Monday, December 27, 2010

[ePalestine] Israeli soldier jailed for stealing one pita

Dear friends,

Now I've heard it all!

Remembering Gaza: the dead, the living, and the living dead,

Israeli soldier jailed for stealing one pita  

Dec 27, 2010 at 14:45  

By AFP  

JERUSALEM - An Israeli soldier was sentenced to 20 days in jail for stealing a piece of pita bread from a Palestinian vendor in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, military sources said on Monday.  

The incident took place in front of his fellow soldiers at a military checkpoint near the city.  

The soldier expressed his regret and has since paid the vendor the price of the bread -- one shekel (30 US cents). 


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Friday, December 24, 2010

[ePalestine] Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those who struggle every day to feed their kids, defend their dignity, and strive for peace based on justice. 

May 2011 expose reality in Palestine,

P.S.  I've joined Facebook and welcome all my ePalestine subscribers to befriend me there: . I post on Facebook more frequently than here.


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

[ePalestine] Please Boycott Us! (by Anonymous)

NOTE: I know the writer personally. Dark times inside Israel! -Sam

Please Boycott Us!
(by Anonymous) 

For years I have been rather ambivalent about the wisdom of boycotting Israel. While a boycott of anything related to the illegal settlements in the West Bank, which are a clear derivative of a brutal occupation, is an absolute necessity, and which I have fully supported, I have always been reserved about the boycotting of Israel proper. Today I feel that there is no choice but to call for a full and total boycott directed against Israel – Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS). For the good of Israel and in the hope that blatant pressure from abroad directed primarily at the Israeli economy is the only way to wean Israel from what Thomas Friedman in a recent editorial called “Israel’s crack addiction”. It is the only way to wake Israelis up from their (crack) pipe dream of “business as usual” or the feasibility of maintaining a disastrous status quo that will only lead to more land grabs, violence and war, ultimately jeopardizing Israel itself. It is the only way to convince present and future governments that the current situation is untenable and unviable. It is the only way to save us from ourselves. At this point in time, Israelis are unable to affect change from within. The atmosphere has become so poisoned that attempts at the grassroots level to affect political change are insignificant at best, particularly in light of attempts at the legislative level to delegitimise grassroots initiatives and make local NGOs seeking to advance political change illegal. 

The current Israeli government (as well as past governments, whether led by Labour, Likud or the catch all Kadima party) has zero intention of moving forward with negotiations with the Palestinians. They would much rather “manage” the conflict than seek a truly just solution. The continued occupation is having a disastrous effect on Israeli society as a whole. Human life has become cheap, a form of Judeo-Fascism is developing here, led by rabbis, far right politicians in the Knesset and leaders in the occupied Palestinian territory. Jim Crow legislation has been tabled at the Knesset, rabbis have signed calls not to lease or sell property to Arab Israelis, hundreds demonstrate against Arab Israeli neighbors, and recently a group of minors were arrested for conducting what can only be called pogroms against innocent Arab citizens in the center of Jerusalem. The poison of the occupation has infected Israeli society as a whole at a level that can only be diagnosed as gangrenous. The only way to convince Israelis that the current status quo cannot be continued is to attach a real and significant price to the continued occupation, and yes, to force local political leaders to take responsibility, to lead rather than manage, to commit, rather than hide behind spin doctors or the outright lies of Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Anyone who yet rationalises non-action against Israel is actively contributing to the inevitable use of the only other tool world history has provided for social and political change: violence! Please boycott my country today, you are our only hope! 

- The author chooses to withhold his name for fear of repercussions against his family. The threat is real. Suffice to say that the author is an Israeli academic in the field of the social sciences. While the author is fully prepared to pay the price for his opinions, there is no reason for his family to suffer. The author can be reached at: 


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Monday, December 20, 2010

[ePalestine] WSJ: Wariness Accompanies West Bank's New Boom

Wall Street Journal

DECEMBER 19, 2010

Wariness Accompanies West Bank's New Boom 


RAMALLAH, West Bank—Swank coffee shops, luxury-car dealerships, and a designer boutique are among hundreds of new businesses that have sprouted here in recent months, part of a boom that has defied failures to make progress toward peace with Israel. 

But even entrepreneurs who have invested here say gloomy prospects for long-term stability threaten to derail gains. 

Economic growth in the West Bank raced at 9% through the first half of 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund. Proponents of a Palestinian state have taken heart in that growth. 

"It is easier than ever to envision an independent Palestine able to govern itself, uphold its responsibilities to provide for its people, and ensure security," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in October, in a speech highlighting that growth. 

Improved Palestinian governance, better security and relaxed Israeli restrictions appear to be underpinning investors' booming confidence. 

After the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupted against Israel in 2000, the Palestinian territories were plunged into violence and the economy took a nose dive. As the violence started to recede, the militant Hamas Party won elections, triggering a punishing boycott of the Palestinian Authority by Western donors. Salaries went unpaid, militias ruled the streets and government barely functioned. 

Hamas was forced from power in the West Bank in 2007. Under the new government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad—a University of Texas-educated former IMF official—the Palestinian Authority moved to reduce corruption, make government more transparent and attract business. 

The European Union and the U.S. stepped in to oversee the retraining of the Palestinian security forces who have since imposed law and order on the West Bank's streets. In response, Israel has eased its tough regime of restrictions on the movement of goods and people.

Meanwhile, the stability also drawn a generation of Palestinian expatriates, who fled during the years of unrest, back home with savings to invest. 

"Investors are taking a leap of faith," says Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman who invested money in the West Bank long before most, opening the $10.2 million Plaza Shopping Center in Ramallah in 2004. "These investors want to be the first movers in postoccupation Palestine." 

But pervading the growth is a sense the flush times will be short-lived. Israeli military occupation and extensive restrictions on travel and trade still in place make it virtually impossible to sustain the current growth rates, the IMF has warned. 

There is also widespread fear that pent-up frustrations over the lack of progress toward statehood will eventually bring violence again to Palestinian streets, reversing economic gains. 

Proponents of putting economic progress ahead of political progress are betting that prosperity may bring some calm, or at least change the situation by giving activists something to lose if violence flares again. Few people here say the present calm will hold indefinitely. 

"To have a stable economy and development you need a stable political environment and we don't have that," says Mohammad Omayr, a 24-year-old entrepreneur. 

In August, Mr. Omayr borrowed $75,000 from relatives and opened a small, bustling nursery in downtown Ramallah, one of 100 new Palestinian companies registered that month. 

Signs of new wealth are ubiquitous here. "The Boutique," Ramallah's first haute couture clothing store, opened late last year, offering Palestinians python-skin purses by Prada for $3,000, Sergio Rossi heels, and one-of-a-kind Valentino dresses. Next door, the Zaman Café serves up Belgian microbrews, French Bordeauxs and $4 cappuccinos. 

This spring, the West Bank's first licensed Mercedes dealership opened a showroom on Ramallah Boulevard. Owners say it is doing a brisk business selling luxury-class sports cars and sport-utility vehicles, with sticker prices ranging from $100,000 to $200,000, to wealthy Palestinians. 

On Nov. 1, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts made its Palestinian debut, opening the city's first five-star hotel. The 172-room, $40 million hotel boasts a head chef imported from Florence, a pastry chef from Paris, and a lobby bedecked in marble and Italian suede. 

In the past six months, the West Bank has also seen the launch of three private- equity funds. 

So far, evidence of a boom is still largely confined to Ramallah, home to the Palestinian Authority headquarters and the de-facto Palestinian capital, where civil servants in a bloated public sector spend paychecks backed by international donors. 

"It's a flurry of economic activity," says Mr. Bahour, "distinct from economic activity required for statehood that won't last if the occupation continues." 

Israel controls 60% of the West Bank's land, keeping it off-limits to Palestinian development. Israeli red tape on Palestinian imports and exports, which can languish unpredictably at checkpoints and seaports, cuts into profit margins, Mr. Bahour says. 

The IMF recently warned that current economic gains won't last without substantive policy changes in Israel's administration of the Palestinian Territories. 

Israeli officials say the West Bank's economic growth is evidence that Israel is succeeding in easing restrictions on trade. 

Any further Israeli easings will likely require politically difficult policy shifts, such as turning over Israeli-controlled West Bank land to Palestinians, or reducing the protective envelopes around Jewish settlements. 

Another hindrance to sustained growth is the lack of access to other big swaths of Palestinian territory, potentially lucrative markets for Palestinian businesses. About 50% of Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been sealed off by Israel since the Islamist group Hamas took over, and East Jerusalem, which is still largely off- limits to West Bank businessmen because of Israeli restrictions. 

Without easy access between Ramallah and Jerusalem's historical sites, for example, the hotel's managers say they can't hope to tap the lucrative tourist market, since tourists will stay in Jerusalem instead of Ramallah. 

The Mövenpick also depends on a handful of international employees, but because none have been given the necessary work visas by Israel, the hotel management says, they must leave and return every three months to get tourist visas renewed—making it harder to attract and retain talent from abroad. 

Write to Charles Levinson at 

Copyright 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved 


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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

[ePalestine] Israel refuses entry to Palestinian firefighters being honored for Carmel fire assistance

Dear friends,

For those of us still active in the  Campaign this comes as no surprise, especially during this holiday season where Jerusalem is blocked, for Christians and muslims alike, from all Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, not to mention our refugees.




Published 14:13 14.12.10 

Israel refuses entry to Palestinian firefighters being honored for Carmel fire assistance 

Ceremony forced into cancellation after only 7 out 10 granted permits; PA: How could the same men be allowed in to fight the fire but not to be honored for their assistance?; IDF: It was a bureaucratic mistake. 

By Jack Khoury 

Israeli officials on Tuesday canceled a ceremony planned to honor the Palestinian firemen who assisted in battling the Carmel fire last week, after a number of crew members were refused permits to cross the border. 

Palestinian Fire Services Commander Ahmed Rizik said that he and his staff were surprised to learn when they arrived at the checkpoint that only seven out of the 10 fireman would be granted entry into Israel, although all of them had been allowed in at the time of the disaster. 

"There is no logical reason and I don't know what the catalyst was, but unfortunately we could not make it, and therefore the event has been postponed to a later date," he said. 

The Israel Defense Forces said that the permits were denied due to a bureaucratic mistake, explaining that the list of names was processed without the firefighters' identification numbers attached. 

The army said it was now working on getting the honorees the correct permits. 

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi deemed the incident a "not just a march of folly or a theater of the absurd but stupidity and the normative lordly attitude of the occupation regime." 

"This is a complete shame," he added. 

The Palestinian Authority said in response that it had sent its firefighters out of "humane responsibility" and could not understand why those who risked their lives were now refused entry into Israel. 

"It's not clear how the same firefighters who got permits to go out and help snuff the fire now are now refused permits to their honoring ceremony," said the PA. 

"We did this despite the occupation because it was our humane duty," it added. "We knew the occupation would still be here after our assistance." 

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad had called President Shimon Peres less than a day after the fire began to offer the aid of Palestinian firefighting teams. 

The fire in which 43 Israelis were killed, ravaging forests outside the port of Haifa, caught Israel without enough firefighting equipment, and forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek foreign help from about a dozen countries. 


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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

[ePalestine] The Elders: We need peace in the Middle East, not just process.

The Elders: We need peace in the Middle East, not just process. 

Media Release 

13 December 2010 



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Friday, December 10, 2010

[ePalestine] Guardian: The returning issue of Palestine's refugees
Friday 10 December 2010

The returning issue of Palestine's refugees 

It's 62 years since the UN passed a resolution on the rights of Palestinian refugees – rights Israel must recognise for peace 

By Saeb Erekat 

Before his murder in 1948, Lord Folke Bernadotte, the first UN mediator to the Arab- Israeli conflict, stated: "It would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent [Palestinian] victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes, while Jewish immigrants flow into Palestine." Lord Bernadotte paid for his candour with his life as Jewish militants assassinated him under the direction of Yitzhak Shamir, the man who would later become prime minister of Israel. 

Less than three months after his death, as the war of 1948 ground to a close, and nearly three-quarters of the entire indigenous Palestinian population had been displaced by Israeli forces, the UN passed general assembly resolution 194, calling for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and to be awarded compensation for their losses. 

On Saturday, 62 years will have passed without this historic resolution being implemented despite being upheld by the UN with nearly universal consensus ever since. In fact, Israel's own admission as a member to the United Nations was contingent on its adherence to the principles of UNGA 194, something it proceeded to disregard once membership was granted. 

Contrary to what Israeli political figures would like the world to believe, the issue of Palestinian refugees is not an academic matter, the solution of which is somehow rendered moot by the passage of time and by the creation of Israeli "facts on the ground." Palestinian displacement continues to this day through the revocation of residency cards, land confiscation, home demolitions and evictions. At the same time, Israel has barred Palestinians displaced between 1947 and 1949, and again in 1967, from returning to their homes or receiving restitution for their lost property, making Palestinian refugees the oldest and largest refugee community in the world today. 

The fact that Israel bears responsibility for the creation of the refugees is beyond argument. Even if the state still claims amnesia for its deeds, Israeli historians have debunked the traditional Zionist mythology and shown how Zionist leaders prior to 1948 formulated plans to displace the indigenous Palestinian population in order to create a Jewish majority state. Such a state would have been impossible without the mass expulsion of Palestinians, given that Palestinians constituted a majority in every district of historic Palestine prior to 1948 and also owned over 90% of the land. 

Even if we accept the Israeli narrative that refugees left voluntarily – which has been proven false for the vast majority – there is no doubt about the fact that when refugees attempted to return according to their legal right, they were blocked by newly drafted Israeli legislation and declared infiltrators on their own property. 

This period of dispossession, known to Palestinians as al-Nakba or "the catastrophe", is the seminal Palestinian experience and source of our collective identity. In fact, the current Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is himself a refugee displaced from the city of Safed during the 1948 war when he was only 13-years-old. 

Today, Palestinian refugees constitute more than 7 million people worldwide – 70% of the entire Palestinian population. Disregarding their legitimate legal rights enshrined in international law, their understandable grievances accrued over prolonged displacement, and their aspirations to return to their homeland, would certainly make any peace deal signed with Israel completely untenable. 

In accordance with past Israeli-Arab agreements based on UN resolutions – most significantly the Egypt-Israeli Camp David Accords based on UN resolution 242's formula of land-for-peace – resolution 194 must provide the basis for a settlement to the refugee issue. 

Return and restitution as the remedy of choice has a strong international precedent. For example, in the context of the Dayton Accords, concluded under the auspices of the United States, the return of Bosnian refugees to their homes and restitution of their property was considered a "non-negotiable" right that was critical to crafting a durable solution. American leaders such as Madeleine Albright, then the secretary of state, openly called on Bosnian Muslim refugees to return en masse to their former places of residence. 

In Bosnia and in Palestine, the return of refugees has been considered absolutely necessary for the stability of peace. Any deal that does not respect the rights of refugees has been viewed as bearing the seed of its inevitable failure. 

When negotiations resume once again, the world must not abandon the refugees of Palestine, nor attempt to coerce their representatives to do so either. 

Israel's recognition of Palestinian refugee rights and its agreement to provide reparation and meaningful refugee choice in the exercise of these rights will not change the reality in the Middle East overnight, nor will it lead to an existential crisis for Israel. What it will certainly do is mark the beginning of a new reality that will no longer be rooted in repression, denial of rights, and discrimination. In other words, it will lead to a lasting peace – the kind of peace envisaged by Lord Bernadotte and hoped for by Palestinians and Israelis alike. 


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Monday, December 06, 2010

[ePalestine] US mediation monopoly collapsing


US mediation monopoly collapsing 

by Sam Bahour 

The United States is at a crossroads in its mediation of Middle East peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Obama administration can no longer walk on the Israeli side of the line--which is exactly where the US has been since Israel’s creation--while continuing to pay lip service to the illusion of walking on the thin line of fair mediation. Unfortunately, neither the US, nor anyone in the Palestinian leadership for that matter, has proposed anything beyond brushing the dust off already-failed initiatives and placing the burden for progress on the need for more Palestinian concessions; concessions that do not exist. 

The international euphoria surrounding the US bear hug embrace of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah is about to quickly pass and, come autumn 2011--the Fayyad government’s declared target for Palestinian statehood--the region will find itself exactly where former President George W. Bush left it: at a dead end. 

What is urgently needed is a restructuring of international mediation addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Shuttle diplomacy by world powers unable or unwilling to commit to international and humanitarian law as a foundation for Palestinian and Israeli reconciliation is a waste of time, money and Palestinian and Israeli lives. Military occupation must end if good faith final status negotiations are ever to sincerely begin. 

The US has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that its historic alliance with Israel, an “unholy alliance” as it has often been called, prohibits it from being a fair and impartial mediator. Over the years, the Israeli agenda has become a domestic US issue and is integrally linked to US elections, US foreign policy and aid, and the US military-industrial complex. The collapse of the infamous Oslo peace process gave the US a historic chance to clean its slate of its blind support to Israel. It chose not to do so, thus losing any impression of being a credible, impartial mediator. 

The US is fully aware of its failed attempts at mediation, especially over the past 20 years, and thus moved to create the so-called “Quartet”. In essence, the Quartet attempted to camouflage the dominating US role in the conflict with the inclusion of the European Union, Russian Federation and United Nations. This fuzzy, ineffective diplomatic mechanism, which self-proclaims a mandate of mediating the conflict, falls short of having any real international legitimacy. Over the past years, the Quartet, currently represented by Tony Blair, quietly observed unprecedented Israeli aggression against Palestinians and a collapse of the peace process while doing little more than deciding how high to jump after being ordered to do so by the US. 

An alternative to the Quartet would be to create a properly mandated UN Security Council mediation team in which no member would be allowed to exercise veto power. The team would be equipped with the necessary resources to bring Israel (the occupier) and the Palestinians (the occupied) to the table with the agenda of ending the 43-year Israeli military occupation of Palestinians. The basis for an end to the occupation would be dictated as prescribed in international and humanitarian law. This mediation team would have the authority to deploy a specified number of multinational peacekeeping forces should they be required. 

The wild card actually blocking such a serious approach to mediation is the US. Why would the US accept a mediation arrangement that would definitely drive a wedge between the US and Israel? There are 101 reasons for the US to take a backseat in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, not the least being the quagmire that it created for itself in Iraq and Afghanistan or the constantly increasing costs that Israel is inflicting upon the US, both financially and politically. Sooner or later, the US must take action to remove Israel from dominating its domestic agenda. With President Barack Obama past the mid-term elections, despite recovering from a setback, he should be able to breathe a little easier and spend serious political capital to repair some of the damage that was done to his presidency when he was forced to retreat from the showdown with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over continued illegal Israeli settlement building. 

However, betting on the US or Obama to make a historic unilateral about-face is most likely a losing bet. The international community needs to urgently step up to the plate. 

If the US refuses to cooperate on it own, then the international community can take action regardless. Under a well-known and tested United Nations procedure called "Uniting for Peace" (General Assembly Resolution 377 A (V)), the UN General Assembly can demand a withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Palestinian lands. The General Assembly may also call for a United Nations peacekeeping force to be sent to Palestine to protect Palestinians from the occupying power. The "Uniting for Peace" procedure has been used before, by none other than the United States. 

International law must be defined and applied by the world institutions that were established for the purpose, and not by the existing superpower or the party to the conflict that can hire the better public relations firms or has the stronger military. The clear and unequivocal end to Israeli occupation, in all its forms, has the power to bring justice, security and stability to a region on the verge of self-destruction. - Published 6/12/2010 © 

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman. 


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Sunday, December 05, 2010

[ePalestine] FILM/ & ARTICLE: To See If I Am Smiling (A MUST VIEW/READ)

"...I served there because my parents brought me up on the values of Zionism, on the idea that wherever I'm most needed is where I should go. I wanted to make a difference and I'd do it again despite everything." 

Doc-Debut, a series on Link TV

To See If I Am Smiling 

Israel is the only country in the world where 18-year-old girls are drafted for compulsory military service. In the award-winning documentary To See If I Am Smiling, the frank testimonials of six female Israeli soldiers stationed in Gaza and the West Bank pack a powerful emotional punch. The young women revisit their tours of duty in the occupied territories with surprising honesty and strip bare stereotypes of gender differences in the military. The former soldiers share shocking moments of negligence, flippancy, immaturity and power-tripping as they describe atrocities they witnessed and participated in. 

The psychological transformation that these young women underwent as a result of military service is both upsetting and riveting. The culture of war transforms people: personalities change, moral codes are subverted, values are supplanted and masks are constructed to dull the pain of what they did and didn't do in uniform. 

The 60min film is at:  (may only be viewable in the U.S.)

and the Ha'aretz article on the same is at:
Slightly long but well worth the read.



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Monday, November 29, 2010

[ePalestine] Interview: China Radio International - Beyond Beijing

China Radio International: Beyond Beijing 


Middle East Peace Talks

The United States is working to keep the Israel-Palestine peace talks from breaking down over the issue of disputed settlements. America is offering Israel fighter planes and a UN veto on any sanctions against Israel in exchange for a 90-day suspension of settlement construction. Palestine has said it will not engage in talks if the construction of settlements in the West Bank resumes. 

Li Guofu,
 - Senior Research Fellow with China Institute of International Studies.
Sam Bahour,
 - Palestinian writer from Ramallah.
Amit Ben-Yehoshua,
 - Israeli-American Lawyer, residing in China.

Listen to the one hour interview at:


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

[ePalestine] Al Jazeera English: The endgame for the peace process (A MUST READ)

Note: Robert Grenier was the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre. 

Al Jazeera English 

The endgame for the peace process 

Future historians will argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died. 

Robert Grenier
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2010 11:02 GMT 

Future historians will no doubt argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died, when the last glimmer of hope for a two-state solution was irrevocably extinguished. When all is said and done, and the forensics have been completed, I am sure they will conclude that the last realistic prospect for an agreement expired quite some time before now, even if all the players do not quite realise it yet: anger and denial are always the first stages in the grieving process; acceptance of reality only comes later. 

There are growing signs, however, that the realisation is beginning to dawn in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and, most strikingly, Washington, that the peace process, as currently conceived, may finally be dead. 

Washington: hoping for a miracle? 

We should begin in Washington, in the aftermath of the seven-hour marathon meeting between Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in New York last week. 

To view the apparent results of that meeting in context, one would have to recount the gargantuan structure of US military, intelligence, economic and diplomatic support to Israel, painstakingly constructed over many decades, for which there would not be space to describe it all here - if indeed one had the knowledge to do so. 

The edifice is so extensive, including direct military aid, weapons transfers, access to US emergency weapons stocks, pre-positioning of US military materiel in Israel, US investments in Israeli technology development, US support for Israel's foreign weapons sales, weapons co-production agreements, all sorts of loan guarantees, assistance for settlement of immigrants in Israel - the list goes on - that literally no single entity in Washington is aware of it all. 

In September, the US Congressional Research Service made a noteworthy attempt to capture it, but was probably only partly successful, having no access, for example, to classified US assistance. The annual value of all this is literally incalculable, and well in excess of the $3bn per year usually cited, to say nothing of critical US diplomatic support in the UN and elsewhere. 

Given all this, confronted with Israel's refusal to extend its partial moratorium on new settlement construction in the Occupied Territories, and with anything more than verbal pressure on Israel literally unthinkable, the US was hard-pressed to come up with additional inducements which might extend the peace process even a little further. 

Into the breach, as he has done so many times before, stepped the redoubtable Dennis Ross. Ross, in discussions with an Israeli counterpart, compiled an extensive list of motivators whose length we do not yet know, but which was verbally agreed between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York, and which will be presented in writing for possible approval by the Israeli cabinet. 

We are told it includes a US commitment to block any Palestinian-led effort to win unilateral UN recognition of a Palestinian state; US obstruction of efforts either to revive the Goldstone Report at the UN, or to seek formal UN condemnation of Israel for the deadly Mavi Marmara incident; an ongoing US commitment to defeat any UN resolutions aimed at raising Israel's unacknowledged nuclear weapons programme before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); vigorous US diplomatic efforts to counter all attempts to "delegitimise" Israel in various world fora; and, most importantly, increasing efforts to further ratchet international sanctions on both Iran and Syria concerning their respective nuclear and proliferation efforts. 

To this the US is adding a commitment to supply Israel with some 20 ultra-modern F-35 aircraft worth $3bn - so new they have not yet entered the US inventory - as well as a mysterious "comprehensive security agreement," whose details have not been revealed, but which may include unilateral US endorsement of Israeli troop deployments in the Jordan Valley, in the event of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. 

And what is Israel being asked in return? Consider this carefully: in return for the above written guarantees, Israel will consider agreement to a brief, one-time-only 90-day extension of the partial settlement moratorium, which excludes not only East Jerusalem, but also the cordon sanitaire of settlements which Israel has carefully constructed to ring the city and deny Palestinian access to it, after which the US agrees, in writing, never again to request an Israeli settlement moratorium. 

After witnessing US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians for over 30 years, I had thought I was beyond shock. This development, however, is breathtaking. In effect, along with a whole string of additional commitments, including some potentially far-reaching security guarantees which it is apparently afraid to reveal publicly, the Obama administration is willing to permanently cast aside a policy of some 40 years' duration, under which the US has at least nominally labelled Israeli settlements on occupied territory as "obstacles to peace,". All this in return for a highly conditional settlement pause which will permit Netanyahu to pocket what the US has given him, simply wait three months without making any good-faith effort at compromise, and know in the end that Israel will never again have to suffer the US' annoying complaints about illegal settlements. 

Leave aside the fact that as of this writing, the Israeli cabinet may yet reject this agreement - which seems even more breathtaking, until one stops to consider that virtually everything the Americans have offered the Israelis they could easily obtain in due course without the moratorium. No, what is telling here is that the American attempt to win this agreement, lopsided as it is, is an act of sheer desperation. 

What gives rise to the desperation, whether it is fear of political embarrassment at a high- profile diplomatic failure or genuine concern for US security interests in the region, I cannot say. It seems crystal clear, however, that the administration sees the next three months as a last chance. Their stated hope is that if they can get the parties to the table for this brief additional period, during which they focus solely on reaching agreement on borders, success in this endeavour will obviate concerns about settlements and give both sides sufficient stake in an outcome that they will not abandon the effort. 

No one familiar with the substance of the process believes agreement on borders can be reached in 90 days on the merits; consider additionally that negotiators will be attempting to reach such a pact without reference to Jerusalem, and seeking compromise on territory without recourse to off-setting concessions on other issues, and success becomes virtually impossible to contemplate. 

The Obama administration is coming under heavy criticism for having no plan which extends beyond the 90 days, if they can get them. There is no plan for a 91st day because there is unlikely to be one. The Obama policy, absurd as it seems, is to somehow extend the peace process marginally, and hope for a miracle. The demise of that hope carries with it the clear and present danger that residual aspirations for a two-state solution will shortly be extinguished with it. 

Tel Aviv: buyer's remorse? 

Meanwhile, in Israel, we are seeing something akin to buyer's remorse. On the cusp of finally achieving the goal for which Likud has aimed since its founding in 1973 - that is, an end to the threat of territorial compromise which would truncate the Zionist project in Palestine - the Israeli military and intelligence communities, which will have to deal with the consequences of a permanently failed peace process and the dissolution of responsible Palestinian governance in the West Bank which could well follow, are actively voicing their concerns. 

Even as ardent a Likudnik as Dan Meridor has recently said to Haaretz: "I've reached the painful conclusion that keeping all the territory means a binational state that will endanger the Zionist enterprise. If we have to give up the Jewish and democratic character (of the state) - I prefer to give up some of the territory." 

The time for such second thoughts has passed, however. Having succeeded in creating irrevocable facts on the ground, settlements which no conceivable Israeli government could remove even if it wanted to, the territory which Meridor and company would conceivably part with now will not be enough to avoid the fate which they fear in future: the progressive delegitimation of the current state, and the eventual rise of a binational state in its place. 

Ramallah: terminally gloomy? 

The terminal gloom among the tired leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is palpable. They will not allow themselves to be openly complicit in a negotiated capitulation to Israel, and yet they cannot bring themselves to irrevocably abandon the process either. 

The recent, relative success of Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, in bringing some measure of security and good governance to the West Bank notwithstanding, they know their legitimacy is tied to the hope of their people for a just peace - a peace they also know, in their hearts, they cannot deliver. They look to the Americans in hope of salvation, while the Americans can only hope, impotently, for the same. 

Both Israelis and Palestinians know that the relative calm prevailing in the West Bank and Gaza cannot last indefinitely absent some prospect for an end to Israeli occupation of the former. No one can see the way to a near-term solution, and yet neither does anyone yet have the courage to suggest an alternative future. 

That will be the task of a new and probably distant generation of Israelis and Palestinians. 

Robert Grenier was the CIA's chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre. 


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