Posts Tagged ‘peace talks’

Noam Chomsky: The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks

December 8, 2010

By Noam Chomsky, In These Times, Dec 2, 2010

It is hardly a secret that for 35 years the U.S. and Israel have stood virtually alone in opposition to a consensus on a political settlement that is close to universal.

Washington’s pathetic capitulation to Israel while pleading for a meaningless three-month freeze on settlement expansion—excluding Arab East Jerusalem—should go down as one of the most humiliating moments in U.S. diplomatic history.

In September the last settlement freeze ended, leading the Palestinians to cease direct talks with Israel. Now the Obama administration, desperate to lure Israel into a new freeze and thus revive the talks, is grasping at invisible straws—and lavishing gifts on a far-right Israeli government.

The gifts include $3 billion for fighter jets. The largesse also happens to be another taxpayer grant to the U.S. arms industry, which gains doubly from programs to expand the militarization of the Middle East.

U.S. arms manufacturers are subsidized not only to develop and produce advanced equipment for a state that is virtually part of the U.S. military-intelligence establishment but also to provide second-rate military equipment to the Gulf states—currently a precedent-breaking $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which is a transaction that also recycles petrodollars to an ailing U.S. economy.

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Will Obama Say Yes to Afghan Peace Talks?

May 8, 2010

Robert Naiman, The Huffington Post, May 7, 2010

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is coming to Washington next week to meet with President Obama. Afghan government officials have said that their top priority for these talks is to get President Obama to agree that the U.S. will fully back efforts of the Afghan government to reconcile with senior leaders of the Afghan Taliban insurgency in order to end the war.

On the merits, saying yes to the Afghan government’s request for US support for peace talks would seem like a no-brainer.

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Taliban call for peace talks

April 19, 2010

Morning Star Online, April 18, 2010

by Tom Mellen
DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands  guard outside the damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar  south of Kabul. The Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

DESTRUCTION: An Afghan police man stands guard outside the damaged wall of the police headquarters in Kandahar south of Kabul. The Taliban has said it wants to hold peace talks.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar has said that he and his followers are willing to hold “sincere and honest” peace talks with Western political leaders.

In an interview with the Sunday Times conducted deep inside territory held by Afghan resistance forces, two men whom the newspaper identified as members of the Taliban’s ruling council said that Mr Omar was not vying to rule Afghanistan.

The Quetta shura scholars said that the Islamist umbrella group was fighting for three objectives – the expulsion of foreign military forces, the restoration of Islamic law and security for the Afghan people.

The men said that Mr Omar was prepared to engage in “sincere and honest” talks to realise this.

One man who introduced himself as Mullah Abdul Rashid declared that the Taliban’s supreme leader was “no longer interested in being involved in politics or government.

“All the holy warriors seek is to expel the foreigners, these invaders, from our country and then to repair the country’s constitution,” he said.

“We are not interested in running the country as long as these things are achieved.”

Reviewing the five years in which the Taliban governed Afghanistan before it was ousted by a US-led invasion force in 2001 the men declared that it had been a mistake for the Islamist movement to immerse itself in politics.

Mr Rashid said: “We didn’t have the capability to govern the country and we were surprised by how things went – we lacked people with either experience or technical expertise in government.

“Now all we’re doing is driving the invader out,” he said.

Mr Rashid vowed to “leave politics to civil society and return to our religious schools” when this had been achieved.

Last week a resistance faction led by former Afghan prime minister Gulbadin Hekmatyar sent a three-member team to Kabul for talks with the Karzai regime, Afghan MPs and Nato officials.

The Hizb-e-Islami delegation declared that it was fighting to expel foreign troops and was not seeking government positions after the war.

US President Barack Obama’s administration is currently considering whether to drop its opposition to direct talks with the Taliban.

Two Dutch soldiers were killed on Saturday by a roadside bomb in Uruzgan province, where the Netherlands has deployed some 1,800 soldiers and support staff.

The troops are due to pull out in August.

Israeli settlements block peace talks

September 19, 2009
Morning Star Online, 18 September 2009
by Tom Mellen

Washington’s special Middle East envoy has failed to bridge the gulf between the right-wing Israeli administration and Palestinian negotiators on the terms of renewing peace talks.

US officials said that mediation efforts would continue, but the persistent differences raise doubts about Mr Obama’s plans to revive long-stalled peace efforts, including holding a trilateral meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders next week in New York on the sidelines of the UN general assembly.

The key differences are over Israel’s refusal to stop the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories and whether peace talks should begin where they left off under the previous administration of Ehud Olmert.

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What Israeli Peace Process?

March 12, 2009

By Franklin Spinney | Counterpunch, March 12, 2009

On March 2, 2009, the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now issued a report saying that the Israeli housing ministry plans to build 73,ooo housing units in the West Bank. Peace Now said 15,ooo of these units had already been approved, with another 58,000 awaiting approval. On March 7, 2009, the Guardian reported that a confidential report issued by the EU said Israel continues to annex property in East Jerusalem. It said Israeli housing authorities had submitted plans for 5,500 new housing units (3,000 of which have already been approved) since the Annapolis “peace” conference in November 2007. Readers may recall that the Annapolis conference was supposed to resuscitate George W. Bush’s moribund so-called Road Map to Peace. Assuming these housing plans are implemented, and only 2.5 Israelis on average inhabit each new unit, the entire program could add as many as 196,ooo Israelis to the 490,000 Israelis already living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yet as recently as September 30, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said Israel should withdraw from almost all of the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem in order to achieve peace. Of course, Olmert’s profession of normative behaviour would be deemed gratuitous nonsense in an international court of law, because all these settlements are clearly illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. So what gives?

Nothing. What you see is what you get — simply business as usual. There is no real peace process, only an illusion of one, but an illusion that has been and continues to be used cynically by the Israelis to ethnically cleanse the best land for Eretz Israel (“best” by definition includes access to the water in the West Bank aquifers — more on that later) by relentlessly creating irreversible “facts on the ground.”

All one has to do is look at the historical record. For the last 20 years, the U.S government and its wholly owned subsidiaries in the thinktanks, academia, and the media have promoted the soothing vision of an ongoing Arab-Israeli peace process. This process has been centered on the ideal of attaining a two-state solution — namely, establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Dutifully, the mainstream media in the United States (MSM) has inundated the American people with stories describing how the ongoing peace process is a road leading to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But to date, that road has led into the nightmare of the West Bank’s roadblocked cantons and the hellish Gaza Ghetto, and the preponderance of MSM reporting, at least in the United States, leans toward blaming the Palestinians for their fate.

To be sure, the MSM also reported about bumps in the road that can be attributed to Israel, especially question of settlements in the Occupied Territories. But such reporting has been usually in the context of the settlements being temporary impediments to a solution, often couched, for example, in vague visions of Israel eventually abandoning most of its settlements, and doing land swaps for others, once the Palestinians renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist. In this context, there have been very few reports that put the question of settlements into an easily understood long term perspective, even though the information is widely available on the internet.

To be sure, the Israelis did evacuate 6000+ settlers from Gaza in 2003, and occasionally, the Israeli government evacuates a trivial number of settlers from the so-called “outposts” on the West Bank. But these Israeli moves have been anomalies to their long term pattern of settlement, which has been amazingly consistent since the rate of settlement began to accelerate in the mid 1970s. In fact, as demonstrated in the chart below, the pattern of settlement has been remarkably untouched by the deliberations of the so-called peace processes. It is based on official data produced by the Israeli government and made available to the public by the courageous Israeli human rights organization B’TSelem.

The so-called peace process, which at first was ad hoc, became institutionalized with great optimism in 1993, when the signing of the Oslo Accords ended the First Intifada. But over the next seven years, the Oslo deliberations did not alleviate the economic hardships afflicting the Palestinians, nor did it even slow down the pace of Israeli settlement, as is shown clearly by the pink shaded area of the figure. Oslo effectively ended in in Sept 2000, when Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (Islam’s third holiest site) incited the Palestinian uprising that became known as the Second Intifada and helped to catapult Sharon into the office of Prime Minister.

A re-institutionalization of the formal peace process rose tepidly from the ashes of Oslo in June 2002, with the so-called Road Map to Peace initiated by President George W. Bush. The aim of Bush’s Roadmap was to establish an independent Palestinian state as early as 2005, and central to achieving that aim was a freeze on settlement expansion by May 2003 (called for in Phase I of the roadmap), as well as a reduction in violence and political reform by the Palestinians. The gray area in the figure spans the time of Bush’s so-called road map, and it is clear that his Roadmap, like Oslo, had absolutely no effect on Israel’s pace of settlement. Israel’s murderous assault on the Gaza Ghetto effectively dumped the detritus of Mr. Bush’s illuson into the lap of incoming President Obama in January 2009.

The assault on the Gaza Ghetto, together with a sense of frustration from not being able to weaken Hamas’s grip on Gaza, also helped to accelerate an ongoing political shift toward the radical right among the Israeli people, as became evident in the stunning results of the recent Parliamentary election. It now seems likely that Binyamin Netanyahu — the former prime minister between 1996 and 1999, who worked so assiduously to trash Oslo and increase settlements — will return to power as prime minister, this time with the neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister.

So, based on the history depicted in the chart and Netanyahu’s track record, we can expect the rate of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to continue and probably increase. True to form, in one of his campaign speeches, Netanyahu promised he would not be not bound by Olmert’s empty promise to evacuate the settlements, and any future peace talks would not be about giving up territory, but about achieving an “economic peace” through economic development — whatever that means.

And how has Mr. Obama’s government reacted to date? The most critical comment I have been able to find is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remark in Jerusalem that the planned expansion of the settlements cited in the first paragraph would be “unhelpful.”

One thing is certain, we can depend on being put to sleep with more somnolent visions of peace in our time while the Israelis create more facts on the ground.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at

Singing the Praise of Fruitless Peace Talks

December 23, 2008

Stuart Littlewood |, December 22, 2008

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ new ‘shadow’ foreign secretary here in Britain, reports on his first trip to Palestine/Israel in, a strange choice of platform for a self-styled ‘liberal’.

His biggest impression, he says, was optimism for the peace process: “I developed a strong sense that both sides trusted each other.”

But as far as I’m aware he didn’t meet the Palestine side – only the Fatah faction, whose cosiness with Israel is the stuff of scandal.

Last week, in a display of mutual admiration between US president Bush and Fatah’s president Abbas, Bush reportedly said: “People must recognise that we have made a good deal of progress” and Middle East peace talks are now “irreversible”. Abbas, whose days are also numbered, praised the outgoing US president saying: “There is no doubt that we will continue these efforts and the peace negotiations, but everything will be based on the foundation, and that foundation was laid by you during your time in office.”

But when Abbas’s team was asked if Bush would press Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza, it seemed the US president would not commit to negotiating an end to the siege. So we can see how devoted they actually are to the cause of peace.

Meanwhile the Quartet – America, the EU, Russia and the United Nations – says there’s no turning back from US-led talks between Israel and the Palestinians, despite their spectacular lack of progress.

So everyone in high places is singing from the same hymn-sheet in praise of a fruitless peace process.

They know perfectly well, of course, that the Israelis have for decades played for time, stringing the world along and whining that they have “no partner for peace” while continuing to seize and colonize all the land and water resources needed to fulfill the Zionist dream of a Greater Israel from the Jordan to the Mediterranean… or, some say, the Euphrates to the Nile. To that end the regime has endlessly violated UN resolutions, international law and the norms of human decency.

Respected Israeli expert Jeff Halper has warned that Israel intends to make its illegal occupation permanent, hence the frenzied rush to establish irreversible facts on the ground like the monstrous settlements and their supporting infrastructure, to press ahead with further demolition of Arab homes and more ethnic cleansing, and to fracture the remnants of Palestine so that they cannot possibly be drawn together to form a viable, independent state.

Anyone who bothers to read the manifestos of the Likud and Kadima parties understands that it is Israel which is no partner for peace, never was and probably never will be.

So, World leaders, what’s your game? Why should Palestinians have to talk to their tormentors? The path to peace is clearly marked in countless rulings by the United Nations and by the International Court of Justice. These are waiting to be implemented and enforced. Here are some examples…

• Resolution 181 (the Partition Plan of 1947 accepted by the Jews) declares Jerusalem, including Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, a corpus separatum – to be run under an international UN administration. This was reiterated in Resolution 303 a year later. We’re still waiting.
• Resolution 194: resolves that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage. That was 60 years ago.
• Resolution 237: Israel to allow return of the ‘new’ 1967 Palestinian refugees.
• Resolution 242: emphasizes the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by war and calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from land occupied in 1967.
• Resolution 252: declares ‘invalid’ Israel’s attempts to unify Jerusalem as the Jewish capital.
• Resolution 271: condemns Israel’s failure to obey UN resolutions on Jerusalem.
• Resolution 298: deplores Israel’s changing of the status of Jerusalem.
• Resolution 446: determines that Israeli settlements are a ‘serious obstruction’ to peace and calls on Israel to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
• Resolution 452: calls on Israel to cease building settlements in occupied territories.
• Resolution 465: deplores Israel’s settlements and asks all member states not to assist Israel’s settlements program.
• Resolution 469: strongly deplores Israel’s failure to observe the Council’s order not to deport Palestinians.
• Resolution 471: expresses deep concern’ at Israel’s failure to abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
• Resolution 476: reiterates that Israel’s claims to Jerusalem are null and void.
• Resolution 478: censures Israel in the strongest terms for its claim to Jerusalem in its Basic Law.
• Resolution 605: strongly deplores Israel’s policies and practices denying the human rights of Palestinians.
• Resolution 608: deeply regrets that Israel has defied the United Nations and deported Palestinian civilians.
• Resolution 641: deplores Israel’s continuing deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 673: deplores Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the United Nations.
• Resolution 681: deplores Israel’s resumption of the deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 694: deplores Israel’s deportation of Palestinians and calls on it to ensure their safe and immediate return.
• Resolution 726: strongly condemns Israel’s deportation of Palestinians.
• Resolution 799: ditto

The Fourth Geneva Convention is supposed to protect civilians under military occupation…. no violence to life or person, no cruelty or torture; no taking of hostages; no outrages upon personal dignity; no collective punishment, no sentencing or executions unless ordered by a properly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees demanded by civilised peoples.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice – that “principal judicial organ of the United Nations” – ruled that the Separation Wall is illegal and must be dismantled, and Israel must compensate Palestinians for damage. Furthermore, said the ICJ, all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the Wall and to ensure Israel complies with international humanitarian law.

Israel is still building it.

The quarrel is clearly between the international community and Israel. So please, World leaders, spare us all this tosh about peace negotiations. There can be no peace while one party has his jackboot on the other’s throat. The major powers must first ensure all relevant UN resolutions are respected and international law enforced, not swept under the carpet. The time for Palestinians to sit down and talk is when Israel’s forces are pulled back, as required, behind the 1967 border.

What if Israel won’t comply? Easy: suspend trade and technical co-operation.

Mr Davey said when asked about his trip: “My one regret was not being allowed to visit Gaza, something I hope to put right as soon as my diary allows.” Not allowed to? By whom? Did the Israeli authorities stop him, just as they stopped a surgeon friend from entering Gaza a month ago with a team of medics, stopped the Pope’s nuncio and stopped the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, who is due to report on the situation to the UN Human Rights Council in March?

Mr Davey didn’t explain. But expressing his intention to visit Gaza does him credit. He certainly won’t get a balanced view until he sees for himself and meets Hamas. I wish him well. We are in desperate need of champions for justice, a rare breed in international politics these days.

-Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit

:: Article nr. 49812 sent on 23-dec-2008 10:50 ECT

Time to quit Afghanistan

October 7, 2008

Eric Margolis | Edmonton Sun, Oct 5, 2008

At last, a faint glimmer of light at the end of the Afghan tunnel.

Last week, the U.S.-installed Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, revealed he had asked Saudi Arabia to broker peace talks with the alliance of tribal and political groups resisting western occupation collectively known as the Taliban.

Taliban leader Mullah Omar quickly rejected Karzai’s offer and claimed the U.S. was headed toward the same kind of catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union met. The ongoing financial panic in North America lent a certain credence to his words.

Meanwhile, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, urgently called for at least 10,000 more troops but, significantly, also proposed political talks with the Taliban. U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are increasingly on the defensive, hard pressed to defend vulnerable supply lines in spite of massive fire power and total control of the air.

I recently asked Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s former senior adviser, how this seemingly impossible war could be won. His eyes dancing with imperial hubris, Rove replied, “More Predators (missile armed drones) and helicopters!” Which reminded me of poet Hilaire Belloc’s wonderful line about British imperialism, “Whatever happens/we have got/the Maxim gun (machine gun)/and they have not.”

Though Karzai’s olive branch was rejected, the fact he made it public is very important. By doing so, he broke the simple-minded western taboo against negotiations with the Taliban and its allies.


The Taliban was founded as an Islamic religious movement dedicated to fighting communism and the drug trade. It received U.S. funding until May 2001. But western war propaganda has so demonized the Taliban that few politicians have the courage to propose the obvious and inevitable: A negotiated settlement to this pointless seven-year war. Even NATO’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said the war could only be ended by negotiations, not military means.

The Taliban and its allies are mostly Pashtuns (or Pathans), who comprise half of Afghanistan’s population. They have been largely excluded from political power by the U.S.-backed Kabul regime, which relies on Tajik and Uzbek ethnic minorities, chiefs of the old Afghan Communist Party, and the nation’s leading drug lords.

Canada, which lacks funds for modern medical care, has spent a staggering $22 billion to support its little war against the Pashtun tribes. It’s a war which Canada’s defence minister actually claimed is necessary so that Canadian delegates would be “taken seriously” at international meetings. A better path to credibility might be to not plagiarize from other right wing leader’s speeches.

Ottawa and Washington should listen to Karzai who, despite being a U.S.-installed “asset,” is also a decent man who cares about his nation. In fact, Ottawa should remember Canada’s venerable position as an international peacemaker, a role that has made it one of the world’s most respected nations.

Mr. Harper’s role model, George W. Bush, is probably the most disliked man on earth and certainly America’s worst president in history, who has led his nation from disaster to calamity. Only 22% of Americans support Bush. Half of them believe Elvis is still alive.

The Taliban are not “terrorists.” The movement had nothing to do with 9/11 though it did shelter Osama bin Laden, a national hero of the war against the Soviets. Only a handful of al-Qaida are left in Afghanistan.

The current war is not really about al-Qaida and “terrorism,” but about opening a secure corridor through Pashtun tribal territory to export the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Basin to the West. Canada and the rest of NATO have no business being pipeline protection troops. Canada’s military intervention in Afghanistan has jeopardized its national security by putting it on the map as an anti-Muslim nation joined at the hip with Bush and his ruinous policies.

As the great Benjamin Franklin said, “there is no good war, and no bad peace.”

I hope Ottawa will have the courage to admit it was wrong about Afghanistan and bring its troops home — now.

Middle East: Israel’s chief negotiator rules out peace with Palestinians in 2008

August 22, 2008

The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said yesterday it was unlikely a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be reached this year and warned that pressure to hurry negotiations could lead to violence.

Livni, 50, the chief Israeli negotiator for the current talks with the Palestinians, is the favourite to replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister when the ruling Kadima party holds leadership elections next month.

The latest peace process, launched in Annapolis in the US in November, was originally intended to produce an agreement by the end of this year.

“I think that any attempt to bridge gaps that maybe it’s premature to bridge, or to reach something that is not the comprehensive agreement that we want to reach, can lead to doing it wrong just because of the pressure,” she told a news conference in Jerusalem. “This can lead to clashes, this can lead to misunderstandings, this can lead to violence as we faced after Camp David 2000 and the circumstances in a way are similar.”

In the months after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, broke out. Since then more than 4,800 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed in the conflict.

Livni said all the issues of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians were up for discussion, but she gave no indication of what, if anything, had so far been agreed in months of discussions between the two sides. However, she ruled out any prospect of a right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel and said refugees would return to live in the future Palestinian state.

Talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been under way for several months, but there has been no sign that any concrete agreements have been reached, even in private.

Although Livni is expected to win the Kadima leadership next month, it is not yet clear if she will be able to form a coalition government.

She said she would like to try to lead a coalition, or to form a unity government. She said that would be decided by other coalition parties.

If she fails to form a coalition there would be early general elections. Recent polls have suggested the rightwing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, of the Likud party, would win. However, a poll in yesterday’s Ha’aretz newspaper put Livni and Netanyahu as equal frontrunners.

Olmert, the current prime minister and Kadima leader, has promised to step down after the primary election next month. He is still being questioned in a series of corruption investigations.

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