Showing posts with label peace process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peace process. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Josh Ruebner on Negotiating Peace and Redefining Refugees

Last Wednesday, US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner spoke on the Palestine Center's panel of "Negotiating Peace" regarding President Obama's strategy toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Mr. Ruebner, despite changed rhetoric, Obama's actual efforts at promoting peace have been no different than those under previous presidents.  Ruebner argues that Obama has continued to try to “sell” Israeli ideas to Palestinians, promoted negotiations for the sake of negotiations, and held that the U.S.-led "peace process" is the sole means to conflict resolution with alternatives shoved aside.  Ruebner also suggests that the continued inability to the United States to provide Palestinians with fair negotiations under Obama has led to a Palestinian effort to bring the conflict back to an international stage for mediation.  

On Monday, Mr. Ruebner was interviewed by the Institute for Palestine Studies regarding a recent U.S. Senate motion seeking to redefine Palestinian refugees. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment to an appropriations bill asking that the State Department determine how many Palestinian refugees were born before the Nakba in 1948 and how many were born after. The State Department argued, in Ruebner's words, that such a definitive status could “prejudice who is considered a Palestinian refugee," which in turn "Would affect final status negotiations,” and refused to make this distinction.  In itself, Mr. Ruebner says, this amendment is insignificant.   But he believes that it is part of a larger “deliberate campaign to undermine the status and rights of Palestinian refugees,” which includes an eventual right of return to their homeland.  According to Mr. Ruebner, the Israel lobby and Members of Congress seek to undermine the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the international body tasked with caring for displaced Palestinians, despite its apolitical mandate. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BDS Represents Global Intifada

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and a US Campaign Steering Committee member. This letter to the editor is in response to Nathan Thrall's "The Third Intifada Is Inevitable."

To the Editor

Nathan Thrall raises crucial issues about the failures of the “peace process.” But he does not mention two critical points.

First, while the dwindling support for traditional Palestinian leaders is apparent, a diverse, empowered civil society movement has emerged that has appropriated for itself the job of figuring out how to end the 1967 occupation and achieve other Palestinian rights. Second, that movement’s most effective method yet for bringing nonviolent pressure to bear on Israel is the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy known as B.D.S.

Originally endorsed by 170 Palestinian organizations, B.D.S. has emerged as a global campaign. Just last week we saw its power here in the United States, when the pension giant TIAA-CREF divested $72 million in Caterpillar stock from its socially responsible fund, following Morgan Stanley Capital International’s removal of Caterpillar from its index of socially responsible corporations. Israel’s military uses Caterpillar bulldozers to demolish Palestinian houses; a Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier killed the American peace activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003.

A third intifada reflecting the failure of the current “peace process” may in fact be under way already — this time a global intifada rooted in nonviolent economic pressure to end Israeli violations.

Washington, June 24, 2012

Interested in learning more about BDS? Check out our website for resources and join us in September for our annual National Organizers' Conference

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Quartet's Continued Path to Irrelevance

Shawan Jabarin, the General Director of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, writes a devastating critique of the absurdity and irrelevancy of the Quartet and the role the United States plays within it in today's  Foreign Policy.

The Obama Administration would do itself a huge favor if it listened to the advice of people like Shawan instead of abysmal failures like Israel-firster Dennis Ross who somehow still has the President's ear even after resigning his position after yet another stellar go at managing the "peace process."

(L-R) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov, and EU representative Catherine
Ashton. Photo: Chris Hondros / Getty Images
Shawan observes: "The Quartet mission, as currently conceived, represents the latest embodiment of the existing political mechanism that has perpetuated the conflict and granted extended license to Israel's violations. While it did succeed in securing U.S. involvement in the peace process, this involvement developed to the point that theirs was the single most definitive voice, draining legitimacy from the other participants. At present, therefore, there is precious little to be gained from Palestinian engagement with the Quartet. Similarly, any argument for continued participation in the latest bout of negotiations is quickly fading given Israel's insistence on settlement expansion and the creation of more facts on the ground. As one commentator has noted, the Quartet, much like the peace process itself, is obsolete, aimless, and without any viable strategic purpose -- and it has been reduced to calling for gestures of goodwill."

You can read the entire article and comment on it here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Media Tell State Department: The Emperor Has No Clothes

When it comes to the so-called Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," the State Department daily press briefings have truly degenerated into a farce in which the mainstream media refuses to believe any longer.  Take, for example, yesterday's briefing, during which a succession of members of the media poked holes in the logic of the United States saying for the umpteenth time that Israeli settlement activity is "unhelpful" yet refusing to even consider any "consequences" for Israel's repeated and flagrant disregard of U.S. policy concerns.

This exchange is worth quoting in full for the absurdity of the State Department position.  Members of media have exposed the fact that the emperor in not wearing any clothes.

QUESTION: The Israeli Government has announced plans to actually encourage settlers to move into the West Bank and to begin - and also to begin a process that would - that could end up in legalizing what are now illegal outposts. I’m assuming that your position on both of these things hasn’t changed, so I’m wondering --

MR. TONER: You assume correctly.


MR. TONER: You know we’ve said multiple times --

QUESTION: What is it - can you maybe make it a little bit more clear, because it seems to be apparent that the Israelis, or at least Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, don’t understand exactly what it is that you, as their prime benefactor and large - huge ally, want from them.

MR. TONER: Well, Matt, we’ve said this many times from this podium and from elsewhere that we view any move that would jeopardize getting these two parties back to the negotiating table, and indeed, we’ve obviously seen them back - face-to-face negotiations over the past couple of weeks - that we find those unconstructive and unhelpful.

QUESTION: And that would include what they have announced today?

MR. TONER: Yes, that would include that.

QUESTION: All right. So what is the consequence, then, for Israel for them continuing to defy - not only defy but really to do - not just to say no, we don’t agree with that, but then to actually actively --

MR. TONER: Well, again --

QUESTION: -- oppose or actively take active steps that fly in the face of what you say is helpful?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we’re seeking clarity on what is actually being proposed here. We did have an initial round of direct talks in Jordan. Those talks have ended, but they did show signs of progress and we certainly want to see them continue. And these kinds of actions don’t help create the kind of atmosphere that are conducive to these talks continuing.

Now, David Hale is in the region. He’s going to have meetings in Amman as well as Jerusalem and Ramallah, and he’ll be back in Washington later this week. But - obviously, he’s there in his capacity, but also I think he’ll make some of these concerns - convey them to the Israeli Government.

QUESTION: Well, these concerns have been conveyed over and over and over to the Israelis. What is the consequence for them continuing to do this?

MR. TONER: Well, again, this is about getting them back to the negotiating table. And what we make clear is that whenever these kinds of actions take place, that they hamper that process.

QUESTION: So there is no consequence at all?

MR. TONER: Well, again, it’s not about carrots and sticks. What it’s about is trying to encourage these parties to get back to the negotiating table.

QUESTION: Why not? It’s about carrots and sticks everywhere else in the world. Why isn’t it about carrots and sticks here?

MR. TONER: In this case, it’s in both their --

QUESTION: What are you doing --

MR. TONER: -- it’s in both parties’ best interests to continue negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement.

QUESTION: But the actions of at least - one could argue the actions of both parties, but in this series of questions, which is about the announcements by the Israeli Government --

MR. TONER: Right.

QUESTION: -- they are not acting in the best interests of that, according to you.

MR. TONER: Again --

QUESTION: Correct? So what is the consequence of that? The consequence is they don’t get back to talks that they apparently don’t seem to want?

MR. TONER: Well, again, you’ll have to ask the Israeli Government what their intent is here. But you’re absolutely right that this has to be something that both sides want to pursue and to do so in a meaningful and committed fashion. And again, we are very outspoken when we see actions by either side that we believe hampers the chance for these parties to get back into direct negotiations. It’s certainly - as we’ve said many times, it’s in both of their interests to be in direct negotiations.

QUESTION: All right. Two more very quick ones --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: -- and then I’m done. You talk about meaningful and committed fashion. Are the actions of the Israeli Government something that you would consider meaningful and committed to be - is what they’re doing, is that something that you consider to be acting in a meaningful and - now I’ve forgotten the other word --

MR. TONER: That’s okay.

QUESTION: Committed.

QUESTION: -- and committed fashion?

MR. TONER: Thanks, Andy. Again, I think I’ve been very clear that actions by either side that we view as unconstructive to the process --

QUESTION: So they are not acting in a meaningful and committed fashion?

MR. TONER: Well, again, we have had talks in Jordan over the past few weeks that we believe offered a good start. We want to see those talks continue. David Hale is in the region. He’s consulting with all sides as well as the Jordanians.

QUESTION: Mark, that’s a great answer to a question, but it’s not the question I asked. Is Israel asking in a meaningful - acting in a meaningful and committed fashion toward getting a peace - towards encouraging these talks?

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve said that these kinds of actions are not constructive.

QUESTION: I think it’s a yes-or-no question.

MR. TONER: And I’m going to answer you the way I’m answering you, which is that it’s not constructive.

QUESTION: It’s not constructive, all right. And then the last one is just Hale - he is where at the moment right now?

MR. TONER: That is a good question. I believe he’s in Amman today.

QUESTION: Okay. And was he aware - was he aware of this before he went or --

MR. TONER: I don’t know. I haven’t - I didn’t talk to him.

QUESTION: Did this come out as a complete surprise to you guys?

MR. TONER: I do not know whether he was aware of it or not.

QUESTION: What about the rest of the building?

MR. TONER: Again, I believe that we were - again, I’m not going to get into what we may or may not have known. What we’re seeing here is actions that we believe aren’t constructive.

QUESTION: Mark, just a --

MR. TONER: Yeah. Sure, Said.

QUESTION: -- quick follow-up on this. Now, you keep saying that the path to statehood is through direct negotiations. Seeing how the settlement processing increased by 20 percent in 2011 and with today’s announcement, and in fact, since the beginning of this month we are likely to see an increase if they continue at this pace - like a 40 percent increase in settlement activities. So what incentive is there for the Palestinians to go into these negotiations to sort of get a state that is viable - as you keep saying - that is viable and contiguous and independent and sovereign?

MR. TONER: Well, the motivation should be clear, and that is the sooner they sit down with Israel and work through these issues in a comprehensive fashion so that we can get a clear way forward in terms of borders, then the sooner they have that comprehensive settlement and that statehood that they so desire.

QUESTION: But isn’t there a pattern that every time there is some sort of a negotiation and, in fact, a visit by a high-level U.S. official and so on to Israel, that the Israelis always counter by announcing a new settlement and increase the settlements and so on?

MR. TONER: Again, you’re asking me to speak to the motivations behind this decision. I don’t know.

QUESTION: Okay. So you talk about incentives for the Palestinians, but do you have any kind of disincentive for the increased Israeli settlement activities?

MR. TONER: Well, we’ve always been clear that - and Israelis themselves have commented that the status quo is unsustainable. So that’s --

QUESTION: So then the expression of anger and perhaps a little pouting, there is nothing that you can do?

MR. TONER: I disagree. David Hale is right now in the region. He is consulting with our partners as well as the parties. And we’re committed to getting them back into direct negotiations.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the last time that your position that was made very clearly to the Israelis did have an impact on stemming the settlement activities?

MR. TONER: Again, we are very outspoken when we see these kinds of actions by either side. We convey those to the Israelis, but you’re asking me to --

QUESTION: But you expressed a little recollection on that --

MR. TONER: -- elaborate on some kind of actions that I can’t.

QUESTION: In the last 12 months, you have not been able to sort of dissuade the Israelis from settlement activities. Are you aware of any time that you were able to persuade them?

MR. TONER: Again, Said, it is a question better directed to the Israeli Government. What we’re trying to do without preconditions, we’re trying to get the parties back to the negotiating table, and we’ve had a good start.    

Friday, January 27, 2012

State Department Right on Cue with "Peace Process" Happy Talk

In a follow-up to yesterday's blog post on hope springing eternal for the "peace process" managers as yet another negotiating deadline was blown, here is State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland's spin on Israeli-Palestinian pre-talk talks breaking down at yesterday's press briefing:

"It’s not surprising that the sides need some time to pause and to reflect. Our hope is that this will only be a little short period and that they will be able to get back to the table relatively quickly, and that’s what we are urging them to do."

One intrepid or cynical reporter then dared to ask the obvious: "But - I’m sorry. I mean, this hope, what is it based on? I mean, the conditions have not changed."

Nuland responded vaguely: "I think our sense is that this process was helpful to both sides. They’ve clarified some issues, there are some things that they need to work on at home on both sides, and that perhaps a small pause and then to come back with some fresh ideas will be helpful."

Yes, perhaps, indeed.  Although it seems highly unlikely when Palestinians are negotiating for a sovereign and geographically contiguous state and the Israeli government is doing everything it can to prevent the establishment of such a state in favor of maintaining its colonization, military occupation, and apartheid rule over the territory that is supposed to be the future Palestinian state.

There's simply no way to jam that square peg into the round hole no matter how much misplaced hope one has.  Onward with the "peace process" charade.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No One Is Buying Tickets for this Quartet Symphony of Speechifying

January 26, 2012.  One more date in a long string of blown deadlines for the pathetic Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" overseen by that bizarre hybrid of fading or faded superpowers and multilateral organizations known as the Quartet.  No wonder the Obama Administration has washed its hands of the effort and happily delegated this futile exercise to Jordanian auspices.  For the last several weeks in Amman, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have held sporadic preliminary talks about holding talks to talk about "permanent status" issues. Heady and inspiring stuff.  

In case you're interested in keeping track of these faux negotiations, here's how we got to this point.  After the United States scotched the effort of Palestine to become a member of the UN at this fall's General Assembly with its oh-so-subtle threats and blandishments, the Quartet once again dusted off its defibrillator to shock the moribund Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" back to life.  On September 23, the Quartet issued a statement confidently predicting that renewed negotiations should conclude successfully "not longer than the end of 2012." Toward that end, Quartet Envoy Tony Blair shuttled out to the region for prep work on October 26, thereby kicking off a three-month period ending today during which time the Quartet "expects the parties to come forward with comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security."

Fat chance. Israel dragged its feet so badly it left scuff marks all over King Abdullah's nice marble palaces.  According to an article in yesterday's edition of Ha'aretz, Israel refused to present any detailed proposals on borders, instead sticking to vague principles and focusing on its security demands. Unsurprisingly the talks broken down.  Hmm...when have we heard this broken record before?

But isn't this, after all, the exact purpose of the so-called "peace process" from which Israel finds itself in a cushy situation?  From these endless talks, Israel gets the double benefit of getting the international community off of its back by seeming to want peace while at the same time buying precious additional time to colonize more Palestinian land that is supposed to be the basis for a fanciful future Palestinian state.

Yet, hope springs eternal for the "peace process" optimists.  EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton stated: "I still remain hopeful that with goodwill, they can continue to talk."  And, of course, the failed January 26 deadline was actually no deadline at all because it was not “written in stone, but was there to give a sense of dynamic or momentum." For sure, things are looking up for wrapping up the "peace process" in 2012!