The American Kafir

2012/03/29

State Department Refuses to Say Jerusalem is Israel’s Capital

Source Arutz Sheva

State Department Refuses to Say Jerusalem is Israel’s Capital

U.S. State Department spokeswoman refuses to say outright that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital during daily press briefing.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Wednesday refused to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, according to a report by The Weekly Standard.

The report said the exchange took place at the daily State Department press briefing. The questions Nuland was asked were regarding a Washington Free Beacon story that highlighted the State Department’s refusal to list Jerusalem as part of Israel.

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Earlier in the week, the Washington Free Beacon had shown an official State Department communication which labeled Jerusalem and Israel as separate entities.

The official press release stated that “Acting Under Secretary Kathleen Stephens Travels to Algeria, Qatar, Jordan, Jerusalem, and Israel.”

After the Washington Free Beacon reported on this, the communication was altered to read, “Acting Under Secretary Kathleen Stephens Travels to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv.”

On Wednesday, a reporter asked Nuland about this, saying, “Yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over an announcement that was made by the department about the travel of your boss. Is it the State Department’s position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel?”

Nuland said in response, according to the State Department transcript, “Well, you know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed. The first media note was issued in error, without appropriate clearances. We reissued the note to make clear that undersecretary, acting undersecretary for — our — Kathy Stevens will be travelling to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it’s a permanent-status issue.  It’s got to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties.”

The reporter did not let up and asked Nuland whether it was the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, to which Nuland responded, “We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.”

The reporter then asked, “Does that — does that mean that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?” and Nuland responded, “Jerusalem is a permanent-status issue.  It’s got to be resolved through negotiations.”

Q: That seems to suggest that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Is that correct or not?

Nuland: I have just spoken to this issue — and I have nothing further to say on it.

Later on during the briefing, the same reporter asked once again, “I want to clarify something, perhaps give you an ‘out’ on your Jerusalem answer. Is it your — is it your position that all of Jerusalem is a final-status issue, or do you think — or is it just East Jerusalem?”

The irritated Nuland, according to The Weekly Standard, then responded, “Matt, I don’t have anything further to what I’ve said 17 times on that subject. OK?”

The issue of Jerusalem being recognized by the U.S. as Israel’s capital has been at the forefront for many years. It is centered on whether Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The U.S. Congress defined Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1955, passed by the 104th Congress on October 23, 1995, (PDF copy of the Full Text and Summary are below) to have the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999, The act called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city and for it to be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel. The proposed law was adopted by the Senate (93–5) and the House (374–37), but not implemented by the State Department and the Executive branch.

Attorney Harvey Schwartz, Chair of the American Israeli Action Coalition, explained in an interview with Arutz Sheva several months ago, “United States policy has been consistent since 1948 that Israel is not sovereign over Jerusalem. Rather, the question of Jerusalem’s sovereignty is to be determined, ultimately, by resolution between the parties. That’s been consistent U.S. policy.”

The question of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem is central to the Menachem Zivotofsky v. Hillary Clinton case. The case involves Menachem Zivotofsky, who was born in Jerusalem and whose parents requested that the place of birth on his U.S. passport and Consular Report of Birth Abroad be listed as Israel.

The State Department refused the request, leading the Zivotofskys to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court returned the decision on the issue to the lower court.

In their decision, the justices wrote, “Congress enacted a statue providing that Americans born in Jerusalem may elect to have “Israel” listed as the place of birth on their passports. The State Department declined to follow that law, citing its longstanding policy of not taking a position on the political status of Jerusalem. When sued by an American who invoked that statute, the Secretary of State argued that the courts lacked authority to decide the case because it presented a political question. The Court of Appeals so held.

“We disagree. The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the Executive by the Constitution.”

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2012/03/24

The Global March to Jerusalem: Part of the International Campaign to Delegitimize Israel

Filed under: Israel, Jerusalem, Progressives — - @ 6:05 pm
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Israel Warns Neighbors Over March to Jerusalem

Source Link: Arutz Sheva

Israel Warns Neighbors Over March to Jerusalem

Israel warns neighbors that it will forcefully respond to attempted breaches of its borders during the ‘Global March to Jerusalem’.

By Elad Benari, Canada

Jerusalem

As activists are planning to lead a Global March to Jerusalem next Friday, Israel has warned neighboring countries that it would forcefully respond to attempted breaches of its borders.

The Global March to Jerusalem initiative aims at getting over one million Arabs and their supporters to attempt to infiltrate Israel’s borders on March 30th. A spokesman for the march said last week the initiative “demand[s] freedom for Palestine and its capital Jerusalem.”

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) has presented information that Iran is behind the initiative and openly supports it. The march has also been endorsed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was U.S. President Barack Obama’s pastor for 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Diplomatic sources told the London-based Asharq Alawsat newspaper on Friday that Israel has sent messages to the governments of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority regarding the planned march.

The report said that in the messages Israel made it clear that anyone who will come near its borders would be considered an infiltrator and the IDF will act against him with full force.

Israel also reportedly demanded that Arab countries not allow an escalation of the tension in the region through marches toward its borders.

Channel 10 News, which cited the Asharq Alawsat report, said that the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the report.

Earlier this week, radio host Aaron Klein of WABC radio in New York offered $50,000 to an organizer of the Global March to Jerusalem, if he could name one city in the Middle East, outside of Israel, that has more freedom than Jerusalem. The activist was unable to do so.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)

2011/09/15

What Do the Arabs of East Jerusalem Really Want?

Filed under: Arabs, Israel, Jerusalem, Palestine — - @ 1:04 pm

What Do the Arabs of East Jerusalem Really Want?

Written By David Pollock

Source Link: JCPA

  • According to face-to-face surveys conducted according to the highest international standards, more Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state. In addition, 40 percent said they would probably or definitely move in order to live under Israeli rather than Palestinian rule.
  • 44 percent of the Palestinians in Jerusalem say they are very, or at least somewhat, satisfied with their standard of living. This is a very high percentage compared to other populations in the Arab world. Only about 30 percent sympathize with either Fatah or Hamas or with the Israeli Arab Islamic movement. Politics is not a major preoccupation.
  • Three-quarters of east Jerusalem Arabs are at least a little concerned, and more than half are more than a little concerned, that they would lose their ability to write and speak freely if they became citizens of a Palestinian state rather than remaining under Israeli control.
  • Significantly, 41 percent thought that the armed conflict probably or definitely would continue even after a peace agreement, and this is from the most moderate population of Palestinians. Only a third say that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence backed by the UN would have a positive effect on their lives. Two-thirds say that such a unilateral step would have no positive effect.
  • For people who tend to assume that a fair and practical solution for the Jerusalem issue is for the Arab neighborhoods to become part of Palestine and the Jewish neighborhoods to become part of Israel, these findings suggest that this could be somewhat problematic from the point of view of the people who actually live in east Jerusalem.

The “Arab Spring”: The Eruption of Public Opinion

All around the Middle East we see the eruption of public opinion as an important, and perhaps even a decisive, factor in the politics of various Arab countries. For the first time in recent memory, the ordinary people in these countries are becoming empowered to change the course of their own governments. This indicates how vital it is for us to try to understand and measure not just what the politicians say, but what the people think.

In Egypt during the revolution, in cooperation with Pechter Middle East Polls, we used Arab interviewers to conduct a telephone poll in Cairo and Alexandria at the very moment that thousands of Egyptians were out in the streets demanding the overthrow of Mubarak. We found that the main reasons for the Egyptian revolution were internal economic issues, not issues of Islam, America, Israel, or any foreign policy issues, or even political issues such as democracy or freedom. The issues were more about economic opportunity, inequality, corruption and abuses, and the ineffectiveness of Egypt’s government to provide for its own people’s basic needs. This is what motivated the people in Egypt to overthrow their government.

In retrospect, these results fit well with another poll that I did in Egypt a year before the revolution. When Egyptians were asked in an open-ended way what was on their mind, they were much more concerned about internal issues, and especially economic ones including corruption.

In a poll that I took in 2011 in Jordan, sympathy for al-Qaeda was around 20 percent. When we asked Jordanians what they would do if they knew there was someone from al-Qaeda in their own neighborhood, some 10 percent were willing to say they would help an al-Qaeda fugitive in their own neighborhood rather than turn him in to the authorities. As never before, people are willing to give honest answers to the toughest questions.

300,000 Palestinians in 19 Neighborhoods

What do the almost 300,000 Palestinians living in 19 Arab neighborhoods in the eastern half of Jerusalem actually think? What do these people want? What do they think about their experiences under Israeli rule? How do they see the future of their city?

We conducted solid surveys conforming to the most rigorous international standards. In east Jerusalem the total sample was 1,039, which means a margin of error of less than 3 percent. The sample covered the entire city, every single neighborhood, and was based on face-to-face interviews. The sample was representative of the overall Palestinian population of the city by age, education, gender, occupation, neighborhood, and income.

Some 44 percent report a monthly household income of NIS 4,800 ($1,400) or more. Almost half of the total population enjoys a lower middle class or higher standard of living, much better than Palestinians in the West Bank and approximately the same as Arab citizens of Israel inside the 1967 lines, but significantly lower than that of the Israeli Jewish population. In comparison to other Palestinians in the West Bank, and certainly in Gaza, the standard of living of Palestinians in east Jerusalem is reasonably good.

At the end of the survey, once respondents felt reasonably comfortable answering increasingly nosy questions, we came to the bottom line issue: If you had to choose, would you prefer to be a citizen of Israel or a citizen of a new Palestinian state. We found that more Palestinians in east Jerusalem would prefer to become citizens of Israel rather than citizens of a new Palestinian state: 35 percent would prefer to become citizens of Israel, 30 percent citizens of Palestine, and 35 percent either don’t know or refused to answer.

After the interviews were completed, we did a statistical analysis of the 35 percent who said they did not know, and analyzed their responses to other questions in the survey in order to make a judgment. We determined that the people who said they did not know or would not answer were in the middle in their views on all the different issues that make up their lives. Statistically speaking, that 35 percent leans slightly in the direction of the people who say they would prefer Israeli rather than Palestinian citizenship. Out of 50 different variables that we analyzed, the people that said “I don’t know” or “I refuse to answer,” answered more like the people who preferred Israel on 27 of those 50 variables, more like the people who said Palestine on 17 of those variables, and exactly in the middle on the rest of the 50 variables.

Pollsters often use a sort of trick question when they are asking about very controversial issues. In order to make it safer to answer, we ask people what they think their neighbor thinks, or what do people like them think about the issue. When we asked that question, we found that slightly more, 39 percent, said they thought that most of their neighbors would prefer Israeli to Palestinian citizenship. This gives us an indication that the answers to this question are probably honest. When people say roughly the same thing about what they think and what they think their neighbors think, that is usually an indication in polling practice that people are telling you candidly what their real opinions are.

We went a step further and asked people an even harder question: Would they move in order to be a citizen of whichever side they preferred if that choice became a necessity as part of a peace settlement or as part of a division of the city between Palestinian and Israeli rule? When we asked people whether they would move into Palestine, most said no, but when we asked whether they would move in order to become a citizen of Israel if their existing neighborhood came under Palestinian rule, fully 40 percent of the Palestinians in east Jerusalem said they would probably or definitely move in order to live under Israeli rather than Palestinian rule.

We presented these results to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington and New York, and there were Palestinian activists present. As one of these Palestinians put it, the PA has a problem with this population – they are not on their side. We also presented these results to a Palestinian audience in east Jerusalem and found that they are convinced that these are valid findings. They conform to their own experiences and perceptions of the people around them.

In addition, we found that there is not a whole lot of difference in most demographic categories on most questions. In other words, young and old, rich and poor, better educated and less educated are not that different. The younger segment of the population is slightly more inclined to say that they would prefer Israeli citizenship, but not by a whole lot.

Even in Shuafat refugee camp, where attitudes are the least moderate, you do not get a majority saying that they would rather be Palestinian citizens, which is incredible and even counter-intuitive.

Why Palestinians Feel the Way They Do

Why do these people feel that way? They are Palestinians after all. Why would so many of them become Israeli rather than Palestinian citizens, and even move to Israel in order to make that choice possible?

First, 44 percent of the Palestinians in the city say they are very, or at least somewhat, satisfied with their standard of living. This is a very high percentage compared to other populations in the Arab world that I have studied.

Second, we found that many of these Palestinians are generally pretty satisfied with a lot of important issues in their daily lives, including education, access to a nearby place of worship, health care, and basic services such as electricity and water. There is a significant percentage that has a neutral or even a negative view of these issues, but in every case, the majority is satisfied with all of these aspects of life. It actually turns out that less than half of the Palestinians in east Jerusalem are dissatisfied with their personal interactions with Jews in the city, with their ability to obtain travel documents, with their personal interactions with municipal officials, or with disability benefits.

To be fair, we found that a majority of Palestinians in east Jerusalem – 56 percent – did report that they feel there is a great deal or a fair amount of discrimination against them by the municipality. In other words, they feel there is official, not social, discrimination against them. Yes, they are reasonably satisfied with a lot of things, but that does not mean that they feel, on the whole, that they are being treated equally.

At the same time, almost half of the Palestinians report that corruption by PA officials is a big or at least a moderate problem for them personally.

Palestinians in east Jerusalem have a special status and blue identity cards like Israelis, which enable them to travel into the West Bank or into Israel. Unlike West Bank or Gaza Palestinians, they are very mobile and not isolated either from Palestinians or from Israelis. There is a high incidence of travel to west Jerusalem, to other areas of Israel, to the West Bank, and also quite a high level of interaction with Jewish citizens of Israel. This is a population which often works in the western side of the city and has often been educated in Israeli institutions.

We found that identity as a blue card holder is almost as important to these people as their identity as Palestinians or even as Muslims. That helps to explain why such a high percentage, if faced with the choice, would choose to be citizens of Israel and preserve some special status and their access to education, employment, travel, and social benefits, rather than give up those benefits and privileges in return for Palestinian citizenship.

In east Jerusalem, only about 30 percent sympathize with either Fatah or Hamas or with the Israeli Arab Islamic movement. This is a population whose political sympathies are not that strong or well-defined in comparison with their focus on their own personal identities – either religious, national, economic, or social. Politics is not a major preoccupation.

Finally, we asked the Palestinians directly and in an open-ended way why they wanted to be a Palestinian citizen or an Israeli citizen. For most Palestinians who said they wanted to be citizens of Israel, approximately 35 percent said it was practical issues that dominate – freedom of movement, higher income, health insurance, job opportunities, prosperity, more shops, and much lower down the list came issues of politics, culture, and law and order. Much higher on the list were practical concerns. When we looked at the Palestinians who said they would rather be citizens of Palestine, for 30 percent, practical issues were not very important. Issues of nationalism, identity, religion, and getting rid of discrimination were the issues that dominated among this group.

People were concerned that if they became a citizen of Palestine, they had significant worries about losing employment in Israel, free movement in Israel, Israeli health care, and reduction in city services. They were also concerned about an increase in corruption and most of all about the possibility of losing access to the Old City and the Al Aksa mosque, which was highest on their list of concerns.

Many of the concerns that these people have are very similar to the top concerns that are being expressed all over the region in public opinion and in the Arab uprisings that we are now witnessing from Egypt to Tunisia to Yemen. People are concerned most of all about economic opportunities, about corruption, and about freedoms, such as the freedom to write and speak freely. Three-quarters of east Jerusalem Arabs are at least a little concerned, and more than half are more than a little concerned, that they would lose their ability to write and speak freely if they became citizens of a Palestinian state rather than remaining under Israeli control.

If they became part of Israel, their concerns about the moral misconduct of their children was fairly high on the list. They are, generally speaking, a religious and conservative group. Even though educated and young, on the whole, a fairly high proportion of the population are concerned about what they see as the more lax moral standards or more progressive atmosphere in Israeli society compared to their ideal of Muslim society and culture. Interestingly, 60 percent cared about access to the beach. They travel in Israel quite a lot, so they think about access to the beach when they consider their future.

Will There Be an End to the Conflict?

Today the peace process is going nowhere. Even if the peace process does produce an agreement, this will not necessarily be more than a piece of paper, nor will it necessarily be the end of conflict. We asked the Palestinians in Jerusalem: If there is an agreement, will the conflict continue anyway? Significantly, 41 percent thought that the armed conflict probably or definitely would continue even after a peace agreement, and this is from among, in other respects, the most moderate population of Palestinians.

Then we asked: How did they think people in their own neighborhood would react to an agreement? Some 31 percent said that about half or more of the people in their own neighborhood would support the continuation of the armed struggle against Israel even after a peace agreement.

We also asked: If the negotiations collapsed, how likely is a new intifada in east Jerusalem? Only 27 percent said very likely, but an additional 37 percent said somewhat likely. In other words, putting those two figures together, almost two-thirds of east Jerusalem Palestinians said that a new intifada is at least somewhat likely if peace negotiations completely collapse.

Only a third of the Palestinians in east Jerusalem say that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence, even one backed by the United Nations, would have a positive effect on their own lives. Two-thirds say that such a unilateral step would be no more than an empty declaration and would not have a positive effect on their lives. If the Palestinians proceed down this path, it could be a recipe for trouble within their own population because of the expectations that are being raised. The almost inevitable disappointment that is likely to follow could lead, in my view, to an intifada not only against Israel but against the Palestinian Authority, along the lines of the uprisings that we have seen in other parts of the Arab region in recent months.

Most Arabs who are polled do not like and are really afraid of Iran. This holds true for Egypt, Jordan, everybody but the Shiites in Lebanon, and the Saudi public, which really does not like Iran. In many of these countries, 40 percent or more support sanctions against Iran. That is a very high percentage in support of international pressure against a fellow Muslim country. A third of the Saudi public said that they wanted the United States to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran has few friends in the region among the ordinary people, and that is good to know. On the other hand, the Palestinians have a terrible opinion of the United States and are more favorable towards Iran than most Arabs.

Implications of the Findings

In my opinion, these findings should have an effect at least in refining the discussion of Jerusalem, and it is also important from an American government or a broader international perspective. For people who tend to assume that a fair and practical solution for the Jerusalem issue is for the Arab neighborhoods to become part of Palestine and the Jewish neighborhoods to become part of Israel, these findings suggest that this could be somewhat problematic from the point of view of the people who actually live in east Jerusalem.

This factor needs to be taken into account or we are going to end up with a very disgruntled population of Palestinians who will be forced to come under Palestinian rule when a plurality do not want that. At a minimum, there needs to be some arrangement that responds to people’s personal needs and aspirations, not just to their collective identity or political leadership.

*     *     *

Dr. David Pollock is the former chief of Near East/South Asia/Africa research at the U.S. Information Agency. He is the principal advisor to Pechter Middle East Polls and a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, focusing on the political dynamics of Middle Eastern countries. Dr. Pollock previously served as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department, a post he assumed in 2002. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on April 28, 2011.

2011/08/22

Egypt and Israel Caught in an Al-Qaeda Whirlpool?

Source Link: Jerusalem Center

Egypt and Israel Caught in an Al-Qaeda Whirlpool?

Written by Jacques Neriah

A clear strategic context explains the recent flare-up between Israel and the Palestinian extremist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which was sparked by the armed incursion into Israel, across the Egyptian border, of more than twenty Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Resistance Committees. This assault, which left eight Israelis dead, set off the latest round of fighting in southern Israel. It would not have been possible without the growing weakness of the Egyptian regime’s grip on Egypt as a whole and the Sinai Peninsula in particular, especially since the collapse of the police state maintained by ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

Israeli spokesmen as well as politicians repeatedly stressed the fact that Egypt had almost lost control in Sinai. Israelis noted that Egypt’s gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon had been sabotaged five times since the inception of the post-Mubarak military regime. Israel also issued warnings to its citizens not to stay in Sinai since it had become a haven for terrorists, smugglers, and arms trafficking. Intelligence sources said there were about ten thousand Muslim extremists in Sinai, training and getting logistical support from local Bedouins.

Oddly enough, the Egyptians were ready to admit privately their own limitations in halting the massive smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. According to Wikileaks documents, it was the same Field Marshal Tantawi, today head of the Supreme Military Council and then defense minister under Mubarak, who negotiated with the U.S. administration ways to prevent the influx of weapons from Egypt to Gaza. At that time the Egyptians were contemplating building a steel wall to seal the border with Gaza hermetically (on April 12 the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Egypt had ceased building this wall). Tantawi was also considering an American suggestion to use new technologies meant to destroy underground tunnels, which were used to channel the weapons into Gaza.

The same intelligence sources reported that since Mubarak’s resignation and a more sympathetic Egyptian policy toward the Palestinian cause coupled with a tougher approach to Israel, thousands of rockets along with ammunition and equipment had been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt. Israel was no longer in control of the border. The weapons were transported by Palestinian activists assisted by Bedouins living in Sinai, sometimes with the tacit acquiescence of the Egyptian authorities in the areas and usually without Egypt’s prior knowledge.

To stop the loosening of the Egyptian grip on Sinai, Israel agreed twice to significant Egyptian troop increases to their force deployment in the peninsula, thus changing the parameters set in the military annex of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty. The latest deployment of more than a thousand troops was made only a few days before the terrorist incursion into Israel and was meant to boost Egypt’s efforts to regain its hold on Sinai. Assessing that the main threat to Egypt’s authority was in northern Sinai, where the gas pipeline splits toward the neighboring countries, Egypt decided to deploy its forces in that area, thus leaving the southern part diluted of forces and open to infiltrations.

However, from day one of the operations against the extremist organizations in northern Sinai, the Egyptian authorities realized to their dismay that the phenomenon is not limited to Sinai but engulfs the whole of Egypt. Islamist cells have been created all over Egypt so as to topple the regime by force. The network of Palestinian organizations in Gaza has already proved to be a threat to Egypt itself. In January 2011 Egypt’s former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, charged that the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamist group Jaish al-Islam was responsible for a New Year’s Eve attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria that left twenty-three Egyptian Christians dead. Jaish al-Islam is an Al-Qaeda affiliate and was formed by members of the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization responsible for last week’s attack within Israel.

Indeed, only two days before that event on Road 12 to Eilat, the Egyptian security forces mounted an attack east of the town of El-Arish in northern Sinai. This revealed yet another spillover of radical Islamic groups from Gaza into Sinai, which threatened Egypt and not just Israel. In the aftermath the following details were released:

  1. The members of the group were part of a Takfiri organization, that is, the same organization of Muslim zealots that assassinated President Sadat in 1981, some of whom subsequently joined the Al-Qaeda militants.
  2. The group was trained militarily in Gaza and in the region of Jabal Hilal in central Sinai, which is now the area where most of the fundamentalists fleeing the Egyptian security forces have found refuge. Jabal Hilal has been a notorious base for Al-Qaeda in the recent past and the location of difficult battles between Al-Qaeda and the Egyptian army, in which, in one case, an Egyptian general was killed.
  3. Those militants were part of the groups that sabotaged the gas pipeline to Israel.
  4. The leader of the Palestinians who allied with the Egyptian members of the El-Arish group was a member of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. He managed to reach El-Arish by using one of the underground tunnels. He had been in prison in Egypt but was able to escape to Gaza in the wake of the Egyptian revolution.
  5. The Egyptians associated with the Palestinians were highly educated (one a mechanical engineer, another with a BA in administration) and came from Suez, Alexandria, Qalyoubiah, and Suhaj. The Egyptian security forces were surprised, since this was the first time a Sinai terrorist cell included members from outside of Sinai.
  6. The interrogations revealed that there was a Takfiri presence almost throughout Egypt. El-Arish was a convenient location because it is close to Gaza and Israel, making it easier to obtain weapons.
  7. The group clearly had a theological, jihadist outlook. Basically they wanted to replace the regime by force according to the tenets of Takfir (in which one Muslim declares another an unbeliever) and of the Egyptian Salafist movement.
  8. Most of the Egyptian detainees had been members of fundamentalist organizations for years.
  9. Their main targets were Egyptian security forces (which they viewed as heretic) and strategic installations such as the gas pipeline.

Undoubtedly Mubarak’s fall and the military regime’s commitment to political openness have created a new reality that makes it difficult for the military to control the country as it would wish. One consequence is the weakening of the police structure and the strengthening of illegal opposition forces. On July 14 the new regime dismissed 4000 police officers, of whom 669 were high-ranking and 505 were police generals, while eighteen other generals and 19 brigadier generals also were released from duty but were deferred to justice so as to investigate their responsibility for the killings during the demonstrations. This dramatic move was but another aspect of the new regime’s efforts to “clean the stables.”

The process had begun in the aftermath of Mubarak’s fall with the elimination, in response to popular demand, of the entire repressive apparatus. Egypt’s removal of the police state and subsequent political reforms have made it difficult to maintain domestic security and keep militants under control. Indeed, militants are already taking advantage of the political openness. Moreover, the shakiness of the regime (Egypt has had three cabinet reshuffles since the revolution), which has been more permissive toward criticism of Israel and lax toward anti-Israeli demonstrations, has fostered an environment in which opposition groups feel encouraged not only to attack the regime and demand more freedom, but believe they can maneuver the regime into a hostile stance toward Israel.

Just as the political groups are “asking for the heads” of the former regime, the most extreme of them advocate a radical posture toward Israel that entails declaring the peace treaty null and void. The new era of openness has allowed Islamist actors to emerge as legitimate political entities. The rise of various Islamist factions (the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafists, Sufists, and others) that are striving for power makes it difficult for jihadists to directly threaten the regime’s stability. Realizing that they cannot (despite the broader Arab unrest) confront the Egyptian state head-on, the jihadists are trying to undermine the regime indirectly by exploiting the situation regarding Gaza and Israel and through renewed militancy in Sinai, and also by reviving religious tensions between Copts and Muslims, which reached an unprecedented level in the months after the revolution including the burning of churches, attacks on individuals, and so on.

Field Marshal Tantawi is under much stress both on the domestic and regional levels. Egypt is in the early stages of trying to manage both political and militant opposition in a tense climate, and it is unable to maintain internal security as effectively as it once did. Nevertheless, it seems the regime is realizing that the political openness is not so much to its advantage but rather to its detriment. That is why Tantawi decided to announce only in September the schedule for the constitutional reform, and also to take a tougher hand against demonstrators in Tahrir Square and Alexandria.
Particularly significant is that the cell captured in El-Arish shows that the Takfiri and jihadist movement in Egypt is very much alive and even gaining more terrain. It can be assessed that the Takfiri militants are either part of Al-Qaeda or working hand in hand with their Al-Qaeda operators. Indeed, for decades Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has wanted to undermine his home country, Egypt, and the Arab unrest now offers an opportunity. His rise to the top of the jihadist hierarchy could also herald an increasing role for Egyptians within the global jihadist network, which would make it easier for Egyptian Takfiri militants to work with Al-Qaeda.

The result is that Al-Qaeda can be expected to make its presence felt in the Egyptian-Gazan-Israeli border area. If so, it will not only complicate matters for Israel and its efforts to deal with Gaza, but could seriously damage the Egyptian-Israeli relationship that has existed since the 1978 Camp David Accords. Only a tight, effective, but mostly tacit partnership between Israel and Egypt can help both parties, each for its own reasons, cooperate in eradicating the fundamentalist cells in Sinai and beyond.

About Jacques Neriah
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence

2011/04/04

The Palestinian UN Gamble – Irresponsible and Ill-Advised

Source Link: JCPA

Written By Alan Baker

  • The Palestinian leadership has announced its intention to abandon the negotiation process and to unilaterally seek a UN resolution that will impose a solution upon Israel. Facing a possible veto in the Security Council, the Palestinians are aiming to impose a UN resolution through the General Assembly “Uniting for Peace” procedure, which they hope will be supported by the UN member states.
  • While such a resolution would not have the authority to alter the legal status of the territories, the negative consequences of such a course of action would nevertheless serve to void the very basis of the peace process. It would undermine the legal existence of the Palestinian Authority and violate commitments by Yasser Arafat to settle all issues by negotiation,
  • Such unilateral action outside the negotiation process would constitute a fundamental breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, thereby releasing Israel from its reciprocal commitments.
  • Such unilateral action would undermine the international community’s reliance on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which form the foundation of all the agreements between the parties. It would also place into question the integrity and credibility of any Security Council resolutions or agreements resolving conflicts between states.
  • It would render as meaningless the signatures of the major powers as witnesses to previous negotiated agreements. It would also be incompatible with provisions of resolutions and agreements requiring negotiated solutions to the Jerusalem and refugee issues.

Palestinian Leaders Say the Peace Process Is Over

The international community has recently witnessed a series of widely publicized and authoritative declarations voiced by Palestinian leaders, according to which “the current peace process as it has been conducted so far is over” (Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki, March 22, 2011), and “the Palestinian leadership institutions (PLO and Fatah) have decided to submit a request to the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem” (Sa’eb Erekat – AFP, March 20, 2011).

These declarations join an earlier plan by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, announced in August 2009, to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state upon completion of the preparations for Palestinian governing institutions by September 2011.

A “Uniting for Peace” Resolution?

In the face of a probable U.S. veto of any further attempts by the Palestinian observer delegation to the UN to attain a Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state, the Palestinians are aiming to bring about the adoption of a “Uniting for Peace” resolution in the September 2011 session of the UN General Assembly. This resolution would be based on a procedure established in 1950 at the initiative of then-U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson in the context of the Korean crisis as a means of overcoming a lack of unanimity among the permanent members of the Security Council which was preventing the Council from fulfilling its duty to maintain international peace in the event of a perceived “threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression.”1

In such a case, the General Assembly “shall consider the matter immediately” in an emergency special session with a view to adopting a General Assembly resolution that could recommend collective measures and other possible action to deal with a perceived threat to international peace and security.

Emergency special sessions of the General Assembly have been convened under this procedure in over ten instances, including the Korean crisis (1950-1953), the Suez crisis (1956), Hungary (1956), Congo (1960), Afghanistan (1980), and Namibia (1981). The procedure has frequently been used regarding Middle East issues, as in 1967, 1980-82, and in the 10th emergency Special Session which, at the behest of the Palestinians and Arab states, has in fact been continuously active since 1997 to this very day.

Clearly, the factual and legal situations regarding each case are unique and thus cannot be seen as indicative of the outcome or content of any possible future “Uniting for Peace” resolution. In this light, the legal and political background to any Palestinian attempt to unilaterally declare a state and to have it recognized by the UN is quite different from any previous use of the “Uniting for Peace” procedure.

A General Assembly resolution adopted through the “Uniting for Peace” procedure would not provide the General Assembly with any powers beyond the recommendatory powers that it exercises in any other routine resolution. It would not be a mandatory resolution, but could only recommend collective or individual actions by states. It would not have the power to change the status of the territories, nor, in and of itself, to alter Israel’s status vis-à-vis the territories.

Voiding the Oslo Agreements

The projected action by the Palestinians of declaring void the agreed-upon negotiation process, and proceeding to a unilateral process with the approval of the UN, could have a number of very negative consequences for the Palestinians and for the peace process, as well as for the international community.

With respect to the Palestinians:

  • The Palestinian action would be a clear violation of the assurance given by Yasser Arafat in the first formal contact between Israel and the Palestinians, in his exchange of letters with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, according to which “all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations.”2 By leaving the negotiating table, taking unilateral action, and seeking to have the UN impose an outcome on Israel, the Palestinians are in fact undermining the very basis of the “peace process” and of Arafat’s commitment.
  • The Palestinian action would be a clear violation of Article XXXI (7) of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement by which the parties undertook not to “initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”3 Since there is not yet any outcome to the permanent status negotiations, the Palestinian unilateral action runs directly against this commitment and renders it void, and as such opens up the option for Israel to undertake its own unilateral actions regarding the status of the territories, should Israel consider this to be necessary.
  • In generating a fundamental breach of the Interim Agreement, the Palestinians would be responsible for this agreement’s demise. Since the agreement serves as the legal basis and source of authority of the Palestinian Authority itself, its institutions, its parliament, courts, the office of its president, the president himself, and all powers and responsibilities, the PA leadership would, in fact, be placing in question the very legitimacy of their own existence, with all that that would imply.

Voiding the Credibility of the International Community

With respect to the peace process and the international community:

  • The Palestinian action of seeking to impose a solution through the UN would be incompatible with the terms of Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). Resolution 2424 specifically calls upon the parties to agree upon “secure and recognized boundaries,” and thus, by implication, not to impose boundaries outside such an agreed process. Further to this, Resolution 3385 calls for “negotiations…between the parties concerned…aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”
  • By seeking to bypass these resolutions through action in the UN with the support of the international community, the Palestinians are basically obliging the member states of the UN to remove the foundations from the entire peace process which are based entirely on those two resolutions, as stated in all the agreements and memoranda signed between the parties and witnessed by members of the international community. It is questionable if the members of the international community could agree to be party to an action undermining such central and important Security Council resolutions that they themselves initiated and adopted.
  • Bypassing and voiding Resolutions 242 and 338 would also have consequences on the yet-to-be-conducted peace negotiations between Israel and its neighbors Syria and Lebanon, by removing the central factors around which such peace negotiations are intended to take place.
  • The precedent that this will create could have serious consequences for the credibility of other Security Council resolutions that determine outcomes of other disputes in the world, and render such resolutions completely voidable at the whim of any group of organizations or states that can recruit a majority in the General Assembly.
  • Since the leaders of the U.S., EU, Russia, Norway, Egypt and Jordan are signatories as witnesses to the 1995 Interim Agreement, it may be asked how such states could support a Palestinian action in the UN that is clearly intended to undermine and frustrate that agreement. What value would there be to states and organizations signing as witnesses to important international documents if no credibility, reliability, or integrity are attached to such witnessing?

Impact on Jerusalem

The international community has consistently refused to recognize Israel’s right to establish its capital city in Jerusalem pending a negotiated agreement on the status of the city. Hence, diplomatic missions are not located in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. In light of this, one might ask how member states of the UN will be able to support a Palestinian resolution affirming a Palestinian right to establish its capital in Jerusalem.

This would be a clearly one-sided act by the international community in violation of all declarations and commitments directed toward a negotiated settlement regarding Jerusalem. Furthermore, it would undermine the commitment between Jordan and Israel in Article 9 of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty, according to which: “In accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”6

Impact on the Refugee Issue

Similarly, if, as the Palestinians have been intimating, they will seek to include a provision in a “Uniting for Peace” resolution affirming and imposing the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, this would, in fact, conflict with the relevant provision of Resolution 242 calling for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.”7 Assuming that the “refugee problem” refers also to the issue of Jewish refugees resulting from the Middle East crisis, then the unilateral determination regarding Palestinian refugees only would be discriminatory and violate Resolution 242.

It would also violate the relevant undertakings in the Oslo Accords, specifically the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (Article V(3)) which determines that the final status issues to be negotiated (and not imposed by the UN) “shall cover remaining issues, including: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors, and other issues of common interest.”

Imposing a UN determination regarding the refugee issue would be incompatible with and undermine the agreement between Jordan and Israel in Article 8 of their 1994 bilateral Treaty of Peace, according to which the refugee issue will be dealt with “in negotiations, in a framework to be agreed, bilateral or otherwise, in conjunction with and at the same time as the permanent status negotiations.”8

The potential confusion, disorder, and substantive damage of a Palestinian-motivated UN resolution – to the Palestinians themselves, to the peace-negotiation process, and to the credibility and reliability of the United Nations and international community in general – is likely to be immeasurable. While the beginnings of such a process might be clear, there can be no foreseeing the final outcome and the concomitant consequences.

The question remains whether the members of the UN who are being drawn by the Palestinians into this irresponsible and ill-advised exercise are fully aware of the damage it may cause.

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Notes

1. http://www.un.org/en/ga/sessions/emergency.shtml

2. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Israel-PLO+Recognition+-+Exchange+of+Letters+betwe.htm

3. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/THE+ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN+INTERIM+AGREEMENT.htm

4. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/UN+Security+Council+Resolution+242.htm

5.  http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/UN+Security+Council+Resolution+338.htm

6. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/Israel-Jordan+Peace+Treaty.htm

7. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Peace+Process/Guide+to+the+Peace+Process/UN+Security+Council+Resolution+242.htm

8. See note 6 above.

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Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is former Legal Adviser to Israel’s Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada. He is a partner in the law firm of Moshe, Bloomfield, Kobo, Baker & Co. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the various agreements comprising the Oslo Accords.