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Peace in the Middle East

Motto: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem..." (Psalms 122:6)

This topic has been worth a separate page for some reason since September 2010 in particular, also regarding the fact that the Arab-Israeli peace pro and contra news section has become lengthy at the end of the previous page. The possibility of the building of the third Jerusalem Temple under peaceful circumstances was considered in the previous page and relating to this let a historical exposition of the recent past, present (future?) of the area stand here. I try to do this objectively, without any prejudice by being biased. I would not like to involve in politics, so I avoid the names of the participants in politics as much as possible, I merely want to outline a process which could significantly alter the fate or future of the Middle East. I am not involved in determining the boundaries of the region geographically either, I just would like to recall some of the main moments of the peace process simply in order to see clearly.

Above all, it is important to note that within the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations between the Arab countries and Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process makes a separate theme therefore they will be discussed respectively.

Peace with the Arab countries: There is no doubt about that Israel has found itself in a fire-trap since its foundation in 1948. The relationship maintained with the Arab countries surrounding it as direct neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon) is a crucial point in such a way. Egypt and Israel signed a long-term peace agreement on 29 March 1979 closely following the Camp David Accords (1978) which put an end to an enmity of three decades. Hostility between the two countries was a direct antecedent which culminated in the Six-Day War in 1967 - during which Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan - as well as the 1973 Yom Kippur war, in the course of which Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated attack against Israel in order to regain the territories taken away from them. After the two Arab countries had lost the Yom Kippur War, Egypt saw the conclusion of peace with Israel more desirable a few years later. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in exchange for peace. The Golan Heights still belong to the territory of Israel, and some envisage that peace could be made with Syria for the return of the area. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Jordan committed itself to Egypt, but after the war waged against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1970, which threatened the security of its country, it considered Israel as an ally with whom it made a lasting peace on 26 October 1994 and resigned from claiming the West Bank in exchange for peace. The conclusion of peace was supported by Egypt and the United States, however, Syria - who supported the Palestinians - opposed. After the PLO had had to leave Jordan, it was forced to go to and stay in the southern part of Lebanon, which was the reason why the Israeli forces attacked and invaded Lebanon from where they withdrew their troops in 2000.

In January 2008 foreign news sources reported that Syria and Israel are willing to negotiate by the assistance of the Turkish government. Israel offered the Golan Heights in return for peace, which is an important event, since the peace talks between them have been interrupted for about 8 years. If Syria makes peace with Israel, the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah would lose the support of Syria and Lebanon as the last one of the four neighbouring Arab countries might conclude peace with Israel.

Peace with the Palestinians: In 1947, the UN General Assembly originally decided on the foundation of an independent Jewish and an independent Palestinian state on the historical territory of Palestine. The UN Security Council, since the British Mandate authorized by the League of Nations bequeathed the Palestinian question to it, has been playing an important role in the resolution of the Middle East conflict. Long after Israel had been founded in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly decided in 1974 that the Palestinian people should be represented by the PLO, thus providing right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, the right of the Palestinian refugees to return and recover their property. In 1988, the PLO recognized Israel's legitimacy, agreed to the establishment of the two states and the peaceful coexistence with Israel. Israel also agreed to the formation of an independent Palestinian state. As a result of intense negotiations of many years and following the Madrid conference in 1991, under the Oslo Accords (September 1993) the PLO formally also recognized the right of Israel to exist in peace and security, committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, to the renouncement of terrorism and other acts of violence, as well as to set up a so-called Palestinian Authority in charge of administration. Israel's military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were also targeted. The sides signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) including immediate self-rule in Gaza and Jericho, interim Palestinian self-government arrangements and the election of a Palestinian council functioning over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Economic cooperation was also agreed, and they determined a 5-year interim period during which permanent status negotiations should commence to reach a final agreement (no later than May 1996) on such issues as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and borders.

The Gaza-Jericho Agreement (1994) contained decisions on security, civil, legal and economic matters: a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza and Jericho, a transfer of authority from Israeli administration to a Palestinian authority (the Palestinian Authority), establishing a Palestinian police force, relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Also in 1994, a transfer of powers to the Palestinians was provided more and more in the fields of education, culture, public welfare, health, tourism and taxation, and in 1995 that of labour, trade, industry, insurance, postal services, statistics, agriculture and local government. In September 1995 the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was signed, which marked the conclusion of the first stage in negotiations and which incorporated and superseded the Gaza-Jericho Agreement and the measures of 1994-1995. The main objective of the agreement was the establishment of a broaden self-government in the West Bank by means of an elected self-governing authority (the Palestinian Council) no later than May 1999. This will allow the Palestinians to conduct their own internal affairs, at the same time it protects both Israel’s external security and the security of Israeli citizens in the West Bank. The annexes of the agreement deal with such issues as security arrangements, elections, civil and legal matters, economic relations, Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and the release of Palestinian prisoners. In 1996 the first stage of IDF redeployment was completed, the Palestinian Council and the Head of the Palestinian Authority were elected. Between 1996 and 2000 the Permanent Status Negotiations go on, while meeting the requirements of the interim agreements signed earlier are also of great care. After the Camp David Summit (2000) ended without an agreement, in 2003, as a result of a negotiation for over 2 years, under the Geneva Accord, the Gaza Strip and almost all the West Bank territory would be granted to the Palestinians and the borders between the two countries would be drawn close to what existed prior to the 1967 war, Jerusalem would be divided administratively with East Jerusalem serving as the capital for the Palestinian state and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in return for which a limited number of Palestinian refugees would claim to return to their former home and recover their property in Israel that they had to leave in 1948 and 1967. Due to several terrorist attacks supported by the Palestinian Authority which proliferated as of 2000, the peace process slowed down. To resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the Quartet (United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations Organization) was founded in 2002 and the concept of the 'Road map' was born in 2003 to call on both sides to hold direct negotiations to make peace possible in the Middle East and to condemn the Palestinian terrorist actions. After the Israeli-Palestinian meeting held in Jordan in 2003, the Palestinian position has been controversial since the ceasefire announced by Fatah, Hamas (which insists on the concept of Great Palestine, rejects the division of Palestine and any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians) ignoring it pursued further terrorist activity. So Israel froze the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority and decided to wage war on terrorism. In 2004, the Israeli Cabinet and the Knesset hoping that the terrorist attacks come to a halt approved the plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which was even carried out in 2005 together with four northern Samaria communities. In 2005, in a meeting in Egypt, the two parties committed themselves to refrain from any act of violence or military activity. After the elections in the Palestinian Authority (January 2006) resulting in the establishment of a Hamas-led government, Israel adopted a dual strategy: resists the extremists while leaving the door open to those who are willing to a two-state solution to settle the conflict. In 2007, Hamas took over the control of the Gaza Strip and the Fatah-led government (West Bank) continued the negotiations with Israel.

The status of Jerusalem

The UN Resolution 181 mentioned above wants Jerusalem to be a 'corpus separatum’, a separate body to be run under an international UN administration. (Article 100 of the Charter does not accept instructions from any government or other authority external to the Organization.) The present boundaries of the city would be extended by the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern one would be Abu Dis; the most southern Bethlehem; the most western 'Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern Shu'fat. The UN Trusteeship Council would elaborate the system of government which would consist of a governor assisted by an administration staff classed as international officers. The governor would be selected on the basis of special qualifications without regard to nationality, however, he could not be a citizen of either State in Palestine. He would act under the auspices of the Trusteeship Council, but in some cases, he could make independent decisions. Suppose, e.g. the administration is obstructed, he would have the authority to take necessary measures or in general he could veto bills. The area would be demilitarized, as well as neutral. The resolution also implies that Jerusalem's unique spiritual and religious nature should be preserved. The Holy Places, religious buildings must be protected, for this reason, the governor could even organize a special police force of which members should be recruited outside of Palestine. The urgent repair of a religious building/site could be carried out himself, if necessary. He could make decisions in disputes between different religious communities in any part of Palestine. The UN confirmed in 1949, in Resolution 303 the question of an international regime for the Jerusalem area and the protection of the Holy Places. Despite Israel officially announced to regard Jerusalem as the capital as of 1950, the UN did not recognize it and in 1967 it called on Israel to annul to change the status of Jerusalem, to which Israel responded by a law that considers Jerusalem a single administrative unit under Israeli control. Although the UN has not reached its goal, it insists on its long term strategy, in spite of the fact that both Jews and Arabs reject the internationalization of Jerusalem. Peace process experts say that the status of Jerusalem is an issue which is closely related to the negotiations on drawing the borders of Israel and the Palestinian State.

UN Partition Plan for Palestine

The ’corpus separatum’ Jerusalem

West Bank

Under the Oslo Accords (1993) Israel and the PLO agreed to divide the West Bank into three administrative units: Area A, B, C and specify the details in the Interim Agreement two years later. Subsequently, Israel withdrew its military rule from some parts of the West Bank. The area is currently under full control of the Palestinian Authority, Area B is under Israeli control, but under Palestinian administration, while Area C is under full Israeli control. Area A together with B makes up approximately 40% of the West Bank. (East Jerusalem is not included in the West Bank area.) The majority of the Palestinian population (about 95%) live in Areas A and B, in very crowded conditions, while vacant land can be found in Area C (contiguous territorial block is located here alone in the West Bank; the most fertile land in the Jordan Valley), which could resolve both housing and living of Palestinians who exist in undignified circumstances at present. The exact delineation of the different areas within the West Bank is the issue of constant disputes anyway.

See West Bank Administrative Divisions here

The Interim Agreement (1995) also stipulates the gradual transfer of power and responsibility in Area C from Israel to the Palestinian Authority within 18 months however, the process of transfer was frozen in 2000 and no progress has been made in the field ever since. On the contrary, numerous Jewish settlements have been built in the area (and continue to grow rapidly), which is considered illegal under international law, while it is hard for Palestinians to obtain building permits and several Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished in the last 12 years. The Israeli settlement-buildings in the occupied territories are not in accordance with international law, but it is worth of mention that the UN cannot reach its objectives by making non-binding resolutions. To open Area C to Palestinians (such as the lifting of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian construction) would be a step forward in every sense. Not only could it bring economic growth to the region, but also have a positive impact on the peace process.

Green Line

The current Green Line (the demarcation line drawn by Israel and the surrounding Arab countries in the 1949 Armistice Agreement) is considered to be illegal by international law, since the most part is not built on the internationally-recognized line; the barrier running along the line was built to include larger Jewish settlements on the Israeli side. The issue of the Green Line /and to what extent Israel should withdraw its population and forces/ is a crucial point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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