#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”


#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

| The Palestinian message to Israel: Deal with us justly. Or disappear!

The Palestinian message to Israel: Deal with us justly. Or disappear ~ Jeff Halper, Mondoweiss.

Until Operation Protective Edge, most of the “messaging” regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, certainly that which broke through the mainstream media, came from the Israeli side. Since Zionism’s official beginnings in Palestine some 110 years ago, the Jewish community, whether the pre-state Yishuv or constituted as the state of Israel, never took the Palestinians seriously. They were dark-skinned “natives” wrapped sinisterly in kafiyas, fedayeen or terrorists without names, history or humanity, an existential threat subsumed under the rubric “Arabs.” In 1967, when Israel finally came face to face with an organized, visible, politically aware Palestinian society, the idea of talking to them did not even occur to Israel’s leaders. They preferred to take what land and resources they wanted from the West Bank and “return” its Palestinian population to Jordan. (No one until this day in Israel has the faintest idea what to do with Gaza, except isolate it.) One Prime Minister, Golda Meir, even denied vociferously and derisively that a “Palestinian” people even existed. No Israeli government ever acknowledged the national rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination in their own country, even in a tiny, truncated state on parts of the Occupied Territory. In the brightest days of the Oslo “peace process,” all a Labor/Meretz government agreed to do was recognize the PLO as a negotiating partner. It never accepted the idea of a truly sovereign, viable Palestinian state, even if demilitarized and arising on but a fifth of historic Palestine.

To be sure, the Palestinian people resisted and, when possible, tried to negotiate. Their leadership was often weak, but we must remember that since 1948, when the nascent IDF went from village to village with ledgers containing the names of those who should be assassinated, until the attempted assassination of Muhammed Deif a few days ago, Israel has conducted a systematic campaign of eliminating by murder or imprisonment any Palestinian showing real or potential leadership. Fearful of giving any credit to Palestinian peace-making lest it undermine their own absolute claims by legitimizing a Palestinian “side,” Israelis forget and deride any Palestinian hand reaching out to them. Who remembers, for example, the moving words of Yasser Arafat at the (unsuccessful) conclusion of the Wye Plantation negotiations in 1998?  That’s when Netanyahu decided to stop agreed-upon Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank and his Foreign Minister Sharon publically called on the settlers to “grab every hilltop.” Nonetheless, in the concluding press conference, with nothing to gain and no prompting, Arafat said:

I am quite confident that I’m talking in the name of all Palestinians when I assure you that we are all committed to the security of every child, woman and man in Israel. I will do everything I can so that no Israeli mother will be worried if her son or daughter is late coming home, or any Israeli would be afraid when they heard an explosion.

The Palestinians’ messaging of peace, security and, yes, justice, was always buried under Israeli spin. At that very same Wye Plantation meeting, Sharon demonstrably refused to shake Arafat’s hand before the cameras. “Shake the hand of that dog?” he told reporters: “Never.” Mahmoud Abbas has gotten little better from Sharon or Netanyahu, despite repeated televised meetings with Israeli students, Knesset members or anyone else willing to listen to his pleas for peace, even at the price of giving up parts of East Jerusalem and some major settlement blocs. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority bear their share of the responsibility for this as well. For his own reasons Abbas has silenced his most articulate spokespeople, filled his Authority’s diplomatic posts for the most part with ineffective political hacks and makes it almost impossible for reporters to get information or responses – all in contrast to Israel’s vaunted hasbara and legions of professional spin-doctors. As a result, there has been little official Palestinian messaging at all. What has saved the day until now has been the efforts of civil society supporters of the Palestinian cause: the contributors to the Electronic Intifada, articulate Palestinian activists and academics on al Shabaka, events and actions initiated on campuses by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the myriad analysts, activists and organizations of the international civil society, including critical Israeli ones, not to forget the growing BDS movement.

That seemed to change suddenly when, on August 26th, Israel announced that it had accepted a permanent cease-fire with no pre-conditions, to be followed by a month of negotiations over issues of concern to Gazans – opening borders, reconstruction under international supervision, the rebuilding of the airport and seaport, ending restrictions on Palestinian fishing and on farming in the “buffer zone,” the reopening of the “safe passage” to the West Bank, release of prisoners and more. Hamas, who led the confrontation with Israel, was careful not to disconnect Gaza from the wider struggle for Palestinian national rights. It was Abbas who announced the cease-fire, not Khaled Mashal or Ismail Haniya, stressing that the struggle was a Palestinian one, not merely Gazan. In fact, although Netanyahu initiated Operation Protective Edge with an eye to destroying a Palestinian Unity Government of Fatah/Hamas, he ended up strengthening it. Hamas emerged the darling of the Palestinian people, as least as far as resistance goes. It was announced that Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be joining the PLO. And, in order to allow a kind of civil relationship with Egypt, Hamas lowered its pan-Islam Muslim Brotherhood profile in favor of its Palestinian one.

Still, the messaging belonged to Hamas, the ones who not only confront the Israeli Occupation but who have seized the political initiative from it. In stark contrast to Abbas, who has declared security cooperation with Israel to be “sacred” and who passively allows Israel to take effective control of Area C, the 62% of the West Bank where the settlements, the massive matrix of Israeli highways and the Separation Barrier spell the end of the two-state solution, Hamas has sent a clear and forceful message to Israel: We won’t submit even if you kill us. Deal with us justly – or disappear.

Yes, even in its moment of triumph – an Israeli commentator wryly noted on TV this week that “a Six Day War this will not be,” and polls show that 59% of Israelis do not believe Israel won – Hamas has left the door open to a two-state solution. Their position, as I understand it and as set out in the Prisoners’ National Conciliation Document of 2006, is nuanced but principled and coherent. Hamas and Jihad reject utterly the legitimacy of Israel, viewing it as a settler colonial state, and thus reject any negotiations with it or any subsequent recognition. That said, if other Palestinian parties (i.e. Fatah) enter into negotiations with Israel and the outcome is a total withdrawal from the Occupied Territory based on conditions that would allow a truly sovereign and viable Palestinian state to arise, and if such a outcome would be approved by a referendum of all Palestinians around the world, Hamas and Jihad would respect that as the voice of the Palestinian people. Thus, while still rejecting the legitimacy of Israel in principle, Hamas has agreed to join a Unity Government that accepts the two-state solution – enough for the Netanyahu government to try and break it apart. Hence Hamas’s post-Operation Protective Edge message to Israel: deal with us justly – or disappear. This is your last chance. The alternative to the two-state solution, which few Palestinians believe is still possible, and rightly so, is a single state. That’s a democratic state in the eyes of the Palestinian left, an Algeria-like situation in which the colonialists leave in the eyes of Hamas and Jihad.

This should give Israel pause, although ironically it is Israel that has eliminated the two-state solution and has left a single state – an apartheid one in the eyes of all Israeli governments, including Labor – as the only other option. Indeed, just last month Netanyahu said publicly: “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” For 110 years “practical Zionism” has believed it can beat the natives, that it can judaize Palestine and, with its metaphorical and physical Iron Walls, cause “the Arabs” to despair of the Land of Israel ever becoming Palestine.

Well, Israel has given it its best shot. After grabbing almost all the land, driving most of the Palestinians out, imprisoning and impoverishing them in tiny enclaves in both Israel and the Occupied Territory, after burying the Palestinian presence and patrimony under Israeli-only cities, towns, kibbutzim and national parks, after assassinating its leaders and leaving its youth with no hope of a future, it now brings the full force of one of the best-equipped militaries in the world against two million poor people living in an area the size of Mobile, Alabama. More than 2000 killed in Gaza, another 12,000 injured. Some 20,000 homes destroyed, 475,000 people displaced. Six billion dollars in damage to buildings and infrastructure. And for what? Israel may have finally discovered the limits of force and violence. After taking its best shots for more than a century – and, it is true, dealing the Palestinians devastating blows, as Netanyahu and the IDF proudly claim – Israel has gained one thing: an opportunity before it is too late to learn that the Palestinians cannot be beaten militarily, that Israel itself will never know security and normal life for all the “blows” it administers the Palestinians, as long as it maintains its Occupation. Indeed, for all its strength, it is liable to disappear if it doesn’t deal justly with the natives.

At least Abbas seems to have gotten the message. He now discards further pointless negotiations with Israel as brokered by the US, preferring to have the UN set a target date for Israeli withdrawal, and perhaps going to the International Criminal Court. Hamas is likely to prevent any backsliding on his part. Maybe Israel will never get the message, its hubris blinding it to tectonic shifts in the geopolitical landscape, especially among the people of the world. But the collapse is happening. Perhaps slower than in apartheid South Africa, the Soviet Union, the Shah’s Iran or Mubarak’s Egypt, but happening none the less. Having lost the power of deterrence, Israel will either have to deal justly with the Palestinians or, indeed, disappear.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal (Photo: AP) 

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| #GazaUnderAttack: Israel awakens the Palestine it tried to crush!

The brutal war unleashed on Gaza has one aim – and it has nothing to do with the three killed settlers. Netanyahu knows he has to crush a collective Palestinian spirit that’s emerged despite Israel’s decades of assimilation efforts.

When the bodies of three Israeli settlers – two teenagers, Aftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 – were found on 30 June near Hebron in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a wave of sympathy flowed from around the world. The three had disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.

The entire episode, particularly after its grim ending, seemed to traumatize Israelis into ignoring harsh truths about the settlers and the militarisation of their society. For instance, one of the three has since been accused of humiliating Palestinian prisoners, while another was reportedly an occupation soldier.

Amid a portrayal of the three as hapless youths, although one was a 19-year-old soldier, commentators have failed to provide badly needed context to events. Few, if any, assigned the blame where it was most deserved – on expansionist policies which have sown hatred and bloodshed.

Before the bodies’ discovery, the real face of Netanyahu’s notoriously right-wing government was well-known. Few held Illusions about how “peaceful” an occupation can be if run by figures such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon. But because “children” – the term used by Netanyahu himself – were involved, even critics didn’t expect an exercise in political point-scoring.

The was sympathy elicited for the missing settlers case, but it quickly vanished in the face of an Israeli response (in the West Bank, Jerusalem and later a full-scale war on Gaza) largely seen as in the crucible of world opinion as disproportionate and cruel. Rather than related to the tragic death of three youths, this response obviously reflected Netanyahu’s grand political calculations.

As mobs of Israeli Jews went out on an ethnic lynching spree in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank that some likened to a “pogrom”, occupation soldiers conducted a massive arrest campaign of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Hamas members and supporters.

The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said it has no role in the death of the settlers, and this appears plausible since they rarely hesitate to take credit for something carried out by their military wing. Israeli military strategists were well aware of that.

This war on Hamas, however, has little to with the killed settlers, and everything to do with the political circumstances that preceded their disappearance.

Nakba and a new Intifada

On 15 May, two Palestinian youths, Nadim Siam Abu Nuwara, 17, and Mohammed Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, 16 were killed by Israeli soldiers while taking part in a protest commemorating the anniversary of the Nakba, or ‘Great Catastrophe’. Video footage shows that Nadim was innocently standing with a group of friends before collapsing as he was hit by an Israeli army bullet.

The Nakba took place 66 years ago as the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict emerged. An estimated one million Palestinians were forced out of their homes as they fled a Zionist invasion. Israel was established on the ruins of that Palestine.

Nadim and Mohammed, like the youths of several generations since, were killed in cold blood as they walked to remember that exodus. In Israel, there was no outrage. However, Palestinian anger, which seems is in constant accumulation – being under military occupation and enduring harsh economic conditions – was reaching a tipping point.

In some way, the deaths of these Palestinian youths were a distraction from the political disunity that has afflicted Palestinian leaderships and society for years. Their deaths were a reminder that Palestine, as an idea and a collective plight and struggle, goes beyond the confines of politics or even ideology.

Their deaths reminded us that there is much more to Palestine than the whims of the aging Palestinian Authority ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based henchmen, or even Hamas’s regional calculations following the rise and fall of the ‘Arab Spring.’

The Israeli reaction to the settlers’ death has been different. After the bodies’ discovery, fellow settlers and right-wing Israelis began exacting revenge from Palestinian communities. The mob was united by the slogan “death to the Arabs”, reviving a long-disused notion of a single Palestinian identity that precedes the emergence of Fatah and Hamas.

Perhaps paradoxically, the grief and anger provoked by the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 17, who was burnt alive by Israeli settlers as part of this lashing out, has furthered this reawakening of a long-fragmented Palestinian national identity.

An identity that had suffered due to Israeli walls, military tactics and the Palestinians’ own disunity, has been glued back together in a process that resembles the events which preceded the first and second uprisings of 1987 and 2000 respectively.

Much can be said about the hypocrisy in which Western governments have responded to the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis, the sorry state of Arab affairs, the pressure placed on the increasingly collaborative Abbas to find the killers, and the lack of a serious response to Israeli army and settlers abuse of Palestinian youth, including an American-Palestinian boy. But Palestinian collective action is hardly motivated by the renowned hypocrisy of the West. The greatest Palestinian priority for now is finding a common strategy that would cement unity and eventually achieve their national aspirations.

Unity government

However, unlike in the previous Intifadas, the hurdles towards a unified voice this time seem insurmountable. Abbas is a weak leader who has done so much to meet Israel’s security expectations and so very little to defend the rights of his people. He is a relic from a bygone era who merely exists because he is the best option Israel and the US have at the moment.

In the aftermath of the Israeli violent response to the killing of the settlers, Abbas laboured to coordinate with the massive Israeli search. At times, he stayed away as Israeli troops brutalised Palestinians in the West Bank.

It is clear that there can be no third Intifada that leaves Abbas and his wretched political apparatus in place. This is precisely why Palestinian Authority goons prevented many attempts by Palestinians in the West Bank to protest the Israeli violence unleashed in the occupied territories, which finally culminated into a massive war against Gaza that has killed and wounded hundreds. These very PA officers who stood by as the army raided Palestinian homes at will were the ones that swiftly moved to crush Palestinians who tried to assemble in protest.

Whatever credit Abbas supposedly gained by closing ranks with Hamas to form a unity government last June has been just as quickly lost. It has been overshadowed by his own failures to live up to commitment under the unity deal, and the relevance of his ‘authority’ was quickly eclipsed by Israeli violence, highlighting his and his government’s utter irrelevance to Israel’s political calculations.

A Hamas re-launch

When Israel launched its massive arrest campaign, which mainly targeted Hamas in the West Bank, the Hamas’ political wing was already considering “alternatives” to the unity government in Ramallah. This was not seen in statements by Hamas officials, who refused to reveal their frustration with Abbas and his Ramallah echelon, but rather in the clearly worded remarks uttered by senior Hamas official Dr Ahmed Yousef in an interview with Ma’an news agency.

“The (Rami) Hamdallah government has failed to fill” the political vacuum left open by the dismantling of the Hamas government in Gaza, Yousef said. “We are talking about an all-faction leadership to prevent security chaos and solve the crisis of salaries for the Gaza Strip’s civil servants,” he added.

Hamas’s objectives were not being met. The unity deal was meant to achieve several goals: end Hamas’s political isolation in Gaza, resulting from the intensifying of the siege by Egypt’s dictator Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, solving the economic crisis in the Strip, and also allowing Hamas to revert to its old brand, as a resistance movement first and foremost.

Hamas was perhaps hoping for a similar political arrangement like the one enjoyed by Hezbollah in Lebanon: to hold massive political sway, to maintain its military presence and to navigate its way between resistance and politics as it sees fit. It is a difficult model to duplicate though, since the physical topography and political landscape of Palestine is largely different from Lebanon.

Even if Hamas succeeded in establishing a new brand based on resistance/political model, Israel was determined to deactivate any potential for Palestinian unity. Destroying that unity became almost an obsession for Netanyahu.

The disappearance of the settlers gave Netanyahu’s quest a new impetus. He immediately began a campaign pressuring Abbas to break away from Hamas. In fact, Abbas became the target for a Zionist campaign that goes beyond Israel. His language was closely monitored, and criticized by the likes of the pro-Israel Anti-defamation league. ADL, which is always supportive of Israeli wars on Gaza, fumed when Abbas used the term ‘genocide’ to describe the killing campaign.

While Abbas was surviving in a state of political irrelevance, Hamas launched a fierce resistance campaign in Gaza. It united various resistance groups, including those affiliated with Abbas’s own party, Fatah, and began responding with barrage of rockets into Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and elsewhere. Although few Israelis were hurt, at least at the time of writing this article, while hundreds of Palestinians were killed and wounded, Hamas’s show of prowess further alienated Abbas, now growingly seen, along with his authority as ‘collaborators’ with Israel.

Majdi, a 28-year-old from Deheisheh refugee camp put it best: “The Palestinian police are mercenaries for the Israeli occupation; they just watch and do nothing.”

An embattled Bibi

Netanyahu has focused his attacks on Hamas. He wants to eradicate them from the West Bank, per his own statements, then strike them and other resistance groups in Gaza. His motivations are many, including the need for periodic strikes that constantly erode the preparedness of the resistance every few years – past assaults were launched in 2006, 2007, 2008-9, 2012 and now 2014.

But this time there were new objectives inspired by new circumstances, including the fact that Netanyahu’s own government, which stood on a very shaky ground since its inception – partly due to constant infighting between Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni and others on the far right – is in political trouble.

Livni’s last threat to leave the government was made on June 11, a day before the settlers disappeared. The right wing union, between the prime minister’s own Likud party, and that of Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu was dissolved on July 07.

Such cracks in Netanyahu’s coalitions seem too deep for even a massive war on Gaza to remedy.

Backlash

There is still more to Israel’s war on Gaza than this. Fearing an intifada that would unite Palestinians, threaten the PA, and slow down the construction of illegal settlements, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza means to distract from the slowly building collective sentiment among Palestinians throughout Palestine, and among Palestinian citizens in Israel.

This unity is much more alarming for Netanyahu than a political arrangement by Fatah and Hamas necessitated by regional circumstances. The targeting of Hamas is an Israeli attempt at challenging the emerging new narrative that it’s no longer about Gaza and its siege anymore, but the entirety of Palestine and its collectives regardless on which side of the Israeli “separation wall” they live.

A true Palestinian unity, culminating in a massive popular Intifada is the kind of war Netanyahu cannot possibly win.

– Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Photo credit: Lebanese children protest the airstrikes of Israel to Gaza in Beirut, Lebanon on July 11, 2014 (AA)

 

| #Gaza missile seizure, Netanyahu’s latest anti-Iran joke!

Gaza missile seizure, Netanyahu’s latest anti-Iran joke ~ , Intifada Palestine.

Comedians say that the art of telling jokes relies on “timing.” Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the world’s top comic politician, seemed to be proving the point with his “timely” claims about seizing Iranian rockets aboard a cargo ship in the Red Sea.

Standing in front of 40 pointed missiles, each carefully displayed on props (you sense the stilted exhibitionism here), the Israeli leader said the seized cache “showed the true face of Iran” in its support for terrorism. Netanyahu lashed out at Western leaders who are “shaking hands with Iran” and preparing to finalize a political settlement to the long-running nuclear dispute.

Iran swiftly denounced the Israeli allegations as orchestrated, indicating that the capture of munitions on a Panamanian-registered vessel was a set-up.

Even some of the Israeli media have grown weary of such “propaganda stunts,” as the newspaper Haaretz described Netanyahu’s melodramatic display of Iran’s alleged clandestine cargo in the port of Eilat at the weekend. Netanyahu’s corny sensationalist manner, standing in front of the green-colored rockets, was reminiscent of his previous presentation to the United Nations using a cartoon bomb in which he claimed then that Iran was “only months away from building a nuclear weapon.”

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Netanyahu’s record of failure over the past 20 years in predicting “imminent” Iranian nuclear arms capability makes him a laughing stock. Some people watching the latest televised stunt of displaying “captured” Iranian rockets may have wished that one of the devices could have accidentally fired off during the Israeli premier’s speech.

The buffoonish Netanyahu cannot be taken seriously on anything he says. Nevertheless it is worthwhile defusing the latest Israeli propaganda hoax to reveal the mindset of those in Tel Aviv and their backers in Washington and the Western mainstream media who shamefully never fail to lend credibility to such reprehensible smear jobs. “Israeli forces seize rockets ‘destined for Gaza’ in raid on Iranian ship in Red Sea,” read a headline in the British Guardian.

It is amazing how much credence is afforded to baseless Israeli and Western government claims against Iran. In recent years, the Western public has been fed with tall tales of Iranian plots to assassinate diplomats in Washington, and involvement in bombings or attempted bombings in Argentina, Thailand, India, Georgia, Bulgaria and Kenya. Tellingly, none of these stories – always initially reported with ubiquitous fanfare in the Western media – are ever followed up or substantiated.

Yet the same absurd story line, with dramatic plot variations, is peddled over and over again. This systematic regurgitation shows that the Western media is nothing but an instrument of state propaganda.

Of course, Zionist lobby groups, sympathetic Zionist media owners, reporters, pundits are a big part of the charade. So too is the political agenda of Washington government and its European allies who slavishly indulge Israel for geopolitical reasons, and who are only too glad to undermine Iran with regard to their support for Israel and the despotic Arab oil sheikhdoms, as well as in their covert war against Tehran’s ally, Syria.

The latest stunt may be also a pretext for the Western governments to procrastinate on the P5+1 settlement – and to subject Iran to further torturous illegal sanctions.

Let’s look at some of the claims in the latest smear job against Iran, which has seen US defense secretary Chuck Hagel also weighing into accuse Iran of “destabilizing the region”.

The Israelis claim that Syrian-made M-302 rockets, with a firing range of 160km, were first flown by air cargo to Iran. Then Iran moved the ordnance to the port of Bandar Abbas, where it was loaded on to a ship, the KLOS-C. As mentioned, the ship is reportedly registered in Panama with an owner in the Marshall Islands. So what connection Iran has to the vessel is right away tenuous.

Next, the ship is said to have sailed north to the port of Umm Qasr in Iraq, where it was loaded with bags of cement conveniently bearing Iranian trademarks. The KLOS-C made its way out of the Persian Gulf and into the Red Sea, where Israeli Special Forces raided the ship last week off the coast of Sudan.

The Israelis claim – and Western media gave full vent to the claims – that the rockets were to be shipped over land from Sudan via Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and delivered to Hamas in Gaza. Hamas, as well as Tehran, denies any involvement. It was even speculated in some Western media that the shipment of rockets could also have been intended by Iran for al-Qaeda groups based in Sinai.

This circuitous route, involving weeks of transport time over one of the most intensely surveyed sea-lanes in the world, does not bear serious scrutiny. The risk of such a smuggling plot being uncovered is so high as to make it implausible. Put another way, the chances of it being part of a stage-managed set-up are all the more plausible.

The destination aspect of the alleged plot does not hold water either. Egypt, under the military junta led by General Abdel al Sisi, has stepped up its collusion with Israel to seal off the Sinai Peninsula and all land crossings into Gaza. The notion of trucks carrying dozens of medium-sized surface-to-surface missiles driving into Gaza, undetected, is inconceivable to the point of ridicule.

So too is the Israeli-inspired sub-plot that Iran may have been trying to send the weapons to al-Qaeda in Sinai. This group is waging a Western-backed covert terrorist campaign against Syria and against Shia Muslims in particular. The idea that Shia Iran or its ally Syria would supply Syrian-made rockets to such enemies illustrates how moronic the thesis for this Israeli propaganda stunt is.

The Israeli seizure, by the way, was given the ever-so contrived title of “Full Exposure.” The give-away to this being a stunt is the timing. It came just as Netanyahu was in Washington trying to tell the world that the failure of Mid-East “peace talks” was all the fault of the Palestinians – not anything to do with the genocidal policies of Israel. In other words, it serves as a handy foil to shield Israel from international opprobrium. As Netanyahu was speaking in the White House, Israeli warplanes killed two Palestinians in air strikes on Gaza.

-The second timed factor is that Iran is scheduled to complete the P5+1 negotiations for a final settlement over the nuclear dispute. EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, was in Tehran at the weekend when Netanyahu fired off rhetorical salvos about “Western hypocrisy in the face of Iranian support for international terrorism.” Israel is livid at the prospect of any nuclear deal being reached. And no doubt there are political forces in Washington and Europe that would relish an accord being sabotaged.

Netanyahu went on to warn about Iranian “armed nuclear suitcases” being sent to every port in the world.

Who needs imaginary nuclear-armed suitcases when we already have a nuclear-armed nutcase – Netanyahu and his apartheid regime?

Comic Netanyahu may have a dubious skill at timing, but his tedious jokes have by now become just stupidly bad. The latest one about “Full Exposure” of Iranian rockets has backfired.

SOURCE: PRESS TV

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| Haaretz: Netanyahu forced to accept interim deal with Iran!

Haaretz: Netanyahu forced to accept interim deal with Iran ~ MEMO.

An Israeli writer, Barack Rafid, has cited Israeli and American officials as saying that the gaps between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama are unbridgeable.

In an article published by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today, Rafid said that in their last telephone conversation, which lasted for one and half an hour, both leaders failed to make their stances any closer.

Rafid also said that an Israeli official had recently advised Mr Netanyahu to moderate his “tough tone” with the American Administration. The politician warned that the current friction with the US administration on the Iranian nuclear issue would only harm Israel and leave Iran to be the sole beneficiary.

The writer claimed that the White House believes that Netanyahu’s approach to a deal with Iran is “everything or nothing.” Netanyahu wants more pressure to be put on Iran so that it dismantles all of its centrifuges.

The US on the other hand believes this is not effective. According to the writer it would lead Iran to quickly explode the negotiations and turn to the production of nuclear weapons. War would be the inevitable consequence.

However, Rafid notes that Netanyahu sees things in a different light. The writer said Netanyahu feels everything he warned of recently about Iran’s nuclear is now being fulfilled.

Netanyahu believes, according to Rafid, that he reads Iranian policy and negotiating tactics better than those sitting in Geneva. He believes that the action of the super powers would lead to a war.

Rafid added that Netanyahu was surprised by the American action in the last three days. Netanyahu apparently expected a severe American condemnation of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khaminae’s description of Israel as a “mad dog”. However the US only said that such remarks “cause annoyance.”

All of that has led Netanyahu to believe that the US and other powers are determined to reach a deal with Iran at any price. Iran, according to the writer, has itself discerned this enthusiasm and has now become even “more stubborn” in its stances during the current negotiations.

Additionally, Netanyahu believes the imminent deal would be an unprecedented opportunity for Iran to accelerate its nuclear programme. In the event, Iran would agree to reduce depleting uranium to 20 per cent in order to develop other elements of its programme.

Rafid concluded his article by saying that Netanyahu has started to accept the possibility of a temporary deal with Iran, but will now exert much effort to prevent it from becoming permanent.

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| 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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NuttyDivorce

| Delaying settlements to sabotage Iran nuke deal: Netanyahu’s latest deception!

Netanyahu’s latest deception ~ Alan Hart, Redress Information & Analysis.

Why, really, has Netanyahu put settlement expansion on hold?

His own explanation was that he wants to avoid or minimize the prospects for an “unnecessary confrontation” with the international community, for which read President Barack Obama and the European leaders who would follow his lead (with the arguable exception of the French whore).

I think it’s more than reasonable to believe that Netanyahu was concerned, possibly even alarmed, by the explicit nature of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s condemnation on 6 November of Israel’s on-going colonization of the occupied West Bank.

On Israeli television Kerry asked why Israel was continuing to build settlements when doing so was giving the Palestinians good cause to believe that Israel was not serious about peace. (Writing in the Times of Israel, Raphael Ahren said Kerry’s “rhetorical onslaught” amounted to “a forceful slap in the face for Netanyahu”, a slap “the prime minister cannot have expected and one he will not quickly forget”.)

Netanyahu’s fear

My guess is that Netanyahu concluded that there was a grave danger, for the first time ever, of Israel being blamed by the whole of the international community, including America, for the breakdown and collapse of the latest round of “peace talks”.

 

My guess is that Netanyahu realized that a perception of Israel not being serious about peace with the Palestinians could undercut the Zionist lobby’s effort to make an accommodation with Iran impossible.

 

But his main focus was and is elsewhere – on the effort the Zionist lobby in association with its Saudi allies is now making to sabotage the prospects of Obama reaching an accommodation with Iran.

As I write Kerry is about to brief members of the Senate Banking Committee behind closed doors in the hope of persuading it not to introduce Zionist lobby dictated legislation to impose even more punitive sanctions on Iran while negotiations with it are still underway.

My guess is that Netanyahu realized that a perception of Israel not being serious about peace with the Palestinians could undercut the Zionist lobby’s effort to make an accommodation with Iran impossible.

Obama’s stark choice

Netanyahu must know that the stakes for the Zionist lobby have never been higher than they are today. If it succeeds in getting legislation to impose even more punitive sanctions on Iran, Obama will have a stark choice to make: either to bow to the lobby’s will (par for the post-Eisenhower American presidential course), which would mean goodbye to any hope for an accommodation with Iran, or to confront the lobby’s stooges in Congress.

Obama could do the latter, as President Dwight Eisenhower once did, by taking to the bully pulpit – going over the heads Congress and speaking directly to his fellow Americans on television and radio. Eisenhower, the first and to date the last American president to seek to contain Zionism, made best use of the bully pulpit when its lobby tried to prevent him insisting that Israel should withdraw from the Sinai without conditions after it had colluded with France and Britain in the 1956 war on Egypt.

Given that an Obama showdown with the Zionist lobby is a possibility, (not a probability), it’s worth recalling what Eisenhower said when, from the bully pulpit, he took on the Zionist lobby and won.

Israel insists on firm guarantees as a condition to withdrawing its forces of invasion. If we agree that armed attack can properly achieve the purposes of the assailant, then I fear we will have turned back the clock of international order. We will have countenanced the use of force as a means of settling international differences and gaining national advantage… If the UN once admits that international disputes can be settled using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization and our best hope for establishing a real world order.

The Zionist lobby must know that if Obama defies it on Iran, his next logical step would be to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace with the Palestinians on terms the vast majority of them could accept. (As I have noted in the past, the truth, despite some of their rhetoric to the contrary, is that Iran and Hezbollah will accept whatever is acceptable to the Palestinians, as will the whole of the Arab and wider Muslim world.)

Netanyahu needs the Zionist lobby and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, to succeed in their efforts to wreck the prospects of an American and European accommodation with Iran; and if putting further Zionist colonization of the occupied West Bank on hold assists that cause, so be it.

A few commentators expressed a degree of surprise that Netanyahu’s decision did not provoke a revolt against him by some of his neo-fascist coalition partners, especially those who favour annexing all of the West Bank. That didn’t happen because Netanyahu squared them in advance of his announcement by telling them that putting the plans for more settlements on hold was only a tactic. “It’s just another of our deceptions.” He didn’t say that as far as I know, but that was the implication of his message to the leaders of his coalition partners.

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| U-Turn: Israel PM halts plans to build settler homes!

Israel PM halts plans to build settler homes ~ Al Jazeera.

Israeli PM says plans caused ‘unnecessary conflict’ with international community and potentially hindered Iran talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a reassessment of plans to build nearly 24,000 settler homes, saying he feared an international outcry that would divert attention from Israel’s lobbying against a nuclear deal with Iran.

The right-wing Israeli leader announced the reversal on Tuesday in the face of stiff US opposition to settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Palestinian anger that threatens three-month-old peace talks brokered by Washington.

Before news of Netanyahu’s change of course, President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the Palestinian leadership to hold “an urgent emergency meeting in the coming hours, with all options on the table,” the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.

Peace Now, which monitors settlement activity on occupied land Palestinians seek for a state, said the Housing Ministry had issued tenders late last month for drawing up construction plans, but that no building work was imminent.

Publication of the tenders had gone unnoticed in the media until Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper and Peace Now reported on the potential projects earlier on Tuesday.

Netanyahu, a strong advocate of settlement building, appeared to have been caught unawares by the proposals, which were disclosed only days after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Israel and the West Bank in a bid to salvage peace negotiations that have shown little sign of progress.

‘Bad deal’

Before leaving Israel, amid Netanyahu saying that “a very bad deal” was in the making between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme, Kerry urged the Jewish state to limit settlement activity.

In a slap down of a key partner in his governing coalition, Netanyahu reprimanded Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the pro-settler Jewish Home party for publishing the tenders “without prior coordination.”

A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office said he ordered Ariel to reassess all of the proposed projects.

Publication of the tenders “created a needless confrontation with the international community just when we are making an effort to persuade (it) to reach a better agreement with Iran,” the statement said.

“World attention must not be diverted from the primary goal – preventing Iran from achieving an agreement that would enable it to continue its nuclear military programme,” Netanyahu’s statement said.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only atomic power, has been pushing for total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear-enrichment capabilities and cautioning against any premature easing of economic sanctions.

Source:
Associated Press
 

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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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