Tag Archives: Abbas

Magical thinking

Donald (you know which Donald) wants to make the “deal of the century” in the Middle East and he’s assigned that task to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Here’s what we know about the “deal” thus far.

  • Make the issue of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future State of Palestine disappear by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel. (See here.) No capital for Palestine, no problem.
  • Strip the more than 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan of their status as refugees, and pay Jordan to absorb them as new citizens of Jordan. That would solve the ‘right of return’ problem, at least for those 2 million Palestinians. (See here.)  No refugees in Jordan, no problem.
  • Dissolve the U.N. agency (UNRWA) that was created in 1949 to provide relief to the Palestinians displaced by the creation of the State of Israel. (See here.) No UN agency requiring funding to sustain the refugees, no problem.
  • Redefine who qualifies as a refugee to include only those individuals who were displaced 70 years ago, not their descendants. Of course, this would drastically reduce the refugee population which is around 5 million, nearly one-third of whom live in camps across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. (See here.) No descendants of Palestinian refugees to be concerned about, no problem. JUST WAIT THEM OUT AND THOSE PESKY REFUGEES FROM 70 YEARS AGO WILL DIE.
  • Provide aid to the Palestinians in a way that makes clear that the international community does not recognize the vast majority of Palestinians who are currently registered as refugees are deserving of refugee status. (See here.) Again, no refugees, no problem.

Lest you think this is all magical thinking, H.R. 6451 – UNRWA Reform and Refugee Act of 2018 was introduced in July and would accomplish many of these points pushed by Jared Kushner.

By any objective measure, this is a war between the U.S. Congress and Palestinians with a clear goal to erase the impediments to the “deal of the century”. No refugees, no UNRWA, no capital in Jerusalem, no ‘right of return’ – such a headache for Israelis to contemplate – this deal will certainly fall right into place.

And Congress wants to ensure that the State of Israel maintains a military advantage which translates on the ground to Israeli snipers shooting and killing Palestinian journalists, nurses, doctors, women and children (some in the back, others who were merely standing and observing) — a total of 156 since the weekly protest marches at the Gaza fence began in March this year.

iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

America and Israel flags

My delegation from New Mexico (Heinrich, Lujan-Grisham, Lujan and Pearce) have signed on as cosponsors to H.R. 5141 and S.2497 – United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 which states in part:

It is the policy of the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military or emerging threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition states or non-state actors.

(1) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel to combat Hezbollah in the event of a sustained armed confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah.

(2) The quantity and type of precision guided munitions that are necessary for Israel in the event of a sustained armed confrontation with other armed groups and terrorist organizations such as Hamas.

(3) The resources the Government of Israel can plan to dedicate to acquire such precision guided munitions.

(4) United States planning to assist Israel to prepare for the sustained armed confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as the ability of the United States to resupply Israel in the event of such confrontations described in paragraphs (1) and (2), if any.

Read this language carefully and it’s clear that the U.S. Congress wishes to re-write the rules of war, and international humanitarian law, by authorizing the State of Israel to preemptively strike anyone (civilians included) who, in their sole discretion, poses a threat.

I suspect that many members of Congress don’t understand what they’ve signed onto, and they trust AIPAC’s propaganda. But the words speak for themselves, and anyone who values the rule of law must remove their name as a cosponsor.

That’s the message I’m sending to my delegation from New Mexico.

Palestinian President Abbas condemned the ‘deal of the century’ as the ‘slap of the century’.

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Filed under Israel, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy, Video

“Greater Jerusalem”

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Ancient olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane

I spent 6 days in Jerusalem, not enough time to get to meet the people and organizations I wanted to network with and certainly not enough time to acquaint myself with “the situation” here, but enough time to leave me feeling very depressed about the future.

Everyone I spoke with in the city, including cab drivers, transit riders, store clerks, clergy and religious leaders, retired Jewish women my age, long-time Israeli-Americans who raised their children in Jerusalem, a tour leader, and a Palestinian resident who is a 3rd generation resident of the Old City, EVERYONE told me in so many words that life is very difficult now and they don’t have hope that “the situation” is going to get any better in the future.

My next question was “Why no hope?” 12783646_10208806070174975_2794744035196101163_o

Some laid the blame squarely on Bibi and his government. Others said the blame was shared by both Bibi and Abbas. A couple mentioned the complicity of the U.S. and the international community for allowing “the situation” to deteriorate to this extreme and not forcing Israel to change course. Greater Jerusalem Eng 2015Although I’ve read and seen photos of “Greater Jerusalem” and the high security wall snaking through the landscape, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw and heard on my last day in Jerusalem. I joined a 4-hour study tour conducted by Ir Amim which focused on planning and development policies in the “Greater Jerusalem” area.

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While the Jewish owner received a permit to construct this large building with a 135% floor area ratio, his Palestinian neighbor was denied a permit to add rooms onto his house because the zoning regulations only allowed him 35% FAR.

As a city planner who entered the profession 35 years ago in the United States with the noble goal of creating safe, just and sustainble communities, I felt personally devastated that the planning profession in Israel has been co-opted in such a brutal and disgusting fashion. The land use and development facts and figures shared on the Ir Amim tour are damning evidence of the politicians using the planning profession as their private whores. Read: Trapped by Planning: Israeli Policy, Planning and Development in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of East Jerusalem (2014) to get a clear picture of “the situation” on the ground from a planning context.

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The “security wall” snaking through “Greater Jerusalem”

Israeli planners are proficient at preparing plans for Jewish settlements but have failed to make any plans to meet the growth and natural expansion of Arab communities within “Greater Jerusalem.” Building permits fly out the window for Israelis (nearly 51,000 since 1967) while it’s nearly impossible for a Palestinian to get a building permit from City Hall (less than 4,000 issued since 1967).
In 2008, the Palestinians in “Greater Jerusalem” finally said “enough is enough” and hired architects, planners and lawyers to prepare community plans for the Arab communities. They submitted 190 town plans but only 125 building permits have been issued in response to these plans.

The YMCA in Jerusalem shares a hopeful message but I wonder how it resonates with the majority of people in Jerusalem, both Jews and Arabs.

One-third of the population of Jerusalem is Palestinian but only 12% of the city budget goes to Palestinian neighborhoods. That’s why I saw playgrounds and parks, sidewalks and recycling, schools and community centers in well-maintained Jewish neighborhoods, while the Palestinian neighborhoods nextdoor have no sidewalks, potholes in the streets, overflowing trash dumps, not enough classrooms so parents are now paying their neighbors to educate their children, and certainly no community centers or clinics. If I was a planner in Jerusalem, I might resort to guerilla tactics to upset the status quo at city hall.  

This Palestinian shopkeeper in the Old City showed me his family tree written in Arabic. His family’s heritage and long history in Jerusalem are under attack and he doesn’t have any hope for the future. I left the city with a very heavy heart, not sure if I’ll ever be able to return but not sure I ever want to. 12419121_10208801757827169_2958263323955961121_o

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Palestinians at the cafe talking about their future

Al-hamdulillah!  A discussion amongst Palestinians in a Cafe in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank was filmed in August 2012. Their conversation ranged from the divide between Fatah and Hamas, about the “peace process” and Israel’s Occupation, and their future.  British political journalist, Mahdi Hasan, moderates.

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

Mehdi Hasan, British political journalist

If you’re a Zionist, you should watch this 47-minute video to hear what these Palestinians think about the future because it’s YOUR future too.

If you’re a member of the U.S. Congress, you need to listen to these Palestinians describe the important issues that obstruct any future peace in the region.

If you’re an “activist” looking for justice for Palestinians, you might pick up some nuances that help your work.

If you think you know the future and what the Palestinians want, think again and watch this video.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Occupation, People, Politics, Video

Hashtags

The news these days from the Middle East is focused on the three Israeli teenagers who disappeared Thursday night when they were hitchhiking near their yeshiva in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. This is a part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the West Bank known as Area C. By agreement, Area C is under complete control of the Israel Defense Forces.

I deleted my first blog post about this news because, after reading and re-reading it, I realized it sounded too dry and matter-of-fact.  I was trying to discern the facts (which are few and far between) and wanted to discard the speculation. Almost everything I found online from sources on all sides was filled with speculation and innuendo.

So I’ll stick to my personal observations.

Netanyahu is playing a familiar role, casting blame on everyone – Abbas, Hamas, and even President Obama. Netanyahu has been warning the world of the terrible consequences of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, and lo and behold, the unity government is to blame for the abduction!

In the process, he appears to be inciting fear and hatred. That’s his modus operandi.

Twitter and Facebook are amplifying the fear and hatred. People on both sides (Israelis and Palestinians) are jumping to conclusions based on no facts at all, but everyone trusts the almighty hash tags. Check out #BringOurBoysHome

More than 16,000 Israelis have joined a Facebook page that calls for the murder of a Palestinian every hour until three missing Israeli settler teens are located. The page is titled “Until the boys are back, every hour we shoot a terrorist.”

The page was launched as the Israeli army continued violent raids, curfews and closures across the occupied West Bank and shot dead Ahmad Sabarin, a Palestinian youth.

The Palestinians are (again) paying the price in blood. Palestinian legislators in the West Bank have been rounded up, and there are reports that 120 Palestinians have been “kidnapped” by the IDF.

My friends in Gaza have been posting eyewitness accounts of Israel’s latest bombardment. Netanyahu’s strategy of collective punishment isn’t new and remains just as illegal under international law today as it did in 2008-09 (Operation Cast Lead) and in November 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defense).

I would like to see the following happen:

  • The three Israeli teenagers returned to their families safe and sound.
  • The dead Palestinian youth resurrected and returned to his family.
  • Netanyahu exposed for the hatemonger, fearmonger and warmonger that he is, and shunned by world leaders.
  • A new hashtag adopted by everyone around the world #WeWillHateNoMore or #EveryChildReturnHome or #NoFearNoHate or #TreatOthersAsYouWishToBeTreated
  • The 100+ Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails begin to eat again, and are released along with the other resistance fighters sitting in jail.
  • The Fatah-Hamas unity government go to the International Criminal Court.
  • And above all, THE END OF THE OCCUPATION.

The kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers is merely a symptom of a much more dangerous condition that infects all of Israeli society. End the Occupation now!

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Hunger Strike, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Occupation, People

Abbas wants what?!?

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he wants NATO troops in Palestine. For a very long time. Yes! He really said that. Read it here and here.

Abbas is responding to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s concerns about security. Netanyahu says he only trusts his own military, not a third party like NATO. So this proposal is probably going nowhere, just like Secretary Kerry’s framework.

No Palestinians I’ve talked with in Gaza, the West Bank or the Diaspora believe these current talks between Abbas, Netanyahu and Kerry are going to result in anything good. They are just a smokescreen for continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. Nothing more.

Maybe my Palestinian “contacts” are limited, representing only the fringe element. Perhaps there are thousands of Palestinians somewhere cheering Abbas on and expecting a successful end to these talks.  I haven’t found them, and they haven’t shared their opinions in any publication that I’m aware of, but maybe they’re out there somewhere.

I think Kerry, Abbas and Netanyahu are all blowing smoke. Here’s why.

Although Netanyahu is the duly elected representative of Israelis, Abbas can’t make any such claim to legitimacy on behalf of Palestinians. He was originally elected to a 4 year term in 2005. His term ended in 2009 and there haven’t been any elections in Palestine since. Why?

Maybe because the US likes a compliant leader who does what US leaders instruct him to do.  Just sayin’

Maybe because the discord between Fatah and Hamas prevent elections. Maybe the US and Israel have a vested interest in maintaining that discord. Just sayin’

Maybe because if  elections were held in Palestine, the outcome could not be predicted (aka manipulated) because there are just too many young, new voters. Just sayin’

No one has asked me for my opinion (no one has asked the opinion of Palestinians for whom Abbas says he speaks) but I think this farce is going to blow up in their faces …… in the faces of Kerry, Netanyahu and Abbas …… big time!

They will do everything possible to extend, extend, extend the talks, a strategy which only works in Israel’s favor. Then, after squeezing the last drop of PR value from this effort to negotiate, each side will point fingers at the other and the blame game will commence.

This is all so predictable.

So, what might work?  No one has asked me this question either, but it’s plain to see for anyone looking clearly and dispassionately at the Middle East conflict.

Palestinians must go to the International Criminal Court. John Dugard, Professor of Law, thinks so too.

Abbas says he doesn’t like courts, but the status quo hasn’t worked for Palestinians for decades. He needs to shake things up.

A senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch notes:

Why isn’t Palestine playing ball in The Hague? Those responsible for rocket launches from Gaza targeting Israeli population centers could be held criminally responsible at the ICC, but that should not deter the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah from seeking the court’s jurisdiction, since it has stated that it is against such attacks.

The main reason, current and former Palestinian officials say, is that Israel has threatened unspecified retaliation if it seeks the court’s jurisdiction, and the US has reinforced the threat. As a former Palestinian legal adviser told me, “The US said to us clearly, conveying Israel’s position, ‘Don’t touch it.'” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during his Senate confirmation hearings that the US was “very, very strongly against” any “effort to take Israel for instance … to the ICC.”

Enough is enough! Time for Abbas to head to the ICC. If he won’t, maybe Palestinians need to show him to the door and hold long overdue elections.

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Filed under Elections, Israel, People, Politics, US Policy

Taking Sides

Taking sides in the Middle East is not kosher, especially if the goal is to have a civil conversation with Americans about Israel and Palestine.

What does that admonishment actually mean?

Maybe I should carefully dish out equal measure of criticism and praise on Netanyahu (Israel), Abbas (Palestinian Authority) and Haniyeh (Hamas). If I find fault with one, I should find fault with the others.

Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas)

Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Mahmoud Abbas (Palestinian Authority)

Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel)

Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel)

Maybe I should carefully present both sides of any debate.  If I write about the 8 days of bombing last November in Gaza, I should share what it felt like sitting in the apartment late at night listening to the drones and bombs falling all around me; and then I should get into the heads of the IDF soldiers who were flying overhead dropping the bombs.  What does it feel like to hit the button and target a house where children are sleeping?

Operation Cast Lead (08-09)

Operation Cast Lead (08-09)

What does it mean “not to take sides”? Really!

Americans have not been objecting to the pro-Israeli media stories they see and read. The mainstream media is heavily biased in favor of one side over the other but I don’t see anyone having much heartburn about it.

Americans don’t seem too perturbed by the standing ovation that Congress gave Netanyahu in May 2011 — in fact, multiple standing ovations. Congress never invited Abbas or Haniyeh to speak, just to be fair and not take sides.

Congress passes legislation written by AIPAC (Israel’s lobbying arm in DC) at the drop of a hat, but I have yet to learn about any lobbyists working for Palestine in our nation’s capitol.  (Don’t forget to register early for the AIPAC policy conference in March 2014.)

President Obama was clearly taking sides when he announced last November that “Israel has a right to defend herself!”   Don’t the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves?

Truth be told, the State of Israel needs friends – not sycophants – who will tell the truth about this occupation and save them from themselves.

The problem, I think, is that the Israeli side of the conflict is so ingrained in the American psyche that most of us don’t even perceive the grotesque imbalance in our media and in the halls of power.

I certainly didn’t understand it, until I looked more carefully.

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

UN predicts Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.

The time for the kid gloves has long passed, I fear.  There is a side of this story (the occupation) that must be told, and I’m the one to tell it. I lived in Gaza and Cairo for 9 months, under occupation, a deadly siege, and an 8-day war.

Americans who want to hear my story are going to learn about the side of this conflict that doesn’t penetrate most mainstream media.

Rather than being one-sided, my story is only rebalancing the scales of justice.

Scales of Justice

Scales of Justice

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Media, Occupation, People, Politics, US Policy

Saving the peace talks from failure

The current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are doomed to fail.  I say this with great certainty despite some voices who express a measure of optimism. Why?

  • The wrong parties are at the negotiating table.
  • The wrong mediator is sitting at the negotiating table.
  • The negotiating table is located in the wrong room.

Tzipi Livni (Israel), Saeb Erekat (Palestine), and Martin Indyk (mediator) are the wrong people to be negotiating the future of Israel and Palestine.

The mediator that John Kerry appointed, Indyk, is a former AIPAC employee who would be more suited to polishing Netanyahu’s shoes.

Livni served in Israel’s war cabinet during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza (Dec. ’08 – Jan. ’09) killing more than 1,400 Palestinians (a majority of them civilians and more than 300 children). Livni told the press later that year that “Operation Cast Lead was necessary …. there is no need to reach an agreement with Hamas.”

Erekat is likely the best person to represent the Palestinian Authority, but he doesn’t have a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza who support Hamas, or the Palestinians in the diaspora, or the Palestinians who have lost faith in the PA. Check out his impressive resume here. Erekat comes to the table realizing that his Palestinian Authority may not survive if these peace talks fail, a conflicted position to be in as he negotiates the future of the State of Palestine.

The negotiating table is tragically in the wrong place. No less than an act of breathtaking temerity for President Obama to even suggest that the United States host these talks. Check out the US vetoes in the Security Council.

A lasting and just peace will never be found using the same old strategies that have failed in the past and will fail again this time. Something needs to shake up the status quo.

My proposal for peace talks can be found here, maybe a bit of a stretch, I admit.

Both Livni and Erekat have alot at stake in the current process. Failure will hurt both sides, but the media will certainly spin it as the fault of the Palestinians. So the question becomes “how to save the doomed peace talks?”

  • Obama must certainly realize that his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was prematurely bestowed. He might retroactively earn some points by engaging in this peace process personally. He should send Martin Indyk packing immediately.
  • He should place a conference call to Netanyahu and Abbas, and with both men on the line, Obama needs to advise them that US foreign policy has changed vis-à-vis Hamas.  See here. The future of the region cannot be negotiated by ignoring this elephant in the room.
  • Obama should spell out the new agenda for the peace talks — how to bring Hamas into the process, end the siege of Gaza, and make definite plans for the next Palestinian elections to be held post-haste.
  • If either Netanyahu or Abbas object to this new agenda, they can walk away from the table.  Obama will take responsibility for speaking to the press, explaining the change in the agenda, and absolving everyone from fault or responsibility.
  • Obama will invite Abbas and Haniyeh to a meeting at the United Nations in New York. He will request that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon preside over the meeting(s) with the goal that a unity agreement can be reached between Fatah and Hamas.

This sounds fantastical?  No greater fantasy than continuing to pursue the same old “peace talks” that haven’t worked in 20+ years.

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Demonization as foreign policy

The Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University may not have a course entitled “Demonization as foreign policy” . . . but it should.

The unsuspecting public may be duped, and the mainstream press may not have the energy to investigate the stories they’re fed, but it’s becoming clearer to me every day that “WE” are being deliberately manipulated.

* WE = you, me and the average consumer of news.  It may also include members of Congress who are ill-informed about international policy, and gullible elected officials who don’t ask the tough questions.

Before I visited the Gaza Strip (September 2012 – May 2013) I considered myself an intelligent American who had a fair knowledge (perhaps better than the average person) about the current events in the Middle East. I knew about the division between Fatah and Hamas. I knew that my government supports Fatah in the West Bank and labels Hamas a FTO = “foreign terrorist organization.” I knew about the Egyptian authorities collaborating with Israel to keep a tight grip on Palestinians’ movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.

But I’ve learned much, much more in the past year. The biggest lesson I learned was to ask “Why?” more often. The answers I found convinced me that the real substance of foreign policy occurs out of public view with agendas that are outside of public debate.

  • Why are the Egyptian media and military leaders blaming Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza for the current unrest in the Sinai and Cairo?

Clearly, a deliberate strategy of demonization is underway.  Palestinian-American Ramzy Baroud shares a very personal experience of how this demonization worked 20 years ago and continues today with a vengeance. He writes:

The odd thing is that Hamas’s biggest campaign during Morsi’s 12-months in power was for Egypt to replace the tunnels it actively destroyed with a free trade zone that gave Palestinians an economic lifeline to brave the siege. Little was achieved then, and nearly 80 percent of the tunnels are now destroyed.

A model of development proposed for the new international trade zone between Gaza and Egypt, designed by students at Islamic University of Gaza.

A model of development proposed for the new international trade zone between Gaza and Egypt, designed by students at the Islamic University of Gaza.

I’ve been concerned about how Hamas can prove a negative. How does it prove to the world that it’s not involved or provoking the increased violence in the Sinai? It’s difficult to prove a negative, see here.

Now Hamas has disclosed documents that link Fatah and Abbas with the “news” coming out of Egypt.

The documents also list Abbas’s accomplices in this shameful campaign, including Tayeb Abdel Rahim and various security agencies in Ramallah. The evidence is in the form of letters to news sources containing false information purporting to link Hamas to the latest events in Egypt and interfering in Egyptian affairs. One of the letters is addressed to Jihad Harazin, the official in charge of media in the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo. “Based on the recommendation of security agencies led by Abbas, a new department has been formed to contribute information to the media industry,” it informed Harazin. “Among the goals of this department is to develop ways to embarrass Hamas and link the group to the events in Egypt.”

Is the western media capable of asking the tough questions and looking behind the curtain? If not, then “WE” need to be asking “WHY?”

Alice in Wonderland looking behind the curtain.

Alice in Wonderland looking behind the curtain.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Media, People

Peace talks – my proposal

Secretary Kerry’s announcement this week that the peace talks would resume was met by relief by some, skepticism by others, and scorn by many.

Personally, I think talking is better than not talking, but are the right people talking?

It appears that the talks will be led by aides to Netanyahu and Abbas who will have no power to make decisions themselves; they will have to report back to their respective leaders.  Oh, come on!  If Bibi and Mahmoud can’t even sit in the same room and talk, how in the world does anyone think there’s going to be a successful negotiated peace agreement?

The peace talks are scheduled to be held in Washington, DC.  Oh, come on! Washington hasn’t been an honest peace broker in the Middle East for decades, if ever. The only difference now is that the world knows it. My country’s lop-sided support for Israel ($$ to subsidize Israel’s military and settlements, and our numerous vetoes at the Security Council are but two examples) has cost the United States the credibility and respect required to serve as an honest broker in these talks.

The best possible outcome of this new “peace” effort would be a joint announcement by Netanyahu and Abbas on the White House lawn that they are both resigning from their respective positions effective immediately.

They represent the failures of the past. Neither man is much respected by the people who count, the next generation of Palestinians and Israelis. Neither man can be trusted. Just check out this amateur video of Netanyahu explaining how he killed the Oslo peace process.

I believe Abbas and the Fatah party are considered a corrupt legacy from the past. Many Palestinians told me in Gaza that they voted for Hamas in 2006 as a protest vote against Fatah.

No “agreement” (even if one is reached) will be implemented without the tacit support of the next generation on the ground.  So I recommend the following parameters for “peace talks.”

  • Each side (Israel and Palestine) select a group of young people (teens, 20-somethings, and middle-aged folks under 50) to participate in the talks. 
  • It might take time to make the selection, but it would be time well-spent.  Each side would be limited to a dozen people.
  • The location of the “peace talks” would be on a cruise ship.  All expenses would be donated by the countries that have been fueling the military war-zone in the Middle East — that means almost everyone. The United Nations would be tasked with the responsibility of overseeing the logistical arrangements for the cruise.
  • There would be no observers, press or media aboard this ship, but legal and political advisers would be invited on mutually-agreeable terms.
  • There would be no preconditions for initiating these peace talks, but there would be ground rules.  I recommend a mediator be included who would spend the first few days or weeks training the participants in how to engage in honest, respectful and fruitful discussions.  Lucy Moore comes to mind.
  • This would be a working cruise with participants expected to engage in facilitated discussions several hours each and every day, but the informal conversations might be even more important.
  • The cruise ship would travel the world’s oceans for as long as the participants are engaging in productive conversations.  There would be no preconceived agenda or outcome.  The talks would end, and the ship would return to its port, when a majority of the participants voted to end the peace talks.
  • The participants would select representatives from each side to sit down with the leaders of the world at the United Nations and explain the results of their peace talks.  If there are any concrete tasks that need to be accomplished by any party (Israel, Palestine, US, etc) to implement the agreement, the United Nations would be responsible for overseeing the implementation of such tasks.
  • Once each year, the leaders of Israel and Palestine would be required to report back to the cruise participants about the progress or lack of progress in implementing the recommendations.

Come to think of it, this might be the very best tribute to the Mavi Marmara victims, and it would provide the space and time for healing to occur on both sides.

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Filed under Israel, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

Who to believe in Egypt?

Cairo Skyline

Cairo Skyline

To the casual observer, Egypt appears in a mess these days.  It certainly is fair to say that Egypt is in crisis-mode since President Morsi was forcefully removed by the military.

Some people want to call it a coup  but others react vociferously to anyone questioning his overthrow.

From a former Facebook friend (an Egyptian-American living in the U.S.) who unfriended me for disagreeing with him:

33 million individuals went on the streets and squares all over Egypt major cities to get rid of the terrorist regime. MB is a terrorist regime known for their criminal acts and millions that did not come out but support. The Majority of peoples in Egypt request to step down and the Army support the majority….Got the message? IT IS A REVOLUTION WHETHER YOU AGREE OR NOT. THE LAST WORD FOR THE PEOPLE NOT FOR THE TERRORIST

Another Facebook friend, an Egyptian living in Cairo, did not support Morsi but believes the 2012 election was fair and he should be given the opportunity to complete his term in office.  She values the rule of law.

A third Facebook friend, an Egyptian studying in the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar with plans to return to his country next year, told me he supports Morsi and is upset that the military removed him.  What type of ‘democracy’ is this when a lawfully elected President can be forcefully removed?

As an American observing these events from afar, the ONLY thing I know for sure is that there is much disagreement about what happened last week in Egypt and what should happen moving forward.

Here’s what I suspect:

  • President Morsi made many mistakes during his short 12-months in office and was incapable of governing for all Egyptians.  He wanted to transform Egypt into an Islamist nation, and he thought that he was immune from the will of the people after election day.  He had opportunities to correct his course and save his presidency, but he was stubborn and refused.  
  • The military has always been in charge in Egypt.  They were in charge during Mubarak’s 30-year reign.  They were in charge after Morsi was elected.  They are in charge today.  I have heard that the Egyptian military accounts for 40% of the nation’s economy because they are so heavily involved in the private sector.  The 2011 “revolution” did not bring democracy to Egypt.  The 2013 coup will not bring democracy either.
  • Egyptians are suffering.  Their economy has nose-dived, unemployment has sky-rocketed, tourism has dried up, and the basics (food and fuel) are in short supply.  People who are hurting as much as Egyptians are hurting can’t be expected to sit at home quietly and “suck it up.” I suspect that many Egyptians on the streets this month who were demanding Morsi’s removal were desperately pleading for jobs and stability rather than fearing an Islamist nation.
  • Regional and international interests played a role in the Egyptian coup.  The U.S. doesn’t want to call it a coup because then it wouldn’t be allowed by law to send the F-16s and $$ to Egypt. Turkey denounced the coup and demanded that Morsi be returned to power. Syria’s Assad seemed pleased with the coup.  Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia promised to send LOTS of $$ to the new interim government in Egypt, signaling their approval of the coup.  Even Qatar’s new leader showed his support for the coup.  No doubt, Israel is happy that the Muslim Brotherhood has been ousted.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority, congratulated Egyptians and urged Palestinians in Gaza to follow their example by ousting Hamas from the Gaza Strip.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood will be persecuted and worse in Egypt and in the Gulf States for the foreseeable future.
  • Many Palestinians inside and outside of Gaza are caught because of the Rafah border closing.  Medical patients can’t travel to get medical attention; students can’t travel to their universities; pilgrims can’t travel to Mecca; and many can’t return to their families in Gaza.

Who are the winners?  Losers?

I think the clear winner is the Egyptian military – no doubt about it.

The clear loser is the Muslim Brotherhood.   And I might add democracy.

Between those two extremes are the millions of Egyptians.  It’s too soon to tell but I fear the worse.

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