March 17, 2010


EDITOR: The Settlements Show is about to end! At Last

After a tense ten-day run of this less than popular Washington and Jerusalem run show, it seems that a happy end is in sight: Friendship is forever, love flourishes, and both Netanyahu and his Ambassador eat their words, but no change to policy. Love wins the day! A large fudge is being cooked and served to us all…

US and Israel push to end East Jerusalem building row: BBC

Sporadic rioting broke out in the West Bank on Wednesday
US and Israeli diplomats are trying to bridge divisions over Israeli building plans in occupied East Jerusalem, as clashes in the city have waned.
The Palestinians have pulled out of indirect talks because of the plan.
The US is awaiting Israel’s response to its request for gestures to reassure the Palestinians.
Clashes on Thursday between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli security forces have died down, but new violence began on Wednesday in the West Bank.
Overnight, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office welcomed comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissing claims that US-Israeli ties were in crisis.
‘Warm remarks’
She had accused Israel of “insulting” and “deeply negative” behaviour after the Israelis announced they had pushed forward plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the region last week.
In her latest comment, she called the bond between the US and Israel “unshakeable”, but also urged Israel and the Palestinians to prove their commitment to peace.
Mr Netanyahu’s office said it appreciated her “warm remarks”, but added that Israel had already proved its commitment to peace “in both word and deed”.
Mr Netahyahu has apologised for the timing of the settlement announcement, but has stood by Israel’s policy on Jewish building in Jerusalem.
Also on Tuesday, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, denied comments widely quoted by Israeli media as saying that ties between the US and Israel were at their lowest point since 1975.
On Wednesday, movement restrictions on Palestinians, which had been in place for five days, were lifted as the previous days’ clashes died down in Jerusalem.
But violence broke out in the village of Beita in the northern West Bank, as at least 100 Palestinians threw stones at Israeli security forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
Clashes also took place at Qalandia checkpoint and Beit Anoun, near Hebron in the southern West Bank.
‘Days of rage’
In Tuesday’s unrest, the police said about 60 Palestinians had been arrested. Dozens of Palestinians and 15 police were injured, including one policeman who was shot in the hand.
The Islamist movement Hamas had called for a “day of rage” in defence of the Muslim holy site, the al-Aqsa mosque, in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Palestinians were angered over Jewish right wingers’ plans to enter the compound, which Jews call the Temple Mount, although police cancelled the event.
The reopening of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the Old City also increased tensions, as did five days of Israeli security restrictions limiting access to the al-Aqsa mosque to women and men over the age of 50.
Palestinians are also enraged over Israel’s continued building in East Jerusalem, where they want their future capital.
The international community considers East Jerusalem occupied territory. Building on occupied territory is illegal under international law.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, and later annexed it in a move not recognised by the international community.

Peres: We want U.S. ties to return to positive state: Haaretz

President Shimon Peres called the United States “a true friend” on Wednesday and said that both Israel and the U.S. want to ease the recent tensions between the two nations.
“We have deep respect for [U.S.] parliamentary and executive institutions, led by President Obama,” Peres told a group of high school students in Holon. “We want these relations and are interested in returning them to their regular, positive state.”

Speaking about indirect talks with the Palestinians, Peres said such talks, while not ideal, are better than nothing.
“In my opinion, proximity talks can open the path to renewing the peace negotiations,” he said. “I can say, on this stage, to our Palestinian neighbors and to whoever is listening – Israel has already made a historic decision to establish two states for two peoples. An Arabic state named Palestine and a Jewish state named Israel. I do not believe or think it possible that there is any other solution.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke on the phone Tuesday night in a bid to reduce friction between the U.S. and Israel over a plan to construct 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

The New York Times also said that the American administration had confirmed the conversation. The Prime Minister’s Bureau did not elaborate on the details of the conversation, which lasted until 2 A.M. Netanyahu’s advisers Yitzhak Molcho and Ron Dermer, along with Israeli envoy to the U.S. Michael Oren, were also present.
Israel’s announcement of plans to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem strained ties with the U.S., which has said it regarded last week’s decision – made public while Biden was in Israel – as an insult.

Netanyahu is expected to convene a meeting of seven senior cabinet ministers on Wednesday to discuss a response to demands raised by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that could help defuse the diplomatic row.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Clinton and Netanyahu may speak by phone as early as Wednesday. Netanyahu is expected to deliver Israel’s official response to Clinton during that conversation.

Clinton’s demands include the cancellation of the Ramat Shlomo construction project in East Jerusalem, which was announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the region last week.
She also wants goodwill gestures toward the Palestinians and a public declaration by Netanyahu of his willingness to discuss the conflict’s core issues in the framework of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Israel’s response had been set to be the main focus of a meeting Wednesday of the forum of seven senior cabinet members, though that meeting will now not take place.
Clinton said Tuesday that Israel must prove it is committed to the Mideast peace process. But she brushed aside suggestions that relations with the main U.S. ally in the Mideast are in crisis over Israeli plans to build new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.

She stressed that the United States remained committed to Israel’s security despite current tensions.

“We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process,” Clinton said. She had outlined her steps that Israel could take in a telephone call to Netanyahu on Friday.
State Department spokesman Philip J.Crowley on Tuesday also tried to downplay the tension, saying that no one in U.S. administration used the word “crisis” to describe the situation.

Also on Tuesday, Ambassador Oren said that he was misquoted in the media over the recent diplomatic row.

“Recent events do not – I repeat – do not represent the lowest point in the relations between Israel and the United States,” clarified Oren.
“Though we differ on certain issues, our discussions are being conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation as befitting long-standing relations between allies. I am confident that we will overcome these differences shortly.”
Netanyahu’s office on Tuesday issued a statement that read, “The government of Israel has proved its commitment to peace in the last year in words and in deeds.”

Still, in contrast to the tone of messages exchanged in recent days, the statement from Netanyahu’s office included praise of Clinton’s assertion that ties between Israel and the United States are unbreakable and that Washington remained committed to Israel’s security.
The statement also accused the Palestinians of failing to take steps toward launching negotiations with Israel while engaging in incitement in Jerusalem. “We are going above and beyond in an effort to resume negotiations without preconditions and the Palestinians are doing nothing,” said a senior aide to the prime minister. “This needs to be clear to the international community.”
Discussions between Netanyahu aides and White House officials continued Tuesday in an effort to ease tensions. The U.S. Mideast envoy, George Mitchell, canceled a visit to the region that was scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

Opportunity in a Fight With Israel: N Y Times

By MARK LANDLER, March 16, 2010

WASHINGTON — For President Obama, getting into a serious fight with Israel carries obvious domestic and foreign political risks. But it may offer the administration a payoff it sees as worthwhile: shoring up Mr. Obama’s credibility as a Middle East peacemaker by showing doubtful Israelis and Palestinians that he has the fortitude to push the two sides toward an agreement.

The risks at home were on display on Tuesday, as more than two dozen members of Congress, many of them Democrats, implored Mr. Obama to ease the tensions with the Israeli government after its announcement of a Jewish housing plan during a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The House Republican whip, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, called the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, to complain that the administration had seized on a minor diplomatic contretemps to try to impose its views on a loyal friend. Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice presidential candidate, issued a statement urging the president to “push the reset button on our relations with our ally Israel.”

For all the angst coming from Capitol Hill, however, the Obama administration seemed generally unruffled. And there were tentative signs that it was taking steps to cool the temperature.
Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke by telephone on Tuesday evening, an administration official said. It was not clear what the two men talked about; aides to Mr. Biden did not return calls.

And earlier on Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reaffirmed the relationship between the United States and Israel, brushing aside talk of a crisis.
“Oh, I don’t buy that,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I’ve been around not that long, but a long time. We have an absolute commitment to Israel’s security. We have a close, unshakable bond between the United States and Israel and between the American and Israeli people.”

Mrs. Clinton did keep up the pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to demonstrate that he was committed to negotiations with the Palestinians.
A senior administration official said the harsh rebuke of Mr. Netanyahu, delivered in a phone call last week by Mrs. Clinton, was important “to demonstrate we mean what we say when we enter these talks.” The announcement of a housing plan, the official said, undermined trust just as the United States was trying to open indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“We felt we had to call that out,” he said, on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.
On the Israeli side, there were also efforts to calm the waters. Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael B. Oren, who had been widely quoted as saying that relations between Israel and the United States were facing a historic crisis, issued a statement saying he had been “flagrantly misquoted.”

“I am confident that we will overcome these differences shortly,” he said.

Taking a tough line with Israel helps the administration counter a perception that it folded last summer when Mr. Netanyahu rebuffed Mr. Obama’s demand that Israel freeze all construction of Jewish settlements. When Mr. Netanyahu countered with an offer of a 10-month partial freeze on the construction on the West Bank, Mrs. Clinton praised the offer as “unprecedented.”
That soured the Palestinians and left much of the Arab world wondering whether Mr. Obama would ever deliver on the promise in his speech in Cairo of a new approach to the Muslim world. American officials worried that this credibility gap could hinder their campaign to rally support from Persian Gulf countries for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
“For the nine months after the Cairo speech, people were saying, ‘Where’s the beef?’ ” said David J. Rothkopf, a former Clinton administration official who writes about foreign policy. “So far, engagement hasn’t worked anywhere. This might give them a chance to revitalize engagement.”

But Mr. Rothkopf, like others, sees as many risks as rewards. The harshness of the American response to Mr. Netanyahu, he said, could call into question the ability of the United States to manage its relationship with Israel. “The administration’s prestige in the region is damaged by its inability to manage the one relationship they are supposed to be able to manage,” he said.

Other analysts said the United States should not use a specific grievance over housing units to press a broad range of extremely difficult issues with Israel.
“I don’t think this issue should be like a Christmas tree, where you hang all these other ornaments on it,” said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The whole episode should end where it began: you had a problem with those units, so you figure out how to fix it.”

But even some of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress said the dispute might focus minds on the larger prize. “It’s a moment for the Obama administration to say to our Israeli partners and our Palestinian partners, ‘We need to see peace,’ ” said Representative Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York. “It’s a never-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste moment, and this is a mini-crisis, if even that.”

That message was echoed by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of the military’s Central Command, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the lack of progress in the Middle East was a large challenge to American interests.
“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of U.S. favoritism toward Israel,” he said.

EDITOR: Meanwhile, at the Farm…

Families are difficult, we all know. So here is Netanyahu’s brother in law, making life difficult for Bibi, just at the moment it should all return to love and kisses:

Netanyahu’s brother-in-law: Obama is an anti-Semite: Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother-in-law Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi on Wednesday called U.S. President Barack Obama an anti-Semite in an interview with Army Radio.
“It’s not that Obama doesn’t like Bibi,” he referring to Netanyahu using his nickname. “He doesn’t like the nation of Israel.”
Netanyahu was quick to distance himself from Ben-Artzi’s remarks, saying he completely disagrees with his brother-in-law.
Netanyahu said he has a deep appreciation for President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, which he has expressed many times, and also for the deep ties between the two countries.

Ben-Artzi was interviewed on Army Radio to provide background on the prime minister. He told the interview, “Look how symbolic it is that your son took part in and won a Bible quiz, whose theme this year is Jerusalem and its connection to Israel, and you, his father, are being tested and asked to prove the strength of the nation of Israel’s ties to Jerusalem.”

He went on to say that Obama’s anti-Semitism stems from years of indoctrination by controversial preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama distanced himself from during the election campaign.

“When there is an anti-Semitic president in the United States, it is a test for us and we have to say: We will not concede. We are a nation dating back 4,000 years, and you in a year or two will be long forgotten. Who will remember you? But Jerusalem will dwell on forever.”

Ben-Artzi added that Netanyahu is aware of his views, but declined to say what the two discuss in private conversations.
On Tuesday a group of far-right activists announced their plan to hang hundreds of posters across the country depicting Obama under the headline “agent of the PLO.” The banner is already on display in the office of National Union MK Michael Ben Ari.

Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last year stirred tension in Israel and the U.S. regarding the president’s new policy towards the Middle East, and created the impression that he was biased towards Arab countries, as he began with the Arab saying “salaam alaykum.”
Following the speech, Obama made a personal phone call to Netanyahu, guaranteeing that the U.S. would always support Israel.

Rightists prepare banner denouncing Obama as ‘PLO agent’: Haaretz

Israeli Right poster: "Caution! PLO agent in the White House!"

A group of far-right activists on Tuesday announced their plan to hang hundreds of posters across the country depicting U.S. President Barack Obama under the headline “agent of the PLO.” The banner is already on display in the office of National Union MK Michael Ben Ari.

“The poster is within the limits of the country’s freedom of speech act,” said Ben Ari’s aide, Itamar Ben Gvir.

“I pity those who clapped during [U.S. Vice President] Joe Biden’s speech,” said Ben Gvir, referring to Biden’s address to the Israeli people at Tel Aviv University last week.
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“By the end of Ben Arie’s term we will teach those Leftists what democracy is,” he added. “Obama is anti-Semitic, pro-Arab, an agent of the PLO and we stand behind what the poster says.”
Shortly after taking office last year, Obama made a key address to the Muslim world during a visit to Cairo, Egypt. The much anticipated 55-minute address touched on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S.-Arab ties and confronting terrorism.

The “Cairo speech” stirred tension in Israel and the U.S. regarding the president’s new policy towards the Middle East, and created the impression that he was biased towards Arab countries, as he began with the Arab saying “salaam alaykum.”
Following the speech, Obama made a personal phone call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, guaranteeing that the U.S. would always support Israel

‘Softened’ Nakba law passes 1st reading: Ynet/IOA

Posted by admin on Mar 16th, 2010 and filed under FEATURED NEWS STORIES, Israel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
ByAmnon Meranda, Ynetnews.com – 16 March 2010
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3863825,00.html
Knesset votes in favor of controversial bill proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu. ‘This is how we will take care of enemy,’ MK Miller says. MK Tibi: Another black day for Knesset
As riots continue in Jerusalem, Yisrael Beiteinu can put another mark in their win column for passing one of its signature legislations. After passing the civil marriage law on Monday, the “Nakba law” passed in a first reading on Tuesday that will allow the State to revoke government funding for groups that act “against the principles of the country.”
The version passed on Tuesday is considered “softened” in comparison with the bill’s original wording.
Following a boisterous discussion in the Knesset plenum, 15 Knesset members supported the bill, while eight voted against it.
According to the bill, the finance minister will be authorized to decrease the budget for bodies receiving government funding if they are found responsible for activities denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, instances of racial incitement, violence or terrorism, or provide support for armed struggle or terrorism against the country.
Among the activities forbidden by the “Nakba law” are marking Independence Day and the founding of Israel with mourning ceremonies and vandalizing or physical disdain towards the flag and State symbols.
“The damage you have done in the past half a year is equivalent to you not being eligible to receive funding from now on for another 50 years,” MK Ilan Ghilon (Meretz) slammed the members of Yisrael Beiteinu.
On the other side, MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu) accused Ghilon of “defending terrorists,” and said, “The law will take care Israel’s enemies and will defend democracy.”
Another representative of Yisrael Beiteinu, MK David Rotem, explained in a speech before the plenum that “when we are at war against a harsh enemy, we will legislate laws that will prevent him from hurting us.”
The bill was met with outrage among the Arab parties. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said, “This is one of the most dangerous laws discussed in the Knesset in the past decade. It is aimed at damaging freedom of expression, which is a basic constitutional right recognized throughout the world. This legislation upholds all the criteria of racism as recognized in international institutions.”
Knesset Member Taleb El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta’al) said the law “proves the failure of Zionism, which needs to legislate a law in order to force the Zionist narrative and to rewrite history during which the Zionist movement committed crimes against humanity on the Palestinian people.”
“The Palestinian people will continue to unify around its disaster, which is identical to the destruction of the First and Second Temples for the Jews, and will hold marches in full force until the Zionist movement recognizes its responsibility for the Nakba, until the Palestinian people realize their aspirations for liberty and independence, and until the refugees return to their towns,” said El-Sana.
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) also expressed his dismay with the law. “This is another black day for the Knesset,” he said.
Following the vote, Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron said, “Israel’s government nips at democracy on a weekly basis and bombards us with laws whose entire purpose is to drastically limit the parameters of the public discourse.

Crisis in US-Israeli relations: Barack Obama must not back down: The Guardian Editorial

Mr Netanyahu’s coalition went too far even for a pliant US president. And Mr Obama is not that
He blinked once and he can not afford to blink again. The most serious crisis in US-Israeli relations in 35 years was not of President Obama’s making. He had already climbed down a fair way from his original demand for a total halt on settlement construction. And leading administration officials had already talked up a counter-offer from Binyamin Netanyahu that would impose a 10-month moratorium but would allow the construction of nearly 3,000 housing units (which is the number that would have been completed in that period). The folly of backing down on the first US demand is only illustrated by what happened next: the Israeli government approved another 1,600 homes on occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem during the visit in which vice-president Joe Biden announced the resumption of indirect talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu’s coalition went too far even for a pliant US president. And Mr Obama is not that. Giving public vent to his anger, he let it be known that he now demands they reverse the approval for the construction of Ramat Shlomo, make “a substantial gesture” towards the Palestinians and declare that the status of Jerusalem is itself up for negotiation. To make fresh demands and back down again would spell the end of the talks and, possibly, the two-state solution itself. Meanwhile, the streets of East Jerusalem are far from quiet, with confrontations between rioters and police. The focus yesterday was restoration work on a synagogue destroyed by Jordan in the 1948 war. But the spark could come anywhere and the prospect of a popular uprising, a third intifada, is not as fanciful as it seemed only a month ago. The stakes could not be higher.

Nor should we be distracted by the flurry of words that Israeli politicians throw up like chaff whenever they come under attack. For instance, Mr Netanyahu’s protestations, sincere or otherwise, that he was unaware of the announcement; that it was the work of a lone interior minister, who himself is vying for dominance within his party, Shas, to deliver Jewish housing. It is a perennial mistake to judge Israel solely as it presents itself – a liberal democracy, and a constantly shifting mass of political alliances. On the core issues of occupation and settlement, it also has unfinished territorial claims. On Jerusalem, it displays a remarkable coherency of purpose: to thwart, as the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem puts it, any attempt to challenge its sovereignty over the city. Hence the house demolitions – 1,655 Palestinians made homeless from 449 demolitions between 2004 and 2009. Last year alone 4,577 Palestinians in Jerusalem were stripped of their residency rights – more than any year between 1967 and 2007. Then there is land expropriation; the reform of the Israel Lands Administration, which means that confiscated land can be sold; the spreading tentacles of “greater Jerusalem” which now stretch to the heart of Bethlehem and Ramallah; the settlements which cut Arab East Jerusalem off from the West Bank. Are we to see all these as random acts of different administrations, or do they reveal a nationalist, rather than democratic endeavour to change the demographic balance of Jerusalem?

Israel – not just its prime minister – should now be faced with a simple choice: either continue chewing off lumps of Palestinian land, and imperil the recognition of the very borders it is trying to create; or to stop, and say enough already. This requires a collective decision and likely another election. In other conflicts, construction follows war; here construction is the conflict. Without so much as hinting at the spare parts the US provides for Israel’s air force, or the $2.4bn given annually in foreign aid, Mr Obama has the power to ram the point home. And if it means Mr Netanyahu’s coalition falls apart, so be it. Only when the whole of Israel gets the message will real negotiations start.

Biden in Israel and the Current Attempts to Revive ‘Peace’ Talks: The huffington Post

by Haim Bresheeth
American Vice President Joe Biden was sucker-punched last week by a provocative settlement announcement for 1,600 new units in occupied East Jerusalem (and 50,000 more planned for Jerusalem alone). It’s the much-practiced welcome provided by Israeli proponents of illegal settlement activity. Biden condemned the measure. But it is too little, too late. The two-state solution has slipped away from the Americans and the Israelis though they seem blissfully unaware, after more than four decades of undisturbed illegal settlement.

President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton remain fully committed to the decades-old game of the two-state solution. Their solution is a Pax-Israelica, a forced agreement denying the minimum basic rights and needs of Palestine, fully in line with the Israeli agenda of establishing only one meaningful entity – politically, militarily and financially – between the river Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Israel would remain the local hegemon. Palestinians would receive two or three non-contiguous Bantustans and be told to call it a state.

Nothing else is on the table. Despite the desperation of Palestinian leaders to sign something on behalf of their people, these leaders also recognize that continuing the charade of the ‘peace talks’ is playing with fire. Their constituents know that all the Oslo agreements, promises and procedures were used by Israel for one aim alone: to advance, deepen and secure its stranglehold on Palestine through a system combining settlements, brutal military occupation, the segregation wall, daily repression and mass misery in Gaza. Even today’s pliant Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, seems to understand he cannot put a signature to something which will not only stifle hope, but not deliver justice to Palestinians, as evidenced by his decision to call off the ill-fated ‘Proximity Talks’. Mealy-mouthed protestations and stern gazes from Clinton and Biden do not change this reality one iota.

What, then, is behind current attempts to revive the ‘peace’ talks? Hopefully, no one today is likely to be fooled by ‘Proximity Talks’ – separate meetings in separate rooms as Israel settles both the West Bank and East Jerusalem during this ostensible settlements freeze. Quite possibly, it is once more to give the appearance of doing something, anything, while the main thrust of (belligerent) involvement is elsewhere; seven years ago it was Iraq, this time the target is Iran, with Israel playing a central role.

Analysts have told the various US administrations for decades that as long as the Palestine conflict festers and occasionally boils over, the chance of stemming the anger in the Muslim and Arab world against the West is minimal. The US has overlooked and flagrantly ignored such advice with devastating results for all involved.

Much hope was placed in Obama just a year ago. Neoconservatives are now hitting back at him saying he’s to blame for wrongly demanding a full freeze of settlements, while other apologists for Israeli expansionism were applauding him – until this weekend – for pulling back from public pressure on Israel. Having angered Israeli expansionists, people who ought to be put on the run politically, he backtracked on settlements, signaling to Palestinians that he too doesn’t have the stomach to challenge Israeli leaders or the Israel lobby. In this mid-term election year he has reverted to a dependence on doctrines that have failed time and again. He appears almost totally beholden to ‘a strong Israel’ and, by corollary, a weak Palestine. Ironically, such behavior is unlikely to win him votes beyond the Israel lobby, as it will be seen to be a climb-down, a retreat, a weakness.

The failure to fully grasp Palestinian aspirations for freedom, the willingness to put in place yet another timeline for eventual, putative freedom, shows the Obama administration remains deeply out of touch with the active forces in Palestinian civil society. That deeply-rooted Palestinian dream for freedom and justice will not be much heard in discussions with an ossified Palestinian leadership that chooses Israeli subjugation over active nonviolent resistance by Palestinians young and old alike.

All this bodes ill for Palestine, but it does not herald excellent times ahead for Israel either. Unless the Israeli leadership, fully complicit in the brutal occupation and the Gaza brutalities, is brought to book and faced with the results of decades of war crimes and human-rights abuses, there is no hope for Palestine, Israel, or the Middle East. There is also no hope for the rest of us to escape the maelstrom brewed by decades of war and suppression heaped upon Palestinians.

The administration is failing its first major foreign policy test and showing every indication that it, like its predecessors, intends to make faux passes at mediation intended to manage the region’s problems, rather than resolve them. The cap only ever stays on a suppressed population so long.

US increases pressure on Israel: ‘Clinton wants these peace talks to be about substance’: The Guardian

Jonathan Freedland on the US putting more pressure on Israel over Palestinians

To play clip use link above

Hillary Clinton piles pressure on Israel over East Jerusalem settlements: The Guardian

US secretary of state says onus is on Israel to restart peace process as Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinians

Israeli security forces arrest Palestinian demonstrators during clashes in East Jerusalem yesterday as Hamas called for a ‘day of rage’. Photograph: Nati Shohat/EPA

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, today demonstrated a new-found steeliness towards Israel by making it clear she was expecting it to back down in the row between the two countries and offer concessions needed for a resumption of Middle East peace talks.
As rock-throwing Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces in Jerusalem in protests dubbed “a day of rage”, Clinton sent a double-edged message to Israel.

She softened the tone of remarks coming from the Obama administration over the last few days by talking about the deep bonds between the two countries. But she combined this by firmly placing the onus on Israel to make concessions needed to get the Palestinians back into talks.
Clinton told reporters at the state department that the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had to take action to show he was serious about a peace process. She said: “We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process. It’s been a very important effort on their part as well as ours. We know how hard this is. This is a very difficult, complex matter. But the Obama administration is committed to a two-state solution.”

The rift began last week when the US vice-president, Joe Biden, visited Israel in the hope of getting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under way. But Israel scuppered the talks with an announcement that it planned to build 1,600 new Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians hope will one day be their capital. Hours before Clinton spoke Washington demonstrated its anger with the Israeli leader by abruptly cancelling a visit to Israel planned fortoday by the US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. Clinton has privately set out various demands for Israel, including the cancellation or freeze of planned Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, a promise to engage in talks with the Palestinians on matters of substance, and confidence-building measures such as the withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the West Bank and release of Palestinian prisoners.
The steady build-up of pressure on Netanyahu has left him in a bind. If he backs down he is in danger of losing the support of the right in his coalition government. Responding to Clinton, his words did not suggest a readiness to bow to US demands, at least in public. In a statement issued by his office, he said: “With regard to commitments to peace, the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is committed to peace, both in words and actions.”

He cited the removal of hundreds of roadblocks across the West Bank and a temporary freeze on construction of settlements on the West Bank. Middle East analysts in Washington said the Obama administration was not trying to engineer the collapse of the coalition but, if it happened, would welcome a more moderate one that might emerge.
One of the underlying motives of the US resolve to get the peace process moving was offered today by the top US military commander, General David Petraeus, the head of Centcom, which is responsible for the Middle East and Asia. Petraeus told the Senate armed services committee yesterday that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a root cause of instability in the Middle East and Asia and “foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of US favouritism for Israel”.

The Israeli government has long objected to being linked to wider conflicts in such a way. Petraeus said there had been insufficient progress towards a comprehensive Middle East peace deal and this “presented distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests” elsewhere in the Middle East and Asia.
Simmering Israeli-Palestinian tensions erupted into violencetoday with clashes in East Jerusalem after Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, announced a “day of rage” following yesterday’s ceremonial reopening of a synagogue in the Old City.

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement faced pressure from its own largely defunct military wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, demanding to be allowed to resume armed struggle against Israel. It condemned “the ongoing violation of the al-Aqsa mosque”.
Israeli forces tightened a blockade on the Old City, particularly the mosque compound. Israel’s Ynet website reported 49 Palestinians injured in confrontations with Israeli border guards and police. Palestinian sources said more than 90 people were injured and some 70 arrested.

Violence erupts across East Jerusalem: The Independent

George Mitchell postpones visit as Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Fifteen policemen and at least 40 Palestinians were injured yesterday in clashes between stone-throwing protesters and armed Israeli security forces in Arab East Jerusalem.

The violence, the most widespread in the city for many months, came as US presidential envoy George Mitchell put off a planned visit to the city because of the continuing diplomatic deadlock.
With tension remaining high in the wake of the announcement – condemned by the US – of plans to expand an East Jerusalem settlement, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved to calm the diplomatic row with Israel, while saying there were “intense talks” about confidence steps it needed to take to re-open indirect talks with the Palestinians.

But hundreds of protesting Palestinians faced tear gas and rubber bullets from Israeli police in a series of districts of East Jerusalem, the sector occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six Day War and which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.
Police said 60 Palestinians were arrested in rioting, which had been encouraged by Hamas’s call for a “day of rage” in protest at Monday’s re-dedication of a synagogue in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter. Hamas claimed that this move endangers the Al Aqsa Mosque 400m away. Police said the injured policemen were mainly hit by stones, but one was shot in the hand last night.

Mrs Clinton used more emollient language than she had on Friday – when she described as “insulting” the announcement of plans to build 1,600 new housing units in an ultra-orthodox settlement during US Vice-President Joe Biden’s visit to the region last week.
Emphasising Washington’s “absolute commitment” to Israel’s security and the “close, unshakeable bond” between the two countries, she said yesterday that while the US had expressed its “dismay and disappointment”, it was now time to “move forward”. She added: “I think we’ll see what the next days hold, and we’re looking forward to Senator Mitchell returning to the region and beginning the proximity talks.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later welcomed Mrs Clinton’s “warm words” but insisted that Israel “has proven over the last year that it is committed to peace, both in words and actions”. Mrs Clinton declined to say when Mr Mitchell would travel. The State Department on Monday indicated that Washington was still awaiting a response to a series of US demands of Israel – widely believed to include the scrapping of a plan for the expansion of the Ramat Shlomo ultra-orthodox settlement which triggered the row.

Mrs Clinton added: “We are engaged in very active consultations with the Israelis over steps that we think would demonstrate the requisite commitment to the process.” US diplomats were also in touch with officials in the moderate-led Palestinian Authority in Ramallah over the last 36 hours, to urge them to discourage violent protests in Jerusalem.

Israeli police turned back buses carrying Israeli Arabs travelling towards Jerusalem yesterday morning. A closure to prevent Palestinians reaching the City, and a bar on men under 50 reaching Al Aqsa Mosque, has also been in force. The latter measure ensured that the holy sites were largely quiet, with most of the violence occurring in East Jerusalem districts outside the Old City. With 3,000 police deployed across the city yesterday, the force was ordered to remain on high alert in the Old City and elsewhere across east Jerusalem.

Israel’s Police Commissioner, Dud Cohen, said after touring the Old City, “We’ve seen signs of riots, but this is no third intifada.” But Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, likened Israel’s political handling of Jerusalem to “pouring oil onto the fire”. And Arab Knesset member Haneen Zoubi said it provided “a strong motive for the launch of the third intifada.”

Jordan’s Abdullah: Israel trying to rid Jerusalem of Arabs: Haaretz

The international community should not stand by and watch as Israel attempts to rid Jerusalem of its Arab residents, Jordanian King Abdullah II said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Jerusalem is a red line and the world should not be silent about Israel’s attempts to get rid of Jerusalem’s Arabs residents, Muslims or Christians,” the Dubai daily Khaleej Times quoted the king as saying to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Amman.

Abdullah’s comments came a day after the heaviest clashes in months broke out across the city during the orchestrated “day of rage” announced by Hamas, as the militant organization urged Muslims to reach the Temple Mount compound in order to protect it from an Israeli attempt to take it over.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Palestinians in east Jerusalem set tires and garbage bins ablaze and hurled rocks at Israeli riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.
The Jordanian monarch reportedly demanded the international community take a firm, swift, direct and effective action to “stop Israel’s provocative measures in Jerusalem, that seek to change its identity and threaten holy sites there,” he said.

Some 3,000 officers were put on high alert on Wednesday after Hamas called for anti-Israel protests. “We call on the Palestinian people to regard Tuesday as a day of rage against the occupation’s [Israel’s] procedures in Jerusalem against Al-Aqsa mosque,” Hamas said in a statement.
Earlier Wednesday, Israel lifted its closure on the West Bank and granted open access to the Al-Aqsa mosque, with police saying that thousands of troops will remain on high alert but reported no disturbances. Israel originally sealed off the territory last week.

Police had predicted that Palestinian rioters would continue to stage violent protests on Wednesday in East Jerusalem and elsewhere, but the area was quiet during the morning hours.
Unknown assailants on Tuesday opened fire on a police officer patrolling the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in the east of the capital, hitting him in the hand and inflicting a minor injury, as violence seemed to spread to other parts of the country. Assailants in Jaffa hurled rocks at two public buses, and a truck in the Negev was hit by stones.
Fourteen other police officers sustained minor injuries from stones hurled at them by protesters, of whom a few required medical treatment. Approximately 60 people were arrested on suspicion of hurling stones at security forces.

Police chief David Cohen toured Jerusalem’s Old City as clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces were ongoing, and said he did not believe the recent violence would spark a third intifada. “We are seeing signs of disorderly conduct,” said Cohen, “but that is only a headline. We must be careful about characterizations and remarks being made.”
The police chief also stressed that the city has a unique character that must be preserved, and that peace must be maintained in both the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods. Cohen added that the police will beef up its presence in the eastern part of the capital and surrounding villages until Friday and over the weekend, with the intention of returning to routine deployment by Sunday.

Police responded to Tuesday’s riots, stone-throwing and burning of tires on roads by firing tear gas and rubber bullets, witnesses said. Some 40 Palestinians were treated at East Jerusalem hospitals for minor injuries, medical officials said. Police also arrested an Israeli rightist who tried to enter the Temple Mount compound and was refused by security forces.
Thousands of Palestinians, meanwhile, staged a protest march in the Gaza Strip to protest Israeli measures in Jerusalem. Ahmed Bahar, a senior figure in Hamas, called for an escalation of armed attacks against Israel and urged Arab states “to shoulder their responsibilities and send their warplanes and armies to rescue the Al-Aqsa mosque and end the Jewish policy of Judaizing Jerusalem.”

The head of the police’s Jerusalem District, Aharon Franco, said that despite the clashes, police at present intend to stand by their decision to permit right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel to conduct a protest march under the banner “We Demand Equal Enforcement” in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The maximum number of participants is 70, as per the police’s restrictions. Franco nonetheless said that the decision to allow the procession “is subject to change.”
Tuesday’s riots began with two fire bombs that unknown assailants hurled at a house occupied by Jews in Silwan. As riots and stone-throwing occurred elsewhere, police blocked traffic into Jerusalem of Muslim worshipers from other areas of Israel, including the Galilee.
In Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem, a squad of undercover police officers dressed in civilian clothes and kaffiyes, arrested several protesters and dispersed the crowd that gathered there.

EDITOR: The dangers of the ‘crisis’ between Israel and the US

In an interesting article, Aluf Benn argues about the dangers of a break in relations between those two partners in crime, such as Israel going it alone and bombing Iran without a go-ahead from the USA. What is even more interesting, that the whole ‘crisis’ is discussed and analysed as a two-sided lovers tiff, with the Palestinians not even having a look-in… this is common not just in Israel, but anywhere in the west.

It’s too bad Netanyahu and Obama didn’t stop and think first: Haaretz

By Aluf Benn
Like boxers who heard the bell, like rhinos during the mating season, that’s what the sparring between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu has come to resemble. Adrenalin pumping in the veins, eyes seeing red, and in their ears the cries of their supporters: “Knock his teeth out,” “Let him have it,” “Where’s the blood?” The only thing missing is good sense.

Since the days they took office, the prime minister and the U.S. president have behaved like heroes in a Greek tragedy, bound by fate and waiting for the inevitable confrontation. Netanyahu saw in Obama and his aides a group of leftists who want to overthrow him and bring about “regime change” in Israel. Obama saw in Netanyahu a liar and subversive who is rallying the support of the Jewish lobby to foil U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. The only surprise was that the two have managed to restrain themselves for a year before the exchange of diplomatic blows.

Now they are fighting over honor. “We are not willing to be suckers,” was how Netanyahu once summed up his political worldview. “Insult,” “humiliation,” is what senior administration officials cried after Israel announced that 1,600 new housing units would be put up in Ramat Shlomo – a declaration made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel. On both sides they are talking in terms of life and death: Netanyahu’s backers charge Obama with sentencing Israel to death via the Iranian nuclear program and “Auschwitz borders” from which rockets would be fired onto Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion International Airport. For their part, the Americans warn that Israel’s desire for settlements is endangering their soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The cheerleading only encourages the rivals not to give in. Obama was congratulated by The New York Times for his firm stance against Bibi and the settlements. Finally he has shown that he’s a man, he was told. The right in Israel has called on Netanyahu to stand tall for the nation and throw the two-state solution into the garbage once and for all, making clear to the evil Americans that Israel will put a million Jewish settlers in the settlements. That is why you were elected, he is being reminded, not to surrender to Hussein Obama. Netanyahu agreed, went back to his ideological hearth and declared that construction in East Jerusalem will continue and settlement expansion in the West Bank will resume in the summer.

It’s too bad that Netanyahu and Obama didn’t stop and think about the implications of their actions. Let’s assume Netanyahu overcomes American pressure and steps up construction in the territories. He will be applauded on the right and his rule will be secure for another two years, or maybe three, with the given coalition, but how would this folly serve Israel’s national interest? It would only lead to deepened international isolation, foil a settlement with the Palestinians and waste billions.

Obama’s gamble is even more risky. The Americans assume that the minute he stops to take a breath, Netanyahu will recall Israel’s great dependence on the United States and give in to the ultimatum, as in past crises. Even the fabled David Ben-Gurion, who declared the existence of Israel’s third kingdom at the end of the Sinai Campaign in 1956, caved in two days later and agreed to withdraw from the peninsula. The combined threat of Dwight Eisenhower and the Soviet leaders was enough to reverse Ben-Gurion’s promise that “we will not stand idly by when we are under attack – especially when the attack is unjustified.”

Netanyahu is not Ben-Gurion. He has a weaker personality and his rule depends on Eli Yishai and Avigdor Lieberman, who are extremists. But herein lies the danger of isolating Israel: Netanyahu may brace himself behind his existential fears, assume that Obama has come to terms with the Iranian bomb and send the air force on a preemptive strike on Iran. If the United States kicks Israel, we can ignore their calls not to hit Natanz. Thus a relatively minor dispute over the construction of a new neighborhood in Jerusalem may ignite a regional war.

The severity of the danger requires that this crisis be contained quickly. Someone needs to tell Obama not to push Israel into a corner and to remind Netanyahu what the true balance of power is. The Americans may be polite, and it’s not nice that they remembered to oppose Israeli construction in East Jerusalem after they turned a blind eye for 42 years. But the American rhino is bigger and more powerful, and if he really becomes angry, the shock of his blow may be too painful to bear.

EDITOR: The option for life together in Palestine

Gershon Baskin, in what seems like a sane enough reaction to the madness of Israel, is telling Israelis they must choose to negotiate a 2 State solution, or they might lose the whole lot, as the Palestinians will drop this ‘solution’ and return to their original demand – a secular-democratic state of all its citizens. So, for an Israeli leftie, the real danger is a secular democrtaic state of all its citizens… makes you think, doesn’t it? Sounds like only the danger of democracy will move Israelis to negotiate…

A free people in our land: Jerusalem Post

By GERSHON BASKIN
If we do not negotiate, the Palestinian nat’l movement will drop the strategy of seeking a state and will call openly for full democracy.

It was never really about the timing. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s apology to US Vice President Joseph Biden enabled the Tel Aviv University speech to conclude the  visit on an up note. The ice-cold water from Washington came only after the prime minister thought that he had successfully passed through the storm.
The current government has excelled at putting the country on a collision course with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the government and the media are focusing attention on the relationship with the US and completely missing the real point of our predicament. It is not about our relationship with Washington, it is about our existence in the region and our relationship with our direct neighbors. It is time for the Israeli public to wake up from the hibernation of a long spring of calm and comfort. The hot summer is approaching and with it disaster.
The country needs to make a choice; there is no escape from making tough decisions. The clock is ticking and soon the choice will be made for us, if we don’t decide on our own. The “status quo” of business as usual, a sense of personal security and the illusion that we can keep the territories and make peace with our neighbors is about to end.

SINCE THE signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993 the Jewish population living over the Green Line has increased by 300 percent. Even as Netanyahu repeats the “two states for two peoples” mantra, we continue to build more housing units over the Green Line. The so-called building freeze is no more than an exercise in self-delusion. The binational reality of life over the Green Line is apparent to anyone who crosses it.
The Palestinian leadership remains firmly committed to the two-state solution, but it too knows that the chances of partition based on the Green Line are rapidly fading away. Yes, the Gaza disengagement proved that settlements can be removed, but Israel is so deeply entrenched over the Green Line that a vision of peace based on an independent Palestinian state on those territories seems virtually impossible.
The country has apparently made its choice – it prefers territories to peace. By our own hands, we are putting an end to the Zionist enterprise. A people that occupies another and denies it self-determination, liberation and freedom cannot be a free people in its lands.

THE AVERAGE Palestinian and more so the intellectuals are voicing a new understanding: There is no longer a chance to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza with east Jerusalem as its capital. A new strategy is developing and Israelis should be worried about what this strategy will mean for them.
Phase one of the strategy will be what is already being termed a “white intifada.” This is a strategy for massive civil disobedience and a refusal to cooperate with the occupation. This strategy is based on non-violent confrontation with the occupation authorities. We have seen evidence of this in Bil’in, Ni’lin, Budrus, Masara and other places that are so far unfamiliar to Israeli consciousness. The Palestinian Authority is actively advancing the boycott of settlement products and will soon encourage Palestinian workers to stop working in settlements.

The challenge will be to stick to non-violence and to finetune their message. The political purpose of the struggle will be to give the two-state solution a final chance. The Palestinians will seek to gain international support as they will capture the higher moral ground. The world will see images of IDF soldiers shooting at unarmed crowds, including women and children, in points of confrontation at roadblocks and checkpoints, and around settlements.
Palestinians will design symbolic acts of removing roadblocks, building in Area C controlled by Israel, setting up roadblocks on settlement roads to stop and check Israeli drivers and more. Thousands will be arrested, many shot and possibly killed. Every use of force against Palestinian defiance will result in increasing support for them around the world and the continued rapid deterioration of support for Israel.

IF THE strategy of nonviolent confrontation fails, if the price is too high to pay or if, God forbid, it turns to violence, the Palestinian national movement will drop the strategy of seeking an independent state and will call openly for full democracy within Israel – one person, one vote. This strategy will eventually be embraced by the international community as the growing delegitimizing of Israel gains strength.

This year there were 40 university campuses around the world taking part in the “Israel Apartheid Week” campaign; next year it might be 400 or more. Once the Palestinians adopt the strategy of “democracy” as their solution, they cannot lose. It will only be a matter of time before the world treats Israel like it treated the last white government of South Africa.
Most of the world, and certainly the entire Arab world, has never really comprehended that the State of Israel is a nation-state of the Jewish people. Most of the world thinks of Jews as a religion and not a people. The opportunity to support a “democratic” solution to the conflict will be warmly embraced and supported because it makes more sense than partition, which gives the Palestinians only 22 percent of historic Palestine.

Israel will lose the battle. There is no longer a way to prevent the Palestinians from becoming a free people in their land. The only way to ensure that the Jewish people will remain a free people in our land is by making the decision to end its occupation over the Palestinian people. All settlement building must end now, not because of our relationship with the US but because we cannot advance peace until we do so. If we want to continue to build in those areas that will eventually be annexed to Israel, we must first negotiate an agreed border and territorial swaps.
The days of unilateralism are numbered. Israel will not be able to annex more than 3% of the West Bank, which would accommodate some 80% of the settlers. There simply is not more than that in equal territory to swap. Jerusalem must become a shared capital – if we don’t share it, we will surely lose it as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.
The realities of a need for an immediate course change are so unambiguous that without it our survival as a Jewish and democratic state is sure to end.

The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and an elected member of the leadership of the Green Movement political party.

Political umbrage in Washington?: Al Jazeera TV

By Robert Grenier

Despite a temporary freeze, construction on settlements, such as the one in Har Gilo, just outside of Jerusalem, has continued with little interruption [EPA]
The announcement last week by Eli Yishai, the Israeli interior minister, of plans to construct an additional 1,600 Israeli homes in East Jerusalem, appears to have generated quite the diplomatic row.

Coming as it did just before the start of a dinner offered by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in honour of Joe Biden, the US vice-president, the announcement threw the White House official into high dudgeon.
The US delegation must have burned up the proverbial phone lines between Israel and the West Wing of the White House, while Biden’s Israeli host was kept waiting some 90 minutes until the vice-president and the Washington crowd could come up with suitable language to express their outrage.
“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel,” Biden finally said, using a formulation virtually unknown in past US-Israeli diplomatic exchanges.

Days later, the White House was still apparently not finished. “This was an affront, it was an insult,” intoned David Axelrod, chief White House political adviser on one of the Sunday political talk shows.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, appearing on yet another talk show, referred somewhat dismissively to Netanyahu’s apology over the “timing” of the announcement:  “A good start,” he called it.
Goodness, what a fuss! Indeed, we would probably have to go all the way back to 1991, when George H Bush, the former US president, expressed his outrage over the settlement policies of Yitzhak Shamir, the then-Israeli prime minister,to find a similar level of US-Israeli discord.

Public umbrage?
But before we get carried away with all this operatic posturing and begin – God forbid – to take it seriously, we ought to stop a moment and examine what is really happening here.

First of all, why has Washington taken such public umbrage at this development?

Was East Jerusalem not clearly and specifically excluded from the agreement finally reached last November – after some five months of tortuous negotiations by US mediator George Mitchell  – under which Netanyahu acceded to a 10-month “moratorium” on “most” new construction in the occupied West Bank?
The Israelis, as near as I can tell, were acting in complete conformity with the agreement when they announced the new units. So why the sudden histrionics? Had Washington neglected to read Mitchell’s agreement?  Had they forgotten that little squib about East Jerusalem?

The fact of the matter is that the Obama Administration feels humiliated over the November 2009 agreement on settlements – as well it might.
The statements made by Barack Obama, the US president, in Cairo in June 2009 concerning Israeli settlement policy were unprecedented in at least two generations, and could not have been more clear: “The United States,” he said, “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements … It is time for these settlements to stop.”

The importance of these statements went well beyond the settlements themselves. Obama’s statement was a reiteration, in effect, of US support for the core principle underlying all relevant UN resolutions concerning Palestine, and all Arab-Israeli agreements to that point: The principle of “land for peace.”
In denouncing Israeli settlement construction on occupied land as “illegitimate,” he was underscoring his belief that such actions undermine the very possibility of a negotiated settlement.

After all, the two sides can struggle for decades, while still maintaining the possibility of a legitimate negotiated peace; but if a substantial amount of the land – including all of Jerusalem – is taken in established settlements which no Israeli government could conceivably give up, and if the security requirements of those settlements mandate that the rest of the land be divided into non-contiguous parcels which preclude a viable state, there is simply nothing left to negotiate over.

Point of no return
Grenier: The best the US could do was negotiate a temporary and partial settlement freeze
We have long since passed that point; the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution even remotely acceptable to Palestinians is gone.
If that were not clear before, the November 2009 agreement on settlements made it unmistakably so.
Consider that in the aftermath of such a clear, unequivocal statement of US policy as came in Cairo, the best the Americans could do was to negotiate a temporary – and only partial – pause in settlement construction, with East Jerusalem exempted completely.
No one expects to see a negotiated settlement in 10 months, after which it will be as though the November agreement, such as it was, had never existed.

What the negotiations which finally ended in US capitulation last November made patently obvious was that Netanyahu is committed to the long-term Israeli policy initiated by Ariel Sharon in 2005, when he decided to evacuate Gaza.
Far from being a substantial “down payment” on a land-for-peace scheme, as many claimed – some naively, some cynically – the abandonment of Gaza was a strategic move to consolidate Israel and its West Bank settlements behind efficiently defensible lines, and to prepare for a unilaterally-imposed “settlement” which Israel could sustain without Palestinian acquiescence.
Since then, the policy has moved inexorably forward, through the so-called Security Fence (which serves to unilaterally confiscate yet more land), the continuation of settlements, and the completion of Israel’s cordon sanitaire around East Jerusalem.

In short, the November agreement made plain that, for all the high-minded pretensions on display in Cairo, Israel’s unilateralist policy is something Obama and his administration can do nothing about.
Under the circumstances, it is small wonder that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians are interested in direct negotiations.
Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), the Palestinian president, has no interest in negotiating an agreement which his constituency will never accept.
For the Israelis, such negotiations are at best an irritant, and at worst a minor impediment to the achievement of their designs.

Sham proximity talks
The Obama administration, for its part, is under no illusions regarding the currently-proposed “proximity talks.” They know that such talks are a sham and will lead nowhere – which is why they were reluctant to propose them for so long – but the lack of even seeming progress has become a serious political embarrassment for them.
Proximity talks, if they could get them, would at least convey the impression that the administration was doing something, no matter how substantively feckless.

All of which brings us back to last Tuesday.
As poor Joe Biden struggled gamely to initiate proximity talks (even the scope and structure of which had yet to be agreed between the parties), the Israeli allies whose unshakable closeness he had been celebrating all day, apparently not content with the substantive victory they had achieved over Obama, chose – whether with or without Netanyahu’s complicity – to rub the Americans’ collective nose in it, lest they fail to get the message.

As the Palestinians recoil from talks, and as tensions mount on the West Bank, the Americans are denied even the illusion of progress.
It is the insult the White House is reacting to, not the injury. When the recent diplomatic unpleasantness has faded into memory, the injury will remain. Notwithstanding his evident discomfort over the timing of Tuesday’s announcement, Netanyahu clearly has no intention of reversing it.
The advice he administered to his cabinet on Sunday could as easily apply to us:  “I suggest not to get carried away,” he said, “and to calm down.”

Robert Grenier was the CIA’s chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of CIA’s counter-terrorism centre.

Metals detected in Palestinian children’s hair suggest environmental contamination: Newweapons

PRESS RELEASE: Many Palestinian children still living in precarious situations at ground level in Gaza after Israeli bombing during “Cast lead” have unusually high concentrations of metals in the hair, indicating environmental contamination, which can cause health and growth damages due to chronic exposure. This is the result of a pilot study conducted by the New Weapons Research Group (Nwrg), an independent committee of scientists and experts based in Italy, who is studying the use of unconventional weapons and their mid-term effects on the population of after-war areas.

This research follows the previous one, published by Nwrg on December 17 last year, in which the group reported the presence of toxic metals in the areas surrounding the craters left by the bombing. Those tests had found abnormal concentrations of toxic metals in the craters, suggesting the possible contamination of the soil which, combined with precarious living conditions, particularly in refugee camps, might cause exposure, dermal, via inhalation and through food.
With the new study, the group set itself the objective of verifying whether people were actually contaminated. The result is alarming: even if the quantity of metals in excess, in fact, are only 2-3 times higher than those found in hair of controls, these levels may still be pathogenic in situations of chronic exposure.
The study, which lasted several months, analyzed the hair for 33 metals by ICP/MS (a type of highly sensitive mass spectrometry). The hair is a good indicator of contamination and investigation of environmental contamination based on its analysis are recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Nwrg examined hair samples from 95 people resident in heavily bombed areas (as reported by UNEP on the basis of satellite maps), for the vast majority children. Among them also seven pregnant women and 4 wounded people. The results have established that the distribution of metal contaminants in the three locations where the tests were performed, Beit Hanun, Gaza-Zeitun and Laly Beith, is higher than the average, and  more than double in about 60 of these individuals.
In several samples were identified carcinogenic or toxic metals such as chromium, cadmium, cobalt, tungsten and uranium, while in one of the wounded individuals was measured unusually high levels of lead. For 39 of the examinees the simultaneous presence of more metals and/or the presence of carcinogenic metals have prompted researchers to recommend them for further checks.
The problem, says Professor Paola Manduca, now is to eliminate sources of contamination: “The identification of subjects with confirmed, persistent high load of metals would require the removal of the subject from exposure. This last is the most favorite therapeutic approach, in view of lack of evidence on the efficacy and safety of chelation treatment, especially in children. This measure presents serious problems in the current situation in Gaza, where the construction and removal of damaged structures is difficult or impossible, and certainly represents the major responsibility of those who should remedy the damage to the civilian population under international law.”
The study is by Mario Barbieri, CNR, and Maurizio Barbieri, Professor of Environmental geochemistry at the University La Sapienza of Rome and head of the ICP/MS laboratory, where the analysis were carried out, and Paola Manduca, Geneticist. The study was possible thanks to the cooperation in the field of the association Gazella, onlus.

Brazil President in West Bank: I dream of a free Palestine: Haaretz

Brazil President meets with Abbas, lays wreath at Arafat’s grave after row over refusal to visit Herzl’s tomb.
Several days into a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived Wednesday in Ramallah, where he expressed his support for Palestinian independence and for the creation of a Palestinian state.

“I dream of an independent and free Palestine living in peace in the Middle East,” Lula said during a visit to the West Bank. “I believe the Palestinians and Israelis are going to share the land of their forefathers.”
The Brazilian leader has said he would like to play a bigger role in Mideast diplomacy. He is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week.
Lula also visited the grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, where he laid a wreath, despite criticism from Israel. There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the visit to Arafat’s grave.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he had boycotted meetings with Lula because the Brazilian leader did not visit the grave of the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl.
Lula’s office said no such visit had ever been planned.
Abbas on Wednesday stood firm on his demand that Israel freeze all settlement construction – including in East Jerusalem.
“While the Palestinians had implemented their obligations under interim agreements, Israel should do the same,” he told a news conference in Ramallah with the visiting Brazilian leader.

“The most important in these is freezing settlement activities in all the Palestinian areas, including Jerusalem,” he said.
The Palestinians “insist on meeting these obligations so that we can go to indirect negotiations.”
Abbas denied the demand for a total construction freeze was a precondition for starting peace talks, because, he said, it was an Israeli obligation under the 2003 “road map” peace plan, sponsored by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.
After much pressure from the U.S., Abbas only 10 days ago had agreed to hold talks – albeit indirect ones – with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu despite the absence of a full settlement freeze that includes also East Jerusalem.

But Israel last week announced the construction of 1,600 homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, sparking a severe diplomatic row.
Both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Abbas are now demanding that Israel cancel the Ramat Shlomo construction plan.

“The U.S. today is in disagreement and conflict with Israel. It was never expected to see these two allies in such a disagreement. We do not know if this is the missing magic that was needed to reach an agreement,” Silva said.
Silva arrived in Israel on Monday where he met Israeli officials. He traveled to Bethlehem on Tuesday for a tour of the Biblical city and talks with Abbas.
Meeting the Palestinian leader for a second time in Ramallah Wednesday, the two signed five bilateral agreements related to agriculture, education, sports, health and tourism.

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