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Tony Blair to lead multi-million initiative to transform Middle East, says Kerry

Munib al-Masri, a billionaire member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and Yossi Vardi, billionaire hi-tech entrepreneur launch the businessmen’s Breaking the Impasse initiative at the World Economic Forum in Jordan on May 26. It was left to John Kerry to announce that this initiative will be led by Tony Blair in his role as Special Envoy for  the Quartet. Photo by Khalil Mazraawi / AFP

This posting has these items on the Breaking the Impasse initiative.
1) Foreign Policy: Bribing our way to peace? Stephen Walt is cynical about Kerry’s bribery package;
2) The National: Billionaires join hands in pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace Frank Kane looks into the background of Al-Masri and Vardi;
3) Times of Israel Business-led peace bid unveiled in Jordan;
4) Al Arabiya: Breaking the impasse in the Middle East Founder of the WEF Klaus Schwab promotes the initiative;
5) Neville Teller: Israel-Palestine: Breaking The Impasse ;
6) Al Monitor: WEF Dreams And Palestinian Realities, Daoud Kuttab describes how US money does not break the deadlock on Palestinians free movement.

Bribing our way to peace?

By Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy
May 28, 2013

You gotta give U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry credit for persistence — or maybe just perverseness — in his efforts to restart the Middle East “peace process.” Given the complete failure of the past two decades of peace-processing, you might also wonder why he’s bothering. My guess is that he does realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still a significant problem for the United States, as well as a source of continued human suffering. The fighting in Syria and the continued struggles in Iraq, Egypt, and elsewhere may command more attention these days, but the situation in Israel/Palestine remains a potent source of anti-Americanism and a constant headache for every president. Plus, Kerry is an ambitious guy, and who wouldn’t like to be the hero who finally managed to put this century-old conflict to rest?

News reports suggest that Kerry is trying to advance this goal by employing a time-honored tool of Middle East diplomacy: bribery. No, I don’t mean direct under-the-table payoffs to key leaders (although the United States has done plenty of that in the past and I wouldn’t rule it out here). Instead, I mean offering the various parties big economic incentives to lure them back to the table. Back in the 1970s, for example, Henry Kissinger got Israel to withdraw from the Sinai by promising it enormous military aid packages and assorted other concessions. Jimmy Carter did the same thing when he brokered that Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979, and U.S. largesse also greased the subsequent peace deal between Israel and Jordan in 1994. When domestic politics make it impossible to use sticks, carrots are all you have left.

This time around, Kerry has reportedly assembled a $4 billion investment package for the Palestinian Authority, designed to improve economic conditions in the West Bank and demonstrate to the Palestinians the benefits of peace. Presumably all they need to do is agree to resume negotiations and the money will flow; the investment is supposedly not linked to a final-status agreement. This approach is also a familiar American tendency at work: The United States is happy if the parties are talking, even if they are simultaneously taking steps that are “not helpful” and if they never get to the finish line.

The real question is: Should Abbas & Co. take the money and resume discussions?

Of course they should, but not because it will produce an agreement. Any talks that do resume are going to lead nowhere, and the Palestinians might as well get paid for engaging in an otherwise meaningless activity. The talks are meaningless because Israel is not going to agree to a viable Palestinian state, and certainly not one based on the 1967 borders. Remember that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s entire career has been based on opposition to a Palestinian state and that the official platform of his Likud party “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” Netanyahu is under no domestic pressure to cut a deal either; on the contrary, he’d be in political hot water if he tried.

Ever since the Oslo Accords, the basic Israeli strategy has been to negotiate endlessly while continuing to expand settlements, with the number of settlers more than doubling since 1993. Even then Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s supposedly “generous” offer at Camp David in 2000 fell well short of an acceptable deal, as his own foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, later acknowledged. Netanyahu now leads the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, and his government would collapse if he were to agree to allow the Palestinians anything more than a handful of disconnected bantustans under complete Israeli control. That’s why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been reluctant to resume the negotiations; he knows that talks merely provide a cover for further colonization.

But acknowledging that reality could also be liberating. Given that negotiations are pointless and that more and more people know it, the Palestinians should simply take the money that Kerry has assembled and agree to the charade, while making it clear that they will not settle for less than the Clinton parameters. They can also hint that if a viable and sovereign state is not in the cards, then they will begin to campaign for full civil and political rights within the “Greater Israel” that now exists.

That’s not the outcome Kerry has in mind, and it’s not likely to materialize anytime soon. But neither will a final-status agreement, no matter how often Kerry drops in for a visit and how many dollar bills he waves.

Billionaires join hands in pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace

By Frank Kane, The National
May 29, 2013

Yossi Vardi and Munib Al Masri share many things in common. Both are self-made billionaires approaching the end of their careers; both are committed to the cause of Palestinian-Israeli peace, and both have direct personal experience of the effects of continuing hostility in the Middle East’s most intractable problem.

What divides them is one thing. Mr Vardi is an Israeli, born in Tel Aviv, while Mr Al Masri is a Palestinian from Nablus, in the heart of the occupied West Bank. In the region, that is a pretty fundamental difference, but it has not stopped them from becoming friends and business partners and joining hands to try to halt the decades-long cycle of violence in the Palestinian Territories.

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Dead Sea resort last weekend, the two businessmen launched an ambitious initiative to try to get peace talks restarted between the respective governments.

Under the WEF’s banner of “breaking the impasse”, they signed up about 300 local businessmen from both sides of the divide to urge, cajole and persuade political leaders to give peace a chance.

For each man, there is an intensely personal side to the story. “I recently celebrated my 70th birthday, and for most of my life I have lived under the shadow of this conflict. My children and grandchildren were born into it,” said Mr Vardi.
“Enough is enough!” shouted a clearly emotional Mr Vardi. “Too many tears have been shed by mothers.”

Mr Al Masri also revealed a personal trauma at the heart of the initiative. Two years ago, his 23-year-old grandchild was confined to a wheelchair after being shot by a sniper in the West Bank. “This is a very honest initiative. For the sake of our grandchildren, we are not going to settle for the status quo. If we do not at least try to bring peace, we will be forever cursed,” he said.

If their business careers are anything to go by, both men usually achieve what they set out to do. Mr Vardi (“call me Yossi, please”) is regarded as the founder of Israel’s high-tech industry, which has become one of the main planks of the country’s economy.

Perhaps his best known company is Mirabilis, which developed ICQ, the first internet-wide instant messaging service. The sale of Mirabilis to AOL for more than US$400 million in 1998 made him a role model for a whole new generation of Israeli entrepreneurs.

A string of advisory positions followed, with the Israeli government and other international bodies, such as the WEF itself. He is now regarded as the country’s pre-eminent technology businessman.

Mr Al Masri’s wealth is rooted in the Palestine Development and Investment Company (Padico), which is an industrial and services conglomerate that almost acts as an inward-investing agency for the Palestinian economy.

He has dabbled in local politics before, launching a political party to rival the existing ones and, it is said, turning down the job of Palestinian prime minister.

For the initiative launched at the Dead Sea, both men pulled in contacts built up over a lifetime in business. Mr Vardi and Mr Al Masri were flanked by a sprinkling of the top business leaders in the region, including Riad Kamal, the founder of Arabtec, the UAE contractor.

Mr Kamal said: “I am a Palestinian from the diaspora, and this initiative is a way to voice my personal opinion. We are urging Israel and Palestine to talk seriously about peace. We are sitting on a volcano that is going to erupt, and we should bring peace between the two countries once and for all.”

The businessmen united behind the initiative are aware of the limitations of their plan. Just getting the 300 in the same room proved to be a logistical problem amid the tight security at the Dead Sea resort, and Palestinian businessmen in particular leave themselves open to charges of treachery if they develop too close links with their Israeli counterparts.
Observers at the launch in Jordan pointed out that, beyond urging and persuading, there was little the group could actually do to get the peace process going again, if the politicians are opposed.

“We want to support our leaders. We met with [the Israeli] prime minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu earlier this week, and he gave his support to our plans. We have to transmit to them the feeling that the greater part of Israeli society is behind it,” said Mr Vardi.

Mr Al Masri agreed. “The initiative is not about trying to create an economic peace, business on its own cannot bring peace. We are not here to tell the political leaders what the final details of a peace agreement should be. But there is a great potential for us in working together and that will be realised once our leaders bring us peace.”
Mr Vardi agrees on the potential. “I dream of Silicon Valley spreading across both banks of the river Jordan,” he said.

Business-led peace bid unveiled in Jordan

‘Breaking the Impasse’ initiative unites 300 key Israeli and Palestinian figures, designed to press politicians to compromise

By David Horovitz, Times of Israel
May 26, 2013

DEAD SEA, Jordan — A group of leading Israeli and Palestinian businessmen on Sunday afternoon unveiled a new business-led push for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It’s aim, they said, was to “send the message” to the respective political leaderships that peace was an urgent imperative.

The key Palestinian figure involved, Munib al-Masri, a billionaire member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told The Times of Israel that he and other Palestinian leaders who have put their names to the initiative are taking a personal risk, given the animosity to Israel on the Palestinian street. “But I don’t care,” he said. “I have to speak my conscience.”

He said Israel had to stop the occupation and recognize Palestinian statehood, and the Palestinians have to show the Israelis that they recognize Israel.

The “Breaking the Impasse” initiative was launched by Israeli high-tech guru Yossi Vardi and al-Masri, at a press conference at the World Economic Forum here. Vardi told The Times of Israel after the conference that the idea had been “really positively welcomed” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “fit in well” with Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The initiative was advanced under the WEF aegis. At the WEF closing panel on Sunday evening, the hundreds of businesspeople who have put their names to the initiative were asked to stand and were warmly applauded. Before the packed plenum gathering, Vardi named several of the key Israeli and Palestinian leaders involved, and reserved special praise” for “the one and only Munib al-Masri.” Masri, he said, had told him “the whole thing” can be resolved in 15 minutes; only, said Vardi, “he didn’t tell me when to start counting.”

Masri, to much applause, urged Israel to “tear down this terrible wall” and end this conflict. He spoke of the “known” parameters of an accord, notably including Jerusalem as the capital of two states, and a “just” solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, and cited the Arab Peace Initiative as a potential platform for peace.

Masri said his own grandson Munib was injured by Israeli gunfire during a “peaceful demonstration” on the Lebanon border on Nakba day two years ago, and was now in a wheelchair, but was not full of hatred. “In the names of those who suffered, we urge the leaders in this room and those who are represented to end this conflict,” he said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the same plenury session that the initiative “gives me pleasure.” And Kerry thank the initiators for “stepping up.”

Vardi told the press conference earlier that the group’s Israeli leaders met for a “long and candid” conversation with Netanyahu last week.

“We saw 300 of the most influential people” in the Israeli and Palestinian economies gather to back the idea. They “stood tall, and said ‘enough is enough,’” Vardi said. “This alone sent a clear and distinct tone to the politicians, and I think they will take it into consideration.”

“Maybe we’ll fail… I don’t think that we will fail,” Vardi said, “but at least we will say that we tried as hard as we could.”

Palestinian businessman Samir Huleileh, CEO of Padico Holdings, said the initiative was being advanced “in full coordination” with the Palestinian leadership. It’s goal, he said, was “to end the conflict.” Still, the leaders announced no specific steps going forward. Also on the panel was Riad Kamal, an overseas Palestinian businessman who founded the Arabtec construction firm, and Yadin Kaufman, an Israeli partner in the Middle East Venture Fund.

The group’s press release spoke of nearly 200 business leaders involved, although at the press conference speakers cited a figure of 300.

The leaders said their group represents hundreds of top Israeli and Palestinian businessmen. Also reportedly involved are some business leaders from other Arab states including, for example, the head of the Hikma pharmaceutical firm in Jordan.

“Breaking the Impasse” wants to encourage and support political leaders to work for a two-state solution, Vardi told the press conference, sitting alongside al-Masri. Too often, he said, “we hear the voice of the extremists, but the majority is silent. And we believe that most of the people want to get an end to the conflict” and prepared to pay the price.

Vardi said 20 meetings had been held with “this fine gentleman” al-Masri in the past year, with the support of the WEF. The initiative was backed by “hundreds” of supporters — “the best and the brightest” business leaders — pushing for a two-state solution. Vardi said: “Too [many] tears were shed by mothers. There is almost no Israeli or Palestinian family that didn’t suffer. You may call us naive, you may ask what is new, you may have lost hope, but we are cursed to continue to pursue it.”

“It’s not for us to iron out the details,” Al-Masri said. “We are worried by the status quo. We want to change the status quo… Now the Israeli and Palestinian side [of the initiative] are very honest in their appeal: They want to break the impasse… They want the two sides to negotiate… to push all the parties to engage in real negotiations.”

Vardi said the group was not proposing specific solutions. It was up to political leaders “to make the painful compromises” necessary to bring peace, security and prosperity.

Significantly, a knowledgeable source told The Times of Israel here on Sunday, the group’s participants together represent companies that contribute no less than 30 percent of the GDP of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which they believe offers them unprecedented leverage in trying to chivy their respective political leaderships toward an agreement.

President Shimon Peres and Abbas were both fully familiar with the initiative and “essentially endorse it,” the source said.

Breaking the impasse in the Middle East

By Klaus Schwab, Al Arabiya
May 29, 2013

The situation in the Middle East is grave. War in Syria threatens to drag the region into prolonged conflict. Sectarian strife is tearing countries and communities apart. Fully 85 million – some 30 percent – of Middle Eastern youths are in need of a job that will enable them to build themselves and their families a future.

Amidst all this, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been at an impasse for over a decade. However, there remains one powerful motivating force for optimism: the yearning of the majority of people on both sides for a durable solution. Beyond national, religious and political concerns, a fundamental human driver is the need for peace and stability, the ability to provide for ourselves and our families, to fulfil our potential, and to build something for our futures.

Resolution of the conflict
That is why hundreds of energetic, motivated businesspeople from Israel and the Palestinian territories have come together to push political leaders back to the negotiating table. The Breaking The Impasse initiative, nurtured and supported by the World Economic Forum, is not a political movement. It is the manifestation of a sincere yearning for a durable two-state solution from the business leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

These leaders recognize that resolution of the conflict is the single most important means to create jobs, and generate growth and prosperity, throughout the Middle East. They also recognize that making a durable two-state solution a reality is beyond their remit.

The leaders of the BTI, Yossi Vardi and Munib Masri, have brought together their compatriots and colleagues in an active show of support for their political leaders, to emphasize to them that “the silent majority will no longer be silent.” By providing a platform for this initiative, the WEF hopes to help amplify the voices of those who want to encourage compromise, and the development of a political settlement that all sides will stick by.

The majority on both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict yearn for peace and prosperity, and the BTI provides a focus for this energy. In the end, peace will bring with it stability, growth and enterprise, together with new hopes, expectations and livelihoods for current and future generations, sorely needed in these two countries, and in the region beyond.

Professor Klaus Schwab is founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum. Schwab was Professor of Business Policy at the University of Geneva from 1972 to 2002. He is the author of several books. Since 1979, he has published the Global Competitiveness Report, an annual report assessing the potential for increasing productivity and economic growth of countries around the world, written by a team of economists. From 1993 to 1995, Schwab was a member of the U.N. High-Level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development. From 1996 to 1998, he was Vice-Chairman of the U.N. Committee for Development Planning.

Israel-Palestine: Breaking The Impasse

By Neville Teller, OpEd, Albany Tribune
May 30, 2013

Back in 1987 Lawrence Susskind, then professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published along with co-author Jeffrey Cruikshank a pioneering book about the techniques of resolving public disputes. Its title has subsequently entered the language: “Breaking the Impasse”

“Breaking the Impasse” is the name chosen for a new business-led initiative aimed at fostering Israeli-Palestinian peace and prosperity. The project was launched at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Jordan on Sunday, 26 May 2013, by a group of prominent Israeli and Palestinian businessmen. The initiative is led jointly by Munib al-Masri, a billionaire member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and Israeli high-tech guru Yossi Vardi.

Vardi, chairman of International Technologies Ventures, said: “Last year I celebrated my 70th birthday. When the conflict began I was an ambitious young man of 25. This conflict has gone on for too long. Enough! Our group includes business people and academics from the whole spectrum – secular and religious – and all of them are determined to help with a two-state solution.”

“Breaking the Impasse” represents some 200 leading Israeli and Palestinian businessmen and also a number from other Arab states including, for example, the head of the Hikma pharmaceutical firm in Jordan. Its leaders have been meeting in private for the past year under the umbrella of the WEF and, according to Palestinian journalist Elias Zananiri, finally agreed a joint paper with parameters acceptable to both sides.

US Secretary John Kerry, who addressed the WEF meeting, was fulsome in his praise of those participating in the initiative: “They represent a courageous and visionary group of people, civic and business leaders, Israelis and Palestinians, who have I think the uncommon ability to look at an ageless stalemate and actually be able to see opportunities for progress. And even as they found plenty to disagree on – and I understand they did in the course of their discussions – even as they fully understand the difficult history that is embedded in this conflict – they refuse to underestimate the potential for the future.”

Kerry, who has proved himself tireless in this current push to reactivate the peace process, clearly sees in “Breaking the Impasse” a valuable instrument for furthering his policy, convinced that fostering economic growth will profoundly improve the chance of the political peace process.

He has, accordingly, taken a firm grip on the initiative and invested it with both US cash and dynamic leadership. He has got Quartet representative, one-time UK prime minister Tony Blair, to head a bold and ambitious plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy intended to transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, “…but also, significantly,” said Kerry, “transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel.”

In the six weeks prior to the WEF meeting, the leaders of “Breaking the Impasse” brought together a group of business experts from around the globe representing some of the world’s largest corporations. They spent their time analyzing the opportunities for developing tourism, construction, light manufacturing, building materials, energy, agriculture, and information and communications technology (ICT) within the Palestinian economy, with the aim of mobilizing some $4 billion of investment both internationally and regionally.

Some might question the inclusion of ICT within the list, for the size and extent of ICT within the Palestinian economy is not widely known. It is, in fact, a thriving element with its own trade association – the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PIT) – representing more than 150 major ICT companies in Palestine’s emerging technology and startup system. In all, there are approximately 250 ICT companies in Palestine, with a market size of around $500 million.

Said Kerry: “The preliminary results already reported to me by Prime Minister Blair and by the folks working with him are stunning.”

And indeed they are, for the group of experts apparently believe that the Palestinian GDP could be increased by as much as 50 per cent over the next three years, and unemployment reduced by nearly two-thirds, with up to a three-fold increase in the value of agriculture and tourism.

Kerry clearly believes in the potential upsurge in commercial and economic activity that “Breaking the Impasse” could unleash, and feels passionately that economic advancement is a vital key to success in the political process. Not least of its benefits is the knock-out blow it would deliver to the malevolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, that cloaks the current upsurge in “respectable” anti-Semitism worldwide.

“Think of all that can change,” said Kerry. “That’s what should motivate us. With renewed and normal relations between Israel and the Arab nations, we could end the regional boycott of Israeli goods. New markets would open up and would connect to one another, and jobs would follow in large numbers. With renewed strength, the new neighbor states of Israel and Palestine could actually become another hub in the Middle East for technology, finance, tourism.”

In short, think of a new Hong Kong or Shanghai on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean – a thriving commercial and financial enterprise zone comprising Israel, Palestine and Jordan in the first instance, and perhaps later extending to include a Hezbollah-free Lebanon. The vision is inspiring; the political slog of attempting to achieve it daunting, not to say totally discouraging.

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tzu, provides us with a calm, rational approach to conquering such overwhelming despondency: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Neville Teller is the author of “One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine” (2011) and writes the blog “A Mid-East Journal”. He is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. Born in London and educated at Owen’s School and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, he is a past chairman of the Society of Authors’ Broadcasting Committee, and of the Contributors’ Committee of the Audiobook Publishing Association. He was made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, 2006 “for services to broadcasting and to drama.”

 WEF Dreams And Palestinian Realities

By Daoud Kuttab, Palestine Pulse/ Al-Monitor
May 26, 2013

On the same day as the World Economic Forum was holding its dramatic closing session with back-to-back speeches from President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres and US Secretary of State John Kerry, I was mourning the passing of a dear friend’s mom.

Abbas reiterated the Palestinian government’s total commitment to peace and security, practically begging the Israelis to allow his local police to receive the small shipment of arms that has been rotting in Jordan for years. Peres, the president without much power, contradicted his own prime minister by embracing the Arab Peace Initiative and begging the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table, where they are bound to be surprised.

Finally, Kerry sounded even more desperate to see through some change in the Middle East’s most intractable conflict. One of his solutions is to throw money at the Palestinian-Israeli impasse. Kerry waved $4 billion to the Palestinians, money he said he has received in investment commitments from Japanese, European and others (not clear how much from the United States).

To be fair, after Kerry repeated his financial offer, which he said both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas supported, he said that an economic peace should not replace a political peace process.

Big money or a political process have lost their bite when it comes to Palestinians who have lost any confidence in politicians and are more interested in day-to-day issues like easing the travel restrictions.

This brings me to a personal story that was unfolding parallel to the World Economic Forum.

It is the story of Benaz Batrawi, a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who while studying at Bir Zeit University in the 1990s married a Ramallah-based student, Walid Batrawi. At the time it was relatively easy to change your address on the Israeli ID, and she made the change to live permanently in Ramallah. Benaz worked with me for some time before turning to freelance journalism training.

Last Monday [May 20], Benaz’s mother, who has been suffering for some time from cancer in Gaza, became extremely ill. Her husband, Walid, who works with an international media organization, applied for her to visit her dying mother. For four days the permit request was being considered by the Israelis.

At one time an Israeli military official told the family that it takes time to get a permit to see a sick person while a request for a funeral is issued on the same day. And that is exactly what happened; by Friday morning news came that Benaz’s mother, 63-year-old Mazina, had died. Within a few hours, Walid was able to secure her a permit after presenting the death certificate.

I called Walid to pay my respects and asked what he thought of the declarations of the politicians at the Jordan side of the Dead Sea. His response was to recall a similar problem years earlier when the United States again tried to solve a problem by throwing money at it. Walid was working for a USAID contractor with an assignment to help empower the new Palestinian legislative council at the time.

One of the problems they were facing then was the fact that Israel was barring some legislator from Gaza from traveling to Ramallah to participate in workshops. So instead of putting some pressure on the Israelis to ease the travel of the Palestinian MPs, USAID invested some $140,000 on videoconferencing equipment.

Walid gave a more current example in which USAID is planning to fund a bridge near the Qalandia checkpoint to ease traffic at this important Ramallah-Jerusalem juncture. “Instead of a bridge, the Americans should be putting their efforts on getting rid of the checkpoint,” Walid said in frustration. He added: “Unless they expect this checkpoint to stay where it is for ever.”

Kerry’s proposal of investing a whopping $4 billion as part of what Netanyahu said was a plan to introduce an economic peace even if the American diplomat insisted that this will not be on the account of the peace process.
Palestinians like Walid and Benaz Batrawi are skeptical that this effort will produce a lasting result; on the contrary, they worry is that it will embolden the Israeli as they can go on for even longer allowing the international community to pay for their illegal occupation.

Daoud Kuttab is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Palestine Pulse. A Palestinian journalist and media activist, he is a former Ferris Professor of journalism at Princeton University and is currently the director-general of Community Media Network, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing independent media in the Arab region. On Twitter: @daoudkuttab

Notes and links

Quartet: The Quartet is made up of representatives of the  United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia. It was established in Madrid in 2002. Its Special Envoy is Tony Blair.

Remarks to Special Program on Breaking the Impasse World Economic Forum John Kerry’s speech to the World Economic Forum, lots of thanks and hopes, no tears; the announcement that Tony Blair is leading this initiative sis rather lost in the middle. “Prime Minister Blair is shaping what I believe could be a groundbreaking plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy that will transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, but also, significantly, transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel.

“It is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo, more than 20 years ago now. And this, the intention of this plan, of all of its participants, is not to make it merely transformative, but frankly, to make it enormously powerful in the shaping of the possibilities of the future so that it is more transformative than incremental and different from anything that we have seen before.”

Palestinian Authority says US aid is ‘no substitute for negotiations’ John Kerry’s offer of $4 billion in aid to the PA was made at the World Economic Forum. Hugh Naylor reports on the PA’s response.

Hopeful news from the Middle East: business owners weigh in for peace, May 29, Tom Fenton in the Global Post suggests that the Breaking the Impasse initiative might get results in a region where no-one puts any credence in what political leaders say.

Ralph Nader: Kerry Should Get Israeli Peace Leaders Before Congress – OpEd 30th May, Ralph Nader argues that the many military and political personnel who, since retirement, have spoken openly about how and why peace initiatives have been blocked by Israeli governments, should be asked to testify before the US Congress.

Palestinian BDS slams Deadlock Breaking Initiative Report from PIC, 30 May, but no statement from the Palestinian BDS national committee has yet been posted in English

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