Wednesday, July 24, 2013

[ePalestine] After the peace talks fail - Amira Hass at her finest! (A MUST READ)


Jul. 24, 2013

After the peace talks fail 

A Palestinian generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren't ready for a fair agreement. 

By Amira Hass     

Don't worry, in this round of talks with the Palestinians, Israel will again miss the opportunity to change and be changed – just as the Rabin-Peres government and the Barak government missed their opportunities. Discussions over a referendum ignore the essence: Any future worth living for the Jewish community in this part of the Middle East depends on the ability and will of that community to free itself from the ethnocracy ("democracy for Jews only") that it has built here for nearly seven decades. For this we desperately need the Palestinians.

But military and economic superiority is blinding us. We are sure that they need us and that we have pushed them into such a weak position that we can extricate a yes from them regarding what they have been saying no to for 20 years; that is, much less than the 1967 borders.

The negotiations expected now, with the very non-neutral American participation (if we even get to that after the pre-negotiation phase), will not produce independence for the Palestinians. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition problems can't be blamed for that. It's the Israelis who are not yet ready to demand that their leaders work toward a peace agreement, because they're still enjoying the occupation too much.

It's not for nothing that we have been blessed with 6,800 weapons exporters, the title of the sixth largest weapons exporter in the world, and first or second place among countries selling unmanned aircraft, which were upgraded by trying them out on the Lebanese and mainly the Gazans. Even if few of our people are involved in the manufacture and export of weapons and in the defense industry in general, that's a minority with an extensive influence and a great deal of economic power that shapes politics and produces messianic and technocratic rationalizations.

The European Union's directives on noncooperation with the settlements and companies linked to them have come at least 15 years late. As early as the 1990s it was clear to Europe that the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza contradicted its interpretation of the Oslo Accords, but that didn't prevent it from spoiling Israel with favorable trade agreements. Neither these agreements nor massive support for the Palestinian Authority (that is, compensation for damage done by Israeli rule and its restrictions on movement), gave Europe real political clout in Israel's eyes and in the corridors of the negotiations. And then a determined first step by Europe rehabilitated its political standing.

The Palestinians have made clear that if the Europeans back down on these directives, as Israel has demanded and the United States wants, they will stop the talks (when they start). But the directives' main psychological impact will dissipate without quick implementation. When and if implemented, the results will not be felt immediately in Israel, and even then, they will be felt only gradually. That is, it will take time before more and more Israelis realize that the occupation isn't worth it. That will be enough time for us to continue feeling that we're stronger than the Palestinians.

But depending on the Palestinians' weakness is an optical illusion of the arrogant. True, the PLO's leadership is fossilized and controlled by one individual who rarely consults and rarely takes his people's opinions into consideration. But even he can't accept what the Netanyahu-Bennett-Lapid government plans to offer. True, Palestinian society is more fractured geographically and politically than it was 20 years ago, but it has great stamina, which the Israelis lack.

The PA and the Hamas government are groaning under the financial burdens of economies under siege. The social and economic rifts have deepened and an atmosphere of depoliticization has taken over. But beneath the surface there are new developments. Initiatives are afoot to turn the Palestinian people – in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the diaspora – into one deciding body. Ideas are being seriously discussed for methods of struggle outside negotiations. A generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren't ready for a fair agreement. And when we, the Israelis, wake up and beg for an agreement, it might be too late.



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Monday, July 22, 2013

[ePalestine] BUSTLE.COM: Israelis and Palestinians React to Secretary of State John Kerry's Efforts to Revive Peace Talks


July 18, 2013

Israelis and Palestinians React to Secretary of State John Kerry's Efforts to Revive Peace Talks

Kayla Higgins

Bustle interviewed four citizens individually — two Israeli and two Palestinian — to find out how they feel. Let's introduce them first:

Yehuda HaKohen, 33, is an Israeli alternative peace activist and history teacher at several Jerusalem institutions.

Sam Bahour, 48, is a Palestinian-American business development consultant living in the West Bank. He serves as a policy advisor of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

Nir Kalfa, 35, is an Israeli member of the local Garin Torani (Torah outreach community) as well as the Reut-Sderot Association, a non-profit that works within his city's community.

Eilda Zaghmout, 32, was born and raised in Jordan, but moved with her family to live in Palestine in 1999.



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[ePalestine] Israel's version of Economic "Piece"


Israeli cell companies paying West Bank settlement for use of private Palestinian land

Beit El collects thousands of shekels a month for keeping communications equipment on land outside its jurisdiction; Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against all the buildings and trailers, as well as the Pelephone pole, to which antennae are attached.

By Amira Hass  | Jul. 16, 2013 | 11:26 PM
Israeli cellular companies pay the local council in the West Bank settlement of Beit El thousands of shekels every month to keep communications equipment on private Palestinian land just outside the settlement's jurisdiction.

According to a conservative estimate, the Beit El local council has made hundreds of thousands of shekels over the past 13 years for keeping two communications structures at Jabel Artis. One of the structures belongs to Partner and Mobile Hot (formerly Mirs), and the other belongs to Pelephone and Cellcom.

The payments came to light when Partner submitted an initial response to a petition by Palestinians demanding the evacuation of buildings built on their private land at Jabel Artis.

The petition to the High Court was submitted on June 4 by attorneys Husaam Younes and Kamel Natour on behalf of six Palestinians from the village of Dura al Qar'a and the head of the village council. They demand the removal from land they own nine buildings, around 30 trailers, a water reservoir, the two communication centers and the fence that surrounds area. The nine buildings are part of the Ulpana neighborhood , where five buildings were already evacuated and dismantled last year, following a 2008 petition of other Dura al Qar'a residents and a High Court order.

The Civil Administration has issued demolition orders against all the buildings and trailers, as well as the Pelephone pole, to which antennae are attached.

Partner was the first company to build equipment at the site – which belongs to the late Zagloul Hassan – in the beginning of 2000. According to court documents submitted by Partner's attorneys Yaakov Cohen and Orly Vidan, Partner signed a contract with the Beit El council on July 18, 2000, stipulating that "Partner is permitted to use the land in return for monthly rent." The attorneys added in their response to the Jabel Artis petition that Partner has indeed paid the settlement council every month for the past 13 years.

According to the response, the Civil Administration issued permits for the communications equipment, as did the Environmental Protection Ministry official responsible for the monitoring of non-ionizing radiation.

In May 2006, Mirs (now Hot Mobile) put up its equipment at the site, again on land owned by Hassan.

Pelephone responded to the petition by stating that it had put up the pole in 2003 (the demolition order states that it went up in 2004) after also signing a contract with the Beit El council. Attorneys Guy Tsafrir and Ron Schwartz, writing on behalf of Pelephone, stated that it was a temporary pole "placed on Pisgat Ya'akov near Beit El … according the permit by the owner of the land – the Beit El local council."

The Beit El local council declined to respond to Haaretz's questions on July 11 regarding the payments received from the cellular phone operators over the years. The local council also refused to comment on its use of land that is beyond its jurisdiction and which it does not own.

Spokespeople for Pelephone and Partner said they do not reveal details about their commercial contracts. But a source at Partner told Haaretz on Sunday that such rental agreements are open to negotiation and that there is no fixed fee.

Amitai Ziv reported in The Marker on January 10, 2012, that the sums for these types of agreements usually range from NIS 4,000 to NIS 6,000 a month.

Both cellular operators, as well as the Beit El local council and the state, have requested that the petition be rejected outright, in limine. Partner, Pelephone and the Beit El council point to the significant amount of time that has elapsed since the buildings and communications poles were constructed. Furthermore, they argue that the petition should be heard in a civil court.

The cellular companies also mentioned the security value of the poles and the huge costs of constructing them.

Partner's attorneys are also claiming that the Palestinians did not prove ownership of the land. Attorney Akiva Sylvetzky, representing the Beit El settlement, furthermore states that it would be difficult for the petitioners to prove do so.

According to Sylvetzky, the inheritance order for the plot where the poles were built appears to have been printed by the Palestinian Authority, but bears the date November 1979. Natour responded that the petitioner is the son and heir of the owner, who appears in land registration records. The document, Natour says, was printed by the Palestinian Authority using the old 1979 records and is thus a valid and legitimate record.

Sylvetzky added that even if the petitioners did prove ownership of the land, the Beit El council could argue that the statute of limitations has already passed.

Sylvetzky also noted that the government had funded development on part of the plot "while the government encouraged settling in the area."

The respondents did not reply to the claim that the land is actually located several hundred meters beyond the jurisdiction of the local council.

Ownership records for most land in the Ramallah area were registered during Jordanian rule, and the Civil Administration has all the registry records. Younis argues that the statute of limitations does not apply to such lands.

The current petition and the former Dura al Qar'a petition (filed by Yesh Din) are based on the information revealed by Dror Etkes, who started researching the settlements' land grab back in 2002 when he was employed by the NGO Peace Now. The documents he obtained about Jabel Artis clearly show the land there is owned by Palestinians and orderly registered.



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Sunday, July 14, 2013

[ePalestine] JPOST: Diskin: Israel nears point of no return on two-state solution

Jerusalem Post

July 13, 2013

Diskin: Israel nears point of no return on two-state solution

Former Shin Bet chief calls on Netanyahu to "overcome fears"; fears Mideast conflict is taking a back seat in Israeli public interest.


We are approaching a point of no return regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it may be that we have already crossed it.

The issue may not seem as urgent to the Israeli public as the Iranian nuclear program, which has become, with the help of our leaders, a central focus of discussion at the expense of other pressing issues.

To my regret, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has yet to reach a prominent place at the top of our list of priorities, nor has it become the second-, even third-most important issue.

However, this subject has a place in our essence, in our identity, in our souls, in our security, and in our perception of morality – as a society or nation that has come to rule another nation.

The relative security calm that we have recently enjoyed creates a dangerous illusion that our problems have been solved, and maybe worse – that we have "frozen the situation": a kind of de facto strategy in the face of the "Arab Spring" that is raging all around us. But it is clear that it is impossible to truly freeze the situation as social, economic, political and other processes are never frozen in time. Unfortunately, we have yet to find a strategy or the technology that can freeze frustration.

Look no further than at what's been happening in the Arab world in recent years, at what's been happening in Egypt in the past several days, what is happening simultaneously in Brazil, at what happened in Russia after Vladimir Putin was elected, and at what happened in Iran in the latest election – and even at what happened in the social protests which took place in Israel during the summer of 2011 – and you will understand that in the latest era, which is represented by the "Arab Spring," there is no way to freeze the frustration of a nation or of any public entity.

Among the Palestinians, there is a growing sense of anger and frustration.

The fading hopes for a real change in the situation haven't just lowered the Palestinian street's faith in a solution to the conflict through negotiation, but it is also the reason, at the end of the day, the Palestinians will take to the streets, leading to another round of bloody violence.

And the construction of settlements (whether or not this is taken as a symbolic gesture toward Mahmoud Abbas) is not stopping; the number of settlers or "residents" in the West Bank, outside the main settlement blocs, is growing (if it has not already arrived) to dimensions that no Israeli government will be able to dismantle in an orderly fashion, unless it is with the consent of the residents – and it doesn't appear that the current government possess the will or the desire to buck the trend.

No less worse – many of our friends in the world, whose support of the peace process with the Palestinians is critical, understand the powerless leaderships of Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas. They see the continued expansion of the settlements and are choosing to call it quits regarding the possibility of ever implementing the solution of "two states for two nations."

A minority between the sea and the river

Until recently I believed with all my heart that there was still a chance for the two-state solution. However, the absence of true leadership willing to take real actions, instead of making idle statements, has me convinced more and more that this option, which until recently was preferred by the Israeli majority according to surveys, is becoming increasingly unrealistic and is no longer feasible.

It is possible to compare our situation to flying in a plane. When we fly, it's worthwhile to know if we have enough fuel to return home.

There won't be any obvious signs that we have reached the point of no return; there won't be any exploding sounds, and it won't be possible to paint it on a poster to present during speeches made to the United Nations or anywhere else. Even research and reports won't be able to prove that we've crossed the line, it will be more like the picture of the cat that slowly turns into a dog. Except in this case, the dog will also be buried.

I will summarize my argument: In terms of the future, the identity, the nature and security of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation, it will be impossible to know when we have passed the point from which we will never be able to return home and retain our identity as a democratic, Jewish state.

The blame game taking place between Netanyahu and Abbas is foolish in my eyes, a useless game that is dangerous on a strategic level, in which the real losers are not the leaders, but rather their two nations, and mostly the Jewish, democratic State of Israel.

As for the Palestinians, I believe that in the long term they will not lose from the disintegration of the two-state option and the shift to a nearly inevitable outcome of the one remaining reality – a state "from the sea to the river," in other words, "one state for two nations."

When we get there, we will face an immediate existential threat of the erasure of the identity of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and in a few years, the reality of the country's demographics will lead to a Palestinian- Arab majority and a Jewish minority, with all that entails.

Anyone who wants can see the data of the Research and Information Center Division (based on a study by Prof. Arnon Sofer and Prof. Sergio DellaPergola), suggesting that at the end of the year 2010, the share of Jews – if you add up the total population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River – was only 53%.

If we study the geographical distribution of the various populations in the area between the sea and the river, we will understand that we will have created a state with a Jewish majority (temporarily) concentrated in small sections of its territory.

National state of emergency

Meanwhile, the quiet on the security front creates the illusion of "everything is okay," mistakenly lulling us into believing that there is no reason to worry. But what else do we need to recognize the fact that we are in a state of national emergency in every sense of the term, an emergency whose resolution should have long been at the top of the list of priorities? One only needs to consider what took place in the largest political parties that supposedly support a twostate solution. When asked to comment on their positions during the election campaign, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who for the most part was certain that he was en route to a crushing victory, said nothing of consequence about the subject or other matters. Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid continued to dazzle us with mediocre pronouncements that were designed to be well-received by all, shrewdly avoiding the need to commit himself either way as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Shelly Yacimovich has steadfastly refrained from any clear-cut statement on the topic, which has traditionally been a litmus test issue for her predecessors in the Labor Party.

The only politicians in the center of the Israeli political map who took a clear stand were Tzipi Livni, the leader of Hatnua, a party that placed a solution to the conflict as the central item on its agenda; Meretz, headed by Zehava Gal-On; and the disintegrating Kadima Party.

The reasons for this disappointing and disconcerting state of affairs can be found in a misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation as well as discomfort with meeting this issue head-on, a discomfort motivated by narrow political interests. Then there is the populist stance taken by leaders who prefer uncontroversial, palatable sound bites that appeal to the widest possible audience. They take this stance while avoiding the task of dealing with a fateful, weighty and unpopular issue that is still on the national agenda.

Whoever is adept at constantly drawing "red lines" for the Iranians would be better off taking a look at his next-door neighbors rather than at those on the other side of the faroff, darkened hills, for doing so would reveal to him that it is here, right here, where we are nearing the point of no return. The problem is that our planes which will take off toward the unknown will be of no use in solving the problem.

The dissipating vision of the founding fathers

If our leaders in Israel and the Palestinian leadership both lack the necessary will power to lead us to a twostate solution, it would be best to begin thinking about the binational alternative in realistic terms. This isn't because I necessarily support the binational model, but rather because it is gradually turning into the only alternative on the table. If the situation remains as is, then it would be best to begin preparing for the inevitable.

This alternative entails addressing some serious concerns. What status will be conferred upon the Palestinian citizens in this "from the river to the sea" state that we have created with our own hands? Will they have full voting rights like those enjoyed by Israeli Arabs? Will they be given equal rights as residents with the exception of the right to vote? Will we grant the Palestinians autonomy that will allow them to manage their own affairs? And what of the Arab citizens of Israel? Won't they demand autonomy of their own? Will the security situation improve in such a setting? Will the Palestinians really relinquish their demands once this "river to the sea" state arises? Will we remove the security fence in such a state? How will we sort out our identity as a Jewish and democratic once we turn into a minority? Will our status in the eyes of the family of nations improve as a result? We cannot simply brush off these questions as nothing more than "shrapnel in the buttocks," in the words of Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi. Indeed, in the eventuality of a "river to the sea" state, one of the most difficult questions that need to be addressed is who is the shrapnel and who is the buttocks? These are questions that cannot be evaded by means of "bypass routes" or highway junctions, nor can they be sidestepped by annexing pieces of Area C or establishing Palestinian autonomous zones in line with the "progressive" vision propagated by Bennett and others. There really is no way to avoid these issues.

If we don't wish to continue ruling over another people and thus turn into an ostracized apartheid state, there is no alternative but to grant full rights, including the right to vote, to Palestinians. In such a scenario, there is no need to hold further discussions about the future of the Jewish and democratic vision as put forth by our founding fathers, the same vision on which we were reared and educated. It will melt away and disappear.

Lapid and Yacimovich must help Netanyahu

Yes, on the surface this issue is quite simple, yet at the same time there is no more complex conundrum. It seems simple because everyone knows what the parameters of a settlement will inevitably entail: the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state along the 1967 lines with territorial swaps that will allow Israel to keep large settlement blocs; a symbolic right of return for refugees, with financial compensation being paid to Palestinians in the diaspora; dismantling of settlements that are beyond the agreed-upon borders and compensation to those who will be evicted from them; a political partition of Jerusalem which would be in line with our interest to avoid ruling over a large Palestinian population; a creative solution regarding sovereignty over the holy sites in the Old City (internationalization, perhaps?); a resolution of the future status of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall; and a diplomatic solution over the contours of Israel's eastern border and the Jordan Valley.

This alternative is also extremely complex for a number of reasons.

There are the enormous psychological gaps and lack of faith between those who are charged with leading the negotiations; the fact that apparently neither Netanyahu or Abbas has what it takes to lead their peoples to such a solution; the fact that Abbas has no solution to the serious rift that has been created between his Fatah-led West Bank and the Hamasruled Gaza Strip; the fact that it is impossible to solve this conflict without Hamas; and – let's face it – the fact that Netanyahu has no realistic solution to the federation-like network of settlements that has grown out of control in the West Bank.

There is no way to solve this conflict without involving our brothers (and this is said without a hint of cynicism) the settlers.

There are those who say that the conflict is insoluble. I believe there are many strategic and tactical risks involved, but the alternative – a "river to the sea" state and continued occupation of another people, with all that it entails – is far worse. As such, the problem is unavoidable. It cannot be put on hold or contained.

This is Netanyahu's moment of truth. He can prove to all of his most vociferous naysayers and critics (me among them) that he is not just a politician passing his – and our – time in the Prime Minister's Office, but a leader who is capable of grasping the gravity of the situation; a leader capable of freeing himself of his trepidations, fears and secret advisers; a leader capable of understanding the critical need to rise above himself and establish a proper set of priorities; and, most important, a leader capable of shepherding the nation (or, at least a majority of it) to the right path. I have huge doubts as to whether Netanyahu is such a leader, but I will be the first one to praise him if he proves otherwise.

This is also a moment of truth for Yair Lapid, who has a chance to liberate himself from the image of a Facebook-centric, shallow politician, and for opposition chief Shelly Yacimovich, who can restore the soul of a party gone awry. Together, these two individuals can help Netanyahu rise above himself. There's no need to worry about Tzipi Livni and Hatnua not extending their support for such a move, and I am convinced that Zehava Gal-On of Meretz will also back it, as will what remains of Kadima and other parties.

This is also the moment of truth for another key figure – Naftali Bennett – who can prove that he possesses the maturity of someone who understands the strategic significance of this point of no return as it relates to the future of the state and this nation.

This is not a matter of Right versus Left, or who is in the political Center.

This is a matter that requires national responsibility of the highest order.

It requires taking advantage of what may be the last opportunity to extricate ourselves from the deadly clutches of our conflict with the Palestinians, clutches which we have tethered to ourselves.

Unilateralism? Forget about it

I, too, believe that the risks are considerable, and success is not guaranteed because this is a very deep conflict, with dimensions that are religious, nationalistic and territorial. In the Middle East, blood doesn't turn into water. The two sides are also separated by deep economic, cultural and psychological gaps, and the wounds are still fresh. We are still more likely than not to experience moments of crisis, disappointment and failure, and there will be further need to readjust our expectations amongst ourselves as well as with our Palestinian interlocutors.

I still believe that genuine leadership that charts a clear path toward a defined goal could propel forward a process which if moved in a truly positive spirit (and I emphasize a truly positive spirit) could instill hope and create the momentum and positive atmosphere on the Israeli and Palestinian streets, thus leading to the crystallization of strong majorities on both sides that will support the process. Such a process would have to be devoid of pettiness and intrigue, and it would have to entail generous, confidence- building gestures by Israel. It would have to gradually establish a relationship of trust between the leaders, a relationship that just may form the basis of fruitful negotiations.

As part of this effort, a complete, immediate cessation of all construction in the settlements (with the exception of some building within the large blocs) for an indefinite period is critical to keeping alive the chances of creating a positive atmosphere conducive to relaunching negotiations. Even acceding to the Palestinian Authority's request for the release of "pre- Oslo" prisoners and bolstering Fatah's credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian street is, in my view, a worthy gesture. It is far more preferable than capitulating to the dictates of a terrorist organization that abducted an Israeli soldier and agreeing to the disproportionate release of murderers in prisoner swaps which will only encourage more abductions.

Perhaps we will fail. One cannot discount this possibility, which would most likely lead us to begin entertaining all sorts of interim alternatives that some have bandied about, most prominent of which is a unilateral Israeli move in which we exit most of the territories that we control today without coordinating it with a partner or delineating an agreed-upon border.

It would also be done most likely without summoning significant public support for the evacuation of outposts and settlements that lie outside of the large settlement blocs.

Such a move may partially – and temporarily – improve Israel's image in the eyes of the world, though this is doubtful. It will not, however, solve the problem. Obviously I would recommend against giving this alternative any sort of preference at this stage. I do not believe in the utility of such a move, or in the ability to implement it.

Given the complexity and the gravity of the situation, I would recommend that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is famous for his admiration for Winston Churchill and is wont to quote him, make it a point to internalize this quote from the latter: "Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." This is true leadership in a nutshell. It is a leadership that adheres to a determined path, one that is determined to realize the goals that it has established.

There is no alternative but to enter into a diplomatic process with the Palestinians, here and now, despite the anxieties and the numerous risks. Without such a process, we will certainly cross the point of no return, after which we will be left with one state from the river to the sea for two peoples. The consequences of such a state for our national identity, our security, our ability to maintain a worthy, democratic state, our moral fiber as a society, and our place in the family of nations would be far-reaching.

This article was translated by Amishai Gottlieb.



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Thursday, July 04, 2013

[ePalestine] EI: Palestinians sue US groups over support for settler attacks

The Electronic Intifada

Human Rights

Palestinians sue US groups over support for settler attacks

Charlotte Silver
San Francisco
3 July 2013

"The five organizations cited in the lawsuit are The Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund, Christian Friends of Israel and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, all based in New York."


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