United States Gets Busy in the Mid-East Again

Posted on Mon, Mar 31, 2008 @ 03:14 PM
Secretary of State Rice's visit prompts easing of some West Bank restrictions
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Details: United States Gets Busy in the Mid-East Again
West Bank roadblock restrictions
In an apparent attempt to get the peace process reignited, Condoleezza Rice appears to have wrung some concessions from Israel to improve Palestinian life on the West bank by easing some roadblock restrictions. 

Tags: middle east, israeli-palestinian conflict, peace process, west bank, Condoleezza Rice

Jerusalem On and Off the Agenda

Posted on Tue, Feb 19, 2008 @ 03:24 PM

Palestinian president denies agreement to forestall discussion of Jerusalem.
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Details:  Jerusalem On and Off the Agenda
Dividing 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:

“The idea of a separate international regime for Jerusalem has always been a fantasy, and its bizarre anomalies have been exposed in every attempt to put it into effect. It rests on a false picture both of Jerusalem and of the United Nations. Jerusalem is not an ethereal abstraction revolving in a vacuum of history. It is a city of living men and women with sharply defined national allegiances and identities. It cannot be anything that the majority of its citizens do not want it to be.” (Personal Witness, 206) 

Tags: jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, israel, west bank, mahmoud abbas, Palestine, abba eban

Latest Palestinian Census Figures

Posted on Sun, Feb 10, 2008 @ 04:37 PM

AP reports that Palestinian population has grown, but questions East Jerusalem numbers
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Details: Latest  Palestinian Census Figures
Palestinian Population Growth
The Associated Press reported on the latest Palestinian population figures in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The International Herald Tribune carried the account February 9.

Tags: mid east conflict, gaza, east jerusalem, palestinian population, palestinians, west bank, census

B'Tselem Releases 2007 Report

Posted on Tue, Jan 01, 2008 @ 04:31 PM

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.

Tags: gaza, human rights violations, west bank

Review of Palestinian Christian Situation

Posted on Wed, Dec 19, 2007 @ 04:51 PM

Is Middle East peace a distant dream?

Identity, Ideology and the Future of Jerusalem, by David HulmeIn 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.

Vision's web site has a helpful background article about the Jewish perspective, and another about the Palestinian view on Jerusalem.

Tags: jerusalem, gaza, middle east, Christians, Muslims, israel, west bank, Palestine, Jews

Annapolis Process Underway

Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2007 @ 01:23 PM

Hosted by the US with Arab and Israeli supportmore 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 officeare 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.

Tags: jerusalem, israel, west bank, Palestine, Annapolis talks

Israel’s Two New Leaders

Posted on Tue, Jun 19, 2007 @ 03:05 PM
The Middle East Conflict Takes another Turn

Today, Shimon Peres was elected Israel’s president in a second round of voting. His two challengers had withdrawn after winning many fewer votes in the first round.

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 Middle East crisis. What it may mean for the Palestinian situation is hard to predict with the current fierce battles between Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza and the West BankThough Peres’ role will be largely ceremonial, he will have a unique opportunity to meet world leaders and influence policy. In an interview with Vision a few years ago he made clear his overall feelings about the need for reconciliation with the Palestinian people.



Tags: gaza, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Fatah, Hamas, Middle East Crisis, israel, west bank, Palestine

Critical Junctures in the Middle East Conflict

Posted on Thu, Jun 07, 2007 @ 03:45 PM
New books detail historic outcomes in the Israeli-Palestinian impasse


1967 Arab-Israeli War: preparing to capture Old City

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 Middle East conflict. More so even than the 1947-49 Palestinian exodus, categorized recently by Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, as “ethnic cleansing” and known by the Palestinians more opaquely as al-Nakba (“the catastrophe”). In that period, between 750,000 and 800,000 Palestinians either fearfully fled their homes (temporarily they thought) or were driven out by Israeli forces. Since then precious few have been able to return. 

But what happened during the June 1967 Six Day War created a problematic new reality for Israel and the remaining Palestinians that only extended the seething and suffering.

While the Israelis’ unforeseen capture of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights gave them 30% more territory, it created infinitely more potential for conflict with its additional one million Arab residents.

At the time, according to Israel’s future state president, Chaim Herzog, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Sinai and the Golan to Egypt and Syria (see Heroes of Israel, 1989). The offer was to be conveyed by the United States, but apparently never reached the two Arab states. 

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 Israel.

The problem of absorbing the West Bank in the event of a crisis with Jordan had occupied Israeli strategists months before the war. Their evaluation that it would be unwise and lead to many difficulties for Israel, domestically and internationally, is confirmed by Israeli journalist and historian, Tom Segev, in his just published book, 1967.

Sadly, the rest is painful history.

David Hulme

Tags: 1967 Six Day War, west bank, Middle East Conflict, Palestinian Exodus