islamic terrorism. The truth is that Israel is, by far, the most powerful country in the Middle East and has not faced a credible threat to its existence since 1979. Israel’s peace agreement with Sadat effectively neutralized the most populous and most threatening of its Arab enemies, which reduced the threat of total war to negligible. Without Egypt, the other Arab states cannot undertake a major military campaign against Israel. Whilst the rocket and attacks and suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are deplorable and sickening, terrorism has never threatened the existence of any state – military force, however, does. Terrorism’s aim is political and by definition it is to further political, ideological or religious objectives by the use of force. Hamas’ attacks are harassment, but not an existential threat. Furthermore, Israel’s special relationship with the US has been a constant source of strength for the isolated nation. Had it not been for Operation Nickel Grass, in which the US supplied Israel with vital aid in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel would have been placed in a much weaker position.

If Iran’s nuclear programme is actually building nuclear weapons, the regime (and the country) is doing so for far more reasons than to boost its military capability. First, nuclear armament brings membership to an exclusive club of states – the US, UK, China, France, Russia, Pakistan, India and, of course, Israel. For this reason, the Iranian nuclear programme is a nationalist issue – not an Islamic one. The Iranian people believe that Iran should be recognized as a serious international and regional power. Historically, Persia has been a stable and powerful player at the crossroads between the Middle East and Asia. Indeed today, Iran is one of the most self-sufficient countries on the planet due to the economic sanctions constricting its ability to trade with the international community. The phrase ‘geography is destiny’ rings distinctly true for Iran.

Most importantly, nuclear armament would bring Iran to a relatively political equal status with Israel. As the two countries do not share a contiguous border, the strategic parity between the two countries’ conventional armed forces is less important than their nuclear armament parity (which would still be skewed in Israel’s favour, unofficially possessing up to 200 nuclear weapons). However, just a single nuclear-armed Shahab-3 rocket will mean that Israel is no longer the top dog in the Middle East.

Would this bring about an unacceptable change to the status quo in the Middle East? In the eyes of US and Israeli hawks, it would. However, in the greater geopolitical picture, a challenge to Israel is perhaps the catalyst needed to establish a lasting and comprehensive peace in the region. It would mean that the negotiation table would actually be somewhat balanced that would be a first step to addressing the pervading issues in the region. Israel would no longer be able to dictate the terms of negotiation, which it has been able to do throughout the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It would also mean that Israel would actually have to resort to diplomatic means to resolve conflict, rather than using military action to force its neighbours into submission.

The crux of the West’s public support is based on our own Islamophobia exacerbated by the previous 11 years of the War on Terrorism. We still believe that the Iranians hate us for who we are and are plotting to bring about our destruction. Despite the painful lessons we have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan regarding the necessity for a political solution over military action to bring an end to insurgency, we are being led to believe that a strike on Iran (or even a war) will somehow deal a deathblow to global terrorism. The uncomfortable truth is that Israeli policy has been a continued incitement for Islamic frustration and anger towards the West. Our ‘Israel – right or wrong’ policy has created unprecedented resentment within the Middle East and the rise of Islamic terrorism is a product of this 56-year policy.

We have yet to realize that the Israeli-Western relationship is very much the tail wagging the dog. The fact is that Israel depends upon the West for its survival, but is prone to throwing its teddy into the corner when the US and its Western allies do not do exactly as Israel says. If we really want to resolve the Middle Eastern crises, we need to recognize Israel’s privileged status and bring it kicking and screaming to the negotiation table. As a modern, stable and industrialized state, Israel must accept that it is a member of an international community rather than a lone cowboy in the Wild East.

Jerusalem: Stumbling Block For Peace

“Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace”. Discuss.
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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[dropcap]J[/dropcap]erusalem has a turbulent history. It was oft the focal point of Abrahamic religious tension, bickering and violence throughout the last millennium, a regrettable trait that has continued to the modern day. However whilst in the past control of Jerusalem revolved (for the most part) around competing religiously motivated factions, the present sees the city being fought over by two broad nationalist ideologies as well. The bifurcation of hostility into both religious and nationalist has posed, and continues to pose, a distinct threat to regional stability given the capricious nature of the Middle East, ensuring that the solution of such a contentious issue will require great skill and diplomatic tact.

The title dictates that this paper should consider whether Jerusalem is the main stumbling block for peace. However, whilst this title prompts for an outline and comparison of the various other issues for peace in the question of Israel/Palestine, this paper will take a slightly different approach. In effect I will be writing with the title “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for peace”. In doing so the lens of the paper is focused on Jerusalem and an analysis of what makes the city an issue. I will refer to those other barriers to an agreement that exist – notably settlements and refugees – but only to disprove that they are the main issue. As such, this paper will introduce the recent history of the city through the prism of United Nations Resolutions before arguing the importance of the city and the options available in concluding a settlement. Having discussed intra-national issues and demonstrated why Jerusalem retains the prized position in intrastate issues, the paper will conclude that it is one of many pieces that must fit the puzzle before we shall see an all-embracing settlement strong enough to last the test of time. Jerusalem is a stumbling block for peace, not the main stumbling block for peace.

Before proceeding it is necessary to define ‘peace’ in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oxford Dictionary provides two possible understandings of the word: either, ‘freedom from disturbance; tranquility’; or, ‘a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended’.[1] Neither of these attempts are ideal for our purposes. If there were to be a negotiated settlement between Israel and a newly formed state of Palestine this would undoubtedly not free either country from disturbance given the diversity of ideological thought within the two distinct nationalist bodies – a topic to be covered presently. Thus a solution to the Jerusalem issue would not provide peace by the first definition of the word as in all probability it would not bring about tranquility. The second is inadmissible in this context given that there is no war in Israel or her occupied territories at present therefore this definition would provide that there is already peace – the question clearly suggests otherwise.[2] Thus the effective title will change once more: “Jerusalem: a stumbling block for a settlement”. A settlement in this context meaning the enactment of a two-state solution.

The Resolutions: Jerusalem From 181

UN Resolution 181 (29th November 1947) dictated the terms under which the British Mandate of Palestine would come to an end, which it duly did on the 14th May 1948 prompting the first Arab-Israeli war. Resolution 181 called for independent Arab and Jewish States with Jerusalem a corpus separatum under the control of a special international regime.[3] This was not to be, for during the Arab-Israeli war Israel occupied the area to the west of Jerusalem, Transjordan the area east (including the Old City and consequently the majority of religious sites) with a slither of no man’s land separating the belligerent forces. The subsequent truce between the two nations was signed on the 3rd April 1949 on the island of Rhodes, Greece, cementing Jordanian hold over the Old City and thus limiting access to holy sites for Israelis.

UN Resolution 303 (9th December 1949) reaffirmed Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under neither Arab nor Jewish control. Given that there is no principle in legal theory that repudiates a United Nations resolution in the case of its violation, under international law Jerusalem remains a corpus separatum – ‘the only “status” or “legal status” or “specific status” which Jerusalem possesses is that laid down in resolution 181’.[4] Resolution 303 was passed by the General Assembly despite Ben Gurion’s attempts to soothe international fears: in a statement to the Knesset on the 5th December he upheld that Israel would ‘guarantee freedom of religion and conscience, of language, education and culture. It will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. It will be loyal to the principles of the United Nations Charter’.[5] He continued, ‘we cannot imagine, however, that the U.N. would attempt to sever Jerusalem from the State of Israel or harm Israel’s sovereignty in its eternal capital’ (emphasis added).[6] The 13th December 1949 saw the Israeli Prime Minister emphatically reiterate this point: ‘for the State of Israel there has always been and always will be one capital only – Jerusalem the Eternal’.[7] The meaning, potency and relevance of this quote is clear: in the Israeli eye Jerusalem is the only Israeli capital.

Following Jordanian involvement in the Six Day War of June 1967 Israel occupied the West Bank, effectively annexing Jerusalem in the process. The government worked to unite east and west of the city, in doing so attempting to ensure that Yerushalayim would never see division reoccur: Jerusalem was to be Israel’s ‘eternal capital’.[8] The U.N. General Assembly responded with a statement calling for Israel to ‘rescind all measures already taken and to desist forthwith from taking any action which would alter the status of Jerusalem’.[9] The United States similarly publicly denounced the Jewish-majority state, its representative to the United Nations announcing that his ‘government regrets and deplores this pattern of activity’ and that Israel is bound to act under the provisions of international law that would ‘bind any occupier’ (a reference to the illegality of obtaining territory through war).[10] However Israel was unresponsive, she possessed her capital and she fully intended to keep it. The formal annexation was passed by the Knesset on July 30th 1980 under Israel’s Basic Law which dictated that ‘Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel’.[11] The move was castigated by both the Security Council and the Conference of Islamic States shortly after, the general consensus of world opinion being that the move ‘created a highly explosive situation which [would] threaten world peace and security’.[12]

The Importance of Jerusalem

Al-Quds, Yerushalayim, Jerusalem: three names for three severed religions that each hold sites within the city’s precincts as sacred. This is further complicated not only by mutual veneration for certain people and places, but by the difficulties presented by certain areas housing multiple holy sites – Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif being a case in point.[13] Members of each doctrine have a decided interest in the city owing to its spiritual and theological values; indeed it has been argued that Resolution 181 endowed ‘Jerusalem with an inter-national legal status compatible with its historical character and religious significance to the world’.[14] Thus, point one, the details of a settlement of Jerusalem are intrinsically an international affair.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict often has the effect of driving interested parties to the extremities of the opinion continuum, particularly the case with regard to the Muslim populations of the Middle East. Primarily the animosity felt towards Israel is a result of the numerous defeats of Arab forces at the hands of the Israeli Defence Force, but similarly due to the belief that the Israeli political system imitates an herrenvolk democracy – an issue owing to Palestinian solidarity. To complicate matters further, Muslims, especially those of Middle Eastern states, are far more likely to view their religion as an integral, requisite part of their life.[15] Given that Israel is surrounded by Muslim states whose populations have a heightened sense of faith, and given their antipathy towards the Jewish-majority state, it is clear that Middle Eastern leaders have a distinct political interest in Jerusalem. Should a settlement be perceived as denigrating to the ummah such leaders stand to lose a significant amount of prestige – there is no recourse for them to take in such a situation owing to Israel’s military might and its political support from the United States. Thus Jerusalem is unavoidably a regional affair.

Further scrutinization of the city’s importance leads us to ponder over its standing within the two broad nationalist movements. We have seen that Ben Gurion regarded Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘eternal capital’, that for Israelis it has been and will always be their cardinal city. And this is a vision shared by the Palestinians, for they regard the conurbation as the beating heart of a future Palestinian state politically, economically, culturally and spiritually.[16] Both peoples are equally as stubborn when considering the concessions needed for the stalemate to dissolve due to the importance they attach to the result of a settlement on the city. Thus, thirdly, Jerusalem is a national affair.

The final piece in this puzzle concerns those that reside in the holy city as the potential for a re-division of the city will affect both Arab and Jewish Jerusalemites. It could be argued that they represent a microcosm of all of the above; they possess concern for their respective religious sites, they are aware of the impact of a political fallout from a one-sided resolution of the issue, but more so they are in the economic firing line should things turn sour. There are various studies considering the impact of a re-division of the city; Michael Dumper’s examination focuses on the effect of a split on service and utility provisions. He posits that whilst such a split is not technically impeded, it would require significant investment in East Jerusalem and a cordial relationship between the two sides at least until the Palestinians are able to support themselves unaided.[17] Thus, to conclude this section, the issues inflicting on a settlement on the city are fourfold: international, regional, national and local.[18]

Intra-national Divisions

The purpose of this section is to demonstrate the divisions within each nationalist body with regard to the solution of the broader conflict by focusing on the Haredim – ultra-orthodox Jews – and Hamas. It is worthy of mention as whilst Jerusalem is inescapably a predominant issue in an intrastate settlement, certain developments must occur within each national body before such a settlement is viable.[19]

In 2002 Shlomo Hasson considered the power struggle between secular and ultra-orthodox Israelis in Jerusalem’s municipal elections of 1993 and 1998. He concluded that a ‘local democratic deficit’ was born, that whilst the elections fulfilled democratic criteria the resultant councils that they formed failed ‘to adequately fulfill the needs of non-Haredi groups’.[20] The Haredim are similarly becoming increasingly influential on a national scale, aided by the use of an electoral system based on proportional representation. The low qualifying threshold of 2% ensures that a wide variety of parties win seats at government, significantly reducing the prospect of a single party government and therefore precipitating the formation of a fragile coalition – Israel is in a perpetual state of hung parliament. Given the diversity of opinion within each coalition they are prone to premature break-ups, especially over vital domestic issues such as the future of Jerusalem.[21] More important is the prominence that such a political system gives to marginalized parties: they become the keystone of the alliance and therefore possess considerably more power than the electorate voted to bestow upon them.

Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination provides a clear example of the conflicting opinion within Israel over concessions awarded to Palestine. It also demonstrates the need for the government to counter the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’ in Israeli society in anticipation of a settlement to the conflict. Clive Jones asserts that ‘religious-based opposition to the Oslo Accords… among Haredi… increased markedly’ following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, in contrast to their previous anti-Zionist stance.[22] He emphasizes that if these pockets of Israeli society are to be satisfied there must be two developments. Firstly the religious right must be brought on-board the settlement bandwagon through the use of ‘religious discourse condoning territorial compromise’, and secondly, to avert the ‘atavistic monopoly over hermeneutical interpretation exercised by religious nationalists towards the peace process’, the centre-left must partake in discourse relating to the ‘ideo-theological cleavages’.[23] In short, there must be greater effort placed on solidifying support for a settlement among the differing political and religious groups. Without such a development it is highly improbable that a religious-right influenced Knesset will make the necessary overtures.[24]

Of course it is not just the Israelis who suffer from a fragmented communal psyche: the partition among Palestinians is equally as pronounced. There are arguably only two groups that have the potential to derail a settlement program: Hamas and the al-Aqsa Brigades. Given the latter’s affiliation with Fatah, it is likely that it will be brought to heel as and when needed – as has happened in the past – and thus I shall focus solely on the former.[25]

Hamas is representative of the minority of Palestinians that align with the use of violence as the sole path to the realization of a Palestinian state. This belief is born out of two notions. Firstly, given Israeli emphasis on security, the continued use of violence affords the Palestinian cause a bargaining chip.[26] Secondly, it firmly considers Israel’s motivation to partake in a settlement as an attempt to consolidate territory by ulterior means,[27] a viewpoint that has garnered support among certain regiments of the pro-Palestine academic lobby.[28] The organization has on numerous occasions stated that no settlement process can be initiated until Israel ‘first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; [and] repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem’.[29] Whilst this distinctly gives the impression that there is no hope for optimism – Israel would never agree to such preconditions – it is notable that Hamas has suggested that a two-state solution ‘may be the only realistic way forward’.[30] Consequently there are grounds for hope that the militant body may be brought into the fold of a settlement, though such a development is only feasible should Israel commit to diplomacy with the radicals, an action which will only occur following Israeli consolidation among its ‘ideo-theological cleavages’.

The Options

Temporarily disregarding the divisions within each body, we should consider the different options for a solution of the issue at hand. Chad Emmett proposes that a system of shared sovereignty in Jerusalem – based on Suri Nusseibah’s ‘scattered sovereignty’ –[31] is the only ‘reasonable solution’ to the issue, that the city has long been occupied by different faiths and peoples who have, for the most part, been able to coexist peacefully.[32] He proceeds to give examples of such communal coexistence – both in the past and the present – attempting to demonstrate that the status quo can be duplicated and adapted to fit the modern ethno-religious conflict. The settlement of a shared city presents numerous problems and whilst this paper concurs with his assertion that it is the most realistic outcome given the situation that has presented itself, it should be noted that it is not the only recourse available.

We have seen that under international law Jerusalem was to be established as a corpus separatum, a body separated from both Israel and a Palestinian state and under the administrative control of the United Nations. One option would be to further this line of thought. Instead of placing the city under the control of an international consortium, perhaps gather elected politicians from Arab and Jewish communities, as well as representatives from each religion that has an interest in the city, to govern in a Jerusalem Council. This option would entrust power to numerous communities thus safeguarding the sacredness of Jerusalem to each, in doing so preventing any one community from acquiring a strangle-hold on the city.[33] As a consequence of multiple sites being holy to more than one doctrine and the resulting intransigence of both Palestinians and Israelis that these sites be under their own respective sovereignty, such a proposal would, unfortunately, be unlikely to be realised.

Another option would be for the city to remain undivided under Israeli authority. Clearly this would appease the Jewish-majority nation given their fear that should Israel concede sovereignty it would tempt a return to the physical division of the 1948 to 1967 period.[34] Indeed Emmett argues that this would, ‘from the standpoint of the most efficient governance and the spatial integrity of the city’, represent the optimum arrangement.[35] However thanks to Israeli policies of land appropriation, institutional separation and demographic alteration in order to Judaize Jerusalem – processes justified by the fear of a physical division of Jerusalem – the resultant distrust felt by Palestinians towards Israel prohibits such a recourse from being enacted.[36] A settlement that provides for Israeli control over the city would never be accepted by any Palestinian diplomatic delegation. Thus, in summation, there are three general solutions: Jerusalem as a modified corpus separatum; as a united Israeli city; and most feasibly as a shared city with dual ownership.[37]

The Issues of Dual Ownership

There are those who argue that as Jerusalem represents the most divisive matter it should be the first to be considered in any negotiations. The alternative proffered is that as Jerusalem is such a thorny issue it should be relegated to the bottom of the list to ensure that negotiations manifest themselves.[38] The second of these judgements was deemed to be the more appropriate given the need to attain some form of progress and thus the Oslo Agreement of 13th September 1993 excluded the topic. Instead the accord affirmed that permanent status negotiations were to commence as soon as possible, such negotiations to cover the remaining issues (including Jerusalem, refugees and settlements).[39] It would be unwise to disregard the importance of this affirmation, for the Declaration of Principles was the first document that specifically avowed that Jerusalem would be negotiated.[40]

Following the failure of the Declaration of Principles to bring about any meaningful permanent status negotiations – continued violence brought about the election of Netanyahu in 1996 and a subsequent break down in relations – a further round of talks began in July 2000.[41] The 2000 Camp David Summit, to become known as the ‘Jerusalem Summit’, was attended by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak under the auspices of President Clinton. It brought two watersheds: not only was it the first time Israel had officially negotiated over the sovereignty of Jerusalem but it marked the first time that an Israeli Prime Minister officially considered the political split of the city, thus certifying Israeli and American recognition of Palestinian political interests in Jerusalem.[42] When one considers the lengths at which successive Israeli governments sought to ensure that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s sole capital one cannot fail to comprehend the magnitude of such an event – especially given Barak’s previous dictum dissenting to divide the holy city.[43]

There are differing accounts as to why the summit concluded inconclusively – even from within the same delegations – however it is generally accepted that Arafat rejected Barak’s ‘generous offer’ due to its suggestions on Jerusalem.[44] The two sides had agreed on Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City’s Muslim and Christian Quarters as well as control over Jerusalem’s outer Arab districts, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish and Armenian Quarters, the Wailing Wall and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. The stumbling block: Temple Mount. Barak offered Arafat custody of the site but refused to concede sovereignty, a proposition that Arafat refused to consider, thus a settlement remained elusive. President Clinton refrained from losing sight of the objective, initiating a new round of talks in December 2000 which again resulted in failure – Arafat was offered sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif at the expense of the right of return.[45] Such a dismissal would appear to lend credence to the argument that the right of return assumes the primary negotiating aim of the Palestinian leadership, which leads us to a comparative consideration of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem: A Comparative Consideration

This paper considers there to be three chief intrastate hurdles to be clambered over before we shall see a two-state solution enacted: Jerusalem, refugees and borders/settlements. As discussed in the introduction to this paper, the inclusion of this chapter is solely to argue that Jerusalem is the principle of the three.

The preceding chapter suggests that the Palestinian leadership viewed the Palestinian refugees’ right of return as paramount in any settlement. Whilst this may have been the case under Arafat’s hegemony, it is certainly not the case now. January of last year saw The Guardian and al Jazeera release reams of Palestinian documents pertaining to talks with Israel and the United States over the path to a conclusion of the conflict. Amongst these documents were references to the right of return as a ‘bargaining chip’ by Dr. Saeb Erekat, who later confirmed to the United States Middle East Envoy George Mitchell that ‘on refugees, the deal is there’.[46] The documents provide further details of the settlement anticipated: Erekat is on record as commenting that, ‘Olmert [former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years’.[47] Furthermore Mahmoud Abbas, current President of the Palestinian National Authority, is recognized as having acknowledged the illogicality of endeavoring to force the return of refugees to Israel proper given the Jewish-majority state’s demographic concerns.[48]

These papers clearly reveal that for the Palestinian hierarchy the right of return is of relatively minor concern. This is not so clear-cut among the population of the Occupied Territories. Appendix 1 reveals that a majority – 53% – of Palestinians are disinclined to agree to a deal whereby Israel would be required to absorb a similar amount of refugees as third countries would. There are two points to elucidate from these figures. Firstly that this majority has fallen by 4% over the last year, purporting to unveil that Palestinian attitudes are becoming more susceptible to the idea, and secondly, the figures detail a greater Palestinian emphasis on attaining sovereignty over Jerusalem – a difference of 6%. Thus we can deduce that from both the perspective of the leadership and the population, the issue of Jerusalem takes precedence.

Of course I have neglected to mention the final status of borders. This is something of a non-issue comparatively to Jerusalem, for not only has the final status of a Palestinian border been agreed upon numerous times (thus we can deduce that both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are content), but, as shown in Appendix 1, a majority of Israeli and Palestinian populations agree with the formation of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with a 3% land-swap. Thus neither borders or the right of return are of comparatively greater significance to either the Palestinian leadership or the Palestinian population.

In Summation

With its plethora of doctrinal artefacts and holy sites, Israelis and Palestinians view Jerusalem as paramount to the eminence of their respective national identities. The lack of altruism displayed by both sides of this dispute ensures that in order to bring about its resolution a great amount of tact and diplomatic finesse will be required, especially when factoring in the city’s international and regional relevance.

The three distinct options for an agreement over the future state of Jerusalem converge to one when the practicalities of the situation are acknowledged; it is apparent that Palestinians will not accept Israeli sovereignty over the city, and unlikely that either of the two factions would succumb to a modified corupus separatum. Therefore Barak’s aforementioned offer to Arafat will form the basis of the eventual settlement. However, in order for said settlement to have a chance of success and for the curtain to finally fall on this conflict – resembling as it does something of a Shakespearean tragedy – each protagonist must erode their intra-national divisions in anticipation of the realization of an intrastate settlement. Thus, whilst Jerusalem is the predominant intrastate hurdle, before either side prepares to leap they must first ensure that they are capable of landing: the internal issues must be resolved before the attempt to realise the external. A settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has failed to arouse significant domestic support will ultimately flounder. As such, Jerusalem is a stumbling block for a settlement but it is not the main stumbling block.

[toggle title=”Citations & Bibliography”]

1 Oxford Dictionary (2012)
2 I have discounted the continuing war – or rather the lack of a peace agreement – with Saudi Arabia, Syria etc. given that the question implicitly insinuates peace with the Occupied Territories.
3 See Cattan (1981), pp. 7-8 for a consideration of the corpus separatum
4 Cattan (1981), p. 9
5 State of Israel (2003)
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Albin (2005), p. 344
9 United Nations General Assembly, A/RES/2253 (ES-V), 4 July 1967
10 US Permanent Representative to the U.N. Charles Yost, before United Nations Security Council, 1 July 1969
11 Israel’s Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, 30 July 1980
12 Cattan (1981), p. 4
13 Emmet (1997), p. 19
14 Cattan (1981), p. 8
15 Ipsos Mori (2011)
16 Albin (2005), p. 345
17 Dumper (1993), pp. 93-94
18 Albin (2005), p. 344
19 See Barak (2005) for an affirmation that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles an intrastate conflict as supposed to interstate or international.
20 Hasson (2002), p. 9
21 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 9
22 Jones (1999), p. 10
23 Ibid., p. 10-11
24 Rowley & Webb (2007), p. 10
25 Gunning (2004), p. 233
26 Ibid., p. 243
27 Ibid., p. 243
28 See Harris (2001), p. 3513
29 Al-Zahar (2008), p. 165
30 Gunning (2004), p. 241
31 Emmet (1997), p. 17
32 Ibid., p. 16
33 Emmet (1997), p. 16
34 Albin (2005), p. 345
35 Emmet (1997), p. 17
36 Abowd (2004), p. 6; Albin (2005), p. 346
37 Emmet (1997), p. 16
38 Koshy (1995), p. 1289
39 Article V, Olso Agreement, 13 September 1993
40 Albin (2005), p. 346
41 Kydd & Walter (2002), p. 263
42 Albin (2005), p. 348
43 Ibid., p. 346
44 Abowd (2004), p. 9
45 See Peace Monitor (2001), pp. 127 for a consideration of the ‘layered sovereignty’ proposal put before Arafat. Whilst the PA feared for the safety of the Haram should Israel proceed to excavate underneath it, the foremost worry was the political retribution that would occur should Arafat publicly announce the dissolution of the Palestinian right of return.
46 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’
47 The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’
48 The Guardian (2011), ‘Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel’

Al-Zahar, Mahmud [Hamas Foreign Minister] (2008), ‘No Peace Without Hamas’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 165-166

Abowd, Thomas (2004), ‘Carving up the Capital’, Middle East Report, No. 230, pp. 4-11

Albin, Cecilia (2005), ‘Explaining Conflict Transformation: How Jerusalem Became Negotiable’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 339-355

Barak, Oren (2005), ‘The Failure of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 6, pp. 719-736

Bell, Christine (2006), ‘Peace Agreements: Their Nature and Legal Status’, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 373-412

Biton, Yifat & Saloman, Gavriel (2006), ‘Peace in the Eyes of Israeli and Palestinian Youths: Effects of Collective Narratives and Peace Education Program’, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp. 167-180

Cattan, Henry (1981), ‘The Status of Jerusalem under International Law and United Nations Resolutions’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 3-15

Dumper, Michael (1993), ‘Jerusalem’s Infrastructure: Is Annexation Irreversible?’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp. 78-95

Emmet, Chad F. (1997), ‘The Status Quo Solution for Jerusalem’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 16-28

The Guardian (2011), Palestinians agreed only 10,000 refugees could return to Israel, [online] Available at: http://guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/24/palestinians-10000-refugees-return-israel [Accessed 22 January 2012]

The Guardian (2011), The Palestine Papers: ‘Clinton told us to be quiet’, [online] Available at: www.guardian.co.uk/world/palestine-papers-documents/4660 [Accessed 21 January 2012]

Gunning, Jeroen (2004), ‘Peace with Hamas? The Transforming Potential of Political Participation’, International Affairs, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 233-255

Harris, Nigel (2001), ‘Collapse of Peace Process’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 36, No. 37, pp. 3513-3517

Hasson, Shlomo (2002), The Struggle for Hegemony in Jerusalem: Secular and Ultra-Orthodox Urban Politics (Jerusalem: The Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies)

Ipsos Mori (2011), How Much Does Religion Matter?, [online] Available at: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/newsevents/latestnews/810/How-much-does-religion-matter.aspx [Accessed 22 January 2012]

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997), Jerusalem Urban Development – Economic Characteristics, [online] Available at: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1990_1999/1998/6/Jerusalem%20Urban%20Development%20-%20Economic%20Characteris [Accessed 20 January 2012]

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1997), Jerusalem Urban Development – Tourism in Jerusalem, [online] Available at: www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFAArchive/1990_1999/1998/6/Jerusalem%20Urban%20Development%20-%20Tourism%20in%20Jerusalem [Accessed 20 January 2012]

Jones, Clive (1999), ‘Ideo-Theology and the Jewish State: From Conflict to Conciliation?’, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 9-26

Kristiansen, Wendy (1999), Challenge and Counterchallenge: Hamas’ Response to Oslo’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 19-36

Koshy, Ninan (1995), ‘New US Policy on Jerusalem’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 30, No. 22, pp. 1288-1289

Kydd, Andrew & Walter, Barbara F. (2002), ‘Sabotaging the Peace: The Politics of Extremist Violence’, International Organization, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 263-296

Neff, Donald (1993), ‘Jerusalem in U.S. Policy’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 20-45

Oxford Dictionary (2012), Definition of Peace, [online] Available at: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/peace?q=peace [Accessed 20 January 2012]

Peace Monitor (2001), Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 126-146

Rabbani, Mouin (2008), ‘A Hamas Perspective on the Movement’s Evolving Role: An Interview with Khalid Mishal: Part II’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 59-81

Rowley, Charles K. & Webb, Michael J. (2007), ‘Israel and Palestine: The Slow Road to Peace or the Fast Track to Mutual Annihilation’, Public Choice, Vol. 132, No. 1/2, pp. 7-26

Shamir, Michael & Arian, Asher (1999), ‘Collective Identity and Electoral Competition in Israel’, The American Political Science Review, Vol. 93, No. 2, pp. 265-277

Sharkansky, Ira (1997), ‘The Potential of Ambiguity: the Case of Jerusalem’, Israel Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 3/4, pp. 187-200

State of Israel (2002), The Electoral System in Israel, [online] Available at: www.knesset.gov.il/elections16/eng/about/electoral_system_eng.htm [Accessed 20 January 2012]

State of Israel (2003), Statements of the Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion Regarding Moving the Capital
of Israel to Jerusalem, [online] Available at: http://www.knesset.gov.il/docs/eng/bengurion-jer.htm
[Accessed 20 January 2012]

Wald, Kenneth D. & Martinez, Michael D (2001), ‘Jewish Religiosity and Political Attitudes in the United States and Israel’, Political Behaviour, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 377-397

Yousef, Ahmed [Hamas Political Adviser] (2008), ‘Open Letter to U.S. Secy. Of State Condoleezza Rice on the Annapolis Conference, 7 December 2007’, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 37, No. 3, pp. 204-206
[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Appendix 1″]


Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research & Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace (2011), Increase in Palestinians’ and Israelis’ willingness to compromise amidst climate of feud and mistrust, [online] Available at: http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2011/p42ejoint.html [Accessed 22 January 2012]
  • East Jerusalem to become the capital of a Palestinian state, West Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state. Arab neighbourhoods under Palestinian sovereignty, Jewish neighbourhoods under Israeli sovereignty. The Old City bar the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall would come under Palestinian sovereignty, with the two named exceptions under Israeli sovereignty.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 40% support, 59% oppose 36% for, 63% against
Israelis 38% support, 60% oppose 38% for, 58% against
  • Refugees would be able to choose from: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state as mentioned below; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in other areas (host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 45% support, 53% oppose 41% for, 57% against
Israelis 42% support, 51% oppose 36% for, 52% against
  • Israel to withdraw completely from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip except for several large blocks of settlements in 3% of the West Bank which would be annexed to Israel. Palestinian state to form in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza and will in turn annex approx 3% of Israeli territory.
December, 2011 December, 2010
Palestinians 63% support, 36% oppose 49% for, 50% against
Israelis 51% support, 44% oppose 49% for, 43% against

[/toggle]


Human Rights As A Tool For A Palestinian State

Human Rights Instrumental Efficacy for the Palestinian struggle for national independence: The Case of Contemporary Gaza
{Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University}

[dhr]

[dhr]

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ince the nakba of 1948, Gaza is both “exceptional and paradigmatic of the broader Palestinian condition” (Feldman 2007: 129). One million refugees in Gaza account for two thirds of its population (Id.). Being included in no state, its population falls into a citizenship vacuum. Understandably, the Palestinian struggle for national independence is a central theme of political mobilisation in Gaza. It has developed amongst Gazans in a co-constitutive relationship with international humanitarian practices and politics. This essay will consider the instrumental value of human rights as a tool for the Palestinian struggle for national independence. In order to undertake a thicker analysis, I shall almost exclusively focus my attention on the contemporary Gaza strip.

Human Rights: An Integrative Legal Discourse Founded on Human Dignity

An integral and important part of the problem is in the definition of human rights, “a complex of concepts and practices” (Allen 2009: 164). A definition depends primarily on the description of the existing relationship between humanitarian law and the international human rights law. Generally speaking, humanitarian law refers exclusively to “the conduct of military operations (methods and means of combats) as well as the protection of victims of armed conflicts (wounded, sick, prisoners, civilian population, and so on)” (Gros Espiell 2000: 351). More strictly, it is based on the Geneva Convention (1949), and its additional protocols (1977). These documents all share article 3, which is identical or similar to an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948) and of the International covenants on Human Rights (ICCPR 1966 and ICESCR 1966).

Humanitarian law has always been a central tool in safeguarding human rights through the third article of the Geneva Convention. In contemporary legal theory, humanitarian law and human rights are becoming more and more interdependent, although they remain two distinct branches of international law. Previous debates about this distinction have been transcended since this interdependence has been accepted in international practice on the basis of the recognition “of the common fundamental principle of the dignity of the human person” (Gros Espiell 2000: 347, 352). Therefore, humanitarian law aims at protecting human rights in situations of war, and is included in the objective principles and rules of “international human rights law” lato sensu. I should also mention that the same logic applies to the collective right to self-determination (see Declaration of Alger 1976) since it is included within the main human rights covenants (UDHR art. 15, ICCPR art. 1, and ICESCR art. 1). In this essay I will use “human rights” as an all-encompassing expression that refer to all these interdependent legal regimes, including humanitarian, self-determination, and senso stricto human rights law, as they have all placed human dignity as their universal bedrock.

Finally, it is essential to specify that human rights are more than the objective sets of principles and rules mentioned in the covenants. For the purposes of this essay, they also include the subjective discursive constituents of all these rights (Symonides 2000). Therefore, I situate human rights in line with Isaac’s interpretation of Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization:

She believed that human rights were not a problem of moral speculation or legal philosophy so much as a problem of politics, a matter of mobilizing new and effective forms of solidarity and concern
(Isaac 1996: 61)

The instrumental value of the human rights discourse (i.e. its mobilizing and legitimizing capacity) lies in its potential to undermine politics that are not funded on the principle of human dignity. As I shall discuss, it is this central characteristic that makes it such an efficient tool for the Palestinian struggle.

The main political actors of the Palestinian struggle for national independence in contemporary Gaza are the Hamas and Israel.1 They enunciate their political claims through a chimera of the modern discourses of national security or religious faith, and the alternative discourse of human rights. Before considering the broader context, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of the practices of human rights organisations (HRO) and international organisations (IO) on the Palestinian mobilisation since they shape the relationship between political actors, the international community and the population.

Humanitarianism: the Pernicious Effects of some Human Rights Practices

As part of an assessment of human rights efficacy in the Palestinian struggle for independence, it is essential to understand the impact of its practices on Gazans’ political claims and practices of resistance.

As Feldman demonstrates in the case of Gaza, the category of refugee emerged as a structuring category in the “rearticulation of Palestinian political identity in the aftermath of dispossession” (2007: 132). By arbitrarily dividing people into two categories, refugees and natives, half a century of human rights practices transformed the identities and discourses from which stemmed the political claims of the Gazans.

On the one hand, the humanitarian distinction had an impact on the “natives” in the Gaza strip. In the post-nakba economic context, the very fact that they remained at home was the only feature distinguishing them from the refugees. It “would later become an explicit facet of Palestinian citizenship—the notion of steadfastness (sumud), the value of staying put” (Feldman 2007: 152). For the natives, remaining in place was, therefore, an integral part of political action in the struggle for national independence. On the other hand, the humanitarian practices redefined the role of the refugee to that of a victim. Access to the rights to relief, compensation, and return was consequently dependent on extra-legal performatives of victimhood (Malkki 1996: 384), dependent on the status of a “non-agencive victimized community” (Jeffery and Candea 2006).

As Feldman (2007) and Malkki (1996) argue, administrators of humanitarian aid need to establish objective conditions to identify victims. The universal humanitarian subject of aid is imagined as the historic victim that is portrayed in the images of physical suffering (Malkki 1996: 378). Following Malkki’s (Id.) argument, the visual proof of suffering exclusively determined the possible claims of refugees to aid, relief, and return. Symptomatic of humanitarianism, B’Tselem reports are based on many descriptive accounts restricted to violence against civilians. They are classified under different categories, such as torture and abuse during interrogations, beating and abuse, etc. (e.g. B’Tselem 2009b, see also HRW 2009 and Al-Haq.org). The images of pain and mutilated bodies were the only ways to reach and to relate to the international in order to receive consideration and help (see Allen 2009: 173).

All in all, universalized as suffering refugees, Gazans were detached from their situated socio-historic context.2 Human rights practices became humanitarianism in Gaza when it depoliticizes the refugees, and when “political activism and refugee status were mutually exclusive […], as in international refugee law more generally” (Malkki 1996: 385). Humanitarianism, in this form, silenced the refugees’ capacity to express their political claims, and only allowed space for them to share their suffering (Ibid.: 378). However, claims’ enunciation is limited into this specific discourse and only appeals for decontextualised and apolitised restorative responses. Dialectically, international response has been constructed around correcting a violation or returning a right. Human rights practices have had significant consequences for the Palestinian struggle in Gaza since humanitarianism is “able to keep people alive but entirely incapable of changing the conditions that have put them at such great risk” (Feldman 2007: 139).

Beyond Humanitarism: Contextualizing Human Rights’ Role in a Complex Struggle

In the humanitarian apolitical space, Gazans claim access to services through an objective proof of physical grievance such as displacement, mutilation, or homicide. Following this analysis, victimhood establishes itself as apolitical:

Victimhood thus makes a claim for a non-political space, and this is a claim to which many anthropologists have attended. … One might argue in fact that while the suspension of politics was until recently achieved by appeals to “impartiality”, “objectivity”, or “science” (cf. D’Andrade 1995), it is increasingly being achieved by appeals to the ontological primacy of victimhood or suffering.
(Jeffery and Candea 2006)

This theoretical argument issued as a critique from within the anthropological perspective is important to consider (on this topic see also Allen 2009). It allows for the understanding of many of the inherent limitations of contemporary OIs and HRO’s practices in Gaza. It unveils the pernicious consequences of humanitarianism which positions victimhood as the objective or the apolitical cornerstone that is required to legitimize both action and support.

However, this approach does allow space for assessing the role of the human rights discourse and practices outside humanitarianism. In a complex dynamic, other discourses based on politics, such as realpolitik or Jihad,3 are competing with human rights for hegemonic acceptance amongst Gazans and other political organizations. The efficacy of the human rights discourse for the Palestinian struggle can only be appreciated when considered with respect to these competing discourses.

Therefore, an alternative perspective on the intertwining relationship between human rights and political struggle is to consider the discourses as opposing performative entities. Their collision suggests a struggle for hegemonic positioning within their respective discursive foundations. Conceiving politics and victimhood as competing discursive contexts is “to recognize that not only does victimhood attempt to suspend or trump politics, the reverse is also the case” (Jeffery and Candea 2006). Stating the ontological primacy of power politics is as engaging as claiming the universal (and metapolitical) status of human rights politics. From this radical anti-foundational perspective, performatives are not false or just, but can only be considered to be either successful or not at asserting themselves.

These are not two “readings”, but rather two alternative configurations of reality: the question is which alternative manages to establish itself at any given point. … The problem is thus reduced from a metaphysical to an ethnographic one—with a twist. For in this approach, we are forced to recognize the performative power of our own ethnographic accounts
(Jeffery and Candea 2006)

From this perspective, human rights’ practices take on another dimension. In line with what Hannah Arendt conceptualized as political action, human rights’ practices are “intended to secure an elemental human dignity that is systematically jeopardized by the imperatives of national sovereignty” (Isaac 1996: 63). In other words, they have the potential of undermining alternative discursive foundations, which as an instrumental assessment impacts actors’ legitimacy and mobilisation capacity. With respect to the Israeli State, the structuring effect of competition between discourses plays a crucial role in successfully mobilizing support from the international community. In this respect, human rights are integral for Palestinians.

The role of human rights for the Palestinian struggle for national independence was clearly exposed during the last Gaza crisis. Both Israel and the Hamas referred to the different competing foundations for legitimacy.

Israel’s Legitimacy: Human Rights as a Challenge to National Security

Israeli claims of benign interference in Gaza to re-establish order rapidly faded due to the disproportionate use of force. This left the national security principle of self-defence as the last foundation for the legitimacy of IDF’s Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008 – 18 January 2009). HROs denunciations against the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were central in exposing the humanitarian law violations (see HRW 2009). According to the Palestinian HRO al-Mezan (cited in B’Tselem 2009: 3-4), weeks of bombardments and fighting resulted in 1342 Palestinian and 13 Israeli causalities (including 10 soldiers). From the vantage point of human rights discourse (Isaac 1996: 63), the legitimacy this operation relying exclusively on national interest can be challenged.

This approach highlights how the human rights discourse is an instrumental tool in weakening hardliner politics in Israel. Israeli state sovereignty, as a legitimate ground for military action, is limited if (and only if) the ontological primacy of human dignity is successful in asserting itself as the foundation of this competing discourse. Proportionality restraints emanate from this discourse. Therefore, the human rights discourse poses limits to the appeal of national security in order to legitimize bellicose actions or to mobilize international (and Israeli) support.

IOs and HROs have a clear role in restraining IDF’s asymmetric military advantage. It impedes the IDF from applying an unlimited strategy of tabula rasa in the Gaza strip. However, HROs response is symptomatic of the humanitarian flaws since it neither reveals the political consequences of the IDF operation, nor considers the strategic consequences of its violence on Gazans’ acts of resistances. However, it did limit the magnitude of the destruction of this operation on civilians’ lives and assets.

In brief, considering Israel, the existence of legitimate competing discourses per se makes it possible to consider legitimacy and violence from an alternative vantage point. The efficacy of human rights as a tool is not limited to the relief of pain; it allows for an international reconsideration of the legitimacy of military action.

The Hamas: a Jihadist organisation or a vehicle of Palestinians rights?

“the Islamic Resistance Movement erupted in order to play its role in the path of its Lord. In so doing, it joined its hands with those of all Jihad fighters for the purpose of liberating Palestine”
(Hamas Charter 1988)

This initial Jihadist discourse of the Hamas remains relevant while considering the hardliners. However, as counter-intuitive as it may appear, it seems that Hamas political leadership has recently narrowed its ambitions and rearticulated the discourse of the human rights around its religious foundation. Hamas’ incapability to consolidate international support in the West while conserving jihadist rhetoric was a central cause of this shift. The Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre (JMCC 2005) noted the incommensurability of Palestinian political claims with the international discourse: the “Palestinian narrative […] makes little sense in the dominant news agenda of the ‘war on terror’. Journalists feel great pressure to conform to this news agenda.” Micheal Oatley (2008)4, former head of the MI6, noted how the war on terror label of terrorist organization is dangerous for political actors such as the IRA, the Hezbollah, and the Hamas. It impedes negotiations by taking away a priori from these actors the rational capacity to compromise. To tackle this issue, the Hamas has significantly adapted their discourse to the international vocabulary of human rights. This discourse transcends the Jihadist-terrorist dead-end and allows them to engage the international community on a commensurable ground.

In early 2004, Hamas leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and a senior Hamas official, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, declared that armed confrontation could be ended. A ten years truce could be achieved on the basis of the creation of a viable Palestinian state delaminated on the borders of the pre-1967 Six Day war; therefore, calling for the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from occupied territories (Amayreh, Al-Ahram weekly online, 2004). The terms of this proposal for truce almost implicitly acknowledged the two states solution. Abruptly, Yassin and al-Rantissi were killed in two IDF’s air strikes in March and April 2004. Despite their deaths, the pragmatic stand taken by Yassin and al-Rantissi continued to be present in the discussions from within the Hamas in 2005 and 2006 (on internal tensions see Levitt 2009). During 2006 election, Hamas declarations revealed a human rights approach towards national independence. The introduction of its political programme is emblematic of this discursive adaptation when it referred to the collective right to self-determination and to live free from oppression. Hamas also referred to resolution 194 when claiming that Palestinians have the right to return (Hamas cited in JMCC 2006).

Breaking with Diplomatic Isolation: Post-crisis Hamas Capacity to Mobilise International Support

Due to the rigidity of the terrorist label in 2006, it seemed that the international community was not ready to endorse Hamas officials as legitimate political actors even after being elected (see BBC, 7 April 2006 on the Quartet’s decision to cut aid). As a result of this Hamas made some efforts to make the new government more acceptable for the international community through the formation of a unitary government with the Fatah and other parties. Since then, the human rights discourse has become increasingly influential in acting as an efficient tool for mobilizing international support.

However, this process was halted following degradation of Gaza’s situation and the military operation Cast Lead. This last crisis was an epitome of the dynamics of competition between human rights and other discourses, and its consequences. This military confrontation appeared to have weakened human rights discourse and moderated opinions within the population in Israel and Gaza. Symptomatically, Palestinian support for the Sudanese plan of the latter dropped from 64% in December 2008 to 58% in March 2009, while Israelis support dropped from 36% to 33% for the same period (PSR 2009).

It is also most probable that both hardliners within the Israeli government and Hamas organisation have increased their influence as a result of the confrontation (The Herald, February 1st 2009). Israeli politicians, such as actual Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are opposed to the two states solution (BBC News, 30 March 2009). This political force has based their claims on the nationalist project of a Jewish state, thereby excluding Palestinian return. Hamas political leadership is also divided between hardliners and moderates in Gaza (Levitt 2009). In this context, Ismail Haniyah represented the moderate voice from within the Hamas but “is not believed to hold significant sway” (Id.). A few days prior to the end of the Gaza crisis, he restated the right to self-determination and return as the ultimate goal of the Palestinian struggle in amessage published in The Independent (15 January 2009).

This last episode has confirmed that the actual Hamas political leadership is committed to formulating claims into more legalistic terms of national auto-determination and return. This discourse allows for some international openings that were denied to the Hamas within the war on terror mind frame. It allowed the Hamas to get out of diplomatic isolation since many government representatives have initiated contact with its officials (see The Independent 22 and 28 April 2009 and the BBC news, 23 April and 22 March 2009). While the US still designates it as a terrorist organization, the newly elected Obama administration asked for legal changes in order to allow aid to be administered by the Palestinian Authority even if “Hamas backed officials become part of a unified Palestinian government” (Los Angeles Times, 27 April 2009). EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner “said Netanyahu should commit to talks with the Palestinians” (BBC News, 30 March 2009). Following international pressure, Netanyahu may bend and approve a two state solution (The Independent, 28 April 2009).

In conclusion, human rights, considered as an all-encompassing discourse, remains an efficient and pragmatic tool for Palestinian independence struggle. Human rights, beyond their pernicious impacts on Gazans’ forms of mobilisation, have prevented Israel from using its overwhelming military power to seek an expedited solution. The human rights discourse also allowed the main political actor in Gaza, the Hamas, to start to break away from international isolation. This is a crucial development since the Palestinians face a humanitarian crisis resulting from reduction in aids. Moreover, partial rechanneling of aid through UN and civil society agencies weaken the Palestinian Authority viability and further deteriorate the probability for Palestinian independence. In contemporary Gaza, the Palestinians need the human rights to mobilise support.

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1 Hamas will be considered as the main actor of Palestinian independence struggle in Gaza since I will focus on the period of 2004 to the present.
2 Similarly, Ferguson (1994) analyses development’s discourses. He underlines its linear and apolitical treatment of the poor as an unidimensional human.
3 The diversity of discursive practices can hardly be reduced to these labels. However they represent local manifestation of some of the main discourses (see Der Derian 1987, 2001).
4 Argument reported by the author.

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An Iranian Nuke Is No Threat – An Arab Nuke Is

Israeli fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon has far more to do with the probability that it would provide the catalyst for an arms race among Arab states than the actual Iranian weapon itself.

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[dropcap]D[/dropcap]aniel Vanello recently wrote a piece arguing that Israel’s fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon was illogical, that the reasons behind a pre-emptive strike on the Islamic Republic were negligible and fallacious.

Whilst I fervently believe that an Israeli strike (with probable American involvement) would have disastrous consequences not only for the region, but for Western interests at large, I do think that his arguments fail to accept the probable consequences of an Iranian nuclear capability and the very real Israeli fears.

I do not adhere to the Israeli rhetoric that Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish-majority state. Many academics have posited that Iran, since the 1979 revolution, has adhered to a pragmatic foreign policy as supposed to an ideologically-based foreign policy. A nuclear-capable Iran would not divert from this path. If anything a nuclear Iran would become more sensible owing to the greater responsibility that she holds (as every other nuclear state has done over the course of the last 60 odd years).

The Ayatollahs are well aware of the Israeli second-strike capability and they would be foolish to assume that none of Israel’s current submarinal nuclear second-strike capabilities would be – or already are – focused on Tehran. Should Iran appear to be involved in the supply of a nuclear weapon to Hamas, Hezbollah or any other state or non-state proxy, she would be subject to the full, unhesitating retaliation of the Israeli Defence Force.

Thus I agree with Daniel’s assertion that “it seems absurd that the Iranian regime actually intends to nuke Israel”.

However I do believe that Iran could pose an existential threat to various Arab states (most notably Saudi Arabia) in the region. An Iranian nuclear weapon would provoke such states to work towards their own nuclear capability and this is the predominant issue for Israel.

Saudi Arabia already possesses intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and aircraft capable of delivering a nuclear payload over the entire Middle East. The Sunni state has a strong relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan and it would be likely that the Saudis would utilize this connection to bring about the rapid production of their own bomb.

Should such a development take place, we would undoubtedly see numerous other Arab states developing their own capability. These states, especially given the fact that many of the old Middle Eastern elites have recently been deposed from power, are those that could pose an existential threat.

Furthermore, an Iranian nuclear weapon would drastically alter the balance of power within the region. Israel would no longer maintain total military domination; her power would be drastically curtailed and she would be prevented from being as bolshy as she has been.

Israeli fear of an Iranian nuclear weapon has far more to do with the probability that it would provide the catalyst for an arms race among Arab states than the actual Iranian weapon itself. And of course, why would she not want to maintain her hegemony over nuclear capability in the Middle East? I would.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad & The Futility of Violence

While non-violence hasn’t worked for the Palestinian cause, Islamic Jihad would make some political progression should they adopt the tactic.

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is the second largest armed group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. It was founded in 1980 due to the disillusionment of some members of the Muslim Brotherhood within Gaza with the society’’s lack of violent struggle against the Israeli occupation. In fact, the PIJ’s distinctive characteristic is its unwavering involvement in armed struggle, consisting of firing rockets into southern Israel, suicide bombings of Israeli buses and armed infiltration into Jewish settlements. Although the organisation prides itself on this, there are good reasons to show that actually it would gain from a more pacifist approach.

First, attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets give Israel an excuse to retaliate using disproportionate force. Although these retaliations are claimed by the IDF to be aimed at the source of the attack, namely at the PIJ militants, many times they include the death of innocent civilians (“collateral damage”). According to a recent study on the relationship between the Palestinian use of violence and popular support for such Palestinian factions during the Second Intifada, an increase in Palestinian fatalities not only shifts public support away from all the political factions but, specifically, PIJ-claimed fatalities raise significant disaffection at the expense of the PIJ itself.

Furthermore, although it is widely believed that claiming responsibility for Israeli fatalities increases political support, this is not the case for the PIJ. In fact, statistics show exactly the opposite: Israeli fatalities claimed by the PIJ cause a decrease in public support for it. The authors of the study conjecture that the root cause of this trend is that the PIJ employs a “spoiling strategy” in its attacks: the PIJ commits its attacks when there are on-going negotiations between a Palestinian political group and Israel in order to spoil the negotiations. What this shows also is that, on the contrary to Selin Kavlak’s piece, at least a significant part of the Palestinian public is against the disruption of negotiations and thus is in support of them.

Second, the renunciation of violence on behalf of the PIJ would make the brutality of the Israeli occupation more conspicuous. Israel justifies its continued occupation in terms of security: it cannot give up the territories unless it is certain it is safe. In fact, one of the pre-conditions for recognition of a future Palestinian statehood is that it be demilitarized. If the PIJ keeps on firing rockets into Israel it only serves to make the Israeli position more convincing.

Third, the PIJ’s international reputation would ameliorate, and thus earn more credibility, once it gave up armed struggle. This is what happened with the PLO. Before Arafat’s speech at the UN in 1988 where he denounced terrorism, the PLO was considered a terrorist organisation. After the speech, the PLO earned credibility and with it the Palestinian cause earned more international recognition.

Fourth, if we look at some of the most important Islamic organisations which gave up armed struggle and pursued a more reformist approach, we see that they made considerable gain. Within Gaza, Hamas, once it accepted to take part in the PA’s democratic election in 2006 and the same year give up its call for the destruction of Israel, it won an internationally recognised fair electionThe Egyptian Brotherhood won the parliamentary elections and, once the military junta decides to step down, will rule the country (though there may be problems on the horizon with such a development).

Fifth, acts of violence on behalf of Islamic political factions on Israeli targets encourage the Israeli public to vote for right-wing parties who believe in the historical right of the Jewish people to the whole of “Judea and Samaria” and who support government policies to increase settlement construction and to not give back land to the Palestinian people, precisely what the PIJ is fighting for.

Having said this, the PIJ would probably retort that peaceful and reformist policies on behalf of Palestinian political factions never achieved anything. Israel is expanding settlement construction daily and keeps the Gaza Strip in a painful humanitarian crisis. Whilst non-violence patently doesn’t work, violence will only exacerbate the Israeli approach to the Palestinians.

Israel & Egypt: War On The Horizon

With the prospect of war between Israel and Egypt, peace with the Palestinians is needed now more than ever.

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[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e in the West have been vociferous in our support of the transformation taking place in the Middle East; democracy is finally coming to the Arabs. The bleak mid-winter autocratic landscape is thawing, the green shoots of pluralism, freedom of speech and equality are tentatively climbing their way up the twine that we in the West so carefully and delicately prepared.

Is that not, in essence, what we infer when we use the phrase “Arab Spring”? Does it not conjure up images of a return to an ‘Arab Summer’ and the cultural and technical advancements of the Caliphate, a time where the Islamic world bowed to none and distributed knowledge to all?

There are numerous issues with such a label, not least that no-one partaking in the uprisings would contemplate calling the movement as such. But more important is this insinuation that the Middle East (and North Africa) are to move into an era reminiscent of times gone by, a time of prosperity and success. Such an eventuality, in the short-term, is highly unlikely; the destruction of many of the old oriental elites has the potential for a catastrophic collapse of regional stability.

If any region can be described with any element of certainty as capricious it is without doubt the Middle East. The region has seen violence uninterrupted throughout the 20th century, much of it related to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. And it is Israel that will inevitably provide the stumbling block for regional stability in this forthcoming period, even if we leave the Iranian issue well out of the equation.

The Arab-Israeli peace process made its first hesitant steps in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War with the Disengagement Treaties of 1974 and 1975 between Egypt and Israel. Egypt wished to regain control over the Sinai peninsula, and a hesitant Israel was enticed to the negotiating table following an unrefusable offer by the United States; the scene was set for the Camp David framework for peace in 1978 and the peace treaty itself the subsequent year.

The Camp David agreement is to become increasingly important as the internal politics of Egypt undergo dramatic change. The Arab Spring has resulted in the Arab ‘street’ possessing a far greater hold over the direction in which Arab states will develop, and given the antipathy towards the Jewish-majority state we should expect this to materialize on some level in a breakdown of bilateral relations.

Thus the change within Egypt, given her relationship with, and proximity to, Israel, should be of great concern. The Muslim Brotherhood have already threatened to change the terms of the 1979 peace treaty should American aid to Egypt be revoked, arguing that such a move would violate the terms of the 1979 Treaty. But the Brotherhood is equally as able to negate the agreement given the lack of development in regard to the Palestinian conundrum.

The preamble to the 1979 peace treaty affirmed both parties resolve to adhere to the framework for peace agreed upon at Camp David. Section A of that framework called for full autonomy for the inhabitants of the occupied territories following the free election of a self-governing authority. It dictated that Israeli military forces and civilian administration of the West Bank and Gaza would be withdrawn following a transitional phase of no more than 5 years following such elections. Given Israeli failure in regard to this aspect, the Brotherhood is – and within their rights – able to claim that Israel has failed to adhere to the pact. A unilateral abrogation of the treaty would create a distinct lack of confidence in the region, especially if it became apparent that an Iranian hand was at play.

Fortunately whilst the military still exert power and influence over the Arab republic it seems unlikely that such a dissolution will be permitted to occur. The old Generals remember well the horrors of war and they are unlikely to permit a liquefaction of the 1979 treaty. However, as and when the SCAF lose political hegemony within Egypt we will undoubtedly see a government that does not possess experiences of the brutality of war. They will reminisce romantically over “glorious” war with Israel and may well lead Egypt into another.

There are many reasons why Israel should resolve the Palestinian issue by the end of this decade. The growing threat of settlers to the Israeli demographic being high on this author’s list, but external factors must be brought into account. Israel wishes for two things: 1) no more violence, and 2) no more Arab claims. If she wishes to achieve any lasting version of the first she must act now to bring about a resolution of the Palestinian issue, the second should be exactly that: secondary.

Hamas In The New Middle East

As the West attempts to navigate the new Middle East, it may find that the region’s new leaders hold a stronger line on the Israeli-Palestinian issue than their predecessors.

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap] year ago, you could be forgiven for thinking the only Arab dictators in trouble were pro-American. Enormous demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt had just led to the resignations of Ben Ali and Mubarak, but there were also serious disturbances in Yemen and Bahrain, major rallies in Jordan and Morocco and a Saudi man set himself on fire in imitation of Sidi Bouzid. America’s traditional foes, however, were relatively comfortable. Gaddafi could not have imagined that the clashes between a few hundred protestors and police in Benghazi spelled the beginning of his end. Assad too would have taken comfort from the failure of a planned ‘day of rage’ to produce more than a paltry showing.

Since then, of course, things have changed. In Libya, rebels supported by NATO airstrikes defeated Gaddafi’s forces and gave him a tyrant’s death. But it is events in Syria which may prove to be the most decisive for regional politics, at least in the short term. As the city of Homs braces itself for Assad’s onslaught, we can see some of the regional players shifting position.

The Arab League, reinvigorated after decades of irrelevance, has today announced the most serious sanctions on a member state since the expulsion of Egypt for the crime of making peace with Israel. Turkey has not only endorsed the Syrian rebellion, but hosts its ideologues, trains its fighters and even advises them in the field, if these reports are to be believed. This is a complete reversal of the formerly close ties between Turkey and Syria. Assad’s closest ally, Iran, has criticised foreign interference in Syria, but indicated its support for reforms. The Iranians may eventually swim with the tide. For now, though, the presence of Iranian forces in Syria suggests this will not happen soon.

Hamas finds itself in a more difficult position. Palestinian militancy has always been represented in the Middle East’s “resistance bloc” du jour. Until recently, this meant a Hamas HQ in Damascus and close political ties. However, as it becomes increasingly impolitic for the Sunni Islamist group to stand with Shi’ite heretics as they slaughter good Muslims, Hamas has been making moves to extricate itself from the toxic Assad brand.

Low-level Hamas figures have been leaving steadily, and now senior Hamas politburo members – including Khaled Meshaal – have left in protest. Syrian officials have even accused Hamas of supporting the opposition. Hamas is already feeling the consequences: Iran, its main sponsor, reportedly cut its funding in August.

Simultaneously, Meshaal has stirred the pot further by signing an agreement in Doha as part of reconciliation efforts with Fatah. This was apparently done without consultation with his rivals in Gaza, who denounced the “strategically unacceptable” move. Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh has been in Tehran to mend ties with the Iranians, where he was pressed to continue resisting Israel and staying out of peace talks, but there is something of a split emerging between Hamas Gaza and Hamas Global (formerly of Damascus).

Whether or not this disagreement becomes more serious does not alter the main challenge facing Hamas: who will its allies be once the region settles? It will have to align itself with one of the emerging power blocs to thrive.

The new regime in Egypt is expected to be friendly and supportive, even if it won’t supply cash and arms as did Iran. The fraternal bond between the Egyptian and Palestinian branches of the Muslim Brotherhood won’t do any harm either. More promising still is Turkey, whose leadership has been increasingly vocal on the Palestinian issue and confrontational towards Israel. Turkey has also been a leading power in efforts to remove Arab dictators of all stripes. Reports that Turkey will fund Hamas are probably overblown, but are at least indicative of how close the relationship is.

As the West attempts to navigate the new Middle East, it may find that the region’s new leaders hold a stronger line on the Israeli-Palestinian issue than their predecessors. The revolutionary governments are unlikely to argue that violent protest was right in their own countries but wrong for Palestine – some level of support will be inevitable.

Quite what this support will look like is unclear, though Iranian-style sponsorship, with missiles shipments and training camps, seems doubtful. In the short term, we are more likely to see an effort to normalise Hamas politically. Offices in Cairo and Ankara would force Western powers to choose between sanctioning the two biggest powers in the region, or accepting that Hamas is not beyond the pale. A concerted effort to finally reconcile Hamas and Fatah, with some sort of coalition government, would entrench Hamas even further amongst legitimate actors.

This probably won’t be accompanied by a renunciation of violence or recognition of Israel. Hamas will be able to point to the region’s endorsement of their position, while revolutionary leaders struggling to put things back together won’t risk a public backlash by appearing to take Israel’s side. In terms of shifting opinions, then, the real change is with regional powers like Egypt and Turkey who are more sympathetic with Hamas than ever.

A case could be made that Hamas would move towards these powers even in the absence of the fighting in Syria, but it is clear that events there have brought things forward. Even if Syria and Iran stand to lose from the Arab Spring, Hamas clearly stands to gain.

American Aid To Israel Is A Good Thing

If you want a peace process, you want American aid to Israel.

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[dropcap]D[/dropcap]aniel Vanello’s piece on the Obama administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East threw up a point worthy of further discussion: why, given Netanyahu’s poor track record of seeking a settlement with the Palestinians, does the US continue to provide Israel with such copious quantities of military aid?

For Israel is undoubtedly the foremost military power in the region. She possesses the latest military technology – courtesy of our cousins across the pond – weapons that the rest of the region would do far more than kill to get their hands on. Her secret service, Mossad, an organisation world-renowned for its ruthlessness and efficacy, is employed regularly to remove threats to Israeli security on an ‘under the radar’ basis, thus negating the need to resort to more conventional methods of debilitating enemies. And of course, should the worst come to the worst, the Jewish-majority state is the only Middle Eastern country to possess nuclear weapons, an option that has been considered in the past – 1973 Yom Kippur War. Surely therefore, continued American military aid to Israel is not only unnecessary – she is more than capable of defending herself – but, given the current economic climate and popular world opinion being racked up against the ‘only democratic state in the Middle East’, concurrently politically inadvisable?

Ron Paul, the septuagenarian libertarian currently running for the Republican presidential nomination, has had his remarks on the matter turned into something of a political hailstorm. His opinion follows that of above: firstly, that US aid to Israel is illogical given the tremors rocking the American economy, and secondly, that Israel no longer needs the hardware that America is able to provide – Israel would profit far greater from intelligence sharing and a curtailment of arms sales to neighbouring states. So why exactly does this father/spoilt-daughter relationship continue?

The $3 billion worth of military aid provided annually to the Jewish-majority state was brought about following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Our starting point, however, lies with the 6 Day War of 1967. The war (annihilation may be a more accurate description) saw Israel wrest control of the Sinai peninsula from Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s troops, proceeding to take up positions just east of the Suez Canal. Nasser thankfully/unfortunately (delete as appropriate) died in 1970 and was replaced by Anwar Sadat, an unassuming man that most – initially – had little time for. He was regarded as a toothless tiger: the military leadership were considered to be the main movers in the Egyptian establishment. However Sadat proved to be quite the strategist. Within two years of assuming power he had attempted to bring about some form of settlement with Israel, his objective being to regain control of the Sinai. Golda Meir (the feisty then Prime Minister of Israel) refused to partake in diplomacy with the Egyptian, her supposition being that no Arab leader could or should be trusted. Having had his overtures rejected, Sadat, along with his Syrian allies, invaded Israel in order to bring Meir to the negotiating table (the esteemed Ahron Bregman argues that Sadat had been encouraged by Henry Kissinger, the Machiavellian US National Security Advisor of the time, to initiate the war).

Whilst the 1973 war is quite possibly the most exciting and enthralling (and bloodiest) of all the Arab-Israeli sparring contests, I should probably get back on topic. Thus, to summarise ’73 in one sentence: initial Arab successes were countered by Israel, and following the implementation of a ceasefire the positions that had been initially held by both sides at the Suez Canal were retaken. The ’73 war was an Arab political victory and did much to shake the Israeli military command – they had been taken completely unaware. This provided the foundations for an initial peace settlement, for the Disengagement Treaties of 1974 were the start of the peace process, not the Camp David Accords of 1978 as is often asserted. The Disengagement Treaties mark the point at which American military aid to Israel was engaged. Should Israel arrive at a settlement with Egypt, and thus return control of the Sinai, she would be afforded the following:

1. $3 billion per annum of military aid;
2. an affirmation that no US peace plan would be put forth to international opinion without prior Israeli approval;
3. a promise that the United States would protect the Jewish-majority state against the USSR (having been threatened in the 1967 war), and;
4. a commitment that the US would ensure that the military aid supplied would maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.

Needless to say the deal was accepted and thus the peace process was born. 1974 marked the point at which America changed her tack when dealing with Israel: instead of trying to pressure the country into doing something she would rather not do, the US would shower her with gifts.

So, to conclude, next time you read about how stupid it is that America gives Israel so much money when it appears that Israel is doing nothing to warrant receiving such generous donations, remember that without such American overtures the Middle East would most probably be a far more unstable region that it is today. Of course, I might be completely wrong, maybe the peace process is a bad thing?

The Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy In The Middle East

Obama: the promise-breaker.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n his “Cairo speech”, Barack Obama expounded a set of issues threatening the relations between the US and the Islamic world. Specifically to the Middle East, Obama singled out three crucial issues and made respective promises. Firstly, he addressed the issue of the Iraqi War expressing his disagreement with it and emphasising the need for diplomacy. He promised the withdrawal of all troops by 2012 and help in achieving a stable future. Secondly, he addressed the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He made it clear that America would not deny Palestine’s right for statehood and explicitly denounced Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank underlying its role as a hindrance to peace. In other words, Obama promised a radical departure from the position the various US administrations had held before him. Thirdly, he addressed the issue of Iran’s aspirations to attain nuclear weapons. He expressed the fear that it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and thus that his administration was ‘willing to move forward without preconditions’ towards a reconciliation.

Although the last US combat troops left Iraq in December, thus fulfilling Obama’s first half of the promise, they left behind a country on the brink of civil war. Sectarian strife looms large and the government seems ineffective in providing any kind of security to its citizens. In fact, slightly ironically, it is reported that governmental security forces are applying the same methods used by the Saddam Hussein regime on Iraqi citizens. Whilst the natural resources of the country are being exploited by international corporations and there have been many doubts about the fairness of the 2010 Iraqi elections, Obama, in his Fort Bragg speech, called the ‘stable’ progress in Iraq an ‘extraordinary achievement’. Although Iraq is one of the biggest recipients of US foreign aid, the Obama administration should have devised a more specific and committed plan of reconstruction. None of this seems in sight: the future of Iraq is more uncertain every day.

The Obama administration has not repeated the common position held by former administrations in taking Israel’s side unconditionally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In actuality it has vehemently increased US support for the Jewish-majority state. In terms of settlement construction (illegal under international law), the Obama administration never really posed a threat to the Netanyahu government. The only concession it achieved was a ten month freeze (excluding East Jerusalem) in exchange for giving Israel nearly $3 billion worth of military aid on top of the annual $3 billion in grants (despite the financial turmoil of the US economy). Just to make it clear where the Obama administration stands on the issue, it promised to veto the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. So much for his earlier promises.

At first sight, Obama’s only virtue seems to be the use of sanctions rather than force in dealing with Iran’s nuclear project. But if we consider the amount of military support the Obama administration gives Israel and the continued belligerent messages the Netanyahu government conveys to Iran, then we are justified in claiming US responsibility in any attack Israel might be planning against the Islamic Republic. Furthermore, if Obama is truly concerned about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and if he is truly committed to stopping it through diplomacy, then perhaps he should show impartiality by beginning with Israel’s disarmament, the only country which actually possesses weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East (and which has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; Iran has). But the administration’s double standards are well known.

When Obama was delivering his speech in Cairo, few could have guessed that in just a year and a half’s time the Arab world would have experienced a wave of revolutions toppling dictator after dictator. The Obama administration’s reaction was carefully calculated. At first, especially in the case of Egypt, the administration did not express itself in favour of the protesters. Only once the public abuses became undeniable did the administration pronounce its opposition to Mubarak’s rule, hypocritically to say the least since Mubarak’s dictatorship had been supported by the US from its inception. Perhaps Obama’s best bet so far has been not to get too involved in Libya during the recent intervention, but the UK and France had already fulfilled that role. The opposition to Syria’s Assad regime is just but not for the right reasons. While the right reasons should be a genuine valuing of democracy and of human rights, the administration’s opposition to Syria is in part due to the latter’s financial and military support of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia party-cum-militia which opposes Israel.

Although Obama has broken most of his promises it is imperative to hope that, in case of his re-election, something might change. Because the administration will not depend anymore on the pro-Israeli vote, and thus will not need the heavy support of the various pro-Israeli lobbies, perhaps it will place its own priorities first in dealing with the Middle East. The same can be said about the other lobbies’ influences. To be sure in its first three years the administration showed a lack of autonomy in its decision making.

Why The Two-State ‘Solution’ Is A Farce & Not, A Solution

The two-state ‘solution’ is a farce and the ‘peace process’ an Israeli concept.

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you’ve ever had a discussion with a liberal, and by liberal I mean the Robert Frost definition of liberal, someone who is too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel, or the Theodore White definition, someone who believes that water can be made to run uphill. And the conservative as someone who believes everybody should pay for the water. I well am neither, I believe water should be free, and that water flows downhill – and in fact bottled water and insurance is the biggest shams to date (however I won’t be getting into that today).

First of all the ‘peace process’ is an Israeli concept. It is an Israeli ideology based on Zionist supremacy of ‘we will have peace in return that you be quiet and live under our rule, our policies and our boots and agree to our demands – which includes your inevitable exile’. That essentially is what the peace process stands for, and I’m certain there is nothing anyone could produce, including a Knesset member to prove otherwise. And to talk about a genuine peace process, the one understood to be settling the ‘conflict‘ as a liberal would describe, is like kicking a dead horse rather than acknowledging that its dead. And that its not a horse, it’s a unicorn. Doesn’t exist.

Today, the number of Israelis and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is approximately about 5 million each. But most demographers agree that in less than a decade, Palestinians will greatly outnumber Israelis. That means that Israel will no longer be a Jewish majority state (unless some demographic miracle happens, like say a massacre). This is quite frightening for the state of Israel who already implements extreme ‘security measures’ which come in the form of 500 watchtowers, 100 fixed checkpoints, 130 settlements (with several more settlement plans being approved every few months), 500,000 aggressive settlers, night raids, violent repression of Friday protests, Gaza’s F-16 war planes and drones, denial of medical access, administrative detentions, demolition notices, bulldozers at 6am, high velocity tear gas, skunk water, and it goes on.

The peace process – the two-state solution, is farce because, yes Israel doesn’t want two states. Israel has never in the course of history supported two states. When the current Likud party in power happens to be founded by the terrorist Menachem Begin in 1973 who was part of the Irgun terrorist group responsible for the King David Hotel bombing (of British Forces) as well as Dier Yassin Massacre, and miraculously becomes prime minister and then awarded the noble peace prize jointly with Anwar Sadat, there was never the intention of a two-state solution. Israel was founded based on one principle and one principle only. An established homeland for the Jews. And to this day, they still dream of the ‘Great Land of (all) Israel’. They believe they made the ‘desert bloom’, because Palestine was ‘a land without a people, for people without a land’. There is no West Bank, it is ‘Judea and Samaria’. There are no ‘Palestinians’, they are only Arabs and Arabs have 23 states.

Now when a country emerges and builds upon the history of another history written by peoples of different creed and colour in harmony, and declares it sacred for themselves, when a country emerges based on the ideology that they are superior to every other human being based not on a race, but scriptural belief, when a country establishes its existence on stolen geography, stolen history and undrying blood, the word peace is as invalid as US being in Afghanistan for a feminist cause. It is just beyond absurd.

Once we understand that Israel has never been a supporter of co-existing and sharing what they had came to claim for themselves and themselves only, it becomes clear as day that obviously the Palestinians do not want a two state solution. The Palestinians do not want a two state solution, just as you wouldn’t if you had your home ransacked by a foreign group, settling in your fields, in your houses, treated you like a 4th class citizen, shot your mother and cut her stomach open to kill your unborn sister leaving her skirt hoisted by her waist, dragged your father by the head to execute him with your brother against a wall, shot your grandmother in the chest, made you beg for your life, forced you to escape into a neighbouring land after half of your population was exiled and killed, and now you remain ousted for the remaining of your existence, because they have forbidden your return, whilst your people still inhabiting parts of the land undergo daily humiliation and degradation, imprisoning the men, beating the women, kidnapping the children, bombing sleeping families, uprooting your trees, building their homes, erasing your history, rebuilding your geography, swallowing your culture. You too, would not want two states. You would want it all – back.

Of course, whenever I engage in a discussion with a liberal of some kind, or someone who isn’t entirely informed on the issue but is an apologist, but do happen to accept the points made above they ask, “well realistically, the only solution is to have two states. You can’t drive the Jews into the sea or push the Arabs off the land, so it wouldn’t it make sense to have two states?”

The answer is yes, it would make sense.

It would make sense to have two states (if we’re talking about realistic terms), no settlements, no checkpoints, no military presence in Palestine, the right of return for Palestinians in exile, a formal apology by the state (just for the sake of it), Israel’s apartheid laws abolished, the physical and economic siege on Gaza lifted, the apartheid wall and settlements demolished, freeing of all prisoners, giving back land to uphold the UN partition, basically the terminating the concept of Zionism. But how is that possible when the entire existence of Israel is solely based on Zionism? To expect a Palestinian-Israeli confederation wherein the two peoples share joint political and economic institutions while maintaining a sense of semi-autonomy and preserving their cultural and religious distinctions based on the peace process, on Israeli terms, is far-fetched. The two state solution becomes a floating paradox. It is here where the dead horse or unicorn, becomes a cloud of dust.

However I must insert here, Palestine isn’t based on the 1947 partition plan issued by the UN (they were useless even then). Palestine is Haifa, Palestine is Yaffa, Palestine is Jerusalem. So I will want it all back. And if you were Hanifa al-Najjar that lost her husband after a settler that cracked open his skull, and an Israeli soldier paralysed her 5 year old daughter, and indefinitely imprisoned her brother, I believe you would too.