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Ma'ariv July 12, 2006

July 2006:
Israel has called the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas (that triggered Israeli incursions into the Gaza strip), and then the abduction of two soldiers at Israel's northern border with Lebanon by Hizbollah, "a declaration of war" (pictured above: the front page of Ma'ariv, July 12. The headline reads "Declaration of War".)

The Israeli army has started an air, sea and land blockade of Lebanon and Israeli war planes have launched heavy air bombardments on Lebanon, including its international airport, its capital Beirut, two military bases, a TV station, infrastructures and oil refineries. At the same time, Israel continues to fight Hamas in the Gaza Strip and has reoccupied parts of Gaza. Israel won't rule out ground invasions into Lebanon as well.

And for the first time, Hizbollah rockets have reached Haifa.

The odds for an all out regional war — to the point of involving Iran and Syria — are high.

March 2006: Ariel Sharon's centrist Kadima Party won the general elections in Israel and will form the next government under Ehud Olmert (the acting prime minister since Sharon fell into a coma in January following a massive stroke).

Kadima has promised to unilaterally disengage from the Palestinians if need be, thus redrawing Israel's borders. Kadima is expected to start coalition talks with the Labor Party.



8/15/05: Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of settlements begins.

“I’m going in to enforce the law. I don’t want to hurt anyone and don’t expect problems. I’ll go in, speak, hug, and cry, and I’ll help to pack. If need be, I’ll carry my brothers on my shoulders. I’ll absorb everything they have to say, in the hope that the power of my compassion overcomes their fury.”

First Lieutenant Nitzan, who is taking part in the clearing of settlements
(Yediot Aharonot,
Aug. 14, 2005

The New York Times' Interactive Graphic:
The Pullout from the Gaza Strip

Israel Ministry of Affairs:
Background to the Disengagement Plan

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations:
Media Roundup: The Disengagement Plan

Disengagement Struggles

2/8/05: Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met in Sharm el-Sheikh and declared a cease fire. The Second Intifadah has officially ended. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have rejected the truce, however.

12/9/04: A poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center indicates a dramatic decline in Palestinian support for acts of violence targeting Israelis. For the first time since the outbreak of violence in September 2000, a majority of Palestinians, some 52 percent, oppose actions of terror against Israel. A clear majority among those polled (57 percent) prefer a two-state solution, while 24 percent supported the creation of a bi-national state. Only 12 percent favor the creation of an Islamic state on all areas between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Some 32 percent of those polled said that they would vote for PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas in the January 9 election for PA chairman; 26 percent said that they would cast their ballot for jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti.

11/30/04: Interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has ordered a halt to
anti-Israel incitement in government-controlled media, thus meeting a key Israeli demand while adding to the signs of
goodwill that have emerged since Arafat's death.

11/11/04: Arafat dies of an undisclosed illness in a hospital in Paris after a short coma. A state funeral was held in Cairo the following day that was closed to the public. Arafat was buried in his compound in Ramallah in a chaotic ceremony.

9/30/04: Ha'aretz reports that Israel's security cabinet approved unanimously an expanded military ground operation in the Gaza Strip in response to the launching of Kassam rockets and the recent escalation of hostilities in the region. The plan includes IDF operations in areas where rockets can be launched at Sderot, "exacting a price" from terror organizations in Gaza, and preparation for an extended stay in the territory. Defense Minister Mofaz announced a "large-scale and prolonged operation" aimed at pushing the rockets out of range of Sderot and preparing a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip.
"Israeli army activities in the Gaza Strip have a clear objective of enabling Israelis to sit in their living rooms and backyards in peace and without fear of being bombarded by Palestinian rockets and missiles," said David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office. "This is our inherent right, the right to live in peace."



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The Paradox of the Separation Fence

United, Rather
Than Divided

The separation fence—intended to separate between Israelis and Palestinians, between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza—could achieve just the opposite and, in the long run, knit the two people together under one democratic government.

Unilaterally separating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from Israel—thus preventing a viable Palestinian state—will permanently prevent a two-state solution and make Palestinian independence impossible.

But that's not all. Within a decade, Jews will become a minority on both sides of the fence.

Let's assume the Palestinians would openly declare that they have given up their dream of an independent state. What if they would instead start demanding, "one man, one vote" for each Palestinian living in the West Bank and Gaza and claim the right to partake in Israel's democracy?

What if they were to fight the "fight of Mandela" instead of the "fight of Arafat?"

Ironically, Israel's right-wing parties and settlers will have to agree on some sort of two-state solution within the next 10 years, at the very latest, in order to keep the dream of a "Jewish state" alive.


Home Page > Articles in English > Peace Process



No Peace, No Process


"We are in the midst of a cultural war between the West and Islam, and Israel represents the West. We hold a mirror to the Arab countries' failure.”

— Prof. Asher Susser, Mideast Expert,
Tel Aviv University


"There will never be peace, only a compromise a conflict-managing but no conflict-solution."

— Dr. Litwak, Islamist, Tel Aviv University


It wasn't long ago that Amos Oz, one of Israel's widely respected and most vocal writers, declared that there was still hope. "We expect a painful separation [of the two peoples], a division of their small house into two even tinier dwellings. The time has come," he remarked. So, it seemed that despite the terrible upswing in violence since the beginning of the second Intifada in September 2000 — dubbed by Israel “The Thousand-Day War” and by Palestinians the “Al-Aqsa Intifada” — the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was again within reach.

But after various cease-fires were repeatedly broken, all efforts to reach peace were abandoned again; even Amos Oz seemed to have given up hope. As many as a quarter of all Palestinians contemplated, whether the struggle for independent statehood should be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship or a secular one-state solution by turning Israel into a country with a Muslim majority. "The only question is how long it will take, and how much all sides will have to suffer, before Israeli Jews can view Palestinian Christians and Muslims not as demographic threats but as fellow citizens," summarized Michael Tarazi, a legal adviser to the PLO, in an op-ed in the New York Times (Oct. 4, 2004).

Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel SharonThen, Yasser Arafat died. His passing sparked an eager willingness to talk peace with Israel. Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a Abu Mazen), who won the presidential elections that took place on Jan. 9, 2005 after he had temporarily taken over the reign of Fatah after Arafat's death (and who, according to the New York Times, refused to talk to Arafat in the last 16 months of the late Palestinian president's life), took immediate steps to regain Israel's trust. He called for an end to the incitement and a halt of the armed struggle, calling the Intifadah "a mistake."

Israel's daily Ha'aretz quoted Abu Mazen on Dec. 16: " 'The use of weapons in the current Intifadah is damaging and must cease.' That was the important message that [the] PLO chairman delivered in his first statement on the subject following the death of Yasser Arafat. It was not the first time that [Abu Mazen] made such a statement, but its importance this time is derived from his position, and the anticipation that it will be received with understanding and acceptance, by a majority of Palestinians — the same majority that in recent public opinion polls has expressed the view that the negotiations with Israel should be resumed.... Abu Mazen's remarks...were spoken to Asharq al-Awsat, in Arabic — as Israel has often demanded, to the Arab and not only the Palestinian public. It was meant for every Arab and Palestinian movement and school of thought, inside and outside the territories, including Iran and Hezbollah, so that they know the intentions of the person who will be running the PA."

Also Egypt, along with the United States, Russia and the European Union expressed willingness to take another shot at solving the Mideast conflict once and for all.

According to an editorial in the centrist Yediot Aharonot (Dec. 22, 2004) in Tel Aviv, "Arafat’s death, the elections planned in the Palestinian Authority, the democratic reform and liberalism that they have promised to implement and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza…have created a historical opportunity for an economic and humane solution to the refugee problem in the natural and only place possible: a future Palestinian state. The de-Arafatization process has been quick”

The religious, right wing daily Hatzofeh, however, holds on to the belief (Nov. 24, 2004) that the post-Arafat Palestinian Authority leadership is “more sophisticated,” but not more moderate.

But on February 8, 2005, Palestinian President Abu Mazen and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met in Sharm el-Sheikh and declared a cease fire.

It didn't last. Again.

The Second Intifadah has officially ended.


What went wrong during Arafat's reign?

At the height of the second, armed Intifadah, a summit at Aqaba was held on June 4, 2003, between then-Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and U.S. President George W. Bush to revive the peace process. It opened up new possibilities, and, at first, it seemed that the get-together would make all the difference.

Various peace accords started to circle, were discussed, dismissed, and evaluated again. But could Bush's proposed Road Map (see chart below) be the right answer to end decades of mistrust and violence? Could the unofficial Geneva Accord, a blueprint for a permanent status agreement, signed in October 2003 by prominent Palestinian and Israeli intellectuals and former politicians, restore trust in the region?

Geneva Accord

With the resignation of the first Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a Abu Mazen), on Sept. 9, 2003, and Israel's determination to eliminate Hamas, the envisioned peace road turned into a bridle path. "Abu Mazen made a fatal mistake, which sealed the fate of his 100-day leadership," commented Tel Aviv's centrist Yediot Aharonot. "As a patriot and a leader, he had the courage to tell the Palestinian people the truth."


Event Follows Event

A Rigid Timetable:
The Road Map

Phase I (was to be carried out immediately):
PA: End terror and violence; normalize Palestinian life; build Palestinian institutions.
Israel: dismantle settlements erected since March 2001; freeze settlement activity; make efforts to improve the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians.

Phase II (was to be completed by December 2003):
Transition—create an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders.

Phase III (was to be completed by 2005):
Permanent status agreement and end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Settle outstanding issues (return of Palestinian refugees and the final status of Jerusalem).

See also Road Map.

On June 29, 2003, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah (by direct order of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat) declared a temporary cease-fire (hudna) with Israel. But it collapsed on August 12, when Fatah and Hamas carried out suicide bombings in Rosh Ha'ayin, and, hours later, near the entrance to Ariel (a large settlement in the West Bank), killing two Israelis. Hamas claimed that the attacks hadn't been coordinated between the two militant groups and denied that they marked the end of the cease-fire. Islamic Jihad had already broken the hudna on July 7, by killing a 65-year-old Israeli woman inside her house.

Then, on Aug. 19, 2003, a suicide bombing on a crowded bus in Jerusalem killed 23 Israelis, including six infants and children, and injured more than 100, among them 40 children. Hamas took responsibility for the attack. Israel declared all-out war on Hamas. It began eliminating its leaders one by one, and debated whether to deport Arafat, because, according to Yediot Aharonot (Sept. 7), "[Arafat] led, and is leading, his people from chaos to chaos, from pain to suffering, because only under conditions of destruction and pain can he be sure that the Palestinians will look to him as a god, a savior, and the sole keeper of the seal."

Sheikh Ahmed YassinOn March 22, 2004, Hamas' founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, dubbed by Israelis the "Palestinian Bin-Laden," was killed in an Israeli missile strike.

According to Israeli authorities, Yassin had been responsible for 425 suicide attacks since October 2000 that killed 377 Israelis and injured 2,076.

Hamas vowed, "to open the gates to hell" in revenge. On April 17, 2004, Israel killed Yassin's successor, Abd al-Aziz Rantisi.


Hunting Arafat

On Sept. 11, 2003, the Israeli security cabinet decided to expel Arafat, and stated that the chairman was "a complete obstacle to any process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel [would] work to remove this obstacle in a manner, and at a time, of its choosing."

Then, word leaked that the Israeli government had also considered killing Arafat. Again, Israel came under harsh criticism, especially from the U.N. Security Council. The conservative English-language Jerusalem Post was the first Israeli newspaper to officially endorse assassinating Arafat. In their editorial (Sept. 10) the editors argued: "The world will not help us; we must help ourselves. We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative....Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel, even in the name of a Palestinian state. Arafat does not just stand for terror, he stands for the refusal to make peace with Israel under any circumstances and within any borders."

The Israeli public seemed to favor ousting Arafat once and for all. According to a Yediot Aharonot poll, published in the paper on Sept. 12, 37 percent of the polled Israelis wanted to see Arafat killed, 23 percent wanted to see him expelled, 21 percent wanted to continue to isolate him, and 15 percent wanted to see him released and negotiations to continue.

Abu Mazen's successor, handpicked, yet again, by President Arafat, was Ahmed Qureia (left), a.k.a Abu Ala, the man who represented the Palestinians in the secret meetings with Israeli politicians in Oslo in 1993 that culminated in the historic Oslo Accords. But shortly after Arafat swore him in on Oct. 7, 2003, Qureia hinted that he was already on the verge of quitting.


Israel Wants Out: Quagmire in Gaza

In May 2004, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposed unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of some Jewish settlements in the West Bank was rejected by his own Likud Party in a non-binding confidence vote on May 2. On April 14, U.S. President George Bush had met Sharon's plan with approval and had also called the Palestinian refugees' right of return to what is now Israel and the evacuation of Israeli population centers in the West Bank "unrealistic."

At the end, however, 59.5 percent of Likud members voted against the plan, in what could become Sharon's most humiliating moment in his career. Only barely 40 percent showed up for the vote. In stark contrast, roughly 60 percent of the general public in Israel is in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. (At the end, however, the "Gaza Disengagement Plan" was approved by the government and the evacuation began on Aug. 15, 2005. At that point, 62% of the public was in favor of the plan and 31% were opposed to leaving the Gaza strip (Yediot Aharonot opinion poll, July 2005).

Sharon was determined that Israel leaves the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005, with or without support from his coalition. He even would be willing to bring the Labor party, under Shimon Peres, into the government. And indeed, in December 2004, a broad government was formed, with Shimon Peres as deputy prime minister. The path to leave the Gaza strip as planned seems now cleared.

Tel Aviv's mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot defined the results of Likud's referendum as "an earthquake" and said that the magnitude of Sharon's defeat was a political fact that cannot be denied. "If Prime Minister Sharon wants to keep the disengagement plan alive, he will have to face a head-on clash with most of his party." The paper decried "Sharon's arrogance and irresponsibility….After the current political stew has burned the pot, room for new and unexpected political groupings is reopening….The unification of forces that agree on the 'land for peace' formula into a large political alignment will force those who champion 'don't uproot that which has been planted' to find a new political home for themselves."

Sharon refuted allegations that he considered resigning. His "disengagement plan lite," as it is referred to in Israel, will now encompass two, not four, settlements in the West Bank and only three settlements in the Gaza Strip.

On the day of the vote, Palestinians gunned down a pregnant mother and her four daughters in Gaza.

On May 15, more than 150,000 people attended a peace rally at Rabin Square in Tel-Aviv under the slogan “Leave Gaza—Start Talking.” The event began with a minute of silence for the 13 Israel soldiers killed in Gaza that same week. Israel is still trying to locate some of the remains, which were taken by Palestinians after the assault.

In its May 17 editorial, Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz noted on the peace rally in Tel Aviv: "The lesson to be learned from the mass demonstration...is that a wide swath of the Israeli public is hoping for a change in our relationship with the Palestinians and does not accept Likud members' decision to reject the disengagement plan. This message fits with Ariel Sharon's stated intent to bring the plan, in a new guise that does not change its substance, to the cabinet for approval in another two to three weeks....Public responsibility and political wisdom both obligate the Likud and its leaders to listen to the public's deepest feelings, to grasp the dimensions of the opposition to Israel's continued presence in the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif and to give impetus to the prime minister's initiative to withdraw from these areas—and thereby effect a major change in the conflict with the Palestinians. If the Likud's ministers...do not understand this by themselves..., they will reach the necessary conclusion in another way: by observing the growing list of the fallen in Gaza and the public outcry that it elicits."


A Paralyzed Arafat and Anarchy in Gaza

"The Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat has started crumbling. With corruption pervading at all levels of the Palestinian Authority, we don't see any reason for its continuation in power. The Palestinians themselves have started questioning the need for its existence. Arafat and other members of the Palestinian Authority are not willing partners in the Middle East peace process.

On the contrary, they have become a burden on the Palestinian issue and Arab countries, especially Egypt, Jordan and Palestine itself. Arafat has invested the blood of Palestinians for his personal benefits… It won't be possible for us to gain from the Middle East road map for peace if this man remains in power." (July 21, 2004)

-Ahmed Al-Jarallah, Editor-in-Chief,
The Arab Times, Kuwait

July 2004 brought anarchy to the Gaza Strip amid what amounted to the worst leadership crisis within the Palestinian Authority (PA). Ariel Sharon's declaration that Israel would leave the Gaza Strip unilaterally next year—even against the wishes of members of his own governing coalition—threw the PA into turmoil much earlier than expected.

Where would an Israeli pullout leave Gaza? Palestinians found themselves scrambling to face up to the rampant corruption within the PA and its security forces, which are all under the wing of one man—the Ra'is, Chairman Yasser Arafat.

As did his predecessor, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia submitted his resignation to Arafat, on the grounds that the prime minister's position had an extremely narrow mandate, without any clout and real authority to introduce political changes, combat corruption and execute greater control over the PA's security forces (which are controlled by Arafat).

On July 16, the PA declared a state of emergency. On July 20, Arafat refused to accept Qureia's letter of resignation.
The government was left in limbo. Arafat refused to cede his absolute power.

On July 21, the Palestinian Parliament voted 43 to 3 in a non-binding measure, urging Arafat to accept Qureia's resignation. The vote amounted to a highly unusual move by the parliament against its chairman, Arafat, and a challenge to his dwindling authority.

Both sides were locked in a stalemate. Government officials were kidnapped—among them, on July 16, Gaza's police chief Ghazi al-Jabali, who was later released, unharmed. Legislators, critical of Arafat, were physically attacked. To top it all off, the people of Gaza took to the streets, fed up with the government's cronyism and demanded that the PA clean up its act. The protests were sparked after Arafat appointed on July 17 his nephew Musa Arafat as new head of Gaza's security forces, replacing al-Jabali. Musa, too, is widely known as being corrupt; his appointment was met with disbelief and anger.

On July 27, Qureia rescinded his resignation after Arafat granted him limited powers to carry out reforms and agreed to investigate corrupted officials. The prime minister promised "actions on the ground." Qureia's authority, however, would be limited to the internal security forces—while Arafat would retain control over the bulk of the security personnel: the intelligence service and the armed forces.

Arafat stubbornly refused adjusting to the democratization of the PA. Last year, he reluctantly accepted pressures from abroad and from within the PA to create the prime minister's post, which was first filled in June 2003 by Mahmoud Abas (Abu-Mazen) and in September 2003 by Qureia—after Abu Mazen's resignation in protest of Arafat's strong influence over the prime minister's post.

Israel denied the possibility that it might get involved in the internal quarrels of the PA. "This time, it's entirely the PA's emergency situation—not ours," wrote Yael Gvirtz in Tel Aviv's centrist Yediot Aharonot (July 18). "Israel is better off sitting quietly at the sidelines and not enter the internal battlefield of the PA."

But Israel also realized that the latest events could leave a power vacuum that would give way to the emergence of new militant Islamist groups—alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad—maybe connecting the Palestinian question in Gaza with the events happening in Iraq. It seemed that the PA was in real danger of collapse, and the internal turmoil could have easily spread over into the West Bank. Sharon is now determined as ever to go ahead with the Gaza pullout as soon as possible. The events in Gaza were, and still are, proof to him that there isn't anyone to talk to in Gaza—and that there isn't anything to talk about.

The crisis was centering on two opposing group—Arafat and Muhammad Dahlan and his renegades. Dahlan is Gaza's former PA minister of security, who resigned last year in protest of Arafat's opposition to revise Gaza's security forces. Ever since, Dahlan had been one of Arafat's most vocal critics and he has become the head of the opposition, advocating free elections within Fatah (the political wing of the PA), as well as sweeping reforms.

"In front of our eyes, Sharon's dream is coming true," wrote Nachum Barnea in an op-ed on Yediot Aharonot's front page (July 18). "The Palestinian Authority is losing its last bit of authority. Arafat is still wiggling a little, but his followers are fleeing in all directions. As Winston Churchill once said: 'This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning' [as part of a speech given on Nov. 10, 1942]."

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For further reading:

Comparison of United Nations Member States' Language in Relation to Israel and Palestine as Evidenced by Resolutions in the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly,
published by the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK), August 2004

"Why Israel Killed Ahmed Yassin," Israel Foreign Ministry

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 (November 2003), endorsing the road map

Israel's official statement on U.N. Resolution 1515

Israel-Palestinian Negotiations: Diagram

Guide to Mideast Peace Process, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Key Documents

Background information on the Geneva Accord and full text (in Hebrew)

On the Geneva Accord: "Accord Offers Best Chance for Peace," by Jimmy Carter, Nov. 3, 2003

Mapping a Middle East Peace, April 2003
Road Map Unveiled, Assailed, May 2003
Road Map Revived, June 2003
(World Press Review)

"Israel and the Palestinians" (BBC)

Timeline of the Mideast Conflict (BBC)

Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Israeli-Arab Conflict (Jewish Virtual Library)

The Arab-Israeli Conflict (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)

The Road Map in Hebrew (Ha'aretz)

Transcripts of the Speeches Held at Aqaba (Ha'aretz)

"Mideast—Land of Conflict" (CNN Special Report)

United Nations: "Question of Palestine" Resolutions/Analyses on the Mideast conflict and the road map

Background on the Road Map (The Council on Foreign Relations, New York)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)

"Managing European Taxpayers' Money: Supporting the Palestinian Arabs, A Study in Transparency", August 2004

Palestinian reactions to Abu Mazen's speech at Aqaba (The Middle East Media Research Institute—MEMRI)

Chronology of recent terrorist attacks in Israel (Anti Defamation League, New York)

Palestinian and Israeli Fatalities Sept. 27, 2000—Aug. 12, 2003 (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)

"Prisoner Release—Veering Off the Road Map" (Eli Kazhdan, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.N. Security Council Resolutions (U.S. Department of State)

U.N. General Assembly Resolutions 1947 and 1948 (U.S. Department of State)

"Unilateral Separation As Road Map Insurance"
(Gerald M. Steinberg, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

"Defensible Borders For Israel"
(Dore Gold, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Interactive Map of Israel

PBS "Frontline" — "Israel's Next War?"
Special report on Israel's most right-wing settlers, on the eve of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.


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