Palestinians wait for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails, near Erez crossing between Israel and northern Gaza Strip, Oct. 30, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
One of the problems of political negotiations without a clear reference point is that the parties, especially the stronger party, can change the rules of the game at will. And the absence of a neutral referee on the field allows such a strong party to get away with regularly moving the goal posts.
This is exactly what is happening in the Palestinian-Israeli talks. It began with the Israelis refusing to accept the principle of the 1967 borders and suspend settlement expansion as a reference point, and continued with Israeli negotiators banning US officials from entering the negotiation room.
Palestinians and Israelis have agreed to keep the talks going for nine months. For Israel, talks could go on for nine years as long as the talks masqueraded their continued occupation, but for Palestinians, this meant talking while Israel continued to take away Palestinian lands intended for the future Palestinian state.
The agreement by Israel to release pre-Oslo prisoners in four stages during the nine-month period sealed Israel’s assurance that Palestinian negotiators would not walk out of the talks for any reason whatsoever. Even though the prisoner release was a previous Israeli commitment in the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement, the Palestinian side also agreed not to pursue any further UN membership attempts during the nine-month negotiations period.
At the time of the agreement, Palestinian legislator and nonviolent leader Mustafa Barghouti predicted that succumbing to Israeli demands amounted to the potential of Israeli political blackmail. This turned out to be a true prophesy. Whether as part of a secret deal or not, Israel implemented further settlements on the very day that they agreed to release the ageing Palestinian prisoners.
By dividing the release of the 104 prisoners into four stages, the last of which would be at the end of the nine-month period, Israel has ensured the neutralization of the Palestinians’ only significant negotiating weapon, that of walking out of the talks.
While Palestinians badly want the talks to succeed, they find themselves trapped in an unenviable position: If they walk out, the remaining prisoners would not be released; if they stay in the talks, Israel could both claim to be involved in peace talks while at the same time carry out acts that are in violation of international law.
This is where the need for US officials to be listening in on what happens inside the negotiating room would have been important. But alas, even this rather neutral and innocuous request from the sole sponsor of the peace talks was also taken away from the Palestinians, thus allowing Israel to get away with doing nothing of substance in the talks while claiming that they are involved in peace negotiations.
While the actual discussions are held in secret, much can be deduced from public statements. A simple look at where the talks began and what has been publicly stated in recent days shows a clear retraction. The world was told Israel’s prime minister had agreed in principle to the two-state solution and the proof of this agreement was Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditional acceptance as stated in his Bar Ilan speech.
His two conditions at the time were that Palestine be demilitarized and that Palestinians publicly accept that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. While the first condition violates the sovereign rights of any independent country, some in Palestine were not opposed to it, the other condition was much more difficult, for it violated Palestinian relations with fellow Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.
When the talks began, both sides agreed that the talks would include all permanent status issues such as borders, Jerusalem and refugees. However, as the talks progressed, the Israelis have recanted on their own commitments. Within a period of one week and possibly in preparation for the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Netanyahu publicly opposed any talks on Jerusalem or refugees. At the outset of the Israeli cabinet meeting he stated: “We ascribe importance to the unity of Jerusalem and, of course, to the cancellation of the right of return.”
Two days before Kerry’s arrival, Netanyahu shocked Palestinians and Americans by ordering the construction of a wall on the Jordan Valley, thus destroying any possibility of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state with open borders with its Jordanian neighbor.
If Palestinians cannot talk about the right of return and Jerusalem, what is the meaning of agreeing early on to include them in the core issues to be negotiated? And if there is an Israeli-built and controlled wall on the Jordan Valley, what is the use of even discussing borders and the idea of a separate Palestinian state? A wall on the Jordan Valley will significantly decrease Palestinian support for the two-state solution and move people more toward the concept of the one-state solution, where all people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea require equal rights in a single democratic state.
The release of the second stage of prisoners has exploded the very essence of serious peace talks that aim to find a reasonable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The American sponsors, who have refused to allow any other side to intervene and have claimed to be honest brokers, have to ensure that the rules of the game are honored and that the goal posts are not changed by the side with the military advantage
Menachem Begin in December 1942 wearing the Polish Army uniform of Gen. Anders’ forces with his wife Aliza and David Yutan; (back row) Moshe Stein and Israel Epstein
(photo credit: JABOTINSKY ARCHIVES)
During the inauguration of a memorial to the victims of the Siege of Leningrad in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park on January 24, 2020, before the climax of Holocaust remembrance events at which Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a central platform, we were stunned to hear a rendition of The Blue Kerchief (Siniy
Giant figures are seen during the 87th carnival parade of Aalst February 15, 2015
The annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium, is expected to take place on Sunday with even more antisemitic elements than in previous years.
Aalst’s organizers have sold hundreds of “rabbi kits” for revelers to dress as hassidic Jews in the carnival’s parade. The kit includes oversized noses, sidelocks (peyot) and black hats. The organizers plan to bring back floats similar to the one displayed in 2019 featuring oversized dolls of Jews, with rats on their shoulders, holding banknotes.
Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Basilica of Saint Nicholas in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari, Italy February 23, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Remo Casilli.
Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Francis made his comments in the southern Italian port city of Bari, where he traveled to conclude a meeting of bishops from all countries in the Mediterranean basin.
Palestinians walk past a shop selling fruits in Ramallah, Feb. 20, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have reached an agreement to end a five-month long trade dispute, officials said on Thursday.
The dispute, which opened a new front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, began in September when the PA announced a boycott of Israel calves. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals.
Antisemitic caricatures on display at the annual carnival in Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Raphael Ahren via Twitter.
Disturbing images emerged on Sunday of the annual carnival at Aalst, Belgium, showing an astounding number of antisemitic themes, costumes, displays and statements.
Israeli journalist Raphael Ahren documented people dressed as caricatures of Orthodox Jews, a fake “wailing wall” attacking critics of the parade, blatantly antisemitic characters and puppets wearing traditional Jewish clothes and sporting huge noses.
The stench of anti-Semitism always hovers over Switzerland’s Lake Geneva when the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is meeting there. The foul emanations reached a new nadir last week with UNHRC’s publication of a “database” of companies doing business in the disputed territories in Israel.
Following the publication of the list, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy director for advocacy of NGO Human Rights Watch, stated, “The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements [sic] is to aid in the commission of war crimes.”
One of the many things that annoys me about politicians is how sure they are of themselves. Everything is black and white. Every idea is good or bad. Take globalism, for example. You either love it or hate it. It works or it doesn’t.
Another thing that annoys me is how so much of a politician’s life revolves around power: Do everything you can to get it, and everything you can to keep it.
Why am I ranting? Because, while our politicians have been consumed with power and the media with the fights over power, a threat to our nation has been virtually ignored.
Blue and White Party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid are establishing their diplomatic credentials in the immediate run-up to Israel’s March 2 election with an insult to a U.S. administration that has arguably provided Israel with more diplomatic gains than any previous administration.
The Times of Israel reported that at a campaign stop in front of English-speaking Israelis, Gantz accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “of neglecting bipartisan ties in favor of exclusive support from U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican Party,” under the headline “Gantz pledges to mend ties with U.S. Democrats if elected.”
Bipartisanship was in short supply at the State of the Union address earlier this month—with one notable exception.
Nancy Pelosi had been looking dyspeptic, shuffling the papers she would later rip to shreds, when President Donald Trump reminded his audience that “the United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.”
Suddenly, the House Speaker applauded. Trump then introduced “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela: Juan Guaidó.”
The law professor Alan Dershowitz has thrown a legal hand-grenade into America’s political civil war by claiming to have evidence that former President Barack Obama “personally asked” the FBI to investigate someone “on behalf” of Obama’s “close ally,” billionaire financier George Soros.
He made his cryptic remark in an interview defending U.S. President Donald Trump against claims he interfered in the prosecution of his former adviser, Roger Stone.