Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs.U.S. Relationship by Ari RUSILA
“It is not about ideology, democracy nor respect for borders – It is about money and global power.”
(AR viewpoint to issue)
Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs.U.S. Relationship by Ari RUSILA
“It is not about ideology, democracy nor respect for borders – It is about money and global power.”
(AR viewpoint to issue)
While trying to keep myself updated about Ukraine conflict in the middle of polarized one or another side exaggerated informationflow I finally found an interview which looks to be from local grassroots, a balanced analysis based reasonable arguments advocating a view of leftist organization about issues of Ukraine conflict. However as Ukraine’s situation is on a new level of hybrid warfare, a theatre of mediawar with constant disinformation from all sides, I have tried to study a bit the background of the leftist situation in Ukraine.
The ovarall situation in Ukraine has polarized dramatically. The first troops, which Kiev regime sent to East, refused to shoot people they considered fellow countrymen & women. Kiev, by all reports (outside the Corporate Media) changed the composition of the troops, recruiting Rightist volunteers, who seem to have no problem shooting down Russian speaking Ukrainians. In Donbass area as well in wider “Novorossiya” the public attitude against “Kiev Junta” has increased as Kiev government offensive by land troops, air force and artillery has terrorized civilian population.
The interview in question ( “Our struggle is for a socialist Ukraine as part of the struggle for a socialist world” on the end of this article) was made by Peter Mikhailenko and the interviewee was Dimitry Kolesnik who is the editor of the Ukrainian left wing website Liva and a leading activist in the Marxist organization Borotba.
“So that no one has any illusions, I want to say that the entire industry in the city will be nationalized. We cannot leave the industrial potential of the city in the hands of unscrupulous businessmen.” (Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the people’s mayor of Slavyansk)
The Association Borotba - “Struggle” – is a revolutionary Marxist–Leninist and anti-fascist organization operating in Odessa and Kharkiv, Ukraine. It has close ties to the Left Front in Russia. The Left Front is a united front encompassing a range of far-left political organizations in Russia, as well as other countries of the former Soviet Union. The task of the Left Front declares ensure unity among all who stand for socialism, democracy and internationalism, and coordination of left-wing opposition forces.
The Association Borotba was established in May 2011 after the merger of a part of the “Organization of Marxists” (Ukraine), the “Leninist Communist Youth Union of Ukraine”, “All-Ukrainian Union of Workers”, the “Youth Association Che Guevara”, and the “Youth against capitalism” movement, with some individual leftist activists also joining.
When in 2012 the first fraction of the far-right party Svoboda entered parliament supported by a number of oligarchic groups, including some close to President Yanukovych, Borotba was the first and the only political force which then predicted that, with the development of the socio-economic crisis, the oligarchy would put ultra-right ideology and organization at its service. That time Borotba published the report, “Ukrainian oligarchy is preparing a ‘creeping’ fascist coup.”
Borotba has condemned what they considered a “Western-backed” and “fascist” February 2014 coup in Kiev and called for a socialist revolution in Ukraine against the government of “ultra-nationalists and Nazis”. Borotba’s analysis of the composition of the so-called “revolutionary” government that took power on 22 February 2014 stated that far-right nationalists received too much power and control over important ministries and agencies including defense, anti-corruption and national security, education, agriculture and the environment, as well as the office of the prosecutor general. (Source e.g: WikipediA )
On May Day Borotba members staged a rally in Kovalska Street in Odessa.The following day, Borotba member Andrey Brazhevsky was beaten to death by a far-right mob after jumping from the third floor of the burning Trade Union Building during the 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes. Following the Odessa Trade Union building massacre and other attacks on Borotba’s members and offices, Borotba was forced underground. (Source WikipediA )
According LiveLeak in the cities of the southeast, there were mass arrests of Antimaidan supporters. The Security Service of Ukraine now searches and arrests Borotba members, their informationmaterials are classified as “separatist” propaganda. Under these conditions, cells of Union Borotba and other left-wing, anti-fascist organizations operate semi-underground. The organization is now able to work only on the network principle — as a network of small, autonomous groups that direct agitation, propaganda and organization, as well as protect themselves from attacks by neofascist combatants.
On March 3, 2014, several liberal and anarchist organizations in Ukraine, including the “Autonomous Workers Union”, the “Direct Action” Independent Student Union and the “Left Opposition socialist organization”, criticized Borotba for alleged cooperation with conservative pro-Russian groups in Ukraine and allegedly spreading “overt lies and fact manipulations, deceiving foreign leftists and antifascists”.
The split between anarchists and Borotba/AntiMaidan groups seems to be fundamental. When AntiMaidan attacked the Maidan in the city of Kharkiv, its imagined enemy were not the anarchists, but NATO, EU or Western-Ukrainian fascists. However anarchists ended up fighting side by side with liberals and fascists. Borotba and the Russian Left Front claim that they are attempting to do the same things as the anarchists did at Maidan, that is, direct protest towards social demands. The anarchists regard The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Borotba and the Russian Left Front as part of Soviet chauvinist camp.
In a rebuttal, Borotba rejected the accusations as “hypocritical” and “irrelevant” and stated e.g:
We are not the part of the movement that has nothing common with left and antifascist stance. Thus, we are and have always been a leftwing and antifascist organization. We condemn ex-regime of Yanukovich and the new far-right government as well. We condemn Russian and Western interference in Ukrainian affairs as well as militarist patriotic intoxication induced by new power…We firmly follow internationalist antifascist and class line as our basic stance. We are against both Russian and Ukrainian nationalisms that are being used now only for dividing working class and further plundering of the country. We do not back Russian nationalist organizations as well as Ukrainian ones. All the smear campaign of our organization led by far-right groups and caught up by some admittedly ‘left’ groups will not stop us to organize anti-fascists resistance. (Source: WikipediA )
German leftists seeking for an explanation
Very good description about left wing oraganizations and movements in Ukraine before 2014 can be found from German leftist analysis Die «neue» linke Bewegung in der Ukraine by Vladimir Korobov (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, April 2013 ). The European Left has different views about situation in Ukraine as well about different leftist organizations there. A debatte related to Ukraine in European Left Summer University gives good description about this: Ukraine dominates discussion at Party of the European Left’s summer university .
The regional coordination office of the German federal Die Linke party distanced itself from Borotba after serious accusations levelled by Ukrainian anarchists. However after studying more closely the background and accusations against Borotba the earlier cooperation has been restored. From Borotba’s point of view The Autonomous Worker’s Union is small sect pretending to be anarchists being invisible in Ukraine but active on international scene. A quote from Sergei Kirichuk/Borotba:Regarding the accusation against us: We are not a “pro-Russian” organization, we are fighting for the rights of the working class, youth and women. Neither Russian nor Ukrainian nationalism is acceptable for us. Our ideology is proletarian internationalism. So we hate oligarchs of Russia and Ukraine. Our partner in Russia is the Left Front, many of their activists are in prisons now and we are showing our solidarity with them. (Source: „They hate us because we are communists“ Interview with Sergei Kirichuk by Andrej Hunko, Germany’s Die Linke. )
Andrej Hunko, who is also member of European Parliament, has followed closely different leftist fractions and movements in Ukraine since 2012. His article Zur ukrainischen Linken und der Kampagne gegen „Borotba“ on 09. July 2014 describes how weak Ukrainian left and Communists are splitted between Maidan and Antimaidan supporters:
Die (schwache) ukrainische Linke jenseits der Kommunistischen Partei ist gegenwärtig im Verhältnis zu den Maidan-Protesten und der folgenden Entwicklung in der Ukraine gespalten. Während ein Teil der Linken, insbesondere die „Linke Opposition“, sich positiv auf den Umsturz bezieht und versucht im Rahmen der nachfolgenden Entwicklungen soziale Positionen zu formulieren, bezieht insbesondere „Borotba“ eine grundlegend ablehnende Position zum Maidan. Ebenso wie ein Teil der Linken versucht hatte, auf dem Maidan linke Forderungen aufzustellen, war ein anderer Teil bei den Anti-Maidan-Protesten, insbesondere in Charkov und Odessa, mit linken Positionen vertreten.
Related to campaign (of the “Autonomous Workers Union” and the “Direct Action”) against Borotba Mr. Hunko supports Borotba’s position as follows:
Seit einigen Wochen gibt es in Deutschland eine Kampagne gegen die linke ukrainische Organisation „Borotba“ (Der Kampf), in der unterstellt wird, diese kooperiere mit russischen Neo-Nazis, ja sogar, dass es eine Kooperation der LINKEN mit russischen Neonazis gäbe. Das ist falsch. Die Absicht ist offenbar, eine kritische Position zur Ukraine in die Nähe des russischen Nationalismus zu rücken. Weder gibt es irgendeine Kooperation der LINKEN mit russischen Neo-Nazis oder sonstigen Rechten, noch habe ich irgendwelche Hinweise, dass es diese von Seiten Borotba gibt. Im Gegenteil kooperiert Borotba mit der russischen Linksfront und hat diese gegen Repression unterstützt.
Borotba is also part of the Minsk Declaration(Left forces from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus held a two-day antiwar conference near Minsk on June 7-8.2014). The conference brought together activists of the new left which has grown up in recent years in the three countries, and their main groupings; the Russian Socialist Movement (RSD), the Left Front and the United Communist Party (which has no connection to Putin’s tame “official opposition”, Gennady Zyuganov’s KPRF) in Russia, the Left Opposition and the group Borotba [Struggle] in Ukraine. It was hosted by the Belarussian journal Prasvet. Following some quotes from their joint statement:
We, the participants of the meeting of left and Marxist groups and organizations from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, believe that the civil war in Ukraine must cease – we see this as a primary task. The military conflict that followed the victory of the neo-liberals and nationalists in the ‘Euromaidan’ actions in Kiev has claimed hundreds of lives and contributed to an unprecedented growth of chauvinism and xenophobia in Ukrainian and Russian society.
We express our solidarity to all participants of the Ukrainian left-wing movements that are fighting against war, nationalism and xenophobia. We consider it necessary to provide them all possible information, political and material support. We oppose the pressure, pogroms and reprisals by all participants of the conflict. We oppose the massacres, torture and abductions of Ukrainian leftists, anti-fascists and all Ukrainian citizens, regardless of their political views. We oppose political persecutions in the Crimea region as well.
We demand from Russia, the EU and the U.S. to completely stop interfering in the Ukrainian conflict and cease support to any one side.
We demand an end to the chauvinist campaigns in Ukrainian and Russian media. Their use of hate speech is one of the main instigators of war.
We demand the adoption of a new Constitution of Ukraine, elections of the authorities of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and a right to self-determination and self-government for Donbass and all the regions of Ukraine.
In my opinion left wing approach could be the internal solution for Ukraine conflict; from my perspective Ukraine needs nationalization instead of nationalism as such a programme could respond same time to economic crisis and ease ethnic tensions. If working class and entrepreneurs of small and middle size companies could join forces against the wealthy parasites and political elite and return the loot to the people by nationalizing it would be possible to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine on the basis of a democratically planned socialist economy.
After above described background I hereby recommend following interview which in my opinion exellent represents Ukrainian leftist postion in context of Ukrainian conflict:
Written by Dmitry Kolesnik; editor of Liva.com.ua and member of Borotba Thursday, 25 September 2014
Dimitry Kolesnik (DK) is the editor of the Ukrainian left wing website Liva and a leading activist in the Marxist organization Borotba. He attended the World Congress of the International Marxist Tendency in August 2014 in Greece, where he was interviewed by Peter Mikhailenko(PM).
PM: Could you describe the formation Borotba, and the website Liva.com.ua, the most popular left website in Ukraine?
DK: First of all, thank you comrades for your invitation and for your support with the campaign of Solidarity with Anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine.
Borotba is a radical left wing Marxist organization. It was formed in 2011 from a split of the “Organization of Marxists”, former KPU youth members, the youth organization “Che Guevara” along with some individual activists including anarchists and environmentalists. Its aim is the struggle for a socialist Ukraine, with the understanding that the struggle for a socialist Ukraine should be connected with the struggle for a socialist world in general.
Also three years ago, the website “Liva” was created, a left wing website. This involved Borotba and other left-wing activists. We have many aspects we try to cover; including economic, social, politics interviews with various left activists and other well-known people. We translate many articles from modern left thinkers, especially Marxist thinkers and articles that cover current of events from a left-wing perspective.
PM: What do you think triggered the Maidan movement?
DK: Euromaidan started the day after the former president Yanukovich delayed the signing of the free-trade agreement with the EU, which was linked to IMF loans with conditions for imposing austerity measures. The day after, protests started by some layers of society, especially in Western Ukraine, where many people move to Western countries to take on precarious jobs. The media never mentions that the EU association agreement had nothing to do with mobility for Ukrainians in the EU or joining the EU. It was merely a free trade agreement, the kind which was signed with Tunisia, Egypt or Turkey, and many other countries that never joined the EU.
I want to emphasize that some Western-funded NGOs played the main role in organizing the movement. Many of their workers and activists prepared for the protests beforehand. Another important part were the far-right and neo-nazi groups. And just a year ago the Western media was often criticizing these groups; now, suddenly, they seem to be hardly noticing them and are whitewashing them, their participation in the new government along with the austerity measures has been covered by an abstract rhetoric about some “European values”.
Some layers of society were deceived by this rhetoric; others were indignant that the government of Yanukovich was responsible for the fall in living standards.
PM: What was Borotba’s attitude towards the former president Yanukovich?
DK: Borotba was critical towards the Yanukovich regime. We understood and predicted in many articles that his politics were rather dangerous. The corruption with the move to liberal capitalism was something evident in his rule. We had organized many anti-government protests during the years of his regime. So we never backed him; we were anti-government last year and we are anti-government this year.
PM: How did Borotba see the Euromaidan movement? The media clearly played a large role in promoting it. What would you say about its character?
DK: There has been a sociological study recently on the Euromaidan movement that was published even in Ukrainian media like UNIAN. The far-right made up about 25%. The others were either moderate right, like supporters of the Batkyvshina or UDAR parties – these were parties not in coalition with the Yanukovich government. A large part were middle class business owners, who were protesting what they called “creeping nationalization” and corruption because the government had raised taxes on them. Those businessmen who participated in Madian among them were either from Kiev or Western Ukraine (70% of the protestors). In fact, we see how the far-right were seen by the other protestors as heroes and their tactics and slogans were tolerated, and they saw this movement as a chance to impose their agenda.
PM: On what basis did the anti-Maidan movement start? How did the anti-Maidan movement go from anti-government protests to armed rebellion?
DK: Anti-Maidan and current rebel forces are connected. Anti-Maidan was a protest in a park near Maidan, composed mainly of supporters of Yanukovich and his government, because it really had some social base. After the victory of Maidan, the Anti-Maidan camp was destroyed and some days after that, there was a witch-hunt of anti-Maidan protesters. Many of them managed to reach their cities, mostly in south-eastern Ukraine, and began to organize protests at home.
Soon after the victory of Maidan, the far-right organized raids on other cities, toppling Soviet-era statues. This prompted some people to organize 24-hour watches around the statues. And as such, rallies around Lenin monuments served as a base for organizing a new protest movement composed of forces opposing Maidan.
These forces contained supporters of the former government, different left-wing activists, communists (due to the rabid anti-communism of Maidan), some ethnic minorities (mostly Russian but also Romanians, Hungarians, Ruthenians, Greeks…). The attempts to impose a nationalist agenda on a multi-ethnic country inevitably caused the uprising of those minorities. There were also many social-racist statements made by Maidan activists towards industrial workers, especially from Donbass, causing their participation in the rebellion.
PM: There has been a lot of talk in the media calling this rebellion a “Russian invasion”, and there has been a lot of criticism of the leadership of the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. How would you characterize the leadership of these republics?
DK: We are speaking about [Donetsk Peoples Republic] DNR and [Luhansk Peoples Republic] LNR as the protest movements in Kharkiv; Odessa and Zaporizhia had different characters. From the leadership of Donbass, we saw the general progressive demands of the people – which in Donbas are characterized by pro-soviet sentiments – and have over the past years developed a specific “Soviet nationality”. Many of those who are characterized as “pro-Russian” actually have pro-soviet sentiments.
As for the leaders, some of them are very conservative, some are Russian nationalists, some are pro-Soviet demanding nationalizations, some were supported by local businessmen who were soon ousted. What we first saw were local deputies who made initiatives to resist Kiev policies. Some like Gubarev entered the local administration building when the crowd stormed it. What I can say about the leadership of the Donbass rebels is that they are there more for their military experience than representing the will of the Donbass people. After the war is stopped, this has a chance of changing. There should be actions held in the regions, because now, the DNR and LNR are various military units that wage war against the government in such conditions that make it impossible to create any kind of real autonomy or republic or federal state.
We recently published an article in Borotba that stated that the leadership should heed the voices of the rank and file rebels or they will be defeated. There were no such no left-wing militants who were able lead the movement when it started. The rebellion can be effective only when it is not connected to one or another national ethic, but to the lower classes in general.
PM: How would you characterize the nature of the current Kiev government and their policies?
DK: We characterize the new government as a coalition of neo-liberals and far-righters. Ukraine has become an outright oligarchic republic, with a semi-dictatorship, where the far right operates with impunity and is used as a tool. The far right gangs are used as tool by the oligarchs to push through their agendas.
We now see that all of the major Ukrainian oligarchs are on the side of the Kiev regime. There were oligarchs appointed as governors in many regions in Ukraine. In such regions as Dnipropetrovsk for example – where Kolomoiskyi was appointed governor – he has funded far-right groups to suppress opponents in his region, and then sent them to suppress the rebellion in Donbas. Effectively he has created a dictatorial fiefdom in the region.
In terms of economics, we immediately saw the escalation of neo-liberal processes, such as the IMF loans. They came with austerity measures attached as a condition, such as freezing of wages, removing subsidies for gas along with other subsidies, rising prices and cuts to social spending. It has recently been announced by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk that the country will undergo the strongest wave of privatization since independence including 38 state mines and many other large industries.
The “Orange revolution” in 2004 and the Euromaidan contained many of the same activists, and we saw after both events the devaluation of the Ukranian currency. The US was constantly pressing Yanukovich to “free” the Ukrainian currency, and what it means is the increase of the real amount of foreign debt.
PM: What are the Russian, US and EU interests in Ukraine?
DK: Those three forces that are present make this, not a conflict of the West against Russia, but a three sided conflict because the US interests and those of the EU are often in conflict. The interest of the EU is the opening of the Ukrainian market for their goods, because the EU is facing an economic crisis and high unemployment. So a new market means some more jobs for the EU. However, Ukraine is one of the poorest post-Soviet countries, so they are not such good buyers of EU goods.
The US interests are a kind of covert war against Russia, moving military bases closer to Russia. And certainly Russia has economic interests connected to its gas, because the majority of Russian state profits come from gas exporting, particularly to EU. Most of these pipelines go through Ukraine, so, by putting a government hostile to Russia in Kiev, the US is simultaneously undermining Russia and the EU. Russia would be left without a large amount of export profits and the EU would be forced to buy gas somewhere else. We have already read that the US is getting ready to export shale gas to EU, in an article in Guardian by Naomi Klein entitled something like “Why US companies are licking their lips over the Ukrainian crisis”. Shale gas from overseas will be more expensive, so here we see an attempt by the US to enlarge their export profits. Also, such companies as Shell and Chevron have started to extract shale gas through fracking in Ukraine as well, and we know that the son of Joe Biden was appointed to the board of a Ukrainian gas company. In the city of Slavyansk, a city with considerable shale gas potential, we saw fracking equipment being brought in immediately after the rebels were forced to flee the city.
As for Russia, they are interested in having a “friendly” neighbour and an ally in the political sphere, in preserving their naval base in Crimea and their customs union, through which they are trying to attract Ukraine and other post-soviet countries into their own sphere of economic influence.
PM: In what way is Russia supporting the rebels and what are their interests in this rebellion?
DK: First of all, we have to understand that Russia is not only Putin, but in fact, the interests of a number of oligarch clans; and Putin as any president or national leader, is the voice of those that put him in power. There are also tensions inside the Russian government. Some of them are seeking some kind of peaceful agreement with the US and EU, and others are more belligerent.
Russian policy toward the rebels is not always completely logical. Russia actually denounced the Ukrainian government and their attacks on the rebels. Officially Russia does support them, and there are also many volunteers among the rebels, although it has to be said that Russian nationalists have been fighting on both sides of the conflict.
The rebels are supported by initiatives of some Russian businessmen, but Russia remains very suspicious of the rebels, mainly because a significant part of them are pro-socialist and pro-soviet oriented. They demand nationalization…they can be a threat to Russia because such sentiment can easily spread among the Russian population and can resonate among Russian workers in Russia.
PM: So would you say that there is significant anti-oligarch sentiments among the rebels?
DK: Yes, as I said all of the Ukrainian oligarchs are on the side of the Kiev government. Because of such sentiments, Putin’s government cannot elaborate a clear position towards the rebels, as there are still tensions within the government itself, and it is not clear how radicalized they will be an example to the Russian people.
PM: What are the perspectives for the Kiev government going forward? Will they be able to consolidate their power, given the austerity measures, the rebellion and the mothers’ and wives’ movement against mobilization?
DK: The prospects for the Kiev government are rather gloomy for several reasons. Firstly, it does not have the support of a majority of the country. This is why the overthrow of the former government was needed as the forces that came to power could not do remove it by democratic means. We had elections scheduled for the beginning of 2015, but the opposition to Yanukovich understood that they needed his overthrow to come to power. They can rely mostly on far-right gangs that suppress any kind of opposition to the government including that coming from the mothers’ and wives’ anti-war movement. This is why these gangs are armed and funded, because without them, the government would not stay in power. If they were not so important, then they would be disarmed, as they serve as a justification for Russian propaganda.
Secondly, it is rather risky to maintain a policy of austerity measures, social cuts, devaluation of currency, price hikes, oppression of minorities, attacks on communists, leftists. We know that such a policy is risky for any government because it will inevitably meet resistance from various layers of society. The Ukrainian budget is empty as has been recently announced by the Prime Minister. The Russian market for Ukrainian good is closed meaning the absence of the main source of profit.
Moreover, the current Ukrainian government is also not homogeneous. Apart from the far-right groups and parties like the Radical Party of Oleg Lyashko, Svoboda and Right Sector, there are tensions among the oligarchs themselves. Last week we saw tensions and mutual accusations among the supporters of and media outlets linked to Poroshenko and Kolomoiskyi. Even if the south-east rebels are defeated, we will see the next stage of conflict among the so-called oligarch “winners”.
We have seen protests and social uprisings all over Ukraine. We have seen protests of fired workers and doctors against social cuts. At the same time, we have seen the soldiers’ wives’ and mothers’ protests, who simply do not want them to be killed. We recently heard a mother in Chernivtsi say on television that “we were not the ones who started Maidan, let those that did go to the war”.
Also, because the budget is almost empty, Ukraine has to rely on American and Western support for the war, which could lead to protests in those countries. They will have to ask why their budget is being diverted to a civil war in Ukraine.
The state is even forcing its soldiers to buy medicine with their own money.
PM: Describe the increase of censorship by the current government and the persecution of their opponents such as Borotba? What are the perspectives for Borortba and how could people from outside Ukraine help the cause in Ukraine?
DK: Borotba as well as all other oppositional forces have faced repression as well as a kind of far-right terror… this included the Communist Party and other kinds of “left” groups and organizations. The Borotba office in Kiev was raided by far-right thugs. Borotba activists were attacked and beaten at Euromaidan. Due to the strong anti-communist sentiments and the impunity for the far-right gangs roaming the streets, any kind of left or communist activist can be attacked, beaten, arrested or murdered.
After the raids on the offices in Kiev, Borotba had to move its main offices to Kharkiv and participated in the protests there, with many workers and youth joining these movements. This lead to attacks by state security forces; there were searches of Borotba offices, attacks on Borotba members by far-right thugs during the rallies. Denis Levin was almost kidnapped at a rally in Kharkov by men in black from the neo-nazi Social National Assembly, but some people at the rally managed to release him. There were attacks on other activists and many of them had to move underground. At the Odessa massacre on May 2nd, Andrey Brazhevsky from Borotba and a communist youth member were among those killed. Many of the protesters who survived the massacre were put into prison.
Borotba activists who managed to escape their arrests have fled, although some activists have remained. Borotba is now preparing for the next wave of protests. Comrades in exile are organizing political schools for political refugees. In Ukraine, in the conditions of illegality, it is very hard to develop the work.
We are very thankful for any kind of support. We would like to see protests against fascist terror and persecution of left groups in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government actually depends very much on Western countries, and protests in those countries can go towards helping the stopping of the bombing of Donbas and the persecution of left activists. We would also like to see the solidarity movement disrupt the wall of lies by the Ukrainian media by telling the people in the West the truth. The mainstream media is all corporate media and have the same interests as western corporations. There are some flashes of truth in BBC or Al-Jazeera, but these are only flashes.
We also need help in the political education of those refugees and even some comrades that under are threat may need to be evacuated from Ukraine. But I emphasize that the main aspect is the enlargement of the campaign of anti-fascist solidarity in order to put pressure on Western governments.
PM: On behalf of the IMT [International Marxist Tendency, AR], I would like to thank you for attending our congress and raising the understanding of the situation in Ukraine among all of the comrades here. What message would you send to the comrades of the IMT?
DK: I am very thankful to the comrades from the IMT involved in the anti-fascist solidarity campaign. It was rather useful for me to be at the congress of IMT not only to talk about the situation in Ukraine, but also to learn from various countries around the world, not only about their situation, but also the prospects of left-Marxist groups in those countries. I found that on Ukraine and many other questions in the world perspectives that were discussed and the current state in the development of capitalism, our positions mostly coincide.
We wish for the comrades from the IMT to be prepared in advance for the turbulence that will come around the world; to raise the political consciousness of workers and lower classes in those countries so they are not diverted into nationalist and fascist direction. I would like the comrades from the IMT to be prepared for developments like the ones in Ukraine, but the comrades from the IMT and all of us need to work hard on this. We understand that this is not an easy task, but I once again thank the comrades for all of their work so far.
PM: Thank you very much Dmitri.
Earlier about Ukraine 2014 conflict:
And earlier about Ukraine:
Odessa is not only Ukraine’s most important remaining port for access to the Black Sea. It has also allegedly been a key avenue for Russian companies to export, sometimes with illicit or controversial purposes, goods overseas. Russian arms to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad allegedly flowed through Odessa, for example.
In my earlier article Arms Trade: The Crux Of The MIC I described where U.S. and Russia were supplying their weaponry as part of geopolitical game. One part of international arms trade is made via semi-official channels or through clandestine operations. One example about these activities – from U.S. side – is described in my article – U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria . Now there is also an example of implemented practice from Russian side.
Russia’s biggest, money-making exports — after oil and gas and other natural resources — is weaponry. Russia’s state-owned defence equipment export company Rosoboronexport seemingly has had a record year, reporting exports of almost $39 billion in 2013-14. The regions of Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists are rebelling is home to more than 50 factories that have been building specialized military equipment for Moscow over the last two decades.
Most of Russia’s massive arms exports was channeled through the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk – about 100 km east of Odessa. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
At least until 2014 Oktyabrsk the highly secure, very Russian “specialized sea port” from which the Kremlin exported out Kh-55 cruise missiles to Iran, Pechora-2 surface-to-air missiles to Eritrea, T-72 tanks to Venezuela and South Sudan, even more tanks and rockets to Myanmar (Burma) … and all of the above to Syria.
The Odessa Network
A new study by independent conflict researchers describes a heavy volume of traffic in the past two years from Ukraine’s Oktyabrsk port, just up the Black Sea coast from Odessa, to Syria’s main ports on the Mediterranean. In late 2012, Farley Mesko and Tom Wallace – security analysts at C4ADS – began investigating an intricate network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Their report – The Odessa Network: Mapping Facilitators of Russian and Ukrainian Arms Transfers (later the report) presents a picture of a very opaque system, in this case the system of maritime arms transfers related to the Russian government and former Ukrainian government. C4ADS is a ,Washington-based, nonprofit research organization whose mission is to understand global conflict and security through on-the-ground research and data-driven analysis.
Despite being in Ukraine, Oktyabrsk “is functionally controlled by Russia,” and the port is headed by a former Russian navy captain and owned by a business magnate with close ties to the Kremlin, the report said. Major Russian weapons exporters have offices there, alongside Ukrainian and Russian shipping and logistics companies the report has dubbed the “Odessa Network”. Oktyabrsk is specially built by the Soviet Union to ship weapons and possesses a number of qualities making it well-suited for arms exports: advantageous geography, specialized equipment, transportation infrastructure to major FSU defense-industrial plants, and more.
The Odessa Network is a loose collection of logistics contractors for the governments of Russia and Ukraine, not independent arms dealers. Key companies and figures in Odessa include Kaalbye Group, Phoenix Trans-Servis. Affiliated EU and Russian shipping firms such as Briese Schiffahrts (and its subsidiary BBC Chartering) and Balchart play an important specialized role in transporting particularly large or sensitive shipments. To protect their weapons shipments, some of the Ukrainian and Russian firms own or contract with multiple private maritime security companies – such as Moran Security Group, Muse Professional Group, Helicon Security, Changsuk Security Group, and Al Mina Security Group – who also operate in African conflict zones. These companies’ business model revolves around staffing ships transiting dangerous areas (particularly the Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea) with heavily armed FSU (Former Soviet Union) military veterans, who provide protection from pirates. The companies work with state weapons export agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport.
The Odessa Network is not a hierarchical, unitary organization. It is better characterized as a “contacts market:” clusters of individuals and firms geographically concentrated in a particular area, and performing a specific sub-task of the weapons-export process. For example, the primary logistics contractors for Russian and Ukrainian weapons exports are shipping companies headquartered in the city of Odessa, while the financial services sometimes used to ‘clean’ profits are located in Latvia.
According report there is evidence that some of these “Odessa Network” companies employ Latvian banks known or accused of money laundering and a series of Panamanian companies run by Latvian nationals who act as “proxy directors.”is a member of the EU, and so money cleaned through Latvia can readily be transferred into safe havens in Zurich or London. Over half of the $25 billion held in Latvian banks is held by foreign depositors; the IMF estimates FSU entities account for 90% of this.
The Weapons Shipment Data in report presents dataset on Russian and Ukrainian weapons shipments, and the ships, companies, and ports used to facilitate them. The dataset includes 43 separate shipment events, and at least 21 different purchasing countries. These shipments include weapons ranging from crates of surplus ammunition to state of the art SAM systems, customers ranging from countries in good international standing to states under active international sanction, and span over a decade of time. Some of these arms transfers are well-known, while others were previously undetected. These shipments were facilitated by a comparatively small group of Ukrainian and EU companies and individuals with close ties to one another, and to senior Russian and Ukrainian governmental and military-industrial officials. The report for example notes that Kaalbye -company carried arms to President Assad’s forces in Syria in 2012 and to the Venezuela government from 2011 to 2013. Previous shipments have included cruise missiles to China and Iran, assault rifles and grenades to Angola, and tanks and RPGs to South Sudan.
A network of Ukraine-based individuals and logistics companies—referred to as the “Odessa Network” due to its key leadership being located in Odessa, Ukraine—is responsible for transporting weapons out of Russia and Ukraine on behalf of government sellers. Odessa Network company leaders have personal and financial relationships with cabinet level officials in the Russian and Ukrainian governments.
According the report the Odessa companies’ greatest asset: connections. Link and network analysis reveals that the Odessa companies and personnel are the center of a rich network of businesses and individuals who provide all the services necessary for a weapons shipment to occur. The Odessa Network firms are logistics contractors for the Russian and Ukrainian governments. State agencies such as Rosoboronexport and Ukrspetsexport own the weapons and broker almost all foreign sales. The Odessa Network companies play a critical role in making these arms transfers happen, but they only do so on behalf of powerful customers in Moscow and Kiev. The key assumption is that there must be persistent links and contractual relationships between the Odessa Network and government officials. The Odessa Network has moved billions of dollars of advanced military hardware, which indicates a high level of government trust in its competency and honesty, implying contact between leaders on both sides.
The maritime shipments by Odessa Network are only one part of Russia’s and Ukraine’s arms trade. The Norwegian firm Eide Marine Services is the second most frequent weapons transporter in our dataset (after Kaalbye). Eide is a perfect example of how EU firms provide specialized ships to handle large or unusual cargo the Odessa firms cannot, such as warships and submarines. Eide is one of the few firms which possesses exactly such a ship, the Eide Transporter, which has been used multiple times to move unusual Russian military cargo to foreign customers. This includes Tarantul-class missile corvettes, Gepard-class frigates, and Svetlyak-class patrol boats to Vietnam, and Kilo-class submarines to China. However Eide-Odessa connections are unclear.
Many of Russia and Ukraine’s customers are geographic neighbors or landlocked, making it impractical or impossible to use sea transportation. For example, when Russia exports weapons to neighboring Kazakhstan it does so by plane, rail, or truck. Similarly, even distant customers may be purchasing military equipment that is typically not moved by sea. For example, Russia has a $300 million contract to supply Su–30 MK2 and Su–27 SKM fighters to Indonesia, but these are transported on An–124 transport aircraft, not ships. Similarly, Ukraine has a contract to supply BTR–3E1 APCs to Thailand, but previous shipments have been flown on an Il–76 to U-Tapao Airport, not shipped.
Selling of advanced weapons also indicates the facilitator of weapons shipments are an important foreign policy tool. Governmental ownership of exported weapons since the early 2000s confirms a narrative of Russian politics that emphasizes reassertion of state control over national assets (defense plants, oil and gas, industrial concerns, etc.) and profits resulting from sale of these assets being distributed to regime stakeholders via sanctioned corruption in exchange for political loyalty.
The situation in Ukraine has its effect to arms trade – not only to Russian exports but to imports too.The volume of import substitution program in the defense sector is 22.8 billion rubles, “Kommersant” writes citing a senior source in the Russian defense industry. “The sanctions will encourage the expansion of the programme of import substitution and speed up the development and introduction of new domestic technologies.”
Downriver from Dnepropetrovk is Zaporizhia, home of Motor Sich. While Russia was annexing the Crimea from Ukraine the Motor Sich inherited most of the former Soviet Union’s aeronautical engine manufacturing capability Motor Sich signed a new, upgraded co-operation agreement with Rostec, the umbrella organization for Russia’s defence industry.
Speaking about sanctions it is a bit ironic that the embargo on the rotorcraft engine exports to Russia will not have a negative impact on one significant contract – the delivery of 63 Mi-17V-5 tactical transport helicopters for the Afghan armed forces ordered by the US for some $1.33 billion.
One aspect in geopolitical game is arms trade – from whom to buy and to whom to sell. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has studied for 2012-2013 to see to whom the two biggest military powers as well the two leading exporters of weapons – U.S. and Russia were supplying their weaponary.
The U.S. dealt to 59 nations that Russia doesn’t sell or send weaponry to, while Russia dealt to just 15 nations that don’t receive U.S. arms. Fifteen countries received weaponry from both the U.S. and Russia, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa.
The country that received the highest dollar amount of U.S. weaponry was the United Arab Emirates, with more than $3.7 billion in arms received over that period. Russia dealt the greatest value of weapons to India, sending more than $13.6 billion. Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations, while Russia sent weaponry exceeding $29.7 billion in value around the globe. (Source and more e.g. in Businessinsider )
One should note that the SIPRI’s totals – figures in table above – don’t measure the cost of the transaction but the cost of the weapons’ production. The numbers are listed as the production value of the weapons sold rather than the amount they were actually sold for. So the numbers represent the transfer of military resources rather than the financial value of the transfer. In addition, SIPRI does not track the transfer of certain small arms.
SIPRI Arms Industry Database, which contains financial and employment data on the world’s major arms-producing and military services companies. Arms and military services sales (‘arms sales’) are defined by SIPRI as sales of military goods and services to military customers, including sales for both domestic procurement and export. Military goods and services are those that are designed specifically for military purposes and include the technologies related to these goods and services. Military goods are military-specific equipment and do not include general-purpose goods, such as oil, electricity, office computers, uniforms and boots. Military services are also military-specific. They include technical services, such as information technology, maintenance, repair and overhaul, and operational support; services related to the operation of the armed forces, such as intelligence, training, logistics and facilities management; and armed security in conflict zones. They do not include the peacetime provision of purely civilian services—such as health care, cleaning, catering and transportation—but supply services to operationally deployed forces are included.
Were the Soviet Union, to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military industrial complex would have to remain substantially unchanged until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” (George F Kennan, 1987 )
The industry of manufacturing weapons of death and destruction is a peculiar one; its continued profitability is dependent on wars and conflict. A military-industrial complex (MIC) is composed of a nation’s armed forces, its suppliers of weapons systems, supplies and services, and its civil government.
Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC) – especially in U.S. – still rules the world. Global military industrial consumption represents a few percent of GDP and is still rising. U.S. share of the cake is about 40%. MIC is a concept commonly used to refer to policy relationships between governments, national armed forces, and industrial support they obtain from the commercial sector in political approval for research, development, production, use, and support for military training, weapons, equipment, and facilities within the national defense and security policy.
Picture above can be seen bigger HERE!
Today besides traditionel weaponery there is two important component in MIC: First is academia – only in U.S. about 350 colleges and universities are agreeing to do Pentagon-funded research. In Academic world neuro-weapons and diverse applications of numerous branches of research – such as the software guidance systems, general communications networking systems and robotics technology – that blur the distinctions between government, military, and medical, technological and scientific research. The second important factor is the media – to keep on MIC side. Media has been essential part of wars and conflicts last twenty years and media wars have been implemented before, during and after open conflicts for benefit of stakeholders and MIC. Indeed nowadays an better offshoot of the MIC is military–industrial -media-academy complex (MIMAC) as these two components have been widely integrated to the old MIC.
Largest arms-producing and military services companies (excluding Chinese companies) ranked by their arms sales in 2012 – Source SIPRI . Figures for arms sales, total sales and total profit are in millions of U.S. dollars.
More about MIC in my article BTW MIC Still Rules .
The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded” (Ban Ki-moon )
Last year, global military spending reportedly exceeded $1.7 trillion – more than $4.6 billion a day, which alone is almost twice the UN’s budget for an entire year. While the West still spent over half of global defence outlays in 2013, this is down from two-thirds of global totals in 2010. Overall, although emerging economies continue to ramp up their defence-spending levels, defence-budget cuts in Western states and the drawdown of military operations in Afghanistan have meant that, globally, real defence spending fell in 2013.
Western states have been struggling with economic recession during the past years. To stimulate economic grouwth investment in construction contracts for the military apparatus might be an attractive idea as well economic stimulation through the purchase of military related commodities like oil, metals and other raw materials. This behavior is driven by the corporate world and not from the needs of defence. However the state has also important role while providing the justification for using the means to warfare.
One should note that figures above represent only information collected from official sources. The whole picture about arms trade is much more wider if clandestine operations, smuggling, illegal trade etc are added. One example about these activities is described in my article – U.S. Recycles Its Old Balkan Practice With Syria .
Jordanian Sheikh Ahmad al-Adwan adheres to his unconventional interpretation of the Koran, and is not afraid to enrage the Palestinians and their supporters. A Jordanian Quranic scholar, and former postal worker, cited the Quranic sources that affirm Islam and Judaism should have friendly relations and that ‘Palestine’ should be for Jews.
In December 2012, Sheikh al-Adwan visited Israel and met with Jewish Rabbis including Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in order to discuss peace and reconciliation between the religions. He was interviewed after the visit, which was published a few months ago on the ‘Israel in Arabic’ site. ‘Mida’ (a news and intellectual website which aims to present the public with information and opinions not common in the Israeli media) has now presented an English translation of this important interview, which allows a look into unconventional positions and facts, which are not sufficiently well-known in the Israeli and worldwide media.
Allah may He be praised wrote in the Torah that this is the land of the sons of Israel, he bequeathed the Holy Land to the sons of Israel and called the land by this name (the Land of Israel) and so it is stated by the Holy Koran: “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.” [Koran 5:21]. This holy verse is a “Kushan” (deed) which confirms that this land is granted to the Jews. It is also said “We made the Children of Israel inheritors of such things.” [Koran 26:59], and in the following verse “And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land (of promise)”” [Koran 17:104] and there are many additional holy verses which prove and confirm this.
All should know that the Holy Land is their [the Jews’] land and that Jerusalem is the direction towards which they pray and during their readings and ceremonies, as God said in the Koran “Turn then Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque” (in Mecca) [Koran 2:144]. This verse effectively cancels out the prayer towards al-Aqsa (the Temple Mount) and all traditions regarding al-Aqsa for Muslims.
It is also said in the Koran “Even if thou were to bring to the people of the Book all the Signs (together), they would not follow Thy Qibla; nor art thou going to follow their Qibla;” [Koran 2:145]. That is, God created two directions for prayer [“Qibla” in Arabic]. One he designated for Muslims – this is the Kaaba in holy Mecca, while the Jews’ prayer direction is al-Aqsa which is holy to the Jews, this in spite of the nations of the world, because this is the command of God, the King of Kings who chooses how to run His world.
“The Palestinians are the killers of children, the elderly and women. They attack the Jews and then they use those (children, the elderly and women) as human shields and hide behind them, without mercy for their children as if they weren’t their own children, in order to tell the public opinion that the Jews intended to kill them. This is exactly what I saw with my own two eyes in the 70’s, when they attacked the Jordanian army, which sheltered and protected them. Instead of thanking it (the Jordanian army), they brought their children forward to (face) the Jordanian army, in order to make the world believe that the army kills their children. This is their habit and custom, their viciousness, their having hearts of stones towards their children, and their lying to public opinion, in order to get its support.” (Source: ‘Mida’ )
To the opinion that the Kingdom of Jordan in its present borders is the Palestinian State Sheikh al-Adwan has clear position:
The State (Jordan) was blessed with the glorious and honorable leadership of the Hashemites, a strong Jordanian nation connected to its land of tribes and families, and proud and brave men who support and embrace the present leadership and support its call for peace. Anyone who says this is the Palestinian State is either asleep or a daydreamer…a terrorist and a wicked person.
A quote from the answer to question if Sheikh al-Adwan believes that those who call themselves “Palestinians” have a right to establish a state on the Jews’ historic land?
How can they (the Palestinians) have the right to establish a State on the Jewish Land of Israel, which Allah granted and bequeathed to the Jews? More than that, even if all the inhabitants of the land forgot their right, or went crazy and collaborated with those who call themselves “Palestinians” to establish a state for the latter, they won’t succeed, and Allah will not allow this until the Day of Judgment, this because Allah Himself willed and specifically wrote in His book that this land will be the land of the People of Israel under Israeli sovereignty so that no-one would later dispute it.
With this question I have a bit different approach as I see Palestine in relation to British mandate. From Israeli point of view the legal rights to the land are based to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the League of Nations San Remo Conference of 1920. The geographical area called Palestine was to become a homeland for the Jewish Homeland. The land was administered as British mandate. Britain split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan split off 75% of Palestine to establish the Emirate of Transjordan on the eastern bank of the River Jordan. This part is now known as the modern Kingdom of Jordan. The Peel Commission of the late 1930’s endeavored to partition the western portion of the original Jewish Homeland into Jewish and Arab mini-states, the latter to mollify Arab rioters fomented by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al Husseini, an close ally with Hitler during WWII
Coming back to the present time for example Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bomb (on 31st Oct. 2012) with a call for “returning” the West Bank to Jordan during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move , Palestinians Put Jordanian Option on the Table and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )
On the other hand the Islamic State (IS) – formerly known as ISIS – the terror group wreaking havoc and death across Iraq and Syria, has promised a Holocaust against the Jews. The Algemeiner brings us this report of a disguised Israeli reporter who interviewed an American-born member of IS, a report that shows the terrorists’ intentions, as well as the truth behind their many foreign-born members. Posing as “Abed al-Islam Afifi,” 26, from Paris, the reporter contacted Abu Turab via a cellphone app.
“From Syria, we’ll expand the caliphate, Allah willing, and Hizbullah and the Jews will meet their fate, and soon,” vowed an American-born 26-year-old Islamic State (IS) fighter in Aleppo, Syria …
IS boasts that dozens of American youths, and hundreds from various countries in Europe have joined its ranks and have already entered Syria and Iraq to fight alongside various factions, in part, thanks to easy access to information on the internet …
Dr. Muhammad Al Atawneh, a senior faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggested that these young people understand Islam and organizations like IS via non-religious sources. “For these young people, this is a protest. They see radical Islam as an alternative to the failure of nation-states. They go to the edge of the edge, talking about the caliphate, but no one there knows what ‘caliphate’ really means,” he said. “There is tremendous ignorance on the subject,” Al Atawneh said. “They’re very confused in matters of religion. The distortions and gaps are so abysmal, it is impossible to understand what texts people who chop off heads are following.” (Source: The Algemeiner )
Personally, from my perspective the religious aspects related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are insignificant. In my opinion the legitimacy of Israel is based on anti-Semitism through centuries and especially implementation of Holocaust during WWII. Based to this unique experience – as far as I can see – the Jews have all right to their newly established homeland; sure newborn Israel same time has violated the rights of Arabs living West side of the River Jordan but as said in my opinion the claim of Jews compared to Arabs is more justified in this region.
In Israeli-Palestinian conflict the policy “meet quiet with quiet” turned on July 2014 to violence leading to ongoing operation Protective Edge. Again one can see usual vicious cycle like few times before: Hamas terrorizes Israeli civilians with rockets, Israel responds and tries to disarm Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure, the innocent civilians on both sides of the border are paying the price, once again, and that military action will not guarantee long-term stability or peace.
Hamas is trying to claim a symbolic victory over Israel. But the longer the conflict lasts, the more complications the militants in Gaza face as they see their threat of force erode with time – that their tool is becoming less effective. Since the beginning of the operation, more than 2200 terror targets in Gaza have been eliminated, however the real conflict is yet to follow if all three possible stages – an integrated air and sea assault, a ground operation from the Army, and the third part if needed would be expanding the operation including recruiting more reservists- will be implemented. The coming days will show whether this conflict will end as earlier ones or is it sliding into a full-blown war.
Media attention in Israel and abroad is starting to shift to Ukraine for the first time in days after reports are flooding in that a Malaysian Airlines commercial jet was shot down. Already earlier there was competition for media space due IS(IS) activities in Iraq and Syria. My forecast is that in one to three weeks (depending how deep ground operation Israel implements) there will be a ceasefire for two-three next years.
End of story? Not yetas in my opinion this time there are few aspects which are significant in comparison to earlier operations. I would like to highlight three of them: Increased capacity of Hamas, critical attitude from Arab states which is making the political impact of Hamas operation less effective and civilian to combatant deaths ratio.
Reinforcements 1: New rockets
Hamas has now better capacity to implement its operations due two significant means – the new longer range rockets and the offensive tunnels. A novelty in this latest conflict is the apparent use by the Palestinians of an even longer-range system – thought to be a Syrian built-missile – the Khaibar-1. This was first used earlier this month and has a range of up to 160km which brings Israel’s northern coastal city of Haifa within reach. A weapon that crops up in some of the reporting has the designation M-302 which has a similar range. Range here is crucial. Bringing the population of major Israeli cities under threat, however inaccurate the weapon, causes huge disruption and fear.
Earlier Hamas has used shorter-range systems like heavy mortars and Grad and Qassam rockets with ranges of up to 48km (30 miles) and 17km respectively. They threaten towns and cities in southern Israel, like Sderot, Ashkelon and even Beersheba and the port of Ashdod. There is also the longer range Fajr-5, sometimes also designated the M75. It can reach up to 75km, threatening major population centres like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Here is a report from Israel Defence Force (IDF) intelligence on Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket arsenal:
Short range (15-20 km)
Medium range (up to 45 km)
Medium-Long range (up to 80 km)
Long range (100-200 km)
In Total: Approximately 9,000-10,000 rockets
The latest generation of rockets it has acquired can reach the population center of Israel: the triangle of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, these are rockets, not missiles. That means they have no guidance system, and their point of impact once launched is a matter of chance. Given these limits, Hamas hoped having a large number of rockets of different ranges would create the risk of substantial Israeli civilian casualties, and that that risk would deter Israel from action against Gaza. However for example using the Fajr-5 brings huge practical problems. It is heavy and fairly large – some 6m (20ft) tall. It requires mechanical handling and needs to be pre-positioned in hidden launch sites and camouflaged from the prying eyes of Israeli drones.
Besides new rockets of Hamas there is also other increase of similar capacity. Armed groups linked to Fatah say they began launching rockets and mortar shells into Israel Wednesday 16th . The Nidal Al-Amody force of Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed responsibility for firing Grad and 107 millimeter rockets toward Ashkelon, Sderot, Netivot, Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha and the Sufa Crossing from Gaza. Communiques specifying the attacks were published on Fatah’s official Facebook page. On 17thanother armed force associated with Fatah, the Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions, claimed responsibility for launching two Grad rockets at Ashkelon and four mortar shells at Kibbutz Nir Oz. Fatah’s FB title: “The Al-Aqsa Brigades and the Abdul Qader Husseini Brigades have proven today that they are the most loyal to the blood of the martyrs.”
For the first time in this conflict rockets were fired from Lebanon at Israel, targeting the northern town of Metula early on Friday. According to defence sources they were likely fired by a Palestinian group, and not by Hezbollah.
In addition it’s now been discovered that what the IDF shot down on 14th July was not a rocket, but an unmanned drone launched from Gaza. This represent an escalation of Gaza’s capabilities and attempts to attack Israel. The drone was shot down by a Patriot missile and it was the first time a Patriot has been launched at a target in Israel in 20 years.
Reinforcements 2: Offensive tunnels
Offensive tunnels have become a strategic weapon for Hamas in recent years. Gaza militants were en route to ambush the string of agricultural communities that are just a few hundred feet of fields away from the border. Israeli border kibbutz became a war zone.It highlighted the potency of Hamas’ network of border attack tunnels: the Islamic militants penetrated Israeli territory three times in three days and want to open a new front in the battle against Israel by targeting the border kibbutz. (Source and more in WSJ )
Israeli sources admit that they have been surprised by the extent of the tunneling under the border. This “blind spot” in Israeli intelligence can be explained by the strict compartmentalization of the digging operation in Gaza, which was not carried out not by Hamas members, but by families from Rafah which specialize in tunneling. These families controlled the smuggling tunnels from Egypt and were brought in as contractors by Hamas. Israel is now claiming that a large proportion of the concrete it allowed into Gaza in recent years for civilian building was used in the tunnels’ construction. This tunnel system was designed to be the Palestinian Islamists’ highest strategic asset, Around 16,000 men, around 15 percent of Hamas’ fighting strength, were assigned to the tunnel project in the last five years and substantial funds.
On Oct. 10th , 2013 Israeli Army discovered a tunnel dug by Palestinians from east of Abasan, in southern Gaza.According Al-Monitorthe passageway lies 20 meters underground, is 2.5 kilometers long, and has a ceiling high enough to accommodate a man of average height. The tunnel is also remarkably wide. Its construction required 800 tons of concrete and cost an estimated $10 million. Some 100 workers toiled on it for more than two years. It was equipped with a communications network and electricity and contained stockpiles of cookies, yoghurt and other foods to allow for stays of several months.
Defense analysts admit that the threat of the cross-border attack tunnels is even more potent than Hamas’s rocket arsenal because of the risk of mass casualties or a kidnapping from the border. Israel’s military said destroying the Hamas tunnel network has become a main goal of their ground operation into the Gaza Strip, in addition to stopping rocket fire. (Source WSJ )
So far, Hamas has lost 13 of these kind of offensive tunnels, some of which Israel possesses both ends of, with Israeli troops having taken control of the entry points in Gaza. Still ahead of the Israeli operation, after the troops finish cleansing Shejaiya are similar challenges to dismantle Hamas’ offensive capabilities in another three of their Gaza City strongholds: Shaati, Al Bureij and Nuseirat, before Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure can be said to have been disarmed. Israel is making every effort to find and destroy all of the remaining tunnels before Operation Protective Edge comes to an end. It is estimated that construction similar tunnels takes around three years.
“Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”(The Hamas guidelines to Gaza Strip social media users for reporting events and discussing them with outsiders)
The role of civilians during ongoing operation Pillar of Defence is traditional one: Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations intentionally target Israeli civilians and use the population of Gaza as human shields, storing and firing rockets from within populated areas. One example during this ongoing operation was when twenty rockets have been hidden in a Gaza school operated under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, officials from the organization confirm. UNRWA officials in Israel are summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where they apologize to Israel for the incident. Despite this United Nations officials handed the rockets found in Gaza school over to Hamas so they can be shot at Israel.
Israel aims to targets included buildings used by the Hamas leadership, the homes of senior Hamas members, tunnels, underground launchers, communications infrastructure, military bases, and weapons caches. The IDF and Shin Bet intelligence agency joint targeted the homes of a series of Hamas leaders that were used as command and control centers by the military wing of Hamas. Israel does not intentionally target Palestinian civilians; in opposite the IDF takes extraordinary measures to avoid Palestinian civilian deaths. This is the core difference between Israeli and Hamas approaches and in my opinion it will give justification to this discussion about disproportion.
The former Commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, gives an insider view to civilian casualties in conflicts:
“The UN estimate that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three to one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one.”
As example Col.Kemp probably has earlier Gaza operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). The militants are hiding, and their weapons are located, among their own people. For example, Israel has bombed 1,100 targets in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, with an average of one civilian killed per 14-15 attacks. In the war in Kosovo, 500 civilians were killed in 900 air attacks by NATO forces, i.e. more than one fatality per every two attacks.
It is worth noting that many of the civilian casualties can be attributed to Hamas’s use of human shields, as they have encouraged civilians over and over again to become human shields as an “effective strategy” in the PR war against Israel. In addition, several of the rockets fired from Gaza have never made it on to Israeli soil, and may be partially responsible for Palestinian Arab deaths from within Gaza itself. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, over 100 rockets fired at Israel have fallen short of their targets, causing an unknown number of deaths. In addition Hamas has also during Operation Protective Edge executed many Palestinians due to collaboration or spying for Israel.
Israel is attempting to avoid civilian casualties with warning strikes (rockets which make a noise but do not explode), telephoned warnings to specific houses, as well as broadcasts to the civilian population urging them to distance themselves from armed groups and their infrastructure. (More in my articleMinimizing Collateral Damage In Gaza Conflict) Israel has kept open crossings for goods to enter the Gaza Strip, in contrast to Egypt which keeps its Rafah border with the Strip mainly closed. Medical patients from Gaza continue to enter Israel for life saving treatment on a daily basis. IDF warnings have been documented in certain cases, and even the civilians in Gaza admit in a number of instances that they were warned by the IDF. (More in Globes )
Saying all above I estimate that the civilian to combatant deaths ratio during Operation Protective Edge will be much higher than in previous operation as the targets are now better hide among civilian population and because of encouraging civiliansto become human shields.
Speaking about Israeli civilian deaths I expect them to be minimal like during earlier operations. Sure more people are in danger due to Hamas’ new rockets but also there is better Iron Dome system for protection. Iron Dome batteries are made up of interceptor missiles: radars and command systems that analyse where target missiles might fall and only intercept those deemed to be heading for civilian areas. ( More about Israel missile defence in my article ( More about Israel missile defence in my article Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror? ) . Israel has also invested – as opposite to Hamas – lot of efforts for warning signals and shelters for Israeli civilians. All this means that the death ones in Israeli side will be soldiers especially if ground operation takes more weeks to end.
Hamas losing political support
Hamas must be disappointed at the Muslim world’s reaction. Hamas did not get the usual reflexive support and fiery backlash against Israel. In fact, it appears that the terrorist group’s largest support is coming from protests in Europe. The latest round of fighting is remarkable in what did not happen. There weren’t automatic mass demonstrations against Israel and the West. No major riots or countless photographs of Israeli and American flags on fire across the region. (Source and more: ClarionProject )
The offensive waged by Hamas against Israel from the Gaza Strip has sparked intense criticism in the Arab media, reflecting the movement’s deteriorating status in the Arab world.Media in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt blame Hamas’ actions for inviting Israeli counter attacks and prioritizing conflict over the safety of the Gazan population and criticized the leadership for waging war far from the conflict, a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) report shows.
For example in an article titled “Gaza Is not All Hamas”, Dr. Nagla Al-Sayyid, a columnist in the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, wrote that Hamas was losing its legitimacy because it was trading in the blood of Palestinians while exploiting the financial aid it was receiving to promote its political and ideological interests. Dr. Amal ‘Abd Al-’Aziz Al-Hazzani, a columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote that Hamas sacrifices the people of Gaza while falsely claiming victory over Israel. “Adding fuel to the fire of the Gaza victims is the repeated media hypocrisy and the disgusting tear-jerking speeches that we don’t stop hearing every time Hamas decides to sacrifice some of the people of Gaza. Only rarely do they speak the truth. The Arab street doesn’t want to hear anything aside from curses against Israel, and that is easy, because we’ve been cursing it for over 60 years. After Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash’al criticized Egypt’s Gaza policy by saying, “We expect the Egyptian army [to use its] spirit of heroism for the sake of its Arab nation,”many columnists in the Egyptian media responded with fury. For instance, in an article titled “Why Isn’t Khaled Mash’al Giving His Life In Gaza?”, columnist Hamdi Razaq argued that, while Egypt is defending the Palestinian cause, Hamas has “sold” it to the MB, and Mash’al himself is enjoying a life of luxury in Qatar. He wrote: “Where is your spirit of heroism, Abu Walid [i.e., Khaled Mash'al]? Join your brothers. The media in Syria, which is likewise resentful of Hamas and its leaders due to their support for the rebellion against President Bashar Al-Assad, also slammed this movement, saying that it has abandoned the resistance in favor of a Western plan to destroy the Arab world, and that Mash’al has chosen to manage the war not from Gaza but rather from Doha, the capital of Qatar, a country known for its support for the MB and “in whose palaces the Israeli and Western intelligence cells nest.”
Finally also Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry blamed Hamas for the situation, telling Egyptian newspaper editors, “The parties that oppose the Egyptian cease-fire initiative bear responsibility for the Palestinian blood being shed.” (More about cease-fire intiative in Bicom article)
What’s motivating Hamas to commit suicide – or temporary one at least – now? One reason might be that the last few months it has become quite clear that the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip is dictating the fate of the movement and its leaders. Egypt has closed the Rafah crossing is closed; there aren’t enough tunnels to bring in ammunition, luxery items and other merchandise for profits of Hamas elite which lacks money to pay salaries to its bureaucrats and fighters.
The latestPew poll shows that only 35% of Palestinians have a favorable view of Hamas. About 63% of those in Gaza and 47% of those in the West Bank have an unfavorable view. That means that the political position of Hamas has done a 180 degree turn. The survey also found that 65% of Palestinians worry about Islamic extremism, consisting of 79% of those in the Gaza Strip and 57% of the West Bank.
When Hamas first took the Gaza Strip it presented itself as fighting the corrupt Fatah administration, but now the people of Gaza have seen that they are no different. Both Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have been suffering for some time now from a serious loss of credibility. The decision to launch rockets on the part of Hamas represented a cynical attempt to regain the loss in credibility. One reason for weakening popularity might be that people in Gaza see how corrupt the ruling elite is. For example in contrast to most refugee families, in 2010 PM Haniyeh reportedly purchased a 2,500 square meter plot of land in Gaza City for $4 million. Globes reported that in order not to draw attention to the purchase, he registered the land in the name of his daughter, Nabil. Since then, he has continued purchasing real estate, under the names of his 13 children. The paper also reported that there is no shortage of million-dollar villas for sale in Gaza, and no shortage of people to buy them, mostly Hamas officials. According to Dr Ahmed Karima, a senior lecturer at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Hamas has transformed from a resistance movement to a political party representing no less than 1,200 millionaires. Other Hamas officials who have become rich since the group staged a violent coup in Gaza in 2006 include Politburo Chief Khaled Mashal, who enjoys a bank stash of $2.6 billion, much of which is stored in Qatari and Egyptian banks. (Source and more e.g in Jewishpress )
On the other hand in the West Bank residents speak admiringly of the Islamist militant group Hamas while despairing that Abbas’s advocacy for nonviolence has led nowhere. It is claimed from The Palestinian side that the timing of Protective Edge is aimed at derailing a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that brought together the various factions, including Hamas, under Abbas’s leadership. The battle between Israel and Hamas has laid bare just how little impact the unity deal had on the ground. Abbas has virtually no presence in Gaza, and he lacks the ability to influence events there. Anyway an indisputable loser of ongoing operation is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who this spring was Israel’s partner in U.S.-brokered peace talks but has now been relegated to bystander status.
From Israeli side the official justification for yet another shelling of the Gaza strip, after the 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defence” and the December 2008 “Operation Cast Lead” is the usual one. These strikes are necessary, the Israeli government claims, to destroy devices and bases used for the launching of rockets aimed at Israeli towns. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, terrorists from the strip have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel.
Military action, however, is not a long-term solution, as Israeli operations in 2012 and 2008-9 showed. Israel seized Gaza in 1967 and withdrew in 2005. It is hard to see how re-occupation would serve Israel’s interests. American-mediated negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed in April 2014. After that, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, reached a reconciliation agreement with Hamas, which has lost support in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world. That moment could have been a chance to erode Hamas’s political standing further and boost Palestinian moderates like Mr. Abbas. The agreement created a government that had no Hamas members, reaffirmed the Palestinian Authority’s longstanding commitment to living in peace with Israel, and would have given the authority a foothold in Gaza.
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. Many Israelis however understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.The current escalation in Gaza is partly result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. In my opinion the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests.
The first step probably will be a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement. After that a possible scenario could be implementing Palestinian reconciliation deal with Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections and start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations again on the basis of two-state solution. As this method has been used last twenty years without progress I have doubts also this time. The Palestinian leaders have “rejected several opportunities to establish a Palestinian state and develop Palestinian civil society.” They fear that “accepting reconciliation would transform the Palestinians … from the world’s ultimate victim into an ordinary nation-state, terminating decades of unprecedented international indulgence;” it would force them “into responsibility, accountability and the daunting task of state building.”
On basis of reading different analysis and looking the mood in some social media forums I think that the idea of taking unilateral steps is gaining ground from the centre-left to the centre-right. One of the possible solutions is The Bennet’s sovereignty program. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett has proposed to apply Israel’s sovereignty to Area C, beginning with the major settlement blocs. After the recent breakdown in the negotiations with the PLO Bennet said that this was the time for Israel to put its own initiative on the table, and start to “move forward after 20 years of trying one track, which has met with no success.” Likud Ministers Israel Katz and Gilad Erdan, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, have spoken recently about applying Israel law to Area C of the West Bank.
The Oslo Accords divided Judea and Samaria into three areas: Area A, B and C. Area A comprises some 18 percent of the territory, and was transferred to the control of the Palestinian Authority, which enjoys most governmental powers. Authority in Area B, making up 22% of the territory, was divided between Israel and the Palestinians, with Israel retaining security control, and civil matters given over to the PA. Area C, comprising some 60% of the territory – including all the Jewish settlements – remained in Israeli hands. There are an estimated 350,000 Israelis and 70,000 Palestinians in Area C. Under Bennett’s plan, the Palestinians would be offered full Israeli citizenship.The proposal includes removing IDF roadblocks in the territory left under Palestinian control, Areas A and B, as well as investing in infrastructure there and pursuing massive economic development. (Source: Jpost )
So my conclusion about operation Protective Edge is that it updates Hamas capasity to terror Israel as well shows the ability of Israel to protect its civilian population. After too many civilian deaths on Palestinian side and after Hamas capacity is destroyd enough for couple of next years and when Hamas in their propaganda can show its strength to fight against Israel there will be ceasefire facilitated by Egypt, Qatar and/or USA in one to three weeks. After that there might be some peace talks round again without result and both parties start to implement their unilateral actions. Is this forecast right or wrong remains to see, but this kind of scenario is from my perspective very possible.
Materials regarding IDF’s efforts to avoid harming civilians
(Communicated by the Israeli Government Press Office)
IDF call to warn the population prior to attacking in the Gaza Strip
Warning Flyer distributed by the IDF to warn the civilian population of Shuja’iya before an operation
Israeli Air Force cancels a planned strike due to civilians being in the area
Hamas gathers civilians on a rooftop, to serve as human shields, causing the IDF to avoid an attack
IDF transfers humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip
Video showing the warning given to “Wafa” hospital prior to attack, and the large secondary explosions indicating that the place served as a hiding place for weapons
Materials indicating Hamas use of civilians as human shields and other violations by Hamas of International Law
IDF video explaining the issue of human shields in Gaza, and placing civilians within the line of fire
Hamas Spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri admits: The human shields policy is effective
Hamas Spokesman, Mushir El-Masri, calls civilian population not to leave their homes
Spokesman of the Hamas Military Section, Abu Ubeida admits to using youth as warriors: We manufactured a quarter of a million hand grenades and our boys will throw them instead of throwing rocks
Flyer by the Palestinian Ministry of the Interior calling civilians not to comply with IDF evacuation warnings
Gaza citizens admit that Hamas forbids them from leaving their homes (3:15 mins) <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMUdU3AqlyQ&feature=youtu.be>
Violations of International Law by Hamas
Hamas uses an ambulance to help militants escape a battle area
Stockpile of ready-to-fire rockets hidden by Hamas next to a school in Gaza
Hamas militants shoot from residential homes
Video proving that Hamas uses explosive tunnels
Aerial photo of shooting next to a hospital and a mosque
Infographic: Terror tunnels in Shuja’iya
IDF infographic of an aerial photo about Shuja’iya
Journalist in Gaza tweets: Hamas militant in Shuja’iya fighting wearing women’s clothing
Washington Post report: Hamas militants placing rockets in a mosque in the north of the Gaza Strip
UNRWA admits: Hamas hid rockets in one of our schools in Gaza <http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/unrwa-strongly-condemns-placement-rockets-school>
A second case in which UNRWA admits to finding a stockpile of rockets hidden in one of their schools
Collection of photos of tunnels dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip <https://www.flickr.com/search/?w=45644610@N03&q=tunnel>
Article on Hamas use of civilians as human shields
Article on Hamas use of mosques for military purposes
Article on Hamas use of schools for military purposes
Article on use of the home of a Hamas terrorist for storing weapons
Article on use of medical facilities and ambulances for military-terrorist purposes
Free movement is one fundamental human rights not only in one’s own country but also abroad. Visa restrictions play an important role in controlling the movement of foreign nationals across borders. They reflect also the relationships between individual nations as well the status of a country within the international community of nations. The main travel document is passport. Citizenship documented in passport regulates the level of free movement over borders; holder of one passport can travel relatively free around the globe while the choices of the holder of other passport are very limited. So passports can be ranked according to the visa-free access their holders.
Visa restrictions change according to the political situation at any given time. For example some 20 years ago citizens of Yugoslavia could travel relatively free, but the breakup wars changed situation completely. The “European perspective” is key concept for integrating western Balkans into EU. For ordinary people freedom of movement might be the main carrot after nearly 20 years of isolation.
My Passport Rank table below ranks passports according to how many countries it gives visa-free access. To table I have collected the Balkan countries and for comparison the best and the worst positions. I have also indicated the change during last two years describing to how many countries more the passport gives visa-free access compared to situation on 2012. As source I have used the data published in “The Henley Visa Restrictions Index”. (Source and more about H&P please visit in their homepage )
And here is my ”Passport Rank 2014: Balkans”:
Passport Rank 2014 – Balkans by Ari Rusila
|Rank||Passport of country||Visa free access to
|1||Finland, Sweden, UK||173||+3-4|
|4||Denmark, Germany, USA, Luxemburg||172||+3-6|
|8||Belgium, Italy, Netherlands||171||+3-4|
To travel from one country to other is a fundamental freedom restricted however more or less depending about which passport the traveler holds. Generally speaking the freedom of movement has increased a lot globally as well in Balkans. Apart that I would like to point out some trivia. The new Kosovo passport, first issued by the Kosovo Government in July 2008, is still one of the least useful travel documents ever designed. Passports for example from North Korea, Myanmar, Yemen and Syria are more valid than Kosovo passport as well one from the newest countries – South Sudan.
Some half of UN member states was fooled or pressured on for recognize Kosovo’s second declaration of independence, but Kosovo passport gives visa-free access only to less than 40 countries. On the other hand Taiwan ( also UN outsider) has diplomatic relations with 23 countries but its passport holders can travel visa free to 130 countries. In Europe only Pridnestrovie – aka Transdniestria aka Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) – may be a country which passport has less use abroad than Kosovo passport as no country has recognised its independence. From the bright side now the majority of former Kosovo Serbs can have visa-free travel abroad as they are residing in Serbia because they could not return to their homes in Kosovo after ethnic cleansing made by Kosovo Albanians on 1999 and 2004. (My view about Kosovo in my article Captured Pseudo-State Kosovo )
Passport is not only travel document – it has also its wider political and business aspects. For example romania distributes its passports to its Moldovan neighbours (rank 138) so that they can travel easier e.g in EU. Russia (rank 75) gives easily passports to Ukrainians (rank 96) to make stronger ties with Russian-speaking population abroad. During Balkan wars it was also quite popular to give Bosnian passports to foreign Muslim-fighters or Jihadists (and later leading al Qaeda figures) for their support in civil war.
It is estimated that that every year, several thousand people spend a collective $2bn ( €1.5bn) to add a second, or even third, passport to their collection. Those with money can select from half a dozen countries offering a direct citizenship-by-investment route with no residency requirements. The cheapest deal for citizenship is on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica (rank 83) where for an investment of $100,000 plus various fees, as well as an in-person interview on the island, citizenship can be bought. In better ranking Cyprus (rank 38) the costs are between €2-5 million depending program. Last year the government of Malta announced proposals to start selling citizenship of its nation to foreigners for €650,000, however after EU pressure applicants will now be required to spend at least a year in Malta in order to qualify. Several European Union countries – e.g UK, Spain, Belgium – or USA do not offer citizenship for purchase outright, but do offer residence permits to wealthy individuals; that include free movement within the Schengen area, in exchange for high fees and the requirement to invest in the country.
The passport rank shows also one peculiarity related to international aid and development. In Balkans besides Kosovo also Bosnia-Herzegovina together with Albania have the worst scores despite the fact that EU and international community have guided and supervised these regions towards “European standards” nearly twenty years with huge state- and capasity building measures and billions of bucks. So has EU failed with this task as those countries without outside supervision are getting visa-freedom earlier?
One could also conclude or claim that the EU is isolating three mainly Muslim European states/regions – Albania, BiH and Kosovo – and Turkey (rank 76, visa-free access to 94 countries) as some in the EU fear the presence of such a large, Muslim community inside traditionally Christian Europe. Of course EU denies political aspects and highlights only the technical ones but from Balkan perspective the impression can differ.
In Arab and Iranian dictators’ propaganda there is almost no problem that is not caused by the existence of Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy. Most of the Arab and Muslim states do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. However the freest Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East live in Israel. The Israeli government is the only one in the Middle East that is elected by free citizens — including Arabs and Muslims. Ironically even Islamic values seems better to be implemented in Western countries than in any country in world dominated by Islam.
In my opinion the modern society based on (Western or European) civilization or cultural history might explain the huge imbalance in the Great Middle East. The core reason for the imbalance between societes in the great Middle East might be from my point of view in the role of religion in different societies – in the lines between religion and secularism , between state and religion, between theocracy and democracy.
Why are Muslims so backward and powerless?
All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though. (Richard Dawkins)
Why Arabic Spring transformed itselve Islamic winter and why also after that it is so difficult to establish some kind of constititional democracy in any Arab country even if the mayority of population demands the change of regime. A quite good answer I found from article Why are Muslims so backward and powerless? written by Dr.Farrukh Saleem, the Pakistani Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank established in 2007 and an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Some highlights from his article describing not only Arab states but Muslim world in general:
Dr. Saleem concludes that the Muslim world lacks the capacity to produce knowledge and continues his statistics:
So the Muslim world is failing to diffuse knowledge. Exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports are an important indicator of knowledge application. Pakistan’s export of high technology products as a percentage of total exports stands at one per cent. The same for Saudi Arabia is 0.3 per cent; Kuwait , Morocco , and Algeria are all at 0.3 per cent, while Singapore is at 58 per cent. So the Muslim world is failing to apply knowledge. Interestingly, the combined annual GDP of 57 OIC-countries is under $2 trillion. America , just by herself, produces goods and services worth $12 trillion; China $8 trillion, Japan $3.8 trillion and Germany $2.4 trillion (purchasing power parity basis). Oil rich Saudi Arabia , UAE, Kuwait and Qatar collectively produce goods and services (mostly oil) worth $500 billion; Spain alone produces goods and services worth over $1 trillion, Catholic Poland $489 billion and Buddhist Thailand $545 billion. In addition Muslim GDP as a percentage of world GDP is fast declining.
Why are Muslims powerless? Dr. Farrukh Saleem‘s final conclusion: Because they aren’t producing, diffusing and applying knowledge. And, the future belongs to knowledge-based societies.
|Country||Literacy rate (all)||Male Literacy||Female Literacy|
Quite the contrary in Israel
For comparison Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to the following:
All this from a country just 60 years young while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth. Israel is a success story, and it seems that it will continue: Israel’s acceptance into the exclusive club of OECD, as well last year into EU’s Horizon 2020 program and CERN constitutes recognition of its accomplishments. Its integration into the global economy is further evidence that it is not isolated internationally. In the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will be negotiating from a position of strength. By contrast, the Arab states that are dealing with the challenges of modernity are in a severe economic, social and political crisis, particularly since the Arab Spring, and the power gap between Israel and its Arab neighbors has steadily widened. A strong economy is a significant factor in the building of military might and also in a society’s ability to withstand a protracted conflict.
Despite Islam’s rise in the region, which is problematic for Israel, Egypt and Jordan have stuck to the peace treaties. Israel continues to have unofficial relations with the Gulf emirates and the North African states. The fluctuations in relations between Israel and the Palestinians have almost no effect on the relations between Israel and most of the world. Relations with the Muslim world have actually improved since Israel established good relations with Muslim states in the Caucasus and central Asia, which became independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
“We must emphasize that many countries that profess Islam and are called Islamic are unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination.” ( Hossein Askari)
In a BBC interview, Hossein Askari, an Iranian-born academic, Professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University said a study by himself and colleague Dr Scheherazde S Rehman, also rates Israel (27) as being more compliant with the ideals of the Koran than any predominantly Muslim country. Not a single majority Muslim country made the top 25 and no Arab country is in the top 50. In doing the study they applied the ideals of Islam in the areas of a society’s economic achievements, governance, human and political rights, and international relations, he said. On that index “Muslim countries do very badly,” he said and accused them of using religion as an instrument of power.
“Looking at an index of Economic Islamicity, or how closely the policies and achievements of countries reflect Islamic economic teachings – Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Belgium round up the first 10”. In their ‘Overall Islamicity Index’, a measure that encompasses laws and governance, human and political rights, international relations, and economic factors, “the rankings are much the same: New Zealand, Luxembourg, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands; and again only Malaysia (38) and Kuwait (48) make it into the top 50 from Muslim countries,” he said.
“If a country, society, or community displays characteristics such as unelected, corrupt, oppressive, and unjust rulers, inequality before the law, unequal opportunities for human development, absence of freedom of choice (including that of religion), opulence alongside poverty, force, and aggression as the instruments of conflict resolution as opposed to dialogue and reconciliation, and, above all, the prevalence of injustice of any kind, it is prima facie evidence that it is not an Islamic community,” he said.
So, why are Muslims so powerless? Answer: Lack of education. All we do is shouting to Allah the whole day and blame everyone else for our multiple failures! ( Dr. Farrukh Saleem)
In my opinion the core obstacle to democracy in Arab countries is that a big share of population does not have access to manysided information sources nor they doen’t have means to make a critical analysis even about that limited information which they can reach. When biased (ruling regime) tv-broadcasts, rumours and fanatic provocatours lay the basis to ones personal decisions the public opinion easily reflects the will of others.
The cause for the huge imbalance between societies in the Great Middle East might be in the role of religion in different societies. In Israel there is a clear line between religion and state, and in overall European or Western countries have embraced secularism. In Arab or Muslim dominated countries Islam is more than a religion and it is primarily a political system controlling all aspects of the life of the believer. The main difference of approaches is that in democracy, laws are made by people but in Islam the laws made by people are not regognized as the laws are made by God and the ruler, as the executioner of divine law, is not accountable to the people. In a strict theocratic system with allah alone at its head and where allah’s law is interpreted by a ruling body of clerics is absolutely incompatible with democracy as there is no room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.
The progress and the political and economic reforms that spread across the world during the 20th Century largely skipped the Arab world and much of the Muslim world. Come the 21st Century, with all the new technological power and information, not only with Al-Jazeera, through the internet and social networks that we are familiar with; and it hits these societies with a harsh blow; it exposed the citizens of these countries to what they had been missing. This caused a huge turmoil as these changes did not occur gradually, allowing for economic and political liberalism. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy.
Different paths of development – or lack of that – in Israel vs Arab countries are creating in my opinion basic obstackle to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As democratic constitutional state Israel must deal with more or less undemocratic regimes, tyrannies,dictatorships. At best the peace treaties can gain time for some period, at worst the treaty is immediatelly forgot after seremonies and photo-opportunity. From my perspective peace process can be successful only if it sprouts from the grassroots of society – otherwise it is both pointless and useless.
President Abbas’ Fatah movement – the dominant group in the PLO and which governs parts of the West Bank – and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip announced a unity agreementon 23rd Apr. 2014. The seven-year split between Fatah and Hamas aka the Islamic Resistance Movement has cut off Gaza and its 1.7 million people from the West Bank and e.g from negotiating efforts. The move envisions forming a unity government within five weeks, resumption of Palestinian Legislative Council (the parliament of the PA, was dissolved following the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza) and holding national elections six months after a vote of confidence by the Palestinian parliament. Discussions would also continue about “general freedoms,” including the release of Fatah and Hamas prisoners held by the opposite party, the return of Fatah-affiliated public employees to Gaza.
The Palestinians are fundamentally divided: Hamas, which represents about half of them, rejects any dialogue with Israel and seeks a Palestinian state on all Israeli land while the PA wants a state within 1967 borders. The earlier reconciliation agreements between Fatah and Hamas were signed in Mecca (2007) , Cairo (May 2011) and Doha (February 2012) but had never come to fruition. More earlier deal in Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios )If the agreement this time holds the unity deal could in my opinion create a game changer in Mideast peace process – either by establishing Palestinian negotiation partner strong enough to make painful compromise deal with Israel or leading to unitary actions of both sides.
Hamas, the weaker party, has suffered from stagnation in Gaza and the loss of support from Egypt after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood so the deal now was the best option. Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels.
Since Egypt’s military ousted President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood on July 2013, Sinai has become increasingly lawless and plagued by violence. The Sinai violence since last summer has killed around 500 people. The violence has also targeted Israel on occasion. In January, two rockets were fired on Eilat, an important Israeli tourist resort and commercial port. The city came under fire last year too and its airport was closed in August as a precaution. In February, four people were killed after an Islamist group exploded a bomb on a tourist bus carrying South Korean pilgrims across the Egyptian border into Israel. However, now Egypt claims that the military had complete control over the situation and there is obvious stability in Sinai. Some 1,380 operations had been conducted by the military against Islamists since September 2013 and the Egyptian army had destroyed more than 1,500 smuggling tunnels into Sinai from the Gaza Strip. (Source e.g Bicom )
Israel and the Palestinians have been negotiating since 1993. The current unity deal came only few days before last U.S. led negotiation process expired. Now it is again time for stand-by, all parties are waiting the outcome and reactions about Fatah-Hamas deal and coming months will show its effects.
The expired talks
To summarize these last talks one can claim that the negotiations have failed once again. From the beginning the two sides decided that the talks would be held without any preconditions, but with commitments. Israel accepted the Palestinian commitment not to approach U.N. institutions to advance Palestinian statehood. The Palestinian demanded that Israel release the “heavy” prisoners and got dozens of murderous terrorists released.
That process is now seemingly officially dead and results or progress practically non-existent if not backward development. In previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008 the core questions were almost agreed. In 2008, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented Abbas with another generous peace offer: most of the West Bank, plus some Israeli territory in land swaps, for a Palestinian state; removal of tens of thousands of settlers; a division of Jerusalem; a secure corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza; a symbolic return of 5,000 Palestinian refugees to Israel, and multi-national supervision of holy sites in Jerusalem. To me the progress seems now to be going backwards. ( More about earlier negotiations in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peacehttp://arirusila.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/palileaks-land-swaps-and-desperate-search-of-peace/ ) However one should appreciate that in any case Kerry had held over 50 meetings with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last nine months. As peace talks now expired or went to stand-by, there is good or bad change for further unilateral actions.
Israeli and American officials expressed fears after the reconciliation was announced that Jerusalem would be left to negotiate a peace treaty with a terror group that does not recognize its right to exist. Israeli official has described that Abbas speech after unity agreement as “administered the coup de grace to the peace process today”.I disagree; from my perspective US efforts to broker a peace deal had not totally failed, but were after “reality check” currently in a “holding period” waiting next moves from Palestinian and Israeli sides. “There is no reason to be alarmed by the Fatah-Hamas agreement. This actually could be an opportunity for us,” says Knesset member Meir Sheetrit (the Hatnua Party chairman) as he attempts to moderate the aggressive responses evinced by Israel’s prime minister and the right-wing ministers toward the news of the Palestinian reconciliation. (Source: Al-Monitor )
On the Israeli left, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) said the reconciliation was the result of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s lack of initiative. “The burden of proof on [the agreement’s] meaning is on Abbas,” Herzog stated. “Its advantage is that it may include Gaza in future agreements with the Palestinians.” On Saturday (26.4.2014) Herzog called on key coalition partners Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid to abandon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the likely event that the peace process cannot be revived, and to form a coalition with Labor that would make serious advances towards peace. Justice Minister Livni, who heads the Hatnua faction and who is the chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians, and Finance Minister Lapid, who is the leader of the Yesh Atid faction – the second largest in the Knesset – are both seen as center-left leaning politicians. Both have called peace negotiations a central component of their coalition membership. (Source The Times of Israel ) Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said Netanyahu had pushed Abbas toward Hamas and then asked the PA president to choose between Hamas and Israel. “Any reconciliation between Gaza and the West Bank is necessary, as long as any agreement between Abbas and Israel includes Hamas, which would include the end of violence [from Gaza],” she explained.
On April 29 (2014), Israel began economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA) on the heels of the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. This is accomplished by deducting the PA’s debts from the tax money that Israel collects on the PA’s behalf in accordance with economic agreements signed following the Oslo Accord. A major source of these funds is the taxes imposed on merchandise imported to the territories via Israel, and these funds often comprise as much as a third of the PA’s budget.These funds serve the PA for payment of its employees’ salaries. (Source: Al-Monitor )
Israel’s Plan B
Ten years ago, when Mr Lieberman first proposed moving Arab-populated Israeli towns near the present border into Palestine in exchange for Jewish settlement blocs in the Palestinians’ West Bank being incorporated into Israel. On Jan 2014 FM Lieberman proposed again to transfer the towns and villages of the Wadi Ara Triangle (“The Triangle” including Umm al-Fahm, Taibe, Tira and Kfar Kassem) to the Palestinians. The swap would see Israel cede sovereignty over 10 towns, home to 300,000 Israeli-Arabs, along the Green Line, to the PA. Israeli-Arabs and their representatives in the Knesset refuse to consider a territory swap. PM Netanyahu nor Israel’s left-wing movements condemned this proposal. On April 2014 FM Lieberman reiterated his proposal on his Facebook page: “I can promise that [the city of] Umm al-Fahm will be part of the Palestinian state and not part of Israel”.A bit different idea came from economy Minister Naftali Bennett, a coalition hawk who heads the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party, who proposed to annex Area C – about 60 % of the West Bank- to Israel; in Area C Israel maintains civilian and security control over as part of the Oslo Accords. Palestinians living in those areas would become full Israeli citizens, Bennett said. (Source The Times of Israel ) I don’t keep this proposal realistic for long term as for Palestinians it would be very hard to rule the remaining WB with or without own state. This problem might lead practically towards one-state solution from Israeli point of view negative demographic outcome.
Israel well might implement a ‘Plan B’ (Institute for National Security Studies, 2014), to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states would be based on voluntary Israeli concession of territories outside of the large with Israel on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF Valley, and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resett within the state’s temporary borders.
Other unilateral actions could be to cement Israel’s hold in by establishing a Jewish prayer facility alongside the Muslim mosques on the vast Temple Mount plaza, and to build the strategic E1 quadrant that connects Jerusalem to its eastern security anchor in Maaleh Adumim. This would give a signal that Israel is serious about keeping Jerusalem united under their sovereignty.
Dr. Mordechai Keidar, an expert on the Israeli-Arab sector, and an Arabic literature professor at Bar-Ilan University has even more radical proposal – sc Eight State Solution. Keidar called for Israel to divide the PA into seven emirates according to regional clans. The eighth location is Gaza (not shown) which already operates as a de facto state.
“Israel should dismantle the PA by stopping [the transfer of] money and by all other kinds of measures,” he stated. “[And] then, [it] should create on the ruins of the PA seven emirates in the West Bank based on the cities – Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus (Shechem), Tul-Karim, Qalqaliya, and the Arab part of Hevron…Each of these emirates should be based on the local clans, which are powerful – which are loyal to themselves, unlike the PLO.” (Source: Arutz Sheva )
Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi stated “the two-state solution does not exist. The two-state solution is over. We must return to the option of one Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.” Tirawi added “Palestinians, Palestinian leadership, listen to me: The only solution before us is the historic solution presented by Fatah in 1968.” The reference to 1968 constitutes a clear call for Israel’s destruction through armed conflict.
PA President Abbas has few times quoted as saying that if the diplomatic stalemate continued, he would ask Israel to “take the keys” and resume responsibility for areas where the Palestinian Authority (PA) currently operates. This position was echoed by Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash who warned Israel that the PA would be dismantled if the situation does not change by the end of 2014. ( Source: Bicom )The dissolution of the authority would thrust the whole responsibility for the disputed territories on to the Israeli government, the pragmatic arrangements which keep the relations between the two Peoples within a framework of limited normality would fall away and finally there would not only be no partner for peace; there would be no partner for anything.
Responding to Netanyahu’s announcement on Thursday that he plans to push forward a new Basic Law to “legally anchor” Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” the Palestinian official issued a statement that the PLO already recognized Israel in 1988 and again in the 1993 mutual recognition agreement signed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. “If Netanyahu wants to push the Palestinians into the corner he should also remember that the only reference to the Jewish State is the 1947 UN Resolution 181. The Palestinians, as such, will be ready to consider recognizing Israel as the Jewish State only based on Resolution 181. (Source: Haaretz )
“We cannot underestimate the danger of long-range missiles and short-range minds.” (Ron Prosor)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate from his people to reach any agreement with Israel: his term in office expired in January 2009. For Abbas Hamas-Fatah deal is a boost to his sagging popularity and same time a likely blow to any challenge from Mohammed Dahlan and other potential rivals if elections go ahead. For Hamas, ending the dispute means the Islamist movement would have to cede exclusive control over the Gaza Strip — an area that has been turned into a semi-independent Islamic emirate over the past five years. As for Fatah, unity with Hamas means paving the way for the Islamist movement to extend its control to West Bank — something Abbas and his supporters are afraid of and cannot afford. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )
One should remember that militant Hamas won a Palestinian election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Abbas in 2007 who’s legal authority expired already few years ago. For years, the Israelis have been telling the world that there was no Palestinian to negotiate with – because Mr Abbas did not represent the Palestinians of Gaza. After Hamas-Fatah agreement – if it now is also implemented – and especially after possible Palestinian parliamentary and presidential electons this obstacle is removed. Sure it remains to see how Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (apparently also party to the deal) will be integrated into the PLO, which officially represents the Palestinian people internationally.
Both the US and Israel have expressed disappointment with the announcement of a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, which further complicates efforts to secure an agreement to extend peace talks with Israel. I agree this in short term but in general consider the deal giving more possiblities for long term solution. During this and previous peace talks it seems that at final stages President Abbas allways avoided to make decisions. One reason might be that he knows that he could not implement the compromise deal, he could even be ousted from his already illegitimate position as president. Secondly even if Abbas would sign the deal what would its worth be as he represents at best only one fraction of West Bank Arabs. After Hamas-Fatah deal Abbas in my opinion can represent wider Arab population in WB and Gaza as well even better the selected leaders after parliamentary and presidential elections hopefully in 2014..
US, EU and the Quarted demands that future Palestinian government must agree to recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. I don’t have doubts that future Palestinian leaders couldn’t at least formally agree these conditions.
Read more from my earlier articles:
The Facts Of Life In The Middle East by Avi Bell is a good description about Israeli-Palestinian dilemma – and Western hypocrisy – as follows:
The Facts Of Life In The Middle East by Avi Bell
The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.
The Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.
Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?
The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )
However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )
The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.
A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.
After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.
American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
From Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )
Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:
For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.
Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )
Annexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.
Negotiating about negotiating or minor points
The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.
Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.
Speaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )
The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry
(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)
In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.
One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.
Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.
From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )
The peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.
Three State Solution(s)
One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?
According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.
The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.
The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )
The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.
A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )
An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.
The crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.
Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.
In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.
An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”: