Where is the Israeli Sadat?

In this week’s piece at Souciant, I look at Akiva Eldar’s revelation that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert refused an invitation to address the Arab League in 2007 in order to promote a regional peace process with the goal of fully normal relations between Israel and all Arab League members. It serves as a reminder that, while the Netanyahu government is so radically right wing and makes an easy target, Israeli obstruction of any steps that might lead to an end to occupation runs much deeper than the current government.

Talk Talk Talk

Please check out my latest piece on allvoices.com, regarding the possibilities of indirect talks with Hamas. Click here to read it.

Hamas Driving A Wedge Between Israel and Egypt

On Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recommended that Israel permit Egypt to double its force in the Sinai along the border with Israel. This is a response to Hamas’ breaching of the Gaza border which has allowed them to place operatives in the Sinai. The results of that repositioning were felt yesterday in Dimona as a Hamas suicide bomber killed a woman and wounded 11 other people.

The Egyptians, of course, have been requesting an increase in troop presence for a long time. Instead of granting what was a sensible request from Egypt (the Israel-Egypt peace treaty strictly limits the number of Egyptian troops that can be stationed near the border, so Egypt needs Israel’s consent to increase the presence), Israel refused until circumstances literally blew up in their face.

Israel is also considering building a new fence along the Egyptian border. This, of course, is Israel’s right, and it’s not an insensible decision. The Gaza/Egypt border is not likely to be hermetically sealed as it was before; Egypt is likely going to have to allow more movement in and out of Gaza than it had before. This means that Hamas, despite what is likely to be a concerted Egyptian effort to prevent it, has an avenue to access to Israeli civilians for murderous attacks like the one in Dimona. The barrier is thus a sensible precaution, albeit one that is merely a band-aid and not the solution to the problem at hand.

It should be noted that this proposed barrier is different from the wall/fence snaking through the West Bank. Had that barrier been built, like the one around Gaza, along the line of Israel’s internationally recognized border, the Green Line, it would not have been the target for condemnation that it was. Israel has every right to build walls along its border if it wishes; erecting a barrier whose course is through occupied (or, if you prefer, “disputed,” in this instance the point holds in either case) territory is not within its purview, though it is obviously well within its capabilities. Continue reading

The First Step: Confronting the Settlements

The famous idiom from Abba Eban, that the “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” has often been turned back on Israel. Yet it is no truer in any arena than it is with regard to the diffuse Israel-Palestine “peace movement.” It is happening again right now, and one of the best chances to turn the tide, not to mention one of, if not THE last chance to save the two-state solution is once again being missed.

It’s a presidential election year in the US and the Israeli Prime Minister is bracing for the release of a report which could stand a chance of bringing down his government. And what, in these days, are President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert saying?

Bush is saying that settlement outposts “ought to go.” Olmert said the presence of those outposts is a “disgrace.” Were these empty words? Absolutely. Bush even said that Israel needs to end its occupation of the Palestinians and Olmert is fighting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the removal of some few settler outposts. Is this mere political posturing? You bet it is.A settler and a soldier

But the words are still sign of the times. Right-wing Israelis, fearful of both a withdrawal from parts of the West Bank as well as some arrangement to share Jerusalem, called a rally to protest Bush’s visit to Israel. But they were unable to bring large numbers of people to the demonstration. Israel is battling the (correct) perception that it has not undertaken the tasks it has agreed to in the past. Removing outposts, sharing Jerusalem, even removing established settlements are part of the political discourse in a way they have not been in the past.

What would it take to at least start turning these words into actions? The answer is the same as always: political pressure. And that, both in the US and in Israel, is sorely lacking. Continue reading