Saturday, February 15, 2014

Abbas Shuts Down the Peace Process

From Commentary Magazine, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2014, by Tom Wilson:

Last week, Jonathan Tobin wrote here of how we were on the eve of a fourth Palestinian “no” to a peace agreement. It would appear that has now arrived, albeit slightly sooner than anyone had expected. Many observers assumed that once Secretary of State John Kerry got around to submitting his framework for a negotiated peace, Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas would then set about finding an excuse for rejecting it. What few could have predicted was that Abbas would find a way to reject the proposal before it was even submitted. Yet, this is precisely the impressive feat that Abbas has now accomplished.

Earlier today, Abbas’s spokespeople in Ramallah announced the PA’s new set of red lines in any negotiated peace settlement. Each and every one of these red lines blows to pieces anything Kerry was about to propose, as it does to the prospects for an agreement between the two sides in general. These red lines which Abbas details in a letter being sent to the U.S. and the Quartet seamlessly preempts whatever Kerry was likely to outline in his own peace parameters. In this way Abbas artfully dodges a scenario in which the Israelis would agree to a peace plan and the Palestinians would come under pressure not to derail yet another effort to resolve the conflict.

Abbas’s new red lines block just about every concession that the Israelis, and even the U.S., have requested.

 Abbas demands: a total Israeli withdrawal from all territories that went to Israel in 1967; that Israel complete that withdrawal within three to four years; that the Palestinians not be required to recognize the Jewish state; that east Jerusalem be specified as the capital of a Palestinian state; the release of all Palestinian prisoners; and resolving the refugee issue along the lines of UN General Assembly resolution 194, which in essence means sending those Palestinians claiming to be refugees, not to a Palestinian state, but to Israel, thus terminating the existence of the Jewish state Abbas refuses to recognize.

“Without these principles there can be no just and comprehensive peace in the region,” stated Abbas’s spokesman Abu Rudeineh. So it seems we can now bid farewell to Kerry’s rather shambolic efforts for reaching a negotiated peace, much of which have been marred by the trading of insults and accusations between the State Department and Israeli politicians, all the while with the EU standing on the sidelines, issuing threats about the repercussions for Israel should talks fail. In fact, earlier today EU parliamentary president Martin Shulz was in Israel’s Knesset lecturing Israelis (in German) on making “painful concessions for peace,” bemoaning the hardships he accused Israel of having inflicted on the Palestinians.  

Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, recently suggested that on the matter of the Palestinians accepting the Jewish state we might be in for a surprise. As it turned out, we weren’t. No one will be surprised by this rejection from the Palestinians, even if its early timing will have caught some a little off-guard. Even President Obama, who had been speaking of Kerry’s framework having a less than 50 percent likelihood of success, won’t be surprised when he receives Abbas’s letter. And Kerry, who was seeing all of this unfold close-up, surely won’t be able to claim to be surprised either.

As it was, the State Department was increasingly looking like it was about to try strong-arming the Israelis into accepting a framework, even on such unacceptable matters as a full Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan valley. Kerry was beginning to issue thinly veiled threats to the Israelis about what might become of Israel should it not find a way to appease Palestinian demands. There were also rumors that the State Department was trying to get the White House to back efforts to pressure the Israelis into accepting a deal even less to Israel’s liking than the one it originally seemed Kerry was about to come up with. Now, presumably, Prime Minister Netanyahu won’t have to worry about being asked to accept parameters that no Israeli leader could be expected to inflict on their people. Instead, Abbas has most likely deflected that whole unpleasant business.

What remains to be seen is how the EU, the State Department, J Street, the boycotters, the writers ofHaaretz and the New York Times, and indeed Abbas himself will manage to pin this whole debacle on Israel and Netanyahu.    

Tom Wilson




Friday, February 14, 2014

Jewish refugees from Arab lands seek compensation

From McClatchy-Tribune News Service, February 12, 2014, by BEN BARBER* (

U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks have suddenly focused on the long-ignored escape of more than 700,000 Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Middle East to safety in Israel since 1948.

While the 700,000 Palestinian refugees who left Israel since 1948 have been cared for by U.N. programs in camps from Gaza to Damascus, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands have never won U.N. support or obtained restitution of their properties left behind.

A senior U.S. State Department official told Jewish leaders in January that the draft peace "framework" would include compensation for the Jews who fled Arab lands, the New York Times reported.

These Jewish communities had been deeply rooted for centuries: in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq; they predated the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

Indeed, in 1965, before the Jewish flight took place, I first visited the Moroccan Jewish neighborhoods known as the "mellahs" in Rabat and in Marrakesh. I met Jews wearing traditional gelaba cloaks and yellow Moroccan slippers. Some spoke little Arabic or French but still spoke the Berber language that predates the Arab conquest.

During my visit back then, I shared the Passover seder meal with Rabat Rabbi David Cohen and learned that many Jews were quietly seeking to leave and head to France or Israel.

At that time, King Hassan II wanted the 300,000 Moroccan Jews to stay put and he sent his son, now King Mohammad Sixth, to a synagogue on the Jewish New Year to convey the royal family regards.

But after Jewish forces routed Arab armies in the 1948 war for independence, and then in 1955 wrested the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, anti-Jewish sentiment spread. Already in 1965 the Moroccan synagogues no longer had any marker or mezuzah in front. Jews quietly left their homes and businesses and took small boats across the Mediterranean to escape.

After the 1967 victory by Israel over Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the Six-Day War, anti-Jewish riots and pogroms took place across the Arab world. The floodgates of refugee flight had opened and rulers from Cairo to Baghdad arranged for Jews to sign away their land, homes, businesses and other property before leaving.

In Basra, Iraq, in 2003, I noticed some curious adjoined housing along a canal and was told "that's where the Jews lived for 400 years" before they vanished from Iraq, mostly ending up in Israel after 1967. Only one Jew remained in that ancient city. On my flight out of Iraq I sat next to a Christian clergyman who told me he was helping to provide food and medicine for the last Jew in the city - an elderly Jewish woman.

The treatment of the two refugee communities has been markedly different and the suggestion that someone - U.S., UN, EU or perhaps multinational banks - might propose compensation to the Jews is remarkable.

Jewish refugees from Arab lands had a tough time at first in Israel. They faced discrimination by the Jews from Europe who founded the state and considered European culture and intellect superior to the "Oriental" Jews.

Many of the Jews from Arab lands were sent to live in barracks in the desert and build new towns far from the comforts and educational advantages of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The bleak settlements they lived in were a far cry from the ancient stone pathways and palm trees of their North African cities and towns. But they were free to educate their children, find work where they wanted and become full members of Israel's society and economy.

On the other hand, the 700,000 Palestinian refugees who fled Israel were kept in camps. Arab leaders decided to maintain them as refugees to pressure Israel. Fedayeen killers were recruited and trained in the camps for attacks inside Israel. Life was bleak in Palestinian refugee camps and hatred of Jews was the unifying truth. Instead of letting the Palestinian refugees settle in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt - where local people spoke the same language and shared the Muslim faith - the Palestinians were barred from adopting local citizenship and escaping their refugee status.

The United States has been the largest donor to the enormous expense - nearly $1 billion in 2013 - of caring for 4.8 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants. After the U.S. came nine European countries. The Islamic Development Bank was 10th largest donor and Saudi Arabia 15th.

I asked a prominent Lebanese leader a few years ago, "Why not let the 300,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon out of the camps and let them become citizens?"

"Never," he said. "They must not be part of our balance of communities. They must go back to Israel."

However Israelis of all political persuasion agree on one thing: not to accept millions of refugees bred to hate Israel and Jews.

So the new plan being crafted by Secretary of State John Kerry and his team calls for:

-Arab refugees would "return" but not to Israel. They could resettle in the new Palestinian state on the West Bank and would receive compensation.

-Jewish refugees from Arab lands would get some compensation for their lost property.

The very fact that the peace framework mentions that Jewish refugees from Arab lands are entitled to some form of compensation may do a lot to get support for a two-state solution - Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace - from hawkish Sephardic Jews and their descendants who left behind billions in property.

But it remained unclear who would provide the compensation and how much it would amount to.


Ben Barber has covered the Middle East for 30 years for the Baltimore Sun, London Observer, Toronto Globe and Mail and other publications.


Myths and Facts in Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict

From BESA, 14 Feb 2013:



New BESA Center Study: Myths and Facts in Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict


A study by Prof. Haim Gvirtzman, based on newly-released statistical information, has just been published (18.1.2012) by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. The study refutes once and for all Palestinian claims that Israel is denying West Bank Palestinians water rights negotiated under the Oslo Accords or preventing Palestinian growth by restricting water supply. The study also proposes a practical plan for Israeli-Palestinian water sharing into the future.


In the first-of-its-kind study published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, hydrologist Prof. Haim Gvirtzman of the Institute of Earth Sciences at the Hebrew University examines Palestinian arguments against Israel by presenting detailed information about water supply systems presently serving Israelis and Palestinians and discussing international law. Gvirtzman shows that the Palestinians have little basis for their water demands. In fact, the data brought to light by Gvirtzman for the first time shows that currently there is almost no difference in per-capita consumption of natural water between Israelis and Palestinians.


Gvirtzman relies on previously classified data, recently released for publication by the Israeli Water Authority – 15 years after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement in this regard.


The Palestinian Authority claims that it suffers from water shortages in its towns and villages due to the Israeli occupation and it cites international law in support of its claims. PA claims amount to more than 700 million cubic meters (MCM) of water per year, including rights over the groundwater reservoir of the Mountain Aquifer, water rights in the Gaza Strip Coastal Aquifer and the Jordan River. These demands amount to more than 50 percent of the total natural water available between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.


But contrary to Palestinian claims, Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the agreements it signed in 1995 with the Palestinian Authority, and in fact has exceeded them. The PA currently consumes 200 MCM of water every year (with Israel providing about 50 MCM of this) – which, under the accords, is more than Israel it supposed to provide a full-fledged Palestinian state under a final settlement arrangement!


Gvirtzman shows that large difference in water usage that existed in 1967, when the administration of Judea and Samaria was handed over from Jordan to Israel, has been reduced over the last 40 years and is now negligible. As well, the per capita domestic water consumption of the Palestinians is significantly higher than the minimum human needs defined by the World Health Organization.


In contrast, the Palestinians have violated their part of the agreement drilling over 250 unauthorized wells, which draw about 15 MCM a year of water, and connecting these pirate wells to its electricity grid. Moreover, the PA has illegally and surreptitiously connected itself in many places to the water lines of Israel's Mekorot National Water Company – stealing Israel's water.


Palestinian famers also wildly overwater their crops through old-fashioned, wasteful flooding methods. Gvirtzman says that at least a third of the water being pumped out the ground by the Palestinians (again, in violation of their accords with Israel) is wasted through leakage and mismanagement. No recycling of water takes place and no treated water is used for agriculture.


In fact, 95 percent of the 56 million cubic meters of sewage produced by the Palestinians each year is not treated at all. Only one sewage plant has been built in the West Bank in the last 15 years, despite there being a $500 international donor fund available for this purpose. “The Palestinians refuse to build sewage treatment plants,” Gvirtzman says. “The PA is neither judicious nor neighborly in its water usage and sewage management.”


Gvirtzman further shows that the Palestinians have little basis for their water demands according to international legal norms. First, the signed water agreement overrules all other parameters. Second, Israel's historical possession of the Mountain Aquifer was established in the 1940s. Third, the Palestinians should not exploit groundwater from the Western Aquifer, which is fully utilized by Israel, before first exploiting groundwater from the non-utilized Eastern Aquifer.


Finally, the Palestinians should be preventing leaks in domestic pipelines, implementing conservative irrigation techniques, and reusing sewage water as irrigation. The fact that they have taken none of these steps and have not adopted any sustainable development practices precludes their demands for additional water from Israel.


Israel believes that the water issue could be transformed from a source of controversy and tension to a source of understanding and cooperation. Gvirtzman’s study puts forth a plan that can efficiently and quickly solve the current and future water shortages on both sides. The proposed plan, based on sustainable development and advanced technologies, would supply the sufficient quantity of water needed at least until 2030 and still leave some reserves.


Prof. Gvirztman’s study on water issues was first presented as part of a fall 2011 conference at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University on the “Threat of Agro-Terrorism,” held in cooperation with the Counter Agro-Terrorism Research Center (CATRC) of Israel.



Link to the Full Study:




Monday, February 10, 2014

The Boycott Mirage

US Secretary of State John Kerry is warning that Israel faces economic embargoes if a US-drafted framework agreement with the Palestinians fails to go forward. 

While the merits of the current American diplomatic initiative are debatable, Kerry's warnings clearly have a deleterious effect: 

  • they feed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign being waged by Israel's enemies, and 
  • create the false impression that this campaign is a significant threat to Israel.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The fabricated Palestinian history

From Israel Hayom, 7 Feb 2014, by Nadav Shragai:

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who this past week claimed Palestinian lineage to the Canaanites, is not the first Palestinian to reinvent history • A study of history shows that the roots of present-day Palestinians lie far from here.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
Photo credit: AP
Palestinians in today's Ramallah
Photo credit: Ziv Koren
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat
Photo credit: AP