Posts Tagged ‘East Jerusalem’

Richard Daly and Nasir Khan on Israel and Palestine Issue

March 12, 2013
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Editor’s remarks: Dr Richard Daly is an anthropologist who is active in writing and publishing. He wrote me a letter in which he raised some serious questions about my approach to Israel and Palestine. In response I wrote to him a letter in which I explained my views on the matter but without getting into any detailed discussion of our differing views. As mutually agreed,  I am publishing our exchanges on my websites and some other internet sites. In doing so we hope that our respective views will be useful to clarify the issues for readers, political actors and peace activists. Any private and personal information we exchanged has been deleted.

Nasir Khan, Editor

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Richard Daly to Nasir Khan:

March 5, 2013,

Hello,

[Text deleted.]

I am  fully with you on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, but I think you are wildly wrong on your commentary re Palestine and Israel. Too Islam-oriented. The focus cannot be on religion or physical violence. Too incendiary and full of hatred. It has to focus on Israel’s refusal to stop expansion and engage in peace.

I think we have to be pulling the world toward some kind of rational tolerance and peace in the region, and fanning flames of hatred –which does not have a shortage of the same–is counterproductive.

We have to stress not the bestiality of Israel, because all of us know how to be beasts when we are pushed into frenzies of intolerance, but to stress their leaders’ constant violation of the world’s desire for peace in the region, their violation of everything human by their armed occupation and expansion of Palestinian land.

I do not think the zionists have anything positive to contribute, but I do not think it reasonable or just, at this stage in the game, to drive Israelis into the sea. Israel has arrived. It cannot be pushed out, but nor should it be allowed to push out the long-term inhabitants on the basis of some Old Testament belief in ethnic primogeniture.

They must be led by world public opinion either to leave the country and make their mischief somewhere else, or work together with Palestinians to build a successful and peaceful country, an operation that could be a success if the whole world both criticizes and assists the process. How about calling for dismantling Israeli and Iranian nuclear installations, and, by the way, those of the big shots too.

Of course it cannot be done without a weakened and discredited late capitalism. Western capital is in crisis but that is another question. Pushing for a serious peace is a way of weakening capital and its aims even further, and giving some influence to the world’s peoples instead of to their so called leaders.

Your approach is shrill and incendiary and might one day contribute to massive communal violence rather than pressuring Israel and its backers  to make concessions for their own good, as well as for some degree of harmony is the powder keg that the region is. By all means, show the high walls, the roadblocks, the stunted Palestinian lives, the new towns on Palestinian farms, but many of your images — brutal acts to individuals — go beyond that and verge on hate literature, from my perspective.

I am sorry but I had to write this and I do not have time to become a blogger.

Richard
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Nasir Khan to Richard Daly:

March 10, 2013

Hello Richard,

[Text deleted.]

You have set forth some of your ideas on the Israel-Palestine issue including some critical remarks towards my approach to Israel and Palestine. Even though I have some reservations about what you say, but nonetheless I fully appreciate your sombre thoughts that show your good-will and your concern for peace and a peaceful settlement of the conflict. In fact, I also desire the same and have yearned for such goals for almost half-a-century. When it comes to analysing the specifics of Israeli policies, which I will rather call Zionist policies and goals, then our views seem to diverge on some points because they are based on our different experiences, involvements, perceptions and presuppositions.

Contrary to what you assume about my position, I also stand for peace and toleration in the region and for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Meanwhile, the old Zionist lie perfectly tailored to misleading the world while they carried out their systematic  expansion for the last 6 decades has been to play the victim-card: Israeli Jews are under threat of being wiped out! This deception has duped many people everywhere, especially those whose ears are used to listening to the customary sermons of Judaeo-Christian common roots of the Western civilisation. Therefore, it was interesting to see you also repeating the favourite Zionist catch-phrase ‘to drive Israelis into the sea’!

Zionism has not been a religious organisation with a philanthropist outlook or mission. Its aims were and continue to be political: to expand, exploit and dominate. Not only within the Middle East but also far beyond. The strategy to extend the Zionist power and control is a story of success: the rulers of the United States and its Congress dance to the tunes of Zionist masters and lately Canada has joined their political chorus. Britain and France were their traditional supporters and they follow what Tel Aviv tells them to do. Earlier on, the way they managed to prevail over the British government to get the Balfour Declaration (1917) shows their strength and their methods. During the British Mandate (in other words, British colonial rule) over Palestine in the inter-war period, the British facilitated the task of the Zionists within Palestine.

The Jewish emigration to Palestine increased during and after the Second World War. The people of Palestine were ignored while their land was being taken by Jewish organisations who soon used terrorist methods to take control of the land. The British rulers, the patrons of Zionist cause, were not spared either. Now the next step was to get the British out of the way to take Palestine. Under Zionist terror, the British fled leaving behind a story of betrayal, apathy and deception.

But the old colonial master had opened the door for the European Zionists to create a new colonial-settler state of ‘Israel’. Now was the time to get UN to declare the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 by partitioning Palestine. More than 78% of Palestine to Israel, only 22% the rest to the ‘native’ population of Palestine! That was the partition by the imperialist powers towards which the USSR also acquiesced. The Zionists had their day. The Arabs of Palestine had been betrayed and left to organised Zionist terrorists who wasted no time to expel a large population from their land by terror and violence. The Nakba had started and since then it has chartered the course of the ethnic cleansing in the occupied Palestine.

Obviously, I am quite aware that to offer an adequate reply to some of your critical comments I should present my views in much greater detail. But unfortunately I am unable to do so at this time. Instead, I will briefly reply to some of your direct questions.

Are my comments and outlook on Palestine and Israel ‘Islam-oriented’? I hope not, as far as I can see. To my mind it has been a political problem where the Zionists have taken over the land of the people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians, and expelled them from their land. They are the Palestinians who have been pushed out of their land, not the Israelis ‘into the sea’!

Since 1967 the further colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has been going on unabated. The world has been watching and not able to do anything to stop Israel. Why? The Zionist power in the US and the rest of the Western world is the key to understanding this.

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Numerous UN resolutions condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied land produced no result. The Israeli response has been one of total defiance and rejection of international law and international conventions with regard to their illegal settlements in the occupied territories and their treatment of the captive Palestinians. USA, Canada, etc. support Israel in all crimes against the people of Palestine. This is still going on. Now the question is how to respond to all this?

Well, we can play lip-service to the problem and say that peace will eventually prevail if we show only patience. I suggest, better still we keep our eyes closed and ears shut so that we don’t see or hear what is going on in the occupied Palestine. In that way, the angel of peace may appear on the horizon and pronounce the message of peace and justice and everything will turn fine! In fact, this is the attitude of the people who are neutral spectators of the tragedy within the occupied territories of Palestine. How the Palestinians are killed, beaten and terrorised by Israel has no meaning for such noble neutral onlookers. I was somewhat surprised that a well-read academic like you also comes with a prognosis that ‘focus should not be on religion and physical violence’.

But it is fair to ask why I support the Palestinians while so many other people including numerous political analysts, historian and journalists do not concentrate on their plight. Why I have sided and still do with the oppressed people of Palestine is not due to their religions, Islam and Christianity, but rather it is because of my awareness as a humanist to the great calamity that had fallen these people. We know that right-wing Jewish settlers who have been placed in various illegal settlements by the Israeli government in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are religious extremists and fanatics. It is the Zionists who use Jewish religion for their political agenda and misleading propaganda. This is something which I have tried to make clear. But I have never tried to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of religion, Islam and Christianity, versus Judaism. That will be too crude a position for a humanist like me to take! Neither, have I ever put forward Islam to define and defend the Palestinian cause. In my ideological and socio-political orientations, I have been a socialist, a non-compromising secularist and a humanist. As a matter of my humanist convictions, I do not play with religions or become a plaything of religions or religious people. Therefore to impute any religious label to my political work or views may be due to some misperception; this is quite easy because my Indo-Islamic cultural identity seems obvious.

Equally, it is vital to underscore that Israel has not been using physical violence and torture against the Palestinians for fun, but as a tool for its expansionist and colonising project. Such methods are brutal, barbarous and inhuman, and these are used routinely against other human beings. Should I ignore and not say what is happening in this regard? On the contrary, it is my duty as a human being to expose such cruel and inhuman violence against the people of Palestine. Obviously, the ‘Friends of Israel’ will rather have a lid on such information from leaking or displayed in the media. I am not against any religion or the followers of any religion or any mystic faith. But I am not a defender of Zionism, which as I mentioned earlier, is a political and not a religious movement. However, I am not the only one of the kind to think so, either.

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On my blogs and other alternative websites that care to side with the oppressed and victimised people, I try to highlight the human rights issues in many countries including Palestine and Israel. Because it is by exposing the violence and terror of the Zionists of Israel can we show to the world what the Zionists are doing. If we don’t that, we are giving our tacit approval to such atrocities by our silence and indifference. This is more so in the case of politically-conscious people, the people who know what is happening but remain indifferent. In this regard, my position is unambiguous and my views are clearly goal-oriented: Israel should stop all such criminal activities against the people and the occupied land of Palestine.

It is well known what the Zionists in and outside Israel, AIPAC, and the Israeli Lobby in America, Canada, Britain, France and other European countries stand for. The US Government and the US Congress as the staunch backers of Israel and the Friends of Israel throughout the western hemisphere support the policies of Israel vis-a-vis the occupied people of Palestine. They give their full backing to Israel for its continued oppression and the colonisation of the rest of the West Bank and the gradual annexation of East Jerusalem by obliterating its Arab complexion. Thus new facts on the ground that Israel has been creating would decide the shape of things to come. Who can doubt that? This is a realistic assessment of the situation which the people of Palestine do not and cannot accept. We who sympathise with them continue to voice our support for their national rights and their protection from a brutal occupier. This oppression and violence is still going on and people are being killed, imprisoned, brutally beaten and humiliated.

The shrivelled tracts of land in the West Bank that were still owned by the Palestinians have been and are still being taken over by Israel for Jewish settlements, while confiscations and demolitions of the Palestinian homes take place in East Jerusalem and other places. It happens all the time, almost on daily basis. Western spectators and mass media have their own affiliations, sympathies and much apathy towards the plight of the Palestinian people. Contrary to what you say that my approach is ‘shrill and incendiary’ that may contribute to massive communal violence, I see the violence against the Palestinians a crime against humanity and war crimes. I am one of those who oppose the violence and brutalities of the occupying power. My task here is to inform others and highlight the issues so that Israel changes its expansionist and terrorist course and stops killing and destroying the Palestinians. As a historian, a blogger and a peace activist that’s all I can do in solidarity with a people who are more like the Red Indians of America of the previous centuries who were pushed by the European colonists out of their homes and hearths and have since those times being portrayed as incorrigible wild tribal people who were mostly put to death and their remaining descendants pushed to some barren reservations to live in social isolation, powerlessness and penury in the land which they once had owned as a free and independent people. The situation of Palestinians is not much different for that of the old generations of the Red Indians or First Nations of Canada.

In other words, my approach to the conflict is not much different from that of other peace activists who are working for peace and justice. Among such people I will also mention the names of some prominent Jewish writers and peace activists like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Richard Falk, Gilad Atzmon, Miko Peled, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, etc. My views and work in this area are in line with these upholders of  the Palestinians’ rights and they are meant to contribute to ending the conflict and putting an end to the enslavement, oppression and degradation of a people.

I still believe only one democratic and secular state solution in historic Palestine is the best solution to the conflict. In no way, a well-informed person will see my approach as amounting to ‘hate literature’ or inflammatory. As you know, the Jewish writers, historians and peace activists I mentioned are not the enemies of Israel. Indeed, they are aware of the harm Zionism has done to the cause of the Jewish people and the long-term dangers which Israel is creating for itself and other people of the region. These views are appropriate to end an oppressive control over the life and destiny of the people of Palestine. With such views, I completely agree. But if you or anyone else will also call what they write including my articles and comments as ‘hate literature’ and ‘incendiary’ then that is something which I find deeply regrettable.

In the end, I thank you for your frank views and criticism. That also shows your perspective in a complicated conflict, which is a positive thing for exploring the possibilities from various angles. In addition, I much appreciate honestly-held views of a friend and well-wisher like you.

Cordially yours

Nasir

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Richard Daly To Nasir Khan:

March 10, 2013

Nasir,

[Text deleted.]

As for the Palestine question, there is nothing in what you write that I disagree with. In fact the hegemonic presence of Zionism in Toronto is regularly brought to our attention by an activist friend who works with Jews for Justice in Palestine. She is up to her eyes in the lies, threats and obfuscations of Zionism every day, and is a firm anti imperialist but constantly meets hysteria from the Canadian media, state and almost all other Jewish organizations.

The only difference you and I may have is how to frame the huge injustice and huge oppression such that this hegemony will be increasingly isolated by masses of bloggers and face bookers etc. Just exposing crimes without trying to affect a positive response to the situation, It seems to me –just pointing out the vicious acts of Israeli/Zionist officials and soldiers and settlers has to be done is ways that encourage organized resistance and not just gut-hatred based on tribal alliances,that can lead to more violent retaliations (which is what Zionism needs in order to justify its very military existence and its expansion). They provoke and we respond with angry retaliations, and the cycle goes on, and the leaders of the world, the monopolists continue to conduct business as usual.

Thanks for the long and serious reply. I did not feel it was an argument that I wanted, at this point to take to the Facebook crowd, which is an audience I find generally very superficial and highly manipulated by market forces and a difficult forum for serious issues.

Richard
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Netanyahu: “Jerusalem Is Ours, We Will Build And Develop It”

May 12, 2010
author Wednesday May 12, 2010 11:47author by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies Report post

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that Israel will always build and develop the city of Jerusalem is order to make it a “viable, developed and advanced city”.

netanyahu_isrflag_1.jpeg

Netanyahu said the relation between the Israelis and Jerusalem cannot be questioned and the Jews around the world look forwards to return to it and live it.

He also stated that the “Jewish struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle of existence”.
Netanyahu was speaking at a Jewish center in Jerusalem marking the 43rd anniversary of “unifying Jerusalem”.

East Jerusalem is part of the Palestinian and Arab territories Israel illegally captured during the 1967 war.

The Palestinians seek the city as the capital of their anticipated state.
Consecutive Israeli governments, as well as the government of Netanyahu, regard settlement construction and expansion in the occupied city as a right and a responsibility of every Israeli leader.

Israeli Settlements: What Are They, Really?

March 24, 2010

Richard Greener, The Huffington Post, March 24, 2010

As citizens of the United States, whose government provides essential support to the State of Israel and also supports a two-state settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we must ask ourselves this important question: If we were Palestinians could we start our own nation in 2010 while 500,000 citizens of another country occupy our land and could we agree to watch helplessly as they grow in number to almost two million before the year 2050?

Americans know that the issue of Israeli settlements is an obstacle in the way of Middle East peace. But do we properly comprehend what Israeli settlements really are?

Continues >>

US ‘Victory’ in Settlements Row Short-Lived

March 21, 2010

Netanyahu Vows to Continue East Jerusalem Construction

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, March 21, 2010

Last week’s declaration of victory in the ongoing Israel row by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to have been a short-lived win, and media claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “bowed” to US demands appear to be premature.

In his most recent public comments, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that he would like to see the “indirect talks” with the Palestinian Authority resume, but that he absolutely would not ever agree to restrict construction in occupied East Jerusalem, the issue upon which the talks have stalled.

With Netanyahu on his way to the US for AIPAC’s policy conference, and expected to focus his visit on pressing President Obama for more advanced weapons with which to attack Iran, it was widely expected that the Netanyahu government would try to defuse the tensions over the East Jerusalem move, which US officials considered a public insult.

And indeed the tensions do seem to be dying down, though the only thing resembling a concession made by the Netanyahu government was to implement a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy wherein the Israeli government would continue to expand settlements in East Jerusalem with impunity but would stop publicizing them at inopportune times.

But even if US-Israeli relations return quickly to normalcy, there appears to be no rapprochement forthcoming with the PA. This may serve as a recipe for the Obama Administration to default back to chastising the Palestinians for “refusing” negotiations (just two weeks after they agreed to those negotiations, only to see them torpedoed by the most recent construction), but it seems unlikely that it will restart the peace talks.

Rupert Cornwell: Obama won’t restrain Israel – he can’t

March 18, 2010

Rupert Cornwell, The Independet/UK, March 18, 2010

All you can say is, we’ve been here before. “Who the **** does he think he is? Who’s the ******* superpower here?” Bill Clinton spluttered in fury to his aides back in 1996. The “he” in question was Benjamin Netanyahu, then as now the Prime Minister of Israel.

Barack Obama, a cooler character than the last Democrat to be president, may not have used quite such salty language about the behaviour of the current Netanyahu government that has so incensed the US. One thing though may safely be predicted. Mr Netanyahu will get away with it.

More than a week on, the in-your-face effrontery of the announcement that a new swathe of Israeli homes will be built in disputed East Jerusalem still amazes. Not only was it another pre-emptive strike on one of the toughest issues to be resolved in the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to which even Mr Netanyahu pays lip service. It came just 24 hours after painstaking diplomatic efforts by Washington had secured agreement on “proximity talks” in which both sides agreed to talk to each other, albeit indirectly. The fate of even these modest contacts are now in the balance.

And it came at the very moment that Vice-President Joe Biden – a true friend of Israel if ever there was one – was in the country promising America’s “absolute, total and unvarnished” commitment to Israel’s security. Mr Netanhayu maintains he was blindsided by the announcement. But close friends don’t treat a superpower protector like that.

Worse still, Mr Netanyahu raised his two fingers just when there was an opportunity to move the tectonic plates of the Middle East crisis. Israel and the moderate Arab states are united in their fear of a nuclear-armed Iran bestriding the region. Serious progress on the Palestinian dispute would not only remove the biggest obstacle dividing them; it would also blunt Iran’s most potent appeal to the region’s Islamic population, as the one champion Palestinian rights that dared stand up to the Israeli and American oppressors.

Now that opportunity has all but vanished. For the Palestinians and other Arabs, Israel’s move has confirmed what they suspected all along, that the Jewish state – at least under its present management – is concerned not with concessions, even symbolic ones, but with creating facts on the ground. Mr Netanyahu however believes he can call Mr Obama’s bluff and ride out the storm. The plan to build 1,600 settlements, he says, will go ahead, whatever Washington’s demands to the contrary. And on all counts, he’s probably right.

And the reasons for such confidence? The first is his calculation that for Washington, whatever its anger at Israel’s behaviour, the need for strategic co-operation with its closest ally in the Middle East against the Iranian nuclear threat will trump its concern for the Palestinians – even if the two issues are connected. The second is his confidence that the President will never ultimately defy the mighty pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Mr Obama is more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians than any recent president. In his Cairo speech last June, he spoke movingly of the daily humiliations faced by a people living under occupation: the situation for the Palestinian people, he said, was “intolerable.” He followed up by demanding a total freeze on settlements, as proof the Israelis were serious about a peace deal.

But Mr Netanyahu said no, and the Obama administration, essentially folded. It was forced to content itself with a limited and partial freeze, from which East Jerusalem was excluded. When Hillary Clinton praised this modest step as “unprecedented,” disappointed Palestinians and Arabs concluded that for all the fine words in Cairo, it was business as usual in Washington. When push came to shove, the proclaimed “honest broker” tilted invariably and irretrievably in favour of the Israelis.

Mr Obama’s defenders now say that if he misplayed his hand, it was because he had too much on his plate, obliged to corral up crucial healthcare votes one moment, plot the future of the US banking system the next, and then make a flawless move in the three-dimensional chess game that is Middle East policy. In fact, his greatest error was not to think through the clout of America’s pro-Israel lobby.

When the university professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy in 2007, some intitial reaction was scornful. Critics dismissed the book’s thesis as exaggeration at best, sheer fantasy at worst. There was no sinister lobby, only the instinctive collective sympathy felt towards Israel by ordinary Americans.

But power lies in the perception of power, and no organisation in Washington is perceived to wield more power than AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. For proof, look no further than January 2009, when most of the rest of the world was horrified at the Israeli offensive in Gaza. At that moment the US House of Representatives, by a vote of 390 to five, chose to blame the entire crisis on Hamas.

Now the lobby is working to defuse the present row, naturally on Israel’s terms. First AIPAC expressed its “serious concern” at events, reminding (or perhaps warning) of the “vast bipartisan support in Congress and the American people” for the US/Israeli relationship. Then the Israeli ambassador here issued a statement claiming he had been “flagrantly misquoted” in reports saying he had warned his staff of the worst crisis in 35 years between the two countries. By Tuesday evening Ms Clinton herself, who last week was accusing Mr Netanhayu of insulting the US, poured further oil on the already quietening waters: “I don’t buy the notion of a crisis.”

And there we have it. The settlements in East Jerusalem will go ahead whatever the US thinks. The proximity talks, even if they do proceed, are doomed in advance. And next week AIPAC holds here what it bills as the largest policy conference in its history. The Israeli Prime Minister will be in town to address it, so will Ms Clinton.

President Obama however will be about as far away as possible, on a long-planned visit to Indonesia and Australia. And probably just as well. Grovels, even the most elegant grovels, are not an edifying spectacle.

r.cornwell@independent.co.uk

©independent.co.uk

Political umbrage in Washington?

March 18, 2010
By Robert Grenier,  Al Jazeera, March 17, 2010


Despite a temporary freeze, construction on settlements, such as the one in Har Gilo, just outside of Jerusalem, has continued with little interruption [EPA]

The announcement last week by Eli Yishai, the Israeli interior minister, of plans to construct an additional 1,600 Israeli homes in East Jerusalem, appears to have generated quite the diplomatic row.

Coming as it did just before the start of a dinner offered by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in honour of Joe Biden, the US vice-president, the announcement threw the White House official into high dudgeon.

The US delegation must have burned up the proverbial phone lines between Israel and the West Wing of the White House, while Biden’s Israeli host was kept waiting some 90 minutes until the vice-president and the Washington crowd could come up with suitable language to express their outrage.

Continues >>

Gaza marches over Jerusalem plans

March 17, 2010

Morning Star Online, March 16,  2010

Palestinians march during a rally in  solidarity with others trying to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque

Palestinians march during a rally in solidarity with others trying to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque

Thousands of Palestinians have rallied in the streets of Gaza to condemn Israeli construction in occupied east Jerusalem.

Central Gaza City was jammed with schoolchildren and university students waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans, who marched alongside leaders of the Hamas administration and other factions of the Palestinian resistance.

The rally took place as scores of Arab residents of east Jerusalem were injured in clashes with Israeli riot police.

Continues >>

Palestinian Dispossession in East Jerusalem

March 15, 2010

By Stephen Lendman, Dissident Voice,  March 15, 2010

For Jews, Jerusalem is its historic capital. Muslims also claim it for the third holiest site in Islam, containing the 35 acre Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif), including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The 1947 UN Partition Plan designated Jerusalem an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council. After Israel’s 1947-48 War of Independence, it was divided between Israel and Jordan, and during Israel’s 1967 Six-Day War, East Jerusalem was captured and occupied, its current status today.

In March 2009, a confidential EU report (now public) accused Israel of using settlement expansions, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies, restrictive permits, closing Palestinian institutions, the West Bank Separation Wall, and various other ways to “actively pursu(e) the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem and “increase Jewish presence” in the city.

Continues >>

U.S. gave Israel green light for East Jerusalem construction

March 12, 2010

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
(AP)

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By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent, Haretz/Israel,  March 12, 2010

The apology offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai recalls the joke about the servant who pinched the king’s bottom. En route to the gallows, the servant apologized: He thought it was the queen’s bottom.

The statement issued by Netanyahu’s bureau said that in light of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the United States over construction in East Jerusalem, the plans for new housing in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood should not have been approved this particular week. It also said the premier had ordered Yishai to draft procedures that would prevent a recurrence. In other words, Yishai is welcome to submit more plans for Jewish construction in East Jerusalem next week, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will no longer be here.

Based on Biden’s reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his boss) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu’s pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?

With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.

In a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu’s assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.

Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in East Jerusalem.

Biden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years.

When Biden arrived, the Arab League had just recommended that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accede to Washington’s proposal for indirect talks with Israel.

But instead of being able to leave with an announcement that the talks have officially begun, Biden is leaving with the news that the Arab League has suspended its recommendation.

Netanyahu can thus hope that the Ramat Shlomo imbroglio has deferred the moment of truth when he must reveal his interpretation of “two states for two peoples.” And just in case anyone failed to realize how impartial a mediator the U.S. is, Biden said in his Tel Aviv speech that the U.S. has “no better friend” than Israel.

For Netanyahu, the cherry on top was that the onus for advancing the negotiations has now been put on the Arab states – just two weeks before the Arab League summit in Tripoli, where the league’s 2002 peace initiative will again be up for discussion. For months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Arab leaders not to disconnect this important initiative from life support. His argument is that nothing would make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad happier than a final blow-up of the peace process and the outbreak of a third intifada. And his joy would be redoubled if the fire started in Jerusalem.

But while the U.S. may be papering over the rift for now, Western diplomats said the bill will come due once the talks with the PA begin (assuming they do). The U.S. has already said it will submit bridging proposals of its own during these talks, and its anger and frustration over the Ramat Shlomo incident are likely to make it far more sympathetic to the Palestinians’ positions, the diplomats said.

For instance, Netanyahu wants security issues to top the talks’ agenda, an Israeli source said. But the Palestinians want the first issue to be borders, including in Jerusalem.

And the European Union, which had planned to upgrade various agreements with Israel this week in honor of the resumed talks, has now postponed the upgrade until it becomes clear whether the talks will in fact take place.

Jimmy Carter: Gaza must be rebuilt now

December 19, 2009
We can wait no longer to restart the peace process. The human suffering demands urgent relief

Jimmy Carter, The Guardian/UK, Dec 19, 2009

It is  generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

US objections have impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to 2010 elections. With this stalemate, PLO leaders have decided that President Mahmoud Abbas will continue in power until elections can be held – a decision condemned by many Palestinians.

Even though Syria and Israel under the Olmert government had almost reached an agreement with Turkey’s help, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejects Turkey as a mediator on the Golan Heights. No apparent alternative is in the offing.

The UN general assembly approved a report issued by its human rights council that called on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate charges of war crimes during the recent Gaza war, but positive responses seem unlikely.

In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.

I have discussed ways to assist the citizens of Gaza with a number of Arab and European leaders and their common response is that the Israeli blockade makes any assistance impossible. Donors point out that they have provided enormous aid funds to build schools, hospitals and factories, only to see them destroyed in a few hours by precision bombs and missiles. Without international guarantees, why risk similar losses in the future?

It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law. We cannot wait any longer. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act.

One recent glimmer of life has been the 8 December decision of EU foreign ministers to restate the long-standing basic requirements for peace commonly accepted within the international community, including that Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries will prevail unless modified by a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. A week later the new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, reiterated this statement in even stronger terms and called for the international Quartet to be “reinvigorated”. This is a promising prospect.

President Obama was right to insist on a two-state solution and a complete settlement freeze as the basis for negotiations. Since Israel has rejected the freeze and the Palestinians won’t negotiate without it, a logical step is for all Quartet members (the US, EU, Russia and UN) to support the Obama proposal by declaring any further expansion of settlements illegal and refusing to veto UN security council decisions to condemn such settlements. This might restrain Israel and also bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.

At the same time, the Quartet should join with Turkey and invite Syria and Israel to negotiate a solution to the Golan Heights dispute.

Without ascribing blame to any of the disputing parties, the Quartet also should begin rebuilding Gaza by organising relief efforts under the supervision of an active special envoy, overseeing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and mediating an opening of the crossings. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief.

This is a time for bold action, and the season for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.