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    Thursday
    Dec102009

    Swedish meatballs-Israel's response by Dore Gold

          
    • According to the 1993 Oslo Agreements, Jerusalem is one of the issues to be discussed in future permanent status negotiations. The Swedish move to have the European foreign ministers back a declaration recognizing eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state clearly pre-judges the outcome of those talks.
    • When the EU foreign ministers met on December 8, they issued a statement that only partly softened the Swedish draft. It dropped the reference to the Palestinian state being comprised of "the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital," but still retained a proposal that envisions "Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."
    • The EU statement insisted that the EU "will not recognize any changes in the pre-1967 borders" without the agreement of the parties. Yet by enshrining the 1967 lines as a previous political border, the EU was ignoring that these were only armistice lines and not a recognized international boundary. In fact, it was UN Security Council Resolution 242 which acknowledged that the pre-1967 lines might change.
    • By waving the carrot of a statement of support for eastern Jerusalem to be part of a Palestinian state, the Swedes are causing Mahmoud Abbas' advisors to believe that if they avoid bilateral negotiations with Israel, they can create the political environment for third party intervention to their advantage.
    • What is needed is an ongoing Israeli diplomatic effort for Jerusalem, underlining Israel's legal rights and its role as the protector of the holy sites. Unfortunately, European states, which once sought to protect the holy sites of Christianity in Jerusalem, today appear to be oblivious to what would happen to their churches were the Old City of Jerusalem to be given to a Palestinian regime under the influence of Hamas.

     

    In December 2009, the last month that Sweden held the rotating presidency of the 27-nation European Union, Stockholm undertook an initiative to have the European foreign ministers back a declaration recognizing eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. According to the 1993 Oslo Agreements, Jerusalem is one of the issues to be discussed in future permanent status negotiations; the Swedish move clearly pre-judges the outcome of those talks.

    There were two extremely problematic clauses in the Swedish draft:

    • "The European Union calls for the urgent resumption of negotiations that will lead, within an agreed time-frame, to a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza and with East Jerusalem as its capital[emphasis added]" (Paragraph 1).
    • "The Council recalls that it has never recognized the annexation of East Jerusalem. If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the capital of two states" (Paragraph 7).1

    To make matters worse, the draft document added a European "commitment to support further efforts and steps towards Palestinian statehood and to be able, at the appropriate time, to recognize a Palestinian state." By not making the European offer of recognition contingent upon a negotiated outcome, this phraseology will only encourage the Palestinian leadership to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state.

    The Swedish proposal was initially backed by Great Britain, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Malta.

    When the EU foreign ministers met on December 8, they issued a statement that only partly softened the Swedish draft by modifying the first of the two problematic clauses but leaving the second clause intact. In Paragraph 1 they dropped the reference to the Palestinian state being comprised of "the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital." But the EU statement still retained the proposal that envisioned "Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."2 It also insisted that the EU "will not recognize any changes in the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem," without the agreement of the parties. By enshrining the 1967 lines as a previous political border, the EU was ignoring that these were only armistice lines and not a recognized international boundary. In fact, it was UN Security Council Resolution 242 which acknowledged that the pre-1967 lines might change; not surprisingly, the EU made no explicit reference to that resolution. From the Israeli perspective, while the EU statement still fundamentally contradicted Israeli policy on Jerusalem, which called for keeping the city united, at least the EU statement was consistent with past EU policy declarations on Jerusalem and did not contain language that went further, as did the Swedish draft.

    In both the Swedish draft and the final EU statement, agreement over the future of Jerusalem is to be reached through negotiations, though this point is somewhat strengthened in the final EU version. Apparently, the U.S. government was particularly concerned with this very point. On December 8, 2009, U.S. State Department Spokesman Phillip Crowley stressed: "We are aware of the EU statement, but our position on Jerusalem is clear. And we believe that as a final status issue, this is best addressed inside a formal negotiation among the parties directly." Clearly, Washington took issue with the remaining ambiguities contained in the EU statement and how the Palestinians might interpret them to support an option of unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

     

    The Record of Recent European Intervention on the Issue of Jerusalem

    The Swedish initiative is not the first time Israel has heard Europe publically doubting its standing in its capital. Ten years ago, on May 4, 1999, the five-year Oslo Interim Agreement was about to come to an end and the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, was considering a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. As the date drew near, Palestinian leaders debated whether they should unilaterally declare a Palestinian state and what should be its borders. Abu Ala, one of the Palestinian architects of the Oslo Agreements, wrote in the Palestinian daily al-Hayat al-Jadida on December 21, 1998, that the basis of a Palestinian state had already been established, namely, the borders set in the 1947 Partition Plan - UN General Assembly Resolution 181.

    According to Resolution 181, all of Jerusalem was supposed to be an international entity for ten years under UN administration, at which time its residents could vote on whether to be incorporated into the Jewish state or the Arab state that the resolution proposed. The international entity was called in Latin a "corpus separatum" - or separate entity. On March 1, 1999, Germany held the rotating presidency of the European Union and its ambassador in Israel sent what is called a note verbale to the Israeli Foreign Ministry which stated that the EU "reaffirms its known position concerning the specific status of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum." Abu Ala celebrated the EU paper, declaring that according to the EU, both western and eastern Jerusalem were "under occupation."

    Historically, Resolution 181 had been overtaken by events. Subsequent UN resolutions increasingly made reference to the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Moreover, during the 1948 War, Jerusalem came under attack by at least three Arab armies. It was evident that the UN had failed to implement its own resolution and the internationalized corpus separatum it proposed. Jerusalem was defended by the nascent Israel Defense Forces - not by the UN. As a result, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared that Israel regarded Resolution 181's references to Jerusalem to be "null and void," and that remained the position of subsequent Israeli governments.

    Irresponsible European diplomacy only radicalized the Palestinian position back in 1999. Arafat started a campaign to obtain international recognition of Resolution 181 as the basis for Palestinian statehood, replacing any reference to Resolution 242. Arafat visited the UN in March 1999 to advance this idea. While he was still in New York, the PLO observer at the UN, Nasser al-Kidwa, sent a letter to Secretary General Kofi Annan and all UN members which stated: "Israel must still explain to the international community the measures it took illegally to extend its laws and regulations to the territory it occupied in the war of 1948, beyond the territory allocated to the Jewish state in Resolution 181."3 Effective Israeli diplomacy in 1999 caused the PLO to retreat from its Resolution 181 campaign and its plan to unilaterally declare a state at that time. But what was demonstrated was that rather than narrowing the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians, the Europeans succeeded only in widening them.

     

    Implications for Future Peace Negotiations

    The Europeans have been making troubling statements on Jerusalem since the 1980 Venice Declaration, which rejected unilateral Israeli steps to reunify the city after 1967. But since 2002, they have had a new responsibility as members of the Quartet - along with the U.S., Russia, and the UN Secretariat - to help assist the parties in reaching a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt knows that in the November 9, 2008, Quartet statement, the Quartet members agreed to the principle that "third parties should not intervene in bilateral negotiations."

    By waving the carrot of a statement of support for eastern Jerusalem to be part of a Palestinian state, the Swedes are causing Mahmoud Abbas' advisors to believe that if they avoid bilateral negotiations with Israel, they can create the political environment for third party intervention to their advantage. The Swedes have reduced the incentive for Abbas to return to any negotiations with Israel. Moreover, by violating a Quartet principle, the Swedes undermine European credibility with Israel: Who needs the Quartet if its members do not live up to their obligations?

    The impact of the Swedish initiative on future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has some similarity to what happened with the EU in 1999: rather than make negotiations easier, here a European initiative only makes them harder and encourages Palestinian unilateralism. Presently, it is well known that the Obama administration's insistence on a settlement freeze has caused Abbas to make a settlement freeze a precondition to the renewal of negotiations, one that never existed previously. Israel rightfully rejects the idea that its ten-month settlement freeze apply to eastern Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the Swedish initiative will only reinforce Abbas' demand that any settlement freeze also apply to eastern Jerusalem, thereby reducing the chances that negotiations will be restarted.

     

    The Problem with Sweden

    Sweden has become a particularly troubling country for Israel in Europe. On August 17, 2009, the Swedish daily Aftonbladet published an article by freelance writer Donald Bostrom, who argued that the IDF had harvested the organs of Palestinians and was sending them abroad. While many in the Swedish media condemned the newspaper story, the Swedish government refused to take a position. When the Swedish ambassador in Tel Aviv, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, expressed her disgust with the article, the Swedish government decided to distance itself from its own ambassador's statement. Since that event, Swedish-Israeli relations have been tense. The problem is that for the second half of 2009, Sweden has held the rotating presidency of the European Union and therefore can propose new European policies that conflict with Israel's most fundamental interests. In the meantime, Sweden has totally changed its official approach to Israel: from being one of the friendliest countries to the Jewish state, its government is now exhibiting increasing signs of hostility to Israel's positions.4

     

    Lessons for Israel

    There is an important lesson for Israel from the debate inside the EU over the future of Jerusalem. Inside Israeli governments there is the expression that "the immediate always puts off the important." In this case, because Israeli diplomacy is always dealing with urgent issues - from the Goldstone report to the latest Iranian nuclear decisions - as a result it does not always address long-term Israeli interests such as keeping Jerusalem united. True, Sweden had a number of important opponents to its proposals on Jerusalem in the EU, like the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, Romania, Hungary, Poland, and Italy. But it is a mistake to take international support for Israel's positions among these states for granted.

    What is needed is an ongoing Israeli diplomatic effort for Jerusalem, underlining Israel's legal rights and its role as the protector of the holy sites. The arguments to support a united Jerusalem must be raised by Israeli ambassadors in all the capitals where they serve and not wait for a crisis to develop, like the current struggle inside the EU. The Jewish people restored their majority in Jerusalem in 1864, well before the British Mandate. The League of Nations established Jerusalem as part of the Jewish National Home. Stephen Schwebel, who would eventually become President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, wrote in 1970 that "Israel has better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem [emphasis added], than do Jordan and Egypt."5 There is a huge irony that Europeans, who remember the removal of the Berlin Wall in 1989 as a historical turning point for their continent, now advocate the re-division of Jerusalem between two separate states.

    For the Palestinians, the demand for a capital in eastern Jerusalem has become a mantra that they repeat at every opportunity. Unfortunately, European states, which once sought to protect the holy sites of Christianity in Jerusalem, today appear to be oblivious to what would happen to their churches were the Old City of Jerusalem to be given to a Palestinian regime under the influence of Hamas. Indeed, prior to the EU decision on the Swedish draft, prominent former European officials like Chris Patten, Romano Prodi, Hubert Vedrine, and Lionel Jospin lobbied on behalf of the Swedish draft and the adoption of a more pro-Palestinian EU position on Jerusalem. If Israel does not make a concerted effort to protect its rights in Jerusalem, then even its closest friends in Europe will assume that at the end of the day, Israel will concede those rights and agree to the policies that Europe is proposing.

    Monday
    Dec072009

    Twitter could bring about regime change in Iran

    JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the United States to use Twitter and other social networking sites to fight against the leadership of arch-enemy Iran. 

    "Iran prevents people from freely accessing the Internet," a senior official quoted him telling parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.  "Using the Internet and Twitter against the Iranian regime is something extraordinary that the United States can do," he said. 

    Twitter was a favourite media for Iranian demonstrators who had joined opposition protests against the June re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claiming the vote was fraudulent. 

    On Monday, protesters gathered in Iran to mark the annual Students Day, with many chanting anti-Ahmadinejad slogans. 

    Ahead of Monday's events, the Iranian authorities cut Internet connections and blocked access to several opposition websites

    Israel considers Iran its top enemy after repeated statements by Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state was doomed to be "wiped off the map" and questioning the scale of the Holocaust. 

    Widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, Israel along with much of the West suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge Tehran denies.

    Monday
    Dec072009

    Netanyahu Says Iranian Leaders Losing Support

    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel had benefited from what he called the Iranian government's loss of legitimacy, both among other states and with its own people.

    Speaking to a closed session of the parliamentary defence committee, as quoted by an official, Netanyahu repeated his view that Israel must prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons but gave no indication of if or when Israel might use military force -- an option his government has refused to rule out.

    However, on a day of clashes between protesters and police in Tehran, and a week after Iran defied international pressure and announced an expansion of a nuclear programme it says is for purely civil use, Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers that the Iranian government was losing support at home and abroad.

    "During the past year, Iran has lost a lot of legitimacy in the international community. This is an important asset to Israel," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by a parliamentary official. "Much of the Iranian population has animosity towards the regime."

    The United States and its allies suspect Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy programme. Tehran denies this.

    Many analysts take seriously the possibility that Israel, assumed to be the only nuclear military power in the Middle East, might at some stage consider launching a unilateral strike to prevent Iran acquiring a bomb, a prospect the Jewish state sees as an existential threat.

    "SUPREME INTEREST"

    Netanyahu said on Monday it was in Israel's "supreme interest to prevent Iran from arming with nuclear weapons."

    But his government also appears keen not to break step with key ally the United States and other world powers, which are seeking to persuade Tehran to curb the military potential of its nuclear programme by means of diplomacy and economic sanctions.

    Should such diplomatic pressure weaken Iranian leaders, analysts say, that could reduce the chance of attacks on Iran.

    Political sources have indicated Israel's armed forces have prepared plans for a possible strike on Iran, but analysts believe Netanyahu is content for now to follow the U.S. policy.

    Earlier on Monday, an Israeli military intelligence officer also briefed the parliamentary defence committee on Iran.

    Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz was quoted by a parliamentary official as saying that Iran had the nuclear know-how and the material, as well as the long-range missile technology, to build nuclear missiles to threaten Israel.

    Echoing opinions expressed by Western experts, Baidatz said: "They have passed the technological stage. What now separates them from a (nuclear) bomb is taking the decision to build one."

    On Monday, Netanyahu also reiterated Israel was prepared to hold peace talks with Syria, an ally of Iran on Israel's border, on condition Damascus did not insist the Jewish state concede beforehand that it would withdraw from all the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured in a 1967 war.

    Syria has signalled it would prefer to hold indirect talks, including the possible resumption of talks mediated by Turkey a year ago. Netanyahu said he preferred a French offer to mediate to that from Turkey, citing Istanbul's criticism of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, notably in last winter's war in Gaza.

    Monday
    Dec072009

    US-PA cooperation now in doubt

    DebkaFile reports that American General Keith Dayton and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad went head-to-head recently, engaging Sunday in a heated argument that throws into doubt US-PA security and political cooperation.

    Fayyad, considered by many Palestinians to be an American puppet, may have been trying to improve his street cred by calling the four-star general onto the carpet, complaining about Dayton's attempts to publicize the 2000 strong American-trained Palestinian commando force. "You're just the trainer, after all," Fayyad reportedly told him, provoking a strong comeback from the senior US military man in the region, who is spearheading the quarter-billion dollar effort to elevate Palestinian fighters from their terrorist roots to a disciplined pro-Western fighting force capable of combating Hamas.

    They have made progress in making West Bank streets safer, but the new force is not popular on the Palestinian street, which calls the new army "Dayton's men." Fayyad is also considered by the shabib to be an American "poodle."

    The open spat may require the intervention of senior officials in Washington. If it is not resolved, then the new US-trained force is more likely than ever to revert to what they were before, along with the West Bank streets.

    Saturday
    Dec052009

    House Reps send warning letter to Clinton about Iran and Hezbollah 

    Members of US House of Representatives send letter to Secretary of State warning Islamic Republic may try to distract world from its nuclear program by instructing Hezbollah to launch conflict with Israel

    Published:  12.05.09, 00:07 / Israel News

     

    WASHINGTON - Iran may try to distract the international community from its nuclear program by heating things up at Israel's northern border via Hezbollah – dozens of members of the US House of Representatives wrote in a letter addressed to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on Friday.

    The letter was sent ahead of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman's upcoming visit to the White House, scheduled for December 14, and following the coalition agreement in the Lebanese government allowing Hezbollah to hold on to its arms.

    Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Friday announced that he plans to hold his first visit to Syria since the death of his father Rafiq Hariri in 2005. According to the letter, as talks with Iran have reached a dead end, the homes members fear the Iranian regime may try to divert the world's attention from its nuclear program by ordering Hezbollah, its agent in south Lebanon, to open a regional conflict.

    The letter went on to say that in light of the increasing number of incidents in southern Lebanon and the capture of an Iranian arms ship headed for Lebanon, they House of Representatives members are highly concerned by the potential for Iranian-sponsored escalation along the Israel-Lebanon border.

    The letter was singed by Reps. Mark Kirk and Steve Israel. The two are members of the House of Representative's Committee on Appropriations and their appeal has special significance due to the financial aid the United States grants Lebanon and the fact that Hezbollah, which is on the American terrorist list, has become a part of the Lebanese government.

    According to the letter's signatories, despite UN Resolution 1701, Hezbollah has managed to re-arm and increase its strength since the Second Lebanon War, and it now hold power within the Lebanese government as well.

    The signatories note that the US government has allocated $200 million in aid to UNIFIL forces in 2010, and an additional $100 million in military aid to the Lebanese government. Following the granting of financial aid in such great dimensions, the letter read, the American taxpayer has the right to see results. The United States is compelled to us its resources to take action against possible escalation along the Israel-Lebanon border, it said.

     

    In light of the clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions, the signatories asked what actions the administration is taking to ensure the UN addresses these violations. It continued to say the US must seek to support stronger multilateral efforts to disarm Hezbollah and clear southern Lebanon of Iranian weapons.

     

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