December 2012 Archives

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Along with the withholding of funds from the Palestinian Authority, the expansion of the dreaded settlements seems to be Mr Netanyahu’s response to the UN Palestine vote.

The US condemns the settlements, but mere words from the Whitehouse are not going to change anything, and Mr Netanyahu knows that the Whitehouse is not going to oppose him with anything more than mere words.

The highlights in this Reuters’ report are from Father Roy 

 

U.S. repeats opposition to new Israeli settlements

WASHINGTON | Mon Dec 3, 2012 1:05pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Mondayreiterated its opposition to new Israeli settlement activity on occupied land including in the site known as “E1”, which it said could be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations,” State Department spokeman Mark Toner said in a statement.

This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

Israel indicated in Monday it had no plan to backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation and includes “preliminary zoning and planning work” for settler housing in the so-called “E1” zone east of Jerusalem. “We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy,” Toner said in his statement, which urged both Israel and the Palestinians to cease unilateral actions and take steps to return to direct negotiations.

Israel announced plans to build 3,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, a day after the U.N. General Assembly granted de facto recognition to Palestinian statehood over Israeli and U.S. objections.

(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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I had the privilege of having the other co-editor of ‘Breaking the Silence”, Micha Kurz, speak at our church last year. I have nothing but admiration for these young ‘whistle-blowers’.

People readily equate ‘courage’ with standing up for your country. What takes far more courage, I believe, is standing up against your country when you know that your government is doing the wrong thing! Putting your life on the line for people that your country is persecuting – that’s real courage, and that’s the sort of courage these young Israelis show who ‘break the silence’.

Father Dave

Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces Speak Out on Atrocities From Gaza and the Occupied Territories

November 25, 2012 |

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“There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference last week. He drew on this general observation in order to justify Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s most recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip. In describing the situation this way, he assumes, like many others, that Gaza is a political entity external and independent of Israel. This is not so. It is true that Israel officially disengaged from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, withdrawing its ground troops and evacuating the Israeli settlements there. But despite the absence of a permanent ground presence, Israel has maintained a crushing control over Gaza from that moment until today.

The testimonies of Israeli army veterans expose the truth of that “disengagement.” Before Operation Pillar of Defense, after all, Israel launched Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds in 2006, and Hot Winter and Cast Lead in 2008 — all involving ground invasions. In one testimony, a veteran speaks of “a battalion operation” in Gaza that lasted for five months, where the soldiers were ordered to shoot “to draw out terrorists” so they “could kill a few.”

Israeli naval blockades stop Gazans from fishing, a main source of food in the Strip. Air blockades prevent freedom of movement. Israel does not allow building materials into the area, forbids exports to the West Bank and Israel, and (other than emergency humanitarian cases) prohibits movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It controls the Palestinian economy by periodically withholding import taxes. Its restrictions have impeded the expansion and upgrading of the Strip’s woeful sewage infrastructure, which could render life in Gaza untenable within a decade. The blocking of seawater desalination has turned the water supply into a health hazard. Israel has repeatedly demolished small power plants in Gaza, ensuring that the Strip would have to continue to rely on the Israeli electricity supply. Daily power shortages have been the norm for several years now. Israel’s presence is felt everywhere, militarily and otherwise.

By relying on factual misconceptions, political leaders, deliberately or not, conceal information that is critical to our understanding of events. Among the people best qualified to correct those misconceptions are the individuals who have been charged with executing a state’s policies — in this case, Israeli soldiers themselves, an authoritative source of information about their government’s actions. I am a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and I know that our first-hand experiences refute the assumption, accepted by many, including President Obama, that Gaza is an independent political entity that exists wholly outside Israel. If Gaza is outside Israel, how come we were stationed there? If Gaza is outside Israel, how come we control it? — Oded Na’aman

[The testimonies by Israeli veterans that follow are taken from 145 collected by the nongovernmental organization Breaking the Silence and published in Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies From the Occupied Territories, 2000-2010 [4]. Those in the book represent every division in the IDF and all locations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.]

1. House Demolition

Unit: Kfir Brigade

Location: Nablus district

Year: 2009

 

During your service in the territories, what shook you up the most?

The searches we did in Hares. They said there are sixty houses that have to be searched. I thought there must have been some information from intelligence. I tried to justify it to myself.

You went out as a patrol?

It was a battalion operation. They spread out over the whole village, took over the school, smashed the locks, the classrooms. One was used as the investigation room for the Shin Bet, one room for detainees, one for the soldiers to rest. We went in house by house, banging on the door at two in the morning. The family’s dying of fear, the girls are peeing in their pants with fear. We go into the house and turn everything upside down.

What’s the procedure?

Gather the family in a certain room, put a guard there, tell the guard to aim his gun at them, and then search the rest of the house. We got another order that everyone born after 1980… everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine, doesn’t matter who, bring them in cuffed and blindfolded. They yelled at old people, one of them had an epileptic seizure but they carried on yelling at him. Every house we went into, we brought everyone between sixteen and twenty-nine to the school. They sat tied up in the schoolyard.

Did they tell you the purpose of all this?

To locate weapons. But we didn’t find any weapons. They confiscated kitchen knives. There was also stealing. One guy took twenty shekels. Guys went into the houses and looked for things to steal. This was a very poor village. The guys were saying, “What a bummer, there’s nothing to steal.”

That was said in a conversation among the soldiers?

Yeah. They enjoyed seeing the misery, the guys were happy talking about it. There was a moment someone yelled at the soldiers. They knew he was mentally ill, but one of the soldiers decided that he’d beat him up anyway, so they smashed him. They hit him in the head with the butt of the gun, he was bleeding, then they brought him to the school along with everyone else. There were a pile of arrest orders signed by the battalion commander, ready, with one area left blank. They’d fill in that the person was detained on suspicion of disturbing the peace. They just filled in the name and the reason for arrest. There were people with plastic handcuffs that had been put on really tight. I got to speak with the people there. One of them had been brought into Israel to work for a settler and after two months the guy didn’t pay him and handed him over to the police.

All these people came from that one village?

Yes.

Anything else you remember from that night?

A small thing, but it bothered me — one house that they just destroyed. They have a dog for weapons searches, but they didn’t bring him; they just wrecked the house. The mother watched from the side and cried. Her kids sat with her and stroked her.

What do you mean, they just destroyed the house?

They smashed the floors, turned over sofas, threw plants and pictures, turned over beds, smashed the closets, the tiles. There were other things — the look on the people’s faces when you go into their house. And after all that, they were left tied up and blindfolded in the school for hours. The order came to free them at four in the afternoon. So that was more than twelve hours. There were investigators from the security services there who interrogated them one by one.

Had there been a terrorist attack in the area?

No. We didn’t even find any weapons. The brigade commander claimed that the Shin Bet did find some intelligence, that there were a lot of guys there who throw stones.

2. Naval Blockade

Unit: Navy

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2008

It’s mostly punishment. I hate that: “They did this to us, so we’ll do that to them.” Do you know what a naval blockade means for the people in Gaza? There’s no food for a few days. For example, suppose there’s an attack in Netanya, so they impose a naval blockade for four days on the entire Strip. No seagoing vessel can leave. A Dabur patrol boat is stationed at the entrance to the port, if they try to go out, within seconds the soldiers shoot at the bow and even deploy attack helicopters to scare them. We did a lot of operations with attack helicopters — they don’t shoot much because they prefer to let us deal with that, but they’re there to scare people, they circle over their heads. All of a sudden there’s a Cobra right over your head, stirring up the wind and throwing everything around.

And how frequent were the blockades?

Very. It could be three times one month, and then three months of nothing. It depends.

The blockade goes on for a day, two days, three days, four, or more than that?

I can’t remember anything longer than four days. If it was longer than that, they’d die there, and I think the IDF knows that. Seventy percent of Gaza lives on fishing — they have no other choice. For them it means not eating. There are whole families who don’t eat for a few days because of the blockade. They eat bread and water.

3. Shoot to Kill

Unit: Engineering Corps

Location: Rafah

Year: 2006

During the operations in Gaza, anyone walking around in the street, you shoot at the torso. In one operation in the Philadelphi corridor, anyone walking around at night, you shoot at the torso.

How often were the operations?

Daily. In the Philadelphi corridor, every day.

When you’re searching for tunnels, how do people manage to get around — I mean, they live in the area.

It’s like this: You bring one force up to the third or fourth floor of a building. Another group does the search below. They know that while they’re doing the search there’ll be people trying to attack them. So they put the force up high, so they can shoot at anyone down in the street.

How much shooting was there?

Endless.

Say I’m there, I’m up on the third floor. I shoot at anyone I see?

Yes.

But it’s in Gaza, it’s a street, it’s the most crowded place in the world.

No, no, I’m talking about the Philadelphi corridor.

So that’s a rural area?

Not exactly, there’s a road, it’s like the suburbs, not the center. During operations in the other Gaza neighborhoods it’s the same thing. Shooting, during night operations — shooting.

It there any kind of announcement telling people to stay indoors?

No.

They actually shot people?

They shot anyone walking around in the street. It always ended with, “We killed six terrorists today.” Whoever you shot in the street is “a terrorist.”

That’s what they say at the briefings?

The goal is to kill terrorists.

What are the rules of engagement?

Whoever’s walking around at night, shoot to kill.

During the day, too?

They talked about that in the briefings: whoever’s walking around during the day, look for something suspicious. But something suspicious could be a cane.

4. Elimination Operation

Unit: Special Forces

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2000

There was a period at the beginning of the Intifada where they assassinated people using helicopter missiles.

This was at the beginning of the Second Intifada?

Yes. But it was a huge mess because there were mistakes and other people were killed, so they told us we were now going to be doing a ground elimination operation.

Is that the terminology they used? “Ground elimination operation”?

I don’t remember. But we knew it was going to be the first one of the Intifada. That was very important for the commanders and we started to train for it. The plan was to catch a terrorist on his way to Rafah, trap him in the middle of the road, and eliminate him.

Not to arrest him?

No, direct elimination. Targeted. But that operation was canceled, and then a few days later they told us that we’re going on an arrest operation. I remember the disappointment. We were going to arrest the guy instead of doing something groundbreaking, changing the terms. So the operation was planned…

Anyway, we’re waiting inside the APC [armored personnel carrier], there are Shin Bet agents with us, and we can hear the updates from intelligence. It was amazing, like, “He’s sitting in his house drinking coffee, he’s going downstairs, saying hi to the neighbor” — stuff like that. “He’s going back up, coming down again, saying this and that, opening the trunk now, picking up a friend” — really detailed stuff. He didn’t drive, someone else drove, and they told us his weapon was in the trunk. So we knew he didn’t have the weapon with him in the car, which would make the arrest easier. At least it relieved my stress, because I knew that if he ran to get the weapon, they’d shoot at him.

Where did the Shin Bet agent sit?

With me. In the APC. We were in contact with command and they told us he’d arrive in another five minutes, four minutes, one minute. And then there was a change in the orders, apparently from the brigade commander: elimination operation. A minute ahead of time. They hadn’t prepared us for that. A minute to go and it’s an elimination operation.

Why do you say “apparently from the brigade commander”?

I think it was the brigade commander. Looking back, the whole thing seems like a political ploy by the commander, trying to get bonus points for doing the first elimination operation, and the brigade commander trying, too. . . everyone wanted it, everyone was hot for it. The car arrives, and it’s not according to plan: their car stops here, and there’s another car in front of it, here. From what I remember, we had to shoot, he was three meters away. We had to shoot. After they stopped the cars, I fired through the scope and the gunfire made an insane amount of noise, just crazy. And then the car, the moment we started shooting, started speeding in this direction.

The car in front?

No, the terrorist’s car — apparently when they shot the driver his leg was stuck on the gas, and they started flying. The gunfire increased, and the commander next to me is yelling “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” but they don’t stop shooting. Our guys get out and start running, away from the jeep and the armored truck, shoot a few rounds, and then go back. Insane bullets flying around for a few minutes. “Stop, stop, hold your fire,” and then they stop. They fired dozens if not hundreds of bullets into the car in front.

Are you saying this because you checked afterward?

Because we carried out the bodies. There were three people in that car. Nothing happened to the person in the back. He got out, looked around like this, put his hands in the air. But the two bodies in the front were hacked to pieces…

Afterward, I counted how many bullets I had left — I’d shot ten bullets. The whole thing was terrifying — more and more and more noise. It all took about a second and a half. And then they took out the bodies, carried the bodies. We went to a debriefing. I’ll never forget when they brought the bodies out at the base. We were standing two meters away in a semicircle, the bodies were covered in flies, and we had the debriefing. It was, “Great job, a success. Someone shot the wrong car, and we’ll talk about the rest back on the base.” I was in total shock from all the bullets, from the crazy noise. We saw it on the video, it was all documented on video for the debriefing. I saw all the things that I told you, the people running, the minute of gunfire, I don’t know if it’s twenty seconds or a minute, but it was hundreds of bullets and it was clear that the people had been killed, but the gunfire went on and the soldiers were running from the armored truck. What I saw was a bunch of bloodthirsty guys firing an insane amount of bullets, and at the wrong car, too. The video was just awful, and then the unit commander got up. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot from him.

What do you mean?

That he’ll be a regional commanding officer or the chief of staff one day. He said, “The operation wasn’t carried out perfectly, but the mission was accomplished, and we got calls from the chief of staff, the defense minister, the prime minister” — everyone was happy, it’s good for the unit, and the operation was like, you know, just: “Great job.” The debriefing was just a cover-up.

Meaning?

Meaning no one stopped to say, “Three innocent people died.” Maybe with the driver there was no other way, but who were the others?

Who were they, in fact?

At that time I had a friend training with the Shin Bet, he told me about the jokes going around that the terrorist was a nobody. He’d probably taken part in some shooting and the other two had nothing to do with anything. What shocked me was that the day after the operation, the newspapers said that “a secret unit killed four terrorists,” and there was a whole story on each one, where he came from, who he’d been involved with, the operations he’d done. But I know that on the Shin Bet base they’re joking about how we killed a nobody and the other two weren’t even connected, and at the debriefing itself they didn’t even mention it.

Who did the debriefing?

The unit commander. The first thing I expected to hear was that something bad happened, that we did the operation to eliminate one person and ended up eliminating four. I expected that he’d say, “I want to know who shot at the first car. I want to know why A-B-C ran to join in the big bullet-fest.” But that didn’t happen, and I understood that they just didn’t care. These people do what they do. They don’t care.

Did the guys talk about it?

Yes. There were two I could talk to. One of them was really shocked but it didn’t stop him. It didn’t stop me, either. It was only after I came out of the army that I understood. No, even when I was in the army I understood that something really bad had happened. But the Shin Bet agents were as happy as kids at a summer camp.

What does that mean?

They were high-fiving and hugging. Really pleased with themselves. They didn’t join in the debriefing, it was of no interest to them. But what was the politics of the operation? How come my commanders, not one of them, admitted that the operation had failed? And failed so badly with the shooting all over the place that the guys sitting in the truck got hit with shrapnel from the bullets. It’s a miracle we didn’t kill each other.

5. Her limbs were smeared on the wall

Unit: Givati Brigade

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2008

 

One company told me they did an operation where a woman was blown up and smeared all over the wall. They kept knocking on her door and there was no answer, so they decided to open it with explosives. They placed them at the door and right at that moment the woman came to open it. Then her kids came down and saw her. I heard about it after the operation at dinner. Someone said it was funny that the kids saw their mother smeared on the wall and everyone cracked up. Another time I got screamed at by my platoon when I went to give the detainees some water from our field kit canteen. They said, “What, are you crazy?” I couldn’t see what their problem was, so they said, “Come on, germs.” In Nahal Oz, there was an incident with kids who’d been sent by their parents to try to get into Israel to find food, because their families were hungry. They were fourteen- or fifteen-year-old boys, I think. I remember one of them sitting blindfolded and then someone came and hit him, here.

On the legs.

And poured oil on him, the stuff we use to clean weapons.

6. We shot at fishermen

Unit: Navy

Location: Gaza Strip

Year: 2007

There’s an area bordering Gaza that’s under the navy’s control. Even after Israel disengaged from the Strip, nothing changed in the sea sector. I remember that near Area K, which divided Israel and Gaza, there were kids as young as four or six, who’d get up early in the morning to fish, in the areas that were off-limits. They’d go there because the other areas were crowded with fishermen. The kids always tried to cross, and every morning we’d shoot in their direction to scare them off. It got to the point of shooting at the kids’ feet where they were standing on the beach or at the ones on surfboards. We had Druze police officers on board who’d scream at them in Arabic. We’d see the poor kids crying.

What do you mean, “shoot in their direction”?

It starts with shooting in the air, then it shifts to shooting close by, and in extreme cases it becomes shooting toward their legs.

At what distance?

Five or six hundred meters, with a Rafael heavy machine gun, it’s all automatic.

Where do you aim?

It’s about perspective. On the screen, there’s a measure for height and a one for width, and you mark where you want the bullet to go with the cursor. It cancels out the effect of the waves and hits where it’s supposed to, it’s precise.

You aim a meter away from the surfboard?

More like five or six meters. I heard about cases where they actually hit the surfboards, but I didn’t see it. There were other things that bothered me, this thing with Palestinian fishing nets. The nets cost around four thousand shekels, which is like a million dollars for them. When they wouldn’t do what we said too many times, we’d sink their nets. They leave their nets in the water for something like six hours. The Dabur patrol boat comes along and cuts their nets.

Why?

As a punishment.

For what?

Because they didn’t do what we said. Let’s say a boat drifts over to an area that’s off-limits, so a Dabur comes, circles, shoots in the air, and goes back. Then an hour later, the boat comes back and so does the Dabur. The third time around, the Dabur starts shooting at the nets, at the boat, and then shoots to sink them.

Is the off-limits area close to Israel?

There’s one area close to Israel and another along the Israeli-Egyptian border… Israel’s sea border is twelve miles out, and Gaza’s is only three. They’ve only got those three miles, and that’s because of one reason, which is that Israel wants its gas, and there’s an offshore drilling rig something like three and a half miles out facing the Gaza Strip, which should be Palestinian, except that it’s ours… the Navy Special Forces unit provides security for the rig. A bird comes near the area, they shoot it. There’s an insane amount of security for that thing. One time there were Egyptian fishing nets over the three-mile limit, and we dealt with them. A total disaster.

Meaning?

They were in international waters, we don’t have jurisdiction there, but we’d shoot at them.

At Egyptian fishing nets?

Yes. Although we’re at peace with Egypt.

Oded Na’aman is co-editor of Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies from the Occupied Territories, 2000–2010 [4] (Metropolitan Books, 2012). He is also a founder of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization dedicated to collecting the testimonies of Israel Defense Force soldiers, and a member of the Israeli Opposition Network. He served in the IDF as a first sergeant and crew commander in the artillery corps between 2000 and 2003 and is now working on his PhD in philosophy at Harvard University. The testimonies in this piece from Our Harsh Logic have been adapted and shortened.

Copyright 2012 Breaking the Silence

© 2012 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

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Gush Shalom

Gush Shalom press release, Dec. 4, 2012 (zope.gush-shalom.org…)

Boycotting settlement products is a democratic right and a legitimate expression of political views, which should not be outlawed

Tomorrow (Wednesday, December 5, 2012) at 9:00 am, The Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal filed by Gush Shalom against the “Boycott Law” which prohibits calling for a boycott of settlement products. The panel would be headed by Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court, and also include his colleagues Salim Jubran and Esther Hayut.

Gush Shalom will be represented by the attorneys Gaby Lasky, Neri Ramati and Limor Goldstein. They will ask the court to issue an order nisi, freeze the application of the law and preventing lawsuits against those calling for a boycott of the settlements, pending the end of the proceedings. They will also seek to transfer the appeal to a broader panel of judges, due to the basic constitutional issues involved.

The “Boycott Law”, passed in the Knesset a year and a half ago, allows the settlers and their supporters to file heavy claims for damages against anyone making a call for a boycott of settlement products. Likud Knesset Member Ze’ev Elkin presented this law as one of his main parliamentary achievements, in a propaganda disseminated recently during in the Likud primaries. In practice, however, not a single such damage claim has as yet been filed.

The Gush Shalom movement made a public call for a boycott of settlement products some ten years ago, and has published a detailed list of settlement products which its activists kept updating. At the time, settler leaders and right-wing Knesset Members made harsh statements against Gush Shalom.

And precisely after the law was passed in the Knesset, other groups made high profile calls for boycott of the settlements, including “Peace Now” which set up a Facebook page entitled “Prosecute me, I boycott settlement products.” Also peace activist Naftali Raz, editor of the online news site “On the Left Side” organized a petition signed by hundreds of people, making an explicit call to boycott settlement products. However, so far the settlers and their supporters did not take up the gauntlet.

“It’s probably not by chance that they do not start proceedings under this law, and neglect to go through the legal doors thrown wide open for them. They probably realize that attempting to attack peace activists through their pockets will work against them, and that even if they won in court they would lose in the court of public opinion,” says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson. “Nevertheless, this stain of anti-democratic legislation, violating the freedom of expression and of political activity, should be removed from the law books of the State of Israel. Individuals and organizations who consider the settlements to be illegal and immoral, constituting a serious threat to our future, have the right not to finance these settlements by buying their products. Those who wish to avoid buying settlement products are also entitled to do so in public and in an organized way.”

Keller added: “The boycott law created a situation of intolerable discrimination in Israeli law. Everybody may boycott anybody else – anybody but the settlers, who have immunity. It is allowed to boycott cottage cheese and other consumer goods in order to pressure producers to reduce their prices; such a boycott is praised – and rightly so – as an expression of civic involvement. Vegetarians and animal lovers may boycott fur or restaurants which serve meat, and observant Jews may boycott anyone who sells non-kosher food. Not only is this last permitted, but the Chief Rabbinate and City Rabbinates make generous use of public funds to run ads, publishing the names and addresses of shops and restaurants and urging the public not to go there – with the express purpose of hurting the livelihood of the owners and force them to follow every dictate of the religious establishment. Boycotts of all types and kinds are allowed by law – except for advocating a boycott of the settlements. We hope that the Court is will declare this blatant discrimination an unacceptable undermining of the foundations of democracy. “

“Tthis court session, on a date set a long time ago , takes place just as the settlements issue gets to the top headlines, not only in Israel but throughout the world. Right now, this issue causes a serious diplomatic crisis between Israel and the European countries of whose support Netanyahu boasted just two weeks ago. Since 1967, the issue of the settlements determinee to a great degree whether we will live in peace or at war, and in that also defining the conditions for any socio-economic policy, and what resources would be available for this.”

Contacts:

Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson 054-2340749

Adv. Gaby Lasky 054-4418988

Adv. Nery Ramati 050-8648854

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This is encouraging! I can’t remember the last time I was impressed by the actions of Bob Carr! Has Australia finally found her moral compass? That’s too much to hope for. I guess we are only following the lead of Europe and the USA. Even so, it is encouraging.

Father Dave

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr

Aussie Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr

source: www.smh.com……

Israel settler plans spark condemnation

The Sydney Morning Herald — RELATIONS between Israel and Australia – already tense after Labor backed away from opposition to a Palestinian seat in the United Nations – have worsened after Israel’s ambassador was summoned for a dressing down.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr took the serious step of calling in Israel’s ambassador Yuval Rotem on Tuesday afternoon to convey ”grave concern” and extreme disappointment with plans to expand settler housing in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Earlier, Prime Minister Julia Gillard had indicated the government was very concerned over the developments. Senator Carr instructed new Foreign Affairs chief, Peter Varghese, to summon Mr Rotem over reports that Israel will build 3000 new housing units in the highly sensitive area known as E1, a 12-square-kilometre patch of land east of Jerusalem. Tax revenue will also be withheld from the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories.

Despite widespread and growing condemnation of the announcement, the Israeli government remained unrepentant. Several European nations – including Britain, France and Spain – have summoned Israeli ambassadors in protest at the expanded settlement plans, with the US also critical of the move. The decision to call in Mr Rotem – a diplomatic signal of deep displeasure – is the second time Australia has taken such a move with Israel in recent years. The last, in 2010, followed revelations that Israel’s spy outfit Mossad used forged Australian passports to facilitate the killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai.

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Germany has turned! It seems that Angela Merkel has had enough! Four years of humiliation by Netanyahu has taken its toll.

But how far will Germany push the envelope? Is it possible that Germany could become a leading voice in Europe for the rights of the Palestinian people? That is surely too much to hope for, and yet who expected the German Chancellor to go this far?!

Father Dave

(nb. highlights are courtesy of Father Roy)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

source: Haaretz Daily Newspaper

Merkel to warn Netanyahu: Promote peace process or face world seclusion

Prime minister to meet German chancellor in Berlin on Wednesday evening.

By Barak Ravid | Dec.05, 2012 | 1:02 AM

With Israel and European Union states embroiled in a diplomatic crisis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday night in Berlin.

Merkel, who has had rocky relationship with Netanyahu over the past four years, is expected to stress that the Israeli leader must choose between promoting the peace process, including establishing a Palestinian state, or facing international seclusion.

Despite the diplomatic crisis and the tension with Netanyahu, Merkel insisted on holding the government summit with Israel in Berlin. A senior German official said that Merkel had never considered a sanction as severe as halting the supply of nuclear submarines to Israel, since “as far as she’s concerned, Israel’s security is sacred.”

The official added that the government summit was Merkel’s idea of cementing and constitutionalizing the German-Israeli relationship so that it is not dependent on the politics of either state.

This main issue of this year’s government summit is science. Leading scientists from both countries are scheduled to join senior ministers.

Netanyahu arrives in Berlin less than one week after the United Nations General Assembly recognized Palestine as an observer state. In contrast to recent years, Germany refrained from assisting Israel’s diplomatic efforts at the UN. The chancellor was raging at Netanyahu’s conduct and decided, at the last moment, to abstain instead of voting against the resolution. Netanyahu reacted angrily to Germany’s vote, and his national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, had a heated phone call with Merkel’s senior adviser, Christoph Heusgen.

Merkel reversed course on the UN vote for at least two reasons. First, for four years she has repeatedly requested gestures of goodwill from Netanyahu on the settlement issue – but he has refused. Second, Merkel apparently felt her support was being taken for granted and used as a tool to manipulate other European states on the Palestinian issue.

Der Speigel reported on Monday another possible reason. On the eve of the vote, she received a phone call from Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, musical director of the Berlin Opera. Barenboim, known for his severe criticism of Israel’s policies in the Palestinian territories, requested that the chancellor not oppose the Palestinian move, and noted that the resolution mentions the two-state solution and Israel’s right to exist.

From the start, Netanyahu and Merkel have clashed on the question of settlements. Merkel apparently often felt she was misled by Netanyahu, such as when he leaked specific parts of their conversations and did not fulfill promises on the Palestinian issue.

It is commonly known in Berlin that Merkel has no illusions regarding Netanyahu’s intentions as far as the peace process goes, and no longer believe he will surprise anyone with a sudden change of direction. Apparently, as far as Merkel is concerned, Netanyahu cares more about tactics and political survival than about a long-term strategy that would secure the future of Israel and the Jewish state.

Netanyahu should expect to hear some unequivocal messages concerning the punitive measures Israel announced against the Palestinian Authority, as well as his plans to promote construction in the E-1 area, which would connect Ma’aleh Adumim settlement with Jerusalem, and to add 3,000 units in the West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

In contrast to France and Britain, Germany did not summon the Israeli ambassador; Merkel apparently prefers to hold a tough discussion directly with Netanyahu. The chancellor is expected to demand that Netanyahu cancel the settlement decision, or at least commit to freezing its implementation immediately after the elections in Israel.

Merkel is expected to tell Netanyahu that he must choose between promoting the peace process and establishing a Palestinian state, a move that would secure the existence of Israel as a Jewish democratic state, or continue expanding settlements, thus leading to the transformation of Israel into an apartheid state that is isolated internationally.