MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Sunday, January 28, 2007
My View from our Sunni-Beiruti Neighbourhood
For those of you who know Beirut, I drove from my office at the Maronite Catholic Notre Dame University (http://www.ndu.edu.lb Zouk Mosbeh up the hill from Jounieh) Thursday, via Sassine Square to Sodeco/Damascus Street at the north-western edge of predominantly Eastern Orthodox Achrefieh, on my way home from work. Crossing Bechara El Khoury Avenue (where his statue stands) I wanted to traverse this major metropolitan intersection in order to drive straight towards Basta and ultimately reach Mar Elias Street, which I call home. The police wouldn't allow me to drive forward and they didn't have a clue what a resident should do. [more]
President Katzav speaks in code. We get it.
Haaretz's editorial-page cartoon this weekend shows Attorney General Menahem Mazuz in his office with a sign on his desk stating, "I am a Mizrahi."
If this seems obscure, it is because the message is in code, Israel-style. Ordinary Israelis understand this code, which is based on words that don't need to be spoken because everyone knows what the speaker is trying to tell us.
by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 01:00 AM CST [Link]
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Davos: Building the public peace lobby
The Oslo process failed because of strong lobbies that militated against peace in both Palestine and Israel. Whatever their numbers, they were organized and succeeded in dictating the public agenda. The peace process will not recover from the Oslo disaster until and unless Israeli and Palestinian political leaders understand that peace is politically viable; that there is a large, organized and dedicated constituency in Israel and among Palestinians that insists on a peaceful future for both people in two states. This constituency will need to take over the political arena, and to outshout the advocates of Greater Israel, "Security," "One State Solution," Sharia law, "Justice," "resistance," and other panaceas that have been obstacles to peace for almost a hundred years.
This constituency is not built in a day. The Onevoice movement has made a start toward building it, by slow and meticulous organizational work in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Last week in Davos, they confronted Palestinian and Israeli leaders with a public plea for peace.
Onvoice Israel Program director Adi Balderman said "The time has come to listen to the voice of the moderate majority, and to prevent violent extremists from hijacking our lives, the lives of millions of Israelis and Palestinians ... We will not accept any more excuses or delays."
From Jerusalem, Saad Mashaal said, "Our city, Jerusalem, open for all
From Ramallah, Nisreen Shaheen told the leaders, "Enough promises, enough excuses, enough suffering ... Help us not to lose hope, help us strengthen this movement, help us strengthen our leaders, that they may sit down at the table and stand up with a fair and lasting peace agreement."
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Lebanon chaos: Cui Bono?
For many months, I have been trying to make sense of the events in Lebanon, without much success. First there was the Lebanon war. It was initiated by a senseless kidnapping, and it provoked a less than wise Israeli reaction to all appearances. The IDF displayed dismal and unbelievable incompetence, and the political leadership showed poor judgement. They started a full scale war, but then they didn't fight very much. Believe me, that almost nobody in Israel can understand how it is possible that reserves were not even mobilized until the last week of the war. Even then, only a tiny part of IDF's total strength was brought into play. This, despite the announced goal of destroying the Hezbollah.
At the very end of the war, reserves were finally mobilized and were making good progress in occupying a security zone south of the Litani. For their part, the Hezbollah was demonstrating that they could hit at Israel with impunity. Seemingly, neither side had anything to gain from a cease fire that made the Israeli advance senseless, and rendered the Hezbollah powerless against Israel, installing the Lebanese army in South Lebanon. [more]
Syria and Israel: deniable peace non-negotiations
Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations were thought to be only a tempting possibility until recently. Now there can be no doubt that serious "Track II" negotiations about Syrian Israeli peace took place, with the knowledge and consent of Israeli and Syrian governments. One set of such negotiations resulted in a non-paper, and the others resulted in non-agreements, and therefore may all be termed "non-negotiations."
These were not real "citizen diplomacy" inasmuch as the people involved were agents of their governments in a very real sense. They are not the same as me writing to a friend in Syria for example, or some Syrian and Israeli businesspeople meeting in a hotel and discussing the weather and the chances for peace. [more]
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Bridging the Divide: Must Read, Must Think - Book Review
Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,
If you are interested in peace or dialogue in the Middle East, Bridging the Divide is a must read. The title alone redeems this work. The authors' hearts are in the right place. The title makes it a much better book than Jimmy Carter's best-selling scribblings about Israeli "Apartheid" replete with mislabelled maps.
You won't buy a book because of its title, but the first chapter, by Edy Kaufman and Walid Salem, which chronicles the long history of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue efforts, is an essential resource. The only problem with it is that there is not enough of it. One would like to see a more detailed discussion of dialogue efforts that have been going on abroad as well, and a systematic discusson of various "Track II diplomacy" meetings that are mentioned in passing in various places in the book -- and others that were not mentioned. There are also important chapters by Tamar Hermann, a frank and peceptive joint chapter on Palestinian-Israeli activities by Mohammed Dajani and Gershon Baskin, and informative chapter by Menachem Klein and Riad Malki on Track II diplomacy that you won't want to miss, as well as other treats. [more]
Friday, January 19, 2007
Highlights of remarks made at Madrid +15: Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, and former Foreign Minister of Australia
How can we now move forward, to capture and build on whatever momentum this conference has generated? Nobody can be under any illusion as to how difficult a task we face. I have never seen any set of conflict issues on which there is such a huge and depressing gap between, on the one hand, the collective awareness of what needs to be done and, on the other hand, collective impotence when it comes to doing it.
Highlights of remarks made at Madrid +15: former Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo Ben-Ami
As the launching of the Arab-Israeli peace process in the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference has shown, the prospects of peace in the Middle East have always waited for a concerted international effort to exploit windows of opportunity. Wars in the Middle East, especially those that did not end in conclusive results, have almost invariably created the conditions for major political breakthroughs, for they have taught us all the limits of what power can achieve. [more]
Highlights of remarks made at Madrid +15: H.E. Mr Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States
H.E. Mr Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States
"... I remember well the day the Madrid Conference was inaugurated…. [I]t was indeed the dawn of a new world. The cold war was over…. A new world order was in the offing.
"The Madrid Conference was ... convened at a hopeful moment which enabled it to accomplish … elements necessary for the [start] of a meaningful ... peace process. [more]
Highlights of remarks made at Madrid +15: Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Store
Is this a way forward?
"...The Madrid conference 15 years ago did not create peace. But it gave hope. And it lead towards peace. Against a background of a Gulf war it brought key regional parties together. What started in Madrid had lasting effects on the political map of the Middle East.
"As we look at the region today, the picture is even gloomier than the one we were facing 15 years ago. To meet these challenges we need to set a regional agenda. We need to repeat the method of Madrid..." [more]
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Palestinians and Israel: Top down peace process for a new political horizon
One day, we all know, there must be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but the process seems to be mired in eternal deadlock and misery. Is there a way forward?
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of a "Political Horizon" for the Palestinians. Indeed both sides need a political horizon. All versions of the peace process have brought much talk of peace and many sound bites and photo ops, but no peace. [more]
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Winning in Iraq: Overcoming the urge to surge
President Bush announced plans to add over 20,000 troops to U.S. forces in Iraq, in order to control the growing violence there. This will almost bring troop levels back to their peak post-war levels, when the violence was presumably at a dull, tolerable roar. [more]
Sunday, January 7, 2007
Crystal Ball 2007: The ball is clouded
As in past years, I venture to peer into the future for 2007, with the advice and consent of friends. 2006 was a tumultuous and surprising year. Statistically, our predictions held up pretty will - they were correct 70% of the time. However, that should not hide our failure to predict the election of Hamas and the war in Lebanon, both major events that could have been foreseen. [more]
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Recalling Teddy Kollek
Here are a few personal recollections of Teddy Kollek, the Vienna-born ex-kibbutznik who served as Jerusalem's mayor from 1965 until Ehud Olmert defeated him in 1993. Kollek died today (January 2, 2007) at 95.
by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 01:11 PM CST [Link]
Osama Bin Laden Is Dead, Again
This time it's for real, almost. On December 17, 2006, officials announced that "Laden," as he was known, was killed by sharpshooters in the northeastern state of Assam, India. "Laden," a 10-foot tall killer bull elephant named after Osama bin Laden by fearful villagers, was responsible for 14 deaths in the area and had evaded two previous assassination attempts. Surprisingly, neither conspiracy theorists nor the Bush administration attempted to use the event to sell books/videos or for political gain. It would have been a hard sell: "Laden" was in India, not Afghanistan; and 10-foot tall pachyderms are not prone to suicide bombings and crashing planes into buildings. Nevertheless, the real Bin Laden has been sold before to the U.S. public, either as the commander-in-chief of a worldwide army of terrorists or as an impotent terrorist hiding in his cave. [more]
Victims of Holocaust Denial - Jews, Muslims, and Human Dignity
The Islamic Republic of Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently hosted a conference of historical revisionists dubbed as "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision."
It was neither global nor visionary. That it coincided with the commemoration of the international Human Rights Day betrayed the sarcastic intent of its organizers. [more]
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