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Blog: August 2010 Archives

A measured welcome to new peace talks

You might ask why America's leading Jewish peace organization isn't triumphantly celebrating the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Americans for Peace Now's response is more measured.  

Not that we don't savor the moment. Of course we do. Even after all the failures and disappointments of the past, it's exciting to see the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians sitting down to negotiate peace, face to face, and to do so under the auspices of a US President who clearly remains committed to achieving peace.

At this time, we are less interested in celebrating the opening of talks itself, and more interested in making sure this week's Washington gathering is not merely another ceremony, but the beginning of a process that will yield real results.

My new piece posted (late) last night on Foreign Policy's Middle East channel.

Glib talk about settlements harms peace efforts

With the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks this week and the approaching September 26th expiration of the settlement moratorium, the settlements issue is set to once again take center stage.

Last week, in an otherwise excellent article, former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk suggested that this need not be a crisis. He stated that "there could be a workable compromise if Mr. Netanyahu restricts building to modest growth in the settlement blocs that will most likely be absorbed into Israel in the final agreement, while offering changes that would make a real difference to West Bank Palestinians..."

The following day, Haaretz's Aluf Benn offered a similar observation as he laid out the popular wisdom regarding what can be expected from Prime Minister Netanyahu. Benn stated that "Everyone agrees the sweeping construction freeze cannot be continued and that the large settlement blocs should be distinguished from the isolated settlements beyond the separation fence. Construction will resume in the blocs and be frozen in the isolated settlements--or continue on a small scale."

This narrative is highly attractive to analysts and pundits because it is simple to articulate, sounds reasonable, and offers an easy answer to the question: how can Netanyahu possibly continue the settlement moratorium? The answer? He doesn't have to.

Unfortunately, this narrative has two huge flaws.

AUDIO - Muasher says 'Go Regional'

Click here to listen
Marwan Muasher 186x140.jpgWhile most experts and pundits advise an incremental approach to an separate Israeli-Palestinian peace, Marwan Muasher, Jordan's former foreign minister and ambassador to Washington and Israel supports a much more ambitious regional approach, which harnesses the Arab League's Peace Initiative to the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. 

Settler violence won't stop tomorrow's Peace Now rally

Peace Now will hold a demonstration on Thursday, August 26 outside the West Bank settlement of Talmon. 
It will be a strong stand against the calls - coming from the Israeli right - for Israel to immediately build in settlements after the moratorium on new settlement construction expires next month.

Direct talks are coming -- don't let the cynics win.

Hillary Clinton just issued a formal invitation for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to begin direct peace talks on September 2nd. This is good news. It presents an opportunity for progress towards peace.

Now the real hard work must begin.  Direct talks are not an end in themselves; their only value is as a means to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

A strong American role is needed to ensure that these negotiations will be productive.

Fall 2010 Internship Program

APN is accepting applications for its Fall 2010 intern cycle. We are looking for a few bright, dynamic individuals who are excited and ready to get involved in Middle East peace advocacy. 

A dangerous sea-change in Israeli policy toward Jerusalem

During the first 4 decades or so of Israeli rule in East Jerusalem, the city's Palestinian residents were subjected to neglect and discrimination. Most un-built land in East Jerusalem was expropriated and turned into settlements.  They found it nearly impossible to get building permits for the remaining land.  When they built without permits, they faced fines and demolitions.  They encountered overt inequities in municipal services and even efforts to revoke their residency rights.  

But while the situation wasn't pretty, there were always lines Israel did not cross - lines that Israel is crossing today, apparently utterly unconcerned by the consequences.

Jews and Arabs don't have to be enemies

Mariam Ashour - Noam Rabinovich 186x140.jpgOn the front page of the Style section in yesterday's Washington Post is a story about a remarkable internship program.

This was no typical Washington internship. APN hosted a Palestinian student, while the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) hosted an Israeli student. The two worked together on joint projects, lived together, and became close friends.

Tell Obama not to repeat Bush's Mideast mistakes

Fighting broke out this morning across the Israel-Lebanon border. One senior Israeli officer is dead, as are three Lebanese soldiers and one journalist.

The details of what took place today are still emerging, but one thing is clear: Without strong American leadership events like today's could spiral out of control.

Tell President Obama to engage to prevent an escalation.

In 2006, we saw fighting along the Israel-Gaza and the Israel-Lebanon borders escalate into a full-on war.  Today's developments - coming on the heels of an uptick in rocket fire targeting southern Israel - are eerily similar.

Wise Words from Dov Weissglas on peace

Yesterday (August 1), Dov Weissglas - former top advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and author of the famous Weissglas letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - published an astute op-ed in the Hebrew-language edition of Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's largest-circulation newspaper.  In his piece Weissglas suggests that on one hand the Palestinians have good reason to believe that Netanyahu is not serious about peace, and on the other that Israel truly needs successful negotiations. 

Weissglas - who is by no means a dove (no pun intended) - closes with these powerful words:  "The outline of the possible solution is clear: the establishment of a Palestinian state, the evacuation of most of Judea and Samaria with some territorial swaps, devising a joint control arrangement in Jerusalem based on demographic principles, and the resettling of the Palestinian refugees within the borders of the Palestinian state. The present government, like any other government, will be unsuccessful in substantially altering this outline. The sooner it makes the painful decisions necessary for its implementation, the sooner Palestinian suspicions will evaporate and chances will grow for a successful outcome to talks."

Mr. Weisglass, we couldn't agree more.

Full Weissglass op-ed after the break (translation by Israel News Today).

How will renewed settlement construction play in your hometown?

Israel is considering ending the moratorium on new settlement construction in September.

This would be bad for Israel and bad for peace: Settlement construction undermines faith in peace talks. Settlements constitute a burden to Israel's security services. They create points of friction between Israelis and Palestinians. And they drain Israel's financial resources.

For these reasons, APN activists have worked together to convince Washington to press for a continuation of the moratorium.

Now, it is time to focus our efforts on another important message: As Americans who love Israel, we know that ending the settlement moratorium would play into the hands of those who seek to delegitimize Israel.

We need to deliver this message directly to Israelis, many of whom are not aware of the impact that new settlement construction could have on public American support for Israel.

As part of this effort, APN is asking our activists to make short videos explaining how new settlement expansion could undermine Israel's standing in their communities. The top videos we receive will be featured in Israel starting August 10th as part of the new campaign by the Israeli Peace Now movement.

Here is one such video: