December 2012 Archives

Archbishop Fouad Twal

Archbishop Fouad Twal


Patriarch Twal: United Nations Decision Will Restore Credibility to Palestinian Government

Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Expresses Joy Regarding Vote in UN

JERUSALEM, NOV. 30, 2012 (…).- His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem expressed his joy upon hearing the news of the United Nations General Assembly approving the recognition of Palestine as a non-member State observer.

“For once the international community and the leaders of the nations had the courage not to be influenced by the pressures and to decide in conscience, without calculation. I am grateful and happy for this freedom,” Patriarch Twal said in an interview with Fides Agency.

“It is a joy that I share with all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, and that soon I will express on behalf of our Christian communities to President [Mahmoud Abbas], as soon as he gets back.”

Patriarch Twal emphasized the overwhelming support of nations who voted in favor of the Palestinian request (138 Countries in favor, 9 against, 41 abstentions), while positively evaluating the abstention of the German government. “The fact that Germany did not say no means a lot,” observed the Patriarch.

The Latin Patriarch also expressed his hope that with time, the international community will see that the step taken at the UN has advantages for Israel. “It opens the possibility of returning to deal with a moderate and legitimized government. I know these people: there is no person more reasonable than [Mahmoud Abbas] to return to the path of a final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said.

In recent years, he continued, “with a reckless choice, a lot was done to undermine his authority. Now he will come back from New York with the moral relieved: can talk like a real President, the President of a State.”

Highlighting the Holy See’s position on the matter, Patriarch Twal recalled Pope Benedict’s support for a two-state solution. “I remember the many speeches of the Pope that repeated the formula of the two peoples and two States. The Church desires peace for all, justice for all, a quiet and peaceable life for everyone,” he said.

“This is why one must also have the courage to say things when they are not right. Now I am thinking of the tragic situation in Syria, that the international community seems to want to remove.”

Patriarch Twal told Fides that while the path to peace is still long, it is necessary to deal with problems with a certain detachment without getting involved with animosity and vindictiveness. The decision of the UN Assembly could also encourage reconciliation within the Palestinian government, “since even Hamas in the end supported President Abbas’ request.”

With regard to the negative vote of the United States, Patriarch Twal recalled President Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo, which touched upon the relations with the Islamic world. “I hope that President Barack Obama has a good memory to remember his first speech in Cairo. That speech gave us a lot of hope,” Patriarch Twal said.


This is a bizarre angle on operation ‘Pillar of Cloud’, and it’s the first time I’ve heard of it! Could it be that there was another factor motivating the assault, beyond the timing of the next Israeli election!

Most wars in this generation seem to be about controlling oil reserves. Why should the IDF’s wars be any different?


Israel’s War for Gaza’s Gas

EXCLUSIVE28 NOVEMBER, by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

Moshe Ya’alon,
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs

Over the last decade, Israel has experienced a growing energy crisis. Between 2000 and 2010, Israel’s power consumption has risen by 3.5 per cent annually. With over 40 per cent of Israel’s electricity dependent on natural gas, the country has struggled to keep up with rising demand as a stable source of gas is in short supply. As of April, electricity prices rose by 9 per cent, as the state-owned Israeli Electricity Company (IEC) warned that “Israelis may soon face blackouts during this summer’s heat” – which is exactly what happened.

The two major causes of the natural gas shortage were Egypt’s repeated suspension of gas supplies to Israel due to attacks on the Sinai pipeline, and the near-depletion of Israel’s offshore Tethys Sea gas fields. By late April, a trade deal that would have continued natural gas imports from Egypt into Israel collapsed, sending the Israeli government scrambling to find alternate energy sources to meet peak electricity demands. Without a significant boost in gas production, Israel faced the prospect of debilitating fuel price hikes which would undermine the economy.

By late June, Israel was tapping into the little known Noa gas reserve in the Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza. Previously, Israel had “refrained from ordering development of the Noa field, fearing that this would lead to diplomatic problems vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority”, according to the Israeli business daily Globes. The Noa reserve, whose yield is about 1.2 billion cubic metres, “is partly under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in the economic zone of the Gaza Strip” – but Houston-based operator *Noble Energy apparently “convinced” Israel’s Ministry of National Infrastructures that their drilling would “not spill over into other parts of the reserve.”

But the Gaza Marine gas reserves – about 32km from Gaza’s coastline – are unmistakeably within Gaza’s territorial waters which extend to about 35km off the coast. Israeli negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the gas reserves have stalled for much of the last decade since their discovery in the late 1990s by the British Gas Group (BG Group). The main reason for the failure of negotiations was Israel’s demand that the gas should come ashore on its territory, and at below market price.

Estimated at a total of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, the market value of the reserves is about $4 billion. On 8th November 1999, the late Yasser Arafat signed a 25-year deal on behalf of the PA, granting 60 per cent rights to BG Group, 30 per cent to Consolidated Contractors Company – a Palestinian private entity linked to Arafat’s PA – and finally only 10 per cent to the PA’s Palestine Investment Fund (PIF).

At first, BG Group signed a memorandum with Egypt to sell them Gaza’s gas through an undersea pipeline in 2005. But the ’man of peace’, former Prime Minister Tony Blair – official Middle East envoy of the Quartet – intervened to pressure BG Group to instead sell the gas to Israel.

One informed British source told journalist Arthur Neslen in Tel Aviv at the time: “The UK and US, who are the major players in this deal, see it as a possible tool to improve relations between the PA and Israel. It is part of the bargaining baggage.” The gas would be piped directly onshore to Ashkelon in Israel, but up to three-quarters of the $4bn of revenue raised might not even end up in Palestinian hands at all.” The “preferred option” of the US and UK is that the gas revenues would be held in “an international bank account over which Abbas would hold sway” – effectively circumventing Hamas-controlled Gaza.

One of the first things Hamas did after winning elections was to reject the PA’s agreement with BG Group as “an act of theft”, before demanding a renegotiation of the agreed percentages to reflect its inclusion.

Operation Cast Lead launched in December 2008 was directly, though not exclusively, motivated by Israel’s concerns about the Blair-brokered gas deal. Upon assessing the prospects for accessing Gaza’s gas, Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon – also Minister of Strategic Affairs and a former IDF Chief of Staff – advocated a year before Operation Cast Lead that the gas deal “threaten’s Israel national security” as long as Hamas remains in power. “With Gaza currently a radical Islamic stronghold, and the West Bank in danger of becoming the next one, Israel’s funneling a billion dollars into local or international bank accounts on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would be tantamount to Israel’s bankrolling terror against itself”, Ya’alon wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement.”

So why Operation Pillar of Defence, and why now? On 23rd September, Israel and the PA announced the renewal of negotiations over development of Gaza’s gas fields. But Hamas, still in control of Gaza, stood in the way of these negotiations. Both the PA and Tony Blair “hope to have control of the marine area and levy its own fees and taxes” in partnership with Israel, reported Offshore-technology.

Exactly a week before Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, Israel’s ongoing energy crisis was in full swing, with the “cash-strapped Israel Electric Corp” – suffering from a short-fall of 1.5 billion shekels – planning to sell a total of 3 billion shekels of government-backed bonds as early as December.

Then on 12th November, the PA announced that the Palestinians would formally seek admission to the UN General Assembly as a non-member observer stateon the 29th. If granted, the status would add weight to the Palestinian bid for statehood encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – pre-1967 territorial lines which would formally impinge on Israel’s ambitions to de facto control and unilaterally exploit Gaza’s largely untapped gas resources.

Simultaneously, Israel faced another complication from Hamas. Israeli peace negotiator Gershon Bashkin reports that a proposal he drafted for a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas was on the verge of being accepted by senior Hamas officials, including Ahmed Jabari. On the morning of the 14th – just two days after the PA’s announcement concerning its UN bid – a revised version was being assessed by Jabari and was due to be sent to Israel. Hours later, Jabari was assassinated on Netanyahu’s orders. “Senior officials in Israel knew about [Jabari’s] contacts with Hamas and Egyptian intelligence aimed at formulating the permanent truce, but nevertheless approved the assassination”, Bashkin told Ha’aretz.

With Israel facing a race for independence from the PA, and a permanent truce with Hamas, the prospects of fully exploiting Gaza’s gas resources looked slim – unless Israel could change the political and security facts on the ground through brute force. The strike on Jabari appears to have been designed precisely to provoke a response from Hamas that would justify such military action.

Indeed, Hamas has its uses. Ya’alon’s fellow Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom once criticised Shimon Peres in a high-level Cabinet meeting back in 2001, for advocating “negotiations” with Arafat. “Between Hamas and Arafat, I prefer Hamas”, said Shalom, explaining that Arafat is a “terrorist in a diplomat’s suit, while Hamas can be hit unmercifully… there won’t be any international protests.” (Ha’aretz, 4/12/2001)

By unleashing Hamas’ rage this November, Israel was able to justify an offensive designed at least in part to begin engineering conditions conducive to its control of Gaza’s offshore gas reserves. But this is just the beginning – many analysts note that Israel is preparing the ground for a wider military assault against Iran. The tentative ceasefire announced on the 21st is, therefore, highly tenuous. If the ceasefire is breached, a military ground operation is still on the cards.

With over 160 dead in Gaza, compared to five in Israel, Operation Pillar of Defence has vindicated those in Palestine who think violence against Israel is the only option left.

But then again, perhaps that’s the idea.


Father Roy writes:  Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to comment on the decision, but many observers view it as a deliberate impediment to the two-state solution.  Also note: U.S. condemns Israel’s settlement expansion plan in Jerusalem, West Bank and Hillary Clinton warns Israel on settler homes.  Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls the decision A slap in Obama’s face… JPost.  The International Debate about the Holy Land issues is growing more robust every day.   Peace, Roy


Israel Authorizes Controversial New Settlements in Revenge for Palestine’s UN Bid

The location of the new settlements are intended to break the contiguity of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, negating two-state solution

by John Glaser, November 30, 2012

Following the overwhelming UN vote for implicit recognition of Palestinian statehood, Israel has authorized the construction of 3,000 more housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and is also speeding up the processing of 1,000 additional planning permissions.

According to the New York Times, the bulk of the new housing units are set to be built “in a controversial area of East Jerusalem known as E1, where Jewish settlements have long been seen as the death knell for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Other parts of the construction projects will connect Jerusalem and the illegal Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, and “therefore make it impossible to connect the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem to Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.”

Connecting Jerusalem to Maale Adumim “will create geographical continuity between the capital and its northern suburb, a move that the US and European countries have warned against,” Haaretz reported.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to comment on the decision, but many observers view it as a deliberate impediment to the the two-state solution, in revenge for the Palestinians’ peaceful diplomatic efforts to national self-determination at the UN, which was supported by an overwhelming international consensus.

Israel, and especially the administration of Benjamin Netanyahu, simply refuses to accept a Palestinian state. Their efforts, including this latest settlement authorization, to colonize Palestinian territory and undermine the viability of a Palestinian state is representative of their refusal to give up the prospect of a Greater Israel with full sovereignty over all of historic Palestine.


This incident again raises the question of what counts as anti-Semitism.

I suspect that most statements made about Jews controlling the media are anti-Semitic outpourings, scapegoating Jews for the world’s problems, but censuring all discourse on this subject surely goes too far?

Why is Zionism such a powerful ideology amongst ordinary Americans? I suspect that the answer to this is complex, but surely it’s a question that should be open to discussion?

Highlights are courtesy of Father Roy.

Finnish lawmaker defends ‘Jews control U.S. media’ comment

Pertti Salolainen lawmaker for the ruling National Coalition Party – made the statements during a televised interview.

A Finnish lawmaker reportedly has dismissed criticism of his references to “Jewish control” over U.S. politics as “a pure analysis of foreign policy.”

According to the Finnish broadcaster YLE, lawmaker Pertti Salolainen sent the broadcaster an email on Saturday in which he denied he had made anti-Semitic statements when he said Friday that the United States had “a large Jewish population who have a significant control of the money and the media. The U.S. for internal political reasons is afraid to become adequately involved. This is a sad truth about U.S. politics.”

Salolainen – a lawmaker for the ruling National Coalition Party – made the statements during a televised interview for YLE, in which he offered his analysis as to why the United States had voted against upgrading the Palestinian Authority to nonmember state observer status at the UN General Assembly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center on Friday urged the Finnish government to officially condemn Salolainen’s remarks. His statement “parroted the anti-Semitic canard that an evil cabal of Jews controls the media and the U.S. government,” the center said in a statement.

Mark Weitzman, the Wiesenthal Center‘s director of Government Affairs, wrote to Ritva Koukku-Ronde, the Finnish ambassador to the United States, “that such remarks can come from a pillar of the political elite in Finland is dismaying and astonishing; but that this remark was unchallenged makes it appear that such ideas are part of acceptable discourse in Finland.”


Mr Netanyahu seems to be unconcerned that Israel is increasingly isolating itself from the rest of the world! More than that, he seems to be happy to take responsibility for putting the final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution!

It has been obvious for some time that Mr Netanyahu was never serious about a two-state solution, and yet it seems to have been essential to his rhetoric to give the impression that it was something he was always working towards. Apparently he now no longer cares what the rest of the world thinks?

Perhaps he is counting on the US to remain loyal and considers that sufficient? Perhaps he feels secure on account of his nuclear arsenal? In truth, it is hard to know what is going through his mind!

Father Dave


Israel’s Latest Plan to Punish Palestinians Gets Worldwide Rebuke

UK, Sweden, France –even the US– call latest settlement announcement in West Bank an assault on peace process

– Common Dreams staff

Israel’s retaliatory moves against the Palestinians for receiving new statehood status at the UN last week have now earned their own rebuke, as world governments say that the Israeli’s newly announced plan to build more than 3,000 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank is a threat to the peace process.

Israel is to press ahead with development in the area known as E1 east of Jerusalem, above. The move would cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Following remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that settlements would be built in “all the places that are on the map of Israel’s strategic interests”—including new areas in Jerusalem and in the E1 area in the occupied West Bank—several European countries on Monday, including the UK, France, and Sweden, called back their diplomatic envoys from Israel as a show of dismay.

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, condemned the settlement expansion, saying the move “would represent an almost fatal blow to the remaining chances of securing a two-state solution.”

These sentiments were echoed by Palestinian leaders as well. As Reuters reports:

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said building in E1 “destroys the two-state solution, (establishing) East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and practically ends the peace process and any opportunity to talk about negotiations in the future”.

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman for the Hamas Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, said the settlement plans were “an insult to the international community, which should bear responsibility for Israeli violations and attacks on Palestinians”.

In a clear sign that the settlement announcement was a punitive and provocative move, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israeli Army Radion that his country had warned of reprisal and said Israel could not have “remained indifferent to the Palestinians’ unilateral move” at the United Nations. He did not back down from the criticism his government has received from European governments, or even the softer warnings coming from the United States.

“I want to tell you that those same Europeans and Americans who are now telling us ‘naughty, naughty over our response, understand full-well that we have to respond, and they themselves warned the Palestinian Authority,” Steinitz said.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, had sent signals of dissaproval following the announcement, though she did not specifically discuss the new settlements. She said, however, that the Obama administration “has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”

“Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

“If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve. They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians.”

Reuters adds:

Most world powers consider Israel’s settlements to be illegal. Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and Jerusalem and regards all of the holy city as its capital, a claim that is not recognized internationally.

Approximately 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.