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Should Islam have a role in politics?

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By Soumaya Ghannoushi

What we should seek to attain in the Muslim world is a neutral, non-interventionist state that manages differences within society

As we ponder the crises and conflicts raging around the Muslim world, with their toxic mix of religion and politics and rising waves of a terrorism that looks to Islam for legitimisation, we cannot help asking: should Islam have any role in politics and public life? Can it come to play a constructive role on the local and international stage?

Just like other major monotheistic religions, Islam does not assume one form but many. Through its history it has been subject to multiple interpretations: open and closed, literal and rational, spiritual/ascetic or militant/politicised, to name a few.

Islam has a long historical record of tolerance and diversity, something evident in the myriad religious sects and ethnicities that coexisted in its midst, as well as in the great plurality of schools of theology, jurisprudence and philosophy it has fostered. Lively intellectual and scientific debates were regularly hosted in the palaces of caliphs, sultans and emirs between linguists, philosophers, jurists and theologians of all tendencies in a spirit of tolerance and mutual acceptance.

The contrast with the explosive violent character of many contemporary expressions of Islam couldn’t be more pronounced.

There is no Islam in itself outside historical practice. There are many forms of Islam which are crucially shaped by the wider political and social environment where they are made to operate.

For instance, in Malaysia, Brunei, or Indonesia, which enjoy significant levels of political stability, Islam appears to assume a calm peaceful character, serving as a stimulus for political and economic development. In Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, plagued with brutal political conflicts, schisms and military interventions as they are, Islam manifests itself in tense, divisive and explosive forms.

Theological positions and intellectual tendencies are largely defined by their socio- political contexts. Of course, this is not a necessary law of physics, but it does help us navigate the map of the Muslim hemisphere and make sense of its complexities.

What political role should an Islam functioning in normal healthy conditions occupy? What does it mean for one to have Islamic references in politics? And is secularisation unavoidable or desirable in the Muslim region?

The dominant view among sociologists is that religion inevitably gives way to a secularised worldview with the advent of modernisation. But this hasn’t been the case in the Muslim world. Islam still commands a powerful presence in Muslims’ private and public lives, and more so among urbanised educated sectors of society.

Urbanised university-educated Muslim women appear to be more religiously minded than their rural, illiterate sisters who have never ventured outside their remote villages. There is no necessary linear correlation between secularism, advancing modernisation and mass education.

The question, then, is not whether Islam should or should not be strongly present in Muslims private and public lives. It already is. The question is how it should manifest itself?

Islam is a source of general moral and religious values. In this sense, it may foster the ideals of social justice, equality, cooperation and mutual exchange between humans. This is the case whether these values are directly referred to their religious origins, or transformed into civic norms conducive to social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. A politician who appeals to an Islamic reference frame is one who is inspired by these great ideals and views them as guidelines for her discourse and political conduct.

True, politics is about the pursuit of interests within a changing power balance. But drawing inspiration from these general Islamic ideals can infuse political behaviour with ethics and help direct and regulate it in accordance with moral norms and spiritual meanings.

Recognising that religion can have a role in politics does not mean that politicians should turn into preachers, or that the state should police people’s consciences. In fact, two models have failed in the Muslim world. One is based on top-down secularisation, the other on top-down Islamisation.

Turkey and Tunisia were the embodiment of the first, Iran and Saudi Arabia are examples of the second. Both models dictate their ideologies to their citizens, interfering even in the most personal aspects of their lives, such as dress choice.

Secular interventionism would force a woman to bear her hair in the first; its religious sibling to cover it in the second. Both are repressive in different ways, both have generated tensions within sectors of their societies opposed to official state ideology.

What we should seek to attain in the Muslim world is a neutral, non-interventionist state that manages differences within society, guarantees individual freedoms and protects public order. This neutrality can go hand in hand with respect for collective culture, without coercion or interference in individuals’ preferences.

In many ways, Tunisia’s new constitution exemplifies this state model, which protects freedoms and rights, while also recognising Islam as the official state religion. The state may respect the majority’s values, without becoming sectarian or dogmatic, or laying its hand over religion and exploiting it to its own ends.

Islam has an undeniable social and political character. This may be due to its worldly nature and the circumstances of its birth and evolution, which had coincided with state emergence, unlike Christianity which began as a creed persecuted by Roman authorities.

Seeking to restrict Islam’s role to the private sphere and within the mosque’s confines is a very difficult endeavour. A majority of respondents to the recent Pew survey in Muslim countries have declared their support for democracy, while at the same time demanding a large role for Islam in public life.

Islam evidently continues to have an active and influential presence in Muslims’ lives. The challenge is how it can play a positive role in a space open to different religious expressions, free of all forms of violence and fanaticism.

Because only through an equation combining respect for collective culture with individual freedoms and the demands of identity with the reality of pluralism, can Muslim societies hope to regain their lost equilibrium and stability.

(Source / 23.06.2016)

Written by altahrir

June 23, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Opinion others

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Can Palestinian right of return issue be solved?

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Israeli Arabs and other supporters wave Palestinian flags as they march during a protest seeking the right of return for refugees who fled their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, at a village near Rahat in southern Israel, May 12, 2016

One of the main reasons for the emphasis on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for a future two-state peace process is that it also entails, in the view of the United States and the European Union, an expression of the Israeli position on the contentious issue of the Palestinian right of return. The initiative says on this point that a joint solution by the parties to the problem of Palestinian refugees should be “agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” While the initiative is based on a resolution that calls for the return and resettlement of Palestinian refugees to their pre-1948 homes, it still stipulates that the resolution of the issue be agreed upon with Israel.

For the Palestinian national leadership, this is the crux of the conflict. The return of the refugees is the heart of their historical narrative, namely, that Israel was established by robbing the Palestinian inhabitants of their land and homes. Peace and justice can only prevail in this with the return of Palestinian refugees from their diaspora. For Israel, this amounts to national suicide.

An influx of approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees — those who left and their descendants — into sovereign Israel would put an end to Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. Therefore, all Israeli governments have rejected the right of return and treated this demand as an existential danger. The issue has been brought up, although only marginally, in all previous peace negotiations between the parties, including in the Oslo talks.

The current Palestinian leadership is well aware that the issue is taboo to Israel. President Mahmoud Abbas, originally from Safed in northern Israel, alluded to this understanding when he told several Israeli journalists in a 2012 interview on Israel Channel 2 that while he wishes to visit his original house, he does not seek to return there.

Following up on the June 3 Paris conference, policy planners in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are working on creative solutions to all the permanent status issues while maintaining the principles of the Palestinian national position. A senior PLO official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that Palestine will never give up on the principle of the right of return, saying, “This is our historical narrative and dream.” Yet, he added, in return for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, the PLO would be ready to discuss practical solutions in line with several important elements.

The first element is that the PLO’s main aim is the achievement, in the foreseeable future, of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with agreed upon land swaps and East Jerusalem as its capital. He stressed that the issue of the Palestinian refugees is central to putting an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Another central and essential element would be Israeli recognition of the injustice done by Israel to Palestinian Arabs in 1948 and international recognition of the principle of the right of return. In practical terms, this means that the PLO would be ready to explore the possibility of Israeli-controlled Area C in the West Bank (excluding minor settlement blocs) being designated land on which Palestinian refugees can be resettled in an international effort with Israeli economic contributions.

With that in view, a symbolic (agreed upon) number of the originally expelled Palestinians who are still alive (between 30,000 and 50,000) would be allowed to settle in sovereign Israel within the context of family reunion. All other refugees would be entitled to international compensation to be decided by a multilateral committee headed by Canada and the United Nations. The PLO official added that Palestine would see in such a solution the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194.

Undeniably, this issue is probably the most difficult decision that a Palestinian leader would have to face, and indeed, negotiation should take place on the practical elements of the refugee problem. A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official who worked on the issue in past multilateral talks told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that although these ideas were interestingly creative, there was no chance that Israel would accept them.

Israel must on the one hand comprehend the centrality of the issue to Palestinians, yet insist on negating the Palestinian right of return on the other. The historic Israeli-Palestinian compromise should be a right of return of Jews to sovereign Israel within the 1967 lines and a right of return of Palestinians to the future Palestinian state within its new borders.

In the meantime, the Israeli government would do well to reflect also on creative practical solutions to this critical narrative-based issue. Yet, for that to happen, Israel needs a government that is interested in a two-state solution.

(Source / 20.06.2016

Written by altahrir

June 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm

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PA fiddles while Palestine dwindles

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PA fiddles while Palestine dwindles

In April, President Abbas, true to form, buckled under international pressure to sacrifice the integrity of the land of Palestine on the altar of another bogus ‘peace’ initiative by friends of Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had been circulating to UN Security Council members a draft resolution condemning Israeli settlements when the French government effortlessly convinced Abbas to cease and desist the demand to protect diminishing Palestinian land being razed for settlement expansion until after France held its Paris talkfest.

Well, the Paris shindig, attended by foreign ministers from  Europe, Arab States and the US has come and gone with notable diplomatic irrelevance. It ended, heedless of the French request for urgent deadlines, with no set timetable for yet another pointless peace stunt later in the year.

Inevitably, Paris impotently administered CPR to the dead two state solution, tokenly stated that the status quo is not sustainable while maintaining the status quo, purposely minimised criticism of Israel, mouthed empty alarm at the violence on the ground, dodged the Right of Return, fantasised about a mythical peace à la Arab Peace Initiative. A further dead giveaway of the inanity of the Paris pretence. was its acknowledgement of the key role of the failed quisling Quartet.

And Paree was flush with anti-Palestine quislings. Of the 26 countries represented, 11* have not recognised the State of Palestine. The host, yes, was the very same France that has no diplomatic relations with the State of Palestine, and is tied with Germany as ‘Europe’s largest exporter of arms to Israel’ (Halper). Not one French bullet nor air-to-ground missile, not one Rafaele fighter jet, nor Mistral helicopter carrier was sold to Palestine. In 2014, during Israel’s monstrous assault on Gaza, France was the first in the world to ban pro-Palestine rallies, even posting details of rallies could incur a year’s imprisonment or a 15,000 Euro fine. France has criminalised BDS under the Lellouche law as an incitement to hatred and anti-semitism which violates the right to freedom of expression once defended popularly and hypocritically by the Charlie Hebdo issue.

Seemingly unfazed by Israel’s destruction (this year alone) of 150 European funded projectsat a loss of a mere $74 million, EU foreign policy head, Federica Mogherini, ‘stressed that the aim of the summit was not to impose terms’. This fits snugly with the EU’s overlooking the terms of the settlement funding ban in the Horizon 2020  agreement with Israel involving, according to Halper, ‘the biggest single R&D budget in the world, which will make €80 billion of funding available over seven years (2014–20)’

The  Arab turncoat delegation included the Arab League, Saudi Arabia (of  killing Yemeni children and  bombing MSF hospital fame), Egypt, Jordan, Morocco all of which are US pawns  thereby no friends of the Palestinian people. The Saudis are France’s top arms client and Jordan, UAE and Egypt (plus Israeli defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman) are manoeuvring for Death-Squad-Dahlan to succeed Abbas ignoring that prison not presidency is Dahlan’s rightful fate.

Double-dealer Ban Ki Moon jibber-jabbered about the need for courageous leadership- a concept that is beyond his ken. UN leadership should have booted out Israel from the UN decades ago for violating international law and  ignoring  dozens of  UN resolutions particularly UNSC Resolution 242  calling for the withdrawal of Israel armed forced  from territories in the 1967 war and 446 that “Determines that the policy and practices of Israel in establishing settlements in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The cherry on the top of the quisling pie, was the absent PA (Palestinian and Israeli officials were not invited – go figure!) carrying on the Arafat tradition of fiddling perks while Palestine dwindles. In the mere 6 weeks from the PA suspension of its anti-settlement initiative to the end of the French sham, the Zionists pushed on airbrushing, dunum by dunum, Palestine from the face of the world;

    • Early April Plan No. 901/20 ‘which states the construction of a new bypass roadon lands of Beit Ummer, Halhul and Al Arroub’ was begun.


    • 23-4-16 ‘The Israeli authorities delivered notices to the Palestinian village of Jalud in the northern occupied West Bank, alerting residents that 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private land were slated for confiscation in what appeared to be the retroactive legalization of illegal outposts in the area.’


  • 26-4-16 ‘The committee of sit-inners in Occupied Jerusalem warned on Monday of the seriousness of the Israeli settlement project to build 1,690 new housing units over Qalandya town’s confiscated lands in Occupied Jerusalem.’


  • 1-5-16 ‘Israeli Justice MinisterAyelet Shaked’s plan to apply Israeli laws to Jews living in West Bank settlements,opens way to annex the settlements.’


  • 9-5-16 ‘Israeli ministry of security decided to establish a new settlement close to Shilo settlement for those settlers who will be evacuated from Amona outpost.’


  • 23-5-16 ‘Israeli bulldozers from Bado’ilsettlement on Sunday leveled Palestinian plots of land belonging to Deir Ballut town, west of Salfit province. ‘


  • 24-5-16 ‘Israeli Meyashvei Zion association revealed that a new settlement project is scheduled to be built at the expense of the public park in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Occupied Jerusalem.’


  • 26-5-16 Extremist settler, Yehuda Glick  who aims to destroy the al-Aqsa mosque enters the Knesset.


  • 26-5-16 ‘Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shakedsaid that her government will continue settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and that more settlers will reside there.’


  • 31-5-16 ‘The Israeli Civil Administration re-mapped over 15,000 acres in the occupied West Bank in an attempt at justifying illegal settlement expansion inside the re-designated areas.’


  • 31-5-16 ‘President Reuven Rivlin ..vowed the West Bank settlement of Ariel would forever remain under Israeli control, despite its location deep inside the West Bank.’


  • 6-3-16 ‘Israeli government endorsed, in a session held in Occupied Jerusalem,the investment of 220 million dollars in settlement projects in Jerusalem over five years under the pretext of “city development”.’

Don’t fool yourself that the Abbas gang are naive or victims of a Zionist-international conspiracy to obliterate Palestine. Victims they are not. They are co-conspirators since signing the Oslo Accords and Paris Protocols in the early nineties.

The PA, intimately familiar with Western and Arab quislings, knew the French farce was doomed to fail the Palestinian people, though cynically on cue Mansour, Erekat, Ashrawi, al Maliki moaned and shed crocodile tears. Yet, a few days before Paris, on 28 May, at the Arab League meeting in Cairo, Abbas agreed in principle to land swaps which he knows areillegal even though there’s precious little left of Palestine to swap thanks to years of two-state negotiations  that Abbas and Netanyahu are keen to resume.

Abbas knows that for 100 years to this very day (and beyond ) the Zionist goal, which has never been compromised, is a Zionist state on the whole of Palestine. It is this goal that drives  the settlement facts on the ground rendering the two state solution an illusion, a deception.

And Abbas and Co hang in there by directing their vicious security militia to protect Zionist interests and expansion by crushing Palestinian resistance and fending off the main threat to Israel, and to fat-cat-PA self-interests— reconciliation i.e. Palestinian unity.

You may wonder why Palestinians in the West Bank don’t stage a coup against the the corrupt  PA/PLO and bring them to trial for treason under the PLO Revolutionary Penal Code 1979 that still applies:

Article 144: Any person who provides the enemy with documents, or is considered to have harmed military actions, or the security of military sites and centres, or any other military institutions shall be punished by death,

Article 148: Any person who leads the enemy to the sites of the revolutionary forces, or the allied forces, or misleads these forces shall be punished by death.

Well, you can ask Hamas affiliated prisoners in Zionist gaols due to PA intelligence sharing with Israel. Or ask the grieving parents of  Adel Jaradat, 19 who was killed on 7th June during a PA raid in Silat Harithya near Jenin. PA security forces, trained by the US, conduct raids identical to Zionist Occupation Forces- and kill identically. Or ask the widow of Omar al-Nayef  conveniently assassinated in the Palestinian embassy in Bulgaria. Or ask Kefah Quzmar  tortured and held in solitary confinement  without legal representation by the PA for daring to dissent on Facebook, “Do you know why the mukhabarat [intelligence service] is a rotten agency? Because the entire PA is rotten. Seif al-Idrissi is under arrest! #FreedomforSeif”

Nevertheless, the 6.2 million Palestinians isolated and trapped in the Zionist and PA pincers of brutal oppression have friends. The Palestinian civil society call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel which champions Palestinian rights and freedoms is activated by international grass roots activism that has rapidly evolved into a powerful resistance structure that Israel is desperate to destroy.

A pan-Palestine BDS joining Palestinians inside historic Palestine with the 6.2 million free diasporan Palestinians, in the spirit of the  Palestinian ‘rejectfenchinitiative’ , could achieve what the PA/PLO has abrogated.

(Source / 19.06.2016)

Written by altahrir

June 19, 2016 at 9:56 pm

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Israel and Palestine: Breaking the cycle of violence

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The attack on Israelis in a Tel Aviv cafe reflects the frustration that Palestinians experience on a daily basis.

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian sits at home and enjoys this 'benevolent' occupation, writes Kuttab [Reuters]

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian sits at home and enjoys this ‘benevolent’ occupation, writes Kuttab

By Daoud Kuttab

The attack near the Israeli army headquarters in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis killedis unjustifiable. But no matter how many times this and other attacks on Israelis and Palestinians are condemned, we can’t break the cycle of violence by having better security.

An end to the conflict, and especially an end to the 49-year Israeli military occupation, is vital to put an end to this bloodshed.

Without a contextual look at the conflict we can’t begin to find solutions. Whether the act was ordered by some political or militant group or a lone wolf attack, it should be seen within the context of the violence in 2016 alone, which left dozens of unarmed Palestinians dead.

Revenge and collective punishment by either side is not an answer, but neither is complacency and denial.

It’s the occupation

A reporter once asked former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to delineate the borders of Israel. She replied that they are wherever an Israeli soldier is deployed.

So long as Israeli soldiers are deployed on the other side of the green line, the responsibility for war and peace is in the hands of Israel.

Denying Palestinians their inalienable right of self-determination is not a solution. Israelis should enjoy a normal life but they can’t expect to do that while denying it to others under their control.

You can’t keep the Gaza Strip under a crippling siege for years, allow right-wing settlers to act with impunity throughout the occupied West Bank, continue Judaising Jerusalem and expect the other side to be quiet about this.

Human Rights Watch calls what is happening in the occupied territories “grave crimes”.

In a report issued on June 6, they called on the International Criminal Court to investigate these crimes. “After nearly a half-century of impunity, it’s time that those responsible for some of the gravest crimes, whether against Palestinians or Israelis, pay the price,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director.

The culture of impunity

According to Israeli human rights groups, in the past few months alone Israeli soldiers have executed Palestinians at least in two occasions. The evidence has been captured by video footage.

Israel has announced that more settlements will be built in Jerusalem where right-wing radicals continue to rampage.

Without a political horizon, the Palestinian public is depressed, desperate and totally frustrated.

West Bank settler who was detained after allegedly being behind the killing of three Palestinian family members was released.

Furthermore, Avigdor Liberman, who has publicly called for beheading Palestinians, has become the defence minister, while offers for peace talks by Cairo and Paris have been scuttled by the Israeli political establishment.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel will live “forever by the sword,” choosing military confrontation and occupation instead of political accommodation.

For decades, Palestinians have been searching for any mechanism that can rid them of military occupation that the United Nations Security Council called “unacceptable” back in 1967.

OPINION: Fabricating facts – An old-fashioned political tool

This is an illegal occupation coupled with an illegal settlement enterprise. And all serious efforts to negotiate an end to the occupation have frustrated the Palestinians (PDF).

Without a political horizon, the Palestinian public is depressed, desperate and totally frustrated.

They blame their leaders for leaving them in this neither-peace-nor-war limbo for decades. And they are left alone in their struggle to shake up complacent Israeli public opinion. This is the kind of frustrating environment that motivates individuals who carry out these acts.

Feeling hopeless

For years Palestinians have tried armed struggle, diplomacy and various methods of the Intifada.

Stones failed in the First Intifada to shake up the occupation. Suicide bombings resulted in the construction of walls.

OPINION: Rewriting the history of the peace process

Feeling hopeless, Palestinians in the occupied territories have taken things in their own hands while supporters around the world put pressure on Israel, using tactics of nonviolent resistance. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) has been painted as some kind of anti-Semitic act.

If Palestinians can’t use violent or nonviolent resistance, what are they supposed to do?

Twenty years of talks since the Oslo Accords have produced no credible peace mechanism, while illegal settlers have tripled.

How can Palestinian leaders justify a return to direct talks without any guarantees? How can a new round of dialogue be productive when that time is used to build even more illegal Jewish colonies on the Palestinian lands?

In the eye of the Israelis, a perfect Palestinian is the one who sits at home, enjoys this “benevolent” occupation and wait upon the Israeli masters and occupiers to decide for him what his future should look like within this generous Israeli rule.

Without justifying it, the attack on Israelis in a Tel Aviv cafe reflects this frustration that Palestinians experience every day.

The only way to break this violent cycle is to accept what the world has long understood: that the occupation is not sustainable and it must be replaced by a state where Palestinians can exercise their rights in an independent, contiguous and sustainable state of their own.

(Source / 09.06.2016)

Written by altahrir

June 9, 2016 at 9:07 pm

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Netanyahu, Sisi and zero problems diplomacy

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Mahmoud Abbas certainly has every reason to be depressed about the current state of affairs.

Egyptian activists burn an Israeli flag in protest against a possible visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Egypt [Reuters]

Egyptian activists burn an Israeli flag in protest against a possible visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Egypt

These days even the hint of a renewal of diplomacy on Palestine is enough to set tongues wagging. In recent months, France has led what remains an inchoate effort to fill the diplomatic vacuum created by the Obama administration’s decision two years ago to close its book on Palestine.

Pride of place, however, was recently claimed by Cairo. On May 17 in Asyut, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi placed himself at the centre of a new initiative, declaring that Egypt was prepared to create a “real opportunity” for direct talks between the PLO and Israel.

“I say we will achieve a warmer peace if we resolve the issue of our Palestinian brothers … and give hope to the Palestinians of the establishment of a state,” Sisi said.

Egypt has long been absent as the engine of Israel-Arab diplomacy. Sisi himself is an unlikely champion of Palestinian interests. Egyptian restrictions on Gaza are popular among Egyptians even if they are more draconian than those imposed by Israel.

Public support for the Palestinians, long suffered by the Mubarak regime, has been decimated by the ongoing insurgency in Sinai, which the government insists Hamas supports.

Relations with Israel

If relations between the rulers in Gaza and the Sisi government are cold at best, Ramallah also has concerns about Cairo, where the high profile of Mohammad Dahlan, a vocal opponent of PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, fuels suspicions.

ALSO READ: On Netanyahu, peace and the West

In contrast, Egypt’s relations with Israel have never been better. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to shred onerous restrictions on Egypt’s military deployment in Sinai and effectively lobbied for Egyptian interests in Washington.

If Sisi wants to deal with Israel, Bibi is the address.

Netanyahu has also opened the door to a Saudi role in maritime security by blessing the restoration of Saudi sovereignty in the strategic straits of Tiran.

On the domestic front, Netanyahu’s recent political moves have placed his tenure as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister on a more solid foundation. If Sisi wants to deal with Israel, Bibi is the address.

Obstacles to large-scale bilateral economic cooperation on energy have also been removed. The day after Sisi’s initiative was launched, Bloomberg News reported progress on an almost $1bn deal on compensation to Israel for disrupted contracted gas supplies from Egypt.

The agreement opens the road to a wide-ranging economic partnership, with natural gas at the centre of both Egyptian and Israeli national economic development plans. Adding a diplomatic veneer on Palestine to this partnership helps both Bibi and Sisi.

It is in this context that Netanyahu is making news with his wink in the direction of the Arab Peace Initiative.

In these troubled times, Arab support for recognition of Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state – the key elements of the 2002 declaration – is virtually the only issue on which there is an Arab-Muslim consensus.

Historic offer

For many years after its creation, Israeli prime minsters didn’t think the historic offer important enough to read.

ALSO READ: Israeli rejectionism as policy

Now even newly minted Israeli defense minister Avigdore Lieberman, not known as a fan of Egypt, the Palestinians, or the Arabs for that matter, wants to be at the party.

Lieberman, who is playing a long game in pursuit of the premiership, sang according to Netanyahu’s script, adding his supportive remarks endorsing “two states for two peoples” to Netanyahu’s.

Just don’t ask either of them to draw a map.

For more than a year Israeli leaders at every turn have been touting their interest in expanding ties – economic, security and otherwise – with the nations of the Gulf.

The API is now viewed by Netanyahu as a potentially valuable instrument in this strategy. But his support comes at a price. Netanyahu has simply turned the API on its head, placing Arab recognition of and normalisation with Israel rather than an end to occupation as the strategic objective.

“The conventional wisdom for the last few decades has been that a solution to the Palestinian issues will result in improved ties between Israel and the Arab world,” explained Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold on June 1. “But there is a serious basis for thinking that, actually, the sequence is exactly the opposite – that by improving ties with the Arab states, we set the stage for a future breakthrough with the Palestinians.”

Turkey is another critical stop in Netanyahu’s pursuit of a regional policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours. The sixth anniversary of Mavi Marmarra maritime debacle has just passed. Once again the anniversary is being used as an opportunity to hint that a deal, long in the works, that includes a loosening of the siege on Gaza, is about to be finalised.

A Turkish rapprochement with Israel on Gaza, occurring parallel to a consolidation of relations with Egypt, featuring a renewed, reinvigorated diplomatic push for the Arab Peace Initiative at its centre, may prove to be yet another mirage on the endless road to a solution of the Palestine problem.

Abbas certainly has every reason to be “depressed” about the current state of affairs.

“He knows that Netanyahu is not going to make a peace deal and he knows that it is too late to have a viable Palestinian state given the extent of Israeli settlements,”explained a knowledgeable Palestinian. “He is in a very tough position, which is why he is willing to give any candid initiative, like that of President Sisi, a try.”

Indeed soothing words – if not deeds – on Palestine may be all that the parties, each fixed on their own priorities, require.

(Source / 08.06.2016)


Written by altahrir

June 8, 2016 at 9:23 pm

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Israel’s settlement drive is becoming irreversible, diplomats fear By: Luke Baker

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In the hills east of Jerusalem, overlooking the Palestinian city of Jericho and the Jordan Valley, stands a religious Jewish settlement whose red-tile roofs, neat gardens and brightly colored playgrounds give the sense of permanence.

Mitzpe Yericho has stood on this escarpment close to the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth – since 1978. It is one of more than 230 settlements Israelis have built on occupied land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past half-century.

Diplomats and international monitors are increasingly concerned that the drive, which has seen Israel settle more than half a million of its people at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, may be reaching the point of irreversibility.

The ongoing expansion further diminishes the prospect of any significant progress being made when foreign ministers from 20 countries meet in Paris this week to discuss how to revive Middle East peace efforts, given the settlements have been a central obstacle for at least two decades.

If a peace deal were magically struck tomorrow, the Palestinians would expect the Israelis living in Mitzpe Yericho to leave. But its 3,000 residents, nearly all whom are religious nationalists, have no such intention. To them, the settlement enterprise is God-given and irreversible.

“If there’s peace with the Palestinians we’re staying and if there’s no peace we’re staying,” said Yoel Mishael, 65, who has lived in Mitzpe Yericho since its founding. “It’s part of Israel, according to the Bible. It’s something from God.”

The foreign ministers will meet on Friday with the aim of paving the way for a summit later in the year that they hope the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will attend.

On Monday, in a sign that he is aware of the growing international pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was in favor of parts of the Arab peace initiative, a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that would grant Israel recognition in exchange for withdrawing from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, among other steps.

Yet while some momentum may be building, there is scant indication the settlement enterprise can be halted, let alone reversed, leaving a fundamental barrier in the path to peace.


The settlement project began after Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. In the 1970s, with the government’s encouragement, large number of Jews began moving onto the occupied land. There are now 550,000 of them.

Many live in large blocs near Jerusalem or the ‘green line’ that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, while others live deep inside the West Bank, in highly protected enclaves or pre-fabricated ‘outposts’ perched on hill tops. All the constructions are considered illegal under international law. Israel disputes this, and plays down the term occupation.

Calculating the financial cost of settlements to Israel is difficult; as well as the capital required to build there are defense and infrastructure costs and the price of tax breaks for residents who move there. But the Macro Center for Political Economics, an Israeli think-tank, estimates building alone has cost around $30 billion over the past 40 years.

Barely a month goes by without a fresh announcement from the government or one of its ministries about West Bank territory being declared “state land”, a precursor to settlement building, or a decision to allow new construction to proceed.

At the same time, Palestinians living in a part of the West Bank known as Area C, which accounts for 60 percent of the total and is where most settlements are located, are being uprooted from the land in increasing numbers.

During a visit to a sensitive part of the West Bank near the Palestinian city of Nablus, where settlements occupy almost every hilltop and are steadily expanding their footprint, U.N. diplomats studied maps and pointed out how the Israeli enclaves were spreading east toward the Jordan Valley.

“It starts to look irreversible,” said one official, a view separately supported by half a dozen foreign diplomats.

Under the Oslo accords of the mid-1990s, Israel retains full control over Area C, where large tracts have been declared closed military areas. As a result, Israeli courts tend to approve the removal of Palestinians from the area and the demolition of their homes, even though the accords did not change the illegal status of settlements there.

“Settlements are the vehicle for taking control of the land,” said Catherine Cook, an official with the U.N. office for the coordination of humanitarian assistance and an authority on settlements, speaking last month.

Asked whether she believed the settlement enterprise was irreversible, she replied: “Some of it has to be reversible.”


If a peace deal were struck, many settlements would undoubtedly remain. While not openly acknowledged, Palestinian negotiators accept that land swaps, in which the Israelis would keep major settlement blocs along the green line and near Jerusalem, and the Palestinians would receive equivalent amounts of land from Israel in return, would be part of the deal.

But that would still leave vast areas of the West Bank, where 2.8 million Palestinians live in major cities such as Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah, dotted with more than a hundred settlements, many large and protected by the military.

Within Israel’s right-wing government, there is little appetite to cede any ground to the Palestinians. Netanyahu says their failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the biggest obstacle to peace, not the settlements.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett is an ardent supporter settlements and wants Israel to annex all of Area C rather than allowing a Palestinian state to emerge. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives in a settlement and is similarly wary of Palestinian statehood, even if like Netanyahu he has welcomed elements of the Arab peace initiative.

Hagit Ofran, a senior official at Peace Now, an Israeli NGO opposed to settlements, believes lines could be drawn that would allow a Palestinian state to emerge even if Israel kept many of its enclaves. But even then she estimates that as many as 150,000 settlers may have to be uprooted.

While some might leave willingly if offered the right compensation, many others would not. The removal of just 8,500 settlers from Gaza in 2005 caused violence and outrage.

Many of the settlers in the heartland of the West Bank are religious nationalists who believe all the land, which they call Judea and Samaria, was gifted to Israel in the Bible. They are not interested in financial incentives to leave.

On the northern edge of Mitzpe Yericho, a lookout point provides sweeping views of Jericho and the Jordan Valley. An audio recording gives visitors a selective history of the region, with an English narration explaining how in the Bible God spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses, saying:

“Prepare to cross the River Jordan together with all these people into the land which I am giving the Israelites. Every spot on which your foot treads, I will give to you.”

At the end of the account, the narrator adds: “Today, more than 3,000 years later, Israeli settlements have once again renewed this Biblical landscape … We wish you a pleasant visit.”

(Source / 03.06.2016)

Written by altahrir

June 3, 2016 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Opinion others

Tagged with ,

Abducted Iranian Diplomats Held in Israeli Jail

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By Ian Greenhalgh

Israel acting like a terrorist state, why am I not surprised at this report?


Yet again, we have Israel behaving with a total disregard for human rights and bereft of any sense of justice. However, do not expect to see any criticism of Israel in the mainstream media, if they even bother to cover this story at all.

According to a recent report in Iran’s Fars News, a Greek prisoner who was recently released from an Israeli jail claims that while in custody he encountered three Iranian diplomats and an Iranian journalist who were also being held.

Upon his release and return to Greece, the former Israeli prisoner informed the Iranian embassy in Athens that the four were being held in Israel.

They were originally kidnapped in July 1982 during the 1982 Lebanon War, when Israeli forces seized southern Lebanon. Their abduction was reportedly carried out by local phalange militia, who were allied with the IDF at the time and who allegedly handed them over to their Israeli allies.

For its part Israel claims the four were executed by the Phalange militia shortly after their abduction.

However, a report first published by the Arabic-language al-Rai al-Youm and reiterated by Fars News lends credence to claims that the four are being held hostage by Israel.

According to Palestinian activist Ahmad Habibollah Abu Hesham, who had been detained for many years in Israeli jails, the four Iranians were being held in Israel’s Atlit prison.

Despite Israeli denials, Tehran remains adamant that the four are still alive and being held captive. All of which begs the question why? What could Israel possibly gain from holding four Iranians hostage for more than thirty years?

Could it be that the Zionist regime views the Iranians as valuable assets, who can be used as bargaining chips in a trade-off if any Israeli saboteurs or IDF Special Forces soldiers were captured in Iran?

Whatever the reason if Islamic State did this it would rightly be called “terrorism”. When Israel does it though it’s kept secret, the hostages are hidden away and the Zionist state denies any knowledge of them. Because if it was revealed that Israel has been holding the four, innocent of any crime, it would clearly justify claims that Zionist state is a terrorist entity.

After all, kidnapping and holding innocent people hostage is exactly the sort of activity we associate with terrorists, not those who are allegedly fighting terror.

These latest reports follow an announcement by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan that Iran is in possession of corroborative evidence proving that the four men abducted in Lebanon in 1982 are still alive and being held by Israel.

“We claim on the basis of proofs that they are alive and held captivate by the Zionist regime,” General Dehqan said in a recent interview with Defa Press news website.

(Source / 03.06.2016)

Written by altahrir

June 3, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Opinion others

Tagged with ,


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