Jerusalem, August 20, 2012
…I would like to update you regarding the current situation of Israel's relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA). As a preamble, I would like to emphasize that the purpose of this letter is to demonstrate Israel's goodwill, desire to build trust and sincere desire to create a positive atmosphere vis a vis the PA, with the goal of bringing our neighbors back to the table of direct negotiations. Unfortunately, we have encountered repeated Palestinian patterns of refusal and consistent attempts to turn to pointless activity, counterproductive to any constructive efforts….
Israel has in recent months undertaken several significant gestures towards the Palestinians: Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Shteinitz and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad concluded (July 31) arrangements with respect to the transfer of goods between Israel and the PA and related tax procedures. These steps, which were recommended by the International Monetary Fund, will improve the PA's tax system, increase revenues and bolster the Palestinian economy.
In light of the PA's budget crisis, Israel transferred at the beginning of the month of Ramadan (July 27) an advance of NIS 180 million (approximately USD 45 million) of August tax remittances. The money was intended to help the P A pay salaries in time to celebrate the holiday. An agreement was concluded (July 14) to employ an additional 5,000 Palestinian construction workers in Israel; the number of roadblocks was reduced to 10, most of which are normally open; the remains of Palestinian terrorists were returned (May 31). In addition, Israel agreed to develop the gas field off the Gaza shoreline.
Israel is promoting infrastructure projects in Area C, including completion of a master plan. In 2011, 119 infrastructure projects were approved, 58 of them with international financing. Fifteen projects relating to the construction and renovation of infrastructures for schools and clinics have received "fast-track" approval. I won't go into all the details of additional Israeli gestures that were made throughout 2012, all of them with the goal of assisting the Palestinian economy and easing the lives of the residents in the West Bank and Gaza.
Unfortunately, despite these steps, we do not see any willingness or positive attitude on the part of the PA. The opposite is the case: we see a rise in the Palestinian activity against Israel in the diplomatic and legal arenas, with attempts to accelerate illegal construction in Area C (including dragging the EU into this problematic activity), to encourage an economic boycott on the Israeli economy in the territories and to generate repeated negative statements against Israel. In addition, we have encountered a relatively new campaign, blaming Israel for the murder of Yassir Arafat, as well as the ongoing institutionalized incitement in the Palestinian media, attacking Israel and the legitimacy of the State's existence.
Mr. Mahmoud Abbas' unfortunate behavior indicates that he apparently is uninterested or unable — due to his standing in the domestic Palestinian scene vis a vis Hamas, and in light of the regional geopolitical situation — to reach an agreement which would bring an end to the conflict, including addressing all the core issues. Instead he is creating a culture of blaming Israel for delaying the process, while attempting to achieve advantages without negotiation via blackmailing and ongoing attempts to internationalize the conflict.
The situation as I have described it is supported not only by the facts but also may be corroborated by the Jordanians, who made a great effort to facilitate Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs direct dialogue between Israel and the PA. Unfortunately, because of the attitudes of Mr. Abbas and his partners, these efforts did not lead to any progress. This situation is very clear to the Jordanians.
This pattern of refusal is not new. With the Annapolis process, under the previous Israeli government, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians far-reaching concessions and gestures of goodwill, more than any other Israeli government, without success….
Two additional matters should be taken into account: the historic Bar-Ilan speech of Prime Minister Netanyahu, which called for a two state solution, and the unprecedented step of the current government, which, in response to Palestinian demands, temporarily froze the construction in the settlements, in order to renew peace negotiations. As part of the Palestinian systematic pattern of avoiding bilateral negotiations, these steps were met with rejection and with unilateral steps by the Palestinians, under Mr. Abbas' leadership.
In a calculated manner, Mr. Abbas is focusing his dialogue with the international community on the subject of settlements. Unfortunately, the international community tends to accept this discourse lock, stock and barrel, without criticism or a nuanced approach. This is a damaging attitude, which does not reflect the reality on the ground.
The entire area of the settlements constitutes approximately one percent of the area of the West Bank. The last settlement which Israel constructed was in 1991. In the framework of the peace accord with Egypt (1979), Israel took the painful step of evacuating all the settlements and military bases in Sinai. In 2005, Israel evacuated all of our settlements from the Gaza Strip, as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank, but instead of peace and security, we received the Hamas government in Gaza which opposes the existence of Israel, and is unwilling to live in peace with us, as well as 14,000 rockets and missiles which were indiscriminately shot at towns and villages in southern Israel.
Facts and history, as opposed to the simplistic stereotypes and political bias, contradict the idea that somehow the settlement enterprise is the main obstacle to renewing the negotiations. This premise simply does not stand up to the test of reality or the historic precedent of the peace process between Israel and our neighbors. Both peace accords, with Egypt and Jordan, were signed when settlements existed; the claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace is unfounded.…
The Palestinian Authority is a despotic government riddled with corruption. This pattern of behavior has led to criticism even within his own constituency. Due to Abbas' weak standing, and his policy of not renewing the negotiations, which is an obstacle to peace, the time has come to consider a creative solution, to think "outside the box," in order to strengthen the Palestinian leadership. This is crucial, so that the Israeli gestures to strengthen the economy, stability and strength of the PA will not be turned into a boomerang against Israel.
Despite Mr. Abbas' delays, general elections in the PA should be held, and a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic Palestinian leadership should be elected. The PA elections were due to be held in 2010 and have since been postponed several times. As of today, no new date has been set for elections. Only such a leadership can bring progress with Israel….(Top)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
PALESTINE IS NOT THE PROBLEM
Middle East Forum, August 2012
…[L]et us assume for the sake of argument that Israel and the PLO-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) were to sign a formal peace treaty. Would this stop the effort to delegitimize the Jewish state campaign or eliminate anti-Semitism from the European scene? Hardly—for the simple reason that the Palestinian question has next to nothing to do with either of these. Though anti-Zionism has been the core principle of pan-Arab solidarity since the 1930s—it is easier, after all, to unite people through a common hatred than through a shared loyalty—the Arab states (and the Palestinians' international champions) have shown far less concern for the well-being of the Palestinians than for their own interests.
For example, it was common knowledge that the May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of Israel was more a scramble for Palestinian territory than a fight for Palestinian national rights. As the Arab league's secretary-general Azzam once admitted to a British reporter, the goal of King Abdullah of Transjordan "was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine, with access to the Mediterranean at Gaza. The Egyptians would get the Negev. Galilee would go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to Lebanon."
From 1948 to 1967, when Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Arab states failed to put these populations on the road to statehood. They also showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving their quality of life—which is part of the reason why 120,000 West Bank Palestinians moved to the East Bank of the Jordan River and about 300,000 others emigrated abroad. "We couldn't care less if all of the refugees die," an Egyptian diplomat once remarked. "There are enough Arabs around."
Not surprisingly, the Arab states have never hesitated to sacrifice Palestinians on a grand scale whenever it suited their needs. In 1970, when his throne came under threat from the PLO, the affable and thoroughly Westernized King Hussein of Jordan had no qualms about slaughtering thousands of Palestinians, an event known as "Black September." Six years later, Lebanese Christian militias, backed by the Syrian army, massacred some 3,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the Beirut refugee camp of Tel Zaatar. These militias again slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians in 1982 in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, this time under Israel's watchful eye. In the summer of 2007, the Lebanese army killed hundreds of Palestinians, including many civilians, in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. None of the Arab states came to the Palestinians' rescue. Worse, in the mid-1980s, when the PLO—officially designated by the Arab League as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people"—tried to re-establish its military presence in Lebanon, it was unceremoniously expelled by President Assad of Syria.
This history of Arab leaders manipulating the Palestinian cause for their own ends while ignoring the fate of the Palestinians goes on and on. Saddam Hussein, in an effort to ennoble his predatory designs, claimed that he would not consider ending his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait without "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories in Palestine." Shortly after the 1991 Persian Gulf war, Kuwaitis set about punishing the PLO for its support of Hussein—cutting off financial sponsorship, expelling some 440,000 Palestinian workers, and slaughtering thousands. Their retribution was so severe that Arafat was forced to acknowledge that "what Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories."
If the Arab states have shown little empathy for the plight of ordinary Palestinians, the Islamic connection to the Palestinian problem is even more tenuous. It is not out of concern for a Palestinian right to national self-determination but as part of a holy war to prevent the loss of a part of the "House of Islam" that Islamists inveigh against the Jewish state of Israel. In the words of Hamas's covenant: "The land of Palestine has been an Islamic trust (waqf ) throughout the generations and until the day of resurrection…. When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims."
In this respect, there is no difference between Palestine and other parts of the world conquered by the forces of Islam throughout history. To this very day, for example, Arabs and many Muslims unabashedly pine for the restoration of Spain and look upon their expulsion from that country in 1492 as a grave historical injustice….As illustrated by the overwhelming support for the 9/11 attacks throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, this vision is by no means confined to a disillusioned and obscurantist fringe of Islam; and within this grand scheme, the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is but a single element and one whose supposed centrality looms far greater in Western than in Islamic eyes….[The above is an excerpt from Karsh’s book The War Against the Jews. For the full article please see the On Topic links below – Ed.] (Top)
Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post August 28, 2012
Recent articles about the village of Sussiya highlight the struggle that is taking place in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank. In the absence of a Palestinian state the West Bank has continued to percolate along the status quo lines set down in the Oslo agreement. Many commentators miss this in their analysis of what is taking place in terms of “the conflict.” People speak about being “pro-peace,” but if one defines the absence of war as a form of peace, in fact the West Bank is quite peaceful. But that masks the quiet conflict that takes place every day for control over a small sliver of land.
Area C is an abstract invention of a peace agreement that was never fully implemented. In this sense it is a bureau-geographic creature, invented so that it could eventually be disbanded. At Oslo in 1993 and 1995 the West Bank was divided into three sections, one of full Palestinian civil and police control, one of mixed control and an area of full Israeli civil and military control. This last area includes all 121 recognized Jewish communities in the West Bank as well as the other 100-odd Jewish “outposts.” The Jewish population of this area is estimated at 270,000.
Almost every study on the size of Area C puts it at 62 percent of the West Bank, or 3,482 sq. km, which makes it slightly larger than Yosemite national park in the US. That Area C is often said to include a majority of the West Bank is primarily due to the fact that much of the desert was placed in Area C as part of Israeli military reservations. The entire Jordan valley, except Jericho and several villages, is part of Area C….
The quiet conflict for Area C is being waged because, for all intents and purposes, Israel has given up any interest in the rest of the West Bank. Except for Hebron, Israel long ago withdrew its forces from the Palestinian cities which had been re-occupied during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.…
There is a remaining piece of the Area C puzzle: The security fence includes about 8.5% of the West Bank between it and the Green Line. This includes the entire area of east Jerusalem that Israel has annexed. The dispute is over those areas between the security fence and the major Palestinian population centers which run along the mountainous center of the area. Wherever there is a Jewish community there is [a Palestinian] effort to quietly encroach upon that community, to plough up land, to refurbish terraces, plant orchards, farm land and inhabit houses. The notion is that the more Palestinians can make parts of Area C appear to be Palestinian, the more pressure the international community will bring on Israel to release claims to it.
Like ancient Boeotia, which served as a pawn in the war between Athens and Sparta, Area C is a buffer zone that must be conquered and put to use by one side or the other. After all, Area C is all that is left, it is the place where the land is still in dispute, where a ploughed field or a harvested orchard can make or break states. That might sound ridiculous, but each case, each farmstead, each shack, each deed that is presented in court creates waves that impact beyond the lives of the several dozen individuals involved.
The recent news about Area C is what a World Council of Churches 2011 EAPPI document called the “quiet transfer.” According to this brochure the area “was meant to be gradually transferred to Palestinian administration” but instead Israel has been working to remove Palestinians from it.
The UN estimates that there are some 150,000 Arabs living in the area C in 270 “villages, camps and other communities.” However, according to a UN document produced by OCHA in August 2011, “two-thirds of [them] live in localities which are partly located in Area A and B.” Supposedly the remaining third, 50,000 people, are mostly Bedouin and “herders.” The UN estimates there are 27,000 members of these “herding communities” comprising some 5,000 families.
This little group of people is the focus of a massive international campaign. After OCHA spent a year interviewing some members of this group in the spring of 2011, it released a memo called “displacement and insecurity in Area C of the West Bank.” The memo claimed that the herders or Bedouin faced “restrictive and discriminatory planning…restrictions on movement…[and] military harassment.” The EAPPI factsheet published in 2011 piggybacked on this report with claims that Israel had demolished 342 structures in the area and made 656 people homeless.
On August 28, Mya Guarneiri, a Jerusalem based pro-Palestinian activist, wrote an op-ed in The National in Australia that claimed that “dozens of Palestinian and Bedouin villages are threatened with demolition and over 27,000 men, women and children face forced transfer. Most of these people are refugees.” Notice how she characterizes the entire Palestinian population as being “threatened” with “forced transfer.”
One of the newest stories about the “transfer” was reported in The New York Times when Jodi Rudoren claimed that “the Israeli government has asked the Supreme Court to allow the demolition of eight Palestinian hamlets in the South Hebron Hills.” She went on to claim that it involves “about 1,800 people who live at least part time in a dozen communities that predate Israel’s 1967 seizure of the West Bank from Jordan, and in some cases have been around since the 1800s.”
An Israeli government spokesman quoted in the article noted that “starting from 2009, an increasing trend of augmenting and strengthening the population on the C Grounds is taking place.” A great deal of misinformation is bandied about regarding these groups. Not only are they said to be refugees from 1948, but they are also then said to have lived in some ancient village since the 1800s. It is claimed that they cannot build houses because Israel does not provide permits in Area C, and yet it is also claimed their houses predate the creation of Area C in 1993 and the conquest of the area in 1967.
Oddly, the “villages” often appear on no maps, aerial photos or documents until the past several decades…. UN notations and the reports often note that the people live only “part time” in a place or sometimes in Area B and sometimes in C. Yet these nomadic herding groups become permanent residents of ancient villages when Israeli policy is concerned.
Area C has to be understood as the last part of this unsettled dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, the focus on it is generated for propaganda purposes to influence people to believe that one side or the other has more rights to it. (Top)
THE CASE AGAINST DISENGAGEMENT;
WHY REPEAT WHAT DIDN’T WORK?
Lately there has been a rising number of Middle East experts, as well as some Israeli officials, calling for a unilateral disengagement from the West Bank. Ehud Barak, Israel’s Minister of Defense, advocated this type of unilateral action during a speech he gave at the Institute for National Security Studies. Others who have expressed support for a similar plan include members of an organization called Blue White Future, who explained their position in an Op-Ed in the New York Times, and Rafael D. Frankel, who outlined his stance in an article in The National Interest.
Given the moribund current peace negotiations with the Palestinians, these pundits are promoting an Israeli pullout from most of the West Bank settlements as a way to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and to ensure Israel’s permanence, as a Jewish State. While this plan would ensure the crucial caveat that Israel remain a state with a strong Jewish majority, it is not so clear that Jews are in fact losing their hold on remaining the area’s majority. More importantly, though, an Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank would be replicating too many of the same mistakes that Israel made in its withdrawal from Gaza, thereby making it a plan that Israel certainly shouldn’t pursue.
To see what would unfold if Israel were to leave the West Bank, one could look at the events that occurred following Israel’s similar unilateral disengagement from Gaza. Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza without negotiations and without fully realizing the future ramifications of his precipitous decision. What has transpired in the seven years since the pullout has been twofold. Firstly, while Gaza was supposed to become a future home-country for Palestinians under the PA, the Strip was quickly over-run by Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, who proceeded to expel the PA.
Secondly, Israel has certainly not become safer since the disengagement experience but instead has had to endure seven years of almost endless rocket fire from Gaza terrorists into southern Israeli cities.
By unilaterally handing over the West Bank—which is over ten times as large in landmass as Gaza– Israel would not be receiving any security or peace guarantees in return for the land, thereby replicating the Gaza experience. Radical terrorist groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad that filled the power vacuum in Gaza, would do likewise in the West Bank. Even if the PA and Fatah took steps to ensure this violent takeover would not happen, and instead held their own democratic elections (which is moot), nothing would prevent Hamas’ candidates from winning these elections and then seizing power. Obviously, what would unfold in either situation would be Gaza 2.0: either the terrorist organization Hamas or a terrorist PA ruling over another territory adjacent to Israel.
By handing over the West Bank without peace guarantees from the PA in exchange, which is what these advocates are backing, Israel would be putting itself in an almost impossible security situation, even for Israel’s powerful defense force. The West Bank’s lengthy eastern border with Jordan would need constant monitoring to prevent terrorists from entering the West Bank, as they have been entering Gaza from its now porous border with Egypt. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the West Bank’s western border would only be a few miles from Ben Gurion International Airport; maintaining secure airport use would obviously be an enormous security challenge.
Another security related issue is how to manage Israeli citizens displaced from the West Bank. This issue – of how to resettle, house, and find employment for the displaced persons – was a major issue during the pullout from Gaza. In fact, a recent Israel Hayom article details that many of those who were removed from Gaza back in 2005, still do not have permanent homes or jobs. How would the issue would be handled if it were to be done on a scale ten times greater?
Many of these leaders who advocate the creation of a de-facto Palestinian state are motivated by a desire to ensure the longevity of Israel as a state with a Jewish majority. They believe that by keeping the status quo, Israel will eventually lose its Jewish majority. Therefore, they believe that the government needs to act with great expediency to maintain the State’s Jewish identity.
In 1950, Jews encompassed over 85% of Israel’s demographic. However, that tremendous majority has now declined a bit, to the point where Jews comprise around 75% of the country’s total population. If this decline were to continue uniformly, as many believe it will, then by the year 2040 or so, Jews would in fact lose their majority.
However, other studies affirm the antithesis. One American-Israel Demographic Research Group, argued that this trend of decline in percentage of Jews will reverse itself, since Israeli birth rates are rising while Arab birth rates are falling. The population “crisis” is not an imminent threat, and Israel is not in danger of losing its Jewish majority. This report added that previous predictors of Israeli demographics did not end up becoming true, so that predictions that Israel will lose its Jewish majority in only thirty years should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. (A study conducted in the 1960’s had predicted that by the year 1990, Arabs would be the majority in Israel. Obviously, this study has proven false.)
Oftentimes, something that looks good on paper, once it happens in real life, it can end up completely differently. The Gaza disengagement should teach Israel a strong lesson, that unilaterally evacuating land and allowing terrorist groups to take it over is not the best plan of action. (Top)
[Adam Kramer, 15, is a CIJR 2012 Cohen Summer Intern; he lives in Boston.]
∙ Middle East Forum, August 2012
∙ Gatestone Institute, August 16, 2012
Khaled Abu Toameh
∙ Ynet News, August 26, 2012
∙ Jeruslaem Post, August 30, 2012
∙ New York Times, July 25, 2012
∙ CiF Watch, August 12, 2012
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