Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The case for Palestinian statehood in the UN

The UN Security Council holds monthly discussions on the Arab Israeli dispute. Over the last few months the Palestinians have been deciding whether to seek full membership at the Security Council, or to petition the General Assembly for enhanced observer status this September.

At the most recent monthly meeting, supporters of the Palestinian case for statehood referred to the Arab Spring that has swept through the Middle East, in which millions of people have sought freedom from oppression. The argument is that this drive for democracy should be extended by recognising a Palestinian state. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations has hinted that if the diplomatic option does not free up, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians could start demonstrating and demanding a right to statehood.

However Israel and America are resilient in not allowing this threat to impact the peace negotiations. The Israeli position is that the outstanding issues (such as borders, the status of Jerusalem and the return of refugees) have to be negotiated before a Palestinian state is created. It seems that Israel has the implicit support of Arab states in the Security Council. While supporting the Palestinian effort, the Arab states are leaning towards the General Assembly option for Palestine, thereby preventing a confrontation with Washington.

Hamas executes Palestinians

Two Palestinians (a father and son) were executed after being convicted of collaborating with Israel.

Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel, murder and drug trafficking are all punishable by death. Executions must be approved by the President, but Hamas no longer recognises the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas because elections have not been held since his term ran out in January 2009.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another step backwards

There are rumours that Israel will cancel the Oslo accords. This threat is linked to Palestinian attempts to gain state recognition at the UN in September, and is Israel’s attempt to respond to the planned Palestinian move.

The Oslo accords were signed in 1993. It was intended that they be in force for five years, by which time a permanent treaty would have been reached.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anti- Democratic law passed in Knesset

The boycotting of Israeli goods is a world-wide phenomenon, seen as a strategy in response to settlement building in the West Bank. Recently, however, a new trend has developed with Israelis themselves boycotting their own goods in an act of defiance against the increased settlement building.

Yisrael Beiteinu, the right wing party led by Avidgor Lieberman has taken strong action against this trend. The “Boycott Law”, passed with a majority vote of 47-38, will effectively punish Israelis for seeking to boycott any organisation or part of the Jewish state, including settlements. Anyone breaching the law can be sued by an individual or institution claiming economic, cultural or academic damage.

This is very worrying development for the democratic nature of Israeli politics as it goes to the heart of freedom of speech in Israel.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Obama's relations with Israel

 It is clear that the relationship between Israel and the US has been on a downward spiral since the election of Obama as president.
Although Obama previously made a successful trip to Israel before being elected, he has not visited the state since this.  This is despite attempts from Israeli officials to persuade Obama to visit.  Obama also made a historic visit to Cairo where he delivered a major speech which included outlines for Middle East peace process; however he pointedly missed of a visit to Israel from the itinerary.
The Jerusalem- Washington shift in relationship was also certainly hindered by the treatment of Binyamin Netanyahu on his visit to America.  One Israeli  newspaper said that the Prime Minister had received, “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guniea”.  Israeli’s viewed Netanyahu’s treatment as humiliation for Jerusalem.
Obama, previously being focused on Health reforms in the US, was thought to be distracted on the situation in the Middle East because of domestic reforms.
In addition to this Obama and Netanyahu have both publically admitted they had different views on the path to Middle East peace.  Obama stated in a key speech that any future Palestinian state must be based on the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war. However, Netanyahu stressed that although there may be some concessions, the 1967 lines were indefensible.
This combination of issues has led to most Israelis seeing Obama as lacking in the basic commitment to Israel that characterised American presidents such as Truman, Clinton, Kennedy and Bush.