Category Archives: Egypt

Sisi holds Key to Trump’s Sinai Plan for Palestinians

Israel and the US are in a race against time with Gaza. The conundrum is stark: how to continue isolating the tiny coastal enclave from the outside world and from the West Bank – to sabotage any danger of a Palestinian state emerging – without stoking a mass revolt from Gaza’s two million Palestinians?

In Gaza, Israel does not have the luxury of time it enjoys in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the two additional Palestinian territories it occupies. In those areas, it can keep chipping away at the Palestinian presence, using the Israeli army, Jewish settlers and tight restrictions on Palestinian movement to take over key resources like land and water.

Gaza: A death camp

While Israel is engaged in a war of attrition with the West Bank’s population, a similar, gradualist approach in Gaza is rapidly becoming untenable. The United Nations has warned that the enclave may be only two years away from becoming “uninhabitable”, its economy in ruins and its water supplies unpotable.

More than a decade of a severe Israeli blockade as well as a series of military assaults have plunged much of Gaza into the dark ages. Israel desperately needs a solution, before Gaza’s prison turns into a death camp. And now, under cover of Donald Trump’s “ultimate peace plan”, Israel appears to be on the brink of an answer.

Recent weeks have been rife with reports in the Israeli and Arab media of moves by Washington and Israel to pressure Egypt into turning over a swath of territory in northern Sinai, next to Gaza, for infrastructure projects designed to alleviate the enclave’s “humanitarian crisis”.

Late last month Hamas, which rules Gaza, sent a delegation to Cairo to discuss the measures. This followed hot on the heels of a visit to Egypt by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law who is overseeing the Middle East peace plan.

Exploiting Egyptian fears

According to reports, Trump hopes soon to unveil a package – associated with his “deal of the century” peace-making – that will commit to the construction of a solar-power grid, desalination plant, seaport and airport in Sinai, as well as a free trade zone with five industrial areas. Most of the financing will come from the oil-rich Gulf states.

Egyptian diplomatic sources appear to have confirmed the reports. The programme has the potential to help relieve the immense suffering in Gaza, where electricity, clean water and freedom of movement are in short supply. Palestinians and Egyptians would jointly work on these projects, providing desperately needed jobs. In Gaza, youth unemployment stands at over 60 per cent.

It has been left unclear whether Palestinians from Gaza would be encouraged to live close to the Sinai projects in migrant workers’ towns. Israel will doubtless hope that Palestinian workers would gradually make Sinai their permanent home.

Egypt, meanwhile, will benefit both from the huge injection of capital in an economy currently in crisis, as well as from new infrastructure that can be used for its own population in the restive Sinai peninsula.

It is worth noting that for two years an Israeli cabinet minister has been proposing similar infrastructure projects for Gaza located on an artificial island to be established in Palestinian territorial waters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly balked at the proposal.

Locating the scheme instead in Egypt, under Cairo’s control, will tie Egyptian security concerns about Gaza to Israel’s, and serve to kill the Palestinian national cause of statehood.

A decade of arm-twisting

It is important to understand that the Sinai plan is not simply evidence of wishful thinking by an inexperienced or deluded Trump administration. All the signs are that it has enjoyed vigorous support from the Washington policy establishment for more than a decade.

In fact, four years ago, when Barack Obama was firmly ensconced in the White House, Middle East Eye charted the course of attempts by Israel and the US to arm-twist a succession of Egyptian leaders into opening Sinai to Gaza’s Palestinians.

This has been a key Israeli ambition since it pulled several thousand settlers out of Gaza in the so-called disengagement of 2005 and claimed afterwards – falsely – that the enclave’s occupation was over.

Washington has reportedly been on board since 2007, when the Islamist faction Hamas took control of Gaza, ousting the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was then that Israel, backed by the US, intensified a blockade that has destroyed Gaza’s economy and prevented key goods from entering.

A Palestinian statelet

The advantages of the Sinai plan are self-evident to Israel and the US. It would:

  • make permanent the territorial division between Gaza and the West Bank, and the ideological split between the rival factions of Fatah and Hamas;
  • downgrade Gaza from a diplomatic issue to a humanitarian one;
  • gradually lead to the establishment of a de facto Palestinian statelet in Sinai and Gaza, mostly outside the borders of historic Palestine;
  • encourage the eventual settlement of potentially millions of Palestinian refugees in Egyptian territory, stripping them of their right in international law to return to their homes, now in Israel;
  • weaken the claims of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, located in the West Bank, to represent the Palestinian cause and undermine their moves to win recognition of statehood at the United Nations;
  • and lift opprobrium from Israel by shifting responsibility for repressing Gaza’s Palestinians to Egypt and the wider Arab world.

‘Greater Gaza’ plan

In summer 2014, Israel’s media reported that, with Washington’s blessing, Israeli officials had been working on a plan dubbed “Greater Gaza” that would attach the enclave to a large slice of northern Sinai. The reports suggested that Israel had made headway with Cairo on the idea.

Egyptian and Palestinians officials publicly responded to the leaks by denouncing the plan as “fabricated”. But, whether Cairo was privately receptive or not, it provided yet further confirmation of a decade-long Israeli strategy in Gaza.

At around the same time, an Arab newspaper interviewed a former anonymous official close to Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president ousted in 2011. He said Egypt had come under concerted pressure from 2007 onwards to annex Gaza to northern Sinai, after Hamas took control of the enclave following Palestinian elections.

Five years later, according to the same source, Mohamed Morsi, who led a short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government, sent a delegation to Washington where the Americans proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.

And since 2014, it appears, Morsi’s successor, General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has faced similar lobbying.

Carrots and sticks

Suspicions that Sisi might have been close to capitulating four years ago were fuelled at that time by Abbas himself. In an interview on Egyptian TV, he said Israel’s Sinai plan had been “unfortunately accepted by some here [in Egypt]. Don’t ask me more about that. We abolished it.”

Israel’s neoconservative cheerleaders in Washington who reportedly leant on Mubarak in 2007, during George W Bush’s presidency, are now influencing Middle East policy again in the Trump administration.

And although Sisi appears to have stood his ground in 2014, subsequent dramatic changes in the region are likely to have weakened his hand.

Both Abbas and Hamas are more isolated than ever, and the situation in Gaza more desperate. Israel has cultivated much closer ties to the Gulf states as they fashion joint opposition to Iran. And the Trump administration has dropped even the pretence of neutrality in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In fact, Trump’s Middle East team led by Kushner adopted from the outset Israel’s so-called “outside-in” paradigm for arriving at a peace agreement.

The idea is to use a carrot-and-stick approach – a mix of financial inducements and punitive sanctions – to bully Abbas and Hamas into making yet more major concessions to Israel that would void any meaningful moves towards Palestinian statehood. Key to this idea is that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates can be recruited to help Israel in its efforts to force the Palestinian leadership’s hand.

Egypt, current reports indicate, has come under similar pressure from the Gulf to concede territory in Sinai to help Trump with his long-delayed “deal of the century”.

Muslim Brotherhood threat

Sisi and his generals have good reason to be reluctant to help. After they grabbed power from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government, they have done everything possible to crush homegrown Islamist movements, but have faced a backlash in Sinai.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, is the sister organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s generals have worried that opening the Rafah border crossing between Sinai and Gaza could bolster Islamist attacks that Egypt has struggled to contain. There are fears too in Cairo that the Sinai option would shift the burden of Gaza onto Egypt’s shoulders.

This is where Trump and Kushner may hope their skills at wheeler-dealing can achieve a breakthrough.

Egypt’s susceptibility to financial inducements from the Gulf were on display last year when Sisi’s government agreed effectively to sell off to Saudi Arabia two strategic Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir. They guard the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez canal.

In return, Egypt received billions of dollars in loans and investments from the kingdom, including large-scale infrastructure projects in Sinai. Israel reportedly approved the deal.

Analysts have suggested that the handover of the islands to Saudi Arabia was intended to strengthen security and intelligence cooperation between Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in dealing with Islamic militants in Sinai.

This now looks suspiciously like the prelude to Trump’s reported Sinai plan.

Over the Palestinians’ heads

In March, the White House hosted 19 countries in a conference to consider new ideas for dealing with Gaza’s mounting crisis. As well as Israel, participants included representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. The Palestinians boycotted the meeting.

Much favoured by the Trump team was a paper delivered by Yoav Mordechai, an Israeli general and key official overseeing Israel’s strategy in the occupied territories. Many of his proposals – for a free trade zone and infrastructure projects in Sinai – are now being advanced.

Last month Kushner visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Jordan to drum up support. According to interviews in the Israel Hayom daily, all four Arab states are on board with the peace plan, even if it means bypassing Abbas.

Jackie Khoury, a Palestinian analyst for the Israeli Haaretz newspaper, summed up the plan’s Gaza elements: “Egypt, which has a vital interest in calming Gaza down because of the territory’s impact on Sinai, will play the policeman who restrains Hamas. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and perhaps the United Arab Emirates will pay for the projects, which will be under United Nations auspices.”

Israel’s efforts to secure compliance from Hamas may be indicated by recent threats to invade Gaza and dissect it in two, reported through veteran Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai. The US has also moved to deepen the crisis in Gaza by withholding payments to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. A majority of Gaza’s population are refugees dependent on UN handouts.

An advantage for Hamas in agreeing to the Sinai plan is that it would finally be freed of Israeli and Palestinian Authority controls over Gaza. It would be in a better able to sustain its rule, as long as it did not provoke Egyptian ire.

Oslo’s pacification model

Israel and Washington’s plans for Gaza have strong echoes of the “economic pacification” model that was the framework for the Oslo peace process of the late 1990s.

For Israel, Oslo represented a cynical chance to destroy the largely rural economy of the West Bank that Palestinians have depended on for centuries. Israel has long coveted the territory both for its economic potential and its Biblical associations.

Hundreds of Palestinian communities in the West Bank rely on these lands for agriculture, rooting them to historic locations through economic need and tradition. But uprooting the villagers – forcing them into a handful of Palestinian cities, and clearing the land for Jewish settlers – required an alternative economic model.

As part of the the Oslo process, Israel began establishing a series of industrial areas – paid for by international donors – on the so-called “seam zone” between Israel and the West Bank.

Israeli and international companies were to open factories there, employing cheap Palestinian labour with minimal safeguards. Palestinians would be transformed from farmers with a strong attachment to their lands into a casual labour force concentrated in the cities.

An additional advantage for Israel was that it would make the Palestinians the ultimate “precariat”. Should they start demanding a state or even protest for rights, Israel could simply block entry to the industrial areas, allowing hunger to pacify the population.

New prison wardens

There is every reason to believe that is now the goal of an Israeli-Trump initiative to gradually relocate Palestinians to Sinai through investment in infrastructure projects.

With the two countries’ security interests safely aligned, Israel can then rely on Egypt to pacify the Palestinians of Gaza on its behalf. Under such a scheme, Cairo will have many ways to teach its new workforce of migrant labourers a lesson.

It can temporarily shut down the infrastructure projects, laying off the workforce, until there is quiet. It can close off the sole Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Sinai. It can shutter the electricity and desalination plants, depriving Gaza of power and clean water.

This way Gaza can be kept under Israel’s thumb without Israel sharing any blame. Egypt will become Gaza’s visible prison wardens, just as Abbas and his Palestinian Authority have shouldered the burden of serving as jailers in much of the West Bank.

This is Israel’s model for Gaza. We may soon find out whether it is shared by Egypt and the Gulf states.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Jared Kushner and the Palestinians’ « right to happiness » , by Thierry Meyssan

We were wrong to believe that the US project for the Middle East was a peace plan for Palestine. Despite the communications from the White House, this is not what President Trump is seeking. He is approaching this question from a radically different angle than that of his predecessors – not attempting to render Justice between his vassals, as an emperor would, but to unblock the situation in order to improve the daily lives of the populations involved.

Egypt imposes conditions on lifting the siege of Gaza

The US special envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, arrived in Egypt after they had been received in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, the cabinet of President al-Sissi announced that he would support a chapter of the US Peace Plan. Cairo would lift the siege of Gaza if two conditions are satisfied. First the Gulf Countries undertake to construct a port and an airport at Gaza and second, Hamas undertakes to release the Israeli prisoners that it was (...)

What’s in Trump’s “Deal of the Century”? The Answers are in Plain Sight

There are mounting signals that Donald Trump’s much-delayed Middle East peace plan – billed as the “deal of the century” – is about to be unveiled.

Even though Trump’s officials have given away nothing publicly, the plan’s contours are already evident, according to analysts.

They note that Israel has already started implementing the deal – entrenching “apartheid” rule over Palestinians – while Washington has spent the past six months dragging its heels on publishing the document.

“Netanyahu has simply got on with deepening his hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem – and he knows the Americans aren’t going to stand in his way,” said Michel Warschawski, an Israeli analyst and head of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem.

“He will be given free rein to do what he likes, whether they publish the plan or, in the end, it never sees the light of day,” he told Middle East Eye.

Eran Etzion, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, agreed: “Israel has a much freer hand than it did in the past. It feels confident enough to continue its existing policies, knowing Trump won’t stand in the way.”

Netanyahu ‘the winner’

According to the latest reports, the Americans may present their plan within days, soon after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yossi Alpher, a former aide to Ehud Barak during his premiership in the late 1990s, said it was clear Netanyahu was being “kept in the loop” by Trump officials. He told MEE: “He is being apprised of what is coming. There won’t be any surprises for him.”

Analysts are agreed that Netanyahu will emerge the winner from any Trump initiative.

Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician who was a pivotal figure in the Oslo peace process of the early 1990s, said Netanyahu would cynically manipulate the plan to his advantage.

“He knows the Palestinians will not accept the terms they are being offered,” he told MEE. “So he can appear reasonable and agree to it – even if there are things he is unhappy with – knowing that the Palestinians will reject it and then be blamed for its failure.”

Alpher agreed. “If the plan is rejected, Trump will say he did his best, he offered the parties the greatest deal ever, and that they must now be left to settle the issues on their own.”

He added that the only obstacle to Washington presenting the plan were fears about Abbas’s waning health. Trump’s team might then prefer to shelve it.

Even then, he said, Netanyahu would profit.

“He can then continue with what he’s been doing for the past 10 years. He will expand the settlements, and suppress the rights of Israelis who oppose him. He will move Israel towards a situation of apartheid.”

Fragments of land

In an early effort to win Trump’s favour, reported by MEE a year ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas proposed a land swap ceding 6.5 percent of the occupied territories to Israel. That was more than three times what had been accepted by the Palestinians in previous peace talks.

But the Palestinians appear to have lost the battle and are now braced for the worst. Abbas has derided the plan as “the slap of the century”, and has said he will not commit “treason” by agreeing to it.

According to Palestinian officials, they are likely to be offered provisional borders over fragments of land comprising about half the occupied territories – or just 11 percent of what was recognised as Palestine under the British mandate.

The Palestinian areas would be demilitarised, and Israel would have control over the borders and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians would then be left to “negotiate” over the status of Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with Trump likely to back Netanyahu to the hilt, according to the analysts.

It is widely assumed that the Americans have rejected any principle of a right of return for Palestinian refugees, either to Israel or to the areas of the occupied territories that Israel wins US approval to seize.

Gaza and Golan windfalls

The US embassy’s move to Jerusalem last month appears to signal that the Trump administration will recognise all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That would deny Palestinians East Jerusalem, long assumed to be the capital of any future Palestinian state.

And separate reports this month suggest that the announcement of the peace plan may be timed to coincide with new measures for Gaza and the Golan Heights. There have been rumours for several years that Washington and Israel have been pressuring Cairo to let Palestinians in Gaza settle in Sinai.

According to Israeli reports, Washington may be close to unveiling a scheme that would weaken the border between Gaza and Egypt, and allow Palestinians to work and maybe live in northern Sinai.

The aim would be to gradually shift responsibility for the enclave away from Israel on to Egypt and further undermine prospects for a Palestinian state in historic Palestine.

And in a separate move that would complete Netanyahu’s windfall, an Israeli government minister claimed late last month that the Trump administration may be ready to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan.

The Heights were seized by Israel from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed in violation of international law in 1981.

No longer ‘occupied’

A Jerusalem Post report last month suggested that the White House document would be unlikely to include a commitment to a “two-state solution”, reflecting previous comments from Trump.

That would free Israel’s hand to seize areas of the West Bank it has colonised with its ever-expanding settlements.

Noticeably, the latest annual report from the US State Department on the human rights situation by country, published in April, drops for the first time the term “occupied Palestinian territories”, implying that the Trump team no longer views much of the West Bank as under occupation.

Netanyahu told a recent meeting of his Likud faction: “Our successes are still to come. Our policies are not based on weakness. They are not based on concessions that will endanger us.”

So given Israel’s recent moves, what can we infer about the likely terms of Trump’s peace plan?

1. Gerrymandering Jerusalem

The most sensitive of the final-status issues is Jerusalem, which includes the incendiary Muslim holy site of al-Aqsa. Trump appears to have effectively recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by relocating the US embassy there last month.

The embassy move is likely to be interpreted by Netanyahu as a retroactive seal of approval from the US for a series of Israeli measures over recent months designed to engineer a Greater Jewish Jerusalem.

The main thrust are two legislative proposals to gerrymander the city’s boundaries and its population to create an unassailable Jewish majority. Both have been put on hold by Netanyahu until the announcement of the peace plan.

The first – called the Greater Jerusalem Bill – is intended to annex several large Jewish settlements close by in the occupied West Bank to the Jerusalem municipality. Overnight that would transform some 150,000 West Bank settlers into Jerusalem residents, as well as effectively annexing their lands to Israel.

In a sign of the impatience of members of Netanyahu’s cabinet to press on with such a move, the bill is due to come up for consideration again on Sunday.

A separate bill would strip residency in the city from some 100,000 Palestinians who are on the “wrong side” of a wall Israel began building through Jerusalem 15 years ago. Those Palestinians will be all but barred from Jerusalem and assigned to a separate council.

In addition, Israel has intensified harsh measures against Palestinians still inside East Jerusalem, including night arrests, house demolitions, the closing down of businesses, the creation of “national parks” in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the denial of basic services. The barely veiled aim is to encourage residents to relocate outside the wall.

Experts have noted too that Palestinian schools inside the wall are being pressured to adopt the Israeli curriculum to erode a Palestinian identity among pupils.

2. Abu Dis: a Palestinian capital?

With Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, Trump’s team is reported to be seeking a face-saving alternative location for a future Palestinian “capital” outside Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

According to rumours, they have selected the town of Abu Dis, 4km east of Jerusalem and cut off from the city by Israel’s wall more than a decade ago.

The Abu Dis plan is not new. At the end of the 1990s, the US administration of Bill Clinton proposed renaming Abu Dis “al-Quds” – Arabic for “the Holy”, the traditional name of Jerusalem because of its holy places. That was seen as a prelude to designating it the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Reports about the elevation of Abu Dis in the new peace plan have been circulating since late last year. In January, Abbas rejected the idea outright.

Only last month Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s centre-right Yesh Atid party, highlighted reports about the imminent change of Abu Dis’s status in comments directed at Netanyahu.

Abu Dis is a densely populated village home to 13,000 Palestinians. In practice, it is all but impossible to imagine how it could function meaningfully as the capital of a Palestinian state – something that makes it an attractive proposition for most of Netanyahu’s coalition.

Currently, most of Abu Dis’s lands are under Israeli control, and it is hemmed in by the wall and Jewish settlements, including the 40,000 inhabitants of Maale Adumim.

Several government ministers have made Israel’s annexation of Maale Adumim a priority. Netanyahu has delayed such a move, again citing the need to wait for the announcement of the Trump peace plan.

Beilin said it was mistakenly believed that he and Abbas agreed on Abu Dis as a Palestinian capital back in the 1990s.

“It wasn’t credible as an idea then, and the map looks very different now,” he said. “The Palestinian capital has to be in East Jerusalem. Nothing else will work.”

3. Access to al-Aqsa

There has also been talk of a plan to create a narrow land corridor from Abu Dis to the al-Aqsa mosque, so Palestinians can reach it to pray.

However, Israel has been allowing ever larger numbers of settlers into al-Aqsa, which is reputedly built over two long-destroyed Jewish temples.

Meanwhile, Israel has been tightly restricting access to the site for most Palestinians. There have been long-standing Palestinian fears that Israel is seeking to engineer a situation where it can impose its sovereignty over the mosque.

David Friedman, Trump’s ambassador to Israel and a benefactor to the settlements, only heightened such fears last month when he was pictured apparently accepting a photo doctored by religious settlers that showed al-Aqsa mosque replaced by a new Jewish temple.

4. Jordan Valley

Under the Oslo accords, some 62 percent of the occupied West Bank was classified as Area C, under temporary Israeli control. It includes much of the Palestinians’ best agricultural land and would be the heartland of any future Palestinian state.

Israel never carried out the withdrawals from Area C intended in the Oslo process. Instead, it has been accelerating the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements there, and making life as hard as possible for Palestinians to force them into the confines of the more densely populated Areas A and B.

The Trump plan is reported to offer recognition of provisional Palestinian borders on about half of the West Bank – effectively awarding most of Area C to Israel. Much of that land will be in the Jordan Valley, the long spine of the West Bank that Israel has been colonising for decades.

Last December, as the Trump plan took shape, Israel announced a massive programme of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, designed to more than double the settler population there. Three new settlements will be the first to be built in the valley in nearly 30 years.

At the same time, Israel has lately been intensifying the harassment of the ever-shrinking Palestinian population in the Jordan Valley, as well as other parts of Area C.

In addition to denying Palestinians access to 85 percent of the Valley, Israel has declared military firing zones over nearly half of the area. That has justified the regular eviction of families on the pretext of ensuring their safety.

Israel has also been developing accelerated procedures to demolish Palestinian homes in the Jordan Valley.

5. The rest of Area C

Israel has been speeding up efforts to expand the settlements in other parts of Area C. On 30 May, it announced nearly 2,000 new homes, the great majority of them in isolated settlements that it was previously assumed would be dismantled in any peace deal.

Additionally, Israel has been quietly preparing to “legalise” what are termed “outposts” – settlements, usually built on private Palestinian land, that violate a “no new settlements” agreement with the US dating from the 1990s.

At the same time, Israel has been destroying Palestinian communities in Area C, especially those that stand in the way of efforts to create territorial continuity between large settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Late last month, France objected after Israel’s supreme court approved a plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, next to Maale Adumim. The families are supposed to be moved to a garbage dump in Abu Dis.

The French statement warned that Israeli actions were threatening “a zone of strategic importance to the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state”.

In its place, it was recently revealed, Israel is planning to build a new settlement neighbourhood called Nofei Bereishit.

In another sign of mounting international concern, some 70 Democratic members of the US Congress appealed last month to Netanyahu to stop the destruction of the Palestinian community of Sussiya, between the Gush Etzion settlements and Jerusalem.

US lawmakers expressed concern that the move was designed to “jeopardise the prospects for a two-state solution”.

6. Gaza and Sinai

It is becoming hard for the Trump administration and Israel to ignore the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza – one Israel helped to engineer with an 11-year blockade and intermittent military attacks. The United Nations warned some time ago that Gaza would soon be “uninhabitable”.

Seeking a solution, the White House hosted 19 countries at a meeting in March to consider the situation in Gaza. The PA boycotted the meeting.

At the time, Arab media reported that the Trump peace plan might include a commitment from Egypt to free up northern Sinai for a future Palestinian state. According to a Hamas official, Cairo offered reassurances that it was opposed to “settling Palestinians in Sinai”.

But a report in Haaretz has revived concerns that the White House may try to achieve a similar end by other means, by launching a Gaza initiative to coincide with the peace plan.

The paper noted that the Trump team had picked up proposals from an Israeli general, Yoav Mordechai, who participated in the White House meeting in March.

A reported initial stage would see Palestinians from Gaza recruited to work on $1.5bn worth of long-term projects in northern Sinai, funded by the international community. The projects would include an industrial zone, a desalination plant and a power station.

Egyptian opposition to such an initiative is reported to be weakening, presumably in the face of strenuous pressure from Washington and Arab allies.

Palestinian protests

The Palestinians are doing their best to try to halt the peace plan in its tracks. They are currently boycotting the Trump administration to show their displeasure.

Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki called last month on Arab states to recall their ambassadors from the United States in protest.

And an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has proposed that an international peacekeeping force, modelled on those used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, be deployed to protect Palestinians.

In another sign of anger at the Trump initiative, the Palestinians defied the US by submitting a referral for the International Criminal Court at the Hague to investigate Israel for war crimes last month.

Etzion, the former Israeli foreign ministry official, however, warned that a turning point could be on the horizon.

“A Palestinian implosion is coming and that could change the situation in unexpected ways,” he told MEE. “The question is which implosion comes first: the humanitarian catastrophe about to engulf Gaza, or the political vacuum created when Abbas leaves.”

Arab pressure

Nonetheless, the Palestinians are facing huge pressure to give in to the peace plan.

The Trump administration has already cut funding to the UN refugee agency, UNRWA, which cares for more than two million refugees in the occupied territories. It is also poised to pull more than $200m of funding to the Palestinian Authority this summer.

Trump has also sought to recruit the Arab states to lean on Abbas. According to reports, the Palestinian leader was presented with a 35-page document originating from the Americans when he visited Saudi Arabia last November, and told to accept it or resign.

In recent years the Saudis have increased their aid to the Palestinian Authority, giving them greater leverage over the Palestinian leader.

In exchange for the Arab states acceding to Trump’s plan, Washington appears to be rolling out a more draconian policy towards Iran to limit its influence in the region.

The Arab states understand that they need to first defuse the Palestinian issue before they can be seen to coordinate closely with Israel and the US in dealing with Tehran.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Egypt contributes part of its own territory for Plan Neom

On receiving the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed ben Salmane, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, announced that Egypt was joining the Saudi project Neom. In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced its wish to build a high-tech mega city, to be called Neom, targeting luxury tourism. The region in which the city would be built would be governed by a specific legal regime geared for a Western lifestyle. This legal regime would be completely insulated from Wahhabism specifically and (...)

Canada’s New Democratic Party’s Anti-Palestinian History

The NDP leadership’s naked suppression of debate on the “Palestine Resolution” is rooted in a long pro-Israeli nationalism history.

At last month’s convention the party machine blocked any debate of the Palestine Resolution, which mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

As I detailed previously, the Palestine Resolution was confusingly renamed, deprioritized and then blocked from being debated on the convention floor. The suppression of a resolution unanimously endorsed by the NDP youth convention, many outside groups and over 25 riding associations was the latest in a long line of leadership anti-Palestinian actions.

However, the first leader of Canada’s original social democratic party actually took a sensible humanist position, criticizing the colonialist/nationalist movement’s impact on the indigenous population. In 1938 CCF (the NDP’s predecessor) leader J. S. Woodsworth said, “it was easy for Canadians, Americans and the British to agree to a Jewish colony, as long as it was somewhere else. Why ‘pick on the Arabs’ other than for ‘strategic’ and ‘imperialistic’ consideration.”

After Woodsworth’s 1940 death the party’s stance shifted and by the end of World War II the CCF officially supported Zionism. Future CCF leader and premier of Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas and long-time federal MP Stanley Knowles were members of the Canadian Palestine Committee, a group of prominent non-Jewish Zionists formed in 1943 (future external minister Paul Martin Sr. and Alberta premier Ernest C. Manning were also members). In 1944 the Canadian Palestine Committee wrote Prime Minister Mackenzie King that it “looks forward to the day when Palestine shall ultimately become a Jewish commonwealth, and member of the British Commonwealth of Nations under the British Crown.”

Not long after 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homeland. In 1947/48 CCF officials said the refugees should not be allowed to return. CCF MP Alistair Stewart said that taking in anything more than a small proportion of the refugees might destroy Israel and would be “asking more than any modern state would be prepared to accede to.”

Despite general misgivings towards arms sales, the CCF backed Canada selling 24 F-86 Sabre jets to Israel in the lead-up to its 1956 invasion of Egypt. The party justified Israel’s invasion alongside declining Middle East colonial powers Britain and France. Party leader M.J. Coldwell said:

Israel had ample provocation for her action in marching into Sinai… Egypt’s insistence that Israel be made to obey United Nations resolutions [while it had] hampered Israel’s shipping without lawful excuse. Egypt’s insistence that Israel be made to obey United Nations resolution sounds no less than cynical coming as it does from a government which for years ignored and flouted the Security Council and United Nations when they ordered free passage for Israel’s ships through Suez.

The NDP also took up Israel’s justification for invading its neighbors in 1967. They criticized Egypt’s blockade of Israeli shipping while ignoring that country’s strategic objectives, which the CIA concluded were the: (1) “Destruction of the center of power of the radical Arab Socialist movement, i.e. the Nasser regime.” (2) “Destruction of the arms of the radical Arabs.” (3) “Destruction of both Syria and Jordan as modern states.”

Despite Ottawa’s strong pro-Israel alignment, NDP leader Tommy Douglas criticized Prime Minister Lester Pearson for not backing Israel more forthrightly in the 1967 war. Describing the NDP convention shortly after the Six-Day War Toronto Star reporter John Goddard wrote, “the delegates were solidly behind Israel. I remember David Lewis leading the discussion at the Royal York Hotel, the look of steely resolve on his face, and the sense of relief in the room over the defeat of the Arab armies.”

After Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967 the party came out in favor of a “united Jerusalem”. “The division of Jerusalem,” said David Lewis, a significant figure in the party for four decades, “did not make economic or social sense. As a united city under Israel’s aegis, Jerusalem would be a much more progressive and fruitful capital of the various religions.”

As Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Egypt’s Sinai, Lewis made “impassioned warnings that Israel was in danger.” During his time as federal leader from 1971 to 1975 Lewis spoke to at least one Israel Bonds fundraiser, which raised money for that state.

Just after stepping down as federal leader Lewis was the “speaker of the year” at a B’nai B’rith breakfast. In the hilariously titled “NDP’s David Lewis urges care for disadvantaged”, the Canadian Jewish News reported that Lewis “attacked the UN for having admitted the PLO” and said “a Middle East peace would require ‘some recognition of the Palestinians in some way.’ He remarked that the creation of a Palestinian state might be necessary but refused to pinpoint its location. The Israelis must make that decision, he said, without interference from Diaspora Jewry.”

After a trip to that country Tommy Douglas said “Israel was like a light set upon a hill – the light of democracy in a night of darkness – and the main criticism of Israel has not been a desire for land. The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers.” (Douglas’ 1975 comment was made after Israel had driven out its indigenous population and repeatedly invaded its neighbours.)

The NDP labelled the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which was created in 1964, a danger and vociferously opposed the UN granting it observer status in 1974. Federal party leader Ed Broadbent called the PLO “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel.” (Apparently, multiple players within the NDP-aligned Broadbent Institute voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution at an early morning session prior to the main plenary.) In the late 1970s the NDP called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Ontario NDP leader from 1970 to 1978, Stephen Lewis was stridently anti-Palestinian. He demanded the federal government cancel a major UN conference scheduled to be held in Toronto in 1975 because the PLO was granted observer status at the UN the previous year and their representatives might attend. In a 1977 speech to pro-Israel fundraiser United Jewish Appeal, which the Canadian Jewish News titled “Lewis praises [Conservative premier Bill] Davis for Stand on Israel”, Stephen Lewis denounced the UN’s “wantonly anti-social attitude to Israel.” He told the pro-Israel audience that “the anti-Semitism that lurks underneath the surface is diabolical. The only thing to rely on is Jew helping Jew.” (Stephen Lewis’ sister, Janet Solberg, was maybe the loudest anti-Palestinian at the NDP’s recent convention. Former president of the Ontario NDP and federal council member, Solberg was a long time backroom organizer for her brother and works at the Stephen Lewis Foundation.)

In the 1989 book The Domestic Battleground: Canada and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Irving Abella and John Sigler write, “historically, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has been the most supportive of the Israeli cause, largely because of its close relationship to Israel’s Labour party, and to the Histadrut, the Israeli trade union movement.”

Excluding non-Jewish workers for much of its history, the Histadrut was a key part of the Zionist movement. Former Prime Minister Golda Meir remarked: “Then [1928] I was put on the Histadrut Executive Committee at a time when this big labor union wasn’t just a trade union organization. It was a great colonizing agency.” For its part, Israel’s Labor party (and predecessor Mapai) was largely responsible for the 1947/48 ethnic cleansing of Palestine, 1956 invasion of Egypt and post 1967 settlement construction in the West Bank.

Relations with Israel’s Labor party continue. Labor Knesset Member Michal Biran was photographed with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh at the recent convention. In the lead-up to that event Biran wrote:

Western progressives must not buy into the simplistic notion that peace is Israel’s gift to bestow upon the Palestinians… Palestinians must make peace with Israel as much as the converse. Here again, recognition [of a Palestinian state] achieves nothing: it will not cause Hamas to halt its missile attacks; it will not encourage the PA to cease payments to terrorists to incentivise murders of Israeli civilians; it will not convince Mahmoud Abbas to cease his antisemitic screeds and Holocaust revisionism. Unilateral recognition offers a free diplomatic gift whilst demanding no Palestinian concessions essential to peace.

When proponents of the Palestine Resolution tried to reprioritize their resolution so the convention could debate it, Singh mobilized his family and community to block it. Two dozen Sikh delegates, including members of Singh’s family, voted as a block against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which failed 200 to 189. A Facebook meme by Aminah Mahmood captured the sentiment: “When they USE Brown people to vote down the Palestine Resolution.” (Later in the evening I asked Jagmeet Singh’s brother if he voted against the Palestine Resolution, but he refused to answer.)

The suppression of the Palestine Resolution should stir internationalist minded party members to finally confront the NDP’s anti-Palestinian legacy. A first step in breaking from this odious history could be ending all ties with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Israeli Labor Party, Canada–Israel Parliamentary Group and other Israel lobby organizations/forums. If the party believes in justice this is the least it should do.

The Egypt/Sudan/Eritrea/Ethiopia crisis, by Julie Franco

Egypt and Sudan are entangled in a number of conflicts: The border between the two states has not been defined. The Halayeb region, occupied by Egypt since 2000, is still claimed by Sudan. Upon Egypt's surrender of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, in 2016, the kingdom reportedly acknowledged Egypt's sovereignty over Halayeb. Sudan is ruled by a branch of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, now banned by Cairo. It has just signed a agreement with Turkey, current sponsor of the (...)

International Bodies Fail to Understand the Middle East Crisis

One sentence summarizes the Zionist expansion from an incursion to ultimate takeover of Palestinian lands – the Zionists act aggressively and the world bodies re-react passively. Institutions that defend the world community and protect regional interests have failed to understand the Middle East crisis, failed to recognize the dangers posed by the Zionist expansion, and have subverted their constituencies. These failures prevent formulation of an acceptable plan and a concentrated effort to resolve the perilous situation. Those who argue that the Middle East crisis is beyond comprehension and resolution are deceiving the world; proper thought leads to basic actions that can turn an impending catastrophe into a manageable situation.

International Bodies fail to recognize motives

Ardent discussions and symbolic votes that demonstrate support for international law and the justified Palestinian cause are meritorious. However, Israel uses the symbolic methods to show their ineffectiveness and contemptuously challenges them by doing the opposite of what they intend to accomplish. Although United States President Donald Trump declared his nation’s recognition of Jerusalem (not West) as Israel’s capital and intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the United Nations, European Union, and Arab League failed to digest the serious consequences of the intended move and responded with rhetoric rather than with a defined action plan that could definitely counter the egregious act. The U.S. president fulfilled a campaign pledge to his Religious Right constituency, which is determined to help move the huge granite stones that rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street, in Givat Havatzim, Jerusalem’s northernmost district, to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Cut to specification, the imposing stones represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement to erect a Third Temple on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Receiving approval that Jerusalem is its capital gives Israel an introduction to declare that to administer its capital it must have total legal control over all municipalities, including all neighborhoods of the Old City, which includes the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

International bodies fail to recognize why twisting reality poses risks

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complemented President Trump’s ego-tripping prevarications, his attitude of attacking all those who contradict him, and his doing it in a manner that is associated with mania. In a remark to official institutions that “Jerusalem had been the capital of Israel for 3000 years and the present state of Israel for 70 years,” PM Netanyahu portrayed similar characteristics to those of President Trump.

Were Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab Caliphates, Crusaders, Mamluks, and Ottomans aware of this “capital” during their combined rule of Jerusalem, which lasted almost three thousand years? More baffling is that the Prime Minister of a nation that calls itself the “Jewish State,” does not know that Jerusalem lay in an area called Judah and not Israel. Should not Netanyahu forfeit leadership for his inept statement?

Combine the psychological difficulties of the President of the United States with those of the leader of a nation that is closely allied with the United States and we have nations that have been culpable in immense crimes and killings in the last decades working together and determining the destiny for many of us.

International Bodies fail to recognize the ominous trajectories

The Zionist proposal at the 1919 Paris peace Conference defined intentions. Although, the proposal mentioned that “Palestine is not large enough to contain more than a proportion of the Jews of the world” and “The greater part of the fourteen millions or more scattered throughout all countries must remain in their present localities,” it has become obvious that the Zionists did not intend to follow their statements. Compound that deception with their description of the “General lines for the boundaries of Palestine,” shown as dotted lines on the map. Note their Greater Israel extends close to Beirut in Lebanon, Damascus in Syria, and Amman in Jordan. The boundary captures all the aquifers and facilitates use of the Hedjaz railway.

Continue to the 1948 war, when, contrary to the over-expressed statement that the Egyptians, together with other Arab armies, intended to “throw the Israelis into the sea,” the Arab forces did not have the military strength to accomplish the task. Egyptian troop movements indicate a defense of the new Palestinian state rather than intent to occupy the new Israeli state. The reality is that the Israelis figuratively threw the Palestinians “into the sea,” or at least into refugee camps, by being complicit in the leaving and expulsion of 750,000 of the 900,000 Palestinians who inhabited the British Mandate, and by barring them a return to the lands and homes their families had possessed for centuries. Already, in 1948, it had become obvious that the Zionists intended to achieve their objectives, and that two states were not included in their agenda.

It is no coincidence that Israel invaded and occupied the Sinai in 1956 before French and British coordinated attacks against Nasser’s Egypt. Rarely mentioned is a controversial meeting, known as the Protocol of Sèvres,1956, and reported in Anatomy of a War Plot1, which describes Israel Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s proposed plan to Great Britain and France, and executes the Zionist proposals. Although the meeting records are not available in French and British government archives, the meeting occurrence and parts of Ben Gurion’s plan are confirmed in Shimon Peres: the Biography by Michael Bar-Zohar.

The session started at 4 p.m. on Monday, 22 October, in the conservatory of the villa and it was intended to enable the leaders of the two countries to get to know each other and to have a preliminary discussion. Ben-Gurion opened the discussion by listing his military, political and moral considerations against ‘the English plan’. His main objection was that Israel would be branded as the aggressor while Britain and France would pose as peace-makers but he was also exceedingly apprehensive about exposing Israeli cities to attack by the Egyptian Air Force. Instead he presented a comprehensive plan, which he himself called ‘fantastic’, for the reorganization of the Middle East. Jordan, he observed, was not viable as an independent state and should therefore be divided. Iraq would get the East Bank in return for a promise to settle the Palestinian refugees there and to make peace with Israel while the West Bank would be attached to Israel as a semi-autonomous region. Lebanon suffered from having a large Muslim population which was concentrated in the south. The problem could be solved by Israel’s expansion up to the Litani River, thereby helping to turn Lebanon into a more compact Christian state. The Suez Canal area should be given an international status while the Straits of Tiran in the Gulf of Aqaba should come under Israeli control to ensure freedom of navigation. A prior condition for realizing this plan was the elimination of Nasser and the replacement of his regime with a pro-Western government which would also be prepared to make peace with Israel.

At the start of the 1967 war, Israel claimed that Arab armies had prepared an attack, which forced the nation to initiate the offensive. After the war, Moishe Dayan has been quoted as saying, “at least 80 percent of two decades of border clashes were initiated by Israel. We would send a tractor to plow some (disputed) area…and we knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn’t shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance further, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that’s how it was.” Other disguised offensive actions.

As early as 1964, Israel diverted the headwaiters of the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee to Israel’s South. Syria responded by building its own diversions in the Golan. The Israel forces attacked these facilities on several occasions.

On April 26, 1967, two months before the start of the 6-day war, Israeli jets shot down 6 Syrian planes over Syrian territory in the Golan Heights. Later that day Israeli jets flew over Damascus.

Israel bombed all Egyptian airfields and destroyed the Egyptian air force before any declaration of war.

Although Israel accused Egypt of preparing for an immediate attack, no Egyptian soldier set foot on Israeli territory.

Israel captured and occupied the entire Sinai.

Israel continued attacks in the Golan after a preliminary truce had been declared and did not stop the attacks until the entire Golan had been captured.

As in previous engagements, Israel fought a defensive war in an offensive manner and seized large amounts of territory. The war created another flood of Palestinian refugees, a total of 300,000 fled the West Bank and Gaza, of which 180,000 were first time refugees; the others were from previous actions. One clue to the reason for the war – Illegal settlements under direction of the Labor government quickly followed the occupation of the West Bank.

Several wars later, Israel occupies and has virtual control of much of British Mandate Palestine, including Jerusalem. Gaza remains a Palestinian territory but under constant surveillance, restriction in actions and movement, and subjected to intermittent attacks by Israel. Most of Israel’s adversaries have been subdued by war, internal strife, or agreements. Despite the violence, and after all the mayhem, Israel is not a defined state — no fully defined borders, no constitution, no Israeli nationality (based on ethnicity), sketchy laws, an unrecognized capital city (except for U.S.), failure to respect UN resolutions, severe human rights violations, chaotic political system, biased immigration policy, committing a great number of extra-judicial killings that violate sovereignty of other nations, and a large number of citizens living outside the country — and evidently, Israeli officials prefer the nation to remain that way.

The Zionists have temporarily compromised their original territorial demands but still remain in the position of wherever they go they will encounter a potential enemy, even at the Jordan River. Looking back in history at similar situations, more pronounced than Israel’s situation but still comparable, we find the following:

The United States could not expand without encountering antagonistic Native American tribes, Mexican landholders and Canadian nationalists. The former was virtually eliminated and the others subdued until the only contestants were the two oceans. No problem.

France, under Napoleon, met enemies at every doorstep until it ran out of soldiers and ammunition in Russia. Major problem.

Nazi Germany succeeded in vanquishing possible enemies in Germany’s northern and southern frontiers, succeeded in pushing France into the Atlantic Ocean, but still faced another enemy on the eastern front. As Napoleon, Hitler lost that war.

Similar to Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany, Israel has and will always face enemies, and the last to stand — Iran, Shia militias in a revitalized Iraq, Turkey, and Hezbollah — seem willing to fight aggressively, unlike those who previously contested Israel. These foes might be temporarily contained, but Israel cannot subdue them forever. Imagine all of these nations, together with the militias that emerged during the latest Iraq and Syrian conflicts, confronting Israel. Will the major powers enter the conflict in a manner that occurred in World War I? When faced with defeat, will Israel exercise the Sampson option? Assuredly, without any doubt, it will, and a nuclear holocaust will destroy the Middle East.

Unrestrained warfare is one of the ominous trajectories that International Bodies fail to recognize. There are others.

With continued seizure of Palestinian lands, expanded settlement activity, and purposed denial of the Palestinians to agriculture, water rights, fishing rights, livelihood, and employment, Israel’s actions forecast the destruction of the Palestinian people. Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and planned interference debilitates Palestinian communication, transportation, assembly and governance. Its willingness to intensify Palestinian pain and suffering, especially in Gaza, provides only one direction – more of the same – more generations who are denied basic rights, more generations who are subjected to subsistence living, and more generations who endure intense suffering. Israel has shown no sympathy with the Palestinian plight, and the international community has done nothing to reverse the negative trend. The severe Israeli repression assures that the Palestinians lack what they most need – ontological security – a stable mental state derived from a sense of continuity in regard to the events in one’s life. Because the absence of ontological security accelerates deterioration of the Palestinian community, the trajectory points to Israel propelling the destruction of Palestinian life to an eventual outcome, a genocide that few will notice; it is not a genocide until the vicious act is completed.

The ISIS Caliphate has been defeated and reduced, but what is not reduced are two causes of international terrorism — support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people and Israel’s conflict with the Muslim world in Jerusalem. Osama bin-Laden clarified those positions in an interview with CBS reporter Joel Arak, October 30, 2004, who related that bin-Laden said he was first inspired to attack the United States by the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon in which towers and buildings in Beirut were destroyed in the siege of the capital. “While I was looking at these destroyed towers in Lebanon, it sparked in my mind that the tyrant should be punished with the same and that we should destroy towers in America, so that it tastes what we taste and would be deterred from killing our children and women.” Actions that provoke extremists increase their motives for international terrorism, and more terrorism follows. Until these situations are satisfactorily resolved, one driver of international terrorism will remain and create innocent victims for decades.

The trajectories to war, community destruction, terrorism, and devastation are clearly marked. Nevertheless, the world and regional institutions that have the power to prevent the gloom and doom react with a combination of confusion and complacency, which hastens the ultimate to occur. Time has become essential; ponderous steps by the world community to redo fall behind Israel’s rapid measures of doing. Much can be done but not without consideration to the mechanisms that prevent complete understanding of the crisis, which is sadly lacking, and how these mechanisms thwart capable minds from engineering capable solutions. Israel’s deceptive practices that confuse the issues, dupe the public, and muzzle attempts to resolve the Middle East crisis are the principal ingredients that give it clout and voice much above its fighting weight. Never in history have so many been fooled by an extensive, calculated, and ingenious plan to subvert minds and rearrange positions. Exposing the deceptions, delivering the antidotes to render them harmless, and stifling them are the first and necessary steps before turning an impending catastrophe into a manageable situation.

  1. Avi Shlaim International Affairs, 73:3 (1997), pp.509-530.

Let Yemenis Live

On May 2, 2017, before becoming Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as Minister of Defense, spoke about the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, a war he orchestrated since March of 2015. “A long war is in our interest,” he said, explaining that the Houthi rebels would eventually run out of cash, lack external supplies and break apart.  Conversely, the Saudis could count on a steady flow of cash and weapons. “Time is on our side,” he concluded.

Powerful people in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Senegal and Jordan have colluded with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to prolong the war against Yemen. The Saudis have employed Sudanese fighters from the terrifying Janjaweed militias to fight in small cities along Yemen’s coast line. The seeming objective is to gain ground control leading to the vital Port of Hodeidah. UAE military are reported to operate a network of secret prisons where Yemenis disappear and are tortured, deterring people from speaking up about human rights violations lest they land in one of these dreaded prisons.

Among the most powerful warlords participating in the war are the U.S. and the UK.

Despite the recent publicity for stern words from Donald Trump and Theresa May, urging Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade of Yemen, both countries continue to pocket billions of dollars selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. President Trump swiftly condemned the Houthi fighters for firing several rockets at Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But the Houthis could claim to be using these weapons in self-defense after Saudi and UAE jets have dropped tons of bombs, purchased from the U.S. and the UK, on Yemeni cities and civilians. Observers say if the U.S. stopped its midair refueling of Saudi bomber planes, the war would end shortly thereafter. Yet, the U.S continues these military operations. The UK still supplies the Saudis with surveillance, and both countries work to maintain a comfortable relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Just over 1,000 days of Saudi-led coalition war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been deadly and devastating for Yemeni civilians.

Mark Lowcock, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, says that 7 – 8 million Yemenis are one step away from starvation. The BBC reports that more than 80% of Yemenis lack food, fuel, water and access to health care.

The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached one million, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross.

1.8 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 under the age of five who suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Malnourished children are also at increased risk of dying from infectious diseases.

Like the children of Iraq who perished by the hundreds of thousands during U.S. led economic war against Iraq, these little ones in Yemen mean harm to no one. They’ve done nothing to deserve punishment. Yet, they will pay the price for abysmally failed policies. The food and clean water they hunger and thirst for could reach them, but not if powerful elites decide it’s acceptable to blockade Yemen’s ports, bomb roadways, destroy sewage and sanitation systems, attack fishermen and farmers, and even kill participants at a wedding celebration.

After dancing in Saudi Arabia with Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi princes, President Trump set in motion a $110 billion-dollar weapons deal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence

Boeing, Raytheon, and other military contractors already benefiting from this deal will likely agree with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: a long war is in their best interests.

But, ordinary people who prefer not to be represented by vicious warlords and who face no risk of torture, disappearance or other frightening punishments (people like me for instance) have a responsibility to speak up visibly and clearly. Time is running out for the children of Yemen. The Crown Prince is mistaken. Any war, long or short, may seem to favor the perpetrators, but in the long run wars sow seeds of revenge, retaliation, hatred and death. Real courage requires control over our fears and mutual agreements to protect the most vulnerable among us. Especially the children.

Palestinian Rage will rise to the Surface in Time

It is tempting to interpret the announcement of a delay, however brief, in US vice-president Mike Pence’s visit to the Middle East this week as the ultimate travel warning. It follows an eruption of regional unrest over Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

During protests on Friday, Israeli occupation forces killed four Palestinians and injured more than 250.

US officials, however, are not worried about the safety of Mr Pence, who is due in Israel on Wednesday. In fact, predictions of a third Palestinian uprising in response to Mr Trump’s Jerusalem declaration may be premature.

After decades of flagrant US bias towards Israel, Mr Trump has confirmed to Palestinians only what they already knew. Some even grudgingly welcomed his candour. They hope he has finally silenced US claims to being an “honest broker” in an interminable “peace process” that has simply bought time for Israel to entrench the occupation.

The Palestinians’ anger towards Israel and the US is a slow-burning fuse. It will detonate at a moment of their choosing, not of Mr Trump’s.

Rather, the hesitation in Washington over the vice-president’s visit reflects the messy new diplomatic reality that the White House has unleashed.

Mr Pence was due here to smooth the path to Mr Trump’s long-promised peace plan and to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The door has now been firmly shut in his face on both counts. Palestinian officials have declared a boycott of him, as have Christian leaders in Palestine and Egypt.

Instead of cancelling Mr Pence’s visit or exploiting the extra days’ breathing space to try to reverse the damage, the bull-headed Trump administration is eager to break more of the china.

Following the diplomatic precedent set in May by his boss, Mr Pence is scheduled to visit the Western Wall on Wednesday night in Jerusalem’s occupied Old City and immediately below the Al Aqsa mosque plaza.

Described as “official”, his visit will be invested with far graver symbolism following Mr Trump’s designation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

To add insult to injury, and in contravention of claims that Washington will not pre-determine the borders of a divided Jerusalem before peace talks, a senior US official noted at the weekend that there was no scenario in which the Western Wall would not end up in Israel’s hands.

The US policy change on Jerusalem has been a hammer blow to the three main pillars supporting the cause of Palestinian statehood: the Palestinian Authority, the European Union and the Arab states.

The biggest loser is Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Washington stripped him of his emperor’s clothes: he now heads a Palestinian government-in-waiting that is unlikely ever to be attached to a state, viable or otherwise.

The Arab states, which assumed they were the key to a much-touted “outside-in” strategy, creating a regional framework for peace, have been deprived of the single issue – Jerusalem – that matters most to them.

Egypt scrambled to help Mr Abbas at the weekend by drafting a UN security resolution to rescind any change of status for Jerusalem. But an inevitable US veto made the move moot.

And Europe, which has played “good cop” to the bullying US one, has been exposed as complicit in its partner’s rogue behaviour.

Europe’s predicament is underscored by its peace-making rhetoric. It has long cried wolf, warning that a moment would soon arrive when a two-state solution was no longer feasible, when a temporary occupation morphed into permanent apartheid.

Now that the heart of a Palestinian state has been publicly devoured by the wolf, what will Europe and Mr Abbas do?

The signs are that they will pretend nothing has changed – if only out of fear of what might fill the void if peace-making were exposed as a hollow charade.

But it is precisely the pretence of a peace process that has kept Palestinians chained to an illusion. The perpetuation of false hope about statehood does not benefit Palestinians; it preserves a calm that aids Israel.

That was why the White House accused Mr Abbas of walking away from dialogue last week. But only a fool keeps on appealing to the better nature of a deaf thug.

The burden now falls on the PA, the Arab states and Europe to accept the new reality, and assert a policy independent of the US.

Some Palestinian leaders, like Hanan Ashrawi, already understand this. “Trump’s move is a new era,” she said last week. “There’s no going back.”

Palestinian goals and strategies must be reassessed. Nonetheless, the pressures for a return to the “peace” business as usual will be intense.

Ordinary Palestinians in Jerusalem may be the first to signal the new direction of struggle – one that recognises that a Palestinian state is dead and buried.

In recent years, growing numbers have started applying, as Israeli law entitles them to, for Israeli citizenship. Israel has twisted and turned to delay honouring its commitment, even as it calls Jerusalem its “united capital”.

Palestinians will have to shame Israel, the US and the watching world by adopting the tools of an anti-apartheid struggle – of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience – to gain equal rights in a single state.

At the moment, the undercurrents of Palestinian rage chiefly swirl below the surface. But they will rise in time, and the consequences of Mr Trump’s deed will become all too apparent.

• First published in the National