Tag Archives: 2012

Stratfor: Al Assad’s Last Stand

By Omar Lamrani

The battle for Damascus is raging with increasing intensity while rebels continue to make substantial advances in Syria’s north and east. Every new air base, city or town that falls to the rebels further underlines that Bashar al Assad’s writ over the country is shrinking. It is no longer possible to accurately depict al Assad as the ruler of Syria. At this point, he is merely the head of a large and powerful armed force, albeit one that still controls a significant portion of the country.

The nature of the conflict has changed significantly since it began nearly two years ago. The rebels initially operated with meager resources and equipment, but bolstered by defections, some outside support and their demographic advantage, they have managed to gain ground on what was previously a far superior enemy. Even the regime’s qualitative superiority in equipment is fast eroding as the rebels start to frequently utilize main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, rocket and tube artillery and even man-portable air-defense systems captured from the regime’s stockpiles.

Weary and stumbling, the regime is attempting to push back rebel forces in and near Damascus and to maintain a corridor to the Alawite coast while delaying rebel advances in the rest of the country. Al Assad and his allies will fight for every inch, fully aware that their power depends on the ability of the regime forces to hold ground.

The Battle for Damascus

It is important to remember that, despite considerable setbacks, al Assad’s forces still control a sizable portion of Syria and its population centers. After failing to take Damascus in Operation Damascus Volcano in July, the rebels are again stepping up their efforts and operations in the Damascus area. However, unlike in their previous failed operation, this time the rebels are relying on an intensive guerrilla campaign to exhaust and degrade al Assad’s substantial forces in Damascus and its countryside.

After the last surge in fighting around Damascus in July and August, the regime kept large numbers of troops in the area. These forces continued search and destroy operations near the capital despite the considerable pressure facing its forces in the rest of the country, including in Aleppo. Once the rebels began to make gains in the north and east, the regime was forced to dispatch some of its forces around Damascus to reinforce other fronts. Unfortunately for the regime, its operations in the capital area had not significantly degraded local rebel forces. Rebels in the area began intensifying their operations once more, forcing the regime to recall many of its units to Damascus.

Aware of the magnitude of the threat, the regime has reportedly shifted its strategy in the battle for Damascus to isolating the city proper from the numerous suburbs. The rebels have made considerable headway in the Damascus suburbs. For example, on Nov. 25 rebels overran the Marj al-Sultan military air base in eastern Ghouta, east of the capital. Rebel operations in the outskirts of Damascus have also interrupted the flow of goods to and from the city, causing the prices of basic staples such as bread to skyrocket.

Rebel Gains in the East and North

Damascus is not the only area where the regime is finding itself under considerable pressure. The rebels have made some major advances in the last month in the energy-rich Deir el-Zour governorate to the east. Having seized a number of towns, airfields and military bases, the rebels have also taken the majority of the oil fields in the governorate. They captured the Al-Ward oil field Nov. 4, the Conoco natural gas reserve Nov. 27 and, after al Assad’s forces withdrew from it on Nov. 29, the Omar oil field north of the town of Mayadeen. Al Assad’s forces now control only five oil fields, all located west of the city of Deir el-Zour. With the battle for the city and its associated airfield intensifying, even those remaining fields are at risk of falling into rebel hands.

The rebel successes in Deir el-Zour have effectively cut the regime’s ground lines of communication and supply to Iraq. They have also starved the regime of the vast majority of its oil revenue and affected its ability to fuel its war machine. At the same time, the rebels are reportedly already seeking to capitalize on their seizure of the eastern oil fields. According to reports, the rebels are smuggling oil to Turkey and Iraq and using the revenue to purchase arms. They are also reportedly using the oil and natural gas locally for power generators and fuel.

While all of eastern Syria may soon fall into rebel hands, rebels in the north have continued to isolate al Assad forces in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, particularly in the capital cities of those two provinces. After overrunning the 46th regiment near Atarib on Nov. 19 following a two-month siege, the rebels are now looking to further squeeze remaining regime forces in Aleppo by taking the Sheikh Suleiman base north of the 46th regiment’s former base.

The Rebels’ Improved Air Defense Capability

Isolated and surrounded, regime forces in the north are increasingly relying on air support for both defense and supply. However, this advantage is deteriorating every day and is increasingly threatened by the rebels’ improved air defense arsenal and tactics.

The rebels first attempted to acquire air defense weaponry by seizing heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery. They captured a number of air defense bases, taking 12.7 mm DShK heavy machine guns, 14.5 mm KPV heavy machine guns and even 23 mm ZU-23-2 autocannons. Over time, the rebels became more proficient with these weapons, and an increasing number of Syrian air force fixed-wing and rotary aircraft were shot down. The rebels also formed hunter-killer groups with air defense equipment mounted on flatbed trucks that provided them mobile platforms for targeting regime air and infantry units.

As more and more regime bases were taken, the rebels were able to bolster their air defense equipment through the capture of a number of man-portable air-defense systems. At the outset of the conflict, the Syrian military maintained a large inventory of shoulder-fired air-defense missiles, likely thousands of missiles ranging from early generation SA-7s to very advanced SA-24s. These missiles were stored in army bases across the country. There are also unconfirmed reports that Qatar and Saudi Arabia may have transferred some man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels through Turkey.

The rebels tallied their first confirmed kill with shoulder-fired air-defense missiles Nov. 27, when they shot down a Syrian Arab Air Force Mi-8/17 helicopter near Aleppo city. The weapon system used in the attack was likely an SA-7, SA-16 or SA-24 captured from the 46th regiment. The surface-to-air missiles are a serious upgrade in the rebels’ air defense capability.

The Fight Continues

Having isolated al Assad’s forces in the north and made substantial advances in the east, the rebels are poised to push farther into the Orontes River Valley to relieve the beleaguered rebel units in the Rastan, Homs and al-Qusayr areas of Homs governorate. For months, regime forces have sought to overwhelm the remaining rebel forces in Homs city, but the rebels have managed to hold out. The rebels are also set to begin pushing south along the main M5 thoroughfare to Khan Sheikhoun and the approaches to Hama. However, first they need to overwhelm the remaining regime forces in Wadi al-Dhaif near Maarrat al-Numan.

Alternatively, the regime is fighting hard to maintain its control over the Orontes River Valley around Homs in order to keep an open corridor linking Damascus to the mostly Alawite coast. Not only is this corridor at risk of eventually being cut off, but the regime is also facing a substantial push by rebel forces into northeastern Latakia governorate from Idlib. Rebels have advanced in the vicinity of the Turkman Mountain, have taken control of Bdama and are now fighting their way down in the direction of Latakia city.

While events in Damascus and Rif Damascus are increasingly worrisome for the regime, al Assad’s forces in the rest of Syria are also under considerable pressure from rebel advances. It is by no means certain that al Assad’s forces are under imminent threat of collapse because they still hold a great deal of territory and no major city has yet been completely taken by the rebels. The retreat and consolidation of al Assad’s forces also allows them to maintain shorter and less vulnerable lines of supply. However, it is clear that the regime is very much on the defensive and has been forced to gradually contract its lines toward a core that now encompasses Damascus, the Orontes River Valley and the mostly Alawite coast. With the regime’s situation rapidly deteriorating, even the attempt to stage a gradual withdrawal to the core is risky.
 
Al Assad’s Last Stand is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

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Midwifing Peace in Sudan

By Lee A. McKenna
Reprinted from Peace Magazine (www.peacemagazine.org),
Vol.28, No.4, Oct-Dec 2012
 
 
Weeks of rolling, youth-led demonstrations on the streets of Khartoum are said by some to be the Sudanese echo of the Arab Spring or Occupy. Or it could be Otpor, the non-violent movement that overthrew Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. It is also, more importantly, an echo of its own remarkable and largely forgotten past of nonviolent insurrection.

It is just past noon, the 29th of June; the moist southwesterlies occasionally provide some respite from the heat, but not today. Keeping to a plan designed not to provoke large contingents of military forces with smaller, localized protests in many neighborhoods of the capital, a group of fewer than 200 students is shouting in the cadences familiar to those attuned to street protest. Signs and banners disperse any doubt about their demands:

“We are fed up!” “No more!”

“We are here; we are not going away!”

“An end to violence! An end to brutal price rises!”

“An end to militarization! An end to dictatorship!”

Though the spark for the protests was provided by the government’s imposition of austerity measures, including the elimination of fuel subsidies and increases in taxes and the price of staple items, the message of the protestors has been distilled to a single demand: the end to the régime of Omar al-Bashir. A group of students has gathered in Hijra Square, not far from the headquarters of the opposition National Umma Party. The day before, protestors were dispersed with rubber bullets and tear gas; stragglers were beaten, scores were arrested, bringing the total of those arrested over the 2,000 mark. Family members of the detainees have joined the protesters on the street, preparing for a weekend escalation that will mark the 23rd anniversary of Bashir’s rise to power through a military coup.

Among those arrested are Widad Derwish and Rudwan Daoud, founders of the youth movement known as “Girifna” (meaning “Enough! We are fed up!”) as well as a number of those trained in non-violence and third-party nonviolent intervention. Widad and the others are part of an eight-year-long project co-sponsored by the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and a local Sudanese NGO.

The square is a vacant expanse of red sand, the students on one side and heavily armed riot police on the other. The police are ranged behind several cement-filled pylons, mostly unmoving, watching. The students are talking, restless, but calm. The banners still wave, while the pickets have been stuck into the hard soil forming a phalanx of silent opposition.

A song begins somewhere in the middle of the throng, picked up quickly by the others. Its words are an Arabic African echo of something like, “We shall overcome…” Among the lyrics are words about water, a precious commodity of profound symbolic value in the lands dominated by the Sahara: Life, well-being, wealth, hospitality.

Four students, three men and one woman, then begin to slowly roll one of the large, ubiquitous public water jugs that punctuate the streets of desert towns. They roll it across the square toward the row of cement pylons. The riot police, whose position in the square has put them out of reach, shuffle their feet, shift their guns, wary. Within a few metres of the pylons, the students come to a halt, setting the jug in place. Reaching into it, they pull out a couple of gourd cups, serving one another refreshing draughts. They then bow to the uniformed police, gesturing towards the jug, inviting them to assuage their thirst. The woman’s brilliant yellow hijab is caught in the early afternoon breeze as the four return to join the students, who have gone silent.

MIDWIFING NONVIOLENCE

My role in war zones is to train people in nonviolent direct action, conflict transformation and the tricky work of third-party nonviolent intervention—and sometimes to do it, alongside them. The methods are popular, experiential, elicitive. We are training for disobedience, weaponless waging of peace. And, in the playing out of it, I am rarely, if ever, among those who pay a price.

Over the course of a month, participants come to a deep knowledge of the other, dismantling multiple falsely promoted “causes” of their daily violence, in particular, religion and tribe. The economic roots of violence are brought to the surface as participants come to recognize themselves as both part of a global story of economic domination and subjugation, and as agents of change.

A safe space is created for them to interrogate the landscape of a warrior culture and a violence-stained history, to celebrate historical out-breakings of nonviolent resistance, leaving unexamined no aspect of civics, history, gender, culture, religion, politics or economics, asking: What drives violence? What makes for peace? At what point and by what means do I resist, withdraw my consent, or break the rules?

We spend a lot of time talking about Paulo Freire, a Brazilian priest whose work fundamentally altered notions of education and power. He noticed, in his work with poor people, their reluctance to learn, to probe, to ask questions. He diagnosed oppression as the heart of this reluctance and began to map out the mechanisms of oppressive power that creates a population acquiescent in its own oppression. He began to map out the contours of oppression: What forms does it take? By what mechanisms does it function? Poverty, illiteracy, repression, terror, discrimination, violence, cultural rules.

Freire then looked for those means and methods of normalization that convert the oppressive into the normal: those ways by which we become inured to instruments of our own oppression—walls that we no longer see, rules that we no longer challenge, ideals that we have come to regard as reserved for others, violences so pervasive, sounds so constant, scars upon scars—they blend into the landscape of domination, made invisible, no worse than bad wallpaper, making no cry, no challenge from the bought and sold; only resignation, compliance. Too much work is required to re-imagine ourselves as maîtres chez nous —when “facts on the ground,” “new normals” obliterate the past, suppress dissent, and kill the vision of the possible.

Over the weeks together, having worked through Freire’s cyclical stages into “problematization” and “conscientization” to the “breakout” that is “action for change”—we begin to walk out our fears. Men walk out their fear of loss and chaos as they prepare to go home to put into practice their experientially changed understanding of women: What will people think? Women walk out their fear of taking their place in the commons: What will be the price? Nuer and Murle, Acholi and Dinka, Misseriya and Rizeigat walk out their fear of dissenting from history’s mandate for revenge. Today, we will take our fear for a walk in the streets of Ombdurman.

TAKING OUR FEAR FOR A WALK

We are working through the design of an action meant to protest police brutality and an impenetrable wall of impunity. Over our days together, we have listened to one another’s stories: Abdul a Abdulrahman’s imprisonment and torture, Fathiya’s exile, Abdul’s son’s killing, Rhaman Adam a Adam Ishaq’s wife’s rape and murder by the Janjawiid. We have come up with what we want to say and how we want to say it. The closer we get to our imagined destination, the quieter the room becomes. People are gathered in little knots painting slogans on cardboard nailed to roof slats. A group of women are concentrating their efforts on a banner, modest in size, not so modest in sentiment. If this were Latin America, it would say, ¡Basta ya! But it’s Arabic, flowing like streams of water across the white canvas: قبالة!كفاية We’ve had enough!

Gradually, the signs and banner are completed and we begin to choreograph the march; we practise some refrains and mantras. Though the route past the police station is short and the fragile safety of the compound not far, it will be provocative, to say the least.

Beneath all of the activity, there is an unspoken question: Are we actually going to do this? Or is this just another role play? The pulse of fear in the room thrums, yet it is contained within a web of trust and mutual confidence; the participation of the Sudanese translator/ co-trainers in the preparations sends powerful signals to both trainers and trainees. We have spent many days together, imagining and then practicing risky things; the distance and difference that marked them on their arrival is more opaque now as they move as one, working out what they want to say, how they want to say it, in what colors on what materials. The rules that divide women from men, Christians from Muslims, Southerners from Northerners, the narratives of strangers, have dissolved into that of friends and companions in a common cause.

The marchers begin to form in rows of three, moving out into the red, sandy grounds of the compound. As they approach the gate to the street, the trainers relieve them of their banners and signs, some emitting audible groans of relief. The twenty women and men, Christians and Muslims, mostly young, walk through the gate and out into the busy thoroughfare. People turn and stare as they walk, carrying high their unseen signs of protest, stretching out a virtual banner of dissent, walking to the rhythm of provocative, if unspoken, chants. The careful ranks of threes slip and adjust to the market-day crowds, weaving their way along the planned route.

On the approach to the police detachment, there is a stiffening in limbs and faces as their courage falters ever so slightly. But the march continues; they turn to acknowledge the police, whose attention is caught by the suspicious-looking parade. Some in uniforms of blue, some khaki, some lolling in the mid-day heat, they shift their machine guns like peacocks with their feathers. The marchers, signs and banner pass, their wordless chorus parting the market-day throngs.

As the marchers return to the compound, some stumble to the safety of the ground; some gather in pairs and groups to embrace, heads on shoulders. The coils of fear on their faces ebb, replaced by exhilaration.

“I didn“t know I could do that!” says one.

“I thought I was going to throw up!” says another.

“It was like living a nightmare—and surviving!”

“We did it!”

The group gathers to talk, all at once, the translators struggling to keep up—about how they are feeling, retracing their steps in their walk of fear, how the fear shifted and changed and moved within them as they walked; its eventual defeat.

“So what does it mean? So what?”

“I took my fear for a walk—and I lived! It changes everything. I will never forget this. It will be with me, this story, right here”—gesturing with her fist under her breast—“something to hold onto as I do this for real.”

It’s the sixth of July. Tensions are high with the announcement two days ago that the mainstream opposition parties, led by the Umma, have joined ranks in a nonviolent campaign to overthrow the Bashir government. In recent months, since uprisings in neighboring Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, the President and his inner circle have repeatedly bragged that the movement will not touch Sudan: Régime-change here is as likely as people suddenly being able to lick their elbows. Impossible! The students have cheekily turned the president’s boast into a nonviolent piece of street theatre: “Yes we can! Just watch us!” What does elbow-licking look like? This is what elbow-licking looks like!

MORE THAN 27,000 PEOPLE FROM ALMOST 70 TRIBES HAVE BEEN TRAINED

But there is a price to pay. Many have been arrested following severe batterings by security forces, the women sent to the women’s prison in Ombdurman, with the men dispersed, some of them to “ghost houses,” prisons known for torture and disappearance located in unmarked buildings inaccessible to families in search of loved ones. Among them are Widad and Rudwan, and a dozen other “graduates,” part of an exponential growth in trained-trainers training more trainers. More than 27,000 people in almost 70 tribes having been drawn into this school of peace-making and dissent from the way things are. They are at the forefront of nonviolent change, offering hope for a country at war with itself for much of the last 60 years.

And what do we have to say about all of this? What is the response of the community of nations? Will Sudan take its place on the list of countries slated for régime change from without, to become yet one more vortex of violence, armed rebel factions, civilian bloodshed and political mayhem? Or will we find ways to honor and strengthen the spirit of nonviolence that animates those in the street who are risking their lives for a new Sudan?

POSTSCRIPT

At the time of writing, most of the young people have now been released; some have fled the country—with plans to return. People from around the world have responded, writing letters, mounting their own protests in solidarity, calling on the international community to implement sanctions that target repressive leadership and élites, circumscribing their movements and their capacity to fund repression, that contain, isolate and divest, while mitigating the impact on civilians. Violence only begets more violence; violent solutions are the resort of those without imagination and of those intent on replacing one yoke for another.

Though we like to think we care about everyone equally, that seems to be impossible. I have been drawn into the narrative of the last two months because I know so many of those on the streets, in prison or in exile. I trained them, urged them into trouble-making. Mixed emotions have driven my own activism from afar: a lot of pride, moments of regret. And then I get a note on Facebook, the message defying the medium: “Lee, I don’t want to be raped; I don’t want to be imprisoned, I don’t want to be tortured. I am not ready to die. Please help me.”

I write back: “I am doing everything I can from here—but I feel so powerless!” Ping! The response comes: “You have already done so much. You have given us the tools of nonviolence.”

Yes; that is so. But it is they who have responded, disproportionately, contrary to all the laws of probability, nurturing a pregnancy of hope into birth.

Lee McKenna is a nonviolence trainer based in Toronto.

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APoJi 2012 – Special Notice

(UPDATE: December 12, 2013 Obviously, many more changes have taken place over the course of this past year. The link given in the letter below shows the state of the document as posted on February 4, 2013, after which the primary document location was shifted to its own page. The latest edit can be found here: apoji.org — Ed.
 
 
(UPDATE: January 29, 2013 A number of revisions to the document have taken place since the start of the year and are expected to continue sporadically for the next month or two. Last minute ideas? Better late than never. — Ed.)
 
 
Dear Reader,

We will soon suspend editing of the document A Peace of Jerusalem, possibly for the last time, so it seems fitting to restate the objectives declared for this initiative more than three years ago…

In late 2009, we set out on a simple mission:

1) to collect Mideast Peace ideas from anyone willing to offer them;
2) to integrate these notions into a contradiction-free proposal; and
3) to limit the evolving document to no more than 2,000 words.

We had (and still have) no illusions about our prospects for defining a perfect peace; reality and perfection suffer each other none too well — except perhaps in art and existentialism. Our broader aim was (and still is) to foster constructive dialogue about peace in the Middle East, and to create a modest document that would, in theory, become a little ‘less imperfect’ with each iteration.

On behalf of myself, the other Editors, and the Composing Group, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this collaborative venture. To those who kicked in a few bucks to defray mailing, hosting and advertising expenses, much appreciation is due. And to those hundreds of souls who came bearing nothing but dreams, a very special thank you for sharing them with us.

If you’re reading this after December 21, 2012, you can explore the final document at https://imahd.ca/2009/11/05/a-peace-of-jerusalem/, where it has resided in various forms since its first posting on November 5, 2009.

For a shorter URL, try APoJi.org.

May peace be upon us all.

Sincerely,

Editor S.

A Peace of Jerusalem initiative (APoJi)
http://apoji.org   email: periji@apoji.ca

 

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A Peace of Jerusalem

NB: This document version is frozen as it appeared on Feb. 4, 2013.
The live, evolving version of the document can be found @ apoji.org

 

An innovative proposal for long-term Semitic harmony in the Middle East based on ideas from hundreds of ordinary people — 2,000 words (or less!)


 

Initiated: October 27, 2009

 
  First iteration: November 5, 2009
  2010 core text agreed: August 7, 2010
  2010 print edition: December 13, 2010
  2011 edits: February 11 — May 12, 2011
  2012 edits finalised: December 22, 2012
 

Updated: January 31, 2013 — 10:05 JT

 


 
Participation is open to all. Your creative ideas are the lifeblood of this initiative and all constructive criticisms are welcome. The privacy default is ‘anonymous’ but participants are free to self-identify.

Confidential submissions can be made using this form. Public comments are subject to reasonable moderation. This document may change incrementally over time and without notice. How would you improve it?

Be creative but concise, fearless but polite… 

 

 

  

a peace of jerusalem

 

Preamble    


THERE
S A celebrated tale that provides insight into the wisdom of Solomon (Shlomo/Suleiman), son of David (Dovid/Dawoud), King of ancient Israel, and builder of the Temple of Jerusalem:

A newborn was brought before the King in his judgment of a case between two women, each of whom claimed to be the mother of the infant. 

Though a judge of the rarest quality—and despite having conducted a series of tests—Solomon could not determine who was telling the truth. Seeming to be stumped, he called for his swordsman to evenly divide the baby between the women, whereupon one of them tearfully begged the King to spare the child’s life and award it to the other.

By this mercy he discerned the identity of the true mother.

Despite its great antiquity, Jerusalem is easily imagined in the role of the child. The world stands divided over it, some battling for sole custody, some pleading for a split, and all appearing eager to receive their due. However, according to Solomon’s judgment, and as reflected in modern-day family case law, any such critical decisions must clearly favour the interests of the child.

Imagination, pragmatism, love and divine inspiration will surely be central to the creation of any successful plan for enduring peace, but who would have the authority (and the right) to judge the merits of such a case? In the absence of Solomon and his legendary wisdom, it would have to be ‘the people’.

Each individual is a well of possibility and a reservoir of sacred sovereignty. United in common purpose, even the impossible seems somehow less so.

 
    Respectfully,

    – the editors
 
 


 

 
 
Index

I.
   Land of the Covenant
II.
   States in the Balance
III.
   Mutually-Independent Rights of Return
IV.
   Representation and Taxation
V.
   Basic Services, Education & Health Care
VI.
   National Borders
VII.
   Rights of Passage
VIII.
   The Jerusalem Capital Region
IX.
   The Old City
X.
   Security, Order & Defence

 
 
 
 


Word count: 1,867 (2K max.)

 

 

I. Land of the Covenant
 
Let us imagine: two states, conjoined in peace; and two peoples, bound by blood and by a shared love for Jerusalem (Yerushalayim/Ursalim), the place so deeply revered by their common patriarch Abraham (Avraham/Ibrahim).

It was in Jerusalem, upon the Mount (Har haBayith/Haram Ash-Sharif), that the angel stayed Abraham’s hand, as G‑d dramatically (and forever) repudiated ritual human sacrifice — a torturous test of a man’s utter devotion to G‑d and a stirring, implied decree to guard against the senseless forfeiture of life.

The foundations of the Arab and Jewish peoples were both laid in Jerusalem, where Abraham circumcised his son Ishmael (Yishmael/Ismail) and his son Isaac (Yitzhak/Ishaq).

Isaac’s son Jacob (Ya’acov/Yacoub), also known as Israel, would father twelve tribes (B’nai Yisrael/Bani Israil) and become namesake to the modern Jewish state. The destiny of Ishmael (though a Jew by patrimony and rite) would carry him South, to sire the twelve tribes of Arabia.

 

II. States in the Balance
 
To mitigate problems arising from inevitable demographic shifts over time, a special permanent resident class (endowed with rights of residency that are irrevocable but renounceable and non-inheritable) should be established in Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) and in the new Arab state, such that:

  • an Arab citizen of Israel could:
       retain Israeli citizenship; or
       claim citizenship in the Arab state, while retaining…
           – special permanent residency rights in Israel; and
           – a future one-time right to reclaim individual Israeli citizenship
     
  • an Israeli citizen currently residing in the West Bank could:
       retain Israeli citizenship and become a
         special permanent resident of the Arab state; or
       claim citizenship in the Arab state, while retaining…
           – a future one-time right to reclaim individual Israeli citizenship
               with special permanent residency rights in the Arab state

This arrangement should limit the need for physical population exchanges upon execution of a final agreement while allowing Israel to democratically maintain its character as a uniquely Jewish state that guarantees political participation for its citizens and permanent residents — and freedom of worship for all.

The new Arab state, herein provisionally referred to as Dawlat Ismail (State of Ishmael) or simply as Ismail, would enshrine similar guarantees of religious and secular freedom in its founding charter.

A child born in Israel or Ismail to a special permanent resident of that state would inherit citizenship from his/her parent(s) and, upon attaining age of majority, might opt to become a citizen of the state in which s/he was born.

Each state would pledge to make every reasonable effort to accommodate the safe passage of pilgrims, tourists and other visitors between the two states.

Each state would vow to serve and protect the personal and collective interests of the people under its jurisdiction, regardless of religion, race, gender, political affiliation or citizenship.

Each state would aver to protect and to preserve, without prejudice, all the Holy Places under its mandate.

 

III. Mutually-Independent Rights of Return
 
Each state would be free to set its own policy for the return of its people from the diaspora, with all future “returnees” (Hebrew: olim; Arabic: waa’ilin) becoming resident citizens of whichever state repatriates them.

A “returned citizen” of either nation, once established in his/her new homeland for two years, could petition for residency in the other state, with the approval of both governments, and with priority being given to requests from waa’ilin who resided in present-day Israeli territory prior to 1948. Urgent humanitarian cases would be considered on an expedited basis.

A regime for the compensation of displaced persons should be agreed by all regional states under a comprehensive treaty on refugees and human rights.

 

IV. Representation and Taxation
 
Citizens would vote in the national elections of their respective homelands but would vote in municipal and district/governate elections based on residency.

Revenues from income taxes paid by individuals who are citizens of one state, but who are special permanent residents of the other, would be divided equally between the two states. Tax would be calculated using the methods established by the state in which the income is earned.

Given the disparity between average incomes in Israel and those in the West Bank and Gaza, this revenue splitting arrangement should provide significant economic stimulus for Dawlat Ismail and help to fund the settlement of those making the Arab “ruqia” (Hebrew: aliyah; English: ascent). 

Property tax would be paid to the state, district/governate or municipality in which the property is located.

Sales tax, if applicable, would be paid to the state in which a purchase is made.

 

V. Basic Services, Education & Health Care
 
The enhanced tax base of Dawlat Ismail, along with an expected surge in foreign investment and donations, should contribute substantially to the development of critical infrastructure for the diffusion of services across Ismail’s numerous, fast-growing communities.

State-funded education programs (on either side of a future border) would be required to openly publish their curricula in order to encourage fairness and accuracy of content.

National health insurance premiums, if applicable, would be paid based upon residency, but a citizen of either state would always be free to seek treatment in his/her national homeland.

 

VI. National Borders
 
The division of territory between the West Bank and Israel is seen as generally agreeing with the path of the “Green Line”, with any deviations and associated land-swaps to be negotiated by the parties to a final-status agreement.

The Israel-Gaza border is well-defined, having effectively gained international recognition via the 1949 Egypt-Israel Armistice Agreement, but this proposal suggests a modest expansion of Gaza by gifts of territory from Israel and Egypt, as a gesture of goodwill, and to contribute to the security of these nations by distancing Gaza’s extensive tunnel network from its newly-enlarged borders.

 

VII. Rights of Passage
 
Israel would apportion lands for the creation of road and light rail corridors (above- and/or below-ground) to facilitate travel, commerce and social links between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Security at both ends of each pathway would be jointly managed by Ismail and Israel, with security of the intervening distance (in-corridor) being managed by Ismail and remotely monitored by Israel. The efficacy of this regime should be reviewed periodically to improve system effectiveness and eventually obviate the need for Israeli inspection of rail & motor passengers at the termini.

Commercial goods passing through such conduits would be subject to on-going inspection by customs officials of both states.

Recognising the importance of these corridors to Ismail’s culture and economy, Israel would undertake to minimise delays or closures associated with imminent security threats, health or weather emergencies, natural disasters, etc.

Sovereignty over all such apportioned lands would remain with Israel.

A suitable air traffic regime should be agreed between the parties.

 

VIII. The Jerusalem Capital Region
 
Jerusalem is the national capital of the modern state of Israel and remains, as ever, the singular direction of prayer (mizrach/qibla) for all Jews worldwide.

Jerusalem and its many surrounding communities (on either side of an agreed border) would constitute the Jerusalem Capital Region and share in a common infrastructure network for meeting such basic needs as water, power and waste management.

This network would be directed by a proposed Jerusalem Stewardship Board dedicated to ensuring the highest quality of life for all Capital Region residents. The Board, half elected by the residents of the Capital Region, half appointed by the governments of Israel and Ismail, would shepherd the implementation of appropriate planning, building and environmental codes.

Ismail’s capital would be established in an eastward expansion of Jerusalem contiguous to the Old City along some measure of its easterly perimeter. The exact determination of this contiguity (as well as the basic configuration of the Capital Region) would be decided between the negotiating parties, taking into account matters of culture and faith, geography and demographics, as well as concerns related to the land and its waters, and to the preservation of peace upon them.

There would be a city council and mayoralty office for each side of the border.

The official work week in the Capital Region would be four days, Monday through Thursday, with all government offices closed Friday through Sunday.

 

IX. The Old City (less than 1 km² of land)
 
Rising above Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, the Old City, with its hallowed steps and ancient quarters, serves as sacred platform to the stony font from which the spirit of Jerusalem flows.

As it can be considered neither “east” nor “west” of itself, Jerusalem’s Old City would constitute a separate legal entity managed by a Regency Council with an identical number of members appointed by Israel, Ismail, the Chief Rabbinate, the Islamic Waqf, and the Vatican.

Council activities would be officiated by a Civil Sheriff elected to a five-year term by the residents of the Capital Region from a slate of candidates pre-approved by four of the Council’s five primary seats, with unanimity preferred.

Passage of routine measures in Council would require five primary-level votes, whether obtained by consensus of the five primary Council members or by support of four seats with the assent of the Sheriff.

Critical issues, such as those relating to the status quo of the Old City, would require unanimous support in Council and confirmation by twin, national referenda in Medinat Yisrael and Dawlat Ismail.

Religious and cultural groups could petition the offices of any of the primary members to represent their interests at Council. Those with current standing in the Old City (houses of worship, shrines, cemeteries and other properties) could petition the Council directly on a case-by-case basis.

Mundane civil disputes and crimes committed in the Old City (G‑d forbid) would devolve to a special Magistrate’s court operating independently of either state’s judiciary but affiliated to both. Appointments to the court would be made by Council with the assent of each state’s Chief Justice.

Basic services to the Old City should be freely provided by the Capital Region infrastructure network.

 

X. Security, Order & Defence
 
Responsibility for security in West Bank Areas “B” & “C” would be transferred to Dawlat Ismail on a flexible timetable based upon clear goals decided between the parties. Responsibility for security in Gaza would pass to Ismail within 90 days. (The Palestinian Authority, whose mandate will be subsumed by the new state, presently commands security in Area “A”.)

A permanent Canadian peacekeeping force, reporting to the Sheriff and engaging cooperatively with the security services of both states, would provide general security within the Old City; render personal protection for the Regency Council; guide Ismail in its development of a robust, responsible and accountable police force; ensure reasonable freedom of access to designated Holy Places; and help to maintain order in the Capital Region.

Protection of Ismail against foreign attack would be undertaken by Israel acting in concert with Ismail’s security services and the peacekeeping team. Ismail’s defence would be bolstered by Jordan in the East and by Egypt in the West.

The security of Israel would be tremendously enhanced by a peace treaty with the League of Arab States and by Israel’s formal diplomatic recognition by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

 

.

 

There’s a sort of existential futility–and no small irony–inherent in
man’s claiming of land, for in the end, it’s the land that claims us all.
 
This may nowhere be so true as it is in Jerusalem.
 

.
 
 
.
 

It is our fondest hope that the boundaries which separate us
will
be overgrown in time with vines bearing fruit enriched
by the bloom
of tolerance; that we might all derive sustenance
from such bounty; and that, years from now, it will be difficult
to remember
why it seemed so incredibly hard to find peace
 
.
 
 

.


May this work be found pleasing

in the eyes of G‑d, Blessed be He,

to Whom all glory is due
 
.
 
.


 


XI. Suggest an edit (confidential)


 

 

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