March 19, 2010

Erdogan: Israel erasing Palestinians: YNet

How many Israeli brutal soldiers does it take...

Turkish prime minister slams Israeli approval of new homes in east Jerusalem, says normalization of relations depends on lifting of Gaza siege
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned an Israeli decision to approve hundreds of new housing units in east Jerusalem, Turkish news agencies reported Friday.
In a meeting with his party, the Justice and Development Party (AK), Erdogan said ties between Israel and Turkey would not return to normal until the removal of the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan added that the decision to approve 1,600 new homes in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood was “unacceptable”, and proves Israel “wants to erase the Palestinians step by step”.
He called on Israel to halt all settlement activity and allow worshippers into Temple Mount immediately. “The steps taken by Israel can harm regional stability,” Erdogan added.
Tensions have been mounting between Jerusalem and Ankara since Operation Cast Lead last year, and Turkey has criticized Israel severely for its actions in the Gaza Strip.
Despite this, Turkey’s ambassador to Israel was optimistic last week, and told MKs “developments” would take place soon in the relations between the two countries.

EDITOR: The ‘Only Democracy in the Middle East’…

The Only democracy, maybe the only democracy in the world… is of course a Jewish, Zionist and racist democracy. Most people understood this a long time ago. In an editorial attacking this racist and antidemocratic legislation, which denies the Palestinians the right to mourn the Nakba, as it might annoy some Israelis who dance their ‘independence’ on that day. The right to mourn is obviously only a right Jews should have…

Mocking democracy: Haaretz Editorial

The Knesset yesterday put Israeli democracy to shame when it passed the “Nakba Law” at first reading with a majority of 15 against eight.
If the law is passed at second and third readings it will be able to deprive bodies of state support and fine them if they mark Independence Day as a day of mourning, or if they hold memorial events for the Palestinians’ “catastrophe” in 1948.

The proposal adopted at the end of the Knesset’s winter session was “moderate” compared to the original one initiated by MK Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu. It stipulates fining public institutions that hold activity “denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state,” and activity supporting armed struggle or terror against the state, inciting to racism or degrading the state’s flag or symbol.
The bill is not aimed at punishing individuals and threatening them with imprisonment, as the original version was.

But the amended version, despite its euphemistic wording, cannot hide the cabinet’s intention – excluding Arab citizens and infringing disproportionately on their freedom of expression and their right to tell their own historic narrative.
Avigdor Lieberman’s party, which ran a blatant election campaign against Israeli Arabs, has scored a victory on its way to implementing its racist slogan of “no loyalty – no citizenship.”
The idea that it is possible to blur the Arab community’s past consciousness with laws and threats of fines is stupid. The “Nakba” wasn’t forgotten in the 62 years since Israel’s establishment, and the term is much more familiar and prevalent among Israelis today than in previous generations.

The Palestinian refugees’ flight, the destruction of hundreds of Arab villages and the erection of Jewish towns and settlements in their stead are part of Israeli history. It cannot be made to disappear, as the majority’s narrative cannot be foisted onto a fifth of Israel’s citizens.
The threat of depriving institutions that mark the “Nakba” of state financing is reminiscent of Culture Minister Limor Livnat’s complaints against the co-director of the movie “Ajami,” Scandar Copti, who said he does not represent Israel.
Like the “Nakba Law” initiators, Livnat too believes that an artist who receives state support is bound to “loyalty” and must represent the state in competitions abroad.

This is the Netanyahu-Lieberman cabinet’s spirit – we’ll support only those who think like us.

Integrating Arab citizens into Israeli society is first and foremost a national interest, and its implementation requires that the Jewish majority display tolerance and openness toward the minority.
Clearly the conflict makes this difficult and the Jewish-Arab rift will not disappear soon. But proposals like the “Nakba Law,” beyond violating basic democratic values, will only push the Arab community to greater extremism and separatism.
The Knesset should be ashamed of passing the law at first reading. The Kadima and Labor factions should be denounced for not opposing it. But it’s not too late to block the harmful law in the next readings, before it stains Israel’s body of law.

Leading article: Barack Obama should keep the pressure on Israel: The Independent Editorial

The American President has some new domestic cards to play
It is a testament to the hubris of Benjamin Netanyhau’s government that having seen off an attempt by Barack Obama to freeze settlement construction, it has now given the US President a second chance to claw back that defeat. Much has been said about the inadequacy of Mr Netanyahu’s apologetic admission that last week’s announcement of a plan to expand the Ramat Shlomo settlement was badly timed. As the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made admirably clear to the Israeli Prime Minister in her famous telephone call last Friday, Washington objected to the substance as much as to the timing.

Yet the timing was indeed bad. It came less than 48 hours after Mr Obama’s envoy George Mitchell had finally been able to announce that indirect negotiations would go ahead – negotiations which an infuriated Palstinian leadership said it would not participate in if the plan stood. It is hard to believe that some in Israel’s government did not know that this would be the consequence. Certainly Mr Netanyhau’s suggestion that because the settlement is viewed by most Israelis as an integral part of Jewish Jerusalem, nobody thought to challenge it, is extraordinarily lame. No one who has been around Middle East politics as long as he has could be ignorant of how Palestinians would see the move.

One view is that President Obama is heading for another defeat and that in an election year he cannot withstand the wrath of the powerful right- wing pro-Israel lobbying group, AIPAC. If so, serious scrutiny of the way AIPAC uses its ample funding to influence American democracy, mainly in what it perceives to be the interests of a foreign government, is overdue. Fortunately the arrival of J Street, a vastly less well-funded group but one more representative of the impressive majority of American Jews who voted for Mr Obama in 2008, and which is backing him now, makes that possible without the usual charges of anti-Semitism.

But, as it happens, many American Jews will rally to the powerful argument that by restraining a Likud government prepared to jepoardise peace talks in this way, Mr Obama is actually acting as a true friend of Israel and its long-term security. And Mr Obama also has other domestic cards to play. This week’s warning by General David Petraeus of the “enormous” effect of continued Israeli-Palestinian tension on the tasks confronted by US forces in Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is a salutary, if overdue, reminder that an end to the conflict is an urgent American interest as well as an Israeli and Palestinian one.

Yet Mr Obama may not be able to rely on mere rhetoric as President Bush senior did not when he briefly suspended loan guarantees to bring Israel to negotiations in 1991. Here the EU, a key trading partner of Israel, needs to lend its (albeit secondary) support. Lady Ashton did herself nothing but good yesterday by visiting Gaza. She should add her voice at the Quartet meeting in Moscow today to those urging an end to the destructive two and half year economic siege.

She was of course right to condemn yesterday’s fatal Qassam rocket attack. And as she grows in authority, Baroness Ashton should ally herself with US efforts to break the wider deadlock in the Middle East. That need not bring Mr Netanyahu down (though it may). The Israeli prime minister could reach out to the centre and left to replace the fundamentalists in his coalition. But it is primarily the job of Mr Obama to help him decide whether those friends are more important to him than the alliance with the US.

EDITOR: A sea-change on settlements?

I an interesting response to Israel’s offensive and badly managed operation last week, which has managed to annoy just about everyone elsewhere, we can see that the Gaza Carnage in 2008/2009 has at last started to change the dynamics in Palestine. While there is no doubt that we are a long way away from a solution, there seems to be growing international tiredness with Israel and its aggressive agenda and murderous actions, and a greater readiness to confront it. Netanyahu and Liberman are obviously helping to bring this about, as their behaviour can hardly be acceptable even to hardened Zionist such as Biden and Clinton, as well as Obama. It will certainly take more to persuade dyed-in-the-wool Zionists like Brown and Sarkozy, but maybe their time is over, anyway. It seems clear to me that Israel has moved itself into a defensive square on the international map, and that its propaganda is no longer managing to cower international figures as it did in the past.

This is still not enough, of course. Palestine is now represented by a pliant and spineless unelected government, and unless there is a change there, and resistance to the occupation, wall, settlements and the daily illegalities and brutalities are enshrined by the PNA, and also its own opeaations become democratic and open, then the chances for a just political settlement must be as low as they have ever been, or lower. With the war criminal Tony Blair representing the Quartet (what did he ever do to bring about negotiations, in the years he spent being paid by the Quartet?) then the chances for it playing a positive role are nil.

Middle East Quartet urges Israeli settlement freeze: BBC

The international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators has urged Israel to freeze all settlement activity.
Speaking for the Quartet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel’s announcement of plans to build new homes in disputed East Jerusalem.
That move undermined efforts to restart indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Speaking to the BBC, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton indicated that hardening the tone with Israel had paid off, with talks now back in prospect.
Mr Ban met Mrs Clinton and the other Quartet foreign ministers – new EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov – in Moscow.

[The Quartet] condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

In a strongly worded statement, the Quartet condemned Israel’s announcement last week of planning permission for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.
After the announcement, the Palestinians declared they could not begin US-brokered indirect, or “proximity”, talks with the Israelis.
“The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem,” Mr Ban said.
“Recalling that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised by the international community, the Quartet underscores that the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties, and condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.”

ANALYSIS
Kim Ghattas, BBC News, Moscow
Hillary Clinton seems to believe that the spat over settlements with Israel might produce something positive. In a BBC interview she appeared to concede that escalating the tone with the Israelis had been a risk but she said it was “paying off”.
She added she believed there would be a “resumption of the negotiating track soon”. In other words, pressure on Israel is working.
But the pressure will have to continue if there are to be concrete results. Israeli officials are already pushing back.
Mrs Clinton said Benjamin Netanyahu had committed to peace and she made clear she expected him to deliver. She added it was his responsibility to bring the whole of his government, a right-wing coalition, on board.

Mr Ban stated the goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement – including a Palestinian state – within two years.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the Quartet statement and urged the creation of a “surveillance mechanism installed by the Quartet to make sure that Israel does effectively halt completely all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.
The pressure is now on the Israelis to offer concessions that will convince the Palestinians to participate in talks, says the BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow.
But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Quartet timetable was unrealistic and ignored “the last 16 years of Israeli attempts” at negotiating with the Palestinians.
He said Israel had made many “significant gestures” and it was up to the Palestinians to “prove that they are really interested in negotiations”.
Mrs Clinton told the BBC she hoped to see the resumption of indirect talks in the near future, eventually moving to direct talks.
Asked whether she had taken a risk in escalating the tone with Israel, Mrs Clinton said: “I think we are going to see the resumption of the negotiating track, and that means that is paying off, because that is our goal.”
West Bank clashes
Events on Friday in the Middle East highlighted the difficulties the Quartet faces.
Palestinians in the West Bank town of Hebron threw stones at Israeli security forces, who fired tear gas in return.
And a rocket was fired into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip. It caused no injuries, but came a day after a rocket attack killed a Thai agricultural worker when it hit an Israeli kibbutz.
Israeli aircraft attacked up to six targets in Gaza overnight but there were no reports of any serious casualties.
On the eve of the Quartet meeting, Mr Netanyahu informed Mrs Clinton of new confidence-building measures that could be taken, but no details have been given.
It is likely this means a goodwill gesture by the Israelis, like the release of Palestinian prisoners, says the BBC’s Kim Ghattas, travelling with Mrs Clinton.
Enough progress was apparently made in their telephone conversation for George Mitchell, Washington’s Middle East envoy, to travel to the region this weekend.
Mr Netanyahu is to visit Washington next week for further talks with Mrs Clinton.
At the heart of the conflict are disputes over the status of Jerusalem, the borders of Israel and a future Palestinian state and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Quartet calls for settlement freeze: Al Jazeera TV

The so-called Quartet of Middle East negotiators has demanded that Israel halt all settlement activity and denounced Israel’s plan to build new housing in East Jerusalem.

The Quartet’s comments came at a news conference in Moscow on Friday, following a meeting by the group, which brings together the United Nations, the US, the EU and Russia.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, read a joint statement by the group, saying that the Quartet “urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activities”.
In the statement, the Quartet condemned “the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem”.
Ban also said that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should result in the resolution of the conflict within 24 months, and expressed concern over the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Condemnation welcomed
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, welcomed the Quartet’s condemnation of Israeli settlement building, but said that the Quartet needed to monitor Israeli activities on the ground.

“The Israelis have the choice now, either to continue with settlement activities or to engage with the peace process,” he told Al Jazeera.
“We want the Quartet to have the Israeli government, to monitor their actions, to monitor their activities on the ground, because they’re playing many games of deceit on the ground – they say now ‘we’re not going to announce more settlements, but we’re going to continue with settlements’. That is deceit.
“The Quartet must have mechanisms for implementation and monitors on the ground to make sure that the Israeli government complies with its obligations originating from the [2003 peace talks] road map.

“I don’t think we can have a meaningful peace process without Israel stopping all settlement activities,” he said.
The Quartet meeting comes amid rising tensions between Israel and the US over Israel’s plans to build 1,600 new settler homes, a move announced during a visit to the country by Joe Biden, the US vice-president.
Settlement building in the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem is illegal under international law and has been one of the main stumbling blocks to talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said that setting 2012 as a target for a peace deal with the Palestinians was “unrealistic” and would acting actually harm chances of reaching a deal.
“Peace cannot be imposed artificially and with an unrealistic calendar,” he said.
“This type of statement only harms the possibilities of reaching  an accord because it gives to the Palestinians the wrong impression that by failing to negotiate directly they will achieve their goals by using all sorts of pretexts.”

Growing tensions

Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh, speaking from the Qalandiya checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, said the Quartet’s statement would likely fail to win over Palestinians as it had not included any provision for intervention if Israel failed to comply.
“There were no concrete measures, which is what Palestinians want first and foremost. No statement from the Quartet that if the situation doesn’t get better, or if the parties don’t comply, the Quartet will take such-and-such action,” she said.

Israel’s settlement building is seen as a major stumbling block to peace talks [Reuters]
“There’s an increasing sentiment here [in the Palestinian territories] that without strong, effective third party intervention there won’t be any movement on the ground.
“And if the deadlock continues politically the tension we are seeing here will only get much worse.”
In an apparent move to defuse tensions with the US over the settlements, a statement from the office of Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said “mutual confidence-building measures”were being considered, but no details of those measures were given.
Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, also reportedly discussed the issue in 45-minute phone call.

At the Quartet’s news conference Clinton said that the phone conversation had been “useful and productive”.
The Israeli settlement announcement prompted the Palestinians to pull out of indirect “proximity” talks meditated by the US.
But Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy for the Quartet, said that there could be moves to get the negotiations restarted in the coming days.
“I hope very much that in the next few days we will have a package that gives people the sense that, yes, despite all the difficulties of the past few days, it is worth having proximity talks and then those leading to direct negotiations,” he said.

Dr. Barghouthi Pledges Support To Beleaguered Jerusalemites: IOA

Mustapha Barghouti in Jerusalem facing the clones

“I do not have any permission issued by the Israeli authorities to enter East Jerusalem, and I do not recognise the fact that Israel has the power to issue permits to Palestinians to enter their city. We are here on the day in which Israel is establishing facts on the ground, to show that we will never give up Jerusalem.”
Dr Barghouthi delivered this message during a press conference held yesterday in front Damascus gate. His speech emphasised the importance of solidarity with Palestinians in the Holy City, who have been affected by the closures and restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities.
“Nothing, not the Israeli Army, nor Israeli power can stop us, the Palestinians from reaching our capital Jerusalem. We came here in solidarity with the Jerusalemites. We are with them and will never leave them. The road to peace starts from Jerusalem, and ends in Jerusalem.”
“What Netanyahu and the Israeli government are doing by imposing a siege on the old city, imposing restrictions on access to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and even preventing people from praying is totally unacceptable under the international law. His policies reflect the fact that he is acting as a Prime Minister of settlers.”
“We came here to protest and lead our non-violent protest against occupation and settlements in the same spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Although Palestinians from the West bank are denied to enter their capital, I decided to enter East Jerusalem without a permit, the capital of any future Palestinian State.”
Dr. Barghouthi was born in Jerusalem and worked for 15 years as a doctor in the Holy City.
He went on to explain that the negotiation process with such a government has become futile. He instead advocated a national strategy to combine popular resistance and support for national steadfastness, while mobilising the movements of international and national solidarity.
MP Mustafa Barghouthi said the actions of Israeli Occupation Forces today in Jerusalem and the attacks against Palestinian citizens which resulted in many injuries, typifies the aggression they are suffering. He went on to accuse the Netanyahu government of implementing a policy of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem through settlement expansion, house demolitions, and the confiscation of residency cards of Palestinian Jerusalemites.
Dr. Barghouthi toured the Old City of Jerusalem, meeting with citizens affected by the continuous harassment they suffer as a result of racist Israeli policies. Occupation forces attempted to prevent Dr. Barghouthi from entering the Al Aqsa compound, but eventually, supported by several dozen residents of the Old City, he was allowed to pass.
He concluded his visit by attending to wounded Palestinians whose injuries were sustained during the clashes in Jerusalem.

Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu in climbdown over US demands for peace: The Guardian

Prime minister agrees to postpone building plans
• Some concessions made in private, say diplomats

A girl runs past Israeli troops during clashes with Palestinians in East Jerusalem yesterday. Photograph: Bernat Armangue/AP

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, last night caved into US demands over the Middle East peace process, opening the way for a resumption of talks with the Palestinians.
It was a humiliating climbdown for Netanyahu after a week of pressure from the Barack Obama administration.
Netanyahu, in a telephone call to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who was in Moscow for Middle East talks, agreed to various demands she had set out last Friday.
In a statement from his office, he said he proposed, as Clinton had demanded, “confidence-building steps” that would make it easier for the Palestinians to join the talks. He did not specify what these would be but these could include easing Israeli roadblocks in the West Bank, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from more parts of the West Bank and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

He did not announce, as the US had demanded, a freeze on the construction of Jewish homes in Ramat Shlomo, in East Jerusalem, the key point at issue.

But diplomats in Washington, Moscow and Jerusalem said Netanyahu had given a private promise that there will be a temporary freeze on any new construction. The work, while not cancelled, is to be postponed for several years.
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, told the Washington Post: “The goal of both sides at this point is to put this behind us, and go forward with the proximity talks as quickly as possible.”
The concessions bring to an end a rare clash between the US and Israel which began early last week when the US vice-president, Joe Biden, made a visit to Israel to coincide with what he hoped would be a resumption of peace talks.

But during his visit Israel announced a plan to build 1,600 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. The Palestinians promptly pulled out off the proposed talks and the US described the Israeli announcement as a snub and an insult.
Clinton last Friday had a tense 41-minute phone call with Netanyahu expressing US anger and set out her demands: confidence-building measures, a moratorium on new construction in East Jerusalem, and a promise that the resumption of negotiations would be on matters of substance, not just talks about talks.
There was no indication last night whether Netanyahu had agreed to the latter, but it is unlikely, given the events of last week, that the US would have settled for anything less.

Diplomats said that some of the concessions by Netanyahu were being made public and others were being kept private, partly as a face-saving exercise for the Israeli prime minister.
The climbdown is politically awkward for Netanyahu, coming only days after he publicly said that no Israeli government in the past 42 years had given a promise not to build in East Jerusalem, and he will face criticism, particularly from his rightwing coalition partners.

He held a long meeting with cabinet colleagues on Wednesday night to discuss the concessions he would have to make.

Obama and Clinton stand to gain from the Israeli retreat, which will heighten their reputation among the Palestinians and in the Arab world. Obama and Clinton were left looking weak after a similar stand-off with Israel last September when peace talks failed to get under way.
The US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, had cancelled a trip to Israel earlier this week in protest, but is to resume his visit on Sunday. Clinton is to see Netanyahu in Washington next week.

A US state department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said Clinton and Netanyahu had discussed “specific steps” to improve the outlook for Middle East peace talks. Netanyahu’s spokesman, Nir Chefetz, said the prime minister had proposed “mutual confidence-building steps” that both Israel and the Palestinians could take.
Last night Israel retaliated for a Palestinian rocket attack on Israel that killed a Thai agricultural worker. Israeli planes struck at least two targets in Gaza, officials and witnesses said.

EDITOR: The Pavlovian Dog Barks again

Below you can see an article in todays’  Guardian, and my rebuttal of the nonsense by Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle. I am not sure, of course, if the Guardian will indeed publish my letter, but they did publish one a week ago, and might do so again.

Holding back a settlement: The Guardian CiF

Palestinian demands to halt construction in East Jerusalem are a ruse to end negotiations, and delegitimise Israel

It’s easy to look at the past week’s events in Israel and paint Binyamin Netanyahu as the guilty party. The Palestinians are demanding an end to construction. Israel’s response: to announce more building. The Americans want to push forward with “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, through George Mitchell. Israel’s response: to time the announcement of more building at the very moment when Vice-President Biden is visiting. So it looks like an obdurate Netanyahu blocking progress to peace. The world looks on and asks why Israel is behaving so badly.

Except that such a version of events is a travesty of the truth. Far from Israel’s behaviour over East Jerusalem being the cause of the breakdown in talks, it’s the Palestinians who have come up with East Jerusalem as a figleaf for their rejection of talks.

The Israelis made a diplomatic blunder in announcing the building work during the vice-president’s visit. But that’s all it was – a piece of stupid timing. There is nothing in the substance of the building which contradicts any of the pledges made by Israel to the US.

Last month I was in Israel and Ramallah. Talking to Israeli cabinet ministers and Palestinian Authority ministers, one thing became very obvious. The Palestinians’ refusal to countenance real talks unless Israel freezes building in East Jerusalem is simply a ruse.

For 16 years after the Oslo accords, such building was never an issue. Israel built; Israel and the Palestinians talked. Indeed, the very purpose of such talks was, in the end game, to deal with the East Jerusalem dispute. But no party to a negotiation gives up its central claim before it starts the process. And the Palestinians made no such demand, which they knew was not properly a prerequisite to talks but rather their substance.

Indeed, not only did Israel carry on building in East Jerusalem, it also carried on building in the settlements. And the two sides talked. Now, for the first time ever, Israel has announced a building freeze in the West Bank, acceding to President Obama’s request as a show of good faith. Yet at the very moment when, for the first time in the years since Oslo, there actually is a freeze, the Palestinians have decided that this is the time when they cannot accept Israel’s good faith as a partner in talks.

The real reason why the Palestinians have landed on an East Jerusalem freeze as a prerequisite is because they no longer want negotiations with Israel, or the US, and they know the Israelis can’t agree, in advance of talks, to what would be the core of any real negotiations. But to admit this would endanger the picture they have painted of Netanyahu as the roadblock, a picture which the Obama administration – the most incompetent in foreign policy since Carter – has completely accepted.

Why have the Palestinians decided they no longer want negotiations? That’s the most interesting point of all, because it has profound consequences for the region. The Palestinians and their allies in Europe have been engaged in a long-term plan to delegitimise Israel; to move from criticising Israeli policy to denying Israel’s very right to exist and crippling its ability to defend itself.

With that process in train – through, for instance, the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – the Palestinians have also changed their more direct tactics. Rather than bilateral deals with Israel, or even multilateral talks involving a grand bargain with Syria and the Arab states brokered by the US, the Palestinians want now to proceed through forums where Israel’s legitimacy is being raised. That means taking the dispute to international institutions such as the UN and EU, which have a kneejerk hostility to Israel.

Hence current events. Jerusalem isn’t a stumbling block; it’s the whole point.

A Letter to the Guardian

With Friends such as these, who needs enemies?
By Haim Bresheeth

Sometimes, one has just to keep mum… but that is hardly a skill Steven Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, can be accused of possessing. In what is little more than a Pavlovian-dog reaction to current pressure on Israel (Holding back a settlement, March 19th) he is making an excellent case, however unwittingly, against Israel and its continued breaches of international law.
One could have easily disregarded such views, were they not presented with the authority a Jewish newspaper editor, and by extension, claiming that those extreme views are representative of Jews elsewhere, and especially in Britain. This is most harmful, as he definitely is NOT representative of all, or even most Jews in Britain, and by voicing such views is only contributing to racial and social tensions, and fomenting the mistaken view that whatever Israel does, however brutal and illegal its behaviour, Jews will always be standing with it and supporting it uncritically. This is just not so.
By claiming that it is the Palestinians who are to blame for all their problems, Mr. Pollard has just given us a taster of the kind of attitude that has stifled any chance of a just solution in the middle East since 1948, if not before. Israel has been illegally settling the Occupied Territories of Palestine, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, UN resolutions, and international public opinion for over four decades, making a just peace an impossibility, and Mr. Pollard blames this on the Palestinians? The best thing he can do is keep quiet at such .a time, just after the Israeli government has, again, done all it could to remove the danger of peace negotiations.
I also note that Mr. Pollard is making those comments from the safe distance of few thousands miles. Like most Jews, he knows better than to actually go and live in Israel. Maybe the best thing we should all do as Jews and Israelis, is to voice our disagreement with Israeli methods and actions, and to open a Jewish dialogue with Palestine. In the long run, this may be the only way to change the realities.

America and Israel: a historic choice: Opendemocracy

Paul Rogers, 18 March 2010
Subjects:Conflict International politics Israel United States middle east american power & the world global security globalisation israel & palestine – old roads, new maps
The serious row between Washington and Tel Aviv is about far more than the construction of homes in east Jerusalem; it goes to the heart of the close military alliance between the two states.
A rare public dispute between the United States and Israel has dominated the international news agenda for over a week. Its spark, the Israeli interior-ministry’s announcement on 9 March 2010 of the proposed construction of 1,600 housing-units in east Jerusalem, was made more inflammable by the coincident visit to Israel of US vice-president Joe Biden as part of an attempt to revivify the moribund middle-east peace-process. A striking feature of what followed has been the US’s apparent readiness to escalate the row, in a way that has led commentators (and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren) to speak of a “historic” crisis between these routinely firm allies.

The effusion of political rhetoric around the issue, however, tends to overshadow a deeper and even more potent aspect of the quarrel: the military one, and in particular the urgent concern of some senior United States military figures that Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is damaging America’s security interests across the region – and hampering its efforts to prosecute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Israeli fuel
The concern is rooted in the many exchanges that have been taking place between senior commanders in United States Central Command (Centcom, the military headquarters responsible for US security interests in twenty countries across the greater middle east) and Arab governments in the region.

The Centcom view was presented in more coded form by its head, General David H Petraeus, in prepared testimony for his appearance before the senate armed-services committee on 16 March 2010 (see Mark Perry, “The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story”, Foreign Policy, 13 March 2010). Petraeus wrote: “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the [middle east] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world” (see Hilary Leila Krieger, “‘Arab-Israeli conflict hurts US’”, Jerusalem Post, 18 March 2010).
The Centcom leadership also briefed the chair of the US joint chiefs-of-staff, Admiral Mike Mullen: the gravamen was the pervasive view in the region that Israel’s hardline determination to establish even greater control over the West Bank and Gaza was unopposed by an impotent Washington (see Akiva Eldar, “Americans worried Israeli-Palestinian conflict harming U.S. standing in region”, Ha’aretz, 16 March 2010).

The extensive coverage of the affair in the diverse Israeli media has mixed scorn for Barack Obama’s administration and bitter criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu’s government with a certain expectation that Israel’s friends in the United States would help to limit the fallout of the dispute (see Jim Lobe, “US military targets Israeli ‘intransigence’”, Asia Times, 17 March 2010). There are in principle good reasons for this position: influential organisations such as the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) – which holds its annual conference on 21-23 March 2010, with Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu both scheduled to speak – are working hard to restore the normalcy of US bedrock support for Israel. Moreover, Israel can rely on a wider base of sympathy than the core lobbying groups; for example, the large swathe of Christian Zionists in the country is highly valued for the voting power it represents (see “Christian Zionists and neocons: a heavenly marriage”, 3 February 2005).

At the same time, more perceptive analysts within the US’s pro-Israel groups worry that long-term trends are moving against the country – in strategic and demographic terms, and where its international profile is concerned. During and after the six-day war of June 1967 – a pivotal moment in forging the alliance – Israel came to be seen in much of the west as a brave underdog battling an Arab hydra (see Colin Shindler, “Israel’s rightward shift: a history of the present”, 23 February 2009). The wars and conflicts of later decades – in Lebanon (1978, 1982, 2006), the West Bank (the intifada of 1987-93 and 2000-05), and Gaza (2008-09) – and the burgeoning settlements of Israelis across the West Bank have greatly shifted this perception, if less so in the United States than in Europe (see Walter Russell Mead, “Obama and the Jacksonian Zionists”, American Interest, 16 March 2010). The indirect impact of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror” to a degree refuelled the sense of Israel as a reliable security asset and outpost of western values; but as the romance of 1967 continues to fade so the belief is growing that time is no longer on Israel’s side (see “After Gaza: Israel’s last chance”, 17 January 2010).

The Iraqi impulse

This context helps explain why Centcom commanders are so worried about the effect of Israel’s approach to the Palestinians on the United States’s strategic position in the region. But what makes their intervention striking is the deep background of intimate military cooperation between the two firm allies.

The most notable recent example of such cooperation took place in the perilous early months of the war in Iraq. By autumn 2003, Washington’s initial euphoria about the invasion and regime-change had long dissolved as the US army and marine corps began to encounter a formidable urban insurgency across central Iraq for which they were inadequately trained and equipped. In these circumstances, they naturally turned to their sole ally possessed of vast experience in urban counterinsurgency.
A number of earlier columns in this series drew attention to urgent but little-reported meetings held in Israel in late 2003 between senior Israeli army-officers and key figures in the US army’s training-and-doctrine command (Tradoc) (see, for example, “After Saddam, no respite”, 19 December 2003).

A particular meeting on 1-5 December 2003, scarcely tracked outside the specialist defence media, involved General Kevin Byrnes (the head of Tradoc) and Brigadier-General Benjamin Freakley (the commander of the US army’s infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia). Defense News quoted the views of a US military source present:
“Israel has much to offer in the technological realm, while operationally, there are obvious parallels between Israel’s experiences over the past three years in the West Bank and Gaza and our own post-offensive operations in Iraq. We’d be remiss if we didn’t make a supreme effort to seek out commonalities and see how we might be able to incorporate some of that Israeli knowledge into our plans.”

The US-Israeli collaboration intensified in the months that followed, in particular as the US military purchased numerous Israeli military systems (see “Between Fallujah and Palestine”, 21 April 2004). Defense News quoted a US defence official at the time saying that military-to-military “cooperation has been going on for decades across all service branches, but its true that only recently, you’ve started to see a lot more Israeli defence systems deployed in different theatres.”

The US army and marine-corps’s cooperation with Israel reached its height in 2007 when the army’s engineer-corps finished the two-year construction of a mock Arab town in Israel’s Negev desert (see Shelly Paz, “IDF builds fake Muslim city to prepare for war”, Jerusalem Post, 22 January 2007).. Baladia was designed as an advanced infantry-training facility where both the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and their US counterparts could employ the most up-to-date equipment and tactics in conditions as close to actual experience in the field as possible (see “A tale of two towns”,  21 June 2007).

The trigger of change
This shared experience gives the current crisis its extraordinary, even unprecedented flavour: for the very arm of the United States federal government which has the closest links with Israel – namely, the military – is now suggesting that Israel is the source of some of its own key problems in the middle east.

The significance is heightened by the fact that the criticism comes not (for example) from retired generals not remote from the strategic frontline; but from the very US military command that has been fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for most of the decade – and would be responsible for handling any military confrontation with Iran (see Aluf Benn, “It’s too bad Netanyahu and Obama didn’t stop and think first”, Ha’aretz, 17 March 2010). This elite forms a core element of the US “military-industrial complex” which in five decades of close cooperation with Israel has furnished its ally with sophisticated weapons-systems, undertaken many joint exercises, provided huge amounts of aid; and in turn depended on Israel for crucial assistance in its war in Iraq (see “Iraq’s Israeli factor”, 7 July 2004).

The prospect, even it remains only that, of Israel losing the support of such a vital constituency is one to chill Israeli leaders as they ponder their country’s overall relationship with the United States. The argument about yet another construction project in east Jerusalem will pass; its underlying trigger has the potential to shake the middle east for years to come.

Rupert Cornwell: Obama won’t restrain Israel – he can’t: The Indepndent

His error has been not to think through the clout of America’s pro-Israel lobby
All you can say is, we’ve been here before. “Who the **** does he think he is? Who’s the ******* superpower here?” Bill Clinton spluttered in fury to his aides back in 1996. The “he” in question was Benjamin Netanyahu, then as now the Prime Minister of Israel.

Barack Obama, a cooler character than the last Democrat to be president, may not have used quite such salty language about the behaviour of the current Netanyahu government that has so incensed the US. One thing though may safely be predicted. Mr Netanyahu will get away with it.

More than a week on, the in-your-face effrontery of the announcement that a new swathe of Israeli homes will be built in disputed East Jerusalem still amazes. Not only was it another pre-emptive strike on one of the toughest issues to be resolved in the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to which even Mr Netanyahu pays lip service. It came just 24 hours after painstaking diplomatic efforts by Washington had secured agreement on “proximity talks” in which both sides agreed to talk to each other, albeit indirectly. The fate of even these modest contacts are now in the balance.

And it came at the very moment that Vice-President Joe Biden – a true friend of Israel if ever there was one – was in the country promising America’s “absolute, total and unvarnished” commitment to Israel’s security. Mr Netanhayu maintains he was blindsided by the announcement. But close friends don’t treat a superpower protector like that.

Worse still, Mr Netanyahu raised his two fingers just when there was an opportunity to move the tectonic plates of the Middle East crisis. Israel and the moderate Arab states are united in their fear of a nuclear-armed Iran bestriding the region. Serious progress on the Palestinian dispute would not only remove the biggest obstacle dividing them; it would also blunt Iran’s most potent appeal to the region’s Islamic population, as the one champion Palestinian rights that dared stand up to the Israeli and American oppressors.

Now that opportunity has all but vanished. For the Palestinians and other Arabs, Israel’s move has confirmed what they suspected all along, that the Jewish state – at least under its present management – is concerned not with concessions, even symbolic ones, but with creating facts on the ground. Mr Netanyahu however believes he can call Mr Obama’s bluff and ride out the storm. The plan to build 1,600 settlements, he says, will go ahead, whatever Washington’s demands to the contrary. And on all counts, he’s probably right.

And the reasons for such confidence? The first is his calculation that for Washington, whatever its anger at Israel’s behaviour, the need for strategic co-operation with its closest ally in the Middle East against the Iranian nuclear threat will trump its concern for the Palestinians – even if the two issues are connected. The second is his confidence that the President will never ultimately defy the mighty pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Mr Obama is more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians than any recent president. In his Cairo speech last June, he spoke movingly of the daily humiliations faced by a people living under occupation: the situation for the Palestinian people, he said, was “intolerable.” He followed up by demanding a total freeze on settlements, as proof the Israelis were serious about a peace deal.

But Mr Netanyahu said no, and the Obama administration, essentially folded. It was forced to content itself with a limited and partial freeze, from which East Jerusalem was excluded. When Hillary Clinton praised this modest step as “unprecedented,” disappointed Palestinians and Arabs concluded that for all the fine words in Cairo, it was business as usual in Washington. When push came to shove, the proclaimed “honest broker” tilted invariably and irretrievably in favour of the Israelis.

Mr Obama’s defenders now say that if he misplayed his hand, it was because he had too much on his plate, obliged to corral up crucial healthcare votes one moment, plot the future of the US banking system the next, and then make a flawless move in the three-dimensional chess game that is Middle East policy. In fact, his greatest error was not to think through the clout of America’s pro-Israel lobby.

When the university professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt published The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy in 2007, some intitial reaction was scornful. Critics dismissed the book’s thesis as exaggeration at best, sheer fantasy at worst. There was no sinister lobby, only the instinctive collective sympathy felt towards Israel by ordinary Americans.

But power lies in the perception of power, and no organisation in Washington is perceived to wield more power than AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. For proof, look no further than January 2009, when most of the rest of the world was horrified at the Israeli offensive in Gaza. At that moment the US House of Representatives, by a vote of 390 to five, chose to blame the entire crisis on Hamas.

Now the lobby is working to defuse the present row, naturally on Israel’s terms. First AIPAC expressed its “serious concern” at events, reminding (or perhaps warning) of the “vast bipartisan support in Congress and the American people” for the US/Israeli relationship. Then the Israeli ambassador here issued a statement claiming he had been “flagrantly misquoted” in reports saying he had warned his staff of the worst crisis in 35 years between the two countries. By Tuesday evening Ms Clinton herself, who last week was accusing Mr Netanhayu of insulting the US, poured further oil on the already quietening waters: “I don’t buy the notion of a crisis.”

And there we have it. The settlements in East Jerusalem will go ahead whatever the US thinks. The proximity talks, even if they do proceed, are doomed in advance. And next week AIPAC holds here what it bills as the largest policy conference in its history. The Israeli Prime Minister will be in town to address it, so will Ms Clinton.

President Obama however will be about as far away as possible, on a long-planned visit to Indonesia and Australia. And probably just as well. Grovels, even the most elegant grovels, are not an edifying spectacle.

Forgotten lessons: Palestine and the British empire: Opendemocracy

James Renton, 19 March 2010
Subjects:Civil society Conflict International politics Israel Palestine UK Lest we forget Palestinian Israeli conflict
While the conflict that is the legacy of British involvement in Palestine daily captures world headlines, Britain’s foster-role is too often ignored. Such an omission is all the more tragic, James Renton argues, since mandate era misjudgements are being readily repeated.
In a speech to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies on 21 May 2009, David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, argued that the future of the west’s relations with Muslim-dominated countries lay in the building of broad coalitions based upon consent among citizens—not just ruling elites. Prior to making his case, he acknowledged the elephant in the room of Anglo-Muslim relations:  Britain’s colonial record in the middle east and south Asia, and its legacies. As part of this rare confession of culpability, he noted ‘the failure – it has to be said not just ours – to establish two states in Palestine’.

This admission, as rare as it may be, gives only a very partial picture of what is a largely unacknowledged story. With a mandate from the league of nations, Britain governed the Holy Land from the end of the first world war until 1948. During this time, the political landscape of Palestine was completely transformed. Whilst Arabs and Jews played a fundamental role in the unfolding drama of mandate Palestine, the driving force was imperial Britain. The old myth that Britain was merely ‘holding the ring’ — trying to keep the peace between two irrational, warring parties — is a gross misunderstanding of history.

In November 1918, Palestine did not exist as a political entity. What became mandate Palestine was carved out of four districts of the Ottoman empire, which had ruled the roost since 1516. In the Jewish world, only a small, though growing, minority were members of the Zionist movement by the end of the Great War. Many Jews were virulently opposed to the idea, though most were indifferent to what was viewed as a utopian movement. In 1918, approximately 10% of the population of the Holy Land were Jewish, of whom many were not Zionist. Amongst the Arab population, there was a growing sense of Palestinian identity before 1914. But this was just one of many competing loyalties at the time. Just after the war, the predominant aim of Arab nationalists in Palestine was to establish independence for Greater Syria—incorporating today’s Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestinian territories, and Jordan.

But by the end of British rule in May 1948 there had emerged a powerful Zionist movement. It had succeeded in forging the institutions for statehood and independence. Palestinian nationalism had also become deep-rooted in Arab society. But the Arab population suffered from under-development, debt, widespread illiteracy, disillusionment, and the after effects of Britain’s decimation of the Palestinian Uprising of 1936 to 1939. These seeds of Zionist victory and Palestinian defeat were the direct outcome of Britain’s drafting, interpretation, and implementation of the league of nations mandate for Palestine.

On the rare occasions when Britain’s record in Palestine is discussed critically outside of academic circles, many emphasise the mistake of issuing the Balfour Declaration of 2 November 1917. It often has been thought that this statement committed Britain to supporting Zionism, come what may. As a result, the British were forced to make the best of a bad job. They could not abandon Zionism, as it would undermine Britain’s honour and prestige—the perceived beating heart of imperial authority. But this version of events lets the British empire off the hook. It suggests that the Balfour Declaration, the act of a short-sighted government embroiled in the Great War, was the only problem. The Declaration, however, committed Britain to doing very little in Palestine.

The text of the Declaration stipulated that the British government viewed with favour, and would ‘facilitate’, the ‘establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’. This statement was followed by the caveat, ‘nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities’. As I argue in a forthcoming book edited by Rory Miller, Palestine, Britain and Empire: The Mandate Years, there was no attempt by the government to define what was meant by these promises. There was no serious consideration by the cabinet or the foreign office as to what was meant by the term ‘national home’, or how exactly Britain would ‘facilitate’ its establishment. Also, no thought was given to how the rights of the so-called ‘non-Jewish communities’ might be affected by the ‘national home’, or how they would be protected.

The principal reason for this oversight is that the government was not focused on the future of Palestine when it issued the Declaration. Their primary objective was to rally world Jewry behind the Allied war effort, especially in Russia and the United States. This policy was pursued because of a mistaken belief in Jewish power and commitment to Zionism.

By the end of the war, the government had failed to clarify its policy in Palestine. As Britain struggled to cope with the immediate challenges of the post-war peace, the inertia on Palestine continued. The chief concerns were to avoid further alienating the Palestinian Arabs, whilst also satisfying the imagined bogey of Jewish power. Into this policy vacuum stepped the Zionists. With their own plans for Palestine, they persuaded the government to go further than the vague Balfour Declaration. The text of the league of nations mandate for Palestine was based on Zionist proposals. The preamble stated Britain’s obligation to put the promise of the Declaration into effect. It also recognised the Jewish people’s historical connection with Palestine, and the ‘grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country’. The articles of the mandate went much further. As a legally binding document, it obliged Britain to secure, not facilitate, the establishment of the Jewish national home. To that end, the British administration was to cooperate with, and be advised by, the Zionist Organisation. In addition, the British had to facilitate Jewish immigration and settlement. There were also commitments to safeguarding the rights of all inhabitants, not just Jews, and to develop self-governing institutions.

The mandate for Palestine did not clarify, however, what the Jewish national home would look like. Nor, like the Balfour Declaration, did it state how the rights of the Arab majority were to be protected. There was no clear picture crafted in Whitehall as to what the outcome of British rule in Palestine would be. Neither was there consideration of how self-governing institutions for all of Palestine could be developed, whilst also establishing a Jewish national home.

This lack of planning was, in large part, due to the British intention to stay in Palestine for as long as possible, so as to protect strategic interests in the middle east. As a result, no exit strategy was developed by the British. This was despite the fact that the declared aim of the mandate system in the middle east was to help nations to become independent.

Instead of a carefully defined strategy for the future of Zionist-Palestinian relations, the British relied on a series of flawed assumptions that shaped their governance of the Holy Land. First, it was thought that Zionist development, as quasi-European development, would benefit the Arab population, and thus bring them round to the idea of Zionist settlement. Second, the government wrongly believed that the moderate Zionist leadership, as they were viewed, were not interested in the creation of their own state, or dominance of Palestine. Third, the Palestinian Arabs were not thought to constitute a nation. They were seen as a motley crew of religious communities. Finally, those responsible for the administration of Palestine considered that the Palestinian Arab population could be managed by co-opting the Palestinian elite. If these individuals could be kept on side, then they would moderate Arab society.

In reality, the Palestinian political elite favoured by the British were placed in an impossible position. They had to satisfy the British of their commitment to moderation and peace, and their willingness to play the game of liberal international politics. They could not push the British too hard for substantive changes to the status quo. If they did, they would have been considered dangerous extremists. But at the same time this elite had to assuage the Palestinian masses, who increasingly demanded an end to British support for Zionism. With the Empire’s continuing backing of Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s, much of the Palestinian elite focused on the liberal path of advocating constitutional change. The constitutional path failed, however, in March 1936, after a Legislative Council, which was to include significant Arab representation, was defeated by a pro-Zionist majority in the house of commons. The Palestinian population erupted, and the first intifada began.

This uprising finally led to a British plan for an endgame to the conflict. The Palestine royal commission reported in July 1937 that the only solution was the partition of the Holy Land into two separate, sovereign states (though areas of strategic interest were to remain in British hands). For fear of alienating the Arab world with an impending war, this option was, however, shelved by the British government. Instead, they attempted to pacify the Arab population with a combination of violence and political concessions. Using tactics such as house demolitions and collective punishments, they crushed the uprising with tremendous force. Most of the Palestinian leadership was arrested or went into exile. In an effort to sweeten the pill, in May 1939 the military campaign was followed by sharp restrictions on Jewish immigration and the prospect of Palestinian independence with an Arab majority in ten years time. But these promises could not mitigate the effects of the violence that had preceded them—nor were they meant to. The Palestinian national movement, which had tried to resist colonial rule, had been fatally wounded. And the Palestinian leadership was no longer viewed by the British as a viable partner. Even in the partition proposals of 1937, the suggested Arab state was to come under the authority of the reliably pro-British King Abdullah of Transjordan.

As with its rule of Palestine, Britain’s response to Palestinian resistance was driven by a number of flawed assumptions. If the Palestinian elite would not accede to British demands, then it would have to be replaced by a more pliant party. In addition, resistance had to be crushed before any conciliatory steps could be made. Britain’s reputation as a tough actor in the region had to be protected at all costs.

There was little consideration of the long-term effects of these policies on the sentiments of the general Palestinian population. The main concern was with political elites, especially those in strategically significant countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. Unsurprisingly, there was little enthusiasm for Britain amongst Palestinians after 1939. There was certainly no acceptance of Britain’s past support for the Zionist project.

The two-state solution of 1937 was the one proposal offered by the British government that it was believed could be acceptable to both Palestinians and Zionists. But even here, there was blatant disregard for its impact on the average Palestinian. The Palestine royal commission had suggested that there should be a substantial transfer of Arabs from the Jewish state.

The partition idea, without population transfers, was taken up in 1947 by the United Nations, after Britain had handed it the Palestine problem. This plan promised independent Jewish and Palestinian states. But a bruised and battered Palestinian population had no incentive to accept this agreement, which was decided upon by the UN general assembly. Neither were the Zionists, in the aftermath of the holocaust, about to give in to a defeated Palestinian population, who were opposed to a Jewish state. As a result, Britain’s departure was preceded by the outbreak of a civil war in Palestine, and was followed by the first Arab-Israeli conflagration.

The assumption that state-sponsored violence followed by agreements between political elites can make peace lives on to this day. It betrays the old assumptions of British colonialism — that a reputation for being firm must be maintained at all costs, that colonial state violence prevents future anti-colonial violence, and that peace can be achieved by elites re-drawing maps, and making constitutional agreements.

The British government did not understand, nor did they want to understand, the concerns of the average Palestinian. Neither did they comprehend the post-holocaust sensibilities of rank and file Zionist Jews. But suffering cannot be undone by academic agreements crafted by politicians and officials. And it is precisely the experiences and expectations of regular people, be they Palestinian or Israeli, that will make or break peace in the long-term.

At least 12 wounded in IAF missile strike on Gaza: Haaretz

Israeli F16 warplanes carried out two successive airstrikes on the southern Gaza Strip on Friday night, wounding at least 12 people, in response to earlier rocket attacks, witnesses and medics said.

The witnesses said Israeli warplanes targeted the inoperative Gaza airport east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. After a short
while, Israeli warplanes struck two smuggling tunnels under the Gaza Strip-Egypt borders. Friday’s airstrikes came after militants fired five rockets at Israel in 24 hours, one of them killing a Thai worker near the southern city of Ashkelon. Medics at Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah town said that 10 Palestinians were injured, three of them seriously, in the second airstrike that targeted the two tunnels.
Both Israeli and Hamas officials confirmed the strikes.

Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom had said on Thursday Israel would make a strong response to what was the first deadly rocket fire from Hamas-ruled Gaza at Israel in more than a year.
Israel also sent a letter of complaint to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is due to visit Israel at the weekend, and the UN Security Council.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev urged Ban to call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in 2006. Hamas has demanded Israel free hundreds of the thousands of militants in its jails in exchange for the soldier.
A previously unknown group, Ansar al-Sunna, believed to share the hardline ideology of al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire at Israel, as well as the Al-Aqsa Martrys Brigades, a wing of the mainstream Fatah movement.

Gaza airport was built in 1999 with German and Spanish donations as well as loans from Arab Bank in Egypt but became inoperative after the Palestinian Intifada erupted against Israel in September 2000.
Since then, Israeli warplanes and tanks have destroyed many of the airport buildings as well as the runway, with most of the damage inflicted during last winter’s 22-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Earlier on Friday in the predawn hours, Israeli planes carried out six successive airstrikes on different targets in the Gaza Strip, including a metal workshop in Gaza City and smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza Strip.
Hamas Islamists, who took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, had been urging other militant groups not to strike Israel, voicing concern about possible Israeli retaliation.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have carried out sporadic rocket and mortar bomb attacks on Israel since the end of a three-week Gaza war in January 2009, in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed, usually without causing any casualties.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said that more than 330 rockets have been fired from Gaza since the war. “We will continue to act against anyone who executes terror attacks against Israel,” he said, reading a prepared statement.

Israel has responded to rocket fire from Gaza since the war last year. But air strikes are often tempered to avoid casualties, as a signal to Hamas that Israel holds it responsible while remaining aware that it is not behind the rocket fire, and to avoid the appearance of disrupting
U.S.-backed diplomacy in the region.

The latest air strikes took place the day of a meeting of Quartet Middle East power mediators in Moscow and just before a planned visit by U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who is seeking to relaunch moribund peace talks in the region.


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