| Zionist chicken-sh*ts: Israel’s “self-boycott!”

Israel’s “self-boycott” ~ Uri Avnery, Redress Information & Analysis.

Can a country boycott itself? That may sound like a silly question. It is not.

At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the “Giant of History”, as Barack Obama called him, Israel was not represented by any of its leaders.

The only dignitary who agreed to go was the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein… an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a settler, who is so anonymous that most Israelis would not recognize him. (“His own father would have trouble recognizing him in the street,” somebody joked.)

“An undignified show of personal cowardice”

Why? The president of the state, Shimon Peres, caught a malady that prevented him from going, but which did not prevent him from making a speech and receiving visitors on the same day. Well, there are all kinds of mysterious microbes.

The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had an even stranger reason. The journey, he claimed, was too expensive, what with all the accompanying security people and so on.

Not so long ago, Netanyahu caused a scandal when it transpired that for his journey to Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, a five hour flight, he had a special double bed installed in the El Al plane at great expense. He and his much maligned wife, Sara’le, did not want to provoke another scandal so soon. Who’s Mandela, after all?

Altogether, it was an undignified show of personal cowardice by both Peres and Netanyahu.


…Israel sold Mandela’s jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.


What were they afraid of?

Well, they could have been booed. Recently, many details of the Israeli-South African relationship have come to light. Apartheid South Africa, which was boycotted by the entire world, was the main customer of the Israeli military industry. It was a perfect match: Israel had a lot of weapon systems but no money to produce them, South Africa had lots of money but no one who would supply it with weapons.

So, Israel sold Mandela’s jailers everything it could, from combat aircraft to military electronics, and shared with it its nuclear knowledge. Peres himself was deeply involved.

The relationship was not merely commercial. Israeli officers and officials met with their South African counterparts, visits were exchanged, personal friendship fostered. While Israel never endorsed apartheid, our government certainly did not reject it.

Still, our leaders should have been there, together with the leaders of the whole world. Mandela was the Great Forgiver, and he forgave Israel, too. When the master of ceremonies in the stadium mistakenly announced that Peres and Netanyahu had arrived, just a few boos were heard. Far less than the boos for the current South African president.

In Israel, only one voice was openly raised against Mandela. Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor and former director-general of the Foreign Ministry, criticized him for having a “blind spot” – for taking the Palestinian side against Israel. He also mentioned that another moral authority, Mahatma Gandhi, had the same “blind spot”.

Strange. Two moral giants and the same blind spot? How could that be, one wonders.


By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it [the Israeli government] has declared that Israel is a pariah state.


The boycott movement against Israel is slowly gaining ground. It takes three main forms (and several in between).

The most focused form is the boycott of the products of the settlements, which was started by Gush Shalom 15 years ago. It is active now in many countries.

A more stringent form is the boycott of all institutes and corporations that are dealing with the settlements. This is now the official policy of the European Union. Just this week, Holland broke off relations with the monopolistic Israeli Water Corporation, Mekorot, which plays a part in the policy that deprives Palestinians of essential water supplies and transfers them to the settlements.

The third form is total: the boycott of everything and everyone Israeli (Including myself). This is also slowly advancing in many countries.

The Israeli government has now joined this form. By its voluntary no-representation or under-representation at the Mandela ceremony, it has declared that Israel is a pariah state. Strange.

Fake security excuses

Last week I wrote that if the Americans find a solution to Israel’s security concerns in the West Bank, other concerns would take their place. I did not expect that it would happen so quickly.

Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week that stationing Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, as proposed by John Kerry, is not enough. Not by far.

Israel cannot give up the West Bank as long as Iran has nuclear capabilities, he declared. What’s the connection, one might well ask. Well, it’s obvious. A strong Iran will foster terrorism and threaten Israel in many other ways. So Israel must remain strong, and that includes holding on to the West Bank. Stands to reason.

So if Iran gives up all its nuclear capabilities, will that be enough? Not by a long shot. Iran must completely change its “genocidal” policies vis-à-vis Israel, it must stop all threats and utterances against us, it must adopt a friendly attitude towards us. However, Netanyahu did stop short of demanding that the Iranian leaders join the World Zionist Organization.

Before this happens, Israel cannot possibly make peace with the Palestinians. Sorry, Mister Kerry.

In the last article I also ridiculed the Allon Plan and other pretexts advanced by our rightists for holding on to the rich agricultural land of the Jordan Valley.

A friend of mine countered that indeed all the old reasons have become obsolete. The terrible danger of the combined might of Iraq, Syria and Jordan attacking us from the east does not exist anymore. But –

But the valley guardians are now advancing a new danger. If Israel gives back the West Bank without holding on to the Jordan Valley and the border crossings on the river, other terrible things will happen.

The day after the Palestinians take possession of the river crossing, missiles will be smuggled in. Missiles will rain down on Ben-Gurion international airport, the gateway to Israel, located just a few kilometers from the border. Tel Aviv, 25 km from the border, will be threatened, as will the Dimona nuclear installation.

Haven’t we seen this all before? When Israel voluntarily evacuated the whole Gaza Strip, didn’t the rockets start to rain down on the South of Israel?

We cannot possibly rely on the Palestinians. They hate us and will continue to fight us. If Mahmoud Abbas tries to stop it, he will be toppled. Hamas or worse, al-Qaeda, will come to power and unleash a terrorist campaign. Life in Israel will turn into hell.

Therefore it is evident that Israel must control the border between the Palestinian state and the Arab world, and especially the border crossings. As Netanyahu says over and over again, Israel cannot and will not entrust its security to others. Especially not to the Palestinians.

Fake anology

Well, first of all the Gaza Strip analogy does not hold. Ariel Sharon evacuated the Gaza settlements without any agreement or even consultation with the Palestinian Authority, which was still ruling the Strip at that time. Instead of an orderly transfer to the Palestinian security forces, he left behind a power vacuum which was later filled by Hamas.

Sharon also upheld the land and sea blockade that turned the Strip practically into a huge open-air prison.

In the West Bank there exists now a strong Palestinian government and robust security forces, trained by the Americans. A peace agreement will strengthen them immensely.

Abbas does not object to a foreign military presence throughout the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. On the contrary, he asks for it. He has proposed an international force, under American command. He just objects to the presence of the Israeli army – a situation that would amount to another kind of occupation.

The peace hangup

But the main point is something else, something that goes right to the root of the conflict.

Netanyahu’s arguments presuppose that there will be no peace, not now, not ever. The putative peace agreement – which Israelis call the “permanent status agreement” – will just open another phase of the generations-old war.

This is the main obstacle. Israelis – almost all Israelis – cannot imagine a situation of peace. Neither they, nor their parents and grandparents, have ever experienced a day of peace in this country. Peace is something like the coming of the Messiah, something that has to be wished for, prayed for, but is never really expected to happen.

But peace does not mean, to paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, the continuation of war by other means. It does not mean a truce or even an armistice.

Peace means living side by side. Peace means reconciliation, a genuine willingness to understand the other side, the readiness to get over old grievances, the slow growth of a new relationship, economic, social, personal.

To endure, peace must satisfy all parties. It requires a situation which all sides can live with, because it fulfills their basic aspirations.

Is this possible? Knowing the other side as well as most, I answer with utmost assurance: Yes, indeed. But it is not an automatic process. One has to work for it, invest in it, wage peace as one wages war.

Nelson Mandela did. That’s why the entire world attended his funeral. That’s, perhaps, why our leaders chose to be absent.




| So who’s in charge: Israel or the USA?

Who’s in charge: Israel or the USA? ~ Uri AvneryRedress Information & Analysis.

This is not merely a fight between Israel and the US. Nor is it only a fight between the White House and Congress. It is also a battle between intellectual titans.

On the one side there are the two renowned professors, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. On the other, the towering international intellectual Noam Chomsky.

It’s all about whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.

Six years ago the two professors shocked the US (and Israel) when they published a book, The Israel lobby and US Foreign Policy, in which they asserted that the foreign policy of the United States of America, at least in the Middle East, is practically controlled by the state of Israel.

To paraphrase their analysis, Washington DC is in effect an Israeli colony. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are Israeli-occupied territories, much like Ramallah and Nablus.

This is diametrically opposed to the assertion of Noam Chomsky that Israel is a US pawn, used by American imperialism as an instrument to promote its interests…

Intellectual theories can seldom be put to a laboratory test. But this one can.

The Israeli-American crisis

It is happening now. Between Israel and the US a crisis has developed, and it has come into the open.

It’s about the putative Iranian nuclear bomb. President Barack Obama is determined to avert a military showdown. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is determined to prevent a compromise.

For Netanyahu, the Iranian nuclear effort has become a defining issue, even an obsession. He talks about it incessantly. He has declared that it is an “existential” threat to Israel, that it poses the possibility of a second holocaust. Last year he made an exhibition of himself at the UN General Assembly meeting with his childish drawing of the bomb.

Cynics say that this is only a trick, a successful gimmick to divert the world’s attention away from the Palestinian issue. And indeed, for years now the Israeli policy of occupation and settlements has has been advancing quietly, away from the limelight.

But in politics, one gimmick can serve several purposes at once. Netanyahu is serious about the Iranian bomb. The proof: on this issue he is ready to do something that no Israeli prime minister has ever dared to do before: endanger Israeli-American relations.

This is a momentous decision. Israel is dependent on the US in almost every respect. The US pays Israel a yearly tribute of at least three billion dollars, and in fact much more. It gives us state of the art military equipment. Its veto protects us from UN Security Council censure, whatever we do.

We have no other unconditional friend in the world, except, perhaps, the Fiji Islands.

If there is one thing on which practically all Israelis agree, it is this subject. A break with the US is unthinkable. The US-Israeli relationship is, to use a Hebrew expression much loved by Netanyahu , “the rock of our existence”.

So what does he think he is doing?

Netanyahu’s game

Netanyahu was brought up in the US. There he attended high school and university. There he started his career.

He does not need advisors on US affairs. He considers himself the smartest expert of all.

He is no fool. Neither is he an adventurer. He bases himself on solid assessments. He believes that he is able to win this fight.

You could say that he is an adherent of the Walt-Mearsheimer doctrine.

His present moves are based on the assessment that in a straight confrontation between Congress and the White House, Congress will win. Obama, already blooded by other issues, will be beaten, even destroyed.

True, Netanyahu was proved wrong the last time he tried something like this. During the last presidential elections, he openly supported Mitt Romney. The idea was that the Republicans were bound to win. The Jewish casino baron, Sheldon Adelson, poured money into their campaign, while at the same time maintaining an Israeli mass-circulation daily for the sole purpose of supporting Netanyahu.

Romney “couldn’t lose” – but he did. This should have been a lesson for Netanyahu, but he didn’t absorb it. He is now playing the same game, but for vastly higher stakes.

We are now in the middle of the fight, and it is still too early to predict the outcome.

The Zionist lobby

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), supported by other Jewish and Evangelical organizations, is marshalling its forces on Capitol Hill. It’s an impressive show.

Senator after senator, congressman after congressman comes forward to support the Israeli government against their own president. The same people who jumped up and down like string puppets when Netanyahu made his last speech before both houses of Congress, try to outdo each other in assertions of their undying loyalty to Israel.


Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA.


This is now done in the open, in an exhibition of shamelessness. Several senators and congressmen declare publicly that they have been briefed by the Israeli intelligence services, and they trust them more than the intelligence agencies of the USA. Not one of them said the opposite.

This would have been unthinkable if any other country was involved, say Ireland or Italy, from which many Americans are descended. The “Jewish state” stands unique, a kind of inverse anti-Semitism.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have joked that Netanyahu believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the famous – and infamous – tract fabricated by the secret police of the Czar. It purported to expose a sinister conspiracy of the Jews to rule the world. A hundred years later, controlling the US comes near to that.

The senators and representatives are no fools (not all of them, in any case). They have a clear purpose: to be re-elected. They know on which side their bread is buttered. AIPAC has demonstrated, in several test cases, that it can unseat any senator or congressman who does not toe the straight Israeli line. One sentence of implied criticism of Israeli policies suffices to doom a candidate.

Politicians prefer open shame and ridicule to political suicide. No kamikaze pilots in Congress.

The White House vs Israel’s congressional stooges

This is not a new situation. It is at least several decades old. What is new is that it is now out in the open, without embellishment.

It is difficult to know, as of now, how much the White House is cowed by this development.

Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, know that American public opinion is dead set against any new war in the Middle East. Compromise with Iran is in the air. This is supported by almost all the world’s powers. Even the French tantrums, which have no clear purpose but to throw their supposed weight around, are not serious.

President Francois Hollande was received in Israel this week like the harbinger of the Messiah. If one closed one’s eyes, one could imagine that the happy old pre-de Gaulle days were back again, when France armed Israel, supplied it with its military atomic reactor and the two countries went on escapades together (the ill-fated 1956 Suez adventure).

But if Obama and Kerry hold fast and stay their course on Iran, can Congress impose the opposite course? Could this turn into the most serious constitutional crisis in US history?

As a sideshow, Kerry is going on with his effort to impose on Netanyahu a peace he does not want. The secretary of state did succeed in pushing Netanyahu into “final status negotiations” (nobody dared to utter the word peace, God forbid), but nobody in Israel or Palestine believes that anything will come out of this. Unless, of course, the White House puts the whole might of the US behind the effort – and that seems more than unlikely.

Kerry has allotted nine months to the endeavour, as if it were a normal pregnancy. But the chances of a baby emerging at the end of it are practically nil. During the first three months, the sides have not progressed a single step.

So who will win? Obama or Netanyahu? Chomsky or Walt/Mearsheimer?

As commentators love to say: time will tell.

In the meantime, place your bets.


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| Insulting humanity’s intelligence: Netanyahu’s nauseating parody of himself!

Netanyahu’s nauseating parody of himself ~ Redress Information & Analysis.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his warmongering compatriots are incensed at the prospect of a deal between Iran and the Western powers that would ease some sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran scaling back its nuclear programme.

In fact, it’s fair to say that Netanyahu is turning into a parody of his already ridiculous and nauseating self.

Speaking after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry at Ben-Gurion airport on 8 November, Netanyahu said:

“I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal, a very, very bad deal… it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community.”

According to the Times of Israel, Netanyahu told Kerry that Israel was not bound by any nuclear deal the West makes with Iran. “This is a very bad deal. Israel utterly rejects it… Israel is not obliged by this agreement,” he said.

Netanyahu nuclear parody

Binyamin Netanyahu’s faux and hypocritical outrage is turning him into a parody of his already ridiculous and nauseating self

A day earlier, on 7 November, Netanyahu told a conference of so-called “diaspora” leaders: “I believe that adopting [these proposals] would be a mistake of historic proportions. They must be rejected outright.”

Writing on his blog, Middle East historian Juan Cole gives seven reasons for Netanyahu’s and the Israeli right’s faux and hypocritical outrage – “Iran has no nuclear weapons programme, but Israel has hundreds of nuclear warheads” – at the prospect of a deal between Iran and the West:

1. Since they broke their word to President John F. Kennedy and went for broke to produce their own bomb, the Israeli leadership can’t imagine that Iran won’t cheat on any deal. This is an example of mirror thinking. But Iran is being inspected, unlike Israel, and no country under active UN inspection has ever developed a bomb.


2. A US-Iran deal that involves the UN Security Council would make it impossible for Israel unilaterally to attack Iran. It would therefore reduce Israel’s range of options and detract from its position as Middle East regional hegemon.


3. A remaining Iranian nuclear programme would always imply a “break-out” capacity for Tehran. Being known to be able to make a nuclear weapon has some of the same deterrent effects as actually having one, increasing Iranian clout in the region. (This is on analogy to Japan in East Asia).


4. Israel’s Likud Party still has designs on annexing southern Lebanon, deeply regretting Ehud Barak’s 2000 withdrawal, but is blocked by Hezbollah backed by Iran. An Iran with a break-out capacity would permanently end Israeli expansionist ambitions to the north and permanently deny Israel the waters of the Litani River, which its leaders covet.


5. Much of the Israeli public isn’t that wedded to being in Israel, a big problem for hawks like PM Binyamin Netanyahu. Probably a million or so first and second generation Israeli immigrants live in Europe and North America; it is not even clear that some of them aren’t being counted in the 5.5 million Israeli Jews claimed by Israel. Around 20,000 Israelis now live in Berlin!Nearly a third of Jewish Israelis have said in polling that they would consider emigrating if Iran developed a nuclear weapon. Keeping Iran weak is key to winning the hardliners’ psychological war in the Middle East.


6. Netanyahu uses the supposed threat of Iran, a poor weak global South country with a military budget somewhere between that of Norway and Singapore, to distract attention from Israeli colonization of Palestinian territory. A Western deal with Iran would throw the spotlight on the Palestinian West Bank, where Netanyahu is engaged in grand larceny on a cosmic scale.


7. If Iran is widely viewed by the international community to have stepped back from nuclear ambitions, Israel’s own nuclear arsenal will come to the fore as a focus, since it is the only Middle Eastern country with an arsenal of warheads, and that arsenal clearly drives a regional arms race (starting with Iraq in the 1980s).


One could only hope that Netanyahu’s faux and hypocritical outrage has now reached such a preposterous crescendo that it can be ignored even by the spineless, Zionist-lobby-prone Western politicians.


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| Bethlehem Christians feel the squeeze as Israeli settlements spread!

Bethlehem Christians feel the squeeze as Israeli settlements spread ~


Near a biblical landscape of donkeys and olive trees, homes are being built and Palestinian Christians fear for their future.


Woman lights a candle at Church

A woman lights a candle at the Church of the Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem as preparations for Christmas celebrations get underway. Photograph: Musa Al Shaer/AFP/Getty Images

Amid plastic bags snagged on gorse bushes, rusting hulks of cars in a breakers yard and a few shabby trailers, traces of a biblical landscape are still to be found on a hillside between the ancient cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A couple of donkeys are tethered to a gnarled olive tree; nearby, sheep and goats bleat as they huddle against the chill December air.

But this terrain will soon be covered in concrete after the authorisation last week of the construction of more than 2,600 homes in Givat Hamatos, the first new Israeli settlement to be built since 1997.

It lies between two existing settlements: Gilo, home to 40,000 people, sits atop one hill; to its east, on another hill, stands Har Homa, whose population is around 20,000, with further expansion in the pipeline. Both are largely built on Bethlehem land.

Givat Hamatos will form a strategic link between these twin towns, further impeding access between Bethlehem and the intended capital of Palestine, East Jerusalem, just six miles away.

Israel considers these and other settlements across the Green Line to be legitimate suburbs of Jerusalem, which it claims as the unified, indivisible capital of the Jewish state. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and official bodies have announced a spate of expansion plans in recent weeks.

In the birthplace of Jesus, the impact of Israeli settlements and their growth has been devastating. In a Christmas message, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Bethlehem was enduring a “choking reality”.

He added: “For the first time in 2,000 years of Christianity in our homeland, the Holy Cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem have been completely separated by Israeli settlements, racist walls and checkpoints.”

Bethlehem is now surrounded by 22 settlements, including Nokdim, where the hardline former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman lives, and Neve Daniel, home to public diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein.

The city is further hemmed in by the vast concrete and steel separation barrier, bypasses connecting settlements with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and Israeli military zones. With little room to expand, it is now more densely populated than Gaza, according to one Palestinian official.

In Beit Sahour – the site on the eastern edge of Bethlehem where, according to Christian tradition, angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in a field – William Sahouri is feeling the squeeze. Ten years ago, he moved into a housing project designated for young Christian families, which overlooks fields and hills where sheep once grazed.

Now most of that land is on the other side of the separation barrier, inaccessible to Palestinians. Har Homa – which, like all settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is illegal under international law – is rapidly spreading down the hill. Cranes are at work on new apartment blocks; bulldozers are flattening land for new roads and buildings.

In contrast, Sahouri’s home, along with others in the neighbourhood, is under an Israeli demolition order. It was issued in 2002 soon after the apartments were built without a permit, which is almost impossible to get in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli military control. After protests, the order was frozen but not lifted.

“It’s like sitting on a bomb,” says Sahouri, who estimates his family’s presence in the area stretches back more than 300 years. “We don’t know when it will be blown. At any moment they could come with bulldozers and heavy machinery and everything will be gone.”

But, he adds, gesturing across to Har Homa, “the Israelis can build 1,000 homes in three months. In 10 years, they build a city, while we have to build stone by stone.”

Residents of Beit Sahour – whose 15,000 population is 80% Christian – say settlers have targeted another nearby spot. A former Israeli military base at Ush Ghurab is visited almost weekly by hardliners from settlements deep in the West Bank, who have repainted the abandoned buildings, planted trees and raised Israeli flags. The site is now known as Shdema to the settlers, who hold regular meetings and activities on the hilltop.

Local Palestinians fear that the visitors will begin to sleep at the former base, then expand the site with additional caravans, followed by the provision of services – electricity, water, roads – and eventually permanent homes. This is a familiar pattern of how radical settlements, unauthorised by the Israeli state, take shape.

“This area is being highly targeted,” says local Palestinian activist George Rishmawi. “Experience tells us this is how settlements start – with the actions of fanatics.”

On the other side of Bethlehem, another mainly Christian community is also facing a battle, this one against the planned route of the separation barrier. Under present proposals it will cut off 58 families, plus a monastery and convent, from their land. The monks and nuns of Cremisan have joined forces with residents to fight a legal battle over the route, which will be decided in the Israeli courts early next year.

“The wall will confiscate nearly all our land,” says Samira Qaisieh, whose house on the edge of Beit Jala was built by her husband’s family almost a century ago. Its vine-covered terrace looks across the valley to Gilo, the Israeli settlement, built on land she says was owned by her grandfather. “Israel says it is doing all this in the name of security. But really they just want a land without [Palestinian] people.”

Qaisieh is thinking of leaving unless the barrier is re-routed. “There is no work here. If we lose our land, what is there to stay for? What is the future for my children?”

About two-thirds of the 400-mile West Bank barrier is complete; 85% of its route runs inside the West Bank, swallowing almost 8.5% of Palestinian land. In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled it was illegal and that construction must stop.

The wall already snakes around most of Bethlehem, its 8m-high concrete slabs casting a deep shadow, both literally and metaphorically. At the Christmas Tree restaurant, where there are almost no takers for the “Quick Lunches” on offer, business has slowed to a standstill since the wall blocked what was once the main Jerusalem-Bethlehem road. Scores of shops along the closed-off artery have shut down altogether.

A few hundred metres along from the empty restaurant, a long steel-caged corridor leading through multiple turnstiles to a checkpoint is the main exit from the city for Palestinians wishing to go to Jerusalem. The Israel Defence Forces issues thousands of extra permits to Christian Palestinians to allow them to visit holy sites in Jerusalem over Christmas, but the lack of routine access has had a dire impact on businesses and employment rates.

Bethlehem has one of the highest rates of unemployment of all West Bank cities, at 18%, says Vera Baboun, who was elected as its first female mayor in October. “We are a strangulated city, with no room for expansion due to the settlements and the wall.”

In a booklet to mark Christmas 2012, Kairos Palestine, a Christian alliance, says: “Land confiscation, as well as the influx of Israeli settlers, suggest that there will be no future for Palestinians (Christian or Muslim) in [this] area. In this sense, the prospect of a clear ‘solution’ grows darker every day.”

Over recent decades Christians have left Bethlehem in their thousands, and now are a minority in a city they once dominated. In 2008 Christians accounted for 28% of Bethlehem city’s population of about 25,000. The daily grind of living under occupation, with few opportunities, little hope and the violence of the Palestinian uprising 10 years ago are cited as the chief reasons for departure. But in the past few years the flood of emigrants has slowed. “We are here, and we will remain here, to help our new state become a reality,” says Nora Carmi of Kairos.

In Beit Jala, parish priest Father Ibrahim Shomali, who leads open-air prayers under olive trees at sunset every Friday to protest at the planned route of the barrier around the Cremisan monastery, fears its construction could lead to a fresh wave of Christian departures. “People are leaving,” he says wearily. “But some of us will stay, to pray and resist.”


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| Facing media bias: It’s Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves!

It’s Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves ~ The Guardian.

The US and Britain stand behind Israel’s onslaught on Gaza.

Justice requires a change in the balance of forces on the ground.

Egypt Foreign Minister Amr hospital iGaza City

Egypt’s foreign minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (second and third from left) in a hospital in Gaza City on 20 November, visiting a Palestinian woman wounded in an Israeli air strike. Photograph: Ahmed Zakot/REUTERS

The way western politicians and media have pontificated about Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, you’d think it was facing an unprovoked attack from a well-armed foreign power. Israel had every “right to defend itself”, Barack Obama declared. “No country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

He was echoed by Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, who declared that the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas bore “principal responsibility” for Israel’s bombardment of the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, most western media have echoed Israel’s claim that its assault is in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks; the BBC speaks wearisomely of a conflict of “ancient hatreds”.

In fact, an examination of the sequence of events over the last month shows that Israel played the decisive role in the military escalation: from its attack on a Khartoum arms factory reportedly supplying arms to Hamas and the killing of 15 Palestinian fighters in late October, to the shooting of a mentally disabled Palestinian in early November, the killing of a 13 year-old in an Israeli incursion and, crucially, the assassination of the Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari last Wednesday during negotiations over a temporary truce.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had plenty of motivation to unleash a new round of bloodletting. There was the imminence of Israeli elections (military attacks on the Palestinians are par for the course before Israeli polls); the need to test Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, and pressure Hamas to bring other Palestinian guerrilla groups to heel; and the chance to destroy missile caches before any confrontation with Iran, and test Israel’s new Iron Dome anti-missile system.

So after six days of sustained assault by the world’s fourth largest military power on one of its most wretched and overcrowded territories, at least 130 Palestinians had been killed, an estimated half of them civilians, along with five Israelis. The goal, Israel’s interior minister, Eli Yeshai, insisted, had been to “send Gaza back to the middle ages”.

True, the bloodshed hasn’t so far been on the scale of Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead in three weeks. But the issue isn’t just who started and escalated it, or even the grinding “disproportionality” of yet another Israeli military battering (even before last month’s flareups, 314 Palestinians had been killed since 2009, as against 20 Israelis).

It’s that to portray Israel as some kind of victim with every right to “defend itself” from attack from “outside its borders” is a grotesque inversion of reality. Israel has after all been in illegal occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza, where most of the population are the families of refugees who were driven out of what is now Israel in 1948, for the past 45 years.

Despite Israel’s withdrawal of settlements and bases in 2005, the Gaza Strip remains occupied, both effectively and legally – and is recognised as such by the UN. Israel is in control of Gaza’s land and sea borders, territorial watersand natural resources, airspace, power supply and telecommunications. It has blockaded the strip since Hamas took over in 2006-7, preventing the movement of people, materials, and food supplies in and out of the territory – even calculating the 2,279 calories per person that would keep Gazans on an exemplary “diet”. And it continues to invade the strip at will.

So Gazans are an occupied people and have the right to resist, including by armed force (though not to target civilians), while Israel is an occupying power that has an obligation to withdraw – not a right to defend territories it controls or is colonising by dint of military power.

Even if Israel had genuinely ended its occupation in 2005, Gaza’s people are Palestinians, and their territory part of the 22% of historic Palestine earmarked for a Palestinian state that depends on Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. Across their land, Palestinians have the right to defend and arm themselves, whether they choose to exercise it or not.

But instead the US, Britain and other European powers finance, arm and back to the hilt Israel’s occupation, including the siege of Gaza – precisely to prevent Palestinians obtaining the arms that would allow them to protect themselves against Israeli military might.

It’s hardly surprising of course that powers which have themselves invaded, occupied and intervened across the Arab and Muslim world over the last decade should throw their weight behind Israel doing the same thing on its own doorstep. But it isn’t Palestinian rockets that stop Israel lifting the blockade, dismantling its illegal settlements or withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza – it’s unconditional US and western support that gives Israel impunity.

Whatever the Israeli government’s mix of motivations for winding up the past week’s conflict, it seems to have backfired. For the first time since the start of the Arab uprisings, the cause of Palestine is again centre stage.

Emboldened by the wave of change and growing support across the region, Hamas has also regained credibility as a resistance force, which had faded since 2009, and strengthened its hand against an increasingly discredited Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah. The deployment of longer-range rockets that have now been shown to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is also beginning to shift what has been an overwhelmingly one-sided balance of deterrence.

The truce being negotiated on Tuesday would reportedly enforce Hamas responsibility for policing the strip and crucially break the blockade, opening the Rafah crossing with Egypt for goods as well as people. It doesn’t, however, look like the long-term security deal with Hamas Israel was looking for, which would risk deepening the disastrous Palestinian split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Any relief from the bombardment, death and suffering of the past week has got to be welcome. But no ceasefire is going to prevent another eruption of violence. Whatever is finally agreed won’t end Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land or halt its war of dispossession against the Palestinian people. That demands unrelenting pressure on the western powers that underwrite it to change course. But most of all, it needs a change in the balance of forces on the ground.


| Israel-Gaza: truce talks ongoing in Cairo – live updates!

Israel-Gaza: truce talks ongoing in Cairo – live updates ~ guardian.co.uk.

Live coverage as Egypt peace talks continue amid fears of ground invasion.

Israeli soldiers wake after sleeping in a deployment area on 19 November 2012 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Lior Mizrahi/Getty ImagesIsraeli soldiers wake after sleeping in a deployment area on 19 November 2012 on Israel‘s border with the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

2 mins ago Shurooq media building

Mark Regev, and Israeli government spokesman, is suggesting on al-Jazeera that Hamas is using journalists as human shields. Israel does not target journalists, he said.

An al-Aqsa journalist lost a leg in yesterday’s strike on the building. Regev seemed to draw a distinction between al-Aqsa journalists and those working for the international media. Al-Aqsa is Hamas’s official TV station. He also described the building as hosting part of Hamas’s “command and control” network.

Russia Today has published video purporting to show the moment of today’s strike on the Shurooq building. The video, which was uploaded today, appears to be shot from the back side of the tower. It has not been independently confirmed that the attack depicted is today’s strike.


Shurooq media building

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has confirmed that one of its top leaders was killed in the strike today on the Shurooq media building, writesTom McCarthy. Locals initially thought the dead man was the owner of a computer store on the third storey of the city centre building, Reuters reported. At least one person was wounded in the attack. Most members of the media evacuated the building after it was first hit yesterday. The Shurooq building housed both local Arab and international media agencies such as al-Arabiya, al-Quds TV, Sky News, France 24 and Russia TV.

Israeli officials have not yet commented specifically on the strike, except to say that buildings associated with Gaza militants are a legitimate target.


Reuters reports that among the Israeli government‘s concerns is that “If they go to war against their arch-enemy Iran’s nuclear programme, the Islamist Hamas-governed Gaza Strip could serve as a launch pad for the reprisals promised by Tehran”. That raises the prospect that part of the motivation of the last week’s destruction of missile-launching sites has been to make sure those sites are unable to be used in the event of any conflict with Iran.

Truce prospects

Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal says he is not against a truce, but he wants his demands met, including an end to Israeli attacks and the lifting of the siege, Reuters reports.

Prospect of ground invasion

The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reported on Saturday that Binyamin Netanyahu had given private assurances to Barack Obama that there would be no ground invasion of Gaza – “but those plans would change, he said, if Hamas escalated its rocket war”.

Updated 9m ago

Rocket fire

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich tweets that 116 rockets were fired today from Gaza into Israel.

Quiet day? Not in #Israel .116 rockets were fired today from#Gaza into #Israel . #IsraelUnderFire

— Avital Leibovich (@AvitalLeibovich) November 19, 2012

Ceasefire dispute

Reuters has been speaking to a senior Israeli government official about Khaled Meshaal’s comments suggesting Israel had been the ones calling for truce talks:

Hamas’s comments about a ceasefire, alleging that Israel is begging for one, are about as accurate as its claims to have shot down an F-15 or attacked the Knesset.

The Hamas chief also said Israel had to take the first step towards a truce. “Whoever started the war must end it.” And he said he would not yield to any Israeli conditions in truce talks.

Shurooq media building

ITV is reporting that an Islamic Jihad commander was killed in the Shurooq media building.

Khaled Meshaal

Abdel-Rahman Hussein sends one more quote from Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal in Cairo:

All options are available. If Israel wants a ceasefire brokered through Egypt, then that is possible. Escalation is also possible, especially as there are differences in Israeli statements. We are prepared and ready for all options.

West Bank

My colleague Mona Mahmood has interviewed a resident of the West Bank, Sameeh Muhssein. He says that people began to demonstrate in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza as soon as they heard about the death of Ahmed al-Jabari on Wednesday. He says reaction of people on the West Bank in support of Gaza was much firmer than it had been in 2008, when people were still affected by the “tense relations” between Hamas and West Bank rulers Fatah at that time.

Demonstrations in the West Bank are attempting to reach Israeli settlements of the Ofer and Qalandiyia checkpoints, he says. “Some of them even reached the edge of Beit Ilyia settlement where the Israeli military command are.”

The Israeli army ran to disperse these demonstrations, which led to the wounding of many protesters and the arrest of a few of them. The Palestinian police started to gather in the streets of the West Bank, warning people against protesting near the Israeli settlements or checkpoints.

The Palestinian Authority is trying to stop the protesters … under the pretext of not having more casualties. If the aggression continues in Gaza, I can promise you there will be a third intifada as the political solution looks really futile and people are very upset here as they learn every few minutes of more martyrs in Gaza. We can’t put our feelings in a refrigerator and just keep watching; it is really heartbreaking watching the bodies of the children under the debris.

People are unhappy with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]’s two speeches related to the aggression against Gaza and are making jokes of them as they did not live up to the level of risk the people in Gaza are living in and the audacious crimes committed by the Israeli army.

People in West Bank highly respect Ahmed al-Jabari, who is originally from al-Kahliel city, in the south of the West Bank and went to Gaza to join the al-Qassam brigade. He is a respected national figure and gained the love of the people after the deal exchanging prisoners. People resent the level of corruption we have here, and Jabari was well known as an honest man and never involved in any case of corruption. That is why they are upset about losing him.

Updated 10m ago

Israel has denied Meshaal’s assertion that it was Netanyahu who requested the truce talks, Reuters reports.

Khaled Meshaal

Abdel-Rahman Hussein has more on Khaled Meshaal. The Hamas leader says calls for a truce have come from Israel, which has requested the US, Egypt and other countries consider the prospect. “No requests for a truce have come from Hamas,” he says.

The BBC’s Jon Donnison says Meshaal said Hamas was not interested in escalating the situation.

Khaled Meshal says Hamas is not interested in escalation. Says Netanyahu asked for ceasefire not Hamas. Speaking in Cairo.#Gaza

— Jon Donnison (@JonDonnison) November 19, 2012

Shurooq media tower

The BBC’s Paul Danahar tweets this picture of the Shurooq media tower in Gaza City after the attack today. The fire brigade has now put out the fire and are searching for survivors, he says.

This is what #Gaza media tower looked minutes after striketwitter.com/pdanahar/statu…

— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) November 19, 2012

Khaled Meshaal

Abdel-Rahman Hussein in Cairo sends these quotes from Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal’s press conference:

Morale on the ground is high, in our people in Gaza and our resistance fighters. Compare that with the morale of Netanyahu. They have been taken by surprise.

Netanyahu had three goals and many messages but he didn’t succeed. He succeeded in assassinating the hero Ahmed al-Jabari. He wanted deterrence, and he has failed. He wanted to destroy the infrastructure of the resistance, and he failed. Thirdly he wanted to tell Gazans he has the initiative, to strike when I want, but the youth have responded with ‘No’.

The messages he is trying to send are numerous, but … the messages went to the wrong address. He wanted to be seen as a hawk to win his election but it won’t work. He wanted to test the new, revolutionary Egypt and Egypt has responded in a way he didn’t desire. He wanted to test the Arab spring countries but the response was strong. He also wants to market his new advanced weapons but the simple weapons of Gaza has exposed him. With what army and people will he wage war after this, he has no will and no patience, he has no legitimacy.

He wanted to confuse Obama in his second term after backing the wrong horse in the US election. This is a terrified enemy which has miscalculated.

We don’t have the same military or deterrence capabilities but we have deterred them with our will.

Our enemy is drowning in the blood of children.

Updated 15m ago

Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, has emailed to say that “bombing the civilian media building constitutes a war crime”. The Shurooq building housed both local Arab and international media agencies such as al-Arabiya, al-Quds TV, Sky News, France 24 and Russia TV. It was also hit yesterday, prompting Adalah to write to Brigadier General Danny Efroni, chief military advocate general of the Israel Defence Forces:

Under international customary law, civilian objects enjoy full protection from any attack. Attacks must be limited strictly to military objectives. Insofar as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action, and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. According to these criteria “Al-Shoroq Tower” is a civilian building, and therefore it is prohibited to attack it.

Most media organisations left the building after yesterday’s strike.

Updated 16m ago

Gaza City on 19 November 2012Gaza City on 19 November 2012. Photograph: Sky NewsAbove is the scene in Gaza City showing the bombed Shurooq media building.At his press conference in Cairo, Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas leader, says an Israeli ground offensive would not be a “picnic” for Israel. It would be a “political disaster” and Netanyahu would lose the Israeli election in January, Meshaal says.

If they wanted to do it, they would have done it already, he says.

Updated 1h 2m ago

Gaza City

At least one person has been killed in an attack on the Shurooq media building in Gaza City, al-Jazeera is reporting.

Updated 18m ago

Meshaal says the resistance fighters’ morale is sky high. They are all united, he says.

Our enemy, armed to the teeth with conventional and unconventional weapons, were surprised, he says. They were shaken while our heroes are standing steadfast and unshaken.

Over on BBC News, Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, calls this a “chilling performance” and attacks Meshaal for lionising terrorists as “martyrs”.

Khaled Meshaal press conference

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is speaking in Cairo at the moment. He says he is proud of the Palestinian people, and of the Egyptian people.

He says it pains him to see a single Palestinian child die.

He grieves for those who have lost their dear ones and their homes.

The treacherous enemies have killed Ahmed al-Jabari, he recalls.

He loved Jabari as he loves all the heroes of Palestine, he says.

Jabari was not an ordinary person. The enemy has dealt us a great blow, he says.

He has confidence about the current action despite the difficult conditions they are working in.

Updated 20m ago

Ceasefire prospects

Reuters has also been talking to an Egyptian official about the ongoing peace negotiations. This official said Egypt was receiving “encouraging signals” about a ceasefire and said both Israel and Hamas were seeking guarantees.

What we are trying to agree on is to achieve a ceasefire and achieve some possible guarantees, and then later discuss more guarantees.

The news agency notes that both Hamas and Israel have summarised their ceasefire terms on social media sites:

Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel “stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza”.

Listing Israel’s terms, vice-prime minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter: “If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack.”

Palestinian statehood

According to a Palestinian official, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair was in Ramallah this morning to renew efforts to persuade the Palestinian leadership to delay its drive to get the United Nations general assembly to recognise a Palestinian state, Harriet Sherwood reports. The Palestinian official expressed surprise and anger that he was focusing on this issue, rather than the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza. “[He is] way more concerned about delaying our vote at the UN than stopping a ground invasion of Gaza,” he said. The Palestinians would not be deterred from pressing ahead with a vote on statehood recognition on 29 November, he added.

Updated 22m ago

Ceasefire prospects

The Associated Press quotes “a senior Egyptian official” as saying that Egyptian mediators are hoping to have a clearer idea on the possibility of a ceasefire by the end of the day today. The official said he hoped that “by the end of the day, we will receive a final signal of what can be achieved”.

Casualty figures

The Palestinian death toll has now risen to 94, reports the Associated Press, as Israel’s most recent policy of targeting the homes of Hamas activists results in much higher numbers of civilian casualties. Fifty civilians have died so far, according to Gazan health officials, while over 700 have been injured.

AP reports that Hamas fighters have fired 75 rockets into Israel today. Twenty of those were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome counter-missile system. No deaths were reported; many of the rockets landed in open areas. Three Israelis died on Thursday, and dozens have been wounded, according to AP.

Updated 23m ago

Ceasefire prospects

Egypt is the key player in any attempt to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, reports our Middle East editor Ian Black. He weighs up the prospects for a ceasefire:

Egypt has powerful reasons of its own for helping to defuse an already bloody crisis that risks becoming a wider and even more dangerous conflict. In that respect Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president, is following a similar path to his overthrown predecessor Hosni Mubarak, though Morsi is far closer to Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules Gaza. Morsi is unlikely to do anything to jeopardise his country’s 32-year-old peace treaty with Israel.

Talks in Cairo between Egyptian general Intelligence and Israeli security officials are focusing on finding a mechanism to end the current bout of fighting, while the Egyptians meet separately with Hamas. The trick, as with any negotiation, will be reaching an agreement that allows both parties to claim to their respective publics that they have achieved something tangible from the blood-letting.

Hamas wants a guarantee from Israel that it would end “targeted assassinations” of the kind that killed Ahmed al-Jabari last Wednesday. It would also need pledges about opening the crossing points into Egypt and Israel – in effect lifting the blockade of the coastal enclave. Israel is insisting at minimum on an end to the cross-border rocket fire which has more or less united public opinion behind Operation Pillar of Defence.

Any deal would include other elements that are unlikely to be made public. Israel certainly wants the Egyptians to crack down on the network of tunnels that are Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world. Food and other goods are one thing, but the missiles that allow Hamas or more militant groups to strike targets in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel’s urban heartland are another.

Hanging over the whole discussion, writes Ian, is the much advertised threat that Israel will mount a ground offensive inside Gaza, something which the US and other western countries have warned against. Israeli public opinion has its doubts as well.

Neither Egypt nor Israel want to see the collapse of Hamas rule in Gaza. The PLO in the West Bank, weakened by the perception that it is somehow complicit in Israel’s policies, is in no position to take over.

But even if a ceasefire is achieved, it will take a far broader and more sustained effort, with wide international support, to revive the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It is the absence of any such peace efforts for the last four years that have led to this latest brutal episode in the long and bloody history of the conflict.

Updated 25m ago


Here is a summary of today’s key points so far:


• The Egyptian prime minister, Hisham Kandil, has said a deal to stop the fighting in Gaza and Israel could be close. Negotiations are going on in Egypt at the moment. Kandil said: “I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation [means] it is very difficult to predict.” Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Binyamin Netanyahu, his defence minister Ehud Barak, and his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, have agreed “to give international efforts to bring about a ceasefire more time”. An official close to Netanyahu said Israel would prefer a diplomatic solution to a ground invasion. Nevertheless, troops remain massed at the Gaza border.

• Israeli air strikes on Gaza as well as Palestinian militant rocket attacks on Israel continued today, with Israel bombing dozens of suspected militant sites in the Gaza Strip, bringing the death toll in Gaza since Wednesday to 90; three Israelis were killed by a Palestinian rocket last Thursday.

• Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, headed to Cairo to join the peace talks. He said: “Any further escalation will inevitably increase the suffering of the affected civilian populations and must be avoided.” The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, described Israel as a “terrorist state” carrying out “terrorist acts” in Gaza. China said it was “extremely concerned” about Israel’s bombing of Gaza, which it characterised as “over-use of force“. The Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, is to head to Gaza tomorrow with other Arab ministers to “express solidarity” with the Palestinians.

• The BBC reported that the Israeli military did intend to hit the house in Gaza City where 10 or 11 members of the Dalou family, including four children, were killed yesterday. A spokesperson said the IDF believed Yahio Rabiya, a senior Hamas militant, was hiding in the house, but Israel did not know if he was actually in the house when it was bombed.


• A group of extremist Islamist factions in Syria has rejected the country’s new opposition coalition, saying in a video statement they have formed an “Islamic state” in the embattled city of Aleppo to underline that they want nothing to do with the western-backed bloc.

 Government forces have fired rockets into southern Damascus in what activists say is the heaviest bombardment in 40 days of air strikes and artillery shelling against rebels.

• Turkey is expected to request today that Nato missiles be placed on its border with Syria to defend against mortar rounds fired from its neighbour.



| Now US + France tell trigger-happy Israel to back off on attacking Iran!

US warns Israel off pre-emptive strike on Iran ~  Diplomatic Editor, guardian.co.uk.

Arab spring has left US-friendly rulers in region nervous about possible impact of an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Gen. Martin Dempsey meets with Ehud Barak

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs, meets Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Ariel Hermoni/EPA

US military commanders have warned their Israeli counterparts that any action against Iran would severely limit the ability of American forces in the region to mount their own operations against the Iranian nuclear programme by cutting off vital logistical support from Gulf Arab allies.

US naval, air and ground forces are dependent for bases, refuelling and supplies on Gulf Arab rulers who are deeply concerned about the progress Iran has made in its nuclear programme, but also about the rising challenge to their regimes posed by the Arab spring and the galvanising impact on popular unrest of an Israeli attack on Iran.

The US Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain and the US air force has major bases in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Senior US officers believe the one case in which they could not rely fully on those bases for military operations against Iranian installations would be if Israelacted first.

“The Gulf states’ one great fear is Iran going nuclear. The other is a regional war that would destabilise them,” said a source in the region. “They might support a massive war against Iran, but they know they are not going to get that, and they know a limited strike is not worth it, as it will not destroy the programme and only make Iran angrier.”

Israeli leaders had hinted they might take military action to set back the Iranian programme, but that threat receded in September when the prime minister,Binyamin Netanyahu, told the United Nations general assembly that Iran’s advances in uranium enrichment would only breach Israel’s “red line” in spring or summer next year.

Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, said this week in London that it was the Iranian decision this year to convert a third of the country’s stock of 20%-enriched uranium into fuel (making it harder to convert to weapons-grade material if Iran decided to make a weapon) that had bought another “eight to 10 months”.

Barak’s comments appear to signal that Israel’s new red line is an Iranian stockpile of about 200kg of 20%-enriched uranium in convertible form, enough if enriched further to make one bomb. Western diplomats argue the benchmark is arbitrary, as it would take Iran another few months to enrich the stockpile to 90% (weapons-grade) purity, and then perhaps another year to develop a warhead small enough to put on a missile. Even then Tehran would have just one nuclear bomb, hardly enough to make it a nuclear weaponspower.

France’s president, François Hollande, met Netanyahu in Paris on Wednesday but rejected the push for military action.

“It’s a threat that cannot be accepted by France,” Hollande said, arguing for further sanctions coupled with negotiations. A new round of international talks with Iran are due after the US presidential elections, in which Tehran is expected to be offered sanctions relief in return for an end to 20% enrichment.

Netanyahu argued sanctions had failed to stop Iran’s nuclear programme and claimed Arab nations would be “relieved” if Iran was stopped from building nuclear weaponsa bomb.

Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies office in Bahrain, disagreed, saying: “I don’t believe the Gulf states are praying for an Israeli attack.

“An attack would create difficult problems for them on the political level. They will be called on to denounce Israel, and they will want to stay out of it. The risk of regional war to them is huge,” he said, but added that if Iran responded to an Israeli attack by lashing out at the US and its Arab allies, those restraints on the Gulf states’ own response would be lifted.

The UK government has told the US that it cannot rely on the use of British bases in Ascension Island, Cyprus, and Diego Garcia for an assault on Iran as pre-emptive action would be illegal. The Arab spring has also complicated US contingency planning for any new conflict in the Gulf.

US naval commanders have watched with unease as the newly elected Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has made overtures towards Iran. US ships make 200 transits a year through the Suez canal. Manama, the Fifth Fleet headquarters, is the capital of a country that is 70% Shia and currently in turmoil.

Ami Ayalon, a former chief of the Israeli navy and the country’s internal intelligence service, Shin Bet, argues Israel too cannot ignore the new Arab realities.

“We live in a new Middle East where the street has become stronger and the leaders are weaker,” Ayalon told the Guardian. “In order for Israel to face Iran we will have to form a coalition of relatively pragmatic regimes in the region, and the only way to create that coalition is to show progress on the Israel-Palestinian track.”


Facing facts:
Iran is not a threat to anyone unless it is attacked.

Driving the real agenda beneath the war-mongering, anti-Iran rhetoric lurks Israel to divert attention from its own undeclared actual nuclear weapons and its relentless settlement expansion in historical Occupied Palestine, both in violation of settled International Law.

The Saudis and other regional despots trying to suppress their own people from an uprising are also benefitting from diverting attention to Iran.

The real blame goes the US for allowing them to get away with it for the sake of its own neocon agenda to permit instability in order to sell them still more arms in exchange for cheap oil. The mainstream media has all but sacrificed its objectivity and impartiality in covering these far-reaching issues for it is bought and paid for by the very same agenda.

Yet, the facts show that bringing justice to Palestine would eliminate half the problems in the Middle-East and removing the dictators and monarchs would remedy the other half, by a realistic, politically negotiated solution which more people are realising is possible every passing day.


| Binyamin Netanyahu accuses Iran over bombs targeting Israeli diplomats!

Binyamin Netanyahu accuses Iran over bombs targeting Israeli diplomats

Prime minister responds to bombing in New Delhi, India, and bomb defused in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel had thwarted other attacks in recent months. Photograph: Getty Images

Israel‘s prime minister has accused Iran of being behind car bombs targeting Israeli diplomats in India and Georgia.

Binyamin Netanyahu told a meeting of politicians from his Likud party that he believed Tehran was responsible for the attack in New Delhi and an attempted attack in Tbilisi.

Two people were wounded in India; the bomb in Georgia was discovered before it went off.

Netanyahu said Israel had thwarted attacks in Azerbaijan, Thailand and elsewhere in recent months. “In all those cases, the elements behind these attacks were Iran and its protege Hezbollah,” he said.

Iran has accused Israel of involvement in a series of killings of officials and scientists involved in its nuclear programme.



Did Nutty Yahoo even wait for the explosions to go off before foaming at the mouth blaming Iran?