middle east, politics

The Palestine Papers and the End of the “Peace Process”

Al Jazeera English, from January 23rd– 26th, 2011, released the details of over 1,700 leaked confidential documents regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. The manner in which AJE received this largest-ever leak is undisclosed. The documents include meeting minutes, memos, presentations, strategic papers, etc.  Dubbed “The Palestine Papers”, the documents are supposed to shed light on the following, as presented on the AJE website:

  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

AJE has perused through these documents, redacted overtly sensitive content, and will not be naming their sources.

Perhaps the most explosive of the revelations that have come out is the fact that, according to the leaked meeting minutes of a [pdf] trilateral meeting in 2008, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was willing to concede illegal settlements in Jerusalem to Israel. Saeb Erekat was the chief Palestinian negotiator at the time, and Ahmed Qurei was prime minister. The meeting also involved Tzipi Livni on the Israeli side, as well as then American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Erekat stated that the PA was willing to give up the illegally occupied Israeli settlements of French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, and Talpiot, as well as the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city. Those areas contain around 120,000 Jewish settlers, and it seems that Erekat was willing to prolong the list. The proposed concession was unprecedented, given the deeply contentious nature of East Jerusalem.

The offered concessions were rejected by the Israeli side, mainly because the PA was not willing to give up other significantly sized settlements such as Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel.

Furthermore, in an [pdf] October 2009 meeting with the US Middle East Envoy headed by George Mitchell, Erekat proposed a geographical division of Jerusalem’s Old City, with control of the Jewish Quarter and “part of the Armenian Quarter” going to the Israelis. This would mean that Israeli would control a significant part of East Jerusalem. Furthermore, Erekat was willing to give control of the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) to oversight of an international committee:

Erekat: “It’s solved. You have the Clinton Parameters formula. For the Old City sovereignty for Palestine, except the Jewish quarter and part of the Armenian quarter … the Haram can be left to be discussed – there are creative ways, having a body or a committee, having undertakings for example not to dig [excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque]. The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism.”

Schwartz: To confirm to Sen. Mitchell, [this is] your private idea …

Erekat: This conversation is in my private capacity.

Schwartz: We’ve heard the idea from others. So you’re not the first to raise it.

Erekat: Others are not the chief negotiator of the PLO.

Saeb Erekat then went on to sum up nature of the PA’s propositions:

“Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim [Jerusalem] in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state…what more can I give?”

Given the highly charged emotions toward the Haram al-Sharif, it is utterly shocking for many to see that the PA, specifically Erekat, was willing to concede its status to non-Palestinian parties. It should not be forgotten that according to UN Resolution 242, the whole of East Jerusalem is to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. In other words, international law and the 1967 borders clearly show that the Haram al-Sharif is within the occupied Palestinian territories.

This is just a sliver of the huge trove of documents that Al Jazeera has publicized regarding the conflict. Key documents have been released subsequently in the last week or so, which have revealed equally explosive facts. The complete archive of documents can be found at the newly launched Al Jazeera Transparency Unit, which seems to be a Wikileaks-inspired web function that allows for the uploading of content by willing sources.

It is now clear that the Israelis have no legitimacy when they say that no Palestinian counterparts can be found in “negotiations for peace”. The Palestine Papers reveal clearly that the Palestinian Authority leadership is absolutely desperate for some sort of settlement, and will offer extreme concessions to achieve “peace”. In return, the PA repeatedly get their offers brushed aside by Israel, with very little objection from the United States.

In other words, the so called “Oslo peace process” needs an official funeral service. The Palestinian people will not accept anything less than a full state with recognition and execution regarding the right of return issue. Israel will not be venturing into that type of territory whatsoever. Furthermore, the United States simply cannot play the role of an honest broker, and will not allow a serious discussion on final status issues (refugees, Jerusalem, borders, settlements).

In short, given the present circumstances in the Middle East, it seems that the American hegemon is losing its footing in the region. The U.S. is mired in a serious quagmire in Afghanistan. Iraq, which is still suffering serious violence (although not at the 2006-2007 levels), will be deferring to Iran for the next few years at least. Iran, on the other hand, is now a regional superpower. Israel, for obvious reasons, is a liability to long-term U.S. goals in the region. Finally, the recent uprisings throughout the Middle East (especially in Tunisia and Egypt) threaten to oust decade-long U.S. supported puppet regimes.

Advertisements
Standard
politics

Dalton McGuinty, Shame On You

Published On: The Canadian Charger, January 5th, 2011
[http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=727]

The G20 report put out by Ontario’s Ombudsman Andre Marin [PDF] was an embarrassment for Premier Dalton McGuinty. Front and centre of this scandal is the misapplication of the Public Works Protection Act, a little-known wartime piece of legislation.

The PWPA was invoked during the G20 Summit this past June to search and identify (without warrant) anyone within five metres of the “security fence” in downtown Toronto.

“The most massive compromise in civil liberties in Canadian history,” is what Marin called such usage of the PWPA.

Both the RCMP and the OPP declined the opportunity to appear in a joint press conference with Chief Bill Blair of the Toronto Police Service and the TPS, the organization that asked Premier McGuinty for powers under the PWPA.

It has been revealed that an internal email from one OPP officer to another during the G20 Summit stated that TPS “has made many public mistakes over the last 72 hours.” The email went on to say that public did not support “the actions by TPS and the inconsistencies of answers they continue to provide.”

In an interview with Evan Soloman of the CBC News Network, Blair insisted that the PWPA—both secretly invoked and wrongly applied—was requested on behalf of the Integrated Security Unit (ISU), and not by the TPS alone (the ISU includes the RCMP and the OPP).

Moments after this statement, on air, Solomon received a statement from the RCMP rebuking Blair’s assertions. The statement read that the PWPA “was not raised in any operational meetings, and the RCMP did not approve of the use of the Public Works Protection Act—it was a Toronto Police Service decision.”

Claiming that his lawyers recommended he seek broader powers from the province, Blair basically hinted that while putting his signature on the dotted line, he really didn’t know what he was doing.

This then begs the question of why Premier McGuinty deferred to Blair’s request so easily.

Why did the provincial Liberals not assume responsibility when they knew that the PWPA was being falsely applied and corroding the public good?

Why did McGuinty’s Liberals not take action when they knew that the police were misleading the public regarding this piece of legislation?

Contrary to the information disseminated in June 2010, the PWPA did not give police the power to conduct warrantless searches on anyone within five metres of the security fence. It simply declared that the fenced-in area was a type of “public works”. Informed by the OPP that his officers were misapplying the law, why did Blair not set the record strait?

These questions shed light on exactly what happened in downtown Toronto during the summit.

Some say that they constitute enough momentum for a resignation on the part of Blair. Amidst all this, Blair was also forced to retract a statement regarding a video which he claimed was “doctored” of a man being beaten by what looks to be police officers.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s police watchdog group, also reported that excessive force was “probably” used on at least two occasions during the summit weekend, a conservative estimate, according to Marin.

That a whole lot went wrong during a week of chaos this past June is indisputable. Who should get the axe for it, and if any heads will roll, are the more interesting questions.

Chief Blair and Premier McGuinty, in light of recent evidence, are up first if public opinion and the rule of law matters at all in Ontario.

Standard
politics

European Austerity, European Rebellion

Published On: The Canadian Charger, January 5th, 2011
[http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=731]

During 2010 as Europe was trying to bring itself out of the pits of a worldwide economic meltdown, the continent’s rightwing forces have tried to usher in an age of austerity/cutbacks amidst the chaos.

A country with a mountain of debt worth up to €300 billion, the Greek government accepted a €110 billion loan arranged by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The catch?

A slash in salaries for Greek workers who operate the country’s public utilities (known as Deko’s).

In France, the legislature has already approved pension reforms that extend retirement age from 65 to 67.

In Britain, the Coalition government’s decision to raise university tuition fees up to £9,000 per year has triggered the largest protests the country has seen in a generation.

As the world reels from recessions, several European countries have essentially allowed the weight of a dwindling economy fall on the shoulders of its most vulnerable.

Despite the loud and clear voices of their constituents, members of parliament from the aforementioned countries have chosen expediency over principle. 15,000 protestors filled Syntagma Square this in Greece, while hundreds of thousands poured out into the streets of France and Britain. The anger is palpable, and so was the violence that eventually became manifest in protestor-police clashes.

England’s tuition fee vote passed narrowly (323-302), and was accompanied by several resignations and abstentions. Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students stated that the students have won over public opinion. According to Porter, the measure was passed “only because MPs have broken their promises.” Chief amongst the “promise breakers” is Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democratic camp of the coalition government. Clegg campaigned on “scrapping tuition fees” during the elections, and seemed to have gone through an about-face. Assuring that all 17 Liberal Democrat ministers would vote for the fee hike, Clegg has earned his stripes as a “traitor”.

Hardly any substantial difference can be discerned from the anger and frustration in Greece and France. Greek transport minister Kostis Hatzidakis was chased by 200 protestors throwing stones as they chased him into a nearby building while shouting “Thieves! Shame on you!” This followed the massive May 2010 protests in Athens, where at least three protestors died when a bank was set on fire during a general strike. In France, much of the country came to a halt as workers in French oil refineries walked out.

The French president Sarkozy suffered from an approval rating of 29%, which was only bolstered to around 34% after his vicious immigration crackdown.

Those who run away with their coffers full (of taxpayer money) during crises are not doing anything novel. The European people, however, seem to understand this. In the face of tremendous economic pressure, austerity, and cutbacks on social welfare, the people of France, Greece, and England are not afraid to use the language of class warfare. They protest, riot, strike, and shout. They attempt to “throw the bastards out,” and grind the city centers to a halt. When their governments collude with international bankers and institutions to “lift” their failing economies out of debt via austerity, the working classes of these countries immediately note the pillaging that happens.

If only this type of anger and frustration existed in North America. If only downtown Toronto in the summer of 2010 was shut down by citizens instead of oligarchs. If only Wall Street was occupied in the latter months of 2009 by protestors instead of bankers, then perhaps North Americans would have learned something from the people of Europe.

Standard