Dennis Ross: Palestinians should set up their own stone quarries in the West Bank!

In an otherwise uninteresting commentary published as an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Dennis Ross, adviser to several American presidents on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, suggested that … as Israel’s Supreme Court has just recommended that there should be  “no additional quarries” in the West Bank that are Israeli-owned, there is now some sort of “opening” for Palestinian ownership!

[Have we mentioned how much the terrible Qalandia checkpoint is clogged up by the huge double-dump truck convoys loaded with cut stone and spraying rock dust all over the area? These huge stone transport trucks mix with tens of thousands of stressed and some crazed-aggressive drivers, on a two-lane road — with just one lane in each direction. Many tens of thousands of people, and perhaps more, are forced to drive on this dreadful route around or through Qalandia every single day, for lack of any alternative routes…]

Ross’ piece in the Washington Post is entitled, How to break a Middle East stalemate

It is an astonishing reading of the Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

In effect, as we have written earlier [on December 28] here, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by Tel Aviv-based lawyer Michael Sfard on behalf of the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din against the Israeli exploitation of Palestinian natural resources in the occupied West Bank.  The only argument from the Yesh Din petition retained by the Israeli Supreme Court is that there should be no more Israeli-owned stone quarries.  The Israeli government supported that argument in the Yesh Din petition, too — so it wasn’t really very hard for the Israeli Supreme Court to back it.

But, for Dennis Ross to extrapolate from that Israeli Supreme Court decision rejecting the petition, and argue that the Israeli Supreme Court has now opened the way to Palestinian ownership, is a surprising logical leap.

Dennis Ross wrote [referring to the Haaretz story here as his source], in his Washington Post opinion piece:

    To give one example, there are Palestinian stone masonry factories in Area A, but Palestinians have limited access to the rock quarries in the West Bank, which are in Area C. In a case brought against Israeli ownership of the rock quarries, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled late last month that no additional quarries should be Israeli-owned. That ruling creates an opening for private Palestinian ownership, should any new quarries be established — and there clearly is room for more”.

Continue reading Dennis Ross: Palestinians should set up their own stone quarries in the West Bank!

Some interesting takes on the talks

Here’s a selective post-talks round-up:

Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf wrote that “the US papers seem to give the talks a greater importance than the Israeli media [that changed on Friday, he noted further down in his post]. Bizarre, to say the least …  It’s easy to tell when things get serious. The settlers make a good litmus test for the intentions of the Israeli leadership. They have good ties with the Israeli administration and army. When the settlers sense danger, they let it show. And while they went after Sharon and Rabin with everything they got, they are awfully quiet now. There wasn’t even a single major protest against Netanyahu, The National Religious Party is still in the government, and the right flank of the Likud has never been more silent. The Israeli tabloids – like all tabloids – reflect their society’s mood: This is clearly not a country on the verge of its most important decision in decades … [T]he diplomatic process is not a sports competition, and pep talks can’t help when the gap between the parties is too big. The Palestinian leadership has lost most of its credibility and legitimacy with its own people, and the bleeding gets worse with every picture of Abu Mazen shaking hands with Netanyahu. Hamas has just given us the first taste of what leaving it out of the process means. Even so, the positions of PM Fayad and President Abbas are incredibly far from those of Barak and Netanyahu. The Israeli leadership – and to be honest, the Israeli public as well – cannot give the Palestinians the minimum they can settle with. Under these circumstances, even if an agreement is reached, it won’t mean a thing. As I’ve written before, the current stage in the conflict is not just about peace. It’s about ending the occupation and getting the Palestinians their rights. Some people in the American administration understood that, but for their own reasons, they decided to pursue the failed policies of the past two decades”.  This analysis is posted here.

The BBC published, after the talks, an almost hilarious “behind-the-scenes” account from two of their journalists embedded with the delegations — “The BBC’s Gidi Kleiman was with the Israelis, while Jeannie Assad was with the Palestinians:

“MOOD BEFORE THE JOURNEY [on board the private chartered plane carrying the Palestinian delegation]
“They had wanted to go to the talks with a guarantee that Israel would not renew its settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Come to Washington and then we will take it from there, the Americans had apparently told President Abbas. The president agreed to an interview, coming over with Turkish coffee in hand. He told us he was oing to the talks in good faith and because he believed in peace through negotiations. But at the same time he told me it would be difficult for him to continue the talks if the settlements continued. He would pull out, he said, if Israel did not extend the moratorium.

“It was to be the first time he had spoken to an Israeli leader in 18 months [n.b., it was actually 20 months — since the end of December 2008]. His people back home were not happy about it. The settlement issue was a tough one. He was to tell the Israelis and the Americans that continuing settlements was a ‘deal-breaker’, one of his aides told me … there were more changes to the speech. By the time Mr Abbas read it out in the White House, it had been changed 39 times.

“After the one-on-one with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mr Abbas said the meeting was positive. He told his aides he had told him about all his concerns and explained to him everything that was discussed with the previous Israeli government.
Not only had Mr Netanyahu listened carefully, but he took down notes, Mr Abbas added. The Palestinian president said he had told the Israeli prime minister that the settlements must stop …
“Has Prime Minister Netanyahu undergone a fundamental change or was it just change of tactics? Were these talks for real or just a way to avoid pressure from the US and the international community to move forward in the peace negotiations with the Palestinians? Did he change? His speeches, his statements, gestures, all suggested a change of heart. In a speech at the White House, he said that he came to find a historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, echoing the words of such peace-makers as Israel’s slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He said to the Americans, to the Palestinians, to the travelling press:  ‘I am serious about peace, try me’.”  This “behind-the-scenes” report is published here.  [A rather different take on Netanyahu’s position is noted in a blog on our sister site, here….]

Haaretz then reported another comic post-talk report, that picked up an article in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat which stated that the “Palestinian attitude in peace talks shifting by 180 degrees”.   Really?

Continue reading Some interesting takes on the talks