Thursday, May 31, 2007
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is exploring, via a third party, the possibility of resuming peace talks with Syria. A government source said there was no direct contact between Israeli and Syrian officials, "but a very serious assessment is underway."
What is being assessed is what Israel would get in return for pulling out of the Golan Heights, the nature of future bilateral relations and whether Syria would consider cutting its ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations, Israel's main enemies in the region.
To read full report click here
By Rami G. Khouri Daily Star (Lebanon) May 30, 2007
The 2nd Forum on Democracy and Political Reform in the Arab World that I attended this week in Doha, Qatar, is an exercise in hope and determination, despite the lack of practical results to date. The Arab world remains the world's last collectively non-democratic region, having resisted the repeated attempts of Arab democrats, liberals, human rights activists, Islamists and constitutionalists to bring their societies into the growing club of democracies around the world.
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Both sides have an interest in continuing the fighting. Hamas wants to embarrass Israel and consolidate its position as the leading force in Palestinian politics. Israel wants to deal Hamas a crippling blow and help elevate the status of the more moderate Fatah movement on the Palestinian street. The hope is that an empowered Fatah, under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, could become a genuine negotiating partner.
In a Cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signaled Israel's intentions. "There will be no limit in acting against the terror groups and against those who are responsible for the terror. No one is immune," he warned. Indeed, there is no Israeli commitment to stop military pressure on Hamas, even if it stops firing the makeshift rockets.
To read full article click here
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz
The primaries in Labor are the start of a new season of "Survivor," starring Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The working assumption in the Prime Minister's Bureau is that Labor will stay in the coalition, regardless of who is elected to lead the party. In such a scenario, the coming weeks will be dedicated to political maneuvering, at the end of which a new minister will take over at the Defense Ministry, and the government will continue to function as usual.
To read in full click here
For more details on the vote from BICOM click here
Monday, May 28, 2007
By Joshua BrilliantUPI Israel CorrespondentTEL AVIV -- As Palestinian rocket attacks continue, Israel started arresting Hamas officials and began a crackdown on the group's financial institutions. Before dawn Thursday, Israeli troops arrested 33 West Bank Palestinians whom an army spokesman said were "senior members of the Hamas terror organization." They include Education Minister Nasser Eddin al-Sha'er, three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the mayors of several towns including Nablus, Kalkilya and Tul Karem.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The great YMCA building in Jerusalem, built by an American with Scottish funding a century ago to be a celebration of hope for Arab and Jew has a motto carved in stone in its chapel wall. It reads:
In essentials unity,
In non-essentials, liberty,
In all thine charity.
Words to build a peace worth dying for.
But now we see blood on blood for nothing as Arab fights Arab in Gaza and as the enduring Arab conflict with the Jewish people celebrates the forty years since the June '67 war and the near 60 years since a resurgent Jewish state was forged in the Middle East back in 1948.
Meanwhile, to cap it all, the West has its own blood spattered war with the Arabs in Iraq.
And we ask what British policy should be?
The British once understood the Middle East. That clearly is no longer the case. They do not even understand their key Mid East ally, Israel.
Israel is about to lose its premier, Mr Ehud Olmert. He should hang on until August and the publication of the full unexpurgated version of the report on the Lebanon war. And with regard to the summer 2006 war with Hezbollah, let's not mince words. Many in the Arab World view this as a war with Lebanon in so much as Hezbollah is Lebanon's dominant political force and is intrinsically Lebanese. And quite astonishingly this was a war which Israel lost. They may pretend differently in the corridors of power but every Israeli knows, in their heart of hearts, what the truth is. Two sides can lose a war. Both the marginalised current government of Lebanon and the State of Israel. The victor was Hezbollah. Note importantly that Britain and America compounded Israel's strategic mistake by resisting calls for an early cease-fire. And today Hezbollah has over 15 unspent rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv (the CIA estimate) and perhaps as many as 200 (the Iranian boast). The number is irrelevant. No one will now bomb Iran, the nation that has become the most powerful of the triumvirate of Mid East superpowers, the other two being Israel and Turkey.
But what nation represents the key to a safer world? Not Iraq, not Iran, not Palestine, and certainly not Turkey. Not Japan, not the Europe, not even the USA, and certainly not Britain.
No, it is Israel. It always was and always will be. We can all lie safer in our beds from Baghdad to Brighton if there is peace between Israel and the Arab World.
Should we see the coalition collapse in Israel in August, the ensuing general election will bring Mr Bibi Netanyahu to power. You want the nuances go and read Haaretz. I am giving you the broad brush strokes as explained to me by that wily old fox Ari Rath, the former Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post.
As Ari tells it, we may see a softer Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi the peacemaker. Bibi is after all ever the pragmatist. He lost the leadership twice through being too hard line. Once against Barak in that period when Israel had directly elected premier. Barak got 1,900,000 votes against Bibi's 1,400,000. Then he lost out again a couple of years back. Remember the Likud internal elections when he challenged Sharon's insistence on a Palestinian state? To cut a long story short, Sharon set up Khadima whilst in the same breath pulling out of Gaza. Sharon then fell into a coma but in the ensuing general election Netanyahu was almost slaughtered (reduced to twelve seats, the smallest ever faction of the Likud).
So we may see a softer Netanyahu, if we get Netanyahu that is.
The coalition that now governs Israel is scarred witless at the prospect of a snap general election. They want to hold on 'till 2008 to give themselves time to pull a rabbit out of the hat and thus gain electoral credibility. So they are casting around for a substitute premier once Olmert goes, as in all likelihood he will have to in August after the final Winograd report.
All the sensible money was on Foreign Minister Tzipi Leevni until she made a fool of herself by telling Olmert that he should resign and in the next breath announcing that she would stay and serve with him as Prime Minister when he then refused to resign. It is hard to know who will win through given today's Israel but, and this is a tip from me, watch Meir Shitrit if you are a betting man and want to put money on an outsider.
The point being, the coalition will go to all this effort to buy time to save themselves from Bibi. What rabbit is big enough to climb out of the hat and punch Bibi out of the ring? You've got it. Peace with the Arabs in some dramatic shape or form (some sort of accommodation with Palestine included). There really is nothing else.
Everyone, including Olmert, in Israel's beleaguered coalition is mouthing the word peace in hushed whispers behind closed doors. Like a shoal of pouting goldfish behind plate glass, you can't hear them clearly but they mean it. When Olmert goes the current rush for peace will become a stampede. Will it succeed? Maybe not but the opportunity is there.
Given which, will the USA stand in Israel's way? No. Absolutely not. America has a lame duck president emasculated by his defeat in Iraq. You want such a man should stand against Israel? Forget it.
So where does Britain's interest lie? Simple. Stand firm with Israel's remoulded coalition. Forget Olmert and Bibi. One is the past and one is the distant future. Help the peacemakers of tomorrow. 2008 is a lifetime away. Let the incoming Tory government play with Bibi after the next UK general election. Meanwhile our new British Premier, Mr Gordon Brown, must ally himself closely with the new leader of Israel - the new coalition leader. That leader may be current Housing Minister Meir Shitrit, or current Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, or current Foreign Minister Tzipi Leevni. Even old Shimon Peres is a possibility despite his public protestations to the contrary. But there are no other contenders. Britain, if she helps and supports the eventual winner, and does so effectively, can become the oil in the ill-meshing cogs of the ensuing peace process. Britain can do no greater service to the Arab World.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Saturday, May 12, 2007
ALMOST a year has passed since Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon, time enough to draw lessons from the conflict and reflect on its consequences.
Last week, Israel’s Winograd Commission published an interim report scrutinizing Israel’s conduct during what it called the country’s most recent military “campaign.” But the report failed to draw the most essential lesson from the July war and the wars that preceded it: military action does not give the people of Israel security. On the contrary, it compromises it. The only way for the people of Israel and the Arab world to achieve stability and security is through a comprehensive peace settlement to the overarching Arab-Israeli conflict.
TO VIEW FULL STORY CLICK HERE
Friday, May 11, 2007
· Jerusalem council wants three new settlements
· Palestinians say move will sabotage two-state aim
Conal Urquhart in Tel Aviv
Friday May 11, 2007
Jerusalem's city council plans to build three new Jewish settlements on land it occupied in 1967, in contravention of international law, it was announced yesterday. The estates will be built on land that has been earmarked for a future Palestinian state, close to Bethlehem and Ramallah.
International law forbids construction on land acquired by war, but since 1967 Israel has built homes for around 500,000 Israelis in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak agreed during a meeting Thursday in Cairo that a team of Arab League representatives will visit Israel in the coming weeks for talks on the details of the Arab peace initiative, first drafted by Saudi Arabia in 2002, and reaffirmed by the Arab League in March.
Click here to read article in full
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
The Gulf state of Qatar gave 22 million dollars to the Arab League on Monday so that teachers in the Palestinian territories can be paid, a League representative said.
Friday, May 04, 2007
ISRAEL AND CONFLICT Financial Times May 2, 2007
The commission investigating the conduct of Israel's 34-day war against Hizbollah last summer has told Israelis and the world what many of them already knew: that the political and military leadership performed incompetently and recklessly, and that, by over-reaching, it gave a damaging public exhibition of the limits to Israel's otherwise overwhelming might.
That is a strategic disaster for which Ehud Olmert, now the most unpopular prime minister in Israeli history, will eventually pay a heavy political price. But probably not yet.
TO VIEW FULL STORY CLICK HERE
Thursday, May 03, 2007
By Rami G. Khouri
Thursday, May 03, 2007
A combination of vindication, disdain, and renewed concerns about Israeli militarism are the dominant reactions in the Arab world to the preliminary report of the Winograd Commission released Monday in Israel...
The Arab sense of vindication stems from the feeling that Israel performed poorly in the war, and failed to achieve its primary strategic objectives: smashing Hizbullah, removing the armed Lebanese resistance movement from the South of Lebanon, returning the two abducted Israeli soldiers in Hizbullah's hands, reaffirming Israel's deterrence posture with respect to the Arab world and Iran, and ensuring that all wars with the Arabs are fought in Arab lands, not in Israel...
Disdain permeates many Arab reactions to the Winograd report, for two reasons. The first is the long history of Israeli commissions of inquiry that create much political noise and dust and censure top officials, without altering Israeli militarization and colonization when dealing with Arabs...
Disdain permeates many Arab reactions to the Winograd report, for two reasons. The first is the long history of Israeli commissions of inquiry that create much political noise and dust and censure top officials, without altering Israeli militarization and colonization when dealing with Arabs...Arabs see Kadima as an apt symbol of the combined approaches of Labor and Likud, both of which have pursued virtually identical policies toward the Arabs: colonizing and expropriating Arab lands, using massive military overkill to resolve political differences, jailing or killing thousands of Palestinians, wounding tens of thousands of others, institutionalizing Apartheid-like segregation between Israeli occupiers and Palestinians, strengthening the movement to "Judaize" Jerusalem and diminish its Christian and Muslim character, and refusing to seriously consider any negotiated compromise on the core Palestinian refugee issue which forms the heart of the conflict in Arab eyes.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
By Daniel Levy
Guardian, Comment is free
April 30, 2007
Five lessons can be learned from today's report on Israel's war with Lebanon. In the interest of avoiding another conflict, we should take them to heart.
The report does point out that Israel's military preparedness has suffered as a result of its ongoing role in the Palestinian territories: while the country's military is very practiced in occupation, it is ill-prepared for challenging, mobile warfare....One could only hope that, among the myriad lessons Israel will be learning, the most obvious one will not be lost: end the occupation.
The report, to its credit (and from what I've read so far, it is a serious document), does also question the limited use made of diplomatic and political efforts before and during the war, and the lack of a planned exit strategy.
TO READ FULL OPINION PIECE CLICK HERE
THE ABANDONMENT By Aaron David Miller - Washington Post, Opinion - April 29, 2007
For almost seven years, the Bush administration has hung a"Closed for the Season" sign on serious Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent Middle East mission has shown that the administration is now finally open forArab-Israeli business. But the Rice initiative is almost certainly way too little, way too late.
TO VIEW FULL ARTICLE CLICK HERE