Planning for failure – how to end the occupation, create the Palestinian state and make peace with Israel without negotiations


Gershon Baskin*


July 13, 2008


Al Quds newspaper in Arabic


While I remain somewhat optimistic that it is still possible to reach a negotiated agreement for the two state solution, the possibility of failure of the negotiations is very real. Failure of the process without a clear and well thought out detailed plan for a strategy of ending the Israeli occupation, establishing the Palestinian state next to Israel and making peace with Israel will probably result in a new round of violence which is likely to be much more horrific than what we have seen until now.


Failed negotiations may very well mean the final demise of the two-state solution and there is no other real solution to this conflict. Talks of a one state solution is a lie. It is no solution. It turns the conflict back into an existential conflict of "us or them" rather than "us and them" as the two state solutions is defined. The so called one state solution denies the basic right of both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people to self determination. It denies both people the right to a nation state of their own - a political framework that gives expression to their cultures, heritage national aspirations, cultural and national identities.


If the peace process fails we must be ready to launch a strategy for ending the occupation, bringing about the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel, making peace between the two states – all of this without negotiations.


A new strategy would be based on unilateral actions mainly taking place by the Palestinian. Functionally the primary impetus of the strategy is the unilateral assertion of Palestinian sovereignty in every non-violent way possible. The fundamental basis of the strategy must be a well disciplined national project led by the political leadership. Non-violent, direct confrontation with the occupation is the key, leadership and disciplines are the tools. READ MORE...>>>



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: Palestinian nationalism is the mirror of Zionism

Jun. 30, 2008

At the age of 14 my family moved from a very Jewish neighborhood in Long Island, NY to a very non-Jewish neighborhood. The percentage of Jewish students in my schools decreased from around 80% to around 5%. It was quite a dramatic change.


As minorities do anywhere in the world, we seek each other out and cling to each other in order to retain a sense of security and belonging. In my first weeks in my new school I found a friend who had just returned from a visit to Israel and whose family was preparing to make aliya. He informed me that he was establishing a chapter of the Zionist Youth Movement Young Judaea in our town, and he invited me to join. By the following year I was elected to the regional executive board of the movement and in my last year in high school I was president of the Long Island region.


I spent the following year in Israel on the Young Judaea Year Course. During that year I firmed up my decision that Israel was my home and after completing my BA in the States (at the urging of my parents) I returned to Israel and became an Israeli citizen.

In Young Judaea, the Zionist education that I received and that I imparted to many others after me, was that moving to Israel had to be a qualitative shift in cognition and not just a change of address. In other words, moving to Israel had to have a larger meaning and being an Israeli meant that I would have to do something that would make a positive contribution to the development of the State of Israel and to the Jewish people. Then, as today, I understood that the most pressing and compelling challenge to the State of Israel was/is to find a way to make peace with our Arab neighbors. It is in that area that I have spent the past 30 years of my life. READ MORE...>>>





Palestinian choices and realities


By: Gershon Baskin


23 June 2008

Special to AMIN
There is a general sense amongst Israelis and Palestinians alike that the permanent status negotiations are going nowhere. The promise and hope for real changes on the ground since Annapolis have faded away, like most of the other promises and hopes of the Oslo peace process. Daily hardships for Palestinians remain much as they have been since the beginning of the second intifada.  Israeli checkpoints and road blocks still make the possibility of movement and access a challenge that most normal people fail to understand and cope with.  Israeli settlements are expanding and few people can comprehend how a contiguous Palestinian state can ever be established. 

Nonetheless, despite the understandable pessimism and even cynicism regarding the peace process, intensive negotiations are taking place. There are at least three negotiating forums: (1) the meetings between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, (2) the meetings between the heads of the negotiating teams – Livni and Qurie, and (3) the seven technical committees. There have been more than 70 negotiating sessions held between Livni and Qurie as of the date of this writing. The heads of the negotiating teams are meeting three times a week.  The technical committees are meeting at least once a week.  I also believe, although without any hard evidence for this, that there is at least one secret channel of negotiations taking place as well. There are continuous contradictory reports on progress or the lack of in the negotiations, but in truth, we have no real information and the negotiations are continuing.  From past experience, we know that the real hard decisions are always made in the final hours of the negotiations, and not before. READ MORE...>>>






The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: The road map can work

Jun. 16, 2008

Remember the road map? For some time it was the only game in town and then Ariel Sharon declared that there was no partner and declared the unilateral disengagement from Gaza. Then came Mahmoud Abbas, elected with a large majority to rule the Palestinian Authority and once again the road map showed up as the plan to guide the sides back to the table. But then, a year later, Hamas was elected and took over the Palestinian government and once again the road map was pushed aside. Then came the Hamas takeover of Gaza a year ago, and Abbas broke relations with Hamas. President Bush convened the Annapolis summit which put the road map back on the table. The government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority once again obligated themselves to implement Phase I of the road map while at the same time, in parallel, moving into Phase III - the permanent status negotiations.


Phase I of the road map obligates the Palestinians to take decisive action against the terrorist infrastructure, to reorganize the Palestinian security forces and to reform the Palestinian Authority, removing all elements of corruption. The Phase I obligations of Israel include freezing all settlement growth, including for natural growth, removing unauthorized outposts and redeploying to positions held prior to September 28, 2000.


Since the road map's inception, Israel has complained that the Palestinians did not implement any of their obligations. Israel claimed that the implementation of the road map must be sequential and not parallel, meaning that first the Palestinians must implement their primary obligations of fighting against terror and only then would Israel implement its obligations. The Israeli interpretation of the sequential nature of the obligations was never correct, however; even it if were correct, today the Palestinians have and are fulfilling their obligations, whereas Israel has done absolutely nothing to address its obligations. READ MORE...>>>



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: Green and red lines

Walking (and driving) the Green Line for three days this past week from Mt. Gilboa to Gush Etzion provided a unique opportunity to feel the pulse of the country, to reflect on its natural beauty and to assess the realities shaped on both sides of the border by the separation barrier.


Days prior to the journey, I participated in the Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem that brought together close to 2000 participants from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and the rest of the world. The Bethlehem Intercontinental Hotel and the newly opened Palestinian Convention Center in Bethlehem were overwhelmed by the huge turnout of participants who came to voice their support for normalcy, stability, and peace. The Palestinian Authority did an outstanding job to ensure real security and order for all of the local and foreign delegates and dignitaries, including the 50 Israeli business and community leaders who attended. The conference, initiated by Prime Minister Salam Fayad and Tony Blair, was an inspiration and a vote of confidence in the peace process and in the business of building a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel.


The Green Line and the separation barrier in the northern section of the West Bank are one in the same. Admittedly the barrier is a clear wound in the pastoral beauty of the area, but the sense of security that it provides to both Israelis and Palestinians can be felt and witnessed by speaking with residents on both sides.

Israelis and Palestinians alike, in that part of the country, acknowledge that it is not yet possible or wise to re-establish an open border but note that at some time in the future, once there is real peace, it would be desirable. In the meantime, the lack of a border dispute in the area has enabled a process of fruitful dialogue and mutual planning that will bring great benefits to both populations. READ MORE...>>>



גרשון בסקין מחפש מנהיג לירושלים שאינו פוליטיקאי או מיליונר השואף להיות פוליטיקאי


גרשון בסקין | 2/6/2008 16:15

מדינת ישראל ציינה לפני שנה ברוב הדר 40 שנה לאיחוד העיר ירושלים אך אנו, תושבי הבירה, יודעים היטב כי מאחורי חגיגות הראווה מסתתרת אמת עגומה מאוד. מציאות החיים בירושלים כיום איננה מציאות של איחוד, כי אם של שסעים לאומיים, כלכליים, תרבותיים, דתיים ובין-דתיים עמוקים.

נכון להיום, ירושלים היא אחת הערים העניות במדינות ישראל. מחירי הדיור בה הם מהגבוהים ביותר בארץ, ואפשרויות הדיור לזוגות צעירים הולכות ומתמעטות. העיר סובלת מצפיפות, ממחנק ומהזנחה, רחובותיה מטונפים ולא ניכרת כמעט כל עבודת טיפוח של הגנים והמרחבים הציבוריים.

אמנם בשנים האחרונות חלה צמיחה מסויימת בחיי התרבות בעיר ואיכות ההיצע הקולינרי השתפרה באופן יחסי, אך גם בתחומים אלו ירושלים עדיין מציעה לתושביה ולמבקריה הרבה פחות מאשר אחותה הצעירה תל אביבקרא עוד...>>>



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering peace: Negotiating through the drums of war

The drums of war are beating once again. Israel's Independence Day festivities are behind us. The "Shimon Peres show" that brought the leaders of the Jewish world and tens of heads of state has also closed down. President Bush and his entourage are gone. Now Olmert and his government are free to devote attention to the continued rocket fire from Gaza (that is of course, in between being investigated for all sorts of corruption).


The grad missile that landed on the Ashkelon shopping mall during the exact moments when Bush was sitting with Olmert only supported the firm belief held by the US president that "you don't talk with terrorists." It is interesting to imagine what Olmert was thinking at that moment. Olmert was well aware that his negotiations with Hamas through Egypt were continuing despite the fact that Olmert, Barak and Livni delivered the identical negative response to Egyptian Security Chief Omar Suleiman regarding the package deal Egypt negotiated with the Hamas and the other factions in Gaza for a cease-fire and the reopening of the Rafah crossing for people and goods. It is quite easy to assume that Bush gave his "green light" for Israel to launch a major ground operation into Gaza (after he leaves the country of course). Israel needs US consent to use US supplied weapons that will kill Palestinians in Gaza, including innocent non-combatants who will get in the way of the fire.  READ MORE...>>>




בקרוב אצלך גרשון בסקין
ביום העצמאות ה-60, גרשון בסקין מאחל לישראל שתשכיל להגיע עם הפלשתינים להקמת מדינה עבורם

פעמים אחדות בשנה, חגי ישראל והחגים הנוצריים והמוסלמיים נחגגים כמעט באותם ימים. בחוגים שלי, נוצרים, יהודים ומוסלמים נוהגים לברך זה את זה בברכת "חג שמח" מעבר לכל מחשבה על סכסוכים ואיבה בין ישראל לבין הפלשתינים. יש אפילו מנהיג מהפת"ח ששולח לי ברכת "חג פסח שמח וכשר". לפני כמה שנים צלצל אליי חבר פלשתיני ביום העצמאות לאחל לי ולמשפחתי חג שמח. אני מודה, מרוב תדהמה נאלמתי דום, ורק כעבור שנה הייתי מוכן להשיב לו איחול: "בקרוב אצלך".

אני איש שמאל ותיק. השנה לא אשתתף בטקסים המשותפים ליהודים ולערבים. אני כן משתתף בטקסי יום הזיכרון האלטרנטיביים השונים – ואסביר מה ההבדל ביניהם בעיניי. באמת צר לי כי לעם הפלשתיני אין עדיין מדינה עצמאית משלו.

ברור כשמש שלמדינת ישראל יש אחריות לא קטנה בעניין הזה, אך אין לה אחריות מלאה. הפלשתינים עצמם אחראים לכל הטעויות שהם עשו ועדיין עושים בסכסוך המר הזה. אך אין באמירה הזו שום אליבי למדינת ישראל להימלט מאחריותה שלה, ומעבר לזה - מהאינטרס המובהק שלה שתקום בעתיד הקרוב מדינה פלשתינית לצד מדינת ישראל. 

אני רוצה לחגוג את עצמאות עמי ומדינתי. עצמאותנו היא האירוע החשוב ביותר בהיסטוריה המודרנית שלנו כעם, ואני שמח שמדינת ישראל נולדה לפני 60 שנה. נכון שבה בעת שהוקמה מדינת ישראל התרחשה הנכבה של העם הפלשתיני, וכישראלי וציוני אני מוכן לחפש ולמצוא את הדרך הנאותה לציין מה שקרה לעם השכן ולא לברוח מחשבון נפש בתוכנו על חלקנו באסון שלהם.

קרא עוד...>>>





The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: Next year in Palestine

Sixty years! Rising from the ashes and faced with six decades of struggle and war, Israel certainly has a lot to be proud of. Not only is Israel one of the world's largest producers of news and interests around the world, given our size, and the real problems with which we are faced, Israel has emerged to be a leading nation in so many fields - agriculture, water technology, high tech, medical treatments and research, bio-technology, communications, computers, and more. Recently even Israel's film industry has attracted international attention and fame. I look forward to our Independence Day celebrations every year. I am proud and pleased that we have this day to celebrate.


Many organizations on the far left have begun to combine Independence Day celebrations with ceremonies to mark the Palestinian Nakba - their national day of tragedy. There are some on the radical left who even call for boycotting Independence Day entirely. While I am considered a veteran "leftist" by many, I will not be there with those who suggest that we should not celebrate our day of independence.

It is very common for me to share wishes for happy holidays with my Palestinian friends. Several times a year Jewish, Christian and Muslim holidays take place around the same dates. It is customary for me to receive good wishes from many Palestinians and to wish them happy holidays in return. One of the more humorous of these is the annual Pessah greeting I receive from a Fatah leader who extends his wishes in the traditional Jewish form: Wishing you a happy and a kosher Pessah!


j. J, The Jewish news weekly of Northern California

Can we talk?: Parleys with Hamas aren’t unusual for activists

by joe eskenazi
staff writer

When Hanna Siniora or Gershon Baskin’s phones rings late at night — or even at 3 a.m., Hillary Clinton-style — they never know who’ll be on the other end.

Could it be Israeli or Palestinian teachers searching for coexistence curriculum advice? Possibly.

Could it be European diplomats hoping for help hammering out a Mideast cease-fire? That’s possible too.

Or could it be Hamas officials hoping Siniora and Baskin can act as intermediaries between Israel’s military and the Hamas kidnappers who nabbed Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Siniora is a 70-year-old Palestinian, born and raised in East Jerusalem; Baskin is a 51-year-old Brooklyn-born Israeli Jew. The two are co-CEOs of Jerusalem’s Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. The two men made several speeches throughout the Bay Area last week, all of them sponsored by the living-room dialogue groups founded by Len and Libby Traubman of San Mateo.

The 20-year-old think tank founded by Siniora and Baskin has Israelis and Palestinians working on water rights, border economics and all the esoterica that will have to be settled if ever the Arab and Jewish states will ever really exist side-by-side in a semblance of peace.



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering peace: Two sides of the price tag for Schalit

During this festive Pessah holiday of freedom my thoughts, like so many thousands of others, have been with Gilad Schalit and his family. Held in captivity somewhere in Gaza for 667 days, there is still no clear sign in sight that his release is imminent. Why has it taken so long to secure his release?

For one, we are dealing with a political-Islamic-radical movement that while willing and even anxious to negotiate his release, is not willing to negotiate directly, even in a secret back channel. Although kidnapped by what are apparently three separate groups, Hamas has been charged with the negotiations, pretty much since the beginning of the negotiating process. Hamas issued its demands very soon after the abduction of Schalit. The only compromise that Hamas has shown since that time concerns the release of information on his welfare and actual proof that Gilad is alive and well. Initially Hamas demanded the release of all Palestinian women and minors in Israeli prisons, numbering some 450, in exchange for information.

Having been directly involved in the negotiations prior to the appointment of Ofer Dekel by Ehud Olmert, I can say that Hamas was convinced to release a sign of life without receiving anything in exchange, mainly because it was a way to prove that there actually was a channel for negotiations that had a direct connection to the people holding Schalit. On September 9, 2006, 75 days after his abduction, a hand-written letter from Gilad finally reached the hands of the Egyptian mediators who at that time were still based in Gaza.

Hamas was led to understand that there would be some kind of confidence-building measure undertaken by Israel following the release of that letter. On September 12, 2006 it was announced that an Israeli military court had ordered the release of 16 Hamas politicians being held since the kidnapping. It is not clear if this order had been initiated by Olmert in response to the letter from Schalit.

At the end of the day, the court order was reversed and none of the Hamas politicians were released at that time. The captors of Schalit immediately passed on a message (to me) that Israel was not taking the situation seriously and was in fact endangering the life of Schalit.



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition


Encountering Peace: Creating a culture of peace in Israel and Palestine

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have decided to put the culture of peace on the negotiating table. Genuine peace is not made solely by signing and implementing agreements between governments. It must be fostered, developed and implemented between the citizens of both sides. Over the past years, a core issue of concern has been text books and incitement. Text books are issued by governments and reflect the official values that societies wish to impart to their citizens. An essential aspect of values-based education is imparting and building the national identity. This kind of task is complicated under the best circumstances; when faced with a 100-year violent conflict with the neighbors, it becomes extremely problematic and difficult.

A peace process occurs between nations, transferring them from a state of war between enemies to a state of peace between partners. A successful peace process requires a shift of attitudes in a cross-section of the society and must be built between the two peoples. Education is a powerful agent of change, and both Israel and Palestine must make changes in their curricula and textbooks.

There is little or no chance that Israelis and Palestinians will share the same understanding and interpretation of the history of the land and the conflict between its peoples. There is a clear right for Palestinians and Israelis to give their version of history in their textbooks. Both peoples have struggled for their freedom and liberation, and their students must know their history as it is an essential element of collective nation building and in defining their identity.





The Government of Israel (GOI) and the PLO have decided to create a forum within the negotiations process on a framework agreement for permanent status to reach agreements on the ways and means of fostering a Culture of Peace. This decision was made in recognition of the fact that genuine peace is not made solely by signing and implementing agreements between governments, it must be fostered, developed and implemented between the citizens of both sides.

Many observers would question why is fostering a culture of peace within the realm of governments; shouldn’t this be done by civil society?  The answer is both positive and negative:  civil society must play a large role in developing programs that will enable Israelis and Palestinians to meet each other in organized people-to-people activities; however, there are specific tasks that governments must take responsibility for in this process as well.  Some of those tasks include the creation of an “enabling environment” for civil society people-to-people activities to be able to function and thrive. There are also a whole set of tasks concerning the specific roles and responsibilities of governments that must be undertaken and implemented by them because they concern issues which are under their direct purview.

This document will suggest an agenda for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on fostering a Culture of Peace.  The agenda will include both of these domains: specific responsibilities of governments for fostering a culture of peace and the creation of an enabling environment for civil society people-to-people activities.


Jewish Advocate

Fri April 4 2008

Peace is still within reach

By Donna Spiegelman - Friday April 4 2008

Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, the Israeli and Palestinian co-directors of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), recently told an audience of 120 at Temple Israel in Boston that “a framework agreement for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is within reach.”
Rabbi Kolin of Temple Israel welcomed the speakers from IPCRI and opened the conversation on “homeland, safety, and peace” by inviting those present into the “sacred space” of the sanctuary, appropriate for discussing the serious issues at hand.

“Despite the setbacks of the recent weeks of violence, negotiations will continue and Abbas and Olmert will reach an agreement” Baskin asserted. The two speakers expressed confidence that a significant majority on both sides will support peace, if given the opportunity within a reasonable timeframe. In the meantime, they said, behind-
the-scenes talks are progressing, mediated by a third party, to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.




Michigan Journal

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Difficult Dialogues: There are two sides to the Palestinian conflict


Rebecca Wilczak

Issue date: 3/11/08 Section: News
The Difficult Dialogues series held at the University of Michigan-Dearborn featured a discussion on peace prospects in the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine last Thursday.

A dialogue was held between Dr. Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, representing each side of the conflict.

Baskin, representing the Israeli side, is founder of the Israel and Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), and has participated in negotiations with Palestinians and has published numerous books and articles on the topic.

Siniora, representing the Palestinian side, is co-CEO of IPCRI, publisher of The Jerusalem Times, and has been a member of the Palestinian National Council since 1990.

The dialogue began with opening comments from both speakers. Baskin emphasized the "Two State Solution," where each side of the conflict would be allowed their own independent state.

"It is no longer an existential, us-or-them issue; now it's how to manage us-and-them," he said.

He also expressed that each side has failed to recognize the humanity of the other side.




Dear Supporters of Peace in the Holy Land,

The Children of Abraham People's Peace awards honoring an Israeli and a Palestinian peace pioneers were held in Las Vegas on March 19, 08, and by all accounts, was a major success.

The Award ceremony which included leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Moslem communities in Las Vegas was chaired by US Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV)  who presented the People's Peace Awards to Dr. Gershon Baskin, an Israeli from Jerusalem and Mr. Hanna Siniora - A Palestinian, from Jerusalem.

US Senate Majority Leader, Sen.Harry Reid (D-NV) sent a representative who read a letter from Senator Reid praising the efforts for peace in the Middle East and commending  Dr. S.E.Elia - Founder and President of the Children of Abraham Coalition for organizing the People's Peace Awards and congratulating the winners. ( Copy of Sen. H. Reid's Letter attached)

Both award winners who are Co-CEO's of IPCRI ( Israeli Palestinian Center for Research & Information) have devoted the last 2 decades of their lives to peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. This is despite living in Jerusalem, which has witnessed untold violence in the past half a century. Their belief is that peace is not an option, it is the only solution. This was echoed by Dr. Elia in his opening remarks by stressing that there are no winners in war and that there are no losers in peace.

The success of the peace Awards was due in large measure to the participation & support by all the major religious and ethnic communities in Las Vegas which included the Arab American Community, The  Jewish American Community, The Asian American Community and the Latino Community. Speakers at the Peace Awards event included Ms. Karen Boyett - Executive Director of the Interfaith Council in Southern Nevada, Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Executive Director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Rabbi Y. Mintz of the Valley Outreach Synagogue, Dr.Martha Poling-Goldenne, Pastor of the New Song Lutheran Church, Anthem, and Rabbi S. Akselrad of the Ner Tamid Congregation in Henderson, NV. In addition to the religious leaders, a presentation  was made by Mr. Matt Taha on behalf of the Palestinian community.



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: A long way from the Three Noes

Recently I re-examined the September 1967 decision of the Arab League summit in Khartoum - the famous three no's - no recognition, no negotiations and no peace with Israel.

Here we are 40 years later and instead of speaking about the Arab-Israeli conflict, we speak about Arab-Israeli relationships - complex and diverse.

Peace, albeit cold, with Jordan and Egypt. The Saudis continue to speak about the Arab Peace Initiative (API) and even Hamas wants a cease-fire agreement with Israel. Syria is calling for direct negotiations with Israel. The Palestinians claim that Israelis are holding back on making progress toward peace for the creation of a Palestinian state which is essentially supported by the government and a majority of Israeli citizens. The Lebanese government, which also supports the API and managed to kick the Syrians out of Lebanon, claims that Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon will not be complete as long as Israel holds on to the Shaba farms.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that he would consider opening talks with Damascus, but we all know that his hands are tied by President George W. Bush. The US has issued preconditions to Syria that must be met before Washington is willing to loosen the rope around Assad's neck. The US demands that Syria seal its border to Iraq to prevent insurgents from killing US soldiers there. The US has also demanded that Syria cease the flow of Syrian and Iranian money and weapons to Hizbullah. The US further demands that the Assad regime shut down the offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Damascus. All of these are quite reasonable demands and something that every supporter of peace in the Middle East should applaud.



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: The moral majority for peace

Reaching a peace agreement by the end of the year seems almost impossible. The violence between the sides is once again in full gear and the rage on the streets of both Israel and Palestine is on the rise. Israel killed more than 100 Palestinians in the last "operation" in Gaza - more than half of them civilians, say Palestinian sources. Palestinian celebrations in Gaza after the murderous attack in Mercaz Harav and crowds of Israelis calling "death to the Arabs" once again demonstrates that we have not learned anything. Jews and Arabs have been killing each other over this land for 100 years. The mutual calls for revenge continue to feed this horrific cycle of death and destruction. Many of our political leaders, on both sides, follow the mob response calling for more death, more blood, and more revenge. How many more families on both sides must bury their dear ones before we all wake up and realize that this must end? Fortunately Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the recent violence positively stating: "Despite all the circumstances we're living through and all the attacks we're experiencing, we insist on peace. There is no other path."

Israeli leaders have been less explicit. This is most unfortunate. The leaders on both sides should sound a voice of morality recognizing that the violence on both sides of the conflict will continue as long as there is no political agreement that will lead us to the end of the conflict.

I find it completely beyond comprehension that people on both sides actually believe that the way to put and end to the violence of the other side is to hit them with more force and bring more suffering on them. How can any thinking person believe that if we kill more of "them" that they will simply surrender? Would we? If the Palestinians continue to kill us in a wholesale manner would we consider surrendering our rights? Would we lay down our arms and make concessions on our rights for liberty, freedom, statehood, and justice because we suffer losses?

Palestinians are no different than us on matters concerning their national dignity, dreams of statehood and demands for freedom, liberty and justice. If we were occupied and denied our freedom would we lay down our arms? Would we adopt strategies of non-violence? I doubt it.

NO, IT IS not easy to reach a negotiated end to this 100 year conflict. Both political systems are so weak, divided and dysfunctional that it is almost impossible for the political leaders to find the courage to make the leap that is necessary to give each other the minimum concessions that are needed to produce an agreement.




The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Encountering Peace: To save lives - negotiate with the devil

Israel does not negotiate with terrorists. This "truism" is one of the biggest spins in the history of spinning. Israel has always negotiated with terrorists and will continue to negotiate with them as long as we continue to cherish (Jewish) human lives.

Israel is negotiating with Hizbullah for information about its two kidnapped soldiers. Israel is negotiating with the Hamas for the release of Gilad Schalit. If it were possible Israel would hold direct negotiations with Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Mashaal themselves. But the two of them are not willing to conduct direct negotiators and third-party mediators are carrying Israel's offers back and forth. Almost no one in Israel criticizes the basic idea of negotiating with these terrorists for the release of kidnapped soldiers. Most Israelis will be willing to pay a very high price for their release.

WHY WOULD negotiating with Hamas for a cease-fire that has the potential to save tens, perhaps hundreds of lives in Israel be any less legitimate than negotiating with Hamas to save one human (Jewish) life?

The Hamas leadership in Damascus and in Gaza have both sent messages that they are interested in a cease-fire with Israel. In order to be clear, they are speaking about what they call tahadiyeh or a "calming down," and not what is referred to as a hudna, or a long-term cease-fire based on Islamic history and teachings.


BITTERLEMONS.ORG   http://www.bitterlemons.org/previous/bl180208ed07.html#isr2



February 18, 2008

A Hamas-Israel agreed ceasefire now

by Gershon Baskin


The war in the south rages on with increased rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and escalated Israeli responses. The Hamas and Jihad leadership in Gaza has gone underground in fear that Israel will resume its policy of targeted killings against them. At the same time, Rabbi Menachem Froman of Tekoa and Palestinian journalist Khaled Amayreh have worked out a "draft agreement" for a ceasefire that Amayreh claims has the backing of the Hamas leadership, including Khaled Meshaal.

I spoke with Hamas leaders in Gaza and received verification that if Israel would support the agreement, Hamas would declare its support as well. Hamas leaders have also agreed to the idea of involving the Egyptians in negotiations if Israel wishes to make changes in the draft agreement. The agreement includes a call for a full ceasefire between Israel and all of the factions in Gaza. The document explicitly states that attacks against all Israelis will cease.


During the past several months I conducted a series of talks with several Hamas leaders in Gaza who approached me to advocate a ceasefire agreement with the government of Israel. I told those Hamas leaders that I would not take such a step unless they could deliver a Hamas guarantee that all of the factions in Gaza would adhere to the ceasefire. I proposed that they either undertake a commitment to impose the ceasefire on all factions or alternatively that they secure the agreement of all of them to sign on. I was informed that at least five meetings with the leaders of all factions took place in the home of PM Ismail Haniyeh, but until recently neither agreement of all of the factions was received nor was there a clear decision by Hamas to impose the ceasefire.



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition


Encountering peace: The way forward

There is a very curious news black-out both in Israel and in Palestine regarding what President Bush read in the Olmert-Abbas joint statement in Annapolis: "We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008."


Are those negotiations taking place? We don't really know. Not only the politicians aren't talking, most of the media is not reporting, the international community is silent and I have even heard that Tony Blair has instructed members of his staff to keep quiet.


Every so often, there is a statement, usually from the Palestinian side that no progress has been made. The latest statement came form PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad. Sometimes some of the politicians on the Left in Israel also state that nothing is happening on the peace front. Sometimes we hear rumors of exactly the opposite - for instance this newspaper's headline on Monday: "Coalition crisis looms after Post reveals secret Jerusalem talks."


A FEW weeks ago several Israeli news analysts reported that Prime Minister Olmert and Abu Mazen have made considerable progress toward a framework agreement. We even hear statements from time-to-time that the end of 2008 deadline is possible to reach, while others insist that it is impossible. We really have no idea which assessment is accurate. READ MORE...>>>




The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition


The prospect of a new Gaza reality


Even after the disengagement from Gaza, Israel remained legally responsible for the welfare of the 1.5 million Palestinians there. International law considered the Gaza Strip to be under Israeli occupation even after every single settler and soldier left. The reason for Israel's continued legal responsibility is mainly based on the fact that Israel sealed all of Gaza's borders to the outside world and prevented the opening of a sea or airport in Gaza for the use of the Palestinians. Israel furthermore continues to control Gaza's territorial water and airspace. After the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit the Israeli control of Gaza was made even harsher. Following the Hamas coup d'état in mid-June 2007 Israel's squeeze on Gaza translated into a policy of complete strangulation.


Because of the continued illegal launching of rockets and mortars at Israel most of the international community did little more than voice concern over the Israeli policies and fears of an emerging humanitarian crises in Gaza. For the people of Gaza, those policies became intolerable. That led to the decision of the Hamas leadership to bring down the walls on the Rafah border and to create new facts on the ground.

FOR THE time being, the status quo of complete Israeli domination and control over Gaza has been broken by the Hamas. Returning to the previous situation before the forced border opening is probably impossible. Hamas has been strengthened by its bold actions against the Israeli strangulation which was aimed at weakening Hamas. READ MORE...>>>

New IPCRI Policy Paper on Israeli and Palestinian Strategic Options vis-a-vis Gaza

Policy Options vis-à-vis Gaza

January 2008



January 17, 2008


As we are completing this policy paper, a process of extremely dangerous escalation is taking place on the ground. The present tension, anger and sense of real urgency to change the status-quo do not provide the conditions for intelligent strategic decision making.


The issue of what to do about Gaza is complex, and there are no good options at hand. Every possible decision has its negative consequences and pitfalls that may in fact worsen the situation.


The current Israeli domestic political crisis over the publication of the Winograd report should also not be used as the “excuse” for military decisions that have very grave consequences – both in the short and long-term.


Whatever strategic choices are made at this time, it is paramount that all parties keep in focus the primary common strategic objectives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority: to continue and to succeed in the renewed peace process and to create the political and security possibilities for Gaza to be included in the peace process. All policy decisions taken must keep these primary strategic objectives in focus.


It is, therefore, of the utmost urgency that de-escalation of forces and tensions takes place immediately on both sides of the Gaza border. IPCRI calls on the Government of Israel and the PA in Ramallah to enter into direct consultations on the emerging situation on the ground. IPCRI calls on the Hamas political and military leadership in Gaza and in Damascus to halt all military activities against Israel and to allow for a period of calm to return so that all parties can reconsider their strategic options. IPCRI calls on the Government of Israel to respond to any Hamas de-escalation by de-escalating in parallel its attacks against Gaza.






Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information


IPCRI Co-CEOs to be Ordained Cavaliere dell”Ordine della Stella Solidarieta Italiana by the Italian Republic for their peace making efforts


Italian Republic: Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity

Ordine della Stella della Solidarieta Italiana

Ribbon: Red with narrow green and white edge stripes.

Grand Officer


The Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity was instituted in 1947 to recognize the achievements of those Italians and foreigners who had played a distinguished role in the reconstruction of Italy after World War II. It is now bestowed upon Italians and the foreign nationals who have given a meaningful contribution to the cultural prestige of Italy.

The Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity is being bestowed on Gershon Baskin and Hanna Siniora, the Co-CEOs of IPCRI in recognition of their efforts for making peace between Israel and Palestine.


The Ordination Ceremony will take place on Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 12:30 at the residence of the Mr. Nicola Manduzio, the Italian Consul General in Jerusalem.





January 15, 2008


Dear friends


I am using this email with my regular Jerusalem Post article to provide you with some information about what is happening in IPCRI and to once again request your assistance.


Upcoming activities:


1.    The formal launching of the IPBF- the Israeli-Palestinian Business Forum.  We have formally registered the Israeli Economic Cooperation Council  (an Israeli registered NGO) and the Palestinian Economic Cooperation Council (a Palestinian registered NGO).  The two economic cooperation councils are coming together in a joint venture to launch the IPBF which will be formally established this week.  The IPBF is being “birthed” by IPCRI but it will be an independent organization providing services to Israeli, Palestinian and International business concerns that are interested in conducting cross-boundary Israeli-Palestinian business, commerce, and investment.


2.    STAT – IPCRI’s Strategic Thinking and Analysis Teams in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation will be holding a weekend meeting in the beginning of February to work on issues in the negotiating process.




The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Peek at an agreement

President George W. Bush has given Israel and the Palestinian Authority until the end of his term to reach an agreement on the creation of a viable democratic Palestinian state that will live peace with Israel. The assumption is that the sides will negotiate in secret and will reach a declaration of principles which will then be brought to the electorate in Israel and Palestine - either through full elections or through referenda.


The agreement will set down principles for permanent status and for the end of the conflict and a finality of all claims. The implementation of the declaration of principles will be based first on the full implementation of phase 1 of the road map (Palestinians dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism and Israel freezing all settlements and redeploying to the position held in September 2000), and then on the negotiations of a detailed agreement. Gaza is another issue that will have to be dealt with before an agreement could be implemented there.


It would safe to state that the parameters of the Declaration of Principles are more or less known. In the end it will look something like the following:


Declaration of Principles on Permanent Status Peace - Preamble The Government of the State of Israel and the P.L.O., the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, reaffirm that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence and mutual dignity and security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation based on the "two-states for two peoples" solution. The two sides fully recognize that each state has the right to define its own identity which will be respected by both sides. READ MORE...>>>






See the blog on the workshop written by Lirun London Rabinowitz:




IPCRI is listed amongst the top think tanks in the World! 




Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program




SUITE  610


TEL. (215) 732-3774

FAX  (610) 519-8040

EMAIL:[email protected]


January 3, 2008


Dear Friends and Colleagues:


I am pleased to send you a copy of  Global"Go-To Think Tanks, a report that identifies some of the leading public policy research organizations in the world. This project grew out of never ending requests from journalists, scholars and government officials who want a list of the leading think tanks in a particular country or region of the world. Global"Go-To Think Tanks" is the culmination of 18 months of polling and surveying to create that list. I would like to have a panel of experts from the CIS nominate think tanks form the region next year and would hope that members of the Pasos network would provide some of the panelist.


The attached report summarizes the findings of this pilot project and identifies what might be called the go to think tanks in every region of the world. Institutions were nominated by a panel of over 50 experts from around the world. The participants in this project agreed to submit their lists of high performance think tanks and then rank the combined list so that the top think tanks might be identified. The panel selected from the 288 think tanks that were nominated as institutions that distinguished themselves by producing rigorous and relevant research, publications and programs.


While I have done my best to be balanced and systematic in my approach to identifying the leading think tanks in the world, much more work still needs to be done. I view this report as a starting point and encourage your comments and suggestions for how I might improve the process. The inclusion of an institution in the universe of leading think tanks does not indicate a "seal of approval" or endorsement for the institution, its publications or programs. Likewise a failure to be nominated does not necessarily indicate a lack of a quality and effectiveness", or poor performance. There are 5080 think tanks around the world that are doing exceptional work to help bridge the gap between knowledge and policy. This report is simply an effort to highlight some of the leading think tanks around the world.


I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. All the best, Jim McGann


James G. McGann, Ph.D.
President, McGann Associates
Senior Fellow and Director
Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Assistant Professor, Political Science,Villanova University
610 519-8040 Villanova Office
215 619-2840 Ambler Office
New Books: Comparative Think Tanks, Politics and Public Policy http://www.e-elgar.co.uk/Bookentry_Main.lasso?id=2756
Think Tanks and Policy Making in the US: Academics, Advisors and Advocates http://www.routledge.com/shopping_cart/products/product_detail.asp?sku=&isbn=9780415772280&parent_id=&pc=/shopping_cart/search/search.asp


The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

What it takes to be Jerusalem's mayor

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy." - Psalms: 137, 5-7

O, Jerusalem, how we have forgotten thee. I love Jerusalem. How many Israelis can honestly say that? How many Israelis really want to live in Jerusalem? Jerusalem is a hard city, no doubt. It is a city of conflicts - a microcosm of all of the conflicts that exist in the whole country. In Jerusalem we have Israelis and Palestinians in conflict. Muslims, Christian and Jews fighting over sacred spaces and religious visions and values. East and west, which usually translates into rich and poor. We also have the fight between the religious and secular. And let's not forget haredim against Reform and Conservative.

JERUSALEM is one of the poorest cities in Israel. It has the largest number of senior citizens in the country. Jerusalem has one of the highest housing costs in the country as well. Little or almost no cheap housing for young people is available. Little or no new investments exist for job-creating ventures for young people. The downtown area is depressed and depressing, unlike that of most other large attractive cities, hardly inviting to anyone to enjoy the unique sun and light of this city.

In Jerusalem there is a sense of being overcrowded and congested. And one cannot help but being disgusted by the filth on the streets, in the parks. With the few exceptions of public gardens for the eyes of tourists, Jerusalem seems neglected and deprived.

It is true that cultural life in the city has grown and its diversity been enriched over the past years - no thanks to the dwindling municipal and government budgets for culture. Culinary life in Jerusalem has also improved, but it still has far less to offer than its big sister, Tel Aviv.     READ MORE...>>>



The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Annapolis gains momentum

There is great public skepticism regarding the outcome of the Annapolis meeting. Many of the skeptics state that at the end of the day, it was little more than a photo-op for the principals - Bush, Olmert and Abbas - and that it produced no real substance.

The failure of the parties to produce a joint statement that contained any content on the principles for resolving the core issues for permanent status, for some, points to the Annapolis meeting as a failure.

In fact, the main strategic aim of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas from Annapolis was to survive the meeting politically. That aim was achieved. Perhaps too little for some, however there is a new negotiating process under way, and it is the only game in town.


The meeting did also buy for Olmert and Abbas a year of domestic political freedom that can now be used to arrive at the permanent status agreement.

The process did set up a formal mechanism for carrying out negotiations and has produced an American commitment to monitor, and for the first time, to judge, the parallel implementation of the road map phase I obligations of both sides. The negotiating mechanism established contains two main elements: the continuation of the biweekly Olmert-Abbas meetings and the establishment of a steering committee that will devise further mechanisms for negotiating permanent status. READ MORE...>>>




The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Pray for success, because Israel will pay the price of Annapolis failure

The Annapolis process is on its way. This week the permanent status negotiations will formally commence. On December 17 the international community will be convening in Paris to launch the second pillar of the process by committing hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuilding the Palestinian economy and supporting Palestinian institution development. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayed together with Israeli and Palestinian security officials are already deeply engaged in beginning to implement the Palestinian obligations of the Road Map. The Israeli side will also have to begin to implement its obligations, firstly removing unauthorized outposts and redeploying outside of the Palestinian areas.


Retired Marine Gen. James Jones has been given his marching orders, and he too, is on the way.


Everyone is skeptical regarding the possibility of success. Israelis and Palestinians are equally doubtful that reaching an agreement is possible and even more suspicious that implementing what is agreed upon and what the parties have already agreed to do in the past will be implemented.


The level of trust between the sides remains below the zero point despite the positive dynamics that have developed between the two leaders. This is completely reasonable - objectively there is absolutely no reason why Israelis and Palestinians should trust each other. READ MORE...>>>





The Diplomatic Brief      Issue #3    November 21, 2007



The Diplomatic Brief is prepared by IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. IPCRI is a joint institution of Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of “two-states for two peoples” solution. IPCRI recognizes the “two-states for two peoples” solution as the ultimate fulfillment of the national strategic and security interests of the two peoples. IPCRI therefore recognizes the rights of the Jewish people and the Palestinian people to fulfill their national interests within the framework of achieving national self-determination within their own states and by establishing peaceful relations between two democratic states living side-by-side.


Jerusalem in the Annapolis Process  - a Media Review  by Alon C. Ferency                Read more...>>>




web haaretz.com

  Back to Homepage

The American paper


(November 21, 2007)

At the beginning of the week, an extraordinary group of women and men stepped out of the elevator on the Middle East floor of the U.S. State Department. The group included Knesset members Colette Avital (Labor), Menachem Ben-Sasson, Amira Dotan and Yohanan Plesner of Kadima, Fatah members Qadura Fares, Sahar Qawasmi, Ziad Abu Zayyad and independent activist Issa Kassasieh. They had accepted the invitation of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) and the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation to embark on a joint peace mission to Washington.

The group entered the office of Dr. Robert Danin, one of the key members of the Middle East peace process team. Her rich diplomatic experience notwithstanding, Avital was unable to restrain herself. She reminded Danin that their previous meeting, which took place more than a year ago, occurred in a less pleasant atmosphere. Like most of his colleagues at the State Department and the National Security Council, Danin had argued heatedly that Abbas was a lost cause and vehemently rejected Avital's pleas to strengthen his standing. Danin did not argue, and admitted his error.  READ MORE IN ENGLISH AND HEBREW...>>>




The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition


My hopes for Annapolis

I seem to be one of the few people left in the country who have any real hopes for Annapolis. I admit that my optimism has been somewhat lessened by the barrage of negative media reports about the negotiations. Perhaps I should speak about "annapolis" with a small "a" as it does seem apparent that the joint declaration will inevitably be less than what I had hoped for when the negotiations first began.

Under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, in partnership with our own Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, I spent last week in Washington with a joint team of Israeli and Palestinian political leaders.

Our group included four members of Knesset, three from Kadima: Menahem Ben Sasson, Amira Dotan, Yohanan Plesner and Labor's Collette Avital; and four senior Fatah personalities - Kadura Faris, Ziad Abu Zayaad, Sahar Kawasmi and Issa Kassassieh.

WE WENT to Washington on a kind of fact-finding mission to see what the administration was planning and to provide support and encouragement for the Annapolis process. We brought to Washington a group of responsible leaders who together voiced support for Annapolis and for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas. The following are our insights and conclusions from our DC meetings:


  • There is a shared, deep sense of concern - on both sides of the ocean - that Annapolis must succeed, failure is not an option, the consequences of failure are too severe. Annapolis is not going to be a negotiating forum; everything must be concluded prior to arriving there.  READ MORE...>>>


    IPCRI Environmental Newsletter – Number 1

    November 2007


    Note: this is first of a series of newsletters designed to draw attention to matters of joint concern to Israelis and Palestinians in the field of environment and water.


    When wells and springs run dry . . .


    The plight of Palestinians and Israelis who do not have access to piped water


    For Israelis and Palestinians knowledgeable about water supply and distribution in their region it comes as no surprise to hear that there are over 230,000 Palestinians, most of them living in villages, who do not have access to piped water. This problem, and awareness of it, has existed for years. It is more surprising to learn that in Israel there are an estimated 100,000 people, most of whom living in unrecognized villages, who are similarly deprived.


    How is it possible that, in a region which is not without resources - the Israeli economy is booming and the Palestinian Authority has had access for over a decade to substantial aid funds - the basic human right of access to clean and readily available water has not been extended to such large numbers of Palestinians and Israelis? 


    Disadvantaged Palestinian and Israeli villages do have springs and wells providing water. However, in summer months many of these run dry, and residents are forced to turn to water supplied by tankers. This water is, as a general rule, expensive (at least three times the cost of piped water) and is often contaminated. There is no system to monitor the quality of tanker-supplied water. Contamination, whether it comes from the source or from oil-infiltration (occurring in the tankers), goes un-identified. Villagers try to compensate by using as little contaminated water as possible, but the effects on hygiene and health are evident.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Failure isn't an option

    The US-sponsored Annapolis meeting that will presumably take place is the riskiest step taken by Israeli and Palestinian leaders since Camp David in July 2000. That summit in the summer of 2000 resulted in the failure that gave birth to the second Palestinian intifada and the death of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians. With the past seven years of death and destruction in mind, failure is not an option.

    There is currently no alternative to a negotiated agreement between Israel and Palestine. Neither side enjoys the luxury of options other than negotiations that will lead to agreements that must lead to peace. Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not return home from Annapolis as heroes if they fail to reach positive agreed upon outcomes.


    Abbas will face a very disappointed public that not only wants an agreement with Israel on the establishment of a Palestinian state - they are expecting immediate results that will have an impact on the quality of their lives on the ground. They are expecting not only the removal of hundreds of checkpoints and road closures, they are also expecting a release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons and a sharp improvement in the economy. Palestinians do not want their leader to come home from Annapolis with stories of glory about how he did not cave into Israeli demands while having nothing positive to show. This very well may be Abbas' last chance to prove his leadership and his moderation.


    READ MORE...>>>



    Peacemaking truths and lies

    Gershon Baskin , THE JERUSALEM POST

    Oct. 22, 2007

    For 60 years Palestinian and Arab leaders have been lying to their people. Creating and sustaining the lie that the Palestinian refugees of 1948 would return to their original homes and lands makes it almost impossible for President Mahmoud Abbas to reach an agreement with Israel on this, the most central issue in the conflict. Abbas and most of the Palestinian leaders from his Fatah movement have long realized that there could not be any real return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, but despite the fact that they have acknowledged this in private discussions with Israelis, they have not yet said it in public. The original 700,000-800,000 Palestinian refugees today number some 4.5 million (no one knows the exact figure of the refugees and their descendents which have been granted refugee status by the UN). In the West Bank and Gaza, not including the Palestinian diaspora, one of every two Palestinians is considered a refugee. Abbas' largest opposition to any agreement with Israel that includes concessions on the refugee issue comes from this very large segment of the population.

    FOR 40 years, Israeli leaders have been lying to their public. Creating and sustaining the lie that Jerusalem was united and that all of united Jerusalem will be the eternal capital of the State of Israel makes it nearly impossible for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make the necessary concessions on the Jerusalem issue to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. It is really quite amazing that the majority of Israelis continue to hold onto the lie in believing that Jerusalem is truly united. Jerusalem has not been a united city since the time of the British Mandate. Most Israelis have never visited (nor do they care to visit) most of Palestinian east Jerusalem. Areas such as Sur Baher, near Kibbutz Ramat Rahel; Jabel Mukaber just past East Talpiot; Sawahre, an Area A Palestinian village near Bethlehem; Walajeh, between Gilo and Bethlehem; and Um Tuba, which is next to Sur Baher, all have no meaning to Israelis.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The test of leadership

    The public mood regarding the US sponsored peace summit is quite negative. The leaders of Israel and Palestine are devoting time and energy to reducing expectations out of fear that the summit may not produce the agreement necessary to enable a genuine peace process to ensue. As we get closer to the summit it seems that public opinion on both sides is hardening with regard to concessions that are necessary to enable Israeli-Palestinian agreement.


    Israeli positions are hardening on territorial compromises and on the issue of Jerusalem. Palestinian positions are hardening on the refugee issue. These three issues are the core of any agreement and failure to find acceptable solutions will mean that an agreement will not be possible.


    Based on everything that we know from previous negotiations, an Israeli-Palestinian agreement will have to fall somewhere in between the triangle of the so-called Clinton parameters the Taba non-paper and the unofficial Geneva Accords. Translated into terms that we can all understand, the contours of an agreement must include the following principles:

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Create 'ministries of peace' in every country

    I am writing from Tokyo, where I am attending a summit meeting of the "Global Alliance for Ministries and Departments of Peace." The aim of this global alliance is to foster the creation of governmental departments or ministries for peace throughout the world. This is the third Global Summit. In the years since its creation only Nepal has actually moved forward with the establishment of a Ministry of Peace. There are about 20 countries being represented at the summit including a representative from Palestine. In the US Legislation for a Ministry of Peace has been tabled in the House of Representatives with 64 Members of Congress sponsoring the legislation.

    The basic idea of having a Ministry of Peace is to work strategically toward the creation and the advancement of a culture of peace within the country and between a given country and its neighbors. A Ministry of Peace aims at enlarging the "tool box" of resources at the disposal of governments for dealing with conflicts, internal and external, and at enabling governments to develop alternative policies to the use of force. A Ministry of Peace would also be extremely useful in areas where there are ongoing peace processes especially when those peace processes emerge into peace agreements.

    MANY OBSERVERS note the difficulty that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas are facing in their negotiations for a permanent status declaration of principles. Even once that declaration is reached and the key issues are bridged into an agreement, the main challenges lie ahead of us. The most difficult part of any peace process is the successful and positive implementation of peace agreements. Here we Israelis and Palestinians have failed miserably.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    End Syria's isolation

    Throughout the summer months, the drums of war have been banging on both sides of the Golan Heights. Military experts assert that neither Israel nor Syria have any real interest in beginning a war at this time. The main fear has been that some kind of provocation could make war unavoidable.


    The recent Israeli fly-over of Syrian territory is precisely the kind of event that could ignite a military escapade no one is interested in. Hopefully, this event will pass without either side taking further military action. But the incident should point to the importance of finding an effective way to de-escalate the northern front. It should also point out the utmost importance of drawing the Israeli-Syrian front toward dialogue and a genuine peace process.


    The upcoming US peace meeting scheduled for November probably provides the best opportunity for changing the very dangerous course of Israeli-Syrian relations. A US invitation to Syria to join the meeting could have the kind of impetus that could lead to a change of course. The main obstacle to Syrian participation is the position of the Bush administration and not the position of Israel.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Let's not repeat old mistakes

    Lesson Learned: Peace must pay - peace must have a constituency. There were many promises that peace would pay. Shimon Peres spoke about a new Middle East that would flourish with the fruits of peace. A lot of money was pumped into the process and economic development projects and large scale infrastructure development projects were launched. At the same time, in response to a continuation of terrorism, various Israeli governments imposed new systems of closures limiting Palestinian access to Israel and to Israeli markets.

    The most effected sector was that of the export of Palestinian labor to Israel. Economic data point to the fact that the losses to the Palestinian economy equaled and even surpassed the total amount of donor funds that were pumped into the process. The result on the ground was a continual shrinking of the Palestinian economy (with the exception of 1999-2000). The common Palestinian citizen became poorer and the Palestinian economy actually suffered significant losses after September 1993. In short the fruits of peace were never delivered to the plates of the average Palestinian citizen.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Why Oslo really failed (II)

    With the renewal of the peace process, it is worthwhile taking a moment to look at some of the lessons that should have been learned from the failure of the process thus far. This article is the second of three that will provide some insights into some of those lessons.


    Lesson Learned: Protracted conflicts in which there is little or no trust and confidence require external mechanisms for verification of implementation of the agreements, external mechanisms for insuring compliance, and external mechanisms for external dispute resolution.


    The Israeli-Palestinian agreements did not have any external mechanisms of verification of implementation, for ensuring compliance and for dispute resolution.


    The DOP stated: "Disputes arising out of the application or interpretation of this Declaration of Principles, or any subsequent agreements pertaining to the interim period, shall be resolved by negotiations through the Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) to be established... Disputes which cannot be settled by negotiations may be resolved by a mechanism of conciliation to be agreed upon by the parties."

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Why Oslo really failed - part 1

    With the renewal of the peace process it is worthwhile to look at some of the lessons that should have been learned from the failure of the process thus far. This article is the first of three that will provide some insights into some of those lessons.


    Lesson Learned: In protracted conflicts it is not sufficient to only detail the beginning of the process; it is important, and perhaps essential to reach agreement on at least the principles of longer-term final or permanent status issues.


    The Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles (DOP) signed on September 13, 1993 provided a framework for mutual recognition between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). This agreement, it was hoped, would provide the sides with the framework and the mechanism to begin a process of normalization, mutual recognition, mutual confidence building, and to lead to future negotiations. The DOP also listed the main issues in conflict that must be resolved for the permanent status between the two sides. The DOP dealt with procedural issues for the short term focusing on temporary status issues, leaving the core issues of the conflict for later stages.  READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Monday, August 13, 2007


    Is Peace Possible?


    The feverish local, regional, and international deliberations in preparation to the International meeting in November in Washington might be the last chance to prevent the demise of the two-state solution.  Yet, the conditions under which the meeting is taking place, is fraught with pitfalls that the moderate present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, should take into consideration for survival.


    Internal Division


    The Fateh-Hamas rift is widening, a media campaign is being waged against President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad by Hamas statements led by former Hamas PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar, and by Dr. Ahmad Yousef, the political advisor of former PM Ismaeil Haniyeh, and Hamas leaders and spokespersons.  In return, Ahmad Abdul Rahman and other leaders in Fateh are quite outspoken in their criticism of Hamas.  The deepening of the rift, doesn't serve the best interest of the Palestinian people and their quest for independence.  Without any doubts the present acrimonious accusations by both movements, jeopardizes the national aspiration of the people, and dooms progress to end the occupation.  READ MORE...>>>



    Wednesday, August 08, 2007


    Memo to:


    Prime Minister Olmert                                                           President Abbas

    Minister of Foreign Affairs Livni                                      Prime Minister Fayyad

    Minister of Defense Barak                                                   Minister of Information Malki


    Re: Three wild "out-of-the-box" ideas


    Dear Leaders,


    If the news reports are correct regarding real progress on talks towards an agreement on principles for permanent status, you are all worthy of congratulations.  Some of the ideas presented in the press are quite constructive and show real progress through demonstrated flexibility and a genuine desire to find agreements.


    The following are three wild "out-of-the-box" ideas that could help to translate some of the progress into concrete steps that can be already implemented and would not only strengthen the process by translating them into reality, but will also strengthen your leadership facing your own people and the need to convince the public to support the process.  All three of these ideas are quite wild, but they could be accepted, advanced and could make a real contribution.  Here they are:

    READ MORE...>>>

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Why I am a Neo-Zionist



    With the very real possibility of a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process comes a revival of the possibility of polemic politics in Israel.  If the peace process does advance, the divisions between the so-called "left" and the so-called "right" which have been watered down into Israeli centrism, mainly since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, will become re-exposed and resurface as an existential debate probing matters of our raison d'etre as the nation state of the Jewish people.


    A renewed peace process will force Israel to finally deal with the question of its borders, its relationship to Jewish history and heritage, and to the very identity of the State vis-à-vis its Jewishness and it democratic values. The debate will come down to a divide between those who's minds are focused on the past, roots and traditions versus those who are searching for a new future which use the past, roots and traditions as a link to the future but not as shackles to it.

    I am a neo-zionist. I adhere to my right, my responsibility and my vision to the State of Israel as the State of the Jewish people. I also am a democrat whose values for fairness, equality, dignity, tolerance, and mutual respect are deeply imbedded in Jewish traditions, texts, heritage and learning. As a neo-zionist I genuinely understand that the Land of Israel found within our sacred texts is not Tel Aviv, but in the hills and valleys of the West Bank.  But I also comprehend that Jewish survival in the Land of Israel is only possible if we give up that part of the Land of Israel so that our Palestinian neighbors can have a State of the own and live in peace with us.  There is no other way. As a neo-zionist I am more concerned with the Jewish future than the Jewish past, and as such I recognize that we must come forth from the passages of Torah into the reality of the 21st century Middle East and make the necessary concessions now so that our neighbors can live with the same collective and national dignity that we demand for ourselves.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Monday, July 30, 2007


    Interesting Future Developments, Low Threshold of Expectations




    The two adversaries, Israel and Palestine, are wondering about Blair's intentions after the formalities of meeting Blair are over. Will Blair stick to the limited mandate he has been given by the Quartet to further the building of Palestinian governmental institutions, help rebuild the Palestinian economy or is Blair intending to broaden his mandate by mediating between the Palestinian leadership and Israel? Blair takes pride in his achievement in helping to end the conflict in Northern Ireland, and in getting the IRA involved, is that a signal that Blair will engage Hamas and work toward internal Palestinian reconciliation? All these issues are part of the expectations, if like Jimmy Carter before him, Tony Blair can help reach a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he will be rewarded with the Noble Peace Prize.


    By September, Blair and his team will slowly reveal his agenda when he returns back to the region, initially active in the effort to revive the Palestinian economy and in building its institutions. READ MORE....>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Wednesday, July 18, 2007


    We Need a Responsible Hamas


    President George W. Bush gave a major address and called for the holding of an International Conference next autumn in support of the two-state solution and called on Israel to remove the illegal outposts.  Five years earlier, President Bush presented his vision for a Palestinian State by 2005, but allowed the date to lapse without doing much. 


    With Hamas emerging on the scene as a political and military force in January 2006, the Bush administration galvanized the world community as well as Israel to declare a siege and an embargo on Hamas.  This led to internal fighting in the PA between Hamas and Fateh loyalists which eventually led to the military takeover by Hamas of the Gaza Strip.  Israel and the US administration erred in not opening final status talks with the democratically elected President of the PA, Bush allowed Sharon and then Olmert to squander precious political opportunities by testing unilateral disengagement plans that led to the present impasse.  


    Hamas proved to be an invaluable political tool, because it forced the USA and Israel to face the moment of truth, that evading serious negotiations with the PLO and the legitimately elected Abbas is allowing the region to sink deeper in violence and  to squander the possibility of achieving the two-state solution forever.  Now at least a political horizon is possible, and the next few months until the holding of the International Conference should be spent in discussing serious final status issues.  READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    A promissory note for peace


    Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, the president of al-Quds University and the co-author of the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan also known as "the People's Voice" has proposed a new way to advance the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


    Nusseibeh suggests the following: Ehud Olmert would issue a promissory note to the Palestinian people in which he would state the willingness of Israel to accept the six points of the Nusseibeh Ayalon declaration (see below) as the basis for peace with any Palestinian government that would be democratically elected.


    The idea of this proposal is to enable political movement that would be acceptable to both sides and would facilitate a process of dealing with the internal Palestinian situation. Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian leader who supports peace would present the promissory note to the Palestinian public as a cashable document waiting in the bank to be claimed by the Palestinian people. The Palestinian candidate would invite the Palestinian people to join him in his trip to the bank to cash the note. READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    What Israel and the PA need from each other

    Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has a serious job to do and a limited amount of time in which to do it. The number-one issue on Fayad's heavy agenda is the stabilization of the security situation in the West Bank. Fayad's main focus is on building a unified security apparatus that has an orderly chain of command and is subordinate to the directives of the political echelon.

    Fayad is a strong advocate of the concept of "one authority - one gun." He is aware that the single biggest challenge to his government is to ensure that what happened in Gaza does not happen in the West Bank. He is also keenly aware that any acts of terror that emanate from the West Bank and penetrate Israel will derail his attempts to stabilize the West Bank and move forward toward the creation of the political horizon that Secretary Condoleezza Rice talks about.

    Fayad has inherited a mess. The security forces in the West Bank, never unified, have never been in more disarray. The failure of the Palestinian Authority's forces in Gaza against the more-organized, better-armed and motivated Hamas forces has only helped to point out the disastrous state of affairs within the forces in the West Bank. The proliferation of forces created during the Arafat era as a way to pay off political cronies and loyalists is one of the most serious elements of weakness that Fayad must confront. READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Wednesday, June 30, 2007



    Can the politicians grab the opportunity?


    The Sharm El-Sheikh summit appeared as a love fest, were all four leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine basically agreed that the time is ripe to move forward.  Unfortunately, the local public is skeptical, similar meetings took place, promises were made, and nothing tangible resulted.  Actually this summit urgency is because the Israeli Palestinian conflict took a dangerous dive into the unknown, and within the Palestinian camp a serious rift developed with Gaza falling under the control of Hamas, and the Fateh seemingly in control of the West Bank.


    International pressure, mainly American-Israeli, led Hamas to preempt Fateh by using its military strength in Gaza to oust troops loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and allowed Hamas to accentuate that the PLO, is not the only political voice of the Palestinian people.  Both Hamas and Fateh emerged from the confrontation in front of the Palestinian public as losers.  Hamas lost public support that the elections bestowed on the movement.  Using force and committing atrocities against Palestinian brothers not only undermined the democratic process, but severely questioned Hamas's legitimacy.


    The immediate backlash was an increase in the popularity of President Abbas and backing for the newly installed emergency government.  How long this popular support would last depends on the ability of the President to demonstrate to the people that he can extract from the Olmert government actions and not promises.  Abbas has prohibited, even Fateh's al-Aqsa brigades, and all others to carry arms and ordered the PA security forces to collect all such arms. In return Olmert should order the IDF and Shin Bet to stop their daily raids, targeted killings, and arrests in the West Bank and to return to security coordination between the two sides.  Olmert and his aides should understand that the PA and its forces in the West Bank, are under orders of the legitimately elected President and not quislings under the beck and call of Israel.  So far, Israel and its leaders have brought more harm than support to Abbas.  Olmert has to understand that he is dealing with the leadership of the Palestinian people and not with lackeys and employees at his disposal. READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    New realities, new incentives

    The tragic events of last week in Gaza provide us with a new opportunity to reconsider the future of our region and the chances for some kind of future accommodations between Israel and the Palestinians.  There is no doubt that many of the readers of the Jerusalem Post will see the brutality of the Hamas takeover as the final proof that the Palestinians will never live in peace with Israel. The Hamas victory in Gaza provides us and the more moderate Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and the allies of peace around the world to reexamine the current reality and to put us on a new course that could bring us towards peace and stability.

    Gaza is lost, for the time being. The Palestinians of Gaza, both the supporters of Hamas and their opposition have to live with this new reality. Gaza will be detached from the world. Israel and Egypt have both sealed Gaza's borders, but sooner, rather than later, the world, and Israel, will have to consider how to deliver food and medical supplies in order to prevent a colossal humanitarian disaster. At the same time, Israel and the world should consider how to save the West Bank from a similar fate.  An Iranian-Hizbollah supported Hamas entity on Israel's border is a danger to the stability of the entire region and threatens not only the immediate neighborhood.  Both Jordan and Egypt are threatened by the Hamas victory. Israel and Palestine are the backyard of Europe and the local threats extend to there as well. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Monday, June 18, 2007



    The damage that many Palestinians feared -  took place, no excuses; we all share in the blame. Hamas heavily tarnished its image, as a democratically elected movement, by resorting to brute force to resolve the power struggle resulting from its sweeping electoral victory in January 2006. Up to the military putsch that led Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the movement had the democratic and moral high ground. The impatience of its radical elements and its alliance with extremist regional partners might bring about the possible demise of the first Arab Islamic party that came to power through the ballot box.


    Hamas now, although it has military supremacy in Gaza, has lost the support of civil society in Palestine. The public was horrified at the barbaric atrocities committed by the military militias. Hamas has undermined the democratic process and allowed a combination of forces, internally and externally, to seek its elimination.


    President Mahmoud Abbas was constantly blamed for indecisiveness, but Abbas knew that whoever resorted to force will lose legitimacy and the backing of his people, as well as the Arab world and international community. Hamas radicals have committed political suicide by allowing civil war and usurping power by force. President Abbas with the backing of the majority of his people was finally forced into action.

    Abbas dismissed PM Ismail Haniyeh and appointed a new cabinet headed by Dr. Salam Fayyad to repair the damage that divided the future Palestine into two entities, Gaza under the military domination of Hamas, and the West Bank under the legitimacy of the presidency and the PLO. PM Salam Fayyad emergency government, according to the basic laws of the PLC, have a  mandate of 30 days that can be renewed up to 90 days by avoiding a constitutional showdown with Hamas majority in parliament. Ninety days are not enough for the emergency government to repair the damage of the past fifteen months. President Abbas and legal experts have to look for legal means to extend the mandate of the emergency government, at least, up to the end of the presidential term in 20 months. This the period necessary for Fayyad to deal with the political and economic damaged, also in order to repair and stabilize the internal collapse. PM Fayyad immediate concern and full attention should be focused on preventing the collapse of the security in the West Bank, institutionalizing the security force to serve the nation and not individuals and parties, provide the basic needs and services to the Palestinian people in Gaza, irrespective of the illegitimate Hamas control, to work on  preserving relations with Gaza despite the political nuances. The Palestinian economy should receive the primary attention, plans prepared while Fayyad was Finance minister should be implemented, as international sanctions are being lifted.

     READ MORE...>>>


    The fall of Gaza and the rise of Palestine

    Gershon Baskin*


    June 15, 2007


    The fall of Gaza to Hamas has thrown the Palestinian people into its worst crisis since 1967.  With every crisis there are usually new opportunities and those must be investigated and pursued, if possible. Gaza is lost, for the time being and there is little that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah can do to immediately change the course of events.  The present focus must now be on the West Bank and on saving the Palestinian people from additional unnecessary disasters and nightmares. There is now an opportunity to contrast the horrors of Gaza with a new reality in the West Bank that could serve as an example and focal point for positive Palestinian energies. 


    The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah should detach itself from Gaza (for the time being).  If, at the same time, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would issue the following ten-point plan, a new future of promise and hope could be turned into a reality that would be the best possible way to serve the interests of the Palestinian people. The following is the proposed ten point plan:

     READ MORE...>>>


    What if Palestinians protest for peace?

    Forty years ago, following three weeks of unimaginable anxiety regarding the continued existence of the State of Israel, the IDF swept across the Sinai, the Golan Heights and the West Bank, not only taking the entire world by surprise, but also the people of Israel themselves.

    The amazing military victory also brought with it renewed hopes for the possibility of peace with our neighbors. It took yet another full-fledged war in 1973 before the block of Arab resistance toward peace was broken. Now, 40 years later, and after a peace treaty with Jordan and a failed peace process with the Palestinians, peace with our immediate neighbors seems to be even more remote than at any other time in the past.


    New public opinion research conducted by IPCRI, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, has shown that fear of the Palestinians, lack of trust in their aspirations and ability to be partners for peace are the greatest obstacles to Israeli willingness to move ahead toward a peace process and towards making concessions.


    Fear and lack of trust may be greater obstacles to achieving peace than reconciling the compromises Israel will have to make. But the research also shows that there are ways in which the Palestinians could change Israeli attitudes. Although similar research on the Palestinian side has yet to be conducted, from intimate knowledge of Palestinian public opinion it is easy to assume that similar results would be found regarding the lack of trust they feel toward Israelis.


    Ultimately, Israelis express willingness for the overall outlines of a peace settlement. Although the problems of refugees and Jerusalem remain a sticking point, a majority would still support an agreement based on the Clinton Plan.

    READ MORE....>>>




    Middle East Times

    Israel minister, Fatah officer trade views on Gaza crisis

    By Marian Houk
    Middle East Times

    Published June 1, 2007

    The Israeli security deployment - involving the army, police, and Shin Bet - at the entrance of the Palestinian-owned Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem Wednesday was an unexpected sight.
        But it wasn't because of the appearance of Jabril Rajoub, a controversial Fatah commander who served as Yasser Arafat's former National Security chief. Instead, as one of the Israeli security officials in a short-sleeved navy jacket with a communication wire leading to his ear, explained, it was because "our minister is here."
        He was referring to Gideon Ezra, Israel's current minister of environmental protection, who is perhaps better known, at least among Palestinians, for his long service in the Israeli General Security Service (Shabak, or Shin Bet) from 1962 to 1995.
        During more than half of that time, Rajoub was in jail, after which he was deported to exile with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to return only after the exchange of recognition between Israel and the PLO as part of the Oslo Accords.

    READ MORE...>>>









    Who's at fault?

    Israel bemoans absence of Palestinian partner, but we are partly to blame
    Dr. Gershon Baskin

    The State of Israel is on the defensive. Next month, pro-Palestinian groups across the world will be marking 40 years of occupation with calls for protests and boycott. The anti-Zionist movement is picking up speed. The entire world is against the occupation.


    The good news is that the State of Israel is also against the occupation - its people and government seek peace with the Palestinian people on the basis of "two states for two peoples." Speaking at the United Nations in September 2005, Prime Minister Sharon said that the Palestinian people are "entitled to freedom and to national sovereign existence in a state of their own."


    The Israeli public relations strategy must be premised on this position - the State of Israel wishes to end the occupation; it seeks peace and is willing to take risks in order to achieve it.


    It is clear that there is no point in signing a peace agreement when the Palestinian government has no ability to fulfill its obligations. The Palestinian government is divided and mostly made up of a radical Islamic movement that seeks Israel's destruction and refuses to meet the international community's conditions. The Palestinian president wishes to advance peace, but he is unable to. How can we make any progress with the Palestinians if they are unable to put their own house in order? After all, we want to, but there is no partner…    READ MORE...>>>


    Answering my critics

    Since February 2005, I have been writing this column in the Jerusalem Post every other week. The talkbacks to my articles which also appear on jpost.com are consistently angry, aggressive, and opposed to almost everything I write. The responses to my repeated calls for taking steps toward peace with our neighbors have been complete rejection.

    The basis of opposition comes from those who question the very existence of the Palestinian people. Others, who might be willing to recognize that Palestinians do exist, are not wiling to accept the reality of their presence on any part of the Land of Israel. Others who might be willing to accept the presence of Palestinians in some part of Eretz Israel are not willing to accept the possibility of equal rights for them within the State of Israel or even in areas that are under the control of the State of Israel.

    I have been called everything from a self-hating Jew to a post-Zionist. I am neither. I am and have always been very Jewish and very Zionist. The main motivations behind all of what I believe are in fact both my Jewish identity and my Zionist one. For me the existence of State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is the ultimate expression of the national strategic interests of the Jewish people. It is an expression of our liberation and our determination to be a free people in our land. But Israel cannot fulfill the national strategic interests of the Jewish people if it is a state built on oppression, persecution and denial of the national rights of another people. READ MORE...>>>













    מי אשם שאין פרטנר?

    האמנם רק הפלסטינים הרגו את התהליך והביאו הסלמה? במלאות 40 שנה לכיבוש, דרושים צעדים אמיתיים לסיומו
    ד"ר גרשון בסקין

    מדינת ישראל במגננה. בחודש הבא, בהפגנות ובקריאות להטיל עליה חרם, יציינו ארגונים פרו-פלסטיניים בכל רחבי תבל 40 שנה לכיבוש. התנועה האנטי-ציונית הולכת וצוברת תאוצה. העולם כולו נגד הכיבוש. החדשות הטובות הן, שגם מדינת ישראל נגד הכיבוש - עמה וממשלתה רוצים שלום עם העם הפלסטיני, על בסיס "שתי מדינות לשני עמים". על במת האו"ם בספטמבר 2005, אמר ראש הממשלה שרון: "לעם הפלסטיני זכות לחירות לאומית במדינה ריבונית משלו". אסטרטגיית ההסברה הישראלית צריכה להישען על העמדה הזו - מדינת ישראל רוצה לסיים את הכיבוש; היא רוצה שלום ומוכנה לקחת סיכונים על מנת להגיע אליו.


    ברור כי אין טעם לחתום על הסכם שלום, כשאין לממשלה הפלסטינית כל יכולת לממשו. והממשלה הפלסטינית מפולגת, מורכבת בעיקר מתנועה איסלאמית קיצונית הרוצה בהשמדת ישראל, ומסרבת למלא אחר תנאיה של הקהילה הבינלאומית. הנשיא הפלסטיני רוצה להתקדם לשלום, אבל אינו יכול. כיצד אפשר להתקדם עם הפלסטינים, אם הם אינם מסוגלים להשליט סדר בביתם הם? הרי אנחנו רוצים, אבל אין פרטנר...


    המצב הזה של היעדר פרטנר היה מאוד נוח לראשי הממשלה ברק ושרון, שדגלו בהפרדה מוחלטת שלנו מהפלסטינים. אולם גם היום ממשיכים לומר כי אין פרטנר. אבו-מאזן אכן חלש, אך במקום לחזור ולומר זאת כאילו ידה של מדינת ישראל לא הייתה בהחלשתו, רצוי שנבין במהרה כי חולשתו אינה משרתת אותנו, וכי מעשיה של ישראל רק מחלישים עוד את מעמדו ההולך ונשחק בלא הרף. קרא עוד










    May 19, 2007


    Arab peace plan is key to ending Gaza violence

    Arabs, Israel, should adopt Arab peace initiative to prevent civil war in Gaza, writes Hanna Siniora


    The catastrophic infighting that has so far left scores of dead and hundreds of wounded by Palestinian hands in the Gaza Strip, is a deadly signal that the Mecca agreement and national unity government are in the last throes of falling apart.


    Neither Fatah nor Hamas are able to prevent the daily clashes that their movements are part of. The Palestinian public in Gaza is being terrorized by the lawlessness, the shootings and killings that are turning Gaza into another Baghdad. Here it is not Shia against Sunni, but Hamas against Fatah and the slide toward total chaos is perhaps unstoppable.


    The abundance of weapons, militias, clans and warring movements have made it impossible to bring order and the rule of law; too many parties, internally and externally, including the occupation, are involved in stirring the rivalries and drastic action must be applied urgently or the Palestinian people will become involved in a civil war in Gaza which will eventually spread into the West Bank.

    READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Thursday, May 10, 2007



    Palestinian Political Partnership


    The Palestinian leadership during the past week was busy in a comprehensive internal dialogue to stabilize the Unity government.  President Abbas and PM Haniyeh and leading political figures from Fateh and Hamas and other movements and parties, discussed the internal security issues, the ways and means to implement the security plan of Interior Minister Hani Kawasmi, the future of the political partnership of Hamas and Fateh to solidify the working relationship in the cabinet and in the implementation of the Mecca accord. 


    A nascent new political culture is developing, which hardly existed during the days when the late President Arafat wielded power.  In the aftermath of the Hamas election victory in 2006, and after a year of Hamas rule, it became evident that the Palestinian political system is gradually moving from the rule of dominant political figure like Arafat or a movement-Fateh or Hamas- to new political premises, political partnership and a coalition government.  It is early to judge or even predict that such a process will survive or grow.  The past year has shown beyond doubt that in order to promote the best interest of the Palestinian people, the political movements and parties that represent the people must forge a political partnership.  READ MORE...>>>



    Burning Issues: Jerusalem demographics


    May 09 2007; 11:05AM

    The capital's Arab population has increased at more than twice the rate of its Jewish inhabitants over the last decade, a recent survey has found. Another study predicts that if Jerusalem's borders remain unchanged, only 60% of the capital's residents will be Jews by 2020, with the remaining 40% Arab.

    If this indeed is the case, should something be done to preserve the capital's Jewish majority and if so what?  


    Gershon Baskin: Jerusalem is a divided city. Since 1948 it has been a divided city and it will always remain a divided city. The political leadership of Israel speaks of a consensus on the future status of Jerusalem. This consensus, defined as the Israeli policy, supposedly is as follows: All of Jerusalem is Israel's eternal, undivided capital. All of Jerusalem must remain under Israeli sovereignty forever. I maintain that this is not really the consensus of Israeli opinion on Jerusalem but is in fact a rather narrow view of what should be the future of this city. The true consensus, as opposed to this mythical consensus, can be stated as follows:

    All Israelis believe and desire that:

    1. Jerusalem must never return to the status it had prior to June 1967. Jerusalem should never be physically divided. It must remain an open city with free access throughout its boundaries for all.

    2. Personal security and security of property must be guaranteed for all in all parts of the city. No one should have to fear getting a knife in his back in any part of the city and no one should have to fear getting his car torched or other property damaged in any part of the city. READ MORE...>>>


    Failure to act is not an option

    Whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigns now or after the final Winograd report is issued is only a question of time. The political earthquake in Israel is but one more piece of evidence that Israeli democracy has become dysfunctional. Will this prime minister, who is already under investigation for multiple cases of alleged fraud and corruption, be in a position to devote any real time to the challenges that face Israel today?

    The answer is actually not completely negative. There is a small, albeit unlikely chance that Olmert may suddenly adopt a more aggressive peace-making platform as a way to divert public attention from his own decline. It is more likely though, that Olmert will launch an aggressive ground operation into Gaza in order to achieve the same shift in public attention.

    Olmert will find great legitimacy among the public to launch that attack as well as support within the army, which is waiting for a chance to redefine Israeli deterrence in the hearts and minds of the Arabs. Olmert will claim that "we are cleaning up Gaza" because the Palestinian Authority is incapable of doing it and the Israeli mission will aim to remove the military threat and to put an end to the Kassam fire into Israel.

    READ MORE,,,>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    Monday, April 30, 2007


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora



    Political and Economic Development


    President Mahmoud Abbas ended his recent round of meetings in Europe and some Arab countries in support of the National Unity government and the urgent need to end the embargo and sanctions that were imposed when Hamas came to power.  Although the Arab countries in the Riyadh summit allocated $55 million dollars monthly for the PA, which will go to the PLO account of the Ministry of Finance, this did not bring to an end the PA shortage of funding.  Abbas, and Salam Fayyad, so far were not able to convince the EU to deal directly with the PA Unity government.  The EU declared its intentions to operate the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) that pumps approximately $34 million monthly to pay PA civil servants.  The monthly salary bill is $110 million dollars.


    Civil servants threatening to go on strike, more than $700 million dollars are owed to them from 2006.  Minster Fayyad floated the possibility of the Ministry of Finance borrowing the sum form local banks and the interest shared by the Ministry and civil servants.  Unfortunately, this plan was dropped, it is necessary to encourage Dr. Fayyad to re-launch it for it allows the civil servants the ability to withstand the economic crunch, and the injection of this sum into the economy will help trigger the economy to rebound.  It is the only way to prevent further disruptions of work.  The only other alternative is for the Israeli government to unfreeze the revenues so far collected on behalf of the PA by Israel. 

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    Monday, April 30, 2007


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    The Winograd Commission


    In a few hours the interim report of the Winograd Commission will be issued with the first conclusions regarding the failed performance of the Government and the army in last summer’s fiasco in Lebanon. All of the media in Israel and around the world will cover in detail the findings of the Commission.  The interim report is supposed to deal only with the first days of the war and will probably find great fault with the behavior and actions of both the Government and the army.  The main findings will likely be against the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister.  The report will hopefully also deal with the failings of past Prime Ministers, Defense Ministers, chiefs of staff, and others. 


    In its findings on last summer and prior to last summer, the report will most likely not deal with the decisions that were not made by this and past governments that should have been made.  For example, the Commission will most likely not question whether or not Israel should have gone to war at all this past summer.  There is no doubt that Hezbollah provided Israel with suitable causus belli.  The kidnapping and killing of the Israeli soldiers on Israel’s side of the border was a gross violation of Israel sovereignty.  The shelling of the north prior to Israel’s military response was a continuation of the unprovoked violence.  Israel was justified in responding militarily. But very quickly it became apparent that there were serious questions regarding the nature of the response and the proportionally of that response. 

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    When will it all end?

    When the siren sounds I cry. The world stops and despite the whining scream of the siren - silence is what I hear. The pain of loss, the weeping of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters - never to touch again, never to kiss, hug or just look at. Killed in the line of duty. A hero. Serving the homeland. He fell so that others could live. Cemeteries, unending graves, each year new stones engraved with new names, new battles, new mourning families. News songs to be song next year in the Square.

    We wake with news each morning of more death, more killings, more victims, and more bereaved families. Sometimes ours, more of the time, theirs. Our tears, their tears, our pain, their pain. We fight for our homeland, they fight for theirs. Our cause is just, we say. They say that theirs is just. We have the most moral army in the world. They are bloody murderers, we say. They say we kill innocent women and children much more than they have ever killed. We cry for our children. They cry for their children too.

    Death pains a Jewish heart as much as it pains a Palestinian heart. We all carry our traumas with us and each and everyone one of us, Jew or Arab is a victim of this conflict carrying the trauma of war with them deep inside. This conflict has left no one without pain. For 100 years we have been killing each other for a piece of this land, for a piece of peace and quiet. We have been blinded by our pain and they have been blinded by theirs. READ MORE...>>>





    In Israeli-Palestinian Water Issues - From Conflict to Cooperation leading Palestinian, Israeli and international water experts document the importance of mutual understanding, respect and amity among peoples during a difficult period of stress. This book demonstrates hope, optimism and belief that people with good will can help contribute to peace and mutual cooperation in solving shared water problems essential for their mutual survival and welfare. The present water crisis facing the Middle East will become even more severe over the next twenty years, unless dealt with energetically and in good time. This situation requires urgent action by the countries of the region, the international community and civil society generally. This book provides valuable source material for water scientists, engineers, political scientists, specialists in conflict resolution, environmentalists, economists, lawyers, administrators, managers and policy makers interested in understanding, developing, managing and protecting the scarce shared water resources of the Middle East and for the promotion of “Water for Life” for the benefit of all the nations of the region.

    This book contains papers from an international conference on water issues in the Middle East organized by the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information ( IPCRI ) 



    Hanna Siniora Awarded a Peace Prize of Honor from the

    Order of the Knights of Malta

    Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 14:00

    Bethlehem Room, Tantur Ecumenical Institute




    Today, Saturday April 21, 2007 Mr. Hanna Siniora, the Co-CEO of IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information was awarded a tribute of honor for his life time commitment to Palestinian-Israeli peace by the Order of the Knights of Malta.  This tribute has been awarded to Heads of State and world leaders for peace.  The winner of the tribute prior to Mr. Siniora was the President of Burundi and Nelson Mandela will receive the tribute after Mr. Siniora.

    The Order of St. John also known as the Knights of Malta has created a federation of Knightly Orders unifying all of the Holy Orders to work together for World Peace.  A group of the Knights of Malta is now on their first visit to the Holy Land since the Federation was established.  The head of the Delegation, composed of Knights of the order including two members of the European Parliament from Italy and other dignitaries, awarded Mr. Siniora a Silver Olive Branch. When the Pope came to Holy Land in 2000, he took with him a small olive tree plant and planted it in the garden of the Vatican. The prize is made of a branch of that olive tree covered with silver. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    Tuesday, April 17, 2007 


    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Abbas-Olmert Meeting


    The holding of the first series of bimonthly meetings between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert arranged by Secretary of State Dr. Rice during her last shuttle diplomacy in the region took place with the usual smiles and denial of real progress.  To the credit of Condi Rice goes the institutionalization of the meetings and expanding their content from deciding day to day issues, to, for the first time, bringing to the table discussion of final status issues.  In a way Dr. Rice succeeded to start the discourse of developing a political horizon despite the fragile and tense relations, and the lack of Israeli recognition of the Palestinian Unity government.


    Certainly keeping the expectations low, the talks mostly focused on discussion of check posts, movement of people and goods, humanitarian issues, allowed both leaders to avoid creating false expectations.  Yet what is new, and of major important, is that the talks are going beyond the routine in such meetings to the bold step of creating a political horizon that will discuss how to arrive to the two states solution, and how to use the Arab League Peace initiative as the vehicle to end the Arab-Israeli Conflict. READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    Tuesday, April 17, 2007


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    New hopes old problems


    There does seem to be some sense of renewed hopes mainly because of the Arab Peace Initiative and the positive comments of Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni.  The Abbas-Olmert summit this week, beginning a round of talks every two weeks between the leaders also seemed more positive than negative, although expectations are quite low for any significant breakthrough towards the renewal of a real peace process.  Olmert and Abbas agreed to move forward on plans for implementing mutual commitments that were made within the framework of the Road Map.  They also spent about 45 minutes alone without aides or other ministers present.  I would hope that they are planning a secret back channel for renewing negotiations.  That is what I would do if I was in that room.


    Olmert and Abbas did agree that the Karni transportation zone will be open from now on until 11 pm each working day and Olmert promised that no truck will wait on line more than 24 hours.  This is quite important because Karni is the main economic artery for the Gaza Strip. Until now transport costs for goods going from Tel Aviv to Gaza or from Gaza to Tel Aviv could be more than what it would cost to send the shipment to Europe because of the amount of time it would take and the amount of bribes that would have to be paid.      READ MORE...>>>





    The General Assembly of IPCRI elected a new Board of Directors that will serve for a period of two years being April 15, 2007. We wish the new Board a very fruitful two years.  Click here to view the list of IPCRI's Board.



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The lessons of surprise

    One cannot but imagine the possibility, perhaps the fantasy, that Hamas will learn the lesson taught by Ahmadinejad's release of the 15 British navy officers. The entire world breathed with relief as they left Iranian soil after being sent off by the Iranian president himself.

    If something substantial was "paid" by Tony Blair to the Iranians, it is not within the domain of public knowledge. The profit to the Iranian regime, however, was far beyond what could have ever been prayed for by millions of Iranians worshipers gathering in the mosques of Teheran to mark the birthday of the Prophet.

    Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh and the abductors of Gilad Schalit should be watching carefully. After almost a year of negotiations the release of Schalit seems no closer than from the first day after the June 25, 2006 attack on Kerem Shalom. After almost one year, the only indication of progress - presuming unverified media reports are correct - is a letter supposedly by Schalit to his family that Hamas gave to the Egyptians on September 9, 2006. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    April 6, 2007



    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Obstacles facing the Unity Government


    A month to the formulation of the National Unity government, the road to full recognition by Europe is still partially accomplished.  The abduction of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston is not resolved, although the government security forces have pinpointed the Durmosh family militia as the culprit.  Lack of decisive action mainly sprung from the fear that the abductors might harm Johnston if the security forces use force to attempt to release the British journalist.  But the continued stalemate harms the image of the Hamas-Fateh alliance and portrays it as ineffective to rein in lawless elements in Gaza.  The prompt release of Johnston and an appropriate action against the abductors irrespective of how the abduction ends is one of the priorities of the Unity government.


    During the meeting of the Foreign ministers of France and the PA, the release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a prisoners exchange came up.  This action, if fulfilled will help the process of full recognition of the Unity government by European countries, and would lead to improved relations with the USA and Israel.  Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh should personally get involved to resolve this issue to demonstrate that the PA is taking control of security as well as law and order.  READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    Friday, April 06, 2007


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    To recognize or not to recognize?


    I have been asked by advisors to several foreign governments to comment on what I thought should be the policy of their countries regarding the new Palestinian Authority government.  They have also asked me what I thought Israel should do. This is a very challenging question and the answer is not simple. How could any government be asked to recognize another that does not explicitly recognize the right of existence as a nation to the other side?  The new Palestinian Authority Government did not explicitly meet the Quartet demands of recognition of Israel, renouncement of terrorism and adherence to agreements already undertaken by the PLO.  The new government, however, is clearly an improvement to its predecessor and has taken more than one step forward in meeting the international demands.


    There are various levels at which one could relate to the questions surrounding recognition.  One level is what is best for the Israeli interests?  One could claim that by withholding recognition Israel is continuing to pressure the Hamas to made political reforms that may eventually lead to the full explicit recognition of Israel or, on the other hand, would continue to demonstrate its non-acceptability in the international community by continued denial of recognition of Israel’s right to exist.  READ MORE...>>>






    Israeli and Palestinian history

    So hard to reconcile

    Mar 15th 2007 | JERUSALEM
    From The Economist print edition

    Some grown-ups want a common view, but their kids are kept apart

    FEW foundation myths are as diametrically opposed as those of Jews and Palestinians. In the original Jewish narrative, the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 meant redemption, an escape from the genocidal persecution of the Nazis and a return to the land promised by God (for the religious) or historical precedent (for the secular). For the Palestinians, it was the nakba, the Disaster: banishment from their ancestral homes as the innocent victims of aggressive Jewish nationalism.

    Time has mollified both these tales. Most Palestinians, even if they still do not think Israel's birth at their expense was justified, accept that the place now has to be allowed to exist. Most Israelis, too, have come to accept the Palestinians' own right to self-determination, and Israeli “revisionist historians” have rewritten the academic accounts of the country's birth to reflect its mistreatment of the native population. What the two sides teach their children, though, are still quite different things.

    Three years ago the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI), a think-tank in Jerusalem, conducted studies of some school textbooks on both sides. It found gradual improvements over previous years, but still a lot of problems. Israeli books sometimes contained stories that promoted pluralism and co-existence and contained positive images of Arabs. But there were also portrayals that were paternalistic and played on stereotypes and fears. Descriptions of the 1948 war tended to suggest that Palestinians either left their homes voluntarily, selling them to Jews, or were encouraged to leave by other Arabs—rather than, as sometimes happened, being forced out violently. Maps of pre-1948 Palestine sometimes underplayed the extent of Arab habitation, while maps of modern Israel never included the “Green Line”, the pre-1967 border; this makes the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank look as if they were an integral part of Israel.

    READ MORE...>>>




    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    March 25, 2007


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    We’re Back!


    It has been quite some time since my last column under this title.  Events, travel and shortage of staff in IPCRI has made it almost impossible to find the time to devote to this weekly article.  Popular demand has brought me back to the commitment of writing this column once again. 


    Diplomatic fury


    The new Palestinian government of national unity and the upcoming summit of the League of Arab States to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week have sparked a new fury of Middle East diplomatic energy.  On his first foreign journey, the new PA Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ziad Abu Amr has met with several high ranking diplomats in Europe and more are on their way to the region.  The Government of Norway recognized the new government. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is making his first visit to the region and will be meeting with Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, refraining at this point from meeting Hamas ministers.  He was received at Ben Gurion airport by Minister of Defense Amir Peretz.  Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is on his way and will also meet with both sides.  Bildt is not likely to go as far as his Nordic neighbor, Norway, and grant full recognition to the new PA Government, but the Swedes, like many other Europeans will agree to deal directly with the non-Hamas members of the Government, including (and perhaps) especially with Finance Minister Salam Fayyad. Some of the Europeans may try to “test the waters” and to meet with some of the Hamas members as well, since the PA government is no longer defined as a Hamas government. American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is also on her way here and she too will engage with Abbas and Fayyad and perhaps others, but definitely not Hamas members. READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    March 25, 2007


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    The National Unity Government.

    It is quite obvious that neither Ehud Olmert nor Mahmoud Abbas attained their goals as the just formed Unity government took office. President Abbas in implementing the Mecca agreement, attempted to bring to an end the isolation of the PA, but only partially succeeded. PM Olmert also sought to continue the boycott, but also failed to prevail. Only the Israeli government keeps the blanket embargo and the withholding of revenues. The foremost ally of Israel, the USA actually sent the American Consul-General in Jerusalem to meet the recently appointed Palestinian Finance Minister Dr Salam Fayyad. Russia, Norway and others fully recognized the new Unity government. Other countries followed the step of the USA, and announced that they will meet the non-Hamas ministers. The boycott as it was  certainly came to an end, with signs of further erosion.

    The release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit will work in favor of the Unity government, and would most probably allow for the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank, and pave the  way to better PA-Israel relations. Some Israeli political figures inside and outside the Israeli cabinet are starting to discuss the  willingness of Israel to consider seriously exploring the call of Hamas since its election in January 2006 for a long term Hudna as a valid approach to de-escalate, as many feel that it could lead to further mutual steps to build confidence.

    The budget of the PA government is still in doubt. Israel continue to withhold the sizable revenues it collects on behalf of the PA, which account to about 60% of the budget. Despite the knowledge that withholding the revenues hurts the Palestinian people and economy and does not affect the finances of the Hamas movement. Saudi Arabia promised to support the  PA and break the embargo by promising to give a billion dollars. However, until now the banking restrictions imposed by the USA and Israel have prevented the Saudis in transferring the first installment, $650 million. READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    An imaginary announcement


    Israeli cabinet statement, March 25, 2007 regarding the Arab summit in Riyadh:

    'The government of Israel convened this morning in regular session. The prime minister presented to the members of the government a new Israeli peace initiative - "The Ten Points Plan."

    "The government debated the initiative and then voted overwhelmingly in favor, with only the Yisrael Beitenu faction voting against the decision. Minister Lieberman submitted his resignation following the vote. His resignation will come into effect in 48 hours.

    "The Government of Israel (GOI) calls for direct face-to-face negotiations with the governments of the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Lebanon in order to bring an end to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

    "The GOI asserts that a full peace agreement with diplomatic and normal relations between all states in the region is the ultimate goal of the Israeli peace initiative. READ MORE...>>>

    Click here to read the article in Hebrew

    Click here to read the article in Arabic



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Accept the Saudi initiative


    Four years after it was first presented, the Arab peace initiative is finally coming to center stage. Rumors of behind the scenes meetings and negotiations on the initiative between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Saudi national security advisor Prince Bandar bin Sultan have been strengthened by reports that the Saudi prince is trying to modify the initiative so that it will be more acceptable to Israel.

    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that Israel cannot accept the initiative in its present form because it mentions UN Resolution 194 which is the foundation of the Arab claims for the right of return of refugees from the 1948 war to their homes inside of Israel.

    Israel also rejects the direct reference to the June 4, 1967 lines in the initiative. Israel rightly claims that in negotiations with the Palestinians on borders, the principle of territorial exchanges has already been accepted, so why go back to the 1967 lines which ignore any of the new realities on the ground and the very tenuous nature of those lines for Israel. READ MORE...>>>

    Click here to read in Hebrew

    Click here to read in Arabic



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The ball is in Olmert's court

    Before her trip to the region this week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said her purpose was "to recommit to existing agreements, but also to begin to explore and probe the political and diplomatic horizon."

    Exploring horizons means defining the end game - the creation of the Palestinian state alongside Israel as the main element of a permanent status agreement.

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert objects to moving into permanent status negotiations, while Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has spoken about negotiating the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders, as Phase II of the road map mentions.

    The road map mentions a Palestinian state with provisional borders only as an option, and the Palestinians have made it quite clear that they reject this approach. President Mahmoud Abbas wants to move directly into permanent status negotiations and to finally reach the end of the peace process that began 15 years ago with a full peace agreement with Israel.

    READ MORE...>>>




    International Support for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

    After 40 years - the time has come!


    June 5 2007 will mark 40 years since the June 1967 war.  On June 5 the “march for Israeli-Palestinian peace and justice” will take place in cities and towns throughout the world in solidarity with the people of Israel and Palestine who will march, demonstrate and organize for Israeli-Palestinian peace throughout Israel and Palestine. Several main events will be held in key cities such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Nablus, Gaza, Washington, New York, Chicago, Athens, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, London, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Moscow, Rome, Amman, Cairo, Tokyo, and others.

    The call for Israeli-Palestinian peace based on the “TWO-STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES, ONE PEACE – PEACE AND JUSTICE” formula and for ending the conflict will be the uniting force that will bring out millions of people across the globe.

    We are pleased to announce that the June 5th initiative web page has been launched.  It is not completely functional but we now have an address that we will be updating on a regular basis.  The address is:




    A Web blog has also been set up for the initiative – the address is:


    http://june5thinitiative-wiki.hss.rpi.edu/index.php?title =Main_Page 



    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Now, more than ever: Strengthen Abbas


    The battle being waged in Gaza may actually be the final showdown between the two main elements of the Palestinian national movement, between those who support compromise and peace with Israel, and the rejectionists of peace.

    The opening chapter in this struggle began at the onset of the first intifada in early 1989, when the unified leadership of the intifada, composed of the main factions of the PLO (Fatah, PFLP, DFPL and the communists) openly called for the end of the occupation of 1967 lands and the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and not instead of Israel. The Islamists' response to this was the creation of the Hamas alternative.

    Hamas, even then rejected the hegemony of the PLO, and even then declared its own policies for directing the intifada. The Unified Leadership declared a general strike on the 9th of every month to mark the intifada, but Hamas declared its own strike days on the 7th of each month.

    When the Palestine National Council met in November 1988 to declare statehood and support a political platform of two states for two peoples, this too was rejected by Hamas. In September 1993, when Israel and the PLO signed the Declaration of Principles that launched the Oslo process, once again Hamas remained outside the process, later boycotted elections, and then worked to sabotage the peace process through terrorism.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The missing agenda

    It has been reported that the chief of staff of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, and his chief political adviser, have been instructed to find an agenda for the upcoming trilateral summit meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While these two gentlemen are searching for an agenda for the meeting, perhaps they should spend some time finding an agenda for the government as well.

    In order for Prime Minister Olmert to survive politically, he should get out of the "survival mode" and get into the business of leading.

    In Israel 2007, leading means having vision and knowing how to translate it into reality. The government of Israel has no vision and no direction beyond political survival. In the dearth of any political horizons and because the government has failed to transmit any sense of hope to the Israeli people, we have recently been exposed to a variety of politicians who see themselves as potential leaders busy presenting all kinds of new peace plans and ideas. READ MORE...>>>




    January 16, 2007/Volume 5.02


    Ready for Peace - What Should We Do?

    By Gershon Baskin.


    Baskin is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org).  This article is another in our series of opinion pieces from Israel on the contemporary security and diplomatic challenges facing the Jewish State. The views expressed are Baskin's and do not necessarily represent the position of IPF.

    The news published this morning in Haaretz newspaper regarding a secret back channel of unofficial Israeli-Syrian talks that produced a “non-paper” agreement for full Israeli-Syrian peace with the full knowledge of both governments joins together with the formal statements made by the legal advisor of the Syrian President last week at the “Madrid+15” conference.  Syria is ready for real peace with Israel.   The Israeli intelligence chiefs have been reporting the same thing over the past weeks – albeit catching up with reality quite late, as the Syrian peace overtures have been coming out of Damascus for at least a full year (and there are those who even say for two years – so much for intelligence!). 


    The same Haaretz newspaper reported several months ago following the last Arab League Summit in Khartoum in March 2006 that the Arab countries were preparing a “peace offensive.”  The story appeared at the bottom of an inner page of the newspaper.  When I saw the headline about an “Arab peace offensive,” I, as an Israeli, had to clear my eyes to make sure that I read it correctly.  I did, and then I couldn’t comprehend why this was not the lead story on the front page of the newspaper.  In 1967, the same Arab League in the same capital declared its famous “three no’s” policy – no recognition (of Israel), no negotiations, and no peace. In 2006, the Arab League unanimously ratified the Arab League Peace Initiative that was originally unanimously passed in March 2002 at the height of the intifada. Had the Arab States issued the same call for peace in 1948, Israelis would have danced in the streets. They (the Arab League) didn’t do it then, but they are doing it now.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    January 18, 2007



    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    I beg to differ


    As a result of the recent visit of US Secretary of State Dr. Rice to the region and meetings with President Abbas and PM Olmert, a trilateral summit is being arranged to take place next February. President Abbas in the press conference with Secretary Rice called for serious talks with Israel to resolve outstanding issues and negotiate a two-state solution, at the same time emphasizing his rejection for the call for a Palestinian state with provisional borders. Abbas like most Palestinians from different political factions fear that such a state with provisional borders would in the long term become permanent borders. In taking such a position Abbas will avoid unnecessary attacks by the opposition, even from within the ranks of his Fateh movement. However, that means the present political stalemate will not be broken and the trilateral summit that will take place in February will have no possible major achievements. Prevailing conditions within the Israeli political scene will not allow Olmert to negotiate a permanent settlement leading to a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Under present circumstances it means that more similar meetings would not lead to real change, and thus would allow the occupation to continue and settlement activity to grow.

    READ MORE...>>>




    January 15, 2007


    IPCRI is pleased to present an updated version of our Jerusalem Bibliography.  This work was completed recently by an IPCRI Intern Ramesh "Moon" Prakashvelu.


    Click here to view the bibliography


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Cut a deal for Shalit

    The Olmert-Mubarak summit last week was not only a public relations disaster; it was another missed opportunity for renewing the peace process. On the morning of the summit the main Israeli newspapers headlines spoke of a proposal by President Hosni Mubarak for a summit meeting of the leaders of the "mini-quartet" consisting of Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt.

    Mubarak's idea for moving toward a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process based on the support of the "mini-quartet" is both constructive and practical. Egypt and Jordan have clear self-interest in renewing the peace process and both are extremely familiar with the internal political difficulties in both Israel and Palestine. Egyptian and Jordanian support and encouragement of the Israeli-Palestinian track provides substantial benefits for both Israel and the Palestinians in their own bilateral relations with both states.

    The Olmert-Mubarak summit was sidetracked by what is perceived to be the direct intervention of the IDF in its premeditated attack in the center of Ramallah at midday on the day of the summit. There was no "ticking bomb" that had to be defused that very minute. It seemed like another deliberate provocation by the army to derail any chances of a renewed political process with the Palestinians.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    January 2, 2007


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    A new year, new predictions


    Over the past years I have attempted to make some predictions about what we can expect to happen over the next year.  I admit that this is quite risky as I don’t have any real crystal ball to tell me the future.  This could be somewhat compared to reading coffee cups of looking at the stars.  I usually come out better than what sheer luck could provide.  I indulge your patience and request that at least you view this as entertainment (perhaps not very good entertainment at that).


    Prediction #1 – The Olmert Government will survive the year.  I don’t expect new elections in Israel in the coming year.  With a majority of some 78 seats in the coalition, even with the lowest public popularity rating ever held by a Prime Minister in Israel, Olmert’s government faces no real threats.


    Prediction #2 – Amir Peretz will continue to lead the Labour party.  Even with Peretz’s all time low public approval rating, he has no where to go and he will fight to stay in the Labour leadership position and in the Ministry of Defense. Peretz will not be found primarily responsible for Israel’s failures in Lebanon.  The faulty military concept employed in Lebanon and the poor performance of the army had their roots set deep down way before Peretz ever arrived in the Ministry of Defense.  Peretz’s leadership in the Labour party is being challenged by many candidates – Ami Ayalon, the front runner, Danny Yatom, Matan Vilnai, perhaps Ephraim Sneh, Avishai Braverman, Ofir Pines – the only Labour Minister to resign the government when Lieberman was asked to sit at the table and Ehud Barak. Barak’s chances don’t seem very strong as he still has many more enemies in the party than allies, yet Barak might still find himself sitting at the Cabinet table if Olmert could move Peretz out of the Defense Ministry.  A deal could be worked out that in exchange for Barak removing himself from the race for the Labour leadership, Peretz would move into the position of a Minister for Public Welfare.   In politics anything is possible. Peretz is a fighter when he is fighting for himself.  He has pulled rabbits out of the Labour hat in the past and I would not put is past him that he has some more rabbits there.  I would most prefer to see Ofir Pines in the leadership, but that is unlikely to happen. READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Serious leaders doing serious work

    The long-overdue Olmert-Abbas meeting, which finally took place eight months after Ehud Olmert's government was sworn in, was a positive step but hardly sufficient to resume a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

    Olmert, to his credit, had tried for months to convene the meeting with Abbas. It has been Abbas who has been reluctant, both out of concern that he would leave the meeting empty-handed, and that Olmert would present him with a list of demands he could not deliver.

    Abbas cannot release Gilad Shalit, does not control the Hamas-led government or parliament, and cannot prevent the Kassam rockets attacks from Gaza.

    So why now? Perhaps there was a sense that since Abbas's calls for early elections there has been a need to strengthen the position of the moderates.  READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Bolster the peace camp

    Chaos and uncertainty seem to surround us throughout the region. Lebanon may be on the verge of a new civil war, likewise the Palestinians. Iran is posing a challenge to the international community that, at least at present, it seems incapable of confronting. Iraq is disintegrating in sectarian violence and the White House doesn't seem to have an inkling of what to do, despite the sound advice received from the Baker-Hamilton team.

    The Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem a lot less complex and challenging than what the US is facing in Iraq. The end game for Iraq seems a lot more illusive than anything the US administration can seriously imagine possible at this time. Furthermore, the path toward the desired end game in Iraq is completely unclear, and each policy decision made in Washington could lead to an entirely different course of outcomes on the ground.

    THE SITUATION in Israel/Palestine, in comparison, is much rosier. The current cease-fire, although not 100% in force, the Olmert speech in Sde Boker, the change of secretary of defense in Washington and the Baker-Hamilton report have ignited new hopes for some progress over here. Unlike Iraq, we all know what the end game to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, but like Iraq; we have no idea of what process can lead us toward that end. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    December 3, 2006



    This Week in Palestine … Behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Winds of Change


    After months if not years of political stagnation, suddenly following the U.S. midterm elections, noticeable movement is taking shape from Afghanistan to Palestine. The ceasefire that was announced a few days back, although fragile and precarious is still holding. In order for the ceasefire to take roots, it is imperative even critical that it will be extended to cover the West Bank. Israel has to stop arrests and targeted killings in the West Bank to prevent the collapse of the ceasefire.


    In Latvia the NATO command has called for the withdrawal of NATO forces by 2008. if and when a democratic administration will succeed the Bush administration, a similar call to withdraw American troops by 2010 if not earlier will be announced by such a new administration. A Democratic party president in the White House will be obliged to make such an announcement if he or she seeks a second term. The Baker-Hamilton commission by this week, might announce similar steps. Even in Somalia, the international community will have to the local leadership on the ground.

    READ MORE...>>>





    On November 19-23, 2006 270 Israelis, Palestinians and international participants from some 20 countries participated in an International Conference on Education for Peace and Democracy held in Antalya, Turkey.  The conference was organized by IPCRI – the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. During the four days of the conference some 150 workshops, lectures, presentations and films were held.

    The Conference brought together peace and democracy educators, curricula writers, encounter facilitators, peace studies practitioners, conflict resolution practitioners, human rights educators, mediators, and activists from academia, research sector, governmental and community organizations and others from Israel, Palestine and beyond, with a special emphasis on other crisis regions. The conference was a tremendous opportunity for dialogue, debate and visioning with collaboration and cooperation between the body of theory and practice. The conference meeting was grounds for dialogue and mutual learning from the field of peace and democracy education from the viewpoint of academia and from the field of practioners. The conference raised critical issues new insights into the profound peace and democracy education developments in Israel, Palestine and around the world. Furthermore, the Conference provided an excellent opportunity to build connections across multi-disciplinary sectors.

    READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    November 28, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    The Cease fire


    Suddenly out of no where Israel and the Palestinians declared a bilateral cease fire. Even though, for the time being, the cease fire is limited to Gaza, it is a blanket cessation of hostilities covering all acts of aggression from both sides. This idea was presented to Prime Minister Olmert in the beginning of June 2006 by IPCRI but was summarily rejected by him for two reasons: (1) Israel would have nothing to do with an agreement that involved Hamas, and (2) because, he said, the Palestinians could not be trusted to enforce a cease fire.  Olmert, at the time did say that if the Palestinians ceased their aggressive acts, Israel would have no reason to fire back.  But then came the attack on Kerem Shalom and the kidnapping of Gilead Shalit and the sharp increase of Israeli aggression in Gaza leaving more than 350 Palestinians dead in the past months.


    Some of the explanations for the sudden change in policy might be:

    READ MORE...>>>




       b i t t e r l e m
    o n s. o r g


        November 27, 2006 Edition 44     


    Time for the public to stand up

    by Gershon Baskin


    To a great extent, the Israeli and Palestinian publics have been passive observers in the single most important issue affecting their lives--the continuation of the conflict. During the summer of 2006, the Israeli public in its silence supported the government in its war against Lebanon. More than one million Israelis fled from their homes in the face of katyusha rockets falling in the north and still the public was silent. Last week we saw the same thing in Sderot, and who can blame the Sderot residents? In both cases we have not witnessed the masses taking to the streets calling for an end to the violence and a return to a peace process.

    But perhaps there are some changes sprouting. For the first time that I recall, Israeli television and radio channels gave space to voices in Sderot calling for an end of the violence, including a call not to avenge the Qassam rockets. Perhaps there is the beginning of public understanding that the army has run out of tricks and that the only way to end the violence is by returning to the table. Even two Kadima ministers expressed something new, one saying that the time had come for the prime minister to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas--"either you make history or you will become history" (Meir Sheetrit)--and another calling for an immediate unilateral ceasefire with the Palestinians (Gideon Ezra).

    The Palestinian public in recent weeks also demonstrated new behavior patterns that point to new possibilities for public action. In Beit Hanoun we saw Palestinian women face Israeli tanks, and even though soldiers opened fire on the crowds, the following week we witnessed hundreds of civilians serving as human shields in order to prevent the bombing of a house by the Israel Air Force.
    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    No revenge, compassion

    The families and survivors of the victims of the tragic killings in Beit Hanun have stated that they are not interested in revenge. Noam Shalit, the father of kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit, visited the Beit Hanun families in a Tel Aviv hospital and voiced his sympathy for their suffering and mourning.

    How unusual is this demonstration of common compassion. How powerful is this emotion, yet so lacking from our two societies. When did we all become so numb to the suffering of others? Has our own suffering so overpowered our hearts that we are not capable of showing compassion for others?
    In Israeli society the term for showing compassion is referred to as yefeh nefesh - literally a beautiful soul. This term is thrown at various leftists and others as a derogatory belittlement of their abilities in the field of logic and reason by those who think that they have a better understanding of human nature and of the world.

    The behavior of Noam Shalit and the people of Beit Hanun are so unusual in our political environment and so unexpected that they have been criticized for being too soft or for capitulating in the face of the enemy.

    READ MORE...>>>

    No agenda, no hope, not so difficult to change

    Gershon Baskin


    November 10, 2006


    Prime Minister Olmert is about to leave for Washington. If by some small chance President Bush should ask him what he is doing to advance peace, Olmert will not be able to answer.  He could challenge Bush by asking him the same question. He could look Bush in the eye and say “George, you know very well that neither of us is really interested in talking to them Arabs. So why don’t we go out to the press and make some nice speeches about the grand new middle east, bringing democracy to the natives, fighting global terrorism.  You know the routine; in fact you have a patent on it.”  George would probably say, “Ehud you are 100% correct, but listen bud, when you kill the Arabs, you’ve got to keep it out of the television.  Can’t you learn from us?”


    Ehud will come back from Washington all smiles and hand shakes.  He will have met with some of the new Members of Congress and some of his old buddies there and have had a great time.  After all, the government of Israel has more support in Congress than it does in the Knesset. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    November 9, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    Disaster Strikes Again


    Palestinians from Beit Hanoun, Gaza hardly breathed relief from six cruel days of an Israeli military operation that caused 51 deaths and more than 250 wounded when a barrage of tank shells hit a civilian compound that caused 20 civilian deaths among them ten children and seven women, and an additional 40 wounded. This latest massacre of innocent civilians demonstrated again that the excessive use of power usually leads to killing the innocents and inflames the public. Only 24 hours earlier the newly installed operations are unable to stop Gazans from launching rockets.


    Brute force has never been the mechanism to subdue people, it has failed in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, even in Nicaragua people in defiance of Bush policies reelected Ortega for a new term as president.


    Israel and the USA should desist from pursuing absolute force to subdue people. In Palestine, dialogue with Hamas, would have prevented the calamities of the post nine months, would have succeeded in moderating Hamas, would have allowed the possibility of opening a new chapter of relations, at least it would have led to diminishing violence and counter violence.

     READ MORE...>>>

    [Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    November 8, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Mr. Peretz, Go Home!


    We woke up this morning with the tragic news of a bloodbath in Beit Hanoun.  Israeli tanks opened fire on houses killing 19 Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children.  The IDF commander of the operation stated that they were aiming at a cell of people about to launch Qassam rockets.  Minister of Defense Peretz ordered an investigation and a halt to all artillery fire.  You’re too late Mr. Peretz.  You have once again proven beyond the shadow of any doubt that you are not fit to be Defense Minister.  You are not fit to lead the Labour party and you do not deserve to be called a man of peace. 


    Over 350 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF under your leadership Mr. Peretz, since June 25, 2006. More than 1/3 of them have been civilians including more than 57 minors. Concluding a six day raid of destruction and killing in Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza strip. You, Mr. Peretz said that the operation was a success and that the residents of the western Negev could sleep sound knowing that the IDF had done everything possible to end the Qassam rocket shootings from Gaza.  Mr. Peretz, you still call yourself a “man of peace”? Men of peace don’t celebrate the death of innocent people. 

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The energy to lead


    Since the mid-1970s most of the world has been held hostage by the oil-rich nations, many of which do not share their political world view. In order to maintain energy security most of these oil-dependent nations have capitulated for decades to the whims and wills of the oil-rich ones.
    Most of these oil-rich nations have not used their wealth to really benefit their people. It has instead aided their families and tribes to stay in power, usually against the will of their own people. The global political power of these nations far outweighs their real contribution to humanity; indeed, it is solely based on their ability to control the flow of oil, and its price.

    Israel of course stands firmly in the category of the oil-dependent nations; but more importantly, most of the nations of Europe, Japan and even the United States have also allowed themselves to cater to the regimes of the oil-wealthy nations, even at times when this has seemed to go against their direct political interests, or even national security.

    It is time for this state of affairs to end.

    THE 1970S brought about the first major effort by the oil-poorer nations to conserve oil and use alternative forms of energy. But this effort was short-lived and widely controlled by the overwhelming power and interests of oil producers, companies and countries. Many alternative fuels were tried and tested and conservation was widely practiced until the entry of the 4x-drive jeeps, vans and other fuel-eating monsters of the late 1990s.

    READ MORE...>>>

    Respecting Palestinian Democracy and the way to avoid civil war

    Gershon Baskin*


    October 17, 2006


    Many Palestinians, especially those who voted for Hamas feel that the West has treated them with double standards.  The West, in particular the United States demanded from the Palestinians democracy.  The Palestinians responded by holding the most democratic elections in the Arab world.  I observed those elections and they were exemplary. There is no question any where in the world that the Palestinian elections were free, open, safe and democratic.  The problem is that the international community didn’t like the results. Hamas was not supposed to win the elections and when Hamas did, the international community was shocked and refused to recognize the outcome of the Palestinian people’s democratic choice. Since the elections the international community refuses to recognize the new government and has demanded that it fulfill three conditions laid down by the Quartet which the Hamas government does not wish to fulfill.


    There are many arguments within Palestinian society regarding the Hamas victory.  Many observers and analysts, local and international, claim that the Hamas victory was a technical victory mainly because of the failure of Fatah to organize itself and present one list in the districts.  The division of the Fatah votes in the districts, confronting Hamas which presented single lists with the exact number of candidates in each district that can be elected, enabled the large victory of Hamas in the district elections.  These analysts claim that the Palestinian people did not vote for the Hamas political platform.  A large number of those who supported Hamas were protesting against the failures of Fatah and against corruption. These analysts claim that the Palestinian people were not voting against the recognition of Israel or the desire to return to the peace process.

    READ MORE...>>>




    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    October 15, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Frozen negotiations


    More than 21 Palestinians were killed by the IDF this weekend in a new wave of Israeli attacks in Gaza.  Palestinians responded with a new wave of Qassan rockets and new threats of unleashing attacks against Israel that would make the earth shake. The IDF and the Government seemed to be convinced that if the negotiations for the release of Corp. Gilead Schalit are not progressing, then the military pressure might work. Khaled Mashal in Damascus responded that the only way that Schalit will be released is in the framework of a prisoner exchange.  He said that Palestinians would never be forced into releasing Schalit because of Israeli use of force.  It seems to me that the decision makers in the Prime Minister’s office and in the Ministry of Defense are completely out of touch with the realities of life in Gaza. This is of course not the first time that the Israelis demonstrated the complete lack of understanding of Palestinian political culture.  Palestinian resolve to continue to hold Schalit as a hostage increases with each Palestinian killed.  At a certain point the political mood will change and the “Palestinian street” will call on the abductors of Schalit to execute him in exchange for all of the killing of Palestinians by Israel.  Today, the Palestinian mood still reflects a desire to exchange Schalit for Palestinian prisoners, but in light of the escalation by Israel, that mood is likely to change sooner rather than later.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The new rejectionist

    The outstretched hand of peace had once been the constant policy directive of all Israeli governments. Prime ministers always emphasized that Israel is seeking peace with all of its neighbors and is willing to talk to any of them, at anytime and in any place. This was the easy position to take when we knew that there was refusal on the other side. It was easy to present ourselves as the good guys who are seeking peace, while our neighbors were the ones saying "no." We didn't have to make preconditions and we didn't have to set any terms. Israel declared its willingness to talk peace when the "danger" of making peace was far beyond the horizon. But things have changed.


    Today Israel has a whole list of preconditions for its neighbors before agreeing to come to the table. The Syrians must close the offices of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they must seal their border with Iraq and they must prevent the shipment of weapons to Hizbullah. Hamas must recognize Israel, renounce terror and agree to adhere to agreements already signed. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas must show his ability to govern by confronting Hamas and he must begin to implement the road map dealing with security issues; otherwise he is not a partner.


    These preconditions do nothing but close to door to dialogue and paint a picture of an Israel that is not really interested in peace - that is how Israel is perceived in most of the world today. It is a strange situation in which the Arab world is perceived as the side that is pursuing peace, while Israel is perceived as avoiding peace. Even the Arab League initiated a debate in the UN Security Council on its peace plan, while Israel, together with the US, attempted to prevent that debate. Even Israeli newspapers have written about the Arab League peace offensive. Where is the Israeli peace offensive?

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    October 3, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



    Dr. Rice in the Region


    The visit of Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to the region comes at a moment were the Israeli Palestinian issue is ready for a break through and conditions are ripe to end the conflict and the suffering of the people of the region.


    Dr. Rice must, like the local leaders of the region, develop a fresh approach as the Road Map process is full of contradictions and is inapplicable. For past few years neither Israel nor Palestine have the ability to fulfill in parallel the dismantling of illegal outposts or the disarming of militias. As a result, the settlements are being expanded; the separation wall is almost done, and the peace process is in shambles. War, violence, destruction and hatred have flourished instead.


    Dr. Rice if as being announced has returned to the area to propose “creative means” to strengthen president Abbas and weaken Hamas, will instead fuel the internal differences within the Palestinian political arena, and lead the Palestinian people toward destruction and civil war.


    Even President Mahmoud Abbas in reacting to recent internal violence in Gaza and the West Bank that resulted in death and destruction said: “Let us be frank here, the United States has imposed a political, economic and social siege on us after Hamas has won the recent legislative elections.”

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    October 3, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    Olmert, the public just doesn’t trust you!


    The Vinograd committee established by the Israeli government to investigate the performance of the army and the government will formally begin its hearings on October 4 with the first witness appearing General Amos Yadlin, the head of military intelligence.  The lack of intelligence (literally) in this war was one of the more apparent failings.


    The public demonstrations against the committee are still continuing, yet somewhat toned down in numbers, however, a new “wall-to-wall coalition” has developed that is still calling for a National Investigation headed by a Supreme Court Judge that would not be subordinate to the Government.  The new coalition has representatives from Meretz on the left all the way to Yisrael Beitenu on the right.  All of them have no confidence in the Vinograd committee, being convinced that Olmert and other government officials will not be subjected to any real interrogation and will not be held responsible for the less than satisfactory performance of the government and the army in the war.  A charge against the secretary of the Vinograd committee was made on Israel radio yesterday by one of the members of the coalition stating that he is a political activist in Kadima.  Later in the evening the charge was denied, but the general feeling of the public, demonstrated by the extremely low and decreasing approval rating of Olmert, is that the Vinograd committee will not place personal responsibility on anyone with power.  In the end, fault will be found with some officers and some lower level government employees and the guys up top will stay sparkling clean.  The spin machines will work overtime and Olmert, Peretz and Halutz will be able to continue on as if no war took place at all.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The sad story of my friend Sam

    I have been spending hours during the past couple of weeks trying to help a friend. Well, he's not really a friend, we hardly know each other.


    I have exchanged e-mails with him several times over the past years, and appeared with him once at a conference at Tel Aviv University. I was impressed by his mild manner and his "go-getter" attitude to life.

    In a lot of ways he reminds me of myself. He immigrated to this country out of a deep sense of idealism. He felt that he was coming home. He wanted to serve his people, build a life for himself and his family. Like me, he immigrated from the States.

    He has been living here for years and has scored some real achievements, including making a name for himself in the business world.


    His name is Sam Bahour, and he is Palestinian. He came home to Palestine at the outset of the peace process in order to build the new state and make a contribution to peace. He believed in the peace process and he wanted to build his life with his people.


    Sam has built a hi-tech company in Ramallah. He's built a small shopping center there too. He has been a central and active part of Ramallah's social and intellectual life.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 24, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    Is it the Point of No Return?


    President Mahmoud Abbas returned home from his trip to New York in a more desperate internal political quandary. Abbas on his way to the UN a week ago, had in hand an agreement with Hamas to form a National Unity government based on the National Reconciliation agreement ratified by all the political parties including Fatah and Hamas. Even before Abbas left Palestine, he knew that Israel and the USA will not deal with such a coalition government.


    The EU Foreign ministers and to some extent Tony Blair, expressed that they will deal and talk to a National Unity Government if it is formed. President Abbas who grasped the position of Hamas as expressed by PM Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders and the unchanged American and Israeli stand, gave an overoptimistic address at the UN as if he had the ability to deliver Hamas to recognize the state of Israel. The answer from Hamas reverberated immediately; Ismail Haniyeh unequivocally said he would not head a coalition government that will recognize Israel explicitly.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 24, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Olmert meets Saudis?


    If the report in today’s Yediot Ahronot is correct, about two weeks ago Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with a senior official in the Saudi Royal Court.  Israeli Galai Zahal radio is reporting that Olmert met with King Abdallah, who as Crown Prince, initiated a peace deal, today known as the Arab League Peace initiative that called for full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in exchange for full peace with the entire Arab World.  This report fits in with the initiative of the Arab League to convene a Security Council discussion on the Arab League Initiative.  Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made the rounds at the UN during the annual opening of the UN session meeting foreign ministers from all over the world, including from several Arab countries that Israel has no diplomatic relations with. Israel, unfortunately opposed the Arab League plans to hold the Security Council meeting on the peace initiative, but was not successful. Nonetheless, Livni came over very well as a responsible and reasonable Israeli leader truly searching for peace.  She held what was reported to be a very productive meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erikat.  They apparently spoke about an upcoming summit meeting between Abbas and Olmert.  Olmert also commented that he would be meeting with Abbas soon, without any preconditions, however a date has still not been set.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 18, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    National Unity Government Delayed


    According to Nabil Amr, the media spokesperson of the presidency, Mahmoud Abbas decided to postpone the formations of the unity cabinet until his return from New York to attend the September session at the UN and to meet with President Bush and Dr. Rice.


    Although a breakthrough has taken place on the European front, first by PM Blair declaring that if and when a national unity government is announced, such a cabinet will have dealings with the British government and the EU Foreign Minister during the weekend reiterated the same positions.


    On the American and Israeli sides, Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni, and Secretary Rice took a more hard line position and announced that the USA and Israel would not change their boycott and sanctions against any PA cabinet that does not accept the three preconditions set by the Quartet (1. recognise Israel   2. denounce and disarm terrorists   3. abide by PLO-Israel agreements).

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 18, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Government Investigation Committee


    The Israeli government approved the Vinograd Committee, its members and it mandate, to undertake the investigation of “what went wrong” and who is responsible for the less than satisfactory performance of the army and the government in the second Lebanese war.  The Committee is mandated to conduct a full investigation, with the right to call witnesses from both the Government and the army.  As written in a previous column, the Committee will not ask the question if the war could have been avoided and if Israel had other non-military options to confront the crisis in the north after the Hizbollah invasion of Israel, the kidnapping and the killing of Israeli soldiers.


    While we’re discussing the issue of investigation committees and the failures of Israeli government policies and performance, it is appropriate to ask why a committee was never established to investigate the failures of policy and performance of past and present Israelis governments vis-à-vis the peace process? Such a committee should be established, if not by the Government or by the Knesset, than by civil society.  Some of the questions that such a committee should address include:

    READ MORE...>>>




    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Reaching the summit, and then staying put


    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced his intention to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, stating that the meeting will focus on resuming the road map process. If Olmert wants to hold a meeting just for the sake of it, his advisers should tell him, frankly, that he is wasting his time and Abbas's.


    There is no need for another photo-op of the two leaders shaking hands. The road map is dead, and it will not come back to life. It died because both sides failed to fulfill their obligations in Phase I.


    The Palestinian Authority failed to take decisive action against the terrorist infrastructure - to collect weapons and unify the security forces; Israel failed to freeze settlements, dismantle illegal outposts and return to the lines it held prior to September 28, 2000.


    The Palestinian leadership has lately been engaged in an internal dialogue. It has granted Abbas the authority to negotiate, but not to launch a civil war. Israel, for its part, has been engaged in trying to find ways to launder the illegal outposts, and it has been issuing additional tenders for building in West Bank settlements.

    Neither side is seriously going to fulfill its road map obligations, particularly when it is convinced that the other side will not keep its own commitments. We will once again face the argument of whether the implementation of the road map is supposed to be sequential - that is, first the Palestinians act and then Israel acts; or whether they will act in parallel.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 10, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



    National Unity Government


    Dr. Ghazi Hamad, the official spokesperson for Ismail Haniyyeh reiterated that the PA cabinet and the Hamas movement are serious in ongoing talks with Fateh and all the other parties, in order to come to an agreement on a common political platform that will set the guidelines for the National Unity government. Dr. Hamad was emphatic that the present cabinet will not resign despite a concerted effort to force it toward that end, the cabinet will only resign if the PLC-Palestinian Legislative Council-withdraws its confidence. The Hamas movement, despite the arrest of Hamas PLC members and ministers still commands a majority in the PLC.


    Fateh activist PLC member Nabil Amer in a recent op-ed article promoted the formation of a government of technocrats that would deal with the day to day issues, promote development and cater to domestic issues. Hamas as a movement will keep control of such a government and has the ability to question and direct its work, and fire it if it feels uncomfortable with its intentions and direction. Hamas would be relieved from the international boycott, buy time to deal with it, and concentrate on its social agenda. Hamas will relieve itself from the pressure of the unpaid civil servants and work to implement the reforms for good governance. Most local analysts are skeptical and believe Hamas is procrastinating to buy time to build roots and entrench Hamas in power. Many call on Abbas to demonstrate firmness and take the reins of power in his hands and dismiss the Hamas cabinet. Such steps have to take place soon, before the holy month of Ramadan begins on the 23 of September 2006.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 10, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    A renewed peace process?


    Tony Blair’s visit launched the week today with renewed optimism of a possible Olmert-Abbas summit.  Suddenly Olmert announced last evening at his press conference with Blair that he is ready to meet Abbas without any pre-conditions and even before kidnapped soldier Corporal Gilead Shalit is released from captivity.  This is a definitive break from former policy.  Just two weeks ago, one of Olmert’s senior advisors told me that Olmert wants to meet with Abbas, but that no such meeting would take place prior to the release of Shalit.


    Blair also traveled to Ramallah to meet with the Palestinian leadership.  Palestinian President Abbas told Blair that he was ready to meet Olmert immediately to renew the peace process with permanent status negotiations. Prime Minister Olmert limited his willingness to meet to discuss renewing the Road Map.  Neither option seems to be very promising at this time, but going down the path of the Road Map is clearly a dead-end and a waste of time.  Even with the mandate to negotiate that Abbas received from the internal Palestinian national dialogue process, there is no way that Abbas can fulfill the Road Map requirements of dismantling the Hamas.  This is completely unrealistic.


    READ MORE...>>>



    Report of Campaign Meeting on Entry/Re-Entry to OPT

    Held at Ambassador Hotel

    On 6th Sep, 2006




    Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the Occupied Palestinian Territory organized a campaign meeting at the Ambassador Hotel, Jerusalem on Wednesday, Sep 6, 2006. Over 100 people attended this two hour meeting held between 3-5 p.m. Palestinian, Israeli and International participants representing different sectors along with journalists and representatives of different embassies actively engaged in the proceedings.


    Opening Remarks

    The program began with opening remarks by IPCRI co-CEO Dr. Gershon Baskin, in which he sought the collaboration of journalists, diplomats and civil society organizations in this campaign to reverse the unjust policies and practices regarding the entry and re-entry into Occupied Palestinian Territories for non-resident Palestinians who have been living in the area for years and for non-Palestinian foreign nationals who are spouses of resident Palestinians.  He shared that the official reason given to many people is that the Residency issue falls under the joint Civil Affairs Committee established within the Oslo agreement, which has not convened since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. 


    Dr. Baskin noted that the Director General of Israeli Ministry of Interior was invited to attend the conference but was unable to come because of the late date of receiving the invitation just two days before the meeting.  The Director General will send an official response on this issue. He also shared that a hearing on this issue will be conducted in the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee and the Campaign committee will be invited to attend this hearing and give testimonies.


    Sam Bahour of the Campaign Committee in his opening remarks shared that this issue affects the last remaining unit of the society, the family. The human right to have a family life is affected causing much hardship in provisions of basic human needs such as shelter, right to be with family member, children's right to be with their parents etc. Failure to take corrective measures will only add to the radicalization and make the task of restoring peace and normalization difficult.



    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 4, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



    Civil Servants Strike


    165 000 civil servants went on an open ended strike Saturday, Sept 2, 2006, calling on the Hamas government to pay salaries that are due and have not been paid for the past six months. The organizers claimed that over 95% of civil servants have joined the strike. Dr. Ghazi Hamad, the spokesperson of the government announced that the PA cabinet shared the grievances of the civil servants but called the strike illegal. Hamas condemned the strike as an attempt by its foes (insinuating that the Fateh movement) is attempting to undermine the legally installed cabinet of PM Ismail Haniyyeh.


    The School year in Palestine as a result did not open last Saturday and close to 1,500,000 students couldn’t start the school year in time. The health sector was also affected and only emergency cases were received in governmental hospitals. Most of the staff of the PA ministries joined the strike. All the post offices also joined the strike. Public life has come to a stand still and no prediction can be given on how long the strike will last.

    READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    September 3, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Committees of investigation


    The verdict has yet to come in on who and how the war in the Lebanon will be investigated.  Prime Minister Olmert announced that a Governmental Investigation Committee headed by former Mossad Chief Nahum Admoni would conduct a full investigation.  The Admoni committee would be charged with looking into the functioning of the political and the military decision making echelons as well as the actual functioning of the army throughout the war.  Minister of Defense Peretz had announced two weeks ago that a committee headed by former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shakhak would investigate the functioning of the army.  Now Shakhak has announced the suspension of his committee as it seems that it has little credibility and because the Admoni committee is supposed to do the same thing.


    Now Peretz, under pressure from Labour Party members and MK’s has announced his support for the State National Investigation Committee to be headed by and appointed by a Supreme Court Justice.  Peretz probably agreed to this format because he knows that there is a strong majority in the government against it and this way he can come out looking more credible than Prime Minister Olmert.  Both gentlemen have serious credibility problems. 


    The civilian protests and strikes for the State National Investigation Committee and for the immediate ousting of Olmert, Peretz and Halutz are losing steam and will probably wind down in the next week or two.  It is hard to explain why the public seems so apathetic.  In my estimation is more a matter of being fed up and in losing faith in government than being apathetic.  The public cares, it just believes that in the end of the day, politicians will not have to pay for their errors, so what’s the point?

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Question that will not be asked following the Lebanon war


    Gershon Baskin*


    Tuesday, August 29, 2006


    The Israeli government will soon decide to appoint a national investigation commission to investigate Israel’s military and political failings during the second Lebanese war.  The one and perhaps most important question that the commission will not even ask is: wasn’t there a way to entirely prevent the eruption of the war and to still achieve the strategic goals put forth by the Government?  The Commission will not even ask this question because it is so beyond the realm of conditioned response in Israel to military threats and attacks.  There is no question that Israel had a real causus belli in facing Hizbollah after it had violated Israel’s sovereign border, killed eight soldiers, kidnapped two others and shot katyusha rockets at the civilian population. The question is could Israel have employed political and diplomatic tools to achieve the same strategic political objectives that were achieved after more than a month of war? Israel’s strategic goals were to remove the missile threat of Hizbollah armaments in the south of Lebanon, to push the Hizbollah combatants north of the Litani river, to stop the rearming of Hizbollah from Syria and Iran, to have the Lebanese army deploy along the Israeli border and to have the international community deploy a more robust and forceful international presence between Israel and the Hizbollah.  All of these elements were incorporated in UN Security Council Resolution 1701. All of these are the positive political results of the war. 

    READ MORE...>>>









    היהודים מבינים רק כוח

    איך זינקנו למלחמה מוצדקת אך מיותרת, האם נשקלו חלופות מקוריות - ועוד שאלות שלא יעלו בוועדות החקירה
    גרשון בסקין

    28 באוגוסט 2006


    ועדות החקירה שיבדקו את מהלכי המלחמה, תפקוד הצבא ודרכי קבלת ההחלטות בממשלה ובקבינט ייכנסו לקרביים של מה שקרה כאן מאז 12 ביולי 2006. הדבר היחיד שלא ייבדק כלל הוא - האם היה ניתן למנוע את המלחמה ולהשיג בדרך אחרת את היעדים האסטרטגיים של ישראל, כולל החזרת החיילים החטופים, דחיקת כוחות חיזבאללה צפונה ופריסת צבא לבנון בדרום. אין כל ספק כי חיזבאללה נתן לישראל קאוזוס באלי: השגת גבול, הריגת שמונה חיילים וחטיפה של שניים נוספים וירי טילים על יישובים הם יותר מקריאת תיגר על כל מדינה ריבונית. לפיכך, זכתה ישראל בתמיכה בינלאומית די גורפת בצאתה להשיב מלחמה שערה. מיד לאחר קבלת הידיעה על ההתקפה של חיזבאללה החלו לנוע גלגלי המלחמה, ואף אחד לא עצר לרגע כדי לשאול - האם אכן אין דרך אחרת?


    למרות שכבודנו הלאומי נרמס ברגל גסה על-ידי הקיצוניים שבאויבינו, כל מהלך מדיני-דיפלומטי עדיף על כל מהלך צבאי - אלו מילותיו של השר אבי דיכטר, ראש השב"כ לשעבר. אם כך, מדוע איש לא הציע לחפש דרך מדינית כדי להשיג את מה שהוצג על-ידי אולמרט כיעדי המלחמה? מדוע ראש הממשלה לא הרים טלפון לעמיתו הלבנוני, והציע לו להיפגש בחשאי כדי לחפש יחד דרך מוצא למשבר? אילו היה מציע דרך מדינית לסניורה, יש להניח שמנהיגים ודמויות מפתח מכל העדות בלבנון היו חוברים למהלך פנימי, שמטרתו לקצץ את כנפי חיזבאללה. בכך הייתה ישראל משיגה את יעדיה האסטרטגיים מבלי לירות אפילו פגז אחד. במקום זאת, יצאנו למלחמה מוצדקת אך מיותרת, אשר איחדה נגדנו את מרבית אזרחי לבנון חיזקה את אהדת העולם הערבי והמוסלמי לנסראללה והביאה להרג המוני של ישראלים ולבנונים ולהרס פיזי רב בשתי המדינות.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    August 27, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    Fateh Central Committee


    All last week Mahmoud Abbas and his associates in the Fateh central committee met in Amman, Jordan to review the situation within Fateh, arrangements for holding the Sixth Fateh Congress to elect a new leadership for the movement, no firm date was set, and the old guard seems unwilling to relinquish their dominance of the movement.


    A thorough discussion of the internal Palestinian political impasse took place, and Mahmoud Abbas was authorized to negotiate with Hamas the formation of a national unity government and accepting Hamas heading the cabinet. The basis of cooperation in such a coalition that includes all the Palestinian factions should be the National Reconciliation Document that was initialed by Hamas and Fateh, with no other conditions attached, such as the release of Hamas ministers and legislators that might delay the formation of such cabinet, as the Palestinian side has no leverage on the Israeli government, and would not jeopardize such formation on the whims of the Israeli authorities.


    President Abbas is in favor of holding a sequel to the Madrid conference, based on the Clinton parameters and the Arab league peace initiative to cover on a parallel basis the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Lebanese-Israeli tracks (Madrid II).


    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    August 27, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    The fight is on


    The public protests against the government for the failures of the war in Lebanon are compelling but they are far from massive public outcries.  It seems that there is suspicion that the demonstrators have been infiltrated by people and movements with different political agendas and they are exploiting the current public anti-government sentiment to bring about the end of the Olmert government.  There are two main streams of messages from the demonstrators – one led by the Movement for Clean Government that is calling for the establishment of a national investigation commission appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that would have the widest mandate to investigate the political and military echelons.  The second message is coming mostly from reserve soldiers who fought in Lebanon and the families of fallen soldiers from this last war.  These people are calling for the immediate resignation of Olmert, Peretz and Chief of Staff Halutz.  It is this group that seems to have been infiltrated by right-wing activists, some of whom were very involved in the demonstrations last year against the disengagement from Gaza.  For this reason, member of left-wing parties and non-parliamentary groups like Peace Now have remained away from the demonstrations in the Rose Garden across from the Prime Minister’s office.  Nonetheless, Olmert is clearly under a lot of pressure to make a decision of what kind of committee will investigate the war and what kind of mandate it will have. 


    It has been reported that Olmert has already decided that he reluctantly favors a national investigation commission to be appointed by Chief Justice Barak but he did not bring the issue to the Government for its approval.  Olmert would clearly prefer an investigation committee appointed by the Government which would give him a lot more control in determining its mandate and the publication of the findings of the investigation.  Politically, Olmert understands that he must go for the larger and wider investigation.

    READ MORE...>>>


    תיקון 1701 – הזדמנות לקידום אינטרסים!


    ד"ר יוסי בן ארי

    (כותרת משנה:

    פתיחת 1701 לתיקונים מזמינה נכונות ישראלית להחזרת האסירים הלבנונים וחוות שבעא,

    בתמורה להחזרת החיילים החטופים ופרוק חזבאללה מנשקו)


    התבטאויות קברניטי המדינה הדגישו לאורך המלחמה סירוב מוחלט לשחרר את מעט האסירים הלבנונים המוחזקים בישראל, כמו גם להחזיר את שטחי חוות שבעא לאחזקת האו"ם ולא משנה מה תהייה תמורת הצד השני לכך. זאת, שמא יתפרשו ויתורים אלה כניצחון של חזבאללה או יתרמו לדימוי שכזה.


    גם אם נתעלם מהשיקול המדיני-ביטחוני (תוצאות המלחמה במבחן מטרותיה), בלתי מובן לחלוטין כיצד הנהגת ישראל הסכינה לסיים את המערכה מבלי שסוגית השבויים תסוכם בחלק האופרטיבי של החלטה 1701. מעבר להשלכות הפוליטיות-פנימיות של כשל זה, תמוה כיצד יכול היה אולמרט להישיר מבט בפני משפחות החטופים, מבלי שראה הכרח לפתרון בעייתם כנקודה בעדיפות גבוהה (אם לא מוחלטת) בכל הסדר שיושג. בהיותם אנשים מתונים ואצילי נפש, הם כנראה לא הכבידו עליו יתר על המידה.


    אפשר אולי להבין את ההיגיון ברצון למנוע מחזבאללה הישג, אך ממש לא ברור איך תפיסת ישראל תואמת את הגדרת שחרור שבויינו, כאחת משתי המטרות המרכזיות של המהלך הצבאי. זאת, שעה שלאורך הלחימה כולה לא הסתמנה אפשרות להחזרת החטופים אגב שימוש בכוח, ובעת שנסראללה קרא, כבר מאז יום החטיפה עצמו, לבצע חילופי שבויים-אסירים!

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    August 20, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    The war is over, the in-fight is beginning


    With the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 1701,  the cease fire came into effect and the Israeli troops began heading home.  The last 30 hours of the war that the government implemented while the Security Council was already in session brought about no military achievement and only led to more than 30 additional, unnecessary casualties. It has been reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was against launching the expanded ground operation up to the Litani, yet he gave in to the pressure of the military and of Minister of Defense Amir Peretz..  Olmert, as Prime Minister, as he himself stated in his last Knesset address, bears full responsibility for the decisions made by the government.  This was one of the most foolish and costly decisions taken by his government. 


    The investigation committee established by Peretz to assess the operational aspects of the war (headed by former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shakhak) has no authority to judge the decisions made by the politicians.  Olmert and Peretz should also have to answer to the public for leading the country into a war without achievable goals, with faulty tactical plans, and without taking into account the huge price that the home front would have to pay. Olmert’s taking responsibility has to be more than just words.  Peretz must also stand before a real investigation so that the public can understand how and why he made the decisions that he did that cost so many human lives, so much physical damage in Israel and in Lebanon,  and so much suffering. 

    READ MORE...>>>



    "קרש-ההצלה" הפוליטי של אולמרט: אימוץ יוזמת השלום הסעודית

    ד"ר יוסי בן ארי

    17 באוגוסט 2006

    נאום ראש הממשלה בכנסת בתחילת השבוע, ביטא באופן מאד מוחשי את הדרך הצפויה ביותר להתנהלותו "ביום שאחרי". לא, אף לא אחד ציפה שהנגעים הקשים בהם לקתה המלחמה, יגרמו לאולמרט לעמוד על בימת הכנסת ולהחזיר מרצון את המנדט שניתן לו לנהל את המדינה. מבלי להפתיע, רוה"ם הדגיש את התפוקות החיוביות של החודש האחרון, הרעיף מחמאות שיבח וחיבק, חיבוק דב, את כל שותפיו למאבק (צה"ל ומפקדיו; חברי הממשלה; חברי הכנסת; הציבור הרחב), אולי בתקווה שאם כולם יישבו בסירת הצלה אחת, לאף גורם לא יהיה אינטרס להטביע אותה. אבל, אם זו האסטרטגיה בה ינקוט אולמרט גם מעבר ליממה הראשונה של הפסקת האש, הוא יגלוש מהר מאד במדרון פוליטי תלול וישבור את שיא מינימום אורך הקדנציה של ממשלה מכהנת.

    אולמרט עשה בתבונה משלא רמז אפילו בנאומו על תקפות תכנית התכנסות. נכון, בכדי לעשות כך הוא צריך היה להתנהל כ"פיל בחנות חרסינה", ודאי לאחר ה"פדיחה" שליוותה את התבטאותו בנושא בעיצומה של המלחמה. קשה להאמין שאפילו הוא עדיין אוחז בתכנית זו כאסטרטגיה שתלווה אותו בתקופת כהונת ממשלתו. יותר מכך - לא צריכה להיות לו שום בעיה להצהיר על נטישתה במפורש, גם משום שרוב העם התנגד לה עוד טרם תחילת העימות בצפון (על רקע לקחי ההתנתקות), גם משום ש"ועדת אברמוביץ" זיהתה ביישום התכנית קשיים רבים, אך בעיקר כיוון שלגיטימי לחלוטין לשנות תכנית מדינית בעקבות מלחמה, שתוצאותיה ואחריתה עדיין רחוקים מלהיות ברורים.

    אך בכדי לעשות זאת ולשרוד את קרבות הסכינאות הפנימיים שכבר התחילו, חייב רוה"ם לנקוט מהלך ספקטקולארי שיקהה את הטעם המר שהותירה הרפתקת הצפון בציבור לגביו. אולמרט זקוק בדחיפות להצלחה או שינוי כיוון דרמטי. תיאורטית, הוא יכול לנקוט יוזמה במספר כיוונים:

    READ MORE...>>>







    Tuesday August 15, 2006


    Israel hoped for victory that would be clean, clear and decisive. The modern battlefield and complexities of international relations do not seem able to provide the good old fashion total victory, like against Nazi Germany or Japan in 1945. Even the successful American campaign in Iraq with the fall of Saddam is far from clear victory. Israel was hoping for another “Six-day war” in Lebanon. In the end, the IDF understood that military campaigns are determined by capturing the next hill. In the modern battle field where armies face guerilla warriors, capturing the next hill is a lot easier than holding on to it. Israel’s biggest casualties in this war were battles for the same hills that were already captured only a day or two before.  Decisive military victories are not so easy to achieve anymore, and in the end, it is the use of other items in the international relations “tool box” that determine whether or not military campaigns pay off.


    War is only one part of the battle for changing the political realities on the ground. Wars often create new political and diplomatic opportunities.  In the aftermath of the “six-day war” Israel announced that it was waiting for a phone call from the Arab leaders to exchange territories for peace.  King Hussein did call, but he demanded everything, including East Jerusalem and Israel said no. Sadat’s attempts to reach out diplomatically were also rejected stating that “Sharm el Sheikh without peace is preferable to peace without Sharm el Sheikh” and we ended up with the “Yom Kippur war”.  In the end, the Yom Kippur war was a huge military victory, but the price paid, economically and in blood, was much too heavy to bear. The political opportunity created then war was the Sadat visit to Jerusalem and the Israeli-Egyptian peace.

    READ MORE...>>>








    The Syrian option: The moment of truth

    The rules of the game in the Middle East will only be changed when some of the currently persona no-grata are invited to the table
    Gershon Baskin

    It seems that we are approaching the beginning of the end of the current round of Middle East fighting. Putting an end to the “war without a name” in the north should create opportunities for reaching long term agreements that would put the Middle East on a new course of peace making.



    Prime Minister Olmert spoke about changing the rules of region as an end-game political consequence of the war. That goal will not be achieved through the military campaign. The rules of the game in the Middle East will only be changed when some of the currently persona no-grata are invited to the table.



    While the fire is burning out of control it is difficult for politicians to see beyond the smoke, but the test of true leadership and statesmanship is in the ability to turn disaster into opportunities and to change hard-fast positions often voiced with great self conviction.

    READ MORE...>>>




    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    August 6, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    The beginning of the end


    At least 10 more military casualties are being reported as I write these lines. At the beginning of the war, I wrote that we know we will be coming to the end of the war when the Israeli generals and politicians begin speaking about victory and when the United States decides that it is enough.  Both of these conditions are beginning to appear. The generals are beginning to speak about their victories against Hizbollah and the politicians are beginning to speak about the creation of new realities in Lebanon.  The United States has been working behind the scenes, mainly with France, in the Security Council to produce a resolution that will be acceptable to Israel. 


    The military goals of this war without a name were to decimate the military capabilities of Hizbollah, to push them north, to kills as many Hizbollah soldiers and leaders as possible, including Hassan Nasrallah.  The political goals of Israel were to make the Government of Lebanon take responsibility for its sovereignty, to bring about the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 with an emphasis on the disarming of Hizbollah and to make the Government of Lebanon and the people of Lebanon understand that they will pay a very heavy price for supporting Hizbollah and violations of Israel’s sovereignty.  (It is interesting to note Israel’s sudden commitment to UN Security Council Resolutions!)


    READ MORE...>>>



    America's honey trap

    Israel has never signed a strategic agreement with the US, but America acts like Israel is its proxy
    Yossi Ben-Ari

    Israel has never enjoyed such broad American support for both its policies and military actions as it does today. It began with an explicit presidential objection to international calls for an immediate cease fire that could disrupt the attaining of certain goals (with Bush's call in the background 'to do battle with an organization that initiated terror attacks and with the countries that support it'); all the way to the emergency shipment of "smart bombs" meant to help the effort that refuses to end.


    It may be a comfortable feeling to have US backing, but we must be careful of this "honey trap." It's a strange paradox.


    No treaty


    Israel has always refused to sign a strategic agreement with the United States, for fear that such a treaty could inhibit Israel's freedom of action. But even though no such agreement exists, America has hinted at expectations that Israel act as an active partner in America's campaign against world-wide terror.


    READ MORE...>>>





    הזדמנות נדירה למזרח תיכון חדש...


    יוסי בן ארי


    המציאות ההולכת ומסתבכת בצפון, מחייבת את הדרג המדיני לקחת נשימה עמוקה, ולבחון בתבונה כיצד ניתן להיחלץ מהמיצר אליה נקלענו. כפי שהדברים נראים כעת, ניתן לעשות זאת באחת משתי דרכים: לקדם הסדר שעיקרו הכנסת כוח רב לאומי אפקטיבי ללבנון (ולעזה?); או לחתור לפתרון בעיית היסוד האמיתית,  ממנה העולם החופשי עדיין מתחמק – איראן. אפשר אולי גם לשלב בין השתיים.


    את הדרך האחת נזכיר בקצרה, כיוון שדשו בה רבות בשבוע החולף:  אם ישראל מסתפקת רק בפתרון הבעיה המיידית, השיטה היחידה לממש את המטרות שהציבה למלחמה, היא להכניס ללבנון גוף ביטחוני זר משמעותי, חד או רב-לאומי. אסור שיהיה זה "כפיל של יוניפיל" (יבוטל לאלתר!), אלא כוח משימה שמקור סמכותו יהיה האו"ם, בפיקוד נאט"ו, בגיבוי ההחלטות הצפויות של פסגת רומא ומועצת הביטחון. הגוף יורכב מיחידות איכות של אחד/כמה מטובי הצבאות הזרים, דוגמת צרפת, בריטניה, גרמניה, איטליה, תורכיה, אוסטרליה, קנדה וכו' (עדיף ללא ארה"ב, וטוב שקונדי כך מעדיפה).


    לצערנו, "קיצוץ" "חזבאללה" לגובה שרשי הדשא יצטרך עדיין להתבצע ע"י צה"ל, בעוד משימת כוח זה תהיה ללוות את דחיקת הארגון צפונית לליטאני; לפרקו מנשקו; למנוע הזרמת אמל"ח חדש עבורו מבחוץ, בדרכי אויר, ים יבשה; להפסיק לחלוטין את פעילותו הצבאית; לסייע בפריסת צבא לבנון לאורך הגבול; ולחזק את ממשלת לבנון באופן שאכן תוכל לממש ריבונותה על של שטחה.

    READ MORE...>>>



    New IPCRI Policy Paper

    A Comprehensive Approach to the Current Crises


    JULY 25, 2006


    General Comprehensive Approach


    It has been said that wars create opportunities for political changes.  The current Middle East crisis should be used by decisions makers to create opportunities to bring the region into a new era of regional and bilateral negotiations aimed at dealing with the Israeli-Arab conflict in a comprehensive fashion.


    Some of the opportunities which could be created by the crises include:



    This paper outlines several new directions that seek to exploit and to materialize the opportunities created by the current crises. These opportunities include several bilateral tracks with specific steps that should be taken to resolve the current immediate crisis and to bring the region back to the peace track. The comprehensive approach of dealing with bilateral tracks in parallel enables the entire process to be concluded by addressing the root causes of the conflict.  The comprehensive approach detailed below could lead to the development of peaceful relations between Israel and all of its neighbors in accordance with the vision of the Arab League Peace Initiative from March 2002. That initiative takes the most comprehensive approach which includes the end of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State along the 1967 borders and a just and agreed upon solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Together with the advancing of an Israeli-Lebanese Track and an Israeli-Syrian Track, the end result could be the establishment of peace and normalized relations with all of the countries of the Arab world.


    The following describes in brief the measures that we believe must be taken in order to return the region to a political process.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 24, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    The scorecard


    When I was a young boy growing up in the States I remember watching the evening news reports on casualties in Vietnam. I joined the anti-war movement when I was 10 years old in 1966. One of the reasons that brought me to drag my parents to an anti-war demonstration was the nonchalant way in which the newscasters read the evening scorecard of how many Vietcong and US soldiers were killed. It was as if there was nothing behind the numbers. There were no faces, no families, and no stories of suffering.  Something was very wrong.


    I have a similar feeling when I watch the news on all three Israeli news programs. While the Israeli channels do put faces and stories of suffering behind the dry figures on the Israeli side, the faces on the other side are almost completely absent. I know that that is the nature of war.  Our society is drafted into the war effort and any sign of “identifying” with the enemy is viewed as treason. The best example of this is the tremendous anger that Arab Members of Knesset are receiving from their fellow politicians and from the media for raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the war. 

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 24, 2006


    This week in Palestine... Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    A War of Attrition


    Both the Gaza front and the Lebanese fronts do not see any signs of a ceasefire soon. Even the arrival of US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice this coming Monday to the region does not mean that a ceasefire is imminent. The Israeli air campaign all over Lebanon did not achieve its purpose to create a “sanitary” zone in Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, nor limit Hezbollah’s ability to fire rockets (last Saturday around 180 rockets were fired). The USA vetoed a Security Council resolution last week. In the eyes of the Arab world, even moderate Arab governments like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, and many experts, Washington’s refusal so far to rein in Israel, which began massing thousands of soldiers along its northern border in preparation for a ground invasion, marks a serious set back in its long-term efforts to win Arab and Muslim “hearts and minds” in the war on terror.


    Thus, instead of a limited campaign, justified to free the captured soldiers, Israel really hopes to destroy Hamas and Hezbollah in the process. Prolonging the military aspects of the present flare-up might lead to a protracted war of attrition that does not serve the interests of the governments and the peoples of the region.

    READ MORE...>>>




    Naivety or Insanity


    Khaled Duzdar*

    Sunday, July 23, 2006


    The Secretary General of the Arab League last week declared that the peace process is dead.  Mr. Mousa was wrong, the peace process died a long time ago. The latest escalation in the region’s deteriorating situation is but another indication of the death of the peace process. This round of escalation is the result of wrong strategies by all of the countries involved and ending it will require the adoption of new policies and that change the strategic balance in the region.  Those policies will have to be based on the mutual respect of sovereign borders, the complete fulfillment on United Nations Security Council Resolutions and negotiations towards peace between all of the parties.


    The reality that developed in southern Lebanon following the unilateral withdrawal of Israel strengthen Hezbollah and limited the ability of the Government of Lebanon to subsequently fully implement UN Resolution 1559 which should have brought about the disarming of Hezbollah and its integration into the army of Lebanon which was required to deploy along the border with Israel.  While the other Lebanese factional militia were disbanded and integrated into the Lebanese army, Hezbollah, strengthened by its achievement of bringing about an Israeli abandonment of its Lebanese conquest, strengthened itself military and spent the last six years arming itself with Iranian supplied missiles all throughout the south. Despite the fact that the majority of Lebanese citizens succeeded in forcing Syria out of Lebanon, they were incapable of removing the Iranian and Syrian backed Hizbollah from southern Lebanon and when the outside players – Iran and Syria decided that the timing was right, Hezbollah launched its attack against Israel. Israel fell into the trap planted by Nasrallah and Ahmednijad and launched a bloody confrontation that regardless of its military impact will provide Hezbollah with a victory politically in Lebanon and throughout the Muslim world.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Perception and deception


    It never ceases to amaze me how Israelis and Palestinians perceive the same developments in such opposite ways. It is clear they will never agree on the narrative of 1948. It is equally clear that the two sides cannot even agree on the narrative of Camp David II of July 2000 and on what brought about the end of the peace process and ignited the second intifada.

    Israeli perceptions of the current crises are that in both Gaza and the northern border, Israel completely withdrew to the international line and that the international community recognized the Israeli withdrawal in both cases. As such, Israel expected quiet on those borders from the other side. Instead, on both fronts Israel was attacked, without provocation and for no good cause.

    Israel has repeatedly said that it has no conflict with Lebanon and that there are no reasons why the state of war between the two countries should continue. Israel expected that with the full withdrawal from Gaza the southern front would be calm and the main attention of the Palestinian struggle would be transferred to the West Bank.

    PALESTINIANS, OF course, have a completely different view of this reality. With regard to Gaza, they say that the occupation of Gaza has continued because Israel remains in control of the airspace, the coastal waters and all of the passages.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 16, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    The Arab League


    Amer Moussa, The Arab League Secretary-General declared after the emergency meeting in Cairo of the Arab Foreign Ministers that the peace process is dead, the present initiatives reached a dead end, and that the Arab League will ask the UN Security Council to deal anew with the process.


    For the first time ever open criticism was heard from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan against the unilateral actions carried by radical organizations especially Hizbollah of Lebanon. The Saudi Arabian declaration a day before the meeting in Cairo did not mince words, and was openly critical of Hizbollah’s recent activities that led to the devastation of Lebanon’s infrastructure. A similar position was declared at the end of the Egyptian-Jordanian meeting of head of states in Cairo by President Mubarak and King Abdullah. In Kuwait similar sentiments were announced during the visit of Saad Hariri, the leader of the ruling coalition in Lebanon.


    It became clear and beyond doubt that the most important Arab countries did not allow their emotions to rule their judgment. In times of distress, during attacks, usually the Arab leaders join their masses in an emotional reaction supporting the radical elements in their midst. Despite overwhelming public support to the capture of Israeli soldiers, the Arab governments put their feet down and went against the tide. This caused dismay by the Arab public at large. How could the Arab leaders rebuke the actions of radical elements in Lebanon and Palestine? These Arab leaders must react by closing rank and support fully the actions carried by Hizbollah and Hamas. It was not an easy decision by those Arab leaders who publicly blamed Hizbollah for the latest outbreak of hostilities. For the man in the street, it looked like the Arab leaders are collaborating with the enemy, and supportive of the enemy’s retaliation against their own kin.


    READ MORE...>>>


    [Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 16, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    Lebanon summer 2006


    The strategic goals of Israel in the war which was launched by Hizbollah with its attack in the north on Wednesday are somewhat confused.  It is clear that Israel wants to push Hizbollah back away from the border where they have become entrenched since the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000. It is clear that Israel is interested in pushing the government of Lebanon to implement UN Resolution 1310 from July 27, 2000 following the Israeli withdrawal. That resolution stated:


    Endorses the understanding, mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General of 20 July 2000, that the Force will deploy and function fully throughout its area of operations and that the Government of Lebanon will strengthen its presence in this area, by deploying additional troops and internal security forces; 2. Decides, in this context, to extend the present mandate of UNIFIL for a further period of 6 months, until 31 January 2001;


    3. Reiterates its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries;


    4. Welcomes the statement in the Secretary-General’s letter to the President of the Security Council of 24 July 2000 (S/2000/731) that, as of that date, the Government of Israel had removed all violations of the withdrawal line;


    5. Calls on the parties to respect that line, to exercise utmost restraint and to cooperate fully with the United Nations and with UNIFIL;


    6. Calls on the Government of Lebanon to ensure the return of its effective authority and presence in the south, and in particular to proceed with a significant deployment of the Lebanese armed forces as soon as possible;


    7. Welcomes the establishment of checkpoints by the Government of Lebanon in the vacated area, and encourages the Government of Lebanon to ensure a calm environment throughout the south, including through the control of all checkpoints;


    READ MORE...>>>



    Ending the crisis without killing anyone

    Gershon Baskin, Hanna Siniora, Khaled Duzdar, Yossi Ben Ari


    Thursday, July 13, 2006


    The most desired end of the current crisis would be a return of the Israeli kidnapped soldiers from Lebanon and Gaza, the release of prisoners in Israeli jails, an end to cross border attacks, including rockets – in both directions – on the Israeli-Gaza border and the Israeli-Lebanese border, and the strengthening of moderates and the weakening of extremists.


    The current strategy to end the crisis employs extreme long-term violence and escalating threats against civilians that may or may not end with the release of the kidnapped soldiers and prisoners in Israeli jails.  It may or may not end the cross border attacks; it will most likely strengthen extremists and weaken moderates and will cause vast damage and human suffering.


    At times when anger rules, it is difficult to think logically, nevertheless; there is a more rational course that could be advanced that might have a better chance of achieving the desired results written above. Our proposal is as follows:


    Prime Minister Olmert will immediately meet publicly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tell him the following:


    1. Once Corporal Gilead Shalit is released from Gaza, Israel will immediately release all of the women and children prisoners in Israeli jails (without blood on their hands).







    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 9, 2006


    This week in Israel….. behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Ceasefire now


    On June 15, I published a call for a bilateral ceasefire that was aimed at preventing the escalation that we are witnessing now.  The call was published in Ynet in English on June 15, 2006 (http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3263177,00.html) . I decided to go public with the call after becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress of behind the scenes attempts to get the sides, with the assistance of Egypt, to agree to the terms which included a full Israeli cessation of shelling Gaza, a cessation of all targeted killings and a cessation of the massive arrest campaigns in the West Bank which often lead to deaths.  According to the initiative, the Palestinians would have been required to enforce a cessation of all Qassam rockets and all other acts of aggression – to be enforced by the Palestinian President and the Prime Minister together on all factions.  The call for the ceasefire was made prior to the attack on the Kerem Shalom base and the kidnapping of Gilead Shalit.  The responses that I received from all sides were hesitant. The mutual suspicions of all sides prevented the initiative from making progress and without the active role of Egypt using diplomatic finesse it was not possible to reach an agreement, although all sides indicated interest in the initiative.


    After the Kerem Shalom attack and the kidnapping of the soldier, Ynet decided to publish the call for the ceasefire in Hebrew on the day of the attack (http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3267143,00.html)  – even though they had the piece two weeks before.  After the kidnapping it seemed to me that linking a prisoner release to a ceasefire was the best way to find a rapid end to the kidnapping crisis.  Rather than releasing Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the kidnapped soldier, prisoners would be released in the framework of a bilateral ceasefire.  The number of Palestinian prisoners released could be linked to the degree that the ceasefire is enforced. 

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 9, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora



    The Case of Palestinian Prisoners


    The ongoing war in Gaza, that was ignited by the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit, has two important causes. For the Palestinian people, the failure of the Palestinian political leadership, be it Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) or Ismail Haniyeh (Abu Al Abed), to impress on the Israeli leadership the importance of releasing political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons. For the past six months, on the average, twenty people are being arrested on a daily basis, more than 3,000 political activists have been put in jail by the IDF in 2006.


    President Abbas have twice been the victim of lack of reciprocation on this and many other issues, first during the tenure of the bed stricken Ariel Sharon, and now during the tenure of Ehud Olmert. Abu Mazen, despite being the most moderate Palestinian leader in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has so far come empty handed and this has taken much of his credibility with his people. It seems it is too late to repair the damage, Mahmoud Abbas, has shown reluctance to seek a second term, and has to a certain extent, become a lame-duck president, in transition to whoever will succeed him.


    The capture of Shalit by the combined effort of three militias headed by Izzedin Al-Qassam, Hamas military wing, accentuated beyond doubt for the world at large and the Israeli leadership that Israel has to look for a serious solution to the Palestinian prisoners issue. Past exchanges, especially the last one that was done with Abbas, had not dealt with prisoners with long term sentences, including the leaders who drafted the prisoners document. The document helped Hamas descend from its political ladder to face reality on the ground, but the reoccupation of Gaza by the IDF does not give the local Hamas leadership the opportunity to implement the changes, including the creation of the much coveted and needed unity government, a coalition of all the political forces on the ground, mainly the Hamas and Fateh movements. 

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    What comes after Hamas?


    Most analysts of Israel's military campaign in Gaza mention the ultimate goal of bringing down the Hamas government, beyond, of course, releasing the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

    The arrests of more than 80 Hamas activists, parliamentarians and members of the Palestinian Authority government, together with pushing much of its Gaza leadership underground, is aimed at making the PA government non-existent and non-functional. Israel's media has even suggested that Fatah leaders support these moves to dismount the Hamas leadership. Israel has also announced that no one "involved in terrorism" has immunity and that even the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh could be a legitimate target.

    The reactions of the international community to the arrests have been muted. Attempts to condemn Israel in the Security Council failed; the US and most EU countries have expressed displeasure with Israel's Gaza moves, but little more than that. That is not to suggest that the same limited response would be given if Israel were to assassinate Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders.

    While the Foreign Ministry claims there is no separation between the political and military wings of Hamas, IDF intelligence and the Shin Bet all speak of separate wings with separate commanders. They say Haniyeh has no influence over the military wing of Hamas. There are those who even question whether the Damascus-based Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal has control over the military wing. Mashaal claims he does not.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    July 2, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Kidnapped and trapped


    This is the beginning of the second week of the hostage crisis in Gaza. At this moment, Israeli troops of stationed in northern and southern Gaza waiting for the for the green light to launch the ground operation that was postponed on Friday by Prime Minister Olmert. According to reports, Olmert postponed the attack in order to give Egyptian diplomatic efforts a last chance of freeing the kidnapped soldier. In statements released by the Prime Minister’s office, it was reported that Olmert was not satisfied with the plans for the ground operation. The IDF wasn’t too happy about the public criticism but they understood the real reason behind the delay. The aim of the mission is officially to bring about the release of Corporal Gilead Shilat being held by a coalition of Palestinian forces led by Hamas that attacked the Kerem Shalom base last week. The unofficial aim of the missions is to bring down the Hamas government.   


    If the IDF knew the exact location of where Shilat was being held, a military operation would be launched to try to rescue him. The discipline of Shilat’s captors is apparently much better than at any other similar time before and apparently, at least until now, the IDF has not been able to discover the hideaway. Usually in the past, the IDF could rely on mistakes by the kidnappers or by squealers from amongst the Palestinian population. Over 80% of the Palestinian public has supported the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier with the hopes that it would lead to a prisoner release. Israel is holding close to 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.  Added to that number this week was more than 80 Hamas activists and leaders. Some one-third of the Palestinian Parliament members are now under lock and key including about half of the Hamas Ministers from the West Bank. Israel has begun targeting the Hamas Ministers in Gaza as well, and they have apparently taken to the underground.  Israeli rockets hit the office of Prime Minister Haniyeh last night with reports that the entire building has been burnt to the ground.  Rockets also hit the office of Palestinian Minister of Interior Said Siam causing significant damage there as well. So far, since the kidnapping, more than 40 attacks have been undertaken by the Israeli air force in Gaza, in addition to more than 500 rounds of artillery fire over the weekend alone.

    READ MORE...>>>



    התרברבות של גנרלים

    האיומים בכניסה קרקעית נרחבת לעזה הם דיבורי סרק. עכשיו יותר מתמיד נחוצה הפסקת אש דו-צדדית

    גרשון בסקין


    אלוף פיקוד הדרום יואב גלנט התרברב לאחרונה, שבעתיד הקרוב ייפסק ירי הקסאמים לעבר ישראל מעזה. האלוף הנכבד משוכנע כי הירי המסיבי של פגזי צה"ל לעבר עזה והגברת פעולות הסיכול הקרוי "ממוקד" יביאו להבנה פלסטינית, כי המחיר שהם משלמים גבוה מדי - ועקב כך יפסיקו את הירי. בכך מפגין האלוף גלנט את הבורות הגמורה שלו הן בתרבות הפוליטית של הפלסטינים והן בפסיכולוגיה הקולקטיבית של החברה הפלסטינית.


    נוכח הפעולות הצבאיות של ישראל בשטחים הפלסטיניים, הציבור שם נחוש יותר מאי-פעם להמשיך בניסיונות לגבות מחיר דמים כבד מישראל, ולא להיפך. המתקפה במוצב והמשך ירי הרקטות הם דוגמאות לכך. אנחנו נמצאים במסלול תלול של הידרדרות ביטחונית חמורה, ובמקום ניסיונות שווא להכריע את הפלסטינים - מוטב לאלוף הנכבד ולחבריו לחפש דרך למנוע גלישה מעבר לתהום.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 26, 2006


    This week in Israel….. behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    We are linked together


    The Palestinian attack on a base near Kerem Shalom yesterday causing the deaths of two soldiers and the kidnapping of another has brought us closer to the brink of a new round of tragic escalation that will lead us to nowhere politically.  It should not surprise anyone that the timing of the attack was very close to the beginning of the recognition that the internal Palestinian national dialogue was about to fail. The divisions within the Palestinian camp are once again taking their toll on the lives of Israelis.


    It is true that from the Palestinian perspective there is no shortage of reasons, in the past weeks, to feel the need to take revenge against Israel, however; in the backdrop of the internal Palestinian national dialogue, there was at least an attempt to rebuild consensus for the continuation of the tahdiya. It seems that the Hamas leadership, at least that part of the leadership represented by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was not interested in the attack.  He probably had no early information about the attack, but his hands are also tied in terms of his ability to prevent it and probably very limited in his ability to bring about the release of Gilead Shalit – the kidnapped soldier.  A few short hours after Ismail Haniyeh had called for putting an end to the shooting of Qassam rockets into Israel,  Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman representing Khaled Mashal, denied that there had been an agreement to stop the Qassams and called for Palestinian fighters to continue their actions.  Haniyeh’s position is severely compromised by the attack, perhaps one of the reasons why it took place at this time.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Empower the peacemakers


    This coming weekend the representatives of a new forum of more than 100 Israeli and Palestinian peace and dialogue groups will be meeting in Jordan to advance our conviction that there is no alternative to bilateral negotiations.

    The new forum coordinated by the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian democracy organization Panorama has been created in order to impress upon decision makers and the public in Israel and Palestine that there are partners for peacemaking on both sides.

    The Israeli peace and dialogue forum, numbering more than 60 organizations, has been meeting regularly since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000. The Palestinian forum of peace and dialogue groups was launched this year with some 35 member organizations. Together they constitute a significant lobby and advocacy body for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

    The Israeli, Palestinian and joint Israeli and Palestinian peace building and dialogue NGOs are calling on the international community, donor nations and foundations to renew their commitment to support Israelis and Palestinian civil society organizations working together for Israeli-Palestinian peace. This new alliance is strengthening the work for peace, dialogue and human rights in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

    READ MORE...>>>


    Turkish water – economic, efficient and environmentally safe

    Gershon Baskin*


    Tuesday, June 20, 2006


    The dry season has arrived together with the daily reports of the decline of the water level in the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). Every year at this time we are called to raise our awareness to the lack of water in the Holy Land.  We should also not forget that the shortages experienced by Palestinians are far greater than those in Israel, as Israel continues to control almost all of the water resources.  Palestinians still receive an unequal share of the joint water resources falling short of even the quantities set within the original Oslo agreement on water.


    Israeli water experts have become “gurus” of desalination as the price of desalination continues to decline.  There are emotion filled arguments amongst water experts on the real costs of desalination, ranging from about $0.50 per cubic meter (1000 liters) all the way up to almost $1.00.  The advocates of desalination quote the cheaper price with the antagonists quoting the higher prices.  But even with cheaper prices, desalination will have until now, insufficiently research negative environmental impacts including:


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 18, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora



    The Good News


    Fateh and Hamas according to several sources, including the PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahhar are on the verge of a national accord that will avert civil war and the need to hold a referendum on July 26. Cooler heads have so far found ground for agreement on 15 of the 18 clauses of the Prisoner’s Document. It might be possible to expect an agreement by Monday the 19th of June, if not a day earlier, by those who have been charged to bridge the differences between the various Palestinians movements. It is a major achievement that will allow most probably the creation of a National Unity government and would lead to the restructuring of the PLO to include all the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.


    The Bad News


    The vicious cycle of violence has escalated. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, and if unchecked, the growing violence will undermine all efforts to go back to the negotiating table. The Hamas government, through its spokesperson Ghazi Hamed, speaking in Hebrew so that the message will be heard, has called for a return to a bilateral “Tahdi’a”- calm- lull- where all violence, qassams and targeted killings will stop as a new beginning. The political advisor of Ismail Haniyeh, American educated Ahmed Youssef, has repeatedly called for a 50 to 60 years Hudna (truce, ceasefire) and if the Israeli government is unwilling to probe this issue, certainly in Israel, people close to the government should. In sixty years, the Palestinian state will hold 15 Parliamentary elections; does anyone expect Hamas to win all of them? It is not high time to stop shooting, in both camps, and start talking?

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 18, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    The Gaza beach investigation


    Israel has spent considerable time, energy, money, and political collateral in an internal IDF investigation of the cause of death of the Ghaliya family on Beit Lahia beach. The investigation headed by Major-General Meir Klifi, issued a report that said late last week that Israel was not responsible for the tragic deaths and that it is likely the blast stemmed from a bomb placed by the Palestinians at the site or "some form of unexploded ordnance." He added that the probe on the latter point was continuing. It was quite clear from the outset that the Palestinians would not believe the IDF report, even before the investigation began.  Strengthened by the report of a U.S. Human Rights Watch bomb expert who happened to be in Gaza at the say time, the Palestinians still claim that Israel is responsible and they demand an international independent commission to explore what led to the deaths of the seven members of the family.


    I watched Major-General Klifi on Israel television and I have read the reports in the Israeli newspapers.  I too am suspicious about the findings of the report – I was not convinced, although I admit, I would like to be convinced by the Israeli claims.  The Israeli report documented the exact times that Israeli artillery fired at Gaza and Klifi claimed to have tested some shrapnel taken from some of the wounded now treated in Israel, and on the basis of those two main elements, have concluded that Israel is not responsible.  I have a natural sense of suspicion at any time an institution being investigated is essentially investigating itself. I don’t think that Israel has scored any points at all in the international community from its own self acquittal of charges in this case.  If Israel is so confident of the findings, it would be wise to invite a truly independent commission of inquiry to come and examine the IDF’s findings and compare them with findings found by others in Gaza.  Until that happens, I am afraid, very few people in the world will accept the IDF findings.

    READ MORE...>>>




    Bilateral ceasefire  - June 15, 2006

    The use of force has not proven itself effective. We must try other solutions, to save Israeli and Palestinian lives
    Gershon Baskin

    The current temporary calm in the shooting of qassams ordered by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is a convenient opportunity to re-evaluate Israel’s tactics in dealing with this acute problem. The reality of the heavy toll that the Palestinians have paid in the past week has hit home and the conclusions and lessons learned should point in the direction of the possibility of reaching a longer-term bilateral ceasefire.


    Down the slope


    Without reaching this kind of bilateral ceasefire, there are real chances that we are may continue to slide rapidly down the slippery slope to total security deterioration and instead of self deceiving attempts that we are defeating the Palestinians; it would be preferable if the Minister of Defense and the generals would find a way to prevent us from going over the edge. The leaders of Hamas, including Prime Minister Haniyeh, have expressed their readiness to reach a ceasefire, but unlike the tahdiya – the calm reached 16 months ago, which was one-sided and Israel continued its military campaigns against the Palestinians, this time it must be bilateral.


    From Israel’s side there must be a commitment to stop all of the artillery fire on Gaza, to end all of the so-called “targeted killings”, and to stop the massive arrest campaigns in the West Bank, because all too often these end with people being killed. The Palestinians, Abbas and Haniyeh together, must agree to stop all of the Qassams and all other attacks against Israel, including those done by all of the factions – not only Hamas and Fateh. In the past the Islamic Jihad refused to be part of the tahdiya because it was one-sided while Israel continued its military actions against the Jihad. Through a bilateral ceasefire it becomes possible to demand from the Palestinians leadership that they reach an internal understandings with all of the factions and forces and that they will fully enforce those understandings.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 11, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



    Israeli Shelling of Gaza


    A serious tragedy took place in Gaza when seven members of a family last friday were killed by a tank shell fired on the Beit Lahia beach. Targeted killing a day earlier caused the killing of the secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committee Jamal Abu Samhadana who last April was appointed inspector-general at the Ministry of Interior and the commander of the executive force created by the Minister of Interior Said Siam.


    This escalation led Hamas military wing Izzidine Al-Qassam to abruptly call off Al-Tahde’a which Hamas observed for the past 16 months, and fired 7 Qassams on Israeli areas next to the Gaza strip. Tensions are at the breaking point in Gaza, and the exchange of shelling and Qassams might escalate to a war of attrition with many victims.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 11, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    It was inevitable


    The picture of Huda Ghaliya, seven years old, kneeling over the bloody body of her father is now engraved in the collective memory of every Palestinian.  Seven members of her family were killed from an explosion apparently from an Israeli missile fired from the sea. Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Olmert ordered a temporary halt to artillery fire on north Gaza until the IDF completes its investigation to determine the exact cause of the Gaza beach explosion.  Palestinians are calling the explosion a war crime against humanity and will never believe that the killing of the innocent family on the beach was not intentional.  No Israeli will ever believe that it was intentional and many Israelis are hoping that the investigation will find that Israel had no hand in the tragedy.  No evidence brought by Israel will ever convince Palestinians that Israel does not hold full responsibility for the deaths of the Ghaliya family.


    Artillery fire is not a precise weapon and an artillery shell can always miss its target and fall short of where it was intended to fall.  A tragedy, such as the one that happened this weekend is inevitable.  It happened in 1996 in Kafr Qana in Lebanon, and it apparently happened this weekend in Gaza.  It seems that we engaged in a war of attrition that no one has any real answers of how to end.  The result of the war will inevitably be the continued suffering of a lot of innocent people on both sides.

    READ MORE...>>>


    שיקול נגד הסיכול 


    תא"ל (מיל) ד"ר יוסי בן ארי


    הקסאם אינו איום אסטרטגי ואין להפריז בנזק שהוא גורם. שיטת החיסולים לא עובדת במאמצים למגרו


    חמדי אמן איבד את אימו, אשתו ובנו ב"סיכול ממוקד" בעזה, שגם דן אותו לטפל כל חייו בילדה משותקת (יבורך השר פרץ על החלטתו לממן את הטיפול הרפואי בה) ובילד קטן פצוע, שישאל תמיד - למה? מטרת הפעולה הייתה לפגוע במוחמד דחדוח , שצה"ל הגדירו כ"פעיל בכיר בג'יהאד האיסלאמי שהיה מעורב בירי תלול מסלול, כולל שיגור רקטות". האם מקרה זה עומד בקריטריונים המצדיקים סיכול? גם אם פורמאלית-טכנית אולי כן, מהותית סבורני שלא.


    כל אימת שהסיכולים גורמים לפגיעה בחפים מפשע, אני נזכר במסקנות אחת מוועדות החקירה הפנימיות שהוקמו לאחר ההתנקשות הכושלת בחאלד משעל בירדן. זו קבעה כי פעולת חיסול אינה לגיטימית אם היא נעשית ממניעים של נקם, ענישה או הרתעה, לא כל שכן מטעמים של "שחרור לחצים" ופריקת תסכול. רק אם האובייקט שהוגדר כיעד מהווה סכנה ברורה ומיידית לביטחון אזרחי ישראל, הומלץ אז ב-97', ניתן לבצע את הפעולה.


    מהנדסי הרקטות, המפקדים ומשגרי הטילים משמרים אמנם את עוטף הרצועה כגזרה קרבית "חמה" ומקשים מאוד את חיי תושבי האזור, אך האם באמת צריך להתייחס אליהם כאל "פצצות מתקתקות", היוצרות איום שווה נזק להתפוצצות מחבל מתאבד בסביבה עירונית? מבלי להמעיט חלילה בקורבנם של תושבי שדרות והסביבה, האסטרטגיה הנוכחית מחייבת מחשבה נוספת.

    READ MORE...>>>



    Vote yes, but on the right plan

    Gershon Baskin*


    Tuesday, June 06, 2006


    With the possibility of a Palestinian referendum on the agenda, I would urge Palestinian President Abbas to reconsider the document that he plans to present to the public for its approval.  The so-called “Prisoners’ document” may have some appeal at the level of the internal Palestinian national dialogue, but is a complete non-starter as far as Israel is concerned.  None of the international and Israeli demands are met within the “prisoners’ document”, although there may be implicit recognition of Israel by calling for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.  Without explicit recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a clear denouncement of terrorism and an explicit agreement to adhere to all of the Israel-PLO signed agreements, there is nothing positive that can be achieved by a Palestinian referendum on a document which emphasizes the right of return of the refugees to Israel and recognizes and calls for resistance (violence) against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.


    President Abbas has one shot at a referendum and he cannot afford to waste it on a document that will not leverage the renewal of the political process with Israel.  It would be much more valuable for Abbas to put his weight behind the Arab peace Initiative which received the unanimous support of the Arab League in 2002 and then once again ratified in 2006.  This initiative came out at the height of the intifada and was largely dismissed by Prime Minister Sharon. It is an important document that for the first time places a “welcome mat” to the State of Israel in exchange for peace full peace with the State of Palestine.  The Arab League peace initiative makes many precedents by stating: “The Arab countries … consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region; Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace”.   Never before has the entire Arab world offered Israel peace and an end to the conflict.  This initiative needs to be revisited by the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.


    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 4, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora



    Three days Remain for the National Dialogue


    President Abbas returned from his trip to Tunis and a meeting of the Central Committee of Fatah that led to reconciliation between Mahmoud Abbas and Farouk Kaddoumi, the General Secretary of Fatah and the PLO Foreign Minister.


    Before the January elections that Hamas won, the relations between Abbas and Kaddoumi soured as a result of President Abbas taking away from Kaddoumi the authority of running the diplomatic offices of the PLO and transferring it to the PA Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nasser Al-Qidwa. Abbas now, in order to gain the support of Kaddoumi for the referendum, returned to Kaddoumi the right to run the diplomatic prerogatives by taking it away from the present PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahmoud Zahhar.


    Abbas chaired in Ramallah on his return from Tunis, in the presence of the speaker of the PLC Aziz Dweik, and the members of the National Dialogue Committee, but in the absence of the Hamas representative Adnan Asfour, a crucial meeting in which Abbas clarified that the ten day period for the dialogue will end Tuesday morning June 6, 2006. Abbas further stated that until the Interior Minister Said Siam withdraws from the streets of Gaza, the Hamas militia that was called the “support brigade”, Abbas will not travel to Gaza. The meeting also authorized a committee of three, the speaker Dweik, Abbas special representative former Fatah speaker of the PLC Rawhi Fattouh, and the prominent representative of the private sector Mounib Masri, to contact Hamas and PM Ismail Haniyeh, to gauge the possibility for arriving to an agreed upon common position or else to go ahead with the referendum on the prisoners document.


    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    June 4, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin



    Olmert continues making the rounds


    Prime Minister Olmert is off this afternoon to meet with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.  The Sharm el Sheikh meeting is Olmert’s opportunity to explain to the Egyptians what Olmert already explained in Washington. He will tell Mubarak that Israel is ready to open up a dialogue with Palestinian President Abbas, but only on issues concerning the Road Map.  Mubarak is well aware of the fact that Abbas has no ability to fulfill the obligations of the Road Map and therefore, he is likely to push Olmert to make it appear that Israel is coordinating the unilateral realignment plan with Abbas.


    With the Palestinian National Dialogue coming to a close on Tuesday morning, after receiving an extension from Abbas, Olmert and Mubarak are aware that the Palestinian territories are nearing total chaos and perhaps civil war. The Palestinian Authority is about to pay some of the three months late salaries of some 40,000 civil servants (out of more than170,000) which will leave most of the Authority’s employees with no money whatsoever. Mubarak is likely to pressure Olmert to have Israel release some of the funds it is holding back from collected customs and VAT clearances.  Olmert’s answer to Mubarak will be plain and simple – if the Palestinians want their money, they must accept the international demands.  Israel will not compromise on this, but there is a chance that Israel will search for ways to legitimize payments to the Israeli private and governmental sector for electricity, water, fuel, hospital bills, etc.


    READ MORE...>>>


    The Prisoners’ document  and Abbas’s tactical error


    Gershon Baskin


    May 28, 2006



    Mahmoud Abbas has made a courageous decision by issuing an ultimatum to the Hamas government to recognize the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.  A referendum on that issue could empower the Palestinian national movement in its calls to Israel to re-launch permanent status negotiations.  The problem with Abbas’ initiative is that he has tied it to the Prisoners’ document.  The document, written by Barghouthi and Natshe in the Hadarim prison is perhaps a good starting point for the internal Palestinian national dialogue, but it is a non-starter vis-à-vis Israel.  From Israel’s point of view, the Prisoners’ document provides no acceptable point of entry for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  The document falls far too short on meeting each one of the international demands. Even on the issue of Palestinian statehood within the 1967 borders, the document contains no explicit recognition of Israel.


    The prisoners’ document also legitimizes the continued use of violence against Israel, although limiting the violence to areas within the West Bank.  This is something that no Israeli can agree to.  Furthermore, the document emphasizes over and over again the right of return for Palestinian refugees.  While this may completely reasonable for Palestinians, no Israeli government can agree to this. It is certainly legitimate for Palestinians to raise the right of return of refugees in negotiations, but if the Prisoners’ document is aimed at encouraging Israel to renew negotiations; it will not achieve those results. 


    READ MORE...>>>


    Behind the Veils of Hamas


    Khaled Duzdar*

    June 1, 2006


    Once again, the domestic Palestinian Internal chaos and anarchy has hit the headlines and the hearts of the Palestinian public. The possibility of the coming Palestinian civil war has become the focal concern and worry of all analysts and the Palestinian public. This internal confrontation and challenges to authorities and powers in Gaza might eventually lead the Palestinians to the worst future they ever envisaged.


    The Palestinian public’s stand should be taken seriously in any dialogue between the confronting parties, particularly when all public sectors have taken the initiative and presented their vision for a unified Palestinian position. All of these initiatives followed the same framework: rejecting the deterioration of the situation and calling all parties to adopt a joint political agenda that will achieve a viable, secure, and sustainable Palestinian state, thus averting civil war.


    Various Palestinian individuals, factions and organizations claim that the two states solution is the only possible acceptable solution and that the Palestinian National Declaration of Independence from November 1988 is the best basis for any government. These initiatives are a clear call to the Hamas government to adopt this Palestinian National vision and nothing else.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 29, 2006


    This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora


    Surprise Referendum


    Last thursday President Mahmoud Abbas opened the national dialogue conference at his headquarters in Al- Mouqata’a in Ramallah in the presence of the speaker of the PLC and numerous members of all the national and Islamic parties as well as representatives of the private sector. Simultaneously in Gaza PM Haniyeh, from the Shawwa Centre, liaised with Ramallah by video conference facilities. As expected all the speakers including Abbas called for national unity and forbade the spilling of Palestinian blood.


    The surprise was forthcoming in the last part of the President’s address in which Abbas gave the conference ten days to come out with an agreed upon national program. Abbas boldly announced that if no such outcome is forthcoming, then a national referendum will take place in forty days based on the national reconciliation document ratified by Palestinian political prisoners.


    Abbas, showed rare signs of leadership and boldness. The Palestinian public at large fully supported his initiative, which put pressure on the parties to the dialogue to come out with an agreed upon national unity plan.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 29, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    This week’s column will begin with a vocabulary lesson.  New terms keep appearing to describe the plans of the Prime Minister – initially they spoke about convergence, then containment, and in Washington we heard, for the first time “re-alignment”. We’ll make use of the Merriam-Webster online dictionary to help us understand the differences (if there are any) and then we can try and guess why the Prime Minister wants us to learn new words.  In Hebrew, the name of the plans has not changed – it remains hit-can-suit.

    Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary


    Function: noun
    1 : the act of
    converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity; especially : coordinated movement of the two eyes so that the image of a single point is formed on corresponding retinal areas
    2 : the state or property of being
    3 : independent development of similar characters (as of bodily structure or cultural traits) often associated with similarity of habits or environment.

    READ MORE...>>>


    מסמך האסירים רע ליהודים

    האולטימטום שהציב אבו-מאזן לחמאס הוא מהלך אמיץ אך מסוכן, הן עבורו והן עבור ישראל
    יוסי בן-ארי

    הסירוב המשתמע של החמאס לקבל את האולטימטום של אבו-מאזן (אמצו את "מסמך ההתפייסות הלאומית" תוך עשרה ימים, ולא - הוא יובא למשאל עם), רק החריף את המתח בין הצדדים, אשר קיוו דווקא להורידו באמצעות "הדיאלוג הלאומי". קשה לדעת כיצד יתפתח הקונפליקט הזה. בין אם אבו-מאזן ימצמץ אחרון, או שהחמאס יעשה זאת, ראוי לבחון ביתר דקדקנות מהו אותו "מסמך האסירים", ובעיקר - איזו משמעויות יש לו לגבי ישראל.


    ובכן, אין כמובן להתעלם מכך שיש בטקסט המדובר היבטים חיובים לישראל: בולטת במיוחד השאיפה להקים מדינה עצמאית, שירושלים בירתה, על כל השטח שנכבש ב-1967 (אם כי גם בהגדרה זו אין הכרה מפורשת בישראל, אותה ישות מדינית המצויה מהעבר השני של גבולות 1967). ערך ניתן לייחס לקריאה לכבד את החלטות הפסגות הערביות (במשתמע - גם את זו של פסגת ביירות 2002, שכללה נכונות להכרה בישראל בגבולות 1967), ולמחויבות פלסטינית לקונצנזוס הערבי ולפעולה הערבית המאוחדת.

    READ MORE...>>>



    Right of Return to Palestine

    Gershon Baskin*


    Tuesday, May 16, 2006


    If the Palestinians have begun a national dialogue on the goals of their national liberation movement, the time has come for them to also readdress the refugee issue. Recently the Palestinian people marked the beginning of the 59th year since the Naqba.  In November 1947 the United Nations passed UN Resolution 181 which called for the establishment of two States – a Jewish State and a Palestinian State - in the territory under the control of the British Mandate.  The Jewish people overwhelmingly accepted the partition resolution, even though Jerusalem was not to be included in the new Jewish State.  With the exception of the Palestinian Communist Party, all Palestinian parties and leaders rejected the resolution of the UN.  That Resolution would have granted the Palestinians a State on 49% of historic Palestine including all of the West Bank, the Galilee and the Gaza Strip.  Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to be placed under International Control in what was called the Corpus Separatum.  But the Palestinian people and leadership believed that there was no need to compromise and that all of Palestine belonged to the Palestinian people and to no one else.


    Now, 58 years later, the Palestinians are still without a state of their own under the best case scenario the prospects for creating the State would be on only 22% of the land. Palestinians continue to suffer and the end of the conflict seems to be far from sight. According to UNRWA statistics, there are about 5 million Palestinians who are refugees and descendents of refugees.  About 1.5 million of them are living in refugee camps throughout the region. About 1 of every 2 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are refugees.  The refugee problem remains the open sore of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the most difficult problem to resolve.

    READ MORE...>>>



    UN must intervene in territories

    Only an Arab-manned UN force could restore order in the PA
    Yossi Ben-Ari

    In light of the recent events in Gaza and the ongoing economic crisis there, it would be a miracle if the massive tensions currently swirling amongst the Palestinians did not lead to all-out civil war. The Palestinian "national dialogue" scheduled for this weekend appears to be little more than an outdated aspirin for a patient desperately in need of a surgeon's knife. And if the summit does fail, the situation could potentially get worse.


    The international community must stop watching indifferently from the side, waiting for the Palestinian government to change its policies vis-à-vis Israel as a condition for re-engaging. Such re-engagement is crucial now, not only in order to head off the coming humanitarian crisis, but also in order to shore up the foundations of the crumbling Palestinian Authority before Lebanonization takes control, and establishes a no man's land for years to come. READ MORE...>>>




    דרוש: מנדט מצרי-ירדני בשטחים  23.5.06


    רק כוח משימה ערבי, שישוגר לאזור תחת מטריית האו"ם, יוכל להשיב את הסדר ולתת לרשות זמן להתארגן מחדש

    היה זה נס אם המתח העצום השורר בקרב הפלסטינים, על רקע האירועים האחרונים בעזה והמציאות הכלכלית הבלתי נסבלת, לא יוליך להתפרצות מלחמת אחים של הכל בכל. "הדיאלוג הלאומי" הפלסטיני, האמור להיפתח בסוף השבוע, נראה כגלולת אספירין שתוקפה פג מזמן ושסיכויה להביא מזור לחולה האנוש, הזקוק להתערבות כירורגית מיידית, שואפים לאפס. בכישלונה, יש גם פוטנציאל להחמרת המצב. על הקהילה הבינלאומית להפסיק לשבת על הגדר ולהתבונן בנעשה כאן בשוויון נפש, תוך המתנה לשינוי במדיניות הממשלה הפלסטינית כלפי ישראל כתנאי להתגייסות מחדש. התגייסות שכזו נדרשת לא רק כדי לפתור את האסון ההומניטארי הקרב; היא דרושה כדי לשקם מן היסוד את הרשות המתפוררת, רגע לפני הלבנוניזציה משתלטת מעבר לגדר ומקבעת מציאות של    no man's land לשנים.

    READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Time to get beyond the road map


    It is now apparent that even before his meeting with US President George W. Bush, Ehud Olmert has toned down his determination to press ahead with further unilateral steps.

    The prime minister, warned by his advisers, has heard clear European voices saying that the international community wants the new government of Israel to take Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas more seriously.

    Politicians close to Olmert, like Minister of Interior Roni Bar-On, have been emphasizing in the local media that Israel is committed to the words of Olmert from his victory speech and from the speech in the Knesset, when he presented his government, that Israel would prefer negotiations with the Palestinians.

    The meeting of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Vice Premier Shimon Peres with Abbas and an Olmert-Abbas meeting expected next week are a clear indication that Israel is at least demonstrating a willingness to engage Abbas.

    Until now, the prime minister's men have been stating that, in the eyes of Israel, there is no two-headed Palestinian Authority and that in order to engage Abbas, the Hamas-led government must first accept the three by now well-known international conditions.

    READ MORE...>>>



    [Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 22, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora



    On the Verge of Civil War


    Despite all efforts to contain the rivalry between Hamas and Fateh, several confrontations are taking place almost on a daily basis, often leading to killing and wounding persons from both sides. The latest was the attempt to assassinate the head of the intelligence service General Tarek Abu Rajab who is also known as General Ahmed Shiniore. The attempt took place in the headquarters of the intelligence service in Gaza, in the shaft of the lift, this indicates that an inside connection in the intelligence service, aided the assassination attempt. The body guard of Abu Rajab, who is related to him, was killed; the General was severely injured as was several of his entourage.


    The deployment of the special brigade, 3000 in strength, by the Interior Minister Said Siam in Gaza, and the counter march by the Presidential Guards also raised tensions all over the Gaza strip.


    An explosive device, of around sixty kilos was discovered in front of the residence of Rashid Abu Shback, the head of internal security and police. The device was removed in time.  President Abbas appointed General Abu Shback to head the police in the PA. The Interior Minister did not accept the appointment and this resulted in the creation of the special force by the Minister in contradiction to the orders of the President.

    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 22, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    Will he or won’t he?


    Prime Minister Olmert is in Washington waiting for his five hour meeting with President Bush and the White House senior staff.  The Prime Minister’s team that went to DC last week to prepare the visit obviously returned to Jerusalem with instructions to turn down the rhetoric on future Israeli unilateral steps.  The team, headed by the PM’s Chief of Staff new-comer Yoram Turbowicz, consisted of former Sharon chief of staff Dov Weissglass and special advisor Shalom Turgeman, met with the White House and State Department top officials to prepare the Olmert-Bush meetings.  Weissglass held a private meeting with Secretary of State Rice in which the Secretary urged the Israelis to take Palestinian Prime Minister more seriously. After returning from Washington, the messages coming from the PM’s Office were much more directed at Olmert’s commitment to meet Abbas upon his return from DC and the decision was made for Tzipi Livni and Shimon Peres to meet with Abbas at the World Economic Forum Meeting in Sharm el Sheikh.

    In the past days, Olmert’s allies in Kadima have been much more upbeat about negotiations with the Palestinians than at any time since Olmert took over the PM’s office. But during an interview with CNN from Washington, Prime Minister Olmert said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was unable to speak on behalf the Palestinian people. ''Abbas is weak and has no support'', he said.  Shimon Peres today rebutted Olmert stating: “Abbas is the only address for negotiations”, Peres told Army Radio, "There is no one else. It is either Hamas or him. Since Hamas is out of the question, Abu Mazen is the only one that can be considered," he continued.

    READ MORE...>>>


    Dialogue and Convergence: Not sequenced – only in Parallel

    May 16, 2006


    Executive Summary






    READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 15, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora



    Commemoration of the Nakba


    On the fifteenth of May every year, the Palestinian people are reminded of the catastrophe that befell them before 58 years. This year the commemoration arrives at one of the worst junctures of the Nakba. The policy of closure pursued since 2000 has taken its toll on the people and the economy. Israel, for the past few years has been arresting nightly about 15 activists daily from the various Palestinian organizations. Gaza, despite the disengagement, is on the verge of starvation, the West Bank is dismembered into cantons and Jerusalem is totally isolated from the rest of the country. Unemployment is rising and more people are under the poverty level warns a new study by the World Bank.


    In Palestine, the executive authority is shared between Hamas which controls the parliament (PLC) and the Cabinet, and the office of the president which is the last bastion of Fateh. On the ground, the rivalry between the two largest Palestinian movements Fateh and Hamas has led to pitch battles in Khan Younes that led to several Palestinians killed and scores wounded. 


    The sanctions initiated by Israel, the USA and most of the international community, as Hamas formed the PA cabinet, led to the inability of the PA to pay salaries to 165,000 employees for the past 2.5 months, and the repercussions are felt throughout the Palestinian economy. READ MORE...>>>


    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 15, 2006


    This week in Israel….. behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    This column is a little late getting out this week, my apologies (GB).


    We have a government?


    The new government was off to a very shaky start this past week.  The first test of the new coalition was in getting the 2006 budget passed.  According to Israeli law, the budget is supposed to be past by the end of December each year.  If it is not passed then, they are allowed another three months to try to get an approved budget.  This year, due to the elections, there was an additional extension awarded until the end of May.  The coalition agreement between the various parties stipulated that all coalition members would vote for the first reading of the budget and then changes, according to the coalition agreement, would be made in committee before going back to the plenary for the second and final readings.  The Labor party and the Government experienced their first rebellion when social activists Shelly Yechimovitch and Yoram Martziano – representing the poor neighborhoods and Nadia Hilo, representing the Arab sector, said that they could allow themselves to vote for a budget prepared by Bibi Netanyahu. They had good reason not to vote for that budget, but all three, newcomers to the Knesset, should have also understood that there are rules to coalition politics.  In the end, Nadia Hilo voted with her party and Yechimovitch and Martziano didn’t show up to vote.


    Questions were raised whether or not party leader, Amir Peretz allowed these new comers to rebel because he cannot or if they acted on their own.  Yechimovitzh is considered one of the closed allies of Peretz and it seems unlikely that she would act on this without the approval of Peretz.  The budget did of course pass the first reading and now will be debated and argued about in the Finance Committee. READ MORE...>>>


    May 11, 2006

    What the Palestinian people need to tell their leaders

    By: Gershon Baskin *


    Palestinian public opinion polls consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian citizens want peace with Israel.  The polls show that the public wants the peace process to be renewed and that the solution must be the creation of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.  The public also wants to achieve a just solution to the refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194.  The majority of Palestinians do not support attacks against Israeli citizens as they have come to understand that killing innocent Israelis is both morally wrong and strategically works against finding a just solution to the conflict.


    The Hamas victory in the last elections was not a referendum on the political platform of no recognition and no negotiations, as some people would like to think.  The Palestinian people are wiser than that; they understand that Israel cannot be wiped off the face of the planet as the Iranian President has argued. But Palestinians are proud people and they do not wish to see their elected government humiliated. In fact, the attempts by the international community to humiliate the elected government have boomeranged in terms of public support for the government.  The most recent opinion polls show an increase in support for the government in the face of the international pressure.


    There is a contradiction in Palestinian public opinion.  The public wants negotiations and peace with Israel while their government is opposed to this. International pressure may be successful in creating an impossible situation whereby the PA Government will not be able to govern.  The suffering that has already been caused to the public will only increase if there is no change in the position of the Hamas government. The international community may find ways to transfer funds directly to Palestinians for health and education services, but the international boycott of the PA Government will remain firm until the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority accepts the international conditions for recognition. READ MORE...>>>


    Certification scheme crucial for Gaza farmers

    By Amelia Thomas
    Middle East Times

    Published May 11, 2006

    On Sunday, May 7, at around nine in the morning, Palestinian farmer Hassan Shafii was going about his usual day's work on the outskirts of the town of Beit Lahia on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip.
        The 55-year-old farmer was busy in one of his fields, close to an area from which Qassam missiles have recently been launched by militant Palestinian groups into Israel, tending to the irrigation of a recently planted watermelon patch.
        As he worked, he talked with a fellow Gazan farmer on his mobile phone. "You have to remember the $250 for your certificate," his friend was in the process of reminding him, "You have to pay it soon."
        Then, disaster struck. An Israeli military shell, one of the many fired into the region to deter terrorists from launching more attacks against Israel, hit Shafii. On the other end of the line, his colleague feared the worst as the line went dead, and Shafii was killed instantly by shrapnel peppering his body.
        Such occurrences are not rare in an area where daily violence from both sides of the border is increasingly commonplace.
        Indeed, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights states that in just the last fortnight, six Palestinian civilians, including two children, have been killed and over 60 wounded by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) shelling, while a further two deaths occurred last week after Palestinian national security force members attempted to deactivate an unexploded shell.
        In the past week alone, six civilians have been wounded in the Beit Lahia area, a number of homes damaged, and, along with Shafii, a second civilian, 65-year-old Moussa Al Sawarka, was killed.
        Sawarka had been grazing camels in the Khousa area, to the north of Beit Lahia town, when he was killed by shell shrapnel to the head on May 6, just 500 meters from the spot where, the next day, Shafii, too, would die.
        Currently, the Jerusalem-based Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) is in the twofold process of dealing with the direct aftermath of Shafii's death. First, says director Gershon Baskin, the center will be petitioning both the Israeli ministry of defense and the ministry of justice over compensation for the family of the deceased. READ MORE...>>>



    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    No Palestinian support for convergence

    For months the Israeli government has been planning its unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank. Ariel Sharon appointed a team to plan for the big disengagement - aka "convergence" -from most of the West Bank settlements that are east of the separation barrier.


    The team has been trying to learn the lessons from the Gaza withdrawal. Those lessons concerning the settlers are mostly understood. Far less is known about what has transpired on the other side.
    What lessons should be learned from the impact of disengagement on the Palestinians?

    The most important effect for the Palestinians was the sharp increase in the popularity of Hamas. Their narrative of disengagement shows that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians are convinced that what led Sharon to withdraw from Gaza was what they call resistance (and what we call terrorism).


    Palestinians deeply believe that Israel was chased out of Gaza, mainly by Hamas. Most Palestinians believe that Israel lost a golden opportunity to strengthen the cause of peace by not turning Gaza over to Mahmoud Abbas as part of a process of dialogue and negotiations. READ MORE...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 8, 2006


    This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora


    PA Salaries


    The number of PA government employees has mushroomed since Hamas won the elections, now close to 170,000, have entered the third month with promises that soon they will be able to receive their salaries, yet a concrete answer has not yet been found.


    In the meeting that took place last Saturday May 6, between President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the issue of how to channel available funds from the account of the Arab League to pay the salaries was at the top of issues discussed for more than four hours. The talks will be resumed Sunday after top officials from both sides try to put recommendations for the night meeting between Abbas and Haniyeh.


    Russia relayed to Abbas ten million dollars in assistance that the Presidency distributed in accordance to a protocol accepted by the PA Finance Ministry, two million went to cope with the repercussions of the avian flu, three million to support holding the tawjihi high school examinations, three million four hundred thousand to pay part of the bills of the Ministry of Health, 850 thousand to the Red Crescent, 380 thousand to Al-Makassed Hospital and the remaining 370 to other hospitals. Abbas and Haniyyeh are discussing the President’s suggestion to put such a mechanism on the agenda of the Quartet meeting next Tuesday, May 9, at the UN.  READ MORE...>>>



    דף חדש בירושלים וברמאללה

    המדיניות הישראלית מובילה לתוהו ובוהו. השבעת הממשלה החדשה היא הזדמנות פז לפרוץ את החרם ולחזור לדבר
    גרשון בסקין


    הקמת הממשלה החדשה בירושלים מאפשרת לישראל לפתוח דף חדש גם אל מול הפלסטינים. אחרי עשרות שנים של סכסוך קיומי, היום מבינה ישראל כי הפתרון טמון בהקמתה של מדינה פלסטינית דמוקרטית, שתחיה לצדה בשכנות טובה.


    הסכסוך עם הפלסטינים כבר אינו קיומי, אך הוא מכשול ענק בפני יכולתה של ישראל להגיע לשגשוג ושלווה אמיתיים. העולם כולו מבין כי המדיניות הננקטת עתה בירושלים, בוושינגטון ואפילו בבריסל תוביל למשבר הומניטארי קשה בשטחים הפלסטיניים. כבר עתה הסבל ניכר, כאשר אין לרשות כסף לשלם משכורות לכ-160 אלף עובדיה. עקב כך יתווספו יותר ממיליון איש לשורות העוני וגם הסקטור הפרטי ייפגע אנושות, עד כי לא יהיה די כסף אפילו לקנייה של מוצרי יסוד. אין ספק כי העמקת המצוקה לא תוביל לאהבת ציון בקרב הפלסטינים, וספק רב אם תביא אותם לקרוא לממשלתם לקבל את דרישותיה של ישראל להכרה.


    רוב הציבור הפלסטיני סבור כי על ממשלת החמאס למתן את עמדותיה ולפחות לאמץ את היוזמה הסעודית, שעיקריה: הכרה בישראל ואף נורמליזציה עמה בתמורה לנסיגה מלאה לגבולות 1967 ומציאת פתרון מוסכם לבעיית הפליטים. רוב הציבור הפלסטיני היה שמח מאוד לראות את ראש הממשלה איסמעיל הנייה מתארח בלשכתו של אהוד אולמרט לשיחות על הסדר הקבע. אך גם אם הנייה וחמאס לא יתמתנו, הנשיא הפלסטיני מחמוד עבאס מגבש כבר עתה תחת סמכותו ממשל צללים, המסוגל לנהל מו"מ עם ממשלת ישראל. עבאס הגיש למדינות התורמות בקשה למימון לשכתו, הכוללת יותר מ-900 עובדים חדשים הכפופים לו ישירות. הוא מדבר בלשון מפויסת כלפי החמאס, אך פועל במרץ לגרור אליו את עיקר סמכויות השלטון. וחמאס מצידו מכיר בכך שלעבאס סמכות לנהל מו"מ עם ישראל. קרא עוד...>>>

    [[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]


    May 7, 2006


    This week in Israel….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    We have a government


    Ehud Olmert presented his government. Olmert’s speech was balanced and calm as opposed to his evening speech prior to the vote of confidence which was cocky, angry and arrogant.  Olmert presented his vision for the coming years: I, like many others, also dreamed and yearned that we would be able to keep the entire land of Israel, and that the day would never come when we would have to relinquish parts of our land.  Only those who have the land of Israel burning in their souls know the pain of relinquishing and parting with the land of our forefathers.  I personally continue to advocate the idea of the entire land of Israel as a heart's desire.  I believe with all my heart in the people of Israel's eternal historic right to the entire land of Israel.  However, dreams and recognition of this right do not constitute a political program.  Even if the Jewish eye cries, and even if our hearts are broken, we must preserve the essence.  We must preserve a stable and solid Jewish majority in our State.”


    Olmert, once again, just as in his victory speech turned to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and declared his readiness to negotiate: “From this podium, I again address the elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas.  The Government of Israel under my leadership prefers negotiations with a Palestinian Authority committed to the principles of the Roadmap, which fights terror, dismantles terrorist organizations, abides by the rules of democracy and upholds, practically and thoroughly, all agreements which have thus far been signed with the State of Israel.  Negotiation with such an Authority is the most stable and desired basis for the political process, which can lead to an agreement which will bring peace.  This is what we desire.”   READ MORE...>>>



    Logical direction for new government


    Abbas is the best channel to promise Israel’s survival as Jewish, democratic state
    Gershon Baskin

    May 4, 2006

    The establishment of a new government in Jerusalem enables the turning of a new page vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following decades of an existential conflict, today the State of Israel and the people of Israel understand that the solution to the conflict rests in the establishment of an independent democratic Palestinian state next to Israel that will live in good neighborly relations.


    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is no longer an existential conflict; however, it is a continuing obstacle preventing Israel from fulfilling its full potential to reach prosperity and true serenity.


    The entire world is fully aware that the policies being implemented in Jerusalem, Washington and even Brussels will inevitably lead to a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories, suffering there is already on a steep incline. With the Palestinian Authority unable to pay the more than 160,000 salaries of its employees, more than 1 million additional people will be added to those living under the poverty line of having less than USD 2 a day per person.


    The increase of poverty by such extreme dimensions will lead to a devastating blow to the private sector when people will have no money even to purchase basic goods. There is no doubt that such an increase in poverty will not lead to a love of Zion amongst Palestinians, and there should be large doubts whether or not these policies will lead to the Palestinian people to call upon their new government to accept the Israeli demands for recognition. READ MORE...>>>





















    This week in Israel ….. Behind the news with Gershon Baskin


    July 21, 2005

    A few days ago, I received in my email a new political bumper sticker – it was a picture of two Israeli flags, one in orange and white and the other in the traditional blue and white.  Under the flags it said: “ Israel – two states for two people”.  While watching the Israeli news everyday this past week seeing 40,000 Israelis dressed in orange trying to prevent the Israeli disengagement from Gaza , I keep asking myself: are we part of the same people?  The color orange symbolizing the Israeli version of the “orange revolution against the government” that succeeded in the Ukraine , now decorates cars, road signs, hats, tee-shirts, and junctions all over the country have young people distributing orange ribbons. Never has the dichotomy of Israeli society been more visually obviously. Never have I felt more alienated from so many other Israelis. The Israeli decision to leave Gaza , in my mind, is so much the right thing to do that it is hard for me to under stan d anyone on the other side of the issue inside of Israel .

    READ MORE...>>>

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Fragmented beyond repair?

    I made aliya 27 years ago from New York after being very active for 10 years in the Zionist youth movement's Young Judea. I grew up with a pluralistic attitude toward Jewish life in Israel. While I am not religious, I was taught and I taught others to have respect for religious beliefs and for religious people.

    During the past years a gulf has opened up between Orthodox and non-religious people in this state. Until recently I thought we could find an accommodation of peaceful coexistence. I am not so sure about that today.

    I always believed that the true fulfillment of the Zionist dream required Israel to find the way to live with its neighbors. The Zionist dream was to create a safe haven for Jews from all over. This, by definition, means that Israel must provide shelter and security for Jews.

    Political Zionism always found a way to advance the cause by being practical. But Zionism got sidetracked by the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    READ MORE...>>>

    July 23, 2005

    What Now? 

    By: Gershon Baskin*

    The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is almost a done deal. The process can still be derailed, but right now it looks pretty positive. This is a victory for the struggle for peace, although the extremists in Palestine will claim victory for themselves. The struggle is far from over, but this is a real new beginning. Perhaps for the first time, a large part of the continuation of the struggle for peace will be a lot more dependent on what the Palestinians do than on only what Israel does.

    We can assume that Israel will do very little following the disengagement to advance peace.  It does not see that Sharon has any intention of returning to the negotiating table in the near future. Sharon is demonstrating the same unwillingness to recognize Abu Mazen as a partner as before he was democratically elected. Sharon is not really interested in coordinating the disengagement and one can expect that Israel will continue to drag its feet with regards to decision making on key issues such as the Gaza airport, the seaport and other key issues regarding free movement of Palestinian people and Palestinian goods. One should not expect that the current status quo regarding movement will suddenly improve after disengagement.  Secretary Rice is here in the region to try to move the process of dealing with the details of disengagement forward.  Her visit will help, but there will still remain some important issues undecided. The situation is far from ideal, but with Israel really leaving Gaza, Palestinians must recognize the opportunity for a better deal and a chance for positive change.  READ MORE...>>>

    Moving Backwards

    Khaled Duzdar*

    July 23, 2005

    As the “day after” disengagement scenarios become more unclear, Sharon's 'end of the game' strategy is looking more and more vague. Will there be any progress towards peace after this phase? Or even any kind of bilateral political process? Will it be "back" to Road Map? Will it be followed by more unilateral steps? It should be clear that it won’t be what we all hoped for.

    The Palestinian leadership should be prepared for the day after. We should be prepared for bitter days to come, including more antagonism between the two nations.

    The hope for the resumption of the political process is fading. What could be recorded as Sharon's great “achievement” is his success in keeping Israeli-Palestinian relations at point zero. It seems that what Sharon really wants is for there to be no resumption to any political negotiations for decades to come. In order to achieve this he, it seems has succeeded in eradicating the Road Map because it imposes too many uncomfortable obligations on Israel.

    In Sharon’s speech at the recent Caesarea Conference, he noted that the separation from Gaza was based on the assessment that the Jews will never ever be able to reach a Jewish majority in Gaza and they would be better off concentrating their efforts on how to achieve a majority in the West Bank and Jerusalem. For Palestinians it is clear that this translates into no future for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank and no future for reaching a settlement with Israel. Sharon is telling us that there will be no validity for future Palestinians claims, and definitely no future Palestinian sovereign and independent state with territorial contiguity. Sharon is telling us that we Palestinians have no partner on the Israeli side.  READ MORE...>>>



    Strategic Affairs Unit (SAU)


    July 17, 2005

    Reversing the Logic and Reconstructing It

    Working from the End to the Beginning with Stipulations and International Assurances

    Is it possible to reach a permanent status agreement whose fulfillment will depend on the graduated construction of a Palestinian State and its effective governance? 


    As Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the Northern West Bank draws near, it becomes apparent that expectations regarding the tightening of coordination between Israelis and Palestinians will not be met.  The impression that has been created is that the disengagement will be a unilateral Israeli action, in essence, and will not lead to the hoped for renewal of the political process on the basis of the Roadmap.  Correspondingly, Palestinian opposition to the original outline of the Roadmap and the idea of provisional borders has radicalized and is being led by the Palestinian Authority President and Prime Minister.  

    Alongside these two trends, limited American involvement in the conflict arena and limited European influence (despite the British Presidency of the European Union and the declarations of Prime Minister Blair regarding his intentions to increase the involvement of the European Union) have not proven effective in getting the side back to negotiations thus far. READ MORE...>>>

    July 16, 2005

    A Political Moment of Truth for Abu Mazen and the Authority

    By: Gershon Baskin*

    The Palestinian Authority’s policy of acquiescence vis-à-vis Hamas and Jihad has failed. These two militant groups have continued to act independently of the PA and have continually, openly and publicly slapped Abu Mazen and the entire PA in the face. As these groups continue to act unilaterally against the interests of the Palestinian people the entire stability and well being of the Palestinian people are at risk.

    President Mahmoud Abass thought that he could embrace and cuddle them.  He thought that he could absorb them into the Authority. He thought that at the same time he is seeking accords with Israel and is working to coordinate with Israel, Hamas and Jihad will idly stay on the sidelines and allow a new political process to advance based on non-violent resistance and diplomatic confrontation. This policy has failed.
    READ MORE...>>>


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Cash and the Palestinians

    The G-8 countries have promised $3 billion for the Palestinians to build the infrastructure of the Palestinian state and to support a peace process. This is a significant commitment that should send a clear message to both Israel and the Palestinians that the international community means business. Given the financial crunch hitting most of the industrialized nations today – with rising fuel prices, billions of dollars being spent on tsunami aid and further billions being spent on cleaning up after the war in Iraq – a new international financial commitment should be seen as a sign that the most important industrialized nations want, finally, to put the Israeli-Palestinian conflict behind them.

    If money was the only problem facing the resolution of the conflict, this would be very good news. Unfortunately it will take more than money to enable Israel and Palestine to implement the road map and fulfill the Bush vision. Money can help if it is used wisely and spent on laying the foundations for Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian Authority has already seen large sums of money sent by the international community, but there is little evidence of all of those billions. In order for the new international aid to reap the desired fruits, the money must be accompanied by political commitments.

    READ MORE...>>>


    The Gaza-West Bank Passage

    A Review of Options and Recommendations

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Purpose of this Document

    The Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been defined by the Oslo agreements are one territorial unit. The Israeli disengagement from Gaza requires designing a means for a physical link between the two areas. The link is essential for the economic survival and development of the Gaza Strip and politically will help to ensure that the disengagement from Gaza will not be disengaged from the determination of the permanent status of the West Bank.  The immediate economic needs and realities require taking steps that are easy and economically cost-wise to implement.  These initial steps do not have to determine the permanent passage between the two areas.  The most immediate need is to ensure the ability of goods to move relatively freely between Gaza and the West Bank.


    The IPCRI-Konrad Adenauer Israeli-Palestinian economics working group met to consider the short and longer term options and possibilities for the Gaza-West Bank passage following the Israeli disengagement from Gaza.  The group reviewed all of the main suggested proposals for the passage and came to several conclusions regarding what should be undertaken immediately in order to retain and to implement a policy of territorial integrity. READ MORE...>>>>

    CGNews Service :: Middle East Hebrew Arabic

    Agriculture: A Story of Palestinian-Israeli Cooperation in Times of Conflict

    by: Mohammed Daraghmeh

    1 July, 2005

    Jerusalem - Unlike the normally cautious rhetoric by a Palestinian when talking about his relationship with an Israeli party, Muhammad Hamlawi, coordinator of the European Standards Project at the Palestine Trade Centre (Paltrade) in Gaza speaks with great excitement about the relationship between his institution and the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information (IPCRI), an Arab-Israeli non-governmental centre specialized in research and training. The reason behind this is the transformation that the agricultural sector in Gaza is witnessing as a result of a joint project started last year between the two institutions.

    A number of cases of non-official cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis had been recorded after the Oslo agreement in 1993, but most of them ended with the start of the intifada in September 2000.  READ MORE...>>>

    Click Here to Read More in Hebrew

    Click Here to Read More in Arabic

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Engaging the US president

    After meeting this past week with individuals and institutions directly involved in the shaping of US policy vis- -vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I came away with an assessment of across-the-board pessimism.

    This is perhaps not new regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. What is new is that in the past, most of these individuals and institutions said they were pessimistic in the short term, but optimistic in the long term. This time that longer-term optimism has disappeared. There are no great hopes that the disengagement will lead to a renewed peace process. There is no belief that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has any intention of beginning to negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. There are no real hopes that Abbas will successfully take control of the Palestinian territories.

    There is the belief that despite President George W. Bush's speeches, the Israeli government will continue to build settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem; that soon after the disengagement Israel will enter into the election season, which will take place around the same time as mid-term elections in the US; that Abbas may not succeed in overcoming the internal struggles that he is facing and there will be increasing chaos on the Palestine side, and that Hamas will continue to grow in strength and popularity.  READ MORE...>>>


    CLICK HERE TO See IPCRI's Newsletter of Activity Reports for June 2005

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Palestinian opportunity

    The Palestinian strategy to achieve statehood and independence has focused on ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza as well as east Jerusalem. In the absence of trust between the parties, the likelihood of successful negotiations in the near future is remote.

    Israel has initiated a process of unilateralism which I had hoped could be leveraged into a bilateral, internationally assisted political process. But real coordination of the disengagement has little chance of taking place.

    Israel is not going to make any significant efforts to coordinate the disengagement, nor will the Palestinian Authority make a strong enough case in favor of real coordination for there to be a real possibility of creating a bilateral political process. READ MORE...>>>



    The New Palestinian Challenge – Effective Governance – Toward the Creation of a

    New and Independent Palestinian Strategy



    June 14, 2005

    Executive Summary – Main Points

    • Israeli-Palestinian coordination of the disengagement from Gaza will be minimal, if at all.
    • A new bilateral Israeli-Palestinian political process including negotiations is very unlikely in the near future.
    • The PA should adopt a “bottom-up” political strategy for creating the Palestinian state first in the Gaza Strip in order to prevent “Gaza first” from being “Gaza Only”.
    • Effective governance is a perquisite for a viable state. Therefore the main arena for Palestinian activity should be in creating effective governance in the Gaza Strip as the first stage in creating the Palestinian state.
    • The new Palestinian strategy should be based on four main principles:
      • 1. Independent Palestinian planning initiatives developed simultaneously but separately from the Israeli unilateral actions;
      • 2. Rejection and prevention of violence;
      • 3. Developing and strengthening the cooperation with the American administration as well as with the international community, and making effort to mobilize the Israeli public opinion, and;
      • 4. Systematic and continuous broadening, deepening and solidifying the basic of public legitimacy.

    READ MORE...>>>



    June 2, 2005

    The Customs Union – Background and State of Affairs


    At the end of the summer when Israel leaves Gaza, the continuation of the current trade regime between Israel and the Palestinian Authority comes into question.  Based on the Paris Protocol - the economic agreement that was part of the Oslo Accords, a common customs envelope between the Palestinian Authority and Israel was created.  Under the customs union the PA agreed to the Israeli tariff rates and to Israeli standards.  As the PA had no control of their external borders, it was agreed that Israel would collect customs revenues for the Palestinians and to transfer those revenues to the Authority.  Furthermore, it was agreed that there would be a unified system for VAT clearances and again these revenues would be transferred by Israel to the Palestinian Authority.

    There were many problems with the implementation of the agreement and the PA had many legitimate claims about revenue leakages as a result of non-direct imports.  In terms of revenue collections, in the opinion of the World Bank, the IMF and of the PA Ministry of Finance, this aspect of the agreement was quite satisfactory.  The revenues from customs collections account for 25% of the PA’s GDP and the VAT revenues amount to an additional 9%.

    The Disengagement and the End of the Customs Union?  READ MORE...>>>

    A Coordinated Peaceful Disengagement

    May 23, 2005

    We, a group of Israelis and Palestinians meeting to discuss the disengagement process and the day after disengagement possibilities, have come to agreement that the disengagement process must be implemented in a positive and efficient way that will enable the resumption of a political peace process – the implementation of the Road Map, under the leadership of the Quartet.  Despite the fact the disengagement is a unilateral Israeli plan, both sides must work together to coordinate and to cooperate in order to maximize the possibility for an orderly transfer of the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. An orderly disengagement and turn-over involves necessary coordination mainly in the domains of security, assets and infrastructure.

    The challenges facing both sides are significant and the development of new opportunities for peace making depend upon the quality and the quantity of coordination and cooperation from the present time throughout the disengagement process extending into “the day after” disengagement. 

    Both sides should have an interest in a peaceful disengagement.  Both sides must take the necessary steps to prevent attempts to derail the process – beware of the spoilers. Both sides must exhibit maximum restraint in taking steps that will prevent the peaceful implementation of the disengagement.

    We encourage both sides to convene the technical committees and working groups planning the disengagement.  We call upon the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to view the success of the disengagement as a primary political objective in the coming months.  The responsibility for the success of the process belongs to both sides and requires the coordination and cooperation of both sides.


    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The price of peace

    Mahmoud Abbas's visit to Washington was the first good news for Zionism in a long time. We must applaud President George W. Bush's agreement to the Palestinian leader's insistence that Israel cease all settlement activity, including in Jerusalem, and that the Palestinian territories retain the possibility of contiguity, including a real link between Gaza and the West Bank. We must celebrate Bush's understanding that this is the only way to achieve peace.

    If we do manage to get back to the negotiating table after the first disengagement, someday Bush and Abbas may very well be credited for the saving of Zionism by pushing forth the only rational solution to the conflict – two viable states for two peoples.

    It is clear that without the US-Palestinian intervention, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, through his insistence on grabbing large portions of the West Bank, is leading us toward national suicide. Even though the settlers don't see it, Sharon is convinced that he can get rid of the burden of Gaza and, in exchange, keep large parts of the West Bank, as he has stated: We'll take Gush Etzion, we'll take Ariel, we'll take all of Jerusalem, we'll take and we'll take.  READ MORE...>>>

    Hamas came to the Palestinian public with 'clean hands'

    May 18, 2005

    Ina Friedman  

    Hamas is coming into its own as a force in Palestinian politics. Associated in the minds of Israelis with brutal terror operations, and in the minds of Palestinians with social-welfare activities, the movement boycotted the 1996 parliamentary elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on the grounds that they were part of the overall Oslo peace process, which Hamas adamantly rejected. This year the fundamentalist Islamic movement changed course and decided to challenge the secular Fatah party's domination of Palestinian self-government in two key tests of political clout. Hamas has run in the elections for municipal, town and village councils, which began last December and were completed on May 5. And having culled some 30 percent of the overall vote - placing itself on a par with the Fatah party - the movement has established itself as a player to be reckoned with in the elections for the PLC on July 17.

    But does Hamas's successful foray into formal politics signify widespread support of its ideological platform, which rules out negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Dr. Gershon Baskin, founder and Israeli co-director of the independent Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), a joint Israeli-Palestinian think tank, discusses some hidden factors behind Hamas's electoral strength and what it bodes for the future. READ MORE...>>>

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    Deciding peace

    Can a peace process be created as the result of a political decision? If so, is the absence of a peace process the direct outcome of the lack of a political directive to build it? Did the Oslo process fail as a result of a lack of commitment to translating agreements into real terms, and of decisions to implement them on the policy level?

    Imagine what would happen if Ariel Sharon directed the government and the military to invest maximum efforts in achieving peace. Imagine if Sharon demanded concrete plans from each ministry to create a peace process in each of their purviews. What if the prime minister personally oversaw a full-fledged program of coordination between the civilian ministries and the security apparatuses with the PA?
    READ MORE...>>>

    Fed up with fanatics

    'I don't pity them, and I don't identify with them. I did not send them to Gaza'
    By Gershon Baskin

    From all over, we are being called on to feel empathy and sympathy for the settlers who are being removed from Gaza.

    We are called on to identify with their suffering and to feel for them all of the difficulties that the withdrawal is bringing on them. They speak of expulsion and transfer and on being refugees. They want to draft us into their service. They want us to bring down Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government. They want us to shut down the country.

    I am not with them, and I will never be with them. I call on all Israelis to oppose them and what they are doing.

    READ MORE...>>>

    The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

    The two-state paradox

    Among those of us who are concerned about the need to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace process actually taking place there is great fear that we are moving toward the third intifada. The concerned parties include those of us who have made great efforts to study and understand the many reasons for the failure of the Oslo peace process. Among us are four senior US officials who directed the peace process for many years: Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Aaron Miller and Rob Malley. Our collective assessment is that there seems to be a general lack of political will among all to make the decisions necessary to ensure that a real peace process emerges.

    Israel is too burdened by the disengagement to pay any attention to the "day after" and recent analyses of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's strategy seem to lend support to the idea that he has no real intention of entering into a negotiated process with the Palestinians. His agenda seems to be focused on possible further Israeli unilateral steps. READ MORE...>>>





    During the past months, IPCRI’s Strategic Affairs Unit has been working with the assistance of STAT – the Strategic Thinking and Analysis team – a joint Israeli-Palestinian team – on the development of ideas and initiatives to advance the political process. The strategic focus that we have developed is based on a number of guiding principles:

    1. The immediate challenge facing us is the renewal of the political process where the establishment of a Palestinian State in about 90% of the West Bank, all of Gaza and the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem is part of the process (as specified in Phase II of the Road Map) and not necessarily its final result which will be completed in Phase III of the Road Map with permanent status negotiations and an end of conflict agreement.
    1. Coordinated disengagement can be the base for renewing the political process and an important incentive for rebuilding trust and confidence between the sides.
    1. The two sides cannot advance the political process by themselves without the assistance and active involvement of the international community serving as a third party.
    1. The US is the most significant and necessary third party for the renewal and advancement of the political process and building trust between the sides and, therefore; should lead the other international players in the process.
    1. Relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a wider regional context could “expand the pie” in enlarging and creating new scopes of interests and expanding existing ones which can assist in shaping and stabilizing a new regional regime, in which Israel and Palestine become are included. The regional regime or system can assist in operating a mechanism of restraint and remuneration, which will make it more difficult for the sides to defect from the agreed framework.  Accordingly, it is appropriate to think about converting the commonly used concepts regarding the solution of the conflict into concepts such as stabilizing the conflict or minimizing the dimensions of the conflict.
    1. The political process must be conducted in a reality which offers more possibilities for greater symmetry than the asymmetry that has existed since the beginning of Oslo. Since it is not possible to reach full symmetry, we should work to reduce the level of asymmetry by introducing the “statehood logic” to the process. Then the political process would be conducted on the basis of a state-to-state rationale in which both States are working according to the accepted international codex of behavior between States.
    1. The political process must have a defined and agreed upon time frame with appropriate and real international guarantees to ensure that the time frame will be honored by both sides. One of the most important aspects of the agreed time frame is that permanent status negotiation should commence no later than one year after the formal establishment of the Palestinian State and should last no longer than two years.
    1. The permanent status negotiations will be based on the Clinton principles and international legitimacy.