Shimon Peres -Various

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Shimon Peres died at age 93 this week. He was one of the founding fathers of the Israel state and held virtually every key government post at one time or another, President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister and the list goes on. There are links to two articles below, one positive from the Globe and Mail, and one negative written by Robert Fisk. They are not included in an effort to produce balance. More so, they are included to provide a glimpse into the man’s complex and at times contradictory career. He has been one of Israel’s most consistent advocates for a political solution to Israel’s conflict with the Arabs and the Palestinians. He is also widely praised for his role in the 1990s peace process and he was critical of the violence that followed its failure. However, his views were ‘hawkish’ when he was young and he supported the settlement project in the 1970s. He also ordered the 1996 invasion of Southern Lebanon (Operation Grapes of Wrath) and presided over the shelling of civilians in the UN compound of Qana. Observers tend to focus on on dimension of his career or the other, but both sides were integral to who he was.

Shimon Peres, guiding hand behind Israel-PLO peace pact, dies at 93

“…the middling politician and accidental prime minister was a true champion in another arena that shaped the history of modern Israel. Mr. Peres was the guiding hand behind the historic peace agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1993. And while that agreement so far has failed to lead to an independent Palestinian state and a peace treaty between it and Israel, the Oslo Accords, as it is known, remains the starting point for any two-state solution to this long-standing conflict.”

“As early as 1980, his “Gaza first” solution proposed returning the Gaza Strip to Arab control. And he had conceived a grand outline that would see the Middle East remodelled on the European Community, complete with a common market.

He also recognized that in the early 1990s, following the Gulf War, there was a real opening. In his book The New Middle East, he wrote: “We had reached one of those rare critical junctures that enable discerning statesmen to make a quantum leap in their thinking – and perhaps turn the tide of history.”…”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/former-israeli-pm-shimon-peres-dies-at-93/article32097484/

 

Shimon Peres was no peacemaker. I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana

“When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smouldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as Israel’s prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hezbollah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an Israeli patrol. It mattered not.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/shimon-peres-dies-israel-qana-massacre-never-forget-no-peacemaker-robert-fisk-a7334656.html

The Rabin assassination, 20 years later -Various Sources

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The assignation of Yitzhak Rabin was 20 years ago today (Nov 4th, 1995). Some taking stock is in order:

“Amir wanted to stop Israel ceding land in the occupied West Bank to Palestinian control; he believed the land was a gift from God to the Jewish people that could never be traded away. He achieved his objectives.”

Did Rabin assassination kill the best chance for peace? -BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34712057

This New York Times article argues that Israeli politics have now moved toward a pragmatic center. What the author considers a pragmatic center, however, looks to me like a shift to the right, or at least a profound sense of resignation:

“In the 1990s there was “a clash between two big ideologies,” said Micah Goodman, an Israeli-American Jewish philosopher and the director of a pluralistic Israeli academy for young adults in the West Bank. The right believed that settling the biblical heartland of the West Bank would hasten salvation and bring on the Messianic era. The left believed that a withdrawal from all the territories conquered in the 1967 war would bring peace and allow Israel to finally become part of the family of nations, which Mr. Goodman describes as another “almost Messianic” idea.

“Over the last 20 years, Israelis stopped believing in both ideas,” he said. “The new left does not speak of peace, but of occupation. The new right does not speak of salvation, but of security.”

20 Years After Rabin, Israeli Politics Have Shifted -NYTimes

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/04/world/middleeast/20-years-after-rabin-israeli-politics-have-shifted.html?ribbon-ad-idx=5&rref=world/middleeast&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Middle%20East&pgtype=article

Why Palestine Has No Chance at the International Criminal Court -The Daily Beast

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An interesting look at the Palestinian Authority and the International Criminal Court. Not only does it point out the limitations of the Palestinian Authority’s position if it tries to have Israel prosecuted for war crimes relating to the 2014 Gaza war. It also has some interesting things to say about how the ICC works in general and its limited ability to confront powerful states.

Nevertheless, the ICC does provide the PA with some political leverage:
“Palestine’s membership in the ICC likely has political motivations designed to extract concessions from Israel. If the threat of the ICC action spurs Israeli investigations of its own alleged misconduct, that alone could be a success from the Palestinian perspective. If a similar threat slows settlement activity or deters future Israeli military operations, these too could be successes.

Finally, Palestinian membership may be part of a domestic political chess game between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank. Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, made the ICC referral, but Hamas was primarily responsible for the alleged Palestinian war crimes. Although Fatah would be loathe to admit it publicly, an ICC investigation into the Palestinian situation could be an effort by Fatah to strengthen its position against Hamas.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/17/why-palestine-has-no-chance-at-the-international-criminal-court.html

Mission creep concerns raised in Canadian fight against Islamic State -Globe and Mail

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Canadian forces engaged in direct combat with ISIS forces in Iraq this week. This was not supposed to happen. However in the words of Field Marshall Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke, “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force”, so whether you think Canada should be in Iraq or not, such assurances must always be taken with a large grain of salt….

“Brig.-Gen. Rouleau also announced that, for the first time, Canadian military advisers have engaged in a firefight with the enemy after coming under attack when they were at the front lines conducting training. He said Canadian troops are spending 20 per cent of their time near the front lines and the exchange of fire happened within “the last seven days.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/canadian-special-forces-guiding-missile-strikes-in-iraq/article22523577/

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird was egged in Ramallah.

See: Palestinians throw eggs at Canada’s John Baird
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30871252

The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here -The Atlantic

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“The Obama administration’s anger is “red-hot” over Israel’s settlement policies, and the Netanyahu government openly expresses contempt for Obama’s understanding of the Middle East. Profound changes in the relationship may be coming.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/the-crisis-in-us-israel-relations-is-officially-here/382031/

People have been have been talking about the “crisis in American-Israeli” relations since Obama’s election, and it usually has not amounted to much. This time however, “a senior Obama administration official” is quoted as using a number of derogatory terms to insult Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confession: I had to look up the term “Aspergery”.
Of course, like most diplomatic tiffs, this may get swept under the rug pretty quickly. The White House is already disputing they are the source of the insults (see: White House Distances Itself from Netanyahu ‘Chickenshit’ Comment, http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/10/29/white_house_distances_itself_from_netanyahu_chickenshit_comment). If, as the Atlantic article suggests, the Obama administration tables “a public, full lay-down of the administration’s vision for a two-state solution, including maps delineating Israel’s borders” based on the 1967 borders, then that will be a real crisis.

Post-Conflict Polling Data from Israel and Gaza

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The first round of post-conflict polling finds Hamas up (http://www.pcpsr.org/en/node/489), Netanyahu down (http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Poll-finds-huge-fall-in-PMs-approval-rating-372293) and Naftali Bennet on the rise (http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Naftali-Bennett-not-Netanyahu-is-the-leader-of-Israels-Right-poll-finds-374202).
Its not clear if these results will hold up over time. Nevertheless, they represent quite a change relative to the pre-conflict situation.