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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Arab League’

Kerry Betting on the Wrong Horses

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The Arab League foreign ministers who met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington last week were convinced that they had a mandate from the Palestinians to talk about possible land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Ahead of their departure to the U.S., the ministers had met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar, and discussed with him the land swap idea.

At the meeting, the Arab League decided to dispatch a high-level delegation to Washington to brief the U.S. Administration on the Arab position regarding the resumption of peace talks with Israel. Headed by Qatar’s Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, the delegation which met with Kerry also consisted of Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki.

Yet the Palestinians seemed to be surprised, following the meeting with Kerry, to hear the Qatari representative talk about possible land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority’s initial response was to issue a statement in English — not Arabic — voicing support for the land trade proposal. The statement said that this was an old idea that had been discussed in the past between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

But following strong condemnations from many Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority leadership took a step backwards.

First, the Palestinian Authority said that it was only prepared to discuss “minor” adjustments to the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Later, as the denunciations grew, the Palestinian Authority took yet another step backwards, saying it was opposed to making any “down payments” to Israel before the peace talks resumed.

In other words, the Palestinian Authority is not prepared to talk about any territorial concessions to Israel before the Israeli government accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.

Palestinian reactions to the land swap proposal seem to have angered Qatar and other Arab countries.

With the exception of a few Palestinian Authority officials, all Palestinian factions have come out strongly against the proposal. The anger has been directed especially against Qatar.

“Who gave the Qatari leaders the right to offer concessions to Israel on behalf of the Palestinians?” was the main charge leveled against the rulers in Doha.

Other Palestinians, including top members of Abbas’s Fatah faction, have also lashed out at the Arab ministers for “offering free concessions” to Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Although the Palestinian Authority leadership had in the past hinted that it would be willing to accept the land swap idea, it is now obvious that it would never be able to win the Palestinians’ support for such a proposal.

As leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups emphasized over the past few days, no Palestinian leader has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel.

Even worse, the Arab League proposal is being viewed by many Arabs and Palestinians as part of an “American-Zionist conspiracy” to force the Palestinians to accept Israeli “dictates.”

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -ed.] seem to have absorbed the message and are now back to demanding a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, which were never official borders.

For Kerry, who has taken it upon himself to try to resume the peace process, this is all bad news.

It is bad news that the Palestinian Authority still does not have the courage to tell the Palestinians that without some form of compromise there will never be real peace with Israel.

It is bad news because it has once again become clear that the Arab countries, including the wealthiest and most influential, have no influence on the Palestinians.

Judging from their reactions to the land swap idea, many Palestinians continue to despise the Arab regimes, accusing them of serving as pawns in the hands of the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. Administration needs to understand that the Arab League is an incompetent and ineffectual body that has long been ridiculed by most Arabs. This is a body that has never played an instrumental role in solving Arab crises such as the Lebanese Civil War, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

It now remains to be seen whether Kerry and President Barack Obama will ever notice that they are betting on the wrong horses. Neither the Arab League nor the Palestinian Authority leadership has a mandate to offer any concessions to Israel or recognize its right to exist.

Kerry Hosts ‘Peace Process Partner’ Livni to Advance PA Demands

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s de facto “peace process minister,” is in Washington for talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is fresh from winning a supposed “concession” from the Arab League for the American-sponsored peace process.

Kerry has come up with a proposal to adopt most of the Saudi 2002 Peace Initiative, which is virtually everything that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has demanded.

Kerry’s mission is to make a deal. Getting Israel and the Palestinian Authority to agree on the final status of an independent Arab country under the aegis of the Palestinian Authority would be a glorious triumph for Kerry, possibly the stepping stone to the White House in  2016.

To get there, he is taking the course of least resistance, meaning the Israeli government.

Enter his real peace partner, Tzipi Livni.

Prime Minister Netanyahu holds the portfolio of Foreign Minister until there is a court decision on whether Avigdor Lieberman is guilty of fraud or can return to his former post. In the meantime, Netanyahu hurriedly bought Livni’s tiny party of six Knesset Members into the government by granting her the responsibility for handling the American effort for Palestinian Authority peace talks, one of Livni’s pet hobbies.

She and Kerry have the same goal, a deal at any cost with the prize of international admiration.

He came away from a meeting with the Arab League last week and tried to sell Israel a bill of goods of the Great Concession: The Arab supposedly are prepared to amend the Saudi 2002 Peace Initiative and back “land swaps,” meaning Israel would have their approval for sovereignty over a small amount of the land that was restored to the country in the Six-Day War in 1967.

In return, Israel would fork over an equal amount of land that has been part of the country since 1948.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheik al-Thani, whose kingdom has been unusually aggressive in handing out fat checks to Hamas and is pouring money into Arab areas of Jerusalem as well as the Palestinian Authority, led the Arab League delegation.

He agreed that perhaps – maybe if this and maybe if that, and if Israel behaves – the League could agree to “minor” land swaps.

For Kerry, this was a big concession. He “broke” the back of the Arabs and all that is left for him to do is tell Israel it is the best thing for the country since felafel.

“The Arab League delegation affirmed … the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land,” he declared.

Of course, no one has any idea of what “minor” land swaps could mean, but you can rest your bottom dinar it does not mean that Israel would retain Gush Etzion. Maaleh Adumim? Maybe. Maybe not.

Perhaps the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramot, French Hill, Pisgat Ze’ev and Talpiot, among others? Could be.

And Gilo? Probably not.

It does not matter now. The most important thing for Kerry and Livni, his one-woman Israeli government fan club, is to talk it up. It does not matter to them that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal already has rejected the idea. But they can take of him later and drop Hamas from the list of outlawed terrorist organizations, make it a legal terrorist group, and everything will be just fine.

Livni said the Qatari prime minister’s grand concession of possibly, just maybe, agreeing to a  minor land swap was “very positive news.”

And what would land would Israel give up in this “minor” swap. Most likely, enough land to link Gaza with Judea and Samaria.

Of course there is one not so minor point that Kerry has forgotten. Actually, he has not forgotten because the State Dept. does not know any better.

What Israeli Arab in his right mind would give up all the benefits and security he gets from the Israeli government and become subjects of the Palestinian Authority in order to help Kerry’s political career?

Why the ‘Arab Peace Initiative’ is a Scam

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

There’s something very strange about this alleged new Arab League peace initiative and I find no serious addressing of these issues in the media coverage. A step toward efforts by Arab states to move toward proposing a possible peace with Israel is a good thing. Especially touted is an idea, mentioned by Qatar’s representative at the Washington meeting, to accept an agreement that small border modifications could be made to the pre-1967 lines.

Here’s how the Associated Press reported on this, with the headline, “Arab League sweetens Israel-Palestinian peace plan“:

The Arab League’s decision to sweeten its decade-old proposal offering comprehensive peace with Israel has placed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bind and swiftly exposed fissures in his new government.

In other words, you’d have to be a fool or a knave to reject this deal and the issue has divided Israel’s government. Yet chief negotiator Tzipi Livni was right to have reacted positively to the proposal and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be right to ultimately reject it.

After all, there are a lot of unaddressed points in the coverage that make me strongly suspect that this is a public relations’ stunt to convince America and Western opinion that the Arab states want peace with Israel when not all of them do so.

And that’s one of the key questions. At the meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry there were representatives of the Arab League, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority.

But Arab League bureaucrats can’t agree on anything. Only a vote of the Arab League’s almost two dozen members can establish an official position. So this was not an Arab League plan at all. To represent it as an official Arab position is, then, untrue.

Indeed, we already know that the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) opposes this formula. At any rate, the United States cannot even get the P.A. to negotiate with Israel and yet fantasies of comprehensive peace are spread around by it. The mass media is cooperating in this theme, seeking to make Kerry look good at least.

Then there is the list of countries involved. I have no difficulty in believing that the governments of Bahrain, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are ready for a deal. Jordan has already made peace; Saudi Arabia proposed a reasonable offer a decade ago a decade ago (before it was sharply revised by hardliners before becoming an official Arab League position), and Bahrain’s regime is desperately afraid of Iran and has become a semi-satellite of the Saudis.

But what about the other three countries? Are we to believe that the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt, the Hizballah-dominated regime in Lebanon, and the quirky but pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood regime in Qatar have suddenly reversed everything that they have been saying in order to seek a compromise peace with Israel? Highly doubtful to say the least.

In other words, the reportage ignored the interesting detail about the three most radical regimes (Qatar’s regional policy is radical; not its domestic policies) suddenly making a concession to Israel that had been previously unthinkable? It’s sort of like taking for granted, say, Joseph Stalin’s supposed embrace of capitalism or France’s rulers proclaiming that American culture is far superior to their own.

And let’s also remember the radical forces not present. The Syrian rebels will be holding the Arab League seat are dominated by Islamists. Hamas itself, which governs the Gaza Strip, will refuse to abide by any such agreement. Remember that this group represents at least one-third of Palestinians and perhaps a plurality over Fatah, which governs the P.A. Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated leadership have even written into the country’s new constitution that it can never make peace with Israel!.

Finally, there is a curious lack of mention over the demand, enshrined in the previous “Arab Peace Initiative” about what is called the “right of return.” Namely, to satisfy P.A. demands Israel would have to accept the immigration of hundreds of thousands of passionately anti-Israel Palestinians who had lived in the country 60 years ago (or their descendants) and who have been fighting all that time to wipe Israel off the map.

How the Palestinians Tried to Scare Israeli Voters

Monday, January 28th, 2013

The Palestinian Authority either does not know what it wants from the Israelis or is too afraid to admit that it does not have a mandate to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

When left-wing parties and candidates were in power, the Palestinian Authority leadership missed several opportunities to reach a peace agreement with Israel.

This happened at least twice during the past 13 years — first, when then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak made a generous offer to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit and later when Ehud Olmert offered even more during his term in office.

So, the Palestinian Authority leadership first misses opportunities to reach agreements with left-wing and centrist parties. Then, when the right-wing comes to power, the Palestinian Authority starts complaining that there is no peace partner in Israel and calls on Israelis not to vote for Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinian Authority’s constant refusal to sign a peace treaty with Israel has undermined the left-wing in Israel, driving many Israelis towards right-wing parties such as Likud Beiteinu and Bayit Yehudi.

It does not really matter who is in power in Israel: no Palestinian leader has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel, let alone sign a peace treaty.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knows this very well and that is why he will keep coming up with excuses to avoid signing a peace treaty with Israel, regardless of who is in control of the Israeli government.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has felt free all these years to meddle in the internal affairs of Israel.

In the past few weeks, the Palestinian Authority has, both directly and indirectly, urged Israelis not to vote for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and right-wing parties.

The Palestinian Authority’s argument has been along the lines of ‘a vote for Netanyahu is a vote against peace and the two-state solution.’

In a bid to scare the Israeli public, Palestinian officials invited journalists to Ramallah to send a warning message to Israeli voters.

“A vote for Netanyahu is a vote for war and racism,” warned Jibril Rajoub, a top Fatah official and former security commander of the Palestinian Authority.

But while Rajoub and other Palestinian officials and spokesmen were trying to scare Israelis not to vote for right-wing parties, the Palestinian Authority’s spokesmen were issuing statements emphasizing that Palestinians do not meddle in the internal affairs of Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas, who in private meetings has also expressed concern over the re-election of Netanyahu, publicly stated that the Palestinians would “honor” the choice of Israeli voters regardless of who heads the next government.

In yet another sign of Abbas’s effort to impact the outcome of the elections, he held a number of meetings in his office with representatives of various left-wing and Arab parties, including Meretz.

Even Hamas representatives have tried in the past few weeks to impact Israeli voters by talking about the “dangers” of the rise of right-wing parties to power in Israel.

But the Palestinians were not the only ones who had tried to scare Israeli voters.

On the eve of the vote, the Arab league, in an unprecedented move, issued a call to Arab citizens of Israel to “turn out in droves for the elections.”

Employing the same argument used by the Palestinians, the Arab League justified its call by claiming that there were “initial indications” that the right wing in Israel “does not want peace.”

In fact, Palestinian and Arab meddling in the internal affairs of Israel have played into the hands of Netanyahu and his political allies. When Israelis see and hear Palestinian and Arab officials calling on them not to vote for Netanyahu or a specific party, they are most likely inclined to do the exact opposite.

Finally, instead of meddling in the internal affairs of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas should be seeking ways of implementing major reforms in the Palestinian Authority and preparing his people for new elections.

But Abbas is afraid of holding new presidential and parliamentary elections because he knows very well that Hamas would easily win. Abbas has no choice but to return to the negotiating table with Israel, regardless of who heads the new government.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Rep: Arab League Will Support PA if Israel Halts Tax Payments

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Arab nations will pay the Palestinian Authority  $100 million a month if Israel stops monthly tax payments to the group in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

Erekat made the statements on Saturday in Doha, Qatar during a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

Despite the statement of support, the overwhelming majority of aid to the Palestinian Authority comes from the United States, the European Union, and other Western organizations and donors.  Only 22 percent of the payments received in 2010 to the PA came from Arab donors.

J.E. Dyer: Syria – Going, going, gone?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

It’s not clear how much longer the US will have discretion in what – if anything – to do about Syria.  While the Obama administration pesters Russia and China in the UN, Russia and China are shuttling diplomats around the Arab world, coming up with separate plans.  The Syria crisis has become as much about a contest for leadership between East and West as it is about the terrible death toll in Syria – and there is little time left for the West to act decisively.

Clearly divided global leaders

The confrontations in the UN have been emblematic of the Asian-Atlantic divide over Syria, but perhaps not as much as a less-publicized sequence of events.  In the hours after Russia and China vetoed the Western-sponsored UN resolution in February, Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the “Friends of Syria” vehicle for coordinating international action.  The US and Turkey quickly joined forces on the Friends of Syria effort, and a first meeting was scheduled for 24 February in Tunisia.

Russia and China both declined to participate.  And their non-participation has taken the form of competing efforts to put a plan together to resolve the Syrian crisis.  On 10 March, at a meeting in Cairo – shortly before this week’s UN confrontation with the US – Russia and the Arab League announced a set of agreed principles for ending the conflict.  One of those principles is that both sides – the Assad regime and the insurgents – must lay down their arms.  Russia will not buy into any proposal that has Assad’s forces observing a unilateral ceasefire.

The Arab League’s agreement on Russia’s “five principles” is a milestone in the effort to get some kind of coalescence around a way forward.  Arab League agreement is not universal; it won’t surprise Middle East-watchers that Qatar – home of Muslim Brotherhood leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi and recent host of the anti-Israel “Jerusalem conference” – called last week for a military solution in Syria, with Arab troops in the lead.  But the Arab League agreement with Russia tends to highlight Qatar as an outlier in that regard.

It appears that Qatar is hoping to urge the West to intervene in Syria, in combination with military forces from Arab partners; i.e., replicate the action in Libya last year.  From a Muslim Brotherhood standpoint, wresting Libya from Qadhafi opened the country up to shariazation.  But the Arab League as a whole is publicly agreeing with Russia rather than backing Qatar’s play.  (And this in spite of Arab League participation in the Friends of Syria meeting in Tunisia.)

China chimed in a few hours ago with supportive comments about the Russia-Arab League agreement.  (Beijing has also gone Russia one better with a six-point plan.)  The Chinese had an envoy in Syria last week talking to both the Assad government and the insurgents in an effort to broker a ceasefire, and they are dispatching diplomats around the region to “explain China’s position” and affirm the need for a political solution.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to host the second Friends of Syria meeting on 2 April.  (The dilatory schedule mimics the US-EU approach to Libya in 2011.)  Nothing much came out of the first one, and the second meeting is already haunted by the report – denied by Turkish authorities – that Sarkozy had not been invited to it because of the recent French resolution condemning the World War I-era slaughter of Armenians as a genocide.

The lack of momentum for Western-brokered proposals is a serious problem.  While it would be too much to say that the Russia-Arab League agreement has momentum at this point, it would also be too much to say that anything put forward by the West is a credible challenge to it.  The Arab League doesn’t have the unity to deal with Syria by itself, and has been looking for a strong horse to run with.  There is no guarantee at this point that the strong horse will be the US and EU.

Turkish press opined this weekend that the reelection of Vladimir Putin would induce a notable warming trend in Russian-Turkish relations.  Putin is a personal friend of President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan; this prediction is solid, although of course it will not eliminate all of the natural sources of friction between the two nations.  What it may well do, however, is change the dynamic in which Turkey has found it convenient to throw in with the US on the Syria problem.

If the US is not going to back decisive action in Syria, Turkey may quietly migrate to an accord with Russia on ending the conflict  (If Ankara can present this as Russia migrating toward Turkey, so much the better for Erdogan; but Moscow has the agreement in hand with the Arab League.).  What we may count on with both Turkey and Russia is a desire to wield the primary influence over the process of establishing a new government in Syria.  With the current US administration, the utility of the United States as a patron for this Turkish purpose may not be as great as that of Russia.

Syria: US drones, Iranian warships

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Because there is no international security problem that can’t be ameliorated with drones, the Obama administration has deployed its platform of choice to perform reconnaissance over Syria.

We’ll get to the Iranian warships.  The drones – according to Pentagon officials, a “good number” of them – are reportedly being used to collect information on Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on his people.  They will provide supporting evidence to justify an international intervention in Syria.  The US officials say the intelligence collection is not a precursor to military operations in Syria.

The US has actually done this before.  During the gruesome internal conflict in Rwanda (back in the Clinton administration), when Hutus were massacring Tutsis, the US dispatched military reconnaissance aircraft to collect intelligence on the fighting.  We have also, of course, operated drones over Somalia and Yemen at various times in the last decade, both to collect intelligence and to target terrorists.  But in Syria, the interested parties include Russia, Iran, China, and a collection of Islamist groups.

The US administration’s interlocutors are not wrong to wonder if sending in the drones is a preparatory measure for sending in troops to intervene: the intelligence collected by tactical drones is more immediate, dynamic, and ephemeral than that gathered by standoff collection assets.  If you want to know what Assad’s overall posture is, you use the standoff assets; if you want to know what his forces are doing on a moment-to-moment basis, you use operational-level (e.g., Predator) or tactical drones.  (If there are a “good number” of drones being used, most of them have to be operational or tactical drones – and are probably Predator operational-level drones, with good range and altitude.)

Meanwhile, as if on cue, the Iranian warships that stopped in Jeddah earlier this month have transited the Suez Canal – without any prior brouhaha in the press – and arrived in Syria.  They are in Syria exactly a year after their last visit, and presumably will offload weapons and/or ammunition from the supply ship Kharg, which is accompanying the Iranian destroyer.  Reporting from a Syrian defector (see last link) indicated that last year’s Iranian naval task force delivered weapons and ammunition to the Assad regime.

The ships’ arrival makes Iran the third foreign government that has been able, without hindrance, to enter a Syrian port and offload whatever it wants, in spite of the sanctions being imposed on the Assad regime.  Hugo Chavez has delivered diesel fuel to Syria since the sanctions were imposed, and Russia, besides sending her carrier task force to Syria during its recent deployment, used a commercial cargo ship to deliver arms to Syria in January.  The sanctions thus look pretty perfunctory (not to mention perforable).

Could a US drone be shot down over Syria?  Yes, the capability is there.  I don’t assess that Assad wants to do anything so provocative, and Russia – the supplier (and very possibly the current operator) of anti-air missiles in Syria – will want to keep things calm as long as possible.  But drones watching Syria will inevitably end up watching Russian forces there, and at a certain point Russia may well find that intolerable. If a combination of Assad’s and Moscow’s preferences should cause them to want to exclude the drones, the question will really be whether anyone thinks President Obama would retaliate for a drone shoot-down or two.

There are too many variables in this situation to predict narrowly which direction things will go.  The reason for that is largely that the Obama administration’s policy is to avoid securing an outcome with the use of US power.  If the US will not seek a particular outcome, we will be consigned to waiting on others to do so.  There are many players, and numerous potential reactions.  The permutations of hostility and resistance along the way are endless.

What should the US do?  Our first principle should be that Assad must go, but that principle can’t stand on its own. It would not be better to have a new government of Islamist radicals than to have Assad in power.  It matters who takes over, and how.

A key problem, however, is that we have put our chips on Muslim Brotherhood groups and the brokerage of the Erdogan government in Turkey.  That is a very bad policy move, one guaranteed to generate enemies (Russia, China, Iran) for our non-policy policy while giving nations like Saudi Arabia less reason to endorse our activities.  We can’t make the Muslim Brotherhood good for the Middle East by throwing our weight behind it.

Doing so is, in fact, wasting and diluting the power we still have.  If the US policy were to fence in and discourage the Muslim Brotherhood, while bolstering liberalizing elements instead — elements that exist in every nation of the Middle East – we would make it more desirable for a nation like Russia to cooperate with us on the Syria problem.  Russia is the one nation that could directly help us to get rid of Assad; if one of our top objectives were to ensure that the follow-on government was not taken over by Islamists, we and Moscow would have that key objective in common.

Arab League, Western Nations to Seek Another UN Resolution on Syria

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Arab League states are partnering with western nations again to draw up a resolution on the Syrian unrest, which is to be debated and voted on in the General Assembly this week.

The resolution, aimed at maintaining the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, is very similar to the resolution that Russia and China vetoed just over a week ago. Though General Assembly resolutions carry less significance, they can’t be vetoed.

Foreign ministers from the Arab League states also urged the formation and dispatch of a joint UN-Arab peacekeeping mission to Syria. In response, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “stressed that action on the specific requests of the League will be a matter for the Security Council to consider.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/arab-league-western-nations-to-seek-another-un-resolution-on-syria/2012/02/13/

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