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Shammu
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« Reply #120 on: December 29, 2007, 08:08:43 PM »

Israelis, Palestinians try for peace

By STEVEN GUTKIN, Associated Press Writer Fri Dec 28, 4:19 PM ET

JERUSALEM - In the afterglow of a high-profile peace conference, Israeli and Palestinian leaders will try in the coming year to resolve issues that have defied solutions for decades.

For peace to work, Israel will have to give up most of the West Bank, Palestinians must agree to resettle refugees inside their own state and the two sides must share the holy city of Jerusalem. None of that will come easily — and prospects for peace are hurt by the growing power of extremists and the weakness of leaders on both sides.

Weighing heavily on the Middle East is fear about the influence of Iran and the ascendancy of Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. After Hamas violently routed the more moderate Fatah movement in Gaza in June, the big question now is whether the West Bank will go the same way.

Israel fretted through a year of angst about Iran's nuclear program only to be told in a new U.S. intelligence report that Iran stopped it four years ago. Israel isn't buying the claim, and is scrambling to convince its allies that Iran remains a major threat to the West.

Hamas' takeover of Gaza paradoxically opened the door to peace talks between Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership now in charge of the West Bank. Israeli and Palestinian leaders both say they hope to sign a peace deal by the end of 2008.

On Nov. 27, the two sides got together in Annapolis, Md., in the presence of some 45 nations to relaunch peace talks that had been stalled during the past seven years of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

All the main players have good reason to go for a deal: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert wants to undo the damage done by his inconclusive 2006 war in Lebanon, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas needs a boost in his showdown with Hamas, President Bush would like to offset his difficulties in Iraq, and moderate Arab states need to counter Iranian-supported extremism.

Working against this new hope is weakness at the top: a Palestinian president who only controls half his territory and struggles to impose order in the part he does control, and an Israeli leader who has done little to confront domestic hawks intent on expanding West Bank settlements and torpedoing any progress toward peace.

While the contours of a peace deal have largely been worked out in past talks — a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, shared control of Jerusalem and a recognition the need to settle the Palestinian refugees — every issue calls for excruciating compromises.

Negotiators will have to figure out how to share Jerusalem, a task that must address key Israeli security concerns and religious sensitivities on both sides; and find a just solution for the Palestinian refugees displaced in Israel's 1948 war of independence without destroying the Jewish character of Israel.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have a growing sense that time is running out.

There will soon be more Muslims than Jews in the lands comprising historic Palestine, and Israel will have to make a deal if it hopes to remain both Jewish and democratic. And without peace, moderate Palestinians will likely lose their life-or-death struggle against the extremists.

"If things don't work out it means that the voices that are not in favor of ... a peaceful resolution of the conflict will feel vindicated and they will be strengthened and empowered," said independent West Bank lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Ami Ayalon went further, saying that if peace talks fail "we shall see Hamas controlling the West Bank and the right wing will control Israel."

Israel might sign some sort of a peace treaty in the coming year. It's highly unlikely the deal would be implemented unless Israel is assured that the lands it evacuates won't be used as launching grounds for attacks.

In hopes of bolstering Abbas' forces in the West Bank, the international community is expected to pledge almost $2 billion a year in aid for the next three years to help rebuild the Palestinian economy and security forces.

There are no clear plans for Hamas-ruled Gaza, which is internationally boycotted and can expect to remain almost completely isolated and slide deeper into poverty as long as the Islamic militants remain in power.

If the U.S. change of assessment on Iran was one year-end surprise, Syria is another.

The country has long been under U.S. pressure over its role in Lebanon and Iraq, and in September Israeli warplanes struck a site in Syria that some believe was a nascent secret nuclear site, an accusation denied by Damascus.

Syria improved ties with the U.S. by attending the Annapolis conference, a thaw that U.S. officials hope will dilute Iran's influence in the region. Damascus, in turn, is hoping the next year will see a resumption of stalled negotiations with Israel over the disputed Golan Heights.

Israelis, Palestinians try for peace
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« Reply #121 on: January 28, 2008, 11:13:26 PM »

Blair wants Mideast peace in 2008

By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer Sun Jan 27, 8:08 PM ET

DAVOS, Switzerland - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the final session of the World Economic Forum on Sunday that he wants an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and a pact on climate change by the end of 2008.

Sharing the same level of ambition, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel called for China to open its doors to the Dalai Lama and for an end to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

The final session of this year's forum seemed to shrug off any pessimism about what can be achieved in the coming months despite fears that the U.S. economic downturn could lead to a global recession.

"The mood was moderately optimistic because we have many, many opportunities," said Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder. "But if we do not address the challenges, one day even the greatest opportunities will not be enough to guarantee our continuation as humankind if you look at climate change, terrorism, poverty."

The five-day political and economic brainstorming session that brought nearly 2,500 of the world's movers and shakers to this Swiss ski resort was short on "glitz" this year — with the exception of rock star Bono and Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, who are both also anti-poverty campaigners.

Politically, there was much talk about whether President Bush's goal of a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of the year will be reached.

"I would like to see an agreement that gives us the prospect of a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine because I do think that would be the greatest signal of reconciliation with which the 21st century could start," said Blair, who is now the chief envoy for the key international Mideast mediators known as the Quartet.

Wiesel said he also wanted to see Mideast peace this year, and "to alleviate the suffering in Darfur which has become the capital of human suffering in the world today."

"I'd like China to open its doors to the Dalai Lama so I could accompany him to go to Tibet. That would be a great, great victory," Wiesel said, as the audience burst into applause.

Blair said he'd also "like to see us get the climate change deal or framework of it."

PepsiCo Inc. chief Indra Nooyi said she'd also like to see "a climate policy" and efforts to bring down rising food prices.

"We've taken years to get people out of poverty, give them a couple of meals a day when they were only eating one meal a day or less," she said. "We run the risk of slipping back to poverty if food prices are escalating much too fast."

Many participants touched on another major theme at Davos this year: how to stem terrorism.

Afghanistan's president warned that the world could suffer terribly from the "wildfire" of terrorism engulfing his region. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf pledged to "carry on the fight against terrorism and extremism."

Wiesel said the greatest threat to humanity today "is the globalization of fear because of terrorism" — especially suicide bombings and fanaticism.

"Somehow the future today is much more dangerous than it used to be because of people we don't know who have a cult of death ... and practice the cult of death," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Bush's push for democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere, and tried to calm economic fears, stressing that the U.S. economy is resilient and would remain an "engine of growth."

Whether the U.S. economy is heading toward recession — or just slowing down — and the likely impact on the rest of the world was the subject of intense discussion. There was much speculation about whether Asia's two giants, China and India, would be able to absorb some of the shock.

"I am optimistic about the future," Wang Jianzhou, chairman and CEO of China Mobile Communications Corp., told Sunday's closing session. "If there is the recession in the world, generally speaking it will have an impact on China, but I don't think it will be very big."

There would be a reduction in Chinese exports, "but we still have very, very strong domestic consumption," Wang said.

Blair wants Mideast peace in 2008
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« Reply #122 on: February 10, 2008, 05:05:09 PM »

Abdullah warns that Annapolis conference offers last chance for peace
By The Associated Press

Jordan's King Abdullah II warned Sunday that an international conference held in the United States last November could be the last chance for peacemaking between Palestinians and Israelis.

Abdullah, a key U.S. ally who maintains cordial ties with Israel under a 1994 peace treaty, is an ardent supporter of a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. He said he was concerned of the growing influence of extremists in the region who may threaten moderates like himself.

"The process that started in Annapolis is, from our perspective, a positive development, but it also may be our last chance for peace for many, many years to come," Abdullah cautioned, referring to the international Middle East conference held in Maryland, which re-launched Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
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He did not elaborate in an interview with Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency, which coincided with his departure to Russia. A text of the interview was distributed by the Jordanian Royal Palace.

Previously, Abdullah said his concern stemmed from a diminishing moderate camp and the rising influence of extremists, who find fertile grounds among the region's poor and frustrated.

The king said protracted conflict has delayed the socio-economic development of most of the countries in the region, despite successful political and economic reforms in some.

"For us to fully realize the benefits of reform, we need to be able to exchange goods and services with our neighbors and facilitate the movement of people," he said. "So in that respect, conflict holds everyone up, and the longer we delay conflict resolution, the more we risk greater instability down the road."

Abdullah also said during his two-day visit to Moscow he would discuss with President Vladimir Putin the possibility of Russian assistance in helping Jordan develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Abdullah warns that Annapolis conference offers last chance for peace
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« Reply #123 on: March 18, 2008, 10:46:50 PM »

Egyptian president warns Israel: No occupation lasts forever
By The Associated Press
18/03/2008         

CAIRO, Egypt ? Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Israel on Tuesday that no occupation lasts forever and urged the Palestinians to give peace a chance.

"Your people's security cannot be attained by exercising a policy of collective punishment, aggression, siege, walls and building settlements," he said in comments broadcast live on state television in a speech marking the birthday of Islam's Prophet Mohammed.

Mubarak added that for their part, the Palestinians needed to unify their ranks and consider their actions for the sake of their suffering children.

"Resistance is a legitimate right for any people under occupation, but it should be examined according to the principle of profit and loss ... Give peace a chance and don't give excuses to those who want to derail its march," he said.

Mubarak also accused Islamic extremists of acting contrary to Islam's teachings of moderation and hurting its reputation to outsiders.

"We tell ourselves, truly and frankly, that there are some people among us who harmed Islam before non-Muslims did. Those who are among us ignored the moderation and forgiveness of Islam, distorted its image and gave excuses to those who harmed it by connecting it to extremism, terrorism and backwardness," Mubarak said.

Mubarak also warned that continued insults to the Prophet Mohammed will only make the situation worse for everyone. His warning came amid renewed controversy over the reprinting by Western newspapers of a Danish cartoon deemed insulting to the prophet to show their commitment to freedom of speech.

Egyptian president warns Israel: No occupation lasts forever
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« Reply #124 on: March 25, 2008, 09:53:17 PM »

Let a 'peace contract' precede an actual treaty
Avshalom Vilan
THE JERUSALEM POST
Mar. 25, 2008

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced two weeks ago in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel would continue to negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas for peace in the West Bank on the one hand; while on the other hand, it would fight Hamas in Gaza as if there were no peace negotiations.

Those who object to a peace treaty with the Palestinians raise the familiar arguments regarding Abbas's weakness and Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. They say - with a fair amount of justice - that signing a treaty with Abbas over the West Bank could result in Katyushas falling not just on Ashkelon and Sderot from Gaza, but also on Nahariya and Ben-Gurion Airport from the West Bank.

Supporters of a peace treaty claim, on the other hand and with a greater amount of justice, that absent political progress, there can anyway be no solution to the Kassams and Grads; that the IDF with all its might won't be able to crown Abbas in Gaza again.

IN ORDER to overcome this dilemma, we need to explore an out-of-the-box solution that would give Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank a genuine incentive to join a future peace treaty - one that offers hope and dignity.

One such creative solution is for Israel and the PLO to formulate and jointly present a formal "peace contract" - with one categorical condition: The contract would transform itself into an actual peace treaty, with all that implies, when the West Bank and the Gaza Strip - on which the future Palestinian state is to arise - is under the rule of a single political authority, elected on the basis of the peace contract.

When the time is right, general elections would be held (also in Israel), and if the parties supporting the peace contract obtain a majority, the governments formed would be constituted as peace governments to implement the contract.

This process would ensure a smooth transition from peace contract to peace treaty. Each side would be fully aware of the facts and be able to take steps accordingly to create conditions in which the peace treaty could be signed - or they could choose to fight each other until the end of days.

A CONTRACT based, for example, upon the Clinton parameters or the Geneva Initiative would prove to the Palestinian people that a peace treaty and a state of their own is within reach, something that would plainly help weaken Hamas.

Such a peace contract would likely be backed by the Arab League, which would see it as Israel's positive response to the peace offer put forward by Saudi Arabia and which has had vast support from the entire Arab and most of the Muslim world.

The proposed peace contract would include a preamble with confidence-building measures, including prisoner exchanges (of individuals with or without blood on their hands), the release of Marwan Barghouti, and an arrangement for Gilad Schalit's return. Such measures would be acknowledged, in the context of a peace contract, as the starting point for breaking the cycle of violence, and not as another submission to Palestinian terrorism.

The basis of the peace contract would be the right of self-determination of both nations in Israel and Palestine. It would not be based on "human rights" or the "holy land," but on necessary historical compromises.

Finally, such a peace contract could initiate the beginning of the implementation of the "evacuation-compensation" bill, making it possible for settlers who wish to do so to buy houses inside Israel and start their reabsorption in an equitable manner and within a reasonable time, without waiting for a compelled evacuation of all settlements by the state.

The biggest advantage of this peace contract proposal is that it presents a responsibility test. By distinguishing between a peace contract and a peace treaty, both nations would have to give their approval in a democratic way and take the responsibility for the future in their own hands. This way, a new, positive consent can be reached, a consent that would allow us to pursue our lives in peace. We would at last be offered a way out of the tragic prospect of forever living by the sword.

Let a 'peace contract' precede an actual treaty
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« Reply #125 on: March 25, 2008, 09:56:09 PM »

Palestinians, Israelis call for stepped up int'l support to achieve peace
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST    Mar. 25, 2008

Palestinian UN observer Riyad Mansour and Israel's UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman each told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that an agreement between their leaders last November to reach a peace settlement needs more international backing.

Gillerman said suspending talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would play into the hands of extremists who want the talks to fail. "This collective resolve must be shown first and foremost by this council," Gillerman said.

Mansour also called for "collective effort" by the council and others to rescue the peace effort. "It's in a very critical situation," he said.

Palestinians, Israelis call for stepped up int'l support to achieve peace
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« Reply #126 on: March 28, 2008, 12:11:34 AM »

Better than a peace conference

To call the Russian approach to fostering peace in the region indelicate would probably be an understatement. "Thuggish" is the word that comes to mind.

As this newspaper reported yesterday, Israeli sources said that Russia's attitude toward the peace conference it wishes to sponsor is that it will be held "whether Israel likes it or not." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's one-day visit here last week was described as "nasty."

Perhaps all this is not surprising from a country that is supplying the Iranian regime with nuclear fuel and sophisticated missile defense systems while running interference for the mullahs in the UN Security Council.

Lavrov even had the temerity to lecture Israelis about refraining from military action, even as Russia systematically blocks the draconian sanctions on Teheran that are the only hope of avoiding the military option.

One might even ask why Moscow would want to hold a peace conference in the first place. Some Israeli officials seem to be taking at face value Russian claims that it is concerned over growing Iranian influence in the region. If so, Russia is attempting to combat this influence in a strange way.

It is as if the only arrow in the Russian quiver is the sale of arms and nuclear materials and technology, not just to Iran's rivals, but to Iran itself. It should be obvious, however, that the only way to fundamentally reverse the trend that supposedly concerns Moscow is to address its source: the growing prospect that a terrorist state with an expansionist, totalitarian ideology will become a nuclear power.

If Russia truly wants to prevent this, it is in an excellent position to do so. Russia and China are Iran's key allies in the UN Security Council. If Russia joins with the US, the UK and France in favoring truly punishing sanctions on Teheran - such as a ban on refined oil exports to Iran that supply 40 percent of its fuel needs - then it would not be easy for China to remain exposed as Iran's sole protector.

Even if the Security Council route were blocked, Russian support for real sanctions, not the minimal and insufficient steps taken so far, could help change the dynamic in Europe, which could impose its own tough sanctions without any further UN action.

Instead, Moscow seems to be reprising the old Soviet policy of being weapons supplier to rogue states and sticking its finger in the eye of the West. How this is in the interest of today's Russia is difficult to imagine.

What is clear, however, is that Israel should have no part of it.

Russia is attempting to host a peace conference while protecting the main source of war: Iran. Russia is not only protecting Iran physically, through the missile defense systems that surround its nuclear facilities, but diplomatically, by blocking serious international sanctions.

So long as this remains the case, Israel must not attend a "peace" conference in Moscow that serves to legitimize the Russian role. If an unreformed Russia wants to hold a "peace" conference without Israel, let it.

This does not mean that Israel should oppose a constructive Russian role. On the contrary; Israel should make clear that it welcomes Russian involvement in isolating Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas.

Russia cannot have it both ways. It cannot fashion itself as an international troublemaker, and a friend to even worse troublemakers, and then act surprised when the trouble it helps create spins out of control and backfires against Russian interests. For years, France pursued a version of such a policy, during which Paris seemed to value its "independence" from Washington more than playing a constructive role on the world stage.

Thankfully, France seems to have outgrown such a stance, which ultimately contributed nothing to its own interests. True world powers do not define themselves as adolescents do, solely in reference to rebellion for rebellion's sake.

Russia has even more reason than France did to pick itself out of its contrarian, quasi-Soviet rut, assuming that Russians have more to gain from further integrating themselves into the West.

Does Russia really have an interest in Iran prevailing against the US? If not, Russia should truly join, not impede, the international campaign to force Iran to back down. If Russia were to take such an about-face and join the side of peace, it would do more for peace than a thousand conferences.

________________________________________
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« Reply #127 on: April 13, 2008, 10:10:24 PM »

German alarm at Nicolas Sarkozy's plans peace for Mediterranean union
April 13, 2008

Matthew Campbell

ISRAELI and Arab soldiers are being summoned to march through Paris this summer to celebrate the launch of a “Union for the Mediterranean” to settle regional woes.

France is inviting all the countries around the Mediterranean rim, including Libya, Syria and Israel, to a European Union summit in Paris on July 13 and they are expected to take part in a “Euro-Mediterranean Bastille Day” military parade with European troops the next day, according to Henri Guaino, one of the closest advisers to the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

The idea of a Mediterranean union has irritated the Germans, who have insisted that it be created in association with the EU. Guaino, the originator of the plan, believes that even a watered-down version would have an effect on terrorism and illegal immigration and would turn around a region ravaged by economic hardship and war.

“We are trying to promote projects that make people work together as much as possible and that will help to create conditions for peace,” Guaino said. “It is an audacious bet but it is better to take the risk of failure than to take the risk of doing nothing.”

Guaino said the Bastille Day parade this year would be the biggest yet. It will be followed by a lavish fireworks display and a concert celebrating the start of France’s six-month presidency of the EU.

Sarkozy has grand ambitions at the helm of Europe. Guaino suggested that he would like to see Tony Blair appointed the first EU president by the end of the year. Efforts to forge common immigration and defence policies are no less controversial.

The Mediterranean idea has also proved to be a battleground. Britain, a backer of EU membership for Turkey, has been wary, suspecting a plot by Sarkozy to keep the Turks out of Europe by offering the “club Med” instead.

Besides annoying the Turks, it has soured relations between Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor. Worried that wealthier countries such as Germany would end up paying for the new French-led association, Merkel reportedly threatened to boycott the Paris summit unless Sarkozy scaled back plans for a “political, economic and cultural union” for the Mediterranean.

Under a compromise, all 27 EU members, whether or not they have a bit of Mediterranean coast, will be “equally” involved in the club.

German alarm at Nicolas Sarkozy's plans peace for Mediterranean union
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