Sunday, March 18, 2007

Farsakh Comment on Future Vision

Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas may have affirmed that they want a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but it may be more promising to return to a much older idea. There is talk once again of a one-state bi-national solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo peace process failed to bring Palestinians their independence and the withdrawal from Gaza has not (...) Unfortunately, the article's "sense of decency" - or rather Le Monde diplomatique's - doesn't allow for talks about the consociational form of democracy at the heart of the present vision. So you'll better read the Manifesto or any article by Prof. As'ad Ghanem to make quite sure this time it's not about Fatah's old "secular and democratic state."

Time for a Bi-national State

By Leila Farsakh
March 19, 2007

There is talk once again of a one-state bi-national solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Oslo peace process failed to bring Palestinians their independence and the withdrawal from Gaza has not created a basis for a democratic Palestinian state as President George Bush had imagined: The Palestinians are watching their territory being fragmented into South African-style bantustans with poverty levels of over 75%. The area is heading to the abyss of an apartheid state system rather than to a viable two-state solution, let alone peace.

There have been a number of recent publications proposing a one-state solution as the only alternative to the current impasse. Three years ago, Meron Benvenisti, Jerusalem’s deputy mayor in the 1970s, wrote that the question is “no longer whether there is to be a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel, but which model to choose.” Respected intellectuals on all sides, including the late Edward Said; the Arab Israeli member of the Knesset, Azmi Bishara; the Israeli historian Illan Pape; scholars Tanya Reinhart and Virginia Tilley; and journalists Amira Haas and Ali Abunimeh, have all stressed the inevitability of such a solution.

The idea of a single, bi-national state is not new. Its appeal lies in its attempt to provide an equitable and inclusive solution to the struggle of two peoples for the same piece of land. It was first suggested in the 1920s by Zionist leftwing intellectuals led by philosopher Martin Buber, Judah Magnes (the first rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Haïm Kalvarisky (a member of Brit-Shalom and later of the National Union). The group followed in the footsteps of Ahad Ha’am (Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, one of the great pre-state Zionist thinkers).


Monday, February 12, 2007

Ghanem Comment on The Future Vision

Dismantling the tyranny of the majority (pdf)

By As'ad Ghanem*
January 29, 2007
I believe this document can be defined as an historic event in the annals of the Palestinians in Israel and of their relationship with the Jewish majority and establishment. This is the first time a representative national body of Palestinians in Israel has prepared and published a basic paper that describes both the existing situation and the changes that are needed across a broad spectrum of Arab life: relations with the Jewish majority, the legal situation, land, social and economic issues, the status of civil and political institutions, etc. The document was written by activists from all political tendencies among the Palestinians in Israel (including some who later opposed the positions adopted), and delineates the achievements necessary for defining the future relationship between the majority and the minority in the state of Israel.

In my view, the document is based on three theoretical principles that constitute the foundations of human social, political and cultural development for at least the past two centuries. First is the principle of human rights: the document addresses the fundamental rights of the Palestinians in Israel as human beings--to economic and social development, women's and children's rights, to live without violence, etc.--and demands their realization.

The second principle invokes civil equality: the basic democratic right to equality before the law and the demand to annul laws, structures and symbols that alienate the Palestinian citizens of Israel and ensure Jewish superiority. And the third principle is that of the right of communities to self-determination, including the autonomous right to manage specific areas of life such as their own education and cultural and religious affairs. In order to realize these foundations, the document's writers demand the implementation in Israel of a consociational system. This would replace the existing liberal system that is exploited automatically by the Jewish majority and that, indeed, constitutes a "tyranny of the majority" in which, in the name of liberal democracy, that majority takes draconian steps against the Palestinian minority and its fundamental rights.

Jewish reaction representing the Zionist consensus was expressed to a significant extent by journalist Tommy Lapid, Professor of Law Amnon Rubinstein and historian Professor Alex Jacobson. They display a well-known nationalist readiness to recognize the right to self-determination of a single group in a pluralist reality, a demand anchored in the extreme nationalism that in the twentieth century was represented by Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and many additional countries and that ultimately led to disasters of historic dimensions. This model ignores the compromises reached in Spain after Franco, in Belgium, in Canada since the Quiet Revolution and in severalother instances in which a pluralist reality facilitated solutions based on mutual recognition and the right of self-determination and self-rule for more than one national or ethnic group within a single political framework.

* Dr. As'ad Ghanem heads the Government & Political Philosophy Department at the School of Political Sciences, University of Haifa and is chair of the executive committee of the Ibn-Khaldun Association. He was an active participantin the preparation of the document described here.

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Rekhess Comment on The Future Vision

On "Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel"
Tel Aviv Notes (pdf)

By Elie Rekhess

December 19, 2006

Several position papers on the future of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have recently beenissued. The most striking is "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," prepared bythe National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Councils and endorsed by the Supreme Follow-up Committee of the Arabs in Israel. What has gained the most attention is its national-historical perspective on three issues:

First, the document rejects the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state which, the authors argue, perpetuates the inferior status of its Arab citizens. The present system, says the document, should be supplanted with a "consociational democracy," namely a bi-national state model, based on full power-sharing between the two national groups in government, distribution of resources, decision-making, proportional representation and the mutual right of veto on crucial decisions. The country's national symbols, such as the anthem, flag and emblem, would also be modified.

Secondly, the Committee's paper calls for full equality in the civic, national and historical spheres, including, inter alia, equal rights of immigration and citizenship quotas, a demand which may imply the elimination of the "Law of Return" allowing Jews to freely immigrate to Israel. Special reference is made to the socioeconomic differences between the Jewish and Arab sectors, particularly with regard to land, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development, social change and education.

Demands for equal rights are intertwined with those insisting on the endorsement of the Palestinian historical narrative and recognition of the Arabs in Israel as an indigenous minority. The document calls for an official cknowledgement of the 1948 Nakba ("calamity"; referring to the defeat and displacement of the Palestinians). "Internal refugees" who remained in Israel and whose land was expropriated should be allowed to return to their original lands, and Waqf (religious endowment) property, administrated since 1948 by the Israeli government, should revert to the control of the Muslim community.

Thirdly, the paper suggests structuralinstitutional changes, specifically self-rule (autonomy) in education, religious and cultural affairs, and the media, in order to guarantee the unrestricted development of the Arab minority’s specific collective identity. It also proposes the establishment of an elected, country-wide representative body for the Arabs in Israel.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Future Vision Of The Palestinian-Arabs In Israel

The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel (pdf)

Report by

The National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel - 2006


In order to collect various versions in the self-definition of our entity, our relation with the rest of the Palestinians and our relation with the State and to connect them to create a firm integral homogeneous vision, we, the Arab Palestinians in Israel, should have a clear self-definition that includes all the political, cultural, economic, educational and social aspects.

As the chairman of the High Follow up Committee for the Arabs in Israel, I have invited a group of Arab intellectuals (see attached list of names) to a discussion aiming at crystallizing a strategic future collective vision of the Palestinian Arabs citizens of Israel.

I express my gratitude to this group for its efforts and commitment in the march that lasted for more than a year during which four long meetings were held. Documents attached to this paper are the outcome of this march. They are also the outcome of a collective effort during which its content was discussed and ratified. The core of the work was subject to summaries of researches written by some participants in the group, proposing general trends for a change required in the future of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

This outcome is a property of the group, the High Follow-Up Committee and the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel. These documents focus on affiliation, identity and citizenship of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. They also focus on the legal status, land and housing, economic and social development, educational vision for Arab education, Arab Palestinian culture and on the political and national work of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

It is worth mentioning here that the group did not have the chance to discuss other major issues in detail.

The importance of this work lies within the discussion which will follow, as a publication of this document. It is not necessary for all representatives of political streams and parties, represented by the Follow-Up Committee, to approve of this document. Rather, the main goal is to spark the public discussion concerning thefuture of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

Shawqi Khateeb


The Palestinian Arabs in Israel and their relation to the State of Israel


Israel can not be defined as a democratic State. It can be defined as an ethnocratic state such as Turkey, Srilanka, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia (and Canada forty years ago). These countries have engaged their minorities in the political, social and economic aspects of life, in a very limited and unequal way. This comes amidst a continued and firm policy of control and censorship which guarantee the hegemony of the majority and marginalizing the minority.

The principles of an ethnocratic system include:

1. The control of an ethnic group on the State system.
2. Focusing on ethnicity (and religion) and not citizenship, as a basic principle of the distribution of resources and abilities and undermining the “people” (citizens in general).
3. A gradual ethnic process of politics based on ethnic classes.
4. A permanent state of instability.
5. The ethnocratic logic provides tools for understanding societies that prefers one certain group over others; it also dominates the dynamics between different ethnic groups.

To maintain the ethnocratic system, Israel has implemented several rules concerning the Palestinian Arabs in Israel:

1. Cutting all identity relations between the Palestinian Arabs in Israel and the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab and Islamic Nation. Israel has tried to create a new group of “Israeli Arabs”.

2. Preventing Palestinian Arabs in Israel from keeping relations with their brothers in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and, thePalestinians refugees.

3. Opposition of organizing the Palestinian Arabs in Israel in any form that can be of a contradiction to the aspirations of the Jewish majority and the state in terms of parliamentary representation and preventing them from exercising any non parliamentarian political activities of public struggles.

4. Opposing the Palestinian Arab leadership attempts to building a vision adverse to consolidate the Status of the Arab minority in the Jewish state which ultimately accepts the Jewish control of the state, its resources and abilities.

5. Forcing the Palestinian Arabs in Israel to accept resource allocation on a basis of ethnicity rather than citizenship. This aims at maintaining the Jewish superiority and the Palestinian Arab inferiority in Israel.

The Palestinian Arabs in Israel are in need of changing their status. While they are preserving their Arab Palestinian identity, they need to obtain their full citizenship in the State and its institutions. They also aspire to attain institutional self-rule in the field of education, culture and religion that is in fact part of fulfilling their rights as citizens and as part of the Israeli state. They also seek to obtain full equality with the Jewish majority.

Such self-rule within the State poses a system based on Consensual Democracy. A system embodies the presence of two groups, the Jews and the Palestinians. Such system would guarantee real resource, leadership and decision making participation.

The Palestinians in Israel should demand the following, from the State:

1. The State should acknowledge responsibility of the Palestinian Nakba (tragedy of 1948) and its disastrous consequences on the Palestinians in general and the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel in particular. Israel should start by rectifying the damage that it had caused and should consider paying compensation for its Palestinian citizens as individuals and groups for the damages resulted from the Nakba and the continuous iscriminating policies derived from viewing them as enemies and not as itizens that have a right to appose the state and challenge its rules.

2. The State should recognize the Palestinian Arabs in Israel as an indigenous national group (and as a minority within the international conventions) that has the right within their citizenship to choose its representatives directly and be responsible for their religious, educational and cultural affairs. This goup should be given the chance to create its own national institutions relating to all living aspects and stop the policies of dividing between the different religious sects within the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

3. The State has to acknowledge that Israel is the homeland for both Palestinians and Jews (the Israeli future constitution and state laws should reinforce this point by adding an introduction paragraph). The relation between the Palestinians and Jews in Israel should be based on attainment of equal human and citizen rights based on international conventions and the international relative treaties and declarations. The two groups should have mutual relations based on the consensual democratic system (an extended coalition between the elites of the two groups, equal proportional representation, mutual right to veto and self administration of exclusive issues).

4. Israel should acknowledge the right of minorities in line with international conventions. It should admit that the Palestinian Arabs in Israel have a special status within the institutions of the international community and are acknowledged as an
indigenous cultural national group enjoying total citizenship in Israel. It should also acknowledge that the Arab minority in Israel has international protection, care and support according to international conventions and treaties.

5. Israel should refrain from adopting policies and schemes in favor of the majority. Israel must remove all forms of ethnic superiority, be that executive, structural, legal or symbolic. Israel should adopt policies of corrective justice in all aspects of life in order to compensate for the damage inflicted on the Palestinian Arabs due to the ethnic favoritism policies of the Jews. The State should cooperate with representatives of the Palestinian Arabs to search the possibility of restoring parts of their lands that Israel confiscated not for public use. Israel should also dedicate an equal part of its resources for the direct needs of the Palestinian Arabs.

6. Israel should acknowledge the rights of the Moslems to run their affairs concerning the Waqf (Islamic endowment) and the Islamic holy sites. Israel should no longer be in control of the Islamic and Christian holy sites and acknowledge their right of self-rule the as part of the collective rights given to the Palestinian Arabs.

7. Israel should acknowledge the right of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel of social, religious, cultural and national continuity with the rest of the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic Nation.

The legal status of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel


1. The shared citizenship rights:

In order to guarantee the desired legal protection of the shared citizenship rights in Israel, the legal system should adopt the anti-discrimination laws in all aspects of life individually and collectively. This legal system should also include the creation of an independent commission (or commissions) for equality and human rights. Such commission should focus on guaranteeing the implementation and surveillance of anti-discrimination laws. It should also adopt the international conventions pertaining to the protection of human rights and be obligated to them, such as the international convention combating all forms of discrimination, and those pertaining to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and those calling for equality of women and child, so that the terms of these conventions would become an indivisible part of the internal law enforced in the country.

2. The collective –national rights:

Concerning collective national rights, we believe that Palestinian Arabs in Israel, as a collective and as individuals, should have equal participation in all public resources including the political ,material and symbolic resources. Such participation would be the cornerstone of building an equal and just society, where this society would include equal relevance and opportunity for each group on the basis of democratic principles of consensuality and power sharing. On the level of legal protection of the national collective rights we note a number of basic legal axes that must be guaranteed in order to crystallize the desired legal status of the Palestinian Arabs :

1. An official recognition of the collective Palestinian Arabs existence in the State, and their national, religious, cultural, and language character, and recognition that they are the indigenous people of the homeland.

2. Recognition of the Palestinian Arab rights of complete equality in the State on a collective –national basis.

3. Guaranteeing dual language system of both Arabic and Hebrew.

4. Guaranteeing effective representation and participation of the Palestinian Arabs in decision making procedures within the official institutes and the activation of the veto right in matters concerning their living.

5. Guarantee of self-rule of the Palestinian Arabs in the fields of education, religion, culture and media and recognizing their right to selfdetermination with respect to their collective life complementing their partnership within the state

6. Equal distribution of resources, such as budget, land and housing.

7. Appropriate representation on a collective basis in the state system.

8. Guaranteeing the right of the Palestinian Arabs to have open and free relations with the rest of the Palestinian People and the Arab Nation.

9. Guaranteeing the rights of the Palestinian Arabs in issues obliterated in the past such as the present absentees and their right of return; the Islamic waqf (endowment); unrecognized Arab villages and land confiscation.

10. Official acknowledgment of the historical injustice against the Palestinian Arabs in this country and against the Palestinians in general and to guarantee for ending this injustice and correcting its continuous disastrous consequences. In order to obtain the desired legal status of the of the Palestinian Arab citizens and to face challenges that associate us during our struggle we propose to reinforce the existing efforts and further develop the legal, cultural, and social-economic status of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. This is to be actualized by crystallizing and developing legal and strategic policies to serve and push our causes on the short and long terms. We can have a clear future vision in order to obtain equality and partnership and combat national discrimination and negligence within the state.


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Original arabic >>

Related article:

Al-Ahram Weekly | Opinion | Hizbullah's two republics

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Consociational Hezbollah

The 1943 National Pact agreed on between Lebanese patriotic confessional leaderships is different in nature from the 2003 "consociational" Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) imposed on Iraqis by occupation forces. Equally, present demands of the Lebanese opposition, pressing for a formation of a government of national unity and/or anticipated elections, are different from those in post-invasion Iraq. The Lebanese demands are in accord with existing constitutional laws, and therefore not expressed in some "insurgent"-style or Sistani-style; the Lebanese opposition isn’t calling to arms and the overthrow of the pro-Western Siniora government, and nor is it calling for a direct popular majoritarian vote for the purpose of forming a transitional government and writing a new constitution.

In their domestic political struggle, Hezbollah and its allies -- (Shi’i) Amal Movement, the (Christian) Free Patriotic Movement, and minor allies -- aren’t playing on their military and demographic assets; they’re playing the democratic game proper:

Hezbollah’s Democratic Demands

By Mohammed Ben Jelloun
January 15, 2007

By demanding a national unity government and a veto power over major decisions, Hezbollah and its allies are sticking to the consociational (multi-confessional) letter and the republican (patriotic) spirit of the Lebanese constitution.

In his Friday speech on December 1, 2006; that is, on the first sit-in day in the ongoing Lebanese Anti-Government Protest, Sheikh Abd Al-Ameer Kablan, the vice president of the Shi’i Council in Lebanon, made it clear that the opposition’s demands were of a "consociational" nature; "we are for consociational participation not majority/minority participation," he said. Unlike many commentators, indeed, Hezbollah and its allies do not contest the constitutional system in force in Lebanon; they don’t question what Stephen Zune (December 6, 2006) sees as a "colonially-imposed" and Robert Fisk (November 13, 2006) as a "French conceived" confessional representation system. To the contrary, Hezbollah and its allies are championing Lebanese-style democracy.

Equally, against all sorts of worries, fear, suspicion, and warnings about Hezbollah, this strengthened party in the aftermath of the July-August war did not advocate any majoritarian change in the system of representation – even less a violent overthrow. In fact, Hezbollah embraced radical forms of consociational democracy instead.


It will no longer do to give precedence to investigating a particular political crime over national unity, national security, and national reconstruction; it will no longer do to give priority to tracking still hypothetical murderers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri over protection against destroyers of Lebanon’s infra-structure and murderers – the assassins beyond any reasonable doubt, though powerfully protected – of more than 1.000 Lebanese civilians.

Full article >>

Read also: Hizbullah's Two Republics

The articles above cite a document signed Ali Fayyad, a politburo member and director of a think tank closely affiliated with Hezbollah, who says "the consensus rule became Hezbollah’s motto" following what the party saw as an attempt by the majority side in government to monopolize the decision-making process:

Hezbollah and the Lebanese State. Reconciling a National Strategy with a Regional Role

By Ali Fayyad
August 15, 2006


The Hezbollah’s insistence that Lebanon’s political system is a democratic consensual one based on the rule of 'con-sociationism' as stipulated by the Preamble of the Lebanese Constitution cannot be understood merely as a political response to a particular moment of deep divisions. It reflects a deep transformation in Hezbollah’s understanding of the requirements of the Lebanese political system as well as its appreciation that internal stability is central to every national project if it is to succeed in its pan-Arab and Islamic dimensions. Hezbollah’s adherence to the consensus-building principle (…) sees that the majority rule creates an unstable balance of power and is inadequate in the long run to protect the interests of all. The movement seeks therefore to invest its strength and capacities to promote balance rather than to achieve domination in the Lebanese structure.


Clearly, Hezbollah’s consociation concept is not synonymous with federation; it is rather far from federation. Nasrallah sounds here like warning of an "Iraqization" of Lebanon:

Nasrallah’s Victory Rally Speech

September 22, 2006


We announce from this place, with the blood of our martyrs; we announce, precede matters, and say, any talk in Lebanon about partition is an Israeli talk, any talk in Lebanon about federalism is Israeli talk, and any talk in Lebanon about cantons is Israeli talk. We the Lebanese, our fate, decision, and wish to God should be to live together in one state. We are against its partition and division. We are against its federalism and division into cantons.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Israel's Arab community and the bi-national state

Israeli Arabs seek autonomy and veto on government decisions

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
December 6, 2006

Israeli Arabs are demanding cultural, religious and educational autonomy, and the right to veto government decisions on national issues that affect them.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee Tuesday released a document entitled "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel." It stipulates that Israeli Arabs will demand that during the next two decades Israel become a binational state alongside an independent Palestinian state.

Monitoring Committee officials say the document is a cornerstone in the history of the Israeli Arabs, as it was produced by the Monitoring Committee and sponsored by the local authorities committee, two bodies representing all the political factions of the Arabs in Israel

"Our main objective is to ignite the spark of the political debate on the future of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," said Shawki Hatib, chair of the Monitoring Committee.

The document demands that Israel recognize the Arab community as a national minority with the right to be represented in international forums. Jewish Israelis need not see it as a threat, Hatib said.

The document has eight chapters, each outlining the vision regarding land policy, economic development, education, etc. The chapter about relations with the state does not say that Israeli Arabs recognize Israel's Jewishness, but that they are willing to see it as a "joint homeland" for the two nations.

"This means we recognize the Jewish nation's rights in Israel as individuals and a group. But not at the Arabs' expense. We will respect each other if they respect our rights," said Dr. Asad Ghanem, a political scientist, who wrote the chapter.

The chapter presents Israel as a state created by colonialism, which grew strong due to the increased Jewish migration to Palestine in the wake of World War II's consequences and the Holocaust. It says Israel imposed a colonial policy on its Arab citizens, including confiscation of their land and redefining the culture as Jewish.

The document demands changing the state's symbols. "After 60 years we must grow up and speak the truth. This state must contain both groups on all levels. Let the Jews have Zionist symbols in their space. I support that. But why impose those symbols on me?" asked Ghanem.

The chapters presented Tuesday will be part of a book to be published by the Monitoring Committee. It was initiated by Hatib, prepared by the local authority heads' committee and financed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

"The Or Committee also ruled that the Israeli Arabs' weakness is the lack of group rights. That was written by a Jew, and nobody felt threatened, but when the Arabs say it, it's threatening," he said.

The chapter about the Palestinian state says the Israeli Arabs support the establishment of a Palestinian state adjacent to Israel. It would belong to the Palestinian people, while Israel would be a binational state, as it has a Jewish majority and a large Arab minority. It calls for setting up a democracy constituting a coalition of Jews and Arabs in Israel. Each side would run its own affairs and each would have a right to veto the other's decisions.

The document says the Arab public does not see Israel's present government system as a democracy, and says Israel is an ethnocracy, like Turkey, Sri Lanka, Latvia and others.

For more on the bi-national state see also
my earlier Edward Said related post.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Iraqis Seek to Stem Sectarian Violence

Iraqi groups are making tentative moves to stem sectarian violence by organizing a coalition called the National Salvation Front and calling for national and international meetings. Moqtada al-Sadr's Tayyera Sadriyyin party is crucial for the advancement of the goals of the alliance of Shiite, Sunni and secular groups.

Iraqis Seek to Stem Sectarian Violence
by David Enders
09 December 2006

Saleh al-Mutlaq, the leader of the Iraqi Dialogue Front, a secular political party whose critics accuse him of links to the insurgency and former government, recently announced the creation of the National Salvation Front, a grouping of parties that spans sects and is calling for regional and international meetings to reach an agreement between Iraqis.

On December 6, as headlines in the United States were dominated by the Iraq Study Group's suggestions about how the Bush administration should proceed in Iraq, Maliki made his own headlines, by reversing his initial opposition to holding such meetings.

The new front includes the Tayyera Sadriyyin, the political party led by anti-occupation cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia, number of seats in parliament and cabinet posts rival those of Hakim's party.

Sadr's party allied with Hakim's and other Shiite parties in elections in late 2005, but has since broken with Hakim over power-sharing and Hakim's continued calls to partition Iraq. If the new front holds, it would be a serious challenge to the current government, as Sadr has already withdrawn his support for Maliki over the latter's meeting with Bush and refusal to allow the Iraqi parliament to discuss the issue of allowing U.S. troops to remain in the country, an issue Sadriyyin members of parliament have spearheaded.

In 2004, before widespread sectarian violence broke out, Sadr's militia coordinated to some extent with Sunni guerillas to battle U.S. troops before Sadr was convinced to participate in the political process and a government that is now seen as a joke.

A Sadr spokesman said that he was hopeful Sadr's supporters would move away from sectarian politics and ally with Sunnis.

"We need to have an alliance with secular and religious Sunnis," said Ghaith al-Tamimi, a member of the Sadriyyin media department in Baghdad. "The Sadriyyin should stand up because we are running out of time on this issue."

Mustafa al-Hiti, a member of Mutlaq's party who spends much of his time in Amman, said the only parties not participating were Maliki's Dawa, the country's two main Kurdish parties, and Hakim's SCIRI -- essentially, the Bush administration's only allies in Iraq.

Hiti said that discussions over the formation of the bloc had begun before Bush's meeting with Maliki, but that the group had decided to announce itself now to capitalize in part on U.S. support for the sort of regional talks Maliki had initially rejected.

The entire article