Secretary of State Rice's visit prompts easing of some West Bank restrictions
Palestinian president denies agreement to forestall discussion of Jerusalem.
President Mahmoud Abbas has denied coming to any agreement with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to delay discussing Jerusalem in the current round of meetings.
As we have noted many times on this blog, Jerusalem is a major, if not the, sticking point.
I came across the following statement from Israel's long-time UN ambassador, the late Abba Eban. Although it's addressing the idea of the internationalization of the city, it captures the issue well when it comes to the identities and ideologies of Jerusalem's people:
AP reports that Palestinian population has grown, but questions East Jerusalem numbers
|B'Tselem, the human rights agency that reports on violations in the West Bank and Gaza, has released its 2007 year end report. While the number of Israelis and Palestinians killed has dropped, there is deterioration in other humanitarian sectors.|
Is Middle East peace a distant dream?
In a report from the Israel Project attention is directed to the plight of Palestinian Christians whose numbers have dwindled in recent years. The site of Jesus' birth has been hard hit. As the report notes, "Bethlehem in particular has seen a dramatic decline in its Christian population. Of Bethlehem’s 30,000 residents, less than 20 percent are Christian. In 1948 though, more than 85 percent of the town’s inhabitants were Christian." In the West Bank and Gaza the drop in numbers is even more dramatic. Once at 15% of the Palestinian population (1948), Christians now represent only 1½%. Muslim persecution is certainly one of the reasons for the decline as the report shows.
Though religious tolerance is usually relegated in discussions about the peace process, without mutual respect between Christians, Muslims and Jews, progress in the Middle East will remain a distant dream. The issue of Jerusalem's declining Christian population is a subject I treat in Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem.
Hosted by the US with Arab and Israeli support—more than 40 nations including significant participants Saudi Arabia and Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian talks in Annapolis were launched yesterday and get underway today. It is said to be just the beginning of a year long process. It seems that a number of critical factors are coalescing and there may be a positive outcome. Fear of the Iran-Hamas-Hezbollah axis, the continued stability of the moderate Arab states, Israel's security situation, Palestinian economic and humanitarian desperation, George Bush's fractured image and last year in office—are all elements in the mix.
The difficult decisions to be made by Israeli and West Bank Palestinian negotiators include the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees' right of return, borders, settlements. security and water rights. Jerusalem is a microcosm of the whole century long conflict, as my book, Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem points out. The BBC's Martin Asser details the Jerusalem issue today in an article entitled Obstacles to Peace.
Today, Shimon Peres was elected
Yesterday Peres’ former party, Labor, elected Ehud Barak as its new leader. These two former prime ministers find themselves in new roles at a crucial time in the ongoing
1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City
From both Arab and Israeli perspectives, 1967 became the defining date in the more than century old
But what happened during the June 1967 Six Day War created a problematic new reality for
While the Israelis’ unforeseen capture of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the
At the time, according to
Subsequent debate within Israeli circles about what to do with the captured West Bank found Israel’s veteran former prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, recommending its return. He saw no possibility of maintaining a demographic edge by incorporating so many Palestinians into
The problem of absorbing the West Bank in the event of a crisis with
Sadly, the rest is painful history.