Friday, March 30, 2007

Admit Hamas Boycott Failure

For some time now the NCF has been working on the recognition issue.

A Forward opinion by Viennese Der Standard managing editor Eric Frey urges the European Union to use its contacts with members of the new Palestinian government to facilitate Hamas' accepting of Quartet conditions for recognition and aid.

Which is all very well but for the fact that the German government REFUSES to allow it's diplomats to even talk to Hamas ! ! !

By Eric Frey. Forward. March 30, 2007 Issue


Arabs urge Israel to take their offer

Reuters - 30 March, 2007
Arab leaders urged world powers on Thursday to use an Arab peace plan to relaunch efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian president warned of more violence if the “hand of peace” was rejected.Speaking on the final day of an Arab summit in Riyadh, Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel not waste the chance for peace, and called for a committee led by Saudi Arabia to pursue it.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Chris Doyle sent this statement:

CAABU has obtained the text of a letter from the British Prime Minister,Tony Blair, on the issue of Britain's position on the future ofJerusalem. In a letter to the Chairman of the Al Quds Committee, King Muhammad VI of Morocco on 12 March, the Prime Minister made the clearest statement he has made about Britain's view on the holy city for many years. In it, Blair states explicitly that Britain does not recognize sovereignty over any part of the city. "Jerusalem's status has yet to be determined, and should be resolved as part of a final status agreement. Pending agreement, we consider East Jerusalem to be occupied territory. We recognise no one claim to sovereignty over the city. We do not support any action that predetermines final status negotiations on the future of Jerusalem."

Friday, March 16, 2007

And some (possibly) positive news...

Saudi official on TV panel with Israeli PM adviser

In what could be an indication of slowly shifting Saudi attitudes toward Israel, a Saudi representative appeared Thursday night for what may have been the first time on a television panel discussion with an official Israeli spokesperson.

Miri Eisin, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman, discussed the Saudi Peace initiative and other regional issues from a Tel Aviv studio for nearly an hour on the Al-Hura Arabic-language station with Dr. Zoher Hareji, who was in a studio in Jeddah. They were joined from Ramallah by Nabil Amr, a top aide to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and a US diplomat in Qatar.

"We may have disagreed about everything, but we talked," Eisin said. She identified Hareji as a writer and political analyst who was acting as an official Saudi representative. Eisin spoke in English, which was translated into Arabic, and the other three participants spoke in Arabic.

Al-Hura is a US sponsored Arabic news and entertainment channel beamed throughout the Arab world.

Eisin said the Saudi's willingness to appear on the same program with an official Israeli representative was a "first," and seemed to represent a "certain new approach of the Saudis toward Israel."

PRC spokesman cites 'dramatic developments' in Shalit swap

...And what to make of this. A new Journalist on the scene, a strange story sourced from one of the myriad 'spokesmen', and an indication that the statement serves as part of the negotiations. I have now met all the families of the missing soldiers, and want to see them safely returned. If it was my child no cost would be too high. It isn't, and this exchange - Barghouti alone is worth a comprehensive deal - seems unbalanced. But Israel - proudly and correctly - has always been weakened by, as my grandmother never fails to remind me: 'Every single one counts'.

By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent

Abu Mujahed, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip said Friday that dramatic developments have occurred in negotiations over the release of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive in the Strip since June 25 of last year.

The spokesman made the statement in an interview with A-Sinara newspaper, published in Nazareth.

He said the prisoner exchange would include all the leaders of Palestinian factions jailed in Israel, including Marwan Barghouti of Fatah, Ahmed Sadaat and Abdel Rahim Maluah of the Popular Resistance Committees and leaders of Hamas.

Abu Mujahed said that the exchange could be carried out shortly if agreed to by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

He refrained from divulging details, however, for fear that Israel would reject the offer, and "we would then return to the starting point."

The exchange includes plans to free security prisoners who are citizens of Israel, within the framework of the exchange between Israel and Hamas, Mounir Mansour, chairman of the Association for Prisoners' Welfare told Haaretz.

He said the exchange would include five such prisoners, including Sami Yunis, 77, and his cousin Maher Wakrim Yunis of the northern village of Ara, and Safi Manour of Tira.

All of these prisoners are serving life sentences.

The name of Hafez Kundus of Jaffa, serving 29 years, was also raised.

A report on the Al-Jazeera website indicated that the inclusion of these security prisoners was a major point of dispute in the negotiations.

Suleiman Abu Snina, minister-designate for prisoner affairs in the Palestinian unity government, said Israel demanded at the beginning of the negotiations exclusive control over the names of the prisoners, and refused to allow the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens.

The Palestinian negotiators, however, refused to compromise on their position.

Abu Mujahed said he could not speak about the issue of the release of prisoners who are Israeli citizens, but said Israel refused to negotiate on the matter.

He called on Noam Shalit, the father of the captive soldier, to pressure the Israeli government to push the issue of an exchange, and said that his son's keepers are treating him humanely.

Gunmen attempt to kidnap UN refugee mission chief in Gaza

I remember a time when according to one grand Palestinian diplomat the maxim was: The only thing worse than an Israeli incursion is an Israeli incursion without the BBC around.

They've gone for the BBC. And now the UN. Comments?

By The Associated Press

Three masked Palestinian gunmen fired on a vehicle carrying the chief of the UN refugee mission in Gaza and tried to kidnap him, the UN official said.

"No one was hurt in the kidnap attempt in northern Gaza," said John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza.

Earlier in the week, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a BBC reporter in Gaza City, Alan Johnston, who remains in captivity, his whereabouts unknown.

Full Story

UNESCO: Dig not harming Temple Mount

Personal Comment by Davis:

I have continuously flagged up this Arab / Muslim incitement, declaring in Friday sermons that the Jews will destroy the temple mount. Those few crazies amongst us who'd contemplate it - count them on two hands - are all known to the Israeli security services - who actually do their job and prevent extremists acting from amongst our midst. The whole story was ludicrous, since Israel wants peace and not a war with the Muslim world over holy sites... nevertheless, the Arab street says otherwise, since the Imam told them. And the Imam certainly knows what the Jew is up to...

An investigation by UNESCO into the excavation currently being undertaken by the Israel Antiquities Authority in an area adjoining the Temple Mount compound has concluded that the dig is not doing any damage to the holy site. The investigation has found that the dig is being carried out with full transparency, and in no way damages the Temple Mount, according to Israeli officials quoted in the media this morning. UNESCO will, however, request that Israel suspend the excavation until further international observation has taken place. The report also concludes that Israel should have consulted with UNESCO and the Islamic Wakf, which administers the Temple Mount area, before beginning the dig. Israeli officials said that the report seems contradictory, in that its findings exonerate Israel of any wrongdoing, while its recommendations appeared more hostile. The report is due to be presented to UNESCO's Director General, Koichiro Matsuura, today.

Hamas-Fatah coalition misses West's goals

International Herald Tribune
Hamas-Fatah coalition misses West's goals
Friday, March 16, 2007

JERUSALEM: The Hamas-led Palestinian government, boycotted by the West since its election more than a year ago because of Hamas's support of terrorism, announced Thursday a unity coalition with the more moderate Fatah movement in hopes of ending the boycott.

But the political document guiding the new government does not fulfill the international community's three demands — to recognize Israel, forswear violence and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements — and Israel announced that it would therefore not deal with the new government or any of its ministers, Hamas or not. The United States is expected to follow suit but the European Union will face a fierce internal debate about whether to continue its isolation of the Palestinians.

Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said Olmert would continue "to maintain dialogue with the elected Palestinian president," Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, known as Abu Mazen, "who does accept the three principles."

Other Israeli officials complained that Abbas had failed to make good on his promise to Olmert last week that a captured Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, would be released before a new government is formed. "If Abu Mazen could deliver Shalit, he would, but he can't," an Israeli official said. "So it raises new questions about his ability to deliver," meaning that Olmert's discussions with him will be limited, the official said, "to the improvement of the quality of Palestinian life."

The new government, still led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and dominated by Hamas, contains some moderate figures from Fatah and independent parties, including the finance minister, Salam Fayyad, and it was greeted with relief by ordinary Palestinians, who hope that it will be able to pay their salaries and put an end to internal warfare.

The diplomatic struggle over whether to funnel aid through Fayyad is just beginning. Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, is likely to support Israel, as will Britain.

The French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said in Paris that the new Palestinian government "could open a new page in relations with the international community." But he also called for the immediate release of Shalit and for an end to "all forms of violence against Israel and its citizens."

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said the European Union would wait to see the government list as approved by the Palestinian legislature, expected on Saturday, and the political document that governs it.

A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said similarly that Washington "will wait until the government is actually in place and we have an understanding of what their platform will be before we make any final judgments about it."

The document was slowly negotiated on the basis of a unity statement put together by Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails and was pushed along early in February at a meeting called by the Saudis in Mecca.

Abbas argues that it implicitly meets international demands, and argues further that as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, he is the only legal negotiator for the Palestinians in any case.

The document mentions Israel only as an occupier of Palestinian land. It does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not explicitly accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, but says the agreements, including international agreements, will be "respected."

And it does not forswear violence. On the contrary, it "affirms that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people." It says "halting resistance depends on ending the occupation and achieving freedom, return and independence," a reference to "the rights of Palestinian refugees and their right of return to their lands and properties." Israeli officials called that "a step backward" from the agreement in Mecca.

The document does call for an extension of the often-broken cease-fire by Israel and the Palestinians and for further discussions on how to organize the many — and often competing — Palestinian security forces.

One of the main aims of the unity government is to end the violence that has broken out between Hamas and Fatah in recent months.

In Gaza, an Abbas aide, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the main aims of the government were "internal security and ending the suffering of Palestinians," by getting aid abroad to again pay full salaries and stopping the internal clashes. Haniya said the main aim was "internal security."

In Gaza, Mustafa el-Sawaf, a political analyst close to Hamas, noted the continuing Hamas-Fatah clashes and said, "One can say there is really no Palestinian consensus on the program. I give this government six months."

One of the sticking points in the negotiations was the Interior Ministry post, which had been held by an important Hamas figure, Said Siam, who is said to oppose this new agreement with Fatah. The two sides settled on a bureaucrat, Hani al-Qawasmi, 50, whose family is from Hebron in the West Bank but who was born and lives in Gaza.

But most experts expect that he will have little power, and that the Executive Force, set up by Siam in Gaza as a parallel police force loyal to Hamas, will continue to be controlled by Hamas leaders.

Diana Buttu, a former adviser to Abbas and to the key Fatah figure in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, noted that except for the deputy prime minister, Azzam al-Ahmed, the head of the Fatah faction in the legislature, the Fatah ministers were relatively unknown and untainted by accusations of corruption.

"Fatah needs time to reorganize and reform and is playing for the next elections," Buttu said. "This government is based on 'samoud,' or steadfastness. It doesn't seem to have any other policy, and Palestinians have no real expectation that they will do anything about serious problems."

Hamas also appointed a number of lesser-known figures, leaving out of the government well-known hard-liners like Siam and Mahmoud Zahar, who had been foreign minister. While Israel sees the unity government as a victory for Hamas, it is clear that some key Hamas figures are very unhappy with the coalition, which makes Hamas look less principled and more willing to compromise to keep its hold on cabinet seats.

The new foreign minister is a former Fatah member and independent, Ziad Abu Amr, who has a Ph.D. from Georgetown and was supported by Hamas, but who also has close ties to the West.

The new government has 25 ministers. In a complicated formula, Hamas controls the most seats, then Fatah, while the two factions also control the appointment of some independent figures. There are also members of four other parties in parliament, including Fayyad and Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti.

In Ramallah, there was relief and hope. Said Batrawi, owner of Samir Restaurant, said: "This is great news. We want law and order so we can feel there is authority and government. We need the siege to be lifted so we can improve the economy."

Why the unity government is not worth the paper it is written on

Those drawing any kind of equivalence between the two sides in the ME conflict, or working towards accepting the unity government which was established yesterday - and condemning supposed Israeli 'intransigence', would do well to view the items below (An overview from Haaretz is here):

From the Hamas website, which prominently displays a banner with all of mandate Palestine, just in case we were (and I never was) under any illusions as to what Hamas stands for, here is their proud declaration that the new government will support 'resistance'. Combined with the picture of the map, their statements, perhaps we can now be realistic once more and see that rather than Hamas 'resisting', it is Israel that is defending itself against terror which tries to eliminate her from the map.

I am not in the business of using such emotive terms usually, but when one views the video below - part of Hamas' plan to prepare the next generation to continue the fight, barbaric seems just about the only word. Judge for yourself. I give you Hamas TV. Now please, peace requires realism. See for yourself what you're dealing with:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Saudis spurn Israel peace stance

Saudi Arabia has rejected calls by Israel for changes to be made to a Saudi-led plan for Middle East peace.

Israeli officials have recently expressed interest in the proposal, adopted by the Arab League in 2002, while voicing some reservations.

The plan calls for Israel's withdrawal from land seized in 1967 in return for ties and a peace deal with Arab states.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal described preconditions raised by Israel as "ludicrous".

"We only hear conditions from Israel about everything, but no acceptance," Prince Saud told reporters during a visit to Riyadh by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Israel to withdraw from land seized in 1967
Palestinian refugees 'right of return' to Israel
Relations between Arab states and Israel

"You cannot have negotiations like that, you accept the proposals then you talk about this.

"This seems a ludicrous way of doing business," he said.

The Saudi plan was rejected by Israel when it was first proposed, but Israeli officials have recently suggested it may be open to discussion.

On Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel was "ready to take [the plan] seriously".

Israel has previously expressed reservations over the plan's call for Israel's withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Middle East war and the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now the Jewish state.

The Arab League is due to relaunch the original plan at a summit in Riyadh later this month.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Peretz begins watered-down US trip


Peretz's schedule for his trip was finalized only in recent days after officials close to the defense minister said he "encountered difficulty" in getting the meetings he wanted.

In comparison, Mofaz consistently met with the secretary of state on his visits to the US. Mofaz most recently visited the US as transportation minister and met with Rice.

"It is unheard-of that an Israeli defense minister goes to the US and doesn't meet with the secretary of state or the vice president," said a senior Israeli diplomat who is familiar with procedures in Washington. "The only conclusion is that the Americans do not take him seriously."


A "Pro-Israel" EU?

Emanuele Ottolenghi on the Commentary blog-

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has just accused the European Union of being too pro-Israel, despite the EU’s recent pledge of 264 million euros for Palestinian refugees. Abbas’s criticism is based on the fact that the EU, to its credit (and to the surprise of many observers), has stuck to its guns and refused to water down the three preconditions set by the Mideast Quartet for the resumption of direct aid to the Palestinians: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and respect for previous accords. Despite Russia’s active undermining of the Quartet’s position, the original consensus on these issues, formed in response to the electoral victory of Hamas in January 2006, has lasted longer than even the most dedicated pro-Israel activist could have expected.

Indeed, since coming to power, Hamas has played a central role in maintaining the consensus. The Islamist party has wasted countless opportunities to break the aid embargo. All that Europe has needed in order to set aside the preconditions is a few magic words—cloaked in the usual mantle of ambiguity—and no real action. A literature about the supposed two “wings” of Hamas even began to flourish to prepare the way for such an accommodation. We were told about the tension between the “moderates” inside the PA and the ideologues abroad, the military faction and the political faction, the ones we can talk to and those who just won’t make nice. The point of it all: to encourage the West to engage and aid the PA.

But even the “reasonable” wing of Hamas has refused to play along. Every time Europe’s political class might have been tempted to think that Israel’s nemesis had changed course, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza would obligingly remind them what the organization is really about. Renounce violence? Never. Recognize Israel? Not implicitly, tacitly, or otherwise. And why shouldn’t Hamas refuse? With Fatah in disarray, the Islamists might soon be the only game in town.

And it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Even if the EU holds firm, Abbas can still count on more than a few friends in Europe. With German bishops comparing Israel’s defense barrier to the walls of the Warsaw ghetto and with self-proclaimed dissidents in Sweden calling Israel an apartheid regime, political statements from Brussels amount to little more than a minority view, increasingly at odds with the European vox populi. Then there are those “moderate” commentators eager to punish Israel should it continue to defend itself. Anatole Kaletsky of the Times of London has concluded that Israel should be sanctioned if it attacks Iran, and that sanctions also should be threatened if Israel insists on maintaining “the post-1967 status quo.”

In the face of all this, it is difficult to maintain any pretence that the EU is pro-Israel, let alone too pro-Israel. But who knows? If Hamas keeps up its stream of shrill, bloodthirsty propaganda, even the willfully blind governments of Europe may no longer be able to pretend that the Islamists in charge of the Palestinian territories have turned over a new, moderate leaf.

Children of the Palestinian intifada: The lost generation

By Steven Erlanger
Sunday, March 11, 2007

NABLUS, West Bank: Their worried parents call them the lost generation of Palestine: its most radical, most accepting of violence, and most despairing.

They are the children of the second intifada that began in 2000, growing up in a territory riven by infighting, seared by violence, occupied by Israel, largely cut off from the world and segmented up by barriers and checkpoints.

To hear these young people talk is to listen in on budding nihilism and a loss of hope.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Jordan’s King Seeks Greater U.S. Role

Rafi Dajani of ATFP sent this. Jordan is moving forward - inetresting in the context of the "Mini Quartet" currently being proposed by Japan to include Japan, Israel, Palestine and Jordan"

WASHINGTON, March 7 — King Abdullah II of Jordan made a passionate appeal on Wednesday for the United States to take the lead in pursuing Arab-Israeli peace, telling Congress that without progress on that issue, none of the Middle East’s other problems would be solved.
“Sixty years of Palestinian dispossession — 40 under occupation — a stop-and-go-peace process, all this has left a bitter legacy of disappointment and despair on all sides,” he said in a speech before a joint meeting of Congress.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Leaders Try to Resolve Split Over Key Posts

This New York Times story comes in from Rafi Dajani at ATFP:

Published: March 5, 2007

JERUSALEM, March 4 — Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and the leader of the Fatah faction, arrived in Gaza on Sunday to meet with Ismail Haniya, the caretaker prime minister from Hamas, in another effort to iron out differences over a possible Palestinian unity government.