Archive for the 'US-Middle East' Category

Feb 16 2014

Kerry Peace Plan Shakes up Jordanian-Palestinian Relations

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By Daoud Kuttab

The seriousness of the U.S.-initiated framework for a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem appears to have shaken dormant relations in the region, including in Jordan.

The Palestinian-Jordanian relationship, which is experiencing its highest degree of cooperation and mutual trust, is being put to the test.

The challenges facing this important relationship stem from identity issues that have plagued Jordan for decades but which have been pushed under the rug.

Jordanian politicians, pundits, journalists and even government officials are expressing different degrees of concern and worry regarding the aftermath of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plan, even though information about the plan is very sketchy.

The potential of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resurrected badly needed discussion about political reform, which was delayed until the resolution of the Palestinian cause.

The refugee issue is perhaps the most important part of this discussion. Two million registered refugees in Jordan are the biggest single group of Palestinian refugees in the world. Their case is even more complicated by the fact that they are also full Jordanian citizens, though not equitably represented in Parliament as a result of large-scale gerrymandering. Continue Reading »

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Jan 20 2014

Kerry responds forcefully to Israeli insults

Published by under Articles,US-Middle East

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

US senior officials, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, have for years been the subject of Israeli criticism and overtly nasty insults. For the most part, they have tried to absorb such attacks and continue to pursue a healthy, positive relationship with their most important ally — until now. Secretary Kerry has shown Israelis and the world that he is human and that he and his State Department are not going to take it any longer.

The most recent Israeli attacks coincided with Washington’s plans to provide a bridging plan to break out the fruitless Palestinian-Israeli direct talks. While suggesting such ideas is bound to create opposition on both sides, the Israelis responded with a nastiness the Americans said is unfitting of a trusted ally.

The hard-line Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, has been telling anyone willing to listen how he loathes Kerry and his plans. He went so far as to say the secretary’s efforts stemmed from an “incomprehensible obsession” and that his drive for peace was “messianic.” At one point, Ya’alon stated that the US security plan designed by Gen. John Allen is “not worthy of the paper it is written on” and that Americans do not know anything about security. In perhaps the most insulting of all such statements, Ya’alon is quoted as saying that he hopes the US secretary of state wins the Nobel Peace Prize and then “leave us alone.” Continue Reading »

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Aug 22 2013

Punishing Killers of Protesters should be applied to all

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By Daoud Kuttab

I believe it is a good idea for the US and other world countries to immediately stop aid to any country that shoots civilian demonstrators.

This principle should be applied without exception.

Double standards should not be tolerated when dealing with soldiers causing fatalities when confronting civilian demonstrators.

While this principle is being discussed in regard to the use of force by the Egyptian security forces, there has never been any discussion about using the same punishment against Israel, which has killed many unarmed Palestinian demonstrators.

UN resolutions allow for resistance, including armed resistance, to a foreign military occupation. Continue Reading »

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Aug 09 2013

Tweets reveal US double standards on Egypt and 1st Amendment

Published by under Articles,US-Middle East

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Following appeared in various publications.

One of the reasons for the success of social media’s Twitter platform is its ability to summarize a major issue in a few characters, while at the same time providing a link to give more details and credibility to the few words.

This week a political activist used some clever research to reveal the hypocrisy and double standards of a politician. Twitter user @bungdan juxtaposed two quotes of maverick US Senator John McCain regarding the situation in Egypt. In a tweet this week he quoted McCain as calling on the Egyptian army and the new powers-to-be to include members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the post-June 30 regime. At the same time, he dug up a quote given by McCain to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in which the Republican senator states that he is “unalterably opposed” to the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s transition.

It is not clear if McCain was speaking his mind then or now, and if his most recent statement is aimed at his party’s political opponent who is now in the White House.

This double standard is clearly not restricted to senators or to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. It can easily be seen in more basic American values enshrined so eloquently in the US constitution’s bill of rights. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2013

US Must Sell Peace Talks To Israeli, Palestinian Public

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Peace talks generally require a parallel strategy aimed at communicating and convincing a reluctant public of its importance, value and ultimate benefits to the warring parties. One might think that nine months of publicly stated “secret” talks would require little communication. But the contrary is the case.

The United States, which is the single and only direct patron and sponsor of the current peace talks, is pulling all the stops to make sure that the Palestinian and Israeli public “are well-informed” — even if all sides agree that the talks are to be private.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has told the world that both Palestinian and Israeli leaders have agreed that he is the only official who can make an authoritative comment or revelation about the peace talks.

Having added the role of peace communicator-in-chief to that of negotiator-in-chief, Washington now has the task of delivering information to the two publics. US officials called back from retirement one of their experienced hands in this area. Veteran communications diplomat Bill Cavness, who served as the information officer both in east Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was asked to fill in at a position vacated in Jerusalem in the summer, when a sudden breakthrough in talks caught everyone off guard. Continue Reading »

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Aug 04 2013

The Kerry Talks: Why the US Needs to Be in the Room

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Students of political negotiations might remember the long and difficult discussions in Paris about the shape of the negotiating table for the talks to end the Vietnam War. In the Palestinian-Israeli context, the discussion is not so much on the shape of the table as it is about the participants at the table.

One of the most abused and repeated claims made in Washington is that the Americans cannot want peace more than the parties in the Middle East. The reason why this statement is so false is that the Americans have had a long history of involvement in the Middle East conflict, almost exclusively on behalf of the Israelis. Whether they want to admit it or not, the United States has for decades sided privately with the Israelis while publicly claiming to be neutral. Serious investigation into the motivation for this bias always points to domestic politics as the major, but not exclusive reason for it.

Yet despite the Palestinians’ knowledge of the Americans’ true position, they have generally wanted the United States to be involved. In fact, they have demanded it. When the Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States — proved incapable of making headway against Israeli obstinacy, the Palestinians turned to Washington as the party that could, if it chose to, apply direct or indirect pressure on the Israelis. Continue Reading »

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Jul 29 2013

US Appeals Court Rejects ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ on Passport

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

The case before the US Court of Appeals in Washington involved whether an American couple could register their son as being born in “Jerusalem, Israel.” Challenging the US State Department in the suit were, in addition to the child’s parents, were a number of major prominent US Jewish organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League, Zionist Organization of America, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists and American Jewish Committee — and six members of the US Senate.

In question in Zivotofsky v. Secretary of State was the decades-old practice of registering “Jerusalem” as the country of birth of all Americans born in that city after 1948, whether Jewish or Arab. Specifically, the case questions why the US State Department has chosen to ignore Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, fiscal year 2003, if the citizen or his guardian so requests it. The three-judge appeals court panel noted in its July 23 unanimous decision, “The Secretary has not enforced the provision, believing that it impermissibly intrudes on the President’s exclusive authority under the United States Constitution to decide whether and on what terms to recognize foreign nations.” The court concluded, “We agree and therefore hold that section 214(d) is unconstitutional.”
Continue Reading »

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Jul 26 2013

US Court rejects to connect Jerusalem with Israel

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By Daoud Kuttab

The city of Jerusalem has many diplomatic missions that have the official title of consulate general. These include the US, most Western European and Scandinavian countries, as well as Turkey.

These diplomatic missions report directly to their capitals and they are not accountable officially to their counterparts from their country’s diplomatic missions in Israel and, more recently, in Ramallah.

This practice has been going on since the Ottoman/Turkish rule in Palestine and the region in the 19th century.

After the creation of Israel in 1948 these missions continued to operate mostly in East Jerusalem (some, like the Americans, owned property in West Jerusalem) and they have continued to work after the June 1967 occupation.

While these missions mostly served the Palestinian community politically, culturally and consular wise, the only difference after 1967 was that these missions widened their (mostly consular) services to all the population of Jerusalem. The US consulate in East Jerusalem continued to provide consular and cultural services while the building owned by the Americans in West Jerusalem’s Agron Street became the residence of the US consul-general and later housed caravans that provided space for USAID officials working in the Palestinian areas.

American citizens who lived in the Greater Jerusalem area as well as the rest of the West Bank (both Israelis and Palestinians) were restricted to the Nablus Road consulate in East Jerusalem for their consular affairs. Continue Reading »

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Jun 16 2013

US Needs to Link Peace Process, Syria

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

Contrary to what many believe, the possibility of US intervention in the Syrian crisis will undoubtedly increase US pressure on Israel to solve the Palestinian conflict.

The decision by the Barack Obama administration on June 13 to inform Congress of its assessment that chemical weapons have been used multiple times by the Syrian regime is the clearest indication yet that Washington will become more deeply involved in the conflict. In a situation so reminiscent of the US intervention in Iraq, American officials most certainly will be calculating the political costs of such a decision.

Obama’s belated decision to arm the rebels and encourage other parties to possibly share in creating a no-fly zone in Syria will be welcomed by the rebels and Sunni Arab leaders. A considerable portion of the Arab population, however, is likely to be angered by Americans once again intervening in the affairs of a sovereign Arab country. As with Iraq, the single most-repeated phrase will be “double standard.” Various Arab thinkers and commentators as well as demonstrators will ask this simple question: Why intervene in a civil war while refraining from taking a serious position in the 46-year-old military occupation by a US ally? Continue Reading »

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Jun 06 2013

Kerry Plan Focuses on Jordan Valley

AlMonitor

 

By Daoud Kuttab

The US efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations continue to face obstacles, but this has not stopped a continuous trickle of information and leaks about some of the major details of the proposed talks.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saed Erekat told the Voice of Palestine Thursday, May 30 that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plans have three parallel tracks. According to Erekat, the Kerry plan has a political track, a security track and an economic one. While the appointment of Gen. John Allenappears to shine some light on the security track and Kerry’s speech at the WEF conference hints the economic track, little information has come out in regard to the political track. Both Israelis and Palestinians seem stuck on the reference point of the peace talks. Palestinians want the talks to be based on the concept of a two-state solution, while Israel considers such a commitment before the talks to be a precondition it is not willing to accept.

So instead of banging his head against a brick wall, the top US diplomat is apparently looking for ways to go around the problem. One way to do that may be to encourage (codeword for pressure) the Israelis into loosening their grip on the occupied Palestinian territories. The practical translation of such talk often means that Israel must turn over to the Palestinian government lands that its security and administrative arms currently control, areas that are generally referred to — using the Oslo Accords terminology — as Area C. Continue Reading »

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