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WARNING : This site is not for you if you cannot see the otherness of other and sufferings of both sides of the party in the conflict. Security for Israel and Justice for the Palestinians are interdependent, one will not happen without the other. My view focuses on building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I hope and pray a sense of justice to prevail. Amen. Website www.IsraelPalestineDialogue.com | Also Check Israel Palestine Confederation a pragmatic solution
Where are the Moderate Israelis?
Thanks to the American and British Jews, who have always stood up for social Justice and living in harmony with others. However, the pied pipers have misled Jews in Israel to have them focus on their security needs over the sense of righteousness while the Palestinian leadership has done the same. A few American Jews don’t see and don’t want to believe what is going on in Israel; they don’t see the ethnic cleansing and atrocities against Palestinian children and women, and inhumane treatment of fellow beings. What kind of humans would the Israelis and Palestinians be?
Center for Pluralism
Israel Palestine Dialogue
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Apr 25, 2013 | Alon Ben-Meier
The resurrection of Arab Peace Initiative (API) by the United States, which was initially introduced by the Arab League in Beirut, Lebanon in 2002, is a strategic and timely move. Sadly, however, the API should have all along constituted the basis for a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement which was, and still is, the pre-condition for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
This is not high insight; for years I have been preaching that the Israelis and the Palestinians could have forged a bilateral agreement had Israel accepted the API as the framework of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
Israel’s national security concerns (real and imagined) could have dramatically been allayed had the Arab states, and by extension all Muslim countries, been at peace with Israel. By rejecting the API, successive Israeli governments have made a mistake of historic proportions.
For the Palestinians, given their political factionalism and their approach to the conflict with Israel, only a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace could have ended the occupation and established a Palestinian state. Here too, the Arab states failed to aggressively promote their own initiative and left the Palestinians to their devices.
Why now? There are a number of compelling reasons behind the US’, the Arab states’, and Israel’s lukewarm desire to resurrect the only peace initiative that provides the basis for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. This will still take supreme efforts by the US in particular because of the pervasive apprehensiveness, especially in Israel, regarding the unquantified change that will of necessity occur.
The failure to engage Israel and the Palestinians in productive negotiations during President Obama’s first term and the growing concerns and frustrations over the continuing stalemate forced the US to look into other viable options. The API stands out singularly as the most viable framework, especially because it was the initiative of the collective Arab political body.
The sweeping upheavals in the Middle East and the concerns over renewed Israeli-Palestinian violent confrontations resulting from the continuing stalemate are making the Arab states increasingly concerned. Thus, settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which they view as the main source of regional instability, has assumed greater urgency. The API provides the vehicle around which all Palestinian factions can coalesce with the full backing of the Arab states in search for an equitable solution.
Finally, in the wake of the Iranian threat and the uncertain outcome in Syria’s civil war, the Arab states are looking to engage the US in a meaningful effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From their perspective, only the US can bridge the gap between Israel and the Palestinians at a time of extreme uncertainty.
What would it take to succeed?
First, although the Arab states refuse to make any changes in the language of the API, the Secretary General of the Arab League (AL), Nabil El-Arabi, should publicly announce that the Israeli acceptance of the API would of necessity require negotiations to iron out the details for any potential accord. That is, the API was never presented on a take it or leave it basis, albeit the various components of the Initiative must be dealt with and agreed upon in any peace agreement.
If such a statement is made following the meetings between the Arab League representatives (Foreign Ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan, a Palestinian Authority representative, and the Secretary General of the AL) and John Kerry in Washington next week, it will go a long way toward persuading the Netanyahu government to accept the API in principle.
Second, the API offers Hamas, which must be an integral part of future negotiations, the opportunity to accept the API (joining the Arab states) without requiring it to recognize Israel in advance and without accepting prior agreements as stipulated by the Quartet.
That said, the Arab states, especially Egypt, must exert every effort to persuade Hamas to formally forsake violence and focus on a political solution as required by the API. Hamas’ leaders, including Khalid Mashaal and Ghazi Hamad, have already stated on more than one occasion that they will accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. According to Hamad, “all factions in the movement agree to this and are prepared to accept it.”
Third, Israel should offer goodwill gestures by releasing Palestinian prisoners, which is an extremely sensitive issue for President Abbas, and declaring a temporary halt on building new and expanding old settlements in sensitive areas. In addition, as suggested by Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel should release all tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) from Palestinian laborers.
Fourth, although the API calls for the return of all territories captured in the 1967 war, the Arab states should not demand, at this phase, that Israel relinquish the Golan Heights (GH). Given the civil war in Syria and the uncertainty that will surely follow the ouster of Assad, it would be impossible for Israel to consider withdrawal from the GH. The eventual Israeli withdrawal from the GH will have to follow an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and a stable Syria, which will provide Israel further assurance of what lies ahead.
Fifth, the US must lean on Ankara to not muddy the waters, as intimated by John Kerry, by making unreasonable demands on Jerusalem in connection with lifting the blockade over Gaza. Instead, Ankara should adopt a balanced approach by first restoring full diplomatic relations with Israel (especially now in the wake of the Israeli apology) and exert its substantial influence on Hamas to refrain from any violent provocation to encourage further easing of the blockade by Israel.
Sixth, Secretary General El-Arabi should reiterate publicly that the API clearly affirms that the Arab states will recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations once an accord with the Palestinians is achieved. This public statement will have a profound psychological impact on the Israeli public who doubt the ultimate intentions of the Arab states.
The Israelis require these public assurances to engender grassroots support for the API, especially following Obama’s visit to Israel and his appeal to Israeli youth to lead the march for peace. Any Israeli prime minister, including Netanyahu, will find himself in a difficult position not to embrace the API under such circumstances.
Seventh, Israeli think tanks, the academic community, youth movements, labor organizations, synagogues, the media, and all political parties that seek an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should engage in new public narratives about each conflicting issue between Israel and the Palestinians. All options should be aired out so that the general public understands the imperatives they face and the concessions needed to reach a comprehensive solution.
Finally, it is not far-fetched to suggest that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, the emir of Qatar, who is politically progressive and open to new ideas, invite Israeli President Shimon Peres to visit Doha. Al-Thani, in a meeting with President Obama, has already voiced his support for the peace process, stating that “it’s very important for us to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and to see also a good relationship between Arab countries and Israel once a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is reached.” Peres is a staunch supporter of the API and such a visit to an active Arab country in the pursuit of peace will send a clear message to Israelis and Palestinians alike that the Arab world is determined to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This will not be the first time that an Israeli official is invited to Doha. Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (currently the Justice Minster) was invited to speak at the Doha conference in April 2008. A state visit by President Peres will go a long way to demonstrate to skeptical Israelis that the Arab world is serious about peace.
Resurrecting the API offers the most promising prospect for a breakthrough; it will take however, the collective resolve of the Arab states, the Palestinians, Israel and the US to see it through.
Click here to read this article and more on AlonBen-Meir.com.
Please do not be judgmental
Orthodox activist Gadi Gvaryahu's organisation counters 'price tag' attacks on Palestinians
By Simon Rocker, April 27, 2013
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Gadi Gvaryahu of Tag Meir
Acouple of months ago a young Arab woman from Qalansuwa in central Israel set off to do what we would consider a mitzvah. She was a teacher of Arabic in a Jewish school and she went with a Jewish friend to go to the shivah of a colleague in Jerusalem.
But when they left the shivah, they were confronted by a gang of local yeshivah students. “They cursed her, they spat on her, they threw oranges at her,” said Israeli religious activist Dr Gadi Gvaryahu. “They said to her friend ‘How dare you come with an Arab woman to our neighbourhood’. And then they damaged her car, broke the window, let down her tyres.”
When Dr Gvaryahu and his friends heard about the incident, their response was to organise a delegation to see the woman to apologise for what had happened. They also asked new Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron to join them.
“He said he could not come but that he’d surprise us,” Dr Gvaryahu said. “The day before we came to Qalansuwa, he took his team to her class in her school and he, the minister of education, gave a lesson to her students on how Jews and Arabs can live together in the land of Israel. She was touched.”
Such acts of reconciliation have become a sad necessity for Dr Gvaryahu, a leading Orthodox campaigner against Jewish extremism. A year and a half ago he helped to set up an organisation to counter the “price taggers”, militant young settlers who carry out revenge raids for Palestinian attacks or government attempts to uproot West Bank outposts.
Sometimes the price taggers may be content with spraying graffiti. But they have also engaged in physical asssaults and arson. And whenever they strike, members of Dr Gvaryahu’s organisation will go to the place to talk to the victims and offer help, sympathy and sometimes compensation. “In a [Palestinian] village called Jabba, where extremists tried to burn down the mosque, we met many children,” he said. “One father said he was happy that we’d come because his child had started saying that all Jews are evil.”
His group is called Tag Meir,“tag of light”, a punning riposte to “price tag” in Hebrew, tag mechir. “They want to create damage, we want to create light,” he said.
Although most religious Zionists and most settlers oppose price tag attacks, he notes, enough extremists exist to cause trouble. “One person can create an enormous amount of damage,” he said. “You just need one Yigal Amir to kill a prime minister, and one Baruch Goldstein to kill 29 innocent Muslims at prayer.”
An eighth-generation Jerusalemite on his mother’s side — who has a doctorate in animal behaviour — he was inspired by the religious values of his father, a Holocaust survivor. “For him, anything that sounded like racism or hate crime was a sin,” he said.
Tag Meir is not his first venture into activism. He is also a founder of the Yud Bet Cheshvan Foundation, named after the yahrzeit of assassinated Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. “Yigal Amir was unfortunately a religious Zionist. And we feel a kind of responsibility for what he did. He received our education,” he said.
Amir was thought a model student at Bar Ilan University and also studied at the respected Keren B’Yavneh Yeshivah. “You cannot say he was not part of us, that he was crazy,” Dr Gvaryahu said.
The foundation has established a number of schools and also a youth movement. “We decided we need to bring more values of tolerance and open-minded pluralism. As we say in Hebrew, derech eretz kadma l’Torah, you need to be a human being before you practise your religious obligations.”
Whereas Orthodox Zionism was once a liberal, even left-leaning movement politically, he noted, it swung right after the 1967 War, gripped by messianic idealism which viewed settlement in Judea and Samaria as holy work. But that sense of divine mission has also spawned among a small, but dangerous, minority, a disregard for democratic norms.
The struggle against extremism is not just for Israelis. “Our religion is under attack and not only in Israel. If you let extremists burn mosques and churches all over Israel, tomorrow someone will do it with a synagogue,” he said.
Which is why his just he paid his first visit to London, as a guest of the New Israel Fund, which supports his work in Israel. He addressed a Yom Ha’atzmaut lunch at Golders Green Synagogue and spoke to groups from two other United Synagogue communities, Muswell Hill and South Hampstead.
If the religious Zionist sector were slide to the extreme right, it could spell disaster for Israel. “Because they serve in the army, they know how to use guns. They can destroy the country,” he said.
Instead, if it regained a more moderate voice, it could play a major bridge-building role in Israeli society, he believes. “I think at the end of the tunnel, we’ll win the battle. But there is a long way.”
West Bank rabbi's passionate appeal to price tag attackers
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BBC criticised over timing of Panorama 'price-tag' film
Last updated: 11:45am, April 27 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
This leads to an ever-diminishing prospect for reconciliation which inhibits concessions and drives both sides to resort to a zero-sum negotiating posture. Moreover, due to their respective public sentiments (hate and animosity toward the other), pessimism and resistance to change continue to prevail.
As a result, they refuse to show flexibility and in so doing, distrust becomes further ingrained intellectually and emotionally, creating a vicious cycle which defies reason and reality.
It is clear that if the Israelis and the Palestinians hold fast to their positions, it will be nearly impossible to allay distrust, leading to a continuing deadlock because distrust cannot be negotiated by simply agreeing to establish a new trusting relationship.
Given the embedded distrust, even if the two parties negotiate and reach an agreement, such as the 1993-1994 Oslo Accords, there is still no assurance that such agreements will endure, as has been demonstrated.
But since Israeli-Palestinian coexistence is an unadulterated fact, any agreement reached must be based on certain provisions, mechanisms, logistics, and a timeline designed to ensure compliance based on reciprocity that would nurture trust.
The claims and counter-claims, especially by Israeli officials, that distrust prevents them from reaching an agreement is gravely counterproductive because neither side can coexist as enemies indefinitely, but also because
distrust cannot be mitigated in a vacuum.
Trust can be nurtured if both sides negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement. The prospect for an agreement however, can be dramatically improved by agreeing on developing close socio-economic relations, the fulfillment of which can foster trust.
For example, in 2000 and 2008-2009, the Israelis and the Palestinians were able to reach an agreement in principle on many contentious issues, including the future of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees. At close scrutiny, however, we find that at play were biased and selective perceptions nurtured by distrust over each other’s intentions to deliver.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 provides a classic case from Israel’s perspective and was viewed as a major move to demonstrate its intentions to end the occupation, but ultimately it failed to achieve its “presumed objective.”
Instead of turning a free Gaza into a prosperous area, after wrestling the strip from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas used Gaza as a staging ground for launching thousands of rockets into Israel. This was a clear manifestation that the Palestinians simply do not want peace and cannot be trusted, a belief that most Israelis share to this day.
As a result, Israel was discouraged from further evacuation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank, believing that the Palestinians would still seek the destruction of the state as Hamas repeatedly enunciates, especially when such protestations are taken at face value.
From the Palestinians’ perspective, however, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was a tactical move. They insist that Israel simply wanted to rid itself from occupying a densely populated area of Palestinians, which has no strategic value and was prohibitively costly to maintain.
The Palestinians further argue that Israel has no intentions of vacating other occupied territories in the West Bank. From their vantage point there is no reason to trust Netanyahu’s government, which claims to support the two-state solution yet continues to build settlements.
The question is, had the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza been done differently, would the outcome have been any different, or at a minimum, vindicated or repudiated the narrative of distrust by either side? My answer is absolutely yes.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was precipitous and unilateral with no coordination with the PA, it entailed no phased withdrawal, no new security arrangements, and did not assess Hamas’ power and specific reciprocal moves on the part of the Palestinians. Moreover, there was no agreement on trade and commercial ties to foster human-to-human relations that engender trust.
Thus, it can be argued that had then-Prime Minister Sharon reached an agreement with the PA about every aspect of the withdrawal, it could have nurtured trust between the two sides rather than further aggravating the situation.
Surely, both sides would have known full well that any violation of the specific agreed-upon arrangements would stop the process in place, an action from which neither side could benefit.
It should be recalled that it took three years for Israel to complete its withdrawal from the Sinai, while taking reciprocal measures to enhance security and develop closer ties with the Egyptian government. Had Israel followed the same pattern, it would be safe to assume that Hamas might not have been able to overthrow the PA in Gaza or win the elections in 2006.
Indeed, the Israeli withdraw from Gaza should have lasted long enough to allow the PA to establish its own security apparatus, engage in economic developments with Israel, and develop a vested interest while enacting confidence-building measures between the two sides.
The same can be said about Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon by former Prime Minister Barak under cover of night without any agreement with the Lebanese government, which could have changed the sequence of events that led to the war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.
Obviously, trust cannot be fostered in an environment of hostility and mutual recrimination. However, distrust is not set in stone; it can and should be alleviated, especially under the circumstances that govern the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
Israel must now learn from its experience with Egypt verses Gaza and Lebanon and apply these lessons to the West Bank. The Israeli argument against withdrawal citing national security concerns is invalid not only because the acquisition of more territory in the West Bank would not enhance Israel’s security but because there are available means by which to nurture mutual trust.
Israel should develop a plan that would allow the PA to develop infrastructure and commerce while attracting investments especially in Area C, which is completely controlled by Israel, as was requested by the PA President Abbas from Secretary of State John Kerry who has just visited Israel and Palestine. In addition, Israel should allow gradual tourism between the two sides, encourage trade, begin the systematic release of Palestinian prisoners, and ease Palestinian mobility while curtailing the expansion of settlements.
Any withdrawal from the West Bank should extend over a period of several years and such phases should be based on reciprocal measures taken by the PA while continuing and further enhancing security cooperation to foster trust. The PA has demonstrated that it has the ability to meet its commitments on security matters, to which many Israeli officials attest.
In the final analysis, guided by the imperative of coexistence, genuine efforts can be made to mitigate distrust, which is the only way both can build trust and test each other real commitment to reach a lasting peace agreement. Click here to read this article and more on AlonBen-Meir.com.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Apr 3, 2013
Much has been said about President Obama’s journey to the Middle East but little about the substance and the implications the visit might have. I believe that if the President was set to win the hearts and minds of the Israelis, he certainly made considerable strides toward that end.
Unfortunately, most Palestinian commentators misread the implications of the visit to Israel and to the Palestinians in particular. They failed to understand that even the President of the United States cannot exact the necessary concessions from the Israelis to advance the peace process unless he earns their trust and makes them feel confident that the US will always remain committed to their national security.
The many Palestinians who criticized President Obama for showering the Israelis with lavish praise and for his unfettered commitment to Israel’s security seem to miss the central point that he wanted to convey and expected to achieve.
To suggest the President “spent three days in Israel and almost as many hours in [the West Bank]” to presumably explain where the President stands and what are his priorities, as was observed by the Economist’s N.P. under the title “A fleeting visit,” is simplistic and completely out of touch. That Obama’s visit “was an insult to the Palestinian people on every count,” was another cynical assessment by Ghada Karmi of Al Jazeera.
The trip does not have a diminishing return, as Osama Al Sharif observed in his Arab News comments, or that “it did significant damage to America’s ability to play the role of honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians if negotiations ever begin,” as was proclaimed by MJ Rosenberg (not a Palestinian) in his Huffington Post column.
The truth of the matter is that even without the observation from Ismail Mahmoud Rabah that Obama’s visit had “crucial implications for the approaching end of the Israeli Occupation,” criticism of the trip was almost entirely misperceived, and here is why.
Regardless of the fact that the Obama administration has provided Israel with more financial and military aid and political support while extending unprecedented cooperation on countless levels than any of its predecessors, the Israelis generally distrusted President Obama.
They recalled his speech in Cairo in June 2009, which they interpreted as being one-sided in favor of the Palestinians, and they recollected with dismay that he traveled three times overseas during his first term, visiting two Arab and two Muslim states while skipping Israel.
In addition, they resented the fact that he placed undue pressure on Israel to freeze settlement construction without demanding specific counter-measures from the Palestinians.
His critics are dead wrong in their assessments of the President’s intentions and the approach he took toward the Israelis during his visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
His expressed purpose was to win the hearts and minds of the Israelis because he knows that any concessions he can secure on behalf of the Palestinians depends on how much the Israelis trust him and how confident they feel that the US will watch Israel’s back in a moment of real need.
The President also knows only too well that he must engage the Israeli public in the search for peace and make them understand the hazards of continuing occupation – that time is dangerously running out and they can no longer remain complacent.
For this reason he went over the head of Prime Minister Netanyahu and appealed directly to the Israeli public, especially the young, to take the lead, emphasizing that “governments respond to the popular will” and they must now make their voice heard.
He implored the young Israelis to put themselves in the Palestinians’ shoes, who have been stripped of their dignity, and “look at the world through their eyes.” “It is not right to prevent Palestinian from farming their lands,” he emphatically stated, “or to displace Palestinian families from their home. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.”
Those who criticized the President for his presumed lack of evenhandedness in addressing the Israelis and Palestinians do not seem to grasp that the President did not need to convince the Palestinians that continued occupation is unacceptable. He did not need to remind the Palestinians of their plight and suffering. These words were directed to the Israelis who can do something about it.
He passionately stated that “Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank.”
This is what the Israelis need to hear, provided it is said in the context of the United States’ uncontestable commitment to guard Israel from outside threats, especially from Iran, and their trust in him. The Palestinians must remember that the President could hardly wring one meaningful concession from the Israelis during his first term as long as he was perceived as an antagonist and unsympathetic to their concerns.
Just as Obama sought to change the Israelis’ perception of himself and successfully touched the hearts and minds of the Israeli multitude, his administration must now focus on its renewed peace efforts to which he committed.
Other than insisting on the resumption of negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials, he must exert equal pressure, though quietly, on both sides to begin changing their public narrative on the conflicting issues that separate them.
Two critical conflicting issues, the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees and the continuing expansion and building new settlements, should top the agenda to provide mutually acceptable solutions which require a drastic change in the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ respective public perception.
The PA President Mahmoud Abbas cannot possibly speak about a real prospect of a two-state solution while he continues to preach the gospel of the “Right of Return,” which is utterly unacceptable to the Israelis as it will wipe out Israel’s national Jewish identity overnight.
This issue cannot be resolved only at the negotiating table without first preparing the Palestinian public to accept that the right of return can be exercised only through resettlement of the refugees in their own homeland–the West Bank and Gaza, or compensate those who elect to remain in their current country of residence.
Prime Minister Netanyahu too cannot be serious about a two-state solution as long as he continues to insist on the expansion of old and the building of new settlements in the name of national security, which “violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.”
If President Obama believes, as I do, that governments listen to the will of the people, then Israeli and Palestinian public perceptions must first change on these fundamental conflicting issues and about each other.
This is a moment in time that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians can afford to squander because the passage of time will acutely undermine their ultimate national interests and make the conflict ever more intractable and increasingly perilous.
No one, however, should expect current officials of either side to change voluntarily their narrative in order to induce a change in their respective public perceptions. On the contrary, Israeli and Palestinian governments alike have used the prospect of a two-state solution for public consumption only while continuing to pursue policies that torpedo any possibility of such an outcome.
Here is where the US’ role becomes crucial. As much as Obama needs to press Israeli and Palestinian officials to resume formal peace talks, he must simultaneously exert tremendous pressure to change their public narrative and stop misleading their publics about the requisites for peace based on a two state solution that he so ardently advocated.
If President Obama did not privately counsel Netanyahu and Abbas during his visit to do just that, he should do so now. Without public support, peace negotiations will go nowhere and an Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain a pathetically self-consuming illusion.
Click here to read this article and more on AlonBen-Meir.com.