Archive for the ‘Israel’ category

How Secretary Rice Will Handle Her Next Trip

March 21, 2007

Rice’s Mideast Minefield

By David Ignatius
Washington Post
Wednesday, March 21, 2007; A15

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is crossing a modest threshold in her efforts to mediate the Palestinian problem: She is signaling her willingness to meet with some members of the Hamas-backed “national unity government,” even though the Israelis have publicly opposed such a move.

Rice doesn’t do anything impulsively, least of all jump into the world’s most intractable conflict. And the space she has opened between U.S. and Israeli positions is quite small. But as she prepares for another trip to the Middle East late this week, Rice is sending the message that despite the complications posed by the Palestinian unity government announced last weekend, she is pressing ahead with her diplomatic efforts to broker the creation of a Palestinian state. (more…)

Dangerous Moves on the Hill — Grassroots Action Needed

March 14, 2007

From the Churches for Middle East Peace, Americans for Peace Now, and Brit Tzedek

Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Ensign (R-NV) are currently circulating a sign-on letter to Secretary Rice. The letter expands sanctions against the Palestinian Authority by urging a ban on US contact with ALL members of the PA, if the unity government doesn’t meet the Quartet’s demands.

The letter seeks to block constructive US diplomacy with Palestinian moderates and severely undermines US efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

The Nelson-Ensign letter’s main request is that the US “continue to hold firm and insist that these very basic international principles do not change — no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements.” This letter goes beyond current US policy and law by urging no contact with the entire Palestinian Authority, which would prevent diplomatic engagement with Palestinian moderates who seek peace with Israel, such as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and independent Salam Fayyad (likely to become the next Minister of Finance).

As Sec. Rice tries to reinvigorate the peace process, Palestinian political dynamics are continuing to unfold and the Palestinian economic situation remains dire. At this critical time when the US should be working with Palestinian moderates to influence the new government’s conduct, the Nelson-Ensign letter is promoting an approach that is counterproductive to US national security interests.

Call the Senate switchboard now to tell your member not to sign on to this letter:
(202) 224-3121

The Saudi Initiative Returns to Center Stage

March 7, 2007

In today’s IPFocus, David Dreiliinger highlights the nexus between the resurgence of the Saudi Initiative.  He says, “America is critical to the next stage: using the initiative as the basis for negotiations between the parties.  The new Saudi embrace of regional diplomacy does not mean that the United States’ role in Israeli-Arab peacemaking is being eclipsed; in fact, it only strengthens the need for more US involvement.

“That message seems to have gotten through.  Abbas and Olmert are scheduled to meet again next week, and Israeli advisors are in Washington briefing the administration on what those talks will cover.  Secretary of State Rice is due back in the region shortly for more talks.  Hopefully the discussions between Olmert and Abbas will be substantive – real negotiations are crucial for creating an atmosphere favorable to larger regional talks, or at least maintaining the fragile calm in the Palestinian territories and tilting the balance of legitimacy in Abbas’s favor.”

To read the full piece, follow the jump.

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It is Time To Reengage

March 2, 2007

Just as CALME’s open letter called for, this month we saw the United States, under the determined leadership of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, pledging to truly reengage in active efforts to bring about a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I’m committed to this,” she said after arriving in Jerusalem for the trilateral summit between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. “I’m committed to seeing what we can do to improve life for the Palestinian people, seeing what we can do to improve security for the Israeli people, seeing what we can do to realize the two states living side by side in peace and freedom. And this is the work that takes — it takes hard work, it takes patience, it takes perseverance, it takes getting up, you know, after a bad day and trying to make a better day. And that’s what I’m going to do.” (more…)

One Year of Hamas: What Now?

March 2, 2007

The International Crisis Group, whose Middle East division is led by CALME luminary Robert Malley, released a report last week titled “After Mecca: Engaging Hamas.”  The report details the status of political developments in the Palestinian territories since Hamas took power one year ago, as well as how things may or may not have changed since Fatah and Hamas finalized the Mecca Accord.   In short, the paper argues that it is time for the international community to figure out a way to engage Hamas.  Isolating them, the report argues, has only further stalled any measure of progress toward peace and, in fact, increased the internecine violence.  Looking at the situation now, the report suggests the following:

The main objective, of course, is to revive the peace process and move toward a two-state solution. Critics of the Mecca Agreement and the national unity government, chiefly the U.S. and Israel, call it an impediment to progress – an odd characterisation considering there was no peace process before Hamas won the elections and no peace process before Fatah agreed to join its government. It is also wrong. Mecca is a prerequisite for a peace process not an obstacle to it. Without a Hamas-Fatah power-sharing agreement and as long as the Islamists feel marginalised, unable to govern and in an existential struggle for survival, there can be no sustainable diplomacy. With sizeable public support, Hamas can deny Abbas the legitimacy required to make difficult concessions. It can launch attacks on Israel to torpedo talks. And in or out of office it can easily prevent a referendum designed to ratify any potential agreement.

If the international community is serious about its proclaimed goals, it will help bring stability to the Palestinians and broker a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, permit the unity government to govern and press for meaningful negotiations between Abbas and Olmert. It will see Mecca as an opportunity to revive the peace process, rather than as yet another excuse to bury it.

To read the full report, please click here.

Does Rejecting the Mecca Accord Give Hamas a Veto Over the Peace Process?

February 27, 2007

In yesterday’s Haaretz, long-time columnist Akiva Eldar chastises the U.S. for effectively blocking peace talks between Israel and Syria, and potentially Israel and the Palestinians.  He says, “If Syria is the enemy of Middle East peace, then perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be considered a handsome consolation prize for Damascus. And why would Hamas, which is bending over backwards not to recognize Israel’s right to exist, want to remove the obstacles to such an arrangement? If the U.S. and its Quartet partners, not to mention the Israeli government, truly want to bypass Hamas on the road to the final- status agreement, then why are they granting it veto power over the peace process?”

He explains his logic, and argument for pursuing peace now with both the Syrians and Palestinians in his article, which follows the jump.  He also highlights an important forthcoming date in Mecca that will force Hamas to either accept the existence of Israel, or turn against its Arab brethren.  That will be a meeting to watch.

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“This Time is Qualitatively Different” — Indyk

February 26, 2007

In an in-depth interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, CALME luminary Martin Indyk provided some insight into how Secretary Rice’s recent trilateral summit did mark a significant change for this Administration’s involvement in the pursuit of two states. 

He said, “These talks are qualitatively different from anything that she or the Bush administration has done before. And that’s for two reasons. One is that she has committed herself to a discussion between Abu Mazen and Olmert about the framework for a final status agreement, or what she calls a ‘political horizon.’ And what Rice is doing is discussing—not negotiating—what a future Palestinian state would look like. Now, that is different from anything the Bush administration has done in its previous six years in office because they absolutely refused to have any ‘political horizon’ in any of the things that they’ve produced. So, for instance, the ‘Road Map’ talks about a two-state solution as a final objective but gives no details about what that final agreement would look like. This is an attempt by her to give greater granularity to the president’s vision of an independent, democratic Palestinian state living alongside Israel.

“The second thing is that she has committed to a sustained engagement. One of the things she said at the end of her remarks on Sunday was that ‘I will be back shortly.’ And she has said elsewhere that she’s going to be coming back once a month. That’s qualitatively different because the Bush administration has never had a sustained engagement in peacemaking on the Israeli-Palestinian front. They talked a good game but always walked away from any kind of sustained engagement. ”

To read the full interview, please click here.