Sunday, 15 September 2019
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Having spent 10 days in May in the City of Jerusalem I can say now I am better informed about what the Arabs of East Jerusalem and its suburbs want and what they don't want, writes Nehad Ismail.

Here I am not expressing my own views or opinions, I merely convey to readers what I heard from ordinary Palestinians living within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.

This is not an in-depth political analysis nor a definitive account of what is happening in Jerusalem, but personal observations based on casual conversations.

I had spoken to dozens of people, on average 5 or 6 a day. I spoke to street vendors, shop keepers, café owners, taxi drivers, academics, teachers, university students, mothers, hotel receptionists, car salesmen, petrol station attendants, pancake makers, falafel fryers and even a medical doctor.

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Dr. Saeb Erakat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, held a press conference on the 23rd August to discuss the Palestinian positions in advance of direct negotiations with Israel, set to begin on September 2 in Washington, DC.

During the press conference, Dr. Erakat highlighted the Middle East Quartet statement as a turning point in the PLO's decision to enter direct negotiations. The statement, given on August 20, 2010, noted the Madrid terms of reference, Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative as a starting point for this new round of negotiations. The PLO considers these principles be the basis for the direct talks.

Dr. Erakat went on to say that any successful peace talks must lead to a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital and a just and agreed solution to the refugee issue, in line with UNGAR 194.

Dr. Erakat stressed the Palestinian commitment to the peace talks, yet mentioned their serious reservations regarding Israel's intentions and commitment to a just and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis. This skepticism, he said, is a result of Israel's continued settlement activities, home demolitions and other illegal practices in the occupied Palestinian territory. Israel's commitment to a negotiated agreement and a two-state solution will be evident on the ground. If new construction tenders are issued (a plan which has already been announced by the Netanyahu government) during the negotiation process, it will be a clear affront to peace and Palestinians will be pushed out of the negotiations process.

Dr. Erakat stated that President Abbas sent a series of letters to President Obama, Lady Ashton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and President Medvedev. In these letters, President Abbas expressed his commitment to peace and demanded that the international community take a strong and unequivocal position regarding Israel's obligation to freeze all settlement activity, without exceptions. President Abbas also reiterated the PLO's position: if settlements, house demolitions and evictions continue, Palestinians will not continue negotiating.

Dr. Erakat also mentioned that even before the direct negotiations have began, Israel has already made their preconditions known – a demilitarized Palestinian state, a security buffer in the Jordan River Valley and a Palestinian recognition of a "Jewish" state. Palestinians enter these negotiations, which have been called for alongside Israel, in good faith and without preconditions and ask to have an Israeli partner willing to accept the long-established and internationally-accepted terms of reference of our negotiations.

 

We support you, but really... who cares...writes Tal Shalev

In the days following the assassination of Ahmad Jaabari, the fighting between Hamas and Israel raised an interesting question: Why did Hezbollah stand aside and do nothing to support its brothers in Gaza?

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly delayed his March 23 trip to Moscow following a bombing at bus stop in central Jerusalem that injured as many as 34 people. The bombing follows a series of recent mortar and rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip reaching as far as the outskirts of Ashdod and Beersheba, as well as the March 11 massacre of an Israeli family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar.

Netanyahu, already facing a political crisis at home in trying to hold his fragile coalition government together, now faces a serious dilemma. There were strong hints that Netanyahu may hold a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow to restart the peace process and avoid becoming entrapped in another military campaign in the Palestinian territories, but that plan is now effectively derailed. Though the precise perpetrators and their backers remain unclear, a Palestinian faction or factions appear to be deliberately escalating the crisis and thus raising the potential for Israel to mount another military operation in the Palestinian territories.

Attacks in Jerusalem, while rare, raise concerns in Israel that a more capable militant presence is building in Fatah-controlled West Bank in addition to Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Even before the Jerusalem bombing, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Israeli citizens in a March 23 Israel Radio broadcast that "we may have to consider a return" to a second Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. He added, "I say this despite the fact that I know such a thing would, of course, bring the region to a far more combustible situation." The past few years of Palestinian violence against Israel has been mostly characterized by Gaza-based rocket attacks as well as a spate of attacks in 2008 in which militants used bulldozers to plow into both civilian and security targets in Jerusalem. Though various claims and denials were issued for many of the incidents, the perpetrators of these attacks — likely deliberately — remained unclear.

The names of shadowy groups such as the "al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade-Imad Mughniyah" also began circulating, raising suspicions of a stronger Hezbollah — and by extension, Iranian — link to Palestinian militancy. (Imad Mughniyah, one of Hezbollah's most notorious commanders, was killed in February 2008 in Damascus.) The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades-Imad Mughniyah group claimed the March 11 West Bank attack, which Hamas denied. Palestinian Islamic Jihad's (PIJ) armed wing, the al-Quds Brigades, has meanwhile claimed responsibility for the recent rocket attacks launched from Gaza that targeted Ashkelon and Sderot. PIJ spokesman Abu Hamad said
March 23 prior to the Jerusalem bus bombing that his group intends to begin targeting cities deep within Israeli territory as it enters a "new phase of the resistance." This is notable, as PIJ, out of all the Palestinian militant groups, has the closest ties to Iran.

The wider regional context is pertinent to the building crisis in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Iran has been pursuing a covert destabilization campaign in the Persian Gulf region to undermine its Sunni Arab rivals, particularly in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis reacted swiftly to the threat with the deployment of troops to Bahrain and are now engaging in a variety of measures to try to suppress Shiite unrest within the kingdom itself. The fear remains, however, that Iran has retained a number of covert assets in the region that it can choose to activate at an opportune time. Iran opening another front in the Levant, using its already well-established links to Hezbollah in Lebanon and its developing links to Hamas and other players in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, remains a distinct possibility and islikely being discussed in the crisis meetings under way in Israel at this time.

(C) www.stratfor.com All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission

 

By George Friedman

Last week's events off the coast of Israel continue to resonate. Turkish-Israeli relations have not quite collapsed since then but are at their lowest level since Israel's founding. U.S.-Israeli tensions have emerged, and European hostility toward Israel continues to intensify. The question has now become whether substantial consequences will follow from the incident. Put differently, the question is whether and how it will be exploited beyond the arena of public opinion.

The most significant threat to Israel would, of course, be military. International criticism is not without significance, but nations do not change direction absent direct threats to their interests. But powers outside the region are unlikely to exert military power against Israel, and even significant economic or political sanctions are unlikely to happen. Apart from the desire of outside powers to limit their involvement, this is rooted in the fact that significant actions are unlikely from inside the region either.

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By Matthew Smith

The Israeli raid on the Gaza Aid Flotilla has once more brought Israel into the world headlines for all the wrong reasons. Events rapidly spiralled out of control when protestors aboard the Turkish owned MV Mavi Marmara attacked and disarmed a number of Israeli commandos who had been sent to commandeer the vessel. Whether through panic or being fired upon themselves, Israeli forces opened fire on protesters, resulting in nine dead. Footage of the boarding can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2duPV9MQIc&feature=related The intelligence failure that underestimated the severity of protestors' reaction will have major consequences. Had such a welcome been envisaged for the Israeli commandos, alternative means of subduing the protestors could have been used, avoiding this whole affair.

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By Fred Burton and Ben West

The assassination of senior Hamas militant leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on Jan. 19 is still generating a tremendous amount of discussion and speculation some six weeks after the fact. Dubai's police force has been steadily releasing new information almost on a daily basis, which has been driving the news cycle and keeping the story in the media spotlight. The most astounding release so far has been nearly 30 minutes of surveillance camera footage that depicts portions of a period spanning the arrival of the assassination team in Dubai, surveillance of al-Mabhouh, and the killing and the exfiltration of the team some 22 hours later.

By last count, Dubai police claim to have identified some 30 people suspected of involvement in the assassination; approximately 17 have been convincingly tied to the operation through video footage either as surveillants, managers or assassins, with the rest having only tenuous connections based on information released by the Dubai police. In any case, the operation certainly was elaborate and required the resources and planning of a highly organized agency, one most likely working for a nation-state.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

By far the biggest fiction in international affairs is the alleged centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian problem to achieving 'world peace' (which itself surely rates as the second biggest fraud). There is a widespread assumption in the West that resolving the disputes between the Israeli state and the Palestinian people who live on its border carries great importance. Indeed the peace process is usually seen as a key component – if not the key component – of winning the battle against Islamism by discrediting its narrative. The argument goes that the sight of Muslims being oppressed by non-Muslims (not oppressed per se, you will note) deeply antagonises the Islamic world; Muslims feel the need to take up arms, not only against Israel but the rest of us too. British government documentation appears to buy in to this. 'The pursuit of a final settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a top priority for the Foreign Secretary and the Government', David Miliband stated when at the FCO. And of course we are all familiar with the vision for 'two states, living side by side in peace and security'. Thus, peace between Israel and the Palestinians will allegedly give a huge boost to stability across the Middle East; Muslims around the world will be less sympathetic to 'extremism'; and we will all be on the road to peace.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

If the priorities of the leaders of Palestine – at first sight the victims of the crisis – and other Arabs are gesture and power-politics rather than peace, where does that leave the priorities of everyone else? Israel's adherence to the peace process and the 'need' to solve the issue is very similar: an elaborate fiction. Why does the problem of the Palestinians need to be solved so desperately? It doesn't. And Israel knows it. Rockets fired into Israel are certainly annoying, and demand retaliation. But, as described in Part I, the rockets are largely a gesture by Hamas, all part of the image of resisting the ghastly Zionists; the reality is that the terrorist threat on Israel's border is easily containable with occasional military incursions.

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By George Friedman

The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have agreed to engage in direct peace talks Sept. 2 in Washington. Neither side has expressed any enthusiasm about the talks. In part, this comes from the fact that entering any negotiations with enthusiasm weakens your bargaining position. But the deeper reason is simply that there have been so many peace talks between the two sides and so many failures that it is difficult for a rational person to see much hope in them. Moreover, the failures have not occurred for trivial reasons. They have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and outlooks of each side.

These particular talks are further flawed because of their origin. Neither side was eager for the talks. They are taking place because the United States wanted them. Indeed, in a certain sense, both sides are talking because they do not want to alienate the United States and because it is easier to talk and fail than it is to refuse to talk.

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