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Dec. 16, 2014
Daily summary - Sunday, January 5, 2014
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Kerry is planning to return to the region to push negotiations
John Kerry plans to return to the region to continue his meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials.John Kerry is visiting Jordan and Saudi Arabia today to meet Jordanian King Abdullah II and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to discuss the peace talks, and will meet the Arab follow-up Committee during the coming days. Kerry held meetings yesterday with President Abu Mazen and Prime Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meetings were described as deep and touched all the complex issue, where informed sources confirmed discussions were very difficult and complex, and that Kerry chose to divide the meetings into two parts, meetings attended the leadership and meetings that were described as more serious and more important where Kerry met with Abu Mazen and Netanyahu alone.(http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=662650)


Al-Zahar: Abbas in a difficult situation
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said that President Mahmoud Abbas is "in a difficult situation” because of the negotiations with the Israeli occupation. Al-Zahar said in remarks published in the London-based daily Al-Hayat on Sunday, "the negotiations are in a crucial moment, Americans want Abu Mazen to accept a Jewish State, and to tolerate settlement blocs in the West Bank, and he is in a difficult situation, especially since he has no political options." Al-Zahar noted that the Israelis and the Americans used a "veto" to achieve reconciliation, especially at this time in the negotiations, and that "the plan is to make Gaza a rebel district surrounded by both Israel and Egypt.” (http://safa.ps/details/news/119666/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B2%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A3%D8%A8%D9%88-%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%86-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D9%88%D9%82%D9%81-%D8%B5%D8%B9%D8%A8.html)

The President to Kerry: we reject partial and interim solutions
Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said that President Mahmoud Abbas assured US Secretary of State after their meeting yesterday, his "rejection of all partial and interim solutions." Abu Rudeina said in a press release, "President Mahmoud Abbas received Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday evening at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah." The President "reaffirmed the Palestinian position in the creation of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders, stressing his rejection of all partial and interim solutions adhering to the illegitimacy of settlements and the release of all prisoners." Abu Rudeina said "it was agreed to continue the dialogue and contacts with the US side in the next phase."Kerry announced after meeting President Abbas yesterday that "progress" in the peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been made, but at the same time acknowledged that more work needs to be done, adding that he will visit today  Saudi Arabia and Jordan as part of his efforts to advance the peace talks. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)

Al-Hamdallah denies Maariv’s report over the role of security agencies
Prime Minister Rami AL-Hamdallah denied yesterday remarks attributed to him on the website of Hebrew newspaper Maariv, alleging that Al-Hamdallah said in a press statement that "Palestinian security foiled the terrorist activities against Israel."Al-Hamdallah said that when answeringa question by Maariv reporter while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting in the village of Ain Al-Bieda in the Jordan Valley on 31-12-2013, he did not address the Palestinian security issue, where the reporter's question was about the possibility that the Israeli decision to join the Jordan Valley will fail negotiations, and Al-Hamdallah’s answer was as follows: "the Palestinian leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas is committed to negotiations until the end of April, the negotiations will last from 6 to 9 months, we hope to reach a peaceful solution Through this period, and there should be a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of 1967, we believe in a two-State solution, a Palestinian State alongside the State of Israel, and we hope that this solution will be reached as soon as possible, in case of failure of this solution there will be serious consequences not only for Israel but for all the region, and we hope to have a quick solution, and we hope that Israel recognizes our rights on the 1967 land to establish our independent State, as all countries of the world, we have the right to establish an independent State With Jerusalem as its capital, this is the Palestinian demand that all Palestinians agree upon.” (http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/481451)

The President instruct the transfer of released prisoner Al-Shawamreh for treatment abroad
President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed Minister of prisoners Affairs Issa Qaraqe, to transfer released prisoner Naim Al-Shawamreh abroad for treatment as quickly as possible. Minister of prisoners' Affairs Issa Qaraqe' said that the "Prisoner Naim Al-Shawamreh who suffers from muscular dystrophy who was released recently will be transferred for treatment in Jordan.”  (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)

During tough talks... Kerry puts pressure on Abbas to accept a "Jewish Israel"
A Palestinian official revealed yesterday that US Secretary of State John Kerry has practiced "significant" pressure on Abbas to accept a framework agreement including the recognition of "Jewish Israel".The official said that during Kerry’s last meeting last night with President Mahmoud Abbas and a delegation from the Palestinian leadership, he made great pressure on President Abbas to accept a framework agreement that involves acceptance of the Jewish State of Israel.” The official added: "but the President once again reiterated his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and confirmed his commitment to reach an agreement that meets the Palestinian Rights (...) and lead to an independent Palestinian State on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.” (http://www.wattan.tv/ar/news/83330.html)

Shtainets attacks President Abbas and the PA accusing it of incitement
Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs and intelligence Yuval Shtainets questioned the intentions of President Mahmoud Abbas on peace. Israeli sources quoted Shtainets as saying that "there are serious doubts about Abbas as a partner in the peace process… and Tango dance needs partners and we have serious doubts about the intent and willing of Abu Mazen to reach a peace agreement.” Shtainets Added "we see harsh and clear in Palestinian incitement,” adding: "President Abbas wants a Palestinian State without security and peace, or even an end to the conflict."(Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)

Erekat: transitional and interim agreements are behind us
Dr. Saeb Erekat Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, stressed that talks are not about a transitional agreement, Erekat said at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry after meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas: “what John Kerry is doing, and let me talk in front of him, is not a transitional agreement and not an interim agreement, these are behind us, but we are working hard to reach is an agreement on all core issues, no one benefits more than the Palestinian from Minister Kerry's success and no one loses more than the Palestinians from his failure, failure is not an option for us, we really are doing everything possible to ensure the success of Minister Kerry, and we really hope that the Israeli side will refrain from any actions that prejudge or undermine the outcome of the final status negotiations, such as settlement activities and the demolition of houses.” (Al-Ayyam)

US expert: Israeli leadership split over the Palestinians
US policy expert specialized in the Middle East, David Bullock, said there a is divided among the Israeli leadership over a peace agreement with the Palestinians, adding that the Israeli Government Ministers are interested in reaching an agreement on a framework others are nervous over the entire peace process.Bullock who is a fellow professor in the Washington Institute for Near East policy in the United States, said in remarks published yesterday in Beijing, that this divide reaches up to higher levels in the current Israeli Government, and that the only person who can decide somehow or another is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding, "but he did not show until now what he will decide.” (Al-Ayyam)

Concerns regarding Israel's disavowal of the release of the fourth batch of lifetime prisoners
Minister of prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said that "if Israel refuses to meet its obligations for the release of 26 prisoners in the fourth and final batch, scheduled for release in March, the PNA will ask international organizations to intervene.” Qaraqe said in statements today, quoted by different Hebrew sites, that Israel submitted a list of prisoners including 48 within the 104 old prisoners to be released under negotiations.” Qaraqe said the PNA had agreed not to approach international organizations against Israel to give talks a chance to reach a solution that would guarantee the release of prisoners including prisoners from Jerusalem and 48Arabs.” (http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/481495)

Yediot Aharonot published names of prisoners of the fourth batch expected to be release in April
Yediot Aharonot published on its website late Saturday a list of 25 Palestinian prisoners, who are prisoners expected to be released in the fourth batch agreed upon between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government as good intentions towards the ongoing bilateral negotiations between the two parties. The newspaper said on its website that “three batches of prisoners were freed without any obstructions, and while awaiting the fourth batch many questions were raised, explaining that this batch "will include a number of Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship despite the non-commitment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with regards to this issue, but he did not rule out it." (http://www.qudsn.ps/article/36073)
Headlines
** Leaders of political factions reject Kerry’s ideas and warn of its consequences (Al-Quds)
** Palestinian citizens of Acre demonstrate against their deportation (Al-Quds)
** Ramallah:a sit in in solidarity with our people in Yarmouk refugee camp (Al-Quds)
** 55 killed in Falloujah (Al-Quds)
** Israeli military leaders: control of air power guarantee victory over Arabs (Al-Ayyam)
** Sources: Al-Sisi decided to run for Presidency (Al-Ayyam)
** New York Times: Hezbollah transferred Scud missiles from Syria to Lebanon (Al-Ayyam)
** Egypt calls for Qatari Ambassador to protest statements issued by Doha (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
** Head of Jalqamouse village Council accused of murdering his cousin surrenders to Governor of Jenin (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida)
Front Page Photos
Al- Quds:Ramallah – a sit in in front of the PLO headquarters in solidarity with Yarmouk refugee camp
Al-Ayyam:1) Ramallah – a sit it in front of the PLO headquarters in solidarity with Yarmouk refugee camp, 2) Armed men in Al-Ramadi, 3) Woman walks in one of Hums destroyed Streets.
Al Hayat Al Jadida: 1) President Abbas during his meeting with Kerry, 2) tens protesting in Ramallah in solidarity with Yarmouk refugee camp.
Voice of Palestine Interviews
** Yaser Abed Rabbu, Secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, on Kerry’s visit and negotiations.
Q: It was clear form what was leaked to the media that the outline of the framework agreement that Kerry is trying to push for, includes Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, tis was rejected by the leadership, is there anything new, and did Kerry had the framework agreement ready and written presented to the Palestinian side?
There is nothing written until now, and the meeting was not only about the borders, we discussed all final status issue, including Jerusalem and the refugees, settlements, and the withdrawal to the 1967 borders, including prisoners. I can’t mention actual progress in these issues, but there is a serious discussion to see how we can make progress. But at the same time I can’t say that we will see anything written soon.
Q:  We’ve just received breaking news saying that Israel rejects the American suggestions with regards to the Jordan Valley, is there a change in the American position?
I can’t say anything now about what was suggested, we reaffirmed that there will not be any Israeli presence in the Palestinian states, and we don’t accept using security to achieve local and regional gaining, Israel is trying to control the Jordan Valley with security pretexts, Israel wants to control lands in the West Bank including settlement blocks and Jerusalem. Israel doesn’t want a solution, it does not want to reach an agreement based on the borders of 1967, this should be clear, and Israel does not want a solution at all. Therefore we shouldn’t pay much attention to any statements, but we should have one position that we confirmed more than once, the Jordan Valley is part of the Palestinian territories, and we will not accept any Israeli presence, this land also included all territories occupied in 1967 including east Jerusalem. This is our position.
Q: Will Kerry be visiting the region in the coming days?
I’m not in charge of Kerry’s schedule, I don’t know when he’ll be back, and we understood that he might be visiting again soon.
Q: with regards to his visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, is he trying to convince Arabs with suggestion?
We understood he wants to explain the American position and suggestions to Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Before each meeting with Kerry we consult with the Arab brothers and update them on the situation, and they will help us reach the right decisions.
More Headlines
Al-Ahmed: Kerry "greater Jerusalem" the capital of two States
Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad, said that US Secretary of State John Kerry suggested to the Palestinian side "greater Jerusalem" as the capital of the two States, then he pulled back when east Jerusalem was excluded form the territories occupied in 1967.Al-Ahmad told the Jordanian daily Al-Ghad Sunday that this undermines all US efforts to reach a peace agreement. Al-Al-Ahmadadded that "Kerry spins in circles with regards to what he suggests, and he will not reach anything", ruling out Kerry had made progress in his visit to the occupied territories.(http://safa.ps/details/news/119676/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%AD-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%89-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B5%D9%85%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%8A%D9%86.html)
Ya'alon: If we withdraw from the West Bank, Abbas would lose control and we will be attacked with missiles
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, said that any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank means the collapse of the PNA and the control of Hamas.Hebrew website “Walla” quoted Ya’alon as saying: "if we withdrawfrom the West Bank would this would undermine the rule of Mahmud Abbas and the Palestinian factions, led by Hamas, will increase attacks (terror) on Israel."(http://qudsnet.com/news/View/261937/%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A5%D8%B0%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%AD%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B6%D9%81%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B3-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%81%D9%82%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B7%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AE-%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%B7%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%A7/)
Dagan: the Jordan Valley is not important for Israel’s security
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said that the "conflict about staying in the Jordan Valley area is purely political and has no security importance for Israel."Maariv said today that while US Secretary of state John Kerry was moving between offices of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas, the former Mossad Chief Meir Daganissued statements that each can raise a storm, where Dagan’s statements always dominate headlines.Dagan spoke at the “Magdi Forum” in Kfar Saba addressing the Jordan Valley issue, saying," it's one of the difficult issues in the negotiations, and I have no problem with the Jordan Valley remaining part of the State of Israel, but what annoys me is presenting the issue as a security issue, there is no Iraqi army and no eastern front anymore, there is a peace treaty with Jordan, and I don't like to talk about the vital importance of the Jordan Valley from the security of Israel point of view, because this is sort of manipulation of security expressions.” (http://www.alquds.com/news/article/view/id/481518)
Kerry: the peace plan will be fair and balanced to Israel and the Palestinians
US Secretary of State John Kerry, announced on the fourth day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, that the peace plan would be "fair and balanced.” Kerry said: "I guarantee to all parties, that President Barack Obama and I are committed to fair and balanced ideas to everyone."(http://www.pnn.ps/index.php/policy/77549-%D9%83%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%83%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%AF%D9%84%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%A9-%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%81%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%B7%D9%8A%D9%86%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86)
Arab Press
It’s wrong to use history to serve political narratives

By Hussein Ibish

Virtually every contemporary national project tries to exploit ancient history, traditions and legends to justify its own agenda and discredit opposing ones. Examples can be found the world over. But it’s hard to identify a starker instance than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its competing narratives.

When Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, referred to Jesus in his recent Christmas greeting as a “Palestinian messenger”, the Israeli government accused him of an “outrageous rewriting of Christian history”.

Numerous pro-Israel commentators insisted that “Jesus was a Jew,” and that this only underscores the ancient Jewish connection to the land versus the supposedly tenuous Arab one.

Accepting, for the sake of argument, the traditionally-inherited histories about Jesus, both sides are right and wrong, factually and, especially, politically.

Israelis and their supporters are right that Jesus was born Jewish. But unless they are converts to Christianity or Islam, they accord him no religious significance. Jewish Israelis are on very shaky ground pointing to Jesus as a proto-Israeli, or anything other than a very heretical Jew at best.

Palestinians can make the counterargument that Jesus was the founder of Christianity, and that while he was born Jewish he became the first Christian, and was later identified as a prophet of Islam. Since the Christians and Muslims of the land almost entirely identify as Palestinians, by that logic Jesus was a proto-Palestinian.

Except that this is all historical, intellectual and political rubbish from both sides. No one can deny the deep Jewish history and emotional connection to this land in general. Still less can one deny not only the deep Palestinian history and presence on the land, but even more specifically, their emotional connection to individual homes in particular villages, whether or not they were destroyed by Israel after 1948.

Many Jews yearned, and some still do, for a generalized territory called the “Land of Israel.” Palestinians yearn for that same land, and also particular houses at specific addresses, many of which do not exist anymore, but for which they still cherish the old iron keys.

But the contemporary Zionist idea is only about 100 years old, and the Palestinian national project younger still. In the 1930s, the word “Israeli” meant nothing at all. It did not exist. And the word “Palestinian” typically referred to British colonial institutions, not the Arab population of the country.

To be sure the words “Jew” and “Arab” have much longer histories. But both have been utterly transformed in their generally understood meaning over the past century, although few bother to trace the crucial transformations of these surprisingly unstable and contested identity categories.

Meanwhile, elaborate narratives have been constructed across vast sweeps of history to justify each national project and delegitimize the other.

Israelis and many other contemporary Jews see themselves as the living embodiment of those ancient histories, traditions and legends. Moreover, they dismiss Palestinians as relative latecomers.

Palestinians, by contrast, tend to see themselves as the aggregate descendants of all the peoples of the ancient and contemporary history of the land, including biblical Hebrews. And they tend to cast the Jewish Europeans who founded Israel as usurping colonists from the 20th century with probably little or no direct lineal descent from the ancient peoples of the area.

Given these narratives, it comes naturally to Palestinian Muslims and Christians to see Jesus as a key forebear, while many Jewish Israelis take umbrage.

Meanwhile, in pride of place at prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is a recently discovered 2,000-year-old Hebrew seal bearing the name “Netanyahu.” He wastes no opportunity in presenting it, and pointing out that his own name is also “Netanyahu.”

Except it’s hardly so straightforward. His grandfather, Nathan Mileikowsky, used “Netanyahu” as a pen name, and his father Benzion formally changed Mileikowsky to Mr. Netanyahu when he moved to mandatory Palestine in the 1920s.

Mr. Netanyahu may think he’s demonstrating some great historical continuity, but his gesture only highlights the conscious, artificial and carefully constructed appropriation of the past inherent in most contemporary ethnic national narratives. One could hardly ask for a better example of this cynical bunkum.

Except, perhaps, the ridiculous tug-of-war between Palestinian Muslims and Christians versus Jewish Israelis over Jesus. If one believes the traditions, then Jesus was born a Jew, but became the first Christian and a crucial Muslim prophet. Does that make him an emblem of Israel, or of Palestine?

The only rational answer is: neither. For nothing that took place, and no one who lived, 2,000 years ago actually has anything to do with contemporary political movements constructed in living memory to serve the present needs of modern constituencies.

All efforts to appropriate ancient history, traditions, myths and legends to serve contemporary political purposes ought to be immediately recognized for what they are: a grotesque and manipulative shell game.(http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/its-wrong-to-use-history-to-serve-political-narratives)



Kerry’s untenable framework plan

By Musa Keilani

The American Secretary of State John Kerry had the main core of his peace plan leaked to the press.

According to what was circulated in more than one capital, sovereignty over East Jerusalem will pass to an international commission comprising the United States, Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Such a proposal will not be conducive to peace in this holy place with its unique concentration of holy shrines for the three monotheistic faiths.

Though geographically, the area of this holy basin is no more than 0.04 per cent of the West Bank, the significance, value and religious attachment of millions of believers to those symbols of man’s relationship to the deity cannot be measured by meters.

No party to the conflict would reject the legality of the Jordanian custodianship of the holy sites, since it has been accepted for decades, but many Iranians will be critical of any role for other Muslim countries.

Tehran will for sure question the reasons for excluding 222 million Shiites from any representation in administering what they consider their second holiest shrine after Mecca. The same might apply to Yemen’s Yazidis who have their different theology from the Jaafari Shiites.

Even the Catholic Church has its different views regarding the best way to run the administrative sovereignty on the churches. When Pope Francis arrives here next May, he will have on his agenda this issue that should be negotiated with the Jordanians and Israelis.

No doubt, the Orthodox churches will formulate an appeal to Moscow to have President Vladimir Putin make his presence felt in East Jerusalem, as he had forced his way in Syria and Cairo. It would be a shortcut to have the Russian Orthodox Church reclaim for Russia the role the Soviet Union lost in the region decades ago.

It is clear that Kerry’s proposed framework, which is supposed to be serving as a guideline for addressing all core issues between Palestinians and Israelis, was formulated years before the new changes in our region.

What would have been tolerated years ago by decision makers in Ramallah and other Arab capitals will never be accepted now that the region is about to be diametrically radicalized, with 60,000 militant jihadists fighting in Syria, including 2,000 of them Palestinians and Jordanians, belonging to the most extreme of Islamic fanatics.

That new generation of Palestinians will not tolerate the concept of a land swap between Israel and the future state, even if it is part of a deal in which Ramallah will have 92.8 per cent of West Bank territory, while Israel annexes 6.8 of the land to accommodate the six main Jewish settlements with their over 600,000 armed settlers.

It is the same proposal that was brokered by president Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak on July 25, 2000, and was immediately rejected by Yasser Arafat on the grounds that the 1.7 million Palestinians living in Israel since 1948 have to be consulted before determining their future.

For sure, the strain in relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, following the Iranian nuclear issue last month, will reflect on Kerry’s efforts to find a final solution to this impasse.

But a solution such as that he is suggesting now will result, undoubtedly, in more radicalized Palestinians who could start a third Intifada, whose flames will reach other capitals, and all hopes for a peaceful region will evaporate.

The American secretary of state would have saved himself the dreadful fall into an oriental labyrinth if he had confined membership for the international commission on Jerusalem to the three parties directly involved in the issue.(http://jordantimes.com/kerrys-untenable-framework-plan)


Neutral — in whose favor?

By URI AVNERY

A former Israeli Army chief of staff, a man of limited intelligence, was told that a certain individual was an atheist. “Yes,” he asked, “but a Jewish atheist or a Christian atheist?”

Lenin, in his Swiss exile, once inquired about the party affiliation of a newly elected member of the Duma. “Oh, he is just a fool!” his assistant asserted. Lenin answered impatiently: “A fool in favor of whom?”

I am tempted to pose a similar question about people touted to be neutral in our conflict: “Neutral in favor of whom?”

The question came to my mind when I saw an Israeli documentary about the US intermediaries who have tried over the last 40 years or so to broker peace between the Palestinians and us. For some reason, most of them were Jews.

I am sure that all of them were loyal American citizens, who would have been sincerely offended by any suggestion that they served a foreign country, such as Israel. They honestly felt themselves to be neutral in our conflict. But were they neutral? Are they? Can they be? My answer is: No, they couldn’t.

Not because they were dishonest. Not because they consciously served one side. Certainly not. Perish the thought!

But for a much deeper reason. They were brought up on the narrative of one side. From childhood on, they have internalized the history and the terminology of one side (ours). They couldn’t even imagine that the other side has a different narrative, with a different terminology. This does not prevent them from being neutral. Neutral for one side.

By the way, in this respect there is no great difference between American Jews and other Americans. They have generally been brought up on the same history and ideology, based on the Hebrew Bible.

Let us take the latest example. John Kerry is carrying with him a draft plan for the solution of the conflict. It was prepared meticulously by a staff of experts. And what a staff! One hundred and sixty dedicated individuals!

I won’t ask how many of them are fellow Jews. The very question smacks of anti-Semitism. Jewish Americans are like any other Americans. Loyal to their country. Neutral in our conflict. Neutral for whom?
Well, let’s look at the plan. Among many other provisions, it foresees the stationing of Israeli troops in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. A temporary measure. Only for 10 years. After that, Israel will decide whether its security needs have been met. If the answer is negative, the troops will remain for as long as necessary — by Israeli judgment.

For neutral Americans, this sounds quite reasonable. There will be a free and sovereign Palestinian state. The Jordan Valley will be part of this state. If the Palestinians achieve their long-longed-for independence, why should they care about such a bagatelle? If they are not considering military action against Israel, why would they mind? Logical if you are an Israeli. Or an American. Not if you are a Palestinian.

Because for a Palestinian, the Jordan Valley constitutes 20 percent of their putative state, which altogether consists of 22 percent of the territory they consider their historical homeland. And because they believe, based on experience, that there is very little chance that Israelis will ever willingly withdraw from a piece of land if they can help it. And because the continued military control of the valley would allow the Israelis to cut the State of Palestine off from any contact with the Arab world, indeed from the world at large.

And, well, there is such a thing as national pride and sovereignty. Imagine Mexican — or even Canadian — troops stationed on 20 percent of the territory of the USA. Or French troops in control of 20 percent of Germany. Or Russian troops in 20 percent of Poland. Or Serbian troops in Kosovo?

Impossible, you say. So why do American experts take it for granted that Palestinians are different? That they wouldn’t mind? Because they have a certain conception of Israelis and Palestinians.

The same lack of understanding of the other side is, of course, prevalent in the relations between the two sides themselves. On the last day of anno 2013, Israel had to release 26 Palestinian prisoners, who had been held since before the 1993 Oslo Accord. This was part of the preliminary agreement achieved by John Kerry for starting the current negotiations.

Every time this happens, there is an outcry in Israel and rejoicing in Palestine. Nothing exemplifies the mental gap between the two peoples more clearly than these contrasting reactions. For Israelis, these prisoners are vile murderers, despicable terrorists with “blood on their hands.” For Palestinians, they are national heroes, soldiers of the sacred Palestinian cause, who have sacrificed more than 20 years of their young lives for the freedom of their people.

For days, all Israeli networks have reported several times a day on demonstrations of bereaved Israeli mothers, clutching in their hands large photos of their sons and daughters, crying out in anguish against the release of their murderers. And immediately after, scenes in Ramallah and Nablus of the mothers of the prisoners, clutching the portraits of their loved ones, dancing and singing in anticipation of their arrival.

Many Israelis were cringing at this sight. But the editors and anchormen would be astonished if they were told that they were inciting the people against the prisoner release, and — indirectly — against the peace negotiations. Why? How? Just honest reporting!

Benjamin Netanyahu went further. He made a speech denouncing the Palestinian leadership. How could they organize these demonstrations of joy? What does that say about the sincerity of Mahmoud Abbas? How could they rejoice at the sight of these abominable murderers, who had slaughtered innocent Jews? Doesn’t this prove that they are not serious about seeking peace that they are all unreformed terrorists at heart, out for Jewish blood? So we cannot give up any security measures for a long, long time.

The prisoners themselves, when interviewed by Israeli TV immediately after their release, argued in excellent Hebrew (learned in prison) that the main thing was to achieve peace. When asked, one of them said: “Is there a single Israeli, from Netanyahu down, who hasn’t killed Arabs?”

This gap of perceptions is, to my mind, the largest obstacle to peace. This week Netanyahu gave us another beautiful example. He spoke about the continued incitement against Israel in Palestinian schoolbooks. This item of right-wing Israeli propaganda pops up every time the other tired arguments are let out to grass. How can there be peace, Netanyahu exclaimed, if Palestinian children learn in their classes that Haifa and Nazareth are part of Palestine? This means that they are educated to destroy Israel!

This is so impertinent, that one can only gasp. I don’t think that there exists a single Hebrew schoolbook that does not mention the fact that Jericho and Hebron are part of Eretz Israel.

Haifa and Hebron, Jericho and Nazareth are all part of the same country, called Palestine in Arabic and Eretz Israel in Hebrew. They are all deeply rooted in the consciousness of both peoples. A compromise between them does not mean that they give up their historical memories, but that they agree to partition the country into two political entities.

Netanyahu and his ilk cannot imagine this, and therefore they are unable to make peace. On the Palestinian side there are certainly many people who also find this impossible, or too painful. I wonder if Irish schoolbooks have obliterated 400 years of English domination or abomination. I doubt it. I also wonder how English schoolbooks treat this chapter of their history.

In any case, if an independent (neutral?) commission of experts were to examine all the schoolbooks in Israel and Palestine, they would find very little difference between them. Of Israel’s four main school systems (national, national-religious, western-orthodox and eastern-orthodox), at least the three religious ones are so nationalist-racist that a Palestinian competitor would be hard-pressed to trump them. None of them says anything about the existence of a Palestinian people, not to mention any rights on the country they may possess. God forbid (literally)! To be more than a mere fragile armistice, peace needs reconciliation. See: Mandela. Reconciliation is impossible if either side is totally oblivious to the narrative of the other, their history, beliefs, perceptions and myths.

John Kerry does not need 160 or 1,600 experts, neutral or otherwise. He needs one good psychologist. Or maybe two. One can easily understand the feelings of a mother whose son was killed by a Palestinian militant. If one tries, one can also understand the feelings of a mother whose son was ordered by his leaders to attack Israelis and who returns from prison after 30 years. Only if the American intermediaries, neutral or otherwise, understand both can they contribute to furthering peace.(http://www.arabnews.com/news/503156)
Opinions
The tragedy of starvation and the suffering of refugees in Syria
Al-Quds Editorial
The war in Syria lasting for nearly three years led to humanitarian disasters involving all the sons of Syria and its cities and villages, displaced millions in neighboring countries, made  them sufferand experiencecircumstances where the simplest requirements of normal life in housing, water, electricity, food, education and more are not available.
Palestinian refugees were trapped in the midst of this tragedy, between the hammer and the anvil of the fighting forces of all parties, and Yarmouk camp which had some 170 000 refugees, is the clearest example of such suffering which reached the extent of starvation, fighting and the displacement of a large part of the refugees who are originally displaced, in addition to opposition forces stationed inside the camp, and the regime surroundingand besieging the camp and the opposition, which exacerbated the situation.
The United Nations has warned of the seriousness of the situation in the camp, and a working group for Palestine in Syria issued a detailed report about the devastating situation, and called on international forces interested in the blockade the act to rescue the trapped refugees. On the level of responsibility of the PLO and the PNA, more than one delegation have visited Syria and made contacts with all parties, and an agreement was signed and was supposed to come into effect yesterday to alleviate the suffering.
The agreement is simple and easy implementation, it provides for the departure of militants the camp to and allow food to be entered to the people and other basic services such as water and electricity. The PA secured food parcels and are ready and waiting for the conditions to be introduced immediately. We hope this would be actually implemented without a delay, and that all sides be bound by the agreement and not revoke it as was in previous agreements.
On this occasion, it is requested not only to enter food but to spareall camps in all locations, of any problems or involvement in the war in Syria, and for all factions and forces to refrain from participating in any way in internal Arabconflicts, since this brings disaster to us and our lives and our children, especially refugees.
We must note that  the armed opposition forces were the ones initiated entry into Yarmouk, thus involved it in the grinding war, these forces must refrain from involvingcamps in their war, and the narrow interests, since those who pay the high price are simple people, innocent children and women who are not involved in the conflict but are the war’s main victims.
All concerned parties are demanded not to undertake any actions that could implicate camps in any conflicts, it is enough that refugees are refugees and displaced from their homeland Palestine, and they suffer the most as a result of this, and they don’t need more suffering. (Al-Quds)
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