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EU Releases Official Statement On Middle East Peace

by on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm EDT in Middle East, World

I’ve taken the liberty to highlight just a few interesting points:

The [EU Foreign Affairs] Council adopted the following conclusions:

1. “The EU believes that urgent progress is needed towards a two state solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. We want to see the State of Israel and a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security. The legitimacy of the State of Israel and the right of Palestinians to achieve statehood must never be called into question.

2. The EU notes with regret that Israel has not extended the moratorium as requested by the EU, the US and the Quartet. Our views on settlements, including in East Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. We reiterate our views on the status of Jerusalem and repeat our call for all parties to refrain from provocative unilateral actions and violence.

3. The EU affirms its readiness to contribute to a negotiated solution on all final status issues within the 12 months set by the Quartet. To this end, the EU will continue to work closely with the parties and reaffirms its support to the US efforts in order to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. The EU stresses the importance of intensified coordination within the Quartet as well as of close cooperation with Arab partners, building on the Arab Peace Initiative. The EU underlines the urgency of finding a negotiated solution and urges the parties to refrain from actions that undermine the prospects of peace. The EU remains committed to contribute substantially to post-conflict arrangements.

4. Council Conclusions of December 2009 set out the EU’s views on the key parameters, principles and issues. We reiterate those Conclusions. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. This could include agreed territorial swaps. A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states. The EU calls for an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee question. A negotiated settlement must allow the two States to live side by side in peace and security.

5. The EU commends the work of the Palestinian Authority in building the institutions of the future State of Palestine and reiterates its full support for their endeavours in this regard and the Fayyad plan. Recalling the Berlin Declaration, the Council reiterates its readiness, when appropriate, to recognize a Palestinian state. We welcome the World Bank’s assessment that “if the Palestinian Authority maintains its current performance in institution building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a State at any point in the near future”. The EU remains ready to develop further its bilateral relations with Israel within the framework defined at the Association Council of June 2009 and by its conclusions of December 2009. Within the framework of these conclusions, the EU is also ready to develop further its bilateral relations with the Palestinian Authority.

6. The EU recalls that peace in the Middle East should be comprehensive and reiterates the importance of negotiations on the Israel-Syria and Israel-Lebanon tracks. Peace should lead to the full integration of Israel in its regional environment, along the lines set out in the Arab Peace Initiative.

7. Recalling the Council Conclusions of June 2010, the EU remains extremely concerned by the prevailing situation in Gaza. The EU reiterates its call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. Despite some progress following the decision of the Israeli government of 20 June 2010 to ease the closure, changes on the ground have been limited and insufficient so far. Further efforts and complementary measures are needed to achieve a fundamental change of policy that allows for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza as well as improve the daily lives of the population while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. The Council calls on those holding the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to release him without delay. The Council calls for a complete stop of rocket attacks at Israel and all other forms of violence.

8. Palestinian exports are an essential component of Gaza’s recovery. In this respect, the EU welcomes the recent announcement by the Israeli government concerning new measures to facilitate exports out of Gaza. We encourage a swift implementation by Israel and are ready to work with Israel towards achieving pre-2007 levels of exports in 2011 to produce real change on the ground. Increased and accelerated imports of construction materials are another crucial component of Gaza’s recovery and also for building schools and health centres.

9. The EU recalls its readiness to assist in the reconstruction and economic recovery of Gaza in close partnership with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, in line with UNSC Resolution 1860 and on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. As parts of a comprehensive EU approach, including CSDP missions, the EU is ready to extend its support to improvements to the crossings infrastructure, to purchase and install the necessary equipment and also to train Palestinian border and crossings management personnel to operate the crossings.”

(h/t Palestine Note)

It appears the Council just rehashed the usual ‘ole frothy nothingness, which will accomplish absolutely zero.  There’s nothing new about the EU’s position on East Jerusalem.  And yet we’re at a point now where, to suggest that you STILL side with international law — when it comes to Israel’s obscene violations — is somehow considered bold and brave.

The group obviously ignored last week’s recommendations made by 26 former European Leaders who demanded the EU make Israel “feel ‘the consequences’ and face ‘a price tag’ for breaking international law by building thousands of new Jewish homes on Palestinian land.”

Until the US or the EU shows some spine, and adds a dash of sticks into their usual mix of carrots, there will never be peace in the Middle East.  Never.

UPDATE (Dec. 15, 2010):

The US Congress has now one-up’d the EU by passing an AIPAC sponsored resolution “condemning [any] unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state”.  The full text of the resolution can be found HERE.  Our US Congress is indeed occupied territory.

What The World Has Been Waiting For: Greater Transparency

by on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 2:53 pm EDT in Politics, WikiLeaks, World

WikiLeaksWikiLeaks has provided the people of the world with something they have sought since the existence of omnipotent empires: greater transparency.  The group has succeeded in creating a replicable model that utilizes encryption technologies and the world wide web to expose the inner-workings of the world’s most powerful governments and their corporate bedfellows.

In pulling the curtain aside on these highly-secretive, entrenched, and formidable power elites, WikiLeaks has revealed a world of lies, corruption, illegalities, cronyism, and a deliberate subversion of our judicial systems.  No less important, has been the revelation that our mainstream press acts more as a guardian for these entrenched power entities, than as an independent check on their power.

In retaliation to WikiLeaks’ publishing of these documents, the power entities have unleashed a whirlwind of slander, propaganda, frivolous arrest warrants, calls for assassination, unlawful reprisals, and corporate sabotage — all against this fledgling whistleblower group.

The world watches intently as this David and Goliath battle plays out before our very eyes, leaving us to wonder whether the end result will be a world with greater transparency, or one with greater authoritarianism.  For one thing is all but certain: transparency and authoritarianism cannot coexist.

The good news is that, despite its egregious efforts to smother WikiLeaks, the establishment has now discovered ‘copycat’ groups popping up around the world — all determined to carry WikiLeaks’ torch.

OpenLeaksDaniel Domscheit-Berg — WikiLeaks’ former second-in-command, behind Julian Assange — recently left the group to form OpenLeaks.  Believing WikiLeaks made some crucial strategic errors, the new group plans to promote transparency in a much different way.  For one, they plan on decentralizing the group’s power structure away from a single figurehead.  They believe this will help them to avoid some of the pitfalls WikiLeaks has endured in recent months.

For example, by making Julian Assange the face of WikiLeaks, the group has found itself in a rather vicarious predicament.  Seemingly frivolous charges of rape have been leveled against Assange, and used in a massive vilification effort against him.  This has helped — at least in part — to divert public attention away from the leaked documents themselves, and onto its accused leader.  WikiLeaks’ viability appears to be inextricably linked to the allegations against Julian Assange.

Another difference between OpenLeaks and WikiLeaks, is the former’s decision not to “publish or verify material; leaving that role to newspapers, ‘NGOs, labour unions and other interested entities’.”  Domscheit-Berg explains the logic behind this strategy:

… the decision to be a “conduit” rather than publisher was made because of the team’s experience at Wikileaks.

“That was another constraint we saw – if your website becomes too popular then you need a lot of resources to process submissions,” he said.

Basically, he intends to provide the technology — “supplying Anonymous online drop-boxes” — to organization and entities around the world (including newspapers), so that they themselves can independently “accept Anonymous submissions in the forms of documents or other information”.

Whistleblowers would anonymously submit their documents directly to the publishers and interested parties of their choice, while removing OpenLeaks entirely from the equation.

Other new whistleblower groups have also emerged from around the world — all intent on ensuring that the transparency movement remains alive and well:

  • BrusselLeaks, formed by former European Union officials and journalists, intends to focus on “obtaining and publishing leaked internal information about the backroom dealings and secrets of the E.U.”.
  • BalkanLeaks, set up by Bulgarian expatriate Atanas Chobanov — now based in Paris — states the group’s goal is the “[promotion of] transparency and [the fighting of] the nexus of organized crime and political corruption in the Balkan states”
  • IndoLeaks, an Indonesian-based WikiLeaks copycat, has “reportedly generated 50,000 downloads of the documents it published, from investigations into the murder of activist Munir Said Thalib to the disastrous Sidoarjo mudflow and a transcribed conversation between former presidents Suharto and Richard Nixon.”  It appears their site has been brought down due to technical problems or DDoS attacks.

So what’s to become of this new populist movement — hellbent on opening up governments and corporations?

It appears that the entrenched power interests have two options before them:

  1. They resign themselves to the fact they are living in a new interconnected world where transparency will continue to thrive.  With this choice, they will be forced to voluntarily curtail their egregious abuses of power, if only for the risk of exposure.
  2. They try and infringe on our 1st Amendment rights by tightening control over the internet and the free flow of information.  In addition, they aggressively target whistleblower groups, publishers, and journalists — and hold them accountable for publishing information provided to them by their whistleblower sources.  This would be tantamount to subjecting the U.S. to a degree of authoritarianism that many of us have never before experienced.

Those journalists who have reflexively jumped the government’s propaganda bandwagon in vilifying WikiLeaks should consider that their very efforts are in fact strengthening the government’s resolve in making a case for option two.

The World Moves To Action: ‘Israel Must End Its Illegal Occupation!’

by on Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

After having cringed through the most recent installment of the Middle East Peace ‘negotiations’, where the Netanyahu government publicly ‘castrated’ US President Barack Obama, the rest of the world appears to have had enough.

Incoming US Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), recently promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he and his fellow Republicans would unite against his own country’s President and vital national security interests, to stand firm with Israel.  This appears to have rattled the Obama Administration, who has all but thrown in the towel.  This week the State Department announced it was giving up on pressing Israel to slow down its illegal settlement expansion.

The US has proven itself, once again, powerless to apply an iota of pressure to its greatest foreign aid recipient, even when a peace agreement is essential to its own national strategic interests:

In recent months Barack Obama has said that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a “vital national security interest of the United States”. His vice-president, Joe Biden, has confronted Netanyahu in private and told the Israeli leader that Israel’s policies are endangering US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senior figures in the American military, including General David Petraeus who has commanded US forces in both wars, have identified Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land as an obstacle to resolving those conflicts.

Former President Bill Clinton recently stated that a Middle East Peace Agreement would “take about half the impetus in the whole world — not just the region, the whole world — for terror away.”  He said, “It would have more impact by far than anything else that could be done”.

The first to react to the failure of the US peace initiative were South American countries, including Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.  They announced they now formally recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.  Israel fears that Mexico, Ecuador and El Salvador are about to follow suit.  None of these countries were amongst the more than 100 countries to already recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

It is now being reported that 26 former European leaders (who held power within the last ten years) sent a strong-worded letter last Monday to each of the governments of the 27 member states and to EU institutions, calling on the EU to punish Israel for its illegal occupation.  The EU Observer, which read the letter, reports it recommends the following:

Israel “like any other state” should be made to feel “the consequences” and face “a price tag” for breaking international law by building thousands of new Jewish homes on Palestinian land. […]

… That the EU: “Will not recognize any changes to the June 1967 boundaries, and clarify that a Palestinian state should be in sovereign control over territory equivalent to 100 percent of the territory occupied in 1967, including its capital in East Jerusalem.”

It also asks ministers to set an ultimatum of April 2011 for Israel to fall into line or see the Union seek an end to the existing US-led peace talks format in favour of a UN solution.

[In addition, The EU] should:

  • officially link its informal freeze on an upgrade in EU-Israel diplomatic relations to a settlement freeze;
  • block imports of products made in settlements but labeled as made in Israel;
  • make Israel pay the lion’s share of aid to Palestine;
  • send a high-level delegation to East Jerusalem to back Palestinian claims;
  • and reclassify EU support for Palestine as “nation building” instead of “institution building.”

The signatories of the letter include:

Former German chancellor Helmut Schmid, former German president Richard von Weizsacker, one-time Spanish leader Felipe Gonzales, ex-EU commission president and Italian PM Romano Prodi and the UK’s former EU commissioner Chris Patten.

It also represents the first time that the forerunner of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Javier Solana, has come out of the wings to challenge the newcomer.

Apparently, it’s become evident to the world that the US is NOT a fair and honest broker in this conflict.  And despite its ‘superpower’ status, its billions of taxpayer dollars in annual foreign aid to Israel, and its long history of vetoing UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel, due to domestic political forces (Read: the Israel lobby), the US is powerless to apply pressure to Israel in ways that would even benefit its own stated strategic interests.

UPDATE (Dec. 14, 2010):

It appears the EU Foreign Affairs Council decided to ignore the letter by the 26 former European leaders cited above.  They just released their Official Statement on the Middle East Peace Process.

Ha’aretz: E.U. Presidency Document Calls For Division Of Jerusalem & Return To 1967 Borders

by on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm EDT in Middle East, World

The pressure continues to mount on the far-right Likudnik government in Israel.  Ha’aretz has just obtained a copy of a document, drafted by the European Union Presidency, which effectively backs a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, based on the 1967 borders.  The document follows: The world is clearly getting sick and tired of Netanyahu’s refusal […]