Month: January 2013

Hague: two-state solution is ‘slipping away’

Mark Twain rose from his sick-bed to say that reports of his death were “premature”, but reports that the two-state solution is sick or dying are surely verging on the posthumous.
Having warned of its imminent demise several times already, William Hague said at Foreign Office questions (Tuesday January 22nd) that the two-state solution is “slipping away”.
“The chances of bringing it about are not yet at an end, but it is very urgent…We are approaching the last chance of bringing about such a solution,” he told Ming Campbell.
Speaking on the day of the Israeli election, he put the blame squarely on Israel’s leaders. “I condemn recent Israeli decisions to expand settlements. I speak regularly to Israeli leaders, stressing our profound concern that Israel’s settlement policy is losing it the support of the international community and will make a two-state solution impossible”, he told Gregg McClymont.
In response to questions from Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, he said it was “top of my agenda” for talks in Washington next week when he would try to persuade the new US Secretary of State that it would be “the single highest priority in American foreign policy, even with all the other challenges we face in the world today”.
Mr Hague made it clear he believes 2013 is the make-lor-break year for the peace process, but added that “it requires the United States to take the lead. That is not because other countries like us are not willing to play our own active part, but because the United States is in a unique position in the world to help bring Israel into a two-state solution.”
But three Labour MPs suggested an “active part” that the UK could and should be willing to play by joining with others to put economic pressure on Israel to stop settlement building.
Shadow Middle East Minister Ian Lucas said he should discuss with our European partners how to “use the wish for Israeli to develop stronger trading relations with the European Union as a means of achieving progress in the Middle East”.
Co-chairman of the Council for Arab-British Understanding CAABU and Labour MP for Edmonton Andy Love urged him to keep his promise to discuss “incentives” for a return to negotiations with his EU partners.
And Sir Gerald Kaufman, MP for Manchester Gorton, asked “what specific action the Government will take to get the Israelis to see that their future survival depends on a two-state solution?”
Duncan Hames, Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham, asked the Foreign Secretary about the consequences for the peace process of an Israeli announcement last week that it would extend the 10-metre concrete separation wall to surround planning area E1 in the West Bank, scene of  Palestinian tent “settlement” in protest at plans to build a new illegal settlement.
“Any prospect of building in the E1 area, would be extremely damaging to the prospect for a successful peace proces,” he said.
“That is why it is so urgent. Now that the planning process for the E1 area has been unfrozen, a clock is ticking, with potentially disastrous consequences for the peace process.”

Netanyahu snubbed, but not snuffed

Israeli election ends in a dead heat

  • Likud falls one seat short of right-wing/religious majority
  • Premier forced to compromise – but will it make a difference?
Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu fell one short of a majority for the right-wing and religious parties in a dead heat election that gave the right and the religious parties 60 seats and the centre, left and Arab parties 60 seats.
As a result Netanyahu will be forced to enter into talks with newly-formed centrist party Yesh Atid, whose television presenter leader Yair Lapid says he will not join a coalition unless the prime minister promises to push for peace with Palestinians.
If he had one more seat, Netanyahu would have been able to form a majority with the ultra-rightwing party Jewish Home, whose policy is to block the formation of a Palestinian state and to annex more than half of the West Bank.
Netanyahu’s own party fell back from 42 seats to 31, which was a snub for him personally, but does not imply increased support for peace talks with the Palestinians. On the contrary, the votes he lost switched to the more extreme Jewish Home, who gained the 11 seats he lost.
Netanyahu’s party has also swung further to the right as a result of an electoral with Avigdor Lieberman’s Beitenu party and internal elections which promoted settlers’ leaders such as Moshe Feiglin, banned from entering Britain because of his racist views.
But even if there is a centre-right coalition in Israel, the “two-state solution” is in mortal dangerdanger, if not already in its grave. A Guardian survey of Israeli academics last week forecast that “the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead if Benyamin Netanyahu wins the election – even if he forms a government with centrists rather than the ultra-nationalist party Jewish Home”.
Yair Lapid hardly mentioned the Palestinian issue during the election campaign and nor did the new Labour Party leader Shelley Yakhimovich, playing to the Israeli voters’ almost total lack of interest in the peace process with the Palestinians
The relentless shift of Israeli politics towards the extreme right have meant that Tsipi Livni’s Hatnua and Kadima, the remnant of Ariel Sharon’s party, regarded only a couple of elections ago as on the extreme right, are now being reclassified as “centre” parties.
The left-wing party, Meretz, is the only Jewish Israeli party still committed to withdrawal from the West Bank and they doubled their seats, but only from three to six.
The three parties supported mainly by Palestinian Israelis failed to increase their meagre tally of 12 seats.  Haneen Zoabi, the MP who sailed to Gaza on the Mavi Marmara and was stripped of her parliamentary privileges by her fellow MPs, campaigned for Palestinians to vote in greater numbers. As they are a fifth of the population they should have 24 seats but less than 50% of them vote.
The final result found the scales balanced perfectly between the religious parties and the right on one side and the centre parties and the left or Palestian parties on the other.
Religious 18: Shas 11, United Torah Judaism 7
Right 42: Likud-Beitenu 31, Jewish Home 11
Centre 42: Yesh Atid 19, Labour 15, Hatnua 6, Kadima 2
Left/Palestinian 18: Meretz 6, United Arab List-Ta’al 5, Hadash 4, Balad 3