President Shimon Peres is disheartened and concerned by what he perceives to be a rise in egoism and a drop in social responsibility, he said while addressing the recipients of the Zusman-Joint Prize for excellence in social services at Beit Hanassi on Wednesday. Peres said he was very concerned by what was happening in Israeli society, citing as evidence the rise of army dropouts, the low ratio of organ donors and the dwindling numbers of volunteers and contributors to society and the needy. "A society without philanthropy and volunteerism is in bad shape," he said.
U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for next week's Middle East peace conference on the creation of a Palestinian state. The United States has invited about 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia and Syria which have no relations with the Jewish state, to the meeting which it hopes will launch negotiations to end the six-decade Israeli-Palestinian conflict. .. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the one-day meeting at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland would be a success if it simply launches peace negotiations. Despite deep skepticism among diplomats and many officials on both sides, the United States hopes the talks could result in a deal on creating a Palestinian state before Bush leaves office in January 2009. .. "The question is, will she have that diplomatic skill to pull it off?" asked Daniel Levy, a former Israeli mediator now with the New America Foundation. .. Dan Williams, "ANALYSIS-Bush, Olmert, Abbas: too weak for Annapolis to work?" Mittlerweile kursiert ein Dokument das die verschiedenen Standpunkte der Verhandlungsführer zusammen faßt. Welche Relevanz man dem Dokument zumessen kann ist dahin gestellt. Weiterhin verbleibt die Schwäche in der Sache die zum Teil offen ausgetragenen internen Machtkämpfe. Ein Beispiel: Wie zitiert erwähnt die palästinensische Seite im "Kind David"-Dokument nicht den Abbau von roadblocs. Dies darf als Sondervereinbarung mit dem israelischen defense-establishment gwertet werden. Da beide, IDF und Ramallah-Fatah einen gemeinsamen Feind erkannt haben ist ein deal roadbloc-System verbleibt, im Gegenzug darf das ramallahnische defense-establishment auf Bewegungsfreiheit, Bewaffnung und Equipement hoffen äußerst tragfähig. Jedoch ist dieser deal politisch nicht mit der israelischen Regierung abgestimmt, die durch die Bush-Politik der Förderung der ramallahnsichen Fatah durch mehr Bewegungsfreiheit der Palästinenser über den Abbau von roadblocs unter Druck gesetzt wird. Nun, in Zeiten in denen solche Verhandlungen über einzelne Silben in den Dokumenten streiten sind solche einseitigen Schritte die möglicherweise sogar sinnvoll erscheinen können Grund genug die Konferenz selber als bloße Showveranstaltung ihrer eigentlich geplanten Wirkung vollkommen beraubend wertlos werden zu lassen. Der gemeine Palästinenser der Westbank bekommt so nicht die Segnungen durchdachter Pläne zu spüren, sondern die alte Willkür. Heute Nachmittag: Beit Lid bei Tulkarem. Checkpoint zu, Wartende abgewiesen, kleine Invasion des Ortes, rumballern. Business as usual, aber mit dem Unterschied von Sondervereinbarungen der defense establishments. Zudem erscheinen mir persönlich [und anderen] zu viele themenfremde Dinge eine Rolle zu spielen: Reversing the earlier-held American position that the Annapolis conference will deal exclusively with the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the US has sent out clear signals in recent days that if Syria wants, it can raise the Golan Heights issue at the meeting.
Auf dem Landis-blog wird der Besuch des jordanischen Königs Abdullah II in Damaskus besprochen. Tony Bey kommentiert wie immer scharf und gut vorbereitet die Verwicklungen um Aoun, Hezbollah und Michel Edde. Die große Lage beschreibt "Still no deal on Lebanese president as time runs short"
Noch ein paar editorials: Caellum Moffatt, "Proceed steadily, but firmly": After seven years of stalled negotiations between Israel and Palestine, one could possibly not presume that all problems would be solved by one summit, let alone a summit that had been penciled in just as the two old enemies had reconvened dialogue. The summit in Annapolis is set to begin next Monday and the negotiating teams on both sides are still attempting to construct a joint document on “core” issues under significant pressure from the US and Arab states. The truth is that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert should push for the “core” issues they are able to openly discuss and implement with immediate effect – namely those raised in the Road Map. If they rush an agreement on all six “core” issues, the summit is headed for disagreement, exhausting debate, wasted words and failure. There are too many exterior forces presently preventing them from deliberating on such issues.
Al-sharq al-awsat: "Judging Hamas actions": Hamas broke away from the Palestinian Authority and took over Gaza by force. Some of its members threw a defenseless Fatah employee from the rooftop of a 15-story apartment building to his death. Hamas’ security forces killed peaceful demonstrators in the streets and prevented people from praying in public squares; all this in just under five months. Hamas openly abused the political system that brought it to power and in the process ruined intra-Palestinian relations. Therefore we wonder, why the reckless behavior and why all this violence?
Danny Rubinstein: "Deserting a sinking ship": In the summer of 1971, Prof. Yehoshua Porat of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem published his important book "The Emergence of the Arab- Palestinian National Movement, 1918-1929." In a preface to the book, veteran teacher and researcher Gabriel Baer praised "the pioneering work in the field, in which the scientific approach has been neglected." The best scholars associated with this research field, including Arabs, praised Porat's work. Quite a number of Palestinians with an ability to be self-critical bitterly remarked that the best work on the early days of Palestinian nationalism was written by an Israeli scholar, of all people. Although Porat's book deals with the first decade of the British Mandate in the Land of Israel, it is based on a study conducted during the years following the Six-Day War, when Palestinian nationalism flourished anew, after the mortal blow it had sustained in 1948. But today, over 35 years after Porat's book was first published, if a scholar were to express a desire to write a sequel to this work, he could give it the title: "The Withering and Decline of the Palestinian National Movement."
Miftah, "Israeli demands, Gaza deaths, overshadow Annapolis procpects": It has been a week fraught with tensions, high emotions and violence in addition to continued setbacks in the preparation for the long anticipated Middle East summit, slated to be held sometime at the end of this month in Annapolis, Maryland. The most jarring incident by far this week was the riots in Gaza City that resulted in the deaths of seven Palestinians and the injury of over 100. Members of the Hamas-affiliated Executive Force opened fire at a crowd of people out in the streets of Gaza City commemorating the third anniversary of President Arafat’s death on November 12. While narratives of the events invariably change according to who is telling the story, the hard facts remain consistent.
Akiva Eldar, "A very bad year for humanity": When he talks about the situation in the Gaza Strip and relates to Israel's responsibility, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes does not sound like someone whose name is adorned with the prefix "Sir." The veteran British diplomat, who has served as head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since the beginning of the year, makes no effort to smooth out rough spots. Speaking from his office last Wednesday, high up in the glass building in New York, Holmes maintained that collective punishment, like cutting off electricity, for political reasons, is unacceptable. The isolation of Gaza will cause the civilian population to become extreme and does not concur with the talk of optimism ahead of Annapolis and of the diplomatic progress everyone hopes for in the conference's wake, he said. He believes it is hard to see how the siege on Gaza contributes to the peace process. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is aware of the difficult situation in the Gaza Strip, and Holmes is convinced that his immediate boss, who will participate in the Annapolis conference as one of the heads of the Middle East Quartet, will not forget to raise the situation in Gaza.
Amira Hass, "When the army comes knocking". Gideon Levy, "We saw death a thousand times"
Ghassan Katib, "The PA can not remain transitional much longer": The Palestinian Authority was created as a result of the interim agreement stipulated in the Oslo accords. However, the nature and perception of this authority developed in a way that deviated from what Palestinians originally intended. This was partly a result of the vagueness of the original agreement and the contradicting understandings of the Palestinian and Israeli sides of those accords and their different components, including the nature of the PA.
Yossi Alpher, "The danger is here": Our region is increasingly characterized by militant non-state actors, many of them Islamist, operating in anarchic conditions in collapsing Arab states or entities. This description fits Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan and Somalia--no fewer than five out of 22 Arab League members. Israel confronts these non-state actors on two fronts: Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip and to some extent the West Bank as well. This dynamic not only reflects the gloomy state of health of the Arab state system. It also invites outside involvement and intervention. Hizballah, for example, enjoys Iranian patronage and Syrian support. Hamas relies for financial and material support on wealthy backers from the Gulf and increasingly on Iran and Hizballah. Israel is no stranger to this reality: witness its relationships in the past with the Kurds of Iraq, the Maronites of Lebanon and the South Lebanese Army.