Palestinians wait for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails, near Erez crossing between Israel and northern Gaza Strip, Oct. 30, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
One of the problems of political negotiations without a clear reference point is that the parties, especially the stronger party, can change the rules of the game at will. And the absence of a neutral referee on the field allows such a strong party to get away with regularly moving the goal posts.
This is exactly what is happening in the Palestinian-Israeli talks. It began with the Israelis refusing to accept the principle of the 1967 borders and suspend settlement expansion as a reference point, and continued with Israeli negotiators banning US officials from entering the negotiation room.
Palestinians and Israelis have agreed to keep the talks going for nine months. For Israel, talks could go on for nine years as long as the talks masqueraded their continued occupation, but for Palestinians, this meant talking while Israel continued to take away Palestinian lands intended for the future Palestinian state.
The agreement by Israel to release pre-Oslo prisoners in four stages during the nine-month period sealed Israel’s assurance that Palestinian negotiators would not walk out of the talks for any reason whatsoever. Even though the prisoner release was a previous Israeli commitment in the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement, the Palestinian side also agreed not to pursue any further UN membership attempts during the nine-month negotiations period.
At the time of the agreement, Palestinian legislator and nonviolent leader Mustafa Barghouti predicted that succumbing to Israeli demands amounted to the potential of Israeli political blackmail. This turned out to be a true prophesy. Whether as part of a secret deal or not, Israel implemented further settlements on the very day that they agreed to release the ageing Palestinian prisoners.
By dividing the release of the 104 prisoners into four stages, the last of which would be at the end of the nine-month period, Israel has ensured the neutralization of the Palestinians’ only significant negotiating weapon, that of walking out of the talks.
While Palestinians badly want the talks to succeed, they find themselves trapped in an unenviable position: If they walk out, the remaining prisoners would not be released; if they stay in the talks, Israel could both claim to be involved in peace talks while at the same time carry out acts that are in violation of international law.
This is where the need for US officials to be listening in on what happens inside the negotiating room would have been important. But alas, even this rather neutral and innocuous request from the sole sponsor of the peace talks was also taken away from the Palestinians, thus allowing Israel to get away with doing nothing of substance in the talks while claiming that they are involved in peace negotiations.
While the actual discussions are held in secret, much can be deduced from public statements. A simple look at where the talks began and what has been publicly stated in recent days shows a clear retraction. The world was told Israel’s prime minister had agreed in principle to the two-state solution and the proof of this agreement was Benjamin Netanyahu’s conditional acceptance as stated in his Bar Ilan speech.
His two conditions at the time were that Palestine be demilitarized and that Palestinians publicly accept that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. While the first condition violates the sovereign rights of any independent country, some in Palestine were not opposed to it, the other condition was much more difficult, for it violated Palestinian relations with fellow Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.
When the talks began, both sides agreed that the talks would include all permanent status issues such as borders, Jerusalem and refugees. However, as the talks progressed, the Israelis have recanted on their own commitments. Within a period of one week and possibly in preparation for the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry, Netanyahu publicly opposed any talks on Jerusalem or refugees. At the outset of the Israeli cabinet meeting he stated: “We ascribe importance to the unity of Jerusalem and, of course, to the cancellation of the right of return.”
Two days before Kerry’s arrival, Netanyahu shocked Palestinians and Americans by ordering the construction of a wall on the Jordan Valley, thus destroying any possibility of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state with open borders with its Jordanian neighbor.
If Palestinians cannot talk about the right of return and Jerusalem, what is the meaning of agreeing early on to include them in the core issues to be negotiated? And if there is an Israeli-built and controlled wall on the Jordan Valley, what is the use of even discussing borders and the idea of a separate Palestinian state? A wall on the Jordan Valley will significantly decrease Palestinian support for the two-state solution and move people more toward the concept of the one-state solution, where all people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea require equal rights in a single democratic state.
The release of the second stage of prisoners has exploded the very essence of serious peace talks that aim to find a reasonable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The American sponsors, who have refused to allow any other side to intervene and have claimed to be honest brokers, have to ensure that the rules of the game are honored and that the goal posts are not changed by the side with the military advantage
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
Jan 21, 2020 0People gather at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s residence in Monsey, New York, Dec. 29, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Jeenah Moon. The two police officers who detained the man accused of stabbing five people...
The verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael – “Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – is understood to (in Wikipedia’s words) “encapsulate the monotheistic essence of Judaism.” It’s understood to be a declaration not only there is one and only one God, but also that God’s oneness is all-inclusive. God includes every particle of existence is within Him. God is not just ruling over the world. God encompasses the world. Time and space and all of us are within God. Nothing stands outside of God’s Oneness, and God encompasses all existence equally
Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.
On the left side of the screen on Tuesday, 15,000 Israelis gathered Tuesday evening outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to demand legal justice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the face of what they view as an anti-democratic usurpation of political power by Israel’s legal fraternity.
It hard to believe that two weeks ago, Israel was on the brink of war. With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing nearly 500 missiles from Gaza into Israel within a 48-hour period, even Tel Aviv was put on alert and certain train routes were canceled. My mind immediately raced to a Christian group I was going to host for Shabbat in Jerusalem Israel – Pastor Leroy Armstrong of Proclaiming the Word Ministries.
Turkey’s little remarked on but ongoing mistreatment of historic churches is increasingly reflective of that nation’s growing sense of Islamic supremacism.
Before the Turks invaded it, Anatolia (present day Turkey) was an ancient Christian region; a large chunk of St. Paul’s epistles were sent to or dealt with its churches, including the seven of the Apocalypse. With the Turks’ conquest, colonization, and subsequent Turkification of Anatolia—hence why it’s now simply called “Turkey”—tens of thousands of churches were systematically desecrated and turned into victory mosques.
Sorek was the grandson of a Rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and was universally described as a kind, gentle soul. His funeral was interrupted by Palestinians shooting off fireworks celebrating his murder.
Two terrorists, including one affiliated with Hamas were arrested for the murder. And at the time, Hamas said in a statement, “We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation which killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said in a statement. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold.”