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The devil is in the detail in the Middle East

03/31/2006

Although Ehud Olmert's Kadima (Forward) party drew less support than anticipated, he still emerged ahead of everyone else in the recent Israeli election. He will have to struggle rather more than had been thought to put together a coalition, but it is clear that he will head Israel's next government.

There is hope in this because his election campaign left no room for doubt: he intends to evacuate some 80,000 Jewish settlers from 20 settlements on the West Bank. That campaign won him 28 seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament). The revived Labour party (with its socio-economic agenda), which will back withdrawal, drew 20 seats. Together with other smaller parties (punting religious and other issues) they outweigh those who reject any withdrawal from the West Bank.

The election has confirmed what opinion polls have revealed for a considerable time: the bulk of Israelis want an end to the occupation of the West Bank.

Adding to the sense of hope are the words which Olmert, the morning after the election, publicly addressed to the Palestinian Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen):


"We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved Land of Israel, and evacuate -- under great pain -- Jews living there, in order to create the conditions that will enable you to fulfill your dream and live alongside us."

Abu Mazen responded in equally positive terms, urging the swift start of talks to resuscitate the peace Road Map sponsored by the Quartet - the United States, the UN, Russia and the EU.

The devil, however, is in the details, on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. How far will Olmert actually be willing, or able, to go? Even with the majority of Israeli opinion behind him, he will face immense difficulties in evacuating so many settlers. Some will be willing to be bought out if they are suitably compensated for the loss of their (often) high-quality homes and standard of living; however, the ideologues -- notably those with religious messianic belief in Israelís permanent hold of the West Bank --are already making threatening noises about the resistance they will put up.

Also of concern is how Olmert will seek to resolve critical issues such as the fate of the refugees of the 1948 and 1967 wars, Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state and ensuring geographical contiguity for the state-to-be.

As matters stand at present, Israel will insist on retaining what it has and even extending control. Thus not only will the town of Ma'ale Adumim, with 35,000 residents, be retained, but the 8km between it and Jerusalem, known as E1, will be filled with houses for Jews. This will cut the West Bank into two: a terminal to control Palestinian passage is already built and a tunnel will be added to carry cars and buses underneath E1. To the north, the town of Ariel, also with thousands of people and sticking into the West Bank, is to be kept as part of Israel.

As always, security will dominate: a country that has been under non-stop threat and violent attack for the 57 years of its existence is unlikely, for example, to yield control of the hills which overlook its Ben-Gurion international airport. If anyone needed reminding of the meaning of this, it came on election day when a Katyusha rocket -- with a longer range than the hundreds of Qassams usually fired from the Gaza Strip --landed near the town of Ashkelon.

The 660km-long barrier/fence/wall is being constructed as rapidly as possible, with only limited attention to the dislocation and suffering it causes to Palestinians separated from their lands, schools, or families. The scores of settlements which lie to the west of the wall will be retained: these are "facts on the ground," bricks and mortar and the people's realities of Israeli presence, and takes up about 8 percent of the West Bank.

Moreover, while Olmert invites Abu Mazen to enter into negotiations over the permanent borders of Israel -- astonishingly, still unresolved since the state's creation in May 1948 -- he bluntly adds that Israel will act alone, unilaterally, if peace efforts remain stalled.

There are also questions for Palestinians: Does Abu Mazen have the capacity to offer talks that can be meaningful? He is President, with all sorts of theoretical power as the head of the Palestinian Authority. However, exactly what this might mean in relation to Hamas' victory in the legislative council elections and the swearing in of a Hamas government this week is still uncertain.

On the day that the Israelis went to the polls, Dr Nasser Eddin, deputy to the new Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, told Haaretz newspaper that the Hamas government "does not reject coordination and cooperation to resolve routine problems with anyone, including Israel." However, he followed this seemingly conciliatory comment by saying that this did not mean any willingness to make concessions on political matters. Later that day, Haniyeh presented his cabinet to the Palestinian parliament and said his government will work towards peace, security and stability in the region and will spare no effort to reach a just peace and end the occupation.

Words to give hope, perhaps. However, at the same time, Hamas is unyielding in its commitment to destroy Israel. Whatever Olmert's good intentions might be, that devastatingly excludes negotiation for compromises which both Israelis and Palestinians will have to make for peace.

Benjamin Poground



Benjamin Pogrund is Director of Yakar's Centre for Social Concern in Jerusalem. South African-born, he was Deputy Editor of the Rand Daily Mail, Johannesburg, and has written books about Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Nelson Mandela, and the Press under apartheid.

This article was originally published by the University of Pretoria Centre for International Political Studies at http://www.up.ac.za/academic/cips. Copyright belongs to the author and to the University of Pretoria.

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Replies: 4 comments

This is a response to Mr Pogrund article, "The Devil is in the Detail in The Middle East". Certainly, you have raised many valid and well though points. Yes, the details of the future negotiations for a permanent peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians are crutial for the success and the long term endurance of their neibourlyhood living in peace and mutual respect. Further, we can see more than this to resolve and sustain a permanent settlement for this dilemma which is building mutual trust, fairness, positive and non-racist attitudes of both people towards each other in preach and practice. Both people must equally abide by the national and the international laws and guidelines and referain from inciting and using violence to resolve their conflicts. They must seek the peaceful, ethical, moral and legal means to resolve their mad-made tragedies.

This requires two Democratically elected responsible & strong governments to work together to strengthen their institutions, cooperations, consultation, partnerships and the role of law to develop both people through education and modern media to improve their standards and quality of living. This needs the continuous planning,hard & smart work of mature, moderate, balanced and well trained leaders to accomplish on the long run.

More importantly, this requires gradually dismantling of the illegal & immoral settlements, stopping and disallowing completely the establishment of new ones to avoid further chaos and lawlessness which will create more resentments, hatreds and continuous cycles of revenge and counter revenge which is not in the interest of either people.

To sum up, two Democratically elected responsible strong Governments and leaders are pre-requists for building mutual trust, respect and positive attitudes between both people. Cooperatively, both Governments must work together to prepare both people psychologically, emotionally and educationally to understand and become convinced of the long term benefits of a permanent peaceful settlement between both people.

Moreover, dismantelling the illegal and the immoral settlements and disallowing the establishment of new ones are vital to maintain law and order to start a healthy detailed peaceful process between both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

With out doubt, there will be obstacles and resistance by few blood thirsty fanatics and foolish opportunistic ones on both sides (Jews & Palestinians alike)towards a peaceful settlement for both people. There will be always some stupid and mislead paranoid ones (Jews + Palestinians alike) who are behaving maddly and causing lots of bloodshed and hardship for both innocent & decent Israelis, Palestinians and others. But, on the long run we believe through education, modern media and law enforcement reaons, logic, justice and peace will prevail. It is going to take a lot of planning, change of attitudes, perceptions and generations for the Israelis and the Palestinians to work together in peace as neighbours, friends and allies. This ultimately will bring enormous positive changes and stability to the world in general and the Arabs and the Jews in particular.

Let us hope, the Israelis and the Palestinians wise up and come to terms with their sufferings and realize that their sufferings are mainly due to themselves and consequently they are partly to blame for their mess due to their lack of unawareness of other cultures' dynamics, motives, value systems, patterns of behaviours, opportunism and hypocricy. More importantly it is due to the Israelis and the palestinians lack of discipline, chaos, lawlessness and greed

April 1, 2006

Posted by John A Lincoln, Lecturer @ 04/01/2006 05:30 PM CST

You are using the expression "The Devil is in the Middle East" as simply that-an expression.

A more literal explanation for what is going on in the Middle East and around the world today can be obtained directly from Bible and Bible prophecy. It should be noted that the Bible makes it clear that every nation has been appointed legions of devils to help take mankind down.

It is also abundantly clear that Babylon (located in Iraq) and Jeruselem (located in Israel) are key towns to watch for signs of Christ's return. This is also in the Bible.

My own hypothesis on this is that the next 6 years (approximately) hold unforetold perils, wars, drouts, plagues, etc. By 2012, the world will be full according to mankind's own postulates on how many people the world can sustain alive, and by then Iran should be ready to blow up Israel. Jesus said he will return to supernaturally prevent this.

Get on your knees, repent your sins, give something to the needy, and hold on to your faith.

It's not politics, stupid. It's much more than that.

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