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Israeli-Palestinian talks must resume - Mideast Quartet
BBC: The Quartet of Middle East negotiators has urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace talks within one month and aim for a deal by the end of 2012.
The Quartet - the EU, UN, US, Russia - acted after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas submitted his bid to the UN for the recognition of a Palestinian state. Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled in September 2010. The Palestinians walked out in protest at the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN the core of the conflict was not settlements but the refusal of the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
“Within a month there will be a preparatory meeting between the parties to agree an agenda and method of proceeding in the negotiation,” a Quartet statement said.
“At that meeting there will be a commitment by both sides that the objective of any negotiation is to reach an agreement within a timeframe agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012.”
The Quartet said that both Israel and the Palestinians should then produce “comprehensive proposals within three months on territory and security,” and “substantial progress” should be achieved within six months. An international conference to fine-tune all outstanding issues would be held in Moscow “at an appropriate time,” the Middle East negotiators added.
They said that Israeli and Palestinian leaders were now studying the Quartet proposals.
EU foreign policy chief Baroness (Catherine) Ashton said she hoped both sides would react positively to the plan.
“If ever there was a time to resolve this conflict, it is now,” Lady Ashton said.
“It is now because Israel worries about its security, because the people of Palestine have waited long for their country.”
The Quartet unveiled its proposals shortly after Abbas formally submitted the request for a Palestinian state to become a full member of the UN. Addressing the General Assembly in New York, he urged the Security Council to back a state with pre-1967 borders.
“I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favour of our full membership,” Mr Abbas told the General Assembly, in what was for him an unusually impassioned speech.
“I also appeal to the states that have not yet recognised the State of Palestine to do so,” Abbas said.
“The time has come for my courageous and proud people, after decades of displacement and colonial occupation and ceaseless suffering, to live like other peoples of the earth, free in a sovereign and independent homeland,” he said.
He added that he hoped for swift backing. Many delegates gave him a standing ovation, and some were clapping and even whistling in support.
Hours after receiving it, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon transmitted the Palestinian request to the Security Council.
Nawaf Salam, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN and the current Security Council president, said the application would be discussed on Monday.
In order to pass, it would need the backing of nine out of 15 council members, with no vetoes from the permanent members, but it could take weeks to reach a vote.
Currently the Palestinians have observer status at the UN.
Israel and the US say a Palestinian state can only be achieved through talks with Israel - not through UN resolutions.
“I continue to hope that President Abbas will be my partner in peace,” Mr Netanyahu said in his speech at the General Assembly.
“Let’s meet here today in the United Nations. Who’s there to stop us?” he added.
President Barack Obama told Mr Abbas earlier this week that the US would use its UN Security Council veto to block the Palestinian bid.
BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen says this is significant because the Palestinians may yet apply to the General Assembly for enhanced status if their Security Council bid fails.
A spokesman for the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, criticised Mr Abbas’ speech.
Salah Bardawil said Mr Abbas had deviated from the aspirations of the Palestinian people by accepting the 1967 borders, which he said left 80% of Palestinian land inside Israel.
Meanwhile in the West Bank, crowds roared their approval as Mr Abbas demanded UN acceptance of a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders.
“With our souls, with our blood, we will defend Palestine,” they said.
Yemen troops attack opposition camp in Sanaa

BBC: Government troops in Yemen have opened fire on protesters in Sanaa, killing at least one person, reports say.
Witnesses and medics say the demonstrators came under gun and mortar attack in the capital’s Change Square - the focus of the protests.
They say some tents were on fire and there were also sniper attacks.
The violence comes after President Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier returned from Saudi Arabia three months after surviving an assassination attempt.
“We have six severely injured and one killed in a terrible way by the mortar fire,” doctor Mohammed al-Qubati was quoted as saying by Reuters.
There were also reports that late on Friday government troops tried to storm the square, which was being guarded by armed men opposed to President Saleh.
Activists have been camped out in Change Square since January, demanding an end to Saleh’s decades-long rule.
Earlier on Friday, at least 13 people reportedly died in fighting in the capital. Clashes in the capital have recently intensified as elite Republican Guards, led by President Saleh’s son Ahmed, fight running battles with army units that have defected to the opposition and tribal fighters who support the protesters.
After his surprise return to Sanaa, President Saleh called for a ceasefire to stop violence which has already claimed about 100 lives this week, mainly of unarmed anti-government protesters.
He flew back after having treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries sustained in a rocket attack on the grounds of his presidential palace.
Saleh was greeted by thousands of enthusiastic supporters, who staged a rally in Sanaa.
But correspondents say his return raises the risk of all-out civil war.
The US, whose officials were reported to have been taken by surprise by President Saleh’s return, urged him to begin a transfer of power and arrange presidential elections.
“The Yemeni people have suffered enough and deserve a path towards a better future,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Palestinian statehood rumbles the UN

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas submitted his nation’s bid for recognition as a state to the United Nations last Friday at the end of a week that has seen a dramatic shift in the diplomatic ground in the Palestinians’ favour even though their request to the Security Council is certain to fail. The Palestinian leader handed over the letter seeking to join the UN as a state shortly before he addressed the general assembly to plead the case for admission. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, spoke shortly afterwards and denounced the Palestinian move as destabilising and a threat to the peace process, even though that is largely dormant.

Two state solution
Abbas’s moves comes amidst growing frustrations over stalled negotiations that had sought to establish a ‘two state’ solution to the decades old Arab-Israeli conflict. Abbas’ determination to press ahead in the face of strong US opposition has prompted the most serious attempt to revive the peace process in years as Washington, London and Paris seek to avoid a showdown in the Security Council that could severely damage their standing in a rapidly changing Middle East.
The US and EU which in principle agree on a two state solution and an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel were quick to criticise the latest moves for recognition calling it a ‘short cut’ since the final borders of the future states have yet to be determined. The Palestinians have wide support throughout the world for a final border that would reflect the regions map as it was in 1967. While no nation in the world, including the US, recognises Israeli occupied territory since 1967, many western countries have found it impossible endorse the 67 border due to their close ties to the Jewish state and domestic pressure from pro-Israeli groups.

Annual aid
In his address to the UN General Assembly President Obama reiterated U.S. support for the establishment of a Palestinian state but alluded to his opposition to their direct bid for UN membership- a position Palestinians believe reflects Washington’s bias toward Israel. Frustration with U.S. policy is one of the main reasons behind Abbas’ UN initiative. Palestinian officials have presented it as an attempt to break the U.S. monopoly over Middle East peace diplomacy by involving other powers. U.S. policy toward the Middle East conflict has long appeared pro-Israel to Palestinians.
By far the weaker party in the negotiations, the Palestinians, was always dependent on Washington’s help to get their own state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. While the crisis was brewing at the UN, the U.S. Congress has threatened to review the roughly $500 million in annual aid Washington gives to the Palestinians if they seek full membership at the United Nations. The funds are spent on everything from rebuilding roads to paying the salaries of the PA’s 150,000 employees. While the congress was in recess in Washington this season, Foreign Policy Magazine reported that over eighty of a total of 425 members will visit Israel supported by several lobby groups, demonstrating the clout held by pro-Israeli groups over US law makers.

Veto power
After his speech that ignited protests in the Palestinian territories, Obama met with Abbas on Thursday night in an effort to convince him not to seek Security Council recognition, warning that the U.S. would use its veto power to block it. American officials also continued their effort to mobilise enough Security Council votes to defeat the statehood bid without a U.S. veto. Germany has already announced it won’t vote yes
Meanwhile, France has spent its energies pushing for a compromise in which the UN General Assembly would upgrade the PA to the status of a non-member state in exchange for the PA dropping its bid for Security Council acceptance as a full UN member. The French proposal also calls for Israeli-Palestinian talks to resume with a fixed deadline: six months to sign a final deal on borders and security arrangements and another six months for a deal on all other outstanding issues, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told an Israeli newspaper. In addition, the Palestinians would have to promise not to take any steps that would violate the spirit of the peace process, such as filing charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. That would include withdrawing the complaint Palestinians filed to the ICC in 2009 over Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Peaceful coexistence
Meanwhile support for an independent Palestine came from a somewhat unlikely quarter - Israeli citizens themselves. Dozens of Israeli artists and academics on Thursday proclaimed their support for the Palestinian statehood bid, outside Independence Hall on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. The setting was symbolic, held outside the same building where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the independence of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948. Earlier on Thursday, the group of 82 intellectuals and artists published a declaration supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967 lines. At the demonstration, the public was invited to sign their names alongside the declaration.
The declaration reads: “We, the undersigned, call on all persons seeking peace and freedom, and upon all nations to join us in welcoming the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, to support it and to work and act together in order to encourage the citizens of both countries to live together in peace, based on the ’67 borders and mutual agreement. A final and complete end to the occupation is a basic condition for the freedom of both peoples, for the realisation of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and a future of peaceful coexistence.”

Diplomatic wrangling
The days of diplomatic wrangling, much of it behind the scenes but some of it on the open stage of the UN General Assembly, have resulted in a compromise. Abbas will submit his application but any vote will be put on hold to allow for fresh attempts to revive peace talks. The latest bid by the Palestinians to draw attention to the plight of their grievances has succeeded. The likelihood of Palestine forcing its statehood claims through the UN mechanism remains shut as long as the United States , Britain and France maintains their ability to veto such a move at the Security Council.

A vote at the General Assembly, on the other hand, may have embarrassed those who oppose such a measure since Palestine enjoys wide sympathy and support from many developing nations. The compromise, however, would satisfy no one who wishes for an immediate resolution to a conflict that has engulfed the region since 1948. Yet, the drama at the UN may serve to at least draw attention and focus back to this crisis that have left Palestinians frustrated, Israel insecure and the rest of the world vulnerable.


London Riots: Lone battle by school dropouts

By Dr. Garvin Karunaratne Ph.D.(Michigan State University)
London did burn in August and in the days that followed there were riots in Birmingham, Manchester and many other Cities. People plundered shops and walked away with whatever they could snatch and in many areas they looted under the watchful survelliance of the Police. It was easily the “Worst public disorder in a generation”. The riots were far more serious than the Brixton Riots of April 1981 when over a hundred vehicles were torched.
The Metropolitan Police said that the 2011 Riots were a wake up call (Evening Standard: Sept6). The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said that rioters must not be abandoned but given help to turn their lives around. However the Minister of Justice is amending the penal code to punish offenders.
Are the Riots really a wake up call, calling the Government to attention? Is it the poverty and deprivation of the youth that was the cause. It is a well known fact that while the UK has an unemployment rate of 7.9%, in the case of the 16 –25 year olds one in five are now unemployed (BBCBusinessNews:19/1/11)
The writer served as a Social Worker in the City of Manchester in 1973 to 1975 and was a Senior Community Education Worker in the City of Edinburgh in 1979 to 1981 and his work involved the unemployed people in both Manchester and Edinburgh.
In Manchester I had a number of unemployed youths on my case load and I have had the occasion to advise them whenever they did transgress the law. In Manchester, the blacks were entrenched in Mossside and the Government in the process of building new housing did try to move the blacks to outer areas in an attempt to avoid Mossside becoming an enclave of the blacks. However today Mossside is a No-Go area where serious crimes are the order of the day. “ Analysts trace the high rate of gun crimes in South Manchester to acute social deprivation in an inner city from Hulme through Mossside to Longsight”(BBCNews:14/11/08). The situation has deteriorated rapidly from my days in 1975.
In Edinburgh, I had more to do with the unemployed and the youth. My duties included community work and I was in charge of the Clovenstone Community Center in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. The Community Center was run by a Committee elected by members- every resident interested could pay a token fee and become a member. The Community Center catered to all segments of the population- the youth, the unemployed, adults, the elderly and disabled. It included social and educational activities, youth clubs. As the Warden of the Community Center I was also supervising youths on the Manpower Services’ Programmes- the YOP and STEP which offered training to unemployed youths for a year and paid them sustenance. While in the UK in the 16-24 year age group 20% are unemployed, in Scotland the rate is higher- 25%. In an inner city area like Wester Hailes the unemployment is far higher.
Most of the unemployed were members of the Community Center and were active in the Youth Clubs and members of the Committee who supervised the Youth Clubs and other youth activities like the German Youth Exchange had build up links with them. The unemployed though belligerent about the poverty and deprivation that surrounded their lives were at home in the Community Center. Some of them even became youth leaders. Some of them were holding places under the YOP and STEP Programmes. The training they got was not sufficient to enable them to find employment and at the end of the year they inevitably fed into the ranks of the unemployed. It sadly amounted to a wasted year of their prime life.
In order to find employment for the unemployed youth in Wester Hailes, I drafted a Programme to provide the youth with vocational training, where after a period of six months’ intensive training they will get involved in making items for sale and be guided by vocational specialist lecturers, members of the community and by me to understand the art of making things for sale and selling them. I suggested that this Programme should be managed by a Committee comprising lecturers of vocational training , officers of the Community Education Department and members of the community. My Paper went to the Director of Community Education and to the Education Committee of the Lothian Regional Council. I was commended for the effort and that was all. The Community Education Department could have easily worked on this Programme to make the unemployed youths to take to vocations under the watchful eye of members of the community and the lecturers, but unfortunately, that was not to be.
Today there are many vocational training courses in every College and the graduands are awarded certificates and thereafter left to search for jobs. It was Julius Nyerere, the Prime Minister of Tanzania who said that vocational education has side tracked the utilization of the knowledge and skills that was being imparted. His idea was that training programmes should make people skillful users of tools and not turn them into tools. There is no extension service to guide the trained unemployed to get involved in productive endeavour. Vocational education ends with the training imparted in the vocation. The committee of the Community Centre were very keen to guide the unemployed who happen to be living in their own communities and it was a programme that could have been very successfully implemented. The 2011 Election Manifesto of the Scottish National Party pledged support and investment in Youth Employment in Scotland with significant investment in more apprenticeship places and investment in College Bursaries and additional training.
In a few years I assumed duties as the Commonwealth Fund General Advisor to the Ministry of Youth Development in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Youth Development trained over 40,000 youths a year on varied vocations and after training the youths were left alone. I found most of them remaining unemployed. That is the normal pattern of vocational training all over the world and the system in Bangladesh was akin to the system in Edinburgh where Colleges attend to impart vocational training.
I argued that the creation of employment opportunities for the trained youth should be an essential part of vocational training institutes, because otherwise the training has no meaning to the unemployed youths. I suggested that the youths in training should be guided to make items for sale and that the lecturers should attend to guide them. This was an extension of the vocational training that was already imparted.
This extension of vocational training to guide the youths in training was approved by the Hon Minister for Manpower and Labour under whom youth development functioned and I had the task of training all Lecturers and Youth Workers in basic economics so that they could guide the youths who were being trained to become productive, make something- produce eggs or milk or a chair or a table and sell it. The youths were guided in production and sales. A dedicated staff worked round the clock. The training institutes that normally closed their gates after studies at about five in the evenings were kept open till ten in the night to enable the youths that learned sewing to use the machinery to sew something for sale. Youths being trained in livestock and poultry commenced small farms in their homes managed by their brothers and sisters during the week while the youths attended lectures at the training institutes. The lecturers guided them and this ultimately became a youth movement
We had created a stir. It was the beginning of something that neither the vocational lecturers nor the unemployed had ever thought of earlier. Patriotism was rife and the lecturers though they were not paid extra for the additional work, did contribute willingly.
We found that the sale of each garment that a youth in training did make, urged other trainees to become productive to make something better. In fact a bank clerk who had earlier gone through vocation training in livestock and poultry gave up his job and became a youth in self employment training. Within a year he was earning double the salary that he had earned as a bank clerk.
In detail, “the training in self employment was:
1. to understand the working of the free market economy and the working of the forces of supply and demand,
2. to identify areas of activity within the economy where there was a potential to be self employed. Guidance was offered to the trainees to think seriously about the local economy, local resources and how these could get dove-tailed into the national economy,
3. to understand basic economics and finance leading to their acquiring the ability to draft a project for self employment, calculate production costs and to make projections of possible production, sales and profits,
4. to assess available resources and obtain support from family members
5. to draft a project giving details of the activity, the financial details of investment and output phased over a feasible period during which time commercial viability could be achieved”
More details:
“Trainees were guided to draft and revise projects based on what resources they could find…Practical exercises were laid down for them to follow in their own villages and in their own market places where they will have to eventually sell their produce. The trainees were unknowingly being immersed within the working of the supply and demand mechanism in their own rural economy……The Method was to intensively guide the trainees in the management of their enterprises. Every action from the planning of the projects, to the purchase of raw materials, the process of manufacture or the process of growth of cattle etc. was intensively monitored and helped immediately they failed. The failure itself was built into an educational exercise that had a lasting imprint for it not to happen again” (From ‘Success in Development: Godages, Colombo 2010)
That was the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh, which has expanded country wide and by 2010 had guided as much as 2 million youths to become commercially viable entrepreneurs. Today annually 160,000 youths are guided to become self employed. The intake was from the unemployed youths- the drop outs of schools. They were enticed and taken away for vocational training and end up becoming entrepreneurs. This is the only programme in the world where guidance is offered to trained youths and it is easily the largest and most successful. This Programme has left its imprint on the sands of time.
That was what I had in store for Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, however implemented in a slightly different design in the poverty stricken climes of Bangladesh. Edinburgh’s loss was Bangladesh’s gain.
However everything is not lost.
Mark Lazarowisz, Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North has called “for action by the UK to tackle the worrying rise in youth unemployment so as to ensure that young people don’t leave school or university only to find themselves out of work and disillusioned”(The Edinburgh Reporter:21/9/2011)
To Mark Lazarowisz and to anyone interested my message is that there is a way ahead. There is no point in training only. Training has to be equipped with guidance to become productively employed and this is my message not only to Edinburgh but to the rest of the world. It is a beacon of hope to the unemployed everywhere, be it in the connurbations of the USA, in Scotland or in rural habitats of the Third World.
Self Employment has to emerge as the aim of vocational training and the earlier that self employment is tied to vocational training the better for the unemployed and the downtrodden. It will bring life and hope to the millions of unemployed all over the world.
(Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D.(Michigan State University) Former Commonwealth Fund Advisor to the Ministry of Labour & Manpower, Government of Bangladesh. Author of “Success in Development” (Godages, Colombo,2010) September 14, 2011; E mail: gamkga@aol.com)