Sunday, July 2, 2017

Kurdistan Taking Shape - with Israeli Support


We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it” (PM Benyamin Netanyahu)
An independent Kurdish state, an idea that the countries where the Kurds live – Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – strongly oppose, has one strong ally namely Israel. It might be surprising that Israel has long promoted cordial relations with the Kurds, particularly the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG). From Kurdish side there is believe that Israel can be their best lobby in the West for the project of a Kurdish state.
 
On 25th September 2017, a referendum will be held on the future of the autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq - whether remain within the Iraqi state or become an independent state. This referendum will be the Kurds’ first step towards the realization over century-long dream of an independent Kurdistan.
 
The Kurds have suffered persecution and oppression in the countries where they reside: Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. The Kurds now constitute the largest national group in the world without a state to call their own.
 
In Iraq, after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the Kurds got a broad autonomy and also respect from outside especially due to the considerable assistance provided by the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military militia, to the war effort against ISIS.
 
Despite this the current Iraqi government more or less oppose Kurdish independence, according Bagdad the Kurds are an inseparable part of Iraqi society. One reason for this approach might be disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq (KRG) and the Iraqi government over oil ownership in Kurdistan and the reimbursement of funds demanded by the government for the sale of that oil.
 
Dr. Edy Cohen has recently published his analysis Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence and concludes following:
For its part, Israel has an economic and security interest in supporting a Kurdish state. In view of the profusion of jihadist militias in Syria and Iraq, Jerusalem must be involved in developments in Kurdistan. It would be in Israel’s interest for the IDF to train and instruct Peshmerga soldiers in any future Kurdish state. One could go further – it might be sensible to build an air force base in Kurdistan for the state’s protection. Moreover, the independent Kurdish state may well allow the restitution of its former Jewish population, driven from Iraq for its plundered property, thus setting an important precedent for future Arab-Israeli peace agreements.

Israeli involvement with the Kurds is not a new phenomenon
 
In its search for non-Arab allies in the region, Israel has supported Kurdish militancy in Iraq since the 1960s. In 1980, Israeli premier Menachem Begin publicly acknowledged that besides humanitarian aid, Israel had secretly provided military aid to Kurds in the form of weapons and advisers. Israel and the Kurds also share a common bond through the Kurdish Jews in Israel. Prominent among them is Itzhak Mordechai, an Iraqi Kurd who was defense minister during Benjamin Netanyahu's term nearly two decades ago.
 
Many Iraqi leaders accuse the president of the Kurdish autonomous region, Massoud Barzani, of collaborating with Israel, thereby hinting at the military assistance given by Israel in the 1960s and 1970s to the Kurds under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani (Massoud’s father) in their war against the central government. Israeli television has in the past broadcast photographs from the 1960s showing Mustafa Barzani, embracing the then Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan.   According to Eliezer Tsafrir, a former senior Mossad official, in 1963–1975 Israel had military advisers at the headquarters of Mulla Mustafa Barzani, and trained and supplied the Kurdish units with firearms and field and anti-aircraft artillery. Israeli media in 2004 reported about the meetings of Israeli officials with Kurdish political leaders when Massoud Barzani, Jalal Talabani and the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon publicly confirmed the good relations with the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
 
The president of the Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, answered a question while visiting Kuwait in May 2006 about the Kurdish-Israeli relationship: "It is not a crime to have relations with Israel. If Baghdad established diplomatic relations with Israel, we could open a consulate in Erbil."
 
Former prime minister of Iraq (2006-14) Nuri al-Maliki, has repeatedly told the media pejoratively that Kurdistan would be a “second Israel.”

In a policy address in 2014, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the establishment of an independent Kurdish state. He claimed that: "The Kurds are a fighting people that have proven political commitment and political moderation, and they're also worthy of their own political independence."...“We must support the Kurds’ aspirations for independence; they deserve it,” Netanyahu declared in a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
 
The Israelis are also rumored to have provided weapons and training to the KRG. In addition, Israel helped the KRG by purchasing Kurdish oil in 2015 at a time when Baghdad threatened to sue anyone, who would trade with the Kurds.
 
We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said in late January 2017. She also called the Kurds “a partner for the Israeli people."

Kurdistan

Globally, the Kurds are estimated to number anywhere from a low of 30 million, to possibly as high as 45 million, with the majority living in the region they regard as Greater Kurdistan. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Kurdistan covers around 190,000 km² in Turkey, 125,000 km² in Iran, 65,000 km² in Iraq, and 12,000 km² in Syria, with a total area of approximately 392,000 km².

After WWI, the victorious powers promised independence for the Kurds. This did not materialize mainly due to the opposition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
 
Modern Kurdish-majority governments (source and more in WikipediA) are as follows:
  • Kingdom of Kurdistan (1920) Kingdom of Kurdistan, which lasted from September 1922 until July 1924 The Kingdom of Kurdistan refers to a short-lived unrecognized state proclaimed in the city of Sulaymaniyah following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Officially, the territory involved was under the jurisdiction of the British Mandate of Mesopotamia.
  • Republic of Ararat (1927–1930)
  • Republic of Mahabad (1946) In December 1945 the Kurdish Republic of Kurdistan was declared by Qazi Muhammad, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran in Mahabad (northwestern Iran) which was under Soviet military control. In May 1946 the Soviet troops were withdrawn from Iran and all support for the Republic of Kurdistan was cut, in accordance with the Yalta Agreement. In December of that year Mahabad was finally overrun by Iranian troops, president Qazi Muhammad was hanged in Mahabad city along with his brother and a cousin, and a number of libraries containing Kurdish texts were burned.
  • Kurdistan Regional Government (1991 to date)
  • Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (2013 to date)


According WikipediA The Kurdish people are believed to be of heterogeneous origins combining a number of earlier tribal or ethnic groups including Lullubi, Guti, Cyrtians, Carduchi. Some of them have also absorbed some elements from Semitic, Turkic and Armenian people.

There is also theories/speculations/legends that Kurds are the closest relatives of Jews The Kurds are the descendants of Gutis, which in turn were the descendants of Israelites taken captive to Media. The Kurds are said to be the descendants of Medians. In modern time some scientists sampled Y-chromosomes from 18 populations and discovered that the majority of Jews around the world are closely related to the Kurdish people --more closely than they are to the Semitic-speaking Arabs or any other population that was tested.
 
Kurdish Jews
 
Immigration of Kurdish Jews to the Land of Israel initiated during the late 16th century, with a community of rabbinic scholars arriving to Safed and Galilee and a Kurdish Jewish quarter had been established there as a result.

Since the early 20th century some Kurdish Jews had been active in the Zionist movement. One of the most famous members of Lehi (Freedom Fighters of Israel aka the "Stern) was Moshe Barazani, whose family immigrated from Iraqi Kurdistan and settled in Jerusalem in the late 1920s. Lehi/Stern was underground movement in pre-state British Mandate Palestine and had armed fight against British administration. 
 
The vast majority of Kurdish Jews were forced out of Northern Iraq in the early 1950s, together with other Iraqi Jewish community. The vast majority of the Kurdish Jews of Iranian Kurdistan relocated mostly to Israel as well, in the 1950s.

Kurdish Jews in Israel are immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Kurdish Jewish communities, who now reside within the state of Israel. They number around 200,000.

The Barzani (also Barazani) family is one of the Kurdish tribes in Iraq and has has been the leading light of Kurdish politics since the decline and final collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The sheikhs of Barzan are descendants of Bahdinan and of Yazidi origin are assimilated to Kurdish culture. The Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA) speaks of the Barzani families Jewish Rabbinical roots.

My view
 
As consequence of still ongoing wars in Iraq and Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and EU met huge refugee crisis. However not so many Kurds were among refugees. One reason might be that Iraqi and Syrian Kurds had motivation to defend their homeland and they also had relatively good resources – oil, money and weapons – to do so. Related to manpower and describing Kurd society and culture the important aspect is that also women have significant role in military campaigns.

I share in the highest degree the ideas/visions of Abdullah Öcalan’s – leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party -paper on Democratic Confederalism for Kurdistan in future. He e.g. notes
that Democratic confederalism is based on grass-roots participation. Its decision-making processes lie with the communities. Higher levels only serve the coordination and implementation of the will of the communities that send their delegates to the general assemblies. For limited space of time they are both mouthpiece and executive institutions. However, the basic power of decision rests with the local grass-roots institutions.
Surrounded by enemies the Kurdish region, shares a border with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey. These countries, especially Iran and Turkey, all strongly oppose the establishment of a Kurdish state. They fear, that Kurdistan – which has managed to build a friendly island of calm and stability in an area surrounded by enemies and war – will indeed become that distasteful thing, a “second Israel.”

Kurdish feats on the battleground, have proven that the Kurds are a formidable barrier against dangerous anti-Israeli forces emanating from both Sunni and Shi’a Islamist radicals.
Edy Cohen concludes that
There are many commonalities between the Kurdish people and the Jewish people, both of whom have suffered continuous long-term persecution and are scattered throughout the world….in all probability, the state of Kurdistan will be an island of stability that is respectful of human rights. It will therefore differ substantially from the countries surrounding it...The Kurdish people must have a state of their own, and the sooner the better. The international community should support the independence of Kurdistan.
I fully agree this conclusion and recommendation.
Kurdistan

Sources and more:
 
Kurdistan: From Referendum to the Road to Independence by Dr. Edy Cohen BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 507, June 24, 2017, View PDF,
Abdullah Öcalan’s Democratic Confederalism   and



Article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila blog 
 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trump Presidency Brings Realpolitik Back To Mid-East

 
“We just had an election and most journalists were shocked! Why? Because they had been reporting from their own bias instead of from reality, and some journalists even said so. But this isn't just about elections: it happens in many areas, including Israel and the Palestinians.” (HonestReporting)
dt-101Trump presidency means new better era in U.S.-Israel relations as well new scenarios in Mid East conflicts. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, his transition team and his advisors are already planning new U.S. foreign policy approach which probably will include new visio(s) for solutions and new roadmap towards them. Same time the main players, especially Israel, are preparing their answer to this new ‘Trumpoportunity’.

There has been discussions whether U.S. President Obama will make a final intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before he leaves office. This could include giving a speech on parameters for a peace agreement between Israeli and the Palestinians, or by the U.S. supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements. Trump team warned Obama not to make any Lame-Duck major moves on foreign policy, such as a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace push based on U.S. drafted parameters.

New developments in Israeli-Palestinian conflict will probably been supported via wider geopolitical shift during Trump presidency. Especially one can wait more pragmatic approach in U.S.-Russia relations. While United States has been gradually retreating from the Middle East and Russia has been filling this vacuum a new deal is possible which of course can have its political spin-offs or even spill-over effects besides Mid-East also in Europe.


Trump & Israel

“Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people,” (Donald Trump)
 
Already in 2013, before becoming a politician, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump stated support for Israel and admiration for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Then famous as a billionaire and entrepreneur, Trump took part in a video showing his support for Netanyahu and the Likud party ahead of Israel’s 2013 general election. In an unprecedented move, the U.S. billionaire and world-renowned entrepreneur, Mr. Donald Trump, took part in a video showing his support for the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and The Likud Party in general elections in Israel next week: "Vote for Benjamin, terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel."

Donald Trump has been investing flamboyantly also in the Arab world, but he's never done a deal in Israel. In 2006 the deal was close as land on the border of Tel Aviv really had been bought for a Trump Tower in Israel.. The plan was to build a 70-story skyscraper bearing the Trump brand, it was to have been the tallest building in Israel. By 2007, the project was dead. Lesser-known stabs at business in Israel that went nowhere include the Trump Hotel extravaganza in Netanya and the Trump Golf Course in Ashkelon.

Trump, for one, has made it very clear he will support Israel and its preferences. A post-election statement by Trump's advisers on Israel said, "A two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians appears impossible as long as the Palestinians are unwilling to renounce violence against Israel or recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state." Israel staunchly opposes any move by Obama to secure a U.N. Security Council resolution seen as hostile to Israeli interests — especially if he asked other world powers to embrace U.S.-drafted parameters for a two-state solution. Trump team warned Obama not to make any Lame-Duck major moves on foreign policy, such as a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace push based on US drafted parameters. Source: The Politico
Israel and the US recently signed a new ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on defence aid which constitutes a renewal of America’s commitment to Israel’s security and a further fortification of Israel’s qualitative military edge.

During election campaign there was charges that Trump – or his some of his supporters - is flirting with Jew-hatred. However New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman felt compelled to note that, “Trump has a son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew, and a daughter [Ivanka] who converted to her husband’s religion. Mr. Trump has bragged about his Jewish grandchildren.”

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Authority conflict would be “the ultimate deal,” US President-elect Donald Trump told Wall Street Journal, adding that, as a master dealmaker, he relishes the challenge. “I’d like to do…the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake,” Source: Behindthenews
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm5Je73bYOY]
 
Israel’s aims with Trump

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already been invited by Trump to the White House at the earliest opportunity. Netanyahu called Trump “a true friend of the State of Israel. We will work together to advance the security, stability and peace in our region.”

PM Netanyahu has already started preparing his first meeting with President-elect Donald Trump - . a meeting that could take place at the end of March 2017 when the prime minister speaks at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
According Al-Monitor a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official dealing with Israel-US relations on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu is expected to raise three major issues in his first meeting with Trump:
First, Netanyahu wishes to remove the resolution of the Palestinian issue from the list of elements necessary for regional stability and convince the new president that fundamentalist terror is the root problem of the region. Netanyahu will argue that the Islamic State, Hezbollah and Hamas are the real enemies of both Israel and pragmatic Arab countries. Thus, the region should align around the battle against Iranian-sponsored terror, not the Palestinian statehood issue.
The second topic for Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump would be, according to the Israeli side, the Iran deal. The prime minister intends to persuade the new president to cooperate closely with Israel on Iranian compliance with the agreement.
Netanyahu’s third issue would be preventing American and international pressure on Israel on settlement construction, public assurances that the United States will veto any U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel and the prime minister wants the new administration to foil any EU member state initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the French initiative on a two-state solution.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made on 16th Nov. 2016 a statement, suggesting Israel must cool its heels over Trump’s election and approach him with modest proposals regarding settlement construction. Speaking to political reporters Liberman said, “If we receive confirmation of the Bush-Sharon understandings, we should grab it with both hands.” The Bush-Sharon understandings recognized the need for construction to support the growth of the existing population in Judea and Samaria inside the settlement blocks — but no launching of new settlements.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told media in New York City on 17th Nov. 2016 that there’s “no doubt” President-elect Donald Trump is a “true friend of Israel.” He added that also “Vice-President-elect Mike Pence was one of Israel’s “greatest friends” during his decade in Congress, and “one of the most pro-Israel governors in the country.” Dermer said Israel looks forward to “working with the Trump administration, with all of the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, and making the U.S.-Israel alliance stronger than ever.” [Bannon, Trump’s special adviser, the former CEO of Breitbart News, who gave considerable website space to the alt-right, is claimed to be anti-Semite, Bannon himself says he is a Zionist].

Israel Foreign ministry’s secret memo “The Trump Administration — Preliminary Comments” attempts to determine the future president’s foreign policy, with special attention to China, Russia and Europe, and domestic policies. The main message of the paper, which represents the position of the ministry’s professional echelons, is that the Trump administration is expected to conduct an isolationist policy. The researchers say that at the start of his term, Trump will try to differentiate himself from the foreign policy of President Barack Obama, but he could be expected subsequently to adopt Obama’s belief that the United States must stop trying to be the world’s policeman. The report concludes that: “Trump does not consider the Middle East to be a ‘wise investment,’ and is likely to strive to limit his involvement in the region. The peace process is not a top priority for the new administration.” (Source e.g: Forward )


A Murky Picture in the Middle East by Stratfor

Stratfor has published its view about possible developments in Israel’s neighbourhood during Trump presidency. Following an abstract:
Trump promised throughout his campaign a tough fight against Islamist extremism at home and abroad — and a harder stance on combating the Islamic State in particular. When Trump takes over as commander-in-chief in January, military operations in Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State core will be well underway, particularly in Iraq. U.S. support for Kurdish militias will likely continue, pushing Turkey further away from the United States, but Turkey is already on a unilateral path to deepen its footprint in northern Syria and Iraq.
The biggest shift on the battlefield would stem from a U.S.-Russia negotiation where the United States agrees to reduce aid for Syrian rebels. (Trump has already expressed doubts on the policy of supporting rebels who could be characterized as Islamist extremists.) This would bolster the positions of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Iran, which would greatly unnerve the Sunni bloc led by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. A pullback of U.S. support for Syrian rebels would spur Turkey and Saudi Arabia to step up their involvement, thereby intensifying the broader ethno-sectarian struggle with Iran.
Trump's victory also raises questions about Iran's own presidential election next May and the fate of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump is unlikely to throw out the deal outright. Iran, despite its political divisions, broadly agrees on the need to avoid an escalation with the United States and bring in much-needed investment while it deals with its other proxy wars in the region. Tehran will continue to telegraph to the international community how it is fully adhering to the International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. It will also appeal to European signatories to the nuclear deal to try to ensure that the United States does not pull out of the agreement or attempt to revive sanctions.
Hard-line opponents of President Hassan Rouhani have used ballistic missile testing and harassment of U.S. vessels to assert Iran's military power and differentiate their camp from the moderates. But under a Trump presidency and Republican Congress, any infraction of the JCPOA or aggression outside of the nuclear deal has the potential to lead to additional sanctions. Iran would interpret this as a violation of its overall understanding with the United States on backing off sanctions, applying heavy stress to the deal. Even if the United States does not immediately jeopardize the JCPOA, it is likely that European investors will move cautiously forward with investments into Iran's financial system because a Trump-led administration will be far less accommodative to Iran's concerns or potential infractions.
Trump’s new foreign policy approach could be described as “U.S. Interests First Approach” which is based on the United States making ‘good deals’ and getting “paid back” for protection or intervention abroad. This would end the U.S. role as world’s policeman, a step away from the familiar American liberal interventionist policy. As Trump has regularly called for letting Putin, Assad and ISIS fight it out in Syria some even claim that Trump will outsource Middle East policy to Putin.

Trump has been roundly criticized for his lack of foreign policy knowhow. Trump regularly cites Israeli policies which could be replicable for the United States; such as “the [security/separation] wall” in Israel as an example of why the United States should build a wall with Mexico, or “taking out the families of terrorists,” one long step further from the Israeli policy of demolishing terrorists’ homes.


Jason Greenblatt-adviser with kippah at work

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s senior level advisors is Jason Dov Greenblatt, who will most likely be appointed as the US envoy to the Middle East; he probably will rewrite a foreign policy differing from that of U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. Greenblatt, currently works for Trump as a real estate attorney. Trump has identified Greenblatt as one of two Jewish lawyers who would be his top Israel advisers; the other is bankruptcy expert David M. Friedman of the Kasowitz law firm.

Greenblatt, 49, has an unusual resume for a prospective presidential adviser on Middle East affairs. An Orthodox Jew has worked for Trump for the last 19 years dealing exclusively with real estate and company matters. His titles are executive vice president and chief legal officer. He has self-published three travel books, one about a family trip to Israel, and runs a parenting blog, InspireConversation.com.

Greenblatt was interviewed e.g. in IDF Radio explaining Trump’s stances here some key notes (Source: BICOM ):
Trump believes that “peace must come from the parties” and if the US dictates an agreement it might be one that “breaks apart the next day.” “He is not going to impose any solution on Israel.”
Mr. Trump does not view the settlements [Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria] as being an obstacle for peace. The two sides are going to have to decide how to deal with that region, but it’s certainly not Mr. Trump’s view that settlement activity should be condemned and that it’s an obstacle for peace – because it is not the obstacle for peace. I think he would show Gaza as proof of that. In an interview with The Associated Press in December 2015, Trump was asked whether Israel should stop building in Judea and Samaria, Trump responded, “No… I think Israel should have – they really have to keep going. They have to keep moving forward.”
Trump will follow through on his pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would mark a departure from Washington’s long-term policy.


David Friedman, Walid Phares and Muchael Flynn reverse the negative policy trends

"Mike Flynn is a straight shooter and a no-bullshit kind of guy. And that's exactly what we need in terms of senior leaders giving advice to the national leadership." (David Deptula)
 
Senior Trump adviser David Friedman said a Trump administration would not “put its finger on the scale and try to force Israel into a particular outcome, but rather will support Israel in reaching its own conclusion about how to best achieve peace with its neighbors.” According The Algemeiner Friedman stated e.g. following:
We trust Israel. We think it is doing an excellent job of balancing its respect for human rights and its security needs in a very difficult neighborhood. Israel is a partner with the US in the global war against terrorism. And we want our partner to be attendant to that task and not distracted by foreign countries telling it what to do. That’s really the overall premise of the policy — to respect Israel as a partner, and not to unduly influence its decisions.
Walid Phares, a Trump top foreign policy adviser, told BBC Radio on Thursday [10th Nov. 2016] that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is a Trump top agenda item. “He is ready and he will immediately move to try and solve the problem between Palestinian and Israelis,” Phares said. “He told me personally that, as the author of ‘The Art of the Deal,’ it’s not going to be impossible for him to broker a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. At least he’s going to go in that direction and not waste eight years — four years for now — not doing something for the Palestinians and Israelis.”

According to an interview with the pro-Egyptian government news website, Youm7, Walid Phares said on 9th Nov. 2016 that Trump would pass legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a "terrorist group". The US House Judiciary Committee in February approved legislation calling on the State Department to designate the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as a foreign terrorist organisation. The Senate has referred a partner bill to its foreign relations committee.

Trump’s new security advisor is retired a three-star General Michael Flynn. Flynn deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from spring 2012 to fall 2014 to where he was named and sacked by Obama administration. Having been a lifelong Democrat, he anyway was at Donald Trump’s side for months during the presidential campaign. Flynn built a reputation in the Army as an astute intelligence professional and a straight talker. He retired in 2014 and has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s White House and Pentagon, taking issue with the administration’s approach to global affairs and fighting Islamic State militants. Flynn, described also as a Zionist Christian, is a harsh critic of Muslim extremism and the religion itself and a staunch ally of the Zionist entity. He is an active member of several Israeli advocacy groups such as CFR, ADL, AIPAC, WINEP, etc.


Palestinian reactions
nimeton-106The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has made their first analysis about initial Palestinian reactions; here some highlights:
  • The remarks of senior figures in the Palestinian Authority (PA), hinted at concern over a greater pro-Israeli bias in the new American administration, based on statements made by Trump during the campaign. Their worst to concerns are that the new president will abandon the two state solution, support construction in the settlements, and move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv Jerusalem.
  • Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, said that if Hillary Clinton had been elected she would have been no better than Trump because the Palestinians' bitter experience had shown that when she was secretary of state no progress had been made in the Palestinian cause
  • Riyad Mansour, permanent Palestinian observer to the U.N. He threatened president-elect Trump, saying the Palestinians had an arsenal of diplomatic weapons in the UN. He warned that if Trump moved the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Palestinians would "make his life miserable" in the UN agencies.
  • Hamas spokesmen, in the meantime, were skeptical about the chances for a change in the United States' traditional tendency towards pro-Israeli policies in the wake of Trump's victory.
Jibril Rajoub, a senior leader in Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, attacked both Trump and Obama as Zionists and racists, but with different tactics.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfBm8w4xV5E]
 
My conclusions: Trumportunity
The cases of Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict indicate that the United States could be gradually retreating from the Middle East, Russia is now filling this vacuum. In Syria Moscow and Jerusalem have agreed to coordinate their actions in Syria as well as share intelligence. Intelligence-sharing also greatly benefits Moscow, which receives more balanced intelligence, allowing it to put into perspective the kind of information provided by its allies from the Baghdad coordination center. With Israeli-Palestinian conflict Kremlin is ready to meditiate and has proposed to host Netanyahu and Abbas in Moscow for direct talks, to which both reportedly have agreed.

Based on main issues during U.S. elections – e.g. have strong isolationist tendencies - it could be predicting the President-elect Donald Trump will watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the sidelines. Based on latest statements of his advisers I conclude that the opposite scenario is more realistic.

The imaginable terms of a settlement with Two-state solution were embodied in the 2000 ‘Clinton Parameters’ or the deal proposed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. The current Israeli government is unlikely to offer as much (for example, shared sovereignty over Jerusalem) and in any event, Abbas spurned Olmert’s offer. It is of significance to note that Trump’s policy is diametrically opposed to the one adopted by President Barack Obama and his administration, which has for example repeatedly condemned Israel for its presence in Judea and Samaria and even for its approval of plans for further building. Based on these factors the Trump’s new foreign policy approach might in my opinion have i.a. following outcome:


  1. Trump and his top Mid-East advisors have good personal relationship with Israel and pro-Israel attitude which will develop US-Israel relationship further and sure to better level than during Obama administration
  2. Trump probably will develop pragmatic relationship with Russia and even make a deal with Putin to stabilize the (Great) Middle East and so there is no need to increase US ‘boots on the ground’ in region
  3. Israel will be the main stabilizing actor in Mid-East so blocking Islamist Jihad as well decreasing refugee crisis which both factors serve Trump’s election campaign goals.
  4. Trump is ready to find solutions ‘outside of the box’ which means new approach towards ‘Two-State-Solution’ and its roadmap – or better to say dumping them .
  5. As pragmatic politician Trump might well understand possible Israeli unilateral solutions.
  6. Israeli border security systems – especially the new ones on Gaza border – are second to no one and U.S. might use this experience on Mexican border if Trump implements his promises to block illegal immigration.
  7. Extend and expand defence cooperation. "Enhance Israel's sense of security and confidence in the United States by committing to expanded missile defense, anti-tunnel, and cybersecurity cooperation under the terms of the September 2016 long-term defense assistance Memorandum of Understanding."
My bottom line: Trump’s presidency will usher in a new, better era in US-Israel relations - Tr(i)ump(h) for Israel!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Constructive Unilateralism (II) as Solution to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

ISRPAL
Brig Gen (res.) Michael Herzog has been a participant in nearly all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1993. In his important essay, published in Fathom Journal , he argues that Israeli unilateral actions could later have a two-state solution as outcome.

According Herzog the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian arena looks as bleak, the last effort for negotiated peace – the Kerry-led negotiations in 2013-2014 – collapsed, adding despair on both sides to the prospects of a two-state solution.  The Palestinian Authority (PA) is weak and divided between two political entities, one in the West Bank ruled by Fatah and one in Gaza ruled by Hamas, with the current situation in Gaza resembling a powder keg. On the Israeli side, there is a right-wing coalition, reflecting the reality of Israeli society increasingly turning to the right under the pressure of repeatedly failed peace efforts and Palestinian terror waves. Meanwhile the American role in our region has weakened and the upcoming American elections paralyse potential international initiatives.

Israel and some of the major Arab states have been drawn closer together by strong converging interests, namely the threats of extreme violent Islamist jihadism, an empowered Iranian-led axis, regional instability as a whole and the weakening US role; however, according Herzog, this should be regarded as an opportunity.


Multi-dimensional solutions to multi-dimensional challenges

After 20 years of failed peace efforts, the first thing to realise is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex. Simplistic black-and-white characterisations, such as blaming the failure entirely on one party or suggesting that it could be easily resolved if only the leadership were changed, are unhelpful in trying to reach a solution. While Palestinians point to continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and to Israel’s security heavy-handedness, Israelis point to repeated Palestinian rejection of Israeli peace offers over the years, the most recent example being the US proposal of parameters in March 2014, which to this day awaits a Palestinian response.
Jordan is Palestine Map low resThere is a natural tendency to single out one specific issue – Israeli settlement policy, Palestinian rejection of recognising Israel’s Jewish character, Palestinian incitement and terror, a return to negotiations, an imposed international plan etc. – and argue that if only that single issue was successfully dealt with, everything else would fall into place.
Herzog writes that
the challenge is multi-dimensional with inter-connected components and needs to be addressed as such. The pieces of the puzzle include the security situation on the ground and future security arrangements in a permanent status solution; Israeli settlement activity and practices; bottom-up processes of laying the foundation and infrastructure on the ground for future Palestinian statehood, including economic development as well as access and movement on the ground; the situation in Gaza and the relationship between Gaza and the West Bank; creating a top-down political horizon – either through negotiations or through laying out parameters on the core issues; and the regional dimension.
Herzog concludes that for now, further bilateral negotiations are not the answer - it is thus time to consider different paradigms. As an Israeli who cares deeply about the future of Israel as the democratic nation-state of the Jewish people Herzog believes that
Israel should shape its own future and destiny, not just respond to other parties’ initiatives or external attempted dictates. Because the logic of separating the two communities is in Israel’s interest, the country should signal that direction and start moving towards shaping a two-state reality, preferably with Palestinian partners but also with regional and international actors. Even without a Palestinian partner at this stage, Israel should implement a policy of constructive unilateralism that improves its security situation, maintains the possibility of a two state solution and keeps an extended hand open to the Palestinians to renew negotiations at a later date.
barrier_route_july_2011-2

The components

According Herzog this policy should include the following components:
Security – Israel should complete the security barrier between the West Bank and Israel in order to reduce friction between the two sides. While taking security measures against terror attacks, Israel should continue to encourage authorised Palestinian labourers in Israel. Almost all perpetrators of terror attacks have been illegals, and legal Palestinian labour in Israel has proven a stabilising factor.
Cessation of settlement activity beyond the security barrier – Israel should not authorise construction in areas where we assume a future Palestinian state will be established. Israel should try and elicit some form of quiet understanding for strengthening the settlement blocs – areas which are essential to Israel’s security and which are widely acknowledged as being part of Israel in a future agreement (based on territorial swaps).
It is hard to envisage Israel unilaterally removing settlements in the West Bank. Following Israel’s unilateral pull out from Gaza in 2005, which included all settlements, it is highly doubtful that an Israeli leader could remove settlements outside the context of an Israeli-Palestinian comprehensive agreement and survive politically.
Additional Israeli measures towards political separation – There is a public debate in Israel on whether to implement measures separating the two communities in Jerusalem. Tthe current situation in which there is no overlap between the municipal boundaries of the city and the route of the security barrier has bred instability and chaos and should be altered. Herzog would seek to amend the municipal boundaries and adjust the barrier accordingly.
Strengthening the PA’s economic and security capacity – Israel, regional actors and the international community should offer and facilitate (with proper auditing) a significant economic package to boost the PA. Israel should further improve access and movement for Palestinians in the West Bank and upgrade all existing fixed passages. It should also seek to expand its current policy of limiting incursions into area A to security threats the PA cannot or will not deal with.
Area C – In the context of enhancing the PA’s capacity, Israel can and should transfer powers and responsibilities to the PA in Area C (which constitutes about 60 per cent of the West Bank), such as planning, zoning and building adjacent to Area A – even without changing the territory’s legal designation, a task which falls within the purview of the bilateral political negotiations. This was already discussed between the parties and Israel recently announced initial steps in this direction. Israel has also allowed the PA’s police forces to function in Palestinian population centres in Area C and could further expand this.
Palestinian governance – Hand in hand with enhancing the PA’s economic capacity, the international community should pay much greater attention to Palestinian governance. Particular focus should be paid to encouraging a smooth transition to a post-Abu Mazen era, with an eye to preventing it from being chaotic and endangering the stability of the PA.
Establishing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza – Based on the deterrence achieved in the last round of armed conflict in Gaza (2014) Israel should try to achieve a long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas in Gaza, involving the PA with an active role in Gaza.
Greater investment in the regional dimension –conditions are now ripe for working together with major Arab countries in order to generate progress between Israelis and Palestinians. Egypt is ready to sponsor such a move. To facilitate such a regional process, Israel has to relate positively to the Arab Peace Initiative, which it has begun to do. Moreover, both Egypt and Jordan could definitely play a role in the security arrangements in Gaza and the West Bank respectively.
While pushing the parties to negotiate currently serves little purpose, creating a political horizon is crucial and should not be neglected. Based on Herzog’s experience, the initial focus should be on defined parameters for negotiating and resolving the core issues that separate the parties. Israelis and Palestinians failed to achieve this bilaterally and are unlikely to succeed in the foreseeable future. Ultimately out of all the existing initiatives currently on the table, the regional approach has the most potential. The parties should be willing to invest in it and the US and Europe should support it.
IPConf

My view

Michael Herzog's view to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict is vell based on his +20 years experience about negotiations between these to parties.  Also from my perspective a new framework is needed, even if some apparent negotiations start the outcome probably will be a placebo to status quo.  I also agree with establishing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza as well with  regional approach:  The best possibilities to develop negotiated peace process might be in a regional peace track proposed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in which Egypt would facilitate direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Earlier I have referred two new leftist initiatives in my article Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict  – ‘it’s in our hands’ by Omer Bar-Lev, an MK for the Zionist Union and ‘Constructive unilateralism’ by Blue White Future, leftist think tank – which both in my opinion are steps forward and also to the right direction as well including required new roadmap for better future.

On January 2016, the leader of Israel’s opposition and head of the Zionist Union party Isaac Herzog, unveiled an alternative approach to the issue of Israel’s nearly 49-year old presence in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The main point of Herzog’s plan is, that Israel will complete the security barrier around the major settlement blocs. “We will be here and you, Palestinians, will be there,” Herzog said. “Live your lives, improve your economy, create employment. The blocs under Israeli sovereignty will be part of the permanent solution. They will serve as recipients of settlers from outside the major blocs.” (more in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank )

Michael Herzog has doubts about removing settlements from West Bank behind the security barrier while Isaac Herzog and leftist initiatives see it necessary and I agree with them.

From Israeli side unilateral withdrawal and unilateral annexation are the main strategy options related to West Bank. I think that unilateral withdrawal is both feasible and doable; its main benefit might be that Israel can deside it individually.
Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

My previous related articles:
Gaza Seaport – A Threat or Change
Israel’s 5 Strategy Options Regarding West Bank After Abbas
Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict
Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank
Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts
Sinai Option again
Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal
Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander
Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!
Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Gaza Seaport - A Threat or Change

A proposal to provide the Gaza Strip with an outlet to the rest of the world through a man-made island could soon become a reality, Israel’s Intelligence and Transportation Minister Israel Katz said Monday [20th June 2016], according the Jerusalem Post. Although the idea of building this artificial island has been floating around for years, real headway has only been made in the recent months, according to Katz, who estimates the project will cost some $5 billion.

The project would include a 5 km. bridge from the Gaza Strip through Israeli waters and into the planned 8 sq. km. chunk of land, which likely would have a marine port and, eventually, an airport, in addition to a hotel and small port for yachts.
ShowImage (6)
Gaza island model as presented on June 20, 2016. (photo credit:COURTESY/THE ISRAEL PROJECT)
Hamas has said that among its conditions for a long-term truce with Israel are the reopening of the Strip’s Yasser Arafat Airport and construction of a new seaport. Such an option on existing Gaza land, Katz said, would put Israel’s security at risk and allow Hamas to misuse funds allocated for its construction. According to Katz, the process is still being deliberated by officials who are mainly trying to decide how exactly Israel would be involved in maintaining security at a port that would be internationally funded and secured. The minister said the project would not be built or funded by Israel in any way. Rather, he said, the initiative is more of a statement of support were this plan come to fruition and Israel would allow international entities to enter Israeli waters in order to carry out construction.

Katz acknowledged that the island would not necessarily put an end to weapon smuggling and rocket firings at Israel, but would help the populace to become less radical as it receives a better standard of living and the possibility of traveling and commerce with the rest of the world without Israeli involvement.

In May, Katz announced an initiative that would transfer Turkish goods to Jordan and onward to the rest of the region through Israel via a train route from the Port of Haifa to Beit She’an, which is a 15-minute drive from the Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing into Jordan. Source: Jerusalem Post

New Gaza wall

Up within the Israeli defense establishment, many believe that the time has come for Israel to set up a civilian seaport for the Gaza Strip. According to their view, if Gaza is going to stop exploding into conflict every two years, its 1.8 million residents need to have better hope for the future.
While the new port is part of the defense establishment’s concept of “restraining factors” that Israel can put into place, there is also military counterterrorism measures, to push back the next war for as long as possible.

One such new planed investment is a New Gaza wall. According The Jerusalem Post Israel’s defense establishment plans to build a concrete wall that goes tens of yards underground as well as above ground along the Gaza Strip border. Implementation of the plan will cost an estimated $568 million. The wall is intended to block off any terror tunnels, and will be constructed solely on Israeli soil.
Israel's plan to block off Gaza above and below ground with security wall has been met with an uproar from Gaza Arabs, who are demanding that the UN intervene and halt construction plans. Gazans have loudly protested the wall, at least partially on environmental grounds.
Egypt's Gaza barrier
Egypt's Gaza barrier

Sea-based smuggling rising

As Israel sends some 900 trucks per day into Gaza, carrying all manner of goods, medical equipment, food, fuel and construction material, it is hardly enough to keep the Gaza Strip’s economy functional. To get more goods, luxery items and weapons and weapon materials Hamas has used its smuggling tunnels. The original tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border were used to smuggle arms and commercial goods from Egypt to Gaza. Hamas substantially expanded this infrastructure after 2007 and Israel’s imposition of a sc, blockade. At the time, it is estimated that there were as many as 2,500 such tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. There are estimates that as much as $3 billion in goods were moved annually from Sinai into Gaza. However since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in June 2013, the Egyptian military has eliminated most of the smuggling tunnels beneath the border in the southern Gaza Strip and expanded the buffer zone. Egypt has demolished tunnels e.g. by exploding them, Egyptian army also fires tear gas or throws wastewater inside the tunnels to kill diggers. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! and Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts )
Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila
Earlier in May 2016 security forces announced the arrest of a suspected Gazan weapons smuggler who disguised himself as a fisherman. In a joint navy, Shin Bet and Israel Police operation, security forces said that during questioning, “it emerged that for a lengthy period, he was involved in sea-based smuggling of weapons and other items, for Hamas and other terrorist elements in the Gaza Strip.”

The suspect allegedly smuggled ammunition and liquid fiberglass used to manufacture rockets. Details on Hamas’s operational plans in the Mediterranean Sea also arose in the investigation, the domestic intelligence agency said, including its use of fishing boats to disguise its activities. (Source: Jerusalem Post )


Conflicting views related to Israeli security

Would the creation of a seaport enable Hamas to upgrade its weapons smuggling program? According to former navy chief V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, the answer is an unequivocal yes:  “In general, my view is absolutely opposed to a Gaza port. It is a certain recipe for Iranian military boats arriving in Gaza. We do not want that to happen.” Hamas, he added, has “very high motivation to smuggle via the sea. It uses fishing boats to smuggle between Sinai and the Gaza Strip,” and the need for sea arms-trafficking routes has grown since Egypt began blocking smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

But others took a different view. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, head of the Program on Israeli-Palestinian Relations at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post that a Gazan port would assist, not harm, Israeli security. Brom, who in the IDF headed the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff, said, “I am among those who support the idea. Without a port, the Gaza Strip will continue to be a pressure cooker housing two million people which explodes every once in a while. There are a few good ideas that enable the operation of a port, with good security supervision, that will prevent it from being exploited to smuggle weapons.”

Such ideas include making every vessel en route to Gaza dock in Cyprus first, where its cargo will undergo a security check. (Source: Jerusalem Post )


Wider context

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Moni Chorev, a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said the idea of a seaport for Gaza could not divorced from the wider strategic picture. Chorev, a former IDF division commander and former head of the officer training school, told the Post that one must place the Gaza port question in a far wider context. “Since Hamas rose to power in 2007, the Gazan economy has been kept down. Is there room to change Gaza’s economic situation? This question is not only about Gaza, however. If you look at the Palestinians as a whole, one must weigh up how creating economic growth in Gaza will affect [President] Mahmoud Abbas, the PA, and its ability to rule,” he said. That question, in turn, is tied into how Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and perhaps Turkey will interact with Israel and the Palestinians in the coming years, Chorev argued. “If you want to enlist the Egyptians, one must realize that they view Hamas as a sort of extension of their biggest enemy, the Muslim Brothers,” he said. Thus, a port would have an impact on the wider Palestinian, Arab and regional arena.

If Gazans are provided with new hope and an economic horizon, Hamas will be significantly less willing to risk the wrath of the people it controls by launching reckless and costly military attacks on Israel, he said. (Source: Jerusalem Post )

According reports the deal would include the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. According to the reports, Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a “floating port” located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinized by NATO representatives.

Earlier in August 2015 it was reported in the Times of Israel, that Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire The gist of the deal is that Israel will end the blockade and allow thousands of Palestinian day laborers to enter Israel. Gaza will import items through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed) and cease all rocket fire and tunneling for eight years. A prisoner swap may be in the works too.  Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )
sinai option by Ari RusilaOn November 2015 Jerusalem Post reported   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. (More in Sinai Option again )

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict. In addition Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. With this context the Gaza seaport is from point of view a positive step forward.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila
Related articles:
Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts
Sinai Option again
Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal
Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander
Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!