Mitchell due in Israel today – Netanyahu announces big speech coming this week

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has announced he will make a big speech this week [UPDATE: at the beginning of next week, Netanyahu’s office confirmed this evening.  FURTHER UPDATE: It will be delivered on Sunday at Bar-Ilan University, as Obama’s speech was delivered at Cairo University. And, by the way, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal will also deliver a speech from Damascus in the coming days, which will reportedly come after Netanyahu’s big speech, but which is also supposed to be a response to Obama].  Netanyahu has said he will present Israel’s idea for “peace”.

Maybe it will even be an “initiative”.

Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar has said, as reported earlier here, that the main Israeli objection to the Arab Peace Initiative is its name. 

Yes, really.

Now, after provoking most of the world into a tizzy by [rather recently] refusing to endorse a two-state solution, analysis and multiple leaks to the media suggest that Netanyahu believes he has gotten the American administration to agree to some kind of less-than-state for the Palestinians.  The model mentioned today is Andorra (no longer Hong Kong or Singapore, or even Switzerland).

Netanyahu may want an “initiative” to supersede the 2003 Road Map.

Members of Netanyahu’s new government have spoken against the Road Map, but voices are now being heard extolling the advantages of this document to which former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon affixed some 13 or 14 reservations.

Even though Phase I has not been fulfilled in the six years since the Road Map was launched in 2003, the supposed benefits of Phase II, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian “State” with provisional — not final — borders, are now coming under renewed examination.

(In addition, Phase II also calls for the Palestinian “State” to take its full place in the United Nations, where it is at presented only represented by an “Observer” mission.)

Over the weekend, interesting reports in the Israeli media suggested that Mitchell might push for an immediate designation of “provisional” borders. which would be in accordance with the Road Map’s Phase II (and should therefore accordingly accompany the creation of a Palestinian state), in order to know where settlement activity would be legal or not.

The notion that agreement on borders would clarify settlement activities originated in the Bush administration during the 2008 Annapolis process of negotiations, and was publicly articulated by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezzaa Rice. However, she did not mention “provisional” borders — which is something that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has firmly opposed.

Continue reading Mitchell due in Israel today – Netanyahu announces big speech coming this week

Jerusalem – "illegal annexation being pursued by practical means"

Israel is moving with great speed on all fronts to change the situation on the ground in its favor. But the situation for Palestinians is increasingly untenable, and the pressure building up is intense.

A report on “Jerusalem and the Middle East Peace Process, prepared by European Union Heads of Missions [apparently in Jerusalem], and dated December 2008, was leaked/released today by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICHAD), and it is damning: “Long-standing Israeli plans for Jerusalem, now being implemented at an accelerated rate, are undermining prospects for a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and a sustainable two-state solutionIsrael is, by practical means, actively pursuing the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem“, the report states.

And, it charges that “Israel’s actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace making … Settlement building in and around East Jerusalem continues at a rapid pace, contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law and the Roadmap, which were reaffirmed at Annapolis…
Continue reading Jerusalem – "illegal annexation being pursued by practical means"

The logic of the Olso Accords still continues

During the first Palestinian Intifada, a spontaneous uprising in the West Bank and Gaza that started at the end of 1987 and caught the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership in exile by surprise, any display of the Palestinian flag — or even just showing its colors (green-red-white-black) — was severely repressed by Israeli troops. It was a shooting offense.

At peace talks launched at an international conference in Madrid in 1991 after the Cold War ended — and just a few months after the U.S.-led Desert Storm coalition forced Saddam Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait, amid much Arab commentary about U.S. double standards in the Middle East — the Palestinian delegation had to participate as members of the Jordanian delegation. The Palestinian participants were supposed to be “independent” and not members of the PLO — though the delegation members made it clear during the talks that they deferred to the PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who was in based Tunis at the time.
Continue reading The logic of the Olso Accords still continues

IDF increases West Bank roadblocks 3% in last six months, UN says

Next week [26 September], the Quartet will meet at the United Nations in New York. Will they discuss this just-issued UN-OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report)???

Even the Jerusalem Post writes this: “The IDF has increased the number of West Bank roadblocks by three percent in the last six months, according to a UN report cited by Israel Radio on Sunday. The report stated that there were currently 630 roadblocks in the West Bank, around a third of them manned. It also said that some three fifths of the West Bank security fence had been completed and that 80% of it had been constructed east of the Green Line“. This article can be viewed here.

The full OCHA report can be read here.

The report states:”Overall, the freedom of movement of Palestinians within the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained highly constrained and neither territorial contiguity nor the pre-2000 status quo was restored” [n.b., these are Roadmap requirements] …

OCHA also reports that: “In its latest survey of the West Bank and East Jerusalem on September 2008, OCHA observed 630 obstacles blocking Palestinian movement, including 93 staffed [n.b., this is a rather dry and bureaucratic description — these “staffers” hold weapons in their hands, and sometimes, even when things are quiet, and they are bored, they even point them at people] and 537 unstaffed obstacles (earthmounds, roadblocks, barriers, etc.). This figure represents a net increase of 3.3%, or 20 obstacles, compared to the figure reported at the end of the previous reporting figure on 29 April 2008″[n.b., since the Annapolis process began]. This total does not include 69 obstacles in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron City (H-2), nor 8 checkpoints located on the Green Line [n.b., why not?]. Additionally, the weekly average of random (‘flying’) checkpoints increased by about 10% compared to the first four months of 2008 (85 vs. 77)”.

The report continues: “The number of obstacles at any one time is indicative of the access situation, but does not capture the full picture of the system of obstacles and restrictions. There is a whole range of measures including the Barrier [n.b. while I appreciate the capital B here, why does OCHA not call it The Wall, to follow the example set by the UN’s highest judicial organ, the International Court of Justice?], restricted roads, permit system, age and gender restrictions, and closed areas, which layered upon each other, consolidate into a comprehensive system fragmenting the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

OCHA continues, very drily,: “The Barrier plays a very significant role in this system … separating Palestinians from their land and creating enclaves isolated to some extent from the rest of the West … During the reporting period the GOI [Government of Israel] continued investing in transportation infrastructure throughout the West Bank [n.b. territory that the GOI occupies, and to which it does not hold title …] An Israeli military expert estimated the cost of constructed and planned and ‘fabric of life roads’ and Barrier gates at 2 billion NIS. Extensive works were also being carried out to expand and renovate key checkpoints…”

In the last paragraph of this report, OCHA says that “In reflecting on more than seven years of restrictions, what was once a short-term Israeli military response to violent confrontations and attacks on Israeli civilians has developed into an entrenched multi-layered system of obstacles and restrictions, fragmenting the West Bank territory and affecting the freedom of movement of the entire Palestinian population and its economy. This system is transforming the geographical reality of the West Bank and Jerusalem towards a more permanent territorial fragmentation”.

So, where is Condoleezza Rice? Where is UNSG BAN Ki-Moon? Where is Tony Blair?

Military Zone - anyone entering or damaging the fence endangers his life

And, shall I just remind you that my residential neighborhood, full of lovely houses and gardens and where the World Bank has its offices and where there are two prestigious private schools, and which is now officially or unoffically annexed to Jerusalem by The Wall [or what OCHA calls a Barrier], is still a “MILITARY ZONE” [NOT closed, or operational, or anything like that — just a military zone] where “ANYONE WHO ENTERS — or damages the fence [SIC !] — ENDANGERS HIS LIFE”.

And, therefore, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the CHECKPOINT is still there — and not only that, it has changed from one to three lanes, and the lines are longer than ever, and it usually takes 25 minutes to pass through — under gun point, of course.

UPDATE: There are hardly ever fewer than ten to twenty cars waiting to get through this checkpoint at any given time, day or night. Today, there were huge trucks waiting in line — and trucks were never before allowed to pass through the checkpoint going in the direction of downtown Jerusalem. And, there were three extremely rude and bad drivers who cut in line in places ahead of me, as I waited nearly 35 minutes to get through this afternoon. I called Smolik, a checkpoint liaison person with the Border Police who has sometimes helped before. At least, he’s someone to register a complaint with — the worst thing is to feel so much at the mercy of this awful situation, with no procedures that are clear (except total and unconditional submission), and no redress. So, complaining to Smolik makes it seem as if one is regaining a little bit of dignity in one’s life, even if it rarely ever results in any improvement. He said today, however, that he was unaware that all kinds of other traffic was now passing through this checkpoint — he said he thought it was still just for the residents of this area!!

The Radicalization of Jeff Halper – the Warehousing of the Palestinians

Jeff Halper, renowned for his analysis and description of Israel’s Matrix of Control of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and who recently was on board the Free Gaza expedition from Cyprus (only to face arrest upon his reentry to Israel via Erez crossing from Gaza) has put together a major new analysis of the Palestinian situation.

Halper’s analysis is as stunning as it is chilling.

In an article published yesterday on Zspace, “The Palestinians: Warehousing a ‘surplus people’ “, Halper argues that Israel’s occupation has morphed into something even worse than apartheid — a fast-developing system of excluding and isolating the Palestinians that he calls “warehousing”:

Halper wrote. “So rapid is the pace of systemic change in that indivisible entity known as Palestine/Israel that it almost defies our ability to keep up with it … The rapid expansion of the facts on the ground, however, continued to overtake language and political analysis … While the establishment of more than 200 settlements and outposts in the Occupied Territories, all tied inextricably into Israel proper by a massive network of Israeli-only highways and, ultimately, the Separation Barrier, seemed to indicate that the Occupation was no longer temporary, that it grown into one indivisible system between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, many Palestinians, Israelis and international observers and decision-makers alike, committed to a two-state solution, were loathe to admit the transformation of the Occupation into a permanent state of apartheid. The implications of so doing were simply too daunting. The transformation of the Occupation into a country-wide system of apartheid meant the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish state – unless apartheid could somehow be packaged as a two-state solution, a sleight-of-hand to which many liberal Israeli and Jewish peace groups have succumbed. Nevertheless, slowly, painfully (as Jimmy Carter discovered), the realization that we now have a de facto regime of apartheid over all Israel-Palestine – officially sanctioned if the Annapolis Process succeeds – has begun to sink in, although resistance, even among the Israeli peace movement, is still strong. Yet no sooner have we begun to shift from occupation to apartheid than political realities, defined in large part by an accelerated Israeli campaign of expanding its facts on the ground, have rendered even that conception, radical only a few months ago, completely outmoded …

“[W]e are speaking of a system that has gone beyond occupation in its scale and permanence… Continue reading The Radicalization of Jeff Halper – the Warehousing of the Palestinians

Israel says it will remove 50 dirt barriers in West Bank — there are more than 500 checkpoints

In fact, there seem to be 580 checkpoints in the West Bank.

But, an announcment by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he had already previously decided to remove 50 dirt barriers in the West Bank is one of the concrete outcomes of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s energetic efforts in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Rice was asked about it by a journalist during a joint press conference on Sunday morning with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni:

“Question: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied with the gesture that the Minister of Defense is willing to take in order to ease the Palestinian life, if it’s enough to remove some roadblocks?

Secretary Rice: Yes, first of all, I would not characterize, though, what we need or what I expect to hear as gestures. I really do think that what we need to do is to have meaningful progress toward a better life for the Palestinian people, for the economic viability for Palestinians, even as we move toward the establishment of a state. And that’s why, as the Foreign Minister said, we’ve tried to do this in a simultaneous fashion. And there’s a shared responsibility here for an atmosphere and a reality that can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and economic viability for Palestinians. And so that is what I’m looking to see if we can do. I understand the security considerations, and so I would hope and I expect that we’re going to be able to do some things, or that Israel and the Palestinians together will be able to do some things that are meaningful both for security and for economic viability. And it really does have to be shared responsibility for them”.

Rice was asked this question before she had even met with Israel’s Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak — because it had all been leaked beforehand.

When they actually did get to meet, a bit later, this is what happened, as communicated by the Israeli Government Press Office:

“Defense Minister Ehud Barak today (Sunday), 30.3.08, met with US Secretary of state Dr. Condoleeza Rice, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The two first met privately; later, they were joined by their delegations. Following the meeting, Defense Minister Barak held a three-way meeting with Secy. of State Rice and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, at which the three discussed various regional, diplomatic and security issues.

Defense Minister also presented a package regarding the easing of various restrictions on the Palestinians, which he approved last week. The package is as follows:

Easing of Security Restrictions (fabric of life, law and order)

1. Approximately 50 dirt roadblocks will be removed thus enabling vehicular traffic between Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah.

2. The opening of the permanent checkpoint in the Rimonim area.

3. Approval for the establishment of Palestinian police stations in B and B+ areas in order to promote law and order, after a comprehensive picture of deployments in Judea and Samaria will have been presented.

4. The deployment of 700 police personnel in the Jenin area (following their return from training in Jordan). Ultimate security responsibility will remain in Israel’s hands.

5. Mechanisms for issuing action permits for Palestinian forces for movement to B areas and for movement across brigade areas, in order to better deal with law and order, will be improved.

6. An inquiry into lifting additional roadblocks and checkpoints in Judea and Samaria will be carried out in the coming weeks, with the intention of completion by mid-May. [emphasis added]

7. The delivery of 25 APC’s – out of 50 – was approved.

8. The delivery of 125 vehicles and pieces of logistical equipment for the Palestinian security forces has been approved.

9. Approval of non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard is under consideration.

10. Various restrictions on the movement of public figures have been eased.
Easing of Restrictions on Businessmen

11. Various restrictions on the movement of businessmen have been eased.

12. Maximum assistance will be rendered vis-à-vis the 21-23.5.08 business conference in Bethlehem.

13. A senior Coordinator of Activities in the Territories officer has been appointed to deal with all issues involving the conference.

Increase of Employment in Israel

14. An additional 5,000 permits will be issued for construction work in Israel (the current quota is approximately 18,500).

Easing of Restrictions at Crossings (fabric of life)

15. Opening of the Sha’ar Ephraim Crossing for commercial activity on Fridays (immediate implementation).

16. Easing of pressure at the Kalandia and Rachel crossings by diverting prisoners’ visits to the Beituniya Crossing.

17. Upgrading biometric procedures.

18. Upgrading the humanitarian infrastructure at crossings.

21-23.5.08 Bethlehem Economic Conference for Investors

A. To allow the passage of businessmen from Arab countries, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and Israel on a VIP footing (without checks) at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Allenby Bridge, the internal crossings (especially in the Jerusalem area), as per the lists and pre-screening.

B. Israeli businessmen will be allowed to enter Bethlehem for the conference.

C. Approval has been given for the organized movement of businessmen in Judea and Samaria cities and into Israel (including Jerusalem and Nazareth).

D. Hours at the Allenby Crossing will be extended to 24:00 on 20.5.08 and 24.5.08.

Advancing the Establishment of Industrial Zones in Jericho, Hebron and Mukibla

A. The Tarkumiya Industrial Zone in the Hebron District – the goal is to move the “Ankara idea” from the Erez Industrial Zone to Judea and Samaria. The zone will received Turkish financing.

B. An industrial zone will be established for the processing and marketing abroad of Palestinian agricultural produce. The Japanese industrial zone in Jericho will be established close to the city. Japan, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and Jordan will be involved.

The U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack then issued the following press statement on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Trilateral Meeting With Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak:

“The process launched at Annapolis includes several components—including the realization of President Bush’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, and implementation of Phase I obligations of the Road Map to improve the quality of life and the security of ordinary people on both sides.  Today Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed on concrete steps to implement the Roadmap. This is a program that will improve the daily lives of Palestinians and help make Israel secure.  Lieutenant General William Fraser and others will continue their involvement in this effort to help the two sides implement their obligations. Secretary Rice was pleased to be able to join in those efforts today.

Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak agreed on points of special, immediate emphasis and work:

*     Israel has pledged to reduce the impediments to access and movement in the West Bank. This will begin with the removal of about 50 roadblocks and immediate steps to upgrade checkpoints to reduce waiting time without sacrificing security.

*     Both sides also agreed that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank should assume greater responsibility. Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak agreed to begin by bringing new life and hope to Jenin.

o           For its part, the Palestinian Authority will deploy security forces to provide law and order, and work to prevent terror.

o           For its part, Israel will take steps to ease access and movement to the city and its surrounding environs.

o           The United States and others in the international community will fund projects and in an integrated governance and development effort help the Palestinian Authority develop institutions for governance and rule of law.

*     The two sides will improve security coordination, so that Palestinian Authority security personnel can perform their vital duties and are equipped properly.

*     Prime Minister Fayyad and Minister Barak also agreed on steps to promote economic development, especially projects, in the West Bank more generally.

o           Both sides are committed to success of the Bethlehem investment conference and special arrangements will be made so that international visitors may attend.

o           Both sides have agreed to create a major new industrial park in Tarqumiya sponsored by Turkey.

o           The parties have completed connection of 27 Palestinian villages in the West Bank to the Israeli power grid and, in an unprecedented action, have connected Jericho to the Jordan power grid.

o           The two sides approved in concept the development of new housing in the West Bank for Palestinians.

o           Master Plans for 25 Palestinian villages in Area C have been approved.

o           Israel offered to expand significantly opportunities for Palestinian workers and businessmen to travel to Israel from the West Bank.

All of these steps can provide meaningful improvements in the lives of ordinary Palestinian and Israeli citizens, if they are successfully implemented. As implementation is a key to success, Lieutenant General Fraser will be following closely each side’s efforts to implement the agreed upon steps. Secretary Rice is confident that both Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak are committed to implementing these steps. They have also agreed to continue their meetings”.