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August 2, 2012

EDITOR: A lone voice in the wilderness of Israeli politics

Despite the evidence that the IDF leadership are against the bombing of Iran, Israel and the US are preparing for the criminal and insane action to go ahead, in the full light of world media, and no great uproar from any country against this rash and dangerous move. It seems Obama is watching the polls more than thinking on a rational basis about US goals in the Middle East, and what Netanyahu is thinking about is also quite clear – he is down in the Israeli polls as the financial crisis is at last also affecting the Israeli economy,  and the shit is about to hit the fan. The seeds of the social protest of last year seem to be germinating at last, after a period in which Netanyahu seemed to be the Teflon Man – unaffected by the massive protest rallies and tent cities. Obama is also seeking a new enemy to make war with, now that he is out of Iraq, and prepares to get out of Afghanistan, once that country it is also totally destroyed. There is a clear need for another Islamic country which can be destroyed and Iran fits the bill to a dot.

It is also clear that Obama feels pressurised by the Mitt Romney speeches in Israel, where he presented himself as the real supporter of Israel, the one who listens and agrees with whatever Israel needs or says, so Obama is on a roll to prove he is the real one, and sends Panetta to negotiate the exact details of the attack on Iran before the elections really get under way, in October. So, due to the internal elction policies of the US, and the growing political pressure on Netanyahu, we are likely to see the beginning of anew, murderous war in the Middle East, and probably beyond.

So, after the 9/11 the US has managed well in its war against Al Qaeda: it brought it into Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and some countries in Africa, were it never had a foothold before, it has managed to reduce Iraq and Afghanistan into war ravaged and violent caricatures of western democracy, and has made Al Qaeda a force to reckon with across the Arab and Muslim world, as well as strengthening the political expression of Muslim extremism, such as the Salafis in many Arab countries. Not a bad record for a world power in decline, with an economy which is teetering on the brink, and a society which is governed by bigotry and ignorance, as well as deep Xenophobia.

So, as usual, the only sane voice in the Israeli public/media, that of Gideon Levy, is again crying out against that which is already a forgone conclusion, mainly because of the  servility shown by most governments towards US decisions, and by extension, to the servility of US politicians to the Zionist aggressive agenda. Whata sign of human progress in the 21st century… We should all be proud.

Stopping the crazed Israeli desire to bomb: Haaretz

The challenge currently resting on the shoulders of the world’s strongest man would seem to be as light as a feather. Israel’s level of dependence on the U.S. is absolute; it is more dependent on America than ever before.
By Gideon Levy      Aug.02, 2012

Amos Harel’s fervent prayer for the well-being of Benny Gantz (Haaretz, August 1) isn’t enough: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already, with haughty vehemence, announced that only the political leadership will decide. Nor will the visit of America’s Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, turn the tables: Netanyahu, with the same haughty vehemence, has announced that only Israel will decide.

Of course, saying prayers for the well-being of Gantz and Panetta is nice. But the main object of concern right now should be the well-being and, more particularly, the level of determination of U.S. President Barack Obama. He carries the brunt of responsibility on his shoulders, and apparently is the last person on earth who has the wherewithal to dissuade Israel from continuing with its misadventures.

This is the last opportunity he has during his current term to demonstrate friendship and genuine concern for Israel. This is his last chance to do something for the Middle East.

The challenge currently resting on the shoulders of the world’s strongest man would seem to be as light as a feather. Israel’s level of dependence on the U.S. is absolute; it is more dependent on America than ever before, just as it has never been so isolated in the world. Measures that can be taken to stop Israel are numerous and diverse: They include giving Israel a cold shoulder politically, and putting a partial freeze on economic or security aid. And the goal is worthy. Possibly one tough, clear phone call will suffice.

Well, that’s the picture. Anyone looking at this game from the sidelines would wonder which country here is the superpower and which is the satellite proxy, if not what here is the truth and what is duplicity. Yet apparently there is no time to clarify these questions. Nor is there time to wonder about how Israel is daring to act this way in August.

Messianic ruminators long ago noted that August is the fateful month, as perhaps September also is. And so now is the time to send one last appeal to the president-savior, calling on him to do something right now.

Sheldon Adelson is not likely to like this. Mitt Romney could object, and AIPAC will go nuts. Some synagogue sages will call on congregations to vote Republican, though that will hardly suffice to stop Obama’s reelection. At stake here is a national rescue mission. And when it comes to rescue, everything else has to be put aside. The president who disappointed could become the president who offers deliverance. The president who vowed, “Yes, we can,” can, at long last, prove that he can, in this part of the world as well.

There’s no point in explaining why – it’s all been said and written. The coming weeks are liable to bring a catastrophe to Israel. Apparently, the defense system’s opposition no longer suffices to stop it. And the public’s outrageous apathy doesn’t help.

One might try to remind Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and perhaps also Obama, that the era of war heroes has dropped out of history forever. Since the end of World War II, no person has entered the history books thanks to a war or a bombing. The era’s heroes are peacemakers or national liberators, from Gandhi to Mandela, from Gorbachev to Walesa. Apart from David Ben-Gurion, the only leaders of Israel who will be remembered in history were peacemakers – Begin, thanks to the peace with Egypt, and Rabin due to his attempts in the peace process with the Palestinians. The warmongers are forgotten. That’s a fact that might be kept in mind by those who want to launch an attack “to leave a mark” in history.

Of course, possibly this is a false alarm – but by the time we can verify whether it is or not, it might be too late. It’s no less probable that this is a true crisis. And so all eyes should now be peeled to Washington: Be strong, please, Obama. Stop the crazed Israeli desire to bomb; derail the messianic bellicosity and bring an end to this attack obsession. Surely one tough phone call from you would do the trick.

Poll: Support for Netanyahu plummets following economic edicts: Haaretz

Survey reflects a negativity toward the Netanyahu-Steinitz duo; government’s socioeconomic agenda could be an electoral disaster.

By Yossi Verter  Aug.02, 2012

Prime Minister Netanyahu, left, and Finance Minister Steinitz.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, left, and Finance Minister Steinitz. Photo by Emil Salman
Info-Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with Netanyahu?

Support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has plunged to an all-time low due to the economic diktats the government announced this week.

For the first time since Netanyahu set up his second government in April 2009, the proportion of survey respondents satisfied with his performance has fallen to just 31 percent, while 60 percent expressed dissatisfaction.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz fared even worse in the Dialog survey, which was held in mid-week under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs. Over two-thirds of those interviewed – 67 percent – said they were not satisfied with his performance, compared to 19 percent who said the opposite.

The survey reflects a negative, angry state of mind toward the Netanyahu-Steinitz duo and leads to the conclusion that the government’s socioeconomic agenda is an electoral disaster for Likud. Netanyahu is still seen as a candidate without rivals, but his position has weakened considerably.

In this atmosphere it is clear that Netanyahu has no interest in holding an early election. On the contrary, he will strive to put an election off as much as possible and change the government’s agenda, so it focuses on strategic security-related issues ahead of an election.

The survey also implies that Netanyahu and Steinitz have failed miserably in marketing their economic policy. The public simply does not believe them and does not buy what they are selling regarding responsibility, leadership and balanced, necessary measures.

Until recently, the lowest grade of dissatisfaction with Netayahu registered in Haaretz-Dialog polls over the past three and a half years was 54 percent. The balance has been in Netanyahu’s favor most of the time, peaking after Gilad Shalit’s release and the Carmel fire.

Public support for Netanyahu started plummeting a few weeks ago, due to his treatment of the Tal Law issue and his siding with the ultra-Orthodox. A Haaretz survey conducted on July 8, less than a month ago, showed Netanyahu had lost 11 percent of the public support compared to the previous survey, and the satisfaction with his performance had plunged from 51 to 41 percent.

In this survey he continues to dive, losing 10 more percentage points in public support while the dissatisfaction with his performance rises steeply.

Netanyahu says US warnings not enough to stop Iran: BBC

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta in Jerusalem 1 August 2012 US defence secretary Leon Panetta said the US and Israel were working to “preserve peace in the future”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said US assurances about military options are not enough to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Mr Netanyahu said the Iranians believe the international community “does not have the will” to stop Iran.

He spoke after visiting US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta reiterated Washington’s line that military action was an option against Iran.

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is for civilian energy uses.

“Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear programme,” Mr Netanyahu said at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem.

He told the Pentagon chief: “You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their programme.

Analysis

Joan SoleyBBC News, Jerusalem

The Obama administration continues to publicly push for financial and diplomatic pressure to force Iran to change its modus operandi. Further sanctions were laid out by the White House yesterday, the timing perfectly synchronised for Mr Panetta’s arrival in Israel.

But shortly after the visit to the Iron Dome site, Mr Panetta heard Mr Netanyahu’s carefully worded scepticism towards sanctions.

Should Israel’s hard talk turn to action, the Israeli Defense Forces do not have the same military capabilities as the US. They are thought to have only nine or 10 tankers that permit refuelling of planes in the air, and Iran is not exactly ‘next door’.

But Yaakov Katz, co-author of Israel vs Iran: The Shadow War, says the Israeli military has the capability to do “just enough” damage, setting the Iranian nuclear programme back by one to three years.

“This must change, and it must change quickly because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out.”

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama ordered new economic sanctions against Iran’s energy sector and some financial firms.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Panetta toured Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket defence shield south of Tel Aviv with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

Mr Barak also said he thought there was an “extremely low” probability that international economic sanctions would prove enough to stop Iran.

Mr Panetta said repeatedly on Wednesday that “all options” including military force were on the table to stop Iran, should sanctions and diplomacy fail.

But he also said: “[Israel's] effort to decide what is in their national security interest is something that must be left up to the Israelis.”

The US has cautioned Israel against taking unilateral action against Iran, and Israel’s current army chief has expressed reservations.

Speaking to an Israeli television station on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu hinted that Israel might act alone despite American misgivings.

“With our very existence, we do not put our faith in the hands of others, even our best of friends,” he said.

The visit by Mr Panetta comes as the Obama administration announced $70m (£45m) in new military aid to help Israel expand its Iron Dome system.

Presidential challenger Mitt Romney visited Israeli at the weekend and met top officials. He has accused the Obama administration of not being supportive enough of Israel.

Panetta tells Israel force is option on Iran: Al Jazeera English

US defence chief says “all options”, including military force, on table to stop Iran, should sanctions ultimately fail.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2012
 
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that Iran must either negotiate acceptable limits on its nuclear programme or face the possibility of US military action to stop it from getting the bomb.Panetta made his remarks Wednesday outside a city in southern Israel, with an “Iron Dome” anti-rocket defence system as a backdrop.Panetta said repeatedly that “all options”, including military force, are on the table to stop Iran, should sanctions and diplomacy, the preferred means of persuasion, ultimately fail.Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, standing beside Panetta, said he sees an “extremely low” probability that sanctions will ever compel Iran to give up its nuclear activities.

Panetta arrived in Israel on Tuesday after meeting in Cairo with Egypt’s new president and its military chief.

Speaking before the talks, Panetta said Wednesday’s discussion with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak will be “more about what is the threat we are confronting” in Iran’s nuclear programme and about sharing intelligence information.

‘Military option’

In Cairo, Panetta denied Israeli press reports that he planned to share with the Israelis any US plans for military action against Iran.

Iran says its nuclear work is for civilian energy uses, but suspicions that the Islamic republic will use enriched uranium for nuclear weapons has resulted in international sanctions and sabre-rattling from Israel, which perceives a nuclear Iran as an existential threat.

The United States has discouraged Israel from a unilateral, pre-emptive military strike on Iran, but has said it would keep all options available.

“What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond,” Panetta said. Asked whether any such contingencies include plans for potential military action against Iran, he said, “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area.”

Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Jerusalem, said Panetta was reluctant to discuss military options.

“Normally, what he would do is walk that fine line, saying Israel had the right to defend itself without talking about military options, but Israel officials are trying to push that line of discussion.”

Stronger than ever

The Panetta visit comes just days after US Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney met with top Israeli officials about Iran and other issues. Romney has accused the Obama administration of being too soft on Iran and not providing sufficient support to Israel.

Greeting Panetta on Wednesday at Israeli defence headquarters, Barak said, “The defence ties between Israel and the United States are stronger and tighter than they have ever been and the credit now has to go, most of it, to you, Leon.”

Panetta responded: “We are a friend, we are a partner, we have, as the defence minister has pointed out, probably the strongest US-Israel defence relationship that we have had in history. What we are doing, working together, is an indication not only of our friendship but of our alliance to work together to try to preserve peace in the future.”

Netanyahu told Israeli Channel 2 TV on Tuesday that despite reservations about an Iranian attack among former Israeli security officials and Israel’s current army chief, the country’s political leadership would make the final decision on any attack.

“I see an ayatollah regime that declares what it has championed: to destroy us,” Netanyahu said. “It’s working to destroy us, it’s preparing nuclear weapons to destroy us. … If it is up to me, I won’t let that happen.”

With “matters that have to do with our destiny, with our very existence, we do not put our faith in the hands of others, even our best of friends,” Netanyahu said, hinting that Israel might act alone despite American misgivings.

Netanyahu said both Romney and Obama have said “Israel has the right to defend itself”.

Former Mossad chief: Iran should be very fearful over next 12 weeks: Haaretz

Ephraim Halevy quoted by New York Times amid speculation of Israeli plans to attack Iran, and just following U.S. Defense Secretary’s visit to Israel.

By Haaretz | Aug.02, 2012 | 1:22 PM |  4

Ephraim Halevy

Ephraim Halevy Photo by Yotam Fro

AP

A reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran on August 21, 2010. Photo by AP

Former Mossad chief and national security adviser Ephraim Halevy was quoted by the New York Times on Thursday saying that if he were Iranian he “would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks”.

Halevy also told Israel Radio on Thursday that if the Iranians “continue to play their games” in nuclear talks with world powers, they would be underestimating Israel’s resolve.

“[The Iranians'] math is off if they think they have open-ended immunity” in these talks, he said.

His remarks came just after U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel, and amid circulating speculations of possible Israeli plans to strike Iran over its contentious nuclear program.

Panetta’s visit coincided with an executive order by U.S. President Barack Obama to increase sanctions against Iran, targeting foreign banks that help Tehran sell its oil.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week that Israel had not yet decided whether to strike Iran.  After meeting with Panetta, he said Wednesday that U.S. statements of solidarity with Israel and its assurances that military strikes are still an option aren’t working to convince Iran that the West is “serious about stopping” the Islamic republic from developing nuclear weapons.

Standing with the U.S. defense secretary, Netanyahu said, “Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”

“America and Israel have also made clear that all options are on the table. You yourself said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program,” he added.

“However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them. Right now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program. This must change and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out,” the prime minster said.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also told Panetta that he sees an “extremely low” probability that sanctions will ever compel Iran to give up its nuclear activities.

Panetta, meanwhile, denied reports Tuesday  that he was to discuss with Israeli leaders plans for attacking the Islamic Republic: “I think it’s the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans. What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond,” he said.

Asked whether these included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that.”

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