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This week's editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Nasser's complex legacy

Many aficionados of Arab cinema recall a famous scene in Nasser 56, the film made to commemorate the Suez war of 1956. An old Egyptian woman from Upper Egypt, the region from which Gamal Abdel Nasser hails, gets a chance to talk to Nasser in private. She hands him a wretched, flimsy pair of trousers which used to belong to her grandfather. She tells Nasser that the man was, like millions of Egyptian youths, taken from his village to al-sokhra (slavery) to join the brigades digging the Suez canal. And like many of those millions, he never returned; he died young, far away from his family and his home.

Kosovo: the hour of Europe

In 1991, as Yugoslavia was on the point of imploding, the Luxembourg foreign minister Jacques Poos spoke for many prominent Europeans when he proclaimed that "the hour of Europe has struck". The implication was clear - the then twelve-member European Community had a moral responsibility to intervene so as to prevent an escalation of conflict.

John O' Brennan is a lecturer in European politics and society at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM). Among his books are The Eastern Enlargement of the European Union (Routledge, 2006) and (forthcoming) The EU and the Western Balkans: Stabilization and Democratization through Enlargement (Routledge, 2008)Tragically, no substantive EU political engagement was attempted and Yugoslavia descended into an abyss of fratricidal ethnic cleansing which cost upwards of 250,000 lives. Today, as the government of Hashim Thaci formed after the November 2007 elections in Kosovo prepares to declare independence from Serbia, the future of the western Balkans looms as the most serious geopolitical issue facing the enlarged EU of twenty-seven member-states. How should the EU respond?

Deaths in Iraq: the numbers game, revisited

A third assessment of post-invasion violent deaths in Iraq was published on 9 January 2008 by the New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious platform for medical research and scientific debates edited in Boston, Massachusetts. The lead article in the journal - "Violence-Related Mortality in Iraq from 2002 to 2006" - reports the results of an inquiry by the Iraq Family Health Survey Study Group (IFHS), involving collaboration between national and regional ministers in Iraq and the World Health Organisation (WHO). It finds that 151,000 (between 104,000 and 220,000) people died from violence in Iraq between March 2003 and June 2006. When such a politically sensitive figure is published, it is critical to turn statistics into words and explain what the new evidence tells, what it does not, and how far it confirms or invalidates the previous ones.

Pakistan: a post-election scenario

The week of violence and rioting in Pakistan followed Benazir Bhutto's assassination on 27 December 2007 in Rawalpindi saw fifty-eight people killed. The turmoil has continued, with a suicide-bomb attack at a police checkpoint in Lahore on 10 January 2008 taking the lives of twenty-four more. Yet in politics, it has also been a period of relative calm. One reason has been the approach of Muharram, the month of mourning for when the martyrdom of Hussein, the Prophet Muhammed's grandson, is marked. The first ten days of the month are observed in especially emotional ways by Shi'a, with reitals of the siege and the final battle, culminating on the tenth day when Hussein and most of his family were killed.

Mikheil Saakashvili’s bitter victory

The international community may have given its (albeit qualified) seal of approval to Mikheil Saakashvili's contested victory in Georgia's presidential elections on 5 January 2008, but Georgia itself is bitterly divided over the outcome. The official figures conclude that Saakashvili, the incumbent, received 53.38% of the vote against 25.66% for the main opposition candidate, Levan Gachechiladze. But the opposition has refused to accept the validity of this result; Gachechiladze says he has been robbed of the second-round play-off that would have ensued on 19 January if Saakashvili had fallen below the 50% mark. The emotional temperature in the capital, Tbilisi - where Gachechiladze beat the president into second place - is particularly high.

Deaths in Iraq: how many, and why it matters

Two scientifically audited numbers today constitute the best available and most cited evidence quantifying Iraqi civilian deaths directly associated with the war in that country which began in March 2003. Each is generated by a credible and independent source, though their conclusions vary widely: one gives a running total of 48,783 (as of 18 October 2006), the other gives 654,965 for the period March 2003 to July 2006.

At this stage in the Iraq war, these different orders of magnitude for civilian casualties are too often relayed by a number-loving (and sensation-hungry) media in ways that both reflect and serve the preordained views of those in favour of or against the war. A statistical language about Iraqi casualties that is able to bring numbers and words, tallies and stories, into a coherent relationship requires understanding of what "48,783" and "654,965" are really measuring, how they were respectively computed, and what they reveal.

Pakistan: dynasty vs democracy

"Nobody can go until their time is up", said Benazir Bhutto to an Indian television channel in the traumatic aftermath of the first attempt on her life on 18 October 2007. It's a truism that is found in other cultures, but as an Islamic dictum it seems to gain conviction on repetition. Since the leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) was assassinated in Rawalpindi on 27 December, the Pakistani and regional media have broadcast clips of that pronouncement (and the many variations she uttered around the time) again and again.

The Balkans-Caucasus tangle: states and citizens

The many victims of the war on terror have included multilateralism. So damaging are the effects that 2008 could see an unravelling even of the achievements of the multilateral approach of the 1990s in the Balkans, the Caucasus and elsewhere. To avert this fate, in a period when the United States will increasingly be consumed by the presidential election race, the European Union in particular will be challenged to adopt a clearer and sharper sense of responsibility in potential conflict-zones.

Mary Kaldor is professor of global governance at the London School of Economics (LSE), and convenor of the human-security study group that reports to the European Union's foreign-policy chief Javier Solana

Among Mary Kaldor's many articles in openDemocracy:

"Iraq: a war like no other" (27 March 2003)

"Iraq: the democratic option" (13 November 2003)

"Safe democracy" (23 December 2004)

"Parallel politics in Iraq" (22 March 2005) - with Yahia Said

"Iraq: the wrong war" (8 June 2005)

"London lives" (7 July 2005)

"America's Iraq plight: old and new thinking" (13 February 2007)

"How to free hostages" (29 September 2004)

"Palestine's human insecurity: a Gaza report" (20 May 2007) - with Mient Jan Faber

Most immediately, there is a probability that Kosovo will early in 2008 declare independence - albeit in the slightly qualified form that follows the Martti Ahtisaari plan delivered to the United Nations in March 2007, with its call for "supervised independence" and a continuing international presence. But in any case, the declaration is likely to be followed by a spate of similar acts in other territories - the northern Serb part of Kosovo, Herzeg-Bosne (the Croatian mini-state in Bosnia-Herzegovina) or Republika Srpska (the Serbian entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina). The "frozen conflicts" in the south Caucasus are likely to see similar shifts, with possible independence moves - with encouragement from Russia - by Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. So the formal break-up both of Bosnia-Herzegovina and of Georgia are possible in 2008.

The seeds of violence

The challenge of Kosovo will be a test-case for the European Union. Until now, the EU's efforts in eastern Europe and the Balkans have been relatively successful in avoiding the kind of instability that characterises large parts of Africa and the middle east or that is likely to follow the death of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. With the reform treaty now in place and plans for a new security strategy underway, the EU needs to take a lead in managing the process of serial declarations of independence.

There is a real risk of spreading destabilisation in the Balkans and the Caucasus. The criminal/nationalist entrepreneurs who profited from the wars in the 1990s were never properly dealt with. On the contrary, they have been nurtured by the combination of nationalist governments, high unemployment and lawlessness. Governments in the region - in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania or Georgia, for example - are not simply (as the jargon has it) "weak states"; their weakness is sustained by what some have described as shadow networks of transnational crime and extremist ideologies. There has been an expansion of human-trafficking, money-laundering, and the smuggling of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and weapons over the last decade - much of it to satisfy European and American markets - and all in the face of international agreements, aid programmes and the presence of foreign troops and agencies.

These problems are the outward manifestation of unresolved economic, social and institutional problems which the international community - whose policy toward these regions has been dominated by a top-down approach designed above all to maintain stability - has failed to address. Political efforts have been focused on status; military efforts have given priority to separating forces and controlling heavy weapons; economic efforts have concentrated on economic growth, macroeconomic stability and control of inflation.

Among openDemocracy's articles on Kosovo and the future of the Balkans:

TK Vogel, "Kosovo: a break in the ice" (2 February 2007)

Marko Attila Hoare, "Kosovo: the Balkans' last independent state" (12 February 2007)

Vicken Cheterian, "Serbia after Kosovo" (18 April 2007)

Eric Gordy, "Serbia's Kosovo claim: much ado about..." (2 October 2007)

Paul Hockenos, "Kosovo's contested future" (16 November 2007)

Juan Garrigues, "Kosovo's troubled victory" (7 December 2007)

Meanwhile the entrepreneurs of violence have fed on the spread of grassroots populist nationalism and/or religious radicalisation that has exploited the frustrations arising from high levels of unemployment, high crime rates and human-rights violations, the trauma of past violence, and the weakness of civil society. For example, the Kosovo Liberation Army leader Hashim Thaci won the Kosovar elections of 17 November 2007, and (while the main current Serbian politicians are nationalist enough) there is a risk that the more extreme radical nationalist Tomislav Nikolic will do well in the Serbian presidential elections scheduled for 20 January 2008.

Violence will further strengthen the position of these "spoilers". The Ahtisaari plan for Kosovo envisages "decentralisation", which means in current conditions a kind of internal partition between Serb and Albanian municipalities. A new bout of ethnic cleansing will lead to the expulsion of Serbs from the southern part of Kosovo and of the few remaining Albanians in the north. Militant groups with names like the Albanian National Army or the Prince Lazar Army (named after the Serbian leader killed in the myth-encrusted battle of Kosovo in 1389) are already mobilising. The violence could spread to areas where there are neighbouring Albanian minorities, such as Macedonia and southern Serbia, as well as to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The tension will be worsened if, as is expected, a Serbian blockade of Kosovo is imposed; this would in particular stop electricity supplies. It is possible to outline similar scenarios in the south Caucasus.

A test for Europe

How will the international community respond to these developments? At the moment, as usual, the discussion is about status. The US will support the independence of Kosovo. The EU will be divided and Russia will oppose this outcome. Yet the real issue is how to protect ordinary people from the effects of these high-level manoeuvres. Nato forces are now trying to protect the borders of Kosovo instead of focusing on protecting both Serbs and Albanian at risk of ethnic cleansing and trying to maintain public security.

The EU is planning to send a rule-of-law mission, which is much needed. But who will provide alternative sources of electricity and jobs for Albanians and alternative sources of income for Serbs who are currently dependent on Belgrade and have no option than to obey Belgrade's dictates even if they might prefer to stay in Kosovo and live with their erstwhile neighbours? Above all, who is talking to ordinary people - among them Serbs, Albanians, Croatians, Georgians, Abkhazians, and Ossetians - all of whom long for peace and work, but whose voices and concerns are often appropriated by extremists?

Can the European Union respond to these challenges? Will it remain stuck in arguments for and against changes of status, or will it prove to have the resources and political will to protect people and communities?

The Pakistan-Afghanistan abyss

The last days of 2007 were marked by major concerns by western military forces over the growing influence of Taliban militias in much of Afghanistan, as well as the continued activities of the al-Qaida movement on both sides of the border with Pakistan. These worries predated the assassination of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007, and have been intensified by its circumstances and its messy aftermath.

There are now 51,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, but they are still unable to cope with the resurgence. Of these troops, 40,000 are under Nato command in the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf): 15,000 from the United States, 25,000 from other Nato countries. The remaining 11,000 troops are almost all from the United States, with some special forces from other Nato states; together they are engaged under US command in intensive counterinsurgency operations in the southeast of the country.

Georgia's race to the summit

Georgia is emerging from its new-year hangover this week just in time to vote in the critical presidential election on 5 January 2008 - the most important the landlocked country in the south Caucasus has faced since independence in 1991.

At stake is the comprehensive liberal reform project unleashed by Mikheil Saakashvili's "rose revolution" of 2003-04. He himself has made it absolutely clear that if he is elected there will be no let up in the pace of reform. More eggs will be smashed to make the new Georgian omelette.

But unlike the January 2004 presidential election, when Saakashvili swept to power on a wave of popular euphoria that delivered him over 90% of the vote, he can no longer be sure of the level of his support.

A century on the edge: 1945-2045

On 16 July 1945, an experimental plutonium-fuelled implosion device with a power of over 10,000 tons of conventional high explosive (i.e., ten "kilotons") was tested in the New Mexico desert. The nuclear age was born. Within a month, two more atom-bombs had been used, this time against Japanese cities, and the United States and its allies had already set up a production line to produce two bombs a month, destroying Japanese cities one by one until the war ended.

In the event that was not needed, for Japan surrendered shortly after being on the receiving end of the second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945. Thereafter, in the incipient years of cold war with its Soviet adversary, the United States moved rapidly to become a nuclear superpower; within three years it had built a stockpile of fifty bombs. The Soviet Union tested its own first nuclear weapon in 1949; by 1953 the rival states had tested far more destructive thermonuclear weapons, and Britain had become the world's third nuclear power. There were attempts in this first phase of the nuclear age to contain its dangers - including proposals named after the US presidential adviser Bernard Baruch and the then Soviet delegate to the United Nations, Anatoly Gromyko (both presented in June 1946) - but both collapsed amid a welter of east-west suspicions.

The assassin’s age: Pakistan in the world

The consequences of political assassinations - what in Spanish are termed magnicidios - are variable and unpredictable. Some radically change history and inaugurate a new phase in the politics of the country concerned; others, for all their horror and symbolism, do not inaugurate fundamentally new eras.

The 20th century, an epoch punctuated by assassinations as much as by wars or scientific inventions, offers many examples of this variety (see "Political killing in the cold war", 11 August 2005). The most dramatic such event was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo in June 1914, which led both to the "great war" and the collapse of the whole European and middle-eastern order that had preceded it. On a smaller scale, the killing of the Colombian politician Jorge Gaitán in April 1948 inaugurated a civil war and a decades-long period of violence that has lasted to this day. A case unnoticed by most outside observers, but with immense consequences for his own country and for its neighbour Pakistan, was the murder of the Afghan communist leader Mir Akbar Khyber in April 1978; this led to a pro-Soviet coup later that month, and opened the way to the three decades of war - and attendant diffusion of Islamist violence across the world - that have followed.

Pakistan after Benazir Bhutto

Ayesha Siddiqa is an independent political and defence analyst. She is the author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy, published by Pluto Press

Also in openDemocracy:

"Pakistan's permanent crisis" (15 May 2007)

"Pakistan: the power of the gun" (7 November 2007)

Benazir Bhutto: the politics of murder

Also in openDemocracy on Benazir Bhutto's death:Kanishk Tharoor, "Benazir murdered: what next?" (27 December 2007)

Ayesha Siddiqa, "Pakistan: after Benazir Bhutto" (28 December 2008)

Just days before she returned to Karachi on 18 October 2007, Benazir Bhutto gave an interview to the BBC in which she called Pakistan "one of the most dangerous countries in the world". She was to be proved right just hours after touchdown when two suicide-bombs killed more than 140 of her supporters as they accompanied her in a mammoth rally from the airport.

What went wrong?

The world is in the seventh year of a war with no end in sight. A short six years ago, in late December 2001, it all looked very different. A United States-led campaign had terminated the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the talk in Washington was already about moving on to deal with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. After the visceral shock of the 9/11 atrocities, the George W Bush administration was on a roll - indeed the sheer force of what was just beginning to be called the "war on terror" was already beginning to recapture the vision of a "new American century".

Crisis and reform: a turnaround in Bosnia?

Between October and December 2007, Bosnia has experienced a startling roller-coaster of events. A governmental crisis that sparked fears of war led to a completely unexpected rapprochement among bitterly divided nationalist parties. The first few months of 2008 will show whether or not Bosnia has finally achieved a breakthrough in its built-in, long-term political stalemate.

Due to the unwieldy political structure that was cobbled together as part of the Dayton peace agreement of November 1995, the Bosnian government comes to a standstill on a near-annual basis. The Dayton accord ended a devastating war that lasted from early 1992 to the end of 1995. The new Dayton constitution recognised two autonomous "entities" formed during the war: a Serb-controlled Republika Srpska (RS), and a Croat- and Muslim-controlled Federation. Many of the leaders of these entities were the very same officials who had prosecuted the three-way war. Where these leaders have departed, new figures who inherited the wartime separatist agenda have taken over.

The resurgence of the neo-Taliban

The re-emergence of the neo-Taliban in Afghanistan is hardly breaking news, but the reasons for its spreading influence in the last two years have rarely been reported, much less explained. Until 2006, its campaign was confined largely to the Pashtun heartland south of the Hindu Kush mountains, but as of late 2007 it has established communication- and supply-lines in the west, north and northeast of the country, through which are being channelled fighters and munitions in order to open new fronts against international forces.

Iraq’s danger signals

The mood-music for several weeks in November-December 2007 has been of the cautious improvement of military and political prospects in the various leading fronts of George W Bush's "war on terror". The United States military surge in Iraq was clearly having some success; a febrile political situation in Pakistan was nonetheless contained, with violence in areas such as Swat being addressed; the winter was expected to see an easing of the conflict in Afghanistan; the Annapolis summit could be presented as a signal of progress in middle-east negotiations; and Iran's recalcitrance over its nuclear programmes meant that there seemed a real possibility of maintaining pressure on Tehran (via an economic squeeze, international support for a third round of United Nations sanctions, and the ultimate threat of military force).

Kosovo’s Serbs in suspension

Jovica Simic and Nazimi Mehmeti are the kind of neighbours that members of the international community in Kosovo want you to meet. The two men grew up together in the nondescript village of Konjuh, a twenty-minute drive from Pristina that can be accessed only via a bumpy dirt road. Both Simic, 57, and Mehmeti, 63, worked in factories before the 1999 war in which Nato forces succeeded in driving the Serbian military out of Kosovo. Their lives are certainly not extraordinary except for one thing - Simic is a Kosovar Serb while Mehmeti is Kosovar Albanian. The lifelong neighbours are also friends something that is very rare in Kosovo these days.

Pakistan: the election and after

A month before the elections scheduled for 8 January 2008, Pakistani political parties are still intensively debating the pros and cons of taking part. The two large opposition groupings - the All Pakistan Movement for Democracy (APMD) led by Nawaz Sharif, and the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD), led by Benazir Bhutto - have been divided over the issue, with the two former prime ministers being in direct contact by telephone to exchange views.

Kosovo’s troubled victory

Bill Klinton Avenue in the centre of Pristina remains littered with advertisements of smiling candidates from the parliamentary elections of 17 November 2007. Beyond the grey Tetris-shaped communist-era buildings stand modern government ministries which fly, side by side, two flags: the blue-and-white of the United Nations and the black-and-red with its double-headed eagle motif which Kosovo has adopted (from Albania) as its own de facto flag. In the ministry of public works, a large picture of Ibrahim Rugova, Kosovo's deceased independence leader, adorns the façade.

Britain’s defence: all at sea

A stark contrast between reality and perception in the discussion of the United Kingdom's defence policy is becoming increasingly visible. Britain has one of the world's largest defence budgets, and it has been rising on an annual basis. True, it is miniscule compared with the United States, which under the George W Bush administration is now spending about the same on the military as every other country in the world combined. But London spends more on defence than any other European country, and its budget is considerably larger even than France or Germany.

India: states of insecurity

A series of blasts in court compounds across three cities in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh killed fifteen persons and injured over eighty on 23 November 2007. They are the latest link in a chain of comparable terrorist attacks by Islamist groupings that have long received safe haven, sustenance and support from Pakistan and, increasingly, Bangladesh - a chain that includes, over the past three years alone, major terrorist strikes in Delhi, Bangalore, Ayodhya, Mumbai, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Malegaon, Panipat, Ajmer and Ludhiana, and lesser attacks at a number of other locations.

Annapolis: a view from Amman

The middle-east conference to be convened in Annapolis, Maryland on 27 November 2007 must, if it is to be effective, be conceived as a return to a peace-building process whose objective is to realise a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. Most of the issues to be addressed are exceptionally complex: they relate in particular to the overwhelming issue of the Palestinian diaspora, and include matters such as confidence-building, inclusive security, regional conflict-prevention, attitudes to extremists, the gap between final and permanent status, and the need to combine a peace process with a reconciliation process.

The discussion in advance of the conference has included the significant letter sent to the United States president and secretary of state on 10 October by a distinguished non-partisan group of former senior US officials: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee H Hamilton, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Thomas R. Pickering, Brent Scowcroft, Theodore C Sorensen, and Paul Volcker (see "'Failure Risks Devastating Consequences", New York Review of Books, 8 November 2007).

The letter, in stating that a "positive outcome" at the conference "could play a critical role in stemming the rising tide of instability and violence" also emphasises that this is a moment to display "the ambition as well as the courage to chart new ground and take bold steps".

Prince Hassan is a senior member of the Jordanian royal family, and president of the Arab Thought Forum. His official website is hereIn light of this and other contributions, what follows is the view from Amman, as I see it, on the eve of the Annapolis conference. The text is in two parts: the first dealing with the core ingredients of a peace settlement, and the second with some of the outstanding questions that it needs to address if the settlement is to endure.

Part One: In transit - how peace begins

Peace and reconciliation

Peace is not reconciliation. What is needed between Israelis and Palestinians is genuine reconciliation. This has to start with an acknowledgment of the genuine claims of the Palestinians and the acceptance of responsibility for what happened to them. Reconciliation mechanisms include truth commissions and victim compensation. Addressing claims by both sides as to the wrongs they have suffered in order to settle the record and avoid the festering of claims is desirable. This mechanism should be used for reconciliation as well as for the reduction of prejudice and hatred. The time has come to shed prejudice and build intra-societal dynamics and respect for the other irrespective of national origin, religion, and creed.

Without reconciliation there can be no lasting peace. Peace treaties are instruments through which we can arrive at a "warm peace" between adversaries. The two peace treaties that did not succeed in achieving warm peace are those between Israel and Egypt and Jordan respectively; this outcome is due to the failure to normalise inter-state peace in the ranks of the people and to transform the official state-to-state accords into human accord between people. That can only be achieved if human justice is assured through the application of the agreed terms on the ground. A fear of people-to-people peace must be overcome. Beyond bilateral peacemaking, regional cooperation could craft a new partnership in the region to replace rejection and hatred with visible mutual respect and acceptance as well as humanitarian standards of interaction.


Before the commencement of negotiations, a number of confidence-building measures can be implemented: for example, the bilateral release of detained people, the removal of checkpoints or mahsums, free access to places of worship in Jerusalem, and both sides' decision to refrain from violence.

As these take effect, other specific measures should be developed; some should apply immediately and others throughout the course of the negotiations as means to implement any agreement reached. Respect for human life and for people's dignity is essential to confidence-building, as is the primacy of rule of law and stability. There is a need for international support to establish a legal system and the rule of law in Palestine as a way of insuring its future stability, paving the way to democracy, encouraging foreign investment and economic development and guaranteeing the existence of a peaceful, secular and democratic state.

From final status to permanent status

The dynamics between "final status" and "permanent status" provide the missing link to lasting peace. The question is: how to bridge that gap? Final status is bilateral. Permanent status starts with confidence-building measures and ends with fundamental and comprehensive, not selective, guarantees of a regional order.

Also in openDemocracy on the Israeli-Palestinian impasse and the Annapolis conference:

Richard Youngs, "The European Union and Palestine: a new engagement" (28 March 2007)

Mient Jan Faber & Mary Kaldor, "Palestine's human insecurity: a Gaza report" (20 May 2007)

Pierre Schori, "Europe and the Arab world: divided souls" (30 May 2007)

Daniel Seidemann, "Annapolis and the ‘Jerusalem paradigm'" (30 October 2007)

Mariano Aguirre & Mark Taylor, "Annapolis: how to avoid failure" (12 November 2007)

Khaled Hroub, "Annapolis and absurdity" (22 November 2007)

Final status is reached at the conclusion of negotiations between adversaries - Palestinians and Israelis in our case. A more important goal is a permanent-status solution in which cooperation becomes the order of the day.


It is clear that there is broad consensus that there is to be a Palestinian state. This necessarily implies that its nationals will enjoy citizenship rights in their country. The issues here are different and concern the sovereignty of the state: they include its communications with other neighbouring states; freedom of egress and ingress; how the state will administer its airport and port facilities; customs, police and security issues; whether it will have a sovereign army or be demilitarised; and the extent of any limitations on its right to make independent treaties.

The majority of people in the world enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of citizenship as a fundamental right; the Palestinians should not be an exception if peace is to endure. The two-state solution could undoubtedly be a wise one. It would be wiser yet to honour United Nations resolutions that address the issue of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories. Acquisition of any territory by force should not be condoned nor should such acquisition be rewarded.

The continued acquisition of territory endangers hopes for any viable Palestinian state. The retention of any Palestinian territories by Israel should only be accepted by mutual consent based on minor adjustments of the 4 June 1967 lines and on the basis of fair reciprocity concerning the areas exchanged and their respective potential and market value. Issues of a trans-boundary nature should be addressed and resolved; these include (but are not limited to) water resources, transportation, electrical transmission, labour rights and drug-trafficking and other criminal issues. The issue of citizenship of the two states should be agreed upon and reciprocity guaranteed.

The matter of Palestinian statehood and all the complexities of trans-boundary issues are not limited to Palestinians because the diameter of conflict goes beyond the parameter to all national "brand names". An appreciation of the regional carrying capacity (or aménagement de territoire) would introduce socio-economic planning parameters for all the riparians of the Jordan Valley within a water and energy community for the environment, following the model of the coal and steel community which was seminal to the creation of the European Union. Such models can also be applied to the other vital elements pertaining to sovereignty as previously touched upon; among them boundary-crossings, air and maritime navigation, army and police.


The issue of security for both Israel and the Palestinian state is not solely a bilateral concern. Except for specifically bilateral issues, the security of Israel and the Palestinians should be the shared responsibility of the outer-perimeter countries. Any threat to their security coming from the east would threaten Jordan as well. The same applies to dangers coming from the north or south: these would threaten the respective perimeter countries. A meaningful security arrangement should depend on a regional order, including a pact for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction and other forms of arms control, rather than mere unilateral deterrent instruments.

Achieving full inclusiveness requires a regional code of conduct for a process of human security and cooperation; this in turn would include a regional community for water and energy and a regional social charter. These instruments should constitute the building-blocks for a regional security package consolidated by the establishment of a Conference on Security and Cooperation for the Middle East. Again, I emphasise that Europe provides an ideal model for such a structure. A conflict-prevention capability must form an integral part of such a process. A country which is party to a regional security conference must not pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction.

These measures would help move the region away from unilateral partisan prejudice to a regional approach of intra-independence, initiating a new societal dynamic where morality and good governance in economy and society would open the way for more inclusion of citizens in matters concerning their welfare and destiny.

There have been "track I" and "track II" negotiations between Jordan and Israel; Egypt and Israel; and Jordan, Egypt and Israel - which have over the past ten years demonstrated that such undertakings can produce useful results.

Attitudes to "extremists" and "the other"

The western attitude to Hamas and its translation into action by western governments has not been even-handed. There are groups similar to Hamas in Israel, among western Jews and also among Christians - and for that matter among many religious denominations and political persuasions. But that does not mean that all of the members of such a group are extremists nor does it mean that some of their extreme views cannot be negotiated. Yet, while Hamas is condemned and boycotted by all, similar groups such as those mentioned above are supported in the west, both by the private and public sectors. Legitimising everything that is done on one side and demonising everything that is done by the other side is a historically failed recipe for peace. Even-handedness is a much-needed prescription to address the complicated issues of conflict.

Part Two: Resources, faiths, and refugees

The new state of Palestine must have the capacity to sustain itself and to develop. Without economic viability and the prospect of economic growth, it will turn into a de facto Bantustan for Israel, offering only cheap labour and ultimately a great deal of increasing alienation and suffering. An economically emergent Palestine, beginning with economic and human guarantees for the Palestinians themselves, is the key to stability and peace. Thus, it is indispensable to have an economic-development plan at the ready so that any part of it that would need the mutual cooperation of the two states is taken into account within the proposed peace agreement.

This plan must include such matters as currency convertibility, freedom of movement of goods, access to ports and airports, reduction of restrictions on freedom of movement of people and secure investment opportunities. In addition, joint economic-growth projects must be considered in depth, which would include Jordan in such comprehensive and far-reaching issues as: sharing of water resources, various water and irrigation projects, a joint transportation system (roads, buses and trains) that offer the potential of practically connecting the three states and enhancing their respective economies, joint or shared utilities and other similar sub-regional infrastructure projects (some of which, in the Gaza area, may also involve Egypt). In short, economic interrelationships and mutual economic interests not only make for a healthy neighbourhood but also consolidate peace through real economic empowerment, ultimately translating into real social improvement.

The population-resources equation

This factor must be examined carefully. We must ensure equity in resource- allocation. The production of Jaffa oranges, which are grown with water drawn from the coastal aquifer and from the Jordan River, has resulted in Palestinians being denied access to their traditional water sources. Examples such as this highlight the need to address resource allocation in a comprehensive manner. The territories of historic Palestine are water- and energy-poor; but there are unproven reserves of natural gas in the territorial waters which may be extractable in the future.

Resource allocation will remain a vital issue, not only in the lands of historic Palestine but also in the outer-perimeter countries due to demographic shifts within the region and from outside. The long-standing animosity surronding this protracted conflict has not only barred cooperation between the outer-perimeter countries and Israel on the protection of natural resources, but has adversely impacted these shared resources. For instance, the unilateral actions undertaken by Israel and by Jordan and, separately, by Syria have adversely impacted on the Dead Sea basin including the Jordan River system and the Dead Sea itself.

The population-to-natural-resources equation largely determines the carrying capacity of physical land space. Admittedly, there have been distortions in this equation. The crucial issue of carrying capacity can only be addressed by a supranational authority, because only a supranational authority could be expected to be non-partisan in terms of human, economic and natural resources. Such an authority should in no way proscribe the attainment of final status. Carrying capacity (and recovery capacity for that matter) is a medium-to-long-term policy vision of intra-state and intra-communal relations through a rational utilisation of competing resources. A supranational vision would promote equity where now there is asymmetry, and sharing where now there is dominance by one side over another.

After almost a century of enmity and confrontation, the time has come for a meaningful recovery from human suffering on all sides and for environmental recovery. People's recovery includes their empowerment to fight want, enjoy human rights and exercise democracy; to reap the benefits of societal innovation during the transitional stages; to normalcy of relations between nationalities and between peoples and their systems of government. All this should be underlined by efforts to aid the human capacity to recover from the traumatic effects of protracted conflict. The recovery of natural resources would be possible through regional cooperation in mechanisms such as the proposed community of water and energy and other concepts that promote supranational innovation and interdependence.

It is necessary at this point to emphasise that any move towards economic and social development, in addition to peace-building, must be founded on humanitarian principles, respecting life and dignity. Israel has for too long used might as a right against the Palestinians, looking at Arab and Muslims as the enemy. This must change. Similarly, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must learn to look at Israelis and Jews in a positive manner. We must revive the essence of beliefs that existed at the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths, beginning with reclaiming the dignity of the human being. Without that there can be no peace, no reconciliation and no future for this region or beyond.


The overwhelming historic and spiritual importance of Jerusalem to all Abrahamic faiths and thus to all believers in the world, as well as others for whom Jerusalem and its sites (holy and archaeological) are part of the world's cultural heritage, makes this among the most sensitive issues of the conflict. This is a city with a unique status in the consciousness of the great monotheistic faiths.

Therefore we must confront the challenge of preserving the municipal administration of the city as an integral whole but with rigid observance of equal treatment to all religious denominations and equal participation of representatives of all faith communities in the city's government. This may require special-status legislation for Jerusalem within the context of a municipal administration with independent moral authority above all others in order to guarantee non-discrimination.

Jurisdiction over the walled city of Jerusalem is of vital importance. This issue encompasses the preservation of moral authority for the city in terms of ecumenical communication among the three monotheistic faiths, with no faith impairing the functioning of another. Moreover, the Jordan-Israel peace treaty gives Jordan a specific role in the management of the holy sites of the city, both Muslim and Christian. This requirement recognises the rights of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians, in the management of their holy space. Viewing the city, old and new, merely within the limited and short-sighted parameters of a territorial and political bargaining-chip ignores this important spiritual role and this moral responsibility. The city of Jerusalem, within its spiritual and emotional context, can contribute greatly to recovery, cooperation and the sustainability of peace.

Territories surrounding walled Jerusalem are subject to the provisions governing the fate of the occupied territories. Distrust should be allayed through reconciliatory acts on the ground. The issue of faith communities' right of return to Jerusalem, which also applies to internally-displaced persons, is essential within this context. For example, we could ask what message is sent to the Palestinians of Shu'fat when it is proposed that the town be dislocated from the Greater Jerusalem area in return for its refugees relinquishing their right of return.

Jerusalem and other holy sites have a special significance for the followers of the three Abrahamic faiths as reflected in the faith-based communities living in the region of these holy sites. It is therefore important to be sensitive to the maintenance of these communities as historically relevant and culturally and spiritually irreplaceable and to reject depopulation policies.

On refugees: the right of return

The right to leave and return to one's own state is guaranteed in the international covenant on civil and political rights without discrimination. No discrimination should be used against the Palestinians seeking to come home. This is a binding legal obligation and not merely a principle of justice and equality. The Palestinians' right of return must be recognised in the successor state, namely Israel. That principle has to be recognised even though for a variety of reasons there may be conditions on the exercise of such a right, for example family reunification. For those denied such a right of return, the principle of compensation should be established and the peace treaty should contain a mechanism for such compensation. Those who could not exercise their right of return in the successor state and who have been given compensation should be allowed to settle in the new state of Palestine.

The right of return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with the principles of justice and equality is a primary issue. If the right of return is to be denied to Palestinian refugees and those living in the diaspora, it should equally be denied to non-Israeli Jews living in that diaspora.

There is also an imperative issue of the legal characterisation of the new state of Palestine. It could be considered as a successor state of the original state of Palestine in reliance upon the 1947 partition plan of the general assembly of the United Nations, with respect to the territories occupied by Israel, post-1967, which had been administered by Jordan and by Egypt, acting as de facto trusties of these territories.

Palestinian refugees, displaced and stateless families, scattered across the world, and particularly in neighbouring countries, are a key factor in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The denial of their existence, plight, misery, humanitarian aspirations, dignity and right to lead a normal life in a country of their own would drive the younger generation of refugees, and others, to further despair, frustration and extremism. The ultimate goal of the peace process - to have a durable peace, a stable region and normal and popular acceptance of Israel - cannot be achieved through denial of the refugee issue.

On the other hand, the claim that responding to the Palestinian refugees' aspirations would erase the Jewishness of the state of Israel is simply distorted. Israel itself has stretched the definition of "Jewishness" by practically "importing" people from Sudan, Russia, Ethiopia and South America. Not all of these immigrants can claim a pure Jewish bloodline. The latest studies offer triumphant figures of greater Israeli population growth than Palestinian. Recognising the rights of the refugees, as displaced and stateless persons, is a matter of human, moral and legal importance. While the implementation of such rights is a matter that involves difficult decisions for a new life, new citizenship, expenses of restarting, and time-span (among other issues), the assumption that time will make the refugees forget their rights and that new generations will be less insistent is an illusion.

Foremost among the rights of refugees is the right to compensation: for those who had to leave as well as those who were expelled over the years or prevented from returning.


This is a conflict which should have run its course. Paradoxically, it has come full circle after over sixty years involving five international wars and a harsh occupation for a large segment of the Palestinian which continues today.

In 1947 a partition plan was proposed which was rejected by the Arab states. Following that the state of Israel was established in 1948. After the first war between the newly-founded state of Israel and the Palestinians and supporting Arab states, armistice agreements were established in 1949, leaving Israel with 23% more of the territory allotted to it by the partition plan. Since then the Palestinians and Arab states at first rejected the state of Israel and shunned peaceful coexistence with it. The subsequent acceptance by treaty of Israel by Egypt and Jordan gives hope that a similar peace treaty will follow with Syria and Lebanon. This would complete the circle of peace between these contiguous states.

To the Palestinians and their Arab supporters, the acceptance of a two-state solution is a return to the partition plan, which was earlier rejected. It is one of the tragedies of humanity that political settlements must sometimes be forged through years of hardship and pain but now that we have reached this point, it is essential to make sure that the two-state solution works. That is why, in addition to peace, we need mechanisms for reconciliation, economic development initiatives, allocation of resources, joint enterprises and mechanisms and structures for effective cooperation between states.

The nature of the future state of Palestine will depend very much on the degree of cooperation and support it gets from the state of Israel, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Arab Republic of Egypt. Laying down the foundations for this sub-regional community will not only be of importance for the economic viability of Palestine, but also for the sub-region's peaceful coexistence, prosperity and security. Just as Palestine needs Israel for its economic development, so Israel needs Palestine for its security, and all four states need to cooperate for a peaceful and prosperous future.

A mere peace agreement cannot be viewed as the sole requirement to achieve a lasting peace. It must be followed by a number of other agreements and mechanisms which further its goals and aspirations. Without these supporting measures, the issues raised in this article and perhaps many more, will fester and the imagined peace will only raise expectations without establishing foundations for its fulfilment. The past offers many examples of such disappointment. Enforcement measures and transitional mechanisms to peace are essential to esure a smooth implementation of a final settlement. These would also provide a confidence-building infrastructure and help deal with future difficulties.

Peace will not endure with just one agreement.

Pakistan: a question of legitimacy

So far, Pervez Musharraf's coup against his own government has gone off without a hitch. The judiciary has been emasculated. His military high command is supporting him unflinchingly. The electronic media have been cowed or taken off the air. Washington is onside, despite a few token statements. And the opposition parties are in disarray.

Irfan Husain is a columnist with Dawn newspaper in Pakistan.Among Irfan Husain's articles in openDemocracy:

"Musharraf's own goals" (27 March 2006)

"The state of Pakistan" (22 May 2006)

"The Baluchi insurrection" (4 September 2006)

"How democracy works in Pakistan" (29 September 2006)

"Pervez Musharraf: in a vice" (6 November 2006)

"Pakistan: zero-sum games people play" (6 December 2006)

"Pervez Musharraf's bed of nails" (29 April 2007)

"Pakistan: the enemy within" (30 July 2007)

"Pakistan's poker-game" (14 September 2007)

"Pervez Musharraf's desperate gamble" (5 November 2007)

"Pakistan's multi-faceted crisis" (12 November 2007)

Annapolis, or the absurdity of postmodern politics

It is not really difficult to discern what the United States hopes to achieve by hosting the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, now scheduled (after much uncertainty over the date) for 27 November 2007. In the same way it is rather easy to figure out what Israel will gain from the fact of this meeting and its own attendance. In a sentence: both Americans and Israelis want this conference to take place for its own sake, without any agreements or declarations having to emerge from it.

In their eyes, simply to hold the meeting is the objective and counts as a success - one that serves several agendas, but not the one that really counts: resolving the historical conflict between the Palestinians and Israel's Zionist project. The key to understanding Annapolis, as so many comparable events in the middle east, can be expressed in Henry Kissinger's "classical" (and ingenuous) formulation: a "peace process" is a substitute for peace itself, and it could take for ever. Annapolis is part of this "process".

Pakistan: prospects and perils

What's in store for Pakistan? Anatol Lieven forecasts. Listen now

Lahore: urban space, niche repression

Sunday Bazaar, inside Lohari Gate, walled city Bazaar-e-Hakiman [the bazaar of physicians, walled city] Gate of the Metalsmiths, walled city [1/13 gates to the city]

All images courtesy of OCCO, a community organization set up and run by Attiq Uddin Ahmed

Pakistan: misgovernance to meltdown

Pakistan's current political dilemma is both cyclical and exceptional. It arises from immediate political circumstances yet is rooted in its the country's six decades of history as a state. This combination of elements underlines the endemic nature and seriousness of the crisis.

Pakistan has long been misgoverned, by military regimes and political parties alike. But the latest phase of misrule involves even greater dangers than in earlier periods. The exercise of power in increasing swathes of territory along the border with Afghanistan by Taliban-style extremists, and the frequent bombings in the cities, signal the extent of current insecurities. The president-general, Pervez Musharraf, responds by arguing that even greater repression and control is necessary to secure the country. But the new forms of law and violence that are becoming routine indicate that Pakistan has moved out of his grasp, and that the way of governing the country which Musharraf represents has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Musharraf: the fateful moment

The next few weeks are likely to decide President-General Pervez Musharraf's fate. The national and international reaction to the state of emergency Musharraf imposed on 3 November 2007 has forced him into a series of unwise but perhaps inevitable decisions, many of which he would have preferred to avoid. These decisions have increasingly distanced Musharraf from many of his erstwhile supporters at home and abroad and have left him looking increasingly isolated and embattled. Even the United States, which places such high value on Musharraf that it has even turned a blind eye to Pakistan's nuclear-proliferation activities, is beginning to turn on him.

Kosovo's contested future

It can be exasperating to hear people from the Balkans blame “foreign powers” with hidden agendas and geopolitical ambitions for their troubles, as if they themselves bear no responsibility for their fortunes. But it would be easier to refute this counterproductive thinking if it hadn’t so often been the case over history - and is the case today, particularly when it comes to Kosovo. The problem of determining the “final status” of a province that is still legally part of Serbia but whose population is 90% ethnic Albanian was always going to be difficult. What makes it even harder is that international policy toward the disputed territory is being driven by the interests of external actors rather than those of the people of Kosovo, including the Kosovar Serbs. The main obstacle to a settlement is that these powers - the United Nations, the European Union member-states, the United States, and Russia - are themselves deeply divided, for reasons that have little to do with Kosovo itself.

Georgia: progress, interrupted

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia told a meeting of doctors in Tbilisi on 14 November 2007 that his decision to order the break up the opposition demonstration a week earlier had been necessary to prevent the country sliding back to the chaos and civil confrontation of the mid-1990s. The justification contains an element of truth - but one that also underlines the extent of his miscalculation.

The demonstration on Rustaveli Avenue in central Tbilisi had entered into its sixth day when Saakashvili decided to act. Popular irritation at the disruption caused by the blockage of the capital's main street was growing - as was alarm at the opposition's call for a permanent street protest until Saakashvili resigned. After the turmoil of the 1990s, there is no stomach in Georgia for revolution.

A Pakistani dilemma

Pakistan is in ferment. Pervez Musharraf, the general-president, insists that national stability transcends democracy, and that he is still the man to guarantee it. Musharraf's term as head of state expired on 14 November 2007, though it has effectively been extended by his declaration of an emergency on 3 November. His formation of a caretaker government on 15 November - at a time when he is facing increasing criticism from the United States - is paralleled by direct telephone contact between the two main opposition leaders and rivals, Benazir Bhutto (currently under house-arrest for the second time in a week) and Nawaz Sharif (in Saudi Arabia and prevented from returning to Pakistan). As the different power-centres seek to consolidate their positions, a quick or easy way out is hard to glimpse (see Irfan Husain, "Pakistan's multi-faceted crisis", 12 November 2007).

Georgia: politics after revolution

A series of events in Georgia between late September and mid-November 2007 - political infighting, mass demonstrations, the declaration of a state of emergency, and the announcement of presidential elections on 5 January 2008 (a year in advance of schedule) - has convulsed the country and earned it the kind of global media attention most of its citizens regret. Is this crisis part of the pain of a still-evolving democratic transition, or evidence of something more serious? An outline of the main contours of this period of instability suggests that Georgia's problems are serious, but cannot be attributed only to short-term misjudgments or maladministration by government; they are also rooted in larger historical, institutional and geopolitical realities.

Israel, free speech, and the Oxford Union

Israel is often portrayed by its supporters as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. But these very same supporters, in their excessive zeal for their cause, sometimes end up by violating one of the most fundamental principles of democracy - the right to free speech. While accepting free speech as a universal value, all too often they try to restrict it when it comes to Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. The result is not to encourage but to stifle debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at St Antony's College, Oxford.

Among his books are The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (WW Norton, 1999) and (as co-editor) The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (Cambridge University Press, 2001). His most recent book is Lion of Jordan: the Life of King Hussein in War and Peace (Penguin, 2007)

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