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“Normalization Under Occupation”: The Revived Arab Peace Initiative

Courtesy of Ted Swedenburg/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 6 April 2017.

Once more, the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 is taking center stage. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas insisted during his speech before the recently concluded Arab League Summit in Jordan that the initiative is the only solution on the table; asserting that it will not be changed or even tweaked. But why is this initiative, which was put forward by Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, now infused back into the already congested Middle East political discourse, despite the fact that Israel has rejected it repeatedly and the United States has shown little interest in enforcing it?

In March 2002, the initiative, composed of a few sentences, was proclaimed at an Arab League Summit in Beirut, Lebanon. Less than half of the Arab leaders participated in that conference. Head of the PA and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the late Yasser Arafat, was not allowed to attend. Israeli prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, had Arafat placed under house arrest in Ramallah. Sharon told Arafat that if Israel was to allow him to leave he would not be allowed back. Arafat died two years later, amid allegations that he had been poisoned.

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Give (Arab) Peace (Initiative) a Chance

Flag of Federal Republic of Israel-Palestine. Courtesy of Akiersch/wikimedia

This interview was originally published by The Atlantic Council on 12 May 2016.

In the following interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen, Bilal Y. Saab discusses the prospects of reviving the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative and much more.

Q: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu no longer recognizes a two-state solution; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is widely considered too weak politically; and the Israelis and Palestinians have a serious trust deficit. In this context, how can the Saudi-brokered Arab Peace Initiative be revived?

Saab: Bibi Netanyahu doesn’t think current regional and Palestinian conditions allow for a two-state solution, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t recognize a two-state solution. As hardline as he is, even he knows that it’s the only way to bring an end to this conflict sustainably. For him, security comes first, which is understandable. The problem, however, is that what he has in mind is perfect security and zero risk, which is completely unrealistic. Even [the late Israeli Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon accepted political and security risks when he disengaged from Gaza [in 2005]. For a leader whose domestic position is so powerful, it boggles my mind, and that of many others both inside and outside Israel, how Bibi is so reluctant and so cautious on an issue more critical to the survival of Israel and its Jewish democracy than any other: peace with the Palestinians.

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Book Review: Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis by Anne B. Shlay and Gillad Rosen

The old town of Jerusalem. Image: Kyle Taylor/Flickr

This book review was originally published by the LSE Review of Books on 25 November, 2015.

Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis. Anne B. Shlay and Gillad Rosen. Polity Press. 2015.

Violence has come to Jerusalem, again. It erupted during the Jewish and Muslim holidays, which virtually coincided this year. Since the beginning of October, at least 44 Palestinians and eight Israelis have lost their lives. From my home in East Jerusalem, the tension is palpable and the fear is pervasive. How can one move past the shocking headlines to an engaged and thoughtful analysis of the city?

In Jerusalem: The Spatial Politics of a Divided Metropolis, Anne B. Shlay and Gillad Rosen have written a book that attempts to convey the complexity of the city, whilst remaining accessible to a wide audience. This book is about the politics of space and the ‘constellation of competing interests’ over it (13). Shlay and Rosen, a sociologist and geographer respectively, explore the various geographic dynamics of Jerusalem and how the conflict plays out in specific locations. Their goal is not to ‘inflame or incite but to analyze and inform’ (15). It is a worthy goal. In this review I argue that the authors accomplish it, mostly. » More

International Actors and the Inter-Palestinian Reconciliation: Where is the Urgency?

Banner for UN Resolution 194. Image: Dieter Zirnig/Flickr

This article was originally published September 2015 by swisspeace.

On 23rd of April 2014, Fatah and Hamas signed in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp the latest of a series of reconciliation agreements. Hopes were not particularly high, as a number of similar agreements had been signed in the past (Sana’a 2008, Mecca Agreement of 2008, Cairo Agreement of 2011, and Doha Declaration of 2012) but were incapable of overcoming the factional divide in practice. The Shati agreement had the potential to be different. The parties indeed proceeded to form a Government of National Consensus (GNC) and thus gave proof of significant political will. » More

Palestine in the ICC: Game Changer for Peace Process?

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Image: Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia

This article first appeared on The Sentinel on January 19, 2015.

The year 2014 ended with a cliffhanger for the Israeli-Palestinian question. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute on New Year’s Eve, a day after a UN resolution mandating Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank failed to pass at the Security Council. As a result, Palestine will formally become a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, 2015.

Questions abound as to how significant the move will be in changing the balance of power between Israel and Palestine and what it means for the ever-elusive “peace process.” » More

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