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Donald Trump’s Son-in-Law plan or Deal of the Century

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Apart from US perhaps India is the only country that can diplomatically help in resolving the issue because it has good relations with both the parties plus it shares tremendous bilateral relations with United States. India should extend the offer to mediate for the sake of world peace.

 Donald Trump’s Kushner plan or settlement freeze or what he calls the ‘deal of the century’ is yet again the old disagreed one sided and pro-Israel formulae proposing better life for Palestinians at the cost of their freedom. What US President calls realistic two-state solution sounds more unrealistic and discriminatory since Israel’s colonial fantasies have always been Washington’s priorities? Yet again the Trump sided with the Israel and put forward a plan that further disintegrates Palestinians’ and aims at providing full support to Israel to annex all of its West Bank settlements. The announcement of the plan has failed to resonate among masses who called it non-sense and conspiracy thus sparked protests in the Middle East already marking the plan dead on arrival. The question is will it resolve anything on the ground and change the fate of millions of oppressed people when it has already become the end of the road. While Trump calls it a win-win for both but in reality it is a clear victory of Israel and signifies its domination over Palestine.

While trump’s plan has been rejected by the Palestinian leadership who branded it as filth of the century especially the president Mehmood Abbas and Hamas have rejected the deal in strong words. The scholars round the globe have also criticised it though in soft words while UN rejecting the deal and maintaining its earlier stand on the issue. The timing of the plan is also interesting as Trump is seeking another term soon; faced impeachment embarrassment recently and lot of criticism back home while Israel’s PM Natanyahu is welcoming the plan and even calling it ‘opportunity of the century’ (though he means opportunity for him) for it may pay him large dividends and recover his tainted image especially when he has formally been indicted in court on corruption charges recently.

The need of the hour is to solve it forever but not on the basis of US’s blind favouritism for Israel. While some leaders Like Boris Johnson and the people of his ilk may admonish Palestine not to waste this golden opportunity, Palestinians see it as theft and as a plan of apartheid that gives them a limited sovereignty. Trump’s very statement that Jerusalem ‘will remain Israel’s undivided capital’ destroys the plan itself and even he has the audacity to state that the Palestinians can call their capital ‘al-Quds’. The mockery is why they will call a different territory as ‘Al-Quds’ which is far from the Quds itself (portions of east Jerusalem).The seriousness and sanctity of the plan lies in the fact that it was discussed and announced before a pro-Israel audience with Benjamin Netanyahu by Trump’s side and nobody from the Palestinian side thereby endorsing the Israel’s aggression and leaving no option for Palestinian side. Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the West Bank is nothing but an approval to Israel’s colonial polices and thus is flawed and against the international law. Palestine’s foreign minister rightly reacted by saying that,  “this can’t be the future of Palestine and our people have not struggled for so long, endured so much to simply change the size of their chains”. Palestinian side take it as a further compromise on their part and not at all a deal aiming at resolution of the issue. 

By such a plan it is actually the Israel in connivance with world’s super power that wants to further impoverish the Palestinian state by offering the conditional liberty and still claiming that it could pave the way to a peace deal.  Palestine demands freedom and sovereignty and not limited autonomy. The fact remains that Palestinian side is though labelled for not reacting positively to talks offer or rejecting the talks every time but it is actually Israel that has disregarded the talks always. 

 Muslim World Rejects the Deal

While the Muslim world may not like the so called deal of the century that virtually divides Palestine and treats Jerusalem as capital of the Israel. It has further increased the gulf between the Muslims and the American stand (USA). Countries like Qatar, Malaysia, Turkey, Morocco,  Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, The Arab League, OIC and even Israeli rights groups like B’Tselem all have unanimously criticised the deal. Even Trump’s favourite ally Saudi Arabia has not endorsed the plan. Hardly any Muslim country is willing to accept Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. President Abbas out rightly rejected the proposal saying it is impossible for any Palestinian to accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.

Understanding India’s Position

India from the very beginning wants a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Needless to say India has a very good relationship with Israel given the mutual trade as well as security cooperation however India has also been fairly supportive of the Palestinian issue and such a position in fact makes it difficult for India to support any of the two parties. India is the biggest importer of Israeli arms in the world. The relations grew especially after 1992 when India announced its full diplomatic relations with Israel. After that India and Israel have become close on several counts like defence and civilian technological innovation, etc,.Israel is the only country in the Middle East perhaps that India has leverage over as the relations between the two nations have been evolving and growing and reached to a bilateral trade of about 5 billion dollars today.

On the other hand, India is Palestine’s friend as well. Right from 1974 when India became the first non-Arab country to recognise Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people to 1988, when India became one of the first countries to recognise the Palestinian State. Way back in 1996 India opened its representative office in Gaza that was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003. On November 19, 2019 when India also voted in favour of the resolution titled, ‘The right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee’. The resolution recognised the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. Thus India is in favour of Palestine’s right to self determination.

Therefore Indian diplomacy at this juncture is playing safe given the increased and deepened relationships especially under the Modi regime. Therefore it seems India would abstain from offending either Israel or say anything that affects its good ties with the Muslim world that openly support Palestine and harshly criticise Israel.

India has so far only urged both the parties to engage on Trump’s peace plan. While India has been fairly supportive of the Palestinian issue and firmly believes that the issues be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties that should be acceptable to says a statement released by the ministry of external affairs on January 29, 2020. India has to play an active role in the Middle East as it is in India’s backyard. But at the same time it has to consider important factors like Washington’s stand given the bilateral relations, sentiments back home given a considerable population that is supporting Palestine.

Apart from US perhaps India is the only country that can diplomatically help in resolving the issue because it has good relations with both the parties plus it shares tremendous bilateral relations with United States. India should extend the offer to mediate for the sake of world peace.

Tail Piece

Today Palestinian is more than just a political issue. It is also not a real estate project as Trump’s son-in-law perceives it to be; it has a severe humanitarian baggage with millions of refugees living in suffering far away from their own land. Kushner’s very statement ‘if they reject the plan they’re going to screw up another opportunity’, simply reflects how much value and respect is being given to Palestinian side and therefore is clearly an imposition. This deal practically won’t change most Palestinian lives for plan has no vision of tackling such a huge human crisis; it simply forbids refugees’ entry since the right of return of any Palestinian refugee into Israel is forbidden. For Israelis and Palestinians to reach a bilateral agreement, The US or the other peace brokers cannot preach a pro-Israeli vision or lure the Palestinian leadership by talking of a $50bn of investment (that too without an idea where from the money will come) as a solution and name it a peace deal. The 181 page plan itself is faulty as is either ambiguous or silent on many key issues that are crucial to Palestine’s existence. It is next to impossible to envision a Palestinian state with restrictions while also recognising Israeli settlements. There is a need to move ahead and propose something more and just than what was offered in previous peace attempts including this Jared Kushner’s peace plan what he calls the opportunity of the century is now glorified as the deal of the century.

Author’s note: first appeared in Greater Kashmir

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Middle Eastern autocrats sigh relief: the US signals Democracy Summit will not change policy

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The United States has signalled in advance of next week’s Summit for Democracy that it is unlikely to translate lip service to adherence to human rights and democratic values in the Middle East into a policy that demonstrates seriousness and commitment.

In a statement, the State Department said the December 9-10 summit would “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action.” e State Department said that in advance of the summit, it had consulted with government experts, multilateral organisations, and civil society “to solicit bold, practicable ideas” on “defending against authoritarianism,” “promoting respect for human rights,” and fighting corruption.

Of the more than 100 countries alongside civil society and private sector representatives expected to participate in the summit, only Israel is Middle Eastern, and a mere eight are Muslim-majority states. They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Albania, Iraq, Kosovo, Niger, and the Maldives.

US President Joe Biden has made the competition between democracy and autocracy a pillar of his administration policy and put it at the core of the United States’ rivalry with China.

We’re in a contest…with autocrats, autocratic governments around the world, as to whether or not democracies can compete with them in a rapidly changing 21st century,” Mr. Biden said.

Yet, recent statements by the Pentagon and a White House official suggested that, despite the lofty words, US Middle East policy is likely to maintain long-standing support for the region’s autocratic rule in the belief that it will ensure stability.

Popular revolts in the past decade that toppled leaders of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon suggest that putting a lid on the pot was not a solution. That is true even if the achievements of the uprisings were either rolled back by Gulf-supported counter-revolutionary forces or failed to achieve real change.

To be sure, Gulf states have recognized that keeping the pot covered is no longer sufficient. As a result, countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have developed plans and policies that cater to youth aspirations with economic and social reforms while repressing political freedoms.

The US appears to be banking on the success of those reforms and regional efforts to manage conflicts so that they don’t spin out of control.

On that basis, the United States maintains a policy that is a far cry from standing up for human rights and democracy. It is a policy that, in practice, does not differ from Chinese and Russian backing of Middle Eastern autocracy. Continuous US public and private references to human rights and democratic values and occasional baby steps like limiting arms sales do not fundamentally alter things.

Neither does the United States’ choice of partners when it comes to responding to popular uprisings and facilitating political transition. In dealing with the revolt in Sudan that in 2019 toppled President Omar al-Bashir and a military coup in October, both the Trump and Biden administration turned to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Israel. While Israel is a democracy, none of the US partners favour democratic solutions to crises of governance.

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk signalled this in an interview with The National, the UAE’s flagship English-language newspaper, immediately after a security summit in Bahrain that brought together officials from across the globe. US officials led by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sought to use the conference to reassure America’s allies that the United States was not turning its back on ensuring regional security.

Mr. McGurk said that the United States had drawn conclusions from “hard lessons learnt” and was going “back to basics.” Basics, Mr. McGurk said, in a nod primarily to Iran but potentially also to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, entailed dumping “regime change policies.” He said the US would focus on “the basics of building, maintaining, and strengthening our partnerships and alliances” in the Middle East.

Mr. McGurk’s articulation of a back-to-basics policy was reinforced this week with the publication of a summary of the Pentagon’s Global Posture review, suggesting that there would be no significant withdrawal of US forces from the region in Mr. Biden’s initial years in office.

The notion of back to basics resonates with liberals in Washington’s foreign policy elite. Democracy in the Middle East is no longer part of their agenda.

“Instead of using US power to remake the region…policymakers need to embrace the more realistic and realisable goal of establishing and preserving stability,” said Council of Foreign Relations Middle East expert Steven A. Cook even before Mr. Biden took office.” What Washington needs is not a ‘war on terror’ built on visions of regime change, democracy promotion, and ‘winning hearts and minds’ but a realistic approach focused on intelligence gathering, police work, multilateral cooperation and the judicious application of violence when required,” he added.

Mr. Cook went on to say that a realistic US Middle East policy would involve “containing Iran, retooling the fight against terrorism, to reduce its counterproductive side effects, reorganizing military deployments to emphasize the protection of sea-lanes, and downscaling the US-Israeli relationship to reflect Israel’s relative strength.”

The United States is in good company in its failure to put its money where its mouth is regarding human rights and democratic values.

The same can be said for European nations and Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority state and democracy. Indonesia projects itself directly and indirectly through Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim civil society movement, as the only major supporter of a moderate interpretation of Islam that embraces human rights without reservations and pluralism and religious tolerance.

That has not stopped Indonesia from allegedly caving into a Saudi threat not to recognize the Indonesian Covid-19 vaccination certificates of pilgrims to the holy cities of Mecca and Media if the Asian state voted for an extension of a United Nations investigation into human rights violations in the almost seven-year-old war in Yemen.

Similarly, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signed agreements with the United Arab Emirates on cooperation on religious affairs even though the UAE’s version of a moderate but autocratic Islam stands for values that reject freedoms and democracy.

The agreements were part of a much larger package of economic, technological, and public health cooperation fuelled by US$32.7 billion in projected Emirati investments in Indonesia.

The Biden administration’s reluctance, in line with a long list of past US presidents, to do substantially more than pay lip service to the promotion of human rights and democratic values brings to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

President George W. Bush and his then-national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, acknowledged two decades ago that jihadist violence and the 9/11 attacks were partly the results of the United States’ failure to stand up for its values. They bungled, however, their effort to do something about it, as did Barak Obama.

It is not only the Middle East and other regions’ autocracies that pay the price. So do the United States and Europe. Their refusal to integrate their lofty ideals and values into effective policies is increasingly reflected at home in domestic racial, social, and economic fault lines and anti-migrant sentiment that threatens to tear apart the fabric of democracy in its heartland.

The backlash of failing to heed Mr. Einstein’s maxim and recognizing the cost associated with saying one thing and doing another is not just a loss of credibility. The backlash is also the rise of isolationist, authoritarian, xenophobic, racist, and conspiratorial forces that challenge the values in which human rights and democracy are rooted.

That raises the question of whether the time, energy, and money invested in the Summit of Democracy could not have been better invested in fixing problems at home. Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh nailed it by noting that “shoring up democracy is almost entirely domestic work.”

It’s a message that has not been lost on democracy’s adversaries. In what should have been a warning that hollow declaratory events like the Summit of Democracy are not the answer, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told last September’s United Nations General Assembly: “The United States’ hegemonic system has no credibility, inside or outside the country.”

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International Solidarity Day with the people of Palestine

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Since 1948, the people of Palestine were suffering due to Israeli oppression and aggression. Despite several resolutions on Palestine passed by the United Nation, Israel has not implemented either of them. Despite the struggle from all peace-loving nations, in various forms, the Palestinian people have not yet been given the right of self-determination, or self-rule, and are yet, forced to leave their land, homes and stay in refugee camps or migrate to foreign countries to live a miserable life. After failure from all aspects, the United Nations desp[erately declared to mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In 1977, the General Assembly called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (resolution 32/40 B). On that day, in 1947, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine (resolution 181 (II))

In resolution 60/37 of 1 December 2005, the Assembly requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN.

The resolution on the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People also encourages the Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity.

The government and the people of Pakistan join the world community in observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November).

The commemoration of this day is a reminder to the international community that the question of Palestine remains unresolved and the Palestinian people are yet to realize their inalienable right to self-determination as provided in various resolutions of the United Nations. It is also an occasion to reiterate our support and solidarity for the Palestinian people who continue to wage a just struggle against the illegal and brutal occupation.

On this day, Pakistan reaffirms its consistent and unstinted support for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause, which has always been a defining principle of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

The international community must shoulder its responsibility to protect the lives and fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, and play its rightful role in promoting a just and lasting resolution of the Palestinian question per international legitimacy in the interest of durable peace and stability in the Middle East. The international community should also ensure accountability for the widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied territories.

We renew our call on this day for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital being the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, under the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions.

The purpose of marking this day is to remind the whole world that the people of Palestine deserve your attention and your time to think about their sufferings. It is to remind that the whole world should understand the issue and try their best to solve it according to the UN resolutions. Those who believe in justice, may raise their voice in favor of the Palestinian people and condemn Israeli barbarism and atrocities. This Day invites all of you to join the [peaceful struggle of Palestinian people for their legitimate rights. Irrespective of your profession, social status, or your religion or race, you may support the Palestinian cause for justice on humanitarian grounds and keep your struggle till the people of Palestine gets their legitimate status and rights on equal footings according to the UN resolutions.

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Israel-Palestine: Risk of ‘deadly escalation’ in violence, without decisive action

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photo: UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

With violence continuing daily throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process urged the Security Council on Tuesday to adopt a more coordinated approach to the region.  

Tor Wennesland told Council Members that “recent developments on the ground are worrying”, pointing out the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and the challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority.  

“I therefore emphasize again the importance of concerted efforts by the parties to calm things on the ground. I am concerned that if we do not act quickly and decisively, we risk plunging into another deadly escalation of violence”, he warned. 

He informed that, in the last month, violence resulted in the death of four Palestinians, including two children, and injuries to 90 others – including 12 children – due to action by Israeli Security Forces. 

One Israeli civilian was killed in the same period, and nine civilians, including one woman and one child, and six members of ISF were injured.  

Challenges 

Mr. Wennesland said that a severe fiscal and economic crisis is threatening the stability of Palestinian institutions in the West Bank. 

At the same time, he added, “ongoing violence and unilateral steps, including Israeli settlement expansion, and demolitions, continue to raise tensions, feed hopelessness, erode the Palestinian Authority’s standing and further diminish the prospect of a return to meaningful negotiations.” 

In Gaza, the cessation of hostilities continues to hold, but the Special Envoy argued that “further steps are needed by all parties to ensure a sustainable solution that ultimately enables a return of legitimate Palestinian Government institutions to the Strip.” 

Settlements 

The Special Coordinator also said that “settler-related violence remains at alarmingly high levels.” 

Overall, settlers and other Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank perpetrated some 54 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 injuries. Palestinians perpetrated 41 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians, resulting in one death and nine injuries.  

Mr. Wennesland highlighted a few announcements of housing units in settlements, reiterating that “that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace.” 

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have also advanced plans for some 6,000 housing units for Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of al-Issawiya and some 1,300 housing units for Palestinians living in Area C (one of the administrative areas in the occupied West Bank, agreed under the Oslo Accord). 

The Special Envoy welcomed such steps but urged Israel to advance more plans and to issue building permits for all previously approved plans for Palestinians in Area C and East Jerusalem. 

Humanitarian aid delivered 

Turning to Gaza, the Special Envoy said that humanitarian, recovery and reconstruction efforts continued, along with other steps to stabilize the situation on the ground. 

He called the gradual easing of restrictions on the entry of goods and people “encouraging”, but said that the economic, security and humanitarian situation “remains of serious concern.” 

The Special Envoy also mentioned the precarious financial situation of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which still lacks $60 million to sustain essential services this year. 

The agency has yet to pay the November salaries of over 28,000 UN personnel, including teachers, doctors, nurses and sanitation workers, many of whom support extended families, particularly in the Gaza Strip, where unemployment is high.  

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