Sunday, December 31, 2006

What Makes Sammy Run?

Uri Avnery

"I DON'T care about the principles! All that I want is that my wife can live with me and that we can raise a family!" cried out the engaging young man on the TV talk show.


Saturday, December 30, 2006


A New Year message:

Geoffrey Whitfield who used to head up the "Sports for Peace" organisation has been raising money (over £500 so far) towards the work of the "Innkeeper cum stable maker" in Bethlehem. He writes: At £15 a week, you can work out how many people can be employed for a month as they renovate houses in Bethlehem for families to live in "At such a time as this". At the same time, the unemployed are given the dignity of work. He is forwarding donations to Sister Maria in Bethlehem.
Geoffrey's Home address for those who need it:
37 The Gallops
East Sussex BN7 1LR

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Olmert: Opposition to Syria talks not the result of U.S. pressure

By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday reiterated his opposition to holding talks with Syria, adding that his opposition did not come at the behest of the United States.

In a meeting with Israeli ambassadors to Europe in his Jerusalem office, Olmert said that Syria's continued support of extremist elements and ties to Iran prove that its offers of peace talks with Israel are meaningless.

He said Israel is interested in peace with Syria but sees no substance to its offer, according to a statement from his office.

"The actions of the Syrian regime, including its support for Hezbollah and its promotion of instability in Lebanon, its sheltering of the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and its close ties with the president of Iran, who calls for the destruction of Israel, show us, unfortunately, that there is nothing behind its declarations" in favor of peace talks, read the statement.

In recent weeks, Syrian President Bashar Assad has offered to restart peace talks with Israel. The offers came in different forms, including news interviews.

Olmert noted that the international community is insisting that the Palestinian government must renounce terrorism and fight it as a condition for opening negotiations. "There is no reason why Israel should abandon these principles concerning Syria, which is up to its neck in supporting terrorism," Olmert said, according to the statement.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that before any change in policy regarding negotiations with Syria could be considered, Israel would have to ask itself whether the talks culd lead to any sort of peace agreement.

"We must ask ourselves if the significance of Syria's signals is that [Syrian] President Bashar Assad wants just negotiations with Israel or if he also wants to reach peace at the end of the process," Livni told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "We must know what we are going to get at the end of the process."

A senior Foreign Ministry official earlier in the day backed the view expressed last week by Mossad director Meir Dagan that Syria is serious about renewing negotiations.

"Syria is ready for negotiations and there are sources in the Arab states who believe that Syria will ally itself to the Western bloc headed by the United States and Britain," said Nimrod Barkan, the director of the Foreign Ministry Center for Policy Research.

A senior security source told Haaretz that, "There is no doubt that there is a movement within Syria that is interested in talks with us. The only way to gauge their level of seriousness is to talk to them."

In peace talks that broke down in 2000, Israel offered return of all of the captured Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel took from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, but the negotiations foundered on Syrian demands for a foothold on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and conditions for peace it would give Israel.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Israel’s Mixed Messages

Rafi Dajani of ATFP sends us a New York Times editorial which is critical of Israel's latest settlement expansion plans:

To view the editorial click here
New York Times
December 27, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Senior Israeli Official: Take Syria Seriously

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

A senior Foreign Ministry official on Tuesday backed the view of Military Intelligence that Syria is serious about renewing peace negotiations with Israel.

"Syria is ready for negotiations and there are sources in the Arab states who believe that Syria will ally itself to the Western bloc headed by the United States and Britain," said Nimrod Barkan, the director of the Foreign Ministry Center for Policy Research.

A senior security source told Haaretz that, "There is no doubt that there is a movement within Syria that is interested in talks with us. The only way to gauge their level of seriousness is to talk to them.

"But Olmert is inflexible on the issue at the moment - he is more driven by political considerations regarding American reservations [on the issue of talks] than by renewing contacts with Damascus."

Barkan was speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee a day after the head of the Military Intelligence research division told the same panel that he believes recent peace overtures emanating from Syrian President Bashar Assad are sincere.

"Syria is genuinely interested in negotiations," Brigadier General Yossi Baidetz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The Syrian regime believes that dialog with Israel will only better its position and improve its standing," Baidatz said.

Last week, however, Mossad director Meir Dagan expressed the opposite opinion, saying that Syria is not prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel despite declarations by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

"I don't truly see Syria offering to renew negotiations with Israel," Dagan said.

"They have their public comments, but have made no attempt to ask the United Sates and Europe to try to advance the political process."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that he would like to renew peace talks with Syria, but insisted that Damascus first end its support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other militant groups.

"I hope that we will be able to arrive at some point at a dialogue with Syria if Syria upholds the most basic commitment: the cessation of violence, the same commitment we demand of anyone we talk to," Olmert said at a meeting of lawmakers from his Kadima party.

The prime minister told the cabinet last week that now is not the time to embark on negotiations with Damascus, given that U.S. President George W. Bush is demanding Assad "stop instigating war."

Related articles:
  • MI and Mossad disagree over Assad's intentions (26/12/06)
  • Editorial: Respond to Assad, convince Bush (24/12/06)
  • Shmuel Rosner and Aluf Benn: Sidestepping Syria (24/12/06)
  • Editorial: Don't turn Syria away (19/12/06)
  • Akiva Eldar: Assad's fatal attraction (18/12/06)
  • Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Gaza awaits its dawn

    Adam Keller sends this - William comments that unless Abbas stops his calls for early elections he will force Palestine into a civil war and further marginalise Fatah.

    Khaled Amayreh - Al-Ahram - Some observers believe that Abbas will be prompted to suspend or postpone the elections indefinitely while others hope that the bloody clashes will pressure both sides to work more sincerely toward political reconciliation, probably in the form of a national unity government. If not, both sides stand to alienate the public, who are unlikely to forgive or forget scenes of Palestinians killing one another.


    Friday, December 22, 2006

    Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Wall

    William comments - early feedback from John Porter is that this statement has really upset many in Britain's Jewish community:

    The Israeli-built wall is “a sign of all that is wrong in the human heart”, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today in Bethlehem.

    Speaking to the town’s civic representatives shortly after walking through the wall, Dr Williams said the wall symbolised “the terrible fear of the other, of the stranger, which keeps us all in one kind of prison or another”, from which God 2,000 years ago came to release people.

    Dr Williams was speaking on behalf of a delegation of UK church leaders to the town of Christ’s birth, which included the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the moderator of the Free Churches, David Coffey, and the Armenian patriarch of Great Britain, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury said they were “here to say to the people of Bethlehem that they are not forgotten. We are here to say: what affects you affects us. We are here to say, your suffering is our suffering too, in prayers and in thought and in hope.”

    He continued:

    “We are here to say, in this so troubled and complex land, that justice and security are never something which one person claims and the expense of another, or which one community claims at the expense of another. We are here to say that security for one is security for all. And for one to live under the threat of occupation or of terror is a problem for all.”

    Citing an Advent hymn which sings of “Jesus Christ, the one who comes the prison bars to break”, Dr Williams said it was the church leaders’ “prayer and our hope for all of you that the prison of poverty and disadvantage, the prison of fear and anxiety, will alike be broken.”
    He added that the church leaders had come because the Incarnation “assures us that these prisons could be broken, broken by the act of God in whose sight all are equally precious – Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Christian and Muslim; and for whom all lives are so equally precious that the death of one is affront to all.”

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Palestinian Elections

    Calls by the President of Palestine and the Premiers of Britain and Israel for early Palestinian elections have been applauded in the WESTERN PRESS. Members of the NCF may be interested to see a mainstream Palestinian perspective that runs contrary to the view the Western Press is adopting. This, published in a column in the Guardian newspaper, is the perspective of Ms Karma Nabulsi, at one time an NCF member, she will be known to many of you as a former aide to Yasser Arafat. More recently she has worked in an advisory role for Nabil Shath.


    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Hamas-Fatah truce goes into effect on Gaza streets

    By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

    Hamas and Fatah security forces on Tuesday began withdrawing from parts of Gaza City under a cease-fire deal reached earlier in the day, security sources and witnesses said.

    It was unclear whether the ceasefire would hold. Minutes after it took effect, Gaza City residents reported an exchange of fire between gunmen.

    The feuding factions agreed late Tuesday to withdraw their forces from the streets of Gaza City, after a week of rampant violence left 14 dead and dozens wounded.

    The truce went into effect at 11 P.M. on Tuesday.

    "We bless and support this agreement," Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "We hope all will abide by this agreement."

    Hamas and Fatah security chiefs earlier appeared side by side in Gaza City to declare that Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas had agreed to pull back their gunmen.

    The two sides also agreed to form a joint operations room with the Fatah-led security forces to respond quickly to any outbreaks of violence, a PA official said.

    The agreement was reached after intense mediation by Egypt, the official said. A tenuous truce signed Sunday broke down within 24 hours, as violence continued on both sides.

    Under the current deal, only Palestinian police would be allowed to patrol the streets with weapons, the official said.

    Abbas and Haniyeh called Tuesday afternoon on the warring factions to stop fighting in the Gaza Strip, after a day of violence in which six people were killed.

    "I call on all to show restraint and calm, not to resort to arms and to end tensions," Haniyeh said in a speech broadcast live on television, in which he also urged the warring factions to unite in the struggle against Israel.

    "This nation, this people, will be united in front of the occupation and aggression and will not be engaged, despite the wounds of the past few days, in internal fighting," Haniyeh said in a televised speech.

    Abbas said in a statement, "I call on ... all, without exception, to adhere to a cease-fire and to end the killings and all other operations in order to maintain our national unity."

    Amid calls for a truce, Haniyeh also slammed Abbas' call for early Palestinian elections "illegal" and accused the United States of spearheading efforts to bring down his democratically-elected government.

    "I want to clarify that we consider the issue of the early elections for the presidency and parliament unconstitutional," Haniyeh said. "If you [Abbas] consider the people the source of power, why are you working against the will of the people."

    "There is an undeclared decision to bring down the government... and the Americans are leading this effort," Haniyeh added.

    Gunbattles between Hamas loyalists and Fatah forces Tuesday left at least 18 people wounded, medical officials said, including five children caught in the cross-fire. Meanwhile, four Fatah militants and two Hamas militants were killed in fighting over the course of the day.

    The internal Palestinian fighting, the worst in a decade, has escalated since Abbas called Saturday for early elections in an attempt to break a political deadlock with the Hamas government. Hamas has accused Abbas of launching a "coup."

    Six killed in Gaza battles
    Jordanian King Abdullah II on Tuesday offered to host talks between Abbas and the leader of Hamas to resolve the bloody confrontation between their factions.

    Abdullah's call came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a surprise visit to the Jordanian capital and held talks with the monarch about reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

    Two security officers from a force loyal to Abbas' Fatah faction were killed in a running street battle with Hamas gunmen in Gaza City, hospital officials said. Earlier, a Hamas policeman was killed in an exchange of fire inside a hospital compound.

    In other fighting, two Fatah security officials were kidnapped and killed by Hamas gunmen, Fatah officials said. Hospital officials said the two bodies had been dumped in a street.

    Elsewhere, the car of the governor of northern Gaza, a prominent Fatah loyalist, was hit by gunfire. The governor, Ismail Abu Shamallah, escaped injury, officials said.

    But Hamas and Fatah officials said they remained committed to the truce, and accused each other of violating the deal.

    "Hamas is abiding by the cease-fire," said spokesman Ismail Radwan. "The problem is that not all of Fatah's militias are participating in this decision."

    Ibrahim Abu al-Najah, a mediator who helped arrange the truce, appealed for calm.

    "What is going on is a violation and sabotage and I have called on both parties to shoulder their responsibility and to end what is going on in the streets," he said.

    Dozens of police loyal to Abbas but who work in the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry staged a protest outside their headquarters, firing rifles into the air and saying they would no longer take orders from minister Saeed Seyam. They called Seyam the "minister of treason."

    Civilians fled for their safety and some shops closed. In between bouts of fighting, masked gunmen roamed the streets.

    "This is madness," said taxi driver Adel Mohammad-Ali, 40. "The streets are divided between Hamas and Fatah gunmen. You never know who is who."

    Witnesses and rival factions said the Hamas policeman was killed when forces of the two sides fought at the entrance and inside the compound of the main Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Rocket-propelled grenades were also fired in that incident.

    Clashes also erupted outside a key security agency controlled by Abbas.

    While neither the Hamas Islamists nor Fatah have declared the end of a ceasefire agreed on Sunday night, there has been a spate of gunfights and kidnappings of rival activists since then. Most hostages have been swapped.

    Abbas told visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday he was committed to early elections but left the door open for the formation of a Fatah-Hamas coalition with a "technocrat" cabinet that could satisfy Western countries.

    Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, is expected to make a major speech in Gaza at 6 P.M. (1600 GMT) to respond to Abbas's election call. Hamas has said it would boycott any polls.

    Blair backs Olmert on Palestinian elections

    Chris Doyle of Caabu posted this item with us today. William comments: Tony Blair is doing his best to promote a Palestinian civil war and again betraying democracy with his shameful actions. For an honourable Palestinian perspective click here for a Karma Nabulsi item:

    Tony Blair has given his backing to Palestinian President Abbas's plans to hold early elections and has offered his help encourage support and anew aid package from the International Community (Daily Telegraph, FT, Guardian,Independent, Times). One of his proposals is reportedly to funnelmillions of pounds in aid directly to security forces under the controlof Mahmoud Abbas in what is seen as a controversial move to bolsterAbbas in his escalating battle against Hamas.(Guardian/Times) Hamas hasaccused Blair of inflaming the political situation (Times/Independent) Blair's plans are said to mark a significant shift in his previouspolicy of prioritizing the promotion of democracy in the region. (DT)

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Targeted killings sanctioned by top Israeli court

    As Palestinian factions kill one another, Israel confirms its right to kill Palestinian suspects. An article from Associated Press on Thursday reads:

    "The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Israel's policy of targeted killings of Palestinian militants, allowing the army to maintain a practice that has drawn widespread international condemnation.

    The unanimous ruling from a three-judge panel fixed some legal limits, but it did not insist on prior court approval for the attacks, leaving the limits only theoretical and endorsing the killings in practice.

    Israel has defended the practice as necessary to prevent terror attacks, including suicide bombings. But the original justification of stopping "ticking bombs" has been expanded over the years to targeting militant leaders, including field commanders and the founder of Hamas.

    Palestinians and human rights groups, who have denounced the killings as assassinations and summary executions without trial, criticized the court for giving legal legitimacy to the practice.

    During the last six years of conflict, Israel has routinely targeted militants in airstrikes. The Israeli human rights organization B'tselem estimates that 339 Palestinians were killed in the targeted operations since 2000. Of those, 210 were the targets and the rest were bystanders."

    Follow the AP article link below for full text

    Hamas accuse Dahlan of trying to assassinate Haniyeh

    From the BBC here

    Fatah and Hamas gunmen clash in Gaza, Ramallah

    By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies

    Fatah and Hamas gunmen exchanged fire on the streets of Gaza City and the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, a day after unidentified gunmen shot at Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's entourage.

    A Ramallah resident told Israel Radio that one person was killed in the Ramallah clashes, but the report was not immediately confirmed. Hospital sources said nearly 20 Hamas supporters were wounded by gunfire, with some in critical condition. The violence came ahead of planned celebrations for Hamas' 19th anniversary.

    The fighting in Ramallah began when Fatah and Hamas militants began shooting at each other in the street. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' security forces, dressed in riot gear, used clubs and rifles to beat back Hamas demonstrators before shooting broke out.

    The shooting in Gaza City began Friday afternoon when masked Hamas gunmen began waging battle with Fatah-allied Palestinian police at their post in the middle of the city. The four-minute battle sent civilians running for cover. It was unclear if anyone was hurt.

    In a show of force, Hamas had earlier deployed armed militants carrying automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers in key parts of the Gaza Strip on Friday.

    The shooting took place a block away from the home of top Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, whom Hamas accused of orchestrating the attack on Haniyeh.

    The clashes came as Hamas accused forces loyal to Abbas of trying to assassinate Haniyeh on Thursday night, and vowed to punish those responsible, intensifying fears of civil war.

    The attack on Haniyeh's convoy took place upon his return from a fundraising tour of the Middle East. Haniyeh's bodyguard was killed in the shooting, and more than two dozen people - including Haniyeh's son, Abdel Salam, and his political adviser, Ahmed Yousef - were wounded. The incident deepened factional violence that has pushed the rival Hamas and Fatah parties closer to civil war.

    Haniyeh has threatened to "deal with" shots fired at his convoy, but did not provide further details. Angry Hamas officials on Friday pointed the finger at Dahlan, who denied the accusation.

    Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman, told a news conference that Dahlan "planned and organized the [attempted] assassination of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh."

    "The dirty hands which assassinated and wounded the body guards of the prime minister and attacked the prime minister's convoy will not escape punishment," said Radwan. He offered no evidence of Dahlan's involvement.

    Fatah dismissed the accusations against Dahlan.

    "These accusations are not true, as long as no investigation to find out has been conducted," Tawfik Abu Khousa, a Fatah spokesman, said, calling for an official investigations. "These accusations are posing a grave threat to Palestinian unity."

    The shooting attack took place while Haniyeh was held up at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza for more than seven hours. Israel triggered the closure to prevent him from bringing in $35 million in suitcases of cash raised on a trip to Iran and other Muslim states. Haniyeh was allowed to enter Gaza on Thursday night after being forced to leave the funds in Egypt.

    Arriving home around midnight, Haniyeh appeared furious over the gunfire at his convoy. "We know the party that shot directly at our cars, injuring some of the people with me... and we also know how to deal with this," he said, but did not explain further.

    Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the shooting was an attempt to assassinate Haniyeh, and held the Fatah-allied Presidential Guard responsible.

    "The Presidential Guard controls the Palestinian side [of the border
    terminal]. There are no other gunmen there. They are responsible for security of the border," Barhoum said. "We say there was a clear assassination attempt."

    Wael Dahab, a spokesman for the Presidential Guard, said many gunmen were in the area and that it was difficult to control the situation. "Our men did not start the shooting, they did not shoot, and there were many people carrying guns," he said.

    Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas expressed regret for the shooting, according to the Palestinian news agency, WAFA.

    About 50 gunmen greeted Haniyeh at his home in a refugee camp next to Gaza City, firing in the air and throwing candies.

    Israel, which triggered the closure of the border to prevent Haniyeh's passage with the money, agreed Thursday evening to allow him to cross if he left the money in Egypt.

    Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres said the money must not be allowed in because it will be used to fund terror.

    "It won't go to the hungry Gaza residents," he said. "It will go to the tunnel diggers, to the weapons smugglers."

    The shooting late Thursday capped a turbulent day of intensifying factional
    fighting between the Islamic militant Hamas and the Fatah movement of moderate
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Both sides have warned that they are
    edging closer to civil war.

    The latest round of Hamas-Fatah fighting erupted Monday with the brutal
    killing of the three small children of a Fatah security official and continued Wednesday with the gangland-style execution of a Hamas judge.

    Thursday's gunbattles at the border erupted in the afternoon after Hamas
    militants, angry that Israel was preventing Haniyeh from returning, stormed the Rafah terminal.

    The Presidential Guard, responsible for securing the area, opened fire,
    setting off a gunfight. Terrified travelers ran for cover, some carrying their luggage. Crying women and children hid behind walls and taxis, while the European monitors who police the crossing fled. The rampage destroyed furniture and computer equipment inside the terminal and plunged the area into darkness.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Olmert trip seeks European support

    The following is a transcript of an Al Jazeera broadcast on the forthcoming Olmert visit to Europe (to commence tomorrow):

    Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, will seek to bolster European support for Israel during a trip to Berlin and Rome, amid fears that the United States may soon shift course in the Middle East.

    In Israel, the defence minister has said that any Palestinian peace initiative must be based on the Saudi plan, which calls for a two states solution.

    In addition to hopes for new peace momentum, Olmert's trip will address concerns that Europe might soften tough sanctions on the Palestinians' Hamas-led government and show more tolerance for Iran's nuclear ambitions, analysts say.

    Olmert will meet Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Berlin on Tuesday and Romano Prodi, the prime minister of Italy, on Wednesday in Rome.

    'European role'

    He is also expected to talk to Italian and German leaders about a US panel's recommendations for revising America's Middle East policy, as well as on developments in Lebanon, where Italian and German peacekeepers are monitoring the truce that ended Israel's month-long war with Hezbollah fighters.

    It is Olmert's first visit to the two countries since taking office last May. Following his meeting with Prodi, Olmert is to be received at the Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI.

    Israel is ready to recognise a "European role" in reviving the peace process, dormant for six years, provided Europe continues to boycott the Hamas-led Palestinian government, said Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Olmert.

    "Germany, Italy and Europe in general have a role to play to advance the peace process," Eisin said. "But there cannot be any recognition of the Hamas government as long as this movement does not recognise Israel and does not give up its mission to destroy it."

    Olmert's spokeswoman said he will ask the European heavyweights to back economic sanctions against Iran if the Islamic republic continues its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is for civilian purposes, but which the West says is a cover for atomic weapons ambitions.

    Peace talks

    Europe has been seeking a larger role in Middle East politics, and last month, Spain, France and Italy put forth an independent initiative meant to get peacemaking back on track. Israel rejected that plan.

    The Israeli government "does not like stray peace proposals that don't involve Israel," Eisin said. "I'm sure that will come up."

    Olmert revived the notion of peacemaking after Palestinian rocket fire and Israel's summer war in Lebanon discredited his major diplomatic initiative, a large-scale West Bank pullback that was widely expected to be unilateral.

    In one of the first times an Israeli official has publicly considered the plan, Amir Peretz, Israel's defence minister, said at the Israel Business Conference that any Palestinian peace initiative must be based on the 2002 Saudi peace plan. The statement came two weeks after Olmert hinted at a major policy change.

    The Saudi peace initiative calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and the establishment of a Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

    In exchange, Israel would receive peace agreements and full diplomatic relations with Arab countries.

    Source: Desert Peace

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    GCC calls for UN sanctions on Tel Aviv

    Arab News - 13 December, 2006

    The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) yesterday urged the United States and the international community yesterday to press for sanctions on Israel for its nuclear program.

    Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah, secretary-general of the council, said: “The United States should not apply double standard since it calls for sanctions on countries that have nuclear programs.”


    Wednesday, December 06, 2006

    Palestinians as Partners

    The kidnappings in Gaza and Lebanon that led to Israel's war against Hezbollah in July haveunveiled a seismic shift in the region, a situation made possible by the war in Iraq and thedismantlement of its army.

    War has bequeathed to Iran a shattered Iraq, open to Iranian investment in and profit from historic links with a majority Iraqi Shi'ite community. The U.S. venture in Iraq, paid for in blood, treasure and national pride in pursuit of a New Middle East, has devolved into an exit strategy toescape the Iraqi morass and a search for regional partners to confront the real new Middle East.The net result is that Iran, in less than four years, has emerged as the regional super power andthe guiding force of many regional assets: an emboldened and beholden Syrian regime, an ambitiousHezbollah claiming "divine victory" against Israel and the anomaly of a Sunni Hamas governmentsupported and publicly funded by Iran.

    The historic fault lines within the Middle East, those between the Sunni and Shi'ite branches of Islam and the ethnic struggle for dominance among Arabs, Persians and Turks, were ignored for mostof the 20th century and supplanted by the Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine.

    However, the 20th century also introduced the concept, and thus the political reality, of thenation state to the Middle East. Greater Syria has yielded political space for Jordan, Lebanon,Israel, the virtual state of Palestine, as well as modern Syria. Their citizens assumed andaccepted new national identities and acquired new loyalties while the vested elites bolstered thenew regimes. While historical unifying principles, Arab nationalism and Islamic nationhood challenged the legitimacy of the nation states, the new states have proven durable and sustainable.

    The central conflict of the region, between Israelis and Palestinians, has been the crucible wherethe conflicts between Jews and Arabs, West and East, developed and underdeveloped, and modern andtribal have simmered, overflowed and threatened the stability of the region for decades.Unresolved, and charged with the passion and rage that the mix of injured pride, religiousfanaticism, economic inequality and existential threat can engender, this conflict threatens tobecome a global nightmare that leads to the Armageddon of the faithful.

    For those who care deeply about the welfare of Palestinians and Israelis, time is running short, and failure to move with urgency risks the possibility that this corner of the globe will beswallowed up by the rising tide of religious and ideological fervor gripping the region.

    For the Israeli and Palestinian people, it is not enough to ask the "other" to compromise. Eachpeople must accept their painful share of the compromise.

    Modern Israel, dealing with the religious claim of zealot Israeli settlers on Palestinian lands,and which denies another nation the right to statehood on its own land, must confront its owndemons. The metaphysical stake must be replaced by political and demographic realities. A historicnegotiated compromise that results in a viable state of Palestine on land occupied in 1967, withmutually agreed borders and with Arab Jerusalem as its capital, is an Israeli imperative as it is aPalestinian need. It is Israel's best guarantee to survive the new existential strategic threatsand the ultimate guarantee for security and peace for both nations. And for Palestinians to achievetheir freedom and viable state, they must repudiate Hamas' regression to the olden days ofrejection of Israel's pre-1967 borders. They also must come to terms with the reality of Israel andwith the fact that while refugees have rights that must be fully redressed — national rights,individual rights, property rights and even the right to an apology — 4 or 5 million Palestinian refugees are not going back to live in Israel.

    Neither Israelis nor Palestinians are sufficiently powerful to achieve all their aims. Only a jointventure, with Israelis and Americans working respectfully with empowered Palestinian partners,rather than clients or agents, can end this national conflict. A strategic, coordinated effort,which marshals security, economic and political resources, including serious contributions frommoderate Arabs and European, must be employed. The United States, as the general partner, is theessential power that can make this joint venture a reality.

    The president of the United States is the only one who can lead a regional coalition to challengeand check the regional superpower. This coalition must put the Palestine-Israel conflict on acourse toward resolution. The states that can navigate together the region's road to stability andmodernity should count Palestine as their partner.

    Ziad Asali is president of the American Task Force on Palestine. He served as one of PresidentBush's delegates to observe the 2005 Palestinian presidential election.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Too Late For 2 States?

    Rafi Dajani sends us his article:

    By Rafi Dajani in the Orlando Sentinel, Opinion, December 4, 2006

    As progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stalls, an old idea hasgained increased currency in some circles: one bi-national state for both Israelis andPalestinians. There are a number of variations of this argument, but proponents essentially callfor forgoing the concept of two distinct national entities. Instead, they advocate that Israelisand Palestinians share the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in one state.


    Saturday, December 02, 2006

    Time to Act

    Rafi Dajani of the ATFP sends this item from Haaretz (Israel): Akiva Eldar analyzes current Israeli and Palestinian efforts to break the current political deadlock

    TIME TO ACT By Akiva EldarHaaretz (Israel) December 1, 2006


    William comments: take special note of the reference to Marwan Barghouti at the end of the article.