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Historic step: UNSC votes to end Israeli settlements in Palestine

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The process of establishing a soverign Palestine state is being supported by UN vote for defacto Palestine and the UN agencies doing all possible help for the Palestinians to move forward to get Palestine by legal means. Now a historic action by UNSC has legally binding Israel for the consequences of its illegal settlements in Palestine and asked Israel to remove all settlements illegal in Palatine- impediments for credible talks and for peace.

UNSC can vote resolution only if no veto member disagrees on it and that has happened now. USA has abstained from voting in order to clear way for the resolution to sail through. Israel stand isolated legally, internationally.

Despite unusual diplomatic maneuvering involving President-elect Donald Trump, Israel, and Egypt on December 22, the United Nations Security Council passed a historic resolution on December 23 Friday demanding an end to Israeli settlements. As a positive step, the USA abstained, effectively allowing the measure to be approved- the first ever positive step b y the superpower in years ever since Israel was forced into Palestine and made a full UN member in 1948.

UN resolution that’s become such a controversial issue the last couple of days only asks Israel to adhere to international law. The draft resolution demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem”, and says the establishment of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.

Egypt withdrew the original resolution on 22 December afternoon, reportedly “under pressure” from both President Barack Obama and President elect Trump —who tweeted on the matter Thursday morning. —and Israel. Had this move worked, it could have punted the measure to the incoming Trump government, which is seen as more friendly to Israel than that of President Barack Obama—especially after Trump’s nomination last week of conservative hardliner David Friedman to serve as US ambassador to Israel. It was expected Trump would choose a pro-Palestine diplomat to be sent to Tel Aviv to bring about credible peace between Palestine and Israel, an arrogantly positioned and occupier of Palestinian territories with US backing.

But the Security Council members New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal stepped in and the vote took place after all on Friday afternoon.

The US abstention, which was expected as the Obama government has given up pro-Israeli stance for the time being, was described as a relatively rare step by Washington, which usually uses it UN veto to shield Israel from such action, and as a parting shot by US President Obama who has had an acrimonious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and who has made settlements a major target of peace efforts that have proven ultimately futile.”

In response to the vote, pro-peace organization the Jewish Voice for Peace executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson declared: “There is an increasing understanding among US political leaders, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law. The US abstention from this resolution is a welcome sign in that regard.”

However, she added, “with President-elect Trump urging a veto of even this mild resolution, as well as his nomination of an extreme right-wing Ambassador to Israel, we are deeply concerned by increasing US support for Israeli incitement, annexation, and control under his administration and will redouble our efforts to organize resistance to policies based in Islamophobia, racism, and disregard for even the most basic rights of Palestinians.”

Earlier, Trump wasn’t the only one who called on the USA to veto the measure; a number of hardcore Zionist US senators serving Israeli interests in Mideast on Friday joined him by issuing aggressive statements to that effect, making loud that the money they receive from Israel is worth the trouble

And interestingly Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the Senate Appropriations Committee, threatened to reduce US to the United Nations” if the body moves forward with the ill-conceived resolution to upset Israeli straggly to expand illegal settlements in Palestine

Relations between Israel and Palestine have been wrecked for decades, as Palestinians have been seeking diplomatic recognition for their independent state of Palestine on the territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which is also partially occupied by Israel, and the Gaza Strip.

Israel brutally occupies Palestine territories and attacks Gaza strips, now targeting women and children. UN is just watching the Israeli terror shows as Palestinians continue to bleed and yet they are called the terrorists by leading US Zionists like Madam Clinton. Peace has not been the motto of Obama as he intensified the wars launched by roguish Bushdom leaders on the pretext of 9/11.

When Israel attacks Gaza Strip, killing even children or cancels the talks with Palestinians, USA admires and supports Israel mainly because US leaders do not seek peace or regional normalcy anywhere in the world, especially in energy rich Middle East. The most recent round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians was initiated by the United States in mid-2013 but ended in an impasse almost a year later. USA plays mischief in the name of diplomacy with Palestine and world. President Obama, like his predecessors had done before him, just could not push the arrogant Israeli regime to come to terms with reality and agree for peaceful resolution of the Mideast conflict that makes the world vulnerable to tensions and wars.

President elect Trump is expected to choose peace in order to wind down all terror wars. Hence his views on Palestine gains importance. Following the presidential poll, US President-elect Donald Trump assured the global community of the serious approach of USA in changing political atmosphere and said he wants to put an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and thereby bring to the Mideast region. “That’s the ultimate deal,” Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, referring to the complex conflict as the “war that never ends.” Just one day after winning the election, Trump has asked hawkish Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with him in the USA.

Trump noted that any deal should be directly negotiated between Israel and Palestine, but that his government would play a “significant role” in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” according to the Times of Israel.

In an interview with “Israel Today”, a free daily owned by Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson, Trump said he believed his government can play “a significant role” in helping the Middle East parties reach an agreement. Netanyahu, however, had ordered his Cabinet and lawmakers to avoid speaking to the media about the election while the incoming US administration formulates its policies and told his Cabinet on November 13, 2016 that he would soon be meeting Trump.

A senior Israeli Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett on November 14, 2016 said the election of Donald Trump has helped create an opportunity for Israel to abandon its stated commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The remarks by Bennett reflect sentiment in the nationalist Israeli right wing that Trump’s election many Zionists believe could usher in a new era of relations with the United States.

While these two capitalist countries are close allies, relations were sometimes tense between US President Barack Obama and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu because of their vastly different world views.

Bennett last week welcomed Trump’s election, predicting that “the special relationship” with the US would grow stronger and noting that the Republican campaign platform had no mention of a Palestinian state. In fact many in USA and Israel are happy that Trump has chosen a hard core Zionist as US envoy for Israel. They believe for Trump “The era of a Palestinian state is over”.

Bennett leads the Jewish Home party, a coalition partner that is affiliated with the West Bank settler movement. He is one of the most influential voices in Israeli politics, and both his party and most members of Netanyahu’s Likud oppose Palestinian statehood on either religious or security grounds. Bennett has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and granting the Palestinians in other parts expanded autonomy, with new roads, office parks and economic opportunities, with Israel retaining overall security control.

Israel and its media kept themselves away from Is US elections, not siding with Trump. . Speaking to foreign reporters on November 14, 2016, Bennett was more cautious, citing an order by Netanyahu for his Cabinet not to talk about the election in public. But he made it clear that Trump will push his government to rethink its commitment to Palestinian independence. Bennett said that the combination of the changes in the USA, in Europe that the region provides Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything. “It’s no secret that I think that the notion of setting up a Palestine in the heart of Israel is a profound mistake. I believe that we have to bring alternative new ideas instead of the Palestinian state approach”.

Now the Cabinet Minister Ofir Akunis, a close Netanyahu associate, called for a renewed wave of settlement construction. But such sentiments may have been premature.

This explains the Zionist petrified mindset with regard to Palestine state and Palestinians. For two decades, the international community has been pushing for a negotiated peace deal that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Though Bennett said he did not know whether Trump would support that view, he said it is critical that Israel now clearly define its own vision. After many years, the Israeli government has to decide what we want”. Bennett’s comments were also an indicator of the pressure Netanyahu could soon face to abandon his commitment to the “two-state solution” favored by President Obama, President elect Trump and the international community.

The thinking was that Israel’s continued occupation of millions of Palestinians would create a demographic time bomb, threatening Israel’s status as a democracy with a Jewish majority.

After opposing Palestinian independence for most of his career, Netanyahu, like his predecessors had done, reluctantly endorsed the idea shortly after Obama took office in 2009. Critics, including Obama, have said that continued Israeli settlements on occupied territories have undercut the goal, and the Obama government has at times questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to seeking peace.

Though never supported Trump’s campaign, Israeli hard-liners welcomed Trump’s election late, noting the support for Israel in his campaign platform and the many pro-Israel officials who advised him during his campaign. Their spirits were further boosted after a Trump adviser, Jason Greenblatt, told an Israeli radio station that his boss does not think the West Bank settlements are an “obstacle to peace.”

But that is now history.

Trump’s unpredictability has raised concerns that he might change his attitudes once in office. For instance, Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he would like to help broker a solution to the conflict “for humanity’s sake”.

All sensible people and powers around the globe hope that the Trump regime will not give vent to his unexplainable hatred for Muslims in depriving the Palestinian people – who have been driven forcefully away by USA-UK-Jewish people from their motherland more than seven decades back in 1948 to carve out an illegal Israel – in realizing their genuine rights of a free Palestine state.

UNSC vote to end to Israeli settlements in Palestine is indeed a historic step to further easy the movement for establishing Palestine as a full UN member sooner than later.

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Middle East

The Turkish Gambit

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The only certainty in war is its intrinsic uncertainty, something Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could soon chance upon.  One only has to look back on America’s topsy-turvy fortunes in Iraq, Afghanistan and even Syria for confirmation.

The Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria has as its defined objective a buffer zone between the Kurds in Turkey and in Syria.  Mr. Erdogan hopes, to populate it with some of the 3 million plus Syrian refugees in Turkey, many of these in limbo in border camps.  The refugees are Arab; the Kurds are not.

Kurds speak a language different from Arabic but akin to Persian.  After the First World War, when the victors parceled up the Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, Syria came to be controlled by the French, Iraq by the British, and the Kurdish area was divided into parts in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, not forgetting the borderlands in Iran — a brutal division by a colonial scalpel severing communities, friends and families.  About the latter, I have some experience, having lived through the bloody partition of India into two, and now three countries that cost a million lives.   

How Mr. Erdogan will persuade the Arab Syrian refugees to live in an enclave, surrounded by hostile Kurds, some ethnically cleansed from the very same place, remains an open question.  Will the Turkish army occupy this zone permanently?  For, we can imagine what the Kurds will do if the Turkish forces leave.

There is another aspect of modern conflict that has made conquest no longer such a desirable proposition — the guerrilla fighter.  Lightly armed and a master of asymmetric warfare, he destabilizes. 

Modern weapons provide small bands of men the capacity and capability to down helicopters, cripple tanks, lay IEDs, place car bombs in cities and generally disrupt any orderly functioning of a state, tying down large forces at huge expense with little chance of long term stability.  If the US has failed repeatedly in its efforts to bend countries to its will, one has to wonder if Erdogan has thought this one through.

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 is another case in point.  Forever synonymous with the infamous butchery at Sabra and Shatila by the Phalange militia facilitated by Israeli forces, it is easy to forget a major and important Israeli goal:  access to the waters of the Litani River which implied a zone of occupation for the area south of it up to the Israeli border.

Southern Lebanon is predominantly Shia and at the time of the Israeli invasion they were a placid group who were dominated by Christians and Sunni, even Palestinians ejected from Israel but now armed and finding refuge in Lebanon.  It was when the Israelis looked like they were going to stay that the Shia awoke.  It took a while but soon their guerrillas were harassing Israeli troops and drawing blood.  The game was no longer worth the candle and Israel, licking its wounds, began to withdraw ending up eventually behind their own border.

A colossal footnote is the resurgent Shia confidence, the buildup into Hezbollah and new political power.  The Hezbollah prepared well for another Israeli invasion to settle old scores and teach them a lesson.  So they were ready, and shocked the Israelis in 2006.  Now they are feared by Israeli troops.   

To return to the present, it is not entirely clear as to what transpired in the telephone call between Erdogan and Trump.  Various sources confirm Trump has bluffed Erdogan in the past.  It is not unlikely then for Trump to have said this time, “We’re leaving.  If you go in, you will have to police the area.  Don’t ask us to help you.”  Is that subject to misinterpretation?  It certainly is a reminder of the inadvertent green light to Saddam Hussein for the invasion of Kuwait when Bush Senior was in office. 

For the time being Erdogan is holding fast and Trump has signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkish officials and institutions.  Three Turkish ministers and the Defense and Energy ministries are included.  Trump has also demanded an immediate ceasefire.  On the economic front, he has raised tariffs on steel back to 50 percent as it used to be before last May.  Trade negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey have also been halted forthwith.  The order also includes the holding of property of those sanctioned, as well as barring entry to the U.S.

Meanwhile, the misery begins all over again as thousands flee the invasion area carrying what they can.  Where are they headed?  Anywhere where artillery shells do not rain down and the sound of airplanes does not mean bombs.

Such are the exigencies of war and often its surprising consequences. 

Author’s Note:  This piece appeared originally on Counterpunch.org

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Could Turkish aggression boost peace in Syria?

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On October 7, 2019, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northeast Syria, where the contingent alongside Kurdish militias controlled the vast territories. Trump clarified that the decision is connected with the intention of Turkey to attack the Kurdish units, posing a threat to Ankara.

It’s incredible that the Turkish military operation against Kurds – indeed the territorial integrity of Syria has resulted in the escape of the U.S., Great Britain, and France. These states essentially are key destabilizing components of the Syrian crisis.

Could this factor favourably influence the situation in the country? For instance, after the end of the Iraqi war in 2011 when the bulk of the American troops left the country, the positive developments took place in the lives of all Iraqis. According to World Economics organization, after the end of the conflict, Iraq’s GDP grew by 14% in 2012, while during the U.S. hostilities the average GDP growth was about 5,8%.

Syria’s GDP growth should also be predicted. Not right away the withdrawal of U.S., French, British, and other forces, but a little bit later after the end of the Turkish operation that is not a phenomenon. The Turkish-Kurdish conflict has been going on since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when Kurds started to promote the ideas of self-identity and independence. Apart from numerous human losses, the Turks accomplished nothing. It is unlikely that Ankara would achieve much in Peace Spring operation. The Kurds realize the gravity of the situation and choose to form an alliance with the Syrian government that has undermined the ongoing Turkish offensive.

Under these circumstances, Erdogan could only hope for the creation of a narrow buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish border. The withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the region is just a matter of time. However, we can safely say that the Turkish expansion unwittingly accelerated the peace settlement of the Syrian crisis, as the vital destabilizing forces left the country. Besides, the transfer of the oil-rich north-eastern regions under the control of Bashar Assad will also contribute to the early resolution of the conflict.

It remains a matter of conjecture what the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia agreed on during the high-level talks. Let’s hope that not only the Syrians, but also key Gulf states are tired of instability and tension in the region, and it’s a high time to strive for a political solution to the Syrian problem.

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Turkey and the Kurds: What goes around comes around

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Turkey, like much of the Middle East, is discovering that what goes around comes around.

Not only because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have miscalculated the fallout of what may prove to be a foolhardy intervention in Syria and neglected alternative options that could have strengthened Turkey’s position without sparking the ire of much of the international community.

But also because what could prove to be a strategic error is rooted in a policy of decades of denial of Kurdish identity and suppression of Kurdish cultural and political rights that was more likely than not to fuel conflict rather than encourage societal cohesion.

The policy midwifed the birth in the 1970s to militant groups like the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which only dropped its demand for Kurdish independence in recent years.

The group that has waged a low intensity insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives has been declared a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Turkish refusal to acknowledge the rights of the Kurds, who are believed to account for up to 20 percent of the country’s population traces its roots to the carving of modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire by its visionary founder, Mustafa Kemal, widely known as Ataturk, Father of the Turks.

It is entrenched in Mr. Kemal’s declaration in a speech in 1923 to celebrate Turkish independence of “how happy is the one who calls himself a Turk,” an effort to forge a national identity for country that was an ethnic mosaic.

The phrase was incorporated half a century later in Turkey’s student oath and ultimately removed from it in 2013 at a time of peace talks between Turkey and the PKK by then prime minister, now president Erdogan.

It took the influx of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s and early 1990s as well as the 1991 declaration by the United States, Britain and France of a no-fly zone in northern Iraq that enabled the emergence of an autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region to spark debate in Turkey about the Kurdish question and prompt the government to refer to Kurds as Kurds rather than mountain Turks.

Ironically, Turkey’s enduring refusal to acknowledge Kurdish rights and its long neglect of development of the pre-dominantly Kurdish southeast of the country fuelled demands for greater rights rather than majority support for Kurdish secession largely despite the emergence of the PKK

Most Turkish Kurds, who could rise to the highest offices in the land s long as they identified as Turks rather than Kurds, resembled Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, whose options were more limited even if they endorsed the notion of a Jewish state.

Nonetheless, both minorities favoured an independent state for their brethren on the other side of the border but did not want to surrender the opportunities that either Turkey or Israel offered them.

The existence for close to three decades of a Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq and a 2017 referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted for Iraqi Kurdish independence, bitterly rejected and ultimately nullified by Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian opposition, did little to fundamentally change Turkish Kurdish attitudes.

If the referendum briefly soured Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish relations, it failed to undermine the basic understanding underlying a relationship that could have guided Turkey’s approach towards the Kurds in Syria even if dealing with Iraqi Kurds may have been easier because, unlike Turkish Kurds, they had not engaged in political violence against Turkey.

The notion that there was no alternative to the Turkish intervention in Syria is further countered by the fact that Turkish PKK negotiations that started in 2012 led a year later to a ceasefire and a boosting of efforts to secure a peaceful resolution.

The talks prompted imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to publish a letter endorsing the ceasefire, the disarmament and withdrawal from Turkey of PKK fighters, and a call for an end to the insurgency. Mr. Ocalan predicted that 2013 would be the year in which the Turkish Kurdish issues would be resolved peacefully.

The PKK’s military leader, Cemil Bayik, told the BBC three years later that “we don’t want to separate from Turkey and set up a state. We want to live within the borders of Turkey on our own land freely.”

The talks broke down in 2015 against the backdrop of the Syrian war and the rise as a US ally of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State of the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Bitterly opposed to the US-YPG alliance, Turkey demanded that the PKK halt its resumption of attacks on Turkish targets and disarm prior to further negotiations.

Turkey responded to the breakdown and resumption of violence with a brutal crackdown in the southeast of the country and on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Nonetheless, in a statement issued from prison earlier this year that envisioned an understanding between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces believed to be aligned with the PKK, Mr. Ocalan declared that “we believe, with regard to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the problems in Syria should be resolved within the framework of the unity of Syria, based on constitutional guarantees and local democratic perspectives. In this regard, it should be sensitive to Turkey’s concerns.”

Turkey’s emergence as one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s foremost investors and trading partners in exchange for Iraqi Kurdish acquiescence in Turkish countering the PKK’s presence in the region could have provided inspiration for a US-sponsored safe zone in northern Syria that Washington and Ankara had contemplated.

The Turkish-Iraqi Kurdish understanding enabled Turkey  to allow an armed Iraqi Kurdish force to transit Turkish territory in 2014 to help prevent the Islamic State from conquering the Syrian city of Kobani.

A safe zone would have helped “realign the relationship between Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian offshoot… The safe-zone arrangements… envision(ed) drawing down the YPG presence along the border—a good starting point for reining in the PKK, improving U.S. ties with Ankara, and avoiding a potentially destructive Turkish intervention in Syria,” Turkey scholar Sonar Cagaptay suggested in August.

The opportunity that could have created the beginnings of a sustainable solution that would have benefitted Turkey as well as the Kurds fell by the wayside with Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria.

In many ways, Mr. Erdogan’s decision to opt for a military solution fits the mould of a critical mass of world leaders who look at the world through a civilizational prism and often view national borders in relative terms.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin pointed the way with his 2008 intervention in Georgia and the annexation in 2014 of Crimea as well as Russia’s stirring of pro-Russian insurgencies in two regions of Ukraine.

Mr. Erdogan appears to believe that if Mr. Putin can pull it off, so can he.

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