Archive for February, 2009

The Truth Is Out There, Seek It…..

February 21, 2009

When You Are A Collaborator, You Must Not Be A Mediator….

Egypt’s Intelligence head Suleiman: “Nobody in the Arab World can Afford to say NO to Egypt!” Posted: 10 Feb 2009 12:15 AM PST This article, which I only found yesterday, thanks to my friend Susanne, is slightly dated by a few weeks, but it is an absolutely astonishing document revealing the behind-the-scenes goings on prior to the current cease-fire in Gaza. Italian journalists of Arabmonitor, the first portal of the Arab World in Italy, have interviewed several of the key players who reveal steps Egypt has taken to block Turkey’s efforts at obtaining a ceasefire, their pressure on Hamas to “declare defeat”, the training of special troops of Dahlan in Egypt for a re-entry into Gaza, and the elation that Abu Mazen felt at the news of the assassinatin of Saed Siyam . Shocking reading…. THE EGYPTIAN NEGOTIATOR SHOUTED AT THE REPRESENTATIVES OF HAMAS: NOBODY IN THE ARAB WORLD CAN AFFORD TO SAY NO TO EGYPT Damascus, January – The high-level representative of Hamas we had the opportunity to talk to chose to remain anonymous, considering the delicacy of the statements he had to make. With but a few hours into the assassination of Saed Siyam in the Gaza Strip and with equally short time left before the opening of the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by the Emir of Qatar, our interlocutor had been granted only two hours of sleep the previous night and his red-veined, deeply sunken eyeballs tell it all. He reveals to us that it’s not Egypt who is actually negotiating the terms of a cease-fire for Gaza, but Turkey: at least, as far as the demands from the Islamic resistance are concerned. That is how we get to know that what the delegates of Hamas obtained from Egypt was not a draft for a cease-fire proposal, but a dictate: a lull in fighting for an initial two-weeks period, in order to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed in the Gaza Strip and during which the terms for a durable long-term cease-fire would be negotiated. Cairo would actually opt for a twenty-years truce, but surely for nothing less than a fifteen-years duration of it, demanding at the same time the resistance to sign up on an unconditional defeat, to renounce armed struggle and refrain from military training for its members, as well as from producing and importing weapons. During the short-term lull, the two-weeks halt of fire, there would be no opening of border crossings and even humanitarian aid allowed to pass into the Gaza Strip would do so at the discretion of Egypt and Israel. “We thanked them, but explained that it was unacceptable. General Suleiman (head of the Egyptian intelligence) was furious and shouted: Nobody in the Arab world can afford to say no to Egypt”. To describe the kind of game Cairo had been playing from early on in the run-up towards the Israeli aggression (starting 27 December), our interlocutor told us that on 26 December the Egyptians asked Hamas to “raise the white flag”, to declare defeat “and then we (the Egyptians) will intervene with the Israelis to guarantee your personal safety”. In any case, during this talk, which took place in the presence of some of Suleiman’s aides, the Egyptian interlocutors assured the Palestinians they had received guarantees from Israel that no military attack against Gaza was on the time-table. “In these three weeks of war there were days in which for periods of up to 48 hours they denied any passage through the Rafah crossing, even to gas canisters urgently needed by the surgical wards of Gaza hospitals. That’s not all: since about ten days 400 of Mohammad Dahlan’s men (the former strongman of Fatah, the USA and Israel in the Gaza Strip) are guests hosted at an Egyptian military centre in al-Arish (provincial capital of Sinai), where they are being trained by Egyptians”. The plan is for these 400 to return to the Gaza Strip, if not on the back of Israeli tanks, then with the support from Egypt. In recent days the waters of the Nile began to look very troubled, because Egypt did not appreciate at all the efforts of the Turkish delegation to mediate the terms of a cease-fire. General Suleiman initially even prevented the Turks from meeting the representatives of Hamas, demanding that he himself act as messenger between the two delegations. At a certain point, Ahmed Davotouglu, the senior advisor of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, ran out of patience and the Turkish delegation from Ankara obtained permission to access the Palestinians. “The Turks went ahead with a quite pragmatic approach. They held out to Suleiman that the Egyptian proposal was, realistically speaking, unacceptable for us and came forward with ideas that would contain guarantees for us as well as for the Israelis. For instance, they proposed to establish a presence of international monitors directly at the crossings, in joint venture with Palestinian forces from the Authority in Gaza, who at the Rafah crossing ­ but only at the Rafah crossing ­ could also consist of a a mixed forces, that is, those of the Palestinian National Authority in addition to our own. According to the Turkish proposal, the international presence would be different from the one set up by the European Union at the Rafah crossing years ago, which practically implemented orders given by Israel through remote control by monitors. According to the new proposal, the forces at the border crossings would act as an independent authority. And again it were the Turks who proposed a time-table of possibly one year for the duration of the cease-fire. We consider Turkey a partner with whom to negotiate, because it has shown much realism”. Among the key conditions proposed by the Palestinian Islamic resistance movement for a cease-fire there is the demand for a complete and definitive halt of the Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, the immediate withdrawal of the invasion troops, who “could withdraw within two hours”, but whose evacuation should be accomplished latest within a couple of days, an end of the siege imposed on the area and the opening of all crossings, foremost of the Rafah crossing with Egypt. We asked our talks partner to give us his evaluation of Abu Mazen’s performance during the present crisis. “Listen, shortly after the outbreak of the Israeli aggression he was called up on telephone by the Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad Ramadan Shallah (who lives in Syria, in exile), asking him to make a gesture and to call Ismail Haniye in Gaza, to find out what was going on. Abu Mazen rejected the plea. We know from absolutely trustworthy sources that yesterday, when news reached them at the Moqata (Abu Mazen’s seat at Ramallah) that Saed Siyam had been killed, the political leaders present, among them Abu Mazen, congratulated themselves and handed out sweets. What could I ever say, at this point?”. Abu Mazen’s term as President of the Palestinian National Authority has expired on 9 January. “Yes, but given the current circumstances, we don’t want to create additional problems and prefer to suspend the issue until after the end of the war against Gaza, following which, last not least, we must address the task of reconstruction in Gaza”. Our interlocutor told us that last year, ahead of the Arab League summit in Damascus, Egypt had tried by every means to persuade Palestinian Authority President to boycott the meeting, but Abu Mazen responded: “If I don’t go there, my seat will be occupied by Khaled Meshal (head of the Political Office of Hamas)”, which was the reason why he went to Damascus (at the recent Arab-Islamic emergency meeting in Doha, from which he remained absent, the seat for the leader representing the Palestinians was indeed occupied by Meshaal). The Europeans also, who in public always took care to present themselves as “virtuous” in avoiding any contact with Hamas, during the past weeks held more than once talks with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance. “Some of them approached us to express their negative feelings over the fact that we, according to them, refused to abide by the existing cease-fire. When we pointed out to them, that is was in fact Israel who violated the cease-fire by refusing to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, these countries slipped away. However, three European countries kept the lines open and we are still in contact with them. They offered their help to find a way out of the crisis. I can’t tell you the names of two of them, only that they are European Union members, one of them a leading power, and the other one driven by an ambitious policy. The third one to offer us their help is Norway”. Nevertheless, on the American front some interesting developments are coming up. Daniel Kurtzer, former US Ambassador to Israel, who is quite close to Barack Obama’s team, has met twice “as a private citizen” with Hamas leaders. His aim was to “pick up ideas”. The two talks took place in spring 2008 and then again last November, following Obama’s electoral victory. And then, how could we fail to recall that former US President Jimmy Carter had asked for a personal encounter with Khaled Meshal, and with other figures from the Hamas leadership, in April last year as well as in November. source: http://arabmonitor.info/dettaglio.php?idnews=25928&lang=it

Silencing The Palestinian Voice For Peace….

February 18, 2009

feb 17, 2009

A culmination of events in recent years, and more importantly the past two months, has thrown the entire structure of the peace process upside down.

Ironically, the two main protagonists in the region (Israel and Iran) have assisted each other at the only common goal they share … destroying the peace process. Iran, adhering to its strict theocratic obsession to liberate Islam’s holy Jerusalem, has used its might to thwart any attempt by the Israelis and Americans to impose a puppet state in the Palestinian territories.

Israel, for its part, has also worked tirelessly at ending the process because, as I’ve noted here, it still follows its own warped extreme ideology (Zionism) that calls for a greater Jewish state in historic Palestine.

Only what these two bitter enemies fail to realise is that they cannot destroy a peaceful settlement. Extremism in all of its forms, be it fascism, communism or religious zealotry, will never last as a governing system. The more controls you put in place, the more people will try to break free. Neither Israel nor Iran offers a logical, natural solution/conclusion to the never-ending Middle Eastern cycle of violence. Consider the following:

Israel wants to cleanse all of historic Palestine of its native Arabs (whose numbers are heading towards a majority), and pray that its surrounding 200 million Arabs won’t mind.

Iran’s ambition to destroy Israel is driven by its theological dreams of liberating Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest mosque, from the new Crusades and establish a Shi’ite Islamic empire. It would then, of course, turn its attention to the ‘blasphemous’ Saudi family that occupies Mecca.

Neither of these conclusions sound reasonable or logical.

Enters the US and Europe waving the banner of compromise and a peaceful solution. The concept of compromise does sound realistic and logical, and must eventually come to pass. However, Israeli attempts to thwart such a peaceful compromise has reached the halls of Washington where its legions in AIPAC et al do all it can to ensure the US steers far and wide from a compromising solution.

Former President Bill Clinton came up with a draft ‘compromise’ that the Israelis have largely avoided. Bush retitled it “road map”, then threw it in the back filing cabinet.
Obama ascends to power and suddenly there’s a resurgence of hope. Will he draw out the “road map”?

Indeed, many analysts and leading publications have swung behind the peace campaign, particularly in light of the Gaza War, virtually pleading with Obama to engage in “tough love” with Israel and force a compromise that will end this long bloody conflict. One such article was in the Economist. Much discussion has centred on what kind of compromise to follow. The two-state solution has indeed been the popular call for the past two decades, although some analysts have recently called this plan dead. I, for example, believe in a one-state solution.

Whilst I applaud the Economist for joining the “tough love” bandwagon, there remains one problem that is persistent in the West’s handling of this saga. The West often draws up solutions that stem from the primary interest of ensuring Israel’s security. It rarely takes into consideration the strong Palestinian sentiment of injustice, the same sentiment that has driven its resistance for the past 60 years. Whilst the West has done the bidding on Israel’s part, the Palestinians have been forced to take the backseat as its destiny gets shuttled back and forth between world capitals in a diplomat’s suitcase.

Failure to listen to the calls of injustice by the Palestinian people means no peace will ever succeed. Peace must be made on equal terms, with the sentiments of both sides equally listened to and represented. This is why the two-state solution cannot work under the current framework, because it simply doesn’t include the Palestinians’ demand for full equality.

The two-state solution during the Clinton era didn’t survive for obvious reasons. On the one hand, Israeli hardliners adhering to Zionism didn’t want to concede any bit of territory or sovereignty to the Palestinians. On the other hand, many Palestinians felt that their concerns hadn’t been adequately met. Whilst Yasser Arafat shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn, new radical groups such as Hamas were emerging in impoverished Palestinian streets. The West has often avoided recognising popular Palestinian sentiments by providing smokescreens, previously through Arafat and Oslo, and today with Mahmoud Abbas. Ignoring the reality has proven detrimental, as we continue to see today. Democratic countries should be the most aware that ignoring public sentiments will ultimately bring political failure.

Nevertheless, the two-state solution from the Clinton era continues to be revived today as the main peace policy directive for the Obama administration.

The following example from the Economist demonstrates this failed vision of peace:
Palestinians would be granted a symbolic right for their refugees to return on the understanding that only a small and carefully calculated proportion of them would actually do so. Palestine would be sovereign but demilitarised, with an international force, perhaps led by NATO, securing its borders, both along the Jordan valley and maybe between Gaza and Egypt. A road-and-rail link, internationally monitored, might well connect the 50km (30 miles) or so between Gaza and the West Bank.

There are two problems with this proposal.

Firstly, the “symbolic” right for their refugees to return. In reality, only a handful out of the 2-3 million external refugees will ever cross into 1/4 of what remains of historic Palestine and will be forced to live in camps, villages and towns not of their own.

The right of return is crucial for Palestinians and Arabs. As Israel’s security is considered nonnegotiable by Israelis, correcting this injustice against expelled Palestinian refugees who have been dwelling in inhumane camps for three generations remains at the heart of the Palestinian cause. The failure of the West to understand and listen to such strong sentiments has automatically rendered any peace-making effort futile.

Secondly, Palestine would be demilitarised and a NATO force would secure its borders.

The key error that started this conflict was that the destiny of one people was chosen by another. The West imposed its own vision upon the natives, without ever consulting the Palestinian people. The mass migration of European Jews into British Palestine was done without the consultation of the native Palestinian people. The partition of Palestine that awarded the majority of arable and economically fruitful land to a minority of immigrants was done without the consultation of the Palestinian people, who have dwelt on this land for thousands of years. And there the conflict began.

The main quibble Arabs have with the West is that nothing in the region was determined by them. The states, the borders, the dictators, and the monarchs were all carved out and hand picked by Western leaders. This is the root cause of the grand divide between Islam and the West, and the drive for extremist ideologies. To turn around and dictate how a future Palestine is to function (i.e. demilitarised) is repeating the same mistakes of the past. And the same mistakes will reap the same consequences.

To solve this conflict, the West must listen to the Palestinian people. Listen to their sentiments, to their deep feeling of injustice, and their resentment of it. Hamas is not merely an Islamist movement, but representative of 60 years of Palestinian resistance to everything unjust that has been imposed on them. Yasser Arafat – secular and left-wing – was that symbol 30-40 years ago, Hamas is the symbol today. Whether there’ll be a need for a resistance symbol tomorrow depends on the West’s willingness to listen.