Secretary Kerry’s determination to get the Palestinian-Israeli issues finally resolved seems to be making Netanyahu increasingly nervous. President Obama has sent General Martin Dempsey’s to Israel because there are concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. General Dempsey is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post once held by Colin Powell. What will Dempsey and Bibi be talking about today?
US Senator John McCain has called General Dempsey’s warning against attack on Syria ‘disingenuous’. (AIPAC, CUFI, Lindsey Graham and the NEOCONs stand in agreement with Senator McCain.) The general public’s attention is solidly fixated on the sexual shenanigans of three American Jews (Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bob Filner) whose stories are much more titillating than Dempsey’s. Nevertheless, please read the following news report carefully. The highlights are mine.
Top US general visiting Israel amid Iran, Syria worries
Martin Dempsey to meet Israeli leaders from Sunday evening; Netanyahu warns that new Iranian president won’t change policy
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be the guest of Israel’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Dempsey’s visit, first reported on by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth, comes amid concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. On Sunday, Iran was inaugurating new president Hasan Rouhani, touted by some as a relative moderate who may attempt to open a window to the West. Netanyahu, however, told his cabinet Sunday morning that the new leader would continue the policies of his hardline predecessor.
With at least some Hezbollah forces tied down in the fighting in Syria, and the organization experiencing political blowback in Lebanon for its support of the Assad regime, the US may be concerned that Israeli leaders believe the cost of an Iran strike — especially in terms of rocket strikes on Israeli cities from across the border — has dropped significantly, according to the report.
In July, Netanyahu told NBC’s “Face the Nation” that Iran was getting “closer and closer to the bomb,” and that “they’re edging up to the red line.”
Netanyahu said, “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate — that is, within a few weeks.”
“I won’t wait until it’s too late,” Netanyahu vowed at the time.
A report by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security last week said that Iran could break out to a nuclear bomb by mid-2014 if it went ahead with a plan to install thousands of new centrifuges. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful.
Last August, Dempsey demonstrated the gap between the Israeli and American sense of urgency over the Iranian nuclear program when he told a press conference in London that an Israeli strike would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”
He said that intelligence was inconclusive when it came to Iran’s intentions. An American-led international sanctions regime “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely,” he added.
Just hours ahead of Dempsey’s visit, Netanyahu upped his rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear program, citing Rouhani’s anti-Israel oratory as proof of his hawkish views.
“Two days ago, the president of Iran said that ‘Israel is a wound in the Muslim body.’ The president of Iran might have changed, but the regime’s intentions did not,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “Iran intends to develop nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons in order to annihilate the State of Israel, and that’s a danger not only for us or the Middle East, but for the whole world. We are all responsible for preventing it.”
Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be reiterating his previously withdrawn criticism of an inaccurate translation of a Friday speech by Rouhani.
According to Iran’s semi-official ISNA and Mehr news agencies and Western wire services, Rouhani had said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”
Netanyahu’s original response said that Rouhani had “revealed his true face sooner than expected.” It added, “This statement should awaken the world from the illusion some have taken to entertaining since the elections in Iran. The president was replaced but the goal of the regime remained obtaining nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the safety of the world. A country which threatens to destroy Israel must not have weapons of mass destruction.”
But other sources quoted Rouhani differently, and ISNA retracted its original report. “In any case, in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny,” Rouhani said, according to a New York Times translation.
Late Friday, Netanyahu’s office removed tweets criticizing Rouhani’s statement, and told the BBC that the prime minister had been responding to “a Reuters report with an erroneous translation.”
Netanyahu has consistently warned that the new Iranian president was merely putting on a “more hospitable face,” and that he has no power or intention to change the Iranian regime’s nuclear policy. Last month, he called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Last Sunday, Netanyahu charged that Iran was going ahead with its nuclear program: “A month has passed since the elections in Iran, and Iran is going full steam ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, given Iran’s progress, it’s crucial to strengthen economic sanctions against Iran and to provide a credible military option.”
I’ve been feeling nothing but cynicism towards this latest round of Israel/Palestine peace talks but I’m encouraged to find that many persons I respect are taking them very seriously.
Warren Clark, Executive Director of ‘Churches for Middle East Peace‘, is one such person. He believes that there have been real and substantial changes since the last round of pointless dialogue – most especially the European Parliament joining the BDS!
Personally, I am still skeptical about both of Clark’s alternatives – ‘soon’ or ‘never’. I really don’t think change is coming soon – not unless the Arab world can suddenly unite and bring real pressure to bear on Israel. At the same time though, I do believe that change will have to come eventually.
The Impossible Dream – It’s Soon or Never
The impossible dream of peace in the Holy Land – the end of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank; secure and recognized boundaries for Israel and Palestine; a just solution of the refugee problem; a shared Jerusalem with East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state; recognition and normal relations between Israel and the 53 member countries of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and an end of conflict and an end of claims – seems less impossible today than it did only a short time ago. This week Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Washington for the first time in three years and have set a nine month timetable for an agreement.
I said here on June 7 that President Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in March and the subsequent efforts of Secretary Kerry seemed to create a fundamental improvement in the outlook for direct talks and progress toward an agreement.
Since then, two other developments have helped cause a tectonic political shift. First was the realization of Israel’s increasing international isolation in response to its settlement expansion. This month the European Union published regulations that distinguish between trade, investment, cultural and other cooperation with Europe and Israeli entities located within the 1967 lines and with those Israeli entities located east of the 1967 lines, including East Jerusalem. While the immediate economic impact of the regulations will be limited, the political message was strong. The European governments not only do not recognize settlements but are willing to sanction Israel for continuing to build them.
Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political rhetoric has changed. While he said in 2009 for the first time under U.S. pressure that he supported the idea of a Palestinian state under certain circumstances, his continued support of settlement expansions suggested he had little interest in advancing the two state goal. However, the Prime Minister has said recently that a bi-national state would be “disastrous” for Israel and that he believes peace talks are necessary to prevent that.
There remains great skepticism that after so many false starts that any agreement can be reached. Palestinians fear that talks without an agreement will be used to buy more time for Israeli expansion into the West Bank as it was in the 1990s during the Oslo “peace process” when the settler population doubled to 400,000 (it is now over 500,000) and no agreement was reached. The failure of talks then led to the terrible violence of the second intifada. The same specter of violence exists should these talks fail again.
To overcome Palestinian distrust, Israel has agreed to a phased release of 104 “heavyweight” Palestinian prisoners who were jailed for capital crimes before the Oslo talks began more than 20 years ago.
For their part, Palestinians have apparently agreed not to use their political leverage against Israel as long as the talks continue – namely, a bid to sanction Israel in the UN system, especially in the International Criminal Court, and perhaps to bid for full UN membership.
The question remains whether any real chance of an agreement exists after decades of failed peace efforts, including Oslo, Taba, the Wye River, the Arab League plan, the Roadmap and Annapolis. The status quo remains far less tolerable for Palestinians living under occupation than for the more prosperous and secure Israelis, but that balance seems to be changing.
read the rest of this article here.
Below is an excerpt from Uri Avnery’s latest offering – “The Turkey Under the Table”. He highlights beautifully how dismal our hopes are that there might be any positive result from the latest Israel/Palestine peace negotiations.
WHEN YOU have a conflict between two parties, the way to solve it is clear: you put them in the same room, let them thrash out their differences and emerge with a reasonable solution acceptable to both.
For example, a conflict between a wolf and a lamb. Put them in the same room, let them thrash out their differences and emerge with…
Just a moment. The wolf emerges. Now where’s that lamb?
IF YOU have a conflict between two parties who are like a wolf and a lamb, you must have a third party in the room, just to make sure that Party 1 does not have Party 2 for dinner while the talks are going on.
The balance of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is like that between a wolf and a lamb. In almost every respect – economic, military, political – Israel has a vast advantage.
This is a fact of life. It is up to the Third Party to balance this somehow.
Can it be done? Will it be done?
I have always liked John Kerry. He radiates an air of honesty, sincerity, that seems real. His dogged efforts command respect. The announcement this week that he has at long last achieved even the first stage of talks between the parties can give some room for optimism.
As Mao said: A march of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The parties have agreed to a meeting of delegates to work out the preliminary details. It should take place this coming week in Washington. So far so good.
The first question is: who will be the third person? It has been leaked that the leading candidate for this delicate task is Martin Indyk, a veteran former State Department officer.
This is a problematic choice. Indyk is Jewish and very much involved in Jewish and Zionist activity. He was born in England and grew up in Australia. He served twice as US ambassador to Israel.
Right-wing Israelis object to him because he is active in left-wing Israeli institutions. He is a member of the board of the New Israel Fund, which gives financial support to moderate Israeli peace organizations and is demonized by the extreme rightists around Binyamin Netanyahu.
Palestinians may well ask whether among the 300 million US citizens there is not a single non-Jew who can manage this job. For many years now it has been the case that almost all American officials dealing with the Israeli-Arab problem have been Jews. And almost all of them later went on to be officials in Zionist think-tanks and other organizations.
Read more of Uri Avnery’s wisdom on the Gush-Shalom website.
“Like a mighty tortoise moves the church of God!” So the hymn goes (or at least a popular parody of the old hymn).
The ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement (BDS) seems to be gaining real global traction.
- Gideon Levy has signed on!
- The Israeli McDonald’s franchise has boycotted the settlement of Ariel!
- The EU has made a historic decision to isolate the settlements altogether!
Meanwhile the Anglican Church in Canada has resolved to “educate themselves more deeply” about the Israel/Palestine crisis!
Against the backdrop of history the actions of the European church almost always seem incredibly insipid! Our sisters and brother in South Africa and in Latin America have often been at the forefront of social change, as were our African-American brethren in the US less than a generation ago. But when was the last time a European synod took a courageous stand for justice and peace?
I guess I should be thankful that this very moderate resolution put before the Canadian Anglican synod was actually passed. Certainly if one judges by the comments on The Anglican Journal website there are no shortage of church members who continue to equate opposition to state-sponsored violence in Israel with Antisemitism.
Perhaps that is what keeps us all so timid? Indeed the church does have a dreadful history of Antisemitism. Even so, God help us if our guilt about past sins intimidates us to the point where we remain silent in the face of institutionalised racism and abuse.
Anglicans pass hotly debated Palestine – Israel resolution
After a long and passionate debate, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meeting in Ottawa has passed a resolution on the issue of peace and justice in Palestine and Israel.
The resolution reiterates the established positions of the church, which “recognize the legitimate aspirations, rights and needs of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace with dignity within sovereign and secure borders; condemns the use of all kinds of violence, especially against civilians; calls for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza); and calls upon Israel, as an occupying power, to recognize the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer and settlement of its citizen in occupied territories. ”
However, it also calls on Canadian Anglicans to take some new steps, including educating themselves more deeply.
The resolution commits the church to act with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and other ecumenical partners to:
- enable deeper church-wide awareness of and response to the call of the Kairos Palestine document: A Moment of Truth
- educate the church about the impact of illegal settlements on the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis; about imported products identified as produced in or related to the illegal settlements and misleadingly labelled as produced in Israel; about the complexities of economic advocacy measures
- explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories
- explore and challenge theories and beliefs that deny the right of Israel to exist
- and strengthen relationships with Canadian Jews and Muslims, to resolutely oppose anti-Semitism, anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia.
Debate ranged among members, from some who said the resolution went too far and demonstrated left-wing or anti-Israel bias, to those who said it did not go far enough in addressing the oppression of Palestinians suffering under an apartheid system.
There was also a concern that this resolution followed in the footsteps of a United Church of Canada resolution that called for a boycott of goods produced in the occupied territories that are labelled as Israeli products. Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster responded, saying this resolution “calls for nothing approaching that. It calls us to learn more about these products.”
The motion passed with the support of 73 per cent of the almost 300 members.
Another resolution was also passed that invites Anglicans to observe Jerusalem Sunday on the seventh Sunday after Easter. The day will be used to give special attention to the work of the Anglican church in the Holy Land and to take up a special offering as a gift to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
This is very confusing!
McDonald’s family restaurants have declined to open a branch in the West Bank settlement known as ‘Ariel’. This means that Maccaa’s is effectively joining the BDS campaign as a protest to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The confusing thing is that McDonald’s used to be on the BDS hit-list!
Apart from alleged incidents of racist behavior towards Arab workers, the issue seems to have been the corporate partnership between McDonald’s head office and the Jewish United Fund (JUF).
According to Viva Palestina (Malaysia), “the JUF works to maintain American military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel; monitors and,when necessary, responds to counter negative media coverage of Israel” and apparently honoured McDonald’s Corporation during the JUF centennial celebration in 2000 as a first tier corporate partner to the cause of Zionism!
Swimming upstream in this corporate environment though is Omri Padan – owner of the McDonald’s franchise in Israel and one of the founders of ‘Peace Now’ – a group who openly oppose the Palestinian Occupation!
We now have the bizarre situation where Israelis are boycotting the boycotters, so that there is turmoil at both the grass roots and the corporate end of the burger! I’m not sure what to think, but I’ll give myself permission to ponder it further over a Big Mac and fries!
West Bank Jews: Boycott McDonald’s
After fast food chain opts not to open restaurant in Ariel, settler leader urges Jews to support ‘chains with Zionist values.’ Peace Now lauds franchise owner’s decision
Article by Linda Gradstein
When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, everything, even a hamburger, is political. Israelis who live in areas the county acquired in 1967 are up in arms over McDonald’s decision not to open a branch in the mall that will be built in Ariel over the next year.
In Israel, the McDonald’s franchise is private and is owned by Omri Padan, one of the founders of the dovish group Peace Now, which opposes Israeli building in post-1967 areas. There are 170 McDonald’s restaurants in Israel, about 40 of which are kosher. The company’s website claims it is the largest employer of youth in Israel, giving jobs to 3000 teenagers, along with 1000 adults.
Padan declined to give an interview to The Media Line but his office sent a one-line reply.
“This has always been the policy of Dr. Omri Padan,” referring to the decision not to open restaurants in Ariel, the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967, or even east Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed.
Some in Israel welcomed Padan’s decision.
“In every democratic country everyone has the right to decide where to live and where to open his business,” Yariv Oppenheimer, the director general of Peace Now told The Media Line. “Padan did not want to take part in ‘settlement’ activity. He thinks the ‘settlements’ are damaging to Israel and we agree.”
Some right-wing leaders disagreed.
Settler leader Yigal Dilmony said that while he doesn’t support boycotts, consumers should vote with their wallets.
“Every citizen who cares about the State of Israel should think before he buys a burger – who is he financing?” Dilmony told The Media Line. “Burger Ranch (a rival local Israeli chain) said they will open in the new mall. Israeli citizens should support those chains with Zionist values.”
Others went even further.
“I urge the public to boycott anyone who boycotts it,” Housing Minister Uri Ariel said. “Only then will they get the message and the boycotts will stop.”
Oppenheimer of Peace Now reacted sharply, saying Padan’s decision is not a boycott.
“Nobody is saying that ‘settlers’ are not allowed to buy McDonald’s,” he said, referring to Israelis who live in post-1967 areas. “You can’t fault him for not building in a place they don’t want to remain part of Israel.”
The dispute erupted as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the region for yet another attempt to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinians say that all of the areas that Israel acquired in 1967 must become part of the Palestinian state and all 330,000 Jewish residents there must leave. Israel says it wants to hold onto what it calls “settlement blocs,” including Ariel.
“I think the decision not to open a McDonald’s here is a mistake and hurts a large population,” Ariel mayor Eliezer Shaviro told The Media Line. “Any kind of boycott is a mistake and causes more division.”
Shaviro says residents are trying hard to achieve coexistence with their Palestinian neighbors.
“In our industrial zone we have factories where Israelis and Palestinians work together and Palestinians make five times what they would in Nablus or Ramallah,” he said, referring to two nearby Palestinian towns. “If there is a boycott on Ariel, these factories might have to fire workers, and the Palestinians will join the cycle of violence instead of the ‘cycle of income.'”
It is not the first time that Ariel, which boasts a university of 13,000 students, both Arabs and Jews has been in the news. In 2011, 165 academics said they would not participate in academic functions at Ariel University because it sits on post-1967 land.
A year earlier, dozens of actors said they would not participate in cultural events there.
Israelis are especially sensitive to boycotts as the country has recently been the target. Recently, physicist Steven Hawking pulled out of a conference to protest Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has stepped up activity and dozens of artists, including musician Elvis Costello and actors Dustin Hoffman and Meg Ryan, have cancelled appearances.
Others have rejected the boycott calls. Barbra Streisand played to tens of thousands of enraptured fans earlier this month, and Alicia Keys appears next month.